Not just here, where we're looking forward to 10°C on New Year's Eve to complete a streak of 21 days above normal temperatures,, but also Northern Europe:
Britons getting ready to ring in 2012 can expect highs of up to 15°C after a year of unusually mild weather.
Forecasters said the past 12 months have been the second warmest for the UK after 2006, in which the average temperature reached
9.73°C. The average for 2011 was just a shade lower at
It comes after the warmest April and spring on record, the second warmest autumn and the warmest October day.
The U.K. also had its warmest temperature in five years on June 27th, when Gravesend, Kent, hit
33.1°C. Pretty soon Britons will need air conditioners.
But there's no anthropogenic climate change happening. None at all.
The T-Mobile acquisition is dead, dead, dead:
AT&T is ending its $39 billion bid to buy T-Mobile USA, citing fierce government objections.
"From the first day that this deal was announced, we have warned regulators, lawmakers, and consumers of the dangerous consequences of this merger," said Parul P. Desai, policy counsel for Consumers Union, according to its website The Consumerist. "Regulators clearly saw through AT&T's claims of better service and saw what we saw - a combined AT&T/T-Mobile would mean higher prices and fewer choices for consumers. It would mean a wireless market dominated by a powerful duopoly with little incentive to compete with other carriers."
In related news, Kim Jong Il is also dead, leading to the joke that god let Havel and Hitchens pick the third. (Hitch would actually be horrified by the suggestion.)
Jon Bon Jovi, however, remains alive.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, our friend in the Middle East, has beheaded one of its citizens on the charge of witchcraft:
Amina bint Abdel Halim Nassar was executed Monday for having "committed the practice of witchcraft and sorcery," according to an Interior Ministry statement. Nassar was investigated before her arrest and was "convicted of what she was accused of based on the law," the statement said. Her beheading took place in the Qariyat province of the region of Al-Jawf, the ministry said.
The London-based Saudi newspaper Al-Hayat quoted a source in the country's religious police who said authorities searched Nassar's home and found books on sorcery, a number of talismans and glass bottles filled with liquids supposedly used for the purposes of magic. The source told the paper Nassar was selling spells and bottles of the liquid potions for about $400 dollars each.
"So far at least 79 people -- including five women -- have been executed there, compared to at least 27 in 2010," [Amnesty International] said.
It's tempting to wonder whether they weighed her against a duck first, but really, this isn't funny. What is it really worth to us to support this 7th-century regime?
I just stumbled upon an article from last March by Michael Lewis, in which he explains how thoroughly Irish banks screwed themselves:
A single bank, Anglo Irish, which, two years before, the Irish government had claimed was merely suffering from a “liquidity problem,” faced losses of up to 34 billion euros. To get some sense of how “34 billion euros” sounds to Irish ears, an American thinking in dollars needs to multiply it by roughly one hundred: $3.4 trillion. And that was for a single bank. As the sum total of loans made by Anglo Irish, most of it to Irish property developers, was only 72 billion euros, the bank had lost nearly half of every dollar it invested.
[W]hile Icelandic males used foreign money to conquer foreign places—trophy companies in Britain, chunks of Scandinavia—the Irish male used foreign money to conquer Ireland. Left alone in a dark room with a pile of money, the Irish decided what they really wanted to do with it was to buy Ireland. From one another. An Irish economist named Morgan Kelly, whose estimates of Irish bank losses have been the most prescient, made a back-of-the-envelope calculation that puts the losses of all Irish banks at roughly 106 billion euros. (Think $10 trillion.) At the rate money currently flows into the Irish treasury, Irish bank losses alone would absorb every penny of Irish taxes for at least the next three years.
Fascinating reading. Given its growth and prosperity ten years ago, it's staggering how a few dozen stupid people could have derailed the country entirely.
While most people back home have yet to down their second coffees of the day, I'm about to go to bed. Tomorrow—December 1st—starts for me in 10 minutes and ends 39 hours later thanks to the miracle of air travel.
I go to bed happy that I've had a great little vacation, and that the FCC told AT&T where to take its merger with T-Mobile:
Although the Federal Communications Commission on Tuesday granted AT&T’s request to pull its merger application from review, giving AT&T time to retool the plan in private, the FCC also published a damning, lengthy report outlining why it wasn’t convinced the merger was in the public interest in the first place.
“…The Applicants [AT&T and T-Mobile] have failed to meet their burden of demonstrating that the competitive harms that would result from the proposed transaction are outweighed by the proposed benefits,” the report states.
This comes after the Justice Department slammed the brakes on the merger last month. For some reason, the government sees duopoly in nation-wide mobile phone service anti-competitive, and thinks that AT&T will raise prices and cut service if it becomes the only GSM carrier in North America. I mean, AT&T has never behaved that way before, right?
As someone who fled AT&T for T-Mobile years ago, I am relieved that the merger will probably not go forward now. I hope T-Mobile either stays in the U.S. or sells to a company other than AT&T, like U.S. Cellular. At least I never have to go back to Ma Bell for mobile service.
