Weekday NEWS to Comfort the Disturbed and Disturb the Comfortable.
CME Cuts Gold, Silver Margins
by Tyler Durden - ZeroHedge.com
Any trader of paper gold and silver will likely never forget the endless and certainly parabolic barrage of margin hikes that the CME imposed in the spring and summer of 2011 which had only one purpose: to break the back of the relentless anti-fiat rally in the precious metals (and which culminated with thehistoric May 1 take down of silver when the metal plunged some 15% in the span of seconds). Since then, perhaps as a result of initial and maintenance margins still at residual levels indicative of when the S&P was some 30% lower and some $4 trillion less in slushing global central bank liquidity, the upside euphoria in gold and silver has been decidedly hobbled, perhaps so much that the CME is now scrambling to find a whole new set of gullible investors who will obediently put their money in the paper trap, only to see a surge followed by yet another mauling from soaring margin demands. After all, the CME needs trading volume to keep the cash flow flowing - killing the paper market in any one product suits nobody. Sure enough, moments ago, the CME once again cut margins in a slew of products, most notably gold and silver, by some 10% and 14%.
Stirring It Up With Bill Gross, Gold Fan In 2013 Stirring Things Up Bond-fund chief Bill Gross likes gold. Investor Meryl Witmer's picks include Tribune, fresh out of bankruptcy. And tech expert Fred Hickey is wary of most technology stocks, except EMC.
By Lauren Rublin, Barron's
What does it say about the markets and the times when the world's top bond-fund manager names gold his No. 1 investment pick of 2013? We kid you not, though everyone at this year's Barron's Roundtable thought Bill Gross surely was joking -- until he delivered an impassioned and thoroughly convincing case for owning hard assets in an age when central banks are busily manipulating financial ones.
If you read Parts 1 and 2 of this year's Roundtable, you know that macro issues, including central bankers' unprecedented attempts to drive down interest rates to juice economic growth, weigh heavy on the minds of our nine market sages, who gathered in New York on Jan. 14 to give us their 2013 investment views. Extraordinary circumstances provoke colorful, controversial, and sometimes bracing commentary, and there is no dearth of all of the above in this year's final Roundtable issue.
"If you follow issues like Too-Big-To-Fail or Wall Street corruption long enough, you realize that the reason things don't get done about them by our government has very little to do with ideology or even politics, in the way most of us understand politics.
Instead, it's a bizarre, almost tribal mentality that rules our capital city – a kind of groupthink that makes extreme myopia and a willingness to ignore the tribe's ostensible connection to the people who elected them a condition for social advancement within."
Matt Taibbi, Neil Barofsky's Adventure in Groupthink
Personally I think this is the corrosive influence of the credibility trap, the amorality of careerism, and of course, an ambivalence towards white collar corruption as the inherent entitlement of privilege. There seems to have been a shift in perspective amongst the new ruling class from noblesse oblige to droit du seigneur. This is what Robert Johnson calls 'the audacious oligarchy.'
Currency Wars Return, 1930s Style: Who Will Lose Out?
By: Matt Clinch - CNBC.com
As countries try to weaken their currencies to boost exports, the risk of a currency war similar to events seen in the 1930s has heightened, and policymakers are making sure they are on the winning side, according to Morgan Stanley.
The balance of power now rests with Japan, according to the bank, as Japan's policy-makers' more dovish approach looks set to bring the world a step closer to a currency war.
Will Japan's "Attempted" Reflation Succeed
And Will It Spill Over Into Full-Fledged Currency War?
by Tyler Durden - ZeroHedge.com
Yesterday we presented a simplistic analysis of why for Japan "This Time Won't Be Different", a preliminary observation so far validated by the just announced Japanese December current account deficit which was not only nearly double the expected 144.2 billion yen, printing at some 264.1 billion yen, but was only the first back-to-back monthly current account deficit since 1985.
In short - at least in the first month of Abe's great reflation attempt, not only did trade post another whopper of a deficit, but so did the broader current account implying that much more Yen weakness will be needed to generate the structural reforms sought by the new Prime Minister.
The ECB Staying Out of Currency Wars - For Now
BY SOBER LOOK - FinancialSense.com
Once again some analysts in Europe question the potency of the so-called currency warslaunched by Japan and the US. The euro-yen currency cross has had an unprecedented rally, changing the export landscape where Japan and Europe (particularly Germany) compete.
Fed seen pressing on with stimulus, mindful of risks
By Pedro da Costa and Ann Saphir
Thu Feb 7, 2013 1:56pm EST
(Reuters) - The Federal Reserve looks set to continue its bond-buying stimulus for the foreseeable future despite hints of strength in the economy and rising concern about the policy's risks, comments from top officials indicated on Thursday.
