Recent comments by aleister perdurabo

http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn26123-painful-memories-eased-by-inhaling-xenon-gas.html?cmpid=RSS|NSNS|2012-GLOBAL|online-news#.VAC4c_ldX8k

It's odourless, colourless, tasteless and mostly non-reactive – but it may help you forget. Xenon gas has been shown to erase fearful memories in mice, raising the possibility that it could be used to treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) if the results are replicated in a human trial next year.

The method exploits a neurological process known as "reconsolidation". When memories are recalled, they seem to get re-encoded, almost like a new memory. When this process is taking place, the memories become malleable and can be subtly altered.

This new research suggests that at least in mice, the reconsolidation process might be partially blocked by xenon, essentially erasing fearful memories. Among other things, xenon is used as an anaesthetic.

Bad news: Wages are down for pretty much everyone - The Washington Post

Real hourly wages are down for workers at all education levels in the first half of this year compared to the first half of 2013, according to the Economic Policy Institute paper. Pay fell by 1.1 percent for people with high school diplomas, by 1 percent for people with some college, 1.6 percent for people with college degrees and by 2.7 percent for people with advanced degrees. “The last year has been a poor one for American workers’ wages,” writes Elise Gould, an economist with the institute, in the report.

Gould notes the pay decreases seen over the last year are part of a longer trend: Wages have pretty much been flat or on the decline since the start of the recession. In fact, the only group that hasn’t seen a drop in real wages since 2007 is workers with advanced degrees, for which wages are basically flat.

Europe's Banks to Offload $770 Billion of Non-Core Property Assets - WORLD PROPERTY CHANNEL Global News Center

Based on recent estimates from Cushman & Wakefield's Corporate Finance team, European banks and asset management agencies have a gross exposure of $770 billion (€584 billion) to non-core real estate which is subject to disposal or work-out strategies.

The findings, published in the firm's European Real Estate Loan Sales Market H1 2014 update, reveal that despite the record volume of commercial real estate (CRE) and real estate-owned (REO) sales seen so far this year, the deleveraging process throughout Europe is far from over.

Cushman & Wakefield Corporate Finance carried out extensive research into the non-core real estate exposure of 46 banks and asset management agencies throughout Europe for the in-depth report. The nine European 'bad banks' analyzed hold over 46% of the total gross exposure to non-core real estate, indicating their importance in the CRE loan and REO sales market in the next few years.

Ants May Boost CO2 Absorption Enough to Slow Global Warming - Scientific American

CO2 is currently the primary greenhouse gas emitted via human activities, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Overview of Green House Gases. And the volume released has only increased since the industrial revolution, contributing to global warming.

Using ants to help capture CO2 and help fight global warming stems from a study Dornpublished recently in Geology linking ants to the acceleration of natural carbon dioxide absorption in rock by up to 335 times, compared with absorption in ant-free areas.
Responding to the study, David Schwartzman, emeritus professor of biogeochemistry at Howard University who reviewed but was not a part of the research, said that encouraging ant colonization “will be important in carbon sequestration” from the atmosphere.

Of course, both he and Dorn note, the ants themselves may not always be necessary once researchers learn more about how the insects promote carbon sequestration. “I don’t know if you can just have massive ant colonies hanging around a power plant. But if we know what particular secretion of an ant gland is doing this trick, or combinations of secretions,” Dorn says, then those substances could potentially be produced in quantity.

