Archive for February, 2014

  1. Tell me about yourself. This is always a good introductory question. Ask and then don’t say another thing until they are done. What they actually say is not critical, but how they answer this question is. Do they focus on personal or professional details? How do they see themselves? Does this view fit into the culture of the company.
  2. Tell me about a time when…Many job candidates can talk in generalities about their skills and accomplishments. However, asking for a specific example is a much more effective why to discover what they have really achieved. For example, when interviewing a sales candidate, ask “Tell me about a time when you won a customer from a competitor.”
  3. How will you contribute to the company? This will highlight their goals for the specific job and which of their skills would be most beneficial for the company. It also will tell you how they see themselves as part of a team. Remember, their goals should match the company’s. When they deviate, employees leave.
  4. What is a specific example of the biggest professional challenge you have faced? How a candidate faces adversity is key. Even if a project didn’t go as planned, it’s important to find out how the applicant would reacted and would remedy the problem in the future.
  5. Test them. In a professional setting, these are typically hypothetical situations or ones that have actually occurred at the company. They should demonstrate job-specific and problem solving skills. Don’t be afraid to ask them to solve problems they would face in the first month of their job at the actual interview.
  6. Why are you here? Andrew Alexander, President of Red Roof Inn, says it helps reveal what the person’s passion is. The applicant should want to work at the company, not just want a job. Employees that are passionate about the company’s mission excel at their position.
  7. What is your ideal job? Liz Bingham, Partner at Ernst & Young, says it helps match if the person is suitable for the open job. It reveals what their passions and strengths are.
  8. What areas of improvement were identified in your last job review? Andrew Shapin, CEO of Long Tall Sally, says it can show self-awareness and weaknesses when people answer this question honestly.
  9. Where’s your passion? Hilarie Bass, co-president of Greenberg Traurig, says they only hire people who are passionate about that profession. It helps attract committed employees that will make the business successful.
  10. How do you measure success? This answer will tell you what the candidate values and if it matches the job compensation structure.

The 10 Best Interview Questions of All Time | Nextiva Blog.

Shortages of drugs, particularly cheap, generic injectable drugs, have escalated since 2005. The scarce drugs include the workhorses of hospitals, outpatient surgery centers and cancer clinics: antibiotics, painkillers, anesthesia and sedatives for surgery, chemotherapy and heart drugs. Recently, there’s a serious shortage of intravenous fluids and nutrients, including simple saline solution, needed for patients too ill to eat or drink.

via Hospitals coping better as drug shortages persist – Tulsa World: Business.

The Early 1900s

In 1915, Gillette created the first razor specifically for women, the Milady Decolletée. The early 1900s also saw ads for depilatory cream hit the masses. In 1907 an ad for X-Bazin Depilatory Powder began circulating, promising to remove “humiliating growth of hair on the face, neck, and arms.” A decade later, a leading women’s fashion magazine ran an ad featuring a woman with her arms raised and her armpits bare, NOT the first of its kind.

via The shockingly cool history of hair removal – The Early 1900s | Gallery | Glo.

The 1800s

By 1844, Dr. Gouraud had created one of the first depilatory creams called Poudre Subtile. Soon after, in 1880, King Camp Gillette created the first modern day razor for men and thus a revolution was born. However, it would be another three decades before a razor specifically marketed for women would appear.

via The shockingly cool history of hair removal – The 1800s | Gallery | Glo.

The Middle Ages

Just like Cleopatra was a trend-setter in her time, so too was Queen Elizabeth I during the Middle Ages. She set the precedence for hair removal among women, who followed her lead by removing it from their faces, but not their bodies. The fashion of this era was to remove eyebrows and hair from the forehead (to make it appear larger), which women did by using walnut oil, or bandages soaked in ammonia (which they got from their feline pets) and vinegar.

via The shockingly cool history of hair removal – The Middle Ages | Gallery | Glo.

The Roman Empire

During the Roman Empire, the lack of body hair was considered a sign of the classes.  Wealthy women and men used razors made from flints, tweezers, creams, and stones to remove excess hair.

Pubic hair on women was a source of disease, parasites and considered uncivilized which is why nearly all  statues and paintings of Grecian women are properly shown as being  hairless.

In the 1800’s The fashion of this era returned to it’s earlier roots with the removal of even more hair now including the hair from the eyebrows and forehead (to make it appear larger), which women did by using walnut oil, or bandages soaked in ammonia (which they got from their feline pets) and vinegar.

 

 

via The shockingly cool history of hair removal – The Roman Empire | Gallery | Glo.

The Egyptians may have been the forerunners of many beauty rituals, but they invested the most time into hair removal. Women of ancient Egypt removed all of their body hair, including that on their heads, with tweezers made from seashells, pumice stones, or early beeswax- and sugar-based waxes.

via The shockingly cool history of hair removal – Ancient Egypt | Gallery | Glo.

America’s Fastest Growing (and Shrinking) Economies – 24/7 Wall St..

The 5 Least Literate Cities in America | TIME.com.

How I Quit Google

How I Quit Google | TIME.com.

Leave sex lessons to straight teachers!

Leave sex lessons to straight teachers, writes Pyne’s reviewer.

Vegetarian Diets Can Help Decrease Blood Pressure Levels.

▶ Ron Paul, Stop V.A.W.A. & Title IV d – YouTube.

Judges get more money for themselves……. by bleeding men dry.

▶ Family Court – the Source of the Corruption – YouTube.

▶ Family Court – The Horrors of Divorce for Men – YouTube.

▶ Family Court – The Horrors of Divorce for Men – YouTube.

▶ Why you should NOT get married!

▶ Why you should NOT get married! – YouTube.

Get your freedom here…..

 

▶ Freedom from Feminism-Panel Discussion – YouTube.

No feminista can sit through this talk! Just stuff your girlfriends face in your panties and cover your ears you fema-nazies!

▶ Janice FIamengo: What’s Wrong With Women’s Studies? A CAFE Event – YouTube.

Direct evidence that feminists HATE facts

Te definitive expose on stupidity and political correctness. Women are not better than men and men are not better than women.  Women and men are different. Innately, biologically, hormonally, sexually, mentally.  Can we move the fuck on now.

▶ Direct evidence that feminists HATE facts – YouTube.

Supreme Court Justice Kennedy told an Obama administration lawyer that he couldn’t find a “single precedent” that supports the government’s defense of the EPA approach.

Laws are made by the legislative Branch

Enforced by the executive Branch

And deemed just or not by the Judicial branch

In our dreams……

via Obama’s Climate-Change Policy Questioned at U.S. High Court – SFGate.

The Fed’s Actions in 2008: What the Transcripts Reveal

On Friday, the Federal Reserve released the transcripts of the 2008 meetings of its Federal Open Market Committee, which sets monetary policy. The transcripts provide a detailed account of some of the Fed’s key decisions during that crisis year. Here is a look at the fuller picture that the documents have provided.  Related Article »
FED FUNDS TARGET RATE

2007200820090%1%2%3%4%5%Jan. 14.25%

S.&P. 500-STOCK INDEX

20072008200905001,0001,500Jan. 11,468

TOTAL FED ASSETS, in trillions

200720082009$2.52.01.51.00.50.0CRISISRESPONSESSECURITIES and OTHERJan. 1$0.9

January – February

The Gathering Storm
Federal Reserve officials are unaware in January 2008 that the economy has already entered a recession. But the Fed’s chairman, Ben S. Bernanke, and his closest advisers are feeling nervous. They worry that the Fed’s actions at the end of 2007 have been insufficient, and that tumbling stock prices represent the start of a broader pullback in investment.
Jan. 9
emergency meeting Fed officials conclude in a 5 p.m. conference call that “substantial additional policy easing in the near term might well be necessary.”
Jan. 11
Bank of America announces it will buy the nation’s largest mortgage lender, Countrywide Financial, for just $4 billion.  Bank of America’s Chief Makes Big Bet »
Jan. 21
emergency meeting At 6 p.m. on Martin Luther King’s Birthday, Fed officials decide they can’t wait any longer to cut interest rates. The next day the Fed announces the biggest interest rate reduction in more than two decades, temporarily halting the stock market’s slide. The benchmark rate is cut 75 basis points, to 3.5 percent.
Early in 2008, as signs of crisis are building, Janet L. Yellen scolds the other members of the Open Market Committee, seeking to get them to recognize that they have not done enough.

