Monday, November 17, 2014

To Give or Not to Give

This is the time of year where every organization from Public Broadcasting to Food Banks, from High School Cheerleaders to University Annual Giving, all has their hands out for donations. Ever since the ice-bucket challenge swept the Internet this summer, raising more than $115 million for A.L.S. research, a legion of imitators has sprung up to try and cash in themselves.

In the approaching holiday season, as fund-raising appeals swell, we can now smash a pie on our faces, snap selfies first thing in the morning or take a photo of ourselves grabbing our crotches, among other tasteful gestures, to express solidarity with various worthy causes.

Researchers have consistently demonstrated – to absolutely no one’s surprise – that we are prone to doling our cash for reasons that indeed self-interested. We like to enhance our reputations, get our names on the “Honor Roll”, or avoid the social stigma of falling behind others in our peer group.

We hate being asked for money, yet we give generously when we are. “We have sympathy and empathy for many causes, but we’re also keenly aware of the risk of being exploited.” The real genius in fund-raising could lie in finding clever ways to infiltrate this protective buffer.  Most charitable efforts elicit our sympathy by showing us photographs of the afflicted and telling us tales of scholarship success. But just as people avert their eyes from beggars, most of us can shift our attention from stuff that depresses us. Our great curiosity, and advantage, of the ice-bucket challenge was that it did very little to remind us of the disease that was its supposed inspiration.

Christopher Olivola of Carnegie Mellon University writes, “I worry about an arms race among fund-raisers. The success of the ice-bucket challenge has raised the stakes, and everyone now wants to distinguish themselves with their own novel twist. The 10-mile fund-raising race becomes a 20-mile race, or a 10-mile race dressed as a gorilla. It’s not clear where all of this is going to end.”

“Fund-raisers are tempting us with increasingly ingenious challenges precisely because they are fighting over a pot of money that has barely budged for decades. Over the last 40 years, the amount we give as a percentage of our incomes has consistently hovered around 2 percent. Despite all the growth in foundations and charitable endeavors, there is no evidence we’re growing more generous.”

So Catholic Church, University of La Verne, St. Lawrence University, Food Partners no need to worry, but all others beware.

BIRTHDAY -- Sesame Street marks 45th birthday: You don't get to be the longest-running children's show in U.S. TV history by doing the same thing over and over. ... Since the show debuted 45 years ago on Nov. 10, 1969 ... Cookie Monster now exercises self-control and sometimes eats fruits and vegetables. Millions of kids watch the show on phones and computers instead of TV. And there's less time spent on the street with human characters. They're just not energetic enough for today's viewers.

OUT AND ABOUT - The new sci-fi movie "Interstellar" had a screening last night at the National Air & Space Museum with director Christopher Nolan introducing the film and stars Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway and Jessica Chastain also addressing the crowd. Guests ate up lamb meatballs, beef skewers, tuna tartare, mini lobster rolls, and onion tarts. Trailer

Rink Rats viewed the film and thoroughly enjoyed the science and technology. The story line is a bit “Hollywood” but we consider it a Holiday view.

ETHEL KENNEDY wins Presidential Medal of Freedom: The awards will be presented at the White House on November 24th. ... Alvin Ailey (posthumous) ... Isabel Allende ... Tom Brokaw ... James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner (posthumous) ... Mildred Dresselhaus ... John Dingell ... Ethel Kennedy ... Suzan Harjo ... Abner Mikva ... Patsy Takemoto Mink ... Edward Roybal (posthumous) ... Charles Sifford ... Robert Solow ... Stephen Sondheim ... Meryl Streep ... Marlo Thomas ... Stevie Wonder.

CHINA'S AGE OF AMBITION - In a valley flanked by snow-capped peaks on China's border with Kazakhstan, a vision of Beijing's ambitions to redraw the geopolitical map of Asia is taking shape. This remote outpost, once a transit point for Silk Road merchants, is where China is building one of its newest cities. Covering more than twice the area of New York City, Horgos had just 85,000 residents when it was founded in September ... China's plan is to transform the sleepy frontier crossing into an international railway, energy and logistics hub for a 'Silk Road Economic Belt' unveiled by President Xi Jinping last year ...

