Biggs’s Tips for Rich: Expect War, Study Blitz, Mind Markets

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Jan. 30 (Bloomberg) — Barton Biggs has some offbeat advice for the rich: Insure yourself against war and disaster by buying a remote farm or ranch and stocking it with “seed, fertilizer, canned food, wine, medicine, clothes, etc.”

The “etc.” must mean guns.

“A few rounds over the approaching brigands’ heads would probably be a compelling persuader that there are easier farms to pillage,” he writes in his new book, “Wealth, War and Wisdom.”

Biggs is no paranoid survivalist. He was chief global strategist at Morgan Stanley before leaving in 2003 to form hedge fund Traxis Partners. He doesn’t lock and load until the last page of this smart look at how World War II warped share prices, gutted wealth and remains a warning to investors. His message: Listen to markets, learn from history and prepare for the worst.

“Wealth, War and Wisdom” fills a void. Library shelves are packed with volumes on World War II. The history of stock markets also has been ably recorded, notably in Robert Sobel’s “The Big Board.” Yet how many books track the intersection of the two?

Read moreBiggs’s Tips for Rich: Expect War, Study Blitz, Mind Markets

African seed collection first to arrive in Norway on route to Arctic seed vault

LAGOS, NIGERIA (31 January 2008)-Twenty-one boxes filled with 7,000 unique seed samples from more than 36 African nations were shipped to the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, a facility being built on a remote island in the Arctic Circle as a repository of last resort for humanity’s agricultural heritage.The vault is being built by the Norwegian government as a service to the global community, and a Rome-based international NGO, the Global Crop Diversity Trust, will fund its operation. The vault will open on 26 February 2008.

The shipment, which was sent by the Ibadan, Nigeria-based International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), consists of thousands of duplicates of unique varieties of domesticated and wild cowpea, maize, soybean, and Bambara groundnut. The seeds from the IITA genebank in Ibadan, Nigeria, were packed in 21 boxes weighing a total of 330 kg. The processing by IITA staff took several months, and the boxes were packaged over a three-day period, with 10 staff checking the accession list, reporting errors, and adjusting the inventory, as needed.

The seeds were shipped on to Oslo on route to the village of Longyearbyen on Norway’s Svalbard archipelago, where the vault has been constructed in a mountain deep inside the Arctic permafrost.

Read moreAfrican seed collection first to arrive in Norway on route to Arctic seed vault

Solar Cycle 24 Begins

Jan. 10, 2008: Hang on to your cell phone, a new solar cycle has just begun.

“On January 4, 2008, a reversed-polarity sunspot appeared-and this signals the start of Solar Cycle 24,” says David Hathaway of the Marshall Space Flight Center.

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Above: Images of the first sunspot of Solar Cycle 24 taken by the NASA/ESA Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO).

Solar activity waxes and wanes in 11-year cycles. Lately, we’ve been experiencing the low ebb, “very few flares, sunspots, or activity of any kind,” says Hathaway. “Solar minimum is upon us.”

The previous solar cycle, Solar Cycle 23, peaked in 2000-2002 with many furious solar storms. That cycle decayed as usual to the present quiet leaving solar physicists little to do other than wonder, when would the next cycle begin?

The answer is now.

Read moreSolar Cycle 24 Begins

Going Bankrupt: The US’s Greatest Threat

The military adventurers of the George W. Bush administration have much in common with the corporate leaders of the defunct energy company Enron. Both groups of men thought that they were the “smartest guys in the room”, the title of Alex Gibney’s prize-winning film on what went wrong at Enron. The neo-conservatives in the White House and the Pentagon outsmarted themselves. They failed even to address the problem of how to finance their schemes of imperialist wars and global domination.

Read moreGoing Bankrupt: The US’s Greatest Threat

‘Brain’ in a dish flies flight simulator

(CNN) — A Florida scientist has developed a “brain” in a glass dish that is capable of flying a virtual fighter plane and could enhance medical understanding of neural disorders such as epilepsy.

The “living computer” was grown from 25,000 neurons extracted from a rat’s brain and arranged over a grid of 60 electrodes in a Petri dish.

The brain cells then started to reconnect themselves, forming microscopic interconnections, said Thomas DeMarse, professor of biomedical engineering at the University of Florida.

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DeMarse's "brain in a dish" contains 25,000 living neurons.

