Richest Americans Can’t Give Money Away Fast Enough


MacKenzie ScottTaylor Hill/FilmMagic

America’s wealthiest have been getting a lot of unsolicited advice lately about their philanthropy, especially since the pandemic inflated the fortunes of the top 0.1% while devastating the broader economy.

Their critics’ loudest complaint: You should be giving your money away much faster.

Since splitting from the world’s richest man in 2019, MacKenzie Scott has shown how it might be done. The ex-wife of Amazon.com Inc. founder Jeff Bezos has donated $8.5 billion in about 12 months, distributing the cash among hundreds of small organizations typically overlooked by big donors.

“It’s really kind of stunning what’s she’s done and how different an approach she’s taken,” said John Arnold, a billionaire hedge fund manager who retired in 2012 to devote himself full-time to philanthropy. “I’m hopeful that more people will follow that model.”

Dispute over chess move ends with murder and cannibalism

Hemisphere-Chess
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An Italian man was arrested in Dublin on Sunday and charged with killing his Irish landlord and attempting to eat his heart after an argument about a game of chess.

Police said that 34-year-old Saverio Bellante admitted to killing Tom O’Gorman, 39.

O’Gormans body had been stabbed dozens of times and his chest cavity was opened up. Although the heart was still in his body, a lung was missing…

“The victim’s heart was intact but the post-mortem confirms that a lung was removed from the body and has not been located,” the source said. “The investigation is following a definite line of inquiry.”

At his arraignment on Monday, Bellante requested to represent himself and offered no plea. According to Det. Patrick Traynor, when Bellante was charged with murder, he replied: “I am guilty.”

The argument allegedly occurred over a move in a chess game that Bellante and O’Gorman had been playing for a year.

This blog and those involved with its production are all friendly to the discipline, skill and history of chess. At least one of us is damned good. It ain’t me.

We all understand that things like this can happen. They also happen between people watching telenovellas. We don’t approve of either circumstance allowed to descend into violence. 🙂

Art exhibition takes aim at the Church as papal vote nears

As cardinals flock to Rome to choose the next pope, two artists have taken the opportunity to stage an exhibition taking aim at the wealth of the Roman Catholic Church and the sex abuse scandals that plagued Pope Benedict.

Held in an ancient building where Italy’s patron Saint Catherine of Siena died, “The Unspeakable Act” is a life-size model of Benedict in a confessional box, his sumptuous red and cream-colored robes spread about him.

Installed on the stage of a darkly-lit theatre, the artwork is surrounded by eerie music and a track of Benedict announcing in Latin his decision to resign after eight years topped with the whispering sounds of people confessing their sins.

Benedict’s papal tiara lies on the ground and his bejeweled hands cover his face in apparent horror or shame at a phrase from the Gospel of St. Luke that lies open on his knee: “Let the little children come to me”.

The exhibition is the work of artists Antonio Garullo and Mario Ottocento who became famous for lampooning the scandals of the powerful in 2012 with an exhibit depicting a sleeping Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, his hand in his trousers and a satisfied look on his face…

The artwork, that opens to the public on Wednesday, has personal importance for Garullo, 48, and Ottocento, 40, an artistic duo for 20 years who were the first Italian gay couple to be married when they wed in Holland in 2002.

Since then they have battled for their union to be recognized by authorities in Italy, which has no legal provision for same-sex couples, although a 2012 survey found 63 percent of Italians support equal rights for gays.

Their statue of Pope Benedict is surrounded by works by reformist theologian Hans Kueng and the late Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, a liberal voice who called for the Church to modernize – since it was “200 years out of date”.

I’d add a call for taxation of the church’s business and property wealth.

Income inequality between spouses – and erectile dysfunction

If that headline doesn’t grab your attention, new research…on the “Psychological and Sexual Costs of Income Comparison in Marriage” should.

The study, by Lamar Pierce, PhD, professor of strategy at Olin, and colleagues in Denmark, shows that men married to women with higher incomes are more likely to use erectile dysfunction medication than their male breadwinner counterparts…

The researchers looking at more than 200,000 married couples in Denmark from 1997 to 2006 also found that wives who outearned their husbands were more likely to suffer from insomnia and to use anti-anxiety medication.

