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[2012.04.28]The pen is mightier无冕之王更有力量 1
[2012.04.28]Transport in Japan:Bullet v budget 子弹头列车VS廉价航空 4
[2012.04.28]Asian economic rankings 亚洲经济排名 7
[2012.04.28]For ever and ever 人类对长生不老的痴迷 8
[2012.04.28]The great divide 巨大差异 10
[2012.04.28]The world's deadliest bioterrorist 全球最致命的生物恐怖 12
[2012.04.28]Right man, wrong job 正确的人选,错误的工作 15
[2012.04.28]Blue notes 英国新小说: 蓝色音符 18
[2012.04.26]Names for superheroes 超级英雄的名字 20
[2012.04.24]Avatar 2: Made in China? 阿凡达2:中国制造? 21
[2012.04.21]Murray Lender穆雷?兰德尔:贝果梦想家 25
[2012.04.21]Feeling peaky 石油产量接近极限 28
[2012.04.21]Reshaping banking 重组银行业 30
[2012.04.21]Deathless data 网络信息财产:斯人已逝,数据流芳 39
[2012.04.21]Intellectual property: Still murky 知识产权保护: 前路茫茫 41
[2012.04.21]Sexual strategies: I just called… 我只是挂电话… 44
[2012.04.21]The third industrial revolution 第三次工业革命 46
[2012.04.21]Truly, madly, deeply 爱得真挚,爱得疯狂,爱得深刻 50
[2012.04.21]Bell Labs and innovation贝尔实验室及技术革新 52
[2012.04.21]A fishy tale 鱼与科学进程之间不得不说的故事 54
[2012.04.21]Couples & housework: The ironing lady 烫衣娘子 55
[2012.04.14]Facestagram’s photo opportunity臉书的照片分享商机 57
[2012.04.14]Opening the books: 打开税簿说亮话 59
[2012.04.14]Zimbabwe: Move over, Mugabe 津巴布韦:穆加贝让位 62
[2012.04.14]A too-cosy world? 电子书行业太舒服? 65
[2012.04.14]Capital controversy 中国的投资是否过度? 67
[2012.04.14]Scottish independence: It’ll cost you 苏格兰独立代价不小 71
[2012.04.11]Big men with guns 持枪壮汉 74
[2012.04.10]Facebook and photo-sharing: Instariches 臉书和照片共享 76
[2012.04.09]Women and Children First? 妇女和儿童优先? 78
[2012.04.07]Social habits and marketing社会习惯与市场营销:看透你 80
[2012.04.07]Myanmar: The Yangon spring 仰光的春天 83
[2012.04.07]Geothermal energy in Japan: Storm in a hot tub 日本的地热能 86
[2012.04.07]Musing on muons 凝望μ-介子 88
[2012.04.07]The perils of panflation 普遍膨胀的危险 90
[2012.04.07]Beyond the mandate 提升健康水平——强制之外的因素 92
[2012.04.07]China’s military rise 中国的军事崛起 94
[2012.04.05]The anatomy of a coup rumour 剖析一则政变流言 98
[2012.04.04]The Anti-Grimm 反格林而行 102
[2012.04.xx]From Gere to Grimm 从基尔到格林-朱莉亚 罗伯茨电影回顾 105

[2012.04.28]The pen is mightier无冕之王更有力量
Bagehot 白芝浩专栏

The pen is mightier无冕之王更有力量[注]

Why the British press holds such sway over politicians
Apr 28th 2012 | from the print edition

WHEN Britain’s biggest tabloid claimed credit for a Conservative general election victory with the front-page headline “It’s the Sun wot won it”, its proprietor, Rupert Murdoch, was not pleased. Giving evidence on April 25th to a public inquiry on press ethics, Mr Murdoch explained that he had administered “a terrible bollocking” to the Sun’s then editor, Kelvin MacKenzie. A “tasteless” claim, he said. “We don’t have that sort of power.”
英国销路最广的小开型日报曾声称保守党在大选中的胜利是它的功劳。它在头版大标题中写道:“这是《太阳报》拿下的胜利。”但该报的所有者鲁珀特?默多克(Rupert Murdoch)并不欣赏这句话。他在4月25日有关媒体道德的公开听证会上作证时解释道,他曾“狠狠地臭骂”了当时的《太阳报》编辑凯尔文?麦肯锡(Kelvin MacKenzie)一顿。他说这种说法太不得体;“我们没那种影响力,”他说。

The inquiry—chaired by Lord Justice Leveson, a judge—this week shone a light on ties between the media and politician. The most dangerous revelations were e-mails apparently detailing contacts between News Corporation, Mr Murdoch’s company, and David Cameron’s government during the firm’s abortive bid to buy BSkyB, a satellite-television outfit. The relationship was sometimes friendly, sometimes tense, but always close—and rarely craven on the part of the media firm.
由上诉法院法官列维森勋爵(Lord Justice Leveson)主持的听证会本周曝光了一些媒体与政治家之间的关系。其中最具杀伤力的是披露的一批电邮;它们显然列举了默多克的新闻集团(News Corporation)在收购英国天空广播公司(后来收购失败)时与卡梅伦政府的接触情况。二者关系时而友好时而紧张,但总是很密切;而且媒体公司方面很少有怯懦的时候。

Another milestone in the Sun’s political coverage does not seem to have earned a proprietorial rebuke. It happened in 1992, on the night that Britain was forced out of the European Exchange Rate Mechanism. The prime minister of the day, John Major, telephoned Mr MacKenzie to ask how the Sun would be covering the story. “Actually,” Mr MacKenzie replied, “I have a bucket of shit on my desk, prime minister, and I’m going to pour it all over you.” Asked if this tale was true during his own appearance at the Leveson Inquiry, Mr MacKenzie enthusiastically re-enacted it.

Mr Mackenzie’s cheerful thuggery is unusual, even in Fleet Street. But the fact that he talked to a prime minister that way and kept his job suggests that relations between the British press and politicians are pretty unusual. Does that mean that the press wields democracy-threatening power?

The answer is complicated by the oddity of Britain’s media market. In America, News Corporation is just one of five important media firms. In contrast, its British arm is a local titan. The Sun has 2.6m readers in a country of 60m people: scale that up, and an American equivalent would sell 13m copies a day. Seven British dailies have circulations larger than the biggest-selling French national newspaper.

That many titles have been out of control is not in dispute. Just ask Lord Justice Leveson, hearing allegations of illegal phone-hacking, bribery and paparazzi intruding on funerals. But press savagery towards the rich and powerful also taps into an ancient British tradition, that of instinctive derision for the strutting toff or politician, amid the battle-cry: “Who does he think he is?”

If prodded, politicians will insist (through gritted teeth) that press savagery is vital to democracy. They are more skittish about whether they think newspapers decide elections.

In his memoirs, Tony Blair—whose 1997 win was preceded by an endorsement by the Murdoch press—writes about a 1995 flight to address a News Corporation conference in Australia (a pilgrimage that outraged the left). Mr Blair explains himself with a rhetorical question. Murdoch newspapers had hitherto been “rancorous in their opposition to the Labour Party”. On being invited into the “lion’s den”, Mr Blair argues: “You go, don’t you?”

Addressing the Leveson inquiry, Mr Murdoch told how relations with Mr Blair’s successor, Gordon Brown, soured after his newspapers switched their support from Labour to Mr Cameron’s Conservatives. Once he and Mr Brown swapped tales of Scottish ancestors and their young children played together, he said. When his papers turned, Mr Murdoch claims that Mr Brown called to declare “war” on his companies. As for Mr Cameron, when the furore about press abuses took off in 2011, he declared that all party leaders had turned a blind eye to warning signs, because they were “so keen to win the support of newspapers”.

Newspaper campaigns clearly influence policy-making. Former Blair aides have credited Mr Murdoch, a tireless Eurosceptic, with helping to keep Britain out of the euro. But arguably their greatest day-to-day influence is indirect. British political leaders are drawn from an increasingly narrow, metropolitan pool. When tabloids bellow that they know the mind of the ordinary voter, it requires some self-confidence for an Oxbridge-educated, sushi-munching minister to ignore them.

Britain is an outlier in other ways. In lots of European countries politics encompasses angry extremes, with the hard-right and far-left attracting hefty votes. By contrast, newspapers in such countries are often small-circulation, centrist, and prim. Britain does things the other way round. Partly because of first-past-the-post voting, the big parties cluster at the political centre. The brass-band blare of dissent comes from a fiercely partisan press.

Call my diary secretary让我的日记秘书来一趟

Optimism may be hard this week. But the current stink could signal a general cleaning of the stables. Political leaders have already opened their diaries to disclose meetings with proprietors and editors. In parallel, fresh scandals over party fund-raising have revived efforts to reach a cross-party deal on donations, perhaps by capping the sums that individual donors can give.

Such reforms could help, says a senior politician. Donors, editors and proprietors have less influence than is commonly assumed. But they have enjoyed excessive access to party leaders, who for years devoted too much time to meeting them. Transparency over diaries should reduce such contacts. A cap on donations would do the same. If politicians meet media bosses and donors more sparingly and simply as professional contacts, that would be a good thing.

Such a change is overdue. Journalists and politicians can never be truly friends. Lowly reporters and MPs always knew this: given a big enough story, each will turn on the other. For too long, their respective bosses seemed to forget. Not any more.

[注]"The pen is mightier than the sword" 是英格兰剧作家 Edward Bulwer-Lytton 1839年的话剧Richelieu; Or the Conspiracy 中的一句:
True, This! —
Beneath the rule of men entirely great,
The pen is mightier than the sword. Behold
The arch-enchanters wand! — itself a nothing! —
But taking sorcery from the master-hand
To paralyse the C?sars, and to strike
The loud earth breathless! — Take away the sword —
States can be saved without it!
http://ecocn.org/thread-66855-1-1.html 译者:悠悠万事97

[2012.04.28]Transport in Japan:Bullet v budget 子弹头列车VS廉价航空
Transport in Japan

Bullet v budget

Can low-cost airlines beat bullet trains?

Apr 28th 2012 | TOKYO | from the print edition

THE world’s busiest train route, and one of the busiest air routes, is between Tokyo and Osaka, Japan’s two biggest metropolitan areas. On that corridor, the shinkansen, as Japan’s bullet trains are known, were born in 1964. They whizz 120,000 passengers a day smoothly from one place to another, on trains that leave every ten minutes. Although humans, not robots, are at the controls, the average delay is a miraculous 36 seconds. To take all those passengers by air would require 667 aircraft, each with 180 seats, or five times Japan’s fleet of Boeing 737s, estimates Macquarie, an investment bank.
东京与大阪之间的铁路线是世界上最繁忙的线路,这两个日本最大的都市区之间的航线也在全球最繁忙的航线之列。日本子弹头列车(被称为“新干线”)于1964年在这两个城市之间投入运营。新干线列车运行平稳,穿梭在两个城市之间,每天运送旅客达12万名, 每隔十分钟就有一班。尽管新干线不是全自动线路,而是由人工控制,但每班列车平均晚点时间只有36秒,堪称奇迹。据投资银行麦格理(Macquarie)估计,如果用飞机来运送这些旅客的话,需要667架180座的飞机,这相当于日本国内所有波音737飞机运能的五倍。

Undeterred, between March and August three low-cost airlines will have started operations in Japan. It would be a miracle if they could help hammer down train and plane fares in Japan, which are excruciating. For example, a one-way shinkansen ticket from Tokyo to Osaka costs ¥14,000 ($170), and there are no discounts for return fares or for booking early. But compared with Europe and other parts of Asia, where budget airlines have quickly gained market share, in Japan the low-cost model is expected to take time to take off.

There are three main reasons for that, analysts say. First, all three newcomers have established parents. Peach, which started flying in March, and Air Asia Japan, which starts in August, are part-owned by ANA, one of Japan’s two main carriers. Jetstar Japan, which launches operations in July, is one-third owned by Japan Airlines (JAL). Such ties have usually hobbled low-cost airlines elsewhere: incumbents hate to cannibalise their own business. (Australia, where Qantas owns Jetstar, is an exception.) Analysts say the upstarts will thrive only if ANA and JAL step out of their way, letting them shake up the domestic tourist market. The big boys could then concentrate on long-haul and business travel.
分析人士称:之所以做出上述判断,有三个主要原因。首先,这三家新成立的廉价航空公司的母公司都是规模很大的企业。Peach在3月份就已经开始运营,日本亚洲航空(Air Asia Japan)也将于八月份开展业务,这两家公司都有部分股份由全日本航空公司(ANA,日本最大的航空公司之一)持有。捷星日本(Jetstar Japan)也将于七月份加入竞争,其三分之一的股份由日本航空公司(Japan Airlines)持有。其他地区的经验显示航空公司之间类似的关系往往会限制低成本航空的发展:现在市场的占有者不愿意拆东墙补西墙(澳大利亚是个例外,该国的澳洲航空持有捷星的所有股份)。分析人士表示,只有全日本航空公司和日本航空公司不阻挠各廉价航空公司的发展,让国内市场在新航空公司的竞争下重新洗牌,它们才能发展起来。而这些大型航空公司随后应该将精力主要放在长途航空与商务旅行方面。

Second, the budget airlines may struggle to make similar profits to their lucrative low-cost counterparts in other countries because, despite deregulation, airport costs and fuel taxes in Japan remain among the highest in the world. That could limit expansion, though Jetstar Japan is boldly aiming for 100 aircraft by the end of the decade, up from three at its launch.

