Body Language In International Politics

January 29, 2015 in Daily Bulletin

We’ve previously covered the use of body language analysis in international diplomacy. The Economist had an article providing more details about how it worked:

  • Body language experts say that when somebody is hiding something, the way they smoke, check their watch, and even the distance they stand away from shop windows, change.
  • Analysts also look for “micro-expressions” – things that last just 1/25th of a second but reveal concealed emotions.
  • Context is important. One expert notes that the body language of a suicide bomber is similar to that of somebody who may have left their stove on at home.
  • The analysis can be painstaking. 30 minutes of video requires 20 hours of analysis.
  • It is also expensive. The Pentagon spends $300,000 a year analyzing the body language of world leaders.
  • When it works, it’s worth it. In 1979 one expert determined that Saddam Hussein’s body language indicated that he hated Iran more than Israel. Less than a year later the Iraqi leader invaded Iran.

Read other insights, how Putin’s body language has changed in recent times, and more over here.

Source: The Economist

This Valentine’s Day Adopt A “Giant Hairy Scorpion” In The Name Of Your Ex

January 28, 2015 in Daily Bulletin

AP wanted to make sure you know that Valentine’s Day is just around the corner:

  • The San Francisco Zoo is suggesting that spurned lovers adopt some of the less popular creatures in the name of their former significant others.
  • Suggested animals include the Madagascar hissing cockroach, and a Giant Hairy Scorpion.
  • For $50 the zoo will send a certificate of adoption to the person whose name it was adopted in.
  • The zoo notes that the scorpion, for example, grabs “doomed creature with its pinchers and stings the prey”, just like your ex.

Read more here.

Source: AP

The Average Age Gap Within Couples

January 26, 2015 in Daily Bulletin

Mona Chalabi looked into the average age difference within couples:

  • Males are 2.3 years older than the female in the average heterosexual coupling.
  • In 23% of couples the female is older than the male.
  • While there are no official statistics, data from Facebook indicates that in homosexual relationships the average age difference increases as the couples get older.
  • This is true of heterosexual relationships as well, although the effect is not as big.
  • For example, for a couple who has an average age of 20, the average age gap is three years for homosexual relationships, and two for heterosexual ones.
  • By the time the average age of a couple hits 50, the age gap averages around seven for homosexual couples and five for heterosexual ones.

See a chart showing the correlation, and read more details here.

Source: FiveThirtyEight

How Automakers Got Cars To Take The Street From Pedestrians

January 25, 2015 in Daily Bulletin

Back in the day the streets belonged to the people, writes Joseph Stromberg. Automakers then figured out a way to get pedestrians off the road and onto sidewalks in the United States:

  • In the 1920s roads were places where pedestrians, push cart vendors, horses, and playing children jostled for space.
  • It was the responsibility of everybody on the road – including cars – to make sure nobody got hurt.
  • But as car use began to spread the number of deaths dramatically increased with the elderly and children frequent victims.
  • There was a strong backlash against automobiles, made worse because people viewed them as frivolous play things for the rich – similar to how we see yachts today.
  • People got organized and pushed for proposals to impose drastic speed limits on cars.
  • The auto industry sprang into action, launching a counter-campaign to make roads the domain of automobiles.
  • They were successful. Under new rules pedestrians could only be on the road when they were on a crosswalk.
  • While there were new rules against jaywalking, they weren’t being enforced, so car makers launched a new campaign to shame people into following traffic laws.
  • This included introducing the term “jay walking” – a jay back then was a term for a hick who didn’t know how to behave in the city.
  • They also launched a wire service where journalists could send them details of car accidents, and the service would respond with a fully written article shifting the blame for the accident on the pedestrian.

The full article provides many more insights, has some excellent examples of the ads from the campaigns of the era. It also explains why automakers repeatedly hit a clown with a Model T. Read it here.

Source: Vox

Pirates Watch Oscar Nominated Movies At A Higher Quality Than Those Voting On Them

January 23, 2015 in Daily Bulletin

In a delightful article from a chap who seems would make for extremely pleasant coffee break conversation, Andy Baio wrote about piracy of Oscar nominated films:

  • Screeners are copies of films that are sent to the Academy members who vote to decide the winners of the Academy Awards.
  • They frequently leak on the internet so that internet pirates can enjoy the movies at the same time as the screeners.
  • The vast majority of screeners are sent to voters as DVDs.
  • Yet pirates leaking movies online are increasingly able to use high definition sources.
  • The number of screeners that were available on the internet peaked at 81% of Academy Award nominated movies in 2003.
  • Today the number is closer to 36%.
  • This isn’t a victory for anti-piracy efforts. Rather, it’s because nobody wants to watch them since pirates can download higher quality versions.

Read the full article with excellent charts, statistics, and more over here.

