Making Unique Observations in a Very Cluttered World

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

South Florida Cops and Judges Caught Using Secret Codes On Tickets -

Watching - South Florida Cops and Judges Caught Using Secret Codes On Tickets -

15 Years Ago, the Combined Assets of the 6 Biggest Banks Totaled 17% of GDP... By 2006, 55%, Now, 63% of GDP -

Reading - 15 Years Ago, the Combined Assets of the 6 Biggest Banks Totaled 17% of GDP... By 2006, 55%, Now, 63% of GDP -

You know the big banks have gotten bigger.

As Rolfe Winkler noted last September:

For the big have gotten even bigger since the start of the financial crisis. At the end of 2007, the Big Four banks — Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America and Wells Fargo — held 32 percent of all deposits in FDIC-insured institutions. As of June 30th, it was 39 percent.

create animated gif

(If the image doesn’t load, click here.)

But Simon Johnson gives an even broader perspective on how big the too big to fails have gotten:

Fifteen years ago, the combined assets of our six biggest banks totaled 17 percent of our GDP. By 2006, that number was 55 percent. Right now, it stands at 63 percent.

Johnson also points out that:

The big four have half of the market for mortgages and two-thirds of the market for credit cards. Five banks have over 95 percent of the market for over-the-counter derivatives. Three U.S. banks have over 40 percent of theglobal market for stock underwriting.

As I've previously noted, the government created the mega-giants (they are not the product of free market competition), and their very size destroys the real economy like a massive black hole destroys the matter around it.

And as Johnson and many others have pointed out, the very size of the giant banks enables them to easily capture politicians ... about as easily as the Great Attractorcaptures galaxies.

Read more -http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2010/03/15-years-ago-combined-assets-of-6.html

Leap-year bug bites PlayStations - internal clocks wanted to treat 2010 as a leap year -

Reading - Leap-year bug bites PlayStations - internal clocks wanted to treat 2010 as a leap year -

Sony said problems with its PlayStation Network that kept some PlayStation 3 users from playing games on or offline has been resolved.

A posting on the PlayStation blog said Sony officials have identified the cause as a leap year bug in the clocks on their older PS3 units. The newer slim PS3 consoles were not affected.

The posting said the internal clocks wanted to treat 2010 as a leap year, making March 1 into February 29. When the clocks rolled over to March 1, Sony “verified that the symptoms are now resolved and that users are able to use their PS3 normally.”

Sony suggests that anyone continuing to have problems should adjust time setting manually or via the Internet.

But the outage frustrated many PlayStation users, who lit up blogs and message boards with angry comments. One PS3 user said the episode prompted him to go buy an Xbox 360 console.

“I've stuck with Sony through the years, but ... this failure by Sony pushed me from thinking to doing,” a user named Jumping Ship posted to CNN.com's Tech blog. “Sony lost a customer. You have to think there are more people out there doing or contemplating the same thing.”

“I find it completely unacceptable they allowed most of their customer base to endure this outage. Sony waited this out rather than take action to resolve the issue,” wrote Jamesg, another CNN.com reader. “I believe Sony was aware this would be a problem and had a plan of not addressing it. Sony should be held accountable for allowing a known defect to manifest itself in a 24-hour outage for millions of their loyal customers.”

Some Xbox 360 owners took the opportunity to taunt rival PS3 users online about the problem, while PS3 owners fired back about the “Red Ring of Death” glitches that have plagued the Xbox.

Other PS3 owners decided to wait it out and were rewarded for their patience when Sony announced the problem had been resolved.

In a post on its Web site Monday, Sony addressed the symptoms of the outage. The company said error messages and glitches included the following:

• The date of the PS3 system may be re-set to Jan 1, 2000.

• When the user tries to sign in to the PlayStation Network, the following message appears on the screen; “An error has occurred. You have been signed out of PlayStation Network (8001050F)”.

• When the user tries to launch a game, the following error message appears on the screen and the trophy data may disappear; “Failed to install trophies. Please exit your game.”

• When the user tries to set the time and date of the system via the Internet, the following message appears on the screen; “The current date and time could not be obtained. (8001050F)”

• Users are not able to play back certain rental videos downloaded from the PlayStation Store before the expiration date.

