Making Unique Observations in a Very Cluttered World

Friday, 31 January 2014

Summing Up Ben Bernanke's Reign In 4 Numbers -

Summing Up Ben Bernanke's Reign In 4 Numbers - 

First of all, a very Happy New Year to our many Chinese readers.

According to the ancient Zodiac, today we are shedding the coils of the year of the Snake in favor of the Horse.

Given this symbology, it is perhaps a very small irony that today is also the final day in office for Ben Bernanke, chairman of the US Federal Reserve. Let’s review the statistics:

1) When Mr. Bernanke took office in 2006, the Fed had $834.6 billion in assets, the vast majority of which were US Treasuries.

As of Wednesday, Mr. Bernanke’s Fed now counts $4.1 trillion in assets. And the balance sheet is stuffed full of mortgage debt ‘guaranteed’ by insolvent government agencies.

2) When Mr. Bernanke took office, the Fed’s capital ratio (net equity divided by total assets) was 3.22%.

This capital ratio is a hugely important number in banking that represents a sort of ‘margin of safety’. In a severe crisis situation, banks with a higher capital ratio are able to withstand major financial shocks.

Candidly, 3.22% is not high; this means that the Fed would effectively be rendered insolvent if its assets lost more than 3.22% of their value. So the Fed that Mr. Bernanke inherited was not exceptionally healthy.

But today, Mr. Bernanke leaves office with the balance sheet in far worse condition. The Fed’s capital ratio is just 1.34%. And it’s deteriorating rapidly.

Three years ago, the Fed’s capital ratio was 2.17%. A year ago it was 1.82%. Six months ago it was 1.54%. And now today just 1.34%. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist (or a PhD in economics) to see how quickly this is unraveling.

The Fed now has a razor thin margin of safety to guarantee a bloated balance sheet crammed full of questionable assets. This is not exactly the height of responsible stewardship.

Has it helped? I suppose that depends on whom you ask.

3) When Mr. Bernanke took office, the Dow Jones Industrial Average stood at 10,954, and the US government could borrow money for ten years at 4.57%.

Today the Dow is at 15,569, and the 10-year note is 2.65%.

So this has been a pretty good run for folks who have thrown money in the stock market or have heavily indebted themselves.

Yet over 50% of Americans don’t own a single share of stocks. And as of 2010, 10% of Americans own 81% of all stocks.

Then there’s the Federal government, which has been able to pass off trillions of dollars of debt to a willing central banker, as well as generate tax revenue from all the stock investors’ capital gains.

4) Most folks, however, have seen a different side of the Fed’s expansion. The FAO food price index, for example, has increased from 122 to 207, and the labor force participation rate declined to its lowest level in decades under Mr. Bernake’s tenure.

It’s fairly clear if you look at the data objectively that Mr. Bernanke’s policies have left the Fed (and consequently the global financial system) in far more precarious condition than when he started, yet disproportionately benefited the US government and small percentage of society at the expense of everyone else.

This is not to say that Mr. Bernanke is some evil mastermind bent on nefarious ends.

When I listened to him explain his decision-making process at a dinner in Washington a few months ago, it became clear that he is very well intentioned and honestly believes that his policies help.

Unfortunately the road to ruin is almost always paved with good intentions.


Phone app sets up sex partners during plane rides... -

Phone app sets up sex partners during plane rides... - 

The New York Times might say landing strips are out of sexual style, but this new app promises to keep users scoring in the sky, on the airport runway and beyond.
“Wingman” purports to be “an app that connects you with attractive people on your flight, all before you touch down,” its website asserts.
Translation: as long as there’s WiFi, the app will help you find fellow hornballs and bang in the bathroom. We’re not so convinced the “attractive” part will come to fruition, but as our grandma says, there’s a lid for every pot.
Wingman’s collective of developers, known as Miscellaneous Mischief, told Betabeat the app’s interface “will be simple: individuals will be matched according to their flight number and airline.”
They’re working on an iOS version, but will also have a browser version ready, too. Users can indicate whether they’re flying for business, pleasure or both, and reveal their seat number and final destination if they so choose.
“The idea is to start interesting conversations in unique situations, and simply see what happens,” a spokesperson said.
The app’s beta version is launching in two to three months. In the meantime, the developers are collecting email addresses on Wingman’s website for beta testers. Enter yours to be among the privileged few who get to try the app before it launches, you lech, and get turned on quicker than the “fasten seatbelt” sign.
Or you could just use Tinder on your flight. Whatever works.


Snowden Docs - Canadians used as Guinea Pigs for NSA Snooping -

Snowden Docs - Canadians used as Guinea Pigs for NSA Snooping - 

A top secret document retrieved by U.S. whistleblower Edward Snowden and obtained by CBC News shows that Canada's electronic spy agency used information from the free internet service at a major Canadian airport to track the wireless devices of thousands of ordinary airline passengers for days after they left the terminal.

After reviewing the document, one of Canada's foremost authorities on cyber-security says the clandestine operation by the Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC) was almost certainly illegal.

Read the doc: CSEC's airport Wi-Fi tracking (redacted PDF)

Ronald Deibert told CBC News: "I can't see any circumstance in which this would not be unlawful, under current Canadian law, under our Charter, under CSEC's mandates."

The spy agency is supposed to be collecting primarily foreign intelligence by intercepting overseas phone and internet traffic, and is prohibited by law from targeting Canadians or anyone in Canada without a judicial warrant.

