Thursday, December 31, 2015

Thursday 12-31-15

Last one of this year, here is a good resource for anyone interested in cooking

When you are baking, you want to use the freshest ingredients possible. The key to freshness is storing them correctly and knowing when to toss them out. Baking ingredients should be stored in either glass jars, Tupperware containers or tins to extend their shelf life. If you stocked up on baking ingredients for the holidays, but now find you have a lot left over. This Baking Ingredients Shelf Life Guide will fill you in on how long you can expect your supply to last. While the temperature of your home, where you store them (i.e. a dark cabinet vs. an open shelf) and other variables can all play a role, these are some general ideas and estimates to rely on to give you some rough guidelines.

Baking Ingredients Shelf Life Guide

Cooking Oil Shelf Life– Cooking oil will last about a year if it has not been opened and 1-3 months if it has been opened.

Shortening Shelf Life– Shortening lasts longer than oils do as far as their shelf life. Unopened shortening will stay good for about 2 years while opened shortening will last about a year.
Peanut Butter Shelf Life– Peanut butter has a shelf life of 6-9 months.
Brown Sugar Shelf Life– Brown sugar can be stored up to 6 months from the date you open it as long as it is stored in an airtight container. If you end up with hardened brown sugar, you can rescue it with this simple tip to save hardened brown sugar.
Molasses Shelf Life– Molasses will stay good for 2 years if not opened and 6 months if opened.
Corn Syrup Shelf Life– Corn syrup is an ingredient that can last indefinitely whether unopened or opened.
Granulated Sugar Shelf Life– While granulated sugar may harden into clumps if not stored in an airtight container, it will remain good indefinitely whether unopened or opened. The same holds true for sugar cubes, raw sugar and powdered sugar.
Premade Mixes Shelf Life– You can store pie crust mixes for 6 months, frosting mixes for 8 months, cake mixes for 6-9 months and biscuit, muffin and brownie mixes for 9 months.
Baking Soda and Baking Powder Shelf Life– Baking soda and baking powder will last indefinitely whether unopened or opened and 6 months if opened.
Honey Shelf Life– Honey has a shelf life of 2 years if not opened and 6-8 months if opened. If you find your honey has crystalized, use these tips for dealing with honey crystals.
Non-fat Dry Milk Shelf Life– Non-fat dry milk can last 6 months if unopened and 3 months if opened.
Flour Shelf Life– White and whole wheat flour will stay good for 6-8 months whether unopened or opened as long as it is kept in an airtight container.

Countries Rush for Upper Hand in Antarctica

On a glacier-filled island with fjords and elephant seals, Russia has built Antarctica’s first Orthodox church on a hill overlooking its research base, transporting the logs all the way from Siberia.
Less than an hour away by snowmobile, Chinese laborers have updated the Great Wall Station, a linchpin in China’s plan to operate five bases on Antarctica, complete with an indoor badminton court, domes to protect satellite stations and sleeping quarters for 150 people.
Not to be outdone, India’s futuristic new Bharathi base, built on stilts using 134 interlocking shipping containers, resembles a spaceship. Turkey and Iran have announced plans to build bases, too.
More than a century has passed since explorers raced to plant their flags at the bottom of the world, and for decades to come this continent is supposed to be protected as a scientific preserve, shielded from intrusions like military activities and mining.
But an array of countries are rushing to assert greater influence here, with an eye not just toward the day those protective treaties expire, but also for the strategic and commercial opportunities that exist right now.
“The newer players are stepping into what they view as a treasure house of resources,” said Anne-Marie Brady, a scholar at New Zealand’s University of Canterbury who specializes in Antarctic politics.