Charles Evans, president of the Chicago Federal Reserve Bank who is a known as a policy dove, said the central bank may need to keep up its purchases of bonds through the end of this year or into the next, and may even need to add to the program if fiscal restraint is greater than expected.
Jim Rogers Joins Bill Gross Warning on Treasuries
By Wes Goodman - Bloomberg.com
Investor Jim Rogers joined Bill Gross, who runs the world's biggest bond fund, in warning that a rout that sent Treasuries to their biggest loss last month in almost a year probably isn't over.
The list of bond bears is growing after Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Wells Capital Management Inc. also voiced concern. While unemployment rose in January, Labor Department revisions showed job gains at the end of last year were higher than previously reported, increasing speculation the Federal Reserve will curtail its debt purchases this year. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index rallied this month to approach a record.
Place Geithner's Book In Fiction Section Timmy's tome
By Charles Gasparino, New York Post
When I first reported last month that ex-Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner wants to write a book about his long years as one of Washington's chief economic bureaucrats, I was only half joking when I said it should be in the fiction section. And now I mean it.
Geithner yesterday confirmed that he's shopping a book. As a free-markets fan, I hope he gets a nice payday. The irony is that Geithner has done much to damage the country's free markets.
Meredith Whitney Pounds the Table:
Bank of America Stock Going to $15!
By 24/7 Wall St. - DailyFinance.com
Bank of America Corp. (NYSE: BAC) was the top-performing Dow Jones Industrial Average stock in 2012. That performance was not with banking analyst Meredith Whitney cheering it along all the way. Ultimately, she did change her tune and called it a solid Buy in banking stocks. Meredith Whitney was out Thursday, not just reiterating her bullish stance on Bank of America. Whitney predicts that Bank of America's common stock is headed to $15 in the next six to nine months.
An Economy Built On An Illusion
by Tyler Durden - ZeroHedge.com
From an op-ed by George Melloan
The Fed's Asset-Inflation Machine
Asset inflation often produces something called "wealth illusion," the belief that pricier asset holdings necessarily make one permanently richer. Illusions are dangerous. Eventually, painful reality intervenes.
* * *
President Obama and Mr. Bernanke worsened the effects of the 2008 crash by adopting the same Keynesian antirecession measures—fiscal and monetary "stimulus"—that had failed before, most dramatically in the 1970s. Stanford economist and former Treasury official John Taylor recently argued persuasively on these pages that "stimulus" measures had retarded rather than speeded recovery.
Top financial regulators to appear before Senate committee
(Reuters) - Officials responsible for overseeing Wall Street will update lawmakers next week on their progress implementing the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial oversight law, a U.S. Senate committee announced on Thursday.
Financial regulatory agencies have been writing a heap of new rules called for by the Dodd-Frank law, which Congress passed in response to the 2007-2009 U.S. financial crisis.
Keiser Report: The Birth of a Scandal (E403)
In this episode of the Keiser Report, Max Keiser and Stacy Herbert discuss the Wall Street schmatas now warning of bondpocalypse as bonds now considered 'risky' investment. They also discuss both George Osborne's electric fence of new financial regulatory powers which are same as the old powers that have never actually been used against the too big to fail banks and the London lawyers suggesting that the level of manipulation of Libor was so great that contracts tied to the rate should be considered null and void. In the second half of the show, Max Keiser talks to John Butler, Chief Investment Officer at Amphora Capital, about the bond market, currency vigilantes and the not very hidden inflation.
Obama Tells Democrats He Wants a 'Big Deal' to Trim Deficit
By Hans Nichols - Bloomberg.com
President Barack Obama said he wants to reach a "big deal" on the budget that will cut the nation's deficit without slashing spending on education and research that is needed to ensure future growth.
Obama said negotiations with congressional Republicans over avoiding the $1.2 trillion in automatic, across-the-board spending reductions set to begin March 1 shouldn't push aside the effort for a broader plan to cut government debt.
Global Economy Living Off Fed's Gravy Train
By: Michael Ivanovitch - CNBC.com
The Fed's key role in international economic policy coordination is a largely overlooked and ignored aspect of its work. Typically, most people think that is what the president and his economic officials do during the meetings of what American academic community derisively calls "talking shops" (G8, G20, and various U.N. agencies).
But the best kept secret is that the Fed does more for the successful operation of the global business cycle than all these "talking shops" combined. And it does that at no cost to American taxpayers. Last year, for example, the Fed transferred $76.9 billion in profits to the U.S. Treasury, while one of these summit jamborees can cost $850 million.
