Mayor Bloomberg Pushes for Ban on Styrofoam Cups

New York City elected Bill De Blasio as their new mayor earlier
this month, but Bloomberg still has some time in office. Before he
goes out, he wants to push a final, significant piece of
legislation into law:
banning plastic foam
 cups and plates. 

Bloomberg has supported the ban

since it was introduced
by Brooklyn Councilman Lewis
Fidler this summer. Now, at Bloomberg’s request, the City
Council’s Sanitation Committee will hold a hearing Monday to
discuss the bill.

Bloomberg has said the ban is a no-brainer for environmental
reasons. According to the
New York Post
, Bloomberg spokesman Jake Goldman said,
When polystyrene foam is used for food service it becomes a
devastating pollutant that infects our parks and waterways while
never biodegrading and has been classified a carcinogenic health
hazard by the National Institute of Health.”

The Post also reports that plastic foam food
containers add 23,000 tons of trash a year to landfills.

Although Mr. Bloomberg is notorious
for his Nanny State tendencies, the plastic foam bill is not as
unprecedented as, say, the large soda ban. Many cities, including

Seattle
and
Los Angeles
, have banned the substance.

However, the bill’s opponents argue that the ban will be
extremely costly for small businesses. The American Chemistry
Council reports that replacing polystyrene cups and trays with the
cheapest alternative will cost New Yorkers $91.3 million
per year. MB Public Affairs found that for every $1 spent on
polystyrene foam goods, businesses 
will have to spend $1.94
on alternative replacements,
effectively doubling costs. Their report finds that “this 94% is in
effect an “environmental tax” far higher than any current sales tax
or import duty rates affecting the cost of consumer products.” And
given that most large chains in the city have
already stopped
using polystyrene, small businesses will be hit
especially hard.  

Additionally, some trade groups and politicians have noted
alternative approaches to reducing environmental harm. In
California, 65 cities
with a total population of around 8
million
(similar to New York City’s) have polystyrene recycling
centers. New York City’s recycling centers currently reject the
material, citing prohibitively high costs.

Forbes’ Jeff Stier
writes
of Seattle’s problems with their polystyrene ban:

In coffee-loving Seattle, where styrofoam cups are already
banned, they’ve been having a hard time recycling their allegedly
green paper cups, according
to The Seattle Times
.

They’ve found that mills don’t want recycled coffee cups because
the process takes longer, making cups more expensive to process
than items like recycled cardboard boxes. And facilities that do
accept the “mixed paper” that paper coffee cups and other food
service items contribute to, only use it in a 1:10 ratio
with higher-quality fibers. So there’s not much of a market for it,
at least in the U.S.

Even if Bloomberg doesn’t manage to get the ban passed, his
successor may try. On his campaign website, De Blasio pledges
to end government use of plastic foam. 

from Hit & Run http://reason.com/blog/2013/11/25/mayor-bloombergs-final-act-ban-plastic-f
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A Greek Tragedy: Half Of New Greek HIV Cases Are Self-Inflicted To Receive €700 Per Month Benefits, Study Finds

When one reads the following stunning, and tragic, excerpt from the World Health Organization’s recent report “Review of social determinants and the health divide in the WHO European Region: final report” what can one say but… Grecovery.

From the WHO:

Case study: countries’ experiences of financial crisis – Greece

 

Suicides rose by 17% between 2007 and 2009 and to 25% in 2010, according to unofficial 2010 data (398). The Minister of Health reported a further 40% rise in the first half of 2011 compared with the same period in 2010. Suicide attempts have also increased, particularly among people reporting economic distress (610). Homicide and theft rates have doubled. HIV rates and heroin use have risen significantly, with about half of new HIV infections being self-inflicted to enable people to receive benefits of €700 per month and faster admission on to drug-substitution programmes. Prostitution has also risen, probably as a response to economic hardship. Health care access has declined as hospital budgets have been cut by about 40% (398) and it is estimated that 26 000 public health workers (9100 doctors) will lose their jobs (611). Further cuts are expected as a result of recent negotiations with the IMF and European Central Bank.