Third, it will be hard to convince finicky Japanese passengers that low fares make up for the lack of comfort and convenience they are used to. Jetstar and Air Asia are using Narita airport as their hub, which is expensive and time-consuming to get to from Tokyo. The main carriers use Haneda, which is closer to the capital and cheaper.

The shinkansen zoom out of the city centre, with no reservations needed.Miyuki Suzuki, the boss of Jetstar Japan, says her company’s strategy is to use low fares to persuade people to make trips they would otherwise not have made at all. More tourists, she hopes, will start visiting Japan’s most far-flung islands. She says she will not go head-to-head with the shinkansen (though her airline will fly between Tokyo and Osaka). Peach and Air Asia Japan have their sights not only on domestic flights but also on the route between Tokyo and Seoul, the nearest foreign capital. They may be eyeing the East Asian market, where low-cost penetration lags behind the rest of Asia.
新干线的线路从东京与大阪的市中心往外围辐射,而且不需要提前订票。捷星日本(Jetstar Japan)的老板美雪铃木(Miyuki Suzuki)表示,她们公司的战略是要利用低价优势吸引民众旅行,在低价航空出现之前他们可能根本不会考虑这样的旅行。她希望有更多的游客去游览日本最外围的岛屿。她说,她们不会与新干线直接竞争(尽管她们公司也开通了东京到大阪的航线)。Peach与日本亚洲航空不仅将目光放在了国内航线上,它们还将目光投向了东京到首尔(离日本最近的外国首都)的航线。这两家航空公司可能已经在关注东亚市场了,与亚洲其他地区相比,这个地区低成本航空的发展还相对落后。

Alas, none of Japan’s new budget carriers is expected to be as cut-throat as low-cost carriers elsewhere. Ms Suzuki says Jetstar Japan will allow its passengers to book through travel agents, which are still ubiquitous, as well as online. “This is Japan,” she says, with a sympathetic air unusual for a budget-airline boss. “It’s not all going to be self-service.”
不过,与其他地区的低成本航空公司不同,日本这几家新成立的廉价航空公司不需要与同行进行激烈的竞争。铃木女士(Ms Suzuki)表示,旅客可以通过旅行社(旅行社在日本仍随处可见)或者在线预订捷星日本航空公司的机票。“这就是日本”,她说,言语中透露出一丝同情,一位廉价航空公司老板口中透出这样的语气并不常见。“并不是所有的服务都会实现自助”。
http://ecocn.org/thread-66832-1-1.html 译者:Dezazer

[2012.04.28]Asian economic rankings 亚洲经济排名
Asian economic rankings

A game of leapfrog

South Korea may soon be richer than Japan
Apr 28th 2012 | from the print edition

THE Tokyo Sky Tree, a broadcasting and observation tower that will officially open on May 22nd, is 634 metres high (2,080 feet), making it the tallest building in Asia. Is this Japan’s last bid to stay on top? For years, Japan was Asia’s richest and most powerful economy. It was the first Asian economy to industrialise, and the emerging Asian tigers—Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan and later China—merely followed in its tracks. Now, however, Japan is steadily being overtaken.

China’s economy is now bigger than Japan’s, but less noticed is the fact that Asia’s so-called newly industrialised economies (NIEs) are, one by one, becoming richer than Japan. Most economists reckon that the best way to compare living standards is to take GDP per person measured at purchasing-power parity (PPP), which adjusts for differences in the cost of living in each country. On this gauge, Japan was overtaken by Singapore in 1993, by Hong Kong in 1997 and by Taiwan in 2010. But the most humbling re-ranking will be when South Korea becomes richer than Japan. The latest forecasts from the IMF suggest that this could happen within five years (see chart). That would be a remarkable turnabout. In 1980 South Korea’s GDP per person was barely a quarter the level of Japan’s.现在中国的经济规模大于日本,但是很少被提及的事实是亚洲所谓的新型工业化经济体(NIEs)一个接一个的变得比日本富有。大部分经济学家认为最好的比较生活水平的方法是用平价购买力(PPP)测算人均GDP,其可以调整生活在每一个国家所需的不同费用。按照这个标准,日本在1993年被新加坡超越,1997年被香港超越,并在2010年被台湾超越。不过最令人羞愧的重新排名将会是南韩变得比日本富有。来自IMF的最新预测暗示这将在五年内发生(参见图表)。那将会是一个标志性的转变。在1980年南韩的人均GDP仅仅只有日本四分之一的水平。

Calculated at market exchange rates, Japan’s per-head income is still higher than all the NIEs except Singapore. Yet Japan’s high prices, especially for housing and food, bring down the country’s true standard of living. PPPs are tricky to calculate and economists come up with different numbers, so the IMF’s figures are contentious. Some other yardsticks, such as car-ownership rates, still suggest that Japan has a comfortable lead over South Korea. But the trend is clear: the tigers are outpacing their teacher.
http://ecocn.org/thread-66811-1-1.html 译者:rcm5433

[2012.04.28]For ever and ever 人类对长生不老的痴迷
For ever and ever

Four narratives and an actuary

Immortality: The Quest to Live Forever and How It Drives Civilisation. By Stephen Cave. Crown; 320 pages; $25. Biteback Publishing; £20. Buy from Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk

IMMORTALITY is an age-old obsession. Plenty of literature deals with the subject, from the Sumerian Epic of Gilgamish to the poems of Homer and the writings of the Old Testament. The quest to live for ever has motivated medieval alchemists, modern techno-Utopians and mystics through the centuries.

In his survey of the subject, Stephen Cave, a British philosopher, argues that man’s various tales of immortality can be boiled down into four basic “narratives”. The first is the simplest, in theory at least: do what the medieval alchemists never managed and discover an elixir to simply avoid dying. The second concerns resurrection, or coming back to life after dying, a belief found in all three of the Abrahamic religions. The idea of an immaterial soul that can persist through death dates back, in a formal form, at least to Plato, and forms Mr Cave’s third narrative. His fourth narrative deals with immortality through achievement, by becoming so famous that one’s name lives on through the ages.

For the aspiring undying, Mr Cave unfortunately concludes that immortality is a mirage. But his demolition project is fascinating in its own right. The section on the soul is an able attack on the related doctrines of “vitalism”, the soul and mind-body dualism—the intuitive and still widely held body of ideas that hold that living creatures are animated by some sort of supernatural spark, and that an individual’s personality or consciousness can survive death. The chapters on resurrection will interest Christians, as Mr Cave examines how the literal recreation, by God, of dead people’s bodies remains the doctrine of most branches of Christianity. The idea of one’s soul, as opposed to one’s body, ending up in heaven or hell is a subsequent embellishment.

If anything, readers might want more of Mr Cave’s crisp conversational prose. There could be more on living longer; Mr Cave barely has time to give even the briefest overview of the emerging science of life extension, which has allowed researchers to lengthen the lifespans of mice by a third or more in the lab.

There are a few quibbles. Mr Cave’s repeated claim that the quest for immortality drives every human activity feels overdone. Others might dispute his definition of immortality itself. Mr Cave’s chief argument against the desirability of living for ever (even assuming it is possible) is the familiar one of boredom. As the uncountable billions of years tick away, the argument runs, even the most vivacious will come to realise that they have done everything there is to do, hundreds of times. With yet more billions of years looming ahead they will be struck down with a debilitating ennui.

That argument only applies if these notional immortals are also invincible, and therefore impervious to accident. But that is an odd definition, and not one that crops up very often, especially in scientific research into ageing. The holy grail there is simply to arrest the ageing process. Indeed, Mr Cave quotes an actuary who has estimated that the average “medical immortal” would persist for around 6,000 years before dying in a plane accident or a car crash or the like. And besides, boredom seems to be a non-problem: after all, if an immortal does ever get truly bored of his vastly extended life, there would be nothing to prevent him from ending it.
http://ecocn.org/thread-66807-1-1.html 译者:西米

[2012.04.28]The great divide 巨大差异

The great divide

Why American house prices have corrected more than those in Europe

Apr 28th 2012 | from the print edition

ANDREW MELLON, Herbert Hoover’s treasury secretary, advised the president to “liquidate real estate” as part of a plan to “purge the rottenness out of the system”. Eighty years later, America has pretty much followed his advice. House prices have lost nearly all the real gains they notched up in the bubble period (see chart). That makes for a marked contrast with Europe, where prices may be off their peaks but have not lost all their real gains. Why the difference?
赫伯特?胡佛(Herbert Hoover)的财政部长安德里?默龙(ANDREW MELLON)曾向总统建议把“清算房地产”作为“涤荡经济中的腐败”计划的一部分。80年后,美国基本是照着他的建议做的。不计通胀,美国房价已几乎跌至泡沫时期前的水平(见图表)。这与欧洲形成了鲜明对比。欧洲目前的房价与房价最高时相比可能有所回落,但和泡沫时期前相比还是有实际增值的。造成这种差别的原因何在?

Many people think that owning a house is a certain moneymaker, but this is not the historical experience. In his recent book “Safe as Houses? A Historical Analysis of Property Prices”, Neil Monnery presents data from an array of nations going back (in some cases) several centuries. What he discovers is that real house prices have generally been flat over time, or have increased by at most 1% a year. Rather like gold, then, house prices have been a good store of value rather than an automatic route to riches.
很多人想当然地认为拥有一处房产就能赚大钱,但根据历史经验,事实并非如此。在Neil Monnery的新书《安全如房产?房价的历史分析》中,他列出了一系列国家的历史房价数据(其中一些是几百年来的数据)。他发现一直以来实际房价总体上没什么变化,年增长率最高不过1%。所以房产如同黄金,与其说是一种必然能致富的手段,不如说是一种保值的资产。
The exception is the period of the past 15 years or so, when real house prices took off in a few countries. But not everywhere. In Germany and Switzerland the trend has been flat-to-lower. In Japan there has been a decline which has pretty much wiped out the rise in house prices that occurred between 1970 and 1990. So there are really three types of market to explain: America and Japan, where real prices rose sharply then corrected; those where they rose sharply but have yet to lose all their gains; and those where the markets have been flat in real terms.

It is hard to find an explanation for price movements that applies across markets. Some cite low real interest rates as the main reason that prices have held up in Europe. But real rates have fallen sharply in America as well. For homebuyers, the best measure of the real rate is the gap between the average mortgage rate and annual wage growth. In America this is close to its lowest level in 24 years but the housing market is still flat as a chapati. Indeed, if you divide that period into three, house prices rose faster when rates were high than when they were low. In Britain, real house prices fell by a third between 1973 and 1977, even when real interest rates were sharply negative.

Just as the best way to view equities is as the discounted value of future cashflows, the best way to view property is as the discounted value of future rents. The temptation is to think that, as real rates fall, the present value of housing must rise. But why are real rates low? They are being held down by central banks which are worried about the economic outlook. If the central banks are right, then rents will surely grow more slowly in future. A paper* by Christian Hott and Terhi Jokipii calculates that on this basis, British, Irish and Spanish house prices are still well above their “fundamental” value, while those in America are about right.
衡量股票价值的最佳方法是看未来现金流的折现价,同样,衡量房产价值的最佳方法是看未来房租的折现价。人们很容易会这样想:随着实际利率的下降,房产的现值一定会上升。但为什么当前的实际利率那么低?压低利率的其实是那些担忧经济前景的央行。若各央行的想法正确,那么将来的房租肯定会涨得更慢。据此,Christian Hott和Terhi Jokipii所写的一篇论文估计,目前英国、爱尔兰及西班牙的房价仍远高于其“基本面”价值,美国的房价反而大致合理。

Explore and compare global housing data over time with our interactive house-price tool

Another potential explanation for America’s housing collapse relates to supply. Developers went on a building spree in places like Florida and California, and the result is a glut of empty condominiums. In contrast, Britain’s strict planning laws mean that too few houses have been built to satisfy demand. But overbuilding in Ireland or Spain reached chronic levels, too, and yet their house prices have not corrected to the same extent as those across the Atlantic.

What about demand? Houses behave more like a financial asset than a consumer good: as prices rise, demand seems to increase. In addition, there has been a trend towards smaller households (thanks to divorce, greater longevity and so on). But high house prices and tighter lending standards may have brought that process to a halt. Young people are forced to live with their parents or flat-share with contemporaries. These trends are pretty widespread, and it is hard to use them to explain national differences.

