Monday, May 02, 2016

The Diabetic Economy - The New York Times

The Diabetic Economy - The New York Times:



 "LISBON — Things are terrible here in Portugal, but not quite as terrible as they were a couple of years ago. The same thing can be said about the European economy as a whole. That is, I guess, the good news."



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Saturday, April 30, 2016

Inquiry Into Missing Mexican Students Ends on Note of Frustration - The New York Times

Inquiry Into Missing Mexican Students Ends on Note of Frustration - The New York Times:



 "MEXICO CITY — It has been a tumultuous final week for the five foreign legal and human rights experts who have spent more than a year examining the case of 43 missing college students."



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Germany AfD conference: Hundreds of protesters detained outside venue - BBC News

Germany AfD conference: Hundreds of protesters detained outside venue - BBC News:



 "A meeting of Germany's right-wing anti-immigrant party Alternative fur Deutschland (AfD) has been marred by clashes outside the venue in Stuttgart."



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Daniel Berrigan: Forty Years After Catonsville | The Nation

Daniel Berrigan: Forty Years After Catonsville | The Nation:



 " Forty years ago this month, Father Daniel Berrigan walked into a draft board in Catonsville, Maryland, with eight other activists, including his brother, Father Philip Berrigan, and removed draft files of young men who were about to be sent to Vietnam. The group carted the files outside and burned them in two garbage cans with homemade napalm. Father Berrigan was tried, found guilty, spent four months as a fugitive from the FBI, was apprehended and sent to prison for eighteen months."



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Guess Where in Mexico 100 More People Were Forcibly Disappeared? | News | teleSUR English

Guess Where in Mexico 100 More People Were Forcibly http://www.telesurtv.net/english/news/Guess-Where-in-Mexico-100-More-People-Were-Forcibly-Disappeared-20160429-0030.htmlDisappeared? | News | teleSUR English:



"Over 200 people were injured and 64 were arrested when Mexican federal police in Guerrero, where the Ayotzinapa tragedy took place, attempted to end a protest."



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Muslim’s Labour Candidacy Shapes London Mayoral Race - The New York Times

Muslim’s Labour Candidacy Shapes London Mayoral Race - The New York Times:



 "LONDON — The son of a London bus driver, Sadiq Khan has had a remarkable rise into the upper echelons of British politics. He grew up with seven siblings in a three-bedroom home in public housing and attended state schools before becoming a human rights lawyer and then a senior government minister."



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Iraq Protesters Storm Parliament, Demanding End to Corruption - The New York Times

Iraq Protesters Storm Parliament, Demanding End to Corruption - The New York Times:



 "BAGHDAD — Hundreds of protesters stormed Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone on Saturday and entered the Parliament building, waving Iraqi flags, snapping photographs, breaking furniture and demanding an end to corruption.

"



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Friday, April 29, 2016

Wrath of the Conned - The New York Times

Wrath of the Conned - The New York Times:



"Maybe we need a new cliché: It ain’t over until Carly Fiorina sings. Anyway, it really is over — definitively on the Democratic side, with high probability on the Republican side. And the results couldn’t be more different."



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Thursday, April 28, 2016

Victor A. Lowe, 81, Philosophy Professor - NYTimes.com

Victor A. Lowe, 81, Philosophy Professor - NYTimes.com:



 "Victor A. Lowe, professor emeritus of philosophy at Johns Hopkins University, died of pneumonia Nov. 16 at Union Memorial Hospital in Baltimore . He was 81 years old and lived in Baltimore."



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Javier Martin-Artajo By Dani Kass

Law360, New York (April 6, 2016, 8:17 PM ET) -- Grant & Eisenhofer PABernstein Litowitz Berger & Grossmann LLP and Kessler Topaz Meltzer & Check LLP on Tuesday told a New York federal judge that they should be awarded $31.5 million from a $150 million settlement reached in litigation tied to JPMorgan Chase & Co.'s disastrous $6 billion “London Whale” trading fiasco.
In addition to 21 percent of the settlement fund, class counsel asked for $1.5 million in expenses and $48,000 in costs. The attorneys spent more than 73,000 hours on the case over three and a half years, without a guarantee of being paid, they said in a memorandum.

