Links: 2013-08-30

France ready for Syria strike without UK – FT.com

““The chemical massacre in Damascus cannot remain unpunished. If not, it would risk an escalation that would trivialise the use of these weapons and would threaten other countries,” said Mr Hollande.”

Summers Pick Fits Obama’s Preference for Beaten Path – Bloomberg

“Unless something truly unexpected shows up in the vetting process (a paid toast at Bashar al-Assad’s birthday party, for example) or the administration comes to believe Senate Democrats will revolt against a Summers nomination, he’s going to get the job.”

Sigma 120-300mm F2.8 DG OS HSM Review & Rating | PCMag.com

“The $52.6 billion “black budget” for fiscal 2013, obtained by The Washington Post from former ­intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, maps a bureaucratic and operational landscape that has never been subject to public scrutiny. Although the government has annually released its overall level of intelligence spending since 2007, it has not divulged how it uses the money or how it performs against the goals set by the president and Congress.”

Most NSA Abuses Are Self-Reported – Business Insider

“The $52.6 billion “black budget” for fiscal 2013, obtained by The Washington Post from former ­intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, maps a bureaucratic and operational landscape that has never been subject to public scrutiny. Although the government has annually released its overall level of intelligence spending since 2007, it has not divulged how it uses the money or how it performs against the goals set by the president and Congress.”

How to Manage Someone You Don’t Like – Amy Gallo – Best Practices – Harvard Business Review

Larry Summers and the politicization of the Fed | Felix Salmon

“The $52.6 billion “black budget” for fiscal 2013, obtained by The Washington Post from former ­intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, maps a bureaucratic and operational landscape that has never been subject to public scrutiny. Although the government has annually released its overall level of intelligence spending since 2007, it has not divulged how it uses the money or how it performs against the goals set by the president and Congress.”

‘Black budget’ summary details U.S. spy network’s successes, failures and objectives – The Washington Post

“The $52.6 billion “black budget” for fiscal 2013, obtained by The Washington Post from former ­intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, maps a bureaucratic and operational landscape that has never been subject to public scrutiny. Although the government has annually released its overall level of intelligence spending since 2007, it has not divulged how it uses the money or how it performs against the goals set by the president and Congress.”

Schneier on Security: How Many Leakers Came Before Snowden?

“Assume it’s really true that the NSA has no idea what documents Snowden took, and that they wouldn’t even know he’d taken anything if he hadn’t gone public. The fact that abuses of their systems by NSA officers were largely discovered through self-reporting substantiates that belief.

Given that, why should anyone believe that Snowden is the first person to walk out the NSA’s door with multiple gigabytes of classified documents? He might be the first to release documents to the public, but it’s a reasonable assumption that the previous leakers were working for Russa, or China, or elsewhere.”

Outlook for PC shipments worsens: IDC | Reuters

“Worldwide shipments of PCs are likely to fall 9.7 percent this year as consumers continue to favor mobile gadgets, IDC said in a report.

That is much worse than IDC’s prediction in March that PC shipments would fall 1.3 percent this year and below its forecast in May of an 7.8 percent annual drop.”

China’s Xiaomi poaches Google’s Barra to power global drive | Reuters

“Xiaomi founder Lei Jun said on his Weibo feed late on Wednesday that Barra, who led product development for Google’s industry-leading Android mobile software, will join the Chinese company in October as head of international business development.

“Barra will be responsible for Xiaomi’s global business expansion,” Lei said on Weibo, a Twitter-like Chinese service.

Xiaomi’s latest smartphone, the Hongmi, sells for $130, much less than the $770 iPhone 5 or the $470 for the latest Samsung Galaxy model, the market leader in China.”

Spain’s recession longer than thought, but close to ending | Reuters

“Gross domestic product contracted 0.1 percent in the second quarter from a quarter earlier, the National Statistics Institute (INE) said, in line with forecasts and a preliminary reading.

But in the third and fourth quarters it should stabilize or grow by up to 0.2 percent, Economy Secretary Fernando Jimenez Latorre said following the data, enabling it to meet an official end-of-year target of a 1.3 percent contraction.”

Thai to Indonesia Stocks Fall the Most Since 2001 – Bloomberg

“The MSCI Southeast Asia Index has dropped 11 percent this month and is down 21 percent from this year’s peak on May 8. The gauge’s August retreat is 9.1 percentage points bigger than that of the MSCI All-Country World Index, the widest gap since April 2001. The Asian measure is valued at 1.8 times net assets, falling below the global index’s multiple of 1.9 for the first time since at least 2009, data compiled by Bloomberg show. “

Schneier on Security: Detaining David Miranda

“one last possible explanation — those in power were angry and impulsively acted on that anger. They’re lashing out: sending a message and demonstrating that they’re not to be messed with — that the normal rules of polite conduct don’t apply to people who screw with them. That’s probably the scariest explanation of all. Both the US and UK intelligence apparatuses have enormous money and power, and they have already demonstrated that they are willing to ignore their own laws. Once they start wielding that power unthinkingly, it could get really bad for everyone.”

Seeing threats, feds target instructors of polygraph-beating methods | McClatchy

” Federal agents have launched a criminal investigation of instructors who claim they can teach job applicants how to pass lie detector tests as part of the Obama administration’s unprecedented crackdown on security violators and leakers.

The criminal inquiry, which hasn’t been acknowledged publicly, is aimed at discouraging criminals and spies from infiltrating the U.S. government by using the polygraph-beating techniques, which are said to include controlled breathing, muscle tensing, tongue biting and mental arithmetic.”

