Highest Value Export Good by State


Click to enlarge

Thanks, Barry Ritholtz

It’s pretty funny how these can be skewed. New Mexico has computer processors because of one Intel foundry in Rio Rancho. The tax break deal they got allows for a payment back to local government if a certain percentage of employees are imported from out-of-state. A codicil necessary because local government and Intel both realized our education system is so weak that any high tech business would have to rely on supplemented staffing.

Former central bank adviser says China needs to invest in, expand, the nation’s infrastructure


Click to enlargeAssociated Press
Taking a road trip this summer?

Increasing infrastructure investment is the best way to boost economic growth in China and doing so doesn’t undermine efforts to overhaul the economy, according to former central bank adviser Yu Yongding.

“If China does not increase infrastructure investment now, it may miss a historical opportunity,” Yu said Saturday at an economics conference in Beijing….

The time is right because of the global economic downturn, falling commodity prices, the low interest rates in Western countries and overcapacity in China, said Yu, now a senior research fellow at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

Regional debt surged in China after the 2008 global financial crisis, when the government urged provinces that were then banned from selling bonds to boost infrastructure spending with a $611 billion stimulus package.

The stimulus was right to do because without it “China would have experienced a hard landing,” Yu said. “At the time it was hard to avoid the increase in debt and leverage.”

There are small bits here and there unique to China’s context. Inevitable. What struck me when I listened to Asia-centric economists discussing the Beijing conference – and Yu Yongding’s comments – was similarities to the economic situation in the United States.

If anything, the need to direct dollar$ and boots onto the path of rebuilding infrastructure – rather than China’s need for expansion – is more imperative. You can’t redirect an economy into healthier modern avenues if the streets and bridges are crumbling. You can’t retrain workers into new relevant skills, building new crafts and companies if the heart of government enterprise is gutted by Congress.

Genetic evidence of modern human DNA in a Neanderthal — Huh? Wha?

Using several different methods of DNA analysis, an international research team has found what they consider to be strong evidence of an interbreeding event between Neanderthals and modern humans that occurred tens of thousands of years earlier than any other such event previously documented.

…In NATURE the team publishes evidence of interbreeding that occurred an estimated 100,000 years ago. More specifically the scientists provide the first genetic evidence of a scenario in which early modern humans left the African continent and mixed with archaic (now-extinct) members of the human family prior to the migration “out of Africa” of the ancestors of present-day non-Africans, less than 65,000 years ago.

❝ “It’s been known for several years, following the first sequencing of the Neanderthal genome in 2010, that Neanderthals and humans must have interbred,” says Professor Adam Siepel, a co-team leader and Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) quantitative biologist. “But the data so far refers to an event dating to around 47,000-65,000 years ago, around the time that human populations emigrated from Africa. The event we found appears considerably older than that event…”

❝ “One very interesting thing about our finding is that it shows a signal of breeding in the ‘opposite’ direction from that already known,” Siepel notes. “That is, we show human DNA in a Neanderthal genome, rather than Neanderthal DNA in human genomes.”

This finding, the result of several kinds of advanced computer modeling algorithms comparing complete genomes of hundreds of contemporary humans with complete and partial genomes of four archaic humans, has implications for our knowledge of human migration patterns.

The article proceeds from this point to examination of several intertwining themes of interbreeding between different strands of the evolutionary vines that tie us all to our species. A worthwhile read.

It also validates a theme long held as strong among my Highland antecedents – whether critical or not – that our species [and any near relative] is ready to have sex with anyone willing to stand still long enough to enjoy it.

Gynecologists think IUDs are the best contraceptive

Intrauterine devices (IUDs) are amazingly, fantastically good at preventing pregnancy — better than pretty much any other available contraceptive.

Birth control pills, which have to be taken regularly — are susceptible to human error. The pill has a 6 percent failure rate. So out of 1,000 women taking birth control pills, 60 will become pregnant in a typical year. Among women who use an IUD, that number will be between 2 and 8 (depending on the type of IUD they use).

