Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Sunday 'Report;' 11/20/2011

What The National Pamphleteers Don't Report:
Baird's STOCK Act gains new, vital life
Daily News Editorial
November 17, 2011
Baird's insider trading bill finally gets noticed
One year removed from completing six terms in the U.S. House of Representatives, former 3rd District [Washington State] Rep. Brian Baird may have discovered a secret for getting things done in the Nation's Capital:  Use a public forum to embarrass someone, particularly someone big and important.  Baird was a longstanding proponent of a measure he called the STOCK Act — an acronym for "Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge." If enacted, the bill would prevent members of Congress and their staffs from using information not available to the public to guide them in making or selling investments. This sort of "insider trading" is patently illegal for most Americans, but the prohibition has never been extended to Capitol Hill.  As a congressman, Baird was always a sheriff in search of a posse on this issue. Even though he took to introducing the STOCK Act in every session of Congress, no more than six other House members ever signed on as co-sponsors.  As a retired congressman, Baird finally had his day in the famous Court of Public Opinion. CBS Television's "60 Minutes" took up the story and Baird was a willing interview. In a broadcast Sunday night, Baird helped outline the nature and possible extent of the problem and CBS reporters identified former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and current Speaker John Boehner as persons [....]

Is economy best birth control?
US births dip again
November 18, 2011
ATLANTA (AP) — The economy may well be the best form of birth control.  U.S. births dropped for the third straight year — especially for young mothers — and experts think money worries are the reason.  A federal report released Thursday showed declines in the birth rate for all races and most age groups. Teens and women in their early 20s had the most dramatic dip, to the lowest rates since record-keeping began in the 1940s. Also, the rate of cesarean sections stopped going up for the first time since 1996.  Experts suspected the economy drove down birth rates in 2008 and 2009 as women [....]

Zuccotti Park had own 'ghetto': Samantha Bee
By Matt Cantor,
Newser Staff
November 17, 2011
(Newser) – Just like the society it criticizes, Occupy Wall Street suffers class divisions of its own, and none other than the Daily Show investigated the depths of it on the day protesters were booted from Zuccotti Park—even uncovering divisions in the layout of the park. With its drum circles and “downwardly mobile” protesters, one end was downtown to the other end’s uptown, where Occupy’s elite had “their library, Apple pop-up store, and bike-powered espresso machines,” Samantha Bee [....]

Too Big to Fail Accounting Explained
by Jeff Carter
November 12, 2011
MF Global blew up because it made really dumb bets on European debt, and levered them 40:1. Lehman and Bear Stearns blew up in 2008, because they made highly levered bets on home mortgages and were levered 30:1.
Yesterday, Goldman ($GS) and Morgan Stanley ($MS) are considering accounting changes that will allow them to lever up their balance sheets.
Currently, Goldman and Morgan carry loans on their balance sheets at a mark to market value. This means that when do their books, they find the actual market price of the [....]

Ghost alps of Antarctica reveal their secret
Nov 17, 2011
For more than half a century, geologists have wrangled over the origins of an astonishing range of mountains found beneath ice up to three kilometers (two miles) thick in East Antarctica.  Named after the Soviet geophysicist who detected them in 1958 during the first International Polar Year exploration, the Gamburtsev mountains are 1,200 kilometers (750 miles) long, with jagged peaks up to 2,700 meters (8,900 feet) high intersected by deep troughs and valleys.  How this chain came into being is one of the many mysteries of the great white continent.  The Gamburtsevs are located at high elevation and on a continent that geologically is [....]

Stock experts’ tips can puncture your portfolio
Buying what others are touting is not investing
By Chuck Jaffe,
November 13, 2011
LAS VEGAS (MarketWatch) — Tom Lydon had just finished a speech at the American Association of Individual Investors Conference here when a woman came up to him, pen and paper in hand, with a simple question: “Would you tell me what ETFs you invest in?”
Lydon, editor of ETF Trends, graciously shared the ticker symbols of his portfolio positions. The woman scribbled notes, thanked him and left.
I asked Lydon what he thought she would do with the information.
“I don’t think she’ll buy all of them,” he said with a laugh, “but she will at least go look at them.”
What’s in your wallet?
That’s the problem. Members of AAII typically are motivated, self-directed investors. But put 1,200-plus of them together for a conference and you still get plenty of “Can you give me that ticker symbol?” behavior. That’s where someone [....]