Watch The Financial Markets In Europe
By Michael Snyder - TheEconomicCollapseBlog.com
Is the financial system of Europe on the verge of a meltdown? I have always maintained that the next wave of the economic crisis would begin in Europe, and right now the situation in Europe is unraveling at a frightening pace. On Monday, European stocks had their worst day in over six months, and over the past four days we have seen the EUR/USD decline by the most that it has in nearly seven months. Meanwhile, scandals are erupting all over the continent. A political scandal in Spain, a derivatives scandal in Italy andbanking scandals all over the eurozone are seriously shaking confidence in the system. If things move much farther in a negative direction, we could be facing a full-blown financial crisis in Europe very rapidly. So watch the financial markets in Europe very carefully. Yes, most Americans tend to ignore Europe because they are convinced that the U.S. is "the center of the universe", but the truth is that Europe actually has a bigger population than we do, they have a bigger economy then we do, and they have a much larger banking system than we do. The global financial system is more integrated today than it ever has been before, and if there is a major stock market crash in Europe it is going to deeply affect the United States and the rest of the globe as well. So pay close attention to what is going on in Europe, because events over there could spark a chain reaction that would have very serious implications for every man, woman and child on the planet.
Soros Fears 'Rebellion',
Warns "The Euro Could Destroy The EU"
by Tyler Durden - ZeroHedge.com
From a discussion of the Dutch political system being in the pocket of Big Oil to warning that German policy stipulations and the Euro itself could "potentially destroy the European Union," amid rebellion, George Soros has drastically reduced all Euro-related exposure from his portfolio - only a few weeks after his cautious optimism that Europe is 'revived' in Davos. As Open Europe blog notes, Soros fears that "there is a real danger that the [Euro] solution to the financial problem creates a really profound political problem." The interview below with Dutch TV shows Soros grave concerns that the Southern nations are "being pushed unwittingly... into a long lasting depression," as Germany's austerity program is "counter-productive - cannot actually succeed." Just as we recently noted the similarities between the European Union and the Soviet Union, so Soros believes the 'Euro' itself is "bound to break up the European Union." It may take generations, he notes, as a terrible tragedy of "lost political freedom and economic prosperity."
From Davos - two weeks ago...optimism that the banking system had been revived but even then he was concerned...
Abe urges Japanese companies
to raise wages
for workers to beat deflation
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is urging business leaders to raise wages, saying it could help stimulate domestic demand and beat chronic deflation.
"We'll ask for the cooperation of companies whose performance is improving" in a bid to boost national income through wage increases, Abe said during a meeting Tuesday of the Council on Economic and Fiscal Policy, the government's key economic panel.
Welfare's Failure Amid Red Ink What happens when welfare spending outpaces poverty growth?
By RALPH R. REILAND - Spectator.org
A slideshow presented by Pennsylvania's Secretary of Public Welfare, Gary Alexander, "Welfare's Failure and the Solution," graphically illustrates the cost and unsustainability of the state's anti-poverty programs.
Starting with the big picture, a "Pennsylvania Growth Trends" graph shows 10-year expansions, 2001 to 2011, adjusted for inflation, in four categories.
10 states where people are living on edge of financial disaster
Nearly half (43.9%) of households—132.1 million people are "liquid asset poor" LIVING ON THE EDGE: FINANCIAL INSECURITY AND POLICIES TO REBUILD PROSPERITY IN AMERICA
Findings from the 2013 Assets & Opportunity Scorecard [PDF]
By Jennifer Brooks and Kasey Wiedrich
The Assets & Opportunity Scorecard is a comprehensive look at Americans' financial security today and their opportunities to create a more prosperous future. It assesses the 50 states and the District of Columbia on 102 outcome and policy measures, which describe how well residents are faring and what states can do to help them build and protect assets.These measures are grouped into five issue areas: Financial Assets & Income, Businesses & Jobs, Housing & Homeownership, Health Care, and Education.
J&J Sales Rep Told Surgeon of Hip Problems, Jury Told
By Maurice Possley, David Voreacos & Jef Feeley - Bloomberg.com
A Montana surgeon testified he stopped using Johnson & Johnson's ASR all-metal hip device eight months before the company recalled it because a sales representative told him about problems with the implant.
Peter Wendt, testifying today by videotape in state court in Los Angeles, said he implanted 76 ASRs, including one in Loren Kransky, 65, of Montana. Kransky's lawsuit is the first of 10,000 to go to trial over claims that J&J's DePuy unit defectively designed the 93,000 hips recalled in August 2010 and failed to warn of the risks.
