Friday, September 25, 2009

luxury hotels risk default as $850 rooms remain empty..,

Bloomberg | Luxury hotel owners risk defaulting on their debt as the recession cuts occupancies and the credit crunch constrains refinancing.

Loans secured by more than 1,500 hotels with a total outstanding balance of $24.5 billion may be in danger of default, according to Realpoint LLC, a credit rating company that tracks commercial mortgage-backed securities. Some of the biggest loans, put on the company’s watch list because of late payments, decreasing occupancies or cash flow, were made to luxury properties where rooms can cost more than $850 a night.

“All segments are showing signs of distress but the luxury segment carries much higher loan balances and is more clearly affected,” Frank Innaurato, managing director of CMBS analytical services at Horsham, Pennsylvania-based Realpoint, said in a telephone interview.

Lodging owners are struggling after adding rooms and properties at the peak of the CMBS market from 2004 to 2007, when $83.4 billion in hotel-backed securities was issued. Occupancy among chains with the costliest rooms fell to 60 percent in the first half from 70 percent a year earlier, according to Smith Travel Research. The decline was the industry’s largest for that period.

“Luxury hotels have been aggressively financed during the peak CMBS issuance years,” David Loeb, an analyst at Robert W. Baird & Co., said in a phone interview. “That’s why luxury hotel loans crowd these watch lists.”

Thursday, September 24, 2009

"fed" lynching in kentucky..,

MSNBC | WASHINGTON - A U.S. Census worker found hanged from a tree near a Kentucky cemetery had the word "fed" scrawled on his chest, a law enforcement official said Wednesday, and the FBI is investigating whether he was a victim of anti-government sentiment.

The law enforcement official, who was not authorized to discuss the case and requested anonymity, did not say what type of instrument was used to write the word on the chest of Bill Sparkman, a 51-year-old part-time Census field worker and teacher. He was found Sept. 12 in a remote patch of the Daniel Boone National Forest in rural southeast Kentucky.

The Census Bureau has suspended door-to-door interviews in rural Clay County, where the body was found, pending the outcome of the investigation. An autopsy report is pending.

Investigators have said little about the case. FBI spokesman David Beyer said the bureau is assisting state police and declined to confirm or discuss any details about the crime scene.

"Our job is to determine if there was foul play involved — and that's part of the investigation — and if there was foul play involved, whether that is related to his employment as a Census worker," said Beyer.

Attacking a federal worker during or because of his federal job is a federal crime.
Fist tap Rembom.

u.s., government may fail in 5-10 years

Interview with Marc Faber - By Bloomberg News 09/22/09

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

pile up the debt with even more debt to bail out the debt

SCToday | FDIC weighs extraordinary steps, including loans from banks, to shore up insurance fund. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. is weighing several costly - and never-before-used - options as it struggles to shore up the dwindling fund that insures bank deposits.

The agency is considering borrowing billions from healthy banks. Alternatively, it may impose a special fee on the banking industry.

Each option carries risk: Drawing money from healthy banks would take dollars out of the private sector, making that money unavailable for investment in the weak economy. But charging the whole industry a fee to replenish the fund could push weaker banks toward failure.

A third option - borrowing from the Treasury - is politically unpalatable, since it would resemble another taxpayer-financed bailout.

A fourth option would be to have banks pay their regular insurance premiums early. But this idea wouldn't solve the fund's long-term cash needs.

"The bottom line is, there's no good solution," said Jaret Seiberg, an analyst with the research firm Concept Capital. "This is a fight over which option is least bad."

The FDIC is expected to propose a solution, possibly combining two or more of the options, at a board meeting next week.

Bank failures since the financial crisis struck have drained the fund to its lowest level since 1992, at the peak of the savings-and-loan crisis. The fund insures deposit bank accounts of up to $250,000.

supertankers may halt oil trading

Bloomberg | Supertanker owners may start refusing cargoes within the next three months unless rates return to a profitable level, said Frontline Ltd., the biggest operator of the ships which carry almost half the world’s oil.

Ship owners are contributing $942 a day toward fuel costs to ship Middle East crude, according to the London-based Baltic Exchange. Rates have been below operating costs since July. Should the losses persist, some owners may choose to idle their ships, according to Jens Martin Jensen, Singapore-based chief executive officer of Frontline’s management unit.