But at least they have the Euro.

h/t @timmyconspiracy


    



via Zero Hedge http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/zerohedge/feed/~3/9jaPUF5Emjs/story01.htm Tyler Durden

In China 1.2 Million Candidates Apply For 19,000 Government Jobs

The difficulty of US workers to obtain “desirable” jobs has been noted here previously. Recall in 2012 when Delta received 22,000 applications for about 300 flight attendant jobs in the first week after posting the positions outside the company (which was an improvement from 2010, when the Atlanta-based carrier received 100,000 applications for 1,000 jobs when it last hired flight attendants in October 2010). Or when in 2011 McDonalds hired 62,000 minimum wage applicants out of one million total applicants. However, that is nothing compared to the job seeking frenzy in China, where as AFP reports, more than one million people took China’s national civil service exam at the weekend in a modern version of an age-old rite, but faced huge odds against clinching one of the few government jobs available. A total of 1.12 million took the National Public Servant Exam, according to figures from the State Administration of Civil Service figures. How many total job openings were there? A tiny 19,000 according to China’s Global Times, meaning less than 1 on 50 would be successful.

But that’s just the tip of the scramble. According to AFP, the most competitive role was with the National Ethnic Affairs Commission, where 14,384 candidates were vying for just two jobs. Why the surge in applicants? “Domestic reports said it was so popular because the application process appeared to be less arduous than for other positions.” Somehow math suggest that over 7,000 applicants for one job means a somewhat more “arduous” application process, not less.

As for the allure of government jobs, the story here is well-known: job safety coupled with an easy living in which one isn’t expected to do much of anything:

Government jobs are especially appealing to Chinese because they are seen as stable employment and bring with them a range of privileges, as well as the status of being an official. The benefits can include living allowances, pensions, health insurance and even property — a valuable commodity in China’s prolonged housing boom.

 

The current civil service test is a legacy of the ancient imperial examination known as the keju, introduced during the Sui Dynasty, which ruled from 580-618 AD, and often regarded as a key meritocratic element of the governing system.

 

Early forms of the examinations were largely based on Confucian texts. They were open only to boys who were able to complete their education, either because of family wealth or sponsorship by benefactors.

In the US the pinnacle of professional development may mean ending up as a hedge fund billionaire on Twitter and moving stocks with nothing but a buy or sell recommendation in under 140 characters, but in China it is all about the government jobs:

The tests were only held every three years, and local officials would often present those who passed with a special banner to be hung at the entrance to their home, to ensure the success was remembered for generations.

The amusing nature of this process was not lost on the locals:

Many posters on Sina Weibo, a Chinese version of Twitter, ridiculed the candidates. “This really is China’s peculiar landscape”, said one poster with the username “Law and its value”.

 

“Do they really want to pass the test to ‘serve the people’? No. They desperately hope to go and enjoy a privileged system of wages.”

 

Another said: “Every time (they take the test), they are in fact just competing to be able to take bribes and bend the law.”

 

Other netizens asked whether more civil servants were needed in China, following government pledges to cut down on bureaucracy.

 

“Who wouldn’t want to have a job that is guaranteed for life?” said one netizen.

 

“But the real question should be: ‘Is it really necessary to recruit tens of thousands of civil servants every year?'”

The answer: of course it is. How else can the world’s second most centrally-planned economy and market (after the US of course) preserve the illusion of 7%+ growth unless it created as many government jobs as needed to fill the daily growing slack. But if you think 7000 applicants for 1 “desired” job is bad, wait until the full impact of China’s easing of its 1 child policy is felt…


    



via Zero Hedge http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/zerohedge/feed/~3/Lm6YPaou6a4/story01.htm Tyler Durden

Twitter Takes Steps To Frustrate NSA, Other Government Snoops

TwitterTwitter announced Friday that
it’s joining other tech companies in implementing “perfect forward
secrecy.” While many online services already encrypt user
comunications and other data, this form of encryption ensures that
snoops—we’re looking at you, National Security Agency—who break
through the encryption get access to only a snippet of data, rather
than everything belonging to a user. Even where a warrant is
involved, perfect forward secrecy has the potential to limit
intrusions, rather than acting as an open-ended skeleton key.