So perhaps the difference is institutional. American banks had poorer lending standards and have been quicker to foreclose on properties; borrowers have been readier to walk away from their homes. In European countries, owners have been able to sit tight in the hope that prices will recover. European markets are certainly a lot less liquid. Irish transaction volumes dropped by 83% from their peak and Spanish ones by 64%, but American deals fell by just 46%. Europe is going in the same direction as America. It is just getting there more slowly.
http://ecocn.org/thread-66800-1-1.html 译者:contrary

[2012.04.28]The world's deadliest bioterrorist 全球最致命的生物恐怖
Scientific freedom and security

The world’s deadliest bioterrorist

Nature likes biological weapons more than human villains do. The best defence is more research, not less
Apr 28th 2012 | from the print edition

SOME things are best kept secret. It is hard, for instance, to argue that public interest dictates publishing the blueprints for an atom bomb. The matter is less clear-cut, however, when scientific information that has the potential to wreak havoc might also stop that havoc happening.
有些事情最好保密。比如,因为公众有兴趣就该公布原子弹的设计图纸,这就没什么道理。然而, 如果具有造成大规模破坏潜力的科学知识或许也能阻止这种破坏,这时如何决定就不易抉择。

Take bird flu. It has killed more than 330 people since 2003. That may not sound many, but it amounts to 60% of the 570 known cases of the disease. The only reason the death toll is not higher is that those who succumbed caught the virus directly from a bird (usually a chicken). Fortunately for everyone else, it does not pass easily from person to person.

But it might. That is the burden of research carried out last year by two teams of scientists, one in America and one in the Netherlands. They tweaked the bird-flu virus’s genes to produce a version which can travel through the air from ferret to ferret. And ferrets are, in this context, good proxies for people.

The researchers’ motives were pure. The mutations they combined to produce their ferret-killing flu virus are all out there in the wild already. There is every chance those mutations could get together naturally and unleash a pandemic. By anticipating that recombination the two teams highlighted the risk, gave vaccine researchers a head start in thinking about how to counter it and, by fingering the mutations, spurred surveillance efforts, which have often been half-hearted.

Or, rather, they would have done had they been allowed to publish their results. They weren’t. Both the American and the Dutch governments saw not a sensible anticipation of a threat, but a threat in its own right. Their fear was that bad guys somewhere might repeat the experiment and weaponise the result. So in December they banned publication of the papers revealing the technical details of what the teams had done.

The threat from influenza is real. So-called Spanish flu, which infected 500m people in 1918-19, claimed the lives of one in five of those who caught it. Subsequent flu epidemics, though not as bad, have still cut swathes through humanity whenever they have arisen. But terrorism is real, too. Though there is no known case of biological warfare in the past 100 years, many countries have experimented with the idea; and there is concern that some terrorist groups, motivated not by specific political grievances but by a general hatred of the West, might unleash the uncontrollable mayhem of a viral epidemic purely out of spite. So who is right—the researchers who want to publish their findings, or the governments that want to stop them?

In this particular case, probably the researchers. And, to their credit, the authorities seem to have recognised that. After months of fraught deliberation involving the world’s leading virologists, journal editors, security experts, ethicists and policymakers, the Americans reversed their stance on April 20th (see article). The Dutch were reconsidering theirs as The Economist went to press.

The reason is that, as bioterrorists go, humans pale in comparison with nature. Even America’s security services, which might be expected to err on the side of caution, seem to agree that the odds of a bioterror attack are long. Biological weapons require skilled scientists working in state-of-the-art facilities. Even then, they are unpredictable—and therefore difficult to control. A deadly bug might come back to bite its maker, possibly before it had been made into a weapon. Aum Shinrikyo, a sect with sophisticated scientific capability, toyed with anthrax in 1993. But for its most brazen attack, when it killed 13 people in the Tokyo metro two years later, it preferred nerve gas. In September 2001 al-Qaeda plumped for aeroplanes.

Nature, by contrast, has form in this area. From the Black Death via Spanish flu to AIDS, bacteria and viruses have killed on a scale that terrorists and dictators can only dream of. The more you gag scientists or hide data, the harder it is for them to look for cures; you also probably drive bright young researchers away towards less fraught, blander areas.
与此相反,自然在这方面有犯罪记录。从黑死病 [注]到西班牙流感到艾滋病,细菌与病毒以恐怖主义者与独裁者梦寐以求的规模杀人。人们越是堵住科学家的嘴巴或是藏起他们的数据,他们就越是难以找到对付传染病的方法;这也可能会迫使年轻有为的科学家转投挑战性较低的平淡领域。

Natural-born killers

At the moment, then, the natural threat seems greater than the artificial one. And it is brave of America’s authorities to recognise that. If a terrorist outrage does happen, they will surely get the blame. By contrast, “acts of nature” are more easily shrugged off as, as it were, acts of God.
这就是说,当前自然的威胁大于人为威胁。美国当局敢于承认这一点确实很勇敢。如果真有生物恐怖暴行发生,他们肯定会受到追究。反之,因为“自然的行为” 是“上帝的意志”,所以人们会更觉得自己无能为力;过去似乎就是如此。

This case does, however, highlight a problem that is only going to grow. The atom bomb is a child of physics. Nerve gas is a child of chemistry. These are both old, mature sciences. Biotechnology is new. Its potential and limits are obscure. This time America has made the right decision. It is to be hoped that the Dutch will soon follow suit. But it behoves everyone—politicians and scientists alike—to keep a close eye on a fast-changing technology and on any shift in the balance of risks.

http://ecocn.org/thread-66769-1-1.html 译者:悠悠万事97

[2012.04.28]Right man, wrong job 正确的人选,错误的工作
London’s mayoral race

Right man, wrong job

Boris Johnson deserves another term as mayor of London. He also deserves a proper job
Apr 28th 2012 | from The Economist print edition

IT IS one of the world’s great cities—with problems to match. London is Britain’s economic engine, generating more than one-fifth of its wealth. Yet its greatest industry, finance, is perpetually under attack. London’s immigrants, who give the capital its energy, also put huge pressure on hospitals and transport. The city’s schools are bursting. It is an obvious terrorist target. Sadly few of London’s difficulties, or its greatness, are evoked by the race to become the city’s next mayor.

The election, which takes place on May 3rd, pits Boris Johnson, the Conservative incumbent (pictured right), against Ken Livingstone, a left-winger who ran London between 2000 and 2008. The battle between the two main challengers has been dominated by niggling personal issues and trivial disputes. Is Mr Livingstone’s use of a (legal) tax-avoidance vehicle inconsistent with his socialism? Did Mr Johnson spend too much money on some retro-chic double-decker buses? Were Mr Livingstone’s tears at a campaign broadcast genuine? Is Mr Johnson sexist? The incumbent has a slight lead in polls. But his party has grown toxic in London. The vote should be close.

Mr Johnson has been a good mayor rather than a great one. His image of tousle-haired disorganisation is not merely a pose. He has a habit of fastening on social problems, setting up an advisory group, then losing interest. Under great pressure—following last summer’s riots, for example—he can wilt. Mr Livingstone ran London as a machine; Mr Johnson occasionally appears to forget where the levers are.

Yet he has two great things to recommend him. The first is that, on the big issues, his instincts are right. The mayor defended bankers and called for a cut in the top rate of income tax when both positions were deeply unfashionable. He is socially liberal. For years he has been enthusiastic about immigration, and has even called for an amnesty for illegal immigrants, although he has bowed to a harder, more conventional line in the past few days. He has also done a good job of getting cash for infrastructure from central government.

His second advantage is that he is not Ken Livingstone. London’s first elected mayor began boldly. Belying his left-wing instincts, he introduced a congestion charge inspired by Milton Friedman and cosied up to the City. This newspaper backed him for a second term. Disappointingly, though, Mr Livingstone has gradually conformed to the “Red Ken” stereotype. He claims he can cut public-transport fares and even the rents Londoners pay private landlords. Over time, an ugly side to Mr Livingstone’s personality has emerged. He has shown startling insensitivity towards Jewish people. This would be unattractive in any politician. In the mayor of a diverse and occasionally tense city, it is intolerable.

Give him something important to do

This newspaper would like Mr Johnson to serve another term—and pull his finger out. We do not imagine, though, that he will abruptly be transformed into an English-accented Michael Bloomberg. For that to happen, the mayoralty itself would have to be radically changed.

A big reason the mayoral race has degenerated into squabbles over personal taxes and the shape of buses is that the candidates do not have much more to talk about. London’s mayor has great power over transport, as well as rather less power over housing and planning. He has almost no sway over education and health. The legislatures of Scotland and Wales, with a combined population roughly equal to London’s, are much more powerful. Most emasculating of all, less than 10% of the money London’s mayor spends comes from local property taxes. The rest comes from central government, which often tells the mayor how to spend the cash.

If the mayoralty is to become a serious job, attracting serious candidates, this must change. One thing Mr Johnson has demonstrated is that London’s police chief cannot hold on to his job if the mayor wants him gone. That power should be made formal. There is a case, too, for giving the mayor more sway over education: power is rightly being devolved by local authorities to individual schools, but Westminster still keeps too much to itself. As America shows, mayors are often the boldest education reformers: Mr Bloomberg is not the only mayor who has transformed local schools. Most of all, London’s mayor should be allowed to raise more money locally.

London’s mayor has the biggest personal mandate in British politics. He, or she, is a model to other cities that are toying with the idea of elected mayors. Mr Johnson has carried his responsibilities rather lightly. Time to increase his burden.
http://ecocn.org/thread-66738-1-1.html 译者:千杯之心

[2012.04.28]Blue notes 英国新小说: 蓝色音符
New British fiction 英国新小说

Blue notes 蓝色音符

Exploring knowledge and self-knowledge 探索知识与自我认识
Apr 28th 2012 | from the print edition

The Missing Shade of Blue: A Philosophical Adventure. By Jennie Erdal. Little, Brown; 309 pages; £12.99. Buy from Amazon.co.uk
《缺失的蓝色调[注]:惊悸哲人之旅》,珍妮?俄达尔(Jennie Erdal)著,小布朗出版公司出版,309页,售价12.99英镑,可点击Amazon.co.uk网购

JENNIE ERDAL is a British translator, the author of several non-fiction books and a memoir of her life as an editor and ghost writer. “The Missing Shade of Blue: A Philosophical Adventure”, her first novel under her own name, is a wry, intelligent work. Reminiscent in mood and setting of the early fiction of Iris Murdoch, it follows clever people as they make a sad mess of their lives.

It tells a story of adultery, madness and suicide, all of it conveyed in hindsight. The narrator is Edgar Logan, who has come to Edinburgh from Paris to translate the work of David Hume, a Scottish Enlightenment philosopher. While in Scotland, he becomes intrigued by the personality of a colleague, Harry Sanderson, a man in his early 60s and, at the end of his career, suffering and self-aware.。
全书以后知后觉的观点描述了一个偷情、疯狂与自杀的故事。故事的讲述者是埃德加?洛根(Edgar Logan),他从巴黎来到爱丁堡,翻译苏格兰启蒙哲学家大卫?休谟的著作。来到苏格兰后他受到同事哈利?桑德森(Harry Sanderson)的性格吸引。后者刚过60,已临近退休,但思想痛苦,同时也对自己有了清醒的认识。

At the centre of the novel is a high-definition portrait of Sanderson. His marriage to the much younger Carrie has degenerated into a series of suspicious and hostile exchanges. As seen through the eyes of Edgar, he is a wreck of a man with flaking skin and bloodshot eyes, swigging whisky and red wine in equal measure, and talking endlessly about failure. Suspended from his job after weeping in the lap of a prim American student, Sanderson is surprised by the sudden success of his hack academic book, “Happiness”, which leads to television interviews in which he remains intransigently gloomy and belligerent.

As well as being the narrator, Edgar has a role in the novel as a good listener and a friend. He is also a participating detective. He notes signs that his room has been disturbed while he is out, which leads him to do some night-time snooping on Sanderson and Carrie. As the narrative moves between past and present—between past tense and present tense and between recollected events and dramatised scenes—the spreading bleakness is lightened by enjoyable observations of Edinburgh and a background cast of students, university bureaucrats and overly cheerful television presenters. There are tense episodes, some dangerous, some absurd, as well as many ironic observations on the jargon of professionals and the language that conceals feelings. Sly jokes give ordinary events a philosophical twist. The novel is further lifted by moments of joy—fly fishing with Sanderson, collecting shells on the sea shore and the pleasures of art, literature and film. Quietly ambitious, it is a book that stays in the reader’s mind.
http://ecocn.org/thread-66730-1-1.html 译者:悠悠万事97

[2012.04.26]Names for superheroes 超级英雄的名字
Names for superheroes

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it's just some dude in tights

Apr 26th 2012, 16:30 by N.B.

IN “AVENGERS Assemble”, Marvel's new superhero blockbuster, Jeremy Renner plays a sharp-shooting archer code-named "Hawkeye"—not that you’d know it from the film. Renner’s character is introduced as “the hawk”, and from then on he’s known as Agent Barton, even in radio communications, when a code-name might have made sense.
在Marvel公司最新的超级英雄大片《复仇者联盟》中,Jeremy Renner扮演一位代号“鹰眼”的弓箭神射手,但是你在电影中听到的可不是这个名字。Renner的角色出场时被称为“飞鹰”,之后就一直被称为巴顿特工了,就算是在照理应该用代号的无线电通话中人们也是这么称呼他的。

He’s not the only superhero to be stripped of the name he’s had in several decades of Marvel comics. In “Avengers Assemble”, Captain America is invariably addressed as Captain Rogers, Iron Man is always Tony Stark (except in one snippet of a news report), and Dr Banner nicknames his alter ego “the other guy”, rather than sticking to the more familiar appellation, the Incredible Hulk. Super-names, it seems, have gone out of fashion.