“If you see another quarter, then I think owners have to do something,” Jensen said by phone today. “We are subsidizing oil companies.”

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries has cut output by 4 percent this year to 28.4 million barrels a day, according to Bloomberg estimates. Over the same period, the fleet of in-service supertankers has advanced 5.8 percent to 528 ships, according to Lloyd’s Register-Fairplay data on Bloomberg.

The five-member Bloomberg Tanker Index, led by Frontline, dropped 19 percent this year, extending last year’s record 49 percent slump. Frontline rose 3 kroner, or 2.3 percent, to 132.50 kroner in Oslo, valuing the company at 10.3 billion kroner ($1.7 billion).

arctic sea ice reaches annual minimum

NSIDC | Arctic sea ice reflects sunlight, keeping the polar regions cool and moderating global climate. According to scientific measurements, Arctic sea ice has declined dramatically over at least the past thirty years, with the most extreme decline seen in the summer melt season.

Arctic sea ice appears to have reached its minimum extent for the year, the third-lowest extent since the start of satellite measurements in 1979. While this year’s minimum extent is above the record and near-record minimums of the last two years, it further reinforces the strong negative trend in summertime ice extent observed over the past thirty years.

Overview of conditions
On September 12, 2009 sea ice extent dropped to 5.10 million square kilometers (1.97 million square miles). This appears to have been the lowest point of the year, as sea ice has now begun its annual cycle of growth in response to autumn cooling. The 2009 minimum is the third-lowest recorded since 1979, 580,000 square kilometers (220,000 square miles) above 2008 and 970,000 square kilometers (370,000 square miles) above the record low in 2007.

The 2009 minimum is 1.61 million square kilometers (620,000 square miles) below the 1979 to 2000 average minimum and 1.28 million square kilometers (490,000 square miles) below the thirty-year 1979 to 2008 average minimum.

Conditions in context
This year, the minimum extent did not fall as low as the minimums of the last two years, because temperatures through the summer were relatively cooler. The Chukchi and Beaufort seas were especially cool compared to 2007. Winds also tended to disperse the ice pack over a larger region.

While the ice extent this year is higher than the last two years, scientists do not consider this to be a recovery. Despite conditions less favorable to ice loss, the 2009 minimum extent is still 24% below the 1979-2000 average, and 20% below the thirty-year 1979-2008 average minimum. In addition, the Arctic is still dominated by younger, thinner ice, which is more vulnerable to seasonal melt. The long-term decline in summer extent is expected to continue in future years.

Final analysis pending
In the beginning of October, NSIDC will issue a formal press release with full analysis of the melt season, and graphics comparing this year to the long-term record. We will also announce the monthly average September sea ice extent, the measure scientists rely on for accurate analysis and comparison over the long term. We will continue to post analysis of sea ice conditions throughout the year, with frequency determined by sea ice conditions. The near-real-time daily image update will continue each day.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

can america be salvaged?

CommonDreams | I really don't know what to say anymore, about a country in which proposing a new and better version of corporate-plunder masquerading as national healthcare gets you burned in effigy for being a socialist stooge by gun-toting angry mobs.

I really don't know what to say anymore, about a country in which the same people who hate you for being a socialist simultaneously hate you for being a fascist.

I really don't know what to say anymore, about a country in which angry mobs of supposed anti-socialist demonstrators scream at their congressional representatives to "keep your government hands off my Medicare".

I really don't know what to say anymore, about a country in which claims that the government is going to start killing off seniors are taken seriously by tens of millions of people.

I really don't know what to say anymore, about a country in which people are all worked up about government czars, but sat silently while the Bush administration destroyed the Bill of Rights and used a thousand signing statements to write Congress out of the Constitution.

I really don't know what to say anymore, about a country in which deficits have all of a sudden become the source of enormous anger among people who said nothing about them previously, as the tax cuts for the wealthy, off-budget wars based on lies, and unfunded prescription drug Big Pharma giveaway transmogrified the biggest surplus in American history into the biggest deficit ever.

