Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Five Points from this week's issue

Five interesting facts from this week's issue: Good luck!

Rabobank (Co-op in Netherlands) has the only AAA rating (by S&P) among banks
What newspaper is the only source of Obama humor? The Onion
Congress Party won India elections - What is its symbol? An open hand
What African country is again at risk for al-Qaeda camps and extremist groups? Somalia
Daimler bought 10% of what Silicon Valley manufacturer of electric cars? Tesla Motors

Economist May 23rd

Starting a marketing meeting so I might not be free again until late. Here's some of the magazine to get you started on prep for tomorrow:

Indian Elections – Congress Party wins 206 seats of the 545 Parliament. Manmohan Singh is the leader. Symbol is an open hand. Trouble to deal with fuel and fertilizer subsidies and bureaucratic ‘leakage’ (corruption).

Decoupling? Is that what the kids call it these days? – Notion that emerging economies wouldn’t be affected by American troubles because they’re solid on their own – proved false as depression spread worldwide, but some suggest that strong emerging economies (China and Brazil) are decoupled from US as they will recover faster than us.

Hold on? Cap and Trade is not a good idea? – Economist can’t make up their mind. Now cap-and-trade is too complex. Better idea is carbon tax. Coming next week: Economist supports Gordon Brown.

Ugly End in Sri Lanka – Tamil Tigers are done. Leader Velupillai Prabhakaran is dead. Sri Lanka needs to take action to avoid continued civilian casualties and establish firm assurances that conflict is over.

Get on the Colonialism bandwagon! – China and Arabs are buying 20 million hectares of farmland for $20-$30 billion. Government to government deals are usually shady and what happens when governments change hands? 2015: The China-Congo War.

Gordon Brown: He whose name cannot be spoken – British Parliament is a mess. Time to clean house and kick out the crooked pols, but problem is not constitutional and overreaction would damage what has been an historically solid parliament.

Arnold gets a few more gray hairs – California budget proposal doesn’t pass. Layoffs in prisons (as in we’ll release 38,000 prisoners) and cut funding for Medi-Cal (health coverage for 225,000 children). Selling off property, like San Quentin prison.

New HUD at the table – Shaun Donovan is new secretary of HUD – Housing and Urban Development. 2.2 million foreclosures last year – April 2009: 1 in every 374.

Lindsay Lohan disease? - bats suffering from ‘white-nose syndrome’ – infection and powdery pattern on face. 500,000 bats have died. 2.4 million lbs of bugs will not be eaten.

Colorado on the rebound (kind of) – construction of new buildings has tanked, but unemployment below national average and house prices dropped only 4% as opposed to average 18.5.

Go read The Onion – even The Economist writers read it. Satire newspaper that is the only thing making fun of Obama: Black Man Given Nation’s Worst Job. Obama’s First 100 Days

Colom Cleansing, A YouTube Sensation – In a posthumously posted YouTube video, murder victim Rodrigo Rosenberg (a Harvard-educated lawyer) says Guatemalan President Álvaro Colom killed him because he knew of corruption in the partly state-owned bank – the Banrural. Question of the day: Is Guatemala a failed, lawless state?

Smacking Seriousness into the Brazilian Court Jester – Brazil’s Supreme Federal Tribunal (Supreme Court) is a bit of a joke. The court is overburdened by rules and provisions like “the limitless right to appeal against any court ruling until the case reaches the 11 wise men and women.” Brazil has more lawsuits per person than any Latin American country except Costa Rica.

I need a Vacation … from Taxes – The OECD, an economic group of rich countries, ruled to keep the Cayman Islands (a British colony) on its list of uncooperative tax havens. Additionally, Obama’s budget proposes to close loopholes that allow American companies to use offshore centers to avoid taxes (a Stop Tax Haven Abuse bill).

Welcome to the Jungle – Shushufindi 61, hidden away in the Ecuadorean jungle, is a dumpster for large oil companies, such as Chevron. Shushufindi is one of several hundred “dumpsters” that are at the center of a long-running legal wrangle between Ecuadorean and American activists and Chevron

The Srilankan Tigers are out of the bag - Srilanka declared victory over the ruthless Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). Sinhalese ethnic majority are happy but the Tamil minority continue to feel stranded by government and question the post-war reconciliation. International pressure for war-crime being called for by European Union.

Myanmar’s Opposition is helpless - Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s opposition leader of National League for Democracy (NLD) has been in restrictive forms of detention for last couple of decades. She is seen as a threat by “Junta” for next year’s election because of her popularity. General’s of Junta party are wicked and have isolated the country from global markets

Tag team battle for President election in Indonesia - Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, the incumbent president, is up against both his predecessor, Megawati Sukarnoputri, and his deputy, Jusuf Kalla. Megawati & Kalla’s rating are poor and are not seen as a big threat. Yudhoyono’s rating is 70% and is rumored to have a strong pimp slap.

My new favorite Economist picture on page 45 - North Korea has few connections to the outside world and Kim Jong continues to break them. Recently broke industrial agreement with South Korea. Kim has asked United Nations Security Council to say sorry because they blasted him for testing a long-range rocket (latest updates say that another missile has been tested last week) Core Competency – Extortion through threats.

Nevermind. New favorite Economist picture on 46! - The opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) wants independence from China and can only afford to protest on street. They claim government is secretly negotiating with China. Nationalist Party and President Ma have eased tension against China and signed agreements for liberalization

China Television Center drama - State broadcaster, China Central Television (CCTV) getting an extravagant complex. A fire (due to Firecrackers) gutted it three months ago which led to recent “firing” of broadcaster’s director, Zhao Huayong. The big Trouser structure (looks like pants) is scheduled for opening on day of the celebrations to mark communist China’s 60th birthday on October 1st.

China in “cruise control” of global economy - Chinese think their country is having a rather good crisis. E.g. President Hu Jintao’s importance at G-20 in April, China was center of all attention. Timothy Geithner, America’s treasury secretary, pays tribute in Beijing next month. A “G2” being proposed, where America and China get together to tackle the financial crisis, climate change and more (don’t we already have enough G’s doing nothing?)

Joe Biden to save the day - Almost all of the progress made in the Balkans since the mid 1990s has been erased by the global recession. Political tensions are building, especially in Bosnia, and the U.S., led by VP Joe Biden, feels obligated to help since they don’t believe the EU is capable of flexing enough muscle. However, the Balkan countries all want to be part of the EU, so EU involvement makes a whole lot more sense.

Does Chuck Norris make Dalia Grybauskaite jokes? - Politics in Lithuania are corrupt. Luckily newly elected President Dalia Grybauskaite is one tough cookie that has a black belt. I’m telling you, you can’t knock her over… they call her “The Wall”.

Gute Nachricht oder schlechte Nachricht zuerst? After bottoming out this winter, the Euro Zone appears to be slowly climbing out of recession. The country hit hardest was uber-productive and export-dependent Germany, although Spain has experienced more severe unemployment due to the temporary nature of many work contracts.

Turks might want to cut back on ‘crevice searches’ - Kurdish minors in Turkey are being abused and face prosecution for their involvement in illegal street protests in support of the separatist Kurdistan Workers’ Party. Turkish authorities have promised to address these concerns, but most are skeptical about their efforts, equating the promises to O.J. Simpson’s vow to find the real killer.

German Comedians - May 23rd is the 60th anniversary of the Federal Republic of Germany. There is an aside about the PrimeTime Theatre in Berlin that opens and closes the article and highlights the open-mindedness of the new Germany, something that 60 years ago didn’t expand beyond blond hair and blue eyes. Germany is now a diverse country that is trying hard to close the equality gaps of the east and west, all while managing the worst economic climate of the Federal Republic’s existence.

Ireland - After an initial defeat, a second Irish referendum on the Lisbon treaty will be held soon, and a Yes vote is expected this time around. The No vote is being campaigned by the Libertas party and its founder, Declan Ganley, who want more Europe power and less individual country sovereignty.

The Most Brightly Polished Turd Award Goes To… Figuring out which banks are best is like picking the prettiest war torn village, but things are getting better. As the financial strength of banks improve they are likely to repay govt aid $$$ (most likely to be gov’t free soon are Goldman, Morgan and JPMorgan). Economists pick for best banks: In the US the award goes to JP Morgan and in Europe to Credit Suisse. Interesting side note: Rabobank (Co-op in Netherlands) has the only AAA rating (by S&P) among banks.

Chicken or the Egg of Bull and Bear Markets - Bull markets are circular. One example is rising asset prices lead to looser lending which leads to increased demand for assets which leads to higher asset prices…yada yada yada. The opposite is true in bear markets…fire sales lead to dropping asset prices…yada yada. Forces that prolonged the bull market through the mid 2000s: Share buybacks, rising stock prices leading to companies not having to make contributions to pension funds, cities competing for tax revenue offering tax advantages for headquartering there. The opposite effects of these forces are at work in the bear market and it is difficult to shift momentum.

Japan is still a negative Nancy for now - Perhaps Japan’s GDP figures include so much negativity that the future could only look brighter. Japan’s latest economic data was the worst since WW2. Markets shrugged it off as there are signs of recovery in consumer confidence, industrial production and increased fiscal stimulus from govt. Weak exports really hurt Japan.

Take your late fees and shove em - Credit card companies are having a rough time. With high unemployment, write-offs for uncollectible debt is are expected to hit $94b this year, up from $61b last year. Additionally, Congress has voted through a bill that restricts their freedom to screw people over.

Mo money mo problems - Talks of single currency in the Persian Gulf region has been slowed as the UAE decided to pull out. The UAE gave no reasoning for this but it is likely due to plans of the central bank to be located in Saudi. Don’t expect a single currency in the region anytime soon, but overall they have been making progress toward this goal.

Brazilian’s export more than just bikini wax - Brazilian credit rating agency, SR Rating, will be issuing an AA rating on U.S. debt citing the huge debt America has incurred recently as a worry for the Treasury. It said that it is reserving AAA ratings for countries like Norway who sit upon lots of oil and have few enemies.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Question Predictions

Sorry - no poll this week, just suggestions:

What former South African Minister of Finance has been reassigned as the head of the planning commission? Trevor Manuel
What company was fined over €1 billion for antitrust violations? Intel
What is the unemployment rate in the US as of April? 8.9%
What problem is plaguing European countries like Italy, Greece, and England? Immigration
What country’s president claims that the state control of oil is a national security issue? Venezuela, Hugo Chavez
Who is the chairman of Vodafone? Vittorio Colao
What US State has the worst bond rating? California
What treaty has the US ignored? UN Convention on the Law of the Sea
What US director is back at work after ten years off? Francis Ford Coppola

What is the best commercial of the week:

Economist May 16th

Boom, Bust, repeat as necessary – Banks are back in action, with government protection and $$$ for desperate borrowers (like me). But how can we dampen the next bust? Better rules that reward bank managers to bank risk through bonds and increasing capital requirements for less stable banks.

