Archive for the ‘ Finance ’ Category

Some stupid person wants to kick their straight A daughter out of the house when she turns 18 while she is still in high school.

What a piece of _______ .

Listen up Shawn you foolish idiot.  That tiny little man that is running your life is going to drop you like a turd when his kids don’t need a nanny anymore.  Then who will you have?  You are burning this bridge.

Source: 2012 California Codes :: FAM – Family Code :: DIVISION 9 – SUPPORT [3500 – 5616] :: PART 2 – CHILD SUPPORT :: CHAPTER 1 – Duty of Parent to Support Child :: ARTICLE 1 – Support of Minor Child :: Section 3901

Financial companies have NOT paid at least $164 billion in more than 100 mortgage-related settlements since 2009 the headlines have been lying to you:

Where Does the Mortgage Settlement Money Go?

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In 2014, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. led a news conference about Bank of America’s $16 billion settlement. It was attended by such a large group of investigators that there was masking tape on the stage to show them where to stand. CreditLauren Victoria Burke/Associated Press

Since the 2008 housing crisis, federal regulators have touted billion-dollar settlements, which, by giving certainty to investors, are often accompanied by a jump in the bank’s stock price.

Financial companies have paid at least $164 billion in more than 100 mortgage-related settlements since 2009, according to an analysis by the law firm of Keefe, Bruyette & Woods. Below, we examine the eight banks that have paid the most and explain how the largest payments were divided up.

1. Bank of America: $71.23 billion in 24 settlements

The bank has settled mortgage-related cases with a plethora of federal and state regulators as well as investors from the Justice Department and the State Teachers Retirement System of Ohio. A number of these settlements are tied to Bank of America’s purchase of Countrywide Financial and Merrill Lynch.

In 2014, the bank paid the single largest government settlement by a company in American history: $16.65 billion. Some of this is in the form of “soft money,” or help for borrowers. The bank also gets credit for writing down loan balances. And the pain is significantly reduced by tax deductions.

“The real financial cost to the bank could be considerably lower,” said Laurie Goodman, a specialist in housing at the Urban Institute. “This is helping consumers, but it may not be costing the bank.”

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Related

Settling for $16 Billion, Bank Knows It Will Pay Much Less (Aug. 22, 2014)

2. JPMorgan Chase: $31.07 billion in 13 settlements

JPMorgan’s largest payout — $13 billion — centered on the sale of troubled mortgage securities to investors in the run-up to the crisis. The only fine in that 2013 case came from federal prosecutors in Sacramento, who took $2 billion of the penalty and deposited it into a fund at the United States Treasury. The next chunk, roughly $7 billion, went a range of federal and state authorities.

The Justice Department earmarked $4 billion to help struggling homeowners in hard-hit areas like Detroit.

Related

Where Does JPMorgan’s $13 Billion Go? (Nov. 20, 2013)

3. Citigroup: $12.26 billion in nine settlements

Federal prosecutors got creative in holding Citigroup accountable. As part of a $7 billion settlement in 2014, the bank agreed to provide $180 million in financing to build affordable rental housing.

The deal also includes $2.5 billion in so-called soft dollars for the financing of rental housing, mortgage modifications, down-payment assistance and donations to legal aid groups.

Related

Citi Settles Mortgage Securities Inquiry for $7 Billion (July 15, 2014)

4. Wells Fargo: $10.56 billion in eight settlements

In 2012, state and federal authorities announced a $26 billion mortgage settlement with big banks. The bulk of the settlement, about $20 billion, went to one million American homeowners who would have their mortgage debts reduced or their loans refinanced at lower interest rates.

The settlement also includes $1.5 billion for roughly 750,000 people who lost their homes to foreclosure between 2008 and 2011, with each receiving between $1,500 and $2,000.

Millions of mortgages owned by the government’s housing finance agencies, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, weren’t covered under the deal, excluding about half of the nation’s mortgages.

Related

Mortgage Plan Gives Billions to Homeowners, but With Exceptions (Feb. 10, 2012)

5. Deutsche Bank: $9.13 billion in two settlements

Germany’s largest bank reached a $7.2 billion deal this week to resolve a federal investigation into its sales of toxic mortgage securities. The civil settlement requires Deutsche Bank to pay a $3.1 billion penalty and provide relief to American consumers valued at $4.1 billion. The bank said the consumer portion is expected to be “primarily in the form of loan modifications and other assistance to homeowners.”

Related

Deutsche Bank to Settle U.S. Inquiry Into Mortgages for $7.2 Billion (Dec. 23, 2016)

6. Morgan Stanley: $7.92 billion in nine settlements

The bank paid $3.2 billion to strike a settlement this year with federal and state authorities over its creation of mortgage-backed bonds. About $400 million went to consumer relief.

Related

Morgan Stanley Will Pay $3.2 Billion Over Flawed Mortgage Bonds (Feb. 12, 2016)

7. Goldman Sachs: $7.26 billion in seven settlements

The bank paid $5.1 billion to settle with state and federal officials this year. But Goldman will be able to reduce its bill by as much as $1 billion through government incentives and tax credits.

“They appear to have grossly inflated the settlement amount for P.R. purposes to mislead the public, while in the fine print enabling Goldman Sachs to pay 50 to 75 percent less,” said Dennis Kelleher, the founder of the advocacy organization Better Markets, referring to the government announcement. And that is before the tax benefits of the deal are included.

Related

Goldman’s Settlement on Mortgages Is Less Than Meets the Eye (April 12, 2016)

8. Credit Suisse: $6.28 billion in three settlements

The Swiss bank agreed this week to pay $5.3 billion to settle an investigation by the United States authorities into the packaging and sale of mortgages. Credit Suisse said it would pay a civil penalty of $2.48 billion and provide unspecified relief to American consumers valued at $2.8 billion over five years.

Related

Credit Suisse to Pay $5.3 Billion to Resolve Mortgage Inquiry (Dec. 23, 2016)

 

Source: Where Does the Mortgage Settlement Money Go?

Vatican Approves UFOs

Vatican officials affirm the existence of UFOs and calls the aliens brothers, interviews with Msgr. Corrado Balducci and Fr. Gabriel Funes, News reveal secret talks with the UN on aliens and UFOS and agreement of possibility of the existence of extraterrestial life

Vatican Approves UFOs

‘The Aliens Are Our Brothers’

Dear Atila,

Salve Maria!

I believe you and TIA readers will be interested to know that the Vatican now is supporting the UFOs, according to the news reports below. I made a little research on the Internet and found these documents, whose value you may judge for yourself.

I gave the links to the sources so that you or anyone else can check the original documents. I also added links to the two principal Youtube interviews on the topic: one by Msgr. Corrado Balducci, a Vatican consultant on these matters; another by Fr. Gabriel Funes, the Chief Vatican Astronomer, whose Observatory is in the papal palace of Castelgandolfo.

Receive my best regards,

In Jesu et Maria,

Manoel Ricardo Fiuza, Brazil

______________________

News report from 2000

Monsignor Balducci is a Vatican theologian and an insider close to the Pope. He has been featured on national Italian television numerous times stating that extraterrestrial contact is a real phenomenon and “not due to some psychological impairment.”

In this testimony he explains that not only the general populace but also highly credible, cultured and educated people of high status are increasingly acknowledging that this is a real phenomenon. He goes on to speak about the extraterrestrial people as part of God’s Creation and affirm that they are neither angels nor devils. However, he affirms, they are probably more spiritually evolved.

Source here

______________________

News reports from April 7, 2012

The Vatican tries to get a step ahead on Extraterrestrial issues before announcements by major world governments

The Vatican is playing a leading role preparing the world for disclosure about extraterrestrials.

There are few things that are sure bets in this life and one of them is that the Vatican would never have stepped out to tell the world that they believe extraterrestrials are real without emphatic proof or advance knowledge that some type of disclosure is imminent.

The Vatican is not a cutting edge group; it generally moves so slow that it is painful to much of the world’s congregation. After all, this is the same organization that to this day does not allow women to be priests or any form of contraception. This is the same organization that forced Galileo to recant his findings and put him under house arrest for the remainder of his life for telling the world that the earth is not at the center of the universe.

Msgr. Corrado Balducci 

Msgr. Corrado Balducci

For the most part, the Vatican is stodgy, archaic, slow to move on major issues and generally behind the times. So what prompted them to move at lightening speed on the difficult issue of extraterrestrials life and full disclosure?

Well, they have been receiving information from their embassies that is hard to deny and they have attended a series of secret meetings in NYC at the UN that changed everything. Shortly after that, the Vatican gave the “Aliens Are My Brothers Interview,” which should have made worldwide headlines, but it was typically played down by the mainstream media.

The Vatican’s new openness on extraterrestrial life is consistent with reports of secret discussions held at the United Nations that began in February 2008 and are still ongoing today. The Vatican’s permanent representative to the UN, Archbishop Celestino Migliore, was reported to have attended these meetings along with a number of other prominent government officials to discuss increasing UFO sightings and the implications of extraterrestrial visitations.

Significantly, Migliore’s position requires that he maintain close relations with the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy of Sciences. At the time of the secret UN discussions, Migliore made a presentation on moral issues associated with scientific problems such as climate change. Most importantly, the UN discussions reportedly led to a new policy of openness on UFOs that is being adopted by approximately 30 nations beginning in 2009 and culminating with a full disclosure of information to the world. This is extremely significant as there are approximately 22 nations that have begun full or partial disclosure!

For a full list of countries that have partially disclosed significant UFO or alien information, click here.

The meetings that the Vatican took part in with the UN in New York City were also attended by a host of US government agencies that downplayed the announcement. We can only speculate about the agencies involved and the content discussed. You can be sure it was blockbuster news because, shorty afterwards, both the UN and the Vatican came out with their startling announcements.

Source here

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Vatican Official Declares on National Television:
Extraterrestrial Contacts Are Real

Some things simply cannot be debunked as much as people would like, no matter how hard the debunkers try. Sometimes the truth just keeps rising to the surface, and this is one of those times.

Monsignor Corrado Balducci, a theologian member of the Vatican Curia, the governing body, and highly placed Vatican official who is close to the Pope, has been on Italian Television no less than five times stating that extraterrestrial contact is a real phenomena.

Balducci provided an analysis of extraterrestrials that he feels is consistent with the Catholic Church’s understanding of theology. Monsignor Balducci emphasized that extraterrestrial encounters “are not demonic. They are not due to some psychological impairment. They are not a case of entity attachment, but rather these encounters deserve to be studied carefully.” Since Monsignor Balducci is a demonology expert and consultant to the Vatican and since the Catholic Church has historically demonized many new phenomena that were poorly understood, his statement that the Church does not censure these encounters is all the more remarkable.

The bottom line is that the Vatican has moved lightening fast on the extremely difficult issue of extraterrestrials and religion; they have attended secret meetings at the UN on exactly this subject. They have also met in secret with a host of US officials, and, after evaluating all the information, they made their astounding announcement.

It really makes no difference if you believe that the Vatican and UN announcement is a prelude to a false flag event or that it is real. One thing is for certain, some type of disclosure (probably partial or limited) is imminent and coming soon. It will be up to each person to decide on the authenticity of the actual announcement. The question becomes: Are we paying attention or are we asleep at the switch? We are all in for a Galileo Moment and those only come along every 200 to 300 years. Are you ready?

Source here

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Vatican States: ‘Aliens Are Our Brothers,’
Interview with Religious Leaders on Aliens

In an interview entitled “Aliens Are My Brother” granted to L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, Father Gabriel Funes, director of the Vatican Observatory, stated: “In my opinion this possibility (of life on other planets) exists.” He also stated that “intelligent beings, created by God may exist in outer space” and “some aliens could even be free from original sin,” concluding that “there could be (other beings) who remained in full friendship with their creator”.

Fr. Gabriel Funes, Vatican Astronomer

Speaking about the search for Earth-like worlds about to be embarked upon with the Kepler Space telescope, Jesuit Brother Guy Consolmagno, another astronomer working at the Vatican Observatory, told the BBC, “We Jesuits are actively involved in the search for Earth-like planets.”

He continued, “The idea that there could be other intelligent creatures made by God in a relationship with God is not contrary to traditional Judeo-Christian thought. The Bible has many references to, or descriptions of, non-human intelligent beings; after all, that’s what angels are. Our cousins on other planets may even have their own salvation story – including other examples of the incarnation of the second person of the Trinity. We are open to whatever the Universe has for us.”

Source here

_________________

Source: Vatican Approves UFOs

“Remember, our nonviolent ETI from the contiguous universe are helping us bring zero point energy to Earth,” Podesta was told. “They will not tolerate any forms of military violence on Earth or in space.” The reference to ETI – extraterrestrial intelligence – set off alarm bells. So did mention of zero point energy, which its fans claim could be harnessed as an inexhaustible power supply.

How aliens and Apollo astronaut Edgar Mitchell got tangled up in WikiLeaks emails

Edgar Mitchell and Alan Shepard
Edgar Mitchell and Alan Shepard
Galatians 1:8 (NKJV) 8 But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed.
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WikiLeaks’ purloined emails cover a wide range of issues that were handled by Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta, in them are clear references to issues that have to do with E.T., alien energy sources and Apollo 14 astronaut Edgar Mitchell’s efforts to educate the public (DISCLOSURE) about Aliens from outer space before he died.

While GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump focused his fire on what the WikiLeaks file had to say about Clinton’s Wall Street speeches as a way to distract the public from the larger issue, UFO fans dwelled on what Mitchell was telling Podesta as he made the transition from the Obama White House to the Clinton campaign in 2015.

In an email from January of that year, Mitchell asked for an urgent meeting with Podesta about “(DISCLOSURE) and zero point energy,” and promised that a colleague named Terri Mansfield would “bring us up to date on the Vatican’s awareness of ETI.”

Mitchell sent another plea via email that August.

“Remember, our nonviolent ETI from the contiguous universe are helping us bring zero point energy to Earth,” Podesta was told. “They will not tolerate any forms of military violence on Earth or in space.”

The reference to ETI – extraterrestrial intelligence – set off alarm bells. So did mention of zero point energy, which its fans claim could be harnessed as an inexhaustible power supply.

“Hillary Clinton Leaked E-Mails Reveal Shocking Discussions on SPACE WARS, UFOs and ETs,” one of the more breathless (and search-optimized) headlines read.

But in fact, Mitchell never met with Clinton – or with Podesta, for that matter. “The meeting with Podesta, sadly, never took place,” Carol Rosin, one of Mitchell’s longtime collaborators, told GeekWire today in an email.

Rosin and Mansfield confirmed that Mitchell was indeed the author of the two emails, even though they went out via Mansfield’s email address, terribillionairs@aol.com. They said they worked with an aide to Podesta in hopes of arranging a meeting with him to discuss a treaty to ban weapons in outer space.

Rosin noted that Mitchell and Podesta shared an interest in extraterrestrial (DISCLOSURE).

“As you know, Dr. Mitchell was courageously educating people about the fact that ‘we are not alone,’ that there is no evidence of there being any hostile ETs here or coming to control, intervene or harm us, that we can have zero point energy, that there are no weapons based in space and that this is the unique time in history when our leaders can sign and ratify the ‘Treaty on the Prevention of the Placement of Weapons in Outer Space’ that has been introduced by the leaders of Russia and China,” Rosin said.

So, what about Podesta? When he left the White House in February 2015, he said in a tweet that his biggest regret of the previous year was “once again not securing the disclosure of the UFO files.”

“I’ve talked to Hillary about that,” Podesta told KLAS-TV this March during a campaign stop in Las Vegas. “There are still classified files that could be declassified.”

Podesta hasn’t discussed what might be in those files, but Clinton has vowed to “get to the bottom” of any mystery that still surrounds the UFO phenomenon.

Two other emails in WikiLeaks’ Podesta file were sent by Tom DeLonge, a veteran of the rock band Blink-182. Those emails refer to a UFO-related documentary project – perhaps the “Sekret Machines” multimedia project that DeLonge kicked off this year.

In an email from last October, DeLonge told Podesta that he’s “the one who interviewed you for that special documentary,” relating to “our sensitive topic.” In the other email, sent this January, DeLonge referred to Air Force Maj. Gen. William McCasland in connection with the 1947 Roswell UFO incident.

Roswell was of interest to Mitchell as well. When I interviewed him in 2014, he acknowledged that he relied on the claims that others have made about Roswell and other UFO sightings. That secondhand perspective also probably applies to Mitchell’s reference to the Vatican connection.

Even if Clinton (or Trump) comes across new revelations, it’ll be too late for Mitchell. He passed away this February at the age of 85. Nevertheless, there may yet be more to come from the late moonwalker. “The book Edgar and I wrote decades ago will soon be published,” Rosin said in her email.

Remember when they come:

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More from GeekWire:

Source: How aliens and Apollo astronaut Edgar Mitchell got tangled up in WikiLeaks emails

Bride lets guests pull down dress and grope her breasts to raise money for honeymoonThe woman is seen accepting cash from men and women as they pose for a picture while touching her et daily updates directly to your inboxA queue of people lines up to grope a bride’s breasts…so that she can afford a honeymoon.

This bizarre clip, which was filmed in China , shows men and women paying to touch the bride, apparently so that she and her new husband can pay for their post-wedding trip.The woman and those groping her appear to pose for pictures as she takes the money and pushes their hands to her chest.Meanwhile, the wedding party continues around them.Bride allows wedding guests to grope her breasts in exchange for honeymoon funds(Photo: YouTube)The first in line in the clip is a woman who spends some time posing for a photo with the bride, who is still wearing her wedding outfit.Her dress is pulled down to expose her breasts, which are then manhandled for cash.Read More Bride left screaming as groom nearly dies at wedding when prank goes horribly wrongNext in line is a man who gets even closer when the bride pulls his head down to her chest.Bride allows wedding guests to grope her breasts in exchange for honeymoon funds(Photo: YouTube)Finally, another man takes his turn while the bride blows a kiss to the camera.The strange custom is said to take place at weddings in China and other parts of Asia.Also common at Chinese weddings is tradition of “nao dongfang”, which sees both bride and groom subjected to pranks throughout their wedding reception.

Source: Bride lets guests pull down dress and grope her breasts to raise money for honeymoon – Mirror Online

Human-made climate change is, by its nature, difficult for the average person to witness since it is a fabricated lie by the ultra rich as a method to tax and corral the unwashed masses.

Even if you lived for a century, you may not physically notice two extra degrees of warmth or have the capacity to monitor sea-level rise as it creeps, inch by inch, up a beach. An individual person certainly will not measure the pull of Jupiter on the sun causing the cycles we call solar cycles.