Read more -http://scitech.blogs.cnn.com/2010/03/01/playstation-network-down/?hpt=T2

German TV Channel Finds 500 Gram Tungsten Gold Bar Substitute At W.C.Heraeus Gold Foundry With Bank Origin -

Reading - German TV Channel Finds 500 Gram Tungsten Gold Bar Substitute At W.C.Heraeus Gold Foundry With Bank Origin -


German TV station ProSieben finds what appears to be some evocative proof of gold counterfeiting, in the form of tungsten gold substitutes coming to the W.C.Heraeus foundry, which is the world's largest privately-owned precious metals refiner and fabricator, located in Hanau, Germany. The foundry has isolated at least one 500-gram tungsten bar due for melting, originating from a (so far) unnamed bank, which as the head of the foundry stated made the unpleasant discovery that "not all the glitters is gold."

Atrazine, a weed killer widely used in the US, can chemically "castrate" male frogs and turn some into females -

Reading - Atrazine, a weed killer widely used in the US, can chemically "castrate" male frogs and turn some into females -

Atrazine, a weed killer widely used in the Midwestern United States and other agricultural areas of the world, can chemically "castrate" male frogs and turn some into females, according to a new study.
New research suggests the herbicide may be a cause of amphibian declines around the globe, said biologists at the University of California-Berkeley, who conducted the study. The findings are being published this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Researchers found that long-term exposure to low levels of atrazine -- 2.5 parts per billion of water -- emasculated three-quarters of laboratory frogs and turned one in 10 into females. Scientists believe the pesticide interferes with endocrine hormones, such as estrogen and testosterone.
"The effects of atrazine in the long term have been shown to demasculinize or chemically castrate [frogs], combined with complete feminization of some animals," said lead researcher Tyrone B. Hayes, a biologist and herpetologist at the University of Berkeley.
"We need to reconfigure how we evaluate chemicals in the environment and the impact on environmental health and public health," he said.
Hayes found that 10 percent of the exposed genetic male frogs developed into functional females who copulated with unexposed males and produced viable eggs. The other 90 percent of the exposed male frogs expressed decreased libido, reduced sperm count and decreased fertility, among other findings.
Syngenta, a Swiss company that is the largest manufacturer of atrazine, has challenged the validity of Hayes' study.
"We haven't seen these kinds of responses that Dr. Hayes reports," said Keith Solomon, an environmental toxicologist at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada, who has served as a consultant to Syngenta. "Some of these studies are poorly conducted and are entirely inconsistent."
The new study's implications for atrazine's effect on humans is unclear. But some scientists are concerned the herbicide may pose risks to reproductive health.

One of these copulating frogs, both genetically male, has been feminized by exposure to atrazine, says a new study.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency last year launched a comprehensive evaluation of the herbicide to investigate any possible links between atrazine and cancer and to determine whether new restrictions are necessary. The EPA's current safety standard for atrazine in drinking water is three ppb.
The European Union banned atrazine in 2004 because it was consistently showing up in levels higher than 0.1 ppb -- its threshold for harmful chemicals -- in drinking water.
Farmers in the United States continue to use atrazine on crops.
The herbicide has been a long-standing favorite among corn, sorghum and sugarcane farmers because it is affordable and can eliminate the need for tilling the soil. Tens of millions of pounds of atrazine are used each year in the United States. Syngenta estimates that 60 million pounds were used during 2008, most of it on corn.
A 2006 study by the U.S. Geological Survey found atrazine in approximately 75 percent of stream water and about 40 percent of all groundwater samples from agricultural areas tested between 1992 and 2001.
The Natural Resources Defense Council, an advocacy organization, released a report in August 2009 that documented spikes of atrazine in the water supplies of Midwestern and Southern agricultural areas where the pesticide is primarily applied.
Home or municipal carbon filters can remove atrazine from water but some water filtration systems in small towns are not equipped to filter out atrazine. Water systems in a handful of states have sued atrazine's manufacturers in an effort to force them to pay for removing the pesticide from drinking water.
Tim Pastoor, principal scientist for Syngenta, told CNN that the EPA's current levels for atrazine are safe and that "there is political pressure to get atrazine re-examined."
"Residues of atrazine and all our crop protection products in water do not pose a health risk for consumers," Syngenta says on its Web site.
The company also says "ongoing laboratory and field research by university scientists shows that atrazine has no effect on the survival, growth or limb deformities of frogs."
But Jennifer Sass, a senior scientist with the NRDC's health and environment program, believes the research by Hayes and the other University of California, Berkeley, biologists is valid.
Sass also is skeptical of Syngenta's claims.
"Their tactic is to flood the scientific literature with negative data to negate the other studies," she said. "It's only their studies that show that atrazine is not an endocrine disrupter."