Tuesday, August 30, 2016
Via Unknown Country: Actress Rowan Blanchard may have captured an image of a type of UFO in New York that was frequently observed and filmed in that region in the 1980s, and has more recently been photographed in Scotland and San Diego. However, we have been unable to determine if she took the shot from behind a window or if she was outdoors when she did it. If she took it from behind glass, it is more likely to be a reflection that was not noticed at the time she made the shot. However, if she was outdoors, then, unless she was using a camera with a lens defect, the image is unexplained.
Monday, August 29, 2016
Via Business Insider: A basic income experiment is part of the government programme promised by Prime Minister Juha Sipilä. A two-week consultancy period on the proposed experiment has been announced and is currently underway before the government will submit a proposal for legislation to parliament. The consultation period, stretching from August 25 to Spetember 9, is a chance for experts to voice their opinions on the setup of the experiment. Here are the main points: - Basic income will replace corresponding social benefits for a test group of 2.000 randomly selected individuals. - Participation in the test is mandatory, and those who partake will receive EUR 560 per month. The figure has been selected to ensure that participants will not receive less money under the experiment, although that does not mean it is neccessarily the level Finland would chose for if basic income became a reality. For comparison, Switzerland's recent proposal for a basic income was at a level of EUR 2.300 per month. - The experiment is set to take place sometime during 2017-2018, and will be covered by EUR 20 million set aside in the budget. - The experiment will not be an example of universal basic income since only people who are currently receiving unemployment-related benefits are eligible for inclusion. - Students ae not eligible for participation in the experiment. Why basic income? Finland has a fairly high unemployment rate compared to its Nordic neighbors - towards double that of Denmark and Norway. In economic theories of unemployemt the incentives for finding work is central to the time it takes to find a job, which in turn is crucial for how many people are unemployed at any single moment. Unconditional basic income is controversial because it is generally thought to reduce incentives to find work relative to unemployment allowances. Additionally, a universal basic income scheme, theoretically has no effect on wage gaps - those who already have higher wages will have theirs adjusted upwards proportionally to reflect marginal productivity. But none of this has been tested, and Finland's experiment, being the first of its kind, would at least fill the purpose of exploring whether there is a difference in effectiveness in motivating people to find work between the different systems. The Social Insurance Institution of Finland (Kela), which will be responsible for administering the experiment, actually expect basic income to increase incentives to find work. In response to an inquiry by the Basic Income Earth Network, as to the aim and purpose of the experiment, Kela wrote: "The experiment is one of the activities aiming to reform social security so that it better encourages participation and employment". and "The objective of the legislative proposal is to carry out a basic income experiment in order to assess whether basic income can be used to reform social security, specifically to reduce incentive traps relating to working". Regardless of the results, another motivation for basic income schemes is that reduced government administration related to unemployment could offset the costs of a system featuring basic incomes. That is also something that needs to be tested. Finally, the champions of basic income see it as a means of liberating people and allowing them the freedom to be productive on their own premises. It is argued that without the pressure to conform to the job market to sustain oneself, many individuals will be able to apply themselves to less obviously productive labor - such as the creative industries. If artificial intelligence can replace every aspect of human labor exect creativity, that may by a prudent direction to steer the economy. In any case, basic income is an interesting idea sweeping the world, because it finds supporters from the whole political spectrum, though for very different reasons. Finland's experiment will be an important precendent for political debates concerning basic income all over the world.
Sunday, August 28, 2016
Via Sputnik International: Jan Tombinski, the European Union's outgoing ambassador to Ukraine, has revealed that the EU's sanctions against Russia are not really connected to the Minsk agreements on peace in eastern Ukraine, but on 'Russian aggression' against Kiev. Accordingly, the diplomat implied that anti-Russian sanctions may be extended indefinitely. Interviewed by Ukrainian radio station Radio EC-Evropeiska Stantsiya on the eve of his departure earlier this week, the ambassador, who played a critical support role in the EuroMaidan riots which culminated in the February 2014 coup d'etat in Kiev, explained that Russia's ostensible obligations under the Minsk agreements were in no way connected to European officials' decision to prolong anti-Russian sanctions. Accordingly, Tombinski noted, the sanctions can be extended whether Russia 'complies with its obligations' or not. The diplomat did not reveal what exactly those "obligations" might be, given that Moscow is not even a direct party to the conflict, but a mediator. Instead, he suggested that the sanctions were connected with Russia's "aggression" against Ukraine and the "annexation" of Crimea, whose population voted overwhelmingly to break off from Kiev and rejoin Russia amid the instability that followed the 2014 coup.
