Wednesday, June 6, 2018

How To Make A Mint: The Cryptography of Anonymous Electronic Cash

I am currently reading the book “The Pentagons Brain, An Uncensored History of DARPA" based upon the things that DARPA and ARPA created and how the developments came to light 20 years later. It is entirely possible that the US government created crypto currencies to pay for nefarious activities by the CIA in foreign countries. I have not been able to validate the following paper and I leave it up to you to make your own assessment. .....Aivars 


Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Roundup formula is far more toxic than glyphosate in isolation

I have observed in Europe, where Roundup use is prohibited, that Americans who claim intolerance to gluten are able to eat the bread without any side effects. I wonder if this is actually poisoning of Americans by the farmers using Round Up as opposed to Gluten intolerance? On a personal trip to Italy the mayor of a city in Piedmonte told me that cancer rates were through the roof 20 years ago and they assumed a direct link with Roundup. They banned the use and went back to traditional methods of weed control such as ploughing the weeds back into the soil. Not surprisingly there is a study being promoted in Italy to study the cancerous effect of round up..... Aivars.

Story at-a-glance 

  • Government researchers warn the Roundup formula is far more toxic than glyphosate in isolation, due to synergistic interactions between various chemicals
  • Testing by the U.S. National Toxicology Program reveals glyphosate formulations such as Roundup “significantly altered” the viability of human cells by disrupting the functionality of cell membranes
  • The Ramazzini Institute in Italy is raising public funds to perform a comprehensive, independent, global glyphosate study. Stage 1 will investigate the chemical’s carcinogenicity and chronic toxicity potential

By Dr. Mercola
In recent years, concerns over the health effects of glyphosate — the active ingredient in Roundup and other weed killer formulations — has risen exponentially. Researchers have discovered it not only may be carcinogenic,1 but may also affect your body’s ability to produce fully functioning proteins, inhibit the shikimate pathway (found in gut bacteria) and interfere with the function of cytochrome P450 enzymes(required for activation of vitamin D and the creation of nitric oxide and cholesterol sulfate).
Glyphosate also chelates important minerals, disrupts sulfate synthesis and transport, interferes with the synthesis of aromatic amino acids and methionine, resulting in folate and neurotransmitter shortages, disrupts your microbiome by acting as an antibiotic, impairs methylation pathways, and inhibits pituitary release of thyroid stimulating hormone, which can lead to hypothyroidism.2,3
Now, government researchers warn the Roundup formula is far more toxic than glyphosate alone. As reported by investigative journalist Carey Gillam:4
“The tests5 are part of the U.S. National Toxicology Program’s (NTP) first-ever examination of herbicide formulations made with the active ingredient glyphosate, but that also include other chemicals. While regulators have previously required extensive testing of glyphosate in isolation, government scientists have not fully examined the toxicity of the more complex products sold to consumers, farmers and others.”

Toxicology Testing Long Overdue

The NTP testing was done by request from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) following the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) reclassification of glyphosate as a Class 2A probable carcinogen three years ago.6 At the time, the IARC noted concerns about glyphosate formulations possibly having increased toxicity due to synergistic interactions. 
As it turns out, that’s exactly what the NTP testing found. According to the NTP’s summary of the results, glyphosate formulations “significantly altered” the viability of human cells by disrupting the functionality of cell membranes. Mike DeVito, acting chief of the NTP Laboratory, told Gillam, “We see the formulations are much more toxic. The formulations were killing the cells. The glyphosate really didn’t do it.” 
While first-phase results do not indicate that weed killers like Roundup are carcinogenic, it does show that the formulations are more toxic than glyphosate in isolation (for which evidence of carcinogenic potential does exist), and that they have the ability to kill human cells. 
Jennifer Sass, who works as a scientist with the Natural Resources Defense Council, added, “This testing is important, because the EPA has only been looking at the active ingredient. But it’s the formulations that people are exposed to on their lawns and gardens, where they play and in their food.”
Despite public assurances that Roundup is harmless, internal documents from Monsanto, obtained through previous Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, reveal the company itself is unclear about the toxicity of Roundup as it has not been thoroughly studied. Internal discussions also reveal Monsanto employees have not been convinced the product is harmless. For example, in a 2002 email, Monsanto executive William Heydens said, “Glyphosate is OK but the formulated product … does the damage.”7
A 2003 company email8 from Monsanto toxicologist Donna Farmer, Ph.D., states, “You cannot say that Roundup is not a carcinogen … we have not done the necessary testing on the formulation to make that statement. The testing on the formulations are not anywhere near the level of the active ingredient.” 
Farmer also adds that, “We cannot support the statement about ‘no adverse effects whatsoever on flora, or fauna or on the human body.’ Adverse effects are seen on flora (glyphosate is meant to kill vegetation), adverse effects on fauna — in studies with laboratory animals — even death is seen (LDS0 studies for example) …” Yet another company email sent in 2010 said,9 “With regards to the carcinogenicity of our formulations we don’t have such testing on them directly.” 
Despite such internal discussions and doubts, in its “Benefits and Safety of Glyphosate” report published last year,10 Monsanto continues to claim that “Glyphosate-based herbicides are supported by one of the most extensive worldwide human health and environmental effects databases ever compiled for a pesticide product. Comprehensive toxicological and environmental fate studies conducted over the last 40 years have time and again demonstrated the strong safety profile of this widely used herbicide.” 