I really don't know what to say anymore, about a country in which politicians can rant incessantly about other peoples' sexual morality, get caught screwing prostitutes, and then still be reelected to the highest ranks of government by trashing the president.

I could go on and on, but what would be the point? The positions of so many Americans on so many policy questions are truly inane - yes, for sure. I wish that was all that concerned me. But it all goes so much deeper than that.

The entire premise of a self-ruling democracy rests on some reasonable degree of rationality and some reasonable degree of an ability to discriminate between real information and falsehoods. Today's American democracy seems to lack these qualities in increasingly abundant amounts.

And yet it goes deeper than that still. The entire premise of a society - any society, democracy or not - is that it possesses a certain degree of shared community, a ‘we-ness' that transcends narrower tribalisms and self-interest in critical ways and at critical moments. That too has unraveled of late. Think of the nice white men with shotguns blocking the exit from flooded New Orleans during the worst moments of Hurricane Katrina.

Looking at America today, it all feels so very past tense to me.

why this editorial silence on peak oil?

Financial Times | Sir, Thrilled as I am to see the realities of oil supply creeping into the public domain, it's disappointing to see your editorial avoiding saying "peak oil" out loud ("Oil on the brain", September 18).

Five years ago we witnessed a collective failure to spot the credit crunch coming despite, with hindsight, obvious clues. What is the probability that, by 2014, we will be writing wise post-mortems on how we failed to spot the peak oil plateau until it was well behind us?

mind-sized hubbert

TODEurope | The bell shaped Hubbert curve is commonly observed when a non renewable, or slowly renewable, resource is exploited in a free market. But what is the origin of the curve? Ugo Bardi and Alessandro Lavacchi have recently published a simple "mind sized" model of the Hubbert behavior in "Energies" . Fat cows and lean cows are not included in the equations of the model, but come as a logical consequence of it.

Have you ever tried to tell a politician about peak oil? If you did, you know what happens. Supposing that he/she pays any attention to you, you'll immediately face at least two typical objections: if there is still oil underground, what is the problem? If the price is high enough, why should production decline? It is not easy to answer these questions in the 30 seconds which are the typical attention span of a politician. Failing to do that will make you look like a representative of one of those millenarian sects eagerly waiting for the end of the world. And the problem is not just with politicians; try to explain peak oil to your mother or to an economist. It is not easy.

Possibly, peak oil will always be beyond the intellectual capabilities of the average politician, but it is also true that there are plenty of intelligent people out there who are perfectly able to understand the concept. The problem is how do we explain it to them. And, if we have to explain it, we must understand it first. What is, exactly, that causes production peaks for oil and for other non renewable resources?

Monday, September 21, 2009

the aftermath of the great recession part I

ASPO | Today’s article is the first of a two-part series in which I attempt to forecast general economic conditions that will affect the oil market over the next 10 years. Despite Galbraith’s sensible warning, what we will experience in the aftermath of the Great Recession is not a complete mystery. Strong evidence suggests that during the next decade, the global economy will struggle to regain a sound footing supporting vigorous growth.

This article and the next mirror closely what I will say at ASPO-USA’s upcoming conference on October 10-13 in Denver, Colorado. I am moderating the “Great Recession and the Energy Markets” discussion. I will be joined by Eric Janszen, Adam Robinson, and author Kevin Phillips.

This is not necessarily the final version of my introductory remarks in Denver, but it is close enough. I am publishing these slides early to allow those attending the conference (or those who are not able to attend) to study the issues prior to the panel itself. There is probably more material here (and next week) than I will have time to present in Denver.

I can not cover the world in a short presentation. Therefore, most of my slides examine the economic prognosis for the United States and China. These countries can be viewed as a single entity called Chimerica. By and large, a resurgence in economic growth outside Chimerica (e.g. in Japan, the Eurozone, the other BRICs) is unlikely unless both the U.S. (the world’s largest economy) and China (the world’s largest emerging economy) are prospering.

I believe substantial, perhaps overwhelming, evidence exists that points toward a protracted global downturn like that experienced in Japan during the 1990s (and beyond) following the crash of their stock market and real estate bubbles of the mid to late 1980s.


