Chas' Compilation

A compilation of information and links regarding assorted subjects: politics, religion, science, computers, health, movies, music... essentially whatever I'm reading about, working on or experiencing in life.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Russia: Returning as a World Power?

Looks like it:

Thinking the Unthinkable: Russia Has Re-Emerged As a Great Power
The Western image of Russia and Putin in recent years has been very negative. President Obama has publicly called Vladimir Putin a “schoolboy who slouches in his chair in the back of the room“ and derided his country as a mere “regional power.”

This begs the question: how Russia could again become a major power after the disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1991? How could Putin do this without an agrarian or consumer revolution and with the massive drop in the price of oil? If Putin is a terrible leader, then how can you explain successful interventions in Georgia (2008), Crimea (2014), Ukraine (2014-2016) and Syria (2015-2016)?

Putin, however, is actually a very shrewd leader with a brilliant Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, who relies on a capable Foreign Ministry. Putin has rebuilt Russia’s military capability by spending $49B a year on security. Russia retains 1,790 strategic nuclear weapons. With over 140 million people and 13 million college graduates, Russia has nearly a million first-class scientists, engineers and technicians, most of whom work for the military.

Many former great powers are now no longer major powers. [...]
The article goes on to show the many ways that formerly great powers -including the United States- have declined in military and economic strength, leaving the door open for Russia to fill the void, as it is now doing. Read the whole thing, the article has many embedded links as well.

As I posted previously, while American policy in the Middle East is unfocused and confused, Russia seems to know what it wants, and how to go about getting it by leveraging what they have to work with and using it to maximum effect.

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Sunday, April 17, 2016

Are there relatively "Safe" places to live?

Here is a list of five, with reasons why:

5 countries with the lowest risk of disaster
Watching the events unfold in Japan and Libya has probably given a lot of people reason to consider their own safety, wherever they live. “What if that happened where I live?” is a perfectly natural question to ask when faced with wall-to-wall coverage of horrible devastation.

It’s true that no place is perfect, and there are always going to be some risks wherever you are in the world, whether it’s California, Indonesia, or London… but if you’ve been thinking about a move overseas, and the events in Japan and Libya have you wondering which countries run the lowest risk of destruction, read on.

* To be clear, what follows is not an exhaustive list, just a few countries that stand out as being particularly low risk for destructive natural disasters, nuclear meltdown, terrorism, or Qadaffi tactics. [...]
Follow the link to read about the five. Some of them may surprise you. The first one has been a favorite of mine for a while.

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Do you speak Singlish?

They do in Singapore:

The official languages of Singapore
[...] Most Singaporeans speak a localized dialect of English called Singlish or Singaporean English, which can be difficult for foreigners to understand at first. Singlish is based on standard English with influences and loan words from Chinese, Malay and Indian languages. Singapore is a multilingual society, which is why Singlish developed over time. Singlish phrases are most common in the informal aspects of the English language, such as casual conversation. In school, every student learns English and a second language of their choice. Mandarin is the second most popular language, with over 70% of the population speaking it as a first or second language.
Wikipedia has more details on the Languages of Singapore.

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Sunday, April 03, 2016

States people are migrating to...

And of course, those they are leaving...

The states people really want to move to — and those they don’t
When the U.S. economy slowed during the recession, so did one of the major demographic shifts of the last several decades. For a brief respite, the Northeast and Midwest stopped shedding quite so many residents to the burgeoning Sun Belt. That trend, though — which has big consequences for politics, among other things — has been picking back up.

New census data shows the trend accelerating back to its pre-recession pace. Florida, which actually lost more domestic movers than it gained right after the housing bubble burst, picked up about 200,000 net new movers between 2014 and 2015 (this number includes people who move between states, not immigration into the United States from abroad). Illinois, meanwhile, had a net loss of about 105,000 residents, its largest one-year population leak in the 21st century.

The District of Columbia, perched between the North and South, has been a winner, too.

The other big gains over the past year were Texas (170,000 new migrants), Colorado (54,00o), and Arizona and South Carolina (both with more than 45,000 each). Not a single state in the Northeast or Midwest gained domestic movers over the last year. [...]
I think much of it can be explained as people retiring and looking for a comfortable, affordable place to retire to. Younger people are likely going where the jobs are, and where there is affordable housing. Read the whole thing for more details, lots of embedded links, and more graphs showing stats for the regions of the US, and more.