The Coming Obamacare Recession Actually, we already saw it last quarter
and there'll be no escaping it this year.
By BRANDON CROCKER - Spectator.org
To the shock of many, U.S. GDP shrank in the fourth quarter of 2012 by 0.1%. Immediately, however, economists and commentators flooded the media with reassuring explanations. Super Storm Sandy reduced economic activity in the areas it ravaged; worries about the fiscal cliff and sequestration dampened business spending and government defense spending; businesses let inventory levels dwindle. Even the Federal Reserve commented that the GDP drop was the result of "weather-related disruptions and other transitory factors." All this is true, to some extent. But none of the reporting I saw even mentioned the elephant in the room that not only depressed economic activity in the fourth quarter of 2012, but will continue to depress economic activity through 2013 and beyond. That elephant is the "Affordable Care Act," aka "Obamacare."
HOUSE BILL WOULD CREATE 'NATIONAL NURSE' The House of Representatives will consider legislation that would create a "National Nurse for Public Health."
by TONY LEE - Breitbart.com
On Wednesday, Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), along with more than two dozen Democrats, and Pete King (R-NY), introduced The National Nurse Act, H.R. 485, which would "would designate the chief nurse officer of the U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS)" as the "National Nurse for Public Health."
In an announcement on her website, Johnson said she, "as the first registered nurse in Congress," knew from "experience how nurses play a critical role in health promotion and disease prevention."
Mortgage Putback Ruling Could Slam Banks
(FBC, AGO, MBI, JPM, CS, BAC)
By 24/7 Wall St. - DailyFinance.com
A federal judge in Manhattan ruled yesterday that Flagstar Bancorp Inc. (NYSE: FBC) must pay $90.1 million to bond insurer Assured Guaranty Ltd. (NYSE: AGO) in a mortgage "putback" case. The amount may be relatively small, but the impact could be startlingly large.
At issue was a claim by Assured that Flagstar had misrepresented the quality of loans the bank packaged into securities and passed on to Assured to guarantee. Loan guarantors, like Assured, have sued to force banks to take back the crappy securities and return the fees that the guarantors paid. Hence the name "putback."
The Pension Fund That Ate California CalPERS's corruption, insider dealing, and politicized investments have overwhelmed taxpayers with debt.
By Steve Malanga - City Journal
After spending years dogged by unpaid debts, California labor leader Charles Valdes filed for bankruptcy in the 1990s—twice. At the same time, he held one of the most influential positions in the American financial system: chair of the investment committee for the California Public Employees' Retirement System, or CalPERS, the nation's largest pension fund for government workers. Valdes left the board in 2010 and now faces scrutiny for accepting gifts from another former board member, Alfred Villalobos—who, the state alleges, spent tens of thousands of dollars trying to influence how the fund invested its assets. Questioned by investigators about his dealings with Villalobos, Valdes invoked the Fifth Amendment 126 times.
Revenue Checkpoints Come to Florida
"According to Public Affairs Office Sgt. Steve Gaskins, troopers will be looking for worn tires, bad brakes and lighting defects, in addition to driver's license laws," reports Hernando Today.
In the past, cops usually set-up checkpoints in the evening and the wee hours of the morning to flush out drivers who dared drink alcohol and drive. Over they years, the alcohol level permissible by the state fell to a point where half a beer will get a citizen-subject thrown in the hoosegow and indebted for years to the system and its revenue enhancement apparatus.
Now the revenue enhancement game in Florida has found a new crop of victims -- folks driving cars not up to standards set by government or in violation of its byzantine documentation rules.
Hostess Bakers' Union Says It Held Talks With Bidders
By Dawn McCarty & Phil Milford - Bloomberg.com
The union representing Hostess Brands Inc.'s fired bakery workers held talks with companies bidding for the Twinkie maker's assets, the union's leader said.
"We've engaged with potential future owners and we're willing to work with them," David Durkee, president of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union, told reporters on a conference call today. He didn't specify which companies the union contacted or what was discussed.
American Airlines and US Airways Merging
By Matthew Yglesias - Slate.com
As of last night it looks like American Airlines is finally going to do the right thing and accept US Airways' efforts to take it over. That's the best outcome for American financially; it's the most plausible outcome in terms of regulatory scrutiny; and it's the outcome American's unions have been pushing for.
Laughable legislation Proposed bill would guarantee
perpetual employment for lawmakers
Kansas Senator Greg Smith, R-Overland Park, has introduced one of the most absurd pieces of legislation to ever see the light of day.