Vikings’ Allen assists wounded veterans
By Jason Cole,
Yahoo! Sports
November 10, 2011
Army veteran Josh Bullis is too young to have to be put back together. At age 22, he should worry about finding a good tattoo parlor, not whether his new house has a roll-in shower for a wheelchair.  Fortunately for Bullis, through the charitable work of Minnesota Vikings star Jared Allen, some of Bullis’ concerns have been alleviated. Through Allen’s “Homes for Wounded Warriors” program, Bullis is the latest veteran to get some assistance in life as a triple amputee.  “It’s more like the mental aspect, this allows me to be independent and feel independent again,” said Bullis, who lost both legs and his left arm [....]

The $200,000-a-Year Mine Worker
By John W. Miller
The Wall Street Journal
November 17, 2011
MANDURAH, Australia — One of the fastest-growing costs in the global mining industry are workers like James Dinnison: the 25-year-old high-school dropout from Western Australia makes $200,000 a year running drills in underground mines to extract gold and other minerals.  The heavily tattooed Mr. Dinnison, who started in the mines seven years ago earning $100,000, owns a sky-blue 2009 Chevy Ute, which cost $55,000 before a $16,000 engine enhancement, and a $44,000 custom motorcycle. The price tag on his chihuahua, Dexter, which yaps at his feet: $1,200.  A precious commodity himself, Mr. Dinnison belongs to a class of nouveau riche rising in remote and mineral-rich parts of the world, such as Western Australia state, where mining companies are investing heavily to develop and expand iron-ore mines. Demand for those willing to work 12-hour days in sometimes dangerous conditions, while living for weeks in dusty small towns, is huge.  "It's a historical shortage," says Sigurd Mareels, director of global mining for research firm McKinsey & Co. Not just in Australia, but around the world. In Canada, example, the Mining Industry Council foresees a shortfall of 60,000 to 90,000 workers by 2017. Peru must find 40,000 new miners by the end of the decade.  Behind this need for mine workers is a construction boom in China and other emerging economies that has ramped up the demand for iron ore, used to make steel, and other metals used in construction, such as copper, typically used for wiring buildings.  The manpower dearth comes with a hefty price tag. "Inflationary pressures are driving up costs and wages at mining hot spots like Western Australia, Chile, Africa," said Tom Albanese, CEO of Rio Tinto PLC the world's third-biggest miner by sales. "You're seeing double-digit wage growth in a lot of regions."  The shortage is [....]

Obama's Newest Excuse: Lazy Americans
by John Ransom
November 11, 2011
Obama took his You Don’t Love Me Enough reelection tour on the road to the 57th state this weekend on his way to a less hostile, foreign audience.  No, the stopover wasn’t in Kenya.  It was in Hawaii on his way to Bali, Indonesia, as a part of a new election strategy that aims to capture the entire foreign vote for Obama and the Democrats.
Hey, and why not?
No one has done more for those thrifty, industrious, hard working foreign countries than Obama has. And under Obama’s executive amnesty program it’ll be easier than ever for foreigners to register and vote for him via absentee ballot.  When he said Transforming America, he wasn’t kidding.  In the stopover in Hawaii, in anticipation of speechifying to foreigners, the President of the United States revised slightly his grand apology speech on behalf of all of us Ugly Americans who are responsible for the world’s ills.  You’ll remember that in return for a Noble “Peace” Prize, Obama toured the world in 2009 apologizing for how great the United States is- and presumably  [....]

Pakistan bans 'obscene' words on cell phone texts
Associated Press
Nov 18, 2011
ISLAMABAD (AP) — Texters in Pakistan better start watching their language.  Pakistan's telecommunications authority sent a letter ordering cell phone companies to block text messages containing what it perceives to be obscenities, Anjum Nida Rahman, a spokeswoman for Telenor Pakistan, said Friday.  It also sent a list of more than 1,500 English and Urdu words that were to be blocked.  The order was part of the regulator's attempt to block spam messages, said Rahman. The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority refused to comment on the initiative.  Many of the words to be blocked were sexually explicit terms or swear words, according to a copy [....]