Oh, and the U.S., U.K., the ECB, and three others injected liquidity into the Euro Zone this morning, which may (everyone hopes) save the world economy from utter ruin. That this means more dollars have started circulating, and therefore my next trip abroad just got more expensive, which I think is a small price to pay for avoiding, you know, a global depression. In the last hour, Sterling, the euro, and the yen have all risen 2% against the dollar, though. I'll be interested to see how much the yen in my pocket is worth in the morning.
Yesterday I took the Shinkansen from Tokyo to Kyoto and back. The 476 km trip takes two hours and twenty minutes, averaging 200 km/h including stops.
The best we have in the U.S. over the same distance, the Acela from Boston to Philadelphia (511 km), takes just over five hours on a good day and more if it snows. Chicago to St. Louis (457 km) is scheduled for five and a half hours, but I haven't ever made the trip in under six.
The U.S. made different choices than Japan (or Europe: London to Newcastle, 483 km, takes 2 hours and 50 minutes), because our vast depopulated spaces made an automobile-based infrastructure deceptively appealing. Wouldn't it be incredible if the U.S. experienced some kind of economic situation where it made a lot of sense to start correcting that monumental error? Oh, right.
In any event, I left the Tokyo train station a little past 10 in the morning and got to see this by 2, which is really the point:
Someday, I may got on a total vacation, a trip during which I completely disconnect from all that matters in the world. This may be saudade, or possibly outright delusion. In any event, this week, I'm still reading the news before breakfast.
Here's Krugman this morning (last night? It's dinner time Saturday in Princeton):
[T}he notion that denying health care to the near-poor is a serious deficit-reduction policy, but raising taxes on the very rich is not, is not something you can justify at all on the basis of the actual numbers. Anyone who says different is practicing, well, class warfare.
More wealth in the middle classes means more wealth for everyone. This is what next November will be about.
Speaking of elections, the front page of today's Japan Times ("All the News Without Fear or Favor") mentions New Zealand Prime Minister John Key's re-election this weekend. New Zealand matters in Japan. Who knew? (No offense to New Zealand, which I very much hope to visit one day and I will certainly love with all my heart, but that brings to three the number of countries who do. The others, of course, are New Zealand and Kiribati.) Interestingly, the story does not appear on the paper's website.
Enough paying attention to the world. I'm off to explore.
 "The feeling of longing for someone that you love and is lost," according to Pamela Haag in a cute list of phrases describing love that don't translate directly into English.
One could say he is displeased:
Now, Farage is the leader of the UK Independence Party, whose Euroscepticism derives from a xenophobic, right-wing domestic agenda that yearns for the days before those damn Normans came across and wrecked everything. Farage is, in an imperfect analogy, like the UK's Ron Paul. So don't confuse me posting this video with general endorsement; but I do worry that the premiers of Greece and Italy, from where we get democracy and the republican form of government respectively, have been sacked by unelected bankers and replaced with unelected bankers.
Krugman has made his objections to ECB policy known. When Farage and Krugman agree on something, I think it deserves a close look.
I don't think we have to worry about Panzer divisions crossing the Rhône in 2012, however.
This month's Atlantic includes a dispatch about an economic solution to poaching:
Harvesting big males might be sustainable, says Craig Packer, who studies lion ecology in Tanzania, but only at a rate that would yield far less in trophy fees—one lion per 1,000 square kilometers in rich habitat. Hunters in Tanzania take up to 10 times that number, shooting their way down the age cohorts.... A male lion needs six years to establish himself in a pride and rear a new generation.
Tourists would no doubt be horrified by the notion that trophy fees from hunters are one reason lions, leopards, and other predators are still out there for them to admire. But they themselves are guilty of indulging in a double standard. They object strenuously to any hint of hunting—and then, said one baffled tourism executive, “they tuck into a gemsbok steak that evening, without a pause.” One alternative that WWF hopes to test is getting tourists to behave like hunters and pay a sort of trophy-photography fee—say, an extra $10 for each sighting—to go into a special fund for lion conservation.
I would prefer, of course, that people shoot lions with Canons rather than guns.
It won't look pretty:
It would be a gigantic financial shockwave. Once departure by Italy were a serious prospect, there would be runs on its banks as depositors scrambled to move savings to Germany, Luxembourg or Britain, in order to avoid a forced conversion into the new weaker currency. The anticipated write-down of private and public debts, much of which is held outside Italy, would threaten bankruptcy of Europe's integrated banking system.
There would be runs on other countries that might even consider leaving. A taboo would be broken. Credit would collapse. There would be a dash for cash (those €500 euro notes would come in handy). Businesses short of it would go under. Capital controls and restrictions on travel would be needed to contain the chaos. Once the recriminations start, the survival of the European Union and its single market would be under question. It's all a frightening prospect. But that doesn't mean it won't happen.
Good thing I still have a few pesetas and escudos lying around...