Archive for July, 2007

Did Harvard Just Lose $250 Million?

Posted on July 31st, 2007 in Uncategorized | 11 Comments »

Bad news for Harvard: It invested $500 million in Sowood, a hedge fund that just announced it has lost more than half of its assets.

From CBS Marketwatch:

Harvard Management Chief Executive Mohamed El-Erian suggested in December that the endowment was keen on investing more in Sowood.

“Harvard’s endowment has benefited from its long-term association with Sowood Capital Management through its investments in the Alpha product and commodity funds,” he said in a statement. “We look forward to deepening this relationship.

Are you worried yet, Harvard?

The Boston-New York Role Reversal

Posted on July 31st, 2007 in Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

But first, here’s another lousy thing about the Boston Globe website: They don’t seem to update it during the day. Even though it’s a website, it’s still on the 24-hour news cycle.

Thus, even now, many hours after it has happened, there is still no news of the Red Sox trade for Texas relief pitcher Eric Gagne.

This trade interests me, for several reasons. I guess it’s good for the Red Sox, but they don’t particularly seem to need Gagne. They’ve already got the best one-two bullpen arrangement in baseball. And to get him, they’re giving up two minor-league prospects and a guy who’s 4-0.

In past years, this would have been the kind of trade—shipping off the future for a guy who may or may not help your present—that a Yankee GM would have made, under pressure from George Steinbrenner. But with Steinbrenner now out of the picture, Brian Cashman has had much more leeway to preserve the team’s pitching prospects, which are considerable.

Of course, it’s just possible that the addition of Gagne will seal the deal for the Sox, who seem to have, if such a thing is possible, an abundance of starting pitching.

But Yankees fans should be glad that Brian Cashman didn’t give up anyone to get Gagne—those minor-leaguers are too good, and with a staff that includes Mussina, Pettite, and Clemens, they’re going to need those young arms.

The Decline of a Newspaper

Posted on July 31st, 2007 in Uncategorized | 19 Comments »

Reading the “World” section of the Globe today, I see…

Bush, Brown commit to unified Iraq stance (By Michael Abramowitz, Washington Post)
Awaiting key bills, Iraq’s Parliament adjourns (By Qassim Abdul-Zahra, Associated Press)
Oxfam calls for more aid to relieve country’s woes (By Damien Cave, New York Times News Service)
DAILY BRIEFING: Diplomat clarifies criticism of Saudis (Today’s Globe)
Iran slams US arms deal for Middle East (By Robin Wright, Washington Post)
‘Acts amount to war crimes’ (By Bradley S. Klapper, Associated Press)
China turns again to ancient ethics (By Maureen Fan, Washington Post)
Taliban kidnappers kill 2d Korean hostage (By Sayed Salahuddin, Reuters)
Philippines called hot spot for terror (By Manny Mogato, Reuters)
China’s military marks 80th anniversary, amid concern (By Christopher Bodeen, Associated Press)
Japan’s opposition party calls on prime minister to resign (By Hiroko Tabuchi, Associated Press)
Taliban backers seize Islamic shrine in Pakistan (By Riaz Khan, Associated Press)

Not one piece is original to the Globe. (No, not even the “Daily Briefing,” which presents itself as Globe-specific—it’s AP copy.) The same is largely true of the “Nation” section.

You Boston folks probably know this, but the Globe has become a local paper with wire stories about things going on in places other than Boston….

Sharks!

Posted on July 30th, 2007 in Uncategorized | 19 Comments »

It’s Shark Week on the Discovery Channel! Watch it—but bear in mind that Discovery hypes the scariness of sharks in a way that doesn’t necessarily do them much good.

With that in mind, the Save Our Seas foundation has a great new ad calling for folks to “rethink the shark.” Take a look.

Meanwhile, in Martha’s Vineyard, the annual slaughterfest known as the “Monster Shark Tournament” was won by charter-boat captain Bob DeCosta, who landed a 327-pound thresher shark.

DeCosta said the tournament protesters were only a minor distraction and they didn’t understand that in the grand scheme of things, the 20 or so sharks pulled from the water are a drop in the bucket compared to commercial shark fishing, where only the fins of sharks are sought for shark-fin soup. These commercial fishermen cut off the fins and throw the sharks, still alive, back into the water.

True enough, but DeCosta’s logic isn’t compelling. That’s sort of like saying that it’s okay to shoot an elephant because it’s the poachers who do most of the damage. Well, no.

The thresher shark, by the way, is endangered. It’s also a truly beautiful animal. Here’s what it looks like alive…

And here’s what it looks like dead….

(Why, I can not help but wonder, do these New Jersey fishermen seem to think that they’ve done something to be proud of?)

I know some of you readers of this blog summer on the Vineyard. How about a letter to the local paper?