American pastime: missing important deadlines – Oops. May 13th was the last day to submit your claim to the ocean floor. But since we’re not part of UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, we don’t get cool claims, like sovereign rights over standard 200 nautical miles from shore, or shipping passage rights. Sounds like a bad treaty from Civilization II.

America’s other pastime: trying to fix the Middle East – Obama has to convince Netanyahu to give a little with Palestine. Biggest problem is how to govern West Bank: Abbas and Fatah party aren’t effective, Hamas is strong, but they have the whole terrorist vibe going still.

Does this mean they’re cancelling Paperboy 2 for Nintendo? – people read their news online. Americans 18-24 who get news each day: 25%. New apps offer potential for WSJ and others to charge ‘micropayments’ – I promise you this: Business in Briefs will remain free, particularly with its strong advertisement supported model available on the right of your screen.

British MPs (members of Parliament) have fat chequebooks! – MPs get expenses to cover anything ‘necessary in pursuit of their duty’ – like hiring a guy to clean your moat. But they’re underpaid compared to American, European counterparts. Pay them more – attract better politicians and cut back on scandal. No jab at Gordon Brown?! Not one!

I will now demonstrate the proper way to club a baby seal – European Union politicians needed to appease the fur-loving animal rights people without actually impacting anyone doing business in Europe (like pig farmers), so they target Canadian seal hunters and ban sealskin products.

Best job ever – top right page 27 – Business Planning for Antarctica

Seabed is up for grabs – important stats: claim up to 350 miles from land, Russia claimed North Pole (good luck with that) France claims Canadian ocean through St. Pierre & Miquelon. Sulphide is important. Seabed mining companies: Neptune Minerals and Nautilus Minerals

Is California that screwed up? – Apparently yes. $42 billion deficit – May20th special election, but nobody votes other than crazy extremists. Time for a new state constitution to curb ‘citizen power

Old People are expensive and smile a lot. My suggestion – Budget deficit for US is $2 trillion. Budget director Peter Orszag keeps talking about social security and medicare as ‘problems’ because the future unfunded cost is only $104 trillion. Wah.

Gay Marriage in New England – New Hampshire and Maine are latest to say ‘Gay, OK!’ children could care less. State laws likely to change – federal law still problematic.

I prefer to call them ‘stress position’ pictures – there are 44 more pictures of prisoner treatment from Abu Ghraib. ACLU wants them released, Pentagon says hold on. Obama agrees that they just provide more trouble.

Wooo! Happy statistics from New Orleans! Ready? – 25% never came back. Only 57% medical facilities re-opened. 66% report chronic health problems. 2x suicide rate, 20% poverty. 20% considering leaving.

Center lane closed for construction – Republicans probably shouldn’t get more extreme. Center ideology served democrats well. Less toxic (Rush Limbaugh) and some competence?! Shocker!

Bush’s BFF is Shady, but Popular – Colombia President Álvaro Uribe, a close friend of G. Bush, to seek an unprecedented third consecutive term as president. Despite scandals of domestic spying and some ‘democratic security’, 84% of Columbians said they would support Uribe’s right to run again and his approval rating is 71%. I think someone is jealous

Chávez is an Oily Bohunk? –PDVSA (Petroleums of Venezuela) ran out of cash - accrued $70 billion in liabilities. Chavez turned it into state owned org. PDVSA builds houses, imports food, runs farms and pays for adult-education projects. Dial would say that PDVSA is trying to do too much – not a sustainable advantage.

Kirchner Poised to Win Husband-of-the-Year – Argentina’s president, Cristina Fernández, and her husband, Néstor Kirchner, are campaigning to keep the Peronist party in the majority. Two political parties threaten their power – Conservative Peronists and the Radical Party. Hubby Kirchner is campaigning particularly hard in Buenos Aires, which contains 2/5 of Argentina’s voters. The IMF believes that Argentina’s economy will shrink by 1.5% this year.

Still at it in Pakistan - Pakistan army continues to battle Taliban in Swat valley. Citizens unhappy and loosing trust in army because lots of innocent civilians dying in battle. American NGO survey result: 69% consider Taliban & Al-Qaeda a “problem” and 45% support army’s fight.

Spec Ops Commander in top job for Afghanistan: General David McKiernan fired. Insiders claim the general lacked Dynamism. The new commander will be General Stanley McChrystal (West Point ’76 - former head of the Joint Special Operations Command). Questions being raised because the Special Forces have figured in some of the worst mishaps, in which large numbers of civilians have been killed in air strikes.

Closing stages in Sri Lanka - The army and Tamil Tiger rebels continue to battle (480 civilian refugees killed in two days). Total of 8000 civilians killed so far in battle. Senior leader of the Tigers, Velupillai Prabhakaran is also in the battlefield (killed since publication). Government will not rest until the Tigers are all wiped out.

Nepal Political crises - Maoist Government in trouble. resignation of Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal. Maoists have stopped the assembly from functioning since the resignation. Opposition parties (UML and Nepal Congress) are attempting to form new government but they don’t have a majority and face stiff opposition from the Maoists.

Legacy of Sichuan earthquake – disaster last year left 86,000 people dead or missing. Government was praised initially for its rescue efforts. Government attempted to restrict media coverage and conversation with victims. Was the damage done because of lousy construction methods? Over 5335 students killed in a school building. Parents of victims and the public are angry with the government stance on this.

You must kill the Prime Minister of MALAYSIA! - United Malays National Organization (UMNO) led by Anwar Ibrahim got three legislators in Perak to switch sides disrupting the majority in 59-seat assembly. Opposition claiming that their man is the Chief Minister and his removal was illegal. Takeover approved by hereditary state ruler Sultan Azlan Shah. Lots of people own the Chief Minster seat in a very short time !!

Stimulating Australian budget: Booming Australian economy slowing down this quarter (after a decade of growth) with cash deficit A$58 billion ($44 billion in real money), or 4.9% of GDP. Kevin Rudd leader of labor party had promised big spending on health, education and attacking climate change. Now he has to either raise taxes or drop the plan. China is Australia’s biggest trading partner.

Yeah LDP, Yeah you know me! - Government debt at twice the economy’s output. Planning to float new currency. Opposition leader Mr. Ozawa under pressure to step down from DPJ(Democratic Party of Japan) leadership. Ruling party LDP (Liberal Democratic Party) has been in power for a very long time in Japan. Mr. Ozawa was initially with LDP and then moved to DPJ.

Peace in the Middle East? Not Likely…- Obama is ready to enter the Palestinian-Israeli war for peace in the Middle East. New diplomacy has gained support from some countries like Jordan and Egypt, and will face lots of problems from people like Iran and the threat of a potential nuclear war.

Can’t we all just Get Along? - Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is visiting the White House this week for his first meeting with Obama where he may unfurl a new plan for cooperation with Palestine. Takes tough (unlikely to succeed) stance will center on the Palestinian conflict and the problems that Iran poses for the country.

AH the Right to Free Speech, Oh Wait, This is Qatar - Robert Menard, famous for his affinity for controversy, has been asked to run “the world’s first press freedom centre” in Doha. This is a big step towards liberalization in the region, but controversy will follow Menard and there are a lot of conflicting interests in play.

Jacob Zuma not the one in charge? Say it ain’t so! -Trevor Manuel, the popular (former) finance minister in South Africa, has been reassigned as the head of the national planning commission. The new post will reportedly give Manuel more power as Zuma doesn’t really know what he is doing and would rather be the public face of the government and let someone else call the shots. The real extent of Manuel’s power remains to be seen.

Special Section – Banking industry is changing. G20 average govn’t debt 100% of GDP by 2014. Total bill for financial collapse: $4.1 trillion (not counting my mortgage…yet). Blame Canada, even though The Economist gives them props for doing things right. Awesome graph on page 19.

Newsflash – There is a recession in Europe! - Baltic countries face the most uncertainty; Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania have all seen year-on-year double-digit declines to GDP. The IMF has responded to stave off devaluation; a sign of better coordinated outside help. Many industries are in collapse, but the alternative energy industry is growing.

I swear, if I miss the Cavs winning a championship over this… - 89 year old Clevelander John Demjanjuk has been flow to Germany for another trial in his supposed involvement in the murder of at least 29,000 Jews during WWII, again. The facts will be difficult to prove, but this is yet another sign of Germany’s “demonstrative remorse” and its zeal for an honest reckoning with the past.

Well, it aint the Ritz Carleton… - So apparently French prisons are not very clean. Safety is a problem because of overcrowding and lots of people kill themselves. There are new laws to open new prisons and to revamp old ones to bring them up to European norms, while the really bad ones are being closed down.

Russia is Ready to Fight Some More - Russia threw a lavish parade equipped with 9,000 soldiers in Red Square to celebrate its military prowess and remind the world that it was a good guy during WWII. On a side note, Vladimir Putin for 2012!

Immigration a Problemo in Italy - Italy is being hit hard by illegal immigration from Libya and has begun returning seized boats to Libya as opposed to offering the immigrants a chance to seek asylum in Italy.

Immigration Also a Problem in Greece, or is it Discrimination? - Greece has always been known for the hospitality it shows to immigrants, but now that Pakistanis, Afghans, Iraqis, Sudanese, and Somalians want in Greece is singing a different tune. They still don’t turn them away, but they have policy aimed at discouraging them to stay. With camps and detention centers in place, the immigration scene is not pretty, but arrival rates show no signs of slowing.

The European Commission, aka Indian Givers - The European Commission has frozen funds it extended to Bulgaria due to fraud and conflicts of interest. This is all told through an anecdote about a dairy farmer named Stefan Petrov, who blames the mess on the Bulgarian government, and not on the EU.

Somebody skipped their ethics class in Parliament - MPs like to put a lot of their expenses on the corporate card. Most complaints stem from a second-home allowance worth up to 24,000 pounds per year. Voters are pissed, and not in the fun British-sense, but rather in the angry American sense.

It’s never as good as it looks - The actions of the Bank of England have helped to energize the British economy, as the stock market is up and fear of banks collapsing is down. Unfortunately, the labor market is not showing signs of relief as jobless claims are up significantly over the past 3 months, and earnings are down.

If everyone has an immigration problem, where are they coming from? - This time in England. Migrant farm workers in the countryside are subject to terrible living conditions and have been neglected for the most part until now. The majority of the migrants are from eastern Europe, primarily Poland.

Finally, Bagehot makes sense - Britain is living through a Yom Kippur moment and apologizing for everything, notably the bankers for sinking the economy and MPs for expensing everything. In typical Economist fashion Gordon Brown is urged to apologize for sucking at life.

I’m guessing the Popemobile doesn’t do sand off-roading well – Pope didn’t do too well in middle east. Managed to make everyone angry, didn’t strongly condemn a holocaust denying bishop. Biggest catholic country: Brazil but fading there too.

Most Unethical Corporate Behavior on the decline – Cutting back on CSR easy way to save cash. AEP not doing a wind farm in Indiana. Don’t disappoint your employees by not following through with promises.