The American Interest | Is even the fastest growing of America’s rivals really a credible alternative to the United States? Rapidly though it is growing, China is bedeviled by three serious ailments: demographic imbalance, environmental degradation and political corruption. China’s military is not remotely ready to mount a serious challenge to American dominance in the Pacific. And, crucially, it is far from clear that China is ready to wean its manufacturing sector completely off the U.S. export market. After three years of very mild renminbi appreciation, the People’s Bank of China seems to be contemplating renewed intervention to keep the currency weak relative to the dollar. That means China will continue to sell renminbi for dollars, further enlarging its already large portfolio of U.S. bonds.

There is a paradox at the heart of this crisis. In many ways it is a crisis that has “Made in America” stamped all over it. Yet in the very worst moments of panic this fall, investors made it clear that they continue to regard U.S. government debt as a “safe haven” in uncertain times; hence the recent dollar rally. Huge though the costs of the current crisis may prove to be, there is a way of presenting them that may yet suffice to reassure the rest of the world that America can afford it. After all, the Federal debt in public hands remains equivalent to below 40 percent of U.S. GDP, a significantly lower figure than in many European economies or Japan. (The vastly larger unfunded liabilities of the Medicare and Social Security systems remain, fortunately, off balance sheet.)

Of course, this crisis could yet prove to be the safe haven’s last gasp, especially if Congress runs amok with supplementary bailouts and stimulus packages, and the international bond market finally writes the United States off as just another Latin American economy. There seemed very little awareness at the mid-November G-20 summit in Washington that uncoordinated interest rate cuts and stimulus packages could unleash a fresh bout of volatility in international currency and bond markets. The possibility remains, too, that the coming explosion of U.S. Federal debt could finally trigger the dreaded dollar rout, especially if the Chinese decide that the export game is up and their only hope is a policy of “market socialism in one country.” Yet this still seems a less likely scenario than a continuation of Chimerica.

True, the financial hubris of recent years has been followed by a terrible nemesis. The age of leverage has ended not with a whimper but a deafening bang. Nonetheless, it is much too early to conclude that in geopolitical terms the American century is over, or that China solo is about to take over from Chimerica. Power is always relative, and a crisis that hits the periphery of the global economy harder than the core must logically increase the power of the core. Nemesis, too, can be exported.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

a VERY wise latina....,

WSJ | In her maiden Supreme Court appearance last week, Justice Sonia Sotomayor made a provocative comment that probed the foundations of corporate law.

During arguments in a campaign-finance case, the court's majority conservatives seemed persuaded that corporations have broad First Amendment rights and that recent precedents upholding limits on corporate political spending should be overruled.

But Justice Sotomayor suggested the majority might have it all wrong -- and that instead the court should reconsider the 19th century rulings that first afforded corporations the same rights flesh-and-blood people have.

Judges "created corporations as persons, gave birth to corporations as persons," she said. "There could be an argument made that that was the court's error to start with...[imbuing] a creature of state law with human characteristics."

After a confirmation process that revealed little of her legal philosophy, the remark offered an early hint of the direction Justice Sotomayor might want to take the court.

"Progressives who think that corporations already have an unduly large influence on policy in the United States have to feel reassured that this was one of [her] first questions," said Douglas Kendall, president of the liberal Constitutional Accountability Center.

"I don't want to draw too much from one comment," says Todd Gaziano, director of the Center for Legal and Judicial Studies at the conservative Heritage Foundation. But it "doesn't give me a lot of confidence that she respects the corporate form and the type of rights that it should be afforded."

religiosity and teen birth rates

Reproductive Health | Background - The children of teen mothers have been reported to have higher rates of several unfavorable mental health outcomes. Past research suggests several possible mechanisms for an association between religiosity and teen birth rate in communities.

The present study compiled publicly accessible data on birth rates, conservative religious beliefs, income, and abortion rates in the U.S., aggregated at the state level. Data on teen birth rates and abortion originated from the Center for Disease Control; on income, from the U.S. Bureau of the Census, and on religious beliefs, from the U.S. Religious Landscape Survey carried out by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. We computed correlations and partial correlations.

