Kavanaugh: Republican Leadership Broke The Four Rules Of Crisis Management

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF FORBES)

 

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Kavanaugh: How The Republican Leadership Broke The Four Rules Of Crisis Management

Steve Denning

In July 9, 2018, Brett Kavanaugh was nominated to fill the place on the U.S. Supreme Court vacated by Justice Kennedy, with the prospect of ensuring a Republican majority for another generation.

Brett Kavanaugh, U.S. Supreme Court associate justice nominee Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

However, in its actions over the last ten days, the Republican leadership has jeopardized its goals through its failure to respect the rules of crisis management:

  • Recognize the crisis as a crisis
  • Get out as much information as possible as soon as possible, particularly any negative information
  • Avoid saying anything that has to be withdrawn
  • Avoid doing anything that looks like a cover-up

The Confirmation Hearings

Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee took place on September 4-7. The hearings were interrupted numerous times by Democratic senators and protesters. By the end of the hearings, a slight plurality of Americans surveyed did not approve of Kavanaugh’s nomination—a first for Supreme Court nominees.

Nevertheless, it appeared that the Republican leadership was on track to accomplish its primary goal, i.e. having Kavanaugh appointed to the court, and possibly preserve its other goals, such as maintain support of Republican women going into the mid-term elections.

The Crisis

On September 12, , the existence of a complaint against Kavanaugh, by a “woman, who has asked not to be identified”, was made public, in which she accused him of trying to force himself on her when they were both in high school. She said the incident happened in 1982, when he was 17 and a student at Georgetown Preparatory School, and she was a 15-year-old high school student. The woman stated that she was able to free herself and that she has sought treatment for psychological distress subsequently.

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On September 13, Senator Feinstein referred the matter to the FBI, including the identity of the accuser.

Senator Dianne Feinstein, California, Photographer: Aaron P. Bernstein/Bloomberg

On September 14, Kavanaugh issued a statement through the White House that said, “I categorically and unequivocally deny this allegation. I did not do this back in high school or at any time.”

On September 16, the accuser was publicly revealed by The Washington Post, to be Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, a respected professor of psychology at Palo Alto University. She has written or co-written several books and many scholarly articles. She lives in Palo Alto, California, with her husband, whom she married in 2002, and two sons. In 2017 she participated in a local Women’s March protesting Trump and attended a March For Science in San Francisco to protest Trump administration cuts to research, but does not appear to have been active in Democratic politics.

Recognize The Crisis As A Crisis

The first failure of the Republican leadership was the failure to recognize the crisis as a crisis. The Republicans first instinct was to brush aside the accusation as partisan politics and press ahead with a quick vote on Kavanaugh’s nomination. A single accusation from one woman 36 years ago was presented as “a little hiccup.” (Senator Heller)

However, once the identity and professional background of the accuser became known, first to the FBI on September 13, and then to the public on September 16, it became apparent that she deserved to be heard, as Senator Flake and Collins insisted. In effect, if the Republican leadership had pressed ahead, it would have been at risk of not having enough Republican votes for success.

What the Republican leadership hadn’t initially grasped was that this was a real crisis for Kavanaugh’s nomination. It would have been one thing if the accusation was being made by a partisan politician. It was another when it was made by a well-respected professor, with no active record in partisan politics and no particular axe to grind. Coming in the midst of the #MeToo movement, the accusation was bound to be a sensation.

Getting All The Information

The White House issued a short, categorical denial on September 14. It wasn’t until a week later that Kavanaugh sat down with the White House for a lengthy briefing session trying to ascertain all his answers to possible questions. (Even then, Kavanaugh refused to answer some questions that he saw as too personal.) In between, a steady flow of information has come into the public arena that has made the accusation steadily more credible.

According to Ford, Kavanaugh’s friend, Mark Judge, was in the room when Kavanaugh allegedly assaulted her. Judge has written about how much alcohol he and his classmates consumed while in high school and other raunchy behavior. (Judge has said he does not remember the event and doesn’t want to testify.)