Intel Inside (a big mess) - $1.44 billion anti-trust fine – not because prices are anticompetitive, but because they often exclude rival AMD. Maybe if AMD had Ajay Bhatt they wouldn’t have this problem.

How come we don’t have GM-Chrysler drama like this? – Ferdinand Piech is the chairman of VW, fought off takeover by Porsche – now will likely integrate Porsche into VW group (including Audi, Bentley, Lamborghini and Bugatti – who knew?!)

El Plan Stupido – Spain wants to ban advertisements on Television Espanola. We’ll just tax private broadcasters. Right. Because they’re doing so well as is.

Compensation based on performance! Shocking! – advertising agencies for big brands (Coke, P&G, etc…) now being paid per value, not time.

Australia v. Telstra ends in KO – Telstra is telecom giant, run by Sol Trujillo. Wasn’t that great at the political games. Now state will build $43 billion network and Telstra will take back seat or break up.

Japan still has shiny bright stuff – Uniqlo sells casual clothing – same-store sales increases at 19%. Muji sells plastic bottles and homes (hell of a product mix).

iPhone killer? – Vodafone has 290million subscribers. Trying to build universal software platform. Vittorio Colao is the boss and good at his job.

Asian Economies Could Recover Faster Than the West - Asian countries are pumping more stimulus $$$ into the economy as a % of GDP (China and Japan top the list at 5% of 2009 GDP). The main argument against the Asian recovery: frugal US consumers will buy less Asian imports. However, this dependence may be inflated. One estimate cited that American consumers are responsible for only 5% of China’s GDP.

Global Monetary System Changes - All monetary and economic systems balance borrowers who like inflation and lenders who prefer no erosion in purchasing power. The system has changed from the “gold standard” to the “dollar standard” to floating interest rates, which has worked ok over the past few decades, but change is on the horizon. As the US owes other nations gazillions of dollars and has a trade deficit to boot, China will have a lot of power to determine where we go from here with respect to the global monetary system.

You Call That A Stress Test?!#@ - tests worked to assure investors that banks were not cooking books and that loss estimates were likely not grossly optimistic, they really are no indication that the banks are well capitalized and will be able to operate without government support anytime soon. Banks have been raising capital in equity markets recently and only GMAC seems to be at risk of nationalization.

Did I tell you that I have two PhDs? - Two smarty pants professors from Harvard and Chicago came up with a plan for how to regulate the leverage of banks by basing their risk on the price of their Credit Default Swaps. Basically, it says to let the market decide how risky a banks debt is and then regulate accordingly.

Don’t have a pot to piss in or a window to throw it out of, but at least I’m earning negative 30% interest on my bank deposits!! - Poor people in developing countries actually have to PAY rates of 30-40% for keeping their $$$ in “banks.” incredibly broke individuals are somewhat financially savvy. Through a combination of loans and savings they are able to work it out so that what they eat today does not depend entirely on what they earn today.

Hedge Funds had garbage returns but investors are still putting $$$ in them.

Astronomers get some new toys to play with - Shuttle program is drawing to a close next year. The crew of the Atlantis is currently on an 11-day mission to give one last makeover to the Hubble telescope. The upgrade should keep it running until 2014.

Homo Erectus - "Obscene" statue discovered in south-western Germany. Dates back to when homo sapiens arrived in Europe - adding further evidence that male thinking hasn't changed much in the last 35,000 years.

Watch out Google - Wolfram Alpha is the latest search engine, though its inventor (Stephen Wolfram) prefers to call it a "computational knowledge engine". Dissects questions into components and performs calculations to come up with an answer, which it displays in a myriad of charts, tables and graphs. Unfortunately it can only handle complex questions and comes up empty with simple searches, such as "climate change".

Living abroad gives you a creative edge - Two psychologists proved this via a bunch of weird experiments involving candles, pins and matches and a role playing exercise about negotiating to get a job at a gas station.

British Chiropractic Association happily promotes "bogus" treatments - Dr. Singh, a well-known science author in Britain wrote this in an article published during Chiropractic Awareness Week and was sued for libel by the BCA. He's now facing $150,000 to settle and his chances at appealing aren't that great. Lawsuit boils down to the definition of the word "bogus".

Tuesday, May 12, 2009


New issue review is posted below - looking for some help for next week's issue - let me know and I'll assign a section to you. Thanks!

China Celebrates Its Status As World’s Number One Air Polluter

The Economist - May 9th

The Colbert Report – France is looking good. While America and Britain show what happens without much regulation, Sarkozy gets to step into the leadership role. Jean-Baptiste Colbert was finance guy in 1670’s who helped French manufacturing through state intervention – example for today.

Some big GM BS - as Auto companies head toward bankruptcy, creditors higher up on the capital structure are getting screwed. Secured creditors are getting $0.28/dollar while UAW gets $0.43/dollar.

Nepal has 30 million people? - There was a long civil war and now peace is shaky as politicians try to help get the rival armies (Maoists and Royals) together on the same page.

Zimbabwe or Japan? Are those our only options? - .4% decline in prices, but mostly b/c of energy. Core inflation at 1.8%. demand is down so central banks would rather risk inflation and reduce rates to zero.

I thought copying was bad? – sharing the results of failed medical tests would help scientists avoid needlessly repeating tests on the 50-100 million animals tested each year.

Does anyone apply to the jobs in The Economist for fun?

According to the graphic, French babies cost €889 – The French may be on to something. Government spending on stuff, instead of tax refunds. Building/upgrading infrastructure, trains, etc. GDP drop by 3% but better than the rest. Bad: young unemployment, no start-ups, low growth

Supreme Court Justice Retires; Cable News Commentators standing by – Judge Souter retired. No one know who Obama will pick, but they all know that it will be an ugly confirmation hearing. Some want a Hispanic women, to provide greater representation among the 9 judges.

Pequeños pasos to Cuba – Cuban-Americans can now easily travel to Cuba. No complaints from hard-liners. Embargo isn’t up for negotiation yet, but bill in Congress to allow all American a chance to visit Cuba.

You can reach me at a PO Box in the Bahamas – Obama wants to reform tax code, but his proposed crackdown on foreign earnings by US corporations will make it more confusing. Right now, no tax on earnings unless profits are ‘repatriated’ into US.

Choo-Choo Trains (the underground and out-of-money kind) – The MTA is the NY subway, bus and train agency. They’re $2 billion in debt and want to raise fares and charge a $1.5 billion payroll tax. Time for a bail-out! (What?, no cap and trade for subway cars?)

The Kentucky Derby is fun – Mine that Bird won the race with 50:1 odds. Attendence at 145,000. Revenue of $105 mil, down from $121, but at least a horse didn’t die on the track this year.

Coal is (not) the future! – We need coal power plants because we don’t have enough alternatives yet, but new EPA ruling allows administration to shut down plants when it wants.

Jack Kemp dead at 73– an NFL quarterback and a pretty good congressman. Supply-side economics – cut taxes – Bob Dole running mate in ’96.

Goon Squad Teacher’s Union – new education secretary, Arne Duncan, has work cut out for him in fighting the ‘blob’ (teacher’s union). Charter schools, merit pay, accountability! How will cranky, tenured 40 year high school history teachers keep their jobs?

Swine Flu cost Mexico 0.3% GDP - $1.3 billion in tax breaks to help businesses affected. Public opinion supported response, but initial response showed health service problems in poorer areas.

Even Hugo Chavez doesn’t like unions – he prefers ‘workers councils’ (nice socialist ring) – oil and industry have most union workers and threaten his plans for world domination through their collective wage agreements.

The French Empire rises again! – St. Pierre and Miquelon is an island (formerly named Island of 11,000 Virgins) off coast of Canada. French claim rights to seabed around, ostensibly for oil and gas rights. Canada not pleased. Falkland War redux!

50% off Panama Presidents, this week only! – Mr. Ricardo Martinelli is a centrist, independent, businessman who defeated the left in the presidential election. He is 2% of Panama GDP.

Counterfeiting? No, I was just ‘stimulating the economy.’ – Peru seized $40 million in fake American dollar bills. Drug traffickers moving from Columbia to Peru.

Nepal has a weird flag – High Drama in the Himalayas! Maoist PM Pushpa Dahal is out. President Ram Baran Yadav fired General Rookmangud Katawal. Compromise collapsed and concern that younger Maoists want more power, possibly at the cost of another civil war?

Indian Politics – Narendra Modi is BJP minister of Gujarat. Losing respect but has seats across country. Are American politics this confusing to Indians here in Ohio?

Shadiness in Pakistan – Supposedly a big fight in Swat valley as Pakistani soldiers fight the Taliban. America keeps asking for help against fundamentalists, then gives money. Big ??? if this is any different than past ‘offensives’ that didn’t produce results.

Afghan elections – Hamid Karzai will probably win, but that’s because he’s an incumbent, there’s no organized opposition. Low support (15%) and Taliban controls 11 and influences 100 districts out of 400.

There’s golf in Indonesia? – political murder of a CEO tied to Antasari Azhar, head of anti corruption in Indonesia. President You-da-ho-yo-now up for re-election and should probably remain at a distance (literally and figuratively).

NGOs in Singamore are craaaazy! – AWARE (Association of Women for Action and Research) was taken over by old ladies to keep it from promoting a pro-gay agenda.

What? Is Fiji water too expensive? – South Australia is running out of water. Wah. Can’t grow grapes for wine. Stupid farmers growing food used all the water.

Aussies on the stah’board bow! – Kevin Rudd, PM, is leading defense industry change. Building navy and air force to hedge against China. Spending $100 billion on cool stuff. But I thought they were friends?

I tried boiling a frog, but he didn’t look as happy as the picture – Taiwan and China are kinda getting along. China let them participate in the WHO. Taiwan might get broader economic access to Chinese markets. No big changes to sovereignty arrangements.

Sudan turns a corner? – President Omar al-Bashir is under indictment by International Criminal Court – now promises to hold elections and new envoy from Obama administration. Might be trying to get West to off his back.

Obama goes on Leno; in Guinea, the new president is Leno – Moussa Dadis is the new coup-installed leader of Guinea. He has a cool TV show where he interviews people. Promises elections soon… probably unlikely as one of Transparency International’s top ten most corrupt countries.

Tanzania and Wabenzi – Solid east Africa country – President Jakaya Kikwete pushing image but not fixing paralyzing bureaucratic problems at home. Criticizes ‘Wabenzis’ – those who drive Mercedes. Probably a bunch of NGO assholes.

Fingerpainting tonight only! Meet behind the barbed wire near the sewing class – Prisoners in Iraq do fun arts and crafts while in jails, I mean ‘camps.’ Most will be released because of little evidence. Those associated with al-Qaeda and Mahdi Army get Iraq tribunals.

Iranian President Ahmadin-na-not-gonna-get-elected – Losing support among educated and urban voters. Opposition criticize the foreign grandstanding while inflation runs at 25% and little to show for $300 billion in oil review over last four years.