The Rev. Benjamin Maltzev in the bell room at the Church of the Holy Trinity. The church offers regular services for the 16 or so Russian speakers who spend the winter at the base.Daniel Berehulak for The New York Times

Some of the ventures focus on the Antarctic resources that are already up for grabs, like abundant sea life. China and South Korea, both of which operate state-of-the-art bases here, are ramping up their fishing of krill, the shrimplike crustaceans found in abundance in the Southern Ocean, while Russia recently thwarted efforts to create one of the world’s largest ocean sanctuaries here.
Some scientists are examining the potential for harvesting icebergs from Antarctica, which is estimated to have the biggest reserves of fresh water on the planet. Nations are also pressing ahead with space research and satellite projects to expand their global navigation abilities.
Building on a Soviet-era foothold, Russia is expanding its monitoring stations for Glonass, its version of the Global Positioning System. At least three Russian stations are already operating in Antarctica, part of its effort to challenge the dominance of the American GPS, and new stations are planned for sites like the Russian base, in the shadow of the Orthodox Church of the Holy Trinity.
Elsewhere in Antarctica, Russian researchers boast of their recent discovery of a freshwater reserve the size of Lake Ontario after drilling through miles of solid ice.
“You can see that we’re here to stay,” said Vladimir Cheberdak, 57, chief of the Bellingshausen Station, as he sipped tea under a portrait of Fabian Gottlieb von Bellingshausen, an officer and later admiral in the Imperial Russian Navy who explored the Antarctic coast in 1820.

A member of a German research team counting the number of penguin species and pairs as part of continuing studies of bird species in Antarctica.Daniel Berehulak for The New York Times

Penguins jumping onto a melting iceberg as summer approached in late November near Villa Las Estrellas, a Chilean settlement and research station on King George Island, Antarctica.Daniel Berehulak for The New York Times

A Chilean scientist, carrying an instrument used for analyzing seawater, walks past an elephant seal pup.Daniel Berehulak for The New York Times

Antarctica’s mineral, oil and gas wealth are a longer-term prize. The treaty banning mining here, shielding coveted reserves of iron ore, coal and chromium, expires in 2048. Researchers recently found kimberlite deposits hinting at the existence of diamonds. And while assessments vary widely, geologists estimate that Antarctica holds at least 36 billion barrels of oil and natural gas.
Beyond the Antarctic treaties, huge obstacles persist to tapping these resources, like drifting icebergs that could imperil offshore platforms. Then there is Antarctica’s remoteness, with some mineral deposits found in windswept locations on a continent that is larger than Europe and where winter temperatures hover around minus 70 Fahrenheit.
But advances in technology might make Antarctica a lot more accessible three decades from now. And even before then, scholars warn, the demand for resources in an energy-hungry world could raise pressure to renegotiate Antarctica’s treaties, possibly allowing more commercial endeavors here well before the prohibitions against them expire.
The research stations on King George Island offer a glimpse into the long game on this ice-blanketed continent as nations assert themselves, eroding the sway long held by countries like the United States, Britain, Australia and New Zealand.
Being stationed in Antarctica involves adapting to life on the planet’s driest, windiest and coldest continent, yet each nation manages to make itself at home.
Bearded Russian priests offer regular services at the Orthodox church for the 16 or so Russian speakers who spend the winter at the base, largely polar scientists in fields like glaciology and meteorology. Their number climbs to about 40 in the warmer summer months.

Chilean researchers are battered by waves on their way back to base after taking seawater samples.Daniel Berehulak for The New York Times

