True or False? Deficit is falling at the fastest rate in 60 years

Obama cheats. He uses verifiable facts.

President Barack Obama aimed to refocus the national debate and put the economy front and center with a speech at Knox College in Illinois. It was the same place he spoke as a senator in 2005 about the need for the government to help the middle class. He stuck to that theme in this speech, but now as president, he summarized the improvements that have come on his watch.

He talked about millions of new jobs, burgeoning energy production, and the nation’s improving balance sheet. “Our deficits are falling at the fastest rate in 60 years,” Obama told the crowd.

In light of Obama’s ongoing battle with Republicans over taxes and spending, we thought this would be an interesting claim to examine. In this factcheck, we look at whether we are really seeing one of the most rapid declines in the deficit in many decades…

In 2009, the first year of Obama’s presidency, after tax cuts and new spending, the deficit was 10.1 percent of GDP. In 2012, the deficit declined to 7 percent of GDP. So that’s a decline of 3.1 percentage points.

You have to go back 63 years to the period between 1946 and 1949 to find a bigger four-year drop than what the country saw between 2009 and 2012. Right after World War II ended, the U.S. deficit stood at 7.2 percent of GDP. By 1949, America had a surplus of 0.2 percent. So that’s a decline of 7.4 percentage points.

We downloaded data from the Office of Management and Budget that shows the deficit as a percent of GDP all the way back to 1930. When we ran the numbers, we found, as Obama said, you need to go back to 1946 to find a larger change.

Our ruling?

Barack Obama said the deficit has fallen at the fastest rate in 60 years. While economists vary on how to best measure that decline, the president used an acceptable approach and his numbers are accurate. There are no statistical tricks in play…

We rate the statement True.

Which is more than you can say about the junk economics dribbling out the blowhole of Tea Party/Republican losers. Coming from a generally conservative, often pantywaist source like Politifact, I’d say this is strong proof indeed.

Arctic sea ice levels hit record low – and continue to diminish

The amount of sea ice in the Arctic is at an all-time low, suggesting that climate change is leading to a dramatic shift in the north…

In an analysis released this week, the U.S.-based National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) said that Arctic sea ice cover has melted to a record low, breaking the previous record set in 2007.

Satellite data from August 26 showed that sea ice extent fell to 4.10 million square kilometers, the lowest amount ever seen since observations of the polar cap began three decades ago.

On September 18, 2007, the date of the previous record low, sea ice extent was measured at 4.17 million square kilometres.

“By itself it’s just a number, and occasionally records are going to get set,” said NSIDC scientist Walt Meier. “But in the context of what’s happened in the last several years and throughout the satellite record, it’s an indication that the Arctic sea ice cover is fundamentally changing…”

With two to three weeks left in the summer melt season, scientists expect that this year’s minimum ice extent could fall even lower. NSIDC will release a full analysis of the melt season in early October.

Arctic sea ice cover has been in a long-term decline, falling about 13 per cent per decade, a figure scientists say is a strong signal of global warming.

RTFA for anecdotal tales how this affects wildlife, First Nation communities, future commerce. No one likes to make qualitative changes in their lives and lifestyle unless it is by choice. Changing the context of people’s lives, seasonal changes affecting whole species, fit the definition of crisis whether they are survivable – or not.

Firefighters struggle with major blazes in Western U.S. states — Congress fiddles!

Firefighters in Western U.S. states struggled to contain out-of-control wind-stoked wildfires on Saturday as summer temperatures mounted, and a fresh blaze consumed more homes in Colorado even as Utah allowed 2,500 evacuees back for the night.

Colorado firefighters remained unable to halt the spread of the High Park Fire, a growing 81,190-acre blaze in steep canyons west of Fort Collins. The fire jumped containment lines on Friday and roared through a subdivision, forcing the evacuation of hundreds of residents…

As firefighters focused on that monster blaze, a fire that erupted 18 miles away in a cabin near the Rocky Mountain National Park ripped through 21 vacation dwellings and full-time residences in Estes Park, the area’s fire chief said…

In Denver, a dense canopy of gray smoke could be seen drifting east from the fire zone over Colorado’s high plains, at times blocking the view of the mountains, and the smell of burning timber wafted through the city.

