About Ted Summerfield aka punzhu puzzles

I'm a former member of the Radio Television News Directors Association and during the last 30 years I've written news stories, sports stories, stories for children, puzzles, and plays for puppets. Many of my ebooks are color picture books for children, and include printable black and white pictures at the end of a story. Please visit my blog for the latest information on my ebooks, and any updates or changes or comments. Ted. PS: Please help stop cruelty to animals and support your favorite humane society or organization.

Big Mac Index 2018

The Economist’s Big Mac index gives a flavour of how far currency values are out of whack. It is based on the idea of purchasing-power parity, which says exchange rates should move towards the level that would make the price of a basket of goods the same everywhere. Our basket contains only one item, but it is found in around 120 countries: a Big Mac hamburger.

If the local cost of a Big Mac converted into dollars is above $5.28, the price in America , a currency is dear; if it is below the benchmark, it is cheap. The average cost of a Big Mac in the euro area is €3.95, or $4.84 at the current exchange rate. That implies the euro is undervalued by 8.4% against the dollar.

THE Big Mac index was invented by The Economist in 1986 as a lighthearted guide to whether currencies are at their “correct” level. It is based on the theory of purchasing-power parity (PPP), the notion that in the long run exchange rates should move towards the rate that would equalise the prices of an identical basket of goods and services (in this case, a burger) in any two countries. For example, the average price of a Big Mac in America in January 2018 was $5.28; in China it was only $3.17 at market exchange rates. So the “raw” Big Mac index says that the yuan was undervalued by 40% at that time.

Burgernomics was never intended as a precise gauge of currency misalignment, merely a tool to make exchange-rate theory more digestible. Yet the Big Mac index has become a global standard, included in several economic textbooks and the subject of at least 20 academic studies. For those who take their fast food more seriously, we have also calculated a gourmet version of the index.

This adjusted index addresses the criticism that you would expect average burger prices to be cheaper in poor countries than in rich ones because labour costs are lower. PPP signals where exchange rates should be heading in the long run, as a country like China gets richer, but it says little about today’s equilibrium rate. The relationship between prices and GDP per person may be a better guide to the current fair value of a currency. The adjusted index uses the “line of best fit” between Big Mac prices and GDP per person for 48 countries (plus the euro area). The difference between the price predicted by the red line for each country, given its income per person, and its actual price gives a supersized measure of currency under- and over-valuation.

Link to the Interactive Currency-Comparison.

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The Trump Presidency After One Year

Is it really this bad?

In “Fire and Fury”, Michael Wolff’s gossipy tale of the White House, the leader of the free world is portrayed as a monstrously selfish toddler-emperor seen by his own staff as unfit for office. America is caught up in a debate about the president’s sanity. Seemingly unable to contain himself, Mr Trump fans the flames by taking to Twitter to crow about his “very stable genius”

In office Mr Trump’s legislative accomplishments have been modest, and mixed. A tax reform that cut rates and simplified some of the rules was also regressive and unfunded. His antipathy to regulation has invigorated animal spirits, but at an unknown cost to the environment and human health. His proposed withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement and the fledgling Trans-Pacific Partnership was, in The Economist magazines’ view, foolish, but hardly beyond the pale of Republican thinking.

The danger of the Trump character obsession is that it distracts from deeper changes in America’s system of government. The bureaucracy is so understaffed that it is relying on industry hacks to draft policy. They have shaped deregulation and written clauses into the tax bill that pass costs from shareholders to society. Because Senate Republicans confirmed so few judges in Mr Obama’s last two years, Mr Trump is moving the judiciary dramatically to the right (see article). And non-stop outrage also drowns out Washington’s problem: the power of the swamp and its disconnection from ordinary voters.

Mr Trump has been a poor president in his first year. In his second he may cause America grave damage. But the presidential telenovela is a diversion. He and his administration need to be held properly to account for what they actually do.

Trump judicial nominee can’t answer basic legal questions at hearing – video

US senator John Kennedy asked one of Trump’s district court judge nominees, Matthew Petersen, a series of questions on basic law, and he was unable to answer them. Concerns have been raised over the suitability of the five nominees for the role, including Matthew Petersen. The American Bar Association declared one of the nominees ‘unqualified’

As the U.S. Retreats, Canada Doubles Down on Net Neutrality

As the U.S. Federal Communications Commission prepares to rollback net neutrality protections, the Canadian government has used the controversy to double down on its support for net neutrality safeguards, linking it to democracy, equality, and freedom of expression.

