Making Unique Observations in a Very Cluttered World

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Fed Chairman, Ben Bernanke, confronted by Rep. Ron Paul with the question, “Is gold money”? -

Fed Chairman, Ben Bernanke, confronted by Rep. Ron Paul with the question, “Is gold money”? - 

During today’s Congressional testimony Fed Chairman, Ben Bernanke, was confronted by Rep. Ron Paul with the question, “Is gold money”?  (see video below)  The Chairman answered, “no” and went on to say the reason why central banks hold gold is because of “tradition”.    Interesting!
In prior posts we’ve written about how difficult it to even to define money, much less measure it.   The traditional and most basic test is does the object – piece of paper, commodity, item — act as a:   1) medium of exchange; 2) store of value; and 3) unit of account.
Though gold has not yet become a widespread medium of exchange, that is, used to transact in the marketplace, or used to price goods as a unit of account, it certainly seems to have become a standard international store of value.  Many of our very smart friends tell us they are more uncomfortable holding cash dollars than almost any other asset class and would rather hold gold or other commodity ETFs.  From what we read, the Chinese government and other central banks seem to feel a similar discomfort.  Can you blame them with negative real interest rates?
Given the ease at which one can now convert, say the gold ETF, GLD, into purchasing power, we would argue that it, or any commodity or asset, for that matter, is becoming a quasi-medium of exchange.   For example, a $100K brokerage account fully allocated to GLD can write checks on the balance, either using margin or selling down a portion of the position.   The ease at which the yellow metal can be held and converted into purchasing power increases its use as a medium of exchange and therefore makes it money.

Austrian atheist has won the right to be on his driving-licence photo wearing a pasta strainer as "religious headgear" -

Austrian atheist has won the right to be on his driving-licence photo wearing a pasta strainer as "religious headgear" - 
Driving licence of Niko Alm

Niko Alm first applied for the licence three years ago after reading that headgear was allowed in official pictures only for confessional reasons.

Mr Alm said the sieve was a requirement of his religion, pastafarianism.

The Austrian authorities required him to obtain a doctor's certificate that he was "psychologically fit" to drive.

The idea came into Mr Alm's noodle three years ago as a way of making a serious, if ironic, point.

A self-confessed atheist, Mr Alm says he belongs to the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, a light-hearted faith whose members call themselves pastafarians.

Passport photos of Niko Alm with a colander on his head
A medical interview established the self-styled 'pastafarian' was mentally fit to drive
The group's website states that "the only dogma allowed in the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster is the rejection of dogma".

In response to pressure for American schools to teach the Christian theory known as intelligent design, as an alternative to natural selection, the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster wrote to the Kansas School Board asking for the pastafarian version of intelligent design to be taught to schoolchildren, as an alternative to the Christian theory.

Read more - http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-14135523

Philadelphia Saves $2 Million By Not Prosecuting Pot Smokers -

Philadelphia Saves $2 Million By Not Prosecuting Pot Smokers - 

Just over a year ago, the powers that be in Philadelphia effectively decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana by offering offenders the chance to enroll in a three-hour class that would expunge the offense from their records. Not only did this give Philadelphia police more time and energy to focus on more serious crimes, it has also saved the city a pretty sizable Ziploc bag of green stuff.
"We were spending thousands of dollars for when someone possessed $10 or $15 worth of weed," District Attorney Seth Williams tells the Philadelphia Daily News. "It just didn't make any sense."
Under the program, being caught with up to 30 grams of marijuana is no longer a misdemeanor but a summary offense. By simply paying $200 to attend the three-hour class on the ills of drug use and abuse, the arrestee's record is wiped clean of the offense.
Before this change, offenders faced up to $500 in fines and possible, though unlikely jail time. If the suspect fought the charges, this meant expenses for the city — prosecutors, judges, lab tests, public defenders, etc. By all but decriminalizing pot, Williams estimates that the city has saved $2 million in the last 12 months.
Additionally, police tell the News that there has been no noticeable impact on the quality of life in Philadelphia since the program went into effect.
Looking at the bigger picture, DA Williams says the current way most U.S. authorities treat drug possession is shortsighted.