Inside the Bellingshausen base, satellites beam Russian television directly to flat screens on the wall. Researchers disappear for hours into a library with science fiction and detective novels. Others seek refuge in Bellingshausen’s banya, or sauna, where they unwind while sipping their ration of a couple of beers a week. Authentic flourishes include a broom of birch branches with which researchers can gently whip themselves.
“We sacrifice some of the nice things in life to go to Antarctica,” said Oleg Katorgin, 45, a construction supervisor who spent much of the past year at Bellingshausen. To help the time pass, he paints murals of idyllic tropical beach scenes, with mermaids. His paintings hang on the walls of the billiards room at Bellingshausen and a recreation area at an adjacent Chilean base overlooking Maxwell Bay.
China has arguably the fastest-growing operations in Antarctica. It opened its fourth station last year and is pressing ahead with plans to build a fifth. It is building its second icebreaking ship and setting up research drilling operations on an ice dome 13,422 feet above sea level that is one of the planet’s coldest places.
Chinese officials say the expansion in Antarctica prioritizes scientific research, but they also acknowledge that concerns about “resource security” influence their moves.
China’s newly renovated Great Wall station on King George Island makes the Russian and Chilean bases here seem antiquated.
“We do weather monitoring here and other research,” Ning Xu, 53, the chief of the Chinese base, said over tea during a fierce blizzard in late November.
The cavernous base he leads resembles a snowed-in college campus on holiday break, with the capacity to sleep more than 10 times the 13 people who were staying on through the Antarctic winter.
Yong Yu, a Chinese microbiologist, showed off the spacious building, with empty desks under an illustrated timeline detailing the rapid growth of China’s Antarctic operations since the 1980s. “We now feel equipped to grow,” he said.

Members of Chinese and Russian base crews returning in a snow vehicle after attending a party for the arrival of a new team and the departure of another that had been deployed in the Antarctic for a year, at a Uruguayan base.Daniel Berehulak for The New York Times

The winter expedition crew of Russian research team members and, at right, the Chilean scientist Dr. Ernesto Molina, drinking homemade vodka at the Bellingshausen Antarctic base.Daniel Berehulak for The New York Times

Russian winter expedition crew members in the banya, or sauna. Authentic flourishes include a broom of birch branches with which researchers can gently whip themselves.Daniel Berehulak for The New York Times

Chilean Air Force members and Russian Antarctic crew members at a birthday party at the Chilean air base for two of their colleagues.Daniel Berehulak for The New York Times

As some countries expand operations in Antarctica, the United States maintains three year-round stations on the continent with more than 1,000 people during the Southern Hemisphere’s summer, including those at the Amundsen-Scott station, built in 1956 at an elevation of 9,301 feet on a plateau at the South Pole. But American researchers quietly grumble about budget restraints and having far fewer icebreakers than Russia, limiting the reach of the United States in Antarctica.
Scholars warn that Antarctica’s political flux could blur the distinction between military and civilian activities long before the continent’s treaties come up for renegotiation, especially in parts of Antarctica that are ideal for intercepting signals from satellites or retasking satellite systems, potentially enhancing global electronic
intelligence operations.
Some countries have had a hard time here. Brazil opened a research station in 1984, but it was largely destroyed by a fire that killed two members of the navy in 2012, the same year that a diesel-laden Brazilian barge sank near the base. As if that were not enough, a Brazilian C-130 Hercules military transport plane has remained stranded near the runway of Chile’s air base here since it crash-landed in 2014.
Still, Brazil’s stretch of misfortune has created opportunities for China, with a Chinese company winning the $100 million contract in 2015 to rebuild the Brazilian station.
Amid all the changes, Antarctica maintains its allure. South Korea opened its second Antarctic research base in 2014, describing it as a way to test robots developed by Korean researchers for use in extreme conditions. With Russia’s help, Belarus is preparing to build its first Antarctic base. Colombia said this year that it planned to join other South American nations with bases in Antarctica.
“The old days of the Antarctic being dominated by the interests and wishes of white men from European, Australasian and North American states is over,” said Klaus Dodds, a politics scholar at the University of London who specializes in Antarctica. “The reality is that Antarctica is geopolitically contested.”

Dr. Molina with seawater samples. His research, supported by the Chilean Antarctic Institute, focuses on the impact of climate change on marine ecosystems.

New contagious form of cancer discovered

Contagious cancers may not be as rare as thought, say scientists who have discovered a second transmissible in Tasmanian devils - small dog-sized ferocious carnivores found in the Australian island state of Tasmania.

Transmissible cancers - cancers which can spread between individuals by the transfer of living cancer cells - are believed to arise extremely rarely in nature.

