Saturday, February 16, 2013

Cab Thoughts 2/16/13

Twice a day, a broken clock is more accurate than the Cs clock at the National Bureau of Standards.

Wild exuberance. Fantasies. Elaborate and unreal displays. Maybe the State of the Union should always be delivered on Mardi Gras.

This is just too rich: Jonah Lehrer, the science writer who resigned from The New Yorker in July after he was caught recycling his own material and fabricating quotes, was paid a $20,000 honorarium by the Knight Foundation to speak about his "mistakes" at a media seminar this week.

PIMCO has just opened a new EFT to benefit from decline in the value of the dollar. (A weaker currency gives a nation's exporters a competitive advantage on the global market.) Bill Gross, one of Pimco's chief strategists, has long warned that rising debt levels in the United States and the Federal Reserve's easy monetary policies will pressure the dollar for years.

Total sales of vehicles in China rose 46 percent to 2.03 million units last month, according to LMC Automotive, an Asian forecasting company in Shanghai. Sales of SUVs, the fastest-growing segment last year, continued continued their gains in January, surging 91 percent to 240,700 units. Sedan deliveries gained 49 percent to 1.19 million vehicles. It is said that most of these purchases are cash.

Israel has flown inside Syria’s borders to attack chemical and biological weapons stores. Biological weapons stores. Little has been said about this.

Takeshi Uchiyamada, the "father of the Prius" who helped put hybrids on the map, said he believes fuel-cell vehicles hold far more promise than battery electric cars. "Because of its shortcomings — driving range, cost and recharging time — the electric vehicle is not a viable replacement for most conventional cars," said Uchiyamada. "We need something entirely new."

A March 2012 Nature study shows that the global damage cost from hurricanes will go to 0.02% of gross domestic product annually in 2100 from 0.04% today—a drop of 50%, despite global warming.

The human brain consists of hundreds of billions of cells called neurons and over a trillion glial cells. The number of connections between these cells numbers between 60–240 trillion.

Goalie Tim Thomas was traded by the Bruins to the Islanders on Thursday for a conditional second-round draft choice either next year or in 2015. Thomas chose to take this season off following the NHL lockout and was suspended by the Bruins after he didn't report to training camp last month. The 38-year-old goalie is in the final season of a four-year deal that counts for $5 million against the salary cap. The Islanders have plenty of room to fit Thomas' salary on their cap, and this deal provides financial flexibility for the Bruins. But Thomas has said he will not play this season. And the Islanders have a good goalie. This is a deal with some peculiar qualities; no real advantage to the Islanders at all but considerable help to Boston.

Nicholas Eberstadt, a scholar with the American Enterprise Institute, published two papers recently showing a rather startling demographic trend among Muslim countries: Marriage rates and fertility numbers are crashing, even in poor areas usually immune to such changes. The developed world has been showing these numbers for years. The female marriage rate fell in Germany from 98% to 59% from 1965 to 2000; it fell in France over that period from 99% to 61%; in Sweden from 98% to 49%; in Britain, from nearly 100% to 54%. Marriage is also plummeting in Asia: In Japan, the percentage of women between 30 and 34 who have never married rose from 7.2% in 1970 to 26.6% in 2000; in Burma, it rose from 9.3% to 25.9%; in Thailand, from 8.1% to 16.1%; in South Korea, from 1.4% to 10.7%.
Marriage rates in the Arab world are higher, but they're moving fast in the same direction
Using data for 49 Muslim-majority countries and territories, he found that fertility rates declined an average of 41% between 1975-80 and 2005-10, compared with a 33% drop for the world as a whole. Twenty-two Muslim countries and territories had fertility declines of 50% or more. The sharpest drops were in Iran, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Algeria, Bangladesh, Tunisia, Libya, Albania, Qatar and Kuwait, which all recorded declines of 60% or more over these three decades.
Fertility in Iran declined an astonishing 70% over the 30-year period

A fall in petroleum imports led overall purchases from abroad to decline $4.6 billion in December. For the entire year, the country's imports of crude oil fell to their lowest levels since 1997 in terms of volume. There was considerable cheering about this and it is impressive.....until one looks at the overall balance numbers. For all of 2012, the U.S. trade gap fell by 3.5 percent to $540.4 billion. Our trade deficit was 540.4 billion dollars last year, and that was an improvement.

Warren Buffett: "The U.S trade deficit is a bigger threat to the domestic economy than either the federal budget deficit or consumer debt and could lead to political turmoil... Right now, the rest of the world owns $3 trillion more of us than we own of them."

Venezuela devalues its currency. The major benefactor? The State. The devaluation cuts the dollar value of domestic debt from $42.9bn to $29.3bn, leading analysts to expect an increase in prices of Venezuela’s foreign debt.But while the government gains, most Venezuelans lose out, with Ecoanalitica (a currency concern) estimating an 8 per cent fall in consumers’ purchasing power. The relative value of workers’ salaries will fall.
Another group affected is the multinational companies that couldn’t repatriate capital, and they will end up losing from one day to the next 46.5 per cent of their funds accumulated in bolĂ­vars. Shares in companies with Venezuelan operations, including Colgate-Palmolive and Avon, fell on the announcement. Mr Oliveros, from Ecoanalitica, added that the devaluation was also likely to spur inflation, which at more than 20 per cent is one of the highest in the world

Dr. Carson, the Hopkins pediatric neurosurgeon, on health care insurance (delivered at a prayer breakfast where Obama was also present): "Here's my solution: When a person is born, give him a birth certificate, an electronic medical record, and a health savings account to which money can be contributed -- pretax -- from the time you're born 'til the time you die. When you die, you can pass it on to your family members, so that when you're 85 years old and you got six diseases, you're not trying to spend up everything. You're happy to pass it on and there's nobody talking about death panels. Number one.
And also, for the people who were indigent who don't have any money we can make contributions to their HSA each month because we already have this huge pot of money. Instead of sending it to some bureaucracy, let's put it in their HSAs. Now they have some control over their own health care." the spirit of trade deficits, a trade deficit chart:

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