Read more‘Brain’ in a dish flies flight simulator

Endgame: Unregulated Private Money Creation

The Financial Tsunami, Part IV.What had emerged going into the new millennium after the 1999 repeal of Glass-Steagall was an awesome transformation of American credit markets into what was soon to become the world’s greatest unregulated private money creation machine.

The New Finance was built on an incestuous, interlocking, if informal, cartel of players, all reading from the script written by Alan Greenspan and his friends at J.P. Morgan, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, and the other major financial houses of New York. Securitization was going to secure a “new” American Century and its financial domination, as its creators clearly believed on the eve of the millennium.

Read moreEndgame: Unregulated Private Money Creation

The FBI Deputizes Business

Today, more than 23,000 representatives of private industry are working quietly with the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security. The members of this rapidly growing group, called InfraGard, receive secret warnings of terrorist threats before the public does-and, at least on one occasion, before elected officials. In return, they provide information to the government, which alarms the ACLU. But there may be more to it than that. One business executive, who showed me his InfraGard card, told me they have permission to “shoot to kill” in the event of martial law.
InfraGard is “a child of the FBI,” says Michael Hershman, the chairman of the advisory board of the InfraGard National Members Alliance and CEO of the Fairfax Group, an international consulting firm.

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Read moreThe FBI Deputizes Business

Microsoft seeks patent for office ‘spy’ software

Microsoft is developing Big Brother-style software capable of remotely monitoring a worker’s productivity, physical wellbeing and competence.The Times has seen a patent application filed by the company for a computer system that links workers to their computers via wireless sensors that measure their metabolism. The system would allow managers to monitor employees’ performance by measuring their heart rate, body temperature, movement, facial expression and blood pressure. Unions said they fear that employees could be dismissed on the basis of a computer’s assessment of their physiological state.

Read moreMicrosoft seeks patent for office ‘spy’ software

Mobile phone radiation wrecks your sleep

Phone makers own scientists discover that bedtime use can lead to headaches, confusion and depressionRadiation from mobile phones delays and reduces sleep, and causes headaches and confusion, according to a new study.

The research, sponsored by the mobile phone companies themselves, shows that using the handsets before bed causes people to take longer to reach the deeper stages of sleep and to spend less time in them, interfering with the body’s ability to repair damage suffered during the day.

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Read moreMobile phone radiation wrecks your sleep

Hair of the Dog

Are you at all suspicious? Does it sound too good to be true? Here we are, plunging into a recession. The proximate cause is irresponsible mortgage loans made to people who can’t pay the money back. The deeper cause is, at least in part, years of too much borrowing and spending by Americans, both as individuals and collectively through the government. But behold: there is-oh, joy!-bipartisan agreement on a solution. Although quibbling over the details, everyone-Republicans and Democrats, the White House and Congress, all the presidential candidates-agrees that what we need is a “fiscal stimulus.”In other words, the government should go out and borrow even more money and pass it around for us to spend. The experts caution that for maximum stimulus effect, we must be sure to spend it immediately. No squirreling it away for a rainy day. In drinking circles, they call this hair of the dog: to cure a hangover, you have another drink.

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Read moreHair of the Dog

Foreigners buy stakes in U.S. at record pace

Last May, a Saudi Arabian conglomerate bought a Massachusetts plastics maker. In November, a French company set up a new factory in Adrian, Michigan, adding 189 automotive jobs to an area accustomed to layoffs. In December, a British company bought a New Jersey maker of cough syrup.For much of the world, the United States is now on sale at discount prices. With credit tight, unemployment growing and worries mounting about a potential recession, American business and government leaders are courting foreign money to keep the economy growing.

Foreign investors are buying aggressively, taking advantage of American duress and a weak dollar to snap up what many see as bargains, while making inroads into the world’s largest market.

Last year, foreign investors poured a record $414 billion into securing stakes in U.S. companies, factories and other properties through private deals and purchases of publicly traded stock, according to Thomson Financial, a research firm.

Read moreForeigners buy stakes in U.S. at record pace

Dobbs: Our leaders have squandered our wealth

NEW YORK (CNN) — President Bush’s assurances that we’ll all be “just fine” if he and Congress can work out an economic stimulus package seem a little hollow this morning.Much like Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke’s assurances last May that the subprime mortgage meltdown would be contained and not affect the broader economy. And it seems Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson has spent most of the past year trying to influence Chinese economic policy rather than setting the direction of U.S. economic policy.