It emerged that Georgetown Prep, Kavanaugh’s private, all-boys school, fostered a world of rowdy parties, excessive alcohol, drugs, and misogynist attitudes to women. These elite schools were even “bastions of misogyny,” according to Greg Jaffe, who attended one and is now a reporter for the Washington Post.

Kavanaugh himself seemed to be alluding to this culture, when Kavanaugh said in a 2015 speech at Catholic University’s Columbus School of Law, “Fortunately, we had a good saying that we’ve held firm to, to this day… which is, ‘What happens at Georgetown Prep, stays at Georgetown Prep.’ That’s been a good thing for all of us, I think.”

Efforts To Contain The Inquiry

Once the Republican leadership accepted the need to hear Ford, they then tried to limit the inquiry to testimony from Kavanaugh and Ford alone, with no witnesses and no FBI inquiry. The reasons were not persuasive.

  • “The FBI doesn’t investigate these kinds of matters.” (It does so all the time.)
  • “There is no time to investigate.” (The Anita Hill investigation was completed in 3 days)
  • “There is no need to investigate.” (If so, why was there a hearing?)

The Republicans also allowed themselves to get into a defensive crouch, giving the impression that Dr Ford was the one who wanted the truth to be told and they didn’t.

  • Ford wants to the FBI to investigate. Kavanaugh doesn’t.
  • Ford wants other witnesses to be heard. Kavanaugh doesn’t.
  • Ford wants the alleged eye-witness to testify. Kavanaugh (and the eye-witness) don’t.
  • Ford has taken a lie detector test. Kavanaugh hasn’t.

Republicans In Denial

As these details were emerging, Republican leaders began making defenses and raising questions that would later have to be modified or withdrawn:

  • “It must have been someone else.” (Ed Whelan)
  • “Dr. Ford is mixed-up or confused.” (Senator Hatch)
  • “If it had happened, it would have been reported at the time.” (Trump)

U.S. President Donald Trump Photographer: Neeta Satam/Bloomberg

  • “There are gaps in Dr. Ford’s narrative, which raise doubts about her veracity. (Senator Cornyn).
  • “Others have vouched for Dr. Ford’s character, so it couldn’t have happened.” (Trump)
  • “It happened so long ago, we can never know, one way or the other.” (Senator Cornyn).
  • Even if it did happen, it doesn’t matter. Boys will be boys. That was a different time.

Jumping The Gun: The Semblance Of An Inquiry

Having once crossed the threshold and accepted that there was going to be an inquiry, the Republican leadership then said things suggesting that it wasn’t a real inquiry, thereby undermining their own credibility,

“In the very near future, Judge Kavanaugh will be on the United States Supreme Court,” McConnell said to applause from religious conservatives at the Value Voters Summit on Friday. “So my friends, keep the faith, don’t get rattled by all of this. We’re going to plow right through it and do our job.”

On September 21, after days of relative restraint, President Trump suggested that the accusation couldn’t be true because it wasn’t lodged with authorities at the time, thus revealing his conclusion, even before hearing from Dr. Ford.

Multiple Deadlines Maximized Public Attention

The sensational nature of the accusation increased public attention to the Kavanaugh nomination. That attention was further accentuated by the multiple shifting deadlines. The hearing was first scheduled for September 20. Then once it was agreed that Dr Ford would be heard, she imposed conditions. She was then asked to reply by September 21, then September 22, and then September 23, with no answer as to whether the vote might be on September 24 or a hearing on September 27. It was as if the Republican leadership wanted the public to follow the “would she/won’t she” nature of the negotiation.

Net Result

It remains to be seen what happens at the hearing of Ford and Kavanaugh, now apparently confirmed for September 27. Through failure to adhere to the rules of crisis management, there is now greater-than-zero chance that Kavanaugh will not be confirmed.

Moreover the Republicans have guaranteed that Democrats will be even more energized going into the mid-term elections in November. The Republican brand with women also risks being further weakened.

Perhaps most seriously, through politicizing the nomination process, the authenticity and apolitical character of the Supreme Court has been jeopardized.

Note: The author is registered as an independent.