Kary Mullis - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Mullis details his experiences synthesizing and testing various psychedelic amphetamines and a difficult trip on DET in his autobiography. In a Q&A interview published in the September 1994, issue of California Monthly, Mullis said, "Back in the 1960s and early '70s I took plenty of LSD. A lot of people were doing that in Berkeley back then. And I found it to be a mind-opening experience. It was certainly much more important than any courses I ever took."[32]During a symposium held for centenarian Albert Hofmann, "Hofmann revealed that he was told by Nobel-prize-winning chemist Kary Mullis that LSD had helped him develop the polymerase chain reaction that helps amplify specific DNA sequences."[33] Replying to his own postulate during an interview for BBC's Psychedelic Science documentary, "What if I had not taken LSD ever; would I have still invented PCR?" He replied, "I don't know. I doubt it. I seriously doubt it."[34]
Extraterrestrial life[edit]
Mullis reported an encounter with a glowing green raccoon at his cabin in the woods of northern California around midnight one night in 1985.[35]

Man claiming immunity from US law convicted - Westport News

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (AP) — A man who claimed he had immunity from U.S. law has been convicted of producing and distributing false diplomatic credentials.

A federal jury in Alexandria, Virginia, on Wednesday convicted 60-year-old James T. McBride of Columbus, Ohio, one count of conspiracy, one count of causing the impersonation of a diplomat and four counts of producing false identification documents.

Prosecutors say McBride was the leader of a group called Divine Province and promised people they could avoid taxes and debts if they pay to enroll in his society.

Authorities say McBride produced and distributed false diplomatic identification cards to the group's members, and encouraged them to make claims of diplomatic immunity to avoid arrest, debts or taxes.

A sentencing date has not been set.

How Much Does One Lego Piece Cost? | Science Blogs | WIRED

Let’s look at the linear function that fits this data. The slope of this line is 0.104 US Dollars per Lego piece. Boom. There is your answer. On average, one Lego piece costs 10.4 cents. Also, I think it’s nice to notice that this data is fairly linear.

But wait. What about the y-intercept for this fitting function? The value from the fit is 7.34 USD. That means that for this function, if you had a Lego set with zero pieces in it, it would still cost $7.34 – you know, for the box and instructions and stuff. Yes, I know that there are Lego sets cheaper than $7.34 – this is just the y-intercept for the fitting function.

Now let me point out the three outliers in this plot. Notice that all of these (one from Duplo and two from the City theme) are train sets. Of course train sets are going to be more expensive than a set with the same number of pieces (but not a train) because of the electric motors and stuff.

If you are looking for a “good deal”, might I suggest the Trevi Fountain (21020). This set has 731 pieces for just $49.99. According to the fitting function, a set with this many pieces should cost about 83 dollars.

65 Words Just Caused Argentina's $29-Billion Default - Kathy Gilsinan - The Atlantic

When Argentina last defaulted, in 2001, it had roughly $80 billion worth of debt it couldn’t pay back. It was, at the time, the biggest sovereign-debt default ever. This time, Argentina—Latin America's third- or fourth-largest economy, depending on who you're asking—had the money on hand to pay a $539-million bill due by close of business on Wednesday. It didn’t make the payment, and as a result has now technically defaulted on the entire $29 billion it owes international creditors. All this, in turn, is the result of how an 83-year-old judge interpreted the following 65 words:

The Securities [i.e., the bonds] will constitute . . . direct, unconditional, unsecured and unsubordinated obligations of the Republic and shall at all times rank pari passu and without any preference among themselves. The payment obligations of the Republic under the Securities shall at all times rank at least equally with all its other present and future unsecured and unsubordinated External Indebtedness (as defined in this Agreement).

The above, in the words of the Financial Times’ Joseph Cotterill, is “a piece of dusty boilerplate,” more than a century old and ubiquitous in sovereign-debt agreements. Legal analysts sometimes refer to it as an “equal-treatment” clause, because it suggests that a borrower has to treat all its lenders equally—if I borrow money from Jane and Jack, I can’t choose to pay back Jane and not Jack.

Sales Surge on European NPLs | Private Equity content from National Real Estate Investor

Forget Wimbledon and tourist attractions such as the Roman Coliseum, U.S. investors are flocking to Europe to pursue lucrative opportunities in the non-performing loan (NPL) market.

