Saturday, December 31, 2016

Basics of Beauty Pageants

A beauty pageant or beauty contest is a competition that has traditionally focused on judging and ranking the physical attributes of the contestants, although some contests have evolved to also incorporate personality traits, intelligence, talent, and answers to judges' questions as judged criteria. The term almost invariably refers only to contests for unmarried women such as the Big Four international beauty pageants; with similar events for men or boys being called by other names and are more likely to be bodybuilding contests.

The organisers of each pageant may determine the rules of the competition, including the age range of contestants. The rules may also require the contestants to be unmarried, and be "virtuous", "amateur", and available for promotions, besides other criteria. It may also set the clothing standards in which contestants will be judged, including the type of swimsuit.

Beauty pageants are generally multi-tiered, with local competitions feeding into the larger competitions. For example, the international pageants have hundreds or thousands of local competitions. Child beauty pageants mainly focus on beauty, gowns, sportswear modelling, talent, and personal interviews. Adult and teen pageants focus on makeup, hair and gowns, swimsuit modelling, and personal interviews. A winner of a beauty contest is often called a beauty queen. The pejorative term clapper often refers to losing candidates while its rankings are referred to as placements.

Possible awards include titles, tiaras or crowns, sashes, scepters, savings bonds, scholarships, and cash prizes. However, adult and teen pageants have been moving more towards judging speaking, and many no longer contain swimsuit or talent sections. Some pageants award college scholarships, to the winner or multiple runners-up.


Critics of beauty pageants argue that such contests reinforce the idea that girls and women should be valued primarily for their physical appearance, and that this puts tremendous pressure on women to conform to conventional beauty standards by spending time and money on fashion, cosmetics, hair styling, and even cosmetic surgery. They claim that this pursuit of physical beauty even encourages some women to go on a diet to the point of harming themselves.

It is argued that rather than being empowering, beauty pageants do exactly the opposite because they deny the full humanity of women by placing them as the subject of objectification; they reinforce the idea that a woman's only purpose is to look attractive.

Another criticism that is placed on beauty pageants is in the way beauty is quantifiably scored as highlighted by the "Myth of the Perfect 10". Beauty becomes a numerical coefficient in ranking contestants, and this type of scoring still remains followed as a system even in nationwide beauty pageants such as Miss America.

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

The Annual Brazilian Booty Pageant

Yes, there really is a pageant in Brazil that gives an award to the young woman contestant who displays the most lascivious buttocks.  This ceremony has been going on for six years.  The most recent pageant was in October of 2016 and included a photography shoot of the finalists posing as saints sharing a Last Supper as in the da Vinci painting.  Catholic Church officials in Brazil were infuriated, the press covered the incident, and thus the photograph of the contestants was widely circulated.  See:

Friday, December 30, 2016

Bluffing in Poker

In the card game of poker, a bluff is a bet or raise made with a hand which is not thought to be the best hand. To bluff is to make such a bet. The objective of a bluff is to induce a fold by at least one opponent who holds a better hand. The size and frequency of a bluff determines its profitability to the bluffer. By extension, the phrase "calling somebody's bluff" is often used outside the context of poker to describe cases where one person "demand[s] that someone prove a claim" or prove that he or she "is not being deceptive."  


Pure bluff

A pure bluff, or stone-cold bluff, is a bet or raise with an inferior hand that has little or no chance of improving. A player making a pure bluff believes he can win the pot only if all opponents fold. The pot odds for a bluff are the ratio of the size of the bluff to the pot. A pure bluff has a positive expectation (will be profitable in the long run) when the probability of being called by an opponent is lower than the pot odds for the bluff.

For example, suppose that after all the cards are out, a player holding a busted drawing hand decides that the only way to win the pot is to make a pure bluff. If the player bets the size of the pot on a pure bluff, the bluff will have a positive expectation if the probability of being called is less than 50%. Note, however, that the opponent may also consider the pot odds when deciding whether to call. In this example, the opponent will be facing 2-to-1 pot odds for the call. The opponent will have a positive expectation for calling the bluff if the opponent believes the probability the player is bluffing is at least 33%.


In games with multiple betting rounds, to bluff on one round with an inferior or drawing hand that might improve in a later round is called a semi-bluff. A player making a semi-bluff can win the pot two different ways: by all opponents folding immediately or by catching a card to improve the player's hand. In some cases a player may be on a draw but with odds strong enough that he is favored to win the hand. In this case his bet is not classified as a semi-bluff even though his bet may force opponents to fold hands with better current strength.

For example, a player in a stud poker game with four spade-suited cards showing (but none among their downcards) on the penultimate round might raise, hoping that his opponents believe he already has a flush. If his bluff fails and he is called, he still might be dealt a spade on the final card and win the showdown (or he might be dealt another non-spade and try his bluff again, in which case it is a pure bluff on the final round rather than a semi-bluff).

Bluffing Circumstances

Bluffing may be more effective in some circumstances than others. Bluffs have a higher expectation when the probability of being called decreases. Several game circumstances may decrease the probability of being called (and increase the profitability of the bluff):

  • Fewer opponents who must fold to the bluff.
  • The bluff provides less favorable pot odds to opponents for a call.
  • A scare card comes that increases the number of superior hands that the player may be perceived to have.
  • The player's betting pattern in the hand has been consistent with the superior hand they are representing with the bluff.
  • The opponent's betting pattern suggests the opponent may have a marginal hand that is vulnerable to a greater number of potential superior hands.
  • The opponent's betting pattern suggests the opponent may have a drawing hand and the bluff provides unfavorable pot odds to the opponent for chasing the draw.
  • Opponents are not irrationally committed to the pot (see sunk cost fallacy).
  • Opponents are sufficiently skilled and paying sufficient attention.

The opponent's current state of mind should be taken into consideration when bluffing. Under certain circumstances external pressures or events can significantly impact an opponent's decision making skills.

Optimal Bluffing Frequency

If a player bluffs too infrequently, observant opponents will recognize that the player is betting for value and will call with very strong hands or with drawing hands only when they are receiving favorable pot odds. If a player bluffs too frequently, observant opponents snap off his bluffs by calling or re-raising. Occasional bluffing disguises not just the hands a player is bluffing with, but also his legitimate hands that opponents may think he may be bluffing with. David Sklansky, in his book The Theory of Poker, states "Mathematically, the optimal bluffing strategy is to bluff in such a way that the chances against your bluffing are identical to the pot odds your opponent is getting."

Optimal bluffing also requires that the bluffs must be performed in such a manner that opponents cannot tell when a player is bluffing or not. To prevent bluffs from occurring in a predictable pattern, game theory suggests the use of a randomizing agent to determine whether to bluff. For example, a player might use the colors of his hidden cards, the second hand on his watch, or some other unpredictable mechanism to determine whether to bluff.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Insurance and Federal Law

Paul v. Virginia, 75 US 168 (1869), is a US corporate law case, of the United States Supreme Court. It held that a corporation is not a citizen within the meaning of the Privileges and Immunities Clause. Of greater consequence, the Court further held that "issuing a policy of insurance is not a transaction of commerce," effectively removing the business of insurance beyond the United States Congress's legislative reach.