Ramazzini Institute Seeking Donations for Global Safety Study

The highly respected Ramazzini Institute in Italy — which recently confirmed the link between cellphone radiation and Schwann cell tumors found by NTP researchers11,12,13 — is now raising funds14 to perform a comprehensive, global glyphosate study. Stage 1 would investigate the chemical’s carcinogenicity and chronic toxicity potential. The Institute explains its decision to look for public funding:
“Aiming to produce independent and solid scientific evidence, the Ramazzini Institute has decided not to accept any funding for the study from the industry that produces glyphosate-based herbicides or from the organic farming or food industry — to avoid all conflicts of interest.
Do you want to know if glyphosate is safe for you and your family? If you do, you can now help fund a study that you can trust. This is the most comprehensive independent study ever on the World’s most used herbicide, the study that you and your family deserve!”

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Aboriginal settlement in Australia was planned migration: study

Hang on what did they say? In this article it talks about how the sea level was 210 feet lower 60,000 years ago allowing aborigines to migrate to Australia easily! How many cars were there then? Why did the sea level rise?   Aivars

Aboriginal settlement in Australia was no accident but the result of large-scale migration by skilled maritime explorers, research shows.
Experts have made the finding using wind and ocean current modelling, similar to that deployed in the search for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370.
The process was designed to simulate likely routes between the islands of Timor and Roti and more than 100 now-submerged islands off the Kimberley coast.
"There's always been a lot of speculation about how Aboriginal people made it to Australia and a lot of people have argued that people might have made it here by accident," study co-author and James Cook University archaeology Professor Sean Ulm said.
"What this study has shown ... is that it's so absolutely improbable that you can explain any of those lines of evidence with accidental voyaging.
"It has to be purposeful, it has to be co-ordinated and it has to be fairly large-scale to explain the patterns we see."
The study – published in the Quaternary Science Reviews – estimated migration to the bridge of islands off north-west Australia occurred between about 50,000 and 65,000 years ago.
Prof Ulm said the sea was 75 metres lower and the islands visible from the parts of Timor and Roti.
The hundreds of routes modelled would have taken between four and seven days and spanned up to 150 kilometres.
"If you had the technology to make it there, it was really easy to make it to Australia," the professor said.
"We're talking 60,000 years ago here. So that is an incredible time stamp to how complex the first Australians were from the moment they first saw Australia."
The study – a collaboration between experts from the CSIRO and various universities – also used genetic information to show hundreds of people, not just a few, likely made the voyage.
"This is very significant because it was very early in modern human dispersals across the globe," Professor Ulm said.
"We're talking multiple boats, not just one boat blowing off course ... reflecting the population in the mainland South-East Asian area."
By the Sydney Morning Herald

Monday, May 21, 2018

Steve Eisman of ‘The Big Short’ Bashes Cryptocurrency: ‘I Don’t See the Purpose of It’