Loan sales during the first half of the year reached €40.9 billion ($55.5 billion)―a 611 percent spike compared to the same period a year ago. And American buyers are leading the charge. U.S. private equity firms such as Blackstone and Cerberus accounted for three-fourths of that buying activity, according to a new report issued by Cushman & Wakefield.

For example, Cerberus has nearly 50 professionals on the ground in Europe focused on underwriting, acquiring and servicing NPLs. “Currently, we are primarily investing in the U.K., Germany, Spain, Ireland and Italy, but have also acquired or are in the process of acquiring NPL portfolios in other European countries as well,” says Lee Millstein, head of European & Asian distressed real estate and senior managing director of Cerberus Capital Management in New York City.

Wealth inequality doubles among US households

"American families experienced significant losses in wealth during the Great Recession, and these losses were distributed very unequally," said Fabian Pfeffer, assistant research professor at the U-M Institute for Social Research.

In 2003, households at the top 5th percentile of wealth had 13 times more wealth than the median household, according to the analysis. By 2013, this gap nearly doubled to 24 times as much wealth.
While households at the top lost large amounts of wealth during the recession, those at the bottom of the wealth distribution lost the largest share of their total wealth.

Price Increase Reflects Shift to More Costly Homes

A factor with a larger bearing on the rising prices however, was what RealtyTrac identified as a shift away from lower cost homes to those in the higher price ranges. The share of home sales in all price ranges below $200,000 decreased from a year ago. The lower the price, the larger the decrease. The share of homes priced between $100,000 and $200,000 decreased 5 percent from a year ago, while the share of homes between $50,000 and $100,000 decreased 13 percent and the share of homes priced below $50,000 - often highly distressed homes - decreased 22 percent.

Conversely, sales of homes priced above $200,000 increased as a share of total sales, both from the previous month and from a year ago. In general the higher the price, the greater the increase with sales in the $200,000 to $300,000 price range up 2 percent from the previous month and 6 percent from a year ago, but the share of home sales in all price ranges above $750,000 was up more than 20 percent from a year ago. Sales of homes priced in the $200,000 to $400,000 range accounted for 32 percent of sales, the highest percentage since September 2008.

Real Estate Assets vs Passion Investments

High net worth individuals (HWNI) are reported to allocate an average of 16.9% of their investments to Art and 19% to luxury collectibles including classic cars and the report lifts the lid on where the smart money has been invested over the last quarter of a century.

Savills used their own indices and those from Art Market Research and Nationwide to compare the performance of 'passion investments' including the Art100, Old Masters, classic cars, 18th century furniture, UK property, prime central London property and UK farmland.

Looking at the assets performance since the financial crisis, the biggest growth has been in the classic car market, recording an increase of 134.9% since the peak of the housing market in September 2007. Prices in this market have not fallen since 2006 showing the asset's strong resilience to recession.

Farmland has long been considered a safe haven asset and hedge against inflation and prices have historically performed well during economic downturns. According to Savills' data, average values have not fallen since 2003 and have increased an average of 105.2% since 2007.

before falling into technical default

As opposed to real default.

So does FIFA allow players to get water during the course of play? Or do they have to feign injury then re-enter?

World Cup 2014: Bizarre incident in Uruguay-England puts spotlight on concussions - SOCCER - Sporting News

Soccer’s issues with head trauma are somewhat different than in other sports. It starts with the fact the head is a fundamental instrument of competition; the head is used to maneuver the ball in the same way a basketball player might use his hand.
The conflict is exacerbated by the sport’s unique substitution rules. Only three players are allowed to be substituted per game, regardless of the injury circumstance. A team that spends its three subs and then has a player go down as Pereira did would not be able to replace him -- even if he could be persuaded to leave.
“It’s disappointing. It’s 2014. This is barbaric treatment of players,” Twellman said on late Thursday on ESPN. “This is the power struggle that everyone’s talking about the elite levels. This can’t happen. The player and the doctor have no business having a say in this.”
Twellman said, as FIFPro suggested in his release, that competitions at the highest levels need a medical official “that’s independent, not working for either team” to intervene when concussion is an issue.