U.S. Government Builds First Law Enforcement Base in Puebla, Mexico - most ‘sophisticated and modernized’ in Mexico -

U.S. Government Builds First Law Enforcement Base in Puebla, Mexico - most ‘sophisticated and modernized’ in Mexico - 

Earlier this year, in May, the governor of the Mexican State of Puebla, Rafael Moreno Valle, and the U.S. Coordinator for Plan Merida in Mexico, Keith W. Mines, held an inauguration ceremony for what they described as the most ‘sophisticated and modernized’ police academy in Mexico.
The 54-acre facility will cost $22 million. It will have barracks for about 500 personnel, two conference auditoriums, two chow halls, a helicopter landing area, four watch towers, a gun range, a forensic lab, a training court room, as well as smoke and fire simulation buildings, according to Mexican journalist Raul Rodriguez Cortes.
At first glimpse, to most Mexicans, it would seem logical to modernize the federal police; after all, there is an unprecedented crisis of violence and corruption throughout the country. Therefore, building a militarized police training base would seem like the best solution to tackle the problem… or so it seems.
According to local activists in Puebla, the new ‘Ignacio Zaragoza Militarized Academy’ orAMIZ will serve as a covert U.S. Military base, where U.S. Special forces will train, rehearse, and launch black operations against Mexican drug cartels. Many Mexicans are in favor of this idea. However, there are many who oppose what they call a violation of their national sovereignty.
Others accuse the Mexican Government and the United States Government of building ‘a school of the Americas on steroids,’ even if the facility was only going to serve as a police academy.
Local Mexican Congressman from the ‘Convergence Party,’ JosĂ© Juan Espinosa Torres is one of the biggest opponents of opening any military base in Puebla -whether Mexican or foreign. Also, a representative from the PRD Party, Enrique Alcántara Dzgaip has been organizing street protests against the construction of the base, calling it an ‘American intervention.’
The U.S. Coordinator for Plan Merida in Mexico, Keith W. Mines, the Governor of Puebla, and other pubic officials have admitted that many U.S. federal agents will serve as instructors at the base in order to ‘modernize’ the Mexican police force. Some U.S. Agencies will include the FBI, DEA, BATF and even NCIS, which is a military organization since it’s part of the U.S. Navy.
Some of the street protesters in Puebla accuse the BATF (Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms) of destabilizing Mexico because of the notorious ‘operation gunrunner’ or ‘fast and furious,’ where BATF agents sold weapons to the drug cartels. Using bullhorns in the streets of Puebla, the protesters are saying that the new ‘militarized police base’ will serve as a point of U.S. Government weapons distribution for the drug cartels. Furthermore, they claim that the so-called ‘modernized’ training will be received by many future police or military officers that will eventually switch sides and join the drug cartels. This has happened many times before in Mexico, like the time when Los Zetas deserted from the military and became the strike team for the Gulf Drug Cartel (which consists mostly, at least at the leadership level, of former state police officers from Tamaulipas).
But even if Mexicans were to oppose this, they may ‘supposedly’ not have a voice any longer. Last October, DeadlineLive.info reported that the Mexican Government -or at least the Mexican military and law enforcement- is now under under the command of NORTHCOM and the CIA through the ‘Office of Binational Intelligence.’
The CIA, the Department of Defense, the FBI, DEA, BATF, and many other U.S. Government federal agencies have been operating in Mexico for a long time. In fact, the U.S. Government recently built an intelligence super center at Paseo de la Reforma in Mexico City, not very far from the U.S. Embassy. Furthermore, the death of ICE Agent Jaime Zapata in San Luis Potosi, or even further back: the death of DEA Agent Kiki Camarena in the 1980′s demonstrates that U.S. Federal Agents have been operating in Mexico for decades.

Read more - http://deadlinelive.info/2011/07/12/deadline-live-exclusive-u-s-government-builds-first-law-enforcement-base-in-puebla-mexico/

No yelling at Obama today - might capture Obama in the less than flattering non-act of snubbing a query -

No yelling at Obama today - might capture Obama in the less than flattering non-act of snubbing a query - 

A long-running tiff between the White House press corps and the West Wing over presidential access flared anew today when press secretary Jay Carney faced off with reporters over the right to shout questions at the president during debt talks.