As CSEC chief John Forster recently stated: "I can tell you that we do not target Canadians at home or abroad in our foreign intelligence activities, nor do we target anyone in Canada.

"In fact, it's prohibited by law. Protecting the privacy of Canadians is our most important principle."

But security experts who have been apprised of the document point out the airline passengers in a Canadian airport were clearly in Canada.

CSEC said in a written statement to CBC News that it is "mandated to collect foreign signals intelligence to protect Canada and Canadians. And in order to fulfill that key foreign intelligence role for the country, CSEC is legally authorized to collect and analyze metadata."

Metadata reveals a trove of information including, for example, the location and telephone numbers of all calls a person makes and receives — but not the content of the call, which would legally be considered a private communication and cannot be intercepted without a warrant.

"No Canadian communications were (or are) targeted, collected or used," the agency says.

In the case of the airport tracking operation, the metadata apparently identified travelers' wireless devices, but not the content of calls made or emails sent from them.


Equity Funds Have Largest Weekly Outflow In Over Two Years -

Equity Funds Have Largest Weekly Outflow In Over Two Years - 

There is one major problem when the entire market is a rigged casino (by both the Fed and HFTs), favoring degenerate gamblers over traditional investors: at the first whiff of trouble everyone bails. Or as BofA politely puts it, "Typically flows follow returns and this week was no exception." In the past week, trouble whiffed, and the degenerate gamblers, loaded up to the gills with record margin debt hightailed it out of the casino, leading to the largest weekly equity fund outflow in over two years! Add some record leverage to the equity withdrawal, continued EM turbulence, ongoing Japanese deflation exports, oh and of course the ongoing Fed taper which has been solely responsible for all S&P gains since 666, and suddenly you have all the ingredients for a broad market crash.

More from BofA:

"... equity, high yield and EM bond funds all reported large outflows last week after the sharp selloff in risk assets driven by weakness in EM. At the same time munis – the asset class that benefits most from the rally in rates – had the first significant inflow (+$0.46bn) since May. The $12.02bn equity fund outflow was the largest weekly outflow in over two years. EM funds also saw a sizable $2.65bn outflow, driven by local currency funds – the largest since June. This outflow also reversed the slowdown in EM redemptions that we saw during the first three weeks of the year."


Genetically modified monkeys created with cut-and-paste DNA -

Genetically modified monkeys created with cut-and-paste DNA - 

Researchers have created genetically modified monkeys with a revolutionary new procedure that enables scientists to cut and paste DNA in living organisms.

The macaques are the first primates to have their genetic makeup altered with the powerful technology which many scientists believe will lead to a new era of genetic medicine.

The feat was applauded by some researchers who said it would help them to recreate devastating human diseases in monkeys, such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. The ability to alter DNA with such precision is already being investigated as a way to make people resistant to HIV.

But the breakthrough is controversial, with groups opposed to animal testing warning that it could drive a rise in the use of monkeys in research. One critic said that genetic engineering gave researchers "almost limitless power to create sick animals".

The work was carried out in a lab in China, where scientists said they had used a genome editing procedure, called Crispr/Cas9, to manipulate two genes in fertilised monkey eggs before transferring them to surrogate mothers.

Writing in the journal, Cell, the team from Nanjing Medical University reported the delivery of twin female long-tailed macaques, called Ningning and Mingming. Five surrogates miscarried and four more pregnancies are ongoing.

The Crispr procedure has been welcomed by geneticists in labs around the world because of its enormous potential. Unlike standard gene therapy, Crispr allows scientists to remove faulty genes from cells, or replace them with healthy ones. It can even correct single letter spelling mistakes in the DNA code.

The Chinese team, led by Jiahao Sha, said their work demonstrates how Crispr could be used to create monkeys that carry genetic faults that lead to diseases in humans. But the same could be done to small pieces of human organs grown in the lab, and used to test drugs, or to monitor the progress of serious diseases.

Nelson Freimer, director of the centre for neurobehavioural genetics at the University of California in Los Angeles, said that while researchers often use mice to study human diseases, brain disorders are particularly hard to recreate in the animals because their brains are so different.

"People have been looking for primate models for a whole list of diseases, but in the past it's been either completely unfeasible, or incredibly expensive. This is saying we can do this relatively inexpensively and quickly, and that is a major advance," said Freimer.

But Freimer added that the use of monkeys was likely to remain a last resort. "It's going to be really critical to define the problems for which this is used, just as you always do with animal research. You want to use all the alternatives before you propose animal research. This will be reserved for terrible diseases for which it offers hope that cannot be gotten any other way," he said.

Tipu Aziz, who has used primates in his work on Parkinson's disease at Oxford University, welcomed the new procedure. "If we can identify genes for neurological disorders in a clinical setting and transpose those into a monkey it would be of massive benefit. I don't know that it'll lead to a rise in the use of monkeys, but it will lead to more focused studies," he said.

Read more -

Thursday, 30 January 2014

Experts Warn Of ‘Caffeine Use Disorder’ -

 Experts Warn Of ‘Caffeine Use Disorder’ - 

A new study has found that more people are dependent on caffeine to the point experts are issuing a “caffeine use disorder” warning.
The study, coauthored by American University psychology professor Laura Juliano, shows that more people are suffering withdrawl symptoms and are unable to reduce caffeine consumption which is causes the “caffeine use disorder.”
“There is misconception among professionals and lay people alike that caffeine is not difficult to give up. However, in population-based studies, more than 50 percent of regular caffeine consumers report that they have had difficulty quitting or reducing caffeine use,” Juliano said in a press release. ”Through our research, we have observed that people who have been unable to quit or cut back on caffeine on their own would be interested in receiving formal treatment—similar to the outside assistance people can turn to if they want to quit smoking or tobacco use.”