There are examples of this cultural cringe in every recent superhero film. In Ang Lee’s “Hulk”, the jolly green giant is labelled “Angry Man”. In “The Dark Knight”, Gary Oldman’s Commissioner Gordon is so reluctant to say “the Joker” that he mumbles “the clown” instead. And even when a film does use a bona fide, old-fashioned super-name, it’s always preceded by some throat-clearing and foot-shuffling. In “The Fantastic Four”, the characters grumble when their corny brand names are foisted on them for marketing purposes. In Sam Raimi’s “Spider-Man” and its sequels, it’s a newspaper editor who brainstorms the villains’ soubriquets so he can use them in his headlines. In “X-Men”, Patrick Stewart’s Professor Xavier blames the pupils at his school for coining the term X-Men. Gone are the days when a self-respecting supervillain would stand on a rooftop and bellow, “Henceforth, the world shall know me as ... the Grey Gargoyle!”
在最近的几部超级英雄电影中每一部都有这种文化畏缩现象。在李安执导的《绿巨人》中,这个快乐的绿色巨人被称为是“愤怒者”。在《黑暗骑士》中,Gary Oldman扮演的高登队长非常不愿意叫出“Joker”一名,取而代之他嘟囔的则是“那个小丑”。就算电影里确实启用了货真价实的老牌绰号,在念这些名字前总有一个清喉咙或者移脚的动作。在《神奇四侠》中,四位主角的陈旧招牌代号是为了宣传而强加于他们头上的,他们对此都牢骚不断。在Sam Raimi的《蜘蛛侠》和其续集中,那些反面角色的诨名都是一位报纸总编为了用在他自己的报纸头条上而想出来的。在《X战警》中,Patrick Stewart扮演的泽维尔博士把X战警一词的由来归咎于其学校的学生们。自重的超级恶棍会傲然挺立于屋脊之上,自豪地大声宣布“从此刻起,这个世界将会称我为……灰石怪!”那个时代早就过去了。

This could just be a natural stage of superhero evolution. After all, the cape-wearing of the 1930s (DC’s Batman and Superman) became less common in the 1960s (Marvel’s Spider-Man and Fantastic Four). But in today’s Marvel and DC comics, super-names are still used without embarrassment. It’s only in the more naturalistic world of the cinema that they’re deemed unsuitable. (Rappers and WWF wrestlers, too, tend to drop their outlandish stage names when they make the transition to the big screen.)

Presumably, film-makers have calculated that we can accept people with superpowers, we can accept that they’d use those superpowers to have mid-air punch-ups with each other, and we can accept that they’d dress in brightly coloured jumpsuits while doing so. But as for funny names ... that would just be childish. To paraphrase the slogan of “Superman: The Movie”, “You’ll believe a man can fly—but not if he’s called Superman.”

Maybe Hollywood is right to turn the Incredible Hulk into the green monster that dare not speak its name. But there’s something undeniably weird about making something gritty and grown-up out of a concept as wonderfully daft as superheroes. Wouldn’t it be simpler to follow the example of Pixar’s “The Invincibles”, and make an exciting, exhilarating superhero movie that’s aimed unashamedly at all ages?
http://ecocn.org/thread-66713-1-1.html 译者:nayilus

[2012.04.24]Avatar 2: Made in China? 阿凡达2:中国制造?
The international film industry

Avatar 2: Made in China?

Apr 24th 2012, 7:29 by G.E. | BEIJING

FOURTEEN years ago James Cameron’s film “Titanic” shattered box-office records in China, as it did nearly everywhere else in the world. Its impact was especially shocking in a market that was captive to a conservative, state-dominated film industry, with no ability to produce a blockbuster of its own. Mr Cameron’s ballyhooed “Avatar” broke China’s records again in 2009 and 2010, despite more than a decade of development. Now the film bureaucrats in Beijing have a chance to accomplish something that would have been unthinkable until very recently: co-producing Mr Cameron’s “Avatar” sequels.
十四年以前詹姆斯?卡梅隆(James Cameron)的电影《泰坦尼克号》在中国和在世界上所有地方一样打破了票房记录。当时的中国电影市场受制于思想保守、被中央控制且无力自己制作大片的电影业。在这样的环境下,该片带来的冲击尤为令人震撼。尽管中国经过了十多年发展,在2009/10年,卡梅隆大肆宣传的《阿凡达》一片还是再次大破票房记录。现在北京的电影官员有机会完成一件直到最近还是想都不敢想的创举:和卡梅隆共同制作《阿凡达》续集。

Mr Cameron arrived in Beijing on Saturday and will soon be attending a screening of “Titanic 3D” at the Beijing International Film Festival (the re-release opened earlier this month to staggering sales in China). But his most important business will be conducted in private meetings, including with state-owned China Film Group. Speaking in an interview on Sunday, he said a priority of this trip was to explore a co-production deal with the Chinese firm on “Avatar 2” and “Avatar 3”. Mr Cameron says he would need to be satisfied in advance that his planned films would meet the approval of censors. If that key condition can be met, he is keen on the potential payoff. “There are economic advantages,” as he puts it.

The economic advantage he has in mind would be on the tail end, when the box office takings are divvied up. Mr Cameron does not need funding assistance for his films (a common reason for other foreigners in search of Chinese partners), but he would like China to share more of its blockbuster revenues with him. When “Avatar” made $200m in Chinese ticket sales, China was returning to Hollywood only 13% to 17% of the receipts on imported films, a far lower share than the American studios receive from other foreign markets. Going forward China will share up to 25% of the takings from imports, per an agreement announced during Xi Jinping’s visit to Los Angeles in February. That remains lower than Mr Cameron might be able to negotiate in a co-production deal. Chinese producers, after all, can collect up to 45% of the box office for domestic films, the 55% remainder going to satisfy the cinemas and distributors.

Mr Cameron’s meetings this week come shortly after the news that “Iron Man 3”, starring Robert Downey junior, will be a Chinese co-production. The gravitational pull of the Chinese movie market, nonexistent less than a generation ago, is now an undeniable force, sucking in all Hollywood blockbusters (and lesser projects) that venture within its event horizon. Hollywood studios, independent producers and directors regularly cycle through Beijing in search of partnerships with Chinese production houses—often seeking money to finance their movies, as well as access to a suddenly lucrative market.
卡梅隆本周会晤的消息传出前不久,《钢铁侠3》(小罗伯特?唐宁/Robert Downey junior 主演)将会和中国共同制片的消息浮出水面。中国电影市场仿如一个黑洞一样将所有冒险踏入其“视界线”的好莱坞大片(以及一些制作规模相对较小的电影)吸进中心。这种现象在仅仅20几年前还是完全不存在的,而现在其吸引力似乎无可抵挡。好莱坞制片厂,独立制片商和导演们经常在北京遍寻中国制片厂进行合作,通常其目的都是为了给自己的影片出资,也为了让影片可以打入这个突然之间利润丰厚的市场。

This year China will surpass Japan as the world’s second-largest movie market, after America. Chinese box-office takings totalled 13 billion yuan ($2.06 billion) in 2011, an increase of 30% from 2010, which in turn had been more than 60% higher than in 2009. The number of movie screens has doubled in five years to more than 10,000 (and is projected to reach 15,000 in speedy fashion), and the new screens are mostly digital and 3D-capable. Meanwhile America’s market is stagnating. Takings in North America (America and Canada combined) declined by 4% in 2011, to $10.2 billion. Mr Cameron suggests that by the time “Avatar 3” is released later this decade, China may well rival America as the top movie market. That may be a stretch, but then just wait till “Avatar 4”; Mr Cameron calls it a possibility. He says he has stopped producing non-Avatar films or even considering non-Avatar scripts. “I’m in the Avatar business. Period, that’s it. I’m making ‘Avatar 2’, ‘Avatar 3’, maybe ‘Avatar 4’,” he says. “I think that within the Avatar landscape, I can say everything I need to say that I think needs to be said, in terms of the state of the world and what we should be doing about it.”

What Mr Cameron had to say in “Avatar”—about environmental exploitation, about the rights of people to their land—was rather political (Mr Cameron proudly declares it “not a subtle film”). The film resonated with some viewers in China as mildly subversive, and it did not receive quite the same blessing from Beijing as did “Titanic” (Jiang Zemin, then China’s top leader, was a fan). But it did not run afoul of censors. A famous scene in “Titanic”, in which Kate Winslet’s character poses nude for a drawing, was censored for the 3D re-release in China. Mr Cameron counts that as progress; he says that “somewhat” more was censored the first time the film was released in China. He surely has the leverage, with the value of “Avatar” as a franchise, to get the script assurances he would need to make a co-production work. He also says that he will not let any political concerns about China or its human-rights record interfere with his doing business here. “I’m going to do what’s necessary to continue having this be an important market for my films,” he says. “I’m going to play by the rules that are internal to this market. Because you have to.”
卡梅隆想要通过《阿凡达》阐述的观点,包括环境开发,人享有自己土地的权力等等,都是相当政治化的观点(卡梅隆很自豪的宣称这“并不是一部隐讳的电影”)。中国某些观众觉得该电影有点略带颠覆性,北京当局对于这部电影的赞赏也不如当初的《泰坦尼克号》(中国前主席江泽民很喜欢该片)。但《阿凡达》还是顺利通过了审查。《泰坦尼克号》里面有一幕著名场景,其中凯特?温斯莱特(Kate Winslet)扮演的角色作为绘画模特全裸上镜。这一幕在中国的3D版上映中被删除了。卡梅隆认为这可以算是个“进步”,他提到上一次上映时删除的镜头“一定程度上”更多。当然,由于《阿凡达》系列的价值,他有大量的谈判筹码,可以迫使中方对剧本保证,使得共同制片变得可能。他也说自己不会让针对中国或是其人权记录的政治担忧干涉他在中国的电影业务。他说:“我会做好自己所需做的,确保中国继续做为我影片的一个重要市场。我会根据这个市场内部的规则行事。因为你不这么做不行。”

Indeed, as in many other industries, China has the market leverage to get what it wants from the foreign potentates who once dominated the film business. But what would China get in exchange for giving up some of its take at the box office to Mr Cameron? For one, Han Sanping, the powerful chairman of China Film Group, would affix his name to what could be one of the biggest blockbusters of all time, “Avatar 2” (and “3”, etc). Co-producing a James Cameron film would mark quite a symbolic turnaround for China, from the days of “Titanic”. Mr Han is often referred to in film circles as the godfather of Chinese film. If Mr Han wants a producer credit, Mr Cameron may find himself not terribly inclined to refuse.
http://ecocn.org/thread-66650-1-1.html 译者:nayilus

[2012.04.21]Murray Lender穆雷?兰德尔:贝果梦想家

Murray Lender

Murray Lender, bagel-promoter, died on March 21st, aged 81
Apr 21st 2012 | from the print edition

WHEN Murray Lender talked about bagels, as he did all the time, he could wax philosophical. A bagel, he said, was a paradox. Shiny-brown and crispy on the outside; chewy and soft on the inside. Boiled, then baked. The personality was complex, since that hole-in-the-roll was never the same shape twice. But the sheer deliciousness was simple. He liked his warmed, though on TV ads he would demolish them toasted, the butter just melting, with an irresistible crunching sound. Close your eyes, munch a Lender’s bagel, and you were as near as you could get to heaven without seeing the Pearly Gates.

Everything, he proclaimed, was Better on a Bagel. Cream cheese and lox, for sure. But why be Jewish about it? Why not spread this “Jewish English muffin” with jelly, paté, peanut butter, Swiss cheese—bacon, even? And why stop at breakfast, when you could lunch and dine on them too? Tasty, satisfying, convenient, and at a bargain price! What’s not to like?

Behind the patter was a giant vision: to bagelise America. The family firm in Baldwin Street, New Haven (Poppa, Momma, himself, three brothers) was baking as fast as it could go by the 1950s, but still not making much money after 30 years. Over hellish Saturday nights and Sunday mornings they would produce 3,000-6,000 dozen bagels, stirring the heavy dough, rolling, shaping (that expert twist of the fingers, slap on the table), boiling, baking. The wondrous smell brought in crowds. But bagels were still seen as a local, ethnic, weekend edible. Mr Lender wanted to sell bagels all week, and all across the country.

From 1955, working full-time on no salary, he began to buzz with good ideas. Put six bagels in a plastic bag to give them a three-day life, rather than seven hours. Sell them in grocery stores to create an all-week, everyday demand. Tickle those gentile taste buds with onion, egg, cinnamon ’n’ raisin flavours. Even better, pop them in the walk-in freezer his father already had, and make them last so long that you could ship them everywhere. Pile them in the frozen-food cabinets with the juice, and there was breakfast ready, oven-fresh, from the east coast to the west.

Frozen bagels were slippery little critters; Mr Lender had the idea of pre-slicing them, saving both the nation’s fingers and its early-morning time. He fell so deep in love with freezing that he managed in 1984 to get March declared Frozen Food Month, became chairman of the National Frozen & Refrigerated Foods Association, and sported its penguin symbol ever afterwards, on his tie or lapel or on his socks.