There is no question that Bush, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will quickly come up with an economic stimulus package simply because they can no longer ignore our economic and financial crisis. That economic stimulus plan will amount to about 1 percent of our nation’s gross domestic product, an estimated $150 billion.

But all of us should recognize that the stimulus package will be inadequate to drive sustainable growth in our $13 trillion economy. An emergency Fed rate cut and an economic stimulus plan are short-term responses to our complex economic problems, nothing more than bandages for a hemorrhaging economy.

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Read moreDobbs: Our leaders have squandered our wealth

Chemical Additives – Are They Slowly Killing Our Children?

sickchild-mother.jpgExcerpts from the article:

…”The mixtures of the additives had a much more potent effect on nerve cells than each additive on its own. The effect on cells was up to four times greater when Brilliant Blue and MSG were combined, and up to seven times greater when Quinoline Yellow and Aspartame were combined.”….

…”The study shows that when the nerve cells were exposed to MSG and Brilliant Blue or Aspartame and Quinoline Yellow the additives stopped the nerve cells from normal growth and interfered with proper signalling systems.”

( In other words, additives like Aspartame and MSG are exitotoxins and they destroy the brain and they were intentionally designed to do exactly that. And PS: Fighter jet pilots are not allowed to drink soft drinks at all. Hello.)

Read moreChemical Additives – Are They Slowly Killing Our Children?

Darker Days Ahead?

Robert Reich warns a recession, or worse, could be coming.

Think the last few days have been bad for Wall Street and the rest of the world’s markets? Hang on, things are probably going to get worse, says Robert Reich, President Clinton’s former secretary of Labor and author of the recent book “Supercapitalism: The Transformation of Business, Democracy and Everyday Life.” According to Reich, who currently teaches public policy at the University of California, Berkeley, the United States might even be headed toward a depression.

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Reich: 'Now we have a mess on our hands. Bernanke has the only
       pooper-scooper in town, but it is too small for the job.'

Read moreDarker Days Ahead?

Drought could close nuclear power plants

Southeast water shortage a factor in huge cooling requirements

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LAKE NORMAN, N.C. – Nuclear reactors across the Southeast could be forced to throttle back or temporarily shut down later this year because drought is drying up the rivers and lakes that supply power plants with the awesome amounts of cooling water they need to operate.

Utility officials say such shutdowns probably wouldn’t result in blackouts. But they could lead to shockingly higher electric bills for millions of Southerners, because the region’s utilities could be forced to buy expensive replacement power from other energy companies.

Already, there has been one brief, drought-related shutdown, at a reactor in Alabama over the summer.

“Water is the nuclear industry’s Achilles’ heel,” said Jim Warren, executive director of N.C. Waste Awareness and Reduction Network, an environmental group critical of nuclear power. “You need a lot of water to operate nuclear plants.” He added: “This is becoming a crisis.”

Read moreDrought could close nuclear power plants

Lab Freaks Gone Wild?

Scientists plan to make “cybrids” by putting human DNA into cow eggs.The British government gave the go-ahead this week for two separate groups to experiment with the process. Scientists will “inject human DNA into empty eggs from cows, to create embryos known as cytoplasmic hybrids that are 99.9 per cent human in genetic terms,” according to The Times of London.

Read moreLab Freaks Gone Wild?

High-pitch alarm quietens youths

A device which emits a high-pitched noise has been installed outside a shop in Oxfordshire to cut the number of anti-social behaviour incidents.A mobile “mosquito” alarm, which can only be heard by younger people, has been placed by the Co-op outside its store in Ladygrove, Didcot.

Parents have been campaigning to get the device fitted, and it is hoped it will stop large groups congregating.

It has been installed at the same time a youth club is due to open nearby.

Last Updated: Friday, 8 February 2008, 13:59 GMT

Source: BBC NEWS 

Storms destroy one tenth of China’s forests

China has lost about one tenth of its forest resources to recent snow storms regarded as the most severe in half a century, state media reported Sunday.A total of 43 million acres of forest have been damaged across China as the result of three weeks of savage winter weather, the China Daily website said, citing the State Forestry Administration.