My new book, “The Age of Agile” was published by HarperCollins in 2018. I consult with organizations around the world on leadership, innovation, management and business narrative. For many years I worked at the World Bank, where I held many management positions, including di…

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Steve Denning’s most recent book is The Age of Agile (HarperCollins, 2018)

China Has A Hitch In Their Giddy-Up: They Need Lots More Natural Gas From The U.S.

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ANDY TAI ON GOOGLE PLUS AND FROM FORBES)

 

Energy #Market Moves 

China Will Need More U.S. Natural Gas

I cover oil, gas, power, LNG markets, linking to human development Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.
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BEIJING, CHINA – NOVEMBER 09: (CHINA MAINLAND OUT)China President Xi Jinping and wife Peng Liyuan welcome US President Donald Trump and wife Melania come to China for state visit on 09th November, 2017 in Beijing, China.(Photo by TPG/Getty Images)

China will stay the largest incremental natural gas user for as far as we model. To help clear hazy skies and cut CO2 emissions, China must expand the role of cleaner gas in its energy demand portfolio, now at just 6-7% of total supply, versus nearly 30% for the richest economies. Last year alone, China’s gas demand boomed by over 15%, with imports rising by 30%. China just passed Japan to become the largest natural gas importer in the world, although Japan still imports more than twice as much liquefied natural gas (LNG). Key arteries bringing in foreign supplies, such as the China-Myanmar pipeline, however, often sees utilization rates of just 50-60%, due to numerous economical, political, technological, and weather problems.

Data source: EIA

China’s imports of natural gas have been surging.

To be sure, many of China’s LNG sources have issues that open the door for U.S. LNG. For example, Australia has had major domestic gas shortages, Qatar has had an LNG production moratorium and surging domestic demand, and Indonesia needs to keep more of its gas to support a very energy-deprived poor nation. Indeed, it’s quite telling that China’s retaliatory measures against possible U.S tariffs on its goods will NOT include LNG: leadership knows full well the unique value that U.S. LNG brings to the table. Our sales have very flexible contracts (having no rigid destination clauses that restrict resales), short-term contracts, and prices not linked to oil but based on the transparent fundamentals of gas supply and demand. Started in 2016, U.S. LNG has had 60% of its LNG sold on the spot market. Most other suppliers will still need to use less convenient long-term deals to satisfy lenders and fund high cost projects. And we know that we will continue to have plenty of gas to export. In the decades ahead, for every 100 units that U.S. gas demand increases, U.S. gas production will increase 175 units, a 75% surplus for us to export. By 2020, we could control 20-25% of global LNG supply, up from just 8% now. “U.S. Liquefied Natural Gas To China Is A Game-Changer,” with China ranked third in 2017 taking in 15% of U.S. LNG exports.

Data source: IEA

China gets the great majority of its LNG from Australia and Qatar.

Let’s be clear: there’s room for all gas (and oil) exporters in China, the need for imports is surging that fast . After all, supplying China with energy is like trying to fill an olympic size swimming pool with a hose. Don’t worry about somebody else putting another hose on the other side of the pool. Yes, Russia will be a key supplier, but pipeline supplies from Gazprom simply won’t be enough to dim the bright future for U.S. LNG in China. China’s own domestic gas production will continue to increase, but the import necessity can only continue to grow, especially the imported LNG that makes perfect sense in fueling the high demand centers along China’s eastern coast. China’s shale gas production potential is solid but will be limited by a variety of factors, namely a lack of pipelines, difficult geology, remote resources, water shortages, state-controlled prices, and technological barriers (coming from the hesitancy of U.S. shale experts to work with China’s overbearing state-owned enterprises, as well as China’s poor history of protecting intellectual property rights). Today, shale accounts for just 6-8% of China’s total gas production, compared to 85% in the U.SLooking out to just 2030, about 65% of China’s gas demand could need to be met by imports .

Data source: EIA

China’s need for natural gas imports is expected to continue to grow.

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How Does Centrally Planned China Raise Capital?-Answer, Hong Kong

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF FORBES INVESTING MARKET MOVES)

 

Investing #MarketMoves

How Does Centrally Planned China Raise Capital?

I write financial newsletters for investors on how to profit in Asia.  Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.

