Book Bits | 9 December 2017

Blood Profits: How American Consumers Unwittingly Fund Terrorists
By Vanessa Neumann
Review via Kirkus Reviews
An alarming, and often alarmist, survey of how spending by consumers might support terrorist organizations and organized crime enterprises, especially drug cartels.
Neumann, the president of Asymmetrica, a consultant group that advises governments and corporations about combating illicit trade, refers to Venezuela, where she was born, to demonstrate how a leftist government takeover can become just as easily mired in corruption as a rightist one. Throughout the book, the author relies on examples from her personal life, her work as a consultant, research studies (from the United Nations and other sources), and her deeply felt ideology. She warns that terrorist groups and drug cartels have learned to join forces to assist each other in their lethal activities, and such an unholy partnership sometimes depends on the corruption of government officials.

Piketty, Inequality and 21st Century Capitalism
Edited by Lauren Langman and David A. Smith
Summary via publisher (Brill)
Twenty-First Century Inequality & Capitalism: Piketty, Marx and Beyond is a collection that begins with economist Thomas Piketty’s 2014 book. Most chapters critique Piketty from the perspective of critical theory, global political economy or public sociology, drawing on the work of Karl Marx or the Marxist tradition. The emphasis focuses on elements that are under-theorized or omitted entirely from the economists’ analysis. This includes the importance of considering class and labor dynamics, the recent rise of finance capitalism, insights from feminism, demography, and conflict studies, the Frankfurt School, the world market and the world-system, the rise of a transnational capitalist class, the coming environmental catastrophe, etc. Our goal is to fully understand and suggest action to address today’s capitalist inequality crisis.

Looking Forward: Prediction and Uncertainty in Modern America
By Jamie L. Pietruska
Summary via publisher (University of Chicago Press)
In the decades after the Civil War, the world experienced monumental changes in industry, trade, and governance. As Americans faced this uncertain future, public debate sprang up over the accuracy and value of predictions, asking whether it was possible to look into the future with any degree of certainty. In Looking Forward, Jamie L. Pietruska uncovers a culture of prediction in the modern era, where forecasts became commonplace as crop forecasters, “weather prophets,” business forecasters, utopian novelists, and fortune-tellers produced and sold their visions of the future. Private and government forecasters competed for authority—as well as for an audience—and a single prediction could make or break a forecaster’s reputation.

Statistical Inference in Financial and Insurance Mathematics with R
By Alexandre Brouste
Summary via publisher (ISTE Press)
Finance and insurance companies are facing a wide range of parametric statistical problems. Statistical experiments generated by a sample of independent and identically distributed random variables are frequent and well understood, especially those consisting of probability measures of an exponential type. However, the aforementioned applications also offer non-classical experiments implying observation samples of independent but not identically distributed random variables or even dependent random variables. Three examples of such experiments are treated in this book. First, the Generalized Linear Models are studied. They extend the standard regression model to non-Gaussian distributions. Statistical experiments with Markov chains are considered next. Finally, various statistical experiments generated by fractional Gaussian noise are also described.

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