Ms. Yellen: “The risk of a severe recession and credit crisis is unacceptably high, and it is being clearly priced now into not only domestic but also global markets.”  View Transcript »

Ms. Yellen says Mr. Bernanke’s proposal of a 75 basis-point cut in the Fed’s benchmark rate is a good step toward recognizing the central bank’s slowness.

Ms Yellen: “An inter-meeting move will be a surprise, but I think it will show that we get it and we recognize we have been behind the curve.”  View Transcript »

Jan. 30
scheduled meeting The Federal Open Market Committee, or F.O.M.C., cuts its benchmark rate by another 50 basis points to 3 percent, saying “financial markets remain under considerable stress, and credit has tightened further for some businesses and households.”
Feb. 14
Mr. Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. acknowledge before Congress that the outlook for the economy has worsened, as both are accused of being overtaken by events. Mr. Bernanke testifies that problems in housing and mortgage-related markets have spread more widely and proved more intractable than he expected three months earlier. Both officials, however, continue to predict the economy will avoid recession.  Top Officials See Bleaker Outlook for the Economy »
March – April

A Liquidity Crisis
Companies in the mortgage business began to collapse, unable to find financing as investors lose faith in the judgment of the rating agencies that the companies’ offerings are low-risk, AAA-rated investments. The Fed, determined to offset the lack of private funding, rapidly expands its lending to troubled financial firms, and agrees to help finance JPMorgan Chase’s salvage of the largest casualty, Bear Stearns.
March 5
Two big housing finance companies, Thornburg Mortgage and Carlyle Capital, move to the brink of collapse.  Aversion to Risk Deepens Credit Woes »
March 7
The Fed offers up to $200 billion in loans for Wall Street firms, expanding a safety net once restricted to commercial banks.  Federal Reserve Board Press Release »
March 10
emergency meeting Mr. Bernanke convenes another conference call, telling the committee, “We live in a very special time.” The Fed doubles Wall Street’s safety net to $400 billlion and also begins to expand its efforts to pump dollars into foreign markets through “swap” agreements with the European and Swiss central banks.
March 14
The Fed begins to engineer the rescue of Bear Stearns. Two days later, JPMorgan agrees to buy the crippled investment bank, less $30 billion in troubled assets that it leaves with the Fed.  Fed Chief Shifts Path, Inventing Policy in Crisis »
March 16
The Fed effectively removes any limits on the amounts it is willing to lend Wall Street with the announcement of yet another emergency program, the Primary Dealer Credit Facility. “The Federal Reserve, in close consultation with the Treasury, is working to promote liquid, well-functioning financial markets, which are essential for economic growth,” Mr. Bernanke says.  Federal Reserve Board Press Release »
March 18
scheduled meeting The F.O.M.C. reduces short-term interest rates for the sixth time in six months. It lowers its federal funds rate by 75 basis points, to 2.25 percent, and makes clear that it’s not done yet.
At the March 18 meeting, two days after the Fed rescued Bear Stearns, Timothy F. Geithner, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, says he wants the Fed to act as traditional lender of last resort, but he doesn’t want to bail out all of Wall Street.

Mr. Geithner: “The hardest thing in this balance now is to try to do something that doesn’t increase the incentives so that we become the counterparty to everybody.”

“We’re trying to make sure that it’s a backstop, but not a backstop that’s so attractive that they come, and that’s going to be a very hard line to walk.”  View Transcript »

William Dudley, the official overseeing markets at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, gives his view of the demise of Bear Stearns at the same meeting.

Mr. Dudley: “In my view, an old-fashioned bank run is what really led to Bear Stearns’s demise.”  View Transcript »

There is humor, of sorts, at the meeting:

Mr. Plosser: “Like everyone else, I am very concerned about the developments in the financial markets. I’ve been supportive of the steps we’ve taken to enhance liquidity in the markets through the TAF, the TSLF, the PDCF or whatever.”

Mr. Bernanke: “AEIOU.”

Tim Geithner: “Don’t say IOU.” [Laughter]

And Richard Fisher of the Dallas Fed cites his drinking habits in comments about inflation:

Mr. Fisher: “Most distressing to me was Anheuser-Busch, since I am a beer lover. The cost of input of hops and barley has gone up three and a half percent.”

April 30
scheduled meeting The F.O.M.C. cuts rates by another 25 basis points to 2 percent, but this time it indicates that it’s done for now. Officials think they’ve done enough to arrest the crisis and stave off recession. They predict modest growth during 2008 and faster growth in 2009.
In early 2008, Ms. Yellen is known as one of the most pessimistic members of the Fed’s policy making committee, but even she is way off in her estimates of the magnitude of what is coming. At the Fed’s two-day meeting in late April, she shows her concen.

Ms. Yellen: “The Fed’s internal projections represent “one of the most pessimistic economic forecasts; yet I find its recessionary projection quite plausible and see downside risks that could take the economy well below that forecast.”  View Transcript »

At the same time, though, Ms. Yellen was not envisioning a long recession. She said that while the first half of 2008 would likely see no economic growth, in the second half she was expecting growth of 1.5 percent. That view that ended up being far too rosy, as was her assessment, at the time, that “the likelihood of a severe financial panic has diminished.” Part of the reason for her note of optimism, was her faith in the power of government stimulus.

Ms. Yellen: “Of course, there is considerable uncertainty about assessing the potential size of these effects. But over the next few months as the checks go out and the retail sales reports come in, we should get a pretty quick preliminary read on how things are shaping up.”  View Transcript »

May – August

A Summer Lull
For a time it seems the worst of the crisis is over. The Fed stops cutting interest rates and starts worrying about inflation. But the housing finance system continues to break down, forcing the government to create a rescue plan for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and demand for the Fed’s emergency loans continues to rise as the ripples spread inexorably.
June 25
scheduled meeting The F.O.M.C. lets interest rates stand.
July 11
The Office of Thrift Supervision closes IndyMac Bank, the first large bank failure of the financial crisis.  Regulators Seize Mortgage Lender »
July 13
The Fed extends its safety net to include Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, authorizing the housing finance companies to borrow money if necessary. The same day, the Treasury Department announces a temporary increase in its support for the companies. Officials emphasize that no rescue will be necessary.  Treasury Acts to Save Mortgage Giants »
July 24
emergency meeting With the strain on financial markets mounting once again, Mr. Bernanke convenes the Fed’s first emergency meeting since March. The Fed moves to expand both its domestic and international lending programs.
While the summer months seem like a lull in retrospect, strains in the financial system are building and Mr. Bernanke is pushing for new action by the Fed to relieve the pressure. There are qualms among policy makers about how far to go cushion big banks and other financial institutions, but Mr. Bernanke argues that the Fed’s actions are absolutely necessary.