A general view from Victoria Peak shows Victoria Harbour and the skylines of the Kowloon district (background) and Hong Kong island (foreground) on July 3, 2017. (ANTHONY WALLACE/AFP/Getty Images)

Through careful planning and strategic economic policy reforms, mainland China has evolved from a country struck by poverty to the world’s second largest economy. But don’t think this was solely the Chinese bureaucrats’ doing.  The U.K.’s special “present” to China proved to be essential to the story of China’s miraculous development.

In 1997, Tony Blair, who was U.K.’s prime minister at the time, went to Hong Kong to give the city back to Beijing. 156 years of colonial rule had completely transformed the city.

What was once a backwards fishing village, was now one of the worlds’ most important financial hubs.

Hong Kong currently has the highest concentration of international banks in the world. The 71 largest international banks and almost 300 international fund management companies are housed in Hong Kong. The island also has most beneficial legal regulations for both residents and companies.

China basically saw Hong Kong attending a 150 yearlong financial course. The financial powerhouse now belongs back to the Middle Kingdom that uses it to funnel foreign capital into its centrally planned economy. Something the mainland wasn’t able to do by itself.

Never before has a centrally planned economy ever received such a precious gift as Hong Kong.

How Hong Kong feeds China

Companies in planned economies – like China’s – typically have a hard time raising capital. That makes Hong Kong a key factor in China’s economic development.

With its leading financial institutions in place, Hong Kong is able to raise capital unhindered by political or economic instability. A problem free market economies like in the U.S. generally have to deal with.

Four years before Hong Kong was given back to China, it was responsible for 27% of China’s GDP. Let’s put this in perspective. At the time, only 6.5 million people lived in Hong Kong while mainland China had a population of 1 billion people. It’s easy to see that Hong Kong’s impact on China’s economic growth was tremendous.

The mainland did catch up over time as the graph below clearly illustrates. By 2017, Hong Kong accounted for merely 3% of the GDP.

One Road Research

Hong Kong’s Share of China’s GDP

Hong Kong’s return in 1997 coincided with the dramatic rise of China’s GDP.

One Road Research

China’s GDP in Current US$

China’s economic growth was partially due to twenty years of export-oriented policies from Beijing. But without Hong Kong’s well-established financial markets, necessary funds couldn’t have been raised.

Trump By Ignoring Africa, US Cedes Would Be American Jobs To China: Creating A China first Policy

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF FORBES)

By Ignoring Africa, US Cedes Jobs To China

Guest commentary curated by Forbes Opinion. Avik Roy, Opinion Editor.

GUEST POST WRITTEN BY

Grant Harris

Mr. Harris is CEO of Harris Africa Partners LLC and was senior director for Africa at the White House from 2011-2015.

It is old news that China has aggressive commercial ambitions in Africa, but fresh numbers reveal the depth of China’s success—and raise the stakes for U.S. dithering.

A recent Ernst & Young report shows that China more than doubled its foreign direct investment (FDI) projects in Africa in 2016, and that the value of these projects outweighs U.S. investments by a factor of 10. Moreover, China’s Commerce Ministry recently announced that China-Africa trade increased by 16.8% year-on-year in the first quarter of 2017. As if that was not enough, various African leaders were courted at a summit in Beijing last month, which promised extensive deals in infrastructure and trade under China’s “One Belt, One Road” initiative. All of this serves as an exclamation mark on the following sentence: The United States must step up its game on U.S.-Africa trade and investment.

Moroccan King Mohamed VI (C-L) and Li Biao (C-R), Chairman of the Chinese group Haite, attend the launch of a Chinese investment project in Morocco on March 20, 2017, at the royal palace near Tangiers. (Photo credit: FADEL SENNA/AFP/Getty Images)

Unfortunately, the U.S. has been slow to stake out a serious commercial strategy toward Africa, and U.S. companies by and large continue to overestimate the risks of doing business in the region. In contrast, China has sustained a policy of deliberate engagement and investment on the continent—and is making enviable returns in the process. Across Africa, China’s infrastructure projects generate earnings worth around $50 billion a year, which directly and indirectly translate into numerous jobs for Chinese citizens.