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Sunday, March 20, 2016

Pioneers of Hospice: Changing the Face of Dying

I saw this video recently. Here is the first 18 minutes on Youtube:

The full video runs about 50 minutes. It's very informative, well worth watching the whole thing. I've been looking for a copy, but the DVD seems to be out of print, with no indication of when it might become available again. Does anyone know? offers it for $249.00, but that's way beyond my budget.

I'm surprised the video has not been re-released and made more readily available. IMO, Hospice is a much misunderstood concept. This video does a lot to clear up those misconceptions. I hope that whoever owns the copyright will release the video for publication again, or else release it into the public domain, where it could do a lot of good.

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Saturday, March 12, 2016

An amazing photo of the U.K.

I love this photo:
It's from this article: The Brexit Won't Happen, Buy The British Pound, which is about whether or not the U.K. will exit the European Union:
[...] Although the Brexit vote is some way off, we still feel an exit from the European Union is not going to eventuate. Because of this we have taken advantage of the lower pound and increased our long position.

Boris Johnson may be charismatic and popular with the people, ourselves included, but he is also considered quite wacky, so to speak. We feel many of the British public will take his view that the United Kingdom should exit the European Union with a pinch of salt, and don't consider him to be a true threat here. [...]
But the photo is amazing. Click on it to look at it in it's full size. You can still see the sky above the horizon, so I suspect it was taken from the very upper reaches of the outer stratosphere. So beautiful.


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When are we going to STOP the insanity that is the useless Daylight Savings Time?

I'm serious. It seems to do more harm than good:

Daylight Saving Time is hot garbage
End the madness!
When Benjamin Franklin proposed Daylight Saving Time — he invented it — it was a joke. These days, it's more like a practical joke we play on ourselves every single year. It's time to end this dumb prank once and for all.


Proponents of DST will tell you that it saves energy. This is because a study in the 1970s found a 1 percent benefit to energy use in Daylight Saving Time. You may notice, though, that the 1970s are now 40 years ago, and energy consumption has changed somewhat in the interim. More recent research shows no difference in energy usage in places where it doesn't go into effect, compared to places observing DST. A few studies suggest Daylight Saving Time actually means more energy is used, rather than less. Take, for example, this 2008 paper that looks at southern Indiana: DST actually increases electricity demand to the tune of $9 million a year in Indiana alone. [...]
The article goes on to describe the affects of sleep deprivation, and the spike in the number of car accidents and accidents at work that occur for six weeks after DST kicks in. There are many, many embedded links to support what she says; the author really did her homework. Read the whole thing for embedded links, the history of DST, Ben's joke, and more.

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Thursday, February 25, 2016

Buy your own portable island...

And a submersible yacht to go with it:
This man-made private island has a penthouse, helipad, and shark-feeding station
For about $40,000, you can purchase a private island in Maine. Of course, barring any natural phenomenon, you and your piece of land will remain residents of the Pine Tree State, because islands are pretty stationary … unless they’re man-made and mobile.

Submarine company Migaloo will custom-make you a private island with ridiculous amenities. Named the Kokomo Ailand (presumably after the island in Maui), the island is moveable, but forget about getting there fast and then taking it slow; the Kokomo only reaches speeds of eight knots (roughly nine miles per hour).

At 384 feet long and with a penthouse 262 feet above sea level, it’s no wonder you don’t want to zip around like a speedboat. The island is really customizable, and the features owners decide upon will determine its price, Christian Gumpold, Migaloo’s managing director, tells Huffington Post. Some of the add-ons include pools, decks, spas, helipad, waterfalls, outdoor movie theater, and a shark-feeding station. [...]
It's a pretty cool concept. I say concept, because I don't see and pictures of an actual one. The price tag and maintenance costs must be... well, certainly beyond my budget! And I have to say, the idea of "shark feeding stations" sounds a bit disturbing. I mean, WHAT do you feed them? Homeless people? The unemployed? I've heard that the rich are different, but, really... it sounds like a plot for a horror movie.