Mr. Bernanke: “I think that, in the absence of our facilities, the risks of systemic problems would be much higher. I think it is useful for us to give a time frame, to provide some sense of assurance to market participants that, if conditions remain stressed, there will be these backups.”  View Transcript »

July 30
President Bush signs into law the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008, which authorizes the Treasury to purchase government-sponsored enterprise obligations and puts the regulatory supervision of the G.S.E.s (Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac) under a new Federal Housing Finance Agency.  Bush Signs Sweeping Housing Bill »
Aug. 5
scheduled meeting The F.O.M.C. holds interest rates steady. It frets that inflationary pressures are building. Three of the regional reserve banks want to raise interest rates.
September – October

Past the Tipping Point
How did the financial system break down? Slowly, and then all at once. The Fed, in conjunction with Treasury Department officials, does not prevent the failure of Lehman Brothers, then decides at the last moment to bail out the giant insurer American International Group. While making these ad hoc decisions, it continues to rapidly expand its role as the new source of funding for domestic and international lenders. Mr. Bernanke will say later that during these months, the economy was on the brink of a second Great Depression.
Sept. 7
The Federal Housing Finance Agency places Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in government conservatorship.  In Rescue to Stabilize Lending, U.S. Takes Over Mortgage Finance Titans »
Sept. 15
Lehman Brothers files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection; Bank of America buys Merrill Lynch.  Lehman Files for Bankruptcy; Merrill Is Sold »
Sept. 16
scheduled meeting The F.O.M.C. continues to hold steady on rates. Most Fed officials say they still believe the economy is growing, still predict it will grow in the final months of 2008 and grow more quickly in 2009. And they still fret that inflation is rising.
Within hours of Lehman’s collapse, the debate begins over whether the decision to let it fail has been the right one. It’s a debate that rages to this day, on Wall Street, in Washington and in academia. Eric Rosengren, president of the Boston Fed, raises it one day after Lehman’s bankruptcy filing.

Mr. Rosengren: “I think it’s too soon to know whether what we did with Lehman is right. But we took a calculated bet.”  View Transcript »

Worries are mounting that the crisis is spreading overseas quickly. Strains are already evident in Northern Europe, as Norway moves to protect its banking system, and Iceland’s highly levered banking system approaches collapse. The Bank of England, Switzerland’s central bank, the European Central Bank and the Bank of Japan all need help. Just a minute or so into the meeting, Mr. Bernanke issues a warning.

Mr. Bernanke: “There are very significant problems with dollar funding in other jurisdictions — in Europe and elsewhere.”  View Transcript »

The answer is to create so-called swap lines, enabling foreign banks to quickly obtain dollar funding from the Fed. But Mr. Bernanke wants to know how much. The answer, according to Mr. Dudley, is a lot.

Mr. Dudley: “The numbers have to be very, very large, or it should be open-ended. I would suggest that open-ended is better because then you really do provide a backstop for the entire market.”  View Transcript »

But not every Fed policy maker is so eager to rush to aid overseas central banks, especially in Europe. Jeffrey M. Lacker, president of the Richmond Fed, wonders whether foreign institutions couldn’t use their own dollar reserves, rather than immediately benefit from the Fed’s largess.

Mr. Lacker: “Broadly, I’m uncomfortable with our playing that role.”  View Transcript »

Ms. Yellen has developed a reputation for forecasting the recession in 2008, when she gave a cheeky indication of the sort of evidence she was looking at in her posting at the Fed’s San Francisco regional bank. She said she was noticing “widespread” cutbacks in spending on discretionary items popular in California. She expands on these remarks at the Sept. 16 meeting.

Ms. Yellen: “East Bay plastic surgeons and dentists note that patients are deferring elective procedures.” (Laughter) “Reservations are no longer necessary at many high-end restaurants. And the Silicon Valley Country Club, with a $250,000 entrance fee and seven- to eight-year waiting list, has seen the number of would-be new members shrink to a mere 13.” (Laughter)  View Transcript »

Sept. 16
Immediately after the policy meeting, a smaller group of Fed offiicals convenes and determines to rescue the American International Group, an insurance company that has become a central player in the housing finance system. The initial investment is $85 billion.  Fed’s $85 Billion Loan Rescues Insurer »
Sept. 18
The Fed announces a big expansion of its swap lines with the European Central Bank as well as the central banks of Switzerland, Japan, Canada and England, at 3 a.m., timed to beat the opening of European markets. Later in the day, Mr. Bernanke goes to Capitol Hill to back the administration’s plan to bail out the domestic financial industry. He warns that the economy is on the verge of collapsing into a second Great Depression.  Vast Bailout by U.S. Proposed in Bid to Stem Financial Crisis »
Sept. 21
The Federal Reserve Board authorizes the two surviving major investment banks, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, to become bank holding companies, ending an era in American finance.  Shift for Goldman and Morgan Marks the End of an Era »
Sept. 24
The Fed establishes new swap lines with the Reserve Bank of Australia as well as with the central banks of Norway, Sweden and Denmark.  Federal Reserve Board Press Release »
Sept. 25
The Office of Thrift Supervision closes Washington Mutual Bank. JPMorgan Chase acquires the banking operations of Washington Mutual.  Government Seizes WaMu and Sells Some Assets »
Sept. 29
emergency meeting The Fed approves a further expansion of its swaps with foreign central banks, and extends the program through April 2009. Later that day, Congress rejects the Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP, sending markets into a tailspin.
Two weeks after the collapse of Lehman Brothers, the international shockwaves are still building. Although swap lines to help central banks overseas cope with the crisis were discussed at the Sept. 16 meeting and are in place, participants in a conference call on Sept. 29 realize much more money is needed to calm the market. Some officials, like Charles L. Evans, president of the Chicago Fed, wonder about the risks.

Mr. Evans: “Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I’d just like to review by asking a question. The swap lines are very large now. Could we review what could go wrong for our balance sheet in a not-so-pleasant scenario?”  View Transcript »

Oct. 3
Upon reflection, Congress passes and President Bush signs into law the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008, which establishes the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program. Wells Fargo announces that it will buy Wachovia, the largest bank to disappear during the crisis.  Bailout Plan Wins Approval; Democrats Vow Tighter Rules »
Oct. 7
Once again widening its safety net, the Fed announces it will ensure that nonfinancial companies can continue to find financing by creating the Commercial Paper Funding Facility.  Fed Announces Plan to Buy Short-Term Debt »
Oct. 7
emergency meeting On another evening conference call, the F.O.M.C. cuts rates by 50 basis points to 1.5 percent in an action coordinated with other central banks, citing the deterioration of financial markets. The moves are announced the next morning at 7 a.m.
Despite the best efforts of the Fed since the collapse of Lehman in mid-September, financial markets remain in free fall in October, and bank stocks are especially weak. Credit is tightening for even the biggest banks, and lenders are getting nervous about providing funds for one another. In other words, the glue of the financial system is coming undone, but Fed officials struggle to figure out why.

Mr. Dudley: “The markets didn’t take as much solace as I would have hoped, given the degree of escalation of those provisions.”

Mr. Lacker: “So what would it have looked like for them to have taken much solace? I mean, what prices and quantities would change?”  View Transcript »

Oct. 11
The Fed removes the size limits on its swap lines with the European Central Bank, as well as with the central banks of Switzerland, Japan and the Britain.  Federal Reserve Board Press Release »
Oct. 13
The government summons the chief executives of nine large banks to Washington, where they are told that they will be bailed out. With the talk of a bank rescue package in the United States, and central banks around the world finally moving more aggressively and in concert, Wall Street begins to rally. The Dow Jones industrial averages jumps 936 points, or 11 percent, the largest one-day gain since the 1930s. Overseas markets also surged.  U.S. Investing $250 Billion in Banks »
Oct. 29
By late October, the worldwide depth and impact of the crisis has become apparent to all, and the decision to let Lehman fail is drawing intense criticism in Europe in particular.
Oct. 29
scheduled meeting The F.O.M.C. cuts rates by another 50 basis points to 1 percent. “The pace of economic activity appears to have slowed markedly,” it says. The committee also authorizes a new round of swap lines with New Zealand, Brazil, South Korea, Mexico and Singapore.
Within the privacy of the F.O.M.C. meeting, Mr. Geithner places some blame on Congress for making matters worse. He is presumably referring to the House’s vote against the Troubled Asset Relief Program at the end of September. Congress approved the program a few days later. But Mr. Geithner says the initial vote hurt.

Mr. Geithner: “Look particularly at the damage to confidence created by the Congress’s actions in the weeks after the legislation was first proposed.”  View Transcript »

Ms. Yellen also offers her views on the government bailouts. While she says she strongly supports the efforts to prop up the banking system, she adds that it is not nearly enough. In tune with many critics of the government bailouts, Ms.Yellen says ordinary Americans also need help.