Pigs in Shiite (not true, but sounded better than Sunni) – Egypt, fearful of swine flu, is ordering all 250,000 pigs to be killed. Most are owned by Coptic Christians who clean up trash and think that it’s a plot by Muslim Brotherhood to discriminate against them.

Dachshund Exports on the rise; not so much for everything else – German exports decline by 19%. Big part of GDP, but no one is buying their cool industrial stuff. Might need to rely on (gasp!) consumption.

Jerry Springer has to go to Rome (and Paraguay) – Berlusconi, Italy PM, getting divorce. Hot wife called him ‘shameless trash’ (much sexier in Italian: sfacciata cestino) Berls partying with 18 year old aspiring models. Catholic church might not look favorably, from their moral high ground…)

Save us El Plan Obama! – Plan E (yikes – they’re already down to E?) put through $11 billion but unemployment still at 17.4%. PM Zapatero not really doing anything because he doesn’t have much political support.

Risk evaluation for Georgia: invading Russians – Georgian Pres Mikheil Saakashvili probably concerned. Mutiny in tank battalion, Russia still pissed and inside South Ossetia – Russians not worried about Western intervention since they didn’t do anything last time.

If EU elections are held in the woods and nobody votes, do they still count? – EU Parliament elections have had really low turnout, probably 34% for upcoming elections. Pretty much a worthless organization, Economist drops the ‘F-bomb’ - calls it an NGO, the lowest of Economist insults…

Gordon Brown rumored to steal lunch money from Economist writers – If you’ve read anything from this blog or The Economist, you know that Britain is in bad shape and it’s fun to bash Gordon Brown. He might make it through election with economic recovery and getting support for postal service reforms.

Londonistan – American radio personality Michael Savage banned from London for his ‘dangerous speech.’ He’s pissed. Britain not really living up to ‘free speech’ standards.

$45 ID cards? – Britain wants its citizens to buy ID cards, available at your local Walgreens and other fine retailers. Expensive and privacy concerns - ID scanners will be expensive too.

British Muslims – much more religious than other European Muslims, but much more loyal to Britain.

Thatcherism in Britain – Privatization and low income tax were hallmarks of Thatcherism, but now Britain deals with the situation by doing the opposite, yet not blaming them. Who is Bagehot? Because I’d like to kick him in the face for giving me a headache each week.

OOOOooo , look at us with our emerging economies - markets like China, India and Brazil established different policies than their western counterparts, leaning towards liberalization, lowing trade barriers, and risk pooling regionally (13 Asian countries have aligned to caution against fickle foreign capital).

More Pirates Walking the plank - Some countries like Portugal and Britain won’t capture pirates unless they have attacked their nation’s ships and the US wants those countries to be more badass. The real problem is fixing Somalia.

Bad News For the Poor (actual economist title)- Donations from rich people are down – believe it or not. Obama administration wants to put development aid on par with defense and diplomacy, but we are still short of past numbers. Foundations and endowments have not yet curtailed spending despite lower fundraising.

The Antitrust Problems in the Computer Industry - Intel, Microsoft, IBM, Google, and AMD all face antitrust suits because they do things that can be considered actions towards creating monopolies. The intense competition and rivalry has helped to stir up some of the lawsuits, and there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight.

Buying on the Dips – When prices are low, you should buy, groundbreaking stuff.
Mergers and acquisitions have not gone away in this economy. The number of deals is down a little but not much (still doing 80% of volume of deals compared to last ten years) with about a third of the big deals coming from bank restructuring. Expect more activity in energy and technology sectors in the near future.

Who took my e-bay? - Chinese dotcom companies borrow (steal) business models and designs of American websites (known as “copy to China” model and includes sites like e-bay, Facebook, and YouTube). One example is Qifang who does ‘peer to peer’ lending and focuses on student loans based on community group-lending schemes. They may actually have more plausible business models than US firms because they do crazy things like charging for apps and games – the nerve!

Strait Deals (body of water not sexual orientation) - Chinese company China Mobile invested in Taiwan telecom firm Far EasTone (get it?), breaking from tradition. It’s a big deal, not necessarily in size but as a sign of opening borders. Due in large part to new Taiwanese government, this could be the beginning of more Chinese investment in Taiwan.

Rolls-Royce goes compact - The luxury carmaker is still doing OK but people they are less likely to make luxury purchases of such a conspicuous symbols of wealth. The new model, the Ghost, is a lower end model (still over $250,000) that could be a big seller, also look for hybrid models in the future.

What happened to Ted Turner? - Time Warner Cable is looking to get out of its partnership with AOL, and into online TV. Advertising is the biggest concern, along with the internet problems the music industry faced, but online programming is here to stay. Hulu is touted for its plot to take over the world and the transition of TV into internet realm could be messy.

“Atomic” Anne Lauvergeon – France’s Homer Simpson? - Leading the French state-owned Areva (formerly COGEMA), one of the world’s largest nuclear power companies, has made Atomic Anne famous, but her days may be numbered. She is recognized as an important figure in the rehabilitation of nuclear power, but some mistakes, like being late and over budget on a new plant in Finland, may make the rest of the world worried about the feasibility of new reactors. DOH!

Help! American consumption fell and is stuck in the town well! – Nobody is buying anything – household wealth fell by $11 trillion. Debt to income ratio of 133%. Consumption of google-sponsored ads reported to contribute to reducing student loan debt.

The Economist is the guy who pops balloons at parties – We’re all excited because 66% of companies beat expectations and stock rallies. But broader view shows that nominal GDP has fallen for two quarters for the first time in 50 years. Wah. Big deal.

Stress Tests (not the Economist Quiz kind) – Banks need to demonstrate that they are capitalized enough to allow them to return federal money. Government still threatens to replace top leadership. Bank of American $34 billion short.

Landesbanken mit keine geld – Germany state owned banks have $1.1 trillion of toxic securities. Banking system not open, so bad banks can’t be taken over.

Infrastructure investments – Roads and utilities are supposed to provide stable returns, but they suck too. Stick with cash.

Mid-East Mergers – Arab banks are overpopulated, undercapitalized, and inefficient. Those banks that are Sharia (Islamic law) compliant are starting to consolidate.

Canada should keep dreaming – they want a more robust trans-atlantic trading arrangement with the EU to lessen their reliance on US for trade. Depends on success of Doha…

Swine Flu, Boo WHO – vaccine capacity is getting better, but not nearly enough to instantly ramp up production if the world needs it.

But what if the mice like testing new cosmetics? – Europe is passing new legislation that protects animals from testing. Three Rs of testing: Restrict, refine, replace.

How to make Electric cars really annoying? – electric cars are quiet, so scientists are worried that stupid pedestrians won’t hear them coming and not get out of the way. Wah. Proposed that they should beep so people hear them. Might be cooler to make my Prius sound like a ’78 Trans-Am.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Special Thanks

A big thanks to two guest contributors who helped with some of the reviews in light of this week's workload - Scott Armul and Mike Ross.

Enjoy the clip below, as well as the Cavs game and Cinco de Mayo!

More American Workers Outsourcing Own Jobs Overseas

The Economist - May 2nd

Next in last week’s news: swine flu – governments planned for another outbreak of bird flu, but whether or not swine flu is dangerous, the world needs a new system for reacting, and more importantly, a better system for identifying new diseases.

Berlusconi is 73 years old? – Doesn’t look a day older than Mussolini. Italy has tremendous potential, but Berl’s strong leadership hasn’t translated into any reforms that would remove regulations that are restricting commerce.

Anything new about Jacob Zuma? – Not really. His party, the ANC, doesn’t have 2/3 of Parliament so there’s possibility that ANC and Zuma could face a legitimate opposition alliance of the Cope and Alliance parties. More ‘wait and see’ talk.

Even without Jorge, Chile still has an advantage – S. American economies are surprisingly well balanced. World recession has hit growth, but it may help Latin America to become more self-sufficient as foreign capital recedes.

Gordon Brown: Leave the man alone – but he does kind of deserve it. 61.5% tax rate on incomes over $147k (US) – What a gormless plonker. Economist suggests (drumrolll) carbon tax! Yeah!!!!

Malakand Malaise no more? – Pakistan gets going on fixing its Taliban problem in the lawless, nearly ceded, Northern territories – kind of. They busted some heads, but might as easily give up – like they did with dismantling the LET – the group behind the Mumbai attacks.

Anything new about Barack Obama? – not really. Poll numbers are still high. 45% believe country is on right track. Honeymoon might not last forever as he faces auto industry, health care, and climate.

Oh yeah…a trade policy – Obama not as protectionist as he suggested on campaign trail, but hasn’t done much to advance free trade – ignores the issue. Doha trade talks might be successful in promoting free trade, but no one is really confident.

Greatest Clip-art driven article ever – Dachshunds (the wiener dogs) are popular in local dog races because they’re really funny to watch. And they’re the best dog breed ever.

Who broke wind? – Not AEP – they put up a power line across W. Virginia and Virginia in 2 years and it took feds 14 years to approve. Wind power has potential, but govn’t regulation needs to help, not hinder.

Newman! – Post Office is hurting – losing $2.8 billion last year. Considering reducing service to 5 days or further rate increases. Forbidden to expand into other services. Banking at the Post Office? Brilliant idea!

Rhode Island: We’re better than Michigan! – wait, what? We’re not? – 16 new homes in the entire state for February. Unemployment highest in nation. Biomed and wind energy markets offer hope. They used to tax $2 per act of intercourse… no joke necessary.

You’ve never heard of shrinkage?! – Republican Senator Arlen Specter of Penn switched parties. Doubtful he could get re-elected in Penn as Republican. Party is shrinking and more far-right ideological.

Déjà vu? – Some more about Latin America and their relatively mild recession. End of 5 years of growth, but traditional Latin American weakness in financial systems, currency and public finance aren’t the cause. More populist governments, like Venezuela will fare the worst.

Big Papi from Paraguay – Fernando Lugo is Paraguay’s president and a former bishop. And he likes women – fathered a few ‘little Lugos.’ Has a lot of work to do – fight corruption, develop political infrastructure, and make up for lost time as a Padre.

Maybe Swine Flu could clean up the drug problem – Mexican Army soldiers are in cities to fight the ‘narcos.’ And they occasionally rape and murder random people, but Mexico lets that one slide. No big deal…until the Army is too powerful and the people don’t trust it… Yay!

Could use some help - Last year cyclone named Nargis nailed Myanmar and killed 140,000 people. They have no food, water, or rebuilding money. Nobody wants to donate because junta (regime) is dreadful and squanders it all anyway.

Domo Arigato, Mr. Ozawa - For such a great scandal. Japan’s current Prime Minister is Taro Aso of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). He has to hold an election by the end of September. Looked like a lock for change of party to Ichiro Ozawa’s Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ). Now Ozawa in trouble for accepting illegal funds and victory doesn’t look so good. Ozawa’s new plan is to hide until the election.

