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Richard Farmer’s chunky bits: uni super alarms

There’s a strong suggestion that the defined benefits university superannuation scheme is extremely biased against younger contributors to the fund compared with their colleagues who are closer to retirement age.

Alarming reports on university super. I am hearing quite alarming things about the defined benefits university superannuation scheme. What I would describe as “a normally reliable source” tells me that there’s not enough in the kitty to meet the obligations unless there is a very surprising increase in investment returns. Downward adjustments to payments look like being necessary. And there’s a strong suggestion that the scheme is extremely biased against younger contributors to the fund compared with their colleagues who are closer to retirement age.

Waiting for the winner. Only two more sleeps — or maybe it’s three as I still get confused by that international date line — before we announce the winner of our . The magazine has announced that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un topped its readers’ poll but the official choice of its editors is to come in the US on the morning of 19 December. If they follow the advice of our readers who are competing for a First Dog calendar the gong will go not to Kim Jong-un but the Russian songstresses P-ssy Riot.

The issue attention cycle. With the predictable burst of calls for stricter gun control laws in the United States a post on the Washington Post’s Wonkblog makes interesting reading. George Washington University’s Danny Hayes summarises research showing that in the aftermath of high-profile tragedies, media interest — and thus public attention — often fades quickly. If gun control is to be different, politicians will have to give the media a reason to cover it.

Hayes argues that one reason the gun control issue lacks salience is that citizens tend to take their cues from the media. When news outlets devote significant attention to an issue — health care or national security, for example — the public comes to view those problems as pressing. News coverage of gun control is rare and particularly sporadic, even in the aftermath of widely publicised mass shootings as is shown by the number of news stories that contained the phrase “gun control” in the weeks surrounding three shootings: the April 2007 massacre at Virginia Tech, the January 2011 Arizona attack on Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, and the July 2012 assault at a theater in Aurora, Colo. The data come from a search of more than 500 news outlets in the “US Newspapers & Wires” index of LexisNexis.

More casinos, fewer gamblers. It is a strange case of when more means less — a new study from the University of Iowa shows that while the number of casinos in the state has doubled since 1995, there are fewer gamblers and gambling addicts in the state. The research is behind a paywall in the journal Annals of Clinical Psychiatry. but in summarising their findings the authors say it seems society reaches a saturation point beyond which additional gambling opportunities won’t capture more people.

And that applies to problem gamblers, too,” according to Donald Black, a psychiatry professor at the UI who has been studying gamblers and gambling habits since the late 1990s. ”They all seem to adjust to it.”

The summary of the research reports:

The survey asked 356 residents in eastern Iowa 18 years of age and older about their gambling activity. The respondents were slotted according to the South Oaks Gambling Screen (SOGS), a known measure that ranks gambling behavior on a five-point scale, from no problems to addiction.

Black and his colleagues compared the results to similar surveys done in 1995 and 1989. The researchers report that the percentage of people who didn’t gamble had risen to 83 percent in the most recent survey, versus 72 percent in the 1995 poll. Moreover, the percentage of non-gamblers in the latest survey was nearly as high as the 86 percent of Iowans who reported not gambling in the 1989 poll—before any casinos had been built in the state.

The prevalence of addicted gamblers, those with the highest ranking on the SOGS scale, also dropped in the most recent survey, from nearly 2 percent of respondents in the 1995 survey to 1.4 percent in the latest poll. This, despite a doubling in the number of casinos—from 10 in 1995 (including three racetracks that added slots that year) to 21 currently.

Still, the number of self-reported gambling addicts was far higher than the 0.1 percent who claimed a gambling addiction in 1989.

That suggests “casinos have had a great impact (on problem gamblers),” Black notes, “but it has stabilized.”

News and views noted along the way.

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    Posted Monday, 17 December 2012 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

    The shortfall in UniSuper’s defined benefits scheme has been public since ABC tv’s 7.30 Report reported it on 13 December 2011: ‘Super fund puts workers’ entitlements at risk’. Since then UniSuper and university branches of the National Tertiary Education Union have kept members well informed of developments and possible changes to get the defined benefits scheme into balance.

    UniSuper is funded at a high rate, with contributions of 14% of wages from employers and 7% from employees. It was running very big surpluses in the 1990s which it distributed to members in a bonus, which was short sighted in retrospect. No decision on getting the fund back into balance is needed for a few years, but any cut to benefits seems likely to be modest.

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