In the 19th century, the insurance business was exclusively regulated by the states, individually. As a result, a patchwork of separate regulations proliferated to the dismay of insurance companies which sought uniform regulation across states. In an effort to promote federal regulation of the insurance industry, a number of New York insurance companies orchestrated a test case to try to invalidate state regulation. On February 3, 1866, the legislature of Virginia had passed a statute provided that an insurance company not incorporated under the laws of the state should not carry on its business within the State without previously obtaining a license for that purpose and that it should not receive such license until it had deposited with the treasurer of the state bonds in an amount varying from thirty to fifty thousand dollars.

In May 1866, Samuel Paul, a resident of the Commonwealth of Virginia, was appointed the agent of the New York insurance companies, to carry on the general business of insurance against fire. He then applied for a license to act as such agent within the state, offering at the time to comply with all the requirements of the statute with the exception of the provision requiring a deposit of bonds with the treasurer of the state. Based on his failure to comply with the requirements of the statute, the license was refused. Notwithstanding this refusal he undertook to act in the State as agent for the New York companies without any license.

Paul sold a fire insurance policy to a citizen of Virginia. He was then indicted and convicted in the Circuit Court of the city of Petersburg, and was sentenced to pay a fine of $50. Paul claimed that the statute was invalid.


Supreme Court of Virginia

The Supreme Court of Appeals of the State, the judgment was affirmed, and the case was then appealed to the Supreme Court. Paul claimed that the writ of error on the judgment in the lower court violated Privileges and Immunities Clause, which provides that "The Citizens of each State shall be entitled to all Privileges and Immunities of Citizens in the several States" and the Commerce Clause, which empowers Congress "to regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several States."

Supreme Court of the United States

The US Supreme Court held that a corporation is not a citizen within the meaning of the Privileges and Immunities Clause. It also held that "issuing a policy of insurance is not a transaction of commerce," effectively removing the business of insurance beyond the United States Congress's legislative reach.


In 1944, the Supreme Court overturned the holding of Paul v. Virginia in United States v. South-Eastern Underwriters Association, finding that insurance transactions were subject to federal regulation under the Commerce Clause.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

From Becket to Magna Carta

Thomas Becket ( also known as Saint Thomas of Canterbury, Thomas of London, and later Thomas à Becket; 21 December c. 1119 (or 1120) – 29 December 1170) was Archbishop of Canterbury from 1162 until his murder in 1170. He is venerated as a saint and martyr by both the Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion. He engaged in conflict with Henry II, King of England over the rights and privileges of the Church and was murdered by followers of the king in Canterbury Cathedral. Soon after his death, he was canonised by Pope Alexander III.

Beginning when he was 10, Becket was sent as a student to Merton Priory in England and later attended a grammar school in London, perhaps the one at St Paul's Cathedral. He did not study any subjects beyond the trivium and quadrivium at these schools. Later, he spent about a year in Paris around age 20. He did not, however, study canon or civil law at this time and his Latin skill always remained somewhat rudimentary. Some time after Becket began his schooling, Gilbert Beket suffered financial reverses, and the younger Becket was forced to earn a living as a clerk. Gilbert first secured a place for his son in the business of a relative – Osbert Huitdeniers – and then later Becket acquired a position in the household of Theobald of Bec, by now the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Theobald entrusted him with several important missions to Rome and also sent him to Bologna and Auxerre to study canon law. Theobald in 1154 named Becket Archdeacon of Canterbury, and other ecclesiastical offices included a number of benefices, prebends at Lincoln Cathedral and St Paul's Cathedral, and the office of Provost of Beverley. His efficiency in those posts led to Theobald recommending him to King Henry II for the vacant post of Lord Chancellor, to which Becket was appointed in January 1155.

As Chancellor, Becket enforced the king's traditional sources of revenue that were exacted from all landowners, including churches and bishoprics. King Henry even sent his son Henry to live in Becket's household, it being the custom then for noble children to be fostered out to other noble houses. The younger Henry was reported to have said Becket showed him more fatherly love in a day than his father did for his entire life.


Becket was nominated as Archbishop of Canterbury in 1162, several months after the death of Theobald. His election was confirmed on 23 May 1162 by a royal council of bishops and noblemen. Henry may have hoped that Becket would continue to put the royal government first, rather than the church. However, the famous transformation of Becket into an ascetic occurred at this time.

Becket was ordained a priest on 2 June 1162 at Canterbury, and on 3 June 1162 was consecrated as archbishop by Henry of Blois, the Bishop of Winchester and the other suffragan bishops of Canterbury.

A rift grew between Henry and Becket as the new archbishop resigned his chancellorship and sought to recover and extend the rights of the archbishopric. This led to a series of conflicts with the King, including that over the jurisdiction of secular courts over English clergymen, which accelerated antipathy between Becket and the king. Attempts by Henry to influence the other bishops against Becket began in Westminster in October 1163, where the King sought approval of the traditional rights of the royal government in regard to the church. This led to Clarendon, where Becket was officially asked to agree to the King's rights or face political repercussions.


King Henry II presided over the assemblies of most of the higher English clergy at Clarendon Palace on 30 January 1164. In sixteen constitutions, he sought less clerical independence and a weaker connection with Rome. He employed all his skills to induce their consent and was apparently successful with all but Becket. Finally, even Becket expressed his willingness to agree to the substance of the Constitutions of Clarendon, but he still refused to formally sign the documents. Henry summoned Becket to appear before a great council at Northampton Castle on 8 October 1164, to answer allegations of contempt of royal authority and malfeasance in the Chancellor's office. Convicted on the charges, Becket stormed out of the trial and fled to the Continent.

Henry pursued the fugitive archbishop with a series of edicts, targeting Becket as well as all of Becket's friends and supporters; but King Louis VII of France offered Becket protection. He spent nearly two years in the Cistercian abbey of Pontigny, until Henry's threats against the order obliged him to return to Sens. Becket fought back by threatening excommunication and interdict against the king and bishops and the kingdom, but Pope Alexander III, though sympathising with him in theory, favoured a more diplomatic approach. Papal legates were sent in 1167 with authority to act as arbitrators.

In 1170, Alexander sent delegates to impose a solution to the dispute. At that point, Henry offered a compromise that would allow Thomas to return to England from exile.


In June 1170, Roger de Pont L'Évêque, the archbishop of York, along with Gilbert Foliot, the Bishop of London, and Josceline de Bohon, the Bishop of Salisbury, crowned the heir apparent, Henry the Young King, at York. This was a breach of Canterbury's privilege of coronation, and in November 1170 Becket excommunicated all three. While the three clergymen fled to the king in Normandy, Becket continued to excommunicate his opponents in the church, the news of which also reached Henry II, Henry the Young King's father.