Horgos is a small element of China's wider effort to bind surrounding regions more closely to it through pipelines, roads, railways and ports, say diplomats and analysts who have studied the plans it has made public. The plans also include an Asian-Pacific free-trade deal, a $50 billion Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and a $40 billion Silk Road Fund that Mr. Xi announced last week, promising aid as well as investment from Chinese private and state firms. In a speech to business executives Sunday, he said China's plans would boost growth and improve infrastructure across the region to help fulfill an 'Asia-Pacific dream.

CHANGING THE RULES - China is changing the rule book for business, forcing multinational companies to figure out how to play a new game or risk losing out on the world's second-largest economy. When China joined the [TWO] 13 years ago, the government welcomed foreign companies, eager for their factories and technology. Now China is using its growing economic and financial muscle to dictate new terms, as dozens of American, European and Japanese businesses face scrutiny for corruption, monopolistic practices and, most recently, tax evasion.

With heads of state and corporate chieftains in Beijing for a major economic summit this past week, China's increasing economic nationalism is expected to be heavily debated. The squeeze on multinationals has coincided with President Xi Jinping's consolidation of power and his increasingly nationalistic and sometimes confrontational stance toward China's neighbors and the West."

JAPAN FALLS INTO RECESSION - A sales-tax increase pushed Japan's economy into a recession in the third quarter, setting the stage for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to postpone a second increase in the tax. Japan's real GDP shrank 1.6% on an annualized basis as firms cut inventories and held back on capital investment.

THE NUMBERS - Overall House Vote Tally: GOP 52%, Dems 45%: The latest look at how Americans voted by party in the midterms shows the scope of the Republican win. Voters in House races cast 52% of their ballots for Republicans on Election Day, compared with 45% for Democrats, according to a tally of the 71.9 million votes reported by the Associated Press as of Tuesday. That margin was far wider than pre-election polls had suggested. Prior to Election Day, RealClearPolitics' average of nine recent polls of voter preference in a generic ballot put Republicans ahead by 2.4 percentage points.

COLLEGE CHRONICLES - IT'S INTERNATIONAL EDUCATION WEEK: And the Institute of International Education is out with its annual Open Doors report. The numbers of American students studying abroad and international students studying in the U.S. reached all-time highs in 2013-14 of 289,408 and 886,052, respectively. Most Americans are going to the U.K., Italy and Spain, while international students are coming primarily from China, India and South Korea. Since the first International Education Week briefing in 2000, the overall number of international students in the U.S. has grown by 72 percent, and the number of American students studying abroad has more than doubled in the last 15 years. All the data are here:

- The United States hosts more international students than any other country - almost double the number who study in runner-up U.K. - but Americans shouldn't be too quick to pat themselves on the back, said Vic Johnson, senior advisor for public policy at NAFSA: Association of International Educators. That's because the American share of international students is still decreasing, and far too few U.S. students are leaving the country, he told Morning Education. Johnson said comprehensive immigration reform - on the part of Congress or the president - could fix policies such as the visa application process that work against students who want to come here. But for proposals like the years-old Sen. Paul Simon Study Abroad Foundation Act, each Congress brings less hope than the last. "There's really no way forward in the current environment, in terms of getting any federal money involved in this," he said.

- There's an economic case to be made for study abroad, in addition to the argument that student exchange promotes global understanding among students who will become international leaders. The new numbers out of IIE resulted in the support of 340,000 jobs and $26.8 billion for the U.S. economy in the 2013-14 academic year, NAFSA calculated. Expect those numbers to keep rising. The Council on International Educational Exchange last week announced a $20 million pledge to IIE's Generation Study Abroad initiative, which aims to boost the number of U.S. students studying abroad to 600,000 by 2019. That money will provide scholarships, grants and sponsored passports for American students, plus an annual grant for college faculty who support study abroad.

BIRTHDAYS THIS WEEK – Birthday wishes and thoughts this week to: Vice President Joe Biden (72), Danny DeVito (70), Cindy Gaytan …famous Finance scholar and lovely smile, Scarlett Johanson (30), Lorne Michaels (70), Tom Seaver (70), Richard Simpson …famous strategist.