He bet against it, I wrote about it - the collapse of CDO’s. We are both in agreement about crypto currencies. The underlying blockchain and the use of tokens for electronic contracts is where the merit lies. Eliminating rafts of unnecessary brokers, processes and providing transparency and visibility in originating transactions is where value will be created....... Aivars

HONG KONG—Steve Eisman, the money manager who earned celebrity status for correctly betting against subprime mortgages a decade ago, isn’t such a fan of the investing craze around cryptocurrencies.
Digital currencies like bitcoin have increased in popularity for only two reasons: speculation and money laundering, he said on stage at the CFA Institute’s annual conference here on Monday. Mr. Eisman, a managing director at Neuberger Berman, also questioned the reasoning behind why such currencies even exist. 
“I don’t see the purpose of it,” he said on stage in front of roughly 1,500 attendees. “What value does cryptocurrency actually add? No one’s been able to answer that question for me.” 

Mr. Eisman rose to fame when his prescient predictions about the 2008 financial crisis made him millions of dollars and earned him a lead role in author Michael Lewis’ bestseller about the crash, called “The Big Short.” The character based on Mr. Eisman was later played by actor Steve Carell in a 2015 movie based on the book.
Mr. Eisman now joins a growing chorus of prominent market participants, including Warren Buffett of Berkshire Hathaway and Jamie Dimon of J.P. Morgan Chase , who have been openly critical of digital currencies. Mr. Buffett said earlier this month that bitcoin is “probably rat poison squared’ and predicted that cryptocurrencies “almost certainly...will come to a bad ending.”
In a panel discussion and subsequent interview that ranged from current economic conditions to the moment he knew the U.S. housing market would collapse—May 8, 2006, when Wachovia Corp. made a $26 billion bet on the mortgage market—Mr. Eisman said he has never bought or sold any cryptocurrencies. 
“I don’t touch it,” he said. “I don’t know what I’m looking at...I have no interest”
He emphasized that he isn’t an expert on the subject and never invests in traditional currency markets, let alone cryptocurrencies. He also wondered why governments haven’t put proper investor controls in place to protect cryptocurrency investors. 
“I don’t understand why regulators haven’t regulated it more heavily,” he said.
Bitcoin recently traded at around $8,400, according to Coindesk. Its price was at around $1,000 at the beginning of last year and surged to nearly $20,000 in December before falling back. 
Mr. Eisman added that he doesn’t see a U.S. recession imminent. He stressed that there don’t appear to be risks in the global economy rivaling what took place prior to the 2008 crisis. 
“I see risks but I don’t see systemic risks,” he said. 
One of his chief concerns lands far, indeed, from the crypto market: Canadian property.
“There’s a housing bubble in Canada which is starting to break,” he said, adding that he’s shorting, or betting against, seven publicly-traded Canadian financial stocks. 
Mr. Eisman, who said he has 8,000 comic books on his iPad, also stressed that he had almost no involvement in the making of “The Big Short” movie— though he did meet for breakfast once with Mr. Carell,and saw him twice on set. 
“People who have known me a long time have all said the same thing,” he added. “He got me right.”
By  Steven Russolillo - Wall Street Journal

Sustainable, Affordable, Healthy Food: Not An Oxymoron for Long?

About time that people are focusing on quality of food vs the farmer like Gargiulo who creates tasteless products. He focuses on benefiting his own bottom line having created tasteless non nutritious products that look fantastic and do not bruise, consequently educating whole generations of bland palettes..... Aivars