Senate Bill 119, introduced on Monday, would offer employment protection for legislators who find themselves unemployed due to a failed re-election bid. According to the bill, legislators who give proper notice to their employers before taking office - either through election or appointment - would be guaranteed a return to those same positions - with the same pay, seniority and responsibility level - they would have enjoyed had they never left the job at all.
How Amazon Could Save the U.S. Postal Service
BY MARCUS WOHLSEN - Wired.com
It's the internet's fault that, if the U.S. Postal Service has its way, you won't be getting letters delivered to your mailbox on Saturdays anymore. After all, how many stamps have you bought lately?
But the engine of the USPS's demise could also save it. After all, how many packages have you received from Amazon lately? And wouldn't you like to get them faster?
Postal Service spokesman John Friess says that while its letter-carrying business is shrinking, its package-delivery business is growing. (Note that postal carriers will still be delivering packages on Saturdays.) In its anxious search to make money any way possible, the agency late last year began testing a same-day delivery service in San Francisco for online purchases. While the experiment, called Metro Post, is starting out small, it also comes at a time when the world's largest online retailer might be looking for a lot of trucks and a lot of drivers who can do same-day delivery cheap.
Why Doesn't the Postal Service Make Money? What do UPS and FedEx know that the USPS doesn't?
By Brian Palmer - Slate.com
The U.S. Postal Service announced Wednesday that it would end Saturday letter deliverybeginning in August. The change reportedly will save the USPS $2 billion annually. UPS andFedEx post profits fairly regularly. Why can't the Postal Service make money delivering mail?
Because it got complacent holding a monopoly. The U.S. Postal Service has a legal monopoly on the non-urgent delivery of letters. It used to be an extremely valuable asset. The monopoly was so valuable, in fact, that the agency built its future around the lucrative first-class letter business. With the profits from first-class mail, the Postal Service priced the delivery of newspapers and magazines at well below cost. In 2006 alone, the USPS subsidized periodicalsto the tune of $273 million. The profits from first-class letter monopoly also allowed the Postal Service to stand by while private companies dominated the now crucial parcel-delivery business. The Internet eventually made letters obsolete; gas prices surged; and health care and retirement costs rose beyond projections, turning letter delivery from a cash cow into a burden. (The true cost of delivering a letter is likely more than twice what we now pay.) The collapse of first-class mail was inevitably going to damage the agency. Many observers believe, however, that the Postal Service could have survived those challenges, and even prospered like other delivery companies, if it hadn't relied so heavily on the profits from its exclusive letter-delivery business.
House Democrats fire away with 15 new gun-ban proposals
By Cheryl K. Chumley-The Washington Times
House Democrats are bringing their own gun-control plan to the table and are due to unveil on Thursday 15 separate proposals — including a copycat of President Obama's wish to outright ban assault weapons, according to various media reports.
Democrats will also propose bans on sales of magazines that carry more than 10 rounds of ammunition, background checks for all gun sales - and prohibitions on gun trafficking, according to The Associated Press.
The Root Cause of Gun Violence If Obama & Co. are helpless to prevent gang warfare,
what are they doing trying to disarm the law-abiding?
By PETER FERRARA - Spectator.org
Aside from a few, brave, truth-tellers, all of the discussion in Washington boils down to one theme — Why More Power and Money Should Be Transferred from You to Me.
Of course, the sophists never say that directly. They always say it is for the children, or the poor, or the middle class, or the elderly, or the sick. But watch what they do, not what they say. In the end, every Washington Establishment initiative, proposal, or campaign is always aimed at the same result — power and money taken from you, to be given to them.
President Obama vows
to make Nancy Pelosi speaker of the House again 'I love Nancy Pelosi,' Obama gushes
By Susan Crabtree-The Washington Times
President Obama, speaking to House Democrats at a party retreat in Lansdowne, Va., on Thursday, told lawmakers that if they stick to their principles, "I expect Nancy Pelosi will be speaker again."
The president said immigration, gun control and the economy are his top priorities for the year, and he offered some oddly-worded praise for Mrs. Pelosi, the House minority leader.
Rigs in the Gulf of Mexico Cease Drilling
after Discovery of Faulty Bolts
By Joao Peixe - OilPrice.com
Just three years after the events of the Macondo well oil spill befell the Gulf of Mexico, many rigs have once again been asked to cease all operations; this time due to the discovery of faulty bolts used in safety equipment.
The US Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement have ordered energy companies working in the Gulf, such as Chevron, Royal Dutch Shell, and Transocean, to suspend all work upon any rig that uses General Electric devices to connect drilling tubes and safety equipment to the sea floor.
Can Leak Detection End the Pipeline Impasse?
