Yearbooks Are the Original Facebooks | Wish You Weren’t Here | Heart of Political Darkness



“The purely economic man is indeed close to being a social moron. Economic theory has been much preoccupied with this rational fool.”

“Many people have made money selling magic potions and Ponzi schemes, but few have gotten rich selling the advice, “Don’t buy that stuff.”

“Roughly speaking, losses hurt about twice as much as gains make you feel good.”

– Richard H. Thaler




Wish You Weren’t Here: Tourism numbers are up. Good news, right? Maybe not, if you’re one of a small minority of the world’s favorite tourist destinations. Residents living near New Zealand’s top tourist attractions have been warning for years that the rising numbers of tourists were catching many towns or nature reserves largely unprepared. Only about 2,000 people live year round in Waitangi and nearby Paihia, but at least once a year, during the national Waitangi bank holiday this Wednesday, more than 15 times as many domestic and foreign visitors will flock to the area.

Trying to prepare for and handle such huge, albeit rare, crowds, has actually become a bit of a burden for the locals. The government is considering passing legislation for a one-time tourist tax of about $25 to help finance new infrastructure projects and environmental preservation efforts.

Amsterdam, likewise, has struggled to deal with becoming a European party hub for pot smokers. The city had to raise its overnight room taxes from 6 to 7 percent late last year. Barcelona is now so popular locals recently began engaging in anti-tourism protests, demanding instead an increased refugee intake. Paris and Berlin raised their room rates for tourists, including for Airbnb and other online platforms, and Edinburgh, Scotland is considering following suit. Venice already decided. On Monday the city approved a single-day entry fee of about $3.40 per person, to start in early May. That tax will gradually rise to $11 in coming years. Global tourism arrivals increased by 6.8 percent, to 1.3 billion total, between 2017 and 2018. It was just half that number back in 2000.




Pope Francis Announces That The Sky Is Blue: Pope Francis publicly acknowledged for the first time the truth of a poorly kept secret in the Catholic Church: that nuns are persistently sexually abused by priests, and even bishops. Last week a Vatican magazine mentioned nuns in India, Africa, Latin America and Italy having abortions or giving birth to the children of priests. The #MeToo movement is credited with getting recognition for nuns who have tried for years to call attention to their plight. (NYT) Additional read: “Pope admits clerical abuse of nuns including sexual slavery.” (BBC)

Syria Later: A senior adviser to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Wednesday: “Whether they want to or not, the Americans must leave Syria.” President Trump has already announced his intention to withdraw about 2,000 US troops now that nearly 90 percent of Syrian soil is controlled by Bashar al-Assad’s government. Many in the West think this plan will cede influence to Tehran, which has been allied with Assad during the eight-year war, and allow Islamic State militants to regroup. Also on Wednesday an Iranian army commander said that Tehran plans to extend the range of its land-to-sea missiles beyond 300 kilometers (186 miles). Iran has expanded its ballistic missile program despite opposition from the US and some European countries. (Reuters)

Additional reads: “Trump says Islamic State could be deprived of all territory by next week.” (WaPo, $); and “From Iraq to Yemen: the grubby business of counting the war dead.” (Guardian)

Trump Banking On An End To China’s Loans: President Trump has nominated an outspoken critic of the World Bank to become the head of the international financial institution. David Malpass, a Treasury Department official, is a conservative with longstanding ties to the president. Malpass is currently involved in tense trade negotiations with China. The World Bank is based in Washington DC and lends money to emerging economies for infrastructure and development. Its biggest borrower is China, which has substantial resources of its own. Critics want the World Bank to commit to reforming their practices, and stop making subsidized and guaranteed loans to the world’s second largest economy. (NPR)

Leave A Penny, Take 6 Billion Dollars: China is sitting on cash reserves of some $3 trillion. It is the world’s second-largest economy and directly lends more money each year to other nations than the $2 billion it continues to borrow from the World Bank (WB) annually. The WB is based in Washington DC; it was established after World War II to help European countries rebuild. Its mission has evolved over the years and it now finances development in low- and middle-income countries with the goal of eliminating extreme poverty. A Cornell University economics professor argues that the money lent to China could be put to better use elsewhere in the world. “From a pure economic vantage point, there is no good reason for the World Bank to continue making loans to China,” he says. “The Chinese don’t need the money. There is a glaring optics problem.” (NPR)




Shining A Light Into The Political Darkness: Major federal corruption investigations are ongoing in four of America’s largest cities. In Chicago, LA, Philadelphia and Atlanta city officials and power brokers alike are shrouded in scandal, while residents and politicians wait for signs of just how much their civic cultures will be shaken. A former alderman and current political scientist at the University of Illinois at Chicago called corruption a part of the city’s municipal culture. To change it, he said, “you have to not only destroy the political machine, but also actually create a history of clean government—that’ll be decades of work.” (NYT)

Virginians Can’t Catch A Break (Or A Normal State Official): Virginia may soon run out of top state officials if the scandals keep coming. Last Friday Democratic Governor Ralph Northam started trying to explain away a racist photo on his 1984 medical school yearbook page. The governor changed his story a few times, but finally admitted putting on a bit of “blackface” for a Michael Jackson dance contest in the 1980s. One of the people calling for the governor to resign was Democratic Attorney General Mark Herring, second in the line of succession. But then on Wednesday Herring admitted to applying “brown makeup” as a 19-year-old to attend a costume party at his university. Meanwhile, the only African American in the group, Northam’s deputy, Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax, also a Democrat, was accused Sunday of sexually assaulting a woman 15 years ago. The woman, now a college professor in California, came forward to recount the alleged assault in disturbing detail through a statement issued Wednesday by her lawyers. (BBC) Additional read: Blackface Is the Tip of the Iceberg: The structural problems we need to solve lie at the roots of American society. (NYT, $)

Trump’s Political Nemesis isn’t Hillary Clinton it’s Nancy Pelosi:





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