The High Park fire is blamed for the death of a 62-year-old grandmother who perished in her mountain cabin. It is already the state’s most destructive and the second-largest on record in Colorado.

As of Friday, there were 15 large, uncontained wildfires being fought across the country, most in six Western states – Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, Nevada, New Mexico and Arizona – the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho, reported…

The biggest by far was the Whitewater-Baldy Complex fire in New Mexico, that state’s largest on record, which has charred almost 300,000 acres. That blaze is nearly 90 percent contained.

Continue reading

As the population boom declines, remember to thank women

Not anymore, man!

This week the world will reach 7 billion people. Understandably that raises concern about a soaring world population. But there is a good news story from the demographic data that is not often told. We — or rather the poor women of the world — are defusing the population bomb.

Women today are having half as many children as their mothers and grandmothers. The global average is now down to 2.5 children per woman, and it continues to fall.

This is not just a rich-world phenomenon. Much of Asia now has fertility rates below two, from Japan and Korea to China, with its one-child policy, through Taiwan, Vietnam, Burma, Singapore and much of southern India and parts of the Middle East. Behind the veil, the women of Iran have cut their fertility from eight to less than two in a generation…

Falling fertility happens faster if countries get richer and if women are better educated. Similarly urbanization helps a lot. While even young children can be an economic asset on an African peasant farm, they are an economic liability in cities, where they require education before they can get a job. The teeming megacities of the poor world may look like symbols of overpopulation, but they are part of the solution, too.

But the real story is that rich or poor, Muslim or Catholic, secular or devout, socialist or capitalist, with tough government birth control policies or none, most countries tell the same story. Small families are becoming the new norm…

…We are, I believe, likely to see “peak population” by about mid-century. Perhaps at around 9 billion people.

After that, on current trends of fertility falling to below replacement levels, we will see a falling world population.
And rapid aging. With longer life expectancy and fewer babies, this is all but inevitable. China will soon be aging faster than anywhere on Earth. Aging is set to be the dominant demographic phenomenon of the 21st century, just as the population boom dominated the 20th century.

Pearce makes a couple of eloquent points – among them that the Arab Spring wouldn’t have been as likely if North African families were still stuck into the numbers of a few decades ago. Everyone would have been spending twice as much time trying to earn enough to feed the whole family. Fewer hours working – more time to contribute a voice to questions of social justice.

He finishes with questions of consumption as more serious than population. Laying the responsibility for action on rich nations. And to some extent I agree. Though living here in the GOUSA we tend to forget the rest of the world hasn’t been caught up in the absurd consumption society that has defined the United States since WW2.

And, please – remember to thank women for reducing the population burden. I doubt if the number of men who can think that far ahead match the number of sensible women. Men, after all, don’t get pregnant.

Fewer nudists, numbers dwindle in Germany’s population

Much to the chagrin of Free Body Culture (FKK) enthusiasts who have been stripping off their clothing on beaches and parks since the early 1900s, a cold wind has been blowing across Germany for nudists and their numbers are steadily dwindling.

“German society is changing and it’s not easy to be a naturist anymore,” said Kurt Fischer, president of the German FKK association (DFK). There are some 500,000 registered nudists and a total of seven million Germans sunbathe naked regularly…

The main problem is the shrinking population, Fischer said.

The number of Germans fell by more than 3.2 million over the last three decades even though the country’s total population has managed to remain more or less steady at about 82 million thanks to immigration — often from countries in Eastern Europe and the Balkans as well as Turkey and Arabic countries.

“Our problems are demographic changes and the fact that immigrants aren’t interested in social nudity,” said Fischer, 70, whose association has such honored standing in Germany that it is even part of the Olympic Sport Federation (DOSB).