Source: Medium

Why Free Money From Native American Casinos Leads To Poverty

January 22, 2015 in Daily Bulletin

In 1987 the American Supreme Court ruled that Native American tribes could not be stopped from building casinos on their land. This was expected to transform the economics of the community as those banned from gambling elsewhere could flock to reservations for a roll of the die. The gamblers came but the money generated didn’t always do much to benefit the community writes The Economist:

  • Around half of all Native American tribes operate casinos and together they generated revenues of $28 billion in 2013.
  • Tribes sometimes disperse these payments to their members through “per capita payments” that can range from a few hundred dollars to over $100,000 every year.
  • Some members will even receive 18 years’ worth of payments in a lump sum once they turn 18.
  • This has led to the rise of a successful business in car dealerships targeting those who just celebrated their 18th birthday.
  • Despite the windfall a study found that while between 2000 and 2010 casino revenues doubled, the overall poverty rate of the tribes increased from 25% to 29%.
  • Tribes that make per capita payments are at higher risk of seeing poverty rates rise.
  • In contrast, tribes that use their profits to invest in other businesses and help grow the overall economy have been more successful in combating poverty.
  • The reason for this seems to be that generous per capita payments, while usually not enough to live on, help recipients fall into the trap of not working.

Read more about the intriguing study here.

Source: The Economist

How Much Does China’s President Earn?

January 21, 2015 in Daily Bulletin

Lily Kuo took a hard look at President Xi Jinping’s income:

  • The Chinese government has announced large pay rises for civil servants.
  • This is thought to be an effort to fight corruption, as the hope is that officials will no longer use bribes to supplement their income.
  • Oddly, however, it has actually highlighted the extent of the corruption.
  • President Xi Jinping’s base salary, for example, will now be about $21,960 a year.
  • In comparison Barack Obama earns 24 times that amount – $545,000 a year.
  • Yet the Chinese leader is able to afford to send his daughter to expensive international schools.
  • Prior investigations have indicated that the President’s extended family, though not the President himself, has millions of dollars in investments stashed abroad.

Read more about why the numbers don’t add up here.

Source: Quartz

The Economics Of Failing To Win An Oscar

January 20, 2015 in Daily Bulletin

A couple months ago hackers released thousands of emails from Sony pictures. Ben Fritz went through them and pieced together the details behind Sony’s largely unsuccessful awards campaign last year:

  • You can hire “awards consultants” who help come up with a strategy to increase the chances of winning an Academy Award.
  • With the guidance of an awards consultant, Sony executives considered spending $4.2 million on a “Phase One” campaign for Tom Hanks’ Captain Phillips.
  • A Phase One campaign is the amount that’s required merely to make a movie an awards contender. The amount budgeted included $250,000 for DVDs of the movie for the Screen Actors Guild, $250,000 for the cast to travel and promote the film, and $700,000 for ads.
  • Spending this kind of money was considered because it was estimated that Tom Hanks winning best actor alone would boost sales by $1 million.
  • It’s unclear how much Sony ultimately ended up spending on the campaign but it was unsuccessful. While the movie was nominated for six Oscars, it won none.
  • Sony also created an Awards budget for American Hustle, estimating that a best picture win would increase sales by $3 million.
  • This campaign was also unsuccessful, possibly because the company was unable to get top stars Amy Adams, Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence to schmooze with the entertainment elite at social events, or with hosts of talk shows.

Find out more about what goes into winning an award, why some within Sony think this is “foolish money”, and read how Captain Phillips’ producer reacted to not winning an award over here.

Source: The Wall Street Journal

Amazon Pricing

January 19, 2015 in Daily Bulletin


Jason Del Rey wrote about how Amazon prices its products:

  • Contrary to popular perception, Amazon does not have the lowest prices across all products in a category.
  • Instead it finds the most popular product in each category – say a particular brand of television – then makes its prices lower than competitors for that one product.
  • Since consumers will likely price compare on the most popular product, they’ll see that Amazon has the lowest prices and (incorrectly) assume that this is true for all products.
  • Less popular products in a category seem to be more expensive on Amazon than other websites.
  • Amazon’s peripherals are more expensive than competitor versions. The company may be assuming that customers will be comparing prices of the main product, not its accessories.

Read more about how Amazon’s pricing works, and how you can ensure you get the lowest prices here.

Source: re/code

Parents Are Spending Increasing Amounts On Sports Coaching For Kids

January 18, 2015 in Daily Bulletin

Paul Sullivan wrote about the investments that parents are making in the hopes of not having to pay for college:

  • The amount of money that parents are paying to provide sports coaching to their kids has grown to 10.5% of gross income.
  • Some see this as an investment – if a child gets a sports scholarship then the parents won’t have to pay for college.
  • Parents will thus pay coaches up to $400 an hour to make their children better sportspeople.
  • They’ll also take them to camps across the country.
  • The chances of a child getting a sports scholarship is so small though that the expected return on investment doesn’t justify the amounts spent.

Read what parents should really be spending money on, the problem of emotionally immature tutors, and more over here.

Source: The New York Times