His marketing ploys, on a tiny budget, became legend. In 1956 he went to the Catskills to put Lender’s frozen bagels into the best hotels, snaring the Jewish holiday trade. Then, with just six employees and a bakery in a garage, he went knocking on the doors of Kraft, Maxwell House and Minute Maid to suggest cross-promotions. Their national-brand coupons on his packaging, his coupons on theirs. The giants hardly knew what a bagel was; but one look at this gleeful, owlish figure (a bag of bagels under one arm, a toaster under the other), and everyone signed up. Sales soared. The ethnic barrier tumbled, he thought, when he sold 50 cases of frozen bagels in Arkansas.

The Sales-rep Cantata

Still the stunts kept coming. For St Patrick’s Day he made green bagels saying “Erin go Bragh” and “Shalom”. For one G7 summit he made bagel-heads of world leaders, with a lipsticked one for Margaret Thatcher. Oval bagels were sent to the Oval Office, and a man-sized one greeted Johnny Carson on “The Tonight Show”. When the world’s biggest bagel (714lb) was baked in 1998, Mr. Lender planted a kiss on it. By this time sales of Lender’s bagels, growing from 1965 to 1996 by double-digit leaps every year, had long been too huge for Murray and his brother Marvin to manage. So in 1984 Murray had arranged a “marriage of the century” with Kraft, striding down the aisle with a six-foot “Len Bagel” to plight his troth with “Phyl”, or a Kraft Philadelphia Cream Cheese.

It was all a far cry from the days when little Murray’s job had been to count out 12 bagels and thread them on twine, for his brother Hymie to hang on shop doors. He thought he was bound to be a baker. Very early, though, he became the family’s salesman: theatrical, sporty, sociable, and with skills picked up at the kitchen table, where his mother Rose would urge coffee and cake on anyone who ventured by.

He was also the most competitive of the brothers, always pushing to expand and modernise. When eating got healthy, Lender’s bagels did too: all-natural, whole-grain, and “with more complex carbohydrates than a whole bowl of cereal!” One ad, which featured him lounging on a supermarket shelf, was an echo of how he had spread the word in the early days, handing out bags of bagels in shops.

When a cruel stroke robbed him of speech in 1998, he found he could still compose cantatas for sales reps to sing. And he could play the drums. He did both joyously. Much of the money he made from bagels was given quietly to charities, but his name was publicly attached to a children’s playground on the site of his father’s old bakery. You could have almost as much fun there as he had all his life, tirelessly turning America into Bagel Nation.
http://ecocn.org/thread-66701-1-1.html 译者:je331ca

[2012.04.21]Feeling peaky 石油产量接近极限
The economic impact of high oil prices

Apr 21st 2012 | from the print edition

AS THE developed-world economy tries to gain momentum, it faces a persistent headwind. The oil price remains stubbornly over $100 a barrel, acting like a tax on Western consumers. Some blame the high price on evil speculators—Barack Obama unveiled plans to increase penalties for market manipulation on April 17th. But there is a simpler explanation: that supply is inadequate to keep up with rising demand.

The concept of peak oil—the idea that global crude production may be at, or close to, its limit—is far from universally accepted. One leading asset manager talked recently of the world being “awash with energy” because of the exploitation of American shale gas. Nevertheless, oil is still the main fuel for cars and trucks. And crude output (as opposed to alternatives such as biofuels and liquids made from gas) has been flat since 2005.

A number of countries (including Britain, Egypt and Indonesia) have turned from net oil exporters into importers in recent years. And although rich countries have curbed their energy-guzzling a little, demand continues to surge in emerging markets.

This has left the oil market very vulnerable to temporary supply disruptions, such as the war in Libya. Speaking at a conference in Dublin this week, organised by the Institute of International and European Affairs and the Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas, Chris Skrebowski, a consulting editor of Petroleum Review, argued that spare capacity in the oil market could be eroded by 2015.
这令石油市场特别容易因短暂供应中断而受到影响,如利比亚战争(所引起的供应中断)。本周,一个由国际与欧洲事务研究院及石油及天然气峰值研究协会组织的会议在都柏林召开。《石油评论》的顾问编辑Chris Skrebowski在会议上发言,他认为到2015年石油市场的闲置产能可能就会耗尽。

The peak-oil concept was devised by the late M. King Hubbert, who correctly predicted in 1956 that oil output in the lower 48 states of America would peak by around 1970. At the conference Michael Kumhof, an economist at the International Monetary Fund, presented the findings of a forthcoming working paper which showed that adding the idea of a “Hubbert peak” to energy production greatly improved the ability of a model to forecast oil prices. Based on an expected 0.9% annual increase in production over the next decade, the model predicts that real oil prices will nearly double over the same period.
石油峰值这个概念是已故的M. King Hubbert提出的,他曾在1956年预言美国48个州(除阿拉斯加和夏威夷外)的石油产量将在1970年左右达到峰值,后来预言应验了。在会议上,国际货币基金组织的一位经济学家Michael Kumhof展示了一份即将发表的工作论文中的一些调查结果。这些结果表明,在能源生产(的模型)里融入Hubbert峰值的概念将会大大提高一个油价预测模型的预测准确度。未来十年石油的年产量预计将会提高0.9%,据此,这个模型预测同期实际的石油价格将会增加近一倍。

The economic damage caused by such a rise is predicted to be modest, perhaps 0.2% of global GDP a year. In the past changes in oil prices have had a limited long-term impact, since any losses to oil importers are matched by gains by oil exporters. To the extent that high oil prices played a role in the recessions of the early 1980s and 2008-09, the main reason is that oil-producing countries tend to have a lower marginal propensity to consume their income, denting global demand.

Nevertheless, Mr Kumhof worries that if oil prices are high enough, the economic impact might increase substantially. On the most extreme assumptions, it could be 2% a year.
不过,Kumhof 担心若油价太高,经济受到的影响可能会越来越严重。在最极端的假设下,全球GDP可能会每年下降2%。

Even if the world can find more oil—in the Arctic or tar sands, say—the longer-term question is whether the era of “cheap energy” is over and how the world can adjust if it is. Developed economies are built on easy access to cheap energy, importing goods that are transported from around the world, with consumers driving many miles to work in air-conditioned offices and then flying off to sunny climes for their annual holidays. Persistently high oil prices would clearly lead to substitution (electric cars, natural-gas-powered trucks) but the transition costs could be significant.

Furthermore some potential substitutes for, or new sources of, oil (such as biofuels and tar sands) are a lot less efficient, in the sense that they require significant amounts of energy simply to produce. To the extent that this equation (energy return on energy invested, or EROI) is deteriorating, that must surely have an effect on economic growth.

“What is the minimum EROI that a modern industrial society must have for its energy system for that society to survive?” ask Carey King and Charles Hall in a recent paper*. The academics’ answer: “Complex societies need a high EROI built on a large primary energy base.”
“在一个现代工业社会中,其能源系统的EROI必须高于哪个值这个社会才能继续发展?”Carey King和Charles Hall在最近的一篇论文中提出了这个问题。学术界的回答是:“结构复杂的社会要有很高的EROI值,而且前提是要有大量一次能源。”

This issue is not much considered by mainstream economists, who are too busy focusing on monetary policy, the impact of fiscal austerity or the need for labour-market reforms. But just as the industrial revolution was built on coal, the post-second-world-war economy was built on cheap oil. There will surely be a significant impact if it has gone for good.
http://ecocn.org/thread-66699-1-1.html 译者:contrary

[2012.04.21]Reshaping banking 重组银行业
The retreat from everywhere 全面撤退

Led by European banks, the world’s lenders are pulling back to their home markets
Apr 21st 2012 | from the print edition

SOME signs are subtle. Foreign lenders operating in America are tightening loan standards more sharply than domestic rivals; Hong Kong property developers are scrambling to issue bonds for want of other funding. But others—the “for sale” signs hung on the overseas assets of many European lenders—are pretty blatant. The ability and willingness of banks to compete across borders is unravelling.

The years before the financial crisis saw rapid growth in the cross-border activities of banks. According to the Bank for International Settlements, the average year-on-year growth rate for cross-border bank credit to non-banks during the 2000-07 period was a sizzling 15.2%, compared with 6.7% for total bank credit. Since then cross-border credit has fizzled (see chart 1) and looks likely to fall further.
在本次金融危机之前的一些年里,银行业的国外业务发展迅猛。据国际结算银行(Bank for International Settlements)统计,外国银行向非银行业的信贷在2000–2007年间的平均年增长率为令人咂舌的15.2%,而整个银行业的这一增长率仅为6.7%。在此之后,外国银行信贷就一直在萎缩(见图表1),而且看来可能还会进一步萎缩。

European lenders were in the vanguard during the era of internationalisation, and around a third of their assets are outside their home markets. They are now under pressure to slim down their balance-sheets quickly, partly to shore up capital and partly because of funding strains. The IMF this week projected that banks in the European Union would undergo a $2.6 trillion deleveraging over the next two years. Much of that will be achieved by running for home.

In March the Reserve Bank of Australia revealed that the departure of European lenders, in particular French banks, had left an A$34 billion ($35 billion) funding gap in the syndicated-loan market for local companies. The story is similar in the Middle East, where a rush this year to issue Islamic bonds, or sukuk, is attributed to a withdrawal of European lenders. Within Europe, too, national boundaries are being reinforced as lenders cut back their exposures to weaker markets (see chart 2). Non-European banks are also trimming their foreign portfolios as they rationalise their businesses: Citigroup agreed to sell its Belgian retail arm in December; HSBC is offloading businesses from Costa Rica to Pakistan.
澳大利亚联储(the Reserve Bank of Australia)三月份披露,由于欧洲银行特别是法国银行的撤离,该国公司的财团贷款市场出现了340亿澳元(350亿美元)的资金缺口。中东的情况类似。由于欧洲银行撤退,人们今年仓促加发了伊斯兰债券(阿拉伯语sukuk)。欧洲内部也同样如此:银行减少了在疲软市场内的运营,加强了在自己国内的经营(见图表2)。非欧洲银行在使其运营理性化的同时也在缩减它们的国外投资组合:花旗集团(Citigroup)去年12月同意出售它在比利时的零售银行业务;汇丰银行(HSBC)正在出售它在哥斯达黎加和巴基斯坦等国的旗下公司。

Some of this is cyclical. After the first contraction of international activity in 2008-09, a rebound occurred, and something similar might be seen in response to the provision late last year of three-year liquidity by the European Central Bank (ECB), which has temporarily eased the strains on euro-area banks. But there is good reason to believe the retrenchment represents a structural change.
这里有些是周期现象。国际商业活动在2008–2009年间第一次收缩之后曾有反弹;欧洲央行(European Central Bank (ECB))去年年底提供了3年期贷款,暂时缓解了欧元区各银行的压力;这可能会使国际商业活动发生类似反弹。但人们有充分理由相信,这次收缩其实是一次结构性改变。

Retrenchment need not be disastrous. Much pre-crisis cross-border lending was foolish, after all; think of all the German money in subprime American mortgages. And foreign banks are not the only suppliers of cross-border capital: the importance of foreign direct investment and portfolio flows as a proportion of gross inflows has steadily risen over the past three decades.
But banks matter. There is evidence that cross-border banking relationships between pairs of countries encourage other types of capital flow; reduce them, and the other flows may dry up too. And the availability of bank financing is vital to smaller businesses or long-term asset-based activities such as infrastructure projects. “The alternatives to cross-border banking are autarkic financial systems, which means relying on domestic capital formation and thus higher costs, or international flows via bond markets, which are more volatile,” says Peter Sands, the boss of Standard Chartered, an emerging-markets bank.
但银行起的作用很大。有证据说明,两国间的跨国银行业关系能激励其他种类的资本流量;这些关系的减弱可能也会使其他资本的流量枯竭。能够从银行融资对较小的企业至为关键,对那些如基建项目一类长期资产型企业也是如此。一家新兴市场银行渣打银行(Standard Chartered)的总裁冼博德 (Peter Sands) 说:“可以用自给自足式金融系统替代跨国银行业,但这意味着依赖国内资本形成,因此成本颇高;或通过债券市场形成的国际流动,但这种流动更不稳定。”

Home is where the taxpayer is 纳税人在国内

Three powerful centripetal forces are at play: politics, regulation and deleveraging. Take politics first. The financial crisis, and the sovereign-debt crisis that followed it, have left no one in any doubt about the relationship between banks and the state. If big lenders get into trouble, taxpayers end up bailing them out.

Now it is payback time. Banks have come under pressure from their governments to prioritise the customers that rescued them. “Project Merlin” set Britain’s biggest banks targets for their lending to small and medium-sized enterprises; Commerzbank, a bailed-out German bank, is committed to concentrating its lending on Germany and Poland. In December Crédit Agricole, a French bank, outlined plans that included the closure of corporate- and investment-banking operations in 21 countries. “Crédit Agricole is mobilised on a day-to-day basis to support the plans of the French people,” ran the press release.
现在是回报的时候了。银行受到各自政府的压力,要它们把曾经拯救了自己的顾客放在首位。“梅林项目”为英国最大的银行设立了对中小企业贷款的目标;接受过拯救的德国商业银行(Commerzbank)承诺集中对德国与波兰贷款。去年12月,法国农贷银行(Crédit Agricole)扼要说明了它今后的计划,其中包括终止在21个国家中的对公和投资银行业务。“农贸银行将全面动员,以支持法国人民的计划作为自己日常工作的基础,”该行的新闻稿如是说。

In the case of banks in the euro zone’s peripheral nations, the politics of patriotism also mean propping up the debt of their governments. Italian and Spanish banks have used the ECB’s three-year loans to boost their holdings of domestic government bonds. Spanish lenders increased their holdings by 26% in the two months to January; Italian banks upped theirs by 31% in the three months to February. This reflects, in part, a calculation that few banks can survive without a sovereign that looks solvent.