Obama chafes at the time-honored practice of answering questions shouted at him during pooled, non-press conference events — and his staff has often opted for “stills sprays,” excluding print reporters or TV cameras who might capture Obama in the less than flattering non-act of snubbing a query.

When asked today why TV crews and print reporters were barred from the pool covering the White House meeting with congressional leaders on the deficit, Carney responded by pointing out that the administration has held two press conferences in the past two weeks and allowed TV cameras into the spray earlier this week.

"People shouted questions at him," Carney added.

The White House Correspondents’ Association has protested exclusion of print and TV from pools — and several reporters in the briefing room took Carney’s comment as an annoyed expression of presidential displeasure with shouted questions.

“It's an absurd reason to say that because we asked questions you're not going to allow cameras in there. He's capable of ignoring our questions. He does it all the time,” said Chip Reid of CBS. 

Carney, a former Time magazine White House reporter, shot back with, “I appreciate your opinion.”

It didn’t end there. “Can I ask you to clarify — there's no reporters allowed in today's meeting because reporters misbehaved?” asked another scribe. “Earlier it sounded like you were punishing us.”

Read more - http://www.politico.com/politico44/perm/0711/shout_of_bounds_729191ad-6922-4221-8711-77a68d3802df.html

Naked man swimming in water near NY airport - next to the fuel farm of New York's Kennedy Airport -

Naked man swimming in water near NY airport - next to the fuel farm of New York's Kennedy Airport - 

Authorities say a man was found swimming naked in a waterway next to the fuel farm of New York's Kennedy Airport.
A spokesman for the airport's operator, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, says airport patrols spotted the swimmer Tuesday morning.
The spokesman, Steven Coleman, says the man ran toward the fuel farm when the patrols approached. He was caught near a boat dock and never entered the restricted area.
The man was taken to a hospital for psychiatric evaluation. He has been charged with criminal trespass, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct.

Read more - http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/U/US_JFK_TRESPASSING?SITE=AP&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT&CTIME=2011-07-13-09-51-57

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke told Congress Wednesday that a new stimulus program is in the works - QEIII -

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke told Congress Wednesday that a new stimulus program is in the works - QEIII - 

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke told Congress Wednesday that a new stimulus program is in the works that will entail additional asset purchases, the clearest indication yet that the central bank is contemplating another round of monetary easing.

Bernanke said in prepared remarks that the economy is growing more slowly than expected, and should that continue the central bank stands at the ready with more accommodative measures.

"Once the temporary shocks that have been holding down economic activity pass, we expect to again see the effects of policy accommodation reflected in stronger economic activity and job creation," he said

"However, given the range of uncertainties about the strength of the recovery and prospects for inflation over the medium term, the Federal Reserve remains prepared to respond should economic developments indicate that an adjustment in the stance of monetary policy would be appropriate."

Markets reacted immediately to the remarks, sending stocks up sharply in a matter of minutes. Gold prices continued to surge past record levels, while Treasury yields   moved higher as well.

But some analysts pointed out that, while Bernanke was suggesting the Fed might add stimulus, he also was saying that the current "soft patch" may prove temporary.

"The bottom line is that he has to say he will respond if needed, but it seems he's saying it more as lip service than anything because ultimately he still expects that this slowdown was temporary," said Tom Porcelli, chief U.S. economist for RBS Capital Markets in New York.

The Fed recently completed the second leg of its quantitative easing program, buying $600 billion worth of Treasurys in an effort to boost liquidity and get investors to purchase riskier assets.

Read more - http://www.cnbc.com/id/43739458

62% of bankers believe the tech industry may be entering into a new dot-com bubble, similar to the 1990s -

62% of bankers believe the tech industry may be entering into a new dot-com bubble, similar to the 1990s - 

FacebookGroupon and Zynga are creating an investor frenzy around high-growth Internet companies while commanding sky-rocketing valuations. But are the valuations for these pre-IPO companies justified?
Maybe not, says a new report by accounting and consulting firm BDO USA, which found that 75% of capital markets executives at investment banks believe that the multi-billion dollar valuations for many private companies are too high.

