Economist 8/12/15

  1. Australia’s Liberal-National coalition, in power since 2013, has slashed renewable energy targets and repealed carbon and mining taxes. . Mr Abbott, a proud climate-change sceptic, believes coal is “good for humanity”—convenient given how much of the stuff Australia has as the world’s fifth-largest producer.  But the country is already suffering thanks to climate change from manmade emissions: seven of the hottest ten years there have occurred since 1988. Australians emit more carbon per person than do residents of Saudi Arabia, Canada and America.
  2. RICO Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organisations Act can be used against anyone alleged to have been part of a criminal enterprise—defined as anything from a small, loosely connected group of individuals to a huge firm—that commits a “pattern” of racketeering activity. The list of “predicate” (underlying) crimes that count towards a pattern is long, and includes mail and wire fraud—potentially ensnaring anyone who sent an e-mail or made a phone call linked to the alleged activity.RICO’s attractions are that it is broad and powerful. It carries prison terms of up to 20 years and offers a way around statutes of limitations: as long as prosecutors can show that at least two people committed one of the many predicate offences, no matter how minor, the statute of limitations for all other offences connected to it, stretching back years, is in effect waived.The flow of criminal RICO cases has been slow and steady. These mostly focus on drugs, gangs and public corruption.
  3. Narendra Modi’s government in India signed an agreement on August 3rd with the main Naga insurgent group, the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN) to end a bloody ethnic insurgency in the remote north-east of the country.Most of the serious fighting in Nagaland, a state of about 2m people, ended in 1997, when guitar-strumming rebels agreed to a ceasefire and quit guerrilla life in the forest for comforts in town, where many are lauded like rock stars To clinch a deal the ageing and frail NSCN leaders, many in their 80s, have presumably softened long-held demands and been rewarded with promises of political positions inside Nagaland itself, along with plenty of central-government cash. Whether the rumbling conflict is really over now depends on reactions from smaller insurgent outfits, especially a breakaway Naga faction, the NSCN-Khaplang. It draws much of its support from Nagas living across the border in Myanmar and has good relations with the government there. India’s intelligence agencies previously backed it, to weaken the main insurgency, but in March it broke the ceasefire and in June ambushed an army convoy near the Myanmar border, killing 18 soldiers.
  4. FAME, glory, and a modest academic salary can all be yours if you write a major study. It is crucial to understand the process of discovering an important result. Humans have a useful but unreliable tendency to find patterns amid meaningless noise.As one guard against researchers making a mountain out of a molehill, each of the statistical relationships that scientists publish in their papers comes with a “p-value” attached. This is the probability of a false-positive finding—the likelihood, if the scientist were to run their chosen statistical test on random data with no underlying pattern, that the test would turn up positive regardless. A lower p-value is better, as this makes it less likely the pattern came about for no reason. A simple way of debunking any paper is to recalculate the results of the original tests (a “strict replication”), hoping to spot an error in either the original calculation of a correlation or the p-value. The “power”, or sensitivity, of a test is the likelihood that it sniffs out a positive relationship when one is actually there. Higher power is better. One method the medical researchers used in their replication was to cut a large two-year sample of test subjects into two one-year samples. This reduces the sample size, which gives the test less information to go on. This, in turn, reduces the power of the test, meaning that a greater number of positive relationships can sneak by undetected.

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