HR 822-National Reciprocity Legislation Moves to Floor Vote in Congress

by Alice Tripp
November 14, 2011
This week HR 822 is expected to move to the floor of the U.S. House for a floor vote. It is expected to pass, moving to the U.S Senate and taken up for discussion early next year. Below is a document, a myth-buster, offered by NRA-ILA Federal in response to nay-sayers. 
H.R. 822: Responding to the Naysayers
H.R. 822, the “National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act,” would allow any person with a valid state-issued concealed firearm permit to carry a concealed firearm in any state that issues concealed firearm permits, or that does not prohibit the carrying of concealed firearms for lawful purposes. Unfortunately, but not unexpectedly, H.R. 822 is now being attacked by a few self-proclaimed “gun rights” supporters with no active lobbying presence in any legislature, whose real agendas have little to do with promoting the interests of gun owners. Here are the facts about a few of their claims:
Myth: H.R. 822 would involve the federal bureaucracy in setting standards for carry permits, resulting in “need” requirements, higher fees, waiting periods, national gun owner registration, or worse.
Fact: H.R. 822 doesn’t require—or even authorize—any such action by any federal agency. In fact, since it would amend the Gun Control Act, it would fall under a limitation within that law that authorizes “only such rules and regulations as are necessary to carry out” the GCA’s provisions. No federal rules or regulations would be needed to implement H.R. 822, which simply overrides certain state laws.
Myth: H.R. 822 would destroy permitless carry systems such as those in Arizona, Alaska, Vermont and Wyoming.
Fact: H.R. 822 would have absolutely no effect on how the permitless carry states’ laws work within those states. For residents of Arizona, Alaska and Wyoming, where permits are not required but remain available [....]
Meet Canada’s new high-tech plastic currency

By Mike Wehner,
Tecca; Today in Tech
November 17, 2011
    Despite many of us relying on plastic credit and debit cards to make the majority of our daily purchases, the idea of saying goodbye to paper money seems ludicrous. That's just what the Bank of Canada is planning to do, and the first in an all-new line of plastic money will begin rolling out to consumers this month. The bills — made of a single piece of polymer — boast a longer life than paper notes, as well as some advanced security features to keep counterfeiters scratching their heads.
    The new, high-tech currency includes two transparent windows that give the bills a strikingly futuristic appearance. The first window — in the shape of a maple leaf with a frosted outline — includes a unique anti-counterfeit feature: When looking through the window at a single light source, a ring of text appears, verifying the value of the note.  The second, larger window includes a metallic portrait that mimics the face in the center of the bill. The transparent plastic beneath the smaller portrait is decorated with various digits, and below that is a large picture of a building, carrying a metallic sheen similar to the face above. When tilted, both the face and the building show [....]

Europe, the International System and a Generational Shift
by George Friedman
November 8, 2011
    Change in the international system comes in large and small doses, but fundamental patterns generally stay consistent. From 1500 to 1991, for example, European global hegemony constituted the world’s operating principle. Within this overarching framework, however, the international system regularly reshuffles the deck in demoting and promoting powers, fragmenting some and empowering others, and so on. Sometimes this happens because of war, and sometimes because of economic and political forces. While the basic structure of the world stays intact, the precise way it works changes.
    The fundamental patterns of European domination held for 500 years. That epoch of history ended in 1991, when the Soviet Union — the last of the great European empires — collapsed with global consequences. In China, Tiananmen Square defined China for a generation. China would continue its process of economic development, but the Chinese Communist Party would remain the dominant force. Japan experienced an economic crisis that ended its period of rapid growth and made the world’s second-largest economy far less dynamic than before. And in 1993, the Maastricht Treaty came into force, creating the contemporary European Union and holding open the possibility of a so-called United States of Europe that could counterbalance the United States of America.
The Post-European Age
    All these developments happened in the unstable period after the European Age and before … well, something else. What specifically, we’re not quite sure. For the past 20 years, the world has been reshaping itself. Since 1991, then, the countries of the world have been feeling out the edges of the new system. The past two decades have been an interregnum of sorts, a period of evolution from the rule of the old to the rule of the new.  Four things had to happen before the new era could truly begin. First, the Americans had to learn the difference between extreme power (which they had and still have) and omnipotence (which they do not have). The wars in the Islamic world have more than amply driven this distinction home. Second, Russian power needed to rebound from its post-Soviet low to something more representative of Russia’s strength. That occurred in August 2008 with the Russo-Georgian war, which re-established Moscow as the core of the broader region. Third, China — which has linked its economic, political and military future to a [....]

