Thursday, January 12, 2012
Submitted by Tyler Durden: On the day when Greek 1Y yields broke above 400% for the first time, a consideration of just what Greece would look like post-exit is perhaps fruitful. Looking at hypothetical forward rates (generated from covered interest rate parity between EURUSD FX and EMU sovereign interest rates), MSCI has an interesting analysis of what a decoupled Drachma (and for that matter Lira, Escudo, and Irish Pound) would look like. Given the Greeks entered the EMU in January 2001 at 340.75 Drachma to the Euro, the current market is pricing in a massive devaluation to around 1530 Drachma to the Euro. Perhaps as further evidence of the market's perspective that a devaluation is likely, from extremely high correlations just over a year ago, the implied new Greek Drachma vs Euro has dropped to almost negligible correlation against an implicit Deutschmark vs Euro. As the PSI discussions go from bad to worse (as we expected and discussed yesterday), it seems the market is increasingly expecting at best a coercive agreement (if not outright exit). Source/full story
When 32-year-old Iranian nuclear scientist Mostafa Ahmadi-Roshan was assassinated in a car bomb attack Wednesday, Iran immediately accused Israel of carrying out the attack. At this point, it's increasingly difficult to argue to the contrary.
Without question, a number of aspects of yesterday's attack remain mysterious and warrant a skeptical review of Iran's account, which it is taking to the United Nations. For instance, how were no culprits found when the alleged motorcyclist planted a magnetic bomb under a scientist's car in broad daylight with several witnesses present? This isn't even the first time such an attack has happened amid busy, rush-hour traffic. Another thing to keep in mind: Israel isn't the only state opposed to Iran's nuclear advancement: Sunni Arab governments could have also waged the attack. And finally, some of Iran's nuclear scientists who have been assassinated had ties to opposition groups and may have been targeted by Iran's own government. The preponderance of evidence, however, suggests Israel carried out the attack, with the possible assistance of the U.S. Here's why:
A former Israeli official admits to the assassination campaign Speaking with The New York Times, a "former senior Israeli security official," tells the newspaper the assassination campaign is "part of a larger Israeli strategy to prevent all-out war." Speaking anonymously, he says “I think the cocktail of diplomacy, of sanctions, of covert activity might bring us something,” the former official said. “I think it’s the right policy while we still have time.”
Israel doesn't deny it Of course, nation states shouldn't be required to respond to every allegation but when there's a high plausibility like this, Israel's refusal to comment is a response in itself. Speaking on condition of anonymity, an Israeli official tells The Washington Post that "It is not our policy to comment on this sort of speculation when it periodically arises." By contrast, the U.S. has outspokenly denied any involvement in the attack. “The United States had absolutely nothing to do with this,” said Tommy Vietor, a spokesman for the National Security Council. In an odd move, raising more questions than answers, Israel's chief military spokesman Brig. Gen. Yoav Mordechai wrote on his Facebook page "Don’t know who settled the score with the Iranian scientist, but for sure I am not shedding a tear.” According to The Post, the comment "sparked a debate on his page, with some readers saying he should be more discreet."
Past comments In the run-up to the assassination, some of Israel's public comments also raise suspicions. The National Post's Peter Goodspeed notes, "On Tuesday, Lieutenant-General Benny Gantz, Israel’s military chief of staff, told a special parliamentary committee Iran should expect more 'unnatural' events in 2012." Additionally, "Last year, Dan Meridor, Israel’s Minister for Intelligence & Atomic Matters, told Israeli Radio, 'There are countries that impose economic sanctions and there are countries who act in other ways.'"
Israel's history As the Times' Scott Shane points out "Israel has used assassination as a tool of statecraft since its creation in 1948, historians say, killing dozens of Palestinian and other militants and a small number of foreign scientists, military officials or people accused of being Holocaust collaborators."