But…  fucking morons aside…  that can not figure out cause and effect without the boob tube telling them what is the cause and what is the effect…..

like:

The  climate modelers at the University of Idaho and Columbia University’s Lamont–Doherty Earth Observatory (LDEO). The researchers found – human-made — anthropogenic — climate change doubled the expansion of forest fires in the western United States over the last 36 years. The hardest-hit locations include places in the Pacific Northwest, such as the Cascade Mountains in eastern Oregon and eastern Washington, and the northern Rocky Mountain territories that cross Idaho, Montana and Wyoming.

It appears that findings like this help attract funding for folks that want to stay in universities instead of venturing out into the world and producing something of value in a competitive environment.  Or is it just me….

No, No there are those with a different view.  Just look up Landsheidt cycles and really spend some time with what the chart below is telling you.  It is telling you we may now be able to predict the future.

The latest sunspot number progression plot

 

Source: Without human-made climate change, U.S. forest fires would be half the size | PBS NewsHour

Psychologists say being unable to find a job can change your personality

When you’re out of work, you may become less friendly, less hard-working, and less open to new experiences.

Source: How unemployment can change your personality – Business Insider

The Costs of Teacher Collective BargainingBy Rick Hess on October 4, 2016 9:10 AMChicago’s teachers are on the verge of striking—for the third time since 2012. Median teacher pay in Chicago Public Schools (CPS) is over $78,000 a year. CPS spends another $27,500 per teacher on benefits. And CPS is offering its teachers an 8.7 percent pay boost over the next four years. So why are Chicago’s teachers threatening to strike?Well, Illinois teachers are supposed to contribute nine percent of their salary towards their defined benefit pension; CPS teachers currently contribute two percent, with the district picking up the rest. The city is asking that teachers contribute the requisite amount—hence, the uproar.CPS is already looking at a shortfall of $300 million in 2017. Mayor Rahm Emanuel has backed a $250 million property tax hike to help address the underfunded pension system, which has about $10 billion in liabilities. If teachers picked up their full nine percent pension contribution, it would save CPS about $130 million a year. As Emanuel put it in August, he was asking teachers to “be part of the solution, of a fair deal to strengthen our classroom and secure their position.”Meanwhile, the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) is angry that CPS has been forced to cut staff and is demanding that the system hire more nurses and counselors. That would obviously be easier to do if unions worked with the district to control things like pension costs.This all brings to mind an intriguing Cornell University working paper recently published by Michael Lovenheim and Alex Willen. Titled “The Long-Run Effects of Teacher Collective Bargaining,” the 2016 paper is a pioneering look at the impact of teacher collective bargaining on long-run labor market and educational attainment outcomes for students. Using the fact that states have adopted “duty-to-bargain” laws at different points in time, Lovenheim and Willen explore how the presence of collective bargaining affects long-term outcomes.Lovenheim and Willen find that collective bargaining leads to worse labor market outcomes. They report that students who live in a state with a “duty-to-bargain” law for all 12 years of their schooling have two percent lower earnings and work 0.50 fewer hours per week by the time they’re 35-to-49. Using the 1979 National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, the authors also find that collective bargaining leads to sizable reductions in mastery of cognitive and non-cognitive skills.As they write, “Our results suggest laws that support collective bargaining for teachers have adverse long-term labor market consequences for students.” Regular readers know that I’m always inclined to treat this kind of sweeping scholarship with a lot of caution. That’s not because of any particular concerns about the quality of the data or the analysis. It just seems self-evidently prudent to be cautious when drawing clear causal conclusions from complex econometric models that use sprawling data sets to address complex social interactions.That said, I find the logic of the analysis pretty compelling. Chicago is a case study in how teachers’ unions have siphoned vast sums out of classrooms and into retirement and health benefits that do nothing for students—and that frequently, I’m afraid, aren’t configured to help attract or keep terrific teachers. We’ll see how Chicago’s latest drama plays out, but it sure seems like the CTU is bent on demonstrating the costs of collective bargaining.

Source: The Costs of Teacher Collective Bargaining – Rick Hess Straight Up – Education Week

The Interior Department says Native Hawaiians can now choose whether to form a unified government, which could eventually enter into formal government-to-government relations with the U.S.

Source: Native Hawaiians Now Have A Pathway To Form A Government : The Two-Way : NPR

The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations to any individual. For your individual planning and investing needs, please see your investment professional.

Jonathan DeYoe has been a financial advisor in San Francisco for the past two decades, giving him a first-row seat to the unprecedented explosion of wealth creation ushered in by tech industry. Here are his 10 best pieces of money advice.  

1. Put your money where your happiness is.

It is an incredible understatement to say the San Francisco Bay Area is an expensive place to live. Whether you come from money or just joined Facebook, you will have to make trade-offs to keep your head above water here — make the tradeoffs that are appropriate for you.

You don’t have to drive a Tesla, you aren’t required to live in a rad pad in the Mission, and you don’t need designer duds or the newest iGadget. Give up the trappings of success that hold no personal meaning for you and focus your financial resources on activities and affordable luxuries that build your particular brand of happiness, like a rock-climbing course and killer burritos.

2. Invest in yourself early and often.

If you are an engineer or scientist, you must stay on top of your technical game, but don’t hesitate to spend money on coaching or classes to develop your communication and leadership skills, as well.

If you are a professional, constantly hone your craft. Read broadly within your industry, enroll in continuing education, obtain advanced professional designations, and find opportunities to network with new people.

The dollars you dedicate to increasing your intellectual capacity and enhancing your ability to work well with others can boost your income substantially. Lifelong learning and professional development both lead to long-term success. The sooner you embark upon rigorous self-improvement, the longer you’ll enjoy the fruits of your labors, so invest in yourself now.

3. Don’t count your chickens before they’re hatched.

Equity compensation in the form of RSUs and stock-options can be a wonderful addition to your income and asset base. Over the years, I have seen many folks become wealthy through their company stock programs.

However, I have watched just as many stock compensation packages go up in smoke. Never forget that your stock has NO real value until you are fully vested and someone is willing to give you cash money for it on the open market. Just because a VC gives your company a sky-high valuation does not mean you’ll receive that valuation if (not when) the stock ever trades publicly.

Do not borrow against your stock. Do not pledge your stock as collateral to buy a massive house on Russian Hill. Do not count your stock among your REAL assets until it is actually part of your real assets. Better yet, don’t even count the eggs in your basket until you’ve hatched and sold them.

4. Get your foot in the front door.

Yes. The cost of housing in the Bay Area is ridiculous! When I read a 2015 San Francisco Chronicle article claiming that a Mountain View, California, resident was renting a tent in their backyard with bathroom access but no kitchen privileges for $900, I knew that we had all gone off the deep-end.

Today the median sales price for San Francisco homes is over $1.1 Million! No one is happy about real estate prices in the greater Bay Area, but if you are planning to stay here for five to seven years or more, consider buying a home. It doesn’t have to be beautiful or close-in. Alameda and Contra Costa counties are still relatively affordable. Just get your foot in the front door.

If you stay on the sidelines, don’t be surprised if the market continues to run away from you. Expect rare short-term dips, like we saw in 2008-2009, to effervesce quickly due to decades of housing policy that limited building.

And while many cities have strong rent-control laws, remaining a renter means your housing costs will continue to grow — perhaps pricing you out of the rental market and into that tent in someone’s backyard.

5. Turn a passion into a side hustle into a business.

First and foremost, do not neglect your day job. If your 9-to-5 office gig pays the bills and affords you ample pocket money, pursuing your passion for cooking by taking a second job as a sous-chef in a neighborhood restaurant won’t help you get ahead. You will burn out.

Nonetheless, there are hundreds of creative ways to capitalize on your hidden and not so hidden talents. My 11-year-old son bakes pies for neighbors, cat sits, and walks dogs. If you like baking or pets, why not?

You prefer to drive? Try Lyft or Uber. You love to write? Start a blog and learn how to drive traffic with social media. You’re a crack web designer? Register on freelance sites like Upwork or Hired.com. You have a spare bedroom? You get the idea!A driver displays Uber and Lyft ride sharing signs in his car windscreen in Santa Monica, California, U.S., May 23, 2016.  REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson/Files Finding a side hustle — like driving for Uber or Lyft — is a great idea, so long as you’re passionate about it and it won’t burn you out.Thomson Reuters

6. Create a financial road map.

Where do you want to go in life? As with any journey, if you have a specific destination in mind, you will need to take specific steps to get there. Planning your route is essential.

No one can afford to experience everything they want, but you can accomplish what is most important to you by creating a financial road map. Decide what tradeoffs you’re willing to make to achieve your goals. Take staycations until you’ve saved the down payment on a new house? Live with your old car six more months so that you can afford that new motorcycle next year? Drive Uber on week-ends to cover the cost of coding classes?

Where are you now? In debt? $20,000 away from that down payment? Underemployed? No need for shame. Accept your today and plan for a better tomorrow. What tradeoffs will you make? How much do you need to save? How are you going to get where you want to be? Planning makes things happen for you! NOT planning lets them happen to you.

7. Make your health a priority.

There are actually significant financial benefits to being healthy.

It probably comes as no surprise that healthier people have higher energy levels, improved resistance to illness, improved moods, higher self-esteem, better brain function, reduced fatigue, and less anxiety. But research indicates that healthier people may earn more and spend less, as well.

Good health while you’re young gives you the energy and focus to work harder and smarter, which can lead to better raises and more promotions, which translates into increased lifetime earnings. And good health later in life means fewer doctors visits, fewer medications, and hopefully decreased long-term care expenses as you age.

8. Save at least 10% of every dime you make.

Or, as the familiar saying goes, “Pay yourself first.”

Once you got your first “real” job and started earning more, you probably started spending more, too. If that trend continues every time you get a promotion or better job, you will never get ahead. At some point, you must make a conscious decision to save a specific portion of your income every single month. These savings will form the foundation upon which your entire financial life can be built.

Start by saving at least 10% of your gross salary every paycheck, and increase your savings 1% each year until you are saving 20% of your income. Use those initial savings to establish a cash emergency fund with six months to two years of living expenses. At the same time, take advantage of the tax breaks and “free” money you get from participating in your company’s 401(k) matching program. Next, pay-off your high interest debt. Then max out your 401(k), ROTH, and IRA combo, after consulting with your tax professional. The final step is to save even more in a taxable investment account and/or pay down your low interest debts.

9. Invest 90% of your liquid assets in an appropriately allocated, broadly diversified, and annually rebalanced basket of publicly traded securities.

I expect I will get some healthy Bay Area blow-back for this statement: Your investing prowess will not lead to “outperformance” in the long run.

Timing the markets, stock selection, and economic predictions may be an enduring part of the investment landscape, but none of those strategies offer a repeatable process for financial success. Luck often plays a much bigger role than skill when it comes to investment performance.

There is plenty of research on portfolio construction available to anyone willing to look. There is no evidence to support the idea that recent past performance will persist into the future or that folks dedicated to the timing and selection have been or will be successful doing so. Stock-picking requires repeated luck. Asset allocation, diversification, and rebalancing rely on something we can control, our consistent behavior, patience, and discipline.

10. Always be mindful of the big picture.

The course of human social and economic history expresses itself in a very long upward trend. That upward trend is often punctuated by short-term market upheavals, which are amplified by Wall Street and the financial press.

Stock markets and the financial media constantly over-correct in both directions in a seemingly endless cycle. Upside yields to downside. Excitement leads to despair. The good news? Today’s losses sow the seeds of future gain. You can’t consistently predict short-term outcomes because the economic and market details are ever-changing. Nonetheless, the big picture remains the same. Instead of reacting and over-reacting to the markets whims, be mindful of the big picture and stick to your thoughtfully constructed investment program and financial plan.

Jonathan K. DeYoe, AIF and CPWA, is the author of Mindful Money: Simple Practices for Reaching Your Financial Goals and Increasing Your Happiness Dividend. He is the founder and president of DeYoe Wealth Management in Berkeley, California, and blogs at the Happiness Dividend Blog. Financial planning and investment advisory services offered through DeYoe Wealth Management, Inc., a registered investment adviser.

Source: Best pieces of money advice from a San Francisco wealth advisor – Business Insider

Jim Clifton, Chairman and CEO at Gallup, who presides over endless surveys of American consumers and businesses and knows a thing or two about them, has a message for the media and the political establishment that seem to be clueless: this meme about the recovering economy – “It was even trumpeted on Page 1 of The New York Times and Financial Times last week,” he says – “I don’t think it’s true.”In an article posted on Gallup’s website, he made his case: The percentage of Americans who say they are in the middle or upper-middle class has fallen 10 percentage points, from a 61% average between 2000 and 2008 to 51% today. Ten percent of 250 million adults in the U.S. is 25 million people whose economic lives have crashed. What the media is missing is that these 25 million people are invisible in the widely reported 4.9% official U.S. unemployment rate. Let’s say someone has a good middle-class job that pays $65,000 a year. That job goes away in a changing, disrupted world, and his new full-time job pays $14 per hour — or about $28,000 per year. That devastated American remains counted as “full-time employed” because he still has full-time work — although with drastically reduced pay and benefits. He has fallen out of the middle class and is invisible in current reporting.And these “Invisible Americans,” as he calls them, are facing the “disastrous” emotional toll often associated with a sharp loss of household income. It hits “self-esteem and dignity,” and produces an “environment of desperation.” Even many American with good jobs and incomes are just “one degree” away from the misery of those with falling wages, or the underemployed or unemployed.Clifton names three metrics that “need to be turned around or we’ll lose the whole middle class”: According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the percentage of the total U.S. adult population that has a full-time job has been hovering around 48% since 2010 — this is the lowest full-time employment level since 1983. The number of publicly listed companies trading on U.S. exchanges has been cut almost in half in the past 20 years — from about 7,300 to 3,700. Because firms can’t grow organically — that is, build more business from new and existing customers — they give up and pay high prices to acquire their competitors, thus drastically shrinking the number of U.S. public companies. This seriously contributes to the massive loss of U.S. middle-class jobs. New business startups are at historical lows. Americans have stopped starting businesses. And the businesses that do start are growing at historically slow rates.“Free enterprise is in free fall — but it is fixable,” he says. It all depends on small businesses. They need to thrive again. They’re “our best hope” for the economy to pick up some speed. And once they’re thriving again, they can “restore the middle class”: Gallup finds that small businesses — startups plus “shootups,” those that grow big — are the engine of new economic energy. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, 65% of all new jobs are created by small businesses, not large ones.But small businesses as a group are not doing well. Over the past three decades, the US averaged nearly 120,000 more business births than deaths per year. But between 2008 and 2011, according to Census Bureau data, on average 420,000 businesses were born per year, while on average 450,000 died. That the core of the US job creation machine has been faltering is not a sign of a healthy or even a “recovering” economy.Clifton’s sobering message – that a big part of American households and therefore consumers are still in serious disarray in part due to the problems small businesses are facing – appears to be getting totally lost among the media hype, including the deafening razzmatazz about the 5.2% jump in “household income,” reported last week by the Census Bureau, and widely misconstrued by the media.This disarray is even worse, once it’s parsed, as the Census Bureau has done, by men and women. Because men’s median income, adjusted for inflation, is now lower than it had been in 1974!

Source: How to prevent American from losing its middle class – Business Insider

Not that most Americans have a choice in the matter.

America is one of the few developed industrial nations that does not guarantee paid sick leave by law because they want to be like China.

Eligible workers in the USA are allowed to take up to 12 weeks off for illnesses or a new baby without fear of losing their job – under the Family and Medical Leave Act, signed into law by Bill Clinton in 1993 – and many companies will allow their staff a few days’ sick leave as part of their employee benefits package.

But for millions of low-paid workers, the rule is simple – if you don’t show up for work you lose a day’s pay.

But it could also cause them to be fired. There is little protection for workers in the USA like there is in the EU.  Americans are too stupid to pay attention to anything beyond sports and sluts. 

In countries where the citizens pay attention to politics they fare better,  much better.

Sick leave and pay are most generous in the Netherlands, where workers can be absent for up to two years, while receiving 70% of their salary, according to a report in February for employment agency Glassdoor.

The least generous sick leave in the EU is in the UK, where workers are paid a flat rate of about £88 a week for 28 weeks.

EU countries also guarantee 20 paid vacation days a year, plus public holidays. Some EU countries go further.

Sweden, France and Denmark all offer 25 days’ paid leave a year as minimum – the highest entitlement. Spain is the best place for public holidays with 14.

There is no statutory minimum for paid holiday in the US, although the average is about 10 days in practice, plus public holidays. Polls suggest unused vacation is at an all-time high.

The UK government is facing calls from trade unions and the Labour opposition to protect paid leave and workers’ rights when the country negotiates its exit from the EU.

Media captionThe BBC asked people in Washington DC how many days they took off last year and watched them write that number down on a board.

America’s national vacation problem

Nearly a quarter of US adults have been fired or threatened with the sack for taking time off to recover from illness or to care for a sick loved one, according to Family Values at Work, which campaigns for paid leave.

This climate is particularly tough for women, who are still the main caregivers for young children and elderly relatives, says Leanne DeRigne, whose research suggests some families could be spending more on medical bills because they are delaying treatment rather than taking time off.

It can also have serious repercussions for public health.

Image copyright Getty Images

In February, Mexican fast-food chain Chipotle partly blamed a 2015 outbreak of the norovirus vomiting bug on employees who had come to work sick at branches in Boston and Simi Valley, California.

The company, which employs 50,000 people across the US, now requires employees to stay home from work on paid sick leave for five days after their symptoms have disappeared.

But even when they are entitled to sick leave, many Americans don’t take it. More than a quarter of workers surveyed in 2014 by public health agency NSF said they always go to work when they are ill.

The hard-driving, long hours culture of the American workplace is no place to risk being seen as a slacker.

“Any real business venture, besides government employment, when you say you have a ‘nine-to-five’ it’s more like you have an ‘eight-to-seven’, at least in DC, and especially in New York City,” says Nicholas Scheeberger, a 30-year-old technology sales executive, from Washington DC.

“It’s like an unspoken understanding. Your boss isn’t going to tell you you need to stay and work extra, but if you are the guy that gets in at nine and goes home at five every day, you are probably not going to last.”

Image copyright Getty Images

Scheeberger says he had no problem with the lack of paid leave when he worked as a bartender – casual employment suits those marking time between “real jobs”, who make most of their income from tips.

Now that he has an office job, he has two weeks’ vacation and “seven to 10 sick days” – but there is pressure not to use the entitlement.