Knock, Knock? WHO’s there? – Taiwan! - Taiwan has finally been asked to attend a World Health Organization assembly, but only as an observer, and only because of pandemic murmurings, and only because China let them.

It’s time to move on, time to get going - China still hasn’t forgiven Japan for some ‘harsh occupation’ during the 1930s and 40s. China made a movie called “City of Life and Death” that documents atrocities committed during this ‘gruesome chapter. Japan PM Taro Aso responded by placing flowers on Japanese soldiers memorial, making China mad. China turning a new leaf, willing to ignore and move on.

“Romantic Episodes” probably didn’t help - American soldier Lance-Corporal Daniel Smith accused of raping Filipina while on US military assignment in Philippines. Filipino nationalists want America out, Smith sentenced to 40 years in prison by Filipino court. Turns out $2000 from Smith and a US visa to the woman made the sex consensual.

Tamil Tigers no more – almost - Sri Lankan government still close to complete Tamil Tiger annihilation. Still. Estimate at 50k civilians still trapped in the ceasefire area. Aid orgs want President Rajapaksa to stop using heavy artillery.

OMG - Australia’s new bff is China. US is kind of jealous, and posted it on Twitter - Australia getting rich selling natural resources to China, but worried that they are enabling Chinese world domination. Australia divided on how to proceed. Australia’s PM, Kevin Rudd, can speak faultless mandarin and wants to be China’s zhengyou (true friend)

I would have guessed ‘Basrans’ but it’s ‘Basrawis’ – Iraq’s most important southern city has seen improvement since PM Nuri al-Maliki cleaned house in March ’08, but security concerns still legitimate if services are provided and disenfranchised youth return to the troublesome militias (or is it militiawis) from Muqtada Al-Sadr.

Gaza Home Depot: You can do. We won’t help. – Many Palestinians of Gaza remain homeless - $4.5 billion of reconstruction aid hasn’t shown up. Israel would lift trade restrictions if Hamas abandons leadership. Palestinians growing frustrated with Hamas.

More Jacob Zuma – Seriously?

But what about their sustainable competitive advantage? - Nigeria has a new brand: Good People. Great Nation. [muffled ‘hooray’ as I’m kidnapped] ORC lists capital as worst place for expats with violence, infrastructure, and sanitation problems.

Imagine Prime Minister Rupert Murdoch – Berlusconi in Italy is rocking with high approval rating despite dismal economic outlook. Controls the media. Turning into a modern day ‘post-ideological totalitarianism.’

Where’s the Ukrainian PM? – Johanna Sigurdardottir, openly gay former air hostess is new PM. Financial situation is disastrous – GDP decline of 10%, 50% business insolvent. IMF bailout of $2.1 billion. Might join EU in future if they can get their ship together.

MTV: The Mountains. Starring Turkey-Georgia-Armenia-Azerbaijan: Turks and Armenians don’t get along because of 1915 fight. Azerbaijan and Armenia fight over sliver of land between them. Georgia is abused by Russia, but no one has called the cops yet. If they all get along, Turkey could get into the Epsilon Upsilon Frat (EU) Russia wants control of the gas and oil so that Europe is more dependent on Russia for energy.

Portugal less optimistic than the Economist?! – 95% are depressed about their job prospects and more than 50% dissatisfied with their life. Jose Socrates is the PM – banks are solid, but GDP contracts by 3.5%, exports low. Bureaucracy paralyzing growth and weak political leaders are pushing change.

What happened to Bologne? – French University students are always on strike, especially now worried about the ‘privatization’ of their education system. Government not going to award ‘half-degrees’ and most students getting annoyed by vocal minority.

Roma are not from Rome – They are gypsies mostly from Czech Republic. Despite Czech’s ‘modern’ place in Europe, there’s significant persecution of Roma and they are fleeing to Canada to escape.

Entschuldigen Sie bitte! – The Germans aren’t really embracing the whole ‘open borders’ part of the EU, still restricting labor from 8 other more recent members of the EU from Eastern Europe. The Economist says that they should part with their old ways and show some true logic and open up the borders.

Tories = Conservatives – Their leader is David Cameron who is helping keep their panache to a minimum. Bold positions, particularly undoing costly national-insurance contributions are starting to take hold. Might become new brand of centrist conservatism.

Guess What?! – The British economy isn’t exactly the dog’s bollocks. Spending freezes and budget cuts. They hope for a recovery by 2011….riiiight.

London Bombings – the plotters of the 2005 London bombings will probably never be caught as the bombers were killed in suicide blasts and three of their friends were tried but acquitted. Several sets of fingerprints on bomb materials remain unidentified.

Veteran’s Affairs – British Government consistently mistreated Gurkhas (Nepalese soldiers who fought for Britain) and wouldn’t allow them to settle in Britain or provide them with the promised medical care for the war injuries. Big Parliament upset that condemned their treatment and will soon solve their grievances.

Education reform in Britain – There are two guys, Mr. Gove and Mr. Balls who will play a big part. Balls aspires to lead more than just education reform – also very liberal. Gove is a neocon. The whole vasectomy thing threw me off and I’ve never re-read an article in the Economist so many times without understanding a thing.

Islamic education in Britain and Pakistan – a Madrassas, a religious school, has different roles in Britain (supplement to state ed) as opposed to Pakistan (primary ed, escape from poverty). Both fight with extremist and radicalization that turn Madrassas into threatening training grounds for future Jihadists.

Harder, Better, Faster, kinda Stronger – World Bank reviews its health care loan program (a mere $17 billion) and admits that it didn’t really do as much as it had hoped. Working to improve local bureaucracies instead of just throwing money at the problem.

Big Men on Campus – Hey look at us – we actually have positive net cash positions! Big companies, Exxon, Microsoft, Google, etc… never became exposed to credit markets and kept cash on hand. Perhaps last days of high-leveraged companies?

Ciao Chrysler – Chrysler heading to Fiat. Wasn’t able to renegotiate debt. Government taking over 50% of GM. Closing a bunch of dealers and cutting more workforce. Dedicated to breaking even at domestic sales volume of 10 million cars.

On time or your yuan back – Parcel shipping very entrepreneurial in China over last few years. Private start-ups and then also major logistics firms all moving packages around. China wants piece, so China Post (USPS of China) is back and regulations will restrict foreign owned firms.

Two ad agencies merged…and….dachshunds are great race dogs – William Morris and Endeavor are two Hollywood agencies that are joining. Not really big players anymore as media conglomerates are in greater strength positions.

Insert knife in gut, twist, repeat – The Economist gleefully reminds us that in depressions, companies don’t hire and come up with great excuses to hold off on hires. Finance and consulting lead the way with deferred job offers of 6 months to a year, so that we can ‘travel’ (while paying our loans?). And stupid TARP hurts foreign students looking for work in US. Sorry Jorge.

Jobs for Jorge! – Spain is ramping up their business in Latin America. Seems cool. Sexy names like, Telefonica, and Santander. Lots of banking. Offers hedge against domestic Spain slowdown.

Electric Cars? Hello? GM did that already – Shai Agassi was a top guy at SAP and then went on to found ‘Better Place’ an electric car company that doesn’t make electric cars. Wants to create a system where people buy travel by the kilometer. I’ll just stick with my Jeep. Chrysler says it has a lifetime warranty!

Blah, Blah, Flu – No we’re not ready. SARS, I mean, Pig Flu will kill us all. Also, when people are sick or dead, they don’t contribute much to the economy, so the Pig Flu will also cost us money. Pandemic affecting 15-35% would cost us $71 billion – chump change for US!

We’re not happy with your performance, Wah! - Bank of America shareholders are upset with Ken Lewis and the BofA management team. Stock price has fallen by ¾ since fall. Now they are pushing for more shareholder rights, but it’s hard to say if that will help at all. Europe, which has more rights than here, is just as bad as everywhere else and banks are increasingly complex for shareholders to monitor in the first place.

Governor Spitzer returns (seriously) - John Meriwether of Long Term Capital Management, Alan Schwartz formerly of Bear Stearns, John Thain of Merill Lynch, and Dick Fuld are getting another chance at different firms. While these dudes have useful experience (in destroying financial institutions), there is also the risk of them bringing their problems with them. Lawsuits, reputation, and herpes are examples given.

Empty Coffins - So there’s a default pandemic and it’s killing debt holders. This makes refinancing for firms in trouble or those with acquisition goals harder to find. Top tier bonds are still yielding positive returns, but the danger of high profile defaults (GM) could thrash that too.

I used to love ALF – what have they done? - The Fed has a Term Asset Securities Loan Facility (TALF) that is supposed to lend money, a whole trillion, to banks that are capitalized by consumer, student, or small business loans. The loans have limited downside for borrowers, but all the upside of free money. However, the politics of lending process are scaring people off. Through the first few months, almost no money is going out yet, but interest is growing.

New Bids on the Block (Can’t top that one) - There’s two new debt services out there: Prosper and DebtX. Prosper matches those with money to lend to those who need it. They call it peer-to-peer lending. Sounds like internet loan sharking to me. DebtX is a company that gets a hold of distressed, large loans and resells them. Now you have the ability to buy your own toxic assets instead of letting your fund manager do it for you.

The Economist claims foreign currency trade used to be simple - Pricks. But now that everything is mucked up the flow of currency and the returns between developed countries are not rewarding enough to attract speculative interests into currency, so they are looking to the dollar. The dollar is also more attractive because the US government appears to be committed to trying to save the currency. Ironic since printing money and dropping it from planes, usually depreciates the currency but all the effort is making people look back to the US for now.

Famous last words: Assuming there’s no risk - The Fed is turning a profit? The loans to banks and other financial services firms are actually bringing in interest income. Assuming there’s no risk.

PM of Ukraine, is that you? - Milan’s council bet a bunch of money on derivatives and now it’s gone. Some wonder if Milan was fooled by scandalous schemers or just plain stupid. This is also the tip of the iceberg as municipality’s investment losses are beginning to be uncovered all around the world.

IMF: new model, original parts - The IMF wants to triple in size to help with the financial crisis. However what’s better: Keynesian or Austrian? Do the IMF policies of spend to stimulate work? Some still think their actions in the Asian financial crisis hurt more than helped. Also, with all the new resources, should the IMF change their policy? Maybe Cap and Trade is the solution.

Pentagon military policy: it works with my nephew’s Legos – instead of basing our soldiers on foreign bases, we’ll build really cool Lego rafts. Because our soldiers would love to sit around in the middle of the ocean on a floating plastic shell. Sign me up (again).

Who doesn’t smile in their yearbook? – Some doctors believe that the degree of your smile can be associated with your long term prospects for a happy marriage.

But what if it spreads the pig flu? – A crazy scientist named Henk is spraying concrete with bacteria and says that it makes the concrete last longer.