Expert opinion If you're not one for looking at the matter yourself, there's always the experts, scholars and think tankers. According to The Times, "experts believe" the campaign was carried out by Israel. Speaking to the paper, Patrick Clawson, director of the Iran Security Initiative at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, says “I often get asked when Israel might attack Iran,” he said. “I say, ‘Two years ago.’” He adds: “Sabotage and assassination is the way to go, if you can do it. It doesn’t provoke a nationalist reaction in Iran, which could strengthen the regime. And it allows Iran to climb down if it decides the cost of pursuing a nuclear weapon is too high.” Source
(Reuters Health) - A few hits on the bong now and then don't seem to have any detrimental effects on lung health, suggests a new study.
Researchers found that multiple measures of lung function actually improved slightly as young people reported using more marijuana -- at least up to a couple thousand lifetime joints. "There's no doubt, if you've watched a Harold & Kumar movie, marijuana triggers a cough," said Dr. Stefan Kertesz, from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, who worked on the new study. But questions have remained about the drug's longer-term effect on lung functioning. "Previous studies have had mixed results," Kertesz explained. "Some have hinted at an increase in lung air flow rates and lung volume (with marijuana smoking), and others have not found that. Others have found hints of harm." While marijuana smoke has a lot of the same toxins as cigarette smoke, he added, people who use pot tend to smoke fewer joints each day than tobacco users smoke cigarettes. That and the method of inhaling may offer some relative lung protection, researchers have proposed. Still, the findings don't let marijuana off the hook for long-term health consequences. "I think a lot more work will need to be done to make any blanket statements about safety," said Dr. Jeanette Tetrault, a substance abuse researcher at the Yale School of Medicine in New Haven, who wasn't tied to the new research. "These are only two measures of pulmonary function and don't really paint the entire picture" of the potential effects of marijuana on the lungs, she told Reuters Health.
The new data come from a long-term study of more than 5,000 young adults in Oakland, Chicago, Minneapolis and Birmingham. From 1985 until 2006, researchers regularly asked participants about their past and current use of cigarettes and marijuana. They also tested how much air their lungs could hold and the maximum rate of air flow out of their lungs. Not surprisingly, the researchers found that the more cigarettes their participants smoked or had smoked in the past, the worse their lungs performed on both tests, Kertesz's team reported Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association. But at least at moderate levels of pot smoking, that didn't seem to be the case -- in fact, the trend was reversed. Lung volume and air flow rates both increased with each "joint-year" -- the equivalent of 365 joints or pipe bowls -- participants said they'd ever smoked, up until about seven joint-years, or some 2,555 joints. It was a small overall improvement, though. Lung airflow -- measured by how much air people could blow out in one second -- was no more than 50 milliliters higher in pot smokers compared with non-smokers. The average value for a healthy male is four liters, according to Kertesz. "It's a very real increase... but it's so small that I don't think that a person would feel a benefit in terms of their breathing," Kertesz said. "Is this a real increase in lung health? That's the other question. We don't know exactly what's happening inside all of the airways of the individuals who are measured." One explanation, he said, could be that deep breaths taken by pot smokers when they're inhaling could train them to do well on a test of lung function that involves breathing in and blowing out air as quickly as possible. That wouldn't necessarily mean their lungs are better off for marathon running, for example. At the highest levels of pot smoking -- using marijuana more than 20 times in a month, or having over 10 lifelong joint-years worth of smoking -- lung function seemed to decline again, but the researchers noted that there weren't enough heavy marijuana users in their study population to be sure of that.
Additional True History of Marijuana:
Submitted by Tyler Durden: Wonder why all bank earnings over the past 3 years are fake? Wonder why few if any banks ever dare to take major write offs and represent the true nature of their financials? Wonder no longer: Bloomberg's Jonathan Weil explains.
Why Zombie Banks Hate to Write Off Bad Loans
There’s a simple explanation for why the world’s zombie banks remain so reluctant to write off worthless assets and tap the equity markets for fresh capital. They don’t want to end up like UniCredit SpA. (UCG)
This month has been a nightmare for the Italian bank’s shareholders. Since embarking last week on a 7.5 billion euro ($9.7 billion) stock sale at a steep discount to its Jan. 3 closing price, UniCredit shares have fallen 39 percent to 2.56 euros. It seems no good deed goes unpunished when it comes to lenders besieged by Europe’s debt crisis. A little bit of candor about the true state of a company’s finances can hurt a lot.