Upon hearing reports of Becket's actions, Henry is said to have uttered words that were interpreted by his men as wishing Becket killed. The king's exact words are in doubt and several versions have been reported.  The most commonly quoted, as handed down by oral tradition, is "Who will rid me of this troublesome priest?", but according to historian Simon Schama this is incorrect: he accepts the account of the contemporary biographer Edward Grim, writing in Latin, who gives us "What miserable drones and traitors have I nourished and brought up in my household, who let their lord be treated with such shameful contempt by a low-born cleric?"  Many variations have found their way into popular culture.

Whatever Henry said, it was interpreted as a royal command, and four knights, Reginald FitzUrse, Hugh de Morville, William de Tracy and Richard le Breton, set out to confront the Archbishop of Canterbury.

On 29 December 1170 they arrived at Canterbury. According to accounts left by the monk Gervase of Canterbury and eyewitness Edward Grim, they placed their weapons under a tree outside the cathedral and hid their mail armour under cloaks before entering to challenge Becket. The knights informed Becket he was to go to Winchester to give an account of his actions, but Becket refused. It was not until Becket refused their demands to submit to the king's will that they retrieved their weapons and rushed back inside for the killing. Becket, meanwhile, proceeded to the main hall for vespers. The four knights, wielding drawn swords, caught up with him in a spot near a door to the monastic cloister, the stairs into the crypt, and the stairs leading up into the quire of the cathedral, where the monks were chanting vespers

Several contemporary accounts of what happened next exist; of particular note is that of Edward Grim, who was himself wounded in the attack. This is part of the account from Edward Grim:

The wicked knight leapt suddenly upon him, cutting off the top of the crown which the unction of sacred chrism had dedicated to God. Next he received a second blow on the head, but still he stood firm and immovable. At the third blow he fell on his knees and elbows, offering himself a living sacrifice, and saying in a low voice, "For the name of Jesus and the protection of the Church, I am ready to embrace death." But the third knight inflicted a terrible wound as he lay prostrate. By this stroke, the crown of his head was separated from the head in such a way that the blood white with the brain, and the brain no less red from the blood, dyed the floor of the cathedral. The same clerk who had entered with the knights placed his foot on the neck of the holy priest and precious martyr, and, horrible to relate, scattered the brains and blood about the pavements, crying to the others, 'Let us away, knights; this fellow will arise no more.

 = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

 Becket then Langton then Magna Carta

The Plantagenets had never enjoyed a good reputation with the Church. Henry II had been widely blamed for the death of Thomas Becket, declared a saint after his murder in Canterbury Cathedral in 1170. Henry and his sons had taxed the clergy, and had imposed their own courtiers as bishops. In 1205, John attempted to follow this tradition, demanding the promotion of a royal favourite as archbishop of Canterbury. The Pope, Innocent III (1161-1216), refused. Pressured by the Pope, the monks of Canterbury elected a man named Stephen Langton (1150-1228). Langton was an Englishmen, but had spent the past 30 years living and teaching in Paris. There he had used the good and bad kings of the Bible as models with which to criticize modern kingship. Kings, he argued, should obey written law. They should tax their subjects only in the case of dire necessity. They should rule for the public good, not for their own selfish glory

None of this was acceptable to King John, who refused to allow Langton to take up office in England. The Pope replied with a sentence of ‘Interdict’, not just excommunicating the King and his court, but in effect suspending the operations of the English Church. For six years, from 1209 to 1214, the faithful were denied the sacraments and the dead were refused Christian burial. The King replied with even heavier taxation against both the Church and the English barons. Rumours of conspiracy began to mount. Langton sought refuge in France, as did various English barons persecuted or accused of treason by King John. A new consensus was forged between baronial and clerical opposition.

To fend off the threat of a French invasion, and to fulfil his plans for reconquest in Normandy, in 1213 John made his peace with the Pope. In what was intended as a diplomatic master-stroke, he placed himself and his realm under direct papal overlordship. Henceforth, the Pope would be obliged to protect England against any threat of a French invasion. Langton was allowed to return from exile. But the King’s wars in France were unsuccessful. An expedition was dispatched, paid for with the heavy taxes of the past 10 years. John himself campaigned in southern France, his allies in the north. In late June 1214, John was defeated on the Loire. A month later, on 27 July, John’s northern allies were annihilated at the Battle of Bouvines. Broken and humiliated, John was once again obliged to slink home to England.

In his absence, many barons had refused to pay the special tax (called ‘scutage’) intended to pay for war in France. Some had begun openly to demand reform. Keen to protect the privileges of the Church, Archbishop Langton sought to broker a settlement. According to the chroniclers, it was Langton who now produced the coronation charter of Henry I (r.1100-35) as a model of the sort of reforms to which King John should be bound. In 1100, King Henry I of England had been obliged to agree a series of written promises, to limit his financial demands, to restore the good laws and customs of the English past, and to respect the liberties both of his barons and the Church.

So it was that the English opposition in 1214 first began to demand a charter from King John as a guarantee of future good government. The precise terms here took many months of discussion. Drafts circulated, and one of them, known as the Unknown Charter, preserved today in the national archives of France, takes the form of a copy of Henry I’s coronation charter followed by a series of clauses to which King John is said to have agreed. The very first of these clauses, undertaking that the King ‘will arrest no man without judgment nor accept any payment for justice nor commit any unjust act’, later made up one of the central demands enshrined in Magna Carta.

By January 1215, the English barons were openly united against the King. Many of their chief spokesmen came from the north of England, a region particularly resentful of royal interference. As a result, the opposition became known collectively as ‘The Northerners’, even though only a proportion of its fighting strength came from the north. In early May, with the King still seeking delay, the barons declared war. Renouncing their allegiance to John, they seized the city of London. From this point onwards, the King had little choice but to negotiate. London was not only essential to royal government, but with London in rebel hands there was a real threat the rebels might depose the King and place a French pretender on his throne. So it was that barons and king converged upon Runnymede, mid-way between London and the King’s castle at Windsor. Here, following several days of negotiation, written terms were agreed and sealed with the King’s seal. We know this document as the ‘Articles of the Barons’ because it remained merely a draft, setting out a series of clauses, but as yet not issued in the King’s own name. It survives, almost miraculously, preserved by Archbishop Langton in his archive at Lambeth Palace, London, and thence, after various adventures, gifted to the British Museum in 1769. It was this document that, by 15 June 1215, was rewritten into the great charter of liberties known as Magna Carta.

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
See also the September 15, 2015 entry for this blog about the 1964 movie, Becket, which received 12 Academy Award nominations.

Tetraneutron Research

December 23, 2016 -- A research team at the Lomonosov Moscow State University, using new interaction between neutrons, has theoretically justified the low-energy tertaneutron resonance that was recently obtained experimentally. This proves the very brief existence of a particle consisting of four neutrons. According to the supercomputer simulations, the tetraneutron lifetime is 5×10-22 sec. The research results are published in a top-ranked journal Physical Review Letters.

A team consisting of Russian, German and American scientists, including Andrey Shirokov, senior researcher at the Skobeltsyn Institute of Nuclear Physics, has calculated the energy of the resonant tetraneutron state. Their theoretical computations, based on a new approach and new interaction between neutrons, correlate with the results of an experiment in which a tetraneutron was produced.