Finally! There is a dancing parrot. He really dances. It’s awesome.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Economist - April 25th

The Economist forgets their Prozac – Don’t get too excited about recent stock market gains. 5 20% growth periods from 1929 to 1933. Global output shrink 1.3% govn’t deficits now average 9% of GDP

British Politicians are sleazy – Prime Minister Gordon Brown is having budget problems. Borrowing lots of $$$ and proposes ‘childish’ plan of empty promises to pay it back. Economist says Brown = Nixon.

Tamil Tigers last breath – Sri Lanka is about to finish off rebel Tamil Tigers. May be time for political end since Tigers are militarily weakened enough. SL govn’t must avoid perception of Sinhalese majority vs Tamil minority in post-conflict society.

‘Who else is eating with Einstein on page 19?’

South America Politics – Obama doing his part to politely engage Chavez and Cuba – even though embargo is still in place, US shows signs of improving. Brazil should step up and criticize Chavez.

All your base are belong to us – Russian hackers are really good at ‘cyber-attacks’ on government sites. Obama is going to fund more cyber security and Homeland Security (boo) is competing with National Security Agency (yay) for money.

15 pages later, Britain still sucks – Prime Minister Gordon Brown was chancellor of the exchequer (money stuff) for the past ten years and screwed up. Britain is worst off among the G7 – worst deficit, worst GDP decline, worst food

Timmy Geithner: on-the-job political training – able to do well as Pres of Fed Reserve NY because it was out of spotlight. Politics makes his work complicated – can’t speak like an economist and has to deal with media.

EPA says greenhouse gas is bad – apparently the EPA didn’t think this before, but now says that motor vehicle emissions should be regulated.

Illinois makes the Economist! – but not in a good way. Labeled as ‘exceptionally corrupt’ – maybe Blagojevich scandal so embarrassing that people will change. http://www.spitzerblagojevich2012.org

One World Trade Center: Your new HQ (in 2037) – New York real estate market sucks, so nobody thinks anybody will move in to new World Trade Center for a long time.

College are getting more expensiver – tuition is going up, endowments are shrinking, and loans suck. 180,000 people support cancelling student debt to stimulate the economy. Make that 180,001.

Californian Republicans (other than Arnold) – An angry old man proposes that California split in two – 13 coastal counties from LA to San Fran – and then everyone else. Good luck with that.

There are homeless in California – and always have been. ‘Tent city’ didn’t have much to do with foreclosure stuff. Economist takes swipe at Oprah!

[insert prison joke] – Larry Levine is a prison consultant that helps white collar criminals deal with prison. $999 (or 8 packs of smokes and an inmate named Tiny) and he’ll show you the ropes. Madoff is going to get stabbed.

Does the Smithsonian get the waterboard? – Obama is releasing documents to move US away from ‘torture stuff’ – balancing national security needs with improvements on human rights.

The uncorrupt Illinois educated president of Ecuador – Rafael Correa is running a tight ship, but economics are hurting. Faced trouble and slapped on tariffs (whoops) and now he’s running out of cash.

Canadian Politics (probably on the quiz) – Michael Ignatieff is the leader of the Liberal Party, the opposition to the Conservative Party. He and his party are popular, but they don’t stand for anything.

US and Mexico (pre-Swine flu) – Obama charmed the leaders of Latin America – Bush promised lots to Mexico ($1.4 billion in helicopters and other cool stuff) but we haven’t given them a peso yet. http://www.superpigflu.com

Hostages in Columbia – Government says that numbers are down – NGOs say they’re lying.
30 pages later, Tamil Tigers still hanging on – will be tough for PM Rajapaksa to win over Tamils.

The tattoo guy said it meant ‘harmonious ocean’ – China is getting a kick-ass Navy, with an aircraft carrier soon. First naval deployment beyond the Pacific to fight pirates.

More Chinese Characters - Mao Zedong tried to convert character based language into alphabet. Instead he simplified them by reducing the number of strokes. Now, the govn't is planning to correct the simplification and make the characters more complicated.

Oh, by the way, Kuwait now owns your farm - Cambodia is getting lots of cash from Kuwait in exchange for land rights, but the deals probably won't work because local citizens tend not to like to give up their homes so the govn't can afford a road or a dam.

Bauxite, schmauxite - Vietnamese locals concerned about Chinese mining of bauxite - something about 'irreparable damge to the environment.' Vietnam govn't will probably just ignore them and go ahead anyway,

Immigration in Australia - recent asylum boat blew up - australia deciding how to handle refugees coming in on dangerous boats - stricter laws may not deter boat people. people smugglers - 'lowest form of life.'

Hans Blix, Oh No! - North Korea and their nuclear adventure aren't anything new - their missile was a dud and they threaten. a lot. China isn't interested in taking the lead. US could hold 6 party talks without them and plan for post-Kim N. Korea.

When pigs fly (or kill you) - The new Israeli PM, Netanyahu (also the old PM '96-'99) meets with Obama soon. Will Palestinians recognize Israel as a 'Jewish' state? Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian President, is still an a-hole. But Obama thinks there's possibility of peace in middle east.

Rocking in Beirut - Lebanon is doing really well - GDP up 9%, bank deposits, tourism, new car sales all up. politics are all tied up with rival factions, so business can get work done. Oh, and their national debt is 162% of GDP, triple world average!

Powderkeg in Kenya – country about to blow up – rival parties could return to fighting, but they’re both stealing so much money, they don’t want to rock the boat. Kofi Annan, former Secretary-General UN was the mediator.

South African Election Results – Jacob Zuma (sleazebag) and the ANC won – rival parties, Democratic Alliance and Cope (off shoot of ANC), did ok, DA doing better than expected, Cope doing worse.

Ukrainian MBA820 Case Study – They’ve got it all: 40% devalued currency, IMF loans, GDP contraction of 9%, export controls to appease populist politicians. People aren’t protesting b/c they have low expectations. Should consider auctioning dates with the Prime Minister

Did you hear the one about the Pole, South Korean, and Mexican? – Poland is doing well – bureaucratic government of past helped slow rapid housing expansion, so Poland not hurting as much now. Ranked 76th, behind Kazakhstan, in ease of doing business.

Left-wingery of German Politics – Social Democrats (SPD) v. Christian Democrats (CDU). Steinmeier (SPD) v. Merkel (current chancellor and CDU). Steinmeier is underdog and propose bunch of socialist stuff to pull votes away from Merkel (curbs on pay, cash bonus for people earning too little to file taxes

Basquetteball anyone? – Spain doesn’t want to play ball and negotiate with Basque separatists (ETA) since they’ve arrested senior leaders and feel that ETA is almost finished. The Economist listens to Great White?

Cyprus Hill – Island still divided between Turkish north and Greek south. Nationalist party won big election in North and now low prospects of Cyprus reunification continue to hurt Turkish EU chances.

My Bologna has a first name – Graduate education reforms are occurring in Europe. Standardized diplomas, work-related degrees, and more flexibility for schools to run their business. Bologna is Europe’s oldest university – founded in 1088.

Fishy smell from Europe – European fisherman are catching too many fish. Economist proposes ‘cap and trade’ solution (apparently their fix for everything!)

No bloke left behind – British schools are supposed to be graded, so parents can decide which schools are best for their kids. Didn’t work because bureaucratic inefficient government managed to screw up (cock up in British!) another good idea.

Can I get a British student loan? – interest rates pegged to inflation, measured by the retail price index. With deflation occurring, interest rates on student loans will be negative and taxpayers might help pay them off.

The Economist really doesn’t like Gordon Brown – The Labour party should be nice and help the people, not be snarky politicians, like Gordon Brown.

UN Conference on or for Racism? – Great work at the UN. Ahmadinejad calculates that the Holocaust did not exist. Considered a good thing that UN produced statements that just ignored the whole ‘middle east’ thing.

Venezuelan Bearer Bonds, anyone? – international disputes are often held in secret arbitration courts. US and Canada suggest that there should be more openness.

Oracle is buying ‘Business in Briefs’ for $2.4 billion – Oracle is a very rich software company in Silicon Valley. Larry Ellison is their very rich CEO. They bought a lot of other companies, recently Sun Microsystems. Software industry maturing through mergers and acquisitions.

Ich habe den Strom in meine Hose – Germany’s electricity market is messed up. No competition and the providers own the distribution so new competitors cannot enter easily.

Corporate Scandal?! Sacre Bleu! – French energy company, EDF, spied on Greenpeace to see when protesters were going to screw up their construction plans. Greenpeace doesn’t think that’s fair. Wah.

Daddy will not be happy – Rich Hong Kong billionaires have been trading assets between companies they own, but some rich punk named Dick Li went too far and got called out by the Hong Kong courts.

Chinese patents – China is playing the intellectual property game – protecting their inventions with more patents that the US last year.

DVR’s are not evil – TV execs worried that digital video recording would destroy power of TV advertising, but they didn’t make much of a difference since Americans are still lazy and don’t even fast forward through ads when they can. Hulu is an evil plot to take over the world.

Choo-Choo Trains! Keeping up with the Muhammad’s. – Middle Eastern countries are building kick-ass railroad systems to show off their money and because high-speed rail is cool.

Fiat/Chrysler – Fiat’s CEO Sergio Marchionne is ready to clean house at Chrysler if he can get deal terms that will make it work (debt concessions, etc…)

I’m a marketing major – monetary policy isn’t consistent worldwide. Some national banks and financial institutions have greater power than others and it impacts how effectively that can address the current crisis.

Say Dubai to your money – Dubai and Abu Dhabi spent a lot of money on ridiculous real estate projects and some think they’re not in good shape. They’ll do just fine with $300 billion in assets.

….and it’s gone – commercial real estate sucks in the US. Loan-to-value ratios used to be 95% and now delinquencies are on the rise.

Who is Mr. Buttonwood? – Housing prices are still relatively high, but more important statistics are related to affordability (mortgage rates) Homes as investment tools might not be feasible or popular for a long while.

Bank Bail-outs and stress tests, oh my! – investors waiting to hear results of ‘stress tests’ for major American banks. Treasury running out of money for more bail-outs. Europeans are just crossing their fingers.

We still trust the rating agencies? Really? – Moody’s, Standard & Poors, and Fitch, of the ‘mortgage securities are great investments’ fame, now have govn’t promoted roles in the new Fed lending programs.

Hey son, why don’t you just wait in the car? – Nobody likes the World Bank. Mr. Zoellick is president and didn’t do well getting money for his programs while people lined up to hand over cash to the IMF. Maybe that’s because it has a cooler sounding acronym.

Pakistan added you as a friend on Facebook– Pakistan scares everyone because it could implode any day – IMF and the ‘Friends of Pakistan’ give billions of dollars and their reserves are stronger.

Americanese Hot Money – China is up to some complicated stuff with US currency. They want to hide how much they hold in US Treasuries, but they also are committed to keeping the yuan down so it’s unlikely that they’d dump a bunch of their dollars.

