Bill de Blasio came out swinging in his mayoral inauguration speech this week, ushering in a new progressive political era for New York City and promising to narrow the divide between the Big Apple’s rich and poor. The new mayor has pledged to raise taxes on the wealthy to fund pre-Kindergarten programs, reform policing and construct affordable housing units, but significant obstacles stand in his way. For example, raising taxes requires the support of state lawmakers who face reelection in 2014, and police reforms cannot come at the cost of higher crime rates.
The Presidential Daily Brief
As the holidays draw to a close, tech companies are already busy preparing for Christmas 2014. The Consumer Electronics show, held annually in Las Vegas, provides an opportunity for technology retailers to showcase the products they hope to have on the market by the end of the second quarter. This year smart technology dominates the show, including internet-connected cars, integrated home appliances and digital health products. 3D printers, which are still at the stage of consumer experimentation, will be available for as little as $499. CES has come a long way from the videocassette recorder, which launched there in 1970.
2013 was a bull market year, despite a series of near-disasters. The benchmark S&P 500-stock index rose by almost 30 percent, the largest jump in 16 years, while the Dow Jones achieved 52 closing records. Never mind that the collapse of the Greek government threatened instability in Europe and political intransigence brought the U.S. to the precipice, the evidence still pointed to a gradually improving economy. And slow and steady investors were the biggest winners, as straightforward “dumb money” strategies outstripped the more complex game plans of hedge funds. But analysts advise caution for 2014 — vertiginous gains can’t continue forever.
The violence of 2013 shows little sign of slowing in 2014. From the Central African Republic to Syria and Lebanon, from Sudan to Sochi, at least 10 areas around the world could explode. The major stressors are fueled by a variety of strained situations: organized crime and factious rule, tensions between broken centralized governments without sound alternatives, poverty and inequality, and instabilities caused by community uprising and border movement. The biggest takeaway is that deadly uprisings are almost never sudden or surprising — their “long roots” have had plenty of time to grow.
Source: Foreign Policy
Deep freeze to plunge temperatures in nearly half of the U.S. (CNN).
First face-to-face peace talks on South Sudan open in Ethiopia. (BBC).
Kerry intensifies efforts towards Middle East deal. (The Guardian).
Uruguay is at the forefront of Latin America’s changing attitudes to recreational drugs. Its recent decision to legalize the entire cannabis supply chain has reverberated beyond its borders and other governments in the region are keeping a close eye on the Uruguayan experiment. States that traditionally favor strict prohibition — like neighboring Argentina — have shown some willingness to legalize. Mexico, riven by drug-related violence, has already legalized limited consumption and may extend its legislation further and Michelle Bachelet, the newly-elected President of Chile, has openly advocated for a revision of drug laws.
Taking life too seriously? Maybe you should focus more on death. That’s the wisdom behind Tikker, a wristwatch that counts down the seconds you have left on this earth – and hopefully in the process motivates you to stop sweating the small stuff. Inventor Frederik Colting, a former gravedigger, created the portable grim reaper using an algorithm similar to that used by the U.S. government to calculate life expectancy. Watching your life slip away may be just the thing to help you to savor it more, but be careful: side effects of excessively morbid thinking include xenophobia among other things.
In Hong Kong, “tutor kings” and “queens” serve as tacticians providing overwhelmed students with critical strategies to win the exam-driven war of higher education. Popular tutors use everything from physical appeal to expensive designer-wear to win the attention and adoration of their students, and deliver the goods in the form of fast, efficient, memorable strategies to ace their exams. The charisma of star tutors may reel in many students to these after-school tutoring sessions but as one tactician tellingly reveals, the $255 million industry runs on one principle: “No knowledge, only results.”
With only 8 percent of Americans actually achieving their New Year’s resolutions, an online course at Harvard comes just in time with a new approach to personal improvement. The Massive Online Open Course (MOOC) will teach students that before embarking on creating a new habit, it is important to first understand the deeper reasons that anchor us to our pre-existing bad habits. Only then can we match the new habits we want to our underlying goals and thereby create sustainable changes. The instructors also advise that technical goals, such as learning new skills, make for more ideal New Year’s resolutions.
Source: The Atlantic
Using the game, a crosswalk and a jar of candy, psychologist Paul Piff exposes the ruinous effect of wealth on social behavior. His research has found that those with more resources are more likely to feel entitled to their spoils, to cheat and to take candy from children. Poorer people however display more generous and selfless behavior in comparison, like donating greater portions of their wealth. The good news is that these sentiments are not innate. Even a short reminder of the importance of cooperation can immediately lead to increased compassion and altruistic behavior.
Since 2006, the number of games missed because of injury on Stanford’s two-deep roster has dropped by 87 percent, thanks to strength coach Shannon Turley. As director of football sports performance, Turley has crafted a training regimen that emphasizes flexibility and mobility and cuts down the amount of big weight lifting. He believes that maintaining strength and stability is essential in football, and that requires more flexible players and a more flexible strength program. Turley’s methods seem to be paying off; this year the Cardinal will make their fourth consecutive Bowl Championship Series appearance.