One of the few known transmissible cancers causes facial tumours in Tasmanian devils, and is threatening this species with extinction.

The discovery by researchers from the University of Tasmania in Australia, and the University of Cambridge in UK, calls into question our current understanding of the processes that drive cancers to become transmissible.

Tasmanian devils are iconic marsupial carnivores that are only found in the wild in Tasmania. The size of a small dog, the animals have a reputation for ferocity as they frequently bite each other during mating and feeding interactions.

In 1996, researchers observed Tasmanian devils in the north-east of the island with tumours affecting the face and mouth; soon it was discovered that these tumours were contagious between devils, spread by biting.

The cancer spreads rapidly throughout the animal's body and the disease usually causes the death of affected animals within months of the appearance of symptoms.

The cancer has since spread through most of Tasmania and has triggered widespread devil population declines.

To date, only two other forms of transmissible cancer have been observed in nature - in dogs and in soft-shell clams.

Cancer normally occurs when cells in the body start to proliferate uncontrollably. However, cancers do not usually survive beyond the body of the host from whose cells they originally derived.

"The second cancer causes tumours on the face that are outwardly indistinguishable from the previously-discovered cancer," said first author Ruth Pye, from the University of Tasmania.

"So far it has been detected in eight devils in the south-east of Tasmania," Pye said.

"Until now, we've always thought that transmissible cancers arise extremely rarely in nature, but this new discovery makes us question this belief," said senior author Elizabeth Murchison from the University of Cambridge.

The discovery of the second transmissible cancer began in 2014, when a devil with facial tumours was found in south-east Tasmania.

Although this animal's tumours were outwardly very similar to those caused by the first-described Tasmanian devil transmissible cancer, the scientists found that this devil's cancer carried different chromosomal rearrangements and was genetically distinct.

Since then, eight additional animals have been found with the new cancer in the same area of south-east Tasmania.

The study was published in the journal PNAS.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Wednesday 12-30-15

Q&A: Why feds say some IDs not secure enough for air travel
Sometime in 2016 people from several states could have trouble getting on an airplane or into federal buildings because of a post-Sept. 11 law that tightened requirements for state-issued identification.
When that will happen and who will be affected won’t be completely clear until the Department of Homeland Security releases further details of how it will enforce the 2005 REAL ID Act — an announcement that could come in the next few days. In the meantime, an expert on the law says people in places such as Illinois and Missouri — where DHS this week essentially said time’s up for the states to comply — may want to get a passport.
Here’s a look at the act, what it requires and why some states will feel the impact while others won’t:
Congress approved the REAL ID Act in 2005, following a recommendation from the commission formed to study the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The 9/11 commission said the country would be safer if there were minimum standards for government-issued identification such as driver’s licenses that are required to enter federal buildings or board commercial airplanes.
The act set those standards, which include requiring applicants to provide proof of identity and legal US residency and requiring states to use counterfeit-resistant security features in the IDs.
DHS originally gave states until 2009 to make necessary changes to their requirements and technology.
At least 20 states and the District of Columbia have complied with the federal requirements, according to information posted on the DHS website.
In other states implementation has been delayed or derailed by concerns about cost, violations of privacy or overreaching by the federal government. Lawmakers in some states passed legislation opposing REAL ID; Minnesota and Missouri still have laws prohibiting them from complying.
DHS has delayed enforcement and granted multiple extensions, allowing federal agencies to continue accepting driver’s licenses from those states.
At least nineteen states have until October 2016 to either comply or be granted another extension. Alaska, California, Illinois, Missouri, New Jersey, New Mexico, South Carolina and Washington have extensions only through Jan. 10.
This week, officials in Missouri and Illinois said they’d been notified that DHS will not grant them another extension beyond Jan. 10. Washington received a similar notice in October.
DHS’ online map provides the status of each state at, though as of Thursday it didn’t indicate which states had additional extensions denied. A DHS spokesperson didn’t respond to phone messages seeking comment Thursday.
DHS is enforcing the act in phases, starting with federal facilities such as nuclear power plants, laboratories and military bases.
That means that starting Jan. 10, federal facilities won’t accept driver’s licenses from Illinois, Missouri or any other state that isn’t approved for an extension beyond that date. (The facilities already don’t accept most licenses from Minnesota, which DHS already has deemed to be non-compliant).
The law doesn’t apply to federal courthouses, hospitals or health clinics, according to DHS, and people may be allowed entry with another valid form of ID such as a passport or military identification.
DHS has said it will extend the requirements to airports sometime in 2016, though the department hasn’t said when. It’s expected to make that announcement as early as next week, and DHS has said it will give a notice of at least 120 days before it takes effect.
That could give states such as Illinois and Missouri time to pass laws or take other steps toward implementation, possibly making DHS more amenable to granting another extension.
That depends on many factors, such as how DHS rolls out the airport requirements and whether travelers have other valid forms of ID.
Andrew Meehan is policy director for Keeping IDentities Safe, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that advocates for implementation of REAL ID.
He said that if history is any indication DHS will phase in the airport portion of the law, possibly starting with smaller airstrips in mid-2016 and expanding to larger airports that serve more travelers at a later date.
Meehan called it “laughable” that so many states haven’t gotten on board with the law after more than a decade. His advice to people in states like Illinois and Missouri is to get a passport.
“To be safe, don’t wait for the Legislature,” he said.
Reason #1,352 For Repealing the Income Tax