Saturday, August 27, 2016
Via Gizmodo: It’s been an exciting week for planet hunters with the discovery of the nearest exoplanet yet found, orbiting a star called Proxima Centauri. Now you can get a closer look at that star system via a live broadcast tonight, courtesy of the robotic telescope service Slooh. The fun starts at 8 PM ET/5 PM PT. Proxima Centauri is a small red dwarf star located just 4.25 light years away, slightly closer to Earth than the famous binary pair of Alpha Centauri A and B. The newly discovered exoplanet has been dubbed Proxima b, and the ESO team pegs its mass as being roughly 1.3 times that of Earth. According to Slooh team member Paul Cox, when collaboration launched its new telescopes in Chile back in 2007, Proxima Centauri was one of their first observational targets of its global network. Since getting a heads-up on the new exoplanet, the telescopes have been imaging the star every night. “It’s amazing to watch that small red dot live in the online telescopes every night, and imagine the earth-like world that we now know orbits the star”, Cox said in a statement. “With the possibility that liquid water exists on Proxima b, who knows, there may be some Centaurian amateur astronomers gazing back at us every night”. You can share the wonder and watch the Live stream embedded below, or watch on the Slooh website. Broadcast host Eric Edelman will be joined by the University of Texas, Austin’s Michael Endl—part of the ESO team that discovered Proxima b—and Lisa Kaltnegger, director of Cornell University’s Carl Sagan Institute, who will address the implications of this discovery for extraterrestrial life.
Friday, August 26, 2016
Via The Swedish Wire: China has made it more difficult for foreigners – including Swedes – to apply for a visa. Starting mid August, travellers will now need to supply both current and old passports. For those with out access to his or her old passport the doors to the country will be closed. Sweden’s foreign office in Stockholm confirms that Swedish citizens are asked to show their old passport to get a visa to China. “Sweden is working together with other countries in the EU / Schengen to map the scale of the issue. Chinese authorities have not yet given any explanation for the restrictions”, says spokesperson Katarina Byrenius Roslund in Stockholm. Also Belgium and Denmark's Embassies in Beijing confirm the move. The stricter rules could be connected to increased security ahead of the G20 meeting which will be held in Hangzhou, southwest of Shanghai, early next month, according to several people I’ve been in contact with. Security level has been hiked at airports and train stations in Shanghai. Tourist groups will not be able to visit Hangzhou during the days of the meeting and residents living there must reportedly show ID cards to enter and exit. Swedish passports are also among the most frequently sold in underground trading. The new rules apply to those with an passport issued after 1 January 2014.
Thursday, August 25, 2016
Via Business Insider: Sweden has been receiving some big shot guests lately. Last week US secretary of state John Kerry visited Sweden to attend the wedding of the ketchup heir Andre Heinz. Vice President Joe Biden is currently visiting under more official business. The circus around visiting US VIP:s is a drag for many attempting to navigate central Stockholm, with both land, sea and air traffic restricted. Even with those measures being taken, Joe Biden arrived 50 minutes late to his meeting with Sweden's prime minister Stefan Löfven. But once they met they seemed to get along well. "The relationship between the US and Sweden is stronger than ever," said Stefan Löfven, and Joe Biden agrees. In a press conference following a discussion of the European refugee crisis, Joe Biden applauded (verbally) the Swedish government's way of handling the situation, particularly in receiving so many refugees. "Sweden has shown great leadership – you have shown great leadership Mr Prime Minister – and great compassion in providing humanitarian aid and assistance to millions of refugees fleeing violence in Syria and Iraq and for that matter Afghanistan", Biden said, reports the Local. Both Joe Biden and Löfven also seized the opportunity to encourage other countries to cooperate to solve to crisis.
Wednesday, August 24, 2016
Via Disclose.tv: "We are mentioned in your religious writings like your Christian Bible and many of the ancient human tribes were aware of our presence and worshipped us as gods, for example the Egyptians and the Inca and many other old tribes. Your Christian religion has misunderstood our role in your creation, so we are mentioned as “evil serpent” in your writings".
Via Gizmodo: This clever little seal narrowly escaped death by jumping into a Canadian couple’s boat—and it was all captured on video. The surprise appearance by the blubbery swimmer happened on the Campbell River in British Columbia, Canada, where a small group of people was out watching orcas in their natural habitat. Tour guide Nick Templeman told the Daily Mail that his group had been watching the orcas for about 30 minutes when suddenly the orcas went into “hunting mode”. The group watched as the orcas chased the seal around, tossing it around in the water, before it eventually fled to the boat. Then, to everyone’s surprise, the seal hopped into the rear-end of the boat just in the knick of time. The seal’s life was saved, and the the group of orcas continued circling the boat. But the chase was far from over. The seal inevitably jumped back into the water before immediately regretting his decision and jumping back into the boat. The second time, the seal luckily positioned himself away from the boat’s motors so the crew could flee from the scene. The rest is history.