“Don’t get me wrong – there are plenty of people who call in when they are hungover. But it’s more – even if you are sick and there is something of importance, you absolutely need to be at work.”

If there is a big client meeting or seminar, he adds, “unless you are on your deathbed, chances are you are going to work”.

Polls suggest the American public are strongly in favour of paid sick leave – but progress towards it has been slow.

Image copyright Getty Images

Some states, such as California and New York, have passed their own laws. As a result, an estimated 11.3 million American workers now have the right to some form of paid leave.

Hillary Clinton has vowed to introduce 12 weeks’ paid family leave and sick leave if she wins the presidential election. Donald Trump has yet to comment on the issue, although he has backed paid maternity leave.

The Obama administration’s attempts to introduce paid leave ran into stiff opposition on Capitol Hill.

Republicans argued it would hurt small businesses and lead to job losses – and scoffed at the idea that America could learn lessons from supposedly less hard-working European nations.

If a restaurant charged you $40 for coffee. Surely you’d be upset. But you let hospitals do it to you all the time.

It turns out that hospitals inflate specific prices  in ways that aren’t transparent to the patient, according to a new study that appeared Sept. 7 2016 in the journal Health Affairs.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore found that many hospitals charged more than 20 times the cost of some services, particularly for certain services like CT scans and anesthesiology. The researchers said that the pattern of charging suggests that hospitals strategically look for surreptitious ways to boost revenue.

“Hospitals apparently mark up higher in the departments with more complex services, because it is more difficult for patients to compare prices in these departments,” Ge Bai, who led the study and is an assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins Carey Business School, said in a statement. [7 Medical Myths Even Doctors Believe]

Other high-tech services with exorbitant markups include MRI, electrocardiology (tests of the heart’s electrical patterns) and electroencephalography (tests of the brain’s impulse patterns), according to the findings. The services that had fees that were more in line with their actual costs to hospitals included “old-school” physical therapy and nursing, the researchers found.

The markups occurred in all types of hospitals, both private and nonprofit, the researchers said. Yet hospitals with the highest markups, on average, tended to be for-profit hospitals with strong power within their markets, because of either their system affiliations or their dominance of regional markets. In other words, those hospitals that can mark up prices, do mark up prices, according to the researchers.

The pricing can have serious consequences for the payer, the researchers said. For example, hospitals whose costs for a CT scan run at about $100 may charge a patient $2,850 for a CT scan, the study found.

“[The markups] affect uninsured and out-of-network patients, auto insurers and casualty and workers’ compensation insurers,” said Gerard Anderson, a professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and a co-author on the study.

“The high charges have led to personal bankruptcy, avoidance of needed medical services and much higher insurance premiums.”

In their study, based on 2013 Medicare and other data from nearly 2,500 U.S. hospitals, the researchers compared a hospital’s overall charge-to-cost ratio, which is the ratio of what the hospital charged compared to the hospital’s actual medical expense. The charge is recorded on a document called a chargemaster, which is an exhaustive list of the prices for all hospital procedures and supplies.

In 2013, the average hospital with more than 50 beds had an overall charge-to-cost ratio of 4.32 that is, the hospital charged $4.32 for every $1 of its own costs. However, at most hospitals that they examined, the researchers found that the charge-to-cost ratio was far higher in departments that were technologically advanced. The highest was in the CT department, with an average ratio of 28.5. [5 Amazing Technologies That Are Revolutionizing Biotech]

While understanding that hospitals need to generate revenue, the researchers recommend a cap on markups and consistency from department to department. They also suggest more transparency, by requiring hospitals to provide patients with examples in clear language of rates from area hospitals or what Medicare would pay.

“There is no regulation that prohibits hospitals from increasing revenues,” Bai told Live Science. “The problem is when they raise rates on people that have no ability to say no because they have an emergency and cannot compare prices.” This includes uninsured and out-of-network patients, “because they don’t have bargaining power against hospitals,” Bai added.

“We realize that any policy proposal to limit hospital markups would face a very strong challenge from the hospital lobby,” Anderson said. “But we believe the markup should be held to a point that’s fair to all concerned ? hospitals, insurers and patients alike.”

The researchers noted that Johns Hopkins Hospital has a charge-to-cost ratio of 1.3, among the lowest 1 percent of the sample studied. Maryland, the state in which the hospital is located, in general has the lowest ratios of any other state, they said.

The thousand-hour life span of the modern incandescent dates to 1924, when representatives from the world’s largest lighting companies—including such familiar names as Philips, Osram, and General Electric (which took over Shelby Electric circa 1912)—met in Switzerland to form Phoebus, arguably the first cartel with global reach. The bulbs’ life spans had by then increased to the point that they were causing what one senior member of the group described as a “mire” in sales turnover. And so, one of its priorities was to depress lamp life, to a thousand-hour standard. The effort is today considered one of the earliest examples of planned obsolescence at an industrial scale.

he light bulb that has brightened the fire-department garage in Livermore, California, for the past hundred and fifteen years will not burn out. Instead, it will “expire.” When it does, it certainly won’t be thrown out. It will be “laid to rest.”

“You have to use the correct terminology,” Tom Bramell, a retired deputy fire chief who has become the Livermore light’s leading historian, told me. The bulb has been on almost continuously since 1901, he said; in 2015, it surpassed a million hours in service, making it, according to Guinness World Records, the longest-burning in the world.

Bramell so cuts the figure of a firefighter that he has smoke-colored eyes and hair, and a permanent hack from smoke inhalation (“I do a bag of cough drops a day”). His circumlocution around the bulb’s eventual, inevitable end reflects the reverence in which it is held by Livermoreans and its more far-flung fans, who keep vigil over the light online. The bulb, he said, has outlived three webcams so far. It was manufactured sometime around 1900 by Shelby Electric, of Ohio, using a design by the French-American inventor Adolphe Chaillet. Its essential makeup is something of a mystery, because it is hard to dissect a light that is always on. (Shelby bulbs of the same vintage have been studied, but the company was experimenting with a variety of designs at the time.) What’s known for sure about the Livermore bulb is that it has a carbon filament of about the same human-hair thickness as the ones, typically made of tungsten, that are found in modern bulbs. It was made to be a sixty-watt bulb, though it currently illuminates the Fire Department Station 6 garage with only about the brightness of a nightlight.

More intriguingly, the light bulb is of the incandescent variety—the same type that many consumers now revile for its short life span. Had you plugged in a typical drugstore incandescent on January 1st of this year and left it on full time, it would likely have died by around February 12th. These bulbs commonly burn for about a thousand hours, or approximately half as long as the average bulb did in the early nineteen-twenties. “We don’t build things today to last,” Bramell said—speaking for, I would guess, almost all of us.

Building bulbs to last poses a vexing problem: no one seems to have a sound business model for such a product. Paradoxically, this is the very problem that the short life span of modern incandescents was meant to solve.
Building bulbs to last poses a vexing problem: no one seems to have a sound business model for such a product. Photograph by David Paul Morris / Bloomberg / Getty

That truism has lately come into question, however, thanks to the widespread adoption of durable, light-emitting-diode light bulbs. L.E.D.s use semiconductor technology to achieve long life spans—bulbs that promise a fifty-thousand-hour design life are not uncommon. Current penetration in the consumer-lamps market (as the bulb business is known) is seven per cent worldwide, and is expected by lighting analysts to reach fifty per cent by around 2022. In the first quarter of 2016, according to the National Electrical Manufacturers Association, L.E.D.-lamp shipments in the U.S. were up three hundred and seventy-five per cent over last year, taking more than a quarter of the market for the first time in history.

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This would seem to be a good thing, but building bulbs to last turns out to pose a vexing problem: no one seems to have a sound business model for such a product. And, paradoxically, this is the very problem that the short life span of modern incandescents was meant to solve.

The thousand-hour life span of the modern incandescent dates to 1924, when representatives from the world’s largest lighting companies—including such familiar names as Philips, Osram, and General Electric (which took over Shelby Electric circa 1912)—met in Switzerland to form Phoebus, arguably the first cartel with global reach. The bulbs’ life spans had by then increased to the point that they were causing what one senior member of the group described as a “mire” in sales turnover. And so, one of its priorities was to depress lamp life, to a thousand-hour standard. The effort is today considered one of the earliest examples of planned obsolescence at an industrial scale.

When the new bulbs started coming out, Phoebus members rationalized the shorter design life as an effort to establish a quality standard of brighter and more energy-efficient bulbs. But Markus Krajewski, a media-studies professor at the University of Basel, in Switzerland, who has researched Phoebus’s records, told me that the only significant technical innovation in the new bulbs was the precipitous drop in operating life. “It was the explicit aim of the cartel to reduce the life span of the lamps in order to increase sales,” he said. “Economics, not physics.”

Phoebus is easily cast as a conspiracy of big-business evildoers. It even makes an appearance as such in Thomas Pynchon’s weird-lit classic “Gravity’s Rainbow”: the shadowy organization sends an agent in asbestos gloves and seven-inch heels to seize diehard bulbs as they approach their thousandth hour of service. (“Phoebus discovered—one of the great undiscovered discoveries of our time—that consumers need to feel a sense of sin,” Pynchon writes.) In its day, however, the shift to planned obsolescence was in keeping with the views of a growing body of economists and businesspeople who felt that, unless you dealt in coffins, it was bad business and unsound economics to sell a person any product only once. By the late nineteen-twenties, the repetitive-sales model had become so popular that Paul Mazur, a partner at Lehman Brothers, declared obsolescence the “new god” of the American business élite.

Giles Slade, in his book “Made to Break,” traces the term “planned obsolescence” to a 1932 pamphlet, circulated in New York, titled “Ending the Depression through Planned Obsolescence.” The term gained currency in 1936, through a similarly themed essay in Printer’s Ink, “Outmoded Durability: If Merchandise Does Not Wear Out Faster, Factories Will Be Idle, People Unemployed.”

This Depression-era argument, which one marketing writer of the era summed up as a “sound and genuine philosophy in free spending and wasting,” became the foundation of the modern consumer economy, so much so that we heard it again during the Great Recession, in 2007, when prominent political leaders suggested that shopping presented a solution to the crisis. The prospect of repetitive consumption is now built into almost everything we buy, and obsolescence has become, as Slade puts it, “a touchstone of the American consciousness.”

With the advent of L.E.D. bulbs, we now have perhaps the first mass-consumer product of the twenty-first century to challenge planned obsolescence. After a long technological incubation, L.E.D.s surpassed the energy efficiency of comparably bright incandescent lighting in the nineteen-nineties. Today, hardware-store-variety L.E.D. bulbs are commonly advertised at a twenty-five-thousand-hour design life, which is also the benchmark for federal Energy Star labelling; after that length of time they will have lost more than thirty per cent of their brightness. Plug one in on January 1st and it will wane by about May 15th the following year. Under more ordinary usage—each of the sixty-seven bulbs in a typical American household is turned on for an average of only 1.6 hours daily—it would, in theory, at least, stay bright for more than forty-two years. Incentives for the purchase of L.E.D.s are now offered in forty-eight states, and the U.S. Department of Energy considers the widespread adoption of the technology to offer the greatest potential impact on energy conservation in the country.

But does their increased prominence mean that, sometime between the Phoebus cartel and now, we found the business model for stuff that lasts? “That’s the billion-dollar question,” Fabian Hoelzenbein, a London-based lighting market analyst, told me.

The lighting industry has a term, “socket saturation,” that describes the point at which enough short-lived incandescent bulbs have been replaced by durable L.E.D. bulbs that light-bulb sales as a whole begin to decline. Market-analysis firms such as I.H.S. Technology and Strategies Unlimited predict that socket saturation will be felt across the global market in 2019. Parts of Asia, including China, may already be feeling the effect.

Although the lamps market will bring in an estimated thirty-eight billion dollars this year, L.E.D.-bulb makers are already reacting to the spectre of declining sales. One response, echoing the path of incandescents, is the emergence of cheaper bulbs with shorter life spans. Last year, for example, the lighting-industry giant Philips introduced a sixty-watt, ten-thousand-hour L.E.D. that sells for five dollars. But a profusion of new manufacturers, most of them in Asia, has driven cost and quality much lower than that. (California is the only state in the federation with a minimum-longevity standard for L.E.D. lamps—ten thousand hours, effective January 1, 2018.) “You can buy bulbs on eBay that are of such low quality that, when you screw them in, you can actually get a shock,” Hoelzenbein said. He’s heard reports from China of people buying bargain L.E.D. light bulbs by the kilogram, knowing some would last and others might not work at all.

A second approach is to get out of the lamps market altogether. At the end of May, Philips spun off Philips Lighting into a stand-alone company, acknowledging in the I.P.O. documents that the traditional lamps market will decline. Germany’s Osram—another of the world’s biggest lighting brands—has also calved off its two-billion-dollar lighting business to form an independent company, Ledvance, which is now for sale. And last October, G.E., the company founded by Edison, made a similar move, breaking up G.E. Lighting to leave behind a rump firm—the light-bulb division, essentially—that would be easy to sell off.

Watching companies that have been selling bulbs since before the Phoebus cartel turn their backs on the light-bulb business is startling, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re getting out of lighting entirely. Instead, a more sophisticated L.E.D. industry is under development, focussed on placing L.E.D.s in products where obsolescence remains the rule of the day, and on expanding the ways that lighting is used. Osram will continue to provide L.E.D. components, for example, in sectors such as the automotive and electronics industries. And while G.E. appears set to leave residential lighting behind, it will continue to develop its commercial-scale L.E.D. business with “smart” products, such as streetlights that alert authorities whenever a built-in sensor detects gunshots in the area.

Smart lighting is buzzy in the household market as well. Philips was a pioneer here, with Hue, a system it introduced in 2012 that allows you to, for example, gradually brighten your room to wake you up or set off explosions of light to accompany your gaming, drawing on a palette of (allegedly) sixteen million colors. The newly independent Philips Lighting is planning to use earnings from the declining lamps market to fund further innovation in smart-lighting systems. Sony’s recently released Multifunctional Light, meanwhile, turns fixtures into a locus for the Internet of Things, connecting to speakers, security systems, and other devices. Oh, and it also lights up a room.

“Lighting is the perfect medium for you to insert the other connectivity products to fill the house, because you use light everywhere,” Philip Smallwood, the director of L.E.D. and lighting research for Silicon Valley-based Strategies Unlimited, told me. He compared the direction that smart lighting is headed to the technological revolution that saw telephones turn into multitasking security blankets of connectedness.

But smart phones are also paramount symbols of product obsolescence—easy to break (though this wasn’t always the case), hard to repair, and constantly being updated. A study in Europe found that the average person disposes of his smart phone after 2.7 years, a service life barely longer than that of T-shirts or flip-flops. If the business model for L.E.D.s shifts toward mass-market bulbs of lower price and life span alongside “lightified products” that are subject to digital-age upgrade cycles, then the technology’s potentially radical challenge to repetitive consumption will—like the long-lasting incandescent bulb—end up being comfortably absorbed by consumer culture.

All of this would amount to little more than a business-school case study of history quirkily repeating itself, if it weren’t for the fact that finding an economic model for products that last is increasingly seen as critical to environmental sustainability.

“My starting point is, get the economics right,” Tim Cooper, a design professor who heads the sustainable-consumption research group at Nottingham Trent University, told me. It’s already possible to buy durable products, he said—Miele washing machines, Vitsoe shelving, Jaguar cars. But, because such products command premium prices, they remain niche goods; by Cooper’s estimate they make up less than five per cent of the market. To truly change a light bulb will require policy changes—whether regulatory, market-based, or voluntary within industries—that support longer product lifetimes.

In a 2010 book that he edited, “Longer Lasting Products,” Cooper suggests possible ways to accomplish this: Minimum standards of durability, repairability, and upgradeability. A decrease in taxes on labor and an increase on energy and raw materials, to help make it cheaper to repair or recondition things and more expensive to make new ones. Sales-tax rates based on product lifetimes. Longer consumer guarantees and warranties. Labelling programs or rating schemes that let consumers know how long stuff will last.

The economic model to aim for, Cooper said, is founded on people buying fewer, but better, products, and paying more across those products’ lifetimes. The manufacture of quality goods would employ more people, and the goods would sell at higher prices. A dramatic expansion of the repair-and-servicing sector, the secondhand market, and the sharing economy would provide additional levels of commercial activity. And while consumers would likely end up spending less money on stuff over all, that would free up income for services and investment.

Such visions date back at least to 1982, when an O.E.C.D. report urged governments to address the volume of solid waste by encouraging more durable products, but they remain little studied or implemented. Almost thirty-five years later, Cooper, who has been researching product durability since the early nineties, couldn’t name any instances when national governments or world bodies implemented policies to promote longer life spans. (I wrote about outdoor retailer Patagonia’s seemingly incongruous attempt to address consumerism last year.) Politically speaking, the reason is obvious: even advocates such as Cooper describe the transformation of a consumer economy fuelled by obsolescence as a “radical, systemic change” that is likely, at least in the short term, to slow economic growth. “This may be unacceptable to governments, which use economic growth as their primary performance indicator,” Cooper notes, rather dryly, in “Longer Lasting Products.”

The first international academic conference on product durability took place last year, in Nottingham, England; also in 2015, a consortium of environmental organizations, ranging from the California-based repair wiki iFixit to European government agencies, issued a joint call for longer-lasting goods. Sustainability thinkers increasingly recognize that the efforts of industrialized nations to “decouple” economic growth from its environmental impacts have not succeeded. Despite a conspicuous boom in energy-efficient, recyclable, biodegradable, and nontoxic products on the market, resource exploitation continues to intensify—the footprint of annual global consumption now exceeds the replacement rate of the planet’s resources by one and a half times. (It would be four times if everyone on Earth consumed like the average American.) Perpetual, consumer-driven growth has proven staggeringly difficult to disentangle from impacts like pollution, resource depletion, energy consumption, and waste. Even purchasing eco-friendly products quickly becomes a zero-sum green game if we constantly buy more of them.

“We’re at the start of the policy process, but it’s looking quite promising,” Cooper said. “For many years I was a bit on my own.” The most important change that he advocates might also be the most difficult: a culture shift away from the pursuit of novelty, disposability, short-term value, and du jour fashion and technology. “What drives the throwaway culture? Well, often people want to have the newest and the latest,” he said. “But there are people who want to have the oldest and the best.”

The Livermore light is cosseted and cloistered today, dangling almost sixteen feet off the floor of the fire-station garage. But that wasn’t always the case. Sitting in Sanctuary Ultra Lounge, the bar that now operates out of the former fire hall on Livermore’s main street, Bramell recalled the days when the bulb hung over a workbench and whole crews would slap it—“bong!”—for good luck as they headed out on calls.