Let’s make a ‘popular science’ magazine – and call it Nature. Sir John Maddox helped make science journalism consumable by the masses by making it more of a newspaper.

Was it yellow, then red, or the other way around? – Scientists can color cancer cells so that they’ll be easier to remove. Hooray.

Robotic one-eyed monster? – visual processing is difficult with two image sources, so seeing for a robot is easier with only one eye.

Hello? Ever heard of David Blaine? – Some cocky Canadian scientists think they’re cool because they made a 6mm robot levitate. Big deal!

Monday, April 20, 2009

The Economist - April 18th

Jacob Zuma: Class Act – South Africa’s soon-to-be new President – political party: ANC (African National Congress). Great politician – bribery and rape allegations. Will he help or hurt the country – no one is sure.

India Elections – incumbent Congress party – prime minister Manmohan Singh. Rival national party: BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) complicated elections – 50% local parties with local agendas. Muslims and Christians may not trust BJP. Economist backs Congress party as most likely to accomplish progress.

Bank bail-out return policy – Goldman Sachs ready to give back $10 billion to Treasury. Banks want to avoid govn’t restrictions on exec comp and hiring foreigners. Even though GS has solid capital ratios, banking system is too interconnected and one bank’s return might jeopardize weaker banks. Wah.

Breaking News: Healthcare is expensive – technology in healthcare makes operating costs higher. Doctors don’t know how to run businesses. No competition on med devices so cost-plus pricing is used.

Housing: Blame the Govn’t – government policies encouraged housing boom, such as mortgage interest tax deductions. If anyone is looking for a condo in CT, let me know – I’ve got one for you!

South Africa has issues – ANC in charge for 15 years. Good: new black middle class, electricity and clean water access up 33%, murders down 33%. Bad: murders still relatively high, Zuma has six wives, recession bring threat of unemployment.

Arguing about Immigration – 11.9 illegal immigrants in US. Forces shifting toward reform: AFL-CIO (union) support. Latino support for Obama. Lou Dobbs is still angry.

Oakland has a crack problem – West coast occasionally gets earthquakes. Oakland (2 Fast 2 Furious) has a big crack problem - sits on Hayward fault line. Old houses collapse.

Guess who’s back, back again? – George Bush is back, tell your friends. He’s writing a book about his 12 biggest decisions.

Beverly Hillbilly’s: There’s Uranium in Virginia? – Apparently there’s almost $5 billion worth of Uranium under some guy’s farm in Virginia. He wants to sell it. Neighbors are scared. Policies might change to let him mine it.

WOOO-EEEEE, that’s some good moonshine – homemade whiskey is awesome and can clean floors. Also illegal but that just makes it taste better.

Biotech in North Carolina – manufacturing isn’t just textiles anymore. $1.2 billion from state for biotech research. Now nation’s 3rd largest center, after Cali and Mass.

Best Saxophone around in Yemen – We spend $10 mil a year to send jazz musicians to countries that don’t like us. Really.

Iowa smells like yeast and success – Iowa is doing all-right. Unemployment below average, ethanol industry remains part of future, but not as prominent. Broader manufacturing and services economy.

Obama, yeah or nay? – Obama has polarized approval/disapproval numbers. Didn’t we go over this last issue – come on Economist!

Bienvenido Cuba, sort of – Obama loosens restrictions on Cuba. How will Raul respond to maintain control over politics. Fidel Castro has a blog. but he mostly talks about baseball.

Bolivian politics, hold the Chile – Bolivian president Evo Morales has no shame. Hunger strike to push for new constitution. Slept on mattress on floor of state room. Really – not a joke.

Mexico priorities – worried about emissions. Target 5% drop. Would Pres Calderon be happy if drug traffickers did drive-bys and smuggled in fuel efficient vehicles?

Brazil priorities – worried about emissions. Foreign ministry not a supporter, but local govn’t helping slow deforestation.

Thailand's technicolor protests – government didn’t expect protests to spiral into violence. Former PM Thaksin has enemies who only wear yellow shirts. His supporters wear red shirts.

Fiji has an army? – The president tried to kick out the army and call a mulligan on the constitution. The commander is 88 years old. Politics divided by ethnic Fijians and Indian minority.

Indonesian elections – Democratic Party is the winner in parliamentary elections – tripled support and saw decline of fragmented opposition. Their president has the coolest name ever: Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (pronounce You-da-hoe-yo-now – at least that’s what I suggest)

Healthcare in China – healthcare is expensive in China too – big spending plans to have a ‘robust’ government financed health-insurance system - $125 billion – by 2020. Questionable if it will work

Homemade Dialysis –some sick people bought a dialysis machine because government healthcare sucks. When government shut it down, the media called them out and now the people get free dialysis care.

India state politics: next national leader? – Northern State Uttar Pradesh, Miss Mayawati leading candidate for local party BSP. She’s a dalit, lowest class, and threatens strength of national parties.

On the Thai King’s good side – amidst political strife, both sides show deference to King Bhumibol – red shirts question if the King supports Thaksin. Illegal to criticize the King. I like the King.

Guns don’t kill pirates, Navy SEALs kill pirates – but does shooting pirates solve the problem? No, we probably have to do the ‘soft’ stuff like give the Somalis something else to do. I hear there’s a big market in Thailand for red and yellow shirts!

West Coast Pirates: Death Row Records – West coast Africa has pirates too (and oil). US Navy sailing around teaching Nigerians stuff like hand-to-hand combat, boat maintenance, and jazz.

OMG! Egypt and Hezbollah: not BFF? - Egypt Pres Hosni Mubarak criticized for not supporting Hamas in Hamas v. Israel. Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah not happy. Lebanese arrested in Egypt - perhaps part of wider Hezbollah operation taking place within Egypt.

Congo: The GM of Africa? - No one is buying Cobalt (or Chevy Cobalts). Congo is broke but IMF and World bank are giving out half a billion. China is pissed because they have deals with Congo that they can't renegotiate because IMF supports Pres Joe Kabila.

It's the economy, Stupide - French pres Sarkozy has approval rating of 36%. unemployment in France is above EU average. No longer EU president so he's off international stage. French civic institutions are weak so the kids like to protest. a lot.

Swiss-Italian fluid border - changed the border because of glacier melting. Previous borders were at watersheds, but glacier has shifted so borders are adjusted

Greece is not an island - The economy sucks there too. there were some riots in december and govn't says they were isolated, but many fear that further unemployment will spark greater unrest.

New German Cars - German govn't offers $3,300 for people to sell old clunker cars and buy new ones. Both political parties support it (at cost $5 billion Euro) Questionable effectiveness: people buy small foreign cars, not German ones. Cuts into future car sales and from other expenditures, like beer.

Croatia and EU - Croatian economy is lousy. Need to fix it for EU membership - Slovenia (current EU member) wants to fix dispute over Piran bay.

Moldova and Georgia protests - Moldova has problems with youth riots for faster EU integration. Hardcore crackdown - jailings, beatings. Moldova Pres Vladmir Voronin doesn't like Romanian Pres. Traian Basescu - vocal Moldovan minority seek reunification with Romania. Tounge twister - problematic protesters prefer potted plants.

EU scared of Chi-merica (I prefer Amerinese) - EU and China don't get along - trade tariffs and Sarkozy talking with Dalai Lama. EU recognizing that G20 or G8 might be meaningless and become G2 (U.S. and China). Too fractured within EU to come up with consistent strategy.

Pakistanis in Britain – 250k Pakistanis enter Britain each year. Marriage is big role in immigration. Some concern over potential terrorists entering under fraudulent student visas.

Big Brother works both ways – British police are caught on camera beating up protestors. The Economist used the phrase ‘cock-up’ which might seriously change my google adwords.

England makes cars – about as well as we do. Lots of schemes to give manufacturers a boost: car-scrapping like Germany, credit insurance, like France, or electric car subsidies.

Homes in England – housing market sucks there too. More people interested in buying homes, but mortgage approvals still low and prices still dropping.

Political Scandal in Britain – PM’s aid creating some trashy email slander about an opponent and got caught and resigned.

Professional paths to politics – Lawyers in US, Engineers in China. Business 2nd worldwide. Data from 5,000 politicians in ‘International Who’s Who’ - The Economist has a lot of time on its hands – but they’re certainly not mailing out their issues on time.

Indian entrepreneurs in healthcare – low cost healthcare through frugal but effective surgery. Think Jaipur foot. Aravind – world’s biggest eye hospital chain.

Satyam sold – The Enron of India, Satyam software company sold to Tech Mahindra

Doubledown in Vegas? – MGM’s $8.7 billion CityCenter development in jeopardy because of struggles to pay $13.5 billion debt burden. Dubai World 50% partner. Las Vegas revenues down 10%.

Nintendo: Game Over? – Wii sales down. Marketed to less committed gamers? Video-on-demand for Wii and portable DSi has features like cameras, mp3 player, web browser to compete with iPhone.

French file-sharing – France wants to ban file-sharing with scary government agency that will send you a letter and then cut-off your internet. Carla Bruni thinks file-sharing is why people don’t buy her album.

It’s the economy, Durka Durka – US private equity fund, Marshall Fund investing millions in Iraqi SOE (State owned enterprises) Founded by Dan Rice (West Point class of 1988).

Zappos! – Tony Hsieh is CEO – still has web startup enthusiasm despite $1 billion in sales. $2,000 to quit after training. ‘Service company that happens to sell shoes’

Homes: Give me shelter or beast of burden? - homes are supposed to great ways for wealth accumulation. States like them because crime is supposed to drop and home owners more involved. Backfire when people buy homes only as investments.

Bank’s questionable come-back – bank stocks are up since early March on reports of 1st quarter profits at big firms (Goldman, Chase, Wells Fargo). Probably not at bottom with commercial real estate about to implode. Yay!

MBA821: Jumping off of bridges – Recession recovery will be ‘slow and painful’ – deflation is mostly because of fuel and food declines but people are still depressed and pessimistic about future.

Germany wants to avoid banking like it's 1930? – Germany is averse to nationalizing banks since they haven’t done that since the 30’s. didn’t act quickly to help HRE (Hypo Real Estate) bank.

Brazil’s development bank – The BNDES (National Bank for Economic and Social Development) is awesome. 5.8 billion profit (reais) and 277 billion reais in assets. Established to for new capital- Brasilia.

Bringing Sexy Back: Municipal Bonds – 1/3 of buyers have left (institutional funds) leaving those scary retail investors holding most of the debt. Potential bailout for government purchase of local government municipal bond issues.

Google hires Nostradamus – Google trends, which track aggregate search keyword volume, could be useful in predicting sales. Fewer people search for ford trucks, fewer people buy. (author’s note: Google trend #28 today: Grandma’s Chicken Soup)

China Recovery? – China forecasts 8% GDP growth. 16% higher retail sales, 36% higher home sales, 30% higher fixed investment, and a 22% increase in questionable statistics.