“Germany is relying more and more on immigrants to keep the population steady. But many come from countries with strong religious beliefs. They just aren’t into FKK.” Immigrants who arrive from cultures where headscarves are common will not usually be interested in becoming naturists in Germany, he said…

Nude sunbathing has a long tradition in Germany. The Free Body Culture (FKK) movement was founded in the early 20th century and succeeded in taking much of the smut and embarrassment out of nudity.

Even Germany’s top model Heidi Klum was quoted in the German media recently extolling the virtues of topless sunbathing and describing difficulties she has pursuing it in places such as the United States and Italy where it’s frowned upon or illegal…

In Germany, public nudity on beaches and lakes is by and large tolerated and practitioners face no legal consequences, although some courts have fined some caught hiking nude on public trails or riding bikes or horses while naked…

There are other reasons contributing to decline of the unique German cultural tradition. As a 70-year-old eastern woman named Brigitte pointed out, growing prosperity has led to growing waist sizes…

“But with the rise in prosperity a lot of people have come apart at the seams and they can’t show their bodies in public anymore. We’ve become a lot chubbier with all this prosperity. It’s not really very aesthetic anymore.”

I grew up with a flavor of naturism over my summers at my grandparents’ farm. Though Italian, their view of nature and the human body was influenced by German and Austrian groups like the FKK who spent a significant part of their outdoor time in northern Italy. I still have truly embarrassing photos hidden away somewhere of family frolics under an artificial rain shower from a hose on hot summer days.

I even managed some mountain biking au naturel here in New Mexico when I moved here a quarter-century ago. Not now, though. Aside from upsetting neighbors in this rather staid workingclass [predominantly Catholic] community, Rally would probably bark at me for being out of shape.

French officials planned to limit national squad non-white players

Laurent Blanc, national coach, tried to deny the incident

The crisis over French football chiefs’ alleged plan to keep non-white players out of the national squad has escalated after a senior official admitted blowing the whistle and secretly recording a meeting about race.

French sport has been shaken by claims that football bosses wanted to limit the number of young black players and those of north African origin emerging as candidates for the national team. The secret plan for ethnic quotas allegedly involved limiting non-white youngsters entering the selection process through training centres as early as age 12 or 13. The investigative website Mediapart ran extracts from a transcript of a meeting last year where football bosses wanted to set a cap of 30% on players of certain origins. The site concluded that officials felt there were “too many blacks and Arabs” in French football and not enough whites.

The scandal has revealed a deep malaise over race in football and the notion that “Les Bleus”, despite the multiracial 1998 World Cup winning team, are not patriotic enough unless they have white skin.

Two investigations are under way by the French Football Federation and the government, which expects to announce its findings on Monday. Meanwhile, the national technical director of the federation, Francois Blaquart, has been suspended.

Mohammed Belkacemi, a respected official responsible for liaising with young players in suburbs and highrise estates, on Wednesday admitted he was the whistleblower who had recorded the controversial meeting in November 2010 where race quotas were discussed. It is believed he gave the tape to other officials rather than directly to the media.

Disgusting episode. While much of the Western world spends a portion of their political time opposing racism, while FIFA has an international campaign against racism in sport and daily life – the clownsuit brigade in charge of French football turns the clock back by decades.

Is RIM the next Palm?

Research In Motion shares fell as much as 14 percent as analysts said a reduced profit forecast hurts management’s credibility and raises pressure on the company as it heads into an annual trade show next week…

“This further damages already low credibility, making them the ‘poster boy’ for a show-me story from here,” Mike Abramsky, an analyst at RBC Capital Markets in Toronto, said in a research note…

RIM is struggling to compete against Apple and Google in the smartphone market. The company, which will host the BlackBerry World conference starting on Monday, has to update its BlackBerry lineup and provide some evidence its products can do better against Apple’s iPhone and devices that run Google’s Android operating system, said Paul Taylor, chief investment officer at BMO Harris Private Banking in Toronto.