Interview with Adrian Banica
By James Stafford - OilPrice.com
Pipelines used to be things that were just built without blinking. It is said that there are enough pipelines now in the US to encircle the Earth 25 times with enough left over to also tie a bow around it. Today, getting a pipeline built is not so easy - there are too many environmental concerns and the industry has become highly polarized. But here's one thing that could bring everyone together: pipeline safety technology. And it's something we all want, especially for those who live along the thousands of miles of aging pipeline routes that carry hazardous liquids.
Spawned by research that started in space, remote-sensing technology designed to detect dangerous leaks in pipelines has the potential to provide the neutral ground for decisions to be made and consensus to be formed. The clincher: This technology is not only affordable -it saves money and could eventually save the industry.
Brazil Prepares to Surprise Drillers This Time With Gas
By With assistance from Peter Millard - Bloomberg.com
As Brazil prepares for its first-ever auction of shale-gas acreage, it has a message for global prospectors: The country that discovered the world's biggest offshore oil finds this century may have almost twice as much natural gas onshore as is currently estimated.
Brazil's energy regulator known as ANP made the assertion in a preliminary estimate of potential reserves, in an e-mail to Bloomberg News. The estimate is 88 percent higher than the U.S. Energy Information Administration's calculation that Brazil may have 226 trillion cubic feet of gas held in shale, a sedimentary rock increasingly being harvested for fuels around the world.
Garbage in - Power out
By Peter McCusker - OilPrice.com
Work has started on the construction of the world's largest plasma gasification plant with its development signalling the dawning of a new era in the UK's Energy from Waste sector.
The £300m plant on Teesside, North East England, is being built by US industrial gases outfit Air Products using the latest plasma gasification technology developed by AlterNRG Westinghouse.
How does Fracking Differ from Conventional Oil Recovery
By Dave Summers - OilPrice.com
Before there were refrigerators folks kept drinks cool by putting them into clay jars that had been soaked in water. The evaporation of the water from the clay cooled the container and its contents, which today includes wine bottles. On the other hand, for many years artisans have taken clay in a slightly different form, shaped it and baked it and provided the teacups which keep the liquid inside until we drink it.
Storm panic hits: BofA warns 'Get Cash,' FEMA sees blackouts
By Paul Bedard - WashingtonExaminer.com
In what may be the first full digital storm panic, federal, state and business officials worried about the snow headed for the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast have taken to Twitter warn that a potential disaster is coming.
Bank of America led the frenzy. "Winter Storm #Nemo may bring 2 feet of #snow to New England late Fri & Sat. Prepare now - make sure you have plenty of cash on hand."
Apple Should, And Will, Make a Smartwatch
BY CHRISTINA BONNINGTON - Wired.com
It isn't a matter of "if" Apple creates a smartwatch, but rather "when." And "why."
Moving into the hot "wearables" market with a smartwatch would allow Apple to compete against upstarts like Pebble and seasoned stalwarts like Sony and capitalize on a trend that is sweeping the industry — as shown by the vast number of "wearable" computing devices seen at CES this year. Companies like Nike, Adidas and Motorola are expected to ship 90 million wearables by 2017, and there's no way Apple would miss out on a piece of that action. A smartwatch would also help complete Apple's product lineup since the company abandoned the wrist-wearable, square-shaped iPod nano in favor of a larger-screened version.
All day I've faced a barren waste
Without the taste of water
Cool Water by Bob Nolan (1936)
When Nolan wrote that song - about a man and his mule in the desert - it's doubtful he knew that he was prefiguring a world to come. Despite the massive abundance of water on our planet (and throughout the known universe, in fact), access to potable water (or a lack thereof) may prove to be the defining social struggle of this century, much like oil in the last. But a plethora of new technologies aim to nip the problem in the bud. Will they be enough?
There Is a Lot of Water Out There
The Next Industrial Revolution will be Led by Robots
By Gregor Macdonald - OilPrice.com
The quest for cheap energy and cheap labor is a conquering human urge, one that has played out with notable ferocity starting with the Industrial Revolution. The introduction of coal into British manufacturing and the more recent outsourcing of Western manufacturing to Asia have marked key thresholds in this ongoing progression.
But despite the harvesting of additional productivity gains from the more recent revolution in information technology, the suite of macro data suggests that the rate of advancement in physical production has slowed, notably, in the past thirty years.
Is There An Artificial Crisis Over Artificial Intelligence?
BY CRIS SHERIDAN - FinancialSense.com
There's a lot of controversy over robots these days. The NY Times reports, "Robots have once again gripped the nation's imagination, stoking fears of displaced jobs and perhaps even a displaced human race." Yesterday, the Atlantic ran a story asserting that people are freaking out, creating an "artificial crisis" over AI.