The results of previously published caffeine research was summarized in the study to present the biological evidence for caffeine dependence and the significant physical and psychological symptoms experienced by regular caffeine users.
“The negative effects of caffeine are often not recognized as such because it is a socially acceptable and widely consumed drug that is well integrated into our customs and routines,” Juliano said. “And while many people can consume caffeine without harm, for some it produces negative effects, physical dependence, interferes with daily functioning, and can be difficult to give up, which are signs of problematic use.”

Juliano advises that caffeine consumption should be limited to no more than 400 mg per day or the equivalent of about two to three 8-oz cups of coffee for healthy adults.  She noted that pregnant women should consume less than 200 mg per day along with people who experience anxiety or insomnia regularly.
“At this time, manufacturers are not required to label caffeine amounts and some products such as energy drinks do not have regulated limits on caffeine,” Juliano said, adding that if this changed, people could perhaps better limit their consumption and ideally, avoid caffeine’s possible negative effects.


Scientists appear to have located the Consience -

Scientists appear to have located the Consience - 

Scientists at Oxford University have made a startling discovery: they’ve found a region of the brain that makes you wonder if you’ve done something wrong, and whether you’d have been well advised to do something better.
There are several things that you should know about this region, which is inside your head, and the head of the lady sitting beside you on the Tube, and the heads of David Cameron and Lady Gaga and Rouge Dragon Pursuivant of the Royal College of Heralds. One, it's called the lateral frontal pole. Two, it's unique to humans - they ran tests on monkeys in the course of the research at Oxford and, nope, they don't have it. Three, it's the size of "a large Brussels sprout". And four, it's a leap beyond current scientific knowledge into realms that can only be described as spooky.

We already knew (he says, hastily consulting his copy of Popular Science for Dimwits) that the brain can monitor decisions it has made. It tells itself: "I  have chosen to follow this track in the  forest and it's turning out to be a sunlit pathway/sodden jungle", but it registers no more nuanced reaction than that. What this newly discovered region does, however, is to identify other paths that it might have been better to take, and register what a dolt the brain feels for getting it wrong.

"This region monitors how good the choices are that we don't take," said Professor Matthew Rushworth, who led the research, "How green the grass is on the other side."

What the professor doesn't mention is the emotional trauma that the brain must register for having made a crap decision.  Like the split-second after you've tweeted what you meant to be a direct message to a friend, voicing the view that a recent guest on your TV show was a crashing bore - only to realise, too late, that you've informed your entire Twitter following about the lady's snoringness. Or the moment you sail past your turn off on the M3, horribly aware that it's 40 miles to the next exit and you're almost out of petrol. Or that creeping sensation when you realise that you should have chosen some other song than "YMCA" to hum while dealing with passport control at Sochi airport.

The lateral frontal pole, in short, is like a spouse who is quick to inform you that you've blundered and bungled it when it would have been so easy to get it right. It's the kindly-but-firm voice of authority that tells you to go to your room and mull over what you've done, so you'll be sure not to do it again in future...

Intellectual ability consists of short-term memory, reasoning and verbal agility. Although these interact with one another they are handled by three distinct nerve 'circuits' in the brain Hang on. This isn't some minor breakthrough of cognitive neuroscience. This is about good and bad, right and wrong. This is about the brain's connection to morality. This means that the Oxford scientists, without apparently realising what they've done, have located the conscience. 

For centuries we thought that the conscience was just some faculty of moral insight in the human mind, an innate sense that one was behaving well or badly - although the great HL Mencken once defined it as, "the inner voice which  warns us that someone may be looking". It's been used by religions as a numinous something-or-other, kindly bestowed by God, to give humans a choice between sin and Paradise.


Millions of Dollars in Phony $100 Bills Flooding the Big Apple -

Millions of Dollars in Phony $100 Bills Flooding the Big Apple -  

 Newly redesigned $100 notes lay in stacks at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing on May 20, 2013 in Washington, D.C. The bills have new security features, such as a duplicating portrait of Benjamin Franklin and microprinting added to make the bill more difficult to counterfeit.

It’s all about the Benjamins.

An international counterfeiting ring has been pumping millions of dollars in phony $100 bills into New York and other cities in the metropolitan area over the past several years, forcing the Secret Service to step up its operation to shut it down, sources told "On The Inside."

Federal officials are tracking the mules who smuggle bogus bills into the country and distributing an alert to New York businesses, banks and security industry personnel that teaches how to detect the fake C-notes, a copy of which DNAinfo New York obtained.

The counterfeit cash appears to have been manufactured on offset printing machines using plates and ink, rather than on more sophisticated copiers, according to Michael Seremetis, the assistant special agent in charge of the New York Secret Service office.

The loot is produced in bulk and bundled into packages that are smuggled in luggage or carried on planes by couriers who get about 40 cents on the dollar to put the fakes into circulation.

“The network is similar to that of the narcotics trade,” Seremetis explained. “It is distributed via a sophisticated network that involves several mules who do the passing of the notes here in the tri-state area.”

The Secret Service warning says the bills contain a set of five different serial numbers and have two black 7s above the last zero on the lower right-hand corner, above the “100” mark on the back of the bill.

Although the Super Bowl game is taking place in the New York City area, officials are downplaying any connection between those festivities and the timing of their warning — and insist counterfeiters are not using the big game as a convenient time to pass off their funny money.