Science is already bringing us more sustainable, flavorful cuisine in the form of engineered seeds, plant-based proteins and electronically traceable seafood. But producers, chefs and restaurateurs are still struggling with how to bring these novel—and often pricey—foods to Americans who live outside coastal cities.
Instead of the industry working to convince the average consumer to forgo meat, food experts at the Future of Everything Festival offered another solution: make affordable, healthy, delicious and convenient alternatives.
“Animals as a food production system are the most destructive food technology on earth,” said Patrick Brown, founder and CEO of Impossible Foods, maker of a plant-protein burger designed to taste (and bleed) like beef. “The only way to solve the problem is by beating that technology in the marketplace.”
To that end, the Impossible Burger will soon be available at the Cheesecake Factory , which has 214 locations across the U.S. and Canada, according to its website, as well as at about 400 White Castle locations nationwide, up from 140 last month, Mr. Brown said.
To that end, the Impossible Burger will soon be available at all 199 U.S. locations of the Cheesecake Factory, Mr. Brown said. The burger is also served at 140 White Castle locations nationwide, and the company hopes to eventually expand into all 400 White Castles.
Others are tackling the issue at seed level. At Row7 Seed Company, chef Dan Barber and breeder Michael Mazourek are deploying plant genealogy, computer modeling and field sensors to create flavor-packed vegetables served beyond the white-cloth-covered tables of Blue Hill at Stone Barns, Mr. Barber’s restaurant in Pocantico Hills, N.Y.
Even as more eaters demand quality food, “stores will charge a bit more for whole wheat pasta [because] whoever’s buying it will pay a premium,” said Sam Kass, former White House chef and founder of Trove, an advisory firm.
For restaurateur Kimbal Musk, the goal is to serve “real food” at a price point competitive with Chili’s or Applebee’s. He is working with local farmers and using automation to keep costs down, he said. A tech-enabled oven, for example, can sear and braise pork, enabling cooks with much less training to make the dish.
By Wall Street Journal Tech

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Pension Funds Still Making Promises They Probably Can’t Keep

I have been talking about potential unfunded pension liabilities for some time now. I have watched unsustainable acquisitions being made by many different entities over the last 5 years. Multiples of up to 20 times EBITDA are being paid with high multiples of debt, all at a time when a significant number of industries are under attack from new business models such as Amazon. When will these pension funds have to become liquid in order to pay their retirees and will that cause the next stock market crash?   ...Aivars

Public pension fund projections don’t always match actual experience

The value of investments by public pension funds declined last quarter, widening the gap between what these funds say they will earn and what they actually earn.
Pension funds across the U.S. must each year estimate how much they expect to earn on investments—a projection that determines the amount the government that is affiliated with the pension fund must pay into it. Robust returns reduce the need for government support.
But forecasts don’t always square with funds’ actual experience. Retirement plans across the country still project their investments will grow at a median rate of 7.25%, according to Wilshire Consulting, an adviser to pension funds. Yearly returns on public pension plans have returned a median 6.79% over the past decade and 6.49% over the past 20 years, according to Wilshire Trust Universe Comparison Service, a database.
Unlike corporations, public pensions have wide latitude in projecting investment returns.
In the first quarter, public plans lost a median 0.23%, according to Wilshire Trust Universe Comparison Service. Such a lackluster return will serve as a stark reminder to the public officials who manage billions of dollars in pensions for America’s firefighters, police and other public workers of the daunting shortfalls many funds face.
“With all of the major asset classes falling it was pretty tough for investors to have any positive returns. They didn’t have much of a chance to make money,” said Robert J. Waid, managing director at Wilshire Associates.
Public retirement systems had an average 72% of assets they need to pay for retirement promises in 2016, according to the latest data available in the Public Plans Database, which tracks about 170 pension funds. The figure a decade earlier was 85%.
Before the first quarter, pension plans had experienced nine quarters of positive returns. That rise had brightened the picture for public retirement systems and closed some of the gap between expectations and reality.