“The settlement achieved in this action represents an excellent result for lead plaintiffs and the class, particularly when judged in the context of the significant litigation risks attendant in this action,” the attorneys said. “The $150 million that co-lead counsel obtained provides the class with an immediate and certain recovery in a case that faced substantial obstacles to establishing liability, loss causation and damages that could have prevented any recovery at all.”

Of the $1.5 million in expenses, about 30 percent, or $462,000, would go toward paying expert witnesses, according to the memorandum.

The suit claimed that JPMorgan violated the Securities Exchange Act by misleading investors about the riskiness of the bank's derivatives trading, which led the bank's stock to drop when the losses were disclosed.

U.S. District Judge George B. Daniels signed off on the settlement in January, after the bank and lead plaintiffs, including the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System, noted that the money was already placed in escrow and was ready to be disbursed to thousands of class members.

That class comprises investors that bought the bank's common shares between April 13 and May 21, 2012.

The plaintiffs alleged that on Feb. 13, 2012, CEO Jamie Dimon insisted during a Fox Business News interview that JPMorgan was “fine” with a proposed ban on proprietary trading and falsely said that the company didn’t “make huge bets.”

And during an April 13, 2012, earnings call, Dimon notoriously downplayed public concerns about massive credit positions taken by JPMorgan Chief Investment Office trader Bruno Iksil, aka the “London Whale,” as “a complete tempest in a teapot,” and then-bank finance Chief Douglas Braunstein falsely claimed that the CIO trades weren’t proprietary bets, according to court filings.

In 2014, at the motion to dismiss stage, Judge Daniels pared the case down by cutting loose three individual defendants and limiting the plaintiffs' claims to statements made by Dimon and Braunstein during the April 2012 earnings conference call.

Other "London Whale" civil suits, including employee pension and derivative claimsagainst JPMorgan, have been dismissed.

Two former JPMorgan traders, Javier Martin-Artajo and Julien Grout, face criminal charges for allegedly concealing the London Whale losses. But neither has been brought to the United States. The bank settled with U.S. and U.K. regulators in 2013.

The plaintiffs are represented by Daniel L. Berger and Jeffrey A. Almeida of Grant & Eisenhofer PA, Salvatore J. Graziano and Max W. Berger of Bernstein Litowitz Berger & Grossmann LLP, and Andrew L. Zivitz and David Kessler of Kessler Topaz Meltzer & Check LLP.

The defendants are represented by Richard C. Pepperman II, Daryl A. Libow and Christopher M. Viapiano of Sullivan & Cromwell LLP.

Law360

The case is In re: JPMorgan Chase & Co. Securities Litigation, case number 1:12-cv-03852, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

President Obama Weighs His Economic Legacy - The New York Times

President Obama Weighs His Economic Legacy - The New York Times:



"Two months ago, across an assembly-room table in a factory in Jacksonville, Fla., President Barack Obama was talking to me about the problem of political capital. His efforts to rebuild the U.S. economy from the 2008 financial crisis were being hit from left, right and center. And yet, by his own assessment, those efforts were vastly underappreciated. “I actually compare our economic performance to how, historically, countries that have wrenching financial crises perform,” he said. “By that measure, we probably managed this better than any large economy on Earth in modern history.”"



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University of California, Davis, Chancellor Is Removed From Post - The New York Times

University of California, Davis, Chancellor Is Removed From Post - The New York Times:



"SAN FRANCISCO — The chancellor of the University of California, Davis, was removed from her post and put on administrative leave on Wednesday pending an independent investigation into possible violations of university policies, including using university funds to scrub negative references to the school on social media."



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U.S. Economy Grew 0.5% in First Quarter, the Slowest Pace of Growth in Two Years - The New York Times

U.S. Economy Grew 0.5% in First Quarter, the Slowest Pace of Growth in Two Years - The New York Times:



"The American economy settled into the slow lane last quarter, as consumers took their foot off the gas and businesses grew more cautious as well."