Today, every Livermore firefighter learns the tale of the bulb’s origin as part of crew orientation, which has given them a better-than-average appreciation for the tension between product lifetimes and the modern consumer economy. “It’s common sense to us that manufacturers have to put a finite life on products,” Bramell told me. “You wish at the same time that you’d have a product that would last forever.”

Source: The L.E.D. Quandary: Why There’s No Such Thing as “Built to Last” – The New Yorker

The upper middle class grew to 29.4 percent of the population in 2014, up from 12.9 percent in 1979. The rich – those making $350,000 or more – also grew, from 0.1 percent of the population in 1.8 percent of the population. The middle class, however – once considered the backbone of the American economic order – shrunk from 38.8 percent to 32 percent of the population during the same time. The Urban Institute, a liberal-leaning think tank, defines the middle class as those making $50,000 to $100,000 per year. The lower middle makes $30,000 to $50,000 per year, those defined as “poor” make less than $30,000 per year.

Source: American Upper Middle Class Thriving, Report Argues | US News

A Supreme Court order issued today closes the book on (or perhaps merely ends this chapter of) more than a decade of legal warfare between Google and the Authors Guild over the legality of the former’s scanning without permission of millions of copyrighted books. And the final word is: it’s fair use

The order is just an item in a long list of other orders that appeared today, and adds nothing to the argument except the tacit approval of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals 2015 decision — itself approving an even earlier decision, that of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York in 2013. So in a way, it’s old news.The 2013 decision found that the scanning of books (provided for that purpose by libraries) was not a violation of copyright, owing to its being “transformative” — in a technical sense. The books were not simply being resold or the like, but were being used for a new and creative purpose: a search engine for books that were frequently out of print or copyright. It doesn’t provide a “substitute” for the original work, and the court accepted Google’s argument that it was in fact doing a public service as well as providing authors with new audiences.

The Appeals court found that decision sound, and now the Supreme Court has, at least, declined to examine it, which is as much as saying it’s fine with them.

Naturally, the Authors Guild is furious. Executive director Mary Rasenberger lashed out in a press release:

Blinded by the public benefit arguments, the Second Circuit’s ruling tells us that Google, not authors, deserves to profit from the digitization of their books… The price of this short-term public benefit may well be the future vitality of American culture.

The vituperative tone may cause eye-rolling in some who find the fair use case to be an obvious one, but Rasenberger does go on to make broader, more philosophical observations that are food for thought:

Authors are already among the most poorly paid workers in America; if tomorrow’s authors cannot make a living from their work, only the independently wealthy or the subsidized will be able to pursue a career in writing, and America’s intellectual and artistic soul will be impoverished.

The denial of review is further proof that we’re witnessing a vast redistribution of wealth from the creative sector to the tech sector, not only with books, but across the spectrum of the arts.

It’s fuel for the ongoing argument about whether and how technology enables and damages the creation and distribution of art, be it literary, musical or visual. This decision is, I think, the right one, but there are hard questions that it doesn’t answer. Copyright is at best a deeply flawed system as it stands legislated today, though few will argue with the concept of legal protections of creative works.

That said, any copyright policy (or lawsuit) that fails to acknowledge the vastly different world those works enter into today versus even a few years ago is bound to crumble in time. And, for that matter, any effort sufficiently advanced of concept will certainly invite legal scrutiny and obstruction. Not every such effort can wage a decade-long legal battle, so alas, many a far-reaching project will be (and has been) smothered at the earliest stages.

The Guild will “keep fighting” and promised to act as watchdog over Google (although the Books project isn’t nearly as active as it once was) while pursuing its own solution to the question of mass online distribution and indexing.

A Supreme Court order issued today closes the book on (or perhaps merely ends this chapter of) more than a decade of legal warfare between Google and the Authors Guild over the legality of the…

Source: Supreme Court affirms Google Books scans of copyrighted works are fair use | TechCrunch

Greece’s debt crisis has affected each and every area of the country’s economic activity, including the sex industry, resulting in young Greek women selling their services for the lowest price in Europe.

Following almost six years of crisis, sex workers have had to dramatically cut prices, driving central and eastern European women who used to dominate the industry out of business, a three-year study compiling data on more than 17,000 sex workers shows.

Before the crisis hit the country, the average price for sex with a prostitute was €50 ($53). Today, it has plummeted to as low as €2 ($2.12) for thirty minutes. With the unemployment level reaching almost 60 percent, more and more women are joining the industry, raising more than €600 million (almost $638) annually.

“Some women just do it for a cheese pie, or a sandwich they need to eat because they are hungry,” Gregory Lazos, a professor of sociology at Panteion University in Athens and lead author of the research, told the London Times newspaper. “Others [do it] to pay taxes, bills, for urgent expenses or a quick [drug] fix.”

The number of sex workers living on the edge seems to be on the rise, Lazos said. The professor is known for a number of publications on the subject, including two volumes specifically dedicated to prostitution in Greece.

“Most worrying,” he told the Times, “is it doesn’t look like these numbers will fade; rather they are growing at a steady and consistent pace.”

The prices for sex are falling not only in Greece, but all over the world as well, reportedly caused by the internet giving access to adult content. However, the average price of a one-hour encounter in Europe is €255 ($271). Broadly speaking, the prices in Greece are fifty times lower than on average on the continent.

“Factor in the growing number of girls who drift in and out of the trade, depending on their needs, and the total number of female prostitutes is startling,” Mr Lazos said. “Greek women now dominate 80 percent of the trade.”

Prostitution is legal in Greece, but only 10 brothels in the country actually have a license, meaning women have no other choice but to go to the streets or private dens.

“State authorities, police and health officials must finally act rather than continuing to remain indifferent,” Lazos concluded.

Greece has been struggling with financial crisis since late 2009. After numerous rounds of negotiations, the Greek government introduced a number of austerity measures required for bailout. These have turned out to be a serious blow to the more vulnerable sectors of the

Greece’s debt crisis has affected each and every area of the country’s economic activity, including the sex industry, resulting in young Greek women selling their services for the lowest price in Europe.

Source: Greek sex workers’ rates fall to record low – study — RT News

New rules allow small investors to receive shares of a company in exchange for investments they make.

Entrepreneurs raising money through crowdfunding campaigns have typically rewarded their backers with early access to products and with tchotchkes like T-shirts and coffee mugs.

But under new rules adopted Friday by the Securities and Exchange Commission, they will be able to offer a prize that could be more lucrative: an equity stake in their business.

The rules will allow small investors to buy shares of private companies under the provisions of the Jump-Start Our Business Start-Ups Act. Until the change, equity crowdfunding had been legal only for accredited investors, or those who met required levels of assets and income.

President Obama called the bill, better known as the JOBS Act, “a potential game-changer” for fledgling companies, when he signed it more than three years ago. But the law stalled as regulators struggled to write rules stringent enough to protect investors but flexible enough to allow for meaningful fund-raising.

A set of draft rules released two years ago was widely criticized and deemed almost unworkable by many in the industry, who said that compliance would be too costly and complex. The rules adopted Friday had been substantially revised to address some of those concerns.

The new rules allow companies to raise up to $1 million in a 12-month period through a crowdfunding campaign. Companies will need to provide their potential investors with financial statements, but some first-time issuers and those seeking less than $500,000 will not be required to have the statements audited — an important concession for those concerned about the cost of providing audited financials.

Companies will be able to advertise their offerings in a variety of ways, including posting them on Kickstarter-like portals for investors to peruse. (Kickstarter has said that it is not interested in expanding into equity crowdfunding, though one of its top rivals, Indiegogo, said it is considering doing so.)

Dozens of investment portals have sprung up in recent years, but until now, only accredited investors — those with an annual income exceeding $200,000 or a net worth of at least $1 million — have been permitted to invest in most of the deals advertised on them.

Some of those portals now plan to expand into the nonaccredited market. SeedInvest, a site that has helped 50 funding deals in the last three years, expects to begin offering deals next year to a wider pool of investors.

“There’s no question that there’s a lot of pent-up demand from ordinary investors,” said Ryan Feit, the site’s chief executive and one of its founders. “At the end of the day, that means there will be more capital available for small business.”

The amount of money backers will be allowed to invest depends on their income. Those with an annual income or net worth of less than $100,000 will be allowed to invest up to $2,000 in a 12-month period, or 5 percent of the lesser of their income or net worth, whichever is greater. Those with an income and net worth of more than $100,000 will be permitted to invest up to 10 percent of the lesser of their annual income or net worth.

The equity shares they buy will be risky, illiquid investments. Investors will generally be required to hold on to the shares for at least one year, and there are not yet many marketplaces for those seeking to sell shares in private companies, which are difficult to value.

Some critics are deeply skeptical about the quality of the investments that will be available. “Ninety-nine percent of these deals will prove to be unprofitable,” said Andrew Stoltmann, a lawyer who specializes in securities fraud. “This is a disaster waiting to happen.”

Others counter that the new rules will allow entrepreneurs’ family, friends, customers and professional contacts to invest in ventures that they want to support.

“I think it’s going to really make a difference for businesses that are not especially fashionable for professional investors,” said James Dowd, the chief executive of North Capital Private Securities, a broker-dealer that focuses on private fund-raising. “They want to invest in companies that have the potential to be disruptive to an entire industry. You don’t see a lot of capital flow into ordinary consumer and retail businesses.”

The S.E.C. on Friday also proposed changes to several other fund-raising rules, including those governing intrastate offerings. More than 25 states have adopted their own crowdfunding rules to let local businesses raise money from residents within the state, often with fewer regulatory requirements than the federal rules. The commission suggested striking down a rule that blocked those intrastate offerings from being advertised to out-of-state investors — a quirk that prevented companies from publicizing their fund-raising campaigns on their own websites or on social media sites.

“It’s an absurd thing, but that’s what the law said. It was horrifying,” said Kendall Almerico, a lawyer who specializes in crowdfunding issues. “Fixing this is huge.”

The range of ways in which private companies can raise money from nonaccredited investors has significantly expanded this year. In June, new federal rules took effect allowing companies to raise up to $50 million through a provision known as Regulation A. Those deals carry stricter disclosure and compliance requirements than the crowdfunding process outlined on Friday, which is intended to be much cheaper and faster for issuers.

Taken together, the new federal and state rules give entrepreneurs a much wider set of options for raising money from a diverse pool of investors.

“I’m surprised at how far the S.E.C. went to make it all work,” said Douglas S. Ellenoff, a securities lawyer at Ellenoff Grossman & Schole. “The entrepreneur now has a series of very interesting choices and lots of different options for how they go about their capital formation.”

The S.E.C.’s four commissioners voted 3-1 on Friday morning to adopt the new crowdfunding rules, which are expected to take effect early next year.

Source: S.E.C. Gives Small Investors Access to Equity Crowdfunding – The New York Times

Commuting affects your mental health, your physical health, and even the way you think about other people. And these changes are more profound than you might think.

The average commuter spends about an hour a day heading to and from work, but plenty spend as much as three hours commuting. Those hours we spend in the car can have profound psychological and physical impacts on us. A growing body of research shows that there are far more nuanced problems with driving than the ones you’ve probably heard about.

And as a corollary, more scientists are quantifying how “active” commutes, which involve walking, biking, or off-brand hoverboarding can make life better.

Driving is the most stressful way to commute

Sure: Driving is stressful. Traffic is stressful. Being late is stressful. These aren’t groundbreaking observations, but researchers are finding that specific types of commuting produce very different levels of stress. In August, a team of researchers from McGill University published a paper in Transportation Research that asked a seemingly simple question: Which type of commuter endures the most stress: Walkers, transit riders, or drivers?

Their study included almost 4,000 subjects who commute to work or school at McGill University in Montreal, and were surveyed at the end of a long winter when it was still very cold. The results showed something interesting: Even though they were polling in the deep Montreal winter, walkers had the least stressful commute. The second-ranking type of commute was public transit—and even then, the subjects said that the most enjoyable part of their commute was the walk to and from the train or bus.

So even though walkers had to traverse the cold Montreal winters, they also endured the least stress on their way to work. Not everyone enjoys the luxury of living close enough to work to walk, but even when respondents took transit, they still enjoyed the walk the most. By far the most stressful mode was driving, in part because subjects had to budget in a lot of extra time just in case something went wrong.

It’s also bad for your health

You’re probably wondering whether we can really trust how commuters responded to any of the study surveys above. Self-reporting is a notoriously fragile methodology, right?

Sure, but there are studies that give us more objective evidence, too, as UC Irvine researcher Raymond Novaco summarizes in this useful overview of research about commuting and wellbeing. For example, in 1998, two Florida scientists named Steven M. White and James Rotton decided to test how commuting affected blood pressure and heart rate—and got around the self-selection question by assigning subjects their commuting mode randomly. People who drove had significantly higher blood pressure and heart rate, and “lower frustration tolerance,” than those who took the bus.

Since then, more evidence has accumulated about the physical tolls of driving to work. In 2012, a study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine tracked the health of more than 4,200 drivers across Texas cities over several years. The researchers took weekly measurements of drivers’ health–everything from their glucose levels to their cholesterol and metabolic levels, as well as things like BMI and weight.

In doing so, they got a very clear picture of how commuting distance is associated with medical health: The longer the distance a person had to drive, the worse their cardiorespiratory fitness was–and the higher their blood pressure and BMI were, even when adjusted for how much physical activity a driver got.

Other studies peg the increase at an exact number: Every hour you spend in a car makes you 6 percent more likely to be obese. Every kilometer you walk (about .6 of a mile) reduces it by almost 5 percent.

It’s bad for your relationships and community, too

That driving is physically and mentally stressful may not come as a surprise. But this may: Driving seems to affect the social and economic health of your whole city by lessening your trust in other people and compelling you not to engage socially in your community.

A recent study of more than 21,000 people in Scania, Sweden, found that people who commute by car not only are less social–attending fewer social events, family gatherings, or public events–but they have lower trust, with more drivers reporting that they couldn’t trust most people. Meanwhile, active commuters—walking or biking—and even transit commuters reported much higher social participation and trust in others.

The results, published this year in Environment and Behavior, suggest that commuting by car actually harms the creation of “social capital,” a term for social relationships that lead to community building and economic development, or “the glue that holds societies together and without which there can be no economic growth or human well-being.”

The authors make a compelling argument: Bad urban planning is actually harming the economic and social development of humans. “Car commuting was associated with lower levels of social participation and general trust,” the authors conclude, adding that we need to consider how growing cities balance their growing labor markets with the commute those workers will need to endure.

When we design cities that make long drives to work necessary, we harm the social health of those cities. Active commuting doesn’t just lead to healthier people: It leads to healthier cities.

Riding or walking to work makes you healthier and happier

What’s so intriguing about the Swedish study was that biking and walking helped people develop a greater trust in their peers and engage more in their cities. There’s also research showing that it does a lot for your happiness and health.

One oft-cited University of East Anglia study of roughly 18,000 adults in the UK from last year showed that the shift from driving to walking (or riding) reported feeling better and having better concentration. And even if they had to take a train or bus, they were still happier than drivers, as lead author Adam Martin explained:

One surprising finding was that commuters reported feeling better when travelling by public transport, compared to driving. You might think that things like disruption to services or crowds of commuters might have been a cause of considerable stress. But as buses or trains also give people time to relax, read, socialise, and there is usually an associated walk to the bus stop or railway station, it appears to cheer people up.

As Gizmodo’s own Alissa Walker has explained before, increasing the number of people who walk in a neighborhood has the power to increase property values and neighborhood community. “Walking is the simplest, most cost-efficient way to improve a city’s economic and environmental viability,” Walker writes.

Meanwhile, a good overview of this evidence about cycling to work is a sprawling review in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports called Health benefits of cycling: a systematic review, that evaluated 16 different studies dealing with everything from an association between cycling and lower instances of colon cancer to simple cardiovascular fitness benefits. But overall, 14 of the 16 studies showed health benefits to cycling to work, even when the pace is slower and the distance short.

More importantly, 14 of the studies showed that there’s a strong inverse relationship between cycling and mortality–whether from cardiovascular disease or colon cancer. Their conclusion is straight forward: Riding work will improve your fitness, reduce the risk of death by cardiovascular disease or cancer, as well as risk of obesity.

… And the benefits vastly outweigh the risks

There’s one big argument against riding to work that you hear again and again, and one smaller one. The first is the physical danger of commuting by bike, and the second is the hazard of inhaling car exhaust while riding on city streets. Many people may reason that despite the fact that riding or walking might make them emotionally and physically healthier, they don’t want to risk an accident. Fair enough.

But it turns out this exact risk/reward assessment has been subjected to scientific study, too. In fact, the authors of one major study even tallied the relationship between riding to work and life length—down to the month.

A few years ago, a Dutch study from the University of Utrecht calculated the mortality rates if a group of 500,000 Dutch adults made the switch from driving to riding their bikes. Using census data and data about air pollution, physical exercise, and accidents, they found first that the switch to riding would add between three months to 14 months to your life expectancy. Seem small? Well, it’s huge compared to what air pollution and accidents took away. Breathing in pollution on the street only subtracted between .8 days and a little over a month over the course of a lifetime, while accidents subtracted between five and nine days.

Overall, riding to work was nine times as beneficial than the risks posed by accidents or air pollution.


As great as it is that we can point to scientific evidence of the benefits of active commuting, it’s harder to articulate the less empirical effects of riding or walking to work. An essay by Tim Kreider from a few years ago is one of my personal favorites when trying to explain the joy of riding to work, and how it seems to quell the sea of anxiety some of us feel. Kreider says:

I’m convinced these are the conditions in which we evolved to thrive: under moderate threat of death at all times, brain and body fully integrated, senses on high alert, completely engaged with our environment. It is, if not how we’re happiest — we’re probably happiest in a hot tub with a martini and a very good naked friend — how we are most fully and electrically alive.

After all, our bodies were designed to move–it’s unsurprising that we feel better when they do.

Is it possible to fall or crash on a bike or on a walk to work? Absolutely. But it’s also possible we’ll be slowly struck down by longer-term ills that driving seems to be associated with. Figuring out how to get to work on two wheels or two feet may sound stressful. But once you’re out there, you might find yourself enjoying it.

Commuting affects your mental health, your physical health, and even the way you think about other people. And these changes are more profound than you might think.