Mac growth running out of steam as ‘switcher’ motivation diminishes – report

“Mac shipments are still declining more slowly than the overall PC market. But they are still declining — a fact that analyst Charlie Wolf of Needham & Co. believes may be attributable to the Mac’s “wow factor” gradually fading.

As a result, the Mac lineup may no longer be attracting many new “switcher” customers from Microsoft’s Windows platform, Wolf said in his latest “Digital Lifestyle” report, provided to AppleInsider this week.”

Google’s Sergey Brin and 23andMe’s Anne Wojcicki Have Split – Liz Gannes – News – AllThingsD

Teardown Reveals Google’s Moto X Costs $221 to Build – Arik Hesseldahl – News – AllThingsD

“The phone is selling directly from Motorola for $579 without a contract, or $199 from most wireless carriers in the U.S. with a two-year contract.”

The portable Summers | FT Alphaville

“The Fed is his to lose, so here’s a useful service by Barclays rates analysts — quotes from Larry Summers on monetary policy, all the way from December 1986 to August 2013, all in one place.”

Euro-Zone Unemployment Falls – WSJ.com

“The number of people unemployed in the euro zone fell in July for the second month in a row, adding to tentative signs that a modest recovery under way in the currency bloc’s economy is starting to erode its sky-high levels of joblessness.

But a 15,000 decline in the number people out of work wasn’t enough to bring down the rate of unemployment, which remained at an all-time high of 12.1% for the fifth consecutive month, according to figures from Eurostat, the European Union’s statistics agency, on Friday.”

President Obama’s speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial – full transcript | World news | theguardian.com

On the Death of Dreams – Ta-Nehisi Coates – The Atlantic

“Like Du Bois, Barack Obama has taken the stage at a moment when it is popular to assert that black people are the agents of their own doom. The response to Trayvon Martin, indeed the response to Barack Obama himself, has been to attack black morality, to highlight black criminality and thus change the conversation from what the American state has done to black people, to what black people have done to themselves. Like Du Bois, Barack Obama believes that these people have a point. Du Bois’s biographer, David Levering Lewis, says that Du Bois came to look back back on that speech with some embarrassment. I don’t know that Barack Obama will ever reach such a conclusion.”

*Scarcity: Why Having Too Little Means so Much*

Interesting read on how psychology and wealth might affect cognitive function.

The Oil Drum, peak oil and why some good blogs don’t last | FT Alphaville

“At the end of this month, The Oil Drum will be archived after eight years.

A flurry of commentary when this was first announced concluded that it’s shutting down because of the demise of peak oil. Noah Smith, Forbes and Reuters’ John Kemp, among others, have concluded that extraction from new sources, particularly shale gas and oil in the US, have killed the idea of peak oil and, in turn, The Oil Drum. As an explanation for TOD’s impending closure, it sounds neat — but it’s not correct.”

U.S. ready to go it alone on Syria after stinging British defeat – Yahoo! News

““As we’ve said, President Obama’s decision-making will be guided by what is in the best interests of the United States,” National Security Council Spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said in a statement. “He believes that there are core interests at stake for the United States and that countries who violate international norms regarding chemical weapons need to be held accountable.”

The statement came after Britain’s Parliament dealt Prime Minister David Cameron a stinging defeat, beating back a measure that could have set the stage for London to join Washington in military action against Syria.”

Obama’s Syria plans in disarray after Britain rejects use of force | World news | The Guardian

“White House forced to consider unilateral strikes against Assad after British PM unexpectedly loses key motion on intervention”

Why Big, Intense Wildfires Are the New Normal

“Climate change, untamed vegetation, and development have created a new wildfire landscape.”

Obama’s NSA Panel Is Dead Before It Even Starts, Lacks Tech And Telco Execs | TechCrunch

” we’re forming a high-level group of outside experts to review our entire intelligence and communications technologies. We need new thinking for a new era. We now have to unravel terrorist plots by finding a needle in the haystack of global telecommunications. And meanwhile, technology has given governments — including our own — unprecedented capability to monitor communications. – President Obama.

And yet, no. Obama’s panel is not a set of outsiders in the slightest. As some have pointed out in recent days, the group is instead a slurry of insiders, former insiders, and a previous colleague of the president’s.”

Why You Think the Other Line Always Moves Faster than Yours

“Whether you’re standing in line at the grocery store or you’re trying to navigate through traffic, it seems like the other line is always moving faster than yours. BBC Future explains that it has something to do with what we call illusory correlation”.

Canada’s Big Five Banks Didn’t Disappoint, Reporting Strong Earnings across the Board – Canada Real Time – WSJ

“Healthy Tension” Emerging Inside PayPal Customer Service Department – Jason Del Rey – Commerce – AllThingsD

Jim Rogers expects higher gold prices, and Marc Faber does too! – The Tell – MarketWatch

HuffPost Live laying off staff and shuttering LA office as it expands internationally | The Verge

About 

Edward Harrison is the founder of Credit Writedowns and a former career diplomat, investment banker and technology executive with over twenty years of business experience. He is also a regular economic and financial commentator on BBC World News, CNBC Television, Business News Network, CBC, Fox Television and RT Television. He speaks six languages and reads another five, skills he uses to provide a more global perspective. Edward holds an MBA in Finance from Columbia University and a BA in Economics from Dartmouth College. Edward also writes a premium financial newsletter. Sign up here for a free trial.

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