Correcting an Old Wrong – George Stinney

Every now and then you can hear something that is so foul, so stomach turning that it almost makes you physically sick. This is what happened when I heard the story of George Stinney, Jr. I don’t remember when I first heard the story, but it was several years ago. Basically, this 14-year-old boy was lynched for talking to two white girls. The young black male had been seen talking to the sisters and sometime later they were both found brutally murdered. Yesterday, a South Carolina judge said that the 1944 convention was wrong and that George Stinney was not given due process.

(Let me just say something about the victims. As far as I can tell, their interests were never served. There appears to have been no attempt to actually find who killed these poor little girls. Instead, this was a horrific event which caused outrage throughout the community and was swept under the rug. The police found somebody whose cries of innocence would fall on deaf ears. This whole case is ridiculously sad.)
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Which Fitness Tracker is best?

Nice review of the confusing world of fitness trackers.

From WSJ (subscription):

$50 to $100 for the Basics
Here’s the biggest secret of buying a fitness tracker right now: You don’t need to spend more than $50 on one that does the basics, counting steps and estimating calories burned. In fact, that’s exactly what I suggest you do if you are a first-time buyer.

You won’t get a screen on many of the options in this range—or at least not a nice screen—but they all sync with your phone via Bluetooth so you can check your stats in their corresponding apps.

Both Misfit and Jawbone sell $50 plastic trackers that you can clip to your pants or wear on a wrist. After wearing them side by side for two weeks, I prefer the Jawbone Up Move. It is a bit chunkier and harder to put in its small clip than the Misfit Flash, but it consistently synced the data to my phone faster.

$100 to $150 for Better Design
If a sleeker band and a better screen are important to you, you’ll want to venture into the $100-to-$150 range, but you won’t get better data. You often get the same exact apps and features here as you get in that lower range.

Of the many I tested—including the Nike FuelBand SE, the Withings Pulse, the LG LifeBand and the Samsung Gear Fit—the one that worked best was FitBit’s new $130 Charge. (more…)

News Roundup: Taliban, Mandatory sentencing, Russian Economy

You can tell me that you are an agent of God. Okay, I will believe you, but I will also watch your actions. If you are killing children in the name of God, you are confused. The Taliban in Pakistan stormed a military school and killed over a hundred people in the name of God. They are sad and misguided.

A federal judge speaks out against mandatory sentences.

The Russian economy is imploding (more from Krugman):

It’s impressive just how quickly and convincingly the wheels have been coming off the Russian economy. Obviously the plunge in oil prices is the big driver, but the ruble has actually fallen more than Brent — oil is down 40 percent since the start of the year, but the ruble is down by half.

What’s going on? Well, it turns out that Putin managed to get himself into a confrontation with the West over Ukraine just as the bottom dropped out of his country’s main export, so that a financing shock was added to the terms of trade shock. But it’s also true that drastic effects of terms of trade shocks are a fairly common phenomenon in developing countries where the private sector has substantial foreign-currency debt: the initial effect of a drop in export prices is a fall in the currency, this creates balance sheet problems for private debtors whose debts suddenly grow in domestic value, this further weakens the economy and undermines confidence, and so on.

The central bank may (or may not, as seems to be true in Russia right now) be able to limit the currency plunge by raising interest rates (now above 13 percent on Russian 10-years), but only at the cost of deepening the recession. Eichengreen et al (pdf), in a good discussion of all this in the Latin American context, give the example of Chile, which was hit very hard by falling copper prices at the end of the 1990s despite a much more favorable institutional setup than Russia right now — and, of course, without having de facto invaded a neighboring country.

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