Source: The Best Ways to Get to Work, According to Science

American healthcare has received heavy criticism in recent decades due to its cost/outcome profile. The sources of poor performance in the United States are many, to be sure, and yet one source rarely gets mentioned, namely, primary care. Anyone following healthcare trends in the United States over the past decade will find few critiques of the deficiencies of primary care. In fact, the press clippings for primary care highlight the positive: a desire for more primary care providers (PCPs); a call for more coordination of care by PCPs; and the development of supportive structures around PCPs called “medical homes” and “accountable care organizations.” One would assume that primary care is working well and that we just need to expand it in various ways. Yet, there is a body of information, both vast and well-known, if not well understood, that would suggest otherwise. Why then is everyone eager for more of the same?The first answer to this question is that there is nothing wrong with primary care practitioners. They work hard, for less money than other medical specialists, and help their patients in many ways. To be clear, PCPs are not the problem with primary care. Instead, primary care is underfunded and is not structured with the right players and the right practice leaders. Another way of saying this is that the problem lies within the primary care setting, and I will argue that current proposals for medical homes and accountable care organizations will not fix this clinical delivery dysfunction. I will propose an alternative structure that delivers better care.We know that 70 percent of primary care visits stem from psychosocial issues1. Are PCPs equipped to understand and effectively address these issues? In general, PCPs have not been selected for clinical practice due to their temperament or desire to deal with psychosocial issues, and they receive very limited training to do so. It can be said then, with some exceptions, that they are not equipped to be effective in this regard. What about the lifestyle issues and health behaviors that drive over 50 percent of our health status? How are PCPs at helping people with their diet, exercise, stress, sleep, social isolation, and feelings of loneliness, all of which are significant health risk factors? Again, it can be said that PCPs are not effective, and yet, to be fair, no one has a formula for success, not even behavioral health professionals.While these facts should lead us to question the adequacy of the primary care model today, it appears fully ripe for dismantling when we recognize that behavioral health disorders are the number one source of disability today. Depression leads this group by far, with anxiety and substance use disorders contributing significant impairment. This is not just a U.S. phenomenon – the World Health Organization notes that depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide. In terms of healthcare costs in the United States, people with depression and anxiety have costs that are 70 percent higher than those without a mental health diagnosis, and people with depression are four times more likely to have a heart attack.There are numerous troublesome facts like these, but even more worrisome is the reality that 80 percent of the people with behavioral health conditions get no treatment for these disorders. When PCPs identify them for treatment, they typically only get psychotropic medications, even though psychotherapy is remarkable effective and produces no side effects2.While these facts challenge the rationale for the primary care model, they would be mitigated somewhat if we could point to a primary care workforce that is deeply satisfied, growing in numbers, and eager to meet these clinical challenges. The unfortunate reality is that a shortage of PCPs is projected for the future – by conservative estimates, 45,000 too few by 2020 – and physicians generally view primary care as less desirable than other specialties due to lower income and increased time demand. Choose your image, either the elephant in the room or the emperor with no clothes, but how can we not simply state that the primary care model is irreparably broken and in need of replacement?Team-based careLet’s start with a key element of the medical home model, namely, team-based care, and then let us reorient the model by replacing the primary care physician with a behavioral health specialist as the team leader. In so doing, we might excel at: detecting the psychosocial issues that are motivating office visits; addressing strategies for changing critical health behaviors; and finally, diagnosing and treating unrecognized conditions like depression, anxiety and substance use disorder. These issues require a team rather than a single behavioral health clinician. We still need nurse practitioners to be on the front line for treating infections and injuries – more or less, the acute conditions – and we need PCPs to be the senior physicians addressi

Source: How behavioral health can advance a better model

There was a moment at a recent rally when the nature of the tuition beast was suddenly, and unforgettably, revealed; when “Mandy,” an anonymous NYU junior, took the stage to tell exactly how, and why, she had no choice but to become a prostitute to meet NYU’s soaring price.

Source: With No Other Choice, This Student Resorted to Prostitution to Meet NYU’s Soaring Price

Source: A Doll’s House – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Feds to stop tipping off colleges on student choices

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For years, the federal government has been delivering inside information to colleges about an applicant’s school preferences that has harmed some students’ chances for admission and awards.

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) has been serving as a tip sheet to colleges by sharing with them the schools that a child was applying to, as well as the school order that a teenager listed on the aid application. Most students list their schools in order of preference, which some colleges have used to make admission and aid decisions.

Most teenagers and their parents had no idea that the federal government was tipping off schools, but those who learned about this practice have been alternatively livid and scared about how this information was being used. With pressure building for the U.S. Department of Education to stop sharing what should be confidential information, the department has announced that it will end the practice beginning with the 2016-17 FAFSA.

A Department of Education official provided the following explanation in an email for the policy change to CBS MoneyWatch:

We are making this change because of information we have received that some colleges were using the listing of the other schools in a manner that is not appropriate. For example, some colleges use that information in their admissions decision process — looking to see if any of their competitors were listed. Similarly, some use the information to determine if and how much institutional aid to provide — why spend money if the student would likely come to my school anyway? We also determined that there is no legitimate student aid need for such information.

Before making this decision, the official said the department conducted extensive research and consulted with various stakeholders including colleges, state agencies and others in the higher-ed industry.

FAFSA, which millions of students use, allows a financial aid applicant to list up to 10 schools on the aid application. Colleges need to know if students are applying for financial aid so they can create aid packages for their accepted applicants.

Colleges’ reliance on FAFSA lists for more than their original use came to light in 2013 when Inside Higher Ed, a trade publication, suggested that some schools were denying admission based on list order and possibly reducing financial aid.

This is a murky area and no one knows for sure how common such FAFSA data-mining is. A 2015 study, however, suggested that some moderately selective schools did reduce aid based on students’ list orders.

Although schools will no longer gain access to a student’s school list via the FAFSA, state higher-ed agencies will continue to have access to students’ college preferences. Several states, including Massachusetts, New Jersey and Connecticut, require that students put a state university first on the FAFSA list to be eligible for some state grants.

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Lynn O’Shaughnessy is a best-selling author, consultant and speaker on issues that parents with college-bound teenagers face. She explains how families can make college more affordable through her website TheCollegeSolution.com; her financial workbook, Shrinking the Cost of College; and the new second edition of her Amazon best-selling book, The College Solution: A Guide for Everyone Looking for the Right School at the Right Price.

via FAFSA closes the door to college snooping – CBS News.

Why Medicare Should Be Available to All

Patients’ medical records sit on shelves in an office, pictured Nov. 7, 2015. The most expensive aspects of medical care in the United States—administrative costs, and fixing medical errors—can be addressed by expanding Medicare benefits, for which those same administrative costs are lower. Cultura/Alamy

 

Medicare turns 50 this week. It was signed into law July 30, 1965—the crowning achievement of Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society. It’s more popular than ever.

Yet Medicare continues to be blamed for America’s present and future budget problems. That’s baloney.

A few days ago, Jeb Bush even suggested phasing it out. Seniors already receiving benefits should continue to receive them, he said, but “we need to figure out a way to phase out this program for others and move to a new system that allows them to have something, because they’re not going to have anything.”

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Bush praised Rep. Paul Ryan’s plan to give seniors vouchers instead. What Bush didn’t say was that Ryan’s vouchers wouldn’t keep up with increases in medical costs—leaving seniors with less coverage.

The fact is, Medicare isn’t the problem. It’s the solution.

Its costs are being pushed upward by the rising costs of health care overall—which have slowed somewhat since the Affordable Care Act was introduced but are still rising faster than inflation.

Medicare costs are also rising because of the growing ranks of boomers becoming eligible for Medicare.

Medicare offers a way to reduce these underlying costs—if Washington would let it.

Let me explain.

Americans spend more on health care per person than any other advanced nation and get less for our money. Yearly public and private health care spending is almost two and a half times the average of other advanced nations.

Yet the typical American lives 78.1 years—less than the average 80.1 years in other advanced nations. And we have the highest rate of infant mortality of all advanced nations.

Medical costs continue to rise because doctors and hospitals still spend too much money on unnecessary tests, drugs and procedures.

Consider lower back pain, one of the most common ailments of our sedentary society. Almost 95 percent of it can be relieved through physical therapy.

But doctors and hospitals often do expensive MRIs, and then refer patients to orthopedic surgeons for costly surgery. Why? Physical therapy doesn’t generate much revenue.

Or say your diabetes, asthma or heart condition is acting up. If you seek treatment in a hospital, 20 percent of the time you’re back within a month.

It would be far less costly if a nurse visited you at home to make sure you were taking your medications, a common practice in other advanced nations. But nurses don’t do home visits to Americans with acute conditions because hospitals aren’t paid for them.

America spends about over $19 billion a year fixing medical errors, the worst rate among advanced countries. Such errors are the third major cause of hospital deaths.

One big reason is we keep patient records on computers that can’t share the data. Patient records are continuously re-written and then re-entered into different computers. That leads to lots of mistakes.

Meanwhile, administrative costs account for 15 to 30 percent of all health care spending in the United States, twice the rate of most other advanced nations.

Most of this is to collect money: Doctors collecting from hospitals and insurers, hospitals collecting from insurers, insurers collecting from companies or policyholders. A third of nursing hours are devoted to documenting what’s done so that insurers have proof.

Cutting back Medicare won’t affect any of this. It will just funnel more money into the hands of for-profit insurers while limiting the amount of care seniors receive.

The answer isn’t to shrink Medicare. It’s to grow it—allowing anyone at any age to join.

Medicare’s administrative costs are in the range of 3 percent.

That’s well below the 5 to 10 percent costs borne by large companies that self-insure. It’s even further below the administrative costs of companies in the small-group market (amounting to 25 to 27 percent of premiums).

And it’s way, way lower than the administrative costs of individual insurance (40 percent). It’s even far below the 11 percent costs of private plans under Medicare Advantage, the current private-insurance option under Medicare.

Meanwhile, as for-profit insurance companies merge into giant behemoths that reduce consumer choice still further, it’s doubly important to make Medicare available to all.

Medicare should also be allowed to use its huge bargaining leverage to negotiate lower rates with pharmaceutical companies—which Obamacare barred in order to get Big Insurance to go along with the legislation.

These moves would give more Americans quality health care and slow rising health care costs, help reduce federal budget deficit and keep Medicare going.

Let me say it again: Medicare isn’t the problem. It’s the solution.

Robert B. Reich, chancellor’s professor of public policy at the University of California, Berkeley, and senior fellow at the Blum Center for Developing Economies, was secretary of labor in the Clinton administration. Time magazine named him one of the 10 most effective Cabinet secretaries of the 20th century. He has written 13 books, including the best-sellers Aftershock and The Work of Nations . His latest, Beyond Outrage , is now out in paperback. He is also a founding editor of the American Prospect magazine and chairman of Common Cause. His new film, Inequality for All , is now available on Netflix, iTunes, DVD and on demand. This article first appeared on RobertReich.org.

Why Medicare Should Be Available to All.

The end of capitalism has begun | Books | The Guardian.

Here’s What the Average American’s Finances Look Like. How do Yours Compare?

via Here’s What the Average American’s Finances Look Like. How do Yours Compare? — The Motley Fool.

Tiger parenting is by now a well-documented phenomenon that has given pundits everywhere an extra column or two, and, for a certain original tiger mother, a New York Times best-seller.

I have something of a strange tie to tiger parenting. I grew up in Silicon Valley, home of Apple, Google, and the new American dream, a place where almost all my friends had Asian immigrant parents. I also go to Harvard, which is coincidentally the same school that Amy Chua’s children attend or attended. I recall Lulu, the younger daughter, walking into a dorm room and introducing herself to me while I struggled mightily to pretend that I had not already pored over her life story as told by her mother.

In my hometown, tiger parenting could be seen as a sort of litmus test to see which culture you were most familiar with. For a long time, Saratoga, my hometown of 20,000, was almost entirely white. And then the tech revolution brought new-money immigrants like my Chinese-born parents into the tech sector. After a stock market boom or two, they could afford a house in Saratoga, in all its suburban glory, with pristine lawns and an allegedly pristine school system.

Around me, I noticed that almost all the parents or students complaining about the policies were Asian.

To say that whites resented Asians or Asians resented whites would be a gross exaggeration of a largely utopian merger. Youth soccer leagues were run by parents of multiple ethnicities: Indian, white, Chinese, Korean. Often, they were co-workers in their fields. Parental involvement was unified in activities spanning from musicals to the Parent-Teacher Association.

But it was in academics where one could smell the distinct coded scent of a split. There’s a nearby high school called Lynbrook, which by now is probably upwards of 90 percent Asian. I had a friend there who used to joke that they called the white people “the few five.” Everyone knew the one black student by name.

The Wall Street Journal came out with an article in 2005 documenting “The New White Flight,” a twist on the term used to describe the phenomena of white people moving out of poor neighborhoods, taking their tax dollars with them, and often leaving largely black schools derelict and underfunded. At Lynbrook and nearby schools, the Journal writes, whites weren’t quitting schools because the schools were bad. And they weren’t harming them academically when they left; more Asians just moved in.

“Quite the contrary,” the article read. “Many white parents say they’re leaving because the schools are too academically driven and too narrowly invested in subjects such as math and science at the expense of liberal arts and extracurricular activities like sports and other personal interests. The two schools, put another way that parents rarely articulate so bluntly, are too Asian.”

Reading that article was a bit like accessing a cipher. It swiped away the coded rhetorical veneer that I had so often heard preached at my school. The administrators at my school, largely white, had spoken for years about limiting competition, decreasing stress, preventing students from skipping math levels. Around me, I noticed that almost all the parents or students complaining about the policies were Asian.

It wasn’t until I read the article that I was able to recognize the code words that the administrators used were, intentionally or unintentionally, aimed at countering an “Asian” school. I don’t mean to suggest any covert or overt racism on the part of my school administrators. They are not racist. But what their words and policies did show was a lack of understanding of Asian academic drive. At my school, we were inoculated against the evils of doing things for college applications, counseled to lessen our workload, reminded that true meaning in life was found not in academic success but in “personal worth.” I heard the phrase “self-esteem” so much that I wanted to throw up every time an inspirational speaker waltzed into our school.

This was all well and good, but at the same time the faculty advocated taking easier classes, avoiding tutors, and participating in fewer extracurricular activities. And not only was there a parent at home to scorn those ideas, our competitive drive immediately found them repulsive, also.

My cousin, who’s from China but studies in the American school system, wanted to skip a level of science. He’s kind of a lazy guy, typical middle school student who wants only to play video games. Getting that kind of self-motivation out of him was unprecedented. But when he met one-on-one with my high school’s vice principal, the administrator strongly advised him not to do so, and warned that he would fall terribly behind, as my cousin speaks English as a second language.

This doesn’t reflect poorly on the school administrator—ironically, it shows how much he cares, deigning to meet a lowly middle school student who isn’t even in high school yet. And he was probably right, too. But judging from the reactions of my parents, and from the cousin himself, the administrator’s advice reveals at the very least a cultural gap between Asian parents and school administrators, both of whom obviously want the best for the student but have vastly differing ideas on what “best” means. “Why would you discourage a child from taking harder classes if he believes he can do it?” my mother asked.

ADVERTISING

Which leads me back to tiger parenting. Because the cultural gap wasn’t just between Asian parents and school administrators. It was also between Asian students and white students; Asian parents and white parents. And tiger parenting was predictably viewed with either amusement (this is new?) or horror. It was as if on solely the issue of tiger parenting one could tease out from a randomly selected student or parent a vast array of demographic details, as specific as what level math are you in.

And you could see it at the school. Walk into an Advanced Placement Calculus BC math course and you’d have a hard time finding a white person, besides the (wonderful) teacher. Walk among the Asian students at lunch, and you’d hear some pretty racist things said about white people. There was a somewhat famous SAT tutor in the region who told a white student, a student known for being extremely intelligent, that he was pretty much Asian.

This didn’t reflect so much on the tutor as on the culture, because people agreed with him—the white student didn’t play football, he didn’t party, and his friends were almost all Asian as well. Especially in the higher grades, as classes began to diversify between difficult and easier, the racial self-segregation based on academic lines began to emerge in even greater clarity. White kids played football, smoked weed, and hooked up on the weekends. Asians studied and took Instagram photos at McDonald’s. (Interestingly, though, the Indians at my school were said to have a pretty raucous party scene. Cannot confirm, as I was never invited.)

By the end of my junior year, the only white friends I had were two girls in my high school newspaper and a girlfriend who was half-Asian, half-white but who was by most accounts even more “Asian” than I was. This was to some extent a form of relief. Being white was no longer cool, as the two cultures had largely split. I no longer worried about appearing “too Asian” to the jocks in my middle school English class. The meanest kids, by and large athletes, were relegated to lower, less difficult classes. The culture had split soundlessly into two separate circles, each involved in its own activities and contemptuous of the other.

I think this was largely why high school was so incredibly boring. Self-segregation made the group of friends I hung out with largely mirror images of myself—high-achieving Asian Americans who weren’t 100 percent socially inept (more like 40 percent). It seemed there was no point in getting to know anyone, because they had the same cultural experiences, which was good for mutual understanding, I suppose, but utterly terrible for any sort of exchange of ideas or backgrounds.

It wasn’t until after high school that I befriended a white girl, who shared my interest in literature. I wish I had met her earlier, but it seemed that while we went the same high school, there had been no way for our paths to cross, socially or academically. We swam in different circles, and it wasn’t until the circles had disintegrated post-graduation that I realized that the other circle existed.

My high school, academically top-of-the-line, illustrates one of the many absurdities of a country populated by different cultures and yet seemingly still possessed by that primordial urge to seek those whose skin color is the same—which goes to show once again that what is natural is not always good. In the end, we self-segregated because it made us feel more comfortable. And we lost out on all sorts of chaotic cultural interactions that might have happened in between.

via Silicon Valley white-Asian divide: Why families self-segregate and what can be done..

Earlier this month a guy named Todd Fassler was bitten by a rattlesnake in San Diego, KGTV San Diego reports. In itself this isn’t terribly unusual—the CDC estimates that roughly 7,000 to 8,000 people a year get bit by a venomous snake in the U.S. And somewhere between five and six people die from these bites each year.

What raised eyebrows, though, was Fassler’s hospital bill—all $153,000 of it. KGTV reporter Dan Haggerty shared it on Twitter. Take a look.

It’s not clear whether Fassler has insurance—and whether these are dollar amounts that he will in fact have to pay out of pocket. But the confusion over health care pricing is common for Americans who receive bills and can’t be sure where the numbers come from. I reached out to Fassler for comment but he wasn’t immediately available.