The counterfeit cash frequently turns up in clubs, bars and casinos, officials said. Department stores over holiday periods are typical targets.

If you have a phony $100 that is confiscated, you will lose the value of the money but can declare a tax loss at the end of the year, officials said.

“We are asking the public to let us know if they encounter these bills,” Seremetis said.


Vitamin E supplements may speed up lung cancer -

Vitamin E supplements may speed up lung cancer - 

London, Jan 30: In an alarming study, scientists have found that two commonly used antioxidants - including the popular vitamin E can fuel the growth of lung cancer in mice rather than curb it.

“The take-home message is that these antioxidants do not decrease the risk of cancer and may even increase risk of some cancers in some populations,” cautioned Martin Bergö, a molecular biologist at University of Gothenburg in Sweden and a co-author of the latest study.

Bergö and his colleague, Per Lindahl, a molecular biologist at the University of Gothenburg, conducted experiments in mice that were genetically engineered to develop lung cancer.

They first decided to dose the mice with a compound called N-acetylcysteine (NAC) - another antioxidant.

The control tumours grew three times faster than expected after the NAC dose.

The team decided to dig deeper, and expanded its study to include another common antioxidant - vitamin E, said a report in Nature.

The researchers fed either NAC or vitamin E to the mice, using doses of 5 or 50 times higher than the daily recommended amount for mice.

Human dietary supplements often have 4 to 20 times the recommended daily intake of vitamin E (22.4 EU) for humans.

The results for the two antioxidants were similar. Tumours grew about three times faster than those in animals that did not receive the treatment.

Treated mice also died from their cancers about twice as quickly as untreated mice, said the study published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

“Our study, however, does not say anything about how antioxidant supplementation affects cancer risk in apparently healthy people,” the study added.

According to Lindahl, the work does call for a closer look at the effects of antioxidants in smokers, who are at high risk for lung cancer and may already carry small tumours while outwardly seeming healthy.

He is also concerned about people with a common lung ailment called chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, who are sometimes treated with NAC to reduce mucus production. 


FAA Stops Beer Drone Delivery -

FAA Stops Beer Drone Delivery - 

The Lakemaid micro brewery started delivering beer to ice fishers using drones, at least until the FAA coldly shut their operation down.  The FAA is currently reviewing their policies.  
According to the beer company’s president, Jack Supple, “They think it’s a great idea, though they’re telling me to stop.” 
Here is a video of the drone delivering the beer: 


STUDY: Large testicles mean greater infidelity... -

STUDY: Large testicles mean greater infidelity... - 

 There is a correlation between infidelity and the size of a male's testicles, researchers have found.

A study by scientists at the University of Oslo found that primates with bigger testicles were more likely to be unfaithful.

Petter Bøckman, Assistant Professor, said: “We can determine the degree of fidelity in the female by looking at the size of the male’s testicles. The less faithful the female, the larger the male’s testicles.

"If the male will only fertilise one female and has no competitors, he only needs sufficient sperm to reach the egg. If the female mates on the side, it is smart to have as many cars as possible in the race.

"Then, the male must have testicles that are as large as possible."

    Enhancing the human race: augmented reality Cancer Research UK

Prof Bøckman said bonobos have particularly large testicles and mate in large groups whereas gorillas have small testicles.

He said: "There is an abundant flow of semen. Those who leave the greatest amount of sperm have the largest chance of fathering offspring.

"In gorilla troops there is only one male. Even though the gorilla has a small harem, he has no need for large testicles – his balls are tiny.”

Large testicles can increase the risk of testicular cancer, the study found.

“Animals with short lifespans may have enormously large testicles. In one type of grasshopper the testicles occupy half their body mass,” said Prof Bøckman

"The testicles are even larger in sea urchins. They spawn directly into the ocean. To increase the chance of fertilising an egg, the sea urchin is a huge testicle with a little shell around it."

The testicles of humans are one and a half times larger than those of gorillas.

Prof Bøckman said: “This testifies with abundant clarity to life in our flock. We can pledge our fidelity until we are blue in the face, but this is evidence that our females are cheating.

"We are not like chimpanzees, where the female has four or five sexual partners every time she is in heat, but there is always a certain likelihood that the neighbouring male has dropped by.”

The testicles are also large in animals that have sex with many females.

Prof Bøckman said: “Male lions have huge balls. All the females in the pride must have sex at the same time. When the female lions in the pride are in heat, he must mate with all the females every half-hour for three days.”


Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Man uses one first-class ticket to get free airline lounge meals for a year -

Man uses one first-class ticket to get free airline lounge meals for a year - 

Talk about stretching your dollar.

A man in China purchased one first-class ticket on Eastern China Airlines and used it to scam a year's worth of free meals at the VIP lounge in Xi'an airport, according to a report from Malaysian Chinese newspaper

Here's how it worked. The man flashed his ticket (which was legit) to lounge staff before his trip, hung out and ate a meal just like any first class traveler would, and instead of getting on the flight would change his flight's departure to another day.  The next day he would show up with his newly issued ticket for the revised date, stroll into the lounge, eat hang out, and change his ticket date again.  He did this over and over again.   

According to the newspaper, staff members discovered that the itinerary for the one ticket had been postponed over 300 times in a year.

So did the unidentified customer ever take the trip? 

When China Eastern Airlines started investigating, the man simply cancelled his ticket before it expired and was able to get a full refund. A spokeswoman for the airline told the newspaper that the company has no way to stop such "rare act."