Follow the link for more pictures and videos, of the "Island" and the submarine/yacht. And embedded links and more info. It is cool. And the shark feeding stations are an optional feature. ;-)


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Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Death rates rise for middle aged white Americans

Death Rates Rising for Middle-Aged White Americans, Study Finds
[...] The mortality rate for whites 45 to 54 years old with no more than a high school education increased by 134 deaths per 100,000 people from 1999 to 2014.

“It is difficult to find modern settings with survival losses of this magnitude,” wrote two Dartmouth economists, Ellen Meara and Jonathan S. Skinner, in a commentary to the Deaton-Case analysis to be published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“Wow,” said Samuel Preston, a professor of sociology at the University of Pennsylvania and an expert on mortality trends and the health of populations, who was not involved in the research. “This is a vivid indication that something is awry in these American households.”

Dr. Deaton had but one parallel. “Only H.I.V./AIDS in contemporary times has done anything like this,” he said.

In contrast, the death rate for middle-aged blacks and Hispanics continued to decline during the same period, as did death rates for younger and older people of all races and ethnic groups.

Middle-aged blacks still have a higher mortality rate than whites — 581 per 100,000, compared with 415 for whites — but the gap is closing, and the rate for middle-aged Hispanics is far lower than for middle-aged whites at 262 per 100,000.

David M. Cutler, a Harvard health care economist, said that although it was known that people were dying from causes like opioid addiction, the thought was that those deaths were just blips in the health care statistics and that over all everyone’s health was improving. The new paper, he said, “shows those blips are more like incoming missiles.”

Dr. Deaton and Dr. Case (who are husband and wife) say they stumbled on their finding by accident, looking at a variety of national data sets on mortality rates and federal surveys that asked people about their levels of pain, disability and general ill health.

Dr. Deaton was looking at statistics on suicide and happiness, skeptical about whether states with a high happiness level have a low suicide rate. (They do not, he discovered; in fact, the opposite is true.) Dr. Case was interested in poor health, including chronic pain because she has suffered for 12 years from disabling and untreatable lower back pain.

Dr. Deaton noticed in national data sets that middle-aged whites were committing suicide at an unprecedented rate and that the all-cause mortality in this group was rising. But suicides alone, he and Dr. Case realized, were not enough to push up overall death rates, so they began looking at other causes of death. That led them to the discovery that deaths from drug and alcohol poisoning also increased in this group.

They concluded that taken together, suicides, drugs and alcohol explained the overall increase in deaths. The effect was largely confined to people with a high school education or less. In that group, death rates rose by 22 percent while they actually fell for those with a college education.

It is not clear why only middle-aged whites had such a rise in their mortality rates. Dr. Meara and Dr. Skinner, in their commentary, considered a variety of explanations — including a pronounced racial difference in the prescription of opioid drugs and their misuse, and a more pessimistic outlook among whites about their financial futures — but say they cannot fully account for the effect. [...]

Read the whole thing for more details, embedded links and more.

I think key to this is the fact that it's affecting whites with only a high school education or less. The job market is particularly tough for them, and their coping skills are likely less resilient. They are more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol. The article goes on to talk about physical pain issues rising in this demographic, also. The combined health and financial problems, with a pessimistic attitude and substance abuse issues, may be proving lethal.

Of course there are those who are quick to say it's merely the Death of White Privledge; Whitey is finding out what it's like to be poor, and can't cope. That authors' agenda isn't mine, I prefer a bit more scientific objectivity. I include the link merely because it's a narrative we are going to hear more and more, as everything continues to get more and more racialized and radicalized.

I think the article about Dr. Deaton and Dr. Case that I've excerpted from here is more objective, and therefor more balanced.

Here is a link to readers comments about the study:
Readers React to Rising Death Rates of Middle-Aged White Americans.

Since the same demographic in other industrialized countries is NOT dying at such an increased rate, I would suggest that the difference is, that many other countries have a permanent unemployed class, that receives better, permanent unemployment benefits and health care. The same demographic here does not, which explains why they gravitate to Bernie Sanders: They want the government to take care of them, European style. Is that the same as the "End of White Privledge"? You decide.

This will be a growing issue as the automation of job tasks continues and jobs continue to disappear. What is to be done with the growing pool of unemployed people, not just here, but globally? It's one of the major challenges we face in the coming Brave New Word.

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