Crooks find new ways to prey on home woes
By Amy Hoak,
November 14, 2011
CHICAGO (MarketWatch) — Fraudsters find a way to scam lenders and homeowners out of money no matter how the housing market is faring, but in recent years they’ve shifted their tactics to profit from the market’s downturn.  Today, there’s less identity fraud and misrepresentation of income or employment to obtain a mortgage, mainly because stricter validation criteria when a borrower applies for a loan makes that strategy much less successful, said David Johnson, vice president of fraud and consortium solutions for CoreLogic, a provider of financial, property and consumer information.  But other types of fraud are replacing those scams. Some schemes target distressed homeowners who are looking for a way to save their home from foreclosure. Another tactic: Profiting off of short sales at the expense of the lender.
Foreclosure rescue
Schemes that prey on struggling homeowners heading toward foreclosure are still prevalent, even years into the foreclosure crisis, said Yolanda McGill, senior counsel for the Fair Housing and Fair Lending Project of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.  “It’s a crime of opportunity. A lot of people who are participating in [....]

Man pays off mother's 1954 parking ticket in Nebraska

Associated Press,
November 4, 2011
YORK, Neb. (AP) — A parking ticket issued 57 years ago in southeast Nebraska has finally been paid off. The fine: a dime.  York Police Chief Don Klug says a man walked into the station Tuesday with the ticket and payment — mounted and framed. Klug tells the York News-Times ( ) that the man said he found the ticket among his mother's things and wanted to settle the debt. The ticket was issued on July 13, 1954, to a vehicle licensed in Oklahoma. The man told Klug that he [....]

High stakes in backroom battle

by Financial Times Management,
October 11, 2011The leadership is in transition, and changes to the political system are under discussion, says Jamil Anderlini.  When former Chinese President Jiang Zemin stepped out on to the stage this month at a ceremony to mark the 100th anniversary of the end of imperial rule, the entire country stopped to take notice.  The man who occupied the top spot in the Communist hierarchy from 1989 to 2002 had not
been seen in public for at least a year and was rumoured to be dead or at least in a coma.  Although he could not stand up or walk without support and was clearly very sick, his appearance was highly symbolic for a country and ruling party in transition. 
    About this time next year, virtually all of China’s top leaders, including President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao, will step down from their party posts after a decade as the unelected rulers of the world’s most populous nation.  In a tightly choreographed ceremony, their successors will walk out on to the stage in the Great Hall of the People just off Beijing’s Tiananmen Square and assume responsibility for 1.3bn people and an economy that is the world’s second largest.  The procedure by which this new generation of leaders will be chosen is a mystery to all but a tiny handful of power brokers in the party.  But the public appearance of the ailing Mr Jiang was a sign of the vicious jockeying going on behind closed doors, as past and present leaders attempt to place allies and acolytes in positions of influence.  He was there to encourage the remnant members of his faction and show his
opponents he still wields some power from behind the scenes.
    The positions of president and premier are the only ones that seem to have been settled – with Vice-President Xi Jinping very likely to succeed Mr Hu and Vice-Premier Li Keqiang expected to fill Mr Wen’s shoes – but the other seven slots on the all-powerful nine-member standing committee of the Communist party politburo are still up for grabs.  The stakes in the backroom political battles could not be higher.  China is approaching a number of crucial points in its rapid rise on the world stage and its next generation of mandarins will be confronted by some of the most difficult decisions in decades.  After 30 years of rapid growth that has lifted hundreds of millions of people out of poverty, the party knows that its economic and political models as well as its strategy for dealing with the world are all approaching the end of their usefulness.
    First, the export-led, investment-driven model that has served the country so well is increasingly seen by domestic and international economists as running out of steam.  At home, a rapidly ageing workforce and soaring costs for everything from land to labour mean the low-cost manufacturing model that has driven growth for decades is increasingly untenable.  With much of the developed world facing the likelihood of renewed recession and with protectionism rising among important trading partners, the days of ever-growing exports are nearly over.  Meanwhile, a more recent housing-led construction boom looks increasingly unsustainable and many observers are worried about a real estate bubble that could pop, causing terrible damage to the financial sector and to headline growth.  The government has identified the problems and made “transformation of the pattern of economic development” [....]

A Blueprint for America's Survival During the Next 50 Years (Part 1 of 2) [Part 2 follows]

by Cliff Ennico
October 18, 2011
A lot of people are worried about America's future right now.  And they are right. Things have changed so quickly in the past few decades that only a handful of people -- and I'm not sure about them, either -- have an idea of what it even means to be an American right now. What values do we uphold? Does our Constitution continue to make sense? Does it matter that we may soon no longer be the No. 1 economy in the world?  This is a column for entrepreneurs, not political junkies, but you can't write for business owners without at least thinking about the political, economic and environmental climate that is healthiest for them. I try to do this from time to time, hopefully without getting too personal about my own opinions.  That's why I thought it might help the current debate to point out a few self-evident, if inconvenient, truths about what America will need to do -- not just the government, but all of us as Americans -- if our country is to survive the next 50 years on Earth.
-- We have to maintain leadership in technology.
We no longer can be the world's manufacturer; many countries have proven that they can make stuff cheaper and better than we can. If America has an economic future, it is as the world's research-and-development department. We must maintain our leadership in innovation and the development of new technologies, ideas and business models that will rule the future. If we let China, India or anyone else take that away from us, we're toast.
-- We have to maintain our military might.
We live in an increasingly dangerous world. A nationalistic China is building its military technology, hacking into the world's computers, shooting down space satellites (so far, only its own) and providing arms to Iran and other troublemaking nations. It is not our friend, folks.  We all hope the Arab Spring revolts will lead to greater democracy in the Middle East, but they could just as easily lead to a rise in Islamism, anti-Western sentiment, and attacks on Israel, Christians in Egypt, and other non-Muslims throughout the world.  Long-term demographic changes, failing economies in the Mediterranean countries, and rising Russian nationalism (Vladimir Putin's back in town, although he never really left, did he?) may lead to destabilization in Europe as well.  For those reasons alone, maintaining world [....]

A Blueprint for America's Survival During the Next 50 Years (Part 2 of 2)

— Everyone — but especially the government — needs to get behind business.
As a former president once said, "The business of America is business." For a few years now, government has treated business as an enemy, something that must be tolerated in order to create jobs and tax revenue. That has to stop. Government needs to get behind businesses, especially entrepreneurial ones, and create the environment they need to grow — even if it means cutting taxes, and even if it means removing regulations, or limiting them to publicly held companies.  The only jobs government can create are government jobs. Unless we want massive bureaucracies like they had in czarist Russia (and remember what happened to them?), all of us need to get behind private enterprise. Stop protesting in public parks about the evils of capitalism. Go back to school, learn how businesses work, and then get out there and start some.
— We need to balance our freedoms and our values.
The current debate between political liberals and "values" conservatives is a little like that old beer commercial of the 1980s: "Tastes great, less filling!" The message, of course, was that there was no conflict between the two: You could actually drink a lower-calorie beer without sacrificing taste.  People from all over the world want to come to America, even to the point of violating our immigration laws to do so. And they're not coming here for the weather or to take advantage of our social welfare programs. (Many come from countries where such features are far superior.) They come here for the freedoms and opportunities — the ability to be [....]
Until Next Sunday....



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