Building on a strong legacy of bipartisanship regarding U.S.-Africa policy, the Obama Administration deepened commercial ties on the continent, including through initiatives like Power Africa (designed to double electricity access in the region) that garnered broad Republican support. Indeed, U.S. FDI in Africa surged by over 70% from 2008 to 2015, on a historic-cost basis. Yet, in absolute terms, much more remains to be done to fully capitalize on Africa’s potential to contribute to U.S. growth.

Worryingly, the Trump Administration is so far heading in exactly the wrong direction. The policy signal to increase U.S. investment in Africa is no more. Whereas President Obama called for stronger U.S.-Africa economic ties—as did key Cabinet-level champions—the Trump Administration has shown no senior-level interest in this agenda. The raft of vacant positions across key federal departments compounds the problem.

Worse, President Trump is actively trying to eviscerate some of the vital tools needed to promote a serious commercial agenda. Though the “budget wars” are ongoing, fortunately Congress has so far rejected President Trump’s shortsighted proposals to eliminate funding for the U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) and U.S. Trade and Development Agency (USTDA). Both are important for trade and investment globally, and in Africa in particular. Between 2009 and 2016, OPIC’s commitment of about $7 billion in financing and insurance to secure projects in Africa catalyzed an additional $14 billion in investments in the region. Over that same time period, USTDA more than doubled its Africa portfolio of grants and technical assistance for infrastructure projects, boosting U.S. exports by at least $2.5 billion.

These and other tools should be strengthened—not demolished—to support U.S. businesses in Africa and to successfully compete with China. This includes the U.S. Export-Import bank, which has been outpaced by the China Export-Import Bank (some estimates say by a factor of 37 for loans to Africa) despite having a Congressional mandate to prioritize helping U.S. exporters compete for business in Africa.

The Trump Administration still has the opportunity to advance a serious commercial agenda in Africa, but we are reaching an inflection point, beyond which it will be increasingly difficult to make up for lost ground. As a dynamic continent of over one billion people (who will comprise one quarter of the world’s population and workforce by 2050), Africa’s role in the global economy will certainly increase over time. As the U.S. economy looks for new global growth to fuel domestic jobs, Africa represents a critical commercial frontier. Seizing this opportunity, however, depends on the interest and capacity of American companies to do business in Africa. There is still time to change course but, failing that, middling policy and weakened tools to promote U.S. investment in Africa essentially constitute a “China First” policy.

Forbes: Eric Trump charity money went to Trump business

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN AND FORBES MAGAZINE)

Forbes: Eric Trump charity money went to Trump business

 Story highlights
  • Eric Trump held a charity golf tournament for children’s cancer research each year
  • A Forbes report alleges his foundation shifted money from the tournament into the Trump Organization

Washington (CNN) Eric Trump is pushing back against a Forbes report released Tuesday that alleges his Eric Trump Foundation shifted money from a charity golf tournament for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital into the Trump Organization.