Searching for neutron stability

A neutron lives about 15 minutes before it decays, producing a proton, electron and an antineutrino. There is also another known stable system consisting of a huge number of neutrons—neutron stars. Scientists have aimed to find out whether there are other systems, even short-lived, composed purely of neutrons.

A system made up of two neutrons doesn't form even a short-lived state. After multi-year experimental and fundamental studies, scientists concluded that there are no such states in a system made up of three neutrons. Searches for a tetraneutron, a cluster of four neutrons, has proceeded for more than 50 years. These searches were fruitless until 2002, when a group of French researchers in an experiment at the Large Heavy Ion National Accelerator in Caen found six events that could be interpreted as tetraneutron production. However, the reproduction of this experiment failed, and some scientists believe that at least a part of the original data analysis was incorrect.

A new phase of the tetraneutron searches took place at the Radioactive Ion Beam Factoryin the RIKEN Institute, Japan, which operates a high-quality beam of 8He nuclei. The 8He nucleus consists of an α-particle (the 4He nuclei) and four neutrons. A few research teams had proposed the tetraneutron searches in RIKEN. In the first of these experiments, the 8He nuclei bombarded the 4He target. As a result of the collision, the α-particle was knocked from the 8He, leaving behind the system of four neutrons. Four events interpreted as the short-lived tetraneutron resonant state have been detected. This experiment was reported at the beginning of 2016, and continues.

The researchers from Lomonosov Moscow State University published in their article on theoretical evaluations of the tetraneutron resonant state energy and its lifetime. They contributed to the preparation of one of the proposed experimental searches for the tetraneutron when a group of experimentalists from Germany asked for the assistance.

Andrey Shirokov, the first author of the article, says: "We made such evaluations in different models, and the obtained results were used to support the experiment. Afterwards, we thoroughly elaborated the theoretical approach and performed numerous simulations on supercomputers. The results have been published in our paper in Physical Review Letters."

The theoretical results for the energy of tetraneutron resonance of 0.84 MeV correlate well with the Japanese experimental finding of 0.83 MeV, which is, however, characterized by a large uncertainty (about ±2 MeV). The calculated width of the resonant tetraneutron state is 1.4 MeV, which corresponds to the lifetime of about 5×10-22 sec.

Shirokov says, "It's worth noting that none of the previous theoretical papers has predicted the existence of the resonant tetraneutron state at such low energies of about 1 MeV."

The new result probably stems from a new theoretical approach to the studies of resonant states in nuclear systems developed by the scientists. This approach has been carefully tested on model problems and in less complicated systems, and only afterwards applied to the tetraneutron studies accounting for the specifics of the four-particle decay of this system.

Shirokov, however, indicates an alternative possibility: "Another possible reason is the fact that we've used a new interaction between neutrons elaborated by our team. Our tetraneutron studies will continue, we'll perform simulations with other more traditional interactions. At the same time, our French colleagues are going to study the tetraneutron with our interaction within their approach. Of course, all of us are looking forward to the results of new experimental tetraneutron searches.”

Sunday, December 25, 2016

U.S.' Corrupt Justice Department

Licensed to Lie
By Sidney Powell

A tragic suicide, a likely murder, wrongful imprisonment, and gripping courtroom scenes draw readers into this compelling story giving them a frightening perspective on justice corrupted and who should be accountable when evidence is withheld. Licensed to Lie: Exposing Corruption in the Department of Justice is the true story of the strong-arm, illegal, and unethical tactics used by headline-grabbing federal prosecutors in their narcissistic pursuit of power. Its scope reaches from the US Department of Justice to the US Senate, the FBI, and the White House. This true story is a scathing attack on corrupt prosecutors, the judges who turned a blind eye to these injustices, and the president who has promoted them to powerful political positions.

     -- From the Foreword

This book should serve as the beginning of a serious conversation about whether our criminal justice system continues to live up to its vaunted reputation. As citizens of a free society, we all have an important stake in making sure that it does.

     -- Alex Kozinski, Chief Judge, United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = Editorial Reviews

''Licensed to Lie reads like a cross between investigative journalism and courtroom drama. The takeaway is that both Bushies and Obamaites should be very afraid: over the last few years, a coterie of vicious and unethical prosecutors who are unfit to practice law has been harbored within and enabled by the now ironically named Department of Justice.''

     --William Hodes, Professor of Law Emeritus, Indiana University, and coauthor, The Law of Lawyering

''When you ve finished reading this fast-paced thriller, you will want to stand up and applaud Powell's courage in daring to shine light into the darkest recesses of America's justice system. The only ax Powell grinds here is Truth.''

     --Patricia Falvey, author of The Yellow House and The Linen Queen, and former Managing Director, PricewaterhouseCoopers, LLP

''Last year four government officials demonstrably lied under oath, and nothing has been done to them--two IRS officials, the Attorney General, and James Clapper-which caused Ed Snowden to release the fact that the US is spying on its citizens and in violation of the 4th amendment. That our government is corrupt is the only conclusion. This book helps the people understand the nature of this corruption-and how it is possible for federal prosecutors to indict and convict the innocent rather than the guilty.''

     --Victor Sperandeo, CEO and author, Trader Vic: Methods of a Wall Street Master

''This book is a testament to the human will to struggle against overwhelming odds to right a wrong and a cautionary tale to all-that true justice doesn't just exist as an abstraction apart from us. True justice is us, making it real through our own actions and our own vigilance against the powerful who cavalierly threaten to take it away.''

     --Michael Adams, PhD, University Distinguished Teaching Associate Professor of English Associate Director, James A. Michener Center for Writers, University of Texas--Austin

''I have covered hundreds of court cases over the years and have witnessed far too often the kind of duplicity and governmental heavy-handedness Ms. Powell describes in her well-written book, Licensed to Lie.''

     --Hugh Aynesworth, journalist, historian, four-time Pulitzer Prize finalist, author, November 22, 1963: Witness to History

Big, Bad International Banking

Lucifer’s Banker

Book Description:  As a private banker working for the largest bank in the world, UBS, Bradley Birkenfeld was an expert in Switzerland's shell-game of offshore companies and secret numbered accounts. He wined and dined ultrawealthy clients whose millions of dollars were hidden away from business partners, spouses, and tax authorities. As his client list grew, Birkenfeld lived a life of money, fast cars, and beautiful women, but when he discovered that UBS was planning to betray him, he blew the whistle to the US Government.

The Department of Justice scorned Birkenfeld's unprecedented whistle-blowing and attempted to silence him with a conspiracy charge. Yet Birkenfeld would not be intimidated. He took his secrets to the US Senate, the Securities and Exchange Commission, and the Internal Revenue Service, where he prevailed.

His bombshell revelations helped the US Treasury recover over $15 billion (and counting) in back taxes, fines, and penalties from American tax cheats. But Birkenfeld was shocked to discover that at the same time he was cooperating with the US Government, the Department of Justice was still doggedly pursuing him. He was arrested and served thirty months in federal prison. When he emerged, the Internal Revenue Service gave him a whistle-blower award for $104 million, the largest such reward in history.