Ms. Yellen: “We are fighting an uphill battle against falling home prices, an economy in recession and collapsing confidence. It is not clear whether these steps will reopen credit flows to households and businesses, especially those with less than sterling credit.”  View Transcript »

At a time when many at the Fed are wary of stimulus packages, Ms. Yellen’s concerns lead her to argue for more:

Ms. Yellen: “Given the seriousness of the situation, I believe that we should put as much stimulus into the system as we can as soon as we can.”  View Transcript »

November – December

Start of a New Era
With the financial system on life support — although not yet stabilized — the Fed begins to turn its attention to the longer-term project of reviving the economy. It inaugurates the two strategies that remain at the core of that effort more than five years later, reducing short-term interest rates nearly to zero and starting to pile up mortgage bonds and Treasuries.
Nov. 18
Executives of Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler testify before Congress, requesting access to TARP for federal loans.  Detroit Chiefs Plead for Aid »
Nov. 23
The Treasury Department, Federal Reserve Board and F.D.I.C. announce an agreement with Citigroup to provide a package of guarantees, liquidity access and capital.  Citigroup to Halt Dividend and Curb Pay »
Nov. 25
The Fed announces it will buy up to $100 billion in debt issued by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and up to $500 billion in securities issued by the two companies, as it seeks to halt the collapse of the housing finance system.  Federal Reserve Board Press Release »
Dec. 10
The Fed’s loans to foreign central banks peak at $580 billion.
Dec. 11
The Business Cycle Dating Committee of the National Bureau of Economic Research announces that the economy has been in a recession since December 2007.  National Bureau of Economic Research »
Dec. 16
scheduled meeting The F.O.M.C. announces that it will reduce its benchmark interest rate to zero for the first time since the Great Depression. The move exhausts the Fed’s primary means of stimulating the economy, and it immediately begins to experiment with a new approach, declaring its intent to keep rates near zero “for some time.”
With the real economy buckling and signs of free-fall in evidence, policy-makers, at the final meeting of the year, begin to contemplate cutting short-term interest rates to what they term the “zero bound.” Mr. Bernanke acknowledges the usual policies that worked in the past aren’t working – in fact, this time is so different that a new approach is needed.

Mr. Bernanke: “As you know, we are at a historic juncture — both for the U.S. economy and for the Federal Reserve. The financial and economic crisis is severe despite extraordinary efforts not only by the Federal Reserve but also by other policy makers here and around the world. With respect to monetary policy, we are at this point moving away from the standard interest rate targeting approach and, of necessity, moving toward new approaches.”  View Transcript »

While the macroeconomic outlook remains “gloomy,” there is still room for humor as policy makers discuss the impact of the crisis on high-yield bonds, and whether experts can look to the Great Depression as a guide. Cue a reference to Michael Milken, widely cited for popularizing so-called junk bonds on Wall Street in the 1980s, but ultimately jailed for securities violations.

Mr. Bullard: “Do we know? Was there something like a junk market in the Great Depression that we can compare this with?”

Mr. Dudley: “Well, there were certain leveraged utility companies that you could argue were pretty junky.”

Mr. Fisher: “Corporate grade became junk in the Great Depression.”

Mr. Bernanke: “Michael Milken hadn’t been born yet.” [Laughter]  View Transcript »

 

The Fed’s Actions in 2008: What the Transcripts Reveal – NYTimes.com.

On the morning after Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy in 2008, most Federal Reserve officials still believed that the American economy would keep growing despite the metastasizing financial crisis.

The Fed’s policy-making committee voted unanimously against bolstering the economy by cutting interest rates, and several officials praised what they described as the decision to let Lehman fail, saying it would help to restore a sense of accountability on Wall Street.

James Bullard, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, urged his colleagues “to wait for some time to assess the impact of the Lehman bankruptcy filing, if any, on the national economy,” according to transcripts of the Fed’s 2008 meetings that it published on Friday.

The hundreds of pages of transcripts, based on recordings made at the time, reveal the ignorance of Fed officials about economic conditions during the climactic months of the financial crisis. Officials repeatedly fretted about overstimulating the economy, only to realize time and again that they needed to redouble efforts to contain the crisis.

The Fed’s chairman at the time, Ben S. Bernanke, was unusually clearsighted in warning of the risk of a severe recession as the nation entered into a presidential election year. But he struggled to persuade his colleagues, and at crucial junctures he did not push forcefully for stronger action.

The Fed’s current chairwoman, Janet L. Yellen, then the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, was even more alarmed by the deterioration of economic conditions. She and Eric Rosengren, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, are the most forceful and persistent advocates for stronger action in the transcripts. But they, too, underestimated the downturn until the final months of 2008.

The transcripts also show, however, that Fed officials responded decisively in those final months, probably preventing an even deeper recession. By the end of 2008, the Fed had reduced short-term interest rates nearly to zero for the first time since the Great Depression, and it had become a primary source of funding not just for the global financial system but for American homeowners and for companies that made food and cars.

Ms. Yellen summed up this new ethos at a Fed meeting six weeks after Lehman’s failure, telling colleagues, “Given the seriousness of the situation, I believe that we should put as much stimulus into the system as we can as soon as we can.”

In normal times, the Fed is a powerful but somnolent institution, charged with keeping a steady hand on the rudder of the economy. It moves interest rates up and down to moderate inflation and minimize unemployment. But beginning in 2007, it was forced to take on a far more challenging role as the central backstop for the global financial system.

The Fed’s understanding of the crisis, however, was clouded by its reliance on indicators that tend to miss sharp changes in conditions. The government initially estimated, for example, that the economy expanded in the first half of 2008 because it basically assumed that some economic trends, like the pace of business creation, had continued apace. The Fed also relied on economic models that assumed the existence of smoothly functioning financial markets, limiting its ability to project the consequences of a breakdown. And the outlook of Fed officials also reflected a deeply ingrained bias to worry more about the risk of inflation than the reality of rising unemployment.

As Fed officials gathered on Sept. 16 at their marble headquarters in Washington for a previously scheduled meeting, stock markets were in free fall. Housing prices had been collapsing for two years, and unemployment was climbing.

Yet most officials did not see clear evidence of a broad crisis. They expected the economy to grow slowly in 2008 and then more quickly in 2009.

The transcript for that meeting contains 129 mentions of “inflation” and five of “recession.”

Mr. Bernanke even told his colleagues that it was clear the economy had entered a downturn but that he still did not favor cutting rates.

“I think that our policy is looking actually pretty good,” he said.

That optimism would not long endure. Just minutes after the end of that first meeting, a smaller group of Fed officials agreed to rescue the faltering insurance giant the American International Group, a company never before subject to Fed supervision that until then was barely on the government’s radar.

In the succeeding weeks, as evidence of a downturn became unmistakable, the Fed would announce a seemingly endless series of programs to buttress the economy, leading Fed officials to joke about the resulting alphabet soup of acronyms.

In early October, a few weeks after the decision to stand pat, the Fed convened an unscheduled meeting to cut interest rates in an action coordinated with other major central banks.

“It’s more than obvious that we have an extraordinary situation,” Mr. Bernanke told colleagues.

“I should say that this comes as a surprise to me,” he said. “I very much expected that we could stay at 2 percent for a long time, and then when the economy began to recover, we could begin to normalize interest rates. But clearly things have gone off in a direction that is quite worrisome.”

He closed on a prescient note, telling the committee that he did not expect that monetary policy could solve the problem, but that the Fed should not be hesitant to use the tools that it had.

By the end of the year, the Fed had cut interest rates nearly to zero and started to buy mortgage bonds in a further effort to stimulate the housing market and the broader economy. More than five years later, it is still pursuing both policies even as the economic recovery remains incomplete.

Some Fed officials have argued that the Fed was blind in 2008 because it relied, like everyone else, on a standard set of economic indicators.