They did not find these effects for unmarried couples or for men earning less than their wives prior to marriage.

In Sickness and in Wealth: Psychological and Sexual Costs of Income Comparison in Marriage,” Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, Lamar Pierce et al., published online February 3, 2013.

The link at the beginning of the last paragraph gets you to a fairly readable online document. The .pdf of the article is $25. Here’s that link. I don’t have a university budget.

San Antonio to open first bookless public library

A new library to be opened in Bexar County, Texas, will provide visitors with a bank of e-Readers for borrowing e-books … but books of the traditional paper variety will be glaringly absent. The project marks the first public library to be built as an all-digital service and just to make sure library-goers are in no doubt that it’s the 21st century, the interior will feature a design influenced by Apple retail stores.

The library, known as the BiblioTech, was announced by Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff and is set to open later this year. If the scheme proves successful, then similar facilities will be opened across Bexar County.

And the library’s design? “If you want an idea what it looks like, go into an Apple store,” Wolff says. The designers might have a bit of a task on their hands however, with the new library being built in a remodeled structure that currently houses the offices for Tax Assessor, Justice of the Peace and Constable. Suffice to say, its not likely to be quite up there with Apple’s Fifth Avenue store, but the artist’s impression of the interior does bear a number of the Apple Store hallmarks.

Library goers won’t have to provide their own devices to take advantage of the BiblioTech’s digital catalog, with an initial stock of one hundred unspecified e-Readers available for lending. Visitors can borrow the devices for up to two weeks, and while the system might seem rather open to abuse, Wolff is confident that theft won’t be a widespread problem. “We do have your name, we do have your address,” he says. “You check it out for two weeks, just like a library book. In two weeks, your e-book goes dead, so you won’t have anything worth keeping.”

Hopefully, no one will tell the Tea Party Republicans in the Texas Legislature about this. First, they consider almost anything with an on-off switch to be a dangerous device. Pickup trucks exempt of course,

Second, they will have to discuss the change for months while they determine the best way to censor the eBooks. After all, the eBooks might discuss subversive topics like civil rights, evolution and reproductive rights decided by women. There ain’t nothing scares a Texan more than an uppity woman.

Third, this really ain’t difficult. I ran a paperless sales office 10 years ago – while pundits blathered about how everyone talked about paperless offices and did nothing about it. A paperless library is just as easy. People who “need” physical books will still get ’em. People who don’t, won’t. The latter will continue to outnumber the former. They already have in purchases at Amazon.

Phony pharmacies tied to price gouging drug wholesalers


Rep. Elijah Cummings [D-MD]

Lawmakers are investigating three shadowy pharmacies in Maryland and North Carolina for diverting critical but scarce drugs from patients to wholesalers, who are then able to resell the medicine at sometimes big markups.

Elijah Cummings, the senior Democrat on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, began a probe in October to discover why certain companies were selling cancer drugs at more than a hundred times their normal cost.

Shortages of hundreds of drugs including cisplatin, a highly effective treatment for testicular cancer, and fluorouracil for colon and other cancers have helped create a lucrative shadow market…

According to preliminary details of Cummings’ investigation, made public on Wednesday, some wholesalers opened their own sham pharmacies to obtain drugs in short supply and re-sell them. One wholesaler increased the price tenfold from the pharmacy cost.

“It’s shocking to the conscience that anyone because of their greed would deny medicines to patients, who are in many instances in critical condition,” Cummings said in an interview. “If it’s not illegal, we need to make it illegal…”

The inquiry found cases of the pharmacy and wholesaler being headed by the same person, or by a husband and wife pair

Most of the nation’s drug supply passes from manufacturers like Hospira Inc and Teva Pharmaceuticals to three leading wholesalers – AmerisourceBergen Corp, Cardinal Health Inc and McKesson Corp – who distribute them to doctors, hospitals, clinics and pharmacies.

Smaller distributors help fill in the gaps in areas where larger companies may not operate or cannot meet the full demand. In recent years, a new crop of small players has surfaced, as the problem of drug shortages has worsened.

“Any time there’s a severe shortage of some critically needed good, invariably there are going to be folks who seek to exploit that,” said Jay Campbell, executive director of the North Carolina Board of Pharmacy.