60 Minutes stirred the pot with a news segment that went viral when they interviewed MIT Professors, Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee, on how robots are partly to blame for our jobless recovery:
Cybersecurity: how preemptive cyberwar
is entering the nation's arsenal In addition to authorizing the use of cyberweapons, the White House is preparing an executive order to beef up cybersecurity for critical infrastructure, such as the electric grid, refineries, and telecommunications.
By Mark Clayton - CSMonitor.com
A formal, three-year legal and policy review of US cyberweapons that concluded last fall has effectively cleared their use alongside other weapons systems in the US arsenal, a stamp of approval that propels the fledgling US Cyber Command toward a fully operational role within the nation's military structure, cyberwar experts say.
Cyberweapons have been available to the US militarysince at least the first Gulf War against Iraq, but when, how, and under what conditions they could or should be deployed has been subject to vigorous debate among military and civilian policymakers.
Newspapers defend sitting on, publishing U.S. drone stories
By Jennifer Harper-The Washington Times
For more than year, two of the nation's top news organizations withheld major stories revealing secret details about American drone bases in the Middle East, complying with a request from the Obama administration to withhold the reports. This week, however, the race was on between The New York Times and The Washington Post to spill all the details.
The events prove that old-fashioned scoops are still irresistible and that competition can trump political loyalty.
Top lawmakers consider new court to monitor drones
WASHINGTON (AP) — Senator Dianne Feinstein says it's time to lift the secrecy off the CIA drone program that targets al-Qaida operatives so that U.S. officials can acknowledge the strikes and correct what she says are exaggerated reports of civilian casualties.
The California Democrat and Senate Intelligence Committee chairman says she and other lawmakers may explore setting up a special court system to regulate strikes, similar to the special courts that signs off on government surveillance in espionage and terror cases.
White House to release legal rationale
for killing of US citizens with drones 50-page document to be given to Senate intelligence committee in attempt to ease pressure on John Brennan
By Chris McGreal and Ian Black - Guardian.co.uk
The White House has bowed to demands from Congress to release its legal reasoning for the killing of US citizens by armed drones in an attempt to ease pressure on John Brennan, the architect of the drones strategy, at his Senate confirmation hearing as CIA director on Thursday.
The Associated Press reported that Barack Obama ordered that the 50-page legal rationale finally be given to the Senate intelligence committee as members' anger at the administration's refusal to share the classified document led to an implied threat from some senators to hold up Brennan's nomination.
Exclusive: U.N.'s Drone Investigator
Backs Brennan for Top CIA Job
BY SPENCER ACKERMAN - Wired.com
The head of the United Nations inquiry into drone strikes and targeted killings believes the chief architect of those efforts will rein them in at the CIA.
Ben Emmerson, the United Nations special rapporteur for human rights and counterterrorism, tells Danger Room he's giving his qualified backing to John Brennan, President Obama's top counterterrorism adviser and nominee to become CIA director. The endorsement comes at a critical time for both men: Brennan faces Senate questioning on Thursday afternoon, and Emmerson is negotiating access with the U.S. government to its targeted-killing efforts for his recently announced international inquiry into their legality.
In Brennan's Private Sector Stint, a Chinese Connection
By: Eamon Javers - CNBC.com
John Brennan, President Obama's nominee to be director of the CIA, like many government employees took a three-year turn through the private sector before rejoining the administration – but it was nothing like the blandly profitable corporate stints of other federal bureaucrats.
When Brennan went to work for a private intelligence contractor called The Analysis Corporation, he entered a murky milieu of transnational private spy firms with taxpayer-fueled profits. And he found himself working for a Ferrari-driving foreign boss who made much of his money on the dangerous streets of Iraq.
Lawmakers to get access to drone war rules
Washington AFP-JIJI - JapanTimes.co.jp
In a reversal, President Barack Obama will hand lawmakers classified documents outlining the legal justification for drone strikes that kill U.S. citizens abroad who are conspiring with al-Qaida.
An administration official disclosed the move Wednesday on the eve of a Senate hearing on Obama's nomination of top White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan to lead the Central Intelligence Agency in the president's second term.
Brennan: Government Goes Through 'Agony'
Before Launching Drone Strikes
BY SPENCER ACKERMAN - Wired.com
During a contentious and at times raucous Senate hearing, John Brennan, President Obama's nominee to run the CIA, said the government agonizes over authorizing lethal drone strikes.
