The global financial crisis, and the $10 billion in damage inflicted by three hurricanes in 2008, have forced authorities to run a deficit of 5 percent of GDP, leaving them unable to pay back credits received from China and elsewhere. Cuba slashed spending on importing food and other basics by 34 percent to $9.6 billion in 2009, from $12.7 billion the previous year. But so far, the moves have not been enough to rein in the deficit.
President Raul Castro has startled the nation lately by saying about one in five Cuban workers may be redundant. Carmelo Mesa-Lago, a Cuba economics expert and professor emeritus at the University of Pittsburgh, said Cuban officials have spent months debating cuts in the labor force and economic reforms. He said they know what’s needed, but face “a problem of political viability.”
Various government perks like cars, gas, uniforms and office supplies have become incentives to bloat the payroll, since they are based on the size of a company’s work force.
But low pay means low productivity. On Obispo street, a state-run cafeteria sells heavily subsidized soft ice cream and pork sandwiches for the equivalent of a few American pennies — meaning wages and tips are so tiny that the staff is complete indifferent toward customers. Three waiters sit at the counter cracking jokes. A fourth is the only one working, making coffee for three tables. Nearby, a cashier stares into space, a cook flirts with a scantily clad teen and a supervisor sits idly by.
Here, nearly everyone works for the state and official unemployment is minuscule, but pay is so low that Cubans like to joke that “the state pretends to pay us and we pretend to work.” – monthly salaries worth only $20 a month on average.
via Jobless in Cuba? Communism faces the unthinkable – Yahoo! News.
A gel that can help decayed teeth grow back in just weeks may mean an end to fillings.
The gel, which is being developed by scientists in France, works by prompting cells in teeth to start multiplying. They then form healthy new tooth tissue that gradually replaces what has been lost to decay.
Researchers say in lab studies it took just four weeks to restore teeth back to their original healthy state. The gel contains melanocyte-stimulating hormone, or MSH.
via Gel that can help decayed teeth grow back could end fillings | Mail Online.
The remarkable valuation was apparently placed on the Red Sox — and their cable arm, New England Sports Network — in a transaction earlier this year.
A $9.1 million profit on a $5 million purchase implies a $14.1 million sale. The shares sold amounted to 1.2% of the Sox. By that math, the total value of the club would be $1.2 billion.
The Yankees will surely be worth even more than this if George Steinbrenner’s heirs decide to sell. Forbes magazine puts the value of the Yankees at $1.6 billion. Click on the link below to see how they came up with these numbers.
via How the Red Sox beat the Yankees to a billion Brett Arends’ ROI – MarketWatch.
The median duration of unemployment is higher today than any time in the last 50 years. That’s an understatement. It is more than twice as high today than any time in the last 50 years.
via The Scariest Unemployment Graph I’ve Seen Yet – Business – The Atlantic.
In some ways, I do think the Chinese government has been pretty stupid over the past year in executing its “Pissing Off As Many Countries As Possible” strategy. China rankled the Europeans over its climate change diplomacy at Copenhagen. For all of Beijing’s bluster, it failed to alter U.S. policies on Tibet and Taiwan. It backed down on the Google controversy. It overestimated the power that comes with holding U.S. debt. It alienated South Korea and Japan over its handling of the Cheonan incident, leading to joint naval exercises with the United States — exactly what China didn’t want. It’s growing more isolated within the G-20. And, increasingly, no one trusts its economic data.
This doesn’t sound like a government that has executed a brilliant grand strategy. It sounds like a country that’s benefiting from important structural trends, while frittering away its geopolitical advantages. Alienating key supporters in the country’s primary export markets — and even if Chinese consumption is rising, exports still matter an awful lot to the Chinese economy — seems counterproductive to China’s long-term strategic and economic interests.
via Beijing has alienated the most pro-China interest groups in the United States and Europe | Daniel W. Drezner.
As dependence grows, alcoholics also lose the ability to properly regulate their behavior. This regulation is the responsibility of the prefrontal cortex, which is charged with keeping the rest of the brain apprised of the consequences of harmful actions. But mind-altering substances slowly rob the cortex of so-called synaptic plasticity, which makes it harder for neurons to communicate with one another. When this happens, alcoholics become less likely to stop drinking, since their prefrontal cortex cannot effectively warn of the dangers of bad habits.
The loss of synaptic plasticity is thought to be a major reason why more than 90 percent of recovering alcoholics relapse at some point. Because the synapses in their prefrontal cortex are still damaged, they have a tough time resisting the urges created by these triggers. Any small reminder of their former life—the scent of stale beer, the clink of toasting glasses—is enough to knock them off the wagon.
AA, it seems, helps neutralize the power of these sensory cues by whipping the prefrontal cortex back into shape. Publicly revealing one’s deepest flaws and hearing others do likewise forces a person to confront the terrible consequences of their alcoholism—something that is very difficult to do all alone.
via Secret of AA: After 75 Years, We Don’t Know How It Works | Magazine.
In the two decades of the 1980s and 1990s, the United States created 73 million new private sector jobs—while simultaneously losing some 44 million jobs in the process of adjusting its economy to international competition. That was a net gain of some 29 million jobs. A stunning 55 percent of the total workforce at the end of these two decades was in a new job, some two-thirds of them in industries that paid more than the average wage. By contrast, continental Europe, with a larger economy and workforce, created an estimated 4 million jobs in the same period, most of which were in the public sector (and the cost of which they are beginning to regret).
Over the years, the transformation of American industry has been nothing short of phenomenal. U.S. companies replaced large, mass-produced consumer products with sophisticated goods derived from intellectual output and knowledge-based interests, the fastest-growing segment of the world’s economy. Management was assisted by a level of labor flexibility that is the envy of both Europe and Asia. Europe struggles with the legacy of the steam age in the form of craft, union, and management demarcations that limit management’s role. In Asia, management is often stifled by large, oligopolistic networks and government mandates.
via Obama’s Anti-Business Policies Are Our Economic Katrina – US News and World Report.
What other country in the world has a government-sponsored website dedicated to 751 areas that non-Muslims should not go?
These areas are occupied by about 8 % of the population, or 5 million people.
They are called Zones Urbaines Sensibles in French, meaning Sensitive Urban Zones. The list in French, with both street addresses and maps, all in PDF, can be found here:
List of 751 No-Go Areas for non-Muslims in France
The boundaries in red are the places where non-Muslims musn’t go, as they are so dangerous that even the French police, fire, ambulance, and rescue services are reluctant, unwilling, or incapable of going.
via Crazy Islam: Europe No More.