Read more: - 

Naps help memory and cognitive function... - Here is scientific proof that Siestas are beneficial... -

Naps help memory and cognitive function... - Here is scientific proof that Siestas are beneficial...  - 

We have long known that naps have an important function in refreshing and reviving a tired mind.
Some of the greatest thinkers of recent times have been avid nappers – Winston Churchill reportedly relied on regular short naps to help him lead the country through the war.
And yet there remains a cruel stigma against those of us who wish to pop back into bed during daylight hours for a quick shut eye.
But now, in a round-up of scientific research, there is evidence not only proving the real benefits of a kip, but detailed findings that show how varying lengths of snooze have different beneficial effects on the brain. 
If you want to wake up from your nap feeling immediately rested then either brief a snooze of 10-20 minutes or a longer 90 minute sleep are your best options.
In a 10-20 minute sleep you will only enter the first, lightest stage of sleep known as non-rapid eye movement, or non-REM sleep. This length of sleep will give you a boost in energy levels and alertness but since your sleep won’t be deep, you will be able to wake up easily with little grogginess.
While a 90 minute nap will allow you to fall into a deep sleep, a full hour 30 minutes allows you to complete a complete sleep cycle, giving you plenty of benefits, but also allowing you to rise without that confused sleepy feeling. 
Research shows that a snooze of this length will improve procedural memory and creativity.


911 OVERLOAD: Residents asked to TWEET for Atlanta Police???... -

911 OVERLOAD: Residents asked to TWEET for Atlanta Police???... - 

Stranded in the winter storm that has paralyzed metro Atlanta?
You can stay in touch with loved ones by registering at the American Red Cross Safe and Well website. Below is a running list of resources available in your area.
Cedarcrest Church, 4600 Cobb Pkwy. NW, is open. The telephone number is 678-460-3500.
Alpharetta has opened its community center as a temporary shelter for motorists who have become stranded due to hazardous road conditions, according to the city’s website. The shelter is at 175 Roswell St.
“Our Public Safety personnel are encountering numerous motorists who are stranded or have abandoned their vehicles on the roadside,” Alpharetta Assistant City Administrator James Drinkard said in a statement. “As a temporary measure we are activating our community center so that these citizens have a warm place to go until other arrangements can be made. While this is not a Red Cross approved shelter and does not offer cots and other conveniences, it is a warm dry place in which they can be safe.”
If you are stranded and cannot get through to 911, please send the Atlanta Police Department a message through Facebook or Twitter.


Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Poor sleep quality may accelerate cancer growth, study finds -

Poor sleep quality may accelerate cancer growth, study finds - 

Failing to get a good night’s rest may actually have some serious health consequences.

Poor quality of sleep marked by frequent waking can speed cancer growth and increase the disease’s aggressiveness, according to new research.

In a study published in the journal Cancer Research, researchers experimented with genetically engineered mice that had been injected with tumor cells. As the mice slept during the day, a quiet, motorized brush moved through half of the cages every two minutes – forcing some of the mice to wake up and go back to sleep. The other mice were not disturbed as they slept.

After four weeks, the researchers found that the tumors in the mice with fragmented sleep patterns were twice as large as the tumors in the mice who had slept normally.

According to study director Dr. David Gozal, poor sleep can significantly alter the immune system.

"It's not the tumor, it's the immune system," said Gozal, chairman of pediatrics at the University of Chicago Comer Children's Hospital. "Fragmented sleep changes how the immune system deals with cancer in ways that make the disease more aggressive."


STUDY: Gossiping Has Positive Effect on Society... -

STUDY: Gossiping Has Positive Effect on Society... - 

Coventional wisdom holds that gossip and social exclusion are always malicious, undermining trust and morale in groups. But sharing this kind of "reputational information" could have benefits for society, according to a new study published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

Robb Willer, an associate professor of sociology at Stanford University, explored the nature of gossip and ostracism in collaboration with co-authors Matthew Feinberg, a postdoctoral researcher at Stanford, and Michael Schultz from the University of California-Berkeley.
Their research shows that gossip and ostracism can have positive effects, serving as tools by which groups reform bullies, thwart exploitation of "nice people," and encourage cooperation.
"Groups that allow their members to gossip," said Feinberg, "sustain cooperation and deter selfishness better than those that don't. And groups do even better if they can gossip and ostracize untrustworthy members. While both of these behaviors can be misused, our findings suggest that they also serve very important functions for groups and society."
The researchers divided 216 participants into groups, asking them to play a game and make financial choices that would benefit their respective groups.
Researchers commonly use this public-goods exercise to examine social dilemmas because individual participants will benefit the most by selfishly free-riding off everyone else's contributions while contributing nothing themselves.
Before moving on to the next round with an entirely new group, participants could gossip about their prior group members. Future group members then received that information and could decide to exclude -- ostracize -- a suspect participant from the group before deciding to make their next financial choices.


Futuristic Bra Only Opens For 'True Love' -

Futuristic Bra Only Opens For 'True Love' - 

Well, the Japanese have done it again. Apparently this tech-laden bra made by the lingerie company Ravijour will only unhook for “true love.”

The “True Love Tester” bra can’t be masterfully unhooked by some skeevy player who hit on the wearer at a club. No, this bra only comes undone when sensors embedded inside it that are connected wirelessly to a smartphone app detect a particular heart rate (video, safe for work).