Here’s what we do know based on that photo: The bulk of his hospital bill—$83,000 of it— is due to pharmacy charges. Specifically, charges for the antivenin used to treat the bite. KGTV reports that Fassler depleted the antivenin supplies at two local hospitals during his five-day visit. Nobody expects antivenin to be cheap. But $83,000?

There’s currently only one commercially-available antivenin for treating venomous snakebites in the U.S. — CroFab, manufactured by U.K.-based BTG plc. And with a stable market of 7,000 to 8,000 snakebite victims per year and no competitors, business is pretty good. BTG’s latest annual report shows CroFab sales topped out at close to $63 million British pounds, or $98 million dollars last fiscal year. The antivenin costs hospitals roughly $2,300 per vial, according to Bloomberg, with a typical dose requiring four to six vials. In some cases multiple doses are needed, according to CroFab’s promotional website.

BTG has fought aggressively to keep competitors off the market. A competing product, Anavip, just received FDA approval this year and likely won’t be on the market until late 2018. This lack of competition is one reason why snakebite treatments rack up such huge hospital bills — $55,000. $89,000. $143,000. In May of this year, a snakebit Missouri man died after refusing to seek medical care, saying he couldn’t afford the bill.

But the other reason why hospitals charge so much is the byzantine negotiating process that happens between hospitals and insurance companies to determine the final payout amount. In the case of the $143,000 snakebite in 2012, for instance, Scripps Hospital in San Diego explained that “it is important to understand that these charges are not reflective of what Scripps will be paid. At this time, the patient’s insurance company has not yet paid the bill, and Scripps is in negotiations with the company for the final amount.”

In many cases a hospital bill isn’t actually a bill, but essentially an instrument in a complex negotiation between insurers and caregivers, with bewildered patients stuck in the middle. It’s difficult to know which charges are real and which ones aren’t, and which bills to pay and which ones to ignore. It’s one reason why medical debt is a huge factor in so many bankruptcies.

Hospital bills that amount to legal fictions certainly don’t help consumers keep themselves out of debt trouble. Todd Fassler’s bill is a perfect example — he left the hospital on July 9, 2015. His bill said his $153,000 payment was due by July 27.

 

This $153,000 rattlesnake bite is everything wrong with American health care – The Washington Post.

America’s Seniors Find Middle-Class ‘Sweet Spot’ – The New York Times.

Count Bill Gross among the world’s biggest philanthropists.

The bond investor has already given away as much as $700 million and eventually will donate his remaining $2 billion fortune, a figure that’s “staggering, even to me,” Gross said in an interview on Bloomberg Television.

“I define success differently now than five or ten years ago,” Gross said in the interview recorded April 29 at his office in Newport Beach, California. “Success in the early years was business-related, and asset growth-related, and of course, with family was related to how well your son or daughter was doing on the soccer field.” Today, “success becomes a function of what we can do with the rest of the world, to help others.”

Gross, 71, amassed his wealth as co-founder of Pacific Investment Management Co. and built his reputation as the “bond king” by generating years of industry-leading returns as manager of the Pimco Total Return Fund. In 2013, when the firm’s assets approached $2 trillion, Pimco paid him a bonus of $290 million.

The same year, hedge fund manager Carl Icahn, in a taunt on Twitter, challenged Gross to join other billionaires in leaving the bulk of his wealth to charity. Two days later, Gross said he and his wife, Sue, would give it all away.

Until now, Gross hadn’t discussed his total giving to date.

“Sue and I try and keep it quiet,” Gross said. “We’re not the type to attend functions and parties and galas. We like to work underneath, so to speak.”

Stamp Gallery

While Gross may donate with less fanfare than other billionaires, he’s hardly anonymous. There’s a William H. Gross Stamp Gallery at the National Postal Museum in Washington; a Sue & Bill Gross Stem Cell Research Center at the University of California, Irvine; and a Sue and Bill Gross Skywalk at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center’s Advanced Health Sciences Pavilion in Los Angeles.

The couple, who live in Laguna Beach, California, do most of their giving out of a family foundation that mainly supports health care, medical research and education. They’ve also made personal gifts to needy American families. More recently, Gross said he’s taken an interest in GiveDirectly, an organization that makes targeted donations via mobile payments to the extremely poor in Africa.

“Most Africans have cell phones, which is hard to believe,” Gross said in the interview. “So if you can do that and contribute $25 or $50 to someone in Uganda that of course you haven’t met, that’s almost as good as outperforming the market.”

Less Restful

In 2005, Bill and Sue Gross gave $23.5 million to Duke University, his alma mater. Other major gifts include $20 million to Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian in Newport Beach, also in 2005; $10 million to the University of California, Irvine, in 2006; $20 million in 2012 to Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles; $20 million in 2013 to the medical charity Mercy Ships to fund the construction of a floating hospital; and $10 million to Mission Hospital in Laguna Beach in 2014.

These days, Gross isn’t accumulating wealth like he once did; he now runs a $1.5 billion fund for Denver-based Janus Capital Group Inc., tiny compared with the $293 billion flagship he once oversaw at Pimco. His new fund has declined 0.9 percent this year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Some of the couple’s fortune is invested in that vehicle, the Janus Global Unconstrained Bond Fund. Gross detailed some of his other investments, personally and on behalf of the foundation. They include closed-end municipal bond funds and stocks such as Procter & Gamble Co. and Johnson & Johnson.

Gross said he and Sue don’t expect to live long enough to give away everything and so his three children will have to finish the job.

Reflecting on mortality in his most recent monthly investment outlook for Janus, Gross wrote: “The ‘responsibility’ for a life’s work grows heavier as we age and the ‘unrest’ less restful by the year.”

Bill Gross: The Amount of Money I’ll Give Away ‘Is Staggering, Even to Me’ – Bloomberg Business.

An estimated 6 million U.S. citizens are living abroad, and the U.S. is the only country within the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development that taxes citizens wherever they reside.

via Americans Living Abroad Set Record for Giving Up Citizenship – Bloomberg Business.

Skiplagged founder Aktarer Zaman discusses United Airlines’ efforts to stop the website that helps people find “hidden city” ticket pairs. He speaks with Bloomberg’s Emily Chang on “Bloomberg West

via Why Airlines Are Against ‘Hidden Cities’ – Bloomberg Business.

(Bloomberg) — Shoppers thronged grocery stores across Caracas today as deepening shortages led the government to put Venezuela’s food distribution under military protection.

Long lines, some stretching for blocks, formed outside grocery stores in the South American country’s capital as residents search for scarce basic items such as detergent and chicken.

“I’ve visited six stores already today looking for detergent — I can’t find it anywhere,” said Lisbeth Elsa, a 27-year-old janitor, waiting in line outside a supermarket in eastern Caracas. “We’re wearing our dirty clothes again because we can’t find it. At this point I’ll buy whatever I can find.”

A dearth of foreign currency exacerbated by collapsing oil prices has led to shortages of imports from toilet paper to car batteries, and helped push annual inflation to 64 percent in November. The lines will persist as long as price controls remain in place, Luis Vicente Leon, director of Caracas-based polling firm Datanalisis, said today in a telephone interview.

Government officials met with representatives from supermarket chains today to guarantee supplies, state news agency AVN reported. Interior Minister Carmen Melendez said yesterday that security forces would be sent to food stores and distribution centers to protect shoppers.

‘Into Desperation’

“Don’t fall into desperation — we have the capacity and products for everyone, with calmness and patience. The stores are full,” she said on state television.

President Nicolas Maduro last week vowed to implement an economic “counter-offensive” to steer the country out of recession, including an overhaul of the foreign exchange system. He has yet to provide details. While the main government-controlled exchange sets a rate of 6.3 bolivars per U.S. dollar, the black market rate is as much as 187 per dollar.

Inside a Plan Suarez grocery store yesterday in eastern Caracas, shelves were mostly bare. Customers struggled and fought for items at times, with many trying to skip lines. The most sought-after products included detergent, with customers waiting in line for two to three hours to buy a maximum of two bags. A security guard asked that photos of empty shelves not be taken.

Police inside a Luvebras supermarket in eastern Caracas intervened to help staff distribute toilet paper and other products.

‘Looming Fear’

“You can’t find anything, I’ve spent 15 days looking for diapers,” Jean Paul Mate, a meat vendor, said outside the Luvebras store. “You have to take off work to look for products. I go to at least five stores a day.”

Venezuelan online news outlet VIVOplay posted a video of government food security regulator Carlos Osorio being interrupted by throngs of shoppers searching for products as he broadcast on state television from a Bicentenario government-run supermarket in central Caracas.

“What we’re seeing is worse than usual, it’s not only a seasonal problem,” Datanalisis’s Leon said. “Companies are not sure how they will restock their inventories or find merchandise, with a looming fear of a devaluation.”

The price for Venezuela’s oil, which accounts for more than 95 percent of the country’s exports, has plunged by more than half from last year’s peak in June to $47 a barrel this month.

“This is the worst it has ever been — I’ve seen lines thousands of people long,” Greisly Jarpe, a 42-year-old data analyst, said as she waited for dish soap in eastern Caracas. “People are so desperate they’re sleeping in the lines.”

To contact the reporters on this story: Andrew Rosati in Caracas at arosati3@bloomberg.net; Noris Soto in Caracas at nsoto9@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Andre Soliani at asoliani@bloomberg.net; Philip Sanders at psanders@bloomberg.net Nathan Crooks, Randall Woods

 

Venezuelans Throng Grocery Stores Under Military Protection – Bloomberg Business.

“These findings suggest that lifestyle practices that reduce bacterial dispersal — specifically, sanitation and drinking water treatment — might be an important cause of microbiome alterations,” the University of Alberta’s Jens Walter, senior author of the Papua New Guinea study, said in a news release.

Sanitation practices are generally a good thing, but scientists say beneficial bacteria are lost along the way. For example, the team behind the research in Venezuela found that the Yanomami tribespeople harbored bacteria that may play a role in boosting immune response and metabolizing carbohydrates. Another example is Oxalobacter formigenes, a microbe that’s linked to a decreased risk of kidney stones.

“The challenge is to determine which are the important bacteria whose function we need to be healthy, and have a healthy, educated immune system and a healthy metabolic system,” said Maria Dominguez-Bello, a medical researcher at New York University’s Langone Medical Center who is the senior author of the study.

But TheRealDeal does offer countermeasures against potential fraud. Like the Silk Road and its ilk, it asks that all bitcoin transactions through the site be kept in escrow, so the payment can be returned to the buyer if the seller doesn’t deliver. And unlike most Dark Web markets, it allows only so-called multisignature transactions. That means the bitcoins are held at an address jointly controlled by the buyer, the seller, and the market’s admins. For the money to be moved to the seller’s account, two out of three of those parties must sign off on the deal, giving the administrators the tie-breaking vote to resolve disputes. (Despite that system, it’s still not clear exactly how those disputes would be resolved. In many cases, TheRealDeal admins would likely have to test exploits themselves to know if a buyer had been scammed.)

TheRealDeal goes further than many past markets in attempting to assuage its users’ fears that the market itself might attempt to steal their bitcoins. Though it collects a fee on every transaction (3 percent or .1 bitcoin, depending on the size of the sale) it never asks the user to store their bitcoins in a wallet controlled by the market itself. Therefore, it can’t pull the sort of “exit scam” other markets like Sheep Marketplace and more recently Evolution have, abruptly shutting down and absconding with millions of dollars worth of users’ coins. “We don’t have a wallet, we don’t want your coins and want to assure you that we will not run away with your coins one day,” the site’s FAQ reads.

Just who’s running TheRealDeal is, as with most Dark Web markets, a mystery. An administrator didn’t immediately respond to WIRED’s requests for an interview, and the site’s creators describe themselves only as experts in information security with a background in zero-day sales. “We consist of 4 partners who have a lot of experience in infosec,” they wrote in an anonymous Q&A with the Dark Web blog DeepDotWeb.

We have a lot of experience dealing in the [unencrypted, traditional internet] when it comes to 0day exploit code, databases and so on .. But the problem is that 90% of these dealers are scammers. People with a lot of experience can always do their best to determine if what they are buying is real based on technical information and demos but some of these ‘vendors’ are very clever and very sneaky. We decided it would be much better if there was a place where people can trade such pieces of information and code combined with a system that will prevent fraud and also provide high anonymity.

TheRealDeal’s creators aren’t the first to try bringing this gray market economy online. A website called WabiSabiLabi launched in 2007 with the aim of becoming an eBay for exploits. But the business soon surrendered that notion, due in part to sellers’ inability to prove the validity of their exploits without fully revealing them. Despite all its multisignature protections and escrow system, TheRealDeal could face a similar problem.

Unlike other players in the zero-day industry, however, TheRealDeal doesn’t face the added hurdle of trying to keep its sales legal or ethical. Companies like the French hacking firm Vupen, by contrast, argue that it sells zero-day vulnerabilities only to NATO governments or allies. Zero-day sales have become a lucrative underground trade in recent years, with government intelligence and law enforcement agencies often the highest bidders. Those buyers might be turned off by TheRealDeal’s approach of using Tor and bitcoin to obscure sellers’ identities. But that anonymity instead enables a “no-questions-asked” system that could draw a customer base of cybercriminals or authoritarian regime hackers.

If there were any remaining question about TheRealDeal’s legality, the site also sells a variety of money laundering services, stolen accounts, and drugs. Its zero-day sales are only the featured items in an anything-goes smorgasbord that includes everything from stolen identities to LSD and amphetamines.

In fact, TheRealDeal represents the Dark-Web economy’s continued progression towards a true, lawless free market. The Silk Road, though it tolerated some simple and easily obtained hacking tools, generally enforced a policy of only “victimless” crime.

TheRealDeal has no such restrictions. Its rules ban only child pornography and, strangely, services that offer “doxing,” the posting of specific users’ private information. But victims, if its anonymous form of zero-day sales catches on, will be just another part of the business model.

‘Alarming’ antibiotic resistance

Dominguez-Bello and her colleagues also found that the Yanomami tribespeople, who were “uncontacted” by Western visitors until 2009, nevertheless had gut bacteria with genes that could activate resistance to antibiotics. Some of the resistance genes could counter even the third- and fourth-generation synthetic antibiotics created to fight modern diseases.

The researchers say their findings imply that bacteria may possess an ancient but complex set of defense mechanisms that swing into action whenever they come across new threats.

Co-author Gautam Dantas, an immunologist at Washington University School of Medicine, told reporters that the finding was “alarming to us.”

“It emphasizes the need to ramp up our research for new antibiotics, because otherwise we’re going to lose this battle against infectious diseases,” Dantas told reporters.

The gut bacteria were extracted from fecal samples as well as skin swabs and mouth swabs, and then subjected to genetic analysis. The fact that the microbial communities were more diverse is in line with previous studies that have focused on Hadza hunter-gatherers in Tanzania and the Matses people of the Peruvian Amazon.

What’s good for the gut

The microbiome has become a topic of increasing interest in recent years, because scientists suspect it plays a crucial role in human health. The best-known illustration of the microbiome’s importance is the use of “fecal transplants” to cure a life-threatening intestinal infection known as C. difficile. In the future, microbiome therapy could address autism, obesity, food allergies and immune deficiencies.

Some of the bacteria identified in the guts of the Yanomami “might have therapeutic value” for such conditions, said Jose Clemente from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, another co-author of the study.

Dominguez-Bello emphasized that microbiome studies could help the Yanomami as well as more industrialized societies.

“It seems inevitable that the world is converging to westernized lifestyles,” she told reporters, “and so far it has been inevitable to observe how Amerindians when they integrate, or Africans when they westernize — how they quickly suffer our current diseases, obesity, diabetes. So I think that by learning what went wrong with our lifestyle … we’ll also benefit them in not suffering the same health consequences.”

In addition to Dominguez-Bello, Dantes and Clemente, the authors of the Science Advances study, “The Microbiome of Uncontacted Amerindians,” include Erica Pehrsson, Martin Blaser, Kuldip Sandhu, Zhan Gao, Bin Wang, Magda Magris, Glida Hidalgo, Monica Contreras, Óscar Noya-Alarcón, Orlana Lander, Jeremy McDonald, Mike Cox, Jens Walter, Phaik Lyn Oh, Jean Ruiz, Selena Rodriguez, Nan Shen, Se Jin Song, Jessica Metcalf and Rob Knight.

In addition to Walter, the authors of the Cell Reports study, “The Gut Microbiota of Rural Papua New Guineans: Composition, Diversity Patterns and Ecological Processes,” include Inés Martínez, James Stegen, Maria Maldonado-Gómez, A. Murat Eren, Peter Siba and Andrew R. Greenhill.

New Dark-Web Market Is Selling Zero-Day Exploits to Hackers | WIRED.

Screen Shot 2015-01-21 at 1.17.23 PM

This is too awesome!

So this girl was looking for a rich husband on a dating website. Her biography was very straight forward about her seeking a rich husband. In a quick summary, she is just a complete gold digger. But the email she received from the J.P. Morgan CEO was definitely not what she expected!

Girls Biography:

“I’m going to be honest of what I’m going to say here. I’m 25 this year. I’m very pretty, have style and good taste. I wish to marry a guy with $500k annual salary or above. You might say that I’m greedy, but an annual salary of $1M is considered only as middle class in New York.

My requirement is not high. Is there anyone in this forum who has an income of $500k annual salary? Are you all married? I wanted to ask: what should I do to marry rich persons like you?

Among those I’ve dated, the richest is $250k annual income, and it seems that this is my upper limit.
If someone is going to move into high cost residential area on the west of New York City Garden(?), $250k annual income is not enough.

I’m here humbly to ask a few questions:

1) Where do most rich bachelors hang out? (Please list down the names and addresses of bars, restaurant, gym)
2) Which age group should I target?
3) Why most wives of the riches are only average-looking? I’ve met a few girls who don’t have looks and are not interesting, but they are able to marry rich guys.
4) How do you decide who can be your wife, and who can only be your girlfriend? (my target now is to get married)
Ms. Pretty”

Reply from J.P. Morgan CEO:

“Dear Ms. Pretty,
I have read your post with great interest. Guess there are lots of girls out there who have similar questions like yours. Please allow me to analyse your situation as a professional investor.
My annual income is more than $500k, which meets your requirement, so I hope everyone believes that I’m not wasting time here.
From the standpoint of a business person, it is a bad decision to marry you. The answer is very simple, so let me explain.

Put the details aside, what you’re trying to do is an exchange of “beauty” and “money” : Person A provides beauty, and Person B pays for it, fair and square.
However, there’s a deadly problem here, your beauty will fade, but my money will not be gone without any good reason. The fact is, my income might increase from year to year, but you can’t be prettier year after year.

