Wednesday, February 28, 2024
By Steven L. Taylor

Upon seeing this headline (via the AP) McCain joins presidential race I am again struck by how many times candidates “announce” that they are running. First is the coy demurring on whether or not they are thinking about running, then there’s the fact that they are thinking about it, then they announce an exploratory committee and then they “announce.” Quite frankly by then the announcement is rather anti-climactic.

Perhaps starting in the 2024 cycle (i.e., November 2024) the rule should be that everyone simply accepts that you are in the race until you announce that you are quitting.

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By Steven L. Taylor

Via the BBC: Italian PM survives Senate vote

The narrow victory – by 162-157 – came a week after senators defeated Mr Prodi on his foreign policy, prompting the centre-left government to stand down.

President Giorgio Napolitano had asked him to stay on and put his cabinet to a confidence vote in parliament.

On Friday, the prime minister will face another confidence vote in lower house where he has comfortable majority.

“I am very satisfied, now we’ll go to the lower house,” Mr Prodi told reporters after Wednesday’s vote.


Analysts say Mr Prodi still faces a big challenge, and with only a one seat majority in the Senate remains as vulnerable as ever.

You know you are an institutions geek when you think all of this is cool to watch.

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By Steven L. Taylor

Via the BBC: Airbus confirms 10,000 job cuts:

France will be worst hit with 4,300 job losses. Germany will see 3,700 jobs go while the UK and Spain will see 1,600 and 400 jobs cut respectively.

Airbus boss Louis Gallois said the firm was “facing huge challenges” and “was not efficient enough”.

Now, will this be taken by investors as further evidence of the weakening of the global economy, or will it be seen as Airbus doing the right thing to cut costs and to therefore improve efficiency?

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By Steven L. Taylor

Via Reuters: Global stocks slide deepens in Europe, volatility soars

Steep losses in global stock markets accelerated in Asia and Europe on Wednesday as Wall St recorded its biggest drop since the September 11, 2024 attacks on the United States and as volatility measures skyrocketed.

European shares extended Tuesday’s slide by up to 2 percent within an hour of the opening bell moving into negative territory for the year to date.

Such a cascade is hardly a surprise given how things started in China yesterday and then moved on to NY–the question is:  how long will it last?

More from the BBC: World stock slump hits second day

Worldwide share prices have continued to fall, triggered by Tuesday’s 9% losses on the Shanghai stock market.

The UK’s FTSE 100 index fell by 1% in morning trading. That took declines in the past two sessions to 3.2% and knocked £52bn off its total value.

France’s Cac 40 index dropped by 1% and Germany’s Dax lost 1.1%. Earlier, markets in Asia, Australia and India had all suffered substantial losses.

Investors are questioning the outlook for economic and earnings growth.

Meanwhile, the NYT notes: Asian Markets Fall Again on Worries About U.S. Economy

Both mainland Chinese markets rose nearly 4 percent today after state-controlled media reported that the government might allow greater foreign investment in Chinese stocks and would not impose capital gains taxes on stocks soon.

Stock markets elsewhere fared much worse on Wednesday.

In Tokyo, the benchmark Nikkei 225 index plunged 4.1 percent in early trading before recovering slightly to end the day down 2.9 percent.

In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng Index fell 2.5 percent on Wednesday. It also showed a slight recovery from heavier losses in morning trading.

Practically every other stock index in Asia outside of mainland China also fell.

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Tuesday, February 27, 2024
By Steven L. Taylor

Via Reuters: Florida couple sentenced as Cuban spies

Carlos Alvarez, a psychology professor at Florida International University in Miami, was sentenced to five years in prison.

He admitted that for nearly 30 years he had supplied the Cuban Intelligence Service with information about Miami’s exile community, the heart of opposition to Cuban President Fidel Castro and his communist government.

His wife, Elsa Alvarez, a counselor at the school, was sentenced to three years in prison for concealing her husband’s actions. Both are Cuban emigres and naturalized U.S. citizens who pleaded guilty to the charges.

That kind of thing is frowned upon, to be sure.

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By Steven L. Taylor

Via Reuters: Castro says recovering, sounds stronger

Sounding much healthier and more lucid than he has in taped video clips released during his convalescence, Castro laughed frequently in a half-hour chat with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez that was marked by boyish humor.


His guest appearance came as a surprise to listeners. Chavez said his energy minister was on the line but the 80-year-old Cuban’s voice broke in: “Listen, my distinguished and dear friend, how are you?”

“Goodness, it’s Fidel,” Chavez replied.

Then the two icons of Latin America’s left, who pride themselves on their anti-Americanism, exchanged pleasantries — in English.

“Fidel, how are you?” Chavez said with a heavy accent.

“Very well,” Castro replied as they both laughed.

Castro later commented on the fall of world stock markets on Tuesday, the worst in years, and said it was proof of his view that capitalism was in crisis.

Proof of life, so to speak.

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By Steven L. Taylor

In reading on the current Alabama legislative special session on the Governor’s proposal to further industrial incentives by the state to attract business, I noted the following (via the Birmingham News: Industrial incentives questioned):

Sen. Roger Bedford, D-Russellville, said Riley has not provided enough details about how money would be used under his plan to expand the state’s bond-issuing capacity from $350 million to $750 million.