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As Valeant Tumbles, So Does Bill Ackman’s Hedge Fund Herd - The New York Times

As Valeant Tumbles, So Does Bill Ackman’s Hedge Fund Herd - The New York Times:



 "The billionaire investor William A. Ackman has become the unofficial leader of a thundering herd that has lost billions of dollars betting on Valeant Pharmaceuticals over the past year."



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Social Media, Where Sports Fans Congregate and Misogyny Runs Amok - The New York Times

Social Media, Where Sports Fans Congregate and Misogyny Runs Amok - The New York Times:



 "The hatred that arrives rapid-fire into their social media accounts is so personal and acidic that it could sear through even the thickest skin."



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Airstrikes in Aleppo Hit Hospital and Prompt Syrian Rebel Attack - The New York Times

Airstrikes in Aleppo Hit Hospital and Prompt Syrian Rebel Attack - The New York Times:



"BEIRUT, Lebanon — The boom of airstrikes and missile attacks echoed across Aleppo, Syria, through the night on Wednesday and into Thursday, as the government and its allies continued their attacks on the rebel-controlled half of the city."



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Flooded With Migrants, Germany Struggles to Integrate Them - The New York Times

Flooded With Migrants, Germany Struggles to Integrate Them - The New York Times:



 "NUREMBERG, Germany — If the urgent challenge for Germany last year was sheltering the hundreds of thousands of people who descended on the country almost at once seeking asylum, then this year’s task is to integrate them."



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Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Out of Africa, Part III - The New York Times

Out of Africa, Part III - The New York Times:



"Dakar, SENEGAL — You can learn everything you need to know about the main challenges facing Africa today by talking to just two people in Senegal: the rapper and the weatherman. They’ve never met, but I could imagine them doing an amazing duet one day — words and weather predictions — on the future of Africa."



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Tuesday, April 26, 2016

IPhone Sales Drop, and Apple’s 13-Year Surge Ebbs - The New York Times

IPhone Sales Drop, and Apple’s 13-Year Surge Ebbs - The New York Times:



 "SAN FRANCISCO — Apple’s 13 years of continuous quarterly growth have finally ended."



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Economics and Self-Awareness - The New York Times

Economics and Self-Awareness - The New York Times:



"Noah Smith has another interesting piece on methodology, inspired by the Friedman-Sanders economic projections controversy. His bottom line — don’t let your economic analysis be dictated by what you want to be true, or what you think would be good for people to believe — is exactly right. But I think there’s a bit more to be said about the process of using economic models, and why — in my experience — they can be especially helpful on politically or emotionally charged issues."



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Severe Weather, Possibly With Tornadoes, Is Forecast for Plains States - The New York Times

Severe Weather, Possibly With Tornadoes, Is Forecast for Plains States - The New York Times:



"A severe weather outbreak gearing up to hammer the country’s midsection on Tuesday could spawn sustained, muscular tornadoes as well as softball-size hail showers, say forecasters, who also warned of additional rounds of storms to follow.

"



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Monday, April 25, 2016

Walter Kohn, Nobel-Winning Scientist, Dies at 93 - The New York Times

Walter Kohn, Nobel-Winning Scientist, Dies at 93 - The New York Times:



 "Walter Kohn, an Austrian-born American scientist and former refugee who shared a Nobel Prize in Chemistry — a subject that he had last formally studied in high school — died on last Tuesday in Santa Barbara, Calif. He was 93"



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How Math and Engineering Interact by Manil Suri