Hence from the viewpoint of economics, I am an appreciation asset, and you are a depreciation asset. It’s not just normal depreciation, but exponential depreciation. If that is your only asset, your value will be much worse 10 years later.

By the terms we use in Wall Street, every trading has a position, dating with you is also a “trading position”.
If the trade value dropped we will sell it and it is not a good idea to keep it for long term – same goes with the marriage that you wanted. It might be cruel to say this, but in order to make a wiser decision any assets with great depreciation value will be sold or “leased”.

Anyone with over $500k annual income is not a fool; we would only date you, but will not marry you. I would advice that you forget looking for any clues to marry a rich guy. And by the way, you could make yourself to become a rich person with $500k annual income.This has better chance than finding a rich fool.

Hope this reply helps.

signed,
J.P. Morgan CEO”

#FUCKINGOWNED

via Girl Seeking A Rich Husband Did Not Expect This Reply! | CE.

THE major factor driving increasing costs is the constant expansion of university administration. According to the Department of Education data, administrative positions at colleges and universities grew by 60 percent between 1993 and 2009, which Bloomberg reported was 10 times the rate of growth of tenured faculty positions.

Even more strikingly, an analysis by a professor at California Polytechnic University, Pomona, found that, while the total number of full-time faculty members in the C.S.U. system grew from 11,614 to 12,019 between 1975 and 2008, the total number of administrators grew from 3,800 to 12,183 — a 221 percent increase.

via The Real Reason College Tuition Costs So Much – NYTimes.com.

Forbidden Bookshelf | Feed Your Need To Read.

In an interview with the Orange County Register, Mohamed El-Erian was asked about everything from life after Pimco to where he is currently putting most of his money. Rather than putting most his money in stocks or bonds, El-Erian reveals that most of it is actually sitting in cash. And the reason is simple: pretty much everything else has gotten too elevated.

via The Simple Reason Mohamed El-Erian Has Most of His Money in Cash – Yahoo Finance.

“This past month may be remembered as the moment the United States lost its role as the underwriter of the global economic system.”

What Summers is referring to is the creation of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, a new banking consortium led by China that will back investment in Asian and emerging-market economies. This bank serves as a direct challenge to the World Bank and the IMF, the traditional sources of international funding, and organizations in which US economic interests have a strong voice.

The AIIB’s founding members include Russia, Brazil, and India, as well as major European economies like France, Germany, and the UK.

Last week, Business Insider’s Mike Bird outlined how the formation of the AIIB has been an embarrassment for the US government all along.

 

Here’s the key point from Bird (emphasis ours):

“The infrastructure bank isn’t going to be a massive boom for the UK economy, or even for nearer nations like Japan, and the US will not retaliate. The point is that the UK is willing to take a very modest improvement in economic and political ties with China in exchange for a small deterioration in ties with the US. Pretty much every country has decided that this is the right move.”

And so while the US has been the dominant global economic power of the past 50 years, the point is that now countries all across the globe are seemingly falling over themselves to be more closely aligned with China.

In his op-ed on Monday, Summers continues (emphasis ours):

I can think of no event since Bretton Woods comparable to the combination of China’s effort to establish a major new institution and the failure of the United States to persuade dozens of its traditional allies, starting with Britain, to stay out.

This failure of strategy and tactics was a long time coming, and it should lead to a comprehensive review of the U.S. approach to global economics. With China’s economic size rivaling that of the United States and emerging markets accounting for at least half of world output, the global economic architecture needs substantial adjustment. Political pressures from all sides in the United States have rendered the architecture increasingly dysfunctional.

In his post, Summers has some policy prescriptions for US lawmakers, among which is a suggestion that US leaders have a “bipartisan foundation,” which is the kind of thing you can write when you’re not an elected official but which few people in and around US politics likely believe is anywhere near possible.

But the point of Summers’ commentary is clear and significant: The global economic tide has started receding from the US and moving toward China.

via Larry Summers has a major warning for the US economy, and everyone should be paying attention – Yahoo Finance.

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KFVS) – A new study just released by the Centers for Disease Control suggests people who make more money get more sleep.

Researchers found about 35 percent of adults with incomes below the poverty line report getting less than six hours of sleep a night.

While about people making well above the poverty mark tend to get more than six hours of sleep.

Sleep specialist Dr. Lloyd Diamond said the data collected in 2013 and just released appears on point.

“I think there are a lot of things that contribute to the lack of the sleep or poor quality of sleep,” Diamond said.

Diamond said stress and work load can play a big part in anyone’s sleep cycle, but more serious health issues could be at play.

“People who are on the lower end of income are just caught in a vicious cycle of several different health issues,” Diamond said.

He said limited incomes could deter people from getting sleep tests and a chance at diagnosing sleeping disorders.

“It is something that can make whatever else you have going on harder to treat,” he said.

The CDC recommends adults get seven to eight hours of sleep each night.

via Study finds adults’ income, sleep can be linked – KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff.

How Growers Gamed California’s Drought

Consuming 80 percent of California’s developed water but accounting for only 2 percent of the state’s GDP, agriculture thrives while everyone else is parched.
“I’ve been smiling all the way to the bank,” said pistachio farmer John Dean at a conference hosted this month by Paramount Farms, the mega-operation owned by Stewart Resnick, a Beverly Hills billionaire known for his sprawling agricultural holdings, controversial water dealings, and millions of dollars in campaign contributions to high-powered California politicians including Governor Jerry Brown, former governors Arnold Schwarzenegger and Gray Davis, and U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein.

The record drought now entering its fourth year in California has alarmed the public, left a number of rural communities without drinking water, and triggered calls for mandatory rationing. There’s no relief in sight: The winter rainy season, which was a bust again this year, officially ends on April 15. Nevertheless, some large-scale farmers are enjoying extraordinary profits despite the drought, thanks in part to infusions of what experts call dangerously under-priced water.

Resnick, whose legendary marketing flair included hiring Stephen Colbert to star in a 2014 Super Bowl commercial, told the conference that pistachios generated an average net return of $3,519 per acre in 2014, based on a record wholesale price of $3.53 a pound. Almonds, an even “thirstier” crop, averaged $1,431 per acre. Andy Anzaldo, a vice president for Resnick’s company, Wonderful Pistachios, celebrated by showing the assembled growers a clip from the movie Jerry Maguire in which Tom Cruise shouts, “Show me the money,” reported the Western Farm Press, a trade publication. At the end of the day, conference attendees filed out to the sounds of Louis Armstrong singing, “It’s a Wonderful World.”

Agriculture is the heart of California’s worsening water crisis, and the stakes extend far beyond the state’s borders. Not only is California the world’s eighth largest economy, it is an agricultural superpower. It produces roughly half of all the fruits, nuts, and vegetables consumed in the United States—and more than 90 percent of the almonds, tomatoes, strawberries, broccoli and other specialty crops—while exporting vast amounts to China and other overseas customers.

But agriculture consumes a staggering 80 percent of California’s developed water, even as it accounts for only 2 percent of the state’s gross domestic product. Most crops and livestock are produced in the Central Valley, which is, geologically speaking, a desert. The soil is very fertile but crops there can thrive only if massive amounts of irrigation water are applied.

Current pricing structures enrich a handful of interests, but they are ushering the state as a whole toward a parched and perilous future.

Although no secret, agriculture’s 80 percent share of state water use is rarely mentioned in media discussions of California’s drought. Instead, news coverage concentrates on the drought’s implications for people in cities and suburbs, which is where most journalists and their audiences live. Thus recent headlines warned that state regulators have ordered restaurants to serve water only if customers explicitly request it and directed homeowners to water lawns no more than twice a week. The San Jose Mercury News pointed out that these restrictions carry no enforcement mechanisms, but what makes them a sideshow is simple math: During a historic drought, surely the sector that’s responsible for 80 percent of water consumption—agriculture—should be the main focus of public attention and policy.

The other great unmentionable of California’s water crisis is that water is still priced more cheaply than it should be, which encourages over-consumption. “Water in California is still relatively inexpensive,” Heather Cooley, director of the water program at the world-renowned Pacific Institute in Oakland, told The Daily Beast.

One reason is that much of the state’s water is provided by federal and state agencies at prices that taxpayers subsidize. A second factor that encourages waste is the “use it or lose it” feature in California’s arcane system of water rights. Under current rules, if a property owner does not use all the water to which he is legally entitled, he relinquishes his future rights to the unused water, which may then get allocated to the next farmer in line.

Lawmakers have begun, gingerly, to reform the water system, but experts say that much remains to be done. For years, California was the only state in the arid West that set no limits on how much groundwater a property owner could extract from a private well. Thus nearly everyone and their neighbors in the Central Valley have been drilling deeper and deeper wells in recent years, seeking to offset reductions in state and federal water deliveries. This agricultural version of an arms race not only favors big corporate enterprises over smaller farmers, it threatens to collapse the aquifers whose groundwater is keeping California alive during this drought and will be needed to endure future droughts. (Groundwater supplies about 40 percent of the state’s water in years of normal precipitation but closer to 60 percent in dry years.)

Last fall, the legislature passed and Governor Brown signed a bill to regulate groundwater extraction. But the political touchiness of the issue—agricultural interests lobbied hard against it—resulted in a leisurely implementation timetable. Although communities must complete plans for sustainable water management by 2020, not until 2040 must sustainability actually be achieved. The Central Valley could be a dust bowl by then under current trends.

There are practical solutions to California’s drought, but the lack of realistic water prices and other incentives has slowed their adoption. A shift to more efficient irrigation methods could reduce agricultural water use by 22 percent, an amount equivalent to all the surface water Central Valley farmers lacked because of drought last year, according to an analysis that Cooley of the Pacific Institute co-authored with Robert Wilkinson, a professor at the University of California Santa Barbara, and Kate Poole, a senior attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council.

The Brown administration has endorsed better water efficiency—and put a small amount of money where its mouth is. Conservation is the No. 1 priority in the governor’s Water Action Plan, and the drought measures he advanced in 2014 included $10 million to help farmers implement more efficient water management. An additional $10 million was allocated as part of the $1.1 billion drought spending plan Brown and bipartisan legislators unveiled last week. Already more than 50 percent of California’s farmers use drip or micro irrigation, said Steve Lyle, the director of public affairs at the California Department of Food and Agriculture; the new monies will encourage further adoptions.

Meanwhile, underpriced water has enabled continued production of such water-intensive crops as alfalfa, much of which is exported to China. Rice, perhaps the thirstiest of major crops, saw its production area decrease by 25 percent in 2014. But pasture grass, which is used to fatten livestock, and many nut and fruit products have seen their acreage actually increase. Resnick told the Paramount Farms conference that the acreage devoted to pistachios had grown by 118 percent over the last 10 years; for almonds and walnuts the growth rates were 47 and 30 percent, respectively.

One striking aspect of California’s water emergency is how few voices in positions of authority have been willing to state the obvious. To plant increasing amounts of water-intensive crops in a desert would be questionable in the best of times. To continue doing so in the middle of a historic drought, even as scientists warn that climate change will increase the frequency and severity of future droughts, seems nothing less than reckless.

Yet even a politician as gutsy and scientifically informed as Jerry Brown tiptoes around such questions. The Daily Beast asked Brown if in this time of record drought California should begin pricing water more realistically and discouraging water-intensive crops. Responding on the governor’s behalf, spokesman Lyle simply skipped the water pricing question. On crop choices, he cited a reply Brown recently offered to a similar query: “Growing a walnut or an almond takes water, having a new house with a bunch of toilets and showers takes water. So how do we balance use efficiency with the kind of life that people want in California? … We’re all going to have to pull together.”

“California Has One Year of Water Left, Will You Ration Now?” asked the headline of a widely discussed opinion piece NASA scientist Jay Famiglietti published in the Los Angeles Times on March 16.  The headline overstated the situation somewhat, and editors soon corrected it to clarify that California has one remaining year of stored water, not one year of total water. As Famiglietti was careful to state, California’s reservoirs today contain enough water to supply a year of average consumption.

So if California endures a fourth year of drought, the only way to keep household taps and farmers’ irrigation lines flowing will be to summon to the surface still greater volumes of groundwater. But that strategy can’t work forever; worse, the longer it is pursued, the bigger the risk that it collapses aquifers, rendering them irretrievably barren. Aquifers can be replenished—if rainwater and snowmelt are allowed to sink into the ground and humans don’t keep raiding the supply—and that is the expressed goal of California’s forthcoming groundwater regulations. The process takes many decades, however, and extended relief from further droughts.

California is caught between the lessons of its history and the habits of its political economy. Droughts of 10 years duration and longer have been a recurring feature in the region for thousands of years, yet a modern capitalist economy values a given commodity only as much as the price of that commodity. Current pricing structures enrich a handful of interests, but they are ushering the state as a whole toward a parched and perilous future.

The price of water, however, is not determined by inalterable market forces; it is primarily a function of government policies and the social forces that shape them. Elected officials may dodge the question for now, but the price of water seems destined to become an unavoidable issue in California politics. “As our water supply gets more variable and scarce in the future, we’re going to have to look at how we price water so it gets used more efficiently,” said Cooley of the Pacific Institute. “In some ways we’ve come a long way in California’s water policy and practices over the past 20 years. But if you look into a future of climate change and continued [economic] development, we can and need to do much better.”

Mark Hertsgaard has reported on politics, culture and the environment from more than 20 countries and has authored six books, including HOT:  Living Through the Next Fifty Years on Earth, which will appear in paperback April 17.

 

How Growers Gamed California’s Drought – The Daily Beast.

Obama fucked the middle class!

Barney Frank drops a bombshell: How a shocking anecdote explains the financial crisis

Ever wonder why we waited six years to get a decent economic recovery? This new revelation will disgust you

Topics: Barney Frank, Barack Obama, George W. Bush, economy, Financial Crisis, TARP, Banks, Wall Street, Foreclosures, Housing,

Barney Frank drops a bombshell: How a shocking anecdote explains the financial crisisBarney Frank (Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite)

Barney Frank has a new autobiography out. He’s long been one of the nation’s most quotable politicians. And Washington lives in perpetual longing for intra-party conflict.

So why has a critical revelation from Frank’s book, one that implicates the most powerful Democrat in the nation, been entirely expunged from the record? The media has thus far focused on Frank’s wrestling with being a closeted gay congressman, or his comment that Joe Biden “can’t keep his mouth shut or his hands to himself.” But nobody has focused on Frank’s allegation that Barack Obama refused to extract foreclosure relief from the nation’s largest banks, as a condition for their receipt of hundreds of billions of dollars in bailout money.

The anecdote comes on page 295 of “Frank,” a title that the former chair of the House Financial Services Committee holds true to throughout the book. The TARP legislation included specific instructions to use a section of the funds to prevent foreclosures. Without that language, TARP would not have passed; Democratic lawmakers who helped defeat TARP on its first vote cited the foreclosure mitigation piece as key to their eventual reconsideration.

TARP was doled out in two tranches of $350 billion each. The Bush administration, still in charge during TARP’s passage in October 2008, used none of the first tranche on mortgage relief, nor did Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson use any leverage over firms receiving the money to persuade them to lower mortgage balances and prevent foreclosures. Frank made his anger clear over this ignoring of Congress’ intentions at a hearing with Paulson that November. Paulson argued in his defense, “the imminent threat of financial collapse required him to focus single-mindedly on the immediate survival of financial institutions, no matter how worthy other goals were.”

Whether or not you believe that sky-is-falling narrative, Frank kept pushing for action on foreclosures, which by the end of 2008 threatened one in 10 homes in America. With the first tranche of TARP funds running out by the end of the year, Frank writes, “Paulson agreed to include homeowner relief in his upcoming request for a second tranche of TARP funding. But there was one condition: He would only do it if the President-elect asked him to.”


Frank goes on to explain that Obama rejected the request, saying “we have only one president at a time.” Frank writes, “my frustrated response was that he had overstated the number of presidents currently on duty,” which equally angered both the outgoing and incoming officeholders.

Obama’s unwillingness to take responsibility before holding full authority doesn’t match other decisions made at that time. We know from David Axelrod’s book that the Obama transition did urge the Bush administration to provide TARP loans to GM and Chrysler to keep them in business. So it was OK to help auto companies prior to Inauguration Day, just not homeowners.

In the end, the Obama transition wrote a letter promising to get to the foreclosure relief later, if Congress would only pass the second tranche of TARP funds. Congress fulfilled its obligation, and the Administration didn’t. The promised foreclosure mitigation efforts failed to help, and in many cases abjectly hurt homeowners.

This is not a new charge from Frank: he first leveled it in May 2012 in an interview with New York magazine. Nobody in the Obama Administration has ever denied the anecdote, but of course hardly anybody bothered to publicize it, save for a couple financial blogs. I suppose those reviewing ”Frank” can offer an excuse about this being “old news,” but that claims suffers from the “tree falling in the forest” syndrome: if a revelation is made in public, and no journalist ever elevates it, did it make a sound?

The political media’s allergy to policy is a clear culprit here. Jamie Kirchick’s blanket statement in his review of “Frank” that “readers’ eyes will glaze over” at the recounting of the financial crisis is a typical attitude. But millions of people suffered needlessly for Wall Street’s sins; they’d perhaps be interested in understanding why.

That’s the main reason why the significance of Obama’s decision cannot be overstated. The fact that we waited six years to get some semblance of a decent economic recovery traces back directly to the failure to alleviate the foreclosure crisis. Here was a moment, right near the beginning, when both public money and leverage could have been employed to stop foreclosures. Instead of demanding homeowner help when financial institutions relied on massive government support, the Administration passed, instead prioritizing nursing banks back to health and then asking them to give homeowners a break, which the banks predictably declined.

There were no structural or legislative barriers to this proposition. One man, Barack Obama, could tell another man, Henry Paulson, to tighten the screws on banks to write down loans, and something would have happened. Would it have been successful? Would it have saved tens or hundreds of billions in damage to homeowners? Even trillions? Or would Paulson and his predecessors found a way to wriggle out of the commitment again? We know the alternative failed, so it’s tantalizing to think about this road not taken.

This still matters because, as City University of New York professor Alan White explained brilliantly over the weekend, the foreclosure crisis isn’t really over. Though 6 million homes have been lost to foreclosure since 2007, another 1 million remain in the pipeline, many of them legacy loans originated during the housing bubble. If you properly compare the situation to a time before the widespread issuance of subprime mortgages, we’re still well above normal levels of foreclosure starts.