Increased religiosity in residents of states in the U.S. strongly predicted a higher teen birth rate, with r = 0.73 (p<0.0005). Religiosity correlated negatively with median household income, with r = -0.66, and income correlated negatively with teen birth rate, with r = -0.63. But the correlation between religiosity and teen birth rate remained highly significant when income was controlled for via partial correlation: the partial correlation between religiosity and teen birth rate, controlling for income, was 0.53 (p<0.0005). Abortion rate correlated negatively with religiosity, with r=-0.45, p=0.002. However, the partial correlation between teen birth rate and religiosity remained high and significant when controlling for abortion rate (partial correlation=0.68, p<0.0005) and when controlling for both abortion rate and income (partial correlation=0.54, p=0.001).

With data aggregated at the state level, conservative religious beliefs strongly predict U.S. teen birth rates, in a relationship that does not appear to be the result of confounding by income or abortion rates. One possible explanation for this relationship is that teens in more religious communities may be less likely to use contraception. The complete article is available as a provisional PDF. The fully formatted PDF and HTML versions are in production.


Integral World | The authors think that, because all living beings alter their environment (which is, of course, true), every human work and artifact is "natural". Not so. From a darwinian perspective, „natural“ is only what is evolutionary-tested or what is tested by natural selection in the eons of evolutionary time. For example, a beaver's dam is „natural“ not because it's part of nature (everything is, so „natural“ and this is a pleonasm) but because it's an evolutionary-tested artifact which has its root in the beaver's genetic heritage; an ant-city is likewise natural, etc. But a human dam or human city is surely not natural in the sense that they are rooted in our evolutionary past or that they are part of our genetic heritage.

This is the reason why a beaver's dam or ant-city is not problematic (ecologically or for the beaver's and ant's well-being, quite the opposite) in difference from a human dam or city. Industrial technology is unnatural not because it's technology – there is technology in hunter-gatherer society as well – but because it's part of industrial society, the most unnatural (that is, with the biggest adaptive gulf) social order in human history ever. Acknowledgement of the theory of bio-social discontinuity – perhaps through a better familiarity with Shepard's theory – could be helpful here.

All human behaviour is, in some sense, „regressive“ and „atavistic“ because it's all about the satisfaction of fundamental (genetic) needs, or, if that isn't possible (because humans live in an unnatural social environment), about finding substitutes. These substitutes can be the accumulation of political and economic power over other people and nature, consumerism or the construction of some collective illusion, like transcendental (celestial) beings, „historical progress“ or something else. I wrote about that in detail in a previous article "Limits of Spiritual Enlightenment" (Markus 2009a).

For the authors, ecological values depend on „higher moral development“ or „ecological consciousness“. But hunter-gatherers have no „ecological consciousness (in the contemporary sense, at least) and they are presumably in the lowest level of (spiritual and material) „development“… but nevertheless they have the best ecological balance – from a clean and wild environment to long-term sustainability – of all human societies. And quite the opposite: industrial society – with the „highest level of development“ and the most „ecological consciousness – have the worst ecological balance. How is that possible?

Friday, September 18, 2009

sec trys to ban goldman-sachs preferred mode of stealing

Reuters | U.S. securities regulators proposed on Thursday a ban on flash orders that stock exchanges send to a select group of traders, fractions of a second before revealing them publicly.

The Securities and Exchange Commission is seeking to end the practice criticized for giving an unfair advantage to some market participants who have lightning-fast computer trading software.

Nasdaq OMX's (NDAQ.O) Nasdaq Stock Market and privately-held BATS Exchange recently canceled their flash services that disclosed buy and sell orders to specific trading firms before sending them to the wider market.

NYSE Euronext's (NYX.N) New York Stock Exchange did not adopt the flashes under scrutiny but major alternative venue Direct Edge still offers flashes.

The SEC will put its proposal out for public comment for 60 days, and will later schedule a meeting to decide whether to adopt the proposal.

The agency said it will seek feedback on on the cost and benefits of the proposed ban, and whether the use of flash orders in options markets should be evaluated differently from those in equity markets.