According to the Victoria’s Secret-like company that made the bra, Ravijour, a particular heart rate over time indicates “love.” And what do you know, they even have a graph comparing the effects of jogging, shopping, eating spicy food and watching a horror movie with “flirting” and “surprise gift” on a lady’s heart. What better way to acknowledge being “in love” than having your glittery bra fly open?

BuzzFeed’s Rachel Zarrell put the whole thing into a series of awesome GIFs to illustrate the ridiculousness of it all. Ravijour’s slogan is “We do anything for women.” Apparently they do anything to free the girls, too.

Might not want to wear this thing around in public, though. The dude-designed bra cups pop open pretty dramatically.


Russian Bank Halts All Cash Withdrawals -

Russian Bank Halts All Cash Withdrawals - 

It would appear the fears of a global bank run are spreading. From HSBC's limiting large cash withdrawals (for your own good) to Lloyds ATMs going down, Bloomberg reports that 'My Bank' - one of Russia's top 200 lenders by assets - has introduced a complete ban on cash withdrawals until next week. While the Ruble has been losing ground rapidly recently, we suspect few have been expecting bank runs in Russia. Russia sovereign CDS had recently weakned to 4-month wides at 192bps.

Via Bloomberg,

Lender has introduced complete ban on cash withdrawals until end of week, news agency reports, citing unidentified person in call center.

Bank spokeswoman declined to comment by phone

My Bank is top 200 lender by assets: Prime

NOTE: Central bank has revoked about 30 banking licenses since July 1 when Elvira Nabiullina succeeded Sergei Ignatiev as governor, compared with three in the firt half of the year
Interestingly, Russia's biggest lender Sberbank has seen a 8.7% rise in deposits in December... it seems the Russian's are realizing that bank deposits are nothing more than risky loans to highly levered entities...

Matt Drudge Issues Warning: “Have An Exit Plan” - 

His web site may consist of just a single page, but Matt Drudge is arguably the most influential media personality in the world. Garnering nearly one billion readers monthly, the Drudge Report is able to literally shift public sentiment, making it an essential read for D.C. insiders, Wall Street professionals, and anyone who wants to stay on top of the latest global issues.
If Matt Drudge headlines a story its viral spread to millions of readers in near real-time is guaranteed.
With his established connections to critical spheres of influence that include everything from politics and government to finance and entertainment, when Drudge speaks, people listen.
Over the weekend, as noted by Steve Quayle and Susan Duclos, the self made media behemoth took to his Twitter account with a simple warning consisting of just four words… Have an Exit Plan


Drudge included no other details with his Tweet.
The warning, while cryptic, may be the result of direct insider information. Considering he once nearly brought down the Clinton administration by revealing the President’s indiscretions with a White House intern, one could make the case that if anyone has legitimate sources pouring in from across the world it’s Matt Drudge.

Could his warning be for stock market investors regarding foreknowledge of an imminent collapse of financial markets in the United States, China and Europe?
Or has Drudge’s access to insiders in key positions given him the ability to connect the dots for an event that may occur in the near future? Few may recall, but just three weeks ahead of the September 11th attacks, Drudge headlined warnings of possible strikes on US-based targets, so there may well be a credible insider source for his most recent warning as well.
In recent years the mogul has expanded his news distribution service to  include alternative news powerhouses like Alex Jones’ Infowars, which researches and analyzes key events and happenings globally. As of late, Drudge has made it a point to link to a variety of topics at Infowars that include the militarization of America’s domestic policing apparatus, Constitutional transgression at the highest levels of our government, and other insider reports often ignored by the mainstream media. While establishment news media shuns the rapidly growing alternative media, a warning to “have an exit plan” is one that the alternative news sphere has consistently suggested, while often being laughed at in mainstream circles.
Given Drudge’s massive following, reach, and credibility, perhaps we shouldn’t be laughing any more.
Something has spooked Matt Drudge and he’s not alone. Last year one of America’s leading talk show hosts, Mark Levin, warned that the U.S. government has beensimulating the collapse of our financial system and society with the potential for widespread violence. There are countless such examples of highly influential media personalities who are issuing similar warnings.
Within the realm of the alternative media, the last several years have yielded incredible insights into the inner workings of the U.S. government, political system and economic machinations. Everything from manipulations of our monetary system to the sometimes unbelievable expansion of the American police state has been extensively studied and reported by thousands of independent journalists, broadcasters and bloggers operating outside of the mainstream establishment’s sphere of influence.
There have been insider reports indicating that a crisis of unprecedented magnitude is coming to the United States. Contrarian economists, who are almost completely ignored by mainstream media, have warned of dire consequences to the continued operation of our systems of commerce, including our domestic food distribution networks. And though it has not been reported on the alphabet news channels, the U.S. military has been actively war gaming collapse scenarios and engaging in highlysuspicious exercises across U.S. metropolitan areas.
While Matt Drudge’s latest comments could be referring to anything, given the types of stories he’s covered in recent years we could make the case that he is referring to worst-case scenarios.
His exit plan warning may encompass any number of potential scenarios such as a coming shock to financial markets, evacuating major cities in an emergency, preparing for the destruction of our currency, or having a way to get out of the United States in the event of a Soviet-style purge.
Whatever the case, Matt Drudge understands that his views and comments are followed by hundreds of millions of people worldwide, thus we are confident that he would not publicly issue such a warning unless he has access to credible information that supports his claims.
That being said, we urge readers to remain vigilant. And, in the off chance that some terrible event is in our near future, we strongly suggest having a preparedness plan that includes emergency food storage, barter supplies, medicines, precious metals, and astrategic relocation plan in case you are forced to evacuate your current residence.