Regulations are also steering banks (and insurers) into holding domestic government debt. Rules on capital and liquidity label government debt as safe and render domestic government debt peculiarly so. The overall effect is to make balance-sheets look a lot more patriotic. Huw van Steenis of Morgan Stanley reckons that euro-zone banks have an average of 6% of their assets invested in domestic sovereign debt, and that their holdings are growing by the day.
法规也迫使银行(及保险公司)持有本国国债。资本与偿付能力的相关法规把政府债券定义为安全投资,这就很奇特地让本国政府的债券成了安全投资。这样做的综合效果就是让资产负债表看上去爱国得多。摩根?斯坦利(Morgan Stanley)的休?冯斯蒂尼斯(Huw van Steenis)认为,欧元区银行已平均使用6%的资产投资本国主权债务,且其持有量仍在与日俱增。

Many other rules that are designed to make finance safer also risk making it more parochial. A big lesson of the crisis is that banks which are global in life are national in death. The bankruptcies of Lehman Brothers and MF Global showed regulators how assets could easily get trapped in foreign jurisdiction s, leaving a bigger bill for taxpayers back home. There are signs that, in response, regulators are treating foreign assets more harshly than domestic ones. Bankers say that stress tests carried out on American lenders by the Federal Reserve in March put their foreign loans under greater pressure than American ones. Recent guidance from Britain’s Financial Services Authority on lending in areas like commercial property jacked up risk charges on exposures where there is a lack of historical data; Bob Penn of Allen & Overy, a law firm, argues that this has the effect of privileging lending in home markets. With capital scarce, such tinkering matters.
许多其他规定旨在让金融业更安全,但它们也有令其活动范围更为地区化的风险。金融危机的一个重大教训是:那些兴旺时全球捞钱的银行在破产时祸害的是自己的国家。雷曼兄弟银行(Lehman Brothers)和全球曼氏金融(MF Global)的破产让银行监管者清楚地看出,资产很容易陷在国外司法辖区内,结果给本国纳税人留下了更大的债务。有迹象表明,有鉴于此,银行监管者对国外资产的管理比对本国资产更为严厉。银行家们认为,在今年3月美联储对美国银行进行的“压力测试”中,他们在国外的贷款受到了比国内贷款更大的压力。最近英国的金融服务局(Financial Services Authority)下发了对商业房产类的贷款指南,提高了对缺少过往数据地区贷款的风险收费;安理国际律师事务所(Allen & Overy)的鲍勃?佩恩(Bob Penn)认为此举带有给予国内市场优惠的效果。由于资本匮缺,这样的小规模调整甚为有效。
As national regulators seek to stamp their authority on international finance, conflicts and inefficiencies arise in all sorts of areas. Britain has filed lawsuits against the ECB for its proposal to prohibit clearing-houses outside the euro area from being able to handle more than 5% of trading in euro-denominated instruments. Differences between proposed American and European rules on derivatives may mean that banks build separate infrastructures on either side of the Atlantic. Things that matter could fall into the cracks opening up; many worry that trade finance, the lifeblood of cross-border trade, will be heavily penalised under new liquidity rules.

Resolutions and reality分拆与现实

Planning for bank failures is the area where the interests of national regulators collide most forcefully with hopes of international co-ordination. The Financial Stability Board, a global watchdog, wants the big regulators of cross-border banks to work together in the event that banks need resolving, and many banks hope for such agreements. But the regulators’ focus is on their national interests, not those of the world, or of the banks.
各国监管者与希望国际协调的人们最激烈的利益冲突是对银行倒闭做出防患于未然的计划这一领域。全球监察机构金融稳定委员会(Financial Stability Board)希望,当银行需要分拆时,跨国银行最大的监管者能采取共同行动解决问题,许多银行也希望有这样的协议。但监管者关注的是他们的国家利益,至于全球或银行利益则另当别论。

As Simon Gleeson of Clifford Chance, a law firm, points out, no government will care as much about treating foreign creditors fairly as it cares about compensating its own people. Iceland, which screwed its banks’ foreign creditors in favour of domestic depositors, is a case in point. A typical regulator wants banks in its purview to have enough assets both to keep operating in times of crisis and to pay back domestic creditors in case of failure, whether the banks are domiciled there or not.
正如高伟绅律师事务所(Clifford Chance)的西蒙?格里森(Simon Gleeson)指出的那样,没有哪个政府会像关心本国人民获得补偿那样关心外国债权人受到的待遇是否公平。冰岛政府在本国银行倒闭时保护本国储蓄者而压榨外国债权人,这是一个恰当的例子。一个典型的监管者应该监督银行(无论该行属于哪个国家),令其握有足够资产,能让它在危机时刻保持运行、并在一旦倒闭时退还私人债权人的存款。

Home-market regulators thus prefer their lenders not to have too great an exposure elsewhere. Austria’s central bank has said that Austrian bank subsidiaries in central and eastern Europe should not exceed a loan-to-deposit ratio of 110%, a way of ensuring that their funding needs do not make too great a call on resources back at headquarters.

Emerging markets, now alive to the possibility that parent banks in the rich world can be a source of instability as well as support, have their own worries about the “portability” of capital, liquidity and assets. Guillermo Ortiz, a former Mexican finance minister who is now chairman of Banorte, a Mexican lender, wants subsidiaries of foreign banks in emerging markets to be ring-fenced so that money cannot be funnelled out of the country.
新兴市场现在意识到,虽然富国的各银行母公司可以为它们提供支持,但也可以变成不稳定的根源;这些市场担心资本、流动资金和资产的“易于移动性”。前墨西哥金融部长、现任一家墨西哥北方银行(Banorte) 总裁的吉列尔莫?奥尔蒂斯(Guillermo Ortiz)想严格控制外国银行在新兴市场中的子公司,让它们无法从该国大量转移资金。

Particular problems attach to “living wills”, documents in which banks lay out for regulators their plans to survive periods of extreme stress and, if the worst happens, to provide supervisors with the information they need for resolution. The process of agreeing on living wills with regulators in the countries concerned creates pressure for banks to use subsidiaries abroad, which have to have their own capital, rather than branches, which don’t.还有些特殊的麻烦与银行的“生前遗嘱”有关;所谓“生前遗嘱”是银行提交给监管者的文件,其中解释了银行在极端严峻形势下的生存计划,还有面临倒闭时给监管员的信息,以便分拆银行。在有关国家中,在银行与监管者就生前遗嘱达成共识的过程中银行会感到需要在国外使用子公司的压力,因为子公司必须有自己的资本;反之,银行不愿意使用分行,因为后者没有自己的资本。

The decision to set up a subsidiary in a new market (as opposed to just opening a branch) may be a harder one for boards, since it involves legal incorporation and taking on personal liabilities. Some bankers worry, too, that subsidiary units may be nudged by supervisors into running separate IT and management systems in order to demonstrate that they can keep operating without the support of a parent, making them yet more inefficient. Rules that make it harder to move money around will make it harder to commit to distant opportunities. An executive at a big American bank says that such rules will force his firm to invest less abroad than would be ideal. For emerging markets that have shallow deposit bases and undeveloped domestic bond markets, it all adds up to slower credit growth.
对理事会来说,在新市场中成立子公司可能比成立分行更难决定,因为这牵涉到成立法人公司与承担个人债务。有些银行家也担心,子公司可能会在监管人推动下,为证明它无须母公司支持也可良好运转而采用不同的IT 与管理系统,从而进一步降低效率。让银行更不容易调拨资金的规定将使它们难以把握远离本国的机会。一位美国大银行高管认为,这样的规定会减少他的公司在国外的投资额,使其无法达到最佳投资量。对存款基数较低、国内债券市场欠发达的新兴经济体市场来说,这些因素会让信贷增长更加缓慢。

Markets that erect firewalls around their banking systems may also be sacrificing resilience in the event of a future crisis. For all the worries about wobbly international banks, the support of Western parents has proved more helpful than not in eastern Europe so far. Other sources of finance can be flighty, too. When bond markets closed to Dubai in late 2009, international banks kept providing liquidity. “There is a trade-off here between probability of default and loss given default,” says Standard Chartered’s Mr Sands. “People are losing sight of the first and obsessing about the second.”

The LDR of the pack 各地银行贷存比

Even if regulators and politicians were carefree onlookers, the need to deleverage would remain. Once again, Europe is home to the banks with the most work to do, less because of the need to raise more capital than because of the way they fund themselves. European banks are more reliant on wholesale markets than any other big banking system (see chart 3). According to Simon Samuels of Barclays Capital, lending by listed European banks exceeds their deposits by $1.3 trillion. American banks, by contrast, are awash in deposits, with a funding surplus of $1.3 trillion.
即使监管者与政治家不负责任,袖手旁观,银行还是需要去杠杆化。在这方面要做得最多的还是欧洲银行。这不单因为这些银行需要筹集资本,更重要的是它们为自己筹集资金的方式。欧洲的银行比任何其他大银行系统更依赖批发市场(见图表3)。巴克莱资本(Barclays Capital)的西蒙?塞缪尔(Simon Samuels)认为,上市的欧洲银行的贷款量比其存款量多1.3万亿美元。与此相反,美国银行的存款量丰富,超出贷款量1.3万亿美元。

The European gap is filled by borrowing on wholesale markets. The capital markets have peeped open in the wake of the ECB’s three-year lending operations. But a peep is not enough. The ECB’s intervention was needed precisely because the euro-zone sovereign crisis and the increased need to factor in the losses that follow when a bank fails have left bond investors a lot less interested in holding bank debt than they were. So lenders have little choice but to bring down their wholesale-borrowing needs.

In practice, that often means pruning back activities abroad. Banks typically establish a presence in new markets by lending, and wait for deposits to catch up later. Foreign subsidiaries that have loan-to-deposit ratios (LDRs) in excess of 100% and that rely on cross-border funding from their parents are obvious deleveraging candidates. Eastern Europe is the region that looks most vulnerable on this score. It is the most reliant on foreign banks; and although those banks also raise local deposits, countries such as Hungary, Romania and the Baltic states are all big recipients of cross-border funding as well (see chart 4).
实际上这经常意味着缩减国外的业务活动。通常银行会在新市场贷款以建立根据地,随后逐步吸引存款。贷存比(loan-to-deposit ratios (LDRs))超过100%并依赖母公司跨国资金的外国子公司是去杠杆的首选。在这方面,东欧显然看起去会是最易受影响的地区。该地区对外国银行依赖性最强;而且尽管匈牙利、罗马尼亚和巴尔干国家等的外国银行也吸收当地存款,但这类国家也全都是接受跨国资金的大户(见图表4)。

European banks are not about to shut down their foreign networks altogether, not least because the business they do abroad is often their best prospect of growth. Lenders are more likely to manage LDRs down by letting loans run off or by competing for more deposits than to pull out of countries altogether. But the effect will still be felt in the form of scarcer and dearer credit.

There is a faster route to funding salvation than reducing bread-and-butter commercial lending. One particularly striking feature of the pre-crisis expansion of Europe’s banks was that so much of their activity was in dollar-denominated areas such as commercial-property lending, leveraged buy-outs, syndicated loans and commodity financing.

Some of that dollar activity was funded by deposits gathered by banks’ American units; another wodge of dollar funding came from swapping local deposits into foreign currency. But lots was gathered on wholesale markets, often in the form of short-term debt that needed to be constantly rolled over (think of the money provided to French banks by American money-market funds, whose flight from Europe last year caused so much trouble). This type of funding—short-term, wholesale and with an added dollop of foreign-currency risk for good measure—could not be further removed from the liabilities lenders, or their regulators, now want. With French banks in the vanguard, they are offloading dollar-denominated assets.

Among the sectors most exposed to this retreat are project finance, asset-based lending in shipping and aviation, and infrastructure funding. These are areas where assets tend to remain on banks’ balance-sheets for 10-15 years or more. That makes them unattractive bets: long-term dollar funding is hard to come by; short-term funding presents rollover risk; and lenders are wary of locking up bits of their balance-sheets inflexibly when things are so uncertain. To make matters worse, risks are high, so these kinds of lending use up lots of capital.

Alternatives to bank finance are harder to come by in these areas than in areas like syndicated lending. The risks inherent in shipping, a notoriously cyclical industry, or infrastructure finance, where there is lots of construction risk, mean that credit ratings are low, making them a hard sell to bond investors. New regulations called Solvency 2 could make it harder for European insurers to hold long-dated assets. Bankers are now trying to cook up new ways of distributing such assets to investors. One option in infrastructure finance, says the boss of a big European bank, is for the bank to offer financing for the riskier construction phase and then hand over to bond markets when projects start to generate cash flows (although it is unclear what yield investors would demand in return).

