Interesting Comparison

From David Copperfield….

I’ve been out here for just over a year now and a few people have asked me what the main differences between policing in the UK and in Canada.

For those that don’t know, David Copperfield started the whole British police blogging thing. But he suited his actions to his words and left the UK for Canada. This is his comparison one year into his new job.

You could argue that he is still in his honeymoon period so he can hardly make a fair comparison. But what I found most striking was his comparison of the legal powers he had as an officer in the UK compared to what he has in Canada. With out spoiling the post, let us just say that more powers does not make for better crime fighting.

A bad situation

From Forbes….

The Russian energy company is poised to cut off the gas supply to Kiev as disagreements regarding debt repayment and pricing persist.

With negotiations between Russian energy company Gazprom and Ukraine at an impasse just a few hours before the firm’s midnight deadline, it looks increasingly likely that Kiev residents will start 2009 without supplies of gas. Gazprom engineers are prepared to make good on a threat to shut down the gas pipelines in the absence of an agreement.

Russia wants Ukraine to pay more for the gas, yet Ukraine can’t afford to pay the gas bill it has already. One can hardly blame the Russians in this case though. They need the money badly and they are still charging Ukraine below market rates.

Still, you can’t get blood out of stone. And Russia has no way of getting the gas to Europe except through Ukraine. But then Russia is not limited to playing nice. War?

Even if things don’t get that bad this time around, they are almost bound to before long. Ukraine is going to get increasingly desperate as time goes on. And the only bargaining chip they have is the pipe line.

For more on how ugly Ukraine’s position is, look at this post by Edward Hugh.

No Safe Place To Hide

From Danger Room….

Hamas fired 60 rockets at Israel today — another bombardment in an aerial assault that’s totaled 6,300 rockets and mortars since Israeli forces left the Gaza Strip in August, 2005. But today’s weapons were different. These weren’t short-range, home-made Qassam rockets that make up the bulk of Hamas’ arsenal. Nor were they the longer-flying 122 mm Grad rockets, designed by the Soviets and made in Iran. Some of today’s rockets flew an alarming 22 miles, hitting an empty school house in Beersheva, the unofficial capital of the Negev Desert region. And they were made in China.

At least they are trying to do something

From New York Times….

The United States and NATO are planning to open and expand supply lines through Central Asia to deliver fuel, food and other goods to a military mission in Afghanistan that is expected to grow by tens of thousands of troops in the months ahead, according to American and alliance diplomats and military officials.

If you read the whole article, you will see that this is almost a non story. The other routes they are trying to open up are going to have such severe restrictions as to be almost useless. But at least they are trying to do something.

Good Metaphor

From the New York Times….

“I can describe the Russian economy as water in a sieve,” Yulia L. Latynina, a commentator on Echo of Moscow radio, said of the chronic waste in Russian industry.

“Everybody was thinking Russia had succeeded, and they were wondering, how do you keep water in a sieve?” Ms. Latynina said. “When the input of water is greater than the output, the sieve is full. Everybody was thinking it was a miracle. The sieve is full! But when there is a drop in the water supply, the sieve is again empty very quickly.”

h/t Tyler Cowen

Meanwhile, there is this from Bloomberg….

Standard & Poor’s cut Russia’s credit rating this month for the first time in nine years on concern the country is wasting its foreign currency reserves defending the currency. Russia has used about a quarter of its reserves, the world’s third largest, to defend the ruble since August.

We will pay for this

From Felix Salmon…..

Actually, it turns out that the Fed was happy to let GMAC become a bank regardless of whether or not the tender offer succeeded. In the game of chicken, neither the bondholders nor Cerberus needed to blink, since the Fed simply climbed down from its previous stance. Bloomberg reports today:

The Federal Reserve last week approved GMAC’s application to become a bank holding company. GMAC said yesterday that the Fed’s approval didn’t hinge on the debt swap.

Yep, a 180-degree about-face from its stance a couple of weeks ago. Back then, it was crucial that the debt swap go through in order to get Fed approval; now, it really doesn’t matter either way.

It’s actually worse than that, though. The Fed clearly spent a large amount of time approving GMAC’s application to become a bank holding company: the order announcing the fact is 15 pages long, and densely-argued. But it looks very much as though the Fed delayed making the announcement until the bond exchange was all but over: it essentially conspired with GMAC to keep the decision secret so that GMAC could continue to threaten bondholders with the Fed’s earlier statement and thereby get them to tender into the exchange.

This is bad enough all by itself. But the long term effects are even worse. After this, no bond holder is ever going to voluntarily take a hair cut for fear of looking like the sucker.

Naked Capitalism and Calculated Risk have more.

You Got To Love It

From Rod Dreher…..

Who’s crazier: Gov. Rod Blagojevich for actually appointing someone to fill Barack Obama’s Senate seat — or the poor bastard who was foolish enough to accept that poisoned chalice?

This thing is just incredible. Senate Democrats say they’re not going to seat Blago’s pick, as well they shouldn’t. Still, you’ve got to wonder if Blago is some kind of Republican mole, for all the pain and embarrassment he’s causing his party.

As for myself, I am just thankful that Blagojevich has yet to go on TV all teary eyed with his wife at his side and ask us all to forgive him.

I wonder what balsamic vinegar does?

From the Telegraph…

Researchers found that steeping the meat in alcohol for several hours cut the high levels of carcinogenic compounds triggered by frying it.

In addition, they discovered that beer was more effective than wine at lowering the cancer-forming chemicals, and also made for a better-looking and tastier meal.

Contrary to what is quoted above, it can’t be the alcohol that cuts down on the heterocyclic amines because wine generally has more alcohol then beer and yet beer does a better job of cutting down on the heterocyclic amines. In fact, the article later states….

“Beer contains more water-retaining sugars than wine and Ferreira says that may hinder the transport of water-soluble molecules to the steak’s surface, where high heat converts them in HAs,” New Scientist said.

Previous research has shown that a red wine marinade has a similar effect on HA levels in fried chicken, while a non-alcoholic version is also available. A sauce made of olive oil, lemon juice and garlic lowered HA levels in grilled chicken by as much as 90 per cent, a study found.

So obviously it is not about the alcohol.

I would guess that balsamic vinegar would have a similar effect to red wine, but I would be interested in finding out.

Something to Keep in Mind

From New York Times….

Experts say that most drugs, whatever the disease, work for only about half the people who take them. Not only is much of the nation’s approximately $300 billion annual drug spending wasted, but countless patients are being exposed unnecessarily to side effects.

This is one reason why I think that the FDA does as much harm as it does good. The broad based statistical studies that it demands before it will approve a drug can only tell you so much. I wonder how many drugs that got turned down because they would not help the majority of people who tried them would have still greatly benefited a small minority.