They would have to add many digits to the scoreboard.

Just like the Federal Reserve. Team America!

I'm for "blue lines" (like in hockey) so that the off-sides rule would apply to less than the half of the field it applies to now.

Howabout no goalie. I'd love to see the score in hockey or soccer around 47 to 39.

A little historical perspective:

Shaking Hands with Saddam Hussein 

The U.S. involved several U.S.-based multinational corporations in planning the project. International financier Bruce Rappaport, a friend of CIA director William Casey, was also a central figure in the proposed deal. (The final report of the independent counsel for the Iran-Contra "arms for hostages" scandal cites reports indicating that Rappaport's bank in Geneva was the recipient of a mysterious $10 million payment from the Sultan of Brunei to fund the Nicaraguan contras that subsequently disappeared. Rappaport denied this; the final report says that the issue remained unresolved. He was invited to testify in 1999 at a House Banking committee hearing on corruption in Russian financial transactions, but declined.) The project was complicated by demands that the U.S. arrange for ironclad security guarantees from the Israelis, since the pipeline would have been vulnerable to their attack. The Israelis, for their part, demanded guarantees that pipeline facilities would not cause environmental damage.

All involved had their reasons for at least hypothetical interest in the project. For Iraq, it would have been a manifestation of improved U.S.-Iraq relations - they wanted as much U.S. financial and other involvement in the proposed deal as possible. For the U.S., it would have provided an alternative, theoretically secure outlet for oil and created a nexus for entangling Iraqi interests with those of Jordan and Israel, consistent with U.S. plans to create a wider consortium of Arab countries that would cooperate with the U.S. and would be willing to resolve the Palestine-Israel dispute on U.S. terms. Israel would have benefited from new oil facilities in its vicinity, and won points with the Reagan administration. Also, according to internal documents from a friend of Reagan administration Attorney General Edmund Meese, brought in as an intermediary because of his Israeli ties, payoffs would have been skimmed from complex financial guarantee arrangements for the Israeli government and Labor Party.

Daily Press Briefing: June 20, 2014

QUESTION: So you believe – so you’re going to double-down on the – what some call the anachronistic British imperialist-imposed border that now exists? Is that correct?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not sure if I would put it in those terms, Matt, but --
QUESTION: Post-World War I border of Iraq, the existing – that’s what you are intent on keeping. Is that correct?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we’re --
QUESTION: Not – maybe not you, but that’s what you support. You do not support any revision to the current borders of the – Iraq.
MS. PSAKI: Nothing has changed in our view. Go ahead, Arshad.
QUESTION: Well, I was going to say the same thing. I was going to ask it very simply. I mean, would you oppose a breakup of Iraq?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to speculate on that. It’s never been our position, so I’m not going to speak to a hypothetical that we’re not currently looking at.
QUESTION: It’s not a hypothetical. People are generally inside the country talking about it too. I mean, it’s not totally hypothetical. I mean, there are moves for people to move in that direction.
MS. PSAKI: That’s not the position or the view or the support of the United States Government.
QUESTION: So you disagree with --
QUESTION: Can you say no? Can you say you don’t want Iraq to break up?
QUESTION: -- the notion that --
MS. PSAKI: I think we’re done with this question.

Here's the link to all the gruesome details. You can poke around for all casualties by month, year, nation, state, name,etc...

iCasualties | Operation Enduring Freedom | Afghanistan

Anyone want to make a guess as to what percentage of casualties in Afghanistan can be assigned to each President so far?
I'm going to bet 40/60

iCasualties | OEF | Afghanistan | Fatalities By Month

Trader sues over skimpy $8.25 million bonus - CBS News

A former Goldman Sachs (GS) trader, still furious at getting only an $8.25 million bonus in 2010, has taken the giant investment bank to court to get paid millions more.