US Army develops ‘Combat Gum’ to fight soldiers’ cavities in field -

US Army develops ‘Combat Gum’ to fight soldiers’ cavities in field - 

Deployed? Don’t worry about the missed dentist appointment. The Army has discovered – and over the course of seven years, fine-tuned — a gum that helps the soldier in the field fight plaque, cut cavities and clean teeth.
America spends more than $100 billion a year on dental services, and the military said it can help lower what taxpayers pay for troops and families in this regard with its cost-cutting creation, The Army Times reported. But first and foremost, the peppermint-flavored gum, called Combat Gum, is aimed at keeping troops healthy and their mouths happy in combat and field-training situations.

“Oral health is essential to warriors on the battlefield and could potentially save the military countless hours and dollars in dental health,” said Col. Robert Hale, an oral and maxillofacial surgeon and commander of the Army Institute of Surgical Research, in the Army Times report.
The gum doesn’t replace brushing or flossing, Col. Hale said. But it fights plaque and periodontal disease, and it’s currently being distributed to high-risk troops and those heading to the field with the instructions to chew for 20 minutes after each main meal. The aim is to make the gum available to all troops in the Army and eventually on an over-the-counter basis, Col. Hale said.
The gum currently costs about $2 a piece, but it’s ultimately expected to save the military millions of dollars in dental care over the years, the Army Times said. It was developed primarily by Kai Leung, a microbiologist for the dental and trauma research detachment, after he studied bacteria colonies akin to those that multiply in the mouth.
The military reports that more than 10 percent of disease-related injuries that lead to evacuation of soldiers is due to dental emergencies.


Denver County Fair to hold a Joint-rolling contest... -

Denver County Fair to hold a Joint-rolling contest... - 

Pot at the county fair? Why not?

Colorado's Denver County is adding cannabis-themed contests to its 2014 summer fair. It's the first time pot plants will stand alongside tomato plants and homemade jam in competition for a blue ribbon.

There won't actually be any marijuana at the fairgrounds. The judging will be done off-site, with photos showing the winning entries. And a live joint-rolling contest will be done with oregano, not pot.

But county fair organizers say the marijuana categories will add a fun twist on Denver's already-quirky county fair, which includes a drag queen pageant, tattoo competitions and a contest for homemade robots.

Denver County didn't have a county fair until 2011. Organizers wanted an urban, hip element alongside traditional fair favorites like a Ferris wheel and cotton candy.

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Toddlers love selfies -

Toddlers love selfies - 

Every so often, Brandi Koskie finds dozens of photos of her 3-year-old daughter, Paisley, on her iPhone — but they aren't ones Koskie has taken.

"There'll be 90 pictures, sideways, of the corner of her eye, her eyebrow," said Koskie, who lives in Wichita, Kan. "She's just tapping her way right into my phone."

The hidden photos, all shot by Paisley, illustrate a phenomenon familiar to many parents in today's tech-savvy world: Toddlers love selfies. Observant entrepreneurs have caught on to these image-obsessed tots, marketing special apps that make taking photos super-easy for little fingers. You can even buy a pillow with a smartphone pocket so toddlers can take selfies during a diaper change.

But toddlers aren't the only ones taking photos nonstop. It's not unusual for doting parents to snap thousands of digital photos by the time their child is 2. Today's toddlers think nothing of finding their own biopic stored in a device barely bigger than a deck of cards.

While the barrage of images may keep distant grandparents happy, it's not yet clear how such a steady diet of self-affirming navel-gazing will affect members of the first truly "smartphone generation." Tot-centric snapshots can help build a healthy self-image and boost childhood memories when handled correctly, but shooting too many photos or videos and playing them back instantly for a demanding toddler could backfire, said Deborah Best, a professor of cognitive developmental psychology at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C.

The instant gratification that smartphones provide today's toddlers is "going to be hard to overcome," she said. "They like things immediately, and they like it short and quick. It's going to have an impact on kids' ability to wait for gratification. I can't see that it won't."

Julie Young, a Boston-based behavioral analyst, has seen that firsthand. She was recently helping her 3-year-old son record a short birthday video for his cousin on her iPhone when he stopped mid-sentence, lunged for her phone and shouted, "Mom, can I see it?"

"It's caught on the end of the video. He couldn't even wait to get the last sentence out," said Young, who has two sons. "The second the phone comes out, they stop, they look and they attack."

Now Young and her husband make their sons wait to look at a new video or photo until after dinner or until the other parent comes home, when everyone can watch together. They are careful to sit with their kids when looking at photos and have adopted the phrase "practice patience" as a family mantra.

It's natural for toddlers to be fascinated with their own image (think mirrors), and that interest plays an important developmental role as they develop a sense of self, child development experts say. Watching a video again and again can also help move events from short- to long-term memory, Best said.

But like any other fun thing kids get obsessed with, too much of it can be bad. Parents should make sure some photos show the child with other family members or friends. Parents can also sit with kids and narrate the photo or video as if it were a bedtime story.

"When we read a book to a child, it's the same thing we do with these photos," Best said.

Koskie has noticed that cuddling in bed on a lazy Saturday morning and swiping through digital photos is one of Paisley's favorite activities, and it seems to encourage her to ask about her place in the world. They look at photos and videos together on the iPad going back to Paisley's birth and "she'll start to ask questions: 'When I was a little tiny baby did I do this? Did I do that?'"