These pension funds have also steadily narrowed this gap on their own. Three quarters of the 129 state pension plans monitored by the National Association of State Retirement Administrators have reduced their investment return assumption since fiscal year 2014.
But government officials seeking to make their investment targets more conservative have a powerful disincentive: High returns assumptions appeal to elected leaders because they reduce the amount governments need to set aside to cover pension promises. For some, pensions have already caused budget pressure.
Companies don’t have the same flexibility to set return expectations on their pension plans. Pension plans sponsored by S&P 1500 companies have an average 87% of assets needed to cover their pensions promises, according to Mercer, a consultancy.
California and its school districts will have to pay a projected $15 billion or more into the state’s public worker pension plan over the next 20 years after the plan, known as Calpers, in 2016 decided to reduce its investment target to 7% from 7.5% over a three-year period.
Other governments—loathe to cut services or increase taxes—have made a riskier choice, putting more of their money into riskier investments with higher expected returns, such as real estate, commodities, hedge funds and private-equity holdings.
These so-called alternative investments rose to 26% of holdings at about 150 of the biggest U.S. funds in 2016, according to the Public Plans Database, compared with 7% more than a decade earlier.
“They’re taking a lot risk in their plans with high allocations to equity and other return seeking assets,” said Ed Bartholomew, a consultant. “Someone is bearing that risk and the question should always be ‘who is bearing that risk?’”
Birmingham, Alabama, even raised its target rate on one of its pension funds to 7.5% from 7% in 2016 after moving some of the money out of fixed-income investments and into equities. The move made the city’s annual contribution to the Retirement and Relief System less costly than it otherwise would have been.
“Why Birmingham changed the investment rate return…is a bit questionable,” said Richard Ciccarone, president and chief executive of Merritt Research Services LLC, a research firm.
A city finance official said in an email that the state had reduced the amount of fixed-income investments the fund was required to hold and now “allows greater flexibility for investment management.” He said the change was made with the advice of an actuary and an investment consultant.
But Tom Aaron, senior analyst, Moody’s Investors Service said the temporary budget relief comes at a price.
“You’re supplanting a budgetary contribution with increased risk taking. If those (investment) assumptions don’t pan out that’s going to result in higher than expected budgetary contributions down the road.”
By Heather Gillers - Wall Street Journal

Monday, May 7, 2018

Former HSBC Executive Sentenced to Two Years Following ‘Front-Running’ Conviction

So the trader gets the blame.  High frequency trading in effect does the same and yet that is legal.  That seems to me like hypocrisy.  Aivars

Mark Johnson was convicted of misusing confidential information about a client’s $3.5 billion currency trade to make millions for the bank

A former high-ranking HSBC Holdings PLC executive was sentenced Thursday to two years in federal prison, following his conviction last fall on charges that he misused confidential information about a client’s $3.5 billion currency trade to make millions of dollars for the bank.
Mark Johnson, HSBC’s former global head of foreign-exchange cash trading, was the first banker to face criminal charges stemming from a U.S. Justice Department probe into foreign exchange rate manipulations.
In October, a Brooklyn jury found Mr. Johnson guilty on one count of wire-fraud conspiracy and eight counts of wire fraud, He was acquitted on a ninth wire fraud count. The wire fraud counts each carried a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
Prosecutors had sought a seven-year prison term, saying the scheme led to financial loss for the client—an energy company—and undermined the integrity of foreign exchange markets.
Mr. Johnson’s lawyers had asked for no prison time, citing his “long and unblemished record of honest, law-abiding conduct,” in a court filing.
A lawyer for Mr. Johnson, who left HSBC in 2017, said they plan to appeal the verdict.
Mr. Johnson wasn’t accused of rigging exchange rates, the main focus of the broader Justice Department probe. Instead, he and a colleague were charged in connection with a practice known as front-running, in which someone with advance knowledge of a major market order buys for their own account and then earns a profit when the larger transaction drives up the price.
Mr. Johnson’s colleague, Stuart Scott, left HSBC in 2014. He is in the U.K. fighting extradition, and wasn’t tried alongside Mr. Johnson. A lawyer for Mr. Scott couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.
The charges stemmed from a 2011 deal to handle the conversion of $3.5 billion worth of dollars into British pounds on behalf of Cairn Energy PLC, a Scotland-based oil-and-gas company. In the days and hours leading up to the transaction, prosecutors said at trial, HSBC traders in London and New York—working at Mr. Johnson’s direction—stockpiled millions of pounds in HSBC accounts.
When the transaction went through, on Dec. 7, 2011, Messrs. Johnson and Scott executed it in a way that drove up the price of the pound, prosecutors alleged, allowing them to sell HSBC’s stockpiled currency at a higher price, while Cairn’s proceeds from the exchange shrunk. The scheme netted $3 million in trading profits and $5 million in fees for HSBC, prosecutors said.
During the four-week trial last fall, lawyers for Mr. Johnson argued that he had acted in the client’s best interest, saying prosecutors were trying to criminalize normal currency trading activity and had twisted Mr. Johnson’s words to suggest a conspiracy.
By Rebecca Davis O’Brien - Wall Street Journal