Quote of the Day

Posted on July 30th, 2007 in Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

“You have the Rolex Submariner, the summer home in the Hamptons and a Porsche Boxter to get you there. Your degree from Harvard Business School sits next to your latest plasma, digital whatever.

But do you have a pair of sleek nose-hair clippers?”

—Hitha Prabhakar, on Forbes.com

He’s Real!

Posted on July 27th, 2007 in Uncategorized | 10 Comments »

The New Republic’s Baghdad blogger has revealed himself. He’s the husband of one of TNR’s reporter-researchers.

So, naturally, the army is punishing him for writing about the war.

What’s Up with Fat?

Posted on July 26th, 2007 in Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

A poster below asks, What’s the obsession with fat people, anyway?

Well, here’s one answer: As Time magazine reports, a new study shows that fat people are less likely to attend college than thin people.

Using college enrollment as a measure of academic success, University of Texas at Austin sociologist Robert Crosnoe found that obese students had a worse experience at school than their thinner peers and were less likely to attend college, and that the effects of being overweight hurt girls far more than boys.

Time illustrates the article with a picture of a fat girl’s torso.

Surrounded by Mud

Posted on July 26th, 2007 in Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

After one week, we have been allowed back into the 02138 offices here at 110 E 42nd Street. Somewhat disconcertingly, our windows here on the 13th floor are covered with mud and God knows what else.

(Some of you will say that this is a wonderfully appropriate metaphor for the environs in which journalists labor. Who am I to disagree?)

In the meantime, we have been instructed not to open our windows.

Looking across 41st Street, I see a large black building, mostly glass. A number of its windows are covered with duct tape; they must have been cracked in the explosion. The damaged windows go as high as the 30th floor…..

Some people who heard the news accounts of this incident don’t quite get what it was really like. “A steam pipe,” they say. “How bad could it be?”

I wish they could look up to the floors twice the height of the one I work on and see the cracks and scars above….

Food for Fat

Posted on July 26th, 2007 in Uncategorized | 20 Comments »

I’m fatinated—whoops, fascinated—by the new Harvard study showing that obesity can be spread through social networks.

Obesity appears to spread from one person to another like a virus or a fad, researchers reported yesterday in a first-of-its-kind study that helps explain — and could help fight — one of the nation’s biggest public health problems.

…”It’s almost a cliche to speak of the obesity epidemic as being an epidemic. But we wanted to see if it really did spread from person to person like a fashion or a germ,” said Nicholas A. Christakis of Harvard Medical School, who led the study, being published tomorrow in the New England Journal of Medicine. “And the answer is, ‘Yes, it does.’ We are finding evidence for a kind of social contagion.”

Of course, this makes perfect common sense. If you hang out with fat people, you’re likely to do what they do—eat more, exercise less, etc. Or at least, you’re more likely to do that stuff than if you’re hanging out with mountain bikers, yoga practitioners, and marathon runners.

There’s some debate over whether this survey just proves the obvious. (Answer: Yes.) I also assume that fat people self-select and hang out with each other because they’re less likely to feel social judgment about their weight. And, if they feel like eating a lot, then they’ll have company likely to do the same, and that’s just more fun than eating a lot around someone who’s having a hot water with lemon.

The Washington Post concludes its article on the survey with this paragraph:

The researchers cautioned that people should not sever relationships with friends who have gained weight or stigmatize obese people, noting that close friendships have many positive health effects. But the results do support forming relationships with people who have healthful lifestyles.

Hmmm. Sounds to me like those two sentences come close to contradicting each other. If you spend more time hanging out with healthy people, aren’t you likely to spend less time hanging out with fat people?

Japan’s Spin on Slaughter

Posted on July 26th, 2007 in Uncategorized | 13 Comments »

Japanese whalers killed some 500 minke whales in the last whaling “season.” About 286 of those were mature females, and out those 286, 262 were pregnant.

But if you’re trying to justify whaling, that’s a good thing!

According to a spokesman for a Japanese-backed pro-whaling group, the statistic shows that the whale population is doing so well, it can afford to be slaughtered by the Japanese.

(All right, those weren’t his exact words, but it’s a pretty accurate paraphrase.)

“Almost all of the whales are becoming pregnant each year. This is good news. This is great. It shows that the Antarctic minke population is increasing rapidly,” the ICR’s Glenn Inwood said today.

“The consistent population must provide strong reassurance that the population will easily sustain a commercial quota.

[Shades of Orwell: ICR stands for Institute of Cetacean Research, the "scientific" group Japan established to justify its claim that it practices whaling only for research purposes. Inwood is its mouthpiece.]

And here I would have thought that killing about 750 whales, if you include the young, is bad for the whale population. Silly me…..

By the way, does anyone doubt that the attitudes in Japan that support whaling are connected to the attitudes behind that country’s growing militarism? Or that it’s only a matter of time till those who promote Japanese historical revisionism say that whaling is part of a glorious culture that needs to be defended against Western cultural imperialism?