Facebook, reported to be exploring an IPO for next year, could see its valuation top $100 billion, according to reports.
Groupon and Zynga are also planning public offerings featuring valuations as high as $30 billion and $10 billion, respectively.
Other tech companies with reported billion-plus valuations include micro-blogging site Twitter, daily deals companyLivingSocial, mobile payments company Square and travel site Airbnb.
About 62% of bankers also believe the tech industry may be entering into a new dot-com bubble, similar to what they experienced in the 1990s.
"We were surprised about concern over a bubble," said Lee Graul, a capital markets partner at BDO USA. "While the companies today have real revenue, customers and profits, we think the term 'bubble' may reflect the limited life of investments today, meaning they're pricing themselves out of the market when they come out."
According to the report, the main contributors to inflated valuations include increasing demand due to a scarcity of shares in pre-IPO markets, the growth of the Internet, the businesses' profitability and strong performance from recent public offerings in the space.
Business social network LinkedIn(LNKD), which went public in May, saw shares more than double in its first day of trading. The stock is now trading at around $100, significantly above its offer price of $45.
Similarly, Russian search giant Yandex(YNDX) saw shares pop more than 40% on its U.S. trading debut.
Bankers were conflicted, however, about the effect of secondary exchanges like SecondMarket and SharesPost, which allow investors to buy and sell shares of private companies.

Read more - http://www.thestreet.com/story/11181832/1/bankers-valuations-for-pre-ipo-tech-firms-too-high.html?cm_ven=emailfriend

Vladimir Putin Calls Bernanke A Hooligan - Angry At American Money Printing -

Vladimir Putin Calls Bernanke A Hooligan - Angry At American Money Printing - 

Who would have thought that Ron Paul's ideological ally in his quest to take down the Chairsatan would be none other than the Russian dictator-in-waiting (or rather, in actuality), Vladimir Putin. In a speech before the of economic experts at the Russian Academy of Sciences, the Russian prime minister had the following to say: "Thank God, or unfortunately, we do not print a reserve currency but what are they doing? They are behaving like hooligans, switching on the printing press and tossing them around the whole world, forgetting their main obligations." What appears to have angered the former KGB spy is the end of QE2. According to RIAN: "Putin's comments came in the wake of the completion of the US' quantitative easing (QE) 2 program on June 30, in which the Federal Reserve bought $600 billion worth of its Treasury bonds. The Fed's first round of QE, which ended in March last year, amounted to less than half the size of QE2." We can't wait to hear what expletive Putin will usher once Bernanke launches QE3.
What are the next steps: "The Russian authorities have said they would like to see a basket of currencies including the ruble replacing the dollar as the main reserve currency, although most analysts have said a more realistic target for Russia would be if the ruble became a regional reserve currency for the CIS." Too bad most analysts are right 9 out of -7 times. And last time we checked Russia was the largest oil producer in the world, which means it can do pretty much whatever it wants. Which, assuming Russia forms a 21st century axis with China and Germany, as many have suggested, means that while analysts can downplay the impact of what Russian ambitions in the monetary arena mean, pretty soon the only reserve currency in the world will be the one backed not with Tomahawk missiles or printing presses, but actual, hard assets.

Toronto School Allows Muslim Prayer - BUT school prohibits any Christian prayers -

Toronto School Allows Muslim Prayer - BUT school prohibits any Christian prayers - 