As late as August 2008, “there were no clear signs that many financial firms were about to fail catastrophically,” Mr. Bullard said in a November presentation in Arkansas that the St. Louis Fed recirculated on Friday. “There was a reasonable case that the U.S. could continue to ‘muddle through.’ ”

Within weeks, Mr. Bernanke also began to insist that the failure of Lehman could not have been prevented without changes in federal law. Furthermore, some officials began to argue that the importance of the failure had been overstated because the economy was already falling apart.

“The whole framing, which seems to have hardened now, that the world ended with the Lehman bankruptcy is just deeply unfair to the basic truth,” Timothy F. Geithner, then the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, said at an October meeting. “Independent of whether there was an option available at the time, the erosion in underlying economic conditions and in confidence in the future outlook was powerful and substantial going into August and early September.”

The Fed entered the year on edge. Officials did not know that the economy already was in recession, but Mr. Bernanke and his closest advisers worried that the Fed’s initial response to the financial crisis at the end of 2007 had been insufficient, and that tumbling stock prices were the beginning of a broader pullback.

Mr. Bernanke hoped to delay any action until the first scheduled meeting of 2008 in late January, but over the three-day Martin Luther King weekend, he concluded that the Fed could not wait. He convened a conference call at 6 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 21, and won agreement to cut the Fed’s benchmark interest rate 0.75 percentage point, the largest cut in more than two decades.

“The risk of a severe recession and credit crisis is unacceptably high,” Ms. Yellen said at the meeting.

Dennis Lockhart, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, said this week that the decision was an awakening. “If maybe we were a little slow to recognize what was happening, Martin Luther King weekend in January 2008 was a decisive point in terms of interest rate policy,” he said.

By early March, the Fed was moving to replace investors as a source of funding for Wall Street.

Financial firms, particularly in the mortgage business, were beginning to fail because they could not borrow money. Investors had lost confidence in their ability to predict which loans would be repaid. Countrywide Financial, the nation’s largest mortgage lender, sold itself for a relative pittance to Bank of America. Bear Stearns, one of the largest packagers and sellers of mortgage-backed securities, was teetering toward collapse.

On March 7, the Fed offered companies up to $200 billion in funding. Three days later, Mr. Bernanke secured the Fed policy-making committee’s approval to double that amount to $400 billion, telling his colleagues, “We live in a very special time.”

Finally, on March 16, the Fed effectively removed any limit on Wall Street funding even as it arranged the Bear Stearns rescue.

And then the Fed paused. By the end of April, it had cut short-term rates to 2 percent from 5.25 percent the previous September — one of the fastest falls in Fed history — and officials said they had done enough to shore up the financial system. They predicted that the economy would narrowly avoid a recession.

“I think it is very possible that we will look back and say, particularly after the Bear Stearns episode, that we have turned the corner in terms of the financial disruption that we have just experienced,” Frederic S. Mishkin, a Fed governor, said during a meeting at the end of April.

The summer passed relatively quietly. Officials began to fret about inflation. The transcripts include long conversations about when the Fed should start to raise interest rates.

“We saw growth of about 2 percent in the second quarter, which suggests a campaign slogan for the Republicans, ‘The Economy: It Could Be Worse,” Mr. Bernanke joked in early August.

But it was only the eye of the storm. By the third week of September, it was clear that Mr. Bernanke was right: Things could be worse. The financial crisis had arrived, as Ernest Hemingway once wrote of bankruptcy, “Gradually and then suddenly.”

Fed Misread Fiscal Crisis, Records Show – NYTimes.com.

Every time Janet L. Yellen, the chairwoman of the Federal Reserve, testifies in Congress, she can expect some senators to scoff and representatives to question.

But Washington’s critics pale next to Wall Street’s.

Since the financial crisis, the Fed has engaged in an aggressive stimulus campaign, which has helped lift stock and bond markets, greatly enriching Wall Street in the process. Even so, a surprisingly large number of investors and bankers remain deeply skeptical — and even angry — about what the Fed is doing.

Many of them believe that the central bank’s policies are causing harm — and they are confident that Ms. Yellen, who succeeded Ben S. Bernanke as chief this month and is extending his policies, will fail spectacularly.

“I don’t really like the Fed very much,” said Jeffrey E. Gundlach, chief executive of DoubleLine, an investment firm. “I wish the Fed were not manipulating the market the way it is.”

In many ways, the Fed bashing, which remains widespread and undimmed five years after the crisis, is not surprising. Financiers have always weighed in on the economic policy questions of the day. And it is in character for certain top Wall Street figures to believe they are smarter than the government employees who have the actual job of fighting unemployment.

Yet, to hear the Fed’s critics tell it, their antipathy toward the central bank is not motivated by a reflexive opposition to government intervention, but by a desire to end the big booms and busts that have hurt the economy in recent decades.

Some of them have backed progressive causes, and assert that the Fed’s policies are widening the divide between the rich and poor. “It does seem that in spite of all the rhetoric you hear, it is not stopping the polarization of wealth,” Mr. Gundlach said.

The Fed’s critics have gotten some of their biggest predictions wrong. The central bank’s stimulus did not create inflation or debase the dollar. The Fed’s supporters on Wall Street credit it with taking bold actions after the crisis that, they say, averted a terrible slump that would have made life far harder for people on lower incomes. The Fed itself has acknowledged that its easy money policies have costs as well as benefits. Fed officials have made it clear that they are on the lookout for new dangers like excessive speculation in the markets.

“I believe I am a sensible central banker and these are unusual times,” Ms. Yellen said in Congress this month.

Still, the detractors say that the Fed has learned little, and seems doomed to commit the same mistakes as in the past 30 years.

“My guess is that the Fed will play its usual game till we’re in good old-fashioned bubble territory,” said Jeremy Grantham, co-founder of GMO, an investment firm. He took particular umbrage at Ms. Yellen’s recent arguments in Congress for why the stock market is not particularly overvalued. “Either she is ignorant about the markets,” he said, “or on the other hand she is cynical and she is manipulating the market.”

One theory unites the faultfinders — and it conveniently allows them to keep issuing warnings even as the economy shows signs of strength. The critics contend that the Fed’s near-zero interest rates and its huge bond-buying programs have acted a lot like steroids, creating an artificial recovery that could wane as the Fed removes the stimulus in the coming months.

“This is the drug that masks the symptoms rather than treats the disease,” said Todd Harrison, a former hedge fund manager and the chief executive of Minyanville, an online financial media company.

One reason that low interest rates cannot create a lasting recovery, the critics said, is that cheap borrowing costs do very little when so many people are already heavily indebted. In this climate, according to the Fed’s opponents, it is wrongheaded, and perhaps futile, for the central bank to encourage people to take out more loans.

“Trying to solve an indebtedness problem by getting further into debt only compounds the problems,” said Lacy H. Hunt, chief economist of Hoisington Investment Management. “You have to clear the debt.”

Many of the Fed bashers promote alternative policies that can sound harsh. They argue that the economy would have bounced back more robustly since the financial crisis if the central bank had done less, because, they assert, capitalism works best when it is allowed to purge itself of uneconomic activity. “The economy might have snapped back a lot more strongly,” Mr. Grantham said. By intervening less, he added, the Fed “would have broken the back of moral hazard, just as Volcker did when he broke inflation,” referring to Paul A. Volcker, a former Fed chairman who pursued tough policies in the 1980s.

Though there are many Fed baiters on Wall Street, most of the financial industry has a generally favorable view of the central bank. And the Fed’s supporters shudder when they hear their peers calling on it to do less.

The Fed’s sympathizers say that it would have risked a bigger banking collapse and a depression if it had not opened the floodgates after the crisis. Short of entirely changing the way in which the global banking system operates, which simply wasn’t going to happen, there was not much else the Fed could do to keep things afloat, they say.

“The Fed has been doing what it can to stabilize this inherently unstable system, but we are still left with the system,” Tony Crescenzi, a portfolio manager at Pimco, said. In addition, defenders of the Fed argue that its policies can foster the economic conditions that enable a lightening of the country’s debt load that is not dangerously jarring. Ray Dalio, founder of Bridgewater Associates, a hedge fund, calls this a “beautiful deleveraging.”