The annual Eric Trump Foundation golf invitational took place each year from 2007 to 2015 at the Trump National Golf Club in Westchester County, New York. President Donald Trump’s second eldest son told the magazine that use of the golf course was free, and much of the merchandise, drinks and entertainment was comped.
“We get to use our assets 100% free of charge,” he told Forbes.
But, per the Forbes report, “in reviewing filings from the Eric Trump Foundation and other charities, it’s clear that the course wasn’t free — that the Trump Organization received payments for its use, part of more than $1.2 million that has no documented recipients past the Trump Organization.”
Two people directly involved told Forbes that in 2011 Donald Trump “specifically commanded that the for-profit Trump Organization start billing hundreds of thousands of dollars to the nonprofit Eric Trump Foundation.”
According to IRS tax filings, the costs for the golf invitational from 2007 to 2010 were approximately $50,000 per year. In 2011, that jumped to about $142,000. The 2012 golf invitational cost the foundation $59,000. Costs in 2013 again jumped to $230,000, and $242,000 in 2014, and $322,000 in 2015, its final year. It’s unclear why the costs went up and how much of that money went to the Trump Organization.
A spokesperson for Eric Trump slammed the story as “shameful” and “truly disgusting,” highlighting the foundation’s work raising over $16.3 million for St. Jude children with an expense ratio of 12.3% and the construction of a $20 million ICU.
“Contrary to recent reports, at no time did the Trump Organization profit in any way from the foundation or any of its activities,” the spokesperson said in a statement.
“While people can disagree on political issues, to infer malicious intent on a charity that has changed so many lives, is not only shameful but is truly disgusting. At the end of the day the only people who lose are the children of St. Jude and other incredibly worthy causes,” the statement said.
The spokesperson did not respond to CNN’s request to provide an explanation for the rising costs.
Trump also fired back via Twitter to a designer who wrote that Trump stole from children with cancer.
“I have raised $16.3 million dollars for terminally ill children at @StJude with less than a 12.3% expense ratio. What have you done today?!” he wrote Tuesday evening.
At the end of 2016, Trump stepped aside from all direct fundraising efforts for his eponymous organization, which was subsequently restructured and renamed.
“While I resigned with a heavy heart, it was a voluntary decision to enact these measures during the tenure of my father’s presidency in order to avoid the appearance or assertion of any impropriety and/or a conflict of interest,” Trump wrote in a letter on the foundation’s website.

A Pit Spotted On Mars Has Scientists Scratching Their Heads

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF FORBES)

A Pit Spotted On Mars Has Scientists Scratching Their Heads

I write about weather and climate related topics (and study them too)

I normally write about the weather and climate of Earth. I write about Earth’s climate because as the American Meteorological Society reminds us in its statement on climate change

Prudence dictates extreme care in accounting for our relationship with the only planet known to be capable of sustaining human life

As a former NASA scientist, I am also fascinated by the weather and climate of our neighboring planets.  There are many lessons about Earth’s climate provided by them. This weekend my attention was caught by a stunning new image of Mars released by NASA. As you look at the image, the obvious question is, “what is that large pit or depression?”

A mysterious pit recently observed on the southern hemisphere of Mars.

NASA JPL/CalTech

A mysterious pit recently observed on Martian surface in its Southern Hemisphere. (Source: NASA JPL/Cal Tech/U. of Arizona)

Before boring deeper into this question (and yes I was trying to be cute….”boring into the pit”….get it? Ok, I digress), I want to explore some of the other features in the image. The image is provided by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). According to NASA’s website, MRO was launched in 2005 to

search for evidence that water persisted on the surface of Mars for a long period of time. While other Mars missions have shown that water flowed across the surface in Mars’ history, it remains a mystery whether water was ever around long enough to provide a habitat for life.

MRO has one of the largest cameras ever to fly on a planetary mission, which enables unprecedented looks at features on the surface of the planet (like the dust devil below). And if you want to check out something really cool, click this link for weekly weather reports and images from Mars provided by the Mars Color Imager (MARCI) on MRO. You are welcome!

NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter capturing a dust devil in 2012. Source: NASA

NASA SVS

NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter capturing a dust devil in 2012. Source: NASA GSFC/SVS

Like Earth, Mars has polar ice caps. Unlike Earth, the polar ice caps on Mars are a combination of carbon dioxide and water ice. The University of Arizona’s Phoenix Mars Mission website is a great source of information on Martian polar caps. The website notes

Carbon dioxide is an atmospheric gas made of one carbon atom and two oxygen atoms. In its frozen, solid state, carbon dioxide is known as dry ice. Rather than melting into liquid carbon dioxide, like water ice melts into liquid water, dry ice sublimates directly into carbon dioxide gas when the temperature reaches about -79 degrees C (-110 degrees F).

This is where things take a very different turn than Earth. During Martian summer, the carbon dioxide ice undergoes the process of sublimation (solid phase to vapor). During the winter, it becomes a solid again. Fall cloud cover starts the winter season ice cap growth.

The HI-RISE instrument on MRO took the image above during late summer season in the Martian Southern Hemisphere. The “swiss cheese” looking pattern shows the residual of bare surface and “dry ice.” The low sun angle allows MRO to detect very detailed views of the surface topography and that strange “pit.” One possibility is the pit is an impact crater. Things impact Mars, Earth, and the moon all of the time. A recent paper in Nature Geosciences documents some interesting details of the bombardment history of Mars. Another theory is that the depression may be a collapse pit.