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends IUDs and the contraceptive implant (the one other long-acting, reversible contraceptive) as a “first-line” contraceptive that should be “encouraged as an option for most women.”

But despite IUDs’ incredible efficacy, few American women — just 8.5 percent of contraceptive-users — choose this method. The devices tend to get an especially bad rap in the United States because of the Dalkon Shield, an early IUD from the 1970s. It was hard to insert…sometimes failed to prevent pregnancy, injured as many as 200,000 women, and sometimes led to infertility or even death. All in all, it was a terrible contraceptive that was subsequently pulled from the market.

Today’s IUDs are different: they’re safer, easier to insert, and they work incredibly well. That probably explains why 40 percent of gynecologists using a contraceptive are using IUDs — way more than the general population…

RTFA. It’s long and really detailed. Lots of questions are answered – factually, reasonably, in human-speak.

Pretty useful article.

British Boy Scouts consider atheist’s version of the Scout Promise

The Boy Scout movement in Britain is considering creating a version of its oath that would allow atheists to become full members. U.K. Scouting said it is surveying its members on the change, a process known as consultation.

The organization has allowed members of other religions for the past 40 years to change the language of the Scout Oath by substituting the appropriate religious name. Muslims, for example, take the oath in the name of Allah.

We are a values-based movement and exploring faith and religion will remain a key element of the Scouting program,” said Wayne Bulpitt, the chief commissioner for scouting in Britain. “That will not change. However, throughout our 105-year history, we have continued to evolve so that we remain relevant to communities across the U.K…”

All scout organizations use a variation of the original Scout Promise or Oath: “On my honor I promise that I will do my best — to do my duty to God and the King (or to God and my Country); to help other people at all times; and to obey the Scout Law.”

In Britain, scouts who are not British citizens can substitute “the country I live in” for the queen.

Way too sensible and timely to receive consideration in the Boy Scouts of America.

A house for all seasons in a changing Chinese village

China has set itself the goal of transforming half of its rural population of 700 million people into productive, comfortable members of urban conglomerations in the next three decades. Thus far, the process has moved along with a great deal of work for civil and mechanical engineers and the construction industry, but very little role for architects in the generically styled concrete and brick urban buildings. Award-winning architect at the University of Hong Kong John Lin and his associates believe that this process of urbanization also calls for a flexible approach to house design in rural areas.

…Lin’s recently completed project looks at the role of the stereotypic village house and attempts to propose a prototype which reaches toward contemporary living styles while respecting the functionality and traditions of the past.

The project won the prestigious Architectural Review House award for 2012

Rural life in China is centered around the domestic courtyard, where much of daily life takes place. Most of a village’s open space is within the walls of the houses, which tends to turn most social customs and rituals inward. The courtyards of a house are designed to be supportive of the activities taking place in the nearest rooms, setting up a relationship that is visual and functional. Basically, the house is designed around the courtyards…

The history of many countries teaches that the process of rural development favors the destruction and abandonment of the traditional in favor of the new, often at a rate that makes the rural population uneasy and insecure. The Shijia Village Houses reflect an attempt to bridge between the two extremes and preserve the intelligence and experience embedded in the use of local materials and techniques.

Functionality, adaptation of the old to new use, simple and cost-efficient, the best of modern architecture serves needs as old as collective society has ever been – and will be – even as regional and national economy changes.

Amish sect in court — smoke alarms “violate their religious liberty”

In June 2007, St Lawrence County’s assistant public defender, Steve Ballan, got a call from his boss. A bunch of Amish men are in trouble, he was told. They need a lawyer…and when he met with Andy Miller and the five other Amish men charged with contravening state building codes, he was certain that the town’s building inspectors had violated America’s first and greatest constitutional amendment – the right to worship freely.

What had provoked the inspectors to issue Stop Work Orders was the Amish men’s refusal to install smoke alarms in their newly built houses.

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The “New American Home” loses size, gains efficiency


The “biggest and the bestest” diminishes in size

The “New American Home” is shrinking.