The hidden harm 隐性危害

Such innovations are a reminder that the international financial system has many moving parts. New ways of securitising dollar-denominated assets could mean that banks end up slimming their balance-sheets more slowly. The homeward migration of European lenders opens the door to others: Japanese banks, which sit on a surplus of deposits and are willing to lend on a long-term basis, are now the first port of call for project-finance deals. Banks of no fixed abode, such as HSBC and Standard Chartered, may also be poised to benefit in some markets, and American banks could yet decide to become more expansionist. Corporate-bond markets provide another source of funding for larger firms.

But, for all this, a homeward bias in banking will raise costs for some countries, and some classes of client, a lot. Where the process of retrenchment is too swift, it will be hard to refinance some existing debts. Ring-fenced subsidiaries risk being more brittle in the event of a crisis. The costs and availability of infrastructure finance are likely to go up.
There may also be costs for markets that have previously exported deposits and are now seeing them return: some in Germany already worry that too much credit is sloshing around. Some of the forces pulling banks back home are reasonable ones. But once trillions of dollars are set in motion, getting them to settle back down in an optimal way is next to impossible.
http://ecocn.org/thread-66649-1-1.html 译者:悠悠万事97

[2012.04.21]Deathless data 网络信息财产:斯人已逝,数据流芳
What happens to our digital property after we die?
Apr 21st 2012 | from the print edition

Wait! I found his iTunes password

LORNE GLADSTONE of Toronto is 58, but prudently pondering how to bequeath his digital property. Doing the paperwork after his parents’ death was a challenge. “When my time comes, I wonder if my children will even know what paper is,” he says. As a software developer, his virtual assets are both valuable and vital to his business. That exemplifies a problem. Online lives have increasing economic and sentimental value. But testamentary laws offer muddled and incomplete ways of bequeathing and inheriting them.

Digital assets may include software, websites, downloaded content, online gaming identities, social-media accounts and even e-mails. In Britain alone holdings of digital music may be worth over £9 billion ($14 billion). A fifth of respondents to a Chinese local-newspaper survey said they had over 5,000 yuan ($790) of digital property. And value does not lie only in money. “Anyone with kids under 14 years old probably has two prints of them and the rest are in online galleries,” says Nathan Lustig of Entrustet, a company that helps people manage digital estates.
数字财产的范畴可包含软件、网站、下载内容、网络游戏账号、社交媒体账户甚至是电子邮件。仅在英国,人们持有的数字音乐总价值就可能超过90亿英镑(140亿美元)。中国一家地方报纸调查显示: 五分之一的受访者称他们所拥有的数字财产超过5000人民币(折合790美元)。个中价值不仅只在于金钱意义。Entrustet(一家帮助人们管理数字财产的公司)的内森?拉斯提格说道:“有14岁以下儿童的家庭可能会有两张孩子们的照片,其它的则全部在网络相册里”。

Service providers have different rules—and few state them clearly in their terms and conditions. Many give users a personal right to use an account, but nobody else, even after death. Facebook allows relatives to close an account or turn it into a memorial page. Gmail (run by Google) will provide copies of e-mails to an executor. Music downloaded via iTunes is held under a licence which can be revoked on death. Apple declined to comment on the record on this or other policies. All e-mail and data on its iCloud service are deleted on the death of the owner.

This has led to litigation in America. In 2004 the family of Justin Ellsworth, a marine killed in Iraq, took Yahoo! to court in Michigan to get copies of his e-mails. This year, a court in Oregon ruled that another bereaved American mother could use her dead son’s password to enter his Facebook account for a short period. Now five American states have enacted laws giving executors control over the social-networking profiles of deceased users.

But this raises the subject of privacy. Passing music on is one thing; not everyone may want their relatives snooping on their e-mails. Colin Pearson, a London-based lawyer, says access should come only with an explicit provision in a will.

Such clearly expressed wishes may help. An internet law expert in New Delhi, Gurpreet Singh, has already seen a few cases of wills including digital estates. “People are slowly realising the value,” he says. A nascent industry is emerging to simplify the process. Entrustet, newly acquired by a Swiss competitor, SecureSafe, says it has 10,000 clients. It safeguards their passwords, and a list of who can access what when they die.

But laws, wills and password safes may clash with the providers’ terms of service, especially when the executor is in one country and the data in another. Headaches for the living—and lots of lovely work for lawyers.
http://ecocn.org/thread-66637-1-1.html 译者:je331ca

[2012.04.21]Intellectual property: Still murky 知识产权保护: 前路茫茫
Intellectual property in China

Still murky

Is the Middle Kingdom getting serious about protecting intellectual property?
Apr 21st 2012 | HONG KONG | from the print edition

SOMETHING strange is happening in China. For decades American politicians and businessmen have made it a ritual to bash China over theft of intellectual property (IP). But now Gary Locke, America’s ambassador to China, has proclaimed that “for every foreign company calling for stronger IP protection, there are really more Chinese companies calling for the same…progress is occurring.”

Is China really getting serious about protecting people’s ideas? There are promising signs. Chinese firms keen on expanding overseas are investing heavily to develop and protect original technologies. Last year ZTE and Huawei, which make telecoms gear, stood at numbers one and three in the tally of global patent applications. At home, the numbers both of patent filings and of IP lawsuits brought by Chinese firms have grown by double digits.

Though partly a product of government inducements to file patents, the changes are also the result of China’s legal system getting better. Two decades ago, many judges were political or military appointees and ill-equipped to try technical cases. Thanks to better training, particularly in Shanghai, Beijing and Shenzhen, that is now much less common. Justin Davidson of Norton Rose, a law firm, also notes that locals used to file dubious patents that ripped off overseas inventions; a change in the law makes that more difficult today.

Foreign firms have often complained of biased local courts. Rightly so, argues Douglas Clark of the European Union Chamber of Commerce: China’s judicial system is not independent. Yet today, he says, a bigger problem than anti-foreigner bias is that some provincial courtsmay favour local firms over outsiders, Chinese or foreign. China’s Supreme Court will have to help overcome such cronyism, he thinks.

One case will show if it is up to the task. AMSC, an American firm that makes software to run wind turbines, is entangled in a legal battle with Sinovel, a Chinese firm that turned from customer to rival. AMSC claims to have clear-cut evidence, validated by European authorities, of IP theft; Sinovel denies wrongdoing. A court in Hainan denied AMSC’s request for a ruling based on the evidence, insisting on arbitration instead. The firm has this month appealed to the Supreme Court.

Another case may also bring more legal clarity. SI Group, an American firm, and Sino Legend, a Chinese rival, are embroiled in various legal challenges involving chemicals that go into tyres. One manoeuvre is revealing. Sino Legend has just sued an agency affiliated with the Shanghai government that verifies claims made by litigants, alleging it revealed trade secrets to SI Group. Corey Xie, Sino Legend’s general manager, worries that his competitor (with operations in Shanghai) is benefiting from a legal system which may favour a company with local economic clout over his Jiangsu-based firm.

It does not help thatdamage awards in China are usually so meagre (less than $30,000 per victory, by one estimate) that they do not justify the costs of litigation. But things are also improving here, argues Benjamin Qiu of Innovation Works, a combination of start-up incubator and venture-capital firm based in Beijing. He points to a victory earlier this year for Ashland, a chemicals firm, that came with a damages award of 22m yuan ($3.5m).
在中国,损害赔偿金通常都少得可怜(据估算,赢得诉讼平均所得少于30000美金),根本无法弥补当事人打官司的花销。不过,创新工场[注 2]的裘伯纯说,如今这种情形也正在得到改善(创新工场是一家刚起步的创意孵化以及创业投资公司),他提到,在今年早些时候,化工品制造商阿什兰打赢一场官司,获得损害赔偿金高达2200万元人民币(折合350万美元)。

Yet the biggest threat to innovators, foreign or local, is opacity. Judges often do not publish detailed rulings, or do so only after much delay. That makes it hard to work out why they have reached a verdict, what this says about the evidence presented, and whether a particular judge is competent. Asked how much such murkiness costs, Mr Qiu says he discounts the value of a Chinese start-up’s IP (versus that of a comparable Silicon Valley one) by 33% to 50%. That is progress, of a sort: a decade ago he would have discounted it by 80-90%.

[注1]Middle Kingdom: China is called Zhōngguó (also Romanized as Chung-kuo or Jhongguo) in Mandarin Chinese. The first character zhōng (中) means "central" or "middle," while guó (国/國) means "kingdom" or "nation". The term is often translated into English as "Middle Kingdom" however a more accurate translation of the characters would be "Central Nation".
[注2]Innovation Works: 李开复创立的创新工场 http://www.chuangxin.com/about/

http://ecocn.org/thread-66550-1-1.html 译者:je331ca

[2012.04.21]Sexual strategies: I just called… 我只是挂电话…
Sexual strategies

I just called…

…to ask about my grandkids ……
Apr 21st 2012 | from the print edition

WHEN Stevie Wonder crooned “I just called to say ‘I love you’,” he was bang on when it comes to men and women in their sexual prime. Were the ballad sung by a post-menopausal matron, though, the person at the other end of the line would probably be her daughter—and the conversation would revolve around grandchildren. That, at least, is the picture which emerges from a study published in Scientific Reports by Robin Dunbar, of Oxford University, and his colleagues.
当蒂夫?汪达 [注1]吟唱着“我只是拨电话说‘我爱你’”时,他拨动的是处于性成熟期的男男女女的心弦。但如果这首抒情歌曲是一位停经后的老太太唱的,那么接电话的就可能是她的女儿,那这次谈话就会围绕着她的外孙和外孙女。至少,这就是牛津大学的罗宾?邓巴(Robin Dunbar)及其同事们发表在《科学报告》(Scientific Reports)的研究报告中勾画的情景。

Evolutionary psychologists like Dr Dunbar are interested in how investment in close relationships differs between the sexes. Dr Dunbar, indeed, has just published a book on the phenomenon of sexual love, analysed from a scientific point of view (see article). These differences reflect distinct strategies that have evolved to maximise reproductive success across a lifetime. One prediction that makes intuitive sense, but which has been difficult to nail down empirically, is that when women hit the reproductive wall of the menopause they funnel their remaining energy into bolstering their children’s—especially their daughters’—odds of producing viable offspring. (Sons spend less time minding their progeny than their spouses do.)

The main obstacle to testing the grandmother hypothesis, as it has come to be known, is that most studies have involved small numbers of people, making it hard to draw sweeping conclusions. Dr Dunbar leapt this hurdle by tapping a trove of 2 billion anonymised telephone calls and 500,000 text messages between customers of an unnamed European mobile-phone operator over the course of seven months. After eliminating those for which age and sex data were unavailable, they identified the people each subscriber contacted most often. Frequency of contact is a good proxy for emotional closeness, so this yielded a list of 1.2m “best friends”, and 800,000 “second-best friends”.
验证这一人称“姥姥假说”的主要障碍是,以往的绝大多数研究只有为数不多的人作为样本,因此难以得出有说服力的结论。但邓巴博士等人查看了某个未提及名称的欧洲移动电话运营商的记录,检查了7个月内通话者姓名不详的电话20亿次、顾客间短信50万条 [注2],因此得以冲破了这一藩篱。在剔除了那些无法确认年龄、性别的记录之后,他们确定了每个用户最常联系的人。联系的经常性是感情密切度的良好替代变量,于是他们据此制定了一份120万人的“至爱亲朋”名单和一份80万人的“次爱亲朋”名单。

For any given age, the researchers then calculated the average sex of men’s and women’s phone pals. They did this by adding 1 every time the friend was a man and subtracting 1 every time it was a woman, and dividing the result by the number of friends for the age/sex group in question. If every person in the sample had a male best friend, the average-sex index would be 1; if all the best friends were women, it would be -1. An equal number of male and female best friends would mean the index came out at precisely zero.

Between the ages of 20 and 40 men and women behaved similarly (see chart). Both tended to have best friends of the opposite sex. The proclivity was slightly more pronounced among ladies, whose best-friend sex index peaked in their late 20s at 0.46 (equivalent to roughly three male best friends for every female one in the sample) and stayed more or less the same throughout their 30s. Men reached a maximum of -0.41 a bit later and remained there for less time. In both cases, these best friends tended also to be of a similar age, suggesting they were actually sexual mates. Second-best friends, meanwhile, were typically of the same sex—chums, in other words.

Things change markedly, though, as people enter middle age. For men, the best-friend sex index falls steadily from its peak until it levels off at the age of 50 or so, while remaining skewed towards females for the rest of their lives. However, any sexual bias for second-best friends more or less disappears when men reach their 40s, consistent with the hypothesis that these “friends” are by then no longer chums, but children (who are about as likely to be male as female) and that fathers do not favour those of any one sex.

Among women, by contrast, the best-friend sex index plummets around the time menopause strikes. By the age of 55, it actually turns negative, in favour of other females who are, tellingly, about half their age. At around that time, women’s second-best friends are increasingly men from their own generation. Older women, it appears, do indeed invest more time in furthering their daughters’ welfare—and reproductive success—and less in nurturing relationships with their husbands, no doubt to the latter’s chagrin. Strong evidence, then, for the grandmother hypothesis. And possibly an explanation for men’s mid-life crisis.