Deeb Salem says he helped Goldman earn more than $7 billion and that a little more money in his pocket would only be fair considering all his contributions. He wants about $5 million in additional pay from Goldman.

In his petition filed last week in New York's State Supreme Court, Salem said things at Goldman started to unravel when he got a written warning about his 2007 job self-evaluation, Bloomberg reports. In that self-evaluation, Salem reportedly discussed a short squeeze involving derivatives linked to subprime home loans in 2007.

High Times Starts Marijuana Industry Investment Fund - Businessweek

When a pot smuggler named Tom Forcade approached Michael Kennedy in 1974 with his plan for a magazine devoted to helping Americans grow weed, Kennedy asked, what’s the point? “He said, ‘The point is, if the government cannot control the means of production of a commodity, then their prohibition is bound to fail,’ ” Kennedy recalls. “Well, 40 years later, we have ’em trembling, don’t we?”

The magazine, High Times, has survived as an icon of dope culture, and Kennedy, a criminal defense lawyer, has improbably ended up as its controlling owner. Now, with marijuana legal in some form in 22 states, the counterculture institution is aiming to raise $300 million for the High Times Growth Fund, which will make private equity investments in the marijuana business.

- NY Times

BAGHDAD — Refinery workers, witnesses and an Iraqi Army officer reported the seizure of Iraq’s biggest oil refinery by Sunni extremists on Wednesday after army helicopter gunships failed to repel their attack. But other Iraqi officials, including the commander of the garrison defending the refinery in Baiji, asserted that fighting was still going on inside the extensive facility, shut down by the violence.

The battle in Baiji, 130 miles north of Baghdad, came as the Obama administration, which extricated American troops from Iraq less than three years ago, was weighing a more muscular response, including airstrikes, to help the besieged government of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki.

Tax to brake S.F. real estate speculation headed to voters - SFGate

Supervisor Eric Mar and tenant activists unveiled a ballot measure Tuesday that would impose a steep tax on investors who sell an apartment building within five years of buying it, a proposal they said is aimed at reining in real estate speculators who are helping to drive up housing prices by flipping rental properties.

The "antispeculation" tax, which would apply solely to smaller, rent-controlled, multiunit buildings, will join several other housing measures on an already crowded November ballot. It asks voters to approve a graduated tax that decreases the longer an owner holds onto a property - starting at 24 percent of the selling price if a building is sold within a year of purchase, falling to 14 percent at five years and disappearing in the sixth year.

Harvard Money Managers Exit After Years of Subpar Returns - Bloomberg

Harvard’s endowment posted annual average gains of 1.7 percent in the five years ended June 30, 2013, according to data compiled by Charles Skorina & Co. That compares with annual returns of 6.8 percent at Columbia University, 5.4 percent at University of Pennsylvania and 3.3 percent atYale University.

Harvard suffered severe financial losses, including a 27 percent investment decline in the year ended June 30, 2009, and a cash crisis brought on by its exposure to financial derivatives. Like the rest of the university, the endowment was forced to cut costs and staff. Harvard’s endowment is still seeking to recoup losses after the fund peaked at $36.9 billion in 2008. At the time, Mendillo said she would need at least five years to fix the portfolio, which included unwinding stakes in illiquid securities.

George W. Bush’s horrific, deadly blunder: Would Saddam Hussein be better than Iraq’s new hell? - Salon.com

Out of Sunni solidarity, our fast friends the Saudis are bankrolling the ISIS and its dream of a revived caliphate across Iraq and Syria, Fisk tells us. The (Sunni) Qataris may soon switch their financial backing from Sunni insurgents in Syria to none other than (Alawite) Assad, because the Saudis, although Sunni — are you following? — are a threat to the (Sunni) Qataris. Washington is inclined to support the (Shiite) al-Maliki in Iraq as he proceeds against Sunni insurgents, but it still proposes to topple (Alawite) Assad as he proceeds against Sunni insurgents.