A page-turning real-life thriller, Lucifer's Banker is a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at the secret Swiss high-net worth banking industry and a harrowing account of our government's justice system. Readers will follow Birkenfeld and share his outrage with the incompetence and possible corruption at the Department of Justice, and they will cheer him on as he ''hammers'' one of the most well-known and powerful banks in the world.

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

Amazon Reader Review of the Book

4 Stars
Top Flight Memoir and Call to Action
By Andrew Kreig on November 4, 2016

"Lucifer’s Banker" is a top-flight memoir by Boston-reared Bradley Birkenfeld, the most important American financial whistleblower in history.

Birkenfeld, 51, helped American authorities recover an estimated $15 billion in back taxes and penalties from wealthy tax cheats served by his former employer, UBS, the world's largest bank.

UBS operates at the center of the notoriously secretive Swiss banking system. It helped the wealthy duck debtors and hide crime that includes drug and arms trafficking. The schemes thus hurt many of the depositors’ fellow citizens and governments.

But authorities sent only Birkenfeld to prison, a disturbing result for all of us, not just him. He received a 40-month sentence even though he had stepped forward voluntarily in 2005 to bring lawbreakers to justice. A timid Justice Department refused him immunity. Yet without his initiative, the investigation of secret Swiss bank accounts would not have happened.

His memoir, subtitled, "The Untold Story of How I Destroyed Swiss Bank Secrecy," unfolds as a suspenseful, well-crafted adventure. At first, he immersed himself in marketing financial services in Boston and then in Geneva. He made big bucks and lived the good life by helping clients shirk taxes.

Upon deciding to alert authorities, he received bad advice from top lawyers and rebuffs from officials. Birkenfeld offered to help Justice Department and other authorities learn the account information for 19,000 Americans with secret accounts and arrest their UBS bankers to squeeze them for evidence about their clients’ crimes. That offer to build cases against VIPs apparently spooked authorities, who refused to grant him immunity.

One client he reported to the authorities had $200 billion in secret Swiss accounts. Another, a major arms dealer, was close friends with one of the leading GOP contenders for the 2008 presidential nomination. As for UBS, its CEO for America was a top financial advisor to President Obama’s 2008 campaign and then later the president’s golfing partner in 2009. This was when authorities were wondering what to do about UBS, Birkenfeld and his disclosures.

He promptly pleaded guilty when charged with aiding his clients’ tax evasion. He then made the best of his 31-months served, with time off for good behavior. A new set of attorneys helped him in prison win a $76 million reward (reduced after taxes from $104 million) from a 2006 law that he had not foreseen when he stepped forward the previous year.

This fall, the Justice Integrity Project (for which I report) published “Courageous Memoir Denounces Banks, Justice Dept. Corruption,” an in-depth overview of Birkenfeld’s "Lucifer’s Banker" book launch Oct. 18 at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. Afterward, Birkenfeld hosted about a dozen of us at the new Trump International Hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue. The locale nearly adjoins across the street the Justice Department’s headquarters where authorities had sneered at Birkenfeld a decade previously.

Like the man in person, the writer tells this story well, and it rings true. The book quickly reached a best-seller status on in several categories even though it was launched via a tiny imprint in order to avoid the self-censorship, delays and other obstacles that can arise elsewhere in publishing for this kind of sensitive topic.

This book would have benefited from an index but also deserves far more extra credit for its larger goal, which is far more ambitious than most memoirs. He seeks to build a movement supporting whistleblowers, beginning with a White House and Congress that dare expose even more wrongdoing among banking and tax avoidance criminals.

“The American taxpayers,” he wrote in a letter to President Obama Oct. 1, “need to know why the DOJ took such extraordinary actions to protect the perpetrators of the largest tax fraud in history." He plans to lead a campaign to pressure all members of Congress to tackle the problem.

I was strongly tempted to award the book five stars here (like every one of its previous 13 reviewers, as of this writing) for such high ambitions that are so well executed on a daring topic of importance. But a ratings system has to reserve the very top for the Shakespeares. Also, experience has proven that readers hold especially dear the recollections of celebrities who are already famous, not simply those who might deserve to be famous one day. Finally, I’ve encountered the outgoing Birkenfeld several times in Washington whistleblower circles, and so probably should discount my rating in fairness to account for possible pro-author bias.

Ultimately, however, a book such as this is about the reader, not the author. It’s your time, your wallet, your country.

One online thesaurus I consulted for this review lists 129 synonyms for the ever-popular notion of “escapism,” and just one feeble antonym for the opposite concept, “involvement.” That parallels the challenges raised by this book. We may need a new mindset and vocabulary to delve into matters like financial corruption that are so easily ignored and hidden. But for those so inclined, if not so infuriated, the page-turning adventure "Lucifer’s Banker" is a great place to start.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Cold War Ended 25 Years Ago

The Soviet Union collapsed with dramatic speed during the latter part of 1991, as one republic after another declared independence. By the autumn, Gorbachev could no longer influence events outside Moscow, and he was challenged even there by Yeltsin. Following the coup, Yeltsin suspended all CPSU activities on Russian territory and closed the Central Committee building at Staraya Square. He also ordered the Russian flag raised alongside the Soviet flag at the Kremlin. In the waning months of 1991, Russia began taking over what remained of the Soviet government, including the Kremlin.

With the country in a state of near collapse, Gorbachev's vision of a renewed union effectively received a fatal blow by a Ukrainian referendum on 1 December, where the Ukrainian people overwhelmingly voted for independence. Ukraine had been the second most powerful republic in the Soviet Union after Russia, and its secession ended any realistic chance of the Soviet Union staying united even on a limited scale. The presidents of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus met in Belovezh Forest, near Brest, Belarus, on 8 December and signed the Belavezha Accords, which declared the Soviet Union had ceased to exist and formed the Commonwealth of Independent States as its successor. Gorbachev initially denounced this move as illegal.

However, on 12 December, the RSFSR Supreme Soviet ratified the Belevezha Accords and denounced the 1922 Union Treaty. It was now apparent that the momentum towards dissolution could not be stopped. Shortly after the RSFSR ratified the Accords, Gorbachev hinted that he was considering stepping aside. On 17 December, he accepted the fait accompli and reluctantly agreed with Yeltsin to dissolve the Soviet Union. Four days later, the leaders of 11 of the 12 remaining republics—all except Georgia (the Baltic states had already seceded in August)—signed the Alma-Ata Protocol which formally established the CIS. They also preemptively accepted Gorbachev's resignation. When Gorbachev learned what had transpired, he told CBS that he would resign as soon as he saw that the CIS was indeed a reality.

On the night of 25 December, in a nationally televised speech, Gorbachev announced his resignation as president—as he put it, "I hereby discontinue my activities at the post of President of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics." He declared the office extinct and handed over its functions—including control of the Soviet nuclear codes—to Yeltsin. That same night after he left office, the flag of the Soviet Union was lowered from the Kremlin and was replaced with the Russian tricolor flag. The next day, 26 December, the Supreme Soviet declared that the Soviet Union had formally ceased to exist as a functioning state, thus they voted both itself and the Union out of existence. Two days after Gorbachev left office, on 27 December, Yeltsin moved into Gorbachev's old office.