The Damned Mob – There are quick solutions to the economic crisis but people and their stupid political concerns stand in the way.

Autism and superpowers – studies suggest that around 30% of individuals on the ‘autism spectrum’ have some savant-like capability – extraordinary memory, calculation, music, etc…

Old Female Mosquitoes – Neuroscientists discover that we subconsciously know the answer but then cloud it with too much analysis. Go with your gut

Rosetta Stone: Now for Infants – teach your kids another language. It helps with their decision making skills and they enjoy creepy puppet shows. This is the way to do it.

Monday, April 13, 2009


Visit weekly for a quick summary of The Economist and my poll for the best trivia fact from each week's issue.

As you can imagine, it's not easy to summarize each article into two sentences. If you'd like to help, please contact me at michael.j.nemeth@gmail.com Thanks!

The Economist - April 11th

Here's the summary of The Economist - cover to cover...

Obama wants a nuclear free world – acknowledges difficulty. Russia and Britain ready to reduce – China and France silent. North Korea launched a missile over Japan

US wants Turkey in EU – Obama visits Turkey –Muslim country with functioning secular democracy. EU, especially Sarkozy say no. Turk PM Recep Erdogan helping diplomacy in Mid East. EU: “Don’t tell us what to do.”

G20 boosts IMF – International Monetary Fund gets $750 billion. $250 billion for ‘Special Drawing Rights’ a quasi-international currency. IMF can help but won’t be a bank and needs new rules.

Water Problems – 2 billion more people by 2025. They need lots of food – farmers wasting lots of water. Set up usage rights, cap and trade system, to allocate water usage for most efficient crop per area.

Accounting rules – banks complain about accounting standards that force them to report losses. Wah. FASB and IASB should promote transparency, not be a tool for new regulation.

Kim Jong Il is back! – Launched a ‘communications’ satellite. Probably cover for Taepodong-2 missile. Bigger problem is disagreement over response – China w/ N. Korea, S. Korea wants to avoid confrontation and Japan is pissed. US envoy Bosworth wants diplomacy and engagement.

Obama polarizing? – widest gap in approval (D – 88%; R – 27%) Most Americans like that world likes Obama, but others afraid that we’re being too nice – citing lack of international support for Afghan war.

Pentagon budget: More $$$, less sexy – Defense Sec Robert Gates shifting $$$ from F-22 (think Mercedes) to F-35 (Toyota). Total budget up 4% @ $543 bil. More $$$ for ‘small war’ stuff, like UAVs.

Fast and Furious: Oakland, CA –violence up. Kids racing cars. Respect killings: wrong look = gunfight.

Little House on the Prairie: St. Louis, MO – There are lots of parks in St. Louis. Hooray.
Volunteering up – AmeriCorps gets $5.7 billion and triples size to 250k. AARP: people prefer time over $.

Choo-Choo Trains - $9.3 billion for trains. Our trains are slow. High-Speed rail could be cool.

Gay Marriage– Iowa and Vermont ok same-sex marriage. Vermont first by legislature instead of courts.

Lessons from Virginia Tech – gun control debate inconclusive. Lesson is that it’s impossible to prepare.

Hello Cuba – Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago – 34 leaders, but biggest question is Obama and lifting embargo on Cuba.

Let’s go to Prison: Fujimori in Peru – President from 1990 – 2000. Secret execution squads are bad.

Venezuela Politics – Hugo Chavez doesn’t like competition. Most opposition jailed.
Chagas Plague – ‘kissing bugs’ infect 18m people. Prevention is key since drugs only work in early stages.

Sri Lanka War – Tamil Tigers vs. govn’t. Tigers are almost defeated. Sri Lanka Pres Rajapaksa will have to be careful to end the war on good terms and not exacerbate humanitarian crisis.

Trouble in Pakistan – President Asif Zadari admits internal violence threatening ‘survival’ of country. North West Frontier Province a US concern with its connections to Taliban and al-Qaeda.

Trouble in Afghanistan too – latest effort for security is Afghan Public Protection Program (AP3) – modeled after Iraq militias. Replaces Afghan National Auxiliary Police (ANAP) – improvements are AP3 units have greater US support and are for local defense not law enforcement.

Unemployment in China – six million new students and not enough jobs. China concerned about student unrest. Loans for entrepreneurs and breaks for companies that hire new grads.
China at the G20 – President Hu Jintao gets high marks from home – prominent position at summit - $2 trillion in foreign currency reserves gave him power to suggest use of Special Drawing Rights as replacement to dollar. Pocket change: $40bil loan to IMF.

Asia is a Banyan Tree – Asia is tough to define, so how about a botanical metaphor? Asia is growing and we should pay attention to it. The Banyan represents Asia’s values of learning, justice, and commerce.

Rwanda’s Future – Hutus and Tutsis living as neighbors. Anti-Genocide Law outlaws enthnicity – everyone is ‘Rwandan.’ President Kagame accused of using law as cover to silence opposition.

Nigeria’s President’s Health – President Umaru Tar’Adua has a kidney condition. Speculation that his death would disrupt Nigerian economic growth and bring a return to political instability.

Sudan isn’t Stable – Problems beyond Darfur – soldiers not getting paid – risk that country will fragment.

Iranian Dissidents in Iraq – The People’s Mujahedeen of Iran (PMOI) fought against Iran and now live in a camp in N. Iraq. Iraqis don’t want them and it’s not clear how well Iran would treat them.

Banking in Iraq – Iraq is getting electronic clearing systems to allow for modern banking. Can’t find work? 7,000 new job openings for qualified finance professionals at Rafidain Bank.

Italian Earthquakes – Town of L’Aquila destroyed. Berlusconi’s promise to rebuild towns nearby is reminiscent of earlier earthquake recoveries that were marred by corruption.

Turkey in Headlines – Obama addressed parliament. Kissed PM Erdogan. US will need Turk help as it leaves Iraq. Didn’t use the word ‘genocide’ about the Ottoman Armenian ‘catastrophe.’
French Toast with Freedom Fries – France and US friends – French rejoin military NATO yet little support on Afghanistan or Turkey

Turkey, hold the Danish – Denmark PM Rasmussen leading NATO – Turkey not happy because of history with offensive Muslim cartoons in Danish newspapers.

No Hotels on Baltic Avenue – Lithuania, Estonia, and Latvia need money ($10 billion for Latvia). Hurting their chances to join the Euro. Countries solid – little protest.

Spanish Government Changes – PM Zapatero replaces finance minister and brings in Elena Salgado.

EU Leadership – 6 month rotating presidency, currently with Czech Mirek Topolanek – who doesn’t like US policy. EU might be better off with a full-time presidency – Tony Blair strong candidate.

Local Govn’t Finances – British cities get lots of money from central government – federal money dropping; tax revenue dropping – forcing more responsibility on local govn’t to make decisions.

Hometown Outsourcing – Cities considering privatized services, like libraries and community centers. People not happy – risks of poor service or failure that end up costing more in long run.

Nyudies and Hoes – people in London like gardening. Nyudie – New yuppie digger

Old School Catholics – New Archbishop Vincent Nichols - faces critics and politics – more conservative

Britain makes movies? – 60’s were fun, 70’s depressing – people are depressed now and they prefer the 70’s. The Boat that Rocked – 60’s radio station; The Damned United – 70’s football (soccer) manager

Stock up on Aquafina – Lots of water around, but world doesn’t use it right. 9% of fresh water withdrawn for use. Need improvements on water usage governance and corporate commitments.

UN at Glacier Speed – UN taking a long time for climate change legislation even with new US govn’t support. Prince Charles wears suits in the jungle.

Activist Investors Decline – single voice large shareholders (hedge funds, rich guys) are not as powerful, so companies can manage their own business. Italcementi isn’t under pressure. But Govn’t might take new role of interfering with decisions.

GM PUMA – GM developed the PUMA (Personal Urban Mobility and Accessibility) (where’s the noun?) Built off of Segway technology. No one called the Scooter Store.

Spain: Now Accepting US $$$ - Spain marketing for US contracts within $317 billion stimulus $$$.

Japan on (oil) shopping spree – strong yen lets Japan buy its own foreign energy projects – target 40%

What’s on NBC? – apparently nothing important. Americans watch 151 hours of TV a month, most ever, but broadcast network share dropped considerably relative to cable and premium (HBO and Skinimax)

Newspaper for breakfast – First Flavor makes edible ads. Thinks people would eat their newspaper.

Europe’s Big Plane – Airbus A400M, a transport, is over budget and late. Ruined by bureaucratic sourcing decisions and overly ambitious technical goals. Stop-gap solution is buy/lease Boeing aircraft

Kikkoman is Soy Sauce – Yuzaburo Mogi turned Kikkoman soy sauce into global brand through attracting the ‘non-japanese’ market as an all-purpose seasoning, not specialty.

IMF: Next on Game Show Network – The IMF gives out lots of money. Little consistency in how programs are managed.

SDR: Special Drawing Rights – A currency that’s not a currency. Unit of account for IMF that includes yen, dollars, pounds, and euros. It’s confusing and Americans don’t like it.
Stock Markets go up and down – There are lots of contradictory statistics that ruin the S&P rally of 21%. There’s less panic (the Vix) but fundamentals are still poor – profit outlooks and commercial real estate.

G20: All Talk – G20 just renamed a bunch of organizations and didn’t make many structural changes to the world’s financial system.

ECAS is/are important – Export Credit Agencies help fund global trade by providing liquidity support.

Fed Reserve: Oversight Please – Congress is thinking about expanding oversight of the Fed Reserve

India Bank of America? – India has restrictions on foreign banks that have allowed the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to thrive. Foreign banks might soon compete as India is underrepresented by banks.

Japan Banks Invest in their Customers – This is all good until their customers tank and those customers depend on their banks, which now suck because their customers tanked.

Deal or No Deal? – When you’re under stress, you make riskier decisions. Thanks Rutgers!

Smart Guy has an Idea – Mr. Rajan is at University of Chicago and used to work for IMF. Comprehensive, Contingent, and Cost-effective regulations would be nice. Don’t plan when you’re panicked. If you’re really big, then you should have a back-up bankruptcy plan.

Malaria is Bad – Kill off the old mosquitoes without scaring the young ones, that way they don’t develop evolutionary resistance to insecticides.

Biofuels are Bad too – It’s usually worse to make biofuels because of nitrous oxide release.
What is your brain doing right now? – Some smart people are mapping how we think using gene ‘food coloring’ for nerve cells.

Ice is melting, and? – There are some new books about climate change. Lord Giddens thinks that we shouldn’t be so depressed about it so that we’re inspired to change for good reasons as opposed to scary ones. Sir Stern says it’s cheaper to fix the problem than to deal with the consequences. Mr. MacKay is a physicist who calculates energy requirements and wouldn’t believe in Santa Clause.

There are some other good books about Islam, Liberia, Ants, and the sister of William Wordsworth.

Helen Levitt’s photographs of New York are great (really) and you should google them.