A majority-Muslim public school in Toronto is defending its policy of allowing an imam to lead Friday prayers in the cafeteria, saying students who leave school for prayers at a mosque typically don’t return to school.
The school prohibits any Christian prayers.
For the past three years, some 300 Muslim students at Valley Park Middle School have been allowed to use the school cafeteria for their Friday prayers. Before the policy change, school officials say students would leave classes early and not return.
“I think it’s important to note the prayer isn’t conducted under the auspices of the board,” Jim Spyropoulos, a superintendent for inclusive schools with the Toronto District School Board, told the Globe and Mail newspaper. “This was the best solution that avoided compromising instructional time.”
The issue is “about religious accommodation,” Shari Schwartz-Maltz, a school district spokeswoman, told The Canadian Press.
Those explanations have not placated angry parents, who are lighting up radio call-in shows and blogging furiously — particularly since Christian and other prayers are disallowed in the public school system.
In an unlikely alliance, Canadian Hindu Advocacy, the Jewish Defense League and the Muslim Canadian Congress have voiced strong opposition to the arrangement.
Islamic groups are “imposing their view” to “spread their ideology,” Ron Banerjee, director of Canadian Hindu Advocacy, told the Globe and Mail.
The Muslim Canadian Congress has asked for the services to be halted or closely monitored to avert the spread of radicalism.

Read more: http://blog.beliefnet.com/on_the_front_lines_of_the_culture_wars/2011/07/canadian-school-bars-christian-prayers-but-allows-muslim-prayertime-in-cafeteria.html#ixzz1RzX5y7kV

Accused sex offender allowed to watch child porn in jail -

Accused sex offender allowed to watch child porn in jail - 

 A strange quirk in the law is allowing an accused child rapist to watch child pornography inside the Pierce County Jail.

Marc Gilbert is accused of sexually assaulting young boys and videotaping the abuse.

Under the law, defense attorneys are allowed to review material tied to the case. And because Gilbert has chosen to act as his own attorney, he has had unlimited access to the pornographic footage. 

Therefore, the jail says it has no choice but to allow Gilbert to review the footage times over with no limits. Restricting his access would risk a mistrial.

Investigators seized from Gilbert's possession more than 100 DVDs containing 28 hours of pornographic footage. Some of the material was allegedly shot by the former jet pilot, and feature the young boys he's accused of luring to his home and exploiting.

The prosecutor and the sheriff say the results of the legal loophole are sickening in this case, but say the state Supreme Court has ruled in Gilbert's favor.

"Make no mistake -- I don't like it," said Pierce County Sheriff Paul Pastor. "But it is not my choice whether to do it or not to do it. There's no question that I don't like it. There's no question that this makes me grind my teeth."

"We don't like it. We don't want to do it, but we have to follow the law. The fix here is to change the law," said Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist. 

To make sure no other inmates get a chance to see the pornography, Gilbert is made to review them in a separate room. 

Child advocates say allowing the tapes to be viewed further victimizes the victims.

Read more - http://www.komonews.com/news/local/125454238.html

New weapon to fight malaria in Africa: Smelly socks -

New weapon to fight malaria in Africa: Smelly socks - 

Tired of being bitten by mosquitoes at your backyard barbecue?
Try hanging your dirty socks out front.
That rancid smell signals “feast” to the infuriating little blood suckers.
And scientists may soon be wafting that stench over impoverished villages throughout Africa as a potent anti-malarial weapon, thanks to a Canadian foreign aid grant.
The socks, whose smell mosquitoes find irresistible, will be employed as bait in traps that can kill thousands of the malaria-bearing parasites a night, says the Tanzanian scientist who invented the device.
“We bait them indeed with dirty socks,” said Fredros Okumu, 29, a research scientist with the Ifakara Health Institute in southeasternTanzania.
“The sock is attractive to us, not just because it’s attractive to mosquitoes, but also because it’s readily available,” said Okumu, who is completing a PhD at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.
Okumu has also used simple cotton pads worn for a day in villagers’ shoes as an alternative to the actual footwear.
“If you’re using socks, you’re going to have to get a lot of socks to do this,” he said.
“It’s not going to be acceptable for people to take all their socks and put them in traps.”
Mosquitoes are particularly attracted to feet because they are a key source of the odour that allows them to distinguish us as humans, Okumu said.
Socks trap this odour, a volatile fatty acid smell created by the bacteria that teem on our skin throughout the day, he said.
Okumu’s trap will complement the mosquito net programs widespread across malarial regions of the continent.