Now, the federal government is using the income to tax to hold Americans captive, to keep us from traveling outside the country.
The income tax cannot be reformed or redeemed. We need not disband the IRS, which is merely the tax accounting and enforcement bureaucracy. It is the very nature of the income tax that empowers and corrupts the collectors. Forget Lois Lerner: forget “reform.” Repeal the income tax.
And, they just gave us yet one more reason: pulling Americans’ passports.
Do we not have a Republican congress? We should demand more of them, not less.

Agencies directed to use social media in security clearance reviews
The Director of National Intelligence will soon ask agencies to use additional sources of information when periodically reviewing their security clearance holders, according to a provision slipped into the 2016 omnibus spending bill.
The legislation creates an enhanced personnel security program, which requires that agencies develop a plan for investigating existing clearance holders, under the direction of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI).
Those reinvestigations must happen at least twice every five years.
“The enhanced personnel security program of an agency shall integrate relevant and appropriate information from various sources, including government, publicly available and commercial data sources, consumer reporting agencies, social media and such other sources as determined by the Director of National Intelligence,” the bill states.
Specifically, agencies should collect criminal and financial information, such as a civil legal proceeding or credit score, as well as data on a terrorist or criminal watch list and any information that is already publicly available to conduct security reviews, the legislation says.
Agencies must implement their enhanced personnel security programs either within the next five years or before the backlog of overdue periodic reinvestigations is eliminated.
The specific inclusion of social media and publicly available electronic information is key, said Charlie Sowell, senior vice president for system and software engineering solutions at Salient Federal Solutions and a former senior adviser to the Director of National Intelligence.
The term “social media” will apply to any information an employee publicly posts on his or her account.
“It’s interesting that they used publicly available and social media separately,” Sowell said. “What we call publicly available electronic information (PAEI) [is] anything that’s available online that a member of the general public could get without a subscription. It’s readily available, and social media is a part of that.”
Though the legislation generally says agencies should use social media when reviewing clearance holders, it doesn’t describe exactly how they should use it, what they should look for and how they should interpret the information they find.
Sowell said the Director of National Intelligence was supposed to issue a security executive agent directive, which would detail how the DNI expects agencies to use social media and other publicly available information in the security clearance process.
“Agencies, particularly in the Intelligence Community, have been waiting for the DNI to issue a top-cover for them to begin exploring the use of social media and publicly available electronic information in the normal clearance process, that is in the initial investigation and the periodic reinvestigation,” he said. “But frankly some agencies, which have started