Gorbachev had aimed to maintain the CPSU as a united party but move it in the direction of Scandinavian-style social democracy. But when the CPSU was proscribed after the August coup, Gorbachev was left with no effective power base beyond the armed forces. In the aftermath of the coup, his rival Yeltsin quickly worked to consolidate his hold on the Russian government as well as the remnants of the Soviet armed forces, paving the way for Gorbachev's downfall.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Research on Premature Aging

Scripps Florida Scientists Uncover Cellular Process Behind Premature Aging

JUPITER, FL – December 21, 2016 – In a new study, scientists from the Florida campus of The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) have shown how two genes “balance” each other to maintain normal cell function. A disruption in one of the genes, called spns1, can induce degradation and premature “senescence”—or aging—while the other gene, called atp6v0ca, can jump in to suppress that degradation.

Their experiments in zebrafish suggest that these combined genetic disruptions can counteract premature aging and extend developmental lifespan.

“We found that the dual defects did indeed counteract senescence during development and extended the animal’s survival and life span,” said TSRI Associate Professor Shuji Kishi.

The findings, published recently in the journal Autophagy, could also guide future treatments for diseases that involve the body’s inability to degrade unwanted or harmful compounds.

A Closer Look at Lifespan

Cellular senescence is when cells stop dividing and is a normal part of aging. Interestingly, senescence is not only observed in later aging stages but is also detectable during embryonic development in vertebrates.

In the new study, the researchers took a closer look at the gene spns1. In vertebrates, such as zebrafish and humans, the protein encoded by spns1 is important in a cellular process called autophagy, when the cell moves unwanted material to a cellular structure called the lysosome. Previous research had shown that defects in this gene can also cause senescence in the embryonic stage and premature aging symptoms in adulthood.

However, Kishi and his colleagues found that a concurrent disruption of another gene— atp6v0ca, whose sole defect still causes senescence—led to suppression of the process induced by the defective spns1 gene.

“Our findings suggest that these two defects actually function at a balance point that is critically involved in the regulation of developmental senescence—and that balance allows for normal cell function,” said Kishi.

Restoring the Balance

The scientists are now considering ways to influence the balance between these genes as a strategy to treat lysosomal storage diseases such as Pompe disease, where the excessive buildup of a substance called glycogen results in severe muscle weakness. They believe there may also be applications in treating age-associated degenerative diseases linked to late-stage autophagy disruption.

“The use of appropriate inhibitors, selective for key steps in the biosynthesis of cellular macromolecules in general, may restore normal dynamics in the autolysosomal compartment and correct the pathological storage that is the ultimate cause of these types of disease,” said TSRI Research Associate Shanshan Lian, the co-first author of the study.

The findings may also lead to the development of tools to help identify new genes that affect the aging process without the need for performing lengthy adult lifespan analyses. This approach could be applied to the high-throughput identification of pharmacological agents that control aging and lifespan through enhanced resistance to various stressors, including oxygen radicals.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

"97 Percent of Scientists"

The 97 Percent Myth
June 3, 2014

Global warming advocates routinely toss out the statistic that 97 percent of scientists agree that climate change is real and man-made. Where did that figure come from? Joseph Bast, president of the Heartland Institute, and Roy Spencer, principal research scientist for the University of Alabama in Huntsville, explain the history behind the misleading number.

In short, there is no basis for the claim that 97 percent of scientists believe that man-made climate change is a dangerous problem. 

In 2004, Naomi Oreskes, a Harvard science historian, examined 928 abstracts of scientific journal articles, finding that three-quarters of them believed that humans were responsible for most of the observed warming of the last half-century.

  • However, Oreskes did not analyze articles by prominent scientists -- such as Richard Lindzen and John Christy -- who question the "consensus" view.
  • Additionally, a recent study in Nature magazine confirms that academic abstracts often contain claims that are not proven in the studies themselves.

A 2009 article by University of Illinois student Maggie Kendall Zimmerman and her master's thesis adviser Peter Doran also made the 97 percent claim.

  • The authors made this conclusion after conducting a two-question online survey of 3,146 scientists, only 79 of which were experts in climate science and had published half of their recent peer-reviewed papers on climate change.
  • It did not include the scientists most likely to understand the natural causes of climate change: solar scientists, space scientists, cosmologists, physicists, meteorologists or astronomers.
  • Moreover, the survey did not specify whether the human impact on global warming was large enough to constitute a problem.

In 2013, Australian blogger John Cook reviewed abstracts of peer-reviewed papers published from 1991 to 2011, concluding that 97 percent of the authors who stated their position on the subject believed that human activity was responsible for some warming.

  • However, when University of Delaware geography professor David Legates reviewed Cook's papers, he found that only 41 of them (0.3 percent of all of the abstracts, and just 1 percent of those that expressed an opinion) believed human activity was causing most current warming.

On the other hand, write Bast and Spencer, the Petition Project -- a group of physicists and physical chemists in California -- has collected more than 31,000 signatures from scientists agreeing that there is "no convincing scientific evidence that human release of...carbon dioxide...or other greenhouse gases is causing or will, in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the Earth's atmosphere and disruption of the Earth's climate."

Source: Joseph Bast and Roy Spencer, "The Myth of the Climate Change '97%'" Wall Street Journal, May 26, 2014. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Revolutions of 1917 - 1923

The Revolutions of 1917–23 were a period of political unrest and revolts around the world inspired by the success of the Russian Revolution and the disorder created by the aftermath of World War I. The uprisings were mainly socialist or anti-colonial in nature and many failed.  Out of all the revolutionary activity of the era, the revolutionary wave of 1917–23 mainly refers to the unrest caused by World War I in Europe.

Communist Revolutions


In war-torn Imperial Russia, the February Revolution toppled the monarchy while the Bolsheviks seized power in the October Revolution. The ascendant communist party soon withdrew from war with Imperial Germany on the Eastern Front and then battled its political rivals in the Russian Civil War, including invading forces from the Allied Powers. In response to Lenin, the Bolshevik Party and the emerging Soviet Union, anti-communists from a broad assortment of ideological factions fought against them, particularly through the counter-revolutionary White movement and the peasant Green Army, the various nationalist movements in Ukraine after the Russian Revolution and other would-be new states like those in Soviet Transcaucasia and Soviet Central Asia, through the anarchist-inspired Third Russian Revolution and Tambov Rebellion. By 1921, faced with a trade boycott organised by the capitalist countries, exhaustion and starvation, even dissident elements of the Red Army itself were in revolt against the communist state, as during the Kronstadt rebellion. However the attempt at the restoration of the old feudal property relations and the pogroms which followed the victories by the White movement, together with solidarity actions with the workers' republic by workers abroad (such as the English dockers) were amongst the factors which facilitated reconquest by the once isolated and near exhausted Red Army, and led to the eventual defeat of the Whites and the imperialist intervention. The years of fighting subsequently spilled over the borders of the collapsed Russian Empire, as the Bolshevik regime virtually directed the formation of states such as the Mongolian People's Republic. In this process of revolution and counter-revolution the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) was born in 1922.