From Twitter’s
Jacob Hoffman-Andrews
:

As part of our continuing effort to keep our users’ information
as secure as possible, we’re happy to announce that we recently
enabled forward secrecy for traffic on twitter.com,
api.twitter.com, and mobile.twitter.com. On top of the usual
confidentiality and integrity properties of HTTPS, forward secrecy
adds a new property. If an adversary is currently recording all
Twitter users’ encrypted traffic, and they later crack or steal
Twitter’s private keys, they should not be able to use those keys
to decrypt the recorded traffic.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Parker Higgins
describes how perfect forward secrecy works
:

How can perfect forward secrecy help protect user privacy
against that kind of threat? In order to understand that, it’s
helpful to have a basic idea of how HTTPS works in general. Every
Web server that uses HTTPS has its own secret key that it uses to
encrypt data that it sends to users. Specifically, it uses that
secret key to generate a new “session key” that only the server and
the browser know. Without that secret key, the traffic traveling
back and forth between the user and the server is incomprehensible,
to the NSA and to any other eavesdroppers.

But imagine that some of that incomprehensible data is being
recorded anyway—as leaked NSA documents confirm the agency is
doing. An eavesdropper who gets the secret key at any time in the
future—even years later—can use it to decrypt all of the stored
data! That means that the encrypted data, once stored, is only as
secure as the secret key, which may be vulnerable to compromised
server security or disclosure by the service provider.

That’s where perfect forward secrecy comes in. When an encrypted
connection uses perfect forward secrecy, that means that the
session keys the server generates are truly ephemeral, and even
somebody with access to the secret key can’t later derive the
relevant session key that would allow her to decrypt any particular
HTTPS session. So intercepted encrypted data is protected from
prying eyes long into the future, even if the website’s secret key
is later compromised.

Facebook
also plans to implement perfect forward secrecy
, and
Google has had it in place
since 2011. Google points out that
“not even the server operator will be able to retroactively decrypt
HTTPS sessions,” meaning that companies that implement the security
can’t turn users’ lives into open books, no matter the
pressure they face.

As fuck-yous to the surveillance state go, this is both welcome,
and effective.

from Hit & Run http://reason.com/blog/2013/11/25/twitter-takes-steps-to-frustrate-nsa-oth
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Yes, a Man in Ohio Is Facing Prison Time Entirely for Having a Secret Car Compartment

Nobody whose logo looks like this should be accusing anybody else of drug-related offensesNorman Gurley, whom I noted
last week
was arrested
in northern Ohio for violating the state’s new
statute prohibiting secret compartments in cars (if authorities
determine they’re being used for transporting drugs) faces a
preliminary hearing tomorrow at Oberlin Municipal Court. According
to court
documents
, Ohio Highway Patrol officers weren’t kidding when
they said they’d have nothing on Gurley if they hadn’t found the
compartment. The one count of violating Ohio’s hidden compartment
law is the only charge levied against Gurley.

Even though Gurley’s preliminary hearing is scheduled for
tomorrow, Oberlin’s site does not list an attorney for the man to
try to contact. Several commenters (and e-mailers) are curious as
to how the troopers justified the search. You can probably guess,
but if not, The Morning Journal of … somewhere
nearby
(dear small media outlets: Please indicate where the
hell you are on your websites and not assume that visitors already
know)
got some comments
from Ohio Highway Patrol Lt. Michael
Combs:

“The troopers noticed a smell of raw marijuana, which led them
to perform a search of the car,” Combs said. “While searching, they
saw some indicators that led them to believe a secret compartment
may have been added to the car.”

So the officers were able to smell raw marijuana while standing
outside the vehicle, but they weren’t able to find any during their
search. Those are some strong noses. I bet they don’t even need
police dogs up there in Ohio. Combs added that they found evidence
that the car was being used to transport drugs, but the evidence is
not detailed.

Violating Ohio’s hidden compartment law is a fourth degree felony,
meaning a judge could sentence Gurley to up to 18 months in prison
if convicted. If the defendant had been previously convicted
(apparently not the case with Gurley) the crime becomes a
third-degree felony, leading to a sentence of up to three years. If
it turns out there are drugs in the hidden compartment, the crime
becomes a second degree felony with a potential sentence of up to
five years in prison.

