Some interesting articles you may have missed.
- “Sunspots Are Fewest Since 1954, but Significance Is Unclear“, NY Times, 3 October 2008
- “Agency’s ’04 Rule Let Banks Pile Up New Debt“, NY Times, 3 October 2008 — One of the major steps to the recent financial crisis was a SEC rule change.
- “The House of Death: An interview with DEA whistleblower Sandy Gonzalez“, Reason, 30 September 2008
As always, these excerpts are only intended to convey the subject of the article. I recommend reading them in full.
“Sunspots Are Fewest Since 1954, but Significance Is Unclear“, NY Times, 3 October 2008 — Excerpt:
The Sun has been strangely unblemished this year. On more than 200 days so far this year, no sunspots were spotted. That makes the Sun blanker this year than in any year since 1954, when it was spotless for 241 days.
The Sun goes through a regular 11-year cycle, and it is now emerging from the quietest part of the cycle, or solar minimum. But even for this phase it has been unusually quiet, with little roiling of the magnetic fields that induce sunspots. … As of Thursday, the 276th day of the year, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Space Weather Prediction Center in Boulder, Colo., had counted 205 days without a sunspot.
In another sign of solar quiescence, scientists reported last month that the solar wind, a rush of charged particles continually spewed from the Sun at a million miles an hour, had diminished to its lowest level in 50 years.
Scientists are not sure why this minimum has been especially minimal, and the episode is even playing into the global warming debate. Some wonder if this could be the start of an extended period of solar indolence that would more than offset the warming effect of human-made carbon dioxide emissions. From the middle of the 17th century to the early 18th, a period known as the Maunder Minimum, sunspots were extremely rare, and the reduced activity coincided with lower temperatures in what is known as the Little Ice Age.
… Scientists expect that sunspot activity will pick up in the coming months, but exactly what will happen next is open to debate.
“Agency’s ’04 Rule Let Banks Pile Up New Debt“, NY Times, 3 October 2008 — One of the major steps to the recent financial crisis was a SEC rule change. This story was originally broken on September 18 by the now-defunct The Sun. Excerpt:
Many events in Washington, on Wall Street and elsewhere around the country have led to what has been called the most serious financial crisis since the 1930s. But decisions made at a brief meeting on April 28, 2004, explain why the problems could spin out of control. The agency’s failure to follow through on those decisions also explains why Washington regulators did not see what was coming.
On that bright spring afternoon, the five members of the Securities and Exchange Commission met in a basement hearing room to consider an urgent plea by the big investment banks.
They wanted an exemption for their brokerage units from an old regulation that limited the amount of debt they could take on. The exemption would unshackle billions of dollars held in reserve as a cushion against losses on their investments. Those funds could then flow up to the parent company, enabling it to invest in the fast-growing but opaque world of mortgage-backed securities; credit derivatives, a form of insurance for bond holders; and other exotic instruments.
“The House of Death: An interview with DEA whistleblower Sandy Gonzalez“, Reason, 30 September 2008 — Most Americans have little knowledge of how our police work; learning more will not make them feel better. Excerpt:
Sandalio “Sandy” Gonzalez recently retired after a 32-year career in law enforcement, 27 as an agent for the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), at one point serving as its head of operations in South America.
Three years ago, Gonzalez’s career came to an abrupt end after he blew the whistle in a horrifying case now known as the “House of Death,” in which Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents stand accused of looking the other way while one of their drug informants participated in torturing and murdering at least a dozen people in the border town of Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.
… But instead of praising Gonzalez’s efforts to expose this egregious mishandling of a paid government informant, Tandy and other government officials reprimanded him for creating a record of ICE’s transgressions. Tandy and U.S. Attorney Sutton called Gonzalez “hysterical,” warning him not to talk to the media. They eventually forced him into an early retirement in 2005.
Please share your comments by posting below. Please make them brief (250 words max), civil, and broadly relevant to these topic. These weekend reading posts are more like open threads than the usual tightly focused discussions on this site.
Or email me at fabmaximus at hotmail dot com (note the spam-protected spelling).
For more information about these topics
These reference pages appear on the upper part of the right side menu bar.
- Financial crisis – what’s happening? how will this end?.
- For a broader perspective on the crisis: End of the post-WWII geopolitical regime
- For more about the Sun, Solar Cycle 24, and climate change see Science, Nature, and Geopolitics.