That undoubtedly is the message some other lenders facing large capital shortfalls will take from UniCredit’s troubles. The incentive now, just as most banks are undergoing their year- end audits, will be to stick with the pretense that all is well and there’s no need to raise additional capital.
Not that a lot of them have better options. There’s only so much private-sector capital available to go around. As sickening as the plunge in its share price may be, UniCredit secured an early-mover advantage by acting when it did. Even that might not be enough to ensure its survival without a taxpayer rescue.
This month’s offering was spurred in part by UniCredit’s decision in November to take large writedowns for the third quarter, resulting in a 10.6 billion euro loss, mostly for intangible assets such as goodwill leftover from ill-fated acquisitions. The loss was the largest disclosed for the period by a euro-area bank. The European Banking Authority also weighed in last month after its latest stress tests, saying UniCredit had almost an 8 billion euro capital shortfall.
The markets sense, with good reason, that the latest cash infusion won’t be enough. UniCredit’s stock market value stands at 14.8 billion euros, taking into account this month’s rights offering. That’s frightfully low, considering the company showed 52.3 billion euros of common shareholder equity and 950 billion euros of assets as of Sept. 30.
Investors still see a huge hole in the company’s books that UniCredit executives have yet to admit. Had UniCredit taken swift action sooner to mop up and replenish its balance sheet, it might not be in the precarious position it is today.
This is one of the lessons everyone should have learned from the collapses of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in 2008: Come clean about your losses to preserve the markets’ trust, and raise more capital than you think you will ever need to get through a crisis while you can, because you might not get another chance. UniCredit seems to be coming a tiny bit clean, and raising a smidgeon of the money it needs. At least it’s doing something, though.
Elsewhere in Europe this generally isn’t the case. On average the 31 companies in the Euro Stoxx Banks Index (SX7E) trade for 39 percent of common equity, or book value, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. France’s Credit Agricole SA (ACA) trades for 23 percent of book. Yet somehow the European Banking Authority last month concluded it had no capital shortfall.
The incidence of leukaemia is twice as high in children living close to French nuclear power plants as in those living elsewhere in the country, a study by French health and nuclear safety experts has found.
But the study, to be published soon in the International Journal of Cancer, fell short of establishing a causal link between the higher incidence of leukaemia, a type of blood cancer, and living near nuclear power plants.
France has used nuclear power for three decades and is the most nuclear-reliant country in the world, with 75 percent of its electricity produced by 58 reactors.
The study, conducted by the French health research body INSERM, found that between 2002 and 2007, 14 children under the age of 15 living in a 5-kilometre radius of France's 19 nuclear power plants had been diagnosed with leukaemia.
This is double the rate of the rest of the country, where a total of 2,753 cases were diagnosed in the same period.
"This is a result which has been checked thoroughly and which is statistically significant," said Dominique Laurier, head of the epidemiology research laboratory at France's nuclear safety research body (IRSN).
INSERM has carried out similar research with the IRSN since 1990, but has never before found a higher incidence of leukaemia in children living near nuclear power plants.
"But we are working on numbers which are very small and results have to be analysed with a lot of care," said Laurier, one of the authors of the study.
Laurier said the findings indicated no difference in risk between sites located by the sea or by rivers, nor according to the power capacity of the plant.
The IRSN said it recommended a more thorough study of the causes of the leukaemia cases found near nuclear power stations and hoped to set up international research collaboration.
"It's a rare disease and working on a bigger scale would allow more stable results," said Laurier.
A 35-year British study published last year found no evidence that young children living near nuclear power plants had an increased risk of developing leukaemia.