In addition, over one in six homes remain underwater, where the mortgage is bigger than the value of the home, a dangerous situation if we hit another economic downturn. And up to 4 million homes face interest rate resets from temporary modifications, along with nontraditional mortgages where the rate is scheduled to go up. Home equity lines of credit are also nearing their 10-year limits, requiring borrowers to pay down principal balances. Some Americans have been waiting over five years in foreclosure limbo, which sounds great (no payments!) until you understand the stress and anxiety associated with not knowing if you will get thrown out on the street at any time, something highly correlated with sickness and even suicides.

In baseball terms, we’re in the seventh or eighth inning of the crisis. And Barney Frank detailed how the president-elect had the opportunity to call the game and fix the problem much earlier, which he turned down. You’d think someone would have noticed.

Norsworthy has been in prison since 1987, serving a life sentence for second-degree murder. (S) he has twice delayed scheduled parole hearings in recent months.

 

SACRAMENTO, Calif. —A federal judge on Thursday ordered California’s corrections department to provide a transgender inmate with sex change surgery, the first time such an operation has been ordered in the state.

U.S. District Court Judge Jon Tigar in San Francisco ruled that denying sex reassignment surgery to 51-year-old Michelle-Lael Norsworthy violates her constitutional rights. Her birth name is Jeffrey Bryan Norsworthy.

The ruling marks just the second time nationwide that a judge has issued an injunction directing a state prison system to provide the surgery, said Ilona Turner, legal director at the Transgender Law Center in Oakland, which helped represent Norsworthy.

The previous order in a Massachusetts case was overturned last year and is being appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

In his ruling in California, Tigar said the surgery has actually been performed just once on an inmate, an apparent reference to a person who castrated himself in Texas then was given the surgery out of necessity.

Norsworthy, who was convicted of murder, has lived as a woman since the 1990s and has what Tigar termed severe gender dysphoria — a condition that occurs when people’s gender at birth is contrary to the way they identify themselves.

“The weight of the evidence demonstrates that for Norsworthy, the only adequate medical treatment for her gender dysphoria is SRS,” Tigar wrote, referring to sex reassignment surgery.

California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation officials said they are considering whether to appeal the ruling.

“This decision confirms that it is unlawful to deny essential treatment to transgender people” in or out of prison, said Kris Hayashi, executive director of the Transgender Law Center. “The bottom line is no one should be denied the medical care they need.”

If the order stands, Norsworthy would be the first inmate to receive such surgery in California, said Joyce Hayhoe, a spokeswoman for the federal receiver who controls California prison medical care.

Hayhoe said it’s not known how much the surgery would cost, but it could run as high as $100,000, depending on the circumstances.

Corrections officials, in previous court filings, argued that Norsworthy has received proper medical and mental health care for more than 15 years and is in no immediate medical danger if the surgery is not performed.

Her care included counseling, mental health treatment and hormone therapy that the department said “has changed her physical appearance and voice to that of a woman” while helping her find her gender identity.

That care is consistent with what other judges nationwide have found to be appropriate for transgender inmates, the department said.

Norsworthy has been in prison since 1987, serving a life sentence for second-degree murder. She has twice delayed her scheduled parole hearings in recent months.

She currently is housed at Mule Creek State Prison, an all-male prison in Ione, 40 miles southeast of Sacramento.

The sex change surgery would prompt practical problems, the department said.

It said keeping Norsworhy in a men’s prison could invite violence, including possible assault and rape.

But she could also face danger at a women’s prison – or pose a threat herself – because she had a history of domestic violence before her murder conviction, the department said.

Last month, attorneys for the transgender inmate convicted of murder in Massachusetts asked the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn a ruling denying her request for sex reassignment surgery.

A federal judge in 2012 ordered the Massachusetts Department of Correction to grant the surgery to Michelle Kosilek, but the ruling was overturned in December by the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

As in California, the appeal in Massachusetts cited security concerns about protecting the inmate.

Courts in other states have ordered hormone treatments, psychotherapy and other treatments but not surgery.

 

via Judge orders California to pay for inmate’s sex change | News – KCRA Home.

Cloud gaming service OnLive said Wednesday that Sony has bought many of its assets, and the company will wind down operations on April 30. (Full disclosure: I began subscribing to OnLive late last year.)

Users will continue to have access to OnLive’s services until April 30, including the OnLive Game Service, OnLive Desktop and SL Go, and the company’s Second Life browser. After today, no further subscription renewals will be charged for any of these services, the company said. Users whose subscriptions renewed on or after March 28 will be refunded.

Why this matters: Onlive’s subscribers are losing a unique service that had no real competition—perhaps for good reason. At its inception, OnLive was a pioneer: Network-based computers like Citrix had existed for some time, but no one had adapted the same principles to gaming. Users, armed with either a microconsole or basic PC, could tap into OnLive’s network of servers and render a high-end game at maximum settings without the need to invest in a high-end PC.

via Cloud gaming pioneer OnLive sold to Sony, will cease operations April 30 | PCWorld.

 

Calgary, Alberta, Canada (PRWEB) August 15, 2013

Climate change on earth is significantly affected by the changing 11 year solar magnetic cycles, according to Friends of Science and many solar and climate researchers. A recently released NASA video, complete with animation explaining the process wherein the sun’s magnetic poles flip polarity, lends credence to the scientific position Friends of Science takes on climate change and global warming.

“We are pleased that the NASA video and animation describing these events in part explains how climate is affected by the solar magnetic flux,” says Dr. Neil Hutton, director of Friends of Science.

The video also notes there are space and earth climate variations as earth passes through the ‘waves’ of magnetic energy radiating from the sun.

Dr. Hutton is a long-time proponent of the view that solar magnetic flux is the principle driver of climate change. His work has been cited by the late Dr. Peter Ziegler, Emeritus Professor, University of Basel, in December 2010 in a presentation to the Swiss Academy of Sciences.

“For the first time in history, people are able to observe close-up the changes the sun goes through as its magnetic poles flip,” says Hutton. He points out that sun spot activity has been documented as early as 300 BC, but most notably by Galileo in the 1600’s, and the activity has been systematically recorded since 1700.

Hutton notes that this particular “Cycle 24” of the sun is quite unusual due to the very low number of sunspots.

“The current sun spot behavior has not been observed in 200 years,” says Hutton.

Colder periods like the Little Ice Age were preceded by low sunspot activity. During the Little Ice Age from about 1350 to 1850, cooler temperatures and wet seasons across Europe lead to massive crop failures, famines and civil unrest.

Hutton states: “The Sun’s magnetic index is measured daily and has significantly declined since the last maximum of Cycle 23. The geomagnetic activity of earth and that of the sun are interrelated and their interplay also affects climate. Theoretically, a weaker solar magnetic field could allow the penetration of more cosmic rays which directly affect cloud cover and climate. This has been demonstrated by the recently completed CLOUD experiment at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research.”

Friends of Science express concern that global governments are not prepared for the possible consequences of multi-decade global cooling.

“Even a one degree drop in temperature could devastate agricultural production,” says Hutton. “Are we prepared?”

Colder weather would reduce northern hemisphere crop growth, increase demand for reliable, dispatchable energy, and increase the number of health issues and deaths.

“Instead of spending a trillion dollars world-wide on carbon reduction policies and unreliable wind and solar, as we have done in the past decade, we need to upgrade and maintain inexpensive fossil-fuel based energy for northern, industrialized countries,” says Hutton.

Friends of Science President, Len Maier, a retired engineer, is a farmer and recommends: “We must convert land production from producing biofuels from crops like canola and corn. Current producing crops like these should be dedicated to human or animal feed, not be used for biofuels.”

The Little Ice Age lasted about 500 years. Other periods of extended cooling occurred before humans used fossil-fuels. Friends of Science agree that human activity has some impact on climate; the effect of human-produced carbon dioxide (CO2) is minor compared to natural forces and cyclical patterns of the sun and ocean currents.

About Friends of Science

Friends of Science have spent a decade reviewing a broad spectrum of literature on climate change and have concluded the sun is the main driver of climate change, not carbon dioxide (CO2). Membership is open to the public and available on-line.

Contact:
Friends of Science
P.O. Box 23167, Connaught P.O.
Calgary, Alberta
Canada T2S 3B1

Toll-free Telephone: 1-888-789-9597

friendsofscience.org

E-mail: contact(at)friendsofscience(dot)org

Spectacular NASA Images Illustrate Sun as a Driver of Global Warming and Climate Change Foretells Global Cooling Says Friends of Science.

 

Hedge fund executives have unleashed a tsunami of money the past few years aimed at getting New York’s politicians to close more public schools and expand charter schools.

via Hedge fund execs’ money for charter schools may pay off – NY Daily News.

the average oil and gas worker makes $108,000

 

via Itemizing The Oil Bust: 75,000 Layoffs And Counting.

The female body: Shape-shifting

Brian Buntz

Popularized by the Russian economist Nikolai Kondratiev, long wave theory holds that decades of economic progress follow from technological breakthroughs such as was the case with the development of the steam engine, the railway, electrical and chemical engineering, automobiles, and computing technology.

In the most recent period, the microprocessor is the single most important technology, making possible everything from personal computers and smartphones, to smart bionic limbs and wireless-enabled medical devices. Indeed, much of our very culture now seems to revolve around the microprocessor.

Perhaps another technology will emerge as a key driver of medical technology in years to come. And medicine could be one of the principal industries to benefit from the next decades-long technological period, which we could be on the cusp of entering now. The Slovak theorist Daniel Smihula refers to the next decades-long phase as the post-informational technological revolution, and expects it to begin between 2015 and 2020.

A 2010 Allianz report also forecasted a wave of medical technology innovation playing a central role in the next long-term technological phase, arguing that such periods typically emerge after major financial crashes or periods of economic stagnation, and that the Great Recession may be one such example of that. Kondratiev himself believed in a long-term boom–bust cycle, asserting that the Great Depression would not spell the end of capitalism but give rise to a new period of economic success in the West. Stalin apparently disagreed and had the theorist shot by a firing squad.

Whether long-wave theorists are right about the early 21stcentury giving rise to another technological megacycle, there is a definite need for a new wave of innovation in healthcare—in part because the world’s graying population. By 2050, the population percentage in the United States that is over 65 stands to roughly double—and nearly triple in Asia and Latin America. Add to that growing pressures to contain healthcare costs and an uptick in chronic diseases, and we’ve got a big problem on your hands.

If Kondratiev’s grand vision is true, there is a good chance that much of the prognosticating about the future of medical technology will seem myopic by comparison. For one thing, a lot of projections about healthcare’s future are based on applications of electronics. And while electronics will undoubtedly play an integral in an ever-widening number of medical technologies, long-wave theory holds that one technology revolution lays the groundwork for the next. So it is possible that the innovation made possible by electronics could give rise to other technological fields that would characterize the next era. Contenders could include fields like nanotechnology, genomics, biotechnology, or 3-D printing, any of which may ultimately catalyze a wave of long-term medical innovation.

Such a shift may be already underway. The Economist just penned an article stating that the U.S. healthcare system is a “wasteful and inefficient industry, is in the throes of great disruption.” Similar upheaval can be seen elsewhere.

Perhaps revolution is a good word to describe the next period of technological evolution in medicine. While there is clearly a need for novel devices that make healthcare more precise and efficient, any new technology that threatens entrenched medical business models must battle against those who would preserve the status quo.

Economist article below:

THE best-known objective of America’s Affordable Care Act of 2010—commonly known as Obamacare—was to ensure that the 40m-plus Americans who lacked health insurance could get it. Less widely appreciated, but at least as important, are the incentives and penalties the law introduced to make the country’s hideously expensive and poorly performing health services safer and more efficient. Economists are debating how much credit Obamacare should get for a recent moderation in the growth of health costs, and for a fall in the number of patients having to be readmitted to hospital (see article). Whatever the answer, many companies see the disruption unleashed by the reforms as the business opportunity of a lifetime.

One of the biggest shifts under way is to phase out the “fee for service” model, in which hospitals and doctors’ surgeries are reimbursed for each test or treatment with no regard for the outcome, encouraging them to put patients through unnecessary and expensive procedures. Since Obamacare they are increasingly being paid by results—a flat fee for each successful hip replacement, say. There are also incentives for providers which meet cost or performance targets, and new requirements for hospitals to disclose their prices, which can vary drastically for no clear reason

 

Millions of people are now looking for health insurance on the new public exchanges set up under the reforms. And Obamacare has come into effect at a time when American employers, who often provide health cover for their workers, are seeking to cut its cost by encouraging them to shop around on private exchanges, and by offering less generous plans.

 

The upshot is that there are growing numbers of consumers seeking better treatment for less money. Existing health-care providers will have to adapt, or lose business. All sorts of other businesses, old and new, are seeking either to take market share from the conventional providers, or to provide the software and other tools that help hospitals, doctors, insurers and patients make the most of this new world.

 

Patients are increasingly having to pay higher “deductibles” out of their own pockets, before the insurance kicks in, to keep the cost of the cover down. So for minor ailments and simple tests, it makes sense for such patients to go to one of the increasing numbers of walk-in clinics, staffed by well-qualified nurses, on the premises of retail pharmacies such as CVS and Walgreens (see chart). The prices are clear, the care is cheap and the service is quick. Walgreens has a partnership with Theranos, a diagnostics firm, which offers customers a range of tests from a tiny drop of blood. Walmart, a giant supermarket chain with many in-store pharmacies, also intends to become one of the leading sellers of affordable health services, says Alex Hurd, its product-development chief.

 

 

For injuries and illnesses that are more serious but not immediately life-threatening, lots of “urgent-care centres” are being opened as an alternative to going to a hospital emergency unit. Private-equity firms are pouring money into independent chains of centres. Merchant Medicine, a consulting firm, reckons that between them, these chains now have just over 1,500 urgent-care centres, up from about 1,300 at the start of 2013. The market is still fragmented but a national brand could emerge from one of the largest chains, such as Concentra or MedExpress.

 

Some hospital operators, seeking to cut their costs of care, and choosing to be among the disrupters rather than the disrupted, are also opening urgent-care centres. Aurora Health Care, a Wisconsin-based chain of hospitals and clinics, now has more than 30 of them.

 

Hospital operators are now facing a classic “innovator’s dilemma”, as described by Clay Christensen, a Harvard business professor. If they persist with their high-cost business model even as their customers discover that cheaper alternatives are good enough, they will be in trouble. According to Strata Decision Technology, an analytics firm, many hospital groups saw what was coming and started to cut their costs well before the provisions of Obamacare started to bite. One of the fastest movers is Advocate Health Care, a hospital operator from Illinois, which says it now earns two-thirds of its revenues from value-based payments.

 

The largest chains of for-profit hospitals, such as Tenet Healthcare, HCA and Community Health Systems, are rather profitable. They have trimmed their costs, been conservative with capital and, thanks to Obamacare raising the number of Americans with health insurance, now have more patients and fewer bad debts. However, credit-rating agencies are worried about the prospects for the not-for-profit hospitals, which are 60% of the total. With lower margins, and less capital to make investments, they have become targets for takeover, says Jim Bonnette of The Advisory Board Company, another consulting outfit.

 

As a result further consolidation in the hospital business is likely. This could mean greater efficiency and lower costs. But if antitrust authorities are not vigilant, it may lead in the longer term to a concentration of market power. If so, the benefits from the efficiencies being wrung out of the hospital system may end up in the pockets of shareholders rather than saving patients and insurers money.

 

Obamacare is also encouraging the creation of all sorts of health-related advisory and intermediary companies that help care providers, insurers and patients save money. A company called Vitals approaches employees on behalf of their company’s health plan, and offers them cash rewards, and a taxi, if they agree to be treated at a cheaper provider. The sums to be saved can be astonishing: a new cost-comparison tool created by Blue Cross Blue Shield, a big alliance of private health insurers, has found that a colonoscopy with a biopsy costs $8,489 at one clinic in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, but just $928 at another provider in Greensboro, only 50 miles (80km) or so away.

 

Cohealo offers a “sharing economy” solution for hospitals and clinics wanting to make the best use of expensive equipment, in much the same way as Airbnb helps people with spare rooms fill them with paying guests. Doximity is trying to be a Facebook for doctors, letting them refer patients and discuss treatments securely without the blizzard of faxes they rely on today. Grand Rounds is a sort of medical Match.com: an online matchmaker that pairs patients with specialists. As in other industries, administrators are being tempted to switch to renting software and data storage in the online “cloud”: Athenahealth, a seller of medical back-office software, is trying to get doctors and hospitals to move patients’ health records onto its cloud-based service.

 

Preliminary diagnosis

 

For supporters of Obamacare, it is clear that the reforms are empowering patients, driving public and private health insurers to achieve better value, forcing existing providers to shape up and providing opportunities for disruptive newcomers. Digital technology is also helping to increase transparency about prices, making it easier to share information and increase efficiency. For some analysts it all adds up to a “new health economy”—as PwC, a consulting firm, puts it—the most significant re-engineering of the American health system, by far the world’s costliest, since employers began providing cover for their workers in the 1930s.

 

And the revolution has only just begun. The Obama administration recently set a target of making 50% of Medicare payments value-based, rather than fee for service, by the end of 2018. America’s largest private payers have a target of 75% by 2020. So hospitals do not have long to shape up. Some will have their profits squeezed, and customers stolen by new rivals. Some may close, or be taken over. But for other businesses, from supermarket and pharmacy chains to digital-health startups, there will be billions to be made.

Health care in America: Shock treatment | The Economist.

SugarCRM has confirmed the acquisition of IP and other assets, noting that it will be rolling Stitch’s technology into its core Sugar application. “We’ve made Sugar an indispensable tool for customer-facing employees,” said Larry Augustin, SugarCRM CEO, in a statement issued Monday. “Sugar gives them the right information, when they need it, even before they ask. Incorporating Stitch will make Sugar an even smarter, better-informed customer relationship management system, and put information at mobile users’ fingertips no matter where they are.”

via Confirmed: SugarCRM Buys Mobile Startup Stitch, Shuts It Down | TechCrunch.

Software isn’t greedy or fearful

As anyone who has had money in a wild bull or bear market can attest, investing can be an emotional affair: the panic that comes when everything suddenly plummets; the sense of missed opportunity as the market soars. When one of our stocks suddenly takes a dive, we doubt our original hypothesis about its value. This is why stop-losses – the practice of putting a ceiling on losses by triggering an automatic trade out of a falling position – are so prevalent, even though they go against principles of value. Sooner or later, all but the coolest investors let their emotions get the best of them and try to time the market, selling stocks before the market drops and buying again right before it rises.

via Thankfully, Software Is Eating The Personal Investing World | TechCrunch.