The sleaziest of the profiteers they’ve uncovered – so far – was Jessica Hoppe, the president of a drug wholesaler called International Pharmaceuticals. State regulators discovered Hoppe operated the pharmacy from her wholesale office in Durham, North Carolina.

Cripes. How and why would the Federal Trade Commission need new regulations to deal with hustlers like this?

Wisconsin uses Microsoft $ettlement to buy iPads for students

The capital of Wisconsin is buying 600 iPads this spring and plans to buy another 800 this fall, all paid for using funds from the state’s settlement with Microsoft related to consumer lawsuits claiming the company overcharged customers for its software…

Smojver added that the new iPads will enable students to wirelessly share their work and enable schools to replace textbooks with digital apps or ebooks, referring to Apple’s recent announcement related to iBooks 2, iBooks Author and digital textbooks as a “significant development.”

District deputy superintendent Sue Abplanalp noted that Madison administrators had been impressed by the results of an iPad trial by Chicago Public Schools, which found the tablets were successful in keeping students more engaged in the classroom.

Wisconsin’s iPads are being paid for through $3.4 million of the nearly $80 million settlement Microsoft agreed to pay the state to settle claims that it has systematically cheated consumers into paying too much for its software…

Har! Something somewhere in there about karma.

Hou Yifan of China defends her title of Women’s Chess Champion


Daylife/Reuters Pictures used by permission

In the growing rivalry between the emerging superpowers China and India, Beijing scored a symbolic victory on Thursday: a Chinese woman won a chess match.

The woman, Hou Yifan, 17, easily retained the Women’s World Chess Championship title when she drew the eighth game of a match against Humpy Koneru, the best Indian woman to play the game.

The final score of the best-of-10 match was 5.5 points to 2.5 points. Despite the lopsided score, the victory was not as easy as it appeared, Ms. Hou said in a telephone interview from Tirana, Albania, where the match was held. “Every game was interesting. Both of us had chances,” she said. The difference was that “in the middle games, I caught her mistakes…”

The match was sponsored by Taci Oil International, whose chief executive, Rezart Taci, is president of the Albanian Chess Federation. Ms. Hou will receive 60 percent of the $267,000 prize fund, and Ms. Koneru 40 percent.

Ms. Hou became the youngest world champion in history last year when she was 16. The match against Ms. Koneru, 24, was Ms. Hou’s first defense of the title.

In some ways, the match was a competition between the world’s two most populous countries as well as the two players. In recent years, the Chinese have dominated women’s chess, but the overall world champion is Viswanathan Anand of India. Ms. Koneru had a chance to make India the holder of the chess world’s most important titles.

Though Ms. Hou is ranked No. 3 in the world among women and Ms. Koneru is No. 2, Ms. Hou was a slight favorite because she had beaten Ms. Koneru in the semifinals of last year’s championship as well as the one in 2008…

Though Ms. Hou is the world champion, Judit Polgar, a Hungarian, is the best female player and the only woman to ever be ranked among the world’s top 10. But she does not play in competitions that are limited to women, which is why she has never won the women’s title…

Ms. Hou added that she hoped to find time in her competitive schedule to go to college.

I have to know some more things,” she said. “I have to open my eyes to see the whole world.”

Bravo.

Armenia invests in compulsory chess for all school children

Armenia, one of the world players in chess, has made it mandatory in school for ages seven to nine.

Chess is a national obsession in the country of three million.

The passion was fostered in modern times by the exploits of chess champion Tigran Petrosian, who won the world championship in 1963 and then successfully defended his title three years later…

Armenian authorities say teaching chess in school is about building character, not breeding chess champs.

The education minister says taking the pastime into classrooms will help nurture a sense of responsibility and organization among schoolchildren, as well as serving as an example to the rest of the world.

We hope that the Armenian teaching model might become among the best in the world,” Armen Ashotyan told The Associated Press.

Half a million dollars were allocated to the national chess academy to draw up a course, create textbooks, train instructors and buy equipment. Another $1 million went toward buying furniture for chess classrooms.

Two characteristics educators hope to encourage are quoted in the article – by the father of an 8-year-old whiz at chess. He hopes that continued involvement with and study of chess will encourage logical thinking and the ability to improvise.

Not bad attributes for your life’s culture.