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Jobless claims

Economist Dean Baker:

For the fifth week in a row new unemployment insurance (UI) claims came in over 400,000. The number for last week was 434,000, bring the 4-week moving average to 436,750, the highest it has been since November.

This should be real news. There were a lot of explanations for increases in the prior weeks based on administrative issues or the timing of Easter. These factors can explain a one-week jump, but they imply lower claims in the preceding or following week.

At this point, the data are clearly giving a warning of weakness in the labor market. It is also worth noting that many newly unemployed workers will not be eligible for benefits since they have been unemployed for much of the last two years. (Eligibility for benefits is based on recent work history. Someone who was unemployed for 8 months, and then employed at a low-paying job for 4 months, and then laid off, likely will not have an earnings history that qualifies them for benefits.) If ineligible workers generally do not apply for benefits, then 434,000 new claims in 2011 would correspond to more layoffs than 434,000 claims in May of 2008.


But there are so many people I’d rather not be related to!

The next time you’re having a disagreement with a work colleague or annoying neighbour, bear this in mind: Chances are you’re related.

A new study of DNA patterns throughout the world suggests that North America was originally populated by no more than 70 people.

Most experts agree that, around 14,000 years ago, a group of humans crossed the land bridge that connected what is now Siberia in Russia with Alaska.

But new research has shown just how small that group was, venturing into a vast continent from Asia during the last Ice Age.

Up to now DNA analyses of the intrepid and original ‘founding fathers’ looked at a particular gene, using estimates and academic assumptions on constant population sizes over time.

The new study, by Professor Jody Hey, came at the subject from a different angle – looking at nine genomic regions to account for variations in single genes, and assuming that sizes of founding populations changed over time.

Bin Laden, micro manager

So it looks as though bin Laden was much more hands on with the rest of al Qaeda’s operations than we were led to believe. Interesting, since we were told a full-scale war was the only way to stop all those disconnected cells, but of course it’s likely the intelligence community’s findings were molded to meet the long-term political goals of the White House:

The ongoing study of files recovered from Osama bin Laden’s compound revealed that he wanted to plan another 9/11-scale attack on the US, which he hoped would shock the US into ending its presence in the Middle East.

As information from the files is studied, it is becoming increasingly clear to US officials that bin Laden remained very involved in Al Qaeda’s operations from his hiding spot in Abbottabad. It remains to be seen, however, if this will convince Pakistani officials that the 9/11 mastermind was more than an “out-of-touch figurehead” whose presence deep inside Pakistan was of little consequence, as they have suggested.

Citing bin Laden’s handwritten journal and information gleaned from computer files recovered in the May 2 raid, US officials told the Associated Press that the Saudi-born terrorist calculated how many Americans he thought would have to die in order for the US to leave the Arab world and decided that the small attacks since 9/11 would not be enough – that thousands had to die at once, like they did in the attacks on the World Trade Center.

Bin Laden was cognizant of US counterterrorism defenses and educated his followers on how to evade them, according to the AP. He also urged them to focus plots not just on New York City, but other large cities, such as Los Angeles, and smaller cities throughout the country. He insisted they consider trains as a target, not just planes.

In fact, it looks like he was a bit of a micro-manager. And like many executives, sounds like he was a little antsy about letting anyone else succeed him:

Intelligence gathered months before the raid revealed a tell-tale exchange with the al Qaeda leader in Yemen. The leader, a Yemeni, wrote to bin Laden with a surprising proposal: He suggested that he step down as chief of the affiliate in favor of Anwar al-Awlaki, a Yemeni-American ideologue. Awlaki’s influence has been revealed in a string of recent plots against the U.S., including the attempted Christmas bombing on a Detroit-bound flight in 2009.

The leader explained that naming Awlaki as his replacement would be a propaganda coup. It would take advantage of the cleric’s popularity among Westerners, especially Americans, and have a strong impact on recruitment, according to the counterterror official.

The leader in Pakistan rejected the proposal, however, according to the official. “Bin laden’s message was essentially, I know you. I trust you. Let’s keep things the way they are.”

A sad story

Wendell Potter on the struggle of Obama’s mother with her insurance company – which turned out to be CIGNA.

The fracking song

From ProPublica:

Prom night

My friend was telling me about her granddaughter’s prom. It seems one of her granddaughter’s friends came by with a knapsack of bottled water “for the limo.”

Her daughter, having been raised by my sharp-eyed friend, opened one of the bottles and sniffed. It was filled with vodka.

“I did what you would have done, Mom,” she told my friend. “I emptied them all out, filled them with water and put them back in the limo.”


I only went to one junior prom at the boys’ school and found it excruciatingly boring. How bad was it? I couldn’t wait to get home.

My mother was upset that I didn’t go to my senior prom, didn’t even want to go. “I just can’t see spending all that money,” I told her. “For what?” (Plus, by then I was dating someone seven years older and I didn’t see him as high school prom material.)

Was I all that unusual? How many of you went to your proms? Was it worth all the hype?


Killed for running a stop sign.

Saturday protest

I can see a certain conflict arising in the online community over this one:

On Saturday, May 14th, Philly Uncut will be staging actions against Apple’s refusal to pay its fair share.

Apple, one of the largest corporations in the world, had a pretax income of $18.54 billion in 2009. It dodged 2 billion dollars in income taxes, avoiding more than 10% of the taxes it owed to the Federal Government. That 2 billion dollars could pay for every single cut being proposed by Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett. Reading this on a Mac? Own an iPod? Make up for it by coming out to protest Apple!

We will be meeting at Rittenhouse Square, and then walking to the Apple Store.

Entitled twit

Rand Paul:

“With regard to the idea of whether you have a right to health care, you have realize what that implies. It’s not an abstraction. I’m a physician. That means you have a right to come to my house and conscript me. It means you believe in slavery. It means that you’re going to enslave not only me, but the janitor at my hospital, the person who cleans my office, the assistants who work in my office, the nurses. … You have a right to beat down my door with the police, escort me away and force me to take care of you? That’s ultimately what the right to free health care would be.”

Did I mention his practice consisted mostly of Medicare patients?

Hedge funds

How they lie, cheat and steal.

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