Every year at its convention, the National Association of Home Builders highlights the New American Home, a high-end model designed and built to capture emerging trends in residential building and the shifting lifestyles of Americans.

This year’s showpiece, which measures 4,181 square feet and is one of the smallest in the popular program’s 29-year history, shows that the love affair with McMansions seems to be waning.

Indeed, last year’s featured home sprawled over 6,800 square feet. The nation’s average home size, which peaked just above 2,500 square feet in 2007, is expected to shrink to 2,152 square feet by 2015…

The showpiece, described as a modern take on the classic “boxes” of the 1960s and ’70s, has two bedrooms, and features additional rooms that could house parents or boomerang kids — those moving back home because of the weak economy. It also boasts energy-efficient features such solar panels to run the HVAC system and to heat hot water.

This year’s builder decided to keep the house as a showcase for clients…instead of offering it for sale. And it is great to see sizes starting to come down to match good sense instead of market agitprop.

The “New American Home” has to be larger than life because the intent is to show off the best of everything. Cripes, the last NAHB Show I attended the house on display was up over 8,000 sq.ft.. And that year I worked on a couple houses – including a vacation “cottage” – that were in the 24,000 sq.ft. range!

I’m retired, now – my wife will be, sooner or later – and we live in <1400 sq.ft. with room for dogs as companions and 1 room leftover as a spare.

Marriage equality is proving good for New York business


Michael Bloomberg, Christine C. Quinn, Mario Cuomo march in 2011 NYC LGBT Pride March
Daylife/Getty Images used by permission

Many New Yorkers and thousands of visitors this weekend may make last month’s Gay Pride celebrations seem tepid. Beginning Sunday, New York’s same-sex couples will become eligible for marriage licenses. Tens of thousands of those couples are expected to marry over the next few years, and their vows will resonate across America…

New York’s mayor, Michael Bloomberg, and city leaders must be cheering the economic shot in the arm as hotels, restaurants, caterers, florists and legions of vendors welcome the wedding and honeymoon brigades. Some estimate nearly $400 million in revenues for the state over the next three years.

These rewards are also the result of changing tides among American corporations and employers over recent decades. Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s same-sex marriage legislation was endorsed not only by major corporations like Xerox and Google but by scores of smaller business owners across the state.

First, many employers already “get it.” Beginning in 1982 with New York’s Village Voice, thousands of employers have added spousal-equivalent work benefits including health coverage for their workers with same-sex partners. Today, nearly 60% of Fortune 500 companies do so…

If employers give equal benefits to same-sex couples, why worry about marital status? Ask employers in New Jersey, where same-sex civil unions are the law instead. Civil unions, domestic partnerships and other makeshift legal arrangements offer some measure of legal protection. But real-world experience shows that they do not measure up in crucial ways.

“Marriage lite” not only creates a social apartheid among families, it opens significant gaps, confusion and conflicts that businesses confront in areas such as survivor benefits, pensions and bankruptcies, along with disparate tax treatment at the state and federal level.

Keeping it simple and consistent are important to businesses…Furthermore, administering payrolls and maintaining accurate, timely benefits and tax withholding procedures can strain any employer. When you add the complexity that accompanies different marital and tax status for many couples, from jurisdiction to jurisdiction and workplace to workplace, it is another unacceptable and costly burden on business.

Sooner rather than later, chambers of commerce will recognize that their best interests are served by the simplicity, uniformity and cost savings that come with marriage equality across the nation…

Part of today’s political dichotomies is the decline in principles and standards of traditional organizations of all types. Churches, political parties – local and national, trade organizations and national business representatives like the US Chamber of Commerce have walked away from any pretense of representing a broad base.

Just as fundamentalist churches less and less often engage in dialogue with the broad reach of Christianity, the US Chamber of Commerce long ago turned its back on small business. In truth there are whole segments of American commerce ignored or deliberately affronted by the entrenched leadership of the Chamber. If you ain’t from Big Oil or Pharma or Insurance and Finance – just punch their meal ticket; but, don’t waste anyone’s time with issues outside of extraction taxes or capital gains.