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Beautiful CEOs

Adam Alter in the New Yorker reports on new research by two economists at the University of Wisconsin that shows companies may benefit from appointing attractive CEOs. They found that S&P 500 companies reap greater stock returns when they name new CEOs who are relatively attractive.

Mr. Alter: “The researchers ran head shots of the 677 CEOs of S&P 500 companies through a program that calculates the attractiveness of faces based on the position of 17 facial criteria. … [and they] calculated the effect of a new CEO’s attractiveness on stock returns for the five days after the appointment was announced. For each point of CEO attractiveness on the 10-point scale, a company gained, on average, a 1 percent boost to its stock price. …

“It’s possible, of course, that physical beauty often enhances characteristics that are genuinely useful in the workplace, such as charisma and negotiating skills, which themselves bring about better financial outcomes.”

Next year in China

Also in the New Yorker, Adam Osnos, reporting from Beijing’s fortune-telling district, offers 10 predictions for the coming year in China. Among them:

• Unrest in Tibet and Xinjiang, “a vast region of China — far larger than Europe — has enormous potential to alter the country’s political and economic future.”

• Visa wars will erupt as Chinese officials refuse entry to and kick out more Western journalists for covering stories that make them look bad.

• Everyone now knows about China’s air-pollution crisis. In 2014, we’ll learn more about its water problems. An outbreak of pollution this year forced authorities to cut off water to a city of 9 million people.

• Expect increasingly nationalist Chinese media to find more and more things pioneered in China: “A few years ago, it was golf. This year, it was the house cat. Next year, fire. Or snow.”

Apartheid in health care

At the blog CSI Without Dead Bodies: “Former Sen. Rick Santorum actually compared the Affordable Care Act (or Obamacare, as he calls it) to apartheid South Africa.” Paying tribute to Nelson Mandela on Fox News, he said Mandela “was fighting against some great injustice. I would make the argument that we have a great injustice going on right now in this country with an ever-increasing size of government that is taking over and controlling people’s lives — and Obamacare is front and center in that.”

“On the face of it, this seems too ridiculous to comment on, but ol’ Rick might be on to something [in comparing U.S. health care to apartheid],” the blog said.

“First, let’s look at the word ‘apartheid.’ In Dutch and its dialect Afrikaans it means ‘apartness.’ Our pre-ACA health care system definitely resembled an apartheid system with access to health care tied to employment, ability to pay, eligibility for Medicare or Medicaid, veterans status and charity.”

Bad news bioweapons

Testimony by RAND analyst Bruce W. Bennett before a House committee: “North Korea could use biological weapons against a variety of military and civilian targets in South Korea. Biological weapons would likely be delivered as an aerosol of some kind that would be dispersed and then carried by the wind. Many people downwind of the release location would be exposed unless they wore some form of protection or were physically located in a place that protected them from exposure.

“According to one source, 1 kilogram of anthrax could spread lethal effects over 0.2 to 2.6 square kilometers, depending on wind and weather conditions. The nighttime population density of Seoul averages about 20,000 people per square kilometer, meaning that upward of about 50,000 people could be effectively exposed by 1 kilogram of anthrax.”

Compiled by Greg Victor (

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