But James S. Chanos, of Kynikos Associates, a hedge fund, asserts that an important measurement of debt is actually higher than it was before the crisis.

“That beautiful deleveraging has not happened,” he said. “We are more leveraged as a society than we were in 2007 at the onset of the financial crisis.”

The longer the Fed fuels borrowing, the worse things are becoming, the critics say. Mark Spitznagel, founder of Universa Investments, a hedge fund that profited during the 2008 crash, argues that by holding down interest rates, the Fed encourages companies to take up unhealthy habits, like borrowing to fund purchases of their own shares. “That’s outrageous behavior,” he said. “The Fed has entirely forced people to do this.”

It has come to the point where the Fed’s detractors wonder whether it has fallen victim to a school of thought that can only resort to easy money policies. “Sometimes you get a groupthink around a base assumption,” David Einhorn, president of Greenlight Capital, a hedge fund, said in a speech in 2012. “We’ve reached that point here with monetary policy.” Mr. Einhorn contends that the extremely low interest rates on savings are actually depriving people of income that could substantially bolster the wider economy.

The Fed’s supporters roll their eyes when Wall Street rushes to the defense of savers. Such remarks, they say, stem from ignorance about how the economy works during periods of adjustment. For instance, Mike Konczal, a fellow at the Roosevelt Institute, points out that John Maynard Keynes noted during the Great Depression that financiers expected unrealistically high returns on their capital. Testifying in Congress this month, Ms. Yellen herself said, “The rate of the return savers can expect really depends on the health of the economy.”

Still, many of the critics expect they will be proved right when, as they predict, the Fed’s policies lose their power. When that happens, a big loss of confidence will occur, which will roil the markets and the economy, they forecast. “They’ve gotten themselves boxed into a corner,” Mr. Gundlach said. Mr. Grantham said that he thought the Fed’s largess would drive stocks so high that they will become vulnerable to even the slightest nudge.

“We all feel like old-fashioned gramophone records,” he said. “It is the same old game and we keep saying the same old things.”

 

An Aggressive Fed Finds Critics on Wall Street – NYTimes.com.

At one end where Obama admission is focused on cutting carbon dioxide usage, one Utah state lawmaker has argued that the country should emit more carbon into the atmosphere.

According to the Utah Republican state Rep. Jerry Anderson, there is not enough carbon in the atmosphere and “really could be much higher and give us a lot of benefit for growing plants.”

“We are short of carbon dioxide for the needs of the plants,” Anderson, who’s a retired science teacher, told state lawmakers, according to Daily Caller. “Concentrations reached 600 parts per million at the time of the dinosaurs and they did quite well. I think we could double the carbon dioxide and not have any adverse effects.”

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The legislation proposed by Anderson would limit the state’s ability to regulate carbon emissions. The bill also narrows down the definition of the term “air contaminants”  by adding “natural components of the atmosphere,” suggesting that carbon and others are not pollutants.

Current carbon concentration levels are at about 400 parts per million (ppm), which scientists have declared as alarming.

“Passing the 400 mark reminds me that we are on an inexorable march to 450 ppm and much higher levels,” said NASA climate scientist Dr. Michael Gunson, according to Daily Caller. “These were the targets for ‘stabilization’ suggested not too long ago. The world is quickening the rate of accumulation of CO2, and has shown no signs of slowing this down. It should be a psychological tripwire for everyone.”

Other “experts” warned that carbon levels of 500 ppm affected ocean by acidifying it.

“We are on a path to double the amount of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere since we started burning fossil fuels. We can all see the chaotic weather that it has already produced,” said Retired University of Utah engineering professor Joe Andrade

“It’s not toxic to you and me below concentrations of 1,000 or 2,000 [parts per million], but it’s toxic to this planet,” Andrade added. “Setting an arbitrary upper limit, that is out of the bounds of anything related to planetary stability, is simply bad government.”

 

Utah Lawmaker Says We Should Emit More CO2 Into The Atmosphere : News : Counsel & Heal.

By Scott Neuman

Enlarge image

Domique Goerlitz shown in one of the pyramid’s chambers in this screen grab from their video, which has apparently been removed.

Credit YouTube

Originally published on Thu February 20, 2014 2:41 pm

Two self-styled amateur archeologists from Germany, who filmed themselves scraping off pieces of Egypt’s Great Pyramid in hopes of proving that the ancient wonder was built by people from the legendary city of Atlantis, are now facing possible criminal charges in their home country.

During a trip to Egypt in April 2013, Dominque Goerlitz and Stephan Erdmann, along with a German filmmaker, were granted access to parts of the Great Pyramid at Giza that are normally off-limits to the public. They smuggled their samples back to Germany with plans to produce a documentary.

Ben Radford, writing for Live Science, says:

“The group reportedly took several items from the pyramids, including … samples of a cartouche (identifying inscription) of the pharaoh Khufu, also known as Cheops. Goerlitz and Erdmann, who are not archaeologists but have instead been described as “hobbyists,” allegedly smuggled the artifacts out of the country in violation of strict antiquities laws, according to news reports.”

The Art Newspaper says that in November “a self-posted trailer on YouTube for a documentary detailing and revealing their exploits, drew almost universal condemnation and angered Egyptian authorities. After the controversy broke, the German embassy in Cairo released a statement emphasising that neither Goerlitz nor Erdmann were associated with the embassy or the German Archaeological Institute.”

In addition to the three Germans, six Egyptians are being held in connection with the case, including several guards and inspectors from the Egyptian Antiquities Ministry who allowed the men into the pyramid, Live Science says.

The Art Newspaper writes:

“Most scholars date this mark to the pyramid’s construction in around 2500BC, while alternative theorists, including the two German researchers, have long claimed the cartouche to be a fake, painted by its discoverer, Colonel Howard Vyse in 1837 to help him secure further funding for his explorations. To prove their claims, Goerlitz and Erdmann allegedly smuggled the pigment samples from Egypt to Dresden University for further study; by proving the modernity of the pigment, they hoped to raise the possibility that the Great Pyramid was constructed by a civilization much older than the ancient Egyptians.”

In December, Goerlitz and Erdmann apologize for the vandalism in a letter addressed to Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities, “offering to pay compensation for the damage and stressing that they did not mean harm to the pyramid. Egypt’s head of antiquities, Mohamed Ibrahim, has so far rejected their apology.”

As Radford points out:

“The conspiracy theories that Goerlitz and Erdmann endorse did not appear in a vacuum; instead, they have been widely promoted by best-selling authors such as Erich von [Daniken], who wrote Chariots of the Gods? first published in 1968. Such authors claim the true builders of the pyramids were not ancient Egyptians but instead others, like extraterrestrials or residents of the legendary Atlantis.”

via Men Who Vandalized Egyptian Pyramid To Prove Theory Face Charges | KPLU News for Seattle and the Northwest.

Chocolate as Poison – Wired Science

Chocolate as Poison – Wired Science.

 

In honor of Valentine’s Day, I have once again updated this – one of my favorite posts – on the poisonous chemistry of chocolate.

The Latin name for the cacao tree – the tropical plant source of all things chocolate – consists of two words packed with candy-loving scientific exuberance.  Theobroma cacao. It derives from the Greek words for god (theo) and food (brosi), roughly translating to  “food of the gods”.

Well, sure you say. Obviously. This is chocolate, after all.  Almost goes without saying. Which is why I won’t. Actually, I’m mostly trying to explain why the  most potent chemical compound  in chocolate – a plant alkaloid, slightly bitter in taste, surprisingly poisonous in some species – is called theobromine.