“If the people think all you are going to do is create a $400 million slush fund for Gov. Riley, they will kill it,” Bedford said.

The remarkable thing is that Bedford is the master of pork barrel politics, and in the past has been a key recipient of what is known around here as “pass-through pork”–money essentially given directly to legislators to spend pretty much however they would like for projects in their districts (for students of Colombian politics, the auxilios come to mind).  Indeed, an editorial in the Tuscaloosa News last month called Bedford the “Prince of Pork.” (The editorial was in the context of Bedford and allies attempting to get a raise for Senators without a recorded vote-see this story from the Press-Register).

Indeed, as this 2024 report noted, Bedford’s activities have gotten him in trouble in the past:

Bedford’s prowess for steering state money to his northwest Alabama district angered his colleagues earlier this year and cost him the budget committee chairmanship. Criminal charges against Bedford for alleged improper conduct on one grant for his district are still pending. He has denied any wrongdoing.

Of course, anecdotes like this one from a B’Ham News piece in 2024 indicate that Bedford knows a thing or two about “slush funds”:

State Sen. Roger Bedford, D-Russellville, for months tried
to get the Marion County Commission to accept a $2 million state check
to buy land from a friend of Bedford’s.

But the commission rejected Bedford’s offer and Bedford a few months ago handed the check back to the state, uncashed.

Siegelman said, “When you have a system that lets a legislator walk around with a check in his pocket, or when you have a system that allows for pork to be put in a budget when you’re in proration, the system is broken and needs to be fixed.”

As such, you can see what Bedford’s quote jumped out at me. To be fair, the quote be be interpreted as Bedford’s advise to Riley in terms of PR.

Side note:  regardless of any of that, he has the lamest web page in the history of political web pages (and yes, it’s his, as it is linked from his State Senate page).

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By Steven L. Taylor

Via the AP: Whole wheat Krispy Kreme: not health food

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By Steven L. Taylor

Via the AP:  Dow industrials plunge more than 500

The Dow Jones industrial average fell more than 500 points today before gaining some of it back. The Dow dropped 546.02, or 4.3 percent, to 12,086.06 before recovering some ground. It was down 360.42, or 2.85 percent, at 12,271.84 with about a half hour of trading left.


Update: Via CNNMoney: Brutal day on Wall Street, which has the subtitle:

Dow tumbles 415 points, biggest one-day point loss since 2024, as investors eye China, thwarted attack on Cheney, drop in durable orders.

What? If they had gotten Cheney the DJIA would have gone up?

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By Steven L. Taylor

Matthew Shugart e-mails to point me to the blog of Jim Davila ( who has a Ph.D. in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations from Harvard and who is a Lecturer in Early Jewish studies at St. Mary’s College at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland.  In his lengthy and interesting post he quotes correspondence from Richard Bauckham, a Professor of New Testament  Studies and Bishop Wardlaw Professor (also at St. Andrews).

Among the various things that Bauckham had to say, I found the discussion of names to be especially interesting, given my earlier post:

We have much more evidence about this than was used by the programme makers. We have a data base of about 3000 named persons (2625 men, 328 women). Of the 2625 men, the name Joseph was borne by 218 or 8.3%. (It is the second most popular Jewish male name, after Simon/Simeon.) The name Judah was borne by 164 or 6.2%. The name Jesus was borne by 99 or 3.4%. The name Matthew was borne 62 or 2.4 %. Of the 328 named women (women’s names were much less often recorded than men’s), a staggering 70 or 21.4% were called Mary (Mariam, Maria, Mariame, Mariamme).

It is surely obvious [One would think, but apparently not-Ed.] that, considering the enormous popularity of all the names on these ossuaries, the probability that they refer to the same people as those so named in the New Testament, must be very low.

With regard to the second claim, the programme makers have somewhat stretched the evidence.

The most common Greek form of the Hebrew name Mariam (which would have been Mary Magdalene’s Hebrew name) was Mariame or Mariamme. A less common Greek form of the name was Maria, which is the form the New Testament uses (for Mary Magdalene and all the other Maries it mentions).

The form of the name on the ossuary in question is Mariamenou. This is a Greek genitive case, used to indicate that the ossuary belongs to Mary (it means ‘Mary’s’ or ‘belonging to Mary’). The nominative would be Mariamenon. Mariamenon is a diminutive form, used as a form of endearment. The neuter gender is normal in diminutives used for women.

This diminutive, Mariamenon, would seem to have been formed from the name Mariamene, a name which is attested twice elsewhere (in the Babatha archive and in the Jewish catacombs at Beth She’arim). It is an unusual variant of Mariame. In the Babatha document it is spelt with a long e in the penultimate syllable, but in the Bet She’arim inscription the penultimate syllable has a short e. This latter form could readily be contracted to the form Mariamne, which is found, uniquely, in the Acts of Philip.

So we have, on the one hand, a woman known by the diminutive Mariamenon, in the ossuary, and, on the other hand, Mary Magdalen, who is always called in the Greek of the New Testament Maria but seems to be called in a much later source Mariamne. Going by the names alone they could be the same woman, but the argument for this is tenuous.

If you are interested in this subject, the whole post is worth a read.  Davis also posted on the subject here, which includes some links to some resources of possible interest.

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