[注1]Stevie Wonder,美国黑人盲歌手(1950-)。
[注2]译者不清楚这种行为为什么不违法。是不是因为研究者在这样做时不知道交流者的姓名,而且完全出于科学研究的目的?请对这方面熟悉的译友指点。还有,本文未曾描述研究者监听20亿次电话的方法,译者感觉, 做到这一点简直无法思议。
http://ecocn.org/thread-66546-1-1.html 译者:悠悠万事97

[2012.04.21]The third industrial revolution 第三次工业革命

The third industrial revolution

The digitisation of manufacturing will transform the way goods are made—and change the politics of jobs too

THE first industrial revolution began in Britain in the late 18th century, with the mechanisation of the textile industry. Tasks previously done laboriously by hand in hundreds of weavers’ cottages were brought together in a single cotton mill, and the factory was born. The second industrial revolution came in the early 20th century, when Henry Ford mastered the moving assembly line and ushered in the age of mass production. The first two industrial revolutions made people richer and more urban. Now a third revolution is under way. Manufacturing is going digital. As this week’s special report argues, this could change not just business, but much else besides.

A number of remarkable technologies are converging: clever software, novel materials, more dexterous robots, new processes (notably three-dimensional printing) and a whole range of web-based services. The factory of the past was based on cranking out zillions of identical products: Ford famously said that car-buyers could have any colour they liked, as long as it was black. But the cost of producing much smaller batches of a wider variety, with each product tailored precisely to each customer’s whims, is falling. The factory of the future will focus on mass customisation—and may look more like those weavers’ cottages than Ford’s assembly line.

Towards a third dimension

The old way of making things involved taking lots of parts and screwing or welding them together. Now a product can be designed on a computer and “printed” on a 3D printer, which creates a solid object by building up successive layers of material. The digital design can be tweaked with a few mouseclicks. The 3D printer can run unattended, and can make many things which are too complex for a traditional factory to handle. In time, these amazing machines may be able to make almost anything, anywhere—from your garage to an African village.

The applications of 3D printing are especially mind-boggling. Already, hearing aids and high-tech parts of military jets are being printed in customised shapes. The geography of supply chains will change. An engineer working in the middle of a desert who finds he lacks a certain tool no longer has to have it delivered from the nearest city. He can simply download the design and print it. The days when projects ground to a halt for want of a piece of kit, or when customers complained that they could no longer find spare parts for things they had bought, will one day seem quaint.
3D打印技术的用途之广尤其令人无法想象。比如,3D打印机已经按照预期形状“打印”出了的助听器和许多军用飞机上用到的高科技配件。同时,供应链的布局也将发生变化。比如,如果一个在大沙漠里工作的工程师需要某种工具,他只要下载工具设计图并点击“打印”即可,而无需从最近的城市送来。 现实生活中可能经常发生诸如,某个工程项目因为缺乏一套设备而搁浅,或者消费者抱怨再也买不到原厂配件,而有了3D打印机之后,类似的尴尬终将一去不复返。

Other changes are nearly as momentous. New materials are lighter, stronger and more durable than the old ones. Carbon fibre is replacing steel and aluminium in products ranging from aeroplanes to mountain bikes. New techniques let engineers shape objects at a tiny scale. Nanotechnology is giving products enhanced features, such as bandages that help heal cuts, engines that run more efficiently and crockery that cleans more easily. Genetically engineered viruses are being developed to make items such as batteries. And with the internet allowing ever more designers to collaborate on new products, the barriers to entry are falling. Ford needed heaps of capital to build his colossal River Rouge factory; his modern equivalent can start with little besides a laptop and a hunger to invent.
除此之外,该技术带来许多其他重要的变化。比如,比传统材料更轻,更硬,更耐久的新材料的出现。再比如,大到飞机,小到山地车所采用的钢和铝正在被碳纤维所取代;工程师借助新技术以极小的尺寸打造零件;纳米技术赋予产品更强特性,促进切口愈合的绷带,更高效的引擎,更容易清洗的陶器便是很好的例子。还可以用经过基因工程改造病毒来生产电池。随着越来越多的工程师借助互联网协作研发新产品,原先的合作门槛正在逐渐降低。当时的福特为了建设规模巨大的River Rouge工厂必须要先有一大笔资金,而与之相当的现代工厂要想起步,除了需要一部笔记本电脑和一颗渴望发明的心之外,没什么其他特别的要求。

Like all revolutions, this one will be disruptive. Digital technology has already rocked the media and retailing industries, just as cotton mills crushed hand looms and the Model T put farriers out of work. Many people will look at the factories of the future and shudder. They will not be full of grimy machines manned by men in oily overalls. Many will be squeaky clean—and almost deserted. Some carmakers already produce twice as many vehicles per employee as they did only a decade or so ago. Most jobs will not be on the factory floor but in the offices nearby, which will be full of designers, engineers, IT specialists, logistics experts, marketing staff and other professionals. The manufacturing jobs of the future will require more skills. Many dull, repetitive tasks will become obsolete: you no longer need riveters when a product has no rivets.

The revolution will affect not only how things are made, but where. Factories used to move to low-wage countries to curb labour costs. But labour costs are growing less and less important: a $499 first-generation iPad included only about $33 of manufacturing labour, of which the final assembly in China accounted for just $8. Offshore production is increasingly moving back to rich countries not because Chinese wages are rising, but because companies now want to be closer to their customers so that they can respond more quickly to changes in demand. And some products are so sophisticated that it helps to have the people who design them and the people who make them in the same place. The Boston Consulting Group reckons that in areas such as transport, computers, fabricated metals and machinery, 10-30% of the goods that America now imports from China could be made at home by 2020, boosting American output by $20 billion-55 billion a year.

The shock of the new

Consumers will have little difficulty adapting to the new age of better products, swiftly delivered. Governments, however, may find it harder. Their instinct is to protect industries and companies that already exist, not the upstarts that would destroy them. They shower old factories with subsidies and bully bosses who want to move production abroad. They spend billions backing the new technologies which they, in their wisdom, think will prevail. And they cling to a romantic belief that manufacturing is superior to services, let alone finance.

None of this makes sense. The lines between manufacturing and services are blurring. Rolls-Royce no longer sells jet engines; it sells the hours that each engine is actually thrusting an aeroplane through the sky. Governments have always been lousy at picking winners, and they are likely to become more so, as legions of entrepreneurs and tinkerers swap designs online, turn them into products at home and market them globally from a garage. As the revolution rages, governments should stick to the basics: better schools for a skilled workforce, clear rules and a level playing field for enterprises of all kinds. Leave the rest to the revolutionaries.
http://ecocn.org/thread-66533-1-1.html 译者:山东超峰

[2012.04.21]Truly, madly, deeply 爱得真挚,爱得疯狂,爱得深刻
Meditations on love

Truly, madly, deeply

A bewitching, beguiling and baffling phenomenon
Apr 21st 2012 | from the print edition

Take a chance on me

PLATO described love as a serious mental disease. Aristotle saw it as a single soul inhabiting two bodies. Tina Turner dismissed the feeling as a second-hand emotion. The nature of love—how and when and why and with whom humans fall for each other—has preoccupied thinkers through the ages. Now a philosopher and a scientist have a go in two new and markedly different books.

In his latest work, “In Praise of Love”, Alain Badiou, a French philosopher, identifies three prevailing philosophical views of love. It can be an ecstatic encounter; an unsentimental contract; or an illusion, best treated with scepticism. He rejects all three. For Mr Badiou, love is the decision to live life through two perspectives, that of both the lover and the beloved. As such, it is more than the sum of its parts. Love “is a construction,” he writes, “a life that is being made, no longer from the perspective of One but from the perspective of Two.”
法国哲学家阿兰. 巴迪乌(Alain Badiou)最近出版了新书《歌颂爱情》,他在书中提到了哲学界三个主流的爱情观。爱情可能萌生于一次心动的邂逅,也可能是一个不动情绪的契约或一种幻觉而已,不必当真。巴迪乌对这三种观点都不以为然。在他看来,爱情就意味着相爱的两人要选择从两种角度来生活:即爱与被爱的角度。所以,爱情并不只是两个人生活片段的简单拼凑。巴迪乌写道:“爱情是‘一种建构’,恋爱双方不再单从各自的角度生活,而是从双方的角度,创造出一种全新的生活方式。”

Mr Badiou sees risk as central to love. A loving relationship demands multiple and shared perspectives, which always give rise to incongruences and tensions. He reserves special scorn for dabblers in internet dating, who evidently believe that the search for “a photo, details of his or her tastes, date of birth, horoscope sign, etc” will ultimately net “a risk-free option”. This is to neglect the very essence of love, according to Mr Badiou, which involves the presence of risk, the possibility of failure and the need for vulnerability.

The book’s chatty style (it is based on a conversation with Nicolas Truong, a French journalist) lends a deceptive simplicity to the ideas within. Get to work unpicking these concepts and it soon becomes plain that, like many French philosophers, Mr Badiou sacrifices clarity for linguistic zip and sparkle. Nonetheless, he leaves the reader with an incisive overview of philosophical thinking on love, from Plato to Kierkegaard to Lacan.
这本书语言亲切(主要内容基于与法国记者Nicolas Truong的谈话),朴实简单的文字下蕴含着深刻的思想。如若将这些概念分开来看,很快就可以发现:与很多法国哲学家一样,巴迪乌并未选择一语道破,而是玩弄起辞藻,妙语连珠,意味深长。尽管如此,他在书中对自古以来关于爱情的各种哲学思考做了犀利的总结,从柏拉图到齐克果再到拉康,一应俱全,读者可借机一窥究竟。

Robin Dunbar’s book, “The Science of Love and Betrayal”, is—perhaps surprisingly—easier to get to grips with. Dr Dunbar, a professor of evolutionary anthropology with a study in this week’s science section (see article), is best known for “Dunbar’s number”, the limit to the number of people with whom one can maintain stable social relationships. He laments that scientists have largely ignored the concept of love. In this book he bridges the gap between the biological explanations for humans’ romantic behaviour and the psychological, historical, social and evolutionary contexts that help to shape it.
相比之下,罗宾.邓巴(Robin Dunbar)的书《爱与背叛的科学》更容易理解,这一点或许出人意料。邓巴是一名进化人类学教授,他在本期杂志的科技部分也发表了一篇研究。邓巴以其提出的“邓巴人数(Dunbar’s number)”最为出名。邓巴人数指能与某个人维持稳定人际关系的人数上限。他感到遗憾的是,科学家们大都忽略了爱情的含义。在书中,邓巴不仅从生物学的角度探讨了人类为什么会浪漫多情,还从心理、历史、社会和进化环境等方面加以解释,看它们如何推波助澜。

In particular, he is interested in why humans have developed such an affinity for “pairbonding”, despite the fact that strictly monogamous mating and rearing systems are not terribly advantageous in evolutionary terms. Monogamy is not unique to humans. What is unique, however, is the intensity with which the species falls in love. Nearly every human culture in history exhibits this complex sense of longing, Dr Dunbar observes.

To understand this predisposition for monogamy, he takes readers through the myriad feelings of love, from the heady, breathless exhilaration of falling, to the stubborn persistence of familial affection, to the bitterness of betrayal. Throughout the book Dr Dunbar excels at taking obvious and familiar information—men prefer curvy women; women prefer men who dance well; older women rarely reveal their ages in lonely-hearts columns—and explaining the complex and often unexpected evolutionary science that lies behind it all.

Love is a journey, a game, a many-splendoured thing. Though some give it a bad name (if Jon Bon Jovi is to be believed), the rest of us find the subject endlessly fascinating. The struggle to understand such a mystifying phenomenon invariably requires the help of philosophers and scientists, and others besides. Good news for Mr Badiou and Dr Dunbar.
爱情是一次旅行,一场游戏,一件充满奇妙的事。尽管有人诋毁爱情(如Jon Bon Jovi的歌曲所唱),其它人则认为它永远充满魅力。爱情如此神秘,要弄懂它,哲学家和科学家的帮助必不可少。同时还需要其它人的帮助,巴迪乌和邓巴的书可要大卖了。
http://ecocn.org/thread-66530-1-1.html 译者:Cherry1990

[2012.04.21]Bell Labs and innovation贝尔实验室及技术革新
The organisation of genius

The halcyon days of blue-sky research
Apr 21st 2012 | from the print edition

The Idea Factory: Bell Labs and the Great Age of American Innovation.
By Jon Gertner. Penguin Press; 422 pages; $29.95. Buy from Amazon.com

“MY FIRST stop on any time-travel expedition”, Bill Gates once said, “would be Bell Labs in December 1947.” That was the time and place of the invention of the transistor, which powered the technology revolution that built today’s connected world. The handful of scientists who gathered in downtown Manhattan to witness the first demonstration of this transformational technology understood that it was special. The transistor was, one observer noted, “a basically new thing in the world” (other Bell Labs discoveries would earn the same astonished praise). The breakthrough was so big that William Shockley, the boss of the two scientists who made it, spent the next weeks in torment until he designed a better version. In doing so he broke a sacred Bell Labs rule—“absolutely never to compete with underlings”—for which he was never forgiven.

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