what i learned last week

1. although the usa contains only 5% of the world’s population, it has 25% of the world’s prisoners. this means that 7.5% of the united states is in jail – and this is 5 times the world average for incarceration. more statistics on american prisons: 20% of prisoners have been sexually assaulted by a guard or another prisoner; an african-american man has a 1 in 3 chance of going to jail some time in his life; there are 1,700,000 “prison orphans” in the usa and they are six times more likely to wind up in jail than everyone else; 16% of prisoners suffer from a mental illness; there are more people with mental illnesses in prisons than in mental hospitals. (note that all of this information comes from this source)

2. according to one podcast i heard from npr this week, although short sellers have been villified as the seed of our current “economic crisis” they may actually be the heros that protect us from it ever happening again. according to the broadcast the problem we are currently in is the result of people obfuscating the risk of derivatives, and selling them to people who really don’t understand what they’re buying. the buyers never did figure out what they owned until the entire system went under. since derivatives are not regulated in the states, they didn’t show up on the books of any of the companies that owned them, so the people that invested in those companies didn’t know that there was a massive amount of risk accumulated in the holdings of the companies they were investing in. however, although the people buying the derivates didn’t bother to find out what they were buying, the people who sell derivatives aren’t the only ones who know what’s going on. in order to be a successful short seller, you need to be able to predict which companies currently look successful, but are about to go under. consequently, the short sellers knew who was going under two years before it happened – they’re like forensic accounts who give everyone else a heads-up years in advance of anyone else knowing what’s happening.

3. benjamin franklin lived in france for 9 years in a small town just outside of paris as the united states’s first ambassador. he was also there to build an alliance with the french in the hopes of amassing more military power against the british. read more here.

4. michaëlle jean is one of my heros. in your face, ifaw!

5. having a blog like this means getting spam comments – almost all of them linking to mp3 download sites in russia. this is more annoying than getting spam on my email. in fact, it’s annoying enough that i just might shut down the whole blog.

  1. Noooooo!! Don’t shut it down! How will I then learn five random useless stuff each week? I have no life…

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