There is no conclusive answer at this point on what it may be according to Lisa May, formerly Lead Program Executive for the Mars Exploration Program at NASA Headquarters. May is the founder and CEO of Murphian Consulting LLC. She provides planning, execution, and systems engineering services to clients ranging from tech startups to the UAE Space Agency. She messaged me the context of these fascinating missions

Right now, there are six operating spacecraft in orbit around Mars—two from Europe, one from India, and three NASA ones. NASA’s most recent orbiter, MAVEN, was launched in 2013 to learn how Mars lost its atmosphere, and the European Space Agency’s Trace Gas Orbiter is currently aerobraking into its final orbit where it will study Mars’ atmospheric composition.

May also added the MRO has been sending stunning high-resolution images of Mars for over a decade, but she is quick to point out another part of its mission

Besides supporting Mars science, the images are used to select landing sites for rovers and landers.

 

Dr. Marshall Shepherd, Dir., Atmospheric Sciences Program/GA Athletic Assoc. Distinguished Professor (Univ of Georgia), Host, Weather Channel’s Sunday Talk Show, Weather (Wx) Geeks, 2013 AMS President

Comment on this story please.

US Jobless Claims Fall To Lowest Rate Ever – At Least Since Records Began

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF FORBES)

US Jobless Claims Fall To Lowest Rate Ever – At Least Since Records Began

Jobless claims are the number of people who have made a first claim for unemployment insurance in the particular week under discussion. They’re thus a useful proxy for layoffs and a slightly not so good one for firings. Those fired for cause may well not be able to claim unemployment benefits and so on. The number of people claiming these benefits in any one week has been low for some time now. The number is in fact back down to the sort of numbers we have in the early 1970s. However, a point I’ve made before, while the number is down to that of 45 years ago (actually, 44), the rate, a slightly different statistical construct, is the lowest it has ever been. Or at least the lowest it has been since we started collecting this particular statistic.

The news itself:

The fewest Americans in almost 44 years filed applications to collect unemployment benefits last week, indicating the job market continues to power forward.

Ah, no, that’s not quite what it means. The “jobs market” is a measure of how many people are being hired, jobs being created. This here is a measure of how many jobs are not being eliminate. Sure, a closely related phenomenon but not quite the same thing:

Just 223,000 Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week, fewest in nearly 44 years.

THE NUMBERS: The Labor Department says unemployment claims dropped by 19,000 from 242,000 the previous week to the lowest level since March 1973 when Richard Nixon was president. The four-week average, which is less volatile, fell by 6,250 to 234,250, lowest since April 1973.

This is not just some weekly blip either:

Jobless claims have remained below 300,000 for 104 consecutive weeks, the longest such streak since 1970–when the U.S. workforce and population were much smaller than they are today.

It’s that last bit that is my argument here. For we shouldn’t really be using the number of claims but instead should be using the rate. Think about unemployment itself. Saying that there are 2 million unemployed doesn’t tell us all that much. In the US 2 million would be around the rate of frictional unemployment (just due to the time it takes to get interviewed, decide which job you’d like, fill out the paperwork and start) and in my native Britain it would be large enough to be a cause of concern, in Portugal it would be a disaster of depression era size and Luxembourg couldn’t do that at all, that’s a number larger than the entire population of the place. So, we report unemployment as a rate.

And we should probably report jobless claims as a rate. And over time the population–and the size of the labour force–has changed considerably. The labour force:

From Fred database, public domain

From Fred database, public domain

Call that 160 million people now, 83 million back in the early 1970s. And the jobless claims numbers:

From Fred database, public domain

From Fred database, public domain

Same number as the mid-70’s but in a labour force twice the size? That’s therefore half the rate, isn’t it? And the series only starts in the late 60s so the rate is in fact lower than it ever has been, even as the number is higher than it was right back then.

I think we probably should change the way we report upon, and thus think about, this jobless claims data. A rate would be more informative therefore we should use a rate.

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