Don't you wish you were Goldman-Sachs and could just get away with naked hacking and pillaging? But wait, instead of having all your crew get snatched off of Wall Street for a 6:00PM televised perp walk, all that happens to you is that the SEC simply attempts to ban one of your core criminal enterprises after you've clocked $100 Million/Day profits for months, and months, and months?

rare earth....,

Afghanistan Geological Survey | "In Afghanistan rare metals (lithium, caesium, tantalum and niobium) occur in three main deposit types: pegmatites, mineralised springs and playa-lake sediments" "Globally, rare metals are produced from deposits in these three settings, chiefly in Chile, Argentina, the USA and Turkey. ..

Lithium has many uses, for example in batteries, in the glass and ceramics industry, and in high performance alloys for aircraft. Most tantalum is used to produce capacitors that are used in laptop computers, mobile phones and digital cameras. Niobium is primarily used in specialist steels although it also shares some uses with tantalum since it has almost identical chemical properties.

Conclusions and potential

Afghanistan has considerable resources of rare metals in pegmatites, mineralised springs and lake-sediment salts. No systematic modern exploration has been carried out since the withdrawal of Soviet forces and many of the known localities warrant further investigation and exploration based on modern mineral deposit models and techniques."
In the unlikely - though possible event - that there was any confusion concerning why I deemed this article post-worthy
China mines over 95pc of the world’s rare earth minerals, mostly in Inner Mongolia. The move to hoard reserves is the clearest sign to date that the global struggle for diminishing resources is shifting into a new phase. Countries may find it hard to obtain key materials at any price.
Resource nationalism and piracy are topics worthy of a little extra vigilance.

cascade-based attack vulnerability on the US power grid

ComputerWorld | The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is looking at a report by a research scientist in China that shows how a well-placed attack against a small power subnetwork could trigger a cascading failure of the entire West Coast power grid.

Jian-Wei Wang, a network analyst at China's Dalian University of Technology, used publicly available information to model how the West Coast power grid and its component subnetworks are connected. Wang and another colleague then investigated how a major outage in one subnetwork would affect adjacent subnetworks, according to an article in New Scientist.

The aim of the research was to study potential weak spots on the West Coast grid, where an outage on one subnetwork would result in a cascading failure across the entire network. A cascading failure occurs when an outage on one network results in an adjacent network becoming overloaded, triggering a similar set of failures across the entire network. The massive blackouts in the Northeast in August 2003, which affected about 50 million people, were the result of such a cascading failure.

Wang's research was expected to show that an outage in a heavily loaded network would result in smaller surrounding networks becoming overwhelmed and causing cascading blackouts. Instead, what the research showed was that under certain conditions, an attacker targeting a lightly loaded subnetwork would be able to cause far more of the grid to trip and fail, New Scientist reported, quoting Wang. The article does not describe Wang's research (paid subscription required) or any further details of the attack.

Wang did not reply to an e-mailed request for comment seeking details on the report.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

woman gives BoA the finger....,

Huffington Post | For years, Ann Minch of Red Bluff, Calif., has carried a balance of several thousand dollars on her Bank of America credit card, making minimum monthly payments of about $130, sometimes paying an extra $50 or $100. She says she's never missed a payment.

Bank of America rewarded her loyalty this year by repeatedly raising her interest rate, which reached 30 percent in July.

Fed up, the 46-year-old stepmother of two turned to YouTube.

"There comes a time when a person must be willing to sacrifice in order to take a stand for what's right," said Minch in a Sept. 8 webcam video. "Now, this is one of those times, and if I'm successful this will be the proverbial first shot fired in an American debtors' revolution against the usury and plunder perpetrated by the banking elite, the Federal Reserve and the federal government."

Minch announced that she'd be dumping Bank of America, refusing to pay off her credit card debt unless she was offered a lower rate. She explained that she'd been a reliable customer even though she'd lost her job as a mental health case manager. She said bank reps refused to negotiate her interest rate when she called them to complain a few weeks ago.

"You are evil, thieving bastards," she said in her video. "Stick that in your bailout pipe and smoke it."

The video made a splash online, getting links from all kinds of venues and garnering over 96,000 views as of Monday morning.

Minch told the Huffington Post she fulfilled part of her threat on Saturday, when she went to her local BofA branch and closed out her checking and savings accounts. She took her money (around $5,000, she said) and put in a local community bank.