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And it’s from yourself.

Last Tuesday it was April Fool’s Day. Being a geek and at all, I sent messages with fake “from” headers to two of my colleagues. In both cases the sender was the recipient.

As in once case I had misspelled the last name in the same as in an earlier message, the recipient could easily identify the source of this prank. So then I got a message “from” my boss saying how disappointed she was by me that I abused EPFL resources and how I should be a role model for the PhD students. 🙂

Fortunately, my boss does not use the official EPFL address but her gmail address to send messages, so I could also easily identify the message as a prank messages. Additionally, the full email header revealed the use of an usual smtp server hosted by xult.org.

Anyways, the take-home message is:

1. You should never trust the “from” header (or any header) in an email you receive.

2. You can easily send fake messages (e.g., from “president@whitehouse.gov”) to friends of yours using this website.

To me, as a naive “economic layperson“, it seems that the chairman of the fed (or at least the fed itself) has more power than all the politicians of the G8 combined. How can a single number, the federal funds rate, be such a matter of life or death?

I mean, I understand enough economic theory to “understand” it at a superficial level, but I wonder if this enormous dependency (see the current news) is really due to the objective meaning of this number, or whether the effects we’re currently seeing are not mostly caused by day traders, without any actual interest in any of the companies (or the employees) they invest in. [Probably, any reasonably cynical person will automatically reply: “It’s the latter!”]

To explain in more detail: The fed’s funds rate was changed by 0.75%. That means if you borrow $100, the difference in the interest you have to pay back after one year is 0.75. But these 0.75 cents seem to be enough to have a serious impact on the near future of the world’s economy.

It’s simply not the most comforting thought for me, to think that probably a few thousand people get a kick (and lots of money) out of playing with global recession, before they die of a heart-attack at the age of 45. It’s simply not the kind of people in whose hands I’d like to see so much power over the future of the planet I live on (and its people) .

That’s a German “proverb” [“Traue keiner Statistik, die du nicht selber gefälscht hast.”] attributed to Winston Churchill, though it is in fact Nazi propaganda trying to discredit the statesman, which also explains that there is not just one “normalized” English form of the original but about 100 different versions translated from German to English. Winston Churchill didn’t even say “Lies, damned lies and statistics“, which is also often attributed to him.

From now on, I will try not to trust a single “x said y” reference, if it does not give the concrete occasion.

Anyways, some interesting numbers concerning the crime rate in Germany during the last 20 years can be found here. Overall, there has been a (slight) increase in the last 20 years in the per 100,000 numbers for Germany, but a significant drop in violent crimes. Of course, one should also not forget that credit card crimes essentially didn’t exist (in Germany) 20 years ago.

When you look at the numbers also be aware that up to 1993 they are for West Germany only.

If you can read German, then also have a look at this Telepolis article. I like the observation that the drop in violent crimes could be due to the aging population. Just as the drop of the crime rate in the US is due to the legalization of abortions about 35 years ago.

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