And while chocolate, as a whole, has a wonderfully seductive  chemistry, this poison-obsessed blog will remain, well, obsessed. Today’s obsession is inspired by  the fact that  every Valentine’s season, in addition to stories about love and lace, newspapers run cautionary candy tales. The website PetMD sends out reminders about its Chocolate Toxicity Meter. And this year, the Pet Poisoning Hotline was inspired to include a warning rhyme in its Valentine’s Day tips, which goes “Roses are Red/Violets are Blue/Chocolate can be toxic/And lilies are too.”

Except for the lilies, of course, we’re talking about theobromine.

Chemical structure of theobromine. Image: Wikipedia

Chemical structure of theobromine. Image: Wikipedia

So theobromine is an alkaloid, meaning it’s part of the everyday chemistry of the plant world.  Plant alkaloids are nitrogen-based, typically with with flourishes of carbon, hydrogen and occasionally other atoms such as oxygen.  The recipe (or as chemists like to say, formula) for theobromine is seven carbon atoms, eight of hydrogen, four of nitrogen and two of oxygen.

And while this may sound like a recipe for the routine, alkaloids are anything but.  The first plant alkaloid isolated (in 1804) was morphine from the flowering poppy.  Other notable examples include cocaine (1860),  nicotine (1828), caffeine (1820), strychnine (1818) and a host of pharmaceuticals including the anticancer drug Vincristine; the blood pressure medication, reserpine; and the antimalarial compound, quinine.

By this standard, theobromine discovered in cacao beans in 1841, might sound to you

Theobromine, 3-D model. Image: Wikipedia

like a basic wuss of the alkaloid family. It’s mostly known as a mild stimulant in humans; it contributes (along with caffeine and a few other compounds) to that famed lift that people get from eating chocolate.

There is some evidence that if people get carried away with chocolate consumption, of course, theobromine will make them a  little twitchy. According to the National Hazardous Substances Database: “It has been stated that “in large doses” theobromine may cause nausea and anorexia and that daily intake of 50-100 g cocoa (0.8-1.5 g theobromine) by humans has been associated with sweating, trembling and severe headache.”  Occasionally, people (mostly the elderly) have needed hospital treatment for a theobromine reaction.

But if one looks at LD50 values, it’s obvious that the alkaloid is far more threatening to other species. LD50 is an oral toxicity measurement; it refers to the dose that will kill 50 percent of a given population and is usually calculated in milligrams of poison per kilograms of body weight.  The theobromine LD50 is about 1000 mg/kg in humans. But for cats it’s 200 mg/kg and for dogs it’s 300 mg/kg – in other words, dangerous at a far lower dose.

This varies, of course, by animal size and shape and breed. A few years ago, in fact, National Geographic published a fascinating interactive chart so that pet owners could search out the individual risk.   The chart focuses on dogs because they are more likely than cats to eat something sweet. And it notes that theobromine is more concentrated in dark chocolates making them more dangerous than milk or “white” chocolate. The dark chocolate effects are so acute for canines, that the alkaloid has been tested with some success as a means of controlling coyote populations. (Interestingly,  rats and mice are much less affected; their theobromine LD50 is much more like that found in humans.) Dogs are so sensitive though that, as the Pet Poison Hotline, notes, they’ve been poisoned by everything from cocoa mulch to cocoa powder.

The different toxicities have to do with the way different species metabolize the alkaloid; humans process it much more efficiently than canines. And in small amounts, theobromine’s effects can make it medically useful.  But even here, it shows complexity. It increases heart rate and at the same time it dilates blood vessels, acting to bring down blood pressure. It can also open up airways and is under study as a cough medication.  It stimulates urine production and is considered a diuretic. It interacts with the central nervous system, although not as effectively as caffeine.

At toxic levels – in a characteristic dog death, for instance – all of this adds up acute nausea, convulsions, internal bleeding and often lethal over-stimulation of the heart. WebMD tells the story of a couple who fed their poodle a full pound of Valentine’s Day chocolate; the dog was on anti-seizure medications for a full five days afterward. Another column, written by a vet, suggests rather hopefully that an evening walk is far more romantic and less likely to feature pet vomit (which she describes in revoltingly foamy detail).

We had that same foamy experience in our household in December, actually, when our dog discovered our son’s holiday stash. We all survived but the humans in the house are a lot more careful about where they leave their chocolate. And this Valentine’s Day, we’re sticking to champagne. Sure, ethanol is also a poison in its own right. But that’s a different story.

Homepage photo: kev-shine/Flickr

Deborah Blum

Deborah Blum is a Pulitzer-Prize winning science writer and the author of five books, most recently the best-seller, The Poisoner’s Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York. She writes for a range of publications including Time, Scientific American, Slate, The Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times (and even the literary journal, Tin House). She is currently working on a sixth book about poisonous food.

Beekeepers in the United States and Europe have documented massive honeybee losses for several years, but less has been understood about their wild counterpart, the bumblebee, which also appears to be in global decline.

American beekeepers first reported the mysterious death and disappearance of entire colonies of domesticated honeybees in 2006. Since then, apiarists have implicated multiple culprits working in concert, including pesticides, viruses, and exotic pests. It now appears that the same pathogens and pests that have befallen honeybees may also be affecting wild pollinators as well, according to a paper published online by the scientific journal Nature Wednesday.

via Not just honeybees: Affliction may be spreading to bumblebees, scientists say – CSMonitor.com.

Fibromyalgia Mystery Finally Solved!

Fibromyalgia Mystery Finally Solved!

Researchers Find Main Source of Pain in Blood Vessels

Added by Rebecca Savastio on June 20, 2013.

Saved under Health, Rebecca Savastio, U.S.

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Fibromyalgia Mystery Finally Solved! Researchers Find Main Source of Pain in Blood Vessels

Researchers have found the main source of pain in Fibromyalgia patients, and contrary to what many believe, it does not stem from the brain. The findings mark the end of a decades-old mystery about the disease, which many doctors believed was conjured in patients’ imaginations. The mystery of Fibromyalgia has left millions of sufferers searching for hope in pain medications. Up until recently, many physicians thought that the disease was “imaginary” or psychological, but scientists have now revealed that the main source of pain stems from a most unlikely place- excess blood vessels in the hand.

The discovery may lead to new treatments and perhaps even a total cure in the future, bringing relief to as many as 5 million Americans thought to have the disease. To solve the Fibromyalgia mystery, researchers zeroed in on the skin from the hand of one patient who had a lack of the sensory nerve fibers, causing a reduced reaction to pain. They then took skin samples from the hands of Fibromyalgia patients and were surprised to find an extremely excessive amount of a particular type of nerve fiber called arteriole-venule (AV) shunts.

Up until this point scientists had thought that these fibers were only responsible for regulating blood flow, and did not play any role in pain sensation, but now they’ve discovered that there is a direct link between these nerves and the widespread body pain that Fibromyalgia sufferers feel.

The breakthrough also could solve the lingering question of why many sufferers have extremely painful hands as well as other “tender points” throughout the body, and why cold weather seems to aggravate the symptoms. In addition to feeling widespread deep tissue pain, many Fibromyalgia patients also suffer from debilitating fatigue.

Neuroscientist Dr. Frank L. Rice explained: “We previously thought that these nerve endings were only involved in regulating blood flow at a subconscious level, yet here we had evidences that the blood vessel endings could also contribute to our conscious sense of touch… and also pain,” Rice said. “This mismanaged blood flow could be the source of muscular pain and achiness, and the sense of fatigue which are thought to be due to a build-up of lactic acid and low levels of inflammation fibromyalgia patients. This, in turn, could contribute to the hyperactivity in the brain.”

Current treatments for the disease have not brought complete relief to the millions of sufferers. Therapies include narcotic pain medicines; anti-seizure drugs, anti-depressants and even simple advice such as “get more sleep and exercise regularly.” Now that the cause of Fibromyalgia has been pinpointed, patients are looking forward to an eventual cure. Other expressed frustration about how much they had suffered already:

“When are they ever going to figure out that things are never “all in your head?” said one commenter. “Whenever something doesn’t fit in their tiny little understanding, they belittle the patient and tell them they are crazy. People have suffered through this since they were invented. Prescribing SSRIs for everything is not the answer any more than a lobotomy or hysterectomy was.”