(A note to accompany my NYT op-ed of Apr 25, 2016.)
According to Google Scholar, Ivo Babuška’s most cited paper (as of April, 2016), was “The partition of unity finite element method: Basic theory and applications,” written jointly with his student J.M. Melenk (and published in 1996, when Ivo was 70 years old*).
What is the idea behind this paper? In particular, what does it have to do with engineering?
Here’s the gist. A lot of engineering design is now done using computer simulations. For instance, everything from small machine parts to large airplane components might be designed entirely on a computer screen, so that kinks are worked out and shapes and sizes optimized before such objects are actually built and physically tested. A commonly used method used for such design is called the “finite element method (FEM),” which was invented by engineers, but has been analyzed by mathematicians in a rich series of engineering/mathematician interactions. This is Ivo’s primary field of research (and mine as well).
What the FEM does is to approximately solve the systems of equations that determine how the machine parts (or airplane components or other mechanical objects) will deform when subject to loads. This is crucial: one wants to design objects which will not fail under stress (think airplane wings subjected to strong weather conditions, for instance – you want them to remain attached!). The solution of these equations gets particularly complicated in areas such as corners, joints, small holes, etc. These are generally areas which can be particularly susceptible to high stresses, and where cracks or other problems could easily develop. So the usual strategy is to put in a lot of computer power to analyze such sections (essentially, one “zooms in” on these sections by really cranking up the degree of approximation). This can be expensive, inefficient, and sometimes ineffective.
But here’s the thing: mathematicians can actually use their paper and pencil formulas to predict the underlying structure of the solution in such areas! Remember that everything’s governed by equations, after all. While these equations are too complicated to solve completely, they do yield some of their basic secrets – secrets that mathematicians have managed to carefully coax out through classical modes of study. For instance, they can predict that at any corner, the mathematical formula determining the solution will be of a certain special kind (let’s call this special formula type a “singularity”). They might not know the exact strength of such “singularities,” but they can come up with a bunch of them and then assert that the solution will be largely determined by some (unknown) combination of them.
As a consequence, several methods have been developed to incorporate this already-determined knowledge of singularities into the solution process. Instead of an unknown combination of these singularities, the calculations find (almost) exactly what combination is present. This can be a smarter way to attack the problem, rather than subjecting it to sheer “shock and awe” computer power. However, there are some problems: inserting these special “singularity” formulas can be very messy, and give rise to matching and compatibility problems that reverberate through the rest of the calculation.
This is where the above paper comes in. The MAIN IDEA is to present a very simple method (the so-called “partition of unity” FEM) that easily facilitates the insertion of such singularity formulas (or any other solution features one knows in advance) into select localized areas of the problem. Finite element software can be modified to easily allow such insertions, thereby giving engineers a smooth and efficient way of practically utilizing the intuition that mathematics provides. As a result, the computer simulations are much more effective, making the whole design process more efficient and reliable. This idea can be applied to such objects as gears and bolts, just as it can be made to work for joints between (say) the fuselage components of a plane.
Let me also mention that there’s another aspect to this symbiosis between engineering and mathematics. Strains and stresses in machine parts, crack formation, component failure, etc, all have been mathematically modeled. These models, when abstracted, give rise to some deep and complex questions in mathematics – which can often lead to some very elegant solutions. These solutions, in turn, generate several more “what if?” games – the kinds of questions mathematicians love to play with. And some of these games, when “solved,” end up having practical applications, which give rise to more questions, and so on. The wonderful cycle of interactions between mathematics’ beauty and its utility continues.
*NOTE: Ivo first published his “Partition of Unity FEM” idea in a 1994 paper with collaborators Caloz and Osborn – this was later elaborated upon in Melenk’s Ph.D. thesis and in various other papers. The mathematics in these papers was frequently cited to explain the related “XFEM” method, developed later by engineer Ted Belytschko and his group.