As the U.S. heads toward a period of uncertainty – the net neutrality rollback is likely to be challenged in court and the political pressure to affirm support in Congress is mounting – the Canadian landscape offers a sharp contrast with strong political and regulatory support for net neutrality rules.

Hon. Navdeep Bains (Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, Lib.):

Perfect Baby Sleep Sack and Hat Pattern from mysimpleknitting.com

This baby sleep sack is perfect for that precious little one in your life. If you’re wondering what to knit for baby gift giving or if you just want to knit something a little different a baby cocoon is a great idea.

“I love to knit cables and one of my favorites is the xo cable knitting pattern. Another precious grand baby is coming on Christmas Eve so I decided to knit this special little baby sleep sack with the hugs and kisses cable pattern. What better way to swaddle a precious little one than with this cable knitting pattern. I made it with the idea of being able to swaddle baby ‘Sweet Pea‘. That’s why it’s not overly wide but rather just right to swaddle a baby so he/she feels snug and secure.”

Baby Sleep Sack xo pattern from mysimpleknitting.com

“If you are comfortable with knitting circular and you enjoy knitting cables then you’re going to love knitting up this baby sleep sack. The cable stitching is worked on every 4th row with the rest of the rows being simple knits and purls so in many ways it’s pretty simple and a fun knitting project. And it’s a nice change and maybe a nice challenge for some of you.

The baby hat pattern is also knit on circulars and then closed at the top with the Kitchener stitch. I’ve provided a knitting video a little further down showing you how to work it.

Baby Hat Pattern from mysimpleknitting.com

I hope you enjoy this knitting project as much as I did creating it.”

Link to perfect baby sleep sack knitting pattern, instructions, and PDF of pattern.

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What to do about China’s “sharp power”

China is manipulating decision-makers in Western democracies. The best defence is transparency

WHEN a rising power challenges an incumbent one, war often follows. That prospect, known as the Thucydides trap after the Greek historian who first described it, looms over relations between China and the West, particularly America. So, increasingly, does a more insidious confrontation. Even if China does not seek to conquer foreign lands, many people fear that it seeks to conquer foreign minds.

Australia was the first to raise a red flag about China’s tactics. On December 5th allegations that China has been interfering in Australian politics, universities and publishing led the government to propose new laws to tackle “unprecedented and increasingly sophisticated” foreign efforts to influence lawmakers (see article). This week an Australian senator resigned over accusations that, as an opposition spokesman, he took money from China and argued its corner. Britain, Canada and New Zealand are also beginning to raise the alarm. On December 10th Germany accused China of trying to groom politicians and bureaucrats. And on December 13th Congress held hearings on China’s growing influence.

This behaviour has a name—“sharp power”, coined by the National Endowment for Democracy, a Washington-based think-tank. “Soft power” harnesses the allure of culture and values to add to a country’s strength; sharp power helps authoritarian regimes coerce and manipulate opinion abroad.

The West needs to respond to China’s behaviour, but it cannot simply throw up the barricades. Unlike the old Soviet Union, China is part of the world economy. Instead, in an era when statesmanship is in short supply, the West needs to find a statesmanlike middle ground. That starts with an understanding of sharp power and how it works.

China has a history of spying on its diaspora, but the subversion has spread. In Australia and New Zealand Chinese money is alleged to have bought influence in politics, with party donations or payments to individual politicians. This week’s complaint from German intelligence said that China was using the LinkedIn business network to ensnare politicians and government officials, by having people posing as recruiters and think-tankers and offering free trips.

Bullying has also taken on a new menace. Sometimes the message is blatant, as when China punished Norway economically for awarding a Nobel peace prize to a Chinese pro-democracy activist. More often, as when critics of China are not included in speaker line-ups at conferences, or academics avoid study of topics that China deems sensitive, individual cases seem small and the role of officials is hard to prove. But the effect can be grave. Western professors have been pressed to recant. Foreign researchers may lose access to Chinese archives. Policymakers may find that China experts in their own countries are too ill-informed to help them.

To ensure China’s rise is peaceful, the West needs to make room for China’s ambition. But that does not mean anything goes. Open societies ignore China’s sharp power at their peril.

Part of their defence should be practical. Counter-intelligence, the law and an independent media are the best protection against subversion. All three need Chinese speakers who grasp the connection between politics and commerce in China. The Chinese Communist Party suppresses free expression, open debate and independent thought to cement its control. Merely shedding light on its sharp tactics—and shaming kowtowers—would go a long way towards blunting them.

Read the complete article on The Economist magazine web site.