OUT OF THIS WORLD – Last week marked a historic moment for space exploration when a robotic probe from a spaceship called Rosetta landed on a comet more than 300 million miles away from Earth. Rosetta is the first craft to settle into close orbit around a comet and the first to land a probe on one. It is expected also to become the first spacecraft to accompany a comet as it loops around the sun. The voyage hasn't been without complications, the probe, called Philae, may have bounced off the surface of the comet before settling back. Scientists say that if the lander isn’t properly anchored, it could imperil plans to drill below the surface and analyze materials there.

43 ON 41 -- George W. Bush's Heartfelt Tribute to Dad: The afternoon before [the 90th birthday parachute] jump, I sat next to Dad on the porch of his beloved home at Walker's Point, perched on a rocky outcropping over the Atlantic. I had been painting an ocean scene and was wearing cargo pants stained with oil paint. For a few peaceful minutes, we stared quietly at the sea. 'What are you thinking about, Dad?' I asked. 'It's just beautiful,' he said, still looking out at the ocean. ... 'Do those pants come in clean?' I laughed, something I have been doing with my father all my life. His quip was typical. He was not nervous about his jump or his life. He was at peace. And he was sharing his joy with others.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL PICK OF THE WEEK – Saturday 11/22, 8:00 PM ET ABC; USC Trojans (7-3) at #11 UCLA Bruins (8-2), this rivalry game will make or break the seasons for both clubs: UCLA 35 USC 31. Season to date (6-6)

SMALL COLLEGE FOOTBALL PICK OF THE WEEK – D-III Playoffs, First Round: Saturday 11/22, Noon ET, Bravo; #23 Ithaca College Bombers (7-3) visit #8 Hobart Statesmen (10-0). They will be rocking in Geneva, New York as the undefeated Statesman beat Ithaca 28-21.   Season to date (5-6)

NFL PICK OF THE WEEK – Sunday 11/23, 4:05 PM ET CBS; Arizona Cardinals (9-1) visit Seattle Seahawks (6-4). Now we shall see if The Cardinals are for real, not in Seattle: Seahawks 24 Cardinals 17.  Season to date (7-4)


(NCAA, Nov. 22) #14 Arizona Wildcats (8-2) 28 at #23 Utah Utes (7-3) 42.

(NCAA, D-III Playoffs, Nov. 22) #23 Chapman Panthers (8-1) 32 at #10 Linfield Wildcats (8-1) 28.

(NHL, Nov. 22) Montreal Canadiens (14-4-1) 3 at Boston Bruins (11-8) 4

(NFL, Nov. 23) Detroit Lions (7-3) 24 at New England Patriots (8-2) 42

Season to date (69 - 57)

DRIVING THE WEEK – President Obama is back in Washington with all eyes on possible immigration unilateral action as soon as this week (rumors keep focusing on Friday). Any big move would start the clock ticking toward a possible shutdown on Dec 11 when the current CR runs out or in January if the GOP looks to move a short-term spending bill to move the fight to the next Congress where they hold both houses ... FHFA's Mel Watt testifies before Senate Banking Wednesday at 10:00 a.m. ... Senate Banking subcommittee has a regulatory capture hearing at 10:00 a.m. on Friday ... House Financial Services has an int'l regulatory standards hearing at 2:00 p.m. on Tuesday and a flood insurance hearing at 2:00 p.m. Wednesday ... Senate PSI holds hearing Thursday and Friday on Wall Street's role in the physical commodities markets ... Industrial production this morning at 9:15 a.m. expected to rise 0.2 percent ... Producer prices at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday expected to drop 0.1 percent headline and rise 0.1 percent ex-food and energy ... NAHB housing market index at 10:00 a.m. Tuesday expected to rise to 55 from 54 ... FOMC minutes at 2:00 p.m. Wednesday ... Consumer prices at 8:30 a.m. Thursday expected to drop 0.1 percent headline and rise 0.1 percent core ... Existing home sales at 10:00 a.m. Thursday expected to dip to 5.15M pace from 5.17M ... Index of leading indicators at 10:00 a.m. Thursday expected to rise 0.6 percent ... Home Depot reports third-quarter results on Tuesday. Target and Lowe's report Wednesday.

Next week: Holiday movies and bitchy resting face.

Until Next Monday, Adios.

Claremont, CA

November 17, 2014
#V-31, 240

CARTOON OF THE WEEK – The New Yorker, Drew Demavich

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