Apologies for the density of the above paragraph, but it goes straight to the point.

A flickering light at the end.

At writing the news media report that Washington is now seriously considering opening talks with Iran with a view to some form of collaboration in Iraq, where the (Shiite) Iranians support the (Shiite) al-Maliki. As noted, I see no sense in supporting al-Maliki short of a highly persuasive demonstration — quickly, as in now — of a commitment to all-parties talks. However, the thought of the Obama administration drawing closer to Iran in small recognition of shared interests delights me.

US Marines linked to Australian energy security - PostBulletin.com: National

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — The growing number of U.S. Marines in northern Australia is enhancing the security of the nation's burgeoning gas industry, which extends across the remote and sparsely populated northern coast, a senior American general said on Wednesday.

Maj. Gen. Richard L. Simcock, Hawaii-based deputy commander of U.S. Marine Corps in the Pacific, was commenting after an executive of U.S. energy giant Chevron Corp. told a conference of concerns that gas rigs off the Australian northwest coast and tankers shipping liquid natural gas through Southeast Asian waters could be vulnerable to attack.

Suppose a bank borrows money at .25% and lends it at 2% for 25 years. Suppose a third of the deadbeats default. BFD, bonuses all around. The Fed's inflation is a filthy scam.

Why don't you do the math? You're a smart guy.

Suppose that one cent had been invested in a bank 2012 years ago at a 5% interest rate maintained to the present. After the first year the capital would be worth 5% more than one cent, or 1.05 cents. In the second year the interest earned would be 5% times 1.05 cents, giving the amount of 1.05×1.05. After three years it would have grown to (1.05)^3 . After 2012 years the original one cent contribution would have grown to (1.05) ^ {2012} cents, or 4.29\cdot10^ {42} cents (more accurately, a vast 4,294,076,020,320,707,300,374,777,820,338,841,725,938,314 of them).

Rare British Guiana stamp sells for record $9.5-million - The Globe and Mail

A British Guiana One-Cent Magenta postage stamp from 1856, the only one of its kind to still exist, sold for a record $9.5-million (U.S.) at Sotheby’s on Tuesday.

The hefty price, which includes the buyer’s premium, makes the 2.5-centimetre-by-3.2-centimetre stamp, printed in black on magenta paper, the most expensive ever sold at auction – and the most valuable object by weight and size, according to the auction house.

The British Guiana stamp was sold by the estate of the late multimillionaire John du Pont, an heir to the du Pont chemical fortune, who died in prison in 2010 at the age of 72. Du Pont was serving a murder sentence for the shooting of David Schultz, a champion U.S. wrestler, in 1996.

Earlier this year, the Royal Philatelic Society of London re-authenticated the stamp, which du Pont, an avid stamp collector, purchased in 1980 for $935,000. The stamp’s authenticity was previously verified in 1935.

Hedge fund investors raise concerns in real estate | HeraldTribune.com

HOUSTON - Institutional Investors, led by Wall Street's Blackstone and rival Colony Capital, have stockpiled homes for single-family rentals across the country.

But a panel of real estate experts last week had different views on the risk these hedge funds may present when they exit markets like Southwest Florida, where they have lifted demand and boosted prices.

“This is the biggest story of the decade and will drive us into recession by 2020,” Florida real estate consultant Jack McCabe said at the conference in Houston. “We're seeing the capitalization of housing across America.”

Institutional investors accounted for 8 percent of all existing U.S. home sales at their buying peak in late 2012. They have since faded to represent 4 percent, according to data from industry researcher CoreLogic.

“These investors are going in and disconnecting home prices from incomes because they're not reliant upon incomes,” said Daren Blomquist, vice president of RealtyTrac. “That's the danger. It could accelerate appreciation.”

Blomquist and McCabe both fear these investors could swell prices to the point that they push many owner-occupiers out of the market, who cannot compete with the corporate bidding wars.