The announcement has the potential to unlock better future treatments and undoubtedly has patients all over the world rejoicing that the mystery of Fibromyalgia has finally been solved.

RELATED: Fibromyalgia: Proof of Physical Origins Vs. Two Danish Psychiatrists

By: Rebecca Savastio

via Fibromyalgia Mystery Finally Solved!.

Disability Likely for Sedentary Livers

Those who spend too much time sitting on the couch may be setting themselves up for major health risks later in life. Although recent research has linked sedentary behaviors with a number of different health risks including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and all-cause mortality death by any cause, a new study released in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health is the first to link sedentary living with increased risk of disability. The report revealed that the likelihood of developing a life-changing physical disability is far higher for sedentary livers over the age of 60 than for their consistently physically active counterparts.Take two people, both 65 years old, with similar health profiles. The first person, who is inactive for about 12 hours a day, has a 6 percent chance of becoming disabled. The second person, who is inactive for about 13 hours a day, has a 9 percent chance of becoming disabled. Just one hour of extra sitting can increase risk of disability by 50 percent. In fact, researchers found that disability risk increased by 50 percent for every extra hour spent sitting.Interestingly, the research found that even those who participated in moderate or high activity for a small portion of the day were at risk if they participated in long periods of sedentary living. This phenomenon is referred to as the “exercising couch potato” by online health resource Healthy Living How To. The term is used for those who spend an hour or two every day engaged in physical exercise but sit for the majority of the rest of the day. The study conducted by the Journal of Physical Activity and Health is the first of its kind to suggest that sedentary livers are at an increased likelihood for developing some sort of physical disability.So how much time on the couch is too much? “That’s the $64,000 question,” said Pamela Semanik, an assistant professor at Rush College of Nursing. Semanik admits that health experts simply do not know how much sitting is okay and suggests that one way to reduce the harm of sedentary living is to take frequent breaks to move around.According to the LA Times, an estimated 5.3 million deaths are attributed to insufficient activity. As more and more health experts are beginning to believe that “sitting is the new smoking,” they are urging people of every age to get up and move their butts. Experts suggest taking at least one movement break after every hour of sitting, even if it is just for a few minutes. Other suggested anti-sedentary living activities include scheduling movement reminders throughout the day, taking exercise or standing breaks while watching television or working on the computer, and wearing activity trackers like the FitBit to ensure adequate daily movement.Sedentary livers are now being linked to more than just an increased likelihood for disability and other health risks. In late January, the The Journal of Comparative Neurology found that physical inactivity can actually shift the shape of neurons in the brain, leading to ineffective functioning of blood pressure and other internal systems. As more is discovered around the dangers of sedentary living, the message from health experts is pretty clear. Sitting sucks. Take the proper health precautions and, as Semanik put it, “Just get up and move.”By Katie BloomstromSources:

via Disability Likely for Sedentary Livers.

Bold Prediction: Intelligent Alien Life Could Be Found by 2040 | Space.com.

China now has one aircraft carrier, the Soviet-built Liaoning, which was refurbished in Dalian after it was acquired from Ukraine.

HONG KONG (Kyodo) — China has started to build its first domestically produced aircraft carrier in the port city of Dalian in the northeastern province of Liaoning, the Liaoning party chief said Saturday.

The online edition of the Hong Kong daily Ta Kung Pao said Liaoning communist party secretary Wang Min disclosed the project at a meeting of the provincial people’s congress.

This appears to be the first time that a Chinese official has confirmed the existence of a Chinese domestic aircraft carrier building program.

The Chinese media reported last month that China will start building an aircraft carrier in Dalian this year and another in Shanghai. But government authorities have never confirmed plans to build one in Shanghai.

Wang told the provincial people’s congress that it would take six years to finish building the aircraft carrier and the Chinese military plans to have four aircraft carriers in the future.

China currently has one aircraft carrier, the Soviet-built Liaoning, which was refurbished in Dalian after it was acquired from Ukraine.

China says the Liaoning, which was put into service in 2012, will be used for training and research as part of its plans to develop a domestic aircraft carrier building program.

next year.

via China has started building its own aircraft carrier: official- Nikkei Asian Review.

Father who lost his wife and daughter weighs in on ‘affluenza’ sentence

Ethan Couch, the Texas teen who killed four people in a drunk driving crash was just sentenced to probation and rehab. He escaped a prison sentence after his lawyer called an expert witness who argued that Couch never faced any serious consequences for his actions before, and shouldn’t now. He called the condition “affluenza.” Now that same lawyer is blasting the media for the term “affluenza” going viral. Anderson is Keeping Them Honest.

Anderson discussed Ethan Couch’s sentence with Eric Boyles, whose wife and daughter were killed in the crash.

via Father who lost his wife and daughter weighs in on ‘affluenza’ sentence – Anderson Cooper 360 – CNN.com Blogs.

WHAT is going on?! For the second time this week, a mom has shot and killed her two children and taken her own life without so much as a warning. Kyler Ramsdell-Oliva, a 32-year-old mom from Utah, reportedly fatally shot her 13-year-old and 6-year-old daughters before turning the gun on herself in yet another brutal murder-suicide that makes absolutely no sense to most of us. All three appear gorgeous and filled with life in photos posted on Kyler’s Facebook page. According to her friends, who are leaving countless confused messages on her page, she seemed positively fine a few days ago. What would drive a mom to this point?

Kyler was in the process of breaking up with her fiance, according to reports, and her ex was actually moving his possessions out of their shared home when he heard gunshots from outside. Neighbors claim there were frequent domestic disturbances in their home, and cops were actually called to the house just one day before the murders. So it seems this couple had a rough time; it’s very possible Kyler was dealing with the emotional turmoil of her failed relationship when she pulled the trigger.

Just a few days ago, Kyler posted the following on her Facebook page:

There are always 2 sides to every story, the next time you judge someone else’s reality remember that you don’t see through their eyes and you don’t walk in their shoes. I hate people who feel its their right to come in the middle of a relationship and try to fix it or give their opinion. You aren’t in that relationship for a reason so don’t put yourself in between it. Focus on your own life and your own problems. — feeling annoyed.

As in the case of Jennifer Berman, the Florida mom who shot and killed her two teens while dealing with a bad divorce and financial issues, it’s easy to assume Kyler’s actions were the result of feeling incredibly emotional after a bad breakup. But we will never know what actually compelled her to do this. Was she suffering from an untreated mental illness?

Whatever the cause, three people, including two innocent children, have lost their lives and it is a true tragedy. I hope this mom can find some sort of peace, and I really hope we stop hearing these stories about moms committing unthinkable acts of harm to the young people in their lives who trust them most.

Why do you think a mom would kill her children and then herself? 

If you or someone you know has considered suicide, please reach out to a suicide hotline. There is ALWAYS someone there who wants to listen and who will take you seriously. You can call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK.

What traits do hope to develop in your child to help them become a successful adult? VIDEO – CafeMom.

 

Common Infections May Lead to Poor Cognitive Functioning and Slower Memory : Trending News : University Herald.

No bra is better

The study found that women who took off their bras for good experienced a 7mm lift in their nipples each year they didn’t wear a bra. Researchers also found that bra-less women developed firmer breasts and saw their stretch marks fade.

via Bras Make Breasts “Saggier”, 15-year French Study Reveals : Physical Wellness : Counsel & Heal.

Teledermatology has the potential to be as effective as an in-person appointment.

“[The AAD] supports telemedicine as a means of improving access to expertise of Board certified dermatologist and increasing safety, in addition to encouraging professionalism through patient care coordination and communication between other specialties and dermatology,” the American Academy of Dermatology stated in a press release.

Dermatologists Can Diagnose Cases Based on Pictures : News : Counsel & Heal.

Eat the Rich,  People taste like pork…..

How One Billionaire’s Idea To Give Rich People More Votes Is Already In The Works | ThinkProgress.