Central Europe

The Leninist victories also inspired a surge by the world Communist movement: the larger German Revolution and its offspring, like the Bavarian Soviet Republic, as well as the neighboring Hungarian Revolution, and the Biennio Rosso in Italy in addition to various smaller uprisings, protests and strikes, all proved abortive.

United States and elsewhere

They also provoked a severe backlash, including the First Red Scare in the United States and the collapse of economic liberalism in most nations of Central Europe, Eastern Europe and Southern Europe over the subsequent decade or so.

The Bolsheviks sought to coordinate this new wave of revolution in the Soviet-led Communist International, while new communist parties separated from their former socialist organizations and the older, more moderate Second International. Despite ambitions for world revolution, the far-flung Comintern movement had more setbacks than successes through the next generation, until Soviet victory at the close of the Second World War brought a rapid multiplication of communist states.


In Imperial China, the non-Communist 1911 Revolution had toppled the monarchy but failed to secure the new Republic of China. With Soviet approval, the nationalist party Kuomintang allied with the Chinese Communist Party to struggle throughout most of the warlord era for Chinese reunification (1928), until victory allowed the Chinese Nationalists and the Communists to turn on each other, precipitating the Chinese Civil War.

Non-Communist Revolutions


In Greece, the site of several revanchist wars in the years prior to the First World War, the divided international loyalties of the political elite reached a crisis over that country's entry into the larger 1914–1918 conflict against its historic enemy, the Ottoman Empire. During what was known as the National Schism, a pro-Entente Powers, liberal and nationalist movement led by Eleftherios Venizelos struggled with the conservative and pro-German Empire monarch Constantine I for control. In the years immediately following, the new leadership fought the Greco-Turkish War, pursuing further irredentist territories in a long succession of wars of national liberation.


In Ireland, then part of the United Kingdom, the nationalist Easter Rising of 1916 anticipated the Irish War of Independence (1919–21) within the same historical period as this first wave of communist revolution. The Irish republican movement of the time was predominantly nationalist and populist, and although it had left-wing positions and included socialists and communists, it was not Communist. The Irish and Soviet Russian Republics nevertheless found common ground in their opposition to British interests, and established a trading relationship.


The same was true of the Mexican Revolution (1910–20), which had broken out in 1910 but had devolved into factional fighting among the rebels by 1915, as the more radical forces of Emiliano Zapata and Pancho Villa lost ground to the more conservative "Sonoran oligarchy" and its Constitutional Army. The Felicistas, the last major group of counterrevolutionaries, abandoned their armed campaign in 1920, and the internecine power struggles abated for a time after revolutionary General Álvaro Obregón had bribed or slain his former allies and rivals alike, but the following decade witnessed the assassination of Obregon and several others, abortive military coup attempts and a massive right-wing uprising, the Cristero War, due to religious persecution of Roman Catholics.


The Sette Giugno of 1919 was a characterised by a series of riots and protests by the Maltese population, initially as a reaction to the rise in the cost of living in the aftermath of World War I, and the sacking of hundreds of workers from the dockyard. This coincided with popular demands for self-government, which resulted in a National Assembly being formed in Valletta at the same time of the riots. This dramatically boosted the uprising, as many people headed to Valletta to show their support for the Assembly. This led to the British forces firing into the crowd, killing four local men. The cost of living increased dramatically after the war. Imports were limited, and as food became scarce prices rose; this made the fortune of farmers and merchants with surpluses to trade.


The Egyptian Revolution of 1919 was a countrywide revolution against the British occupation of Egypt and Sudan. It was carried out by Egyptians and Sudanese from different walks of life in the wake of the British-ordered exile of revolutionary leader Saad Zaghloul, and other members of the Wafd Party in 1919. The revolution led to Britain's recognition of Egyptian independence in 1922, and the implementation of a new constitution in 1923. Britain, however, refused to recognise full Egyptian sovereignty over Sudan, or to withdraw its forces from the Suez Canal Zone, factors that would continue to sour Anglo-Egyptian relations in the decades leading up to the Egyptian Revolution of 1952.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Cannabis and Schizophrenia

Further Evidence Found for Causal Links
Between Cannabis and Schizophrenia
University of Bristol, December 19, 2016

People who have a greater risk of developing schizophrenia are more likely to try cannabis, according to new research, which also found a causal link between trying the drug and an increased risk of the condition.
The study from the University of Bristol comes on the back of public health warnings issued earlier this year by scientists who voiced concerns about the increased risk of psychosis for vulnerable people who use the drug.  Those warnings followed evidence to suggest an increased use of particularly high potency strains of cannabis among young people.  However, experts cautioned that the risks should not be overstated given the need for greater research into links between mental health and illicit drugs.

This latest study from Bristol’s School of Experimental Psychology sheds fresh light on the issue, while still cautioning that the results ought to be considered in the wider context of other contributing factors of mental health. 

While some evidence was found to support hypotheses that cannabis use is a contributory factor in increasing the risk of schizophrenia, the researchers were surprised to find stronger evidence that the opposite was also likely.   This adds weight to the idea that the drug may be used as a form of self-medication.

“The evidence suggested that schizophrenia risk predicts the likelihood of trying cannabis,” said Dr Suzi Gage, Research Associate with the MRC Integrative Epidemiology Unit. “However, the relationship could operate in both directions. Our results don’t really allow us to accurately predict the size of the effect - they’re more about providing evidence that the relationship is actually causal, rather than the result of confounding or common risk factors.”

The study used Mendelian Randomization (MR) techniques to examine publicly available data from genome-wide association studies.  MR is a form of instrumental variable analysis, using genetic variants that predict either cannabis use risk, or risk of developing schizophrenia.

MR was used as an alternative to traditional observational epidemiology in an attempt to account for other variants that may affect the association, given that people who choose to use cannabis are likely to be different from those who don’t in lots of other ways.

Dr Gage added: “Our results use a novel method to attempt to untangle the association between cannabis and schizophrenia. While we find stronger evidence that schizophrenia risk predicts cannabis use, rather than the other way round, it doesn’t rule out a causal risk of cannabis use on schizophrenia. What will be interesting is digging deeper in to the potential sub-populations of cannabis users who may be at greater risk, and getting a better handle on the impact of heavy cannabis use.

“In this study we could only look at cannabis initiation. What would really help progress this research is to use genetic variants that predict heaviness of cannabis use, as it seems that heavy cannabis use is most strongly associated with risk of schizophrenia. Once genetic variants are identified that predict heaviness of cannabis use we’ll be able to do this.”