The Mathematician’s 90th-Birthday Party

Photo
CreditEllen Surrey
I RECENTLY attended a conference in honor of Ivo Babuska, a professor at the University of Texas, with whom I have written several mathematical papers. There were toasts with a crowd-pleasing (if prudently priced) malbec and puns riffing on “singular value decomposition” that elicited much mirth. After all, it was also Ivo’s 90th-birthday party.
Ivo remains passionately immersed in research, despite the dearly held popular belief that mathematicians are over the hill at 40.
Partly, this cliché stems from the stories about “Mathematician Early Death Syndrome” (MEDS): Galois shot in a duel at 20, Ramanujan felled by illness at 32. Turing waited until almost 42, but made his tragedy more striking by committing suicide.
Clearly, Ivo has survived this fate, by eschewing duels (a hurried exit from Czechoslovakia with his family the week after the Russians invaded in 1968 may have helped), sleeping early (a timer plunges all the rooms of his house into darkness at 10 p.m.) and eating right (who knew dumplings and tongue — which Mrs. Babuska once served me — were so healthy?).
The notion of premature decline has been cultivated by mathematicians themselves — most famously by G. H. Hardy, who lamented, in his 1940 memoir, “A Mathematician’s Apology” (published when he was in his early 60s, and still widely extolled as the definitive look into a mathematician’s soul), that “mathematics, more than any other art or science, is a young man’s game.”
Until recently mathematics has, indeed, been a “man’s game.” Strides have been made in addressing the sexism in the field, but what about the ageism?
Mathematicians are eligible for the Fields Medal, the discipline’s most venerable honor, up only to the age of 40. This led to an awkward situation in the 1990s, when Andrew Wiles finished proving Fermat’s last theorem — surely the most famous mathematical problem in history — just after turning 40. Denied the medal, he was awarded a silver plaque instead, as a consolation prize.
Professor Wiles will, however, be honored with the Abel Prize in Norway this May. Although named after another MEDS victim — Niels Henrik Abel, tuberculosis, 26 — this award recognizes lifetime achievement, with an average recipient in his mid-70s. Since just about all the winners have been vigorously engaged in research at the time of the award, they provide a string of counterexamples to Hardy’s declaration.
Several such exceptions also show up in a survey of 66 mathematicians over 50, published in The Mathematical Intelligencer. A 1978 studyfound no clear relationship between age and mathematical productivity, or age and quality of research.
And yet mathematicians can’t shake the creeping fear that the cliché is true; those still active may complain of their work being increasingly regarded as irrelevant.
John Tate, the 2010 Abel laureate, said in an interview that mathematicians did their best work at an age when they “don’t have a lot of baggage” and “haven’t worn grooves in their brains.” In other words, naïveté — even brashness — is needed for the most original moves in the “game” that is mathematics.
Hardy believed that the only important questions in the field arose internally from this game, that the sole purpose of a mathematician was to create beautiful and “almost wholly useless” theorems.
But ever since its inception, mathematics has also been driven by another powerful force: applications. From the early commerce and measurement needs that motivated the Sumerians to the subject’s symbiotic co-development with physics, mathematical inquiry has been spurred by questions from external fields. Although Hardy disparaged any math that could be applied to real life as “ugly,” “dull” and “trivial,” surely usefulness should be an additional measure for a mathematician’s worth?
This is where experience and maturity help. Ivo’s most profusely citedpaper, published when he was 70, contains one of those clarifying, deceptively simple-looking ideas that can emerge only with the deep and broad insight of a long career: a general mathematical method that can be (and is being!) used by engineers to design better machine parts.

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With doctorates in both engineering and mathematics, Ivo is also an example of someone who bridges two fields. In this, he embodies another skill enhanced by experience — the ability to interact with non-mathematicians, to interpret their questions mathematically and to explain solutions in their language.
Hardy dismissed exposition as “work for second-rate minds,” but such activity is critical for a field notoriously inept at communicating its results to outsiders.
It’s of course unfair to criticize Hardy, given how much the world has changed since his day. The division he created between “beautiful but useless” and “useful but ugly” mathematics has long been breached; even his own “useless” research area of number theory has become essential in cryptography and cybersecurity. Conversely, many elegant and aesthetically pleasing mathematical theories have emerged from the most utilitarian applications — even from the analysis of machine parts, as I can personally attest.
Let’s cherish Hardy’s theorems, not his opinions, and recognize mathematics as a field with diverse goals and needs, where people can expect to make useful contributions regardless of gender or age.

The Mathematician’s 90th-Birthday Party - The New York Times

The Mathematician’s 90th-Birthday Party - The New York Times:



"I RECENTLY attended a conference in honor of Ivo Babuska, a professor at the University of Texas, with whom I have written several mathematical papers. There were toasts with a crowd-pleasing (if prudently priced) malbec and puns riffing on “singular value decomposition” that elicited much mirth. After all, it was also Ivo’s 90th-birthday party."



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