In court, Haiti learns about privilege

January 15, 2015

It hasn’t been a great week for Haiti.

Monday marked five years since a 7.0 earthquake killed some 220,000 people and left 1.5 million displaced. Horrible news became worse later that year, as a catastrophic cholera outbreak hit the country. As this Reuters graphic shows, the epidemic started quickly in October, 2010, after UN peacekeepers from Nepal are thought to have contaminated the Artibonite River, Haiti’s biggest. In the first few months, tens of thousands were infected each week, and the epidemic has since persisted at an attenuated rate, with 8,775 dead and 719,650 sickened as of December 6, the date of the last reliable figures.

‘Wellness or else’ is a slippery slope

January 14, 2015

Should your company be allowed to punish you for health conditions beyond your control?

The numbers behind North Korea’s zombie state

January 13, 2015

The worst place on Earth is, of course, a subjective designation. But while some nations suffer from runaway drug gangs, and others from religious and civil wars, few are as isolated, poor and frozen in time as North Korea.

Expect welcome news from the Detroit auto show

January 12, 2015

The North American International Auto Show officially kicks off today in chilly Detroit, a location that Jalopnik’s Chris Harris likened to “choosing to have your wedding in a graveyard.” But cold and curmudgeons aside, the data portend well for the auto industry in 2015.

When Hollywood success is a fantasy

January 9, 2015

The entertainment awards season kicks off this week, and as one might imagine, very few of the 41st People’s Choice Awards winners from Wednesday will take to the podium a second time on Sunday at the 72nd Golden Globe Awards. The Golden Globes are well known for their convivial awards ceremony, but they’re hosted by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association and hold a critical cachet that belies the drunken speeches. As opposed to years past, the lack commercial success of this year’s critical favorites is more likely to leave studio executives feeling hungover.

Is the gold to oil ratio a sign of trouble?

January 8, 2015

This week the price of gold peeked back above $1200 per ounce, while the price of light crude oil ducked below $50 per barrel, its worst price in five years. The result, as this Reuters graphic shows, is that an ounce of gold is selling for the equivalent of 24 barrels of oil–the first time this ratio has hit such heights since 1998, when Russia defaulted on its debt, roiling the oil market while making gold a safe play.

How aerodynamic stall occurs

January 7, 2015

Today divers identified the tail of AirAsia flight QZ8501, providing a glimmer of good news as the search and recovery mission for the Airbus A320-200 and the 162 passengers aboard continues. The tail is of particular importance, as it houses the Flight Data Recorder (FDR) and the Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR)—known as the “black box”—both of which contain data critical to piecing together the plane’s final moments.

Is coal’s decline permanent?

January 6, 2015

Oil wasn’t the only natural resource that ended 2014 with falling prices, but the question for coal is whether its problems are cyclical, or if it has become an unwanted commodity, leaving long-term prices in a slow spiral towards a bituminous bottom.

Shale industry hedges, OPEC fiddles and Russia squirms

January 5, 2015

Oil prices continued to fall on Monday, hitting a five-and-a-half-year low, with everyone seemingly intent on making the overabundance of supply someone else’s problem. Russian oil output in 2014 hit a post-Soviet high, while Iraq is exporting more oil than it has since 1980. Meanwhile, OPEC appears to be playing a waiting game against oil price hedges by the U.S. shale industry, even as some producers take profits from existing hedges and plant new ones, effectively extending the date at which they will feel the real impact of price declines.

Forget New Year’s, instead make a resolution of resolve

January 2, 2015

A number of years ago I made a mid-June resolution to memorize one poem by W.B. Yeats every week. It seemed as arbitrary a start date as the first of January, and I reasoned that the dedication to the task mattered more than some vague societal construct.