More than half the country’s provinces have been affected, and in the worst-hit regions, nearly 90 percent of forests have been destroyed, according to the paper.

Read moreStorms destroy one tenth of China’s forests

Space War: Satellite ‘Kill’ Would Prove U.S. Capability

080220-tech-spacewar-01.jpgThe looming U.S. Navy attempt to shoot down a dying satellite could demonstrate an anti-satellite capability for its missile defense system.

A successful kill would mark the first time the United States uses a tactical missile to destroy a spacecraft – assuming that the ship-based missile defense system can handle the high closing speed of more than 22,000 mph.

“Everything becomes much more stressful at these large closing speeds,” said Geoffrey Forden, MIT physicist and space expert. “But if they do hit it, that’d be very impressive, and that’d be proof that it has ASAT [anti-satellite] capability.”

Read moreSpace War: Satellite ‘Kill’ Would Prove U.S. Capability

America’s economy risks mother of all meltdowns

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“I would tell audiences that we were facing not a bubble but a froth – lots of small, local bubbles that never grew to a scale that could threaten the health of the overall economy.” Alan Greenspan, The Age of Turbulence.

That used to be Mr Greenspan’s view of the US housing bubble. He was wrong, alas. So how bad might this downturn get? To answer this question we should ask a true bear. My favourite one is Nouriel Roubini of New York University’s Stern School of Business, founder of RGE monitor.

Recently, Professor Roubini’s scenarios have been dire enough to make the flesh creep. But his thinking deserves to be taken seriously. He first predicted a US recession in July 2006*. At that time, his view was extremely controversial. It is so no longer. Now he states that there is “a rising probability of a ‘catastrophic’ financial and economic outcome”**. The characteristics of this scenario are, he argues: “A vicious circle where a deep recession makes the financial losses more severe and where, in turn, large and growing financial losses and a financial meltdown make the recession even more severe.”

Prof Roubini is even fonder of lists than I am. Here are his 12 – yes, 12 – steps to financial disaster.

Read moreAmerica’s economy risks mother of all meltdowns

Children could get a criminal record for holding a can of beer

Children across Britain face being given a criminal record if they are caught holding a can of beer, under new plans being considered by the Government.The measure would mean any person under the age of 18 caught just holding an alcoholic beverage may be tarnished with a conviction, which would need to be declared to future employers.

The proposals follow recent warnings from Home Secretary Jacqui Smith that the police would be given greater powers to remove alcohol from youngsters.

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Criminal record: Children caught holding a can of beer could face a conviction

Read moreChildren could get a criminal record for holding a can of beer

Doctors and teachers to act as ‘informers’ to target violent offenders BEFORE they strike under controversial new ‘Minority Report’ plans

But civil liberty campaigners and union bosses warned that such intrusive measures by the Home Office would destroy the relationship of trust between GPs and their patients or social workers and clients.

They would also put professionals at risk of reprisals if they are seen as police informers.

Opposition MPs said recent fiascos involving huge quantities of personal data lost or leaked by the Government raised grave doubts over plans for sharing and swapping private data.

The scheme, outlined in the Government’s latest Tackling Violence Action Plan, will mean redrafting the NHS’s strict privacy protection rules to encourage health staff to share patients’ confidential data as part of “public interest disclosures”.

The document sets out plans for identifying individuals who may not have committed any offences but are judged to be at risk of involvement in violence”.

Tell-tale signs of those ‘whose behaviour may be identified as risky’ include drug addicts or alcoholics, mental health patients and youngsters who join gangs or who have been the victims of violence either in the home or on the street.

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In the Steven Spielberg film Minority Report crimes were prevented before they had even ocurred

Read moreDoctors and teachers to act as ‘informers’ to target violent offenders BEFORE they strike under controversial new ‘Minority Report’ plans

Are chemicals altering the planet?

…Not a single chemical has been tested…

…”In eleven years all that’s happened – all that’s happened, is the committee has come up with a list, a potential list of chemicals that should be tested. In eleven years,” said Prof. Tyrone Hayes….

“If you are a male frog exposed to attrazine at very low ecologically relevant levels you become a hermaphrodite,” said Professor Hayes…

… “The current system of regulating chemicals is really broken,” said Bill Walker from the Environmental Working Group…

Read moreAre chemicals altering the planet?