Once Reason passed along the story on Thursday it spread fast
and quickly on the Internet through social media. I’ll do my best
to try to keep an eye on the case (from all the way out here in
California), and when Gurley gets an attorney, I’ll see if he or
she is willing to comment.

from Hit & Run http://reason.com/blog/2013/11/25/yes-a-man-in-ohio-is-facing-prison-time
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NYSE “Breaks” As Twitter Slumps To New Record Low

Even as the Dot-Com 2.0 exasperates to new highs, it seems Twitter – the darling of the no-profit-but-lots-of-hype recent IPOs – is losing its lustre. TWTR is down 4% today to new lows post-IPO under $40. The catalyst for this latest slump appears to be a WSJ article about "fake accounts" – whocouldanode? Of course, it wouldn't be the new normal markets without an exchange 'breaking'… The NYSE and NYSE MKT cash equities markets is working to resolve an issue with customer connectivity.

 

Via WSJ,

In securities filings, Twitter says it believes fake accounts represent fewer than 5% of its 230 million active users. Independent researchers believe the number is higher.

 

Italian security researchers Andrea Stroppa and Carlo De Micheli say they found 20 million fake accounts for sale on Twitter this summer. That would amount to nearly 9% of Twitter's monthly active users.

 


    



via Zero Hedge http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/zerohedge/feed/~3/CdWLfaaDA1Y/story01.htm Tyler Durden

NYSE "Breaks" As Twitter Slumps To New Record Low

Even as the Dot-Com 2.0 exasperates to new highs, it seems Twitter – the darling of the no-profit-but-lots-of-hype recent IPOs – is losing its lustre. TWTR is down 4% today to new lows post-IPO under $40. The catalyst for this latest slump appears to be a WSJ article about "fake accounts" – whocouldanode? Of course, it wouldn't be the new normal markets without an exchange 'breaking'… The NYSE and NYSE MKT cash equities markets is working to resolve an issue with customer connectivity.

 

Via WSJ,

In securities filings, Twitter says it believes fake accounts represent fewer than 5% of its 230 million active users. Independent researchers believe the number is higher.

 

Italian security researchers Andrea Stroppa and Carlo De Micheli say they found 20 million fake accounts for sale on Twitter this summer. That would amount to nearly 9% of Twitter's monthly active users.

 


    



via Zero Hedge http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/zerohedge/feed/~3/CdWLfaaDA1Y/story01.htm Tyler Durden

Pending Home Sales Collapse At Fastest Pace Since April 2011, Drop To December 2012 Levels

Despite the downtick in rates for a month or two, the housing ‘recovery’ appears to have come to an end. This is the fifth consecutive monthly decline in pending home sales and even though a smorgasbord of Wall Street’s best and brightest doth protest, it would appear the lagged impact of rising rates is with us for good (as the fast money has left the flipping building). This is the biggest YoY decline since April 2011 as NAR blames low inventories and affordability for the poor performance. Perhaps more worrying for those still clinging to the hope that this ends well is the new mortgage rules in January that could further delay approvals.

 

 

Via NAR,

“The government shutdown in the first half of last month sidelined some potential buyers. In a survey, 17 percent of Realtors reported delays in October, mostly from waiting for IRS income verification for mortgage approval,” he said.

 

“We could rebound a bit from this level, but still face the headwinds of limited inventory and falling affordability conditions. Job creation and a slight dialing down from current stringent mortgage underwriting standards going into 2014 can help offset the headwind factors,” Yun said.

 

Yun said there are concerns heading into 2014. “New mortgage rules in January could delay the approval process, and another government shutdown would harm both housing and the economy,” he said.

So the Fed provided the liquidity that bid prices up to a point that makes it unaffordable for the average joe and uneconomic for the average free-money-riding hedge fund. The Fed has made any recovery entirely dependent on extremely low rates and now is suggesting that taper is coming… and still… Strategists exclaim that rates are low by historical standards and so it won’t matter!! come on!


    



via Zero Hedge http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/zerohedge/feed/~3/Krpdz4JtGFU/story01.htm Tyler Durden