The deadly strikes have attracted such acrimony at home and abroad that Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif., the chairwoman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence) ordered the public removed from Brennan's nomination hearing after protesters yelled out their objections to the program. For the first time in public, Brennan expressed frustration that "the people standing up today" did not understand the government's dilemma.
Michael Moore Asks Americans
to Stand Up to Obama, Back NDAA Suit
Michael Moore is taking a stand against President Obama's National Defense Authorization Act by supporting a lawsuit that seeks to change the "dangerous" measure, and he's urging others to do the same.
The filmmaker and liberal activist is arguing that the NDAA represents an effort by the White House to scrap "vital civil rights," something he says all U.S. citizens should be concerned about. "At the moment a lot of people think the NDAA does not look scary. But this sort of thing never looks scary at the start. But the American people will rue the day if they do not stop this," he told The Guardian.
Obama hands off on Benghazi action Panetta says the president 'left it up to us'
By Guy Taylor-The Washington Times
Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta on Thursday revealed he personally broke the news to President Obama that the U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya, was under attack last year — but he and the president didn't speak the rest of the night as the assault on the compound unfolded.
Mr. Panetta said he and Mr. Obama, along with Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, discussed the attack for 15 minutes in the Oval Office the afternoon of Sept. 11, and also covered an anti-American protest that had broken out that day at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo.
Crisis Looms if Defense Cuts Implemented: Panetta
AP - CNBC.com
Looming across-the-board budget cuts present the U.S. military with the most significant readiness crisis in more than a decade and quick action is needed to avoid the spending reductions, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta warned during testimony Thursday before the Senate Armed Services Committee.
If the billions of dollars in cuts are allowed to stand, Panetta said, he would have to throw the country's national defense strategy "out the window,"and the United States would no longer be a first-rate power. "This will badly damage our national defense and compromise our ability to respond to crises in a dangerous world," Panetta said.
U.S. kicks off allied fighter jet training over Pacific
By Cheryl K. Chumley-The Washington Times
Fighter jets from the United States, Australia and Japan are currently flying over western Pacific skies, as military drills — called Cope North — aimed at bolstering an allied force kicked off Thursday.
"The training is not against a specific country, like China," said Japan Air Self-Defense ForceLt. Gen. Masayuki Hironaka, in an Associated Press report. "However, I think [the fact] that our alliance with the U.S. and Australia is healthy is a strong message."
Asteroid to Traverse Earth's Satellite Zone, NASA Says
By Jim Snyder - Bloomberg.com
An asteroid half the size of a U.S. football field will pass between Earth and orbiting satellites next week, sparing the human race from the fate suffered by dinosaurs, NASA said.
The 150-foot diameter asteroid, named 2012 DA14, will pass about 17,000 miles above Earth on Feb. 15 -- lower than the orbits of some satellites -- in the closest recorded approach of an object of its size. It will travel at 7.8 kilometers a second (17,400 miles an hour), or about eight times the speed of a rifle shot, NASA scientists said yesterday.
Asteroid 2012 DA14
Planetary scientist Daniel Durda talked about Near Earth asteroids, and the possibility of a mid-sized one, 2012 DA14, hitting us in 2013. The 150 ft. wide object (much smaller than Apophis) won't collide with Earth when it makes a close approach on Feb. 15th, 2013, he said, but its subsequent pass in 2020 could be of concern. We don't have enough information yet about what its orbit will look like at that time, he noted. A lot of recent asteroid & comet discoveries are being made by amateur astronomers, who ironically sometimes have better equipment and more time than the professionals, he commented.
How Asteroid 2012 DA14 Will Give Earth Close Shave
by Karl Tate - Space.com
At 2:26 p.m. EST (1926 GMT) on Feb. 15, the asteroid 2012 DA14 will fly within 17,200 miles (27,680 kilo- meters) of Earth. This is lower than the communications satellites that orbit 22,000 miles (35,800 km) above the equator.
The asteroid will not hit the Earth on this orbital pass, but asteroid 2012 DA14 is about the size of the object that hit Siberia in 1908 (the "Tunguska Event"). The asteroid was discovered on Feb. 23, 2012, by the La Sagra Sky Survey.
NASA: Asteroid flyby next week is the closest ever of its size
By Brian Vastag - WashingtonPost.com
A close encounter of the rocky kind is set for Feb. 15, when an office-building-size asteroid will speed past Earth faster than a bullet and closer than some communications satellites.
It will be the nearest recorded brush with a space rock so large, NASA scientists said Thursday.
The good news: There's no chance of an impact. At its closest, asteroid 2012 DA14 will pass about 17,000 miles above Earth.