Paisley and the iPad are almost the same age: She was born two weeks after it came out. "That's a base-level, foundation technology for her," said Koskie, who handles marketing and content strategy for the email app EvoMail. "Someday it's all going to come back to bite me or she's going to come back and say, 'Wow, there's this whole encyclopedia of my whole life.' We're very plugged in, for better or for worse."

Still, parents who remember the days before iPhones wonder if their children will ever really understand the power of a cherished photograph. Jason Michael, a 32-year-old father of two in Denver, has taken so many photos of his 11-month-old son and 4-year-old stepdaughter (about 4,000) that his iPhone's memory has filled up three times. His stepdaughter takes plenty of selfies and loves to film herself singing favorite songs, then watches the videos again and again.

Michael worries that all that visual noise may keep them from treasuring that one special image that can evoke memories decades later. For him, it's a photo of himself as an 8-month-old baby lying on a pink blanket decorated with a rabbit eating a carrot. He remembers the photo so vividly that he asked his mother for the blanket when his son was born.

"I know everything about that photo. But there are 20,000 photos of my kids, so will it have that same emotional impact for them?" Michael said.

"It sounds a little cheesy, I guess, but you look at the photos and it's so rich and there's so much you remember about it," he said. "Now, all they have to do is swipe their hand to the left and it's gone and there's a new picture."


Flatulent cows start fire at dairy farm... -

Flatulent cows start fire at dairy farm... - 

Methane gas from 90 flatulent cows exploded in a German farm shed on Monday, damaging the roof and injuring one of the animals, police said.

High levels of the gas had built up in the structure in the central German town of Rasdorf, then "a static electric charge caused the gas to explode with flashes of flames," the force said in a statement.

One cow was treated for burns, a police spokesman added.


Monday, 27 January 2014

US Sells 24 Apache Helicopters To Iraq - for $4.8 Billion -

US Sells 24 Apache Helicopters To Iraq - for $4.8 Billion - 

And just like that, slowly but surely, the entire US foreign strategy vis-a-vis Iraq and its weapons of mass diversion destruction, is becoming all too clear.

The Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress today of a possible Foreign Military Sale to Iraq for AH-64E APACHE LONGBOW Attack Helicopters  and associated equipment, parts, training and logistical support for an estimated cost of $4.8 billion.

The Government of Iraq has requested a possible sale of 24 AH-64E APACHE LONGBOW Attack Helicopters, 56 T700-GE-701D Engines, 27 AN/ASQ-170 Modernized Target Acquisition and Designation Sight, 27 AN/AAR-11 Modernized Pilot Night Vision Sensors, 12 AN/APG-78 Fire Control Radars with Radar Electronics Unit (LONGBOW component),  28 AN/AAR-57(V)7 Common Missile Warning Systems, 28 AN/AVR-2B Laser Detecting Sets, 28 AN/APR-39A(V)4 or APR-39C(V)2 Radar Signal Detecting Sets, 28 AN/ALQ-136A(V)5 Radar Jammers, 52 AN/AVS-6, 90 Apache Aviator Integrated Helmets, 60 HELLFIRE Missile Launchers, and 480 AGM-114R HELLFIRE Missiles. Also included are AN/APR-48 Modernized Radar Frequency Interferometers,  AN/APX-117 Identification Friend-or-Foe Transponders, Embedded Global Positioning Systems with Inertial Navigation with Multi Mode Receiver, MXF-4027 UHF/VHF Radios, 30mm Automatic Chain Guns, Aircraft Ground Power Units, 2.75 in Hydra Rockets, 30mm rounds, M211 and M212 Advanced Infrared Countermeasure Munitions flares, spare and repair parts, support equipment, publications and technical data, personnel training and training equipment, site surveys, U.S. government and contractor engineering, technical, and logistics support services, design and construction, and other related elements of logistics support.  The estimated cost is $4.8 billion.

This proposed sale will contribute to the foreign policy and national security of the United States by helping to improve the security of a strategic partner.  This proposed sale directly supports the Iraq government and serves the interests of the Iraqi people and the United States. 

This proposed sale supports the strategic interests of the United States by providing Iraq with a critical capability to protect itself from terrorist and conventional threats, to enhance the protection of key oil infrastructure and platforms, and to reinforce Iraqi sovereignty.  This proposed sale of AH-64E APACHE helicopters will support Iraq’s efforts to establish a fleet of multi-mission attack helicopters capable of meeting its requirements for close air support, armed reconnaissance and anti-tank warfare missions.

The proposed sale of this equipment and support will not alter the basic military balance in the region.

The prime contractors will be The Boeing Company in Mesa, Arizona; Lockheed Martin Corporation in Orlando, Florida; General Electric Company in Cincinnati, Ohio; Lockheed Martin Mission Systems and Sensors in Owego, New York; Longbow Limited Liability Corporation in Orlando, Florida; and Raytheon Corporation in Tucson, Arizona.  There are no known offset agreements proposed in connection with this potential sale.

Implementation of this proposed sale will require the assignment of three U.S. Government and two hundred contractor representatives to Iraq to support delivery of the Apache helicopters and provide support and equipment familiarization.  In addition, Iraq has expressed an interest in a Technical Assistance Fielding Team for in-country pilot and maintenance training.  To support the requirement a team of 12 personnel (one military team leader and 11 contractors) would be deployed to Iraq for approximately three years. Also, this program will require multiple trips involving U.S. Government and contractor personnel to participate in program and technical reviews, training and installation.

There will be no adverse impact on U.S. defense readiness as a result of this proposed sale.

This notice of a potential sale is required by law and does not mean the sale has been concluded.

Read more -