Monday, December 19, 2016

The 11 Rarest Careers

 By  Allie Gray Freeland, Rasmussen College, November 9, 2009


What they do: Astronauts are highly trained personnel that command, pilot or operate a spacecraft to uncover the universe. Military jet test piloting and engineering training are cited as prerequisites for selection as an astronaut at NASA. NASA astronauts go through a 20–month training process that includes high performance jet training and extra–vehicular training (buoyancy and weightlessness training) to prepare them for jet–setting to the “great beyond”. (

Why the job is hard to come by: Looks like most people will not be heading to the moon anytime soon as chances of becoming an astronaut: 12,100,000 to 1 ( NASA hires a fleet of about a dozen astronauts each year. Compare that figure to the number of management positions that open up annually—around 150,000—and you can get a sense of how competitive this field is. Plus, potential NASA candidates don’t even have a chance at becoming a team member until they have years of experience under their belt...The average age of a candidate is 36 years old. (


What they do: Afraid of flying but still love gazing at stars and learning about infinity and beyond? Well astronomy might be for you. Astronomers are scientists who study celestial bodies such as planets, stars and galaxies. These researchers observe, measure, interpret and develop theories to explain extraterrestrial activity using intricate mathematics ( Similar to astronauts, this profession requires extensive study. Most astronomers have obtained a PhD in physics or astronomy and are employed by the federal government, universities or scientific research firms. (

Why the job is hard to come by: According to the Occupational Supply and Demand chart supplied by the U.S. Department of Labor, there are only 50 openings a year in this field (—and only 1,280 practicing astronomers documented ( With the combination of the small number of openings per year and the brainpower needed for this profession, you can see why astronomers top the list of hardest jobs to get.  [However, there are thousands of amateur astronomers; these amateurs find most of the new comets and asteroids!]


What they do: On the opposite spectrum of brainpower are models. Contrary to astronomers who utilize their brainpower, these buxom professionals are defined by their outer beauty. Models showcase apparel and garments to prospective buyers at fashion shows, private showings, and retail outlets, as well as for advertising and artistic expression. (

Why the job is hard to come by: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 1,660 individuals are professional models and only 80 high–profile careers in this field open up a year. Models are literally and figuratively “starving artists” as there is an extremely small pool of people that hit the big time in modeling.


What they do: Similar to models, professional athletes rely on their body as a vessel for success. Professional athletes are active in the NFL, NHL, NBA, WNBA, MLB and MLS—and provide entertainment for millions of viewers by dueling teams and exhibiting physical aptitude. Most professional athletes have dedicated their lives to fine–tuning their athletic skills.

Why this job is hard to come by: Keep your day job. The chances of becoming a professional athlete is about 24,550 to 1—so you have a better chance of getting struck by lightning, marrying a millionaire or writing a New York Times bestseller. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are 9,380 professional athletes you have a .00565% chance of becoming a professional athlete. (


What they do: For as long as professional sports are played there will be a need for referees and umpires. Professional referees enforce rigid rules and regulations during a professional sports match. (

Why this job is hard to come by: Want to  become a professional referee? Chances of making this profession a career is even more unlikely than becoming a professional athlete. The recruitment process for this position is extremely grueling as candidates have to go through introspective psychological tests. Plus there are only 1,980 people are employed in this field—so opportunities in this field are few and far between.  [Many are experienced white collar professionals such as bankers, lawyers or similar professions].


What they do: Private household cooks plan menus and prepare meals in private homes based on the recipes or tastes of their employer—who are often high–society pro sports figures, models and entertainers. Professional cooks often have a specialty such as cooking for families or health–conscious individuals ( and have a seasoned background in the culinary industry. (–household–cooks)

Why the job is hard to come by: Though finding a career as a chef in a restaurant may be fairly easy to come by, this is not the case for private cooks. The Occupational Supply and Demand System forecasts only 180 openings from 2006–2016 in this profession ( and there are currently only 980 cooks dicin’ up their culinary specialties in private homes.


What they do: If you are a number–crunching brainiac, then this career is for you. This career forces individuals to reduce raw data into meaningful information by applying standardized mathematical formulas, principles and methodology to problems in engineering and physical sciences. AKA—Mathematical Technicians translate numbers into tables, graphs and correlate finding to daily life. (–2091.00)

Why the job is hard to come by: The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that there are only 1,100 mathematical technicians in America, and only 40 openings for this position ( in the next few years. With the small window of opportunity, plus the necessity for idiot savant–like intelligence, this job tops the list of hardest jobs to come by.


What they do: The President of the United States is arguably the most important and high–profile job in the United States. The President serves as the head of state and government of the nation. This elected official leads the executive branch of the federal government and serves as the face of the U.S. in foreign affairs.

Why this job is competitive: Despite having a skeleton–free closet, an unfettered sense of confidence and pools of adoring supporters, there are age and residency requirements for becoming the president of the United States—which eliminates a lot of potential candidates for the position. Presidential candidates must be a natural–born U.S. Citizen, over 35 years old and must be in the USA 14 years to be president. Plus: experience is a must with this position as most Presidential candidates have a rich history in the political sphere as lawyers, senators [governors, frequently as vice president] and activists. (


What they do: Take great care of your teeth, because if you lose them you will need a Prosthodontist... and you might have trouble finding one. One of nine dental specialties recognized by the American Dental Association, Prosthodontists make dentures, crowns and bridges. This profession is extremely specialized—as there are only 370 people who specialize in this type of implant, esthetic and reconstructive dentistry. (

Why the job is hard to come by: The combination of educational requirements and the supply of people in Prosthodontics makes this position extremely rare. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are only 30 openings expected between 2006 and 2016, making this the hardest profession to get into on the list. In addition, becoming a Prosthodontist requires an additional three years of postgraduate specialty training after obtaining a Doctor of Dental Surgery or DMD Doctor of Dental Medicine degree... That’s 23 years of schooling! (


What they do: A Geographer is a scientist whose area of study is geography, the study of earth’s physical environment and human habitat. Geographers identify, analyze and interpret the distribution and arrangement of features of the earth’s surface, while also studying climate and ecological patterns of certain areas. ( Geographers often specialize in cartography (map making), climatology and ecology—all jobs that are rare to come by. (

Why the job is hard to come by: Similar to Astronomers and Mathematical Technicians, this profession requires extensive study and natural brainpower. In addition to its inherent qualifications, there are only 40 openings annually for this profession (Occupational Supply and Demand System). Plus, the pool of practicing geographers is extremely small too: at only 1,100 people. (


What they do: These professionals enforce fire regulations and inspect for forest–fire hazards. They also report forest fires and weather conditions. (

Why these jobs are hard to come by: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics there is only a projected need of 38 Forest Fire Specialist between 2006 and 2016 ( Plus, individuals in this field are almost solely employed by the government, so there is a rigorous screening and selection process for this career. With only 1,800 people in this profession to–date, you can see why Forest Fire Inspectors make the list of hardest jobs to land.

Fear not, job seekers. There are many careers that offer promising futures. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, individuals who get their degree in business, and nursing can expect a great return on investment-as in these fields, there are positions available that are in high demand with an above-average salaries.

* The list was compiled by data–crunching the projected annual average job openings from 2006 through 2016, as estimated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (, the number of employed persons in the field and the percentage of growth rate.

Footnote from an Article Reader

I would assume that even rarer USA occupational specialties include Astronaut (only 379 since 1959) and Smokejumper (less then 6,000 since 1940) should be in this list. Currently, there are 34 US astronauts and about 400 Smokejumpers.

          --Denis Symes