Saudi prince sues magazine – it says he’s only worth $20 billion


The prince greeting his mate, Rupert Murdoch

Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal has sued Forbes magazine for libel in a British court, alleging its valuation of his wealth at $20 billion was short of the mark by $9.6 billion, Britain’s Guardian newspaper reported…

The prince, a grandson of Saudi Arabia’s founder and nephew of King Abdullah, had attacked the U.S. magazine’s ranking of world billionaires as flawed and biased against Middle Eastern businesses after he was ranked number 26 in this year’s list.

An official at the High Court in London confirmed that Prince Alwaleed had filed a defamation suit against Forbes, its editor Randall Lane, and two of its journalists on April 30. Details of the claim were not immediately available.

Through his Kingdom Holding Company, Prince Alwaleed owns large stakes in Citigroup, News Corp and Apple among other companies. He is also owner or part-owner of luxury hotels including the Plaza in New York, the Savoy in London and the George V in Paris.

This year’s Forbes World Billionaires list was published on March 4, and the following day Kingdom Holding said the valuation process used “incorrect data” and “seemed designed to disadvantage Middle Eastern investors and institutions”…

Under British libel law, a claimant has only to prove that a publication was defamatory. Then the burden of proof passes to the defendant, who has several possible defenses, including that the publication was true.

FORBES ekes out a living playing kissy-kissy with the most reactionary elements on Wall Street and inside the Washington Beltway. Prince Alwaleed has a more cosmopolitan air about him than his Saudi peers – mostly because he seems to swim well in the waters of Western investing instead of relying wholly on his oil income. That still doesn’t especially modernize his politics or the culture he represents.

They deserve each other.

Vermont decriminalizes possessing small amounts of marijuana

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Gov. Peter Shumlin signed legislation making Vermont the 17th state to approve decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana.

This change just makes common sense. Our limited resources should be focused on reducing abuse and addiction of opiates like heroin and meth rather than cracking down on people for having very small amounts of marijuana,” Shumlin said…

The law, which Shumlin signed Thursday, replaces criminal penalties with a civil fine for adults who possess an ounce or less of the drug.

The legislation also treats minors less than 21 years of age who possess an ounce or less the same as minors possessing alcohol.

They will be referred to a court diversion program for the first offense, and be subject to potential civil penalties or a license suspension for the second and criminal penalties for a third violation, the governor’s office said.

I get to say “overdue” for the seventy-eleventh time. If this keeps up, I may eventually search for a recipe for something like Alice B Toklas bran muffins. I don’t smoke anything.

This Is Your Brain on Coffee – and why that’s a good thing

For thousands of years, coffee has been one of the two or three most popular beverages on earth. But it’s only recently that scientists are figuring out that the drink has notable health benefits. In one large-scale epidemiological study from last year, researchers primarily at the National Cancer Institute parsed health information from more than 400,000 volunteers, ages 50 to 71, who were free of major diseases at the study’s start in 1995. By 2008, more than 50,000 of the participants had died. But men who reported drinking two or three cups of coffee a day were 10 percent less likely to have died than those who didn’t drink coffee, while women drinking the same amount had 13 percent less risk of dying during the study. It’s not clear exactly what coffee had to do with their longevity, but the correlation is striking.

Other recent studies have linked moderate coffee drinking — the equivalent of three or four 5-ounce cups of coffee a day or a single venti-size Starbucks — with more specific advantages: a reduction in the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, basal cell carcinoma (the most common skin cancer), prostate cancer, oral cancer and breast cancer recurrence…

There’s still much to be learned about the effects of coffee…It is also unclear whether caffeine by itself provides the benefits associated with coffee drinking or if coffee contains other valuable ingredients…Nor is there any evidence that mixing caffeine with large amounts of sugar, as in energy drinks, is healthful. But a cup or three of coffee “has been popular for a long, long time,” Dr. Gregory Freund says, “and there’s probably good reasons for that.”

I went through one terrible stretch of a couple of years on the road without coffee. I’d stopped because preliminary indications in a prestigious university study suggested a potential link between pancreatic cancer and coffee. And I’d lost an acquaintance just three weeks after diagnosis.

Fortunately, they completed the study and said, “Nope. No connection.”

That was 45 years ago. I love my coffee. I consider it a normal part of my Mediterranean diet. 🙂

Why conservatives hate New York’s Citi Bike

What is it about bike shares that so enrages conservatives? They’re just bikes! That people share! And yet the New York Post has a new story every day about the endless disasters that Citi Bike has brought upon the helpless populace of New York.

Dorothy Rabinowitz of The Wall Street Journal called the Bloomberg administration “totalitarian” for … encouraging the riding of bikes, we guess…

But, in a way, the depth of conservative animosity for a bike-share program makes perfect sense. Because, as the Venn diagram above indicates, Citi Bike finds itself at the very nexus of five different things that conservatives hate:

Mayor Bloomberg: Conservatives hate Mayor Bloomberg, a cosmopolitan billionaire who thinks he knows better than them and has the right to control their lives. Bloomberg wants to take their guns, and, even worse, he wants to take their enormous sodas…

Healthy: Bike riding is healthy, especially when the alternative is sitting in a cab, train, or bus. But conservatives hate being told to be healthy. Look at how much scorn they have for Michelle Obama simply for encouraging kids to exercise more and eat more vegetables. As Americans, it is our God-given right to eat as much crap as we want, pass our medical bills onto the government, and then yell at the government for spending too much money on health care…

Sharing: So central to the concept of bike shares, they put it right in the name. But conservatives hate sharing — tax dollars, calamari, doesn’t matter…

Environmental: Bike are also good for the environment. This will please you if you think the environment actually needs help. But if you think carbon emissions and climate change are conspiracies (like 58 percent of Republicans) perpetrated by Al Gore and a handful of scientists at the University of East Anglia, then bikes are just lies on wheels…

Vaguely French: French people ride bikes, right? Like, more than other people? There’s something vaguely French about this whole thing. Doesn’t sit well.

Sounds about right to me. I don’t see a single issue here that hasn’t been raised by some AM radio nutball preacher or pundit.