“Management needs to deliver on the product side,” said Taylor, who manages about $14.5 billion including RIM and Apple shares. “That includes competitive next-generation smartphones and building out the app library.”

Apple offers more than 350,000 software applications, or apps, and Google’s Android Market has more than 150,000, compared with more than 25,000 in BlackBerry App World…

At least four other analysts — Jefferies & Co. Inc.’s Peter Misek, Cormark Securities Inc.’s Richard Tse, Gleacher & Co. Securities’ Stephen Patel and National Bank Financial’s Kris Thompson — reduced their ratings on the stock…

The sales on their existing devices must have fallen off a cliff,” said Matt Thornton, an Avian Securities LLC analyst in Boston who has a “neutral” rating on the stock. “They are getting hit by a combination of a stale portfolio and heated competition on devices.”

Complacency, dealing with the most dynamic marketplace in the world of commerce as if it’s the railroad business in 1890 never delivers stability and long-term confidence.

I can recall emailing folks I knew inside Palm about the potential for building their OS into a fully functional operating system – keeping it small and adding needed potential while resisting bloat. Just like RIM they said, “Hey – we’re doing just fine as we are.”

Home of Ice Giants thaws – shows pre-Viking hunting methods

The shrinking Juvfonna ice field
Daylife/Reuters Pictures used by permission

Climate change is exposing reindeer hunting gear used by the Vikings’ ancestors faster than archaeologists can collect it from ice thawing in northern Europe’s highest mountains.

“It’s like a time machine…the ice has not been this small for many, many centuries,” said Lars Piloe, a Danish scientist heading a team of “snow patch archaeologists” on newly bare ground 1,850 meters above sea level in mid-Norway.

Specialized hunting sticks, bows and arrows and even a 3,400-year-old leather shoe have been among finds since 2006 from a melt in the Jotunheimen mountains, the home of the “Ice Giants” of Norse mythology.

As water streams off the Juvfonna ice field, Piloe and two other archaeologists — working in a science opening up due to climate change — collect “scare sticks” they reckon were set up 1,500 years ago in rows to drive reindeer toward archers.

But time is short as the Ice Giants’ stronghold shrinks.

“Our main focus is the rescue part,” Piloe said on newly exposed rocks by the ice. “There are many ice patches. We can only cover a few…We know we are losing artifacts everywhere.”

Freed from an ancient freeze, wood rots in a few years. And rarer feathers used on arrows, wool or leather crumble to dust in days unless taken to a laboratory and stored in a freezer.

Interesting stuff. One more task I would love to take on were I a few decades younger [and more sprightly].

History uncovered from real sources rather than literary constructs to satisfy superstition. Artifacts uncovered which demonstrate how tools were made and used to accomplish real tasks native to our growth and evolution.

RTFA. Fascinating discoveries. Use your imagination to reflect upon what we’re beginning to learn.

What happens when you merge with conservatives?

Joined at the hip?
Daylife/Getty Images used by permission

Support for Liberal Democrats has plunged to just 12 per cent – half the level the party secured in the General Election – according to a poll.

The YouGov survey for the Sunday Times also recorded a steep nosedive in the popularity of the party’s leader Nick Clegg since he became Deputy Prime Minister by taking the Lib Dems into coalition Government with the Conservatives.

Mr Clegg’s personal satisfaction rating was eight points, compared to the spectacular 72 points he achieved in the wake of the first televised leaders’ debate during the election campaign.

The Lib Dems rating was half the 24 per cent the party won in the election and the lowest since October 2007, when Sir Menzies Campbell was forced out as leader…

The poll came after Mr Clegg admitted in a TV documentary that he changed his mind about the need for spending cuts before the election without making his shift public, and after questions were raised over whether he misled Mr Cameron about the offers Labour had made him on electoral reform.

Signs of unrest have also emerged within his party over the coalition’s position on issues like immigration, schools and university tuition fees.

Merge your policies with crap policies – it sticks.