The research, conducted by scientists on the Committee of the Medical Aspects of Radiation in the Environment (COMARE), found only 20 cases of childhood leukaemia within 5 km (3.1 miles) of nuclear power stations between 1969 and 2004.
The scientists said the rate was virtually the same as in areas where there were no nuclear plants.
Studies have been conducted around the world into possible links between the risk of childhood blood cancers and living near nuclear plants.
A study on Germany, published in 2007, did find a significantly increased risk, but the COMARE team said these findings were probably influenced by an unexplained leukaemia cluster near a nuclear plant in Krummel, north Germany, that lasted from 1990 to 2005.
Excluding Krummel, evidence for an increased leukaemia risk among young children living close to German nuclear power plants was "extremely weak", it said. Source
Austrian Economics Guru and Chairman of the Mises Institute Lew Rockwell talk about why the establishment fears Ron Paul and how his economic ideas are being embraced by mainstream voters. Source
Patent and copyright are a straight jacket on the advancement of humanity. Altruism vs its opposite. Those who are scrambling to grub as much free time (Money) from the rest of us because they 'got it' first, "you guys make my ass twitch!" Thought police coming next. Unless we win, in which case its cheap medicine and entertainment and 'free information' so that we might all have more 'free time' to watch and nurture man as we become superman at a speed never before imagined. Call it what it is, short sighted monopoly. Why am I wrong?
Death by a thousand revelations and destroying the City to save the City. In the second half of the show, Max talks to author, Nomi Prins, a former investment banker, about the role of JP Morgan in Jon Corzine's MF Global crime. Source
An eye-opening video clip that made it online Wednesday may cause a scandal on par with what erupted with the Abu Ghraib photographs of 2004. Now US Marines have been caught on film - urinating on dead Afghans.
Caged Human 'dogs' of Hong Kong: The tragedy of tens of thousands living in 6ft by 2ft rabbit hutches - in a city with more Louis Vuitton shops than Paris.
Hong Kong, one of the world's richest cities, is abuzz with a luxury property boom that has seen homes exchanged for record sums.
But the wealth of the city has a darker side, with tens of thousands priced out of housing altogether and forced to live in the most degrading conditions.
The misery of people - some estimates put the figure as high as 100,000 - who are forced to live in cages measuring just 6ft by 2 1/2ft.
The city is one of the planet's most densely packed metropolitan areas, with nearly 16,500 people living in every square mile of the territory.
Unscrupulous landlords are charging around US$200 a month for each cage, which are packed 20 to a room, and up to three levels high.
The lower cages are more expensive because you can almost stand inside them, but the conditions are no less squalid.
All this in a city with more Louis Vuitton shops than Paris.
Occupants must share toilets and washing facilities, which are rudimentary. Many of the apartments have no kitchens, forcing their impoverished residents to spend there meagre incomes on takeaway food.
The cage homes have been a running scandal in Hong Kong's housing market for decades, yet rather than disappear, they are on the rise.
As the world economic crisis has lashed the city a former British territory whose economy is focused on financial services, more have been forced to turn to them for a place to stay.
The alternative is life on the streets.
One cage dweller, Cheung, who lives in Sham Shui Po, told the Asia Times Online he endures appallingly cramped and fetid conditions.
'The temperature inside the cages can be two to three degrees higher than what they are outside,' he said.
'It's really uncomfortable, and sometimes I cannot sleep until after 5 in the morning.'
Cockroaches, wall lizards, lice and rats are common. 'Sometimes I am worried if lizards or cockroaches will crawl into my ears at night,' said Cheung. Source
These days it's become a part of the national conversation that Wall Street has too much power, and too much influence over our political system. If we were concerned about too big to fail banks right when the financial crisis hit, look around today and through bank failings and consolidations, the big banks, have only gotten bigger. So could we go as far as calling Wall Street, a cartel? William Cohan author of "Money and Power" reminds us of a lawsuit brought by the US government against 17 leading Wall Street investment banks, in 1947, where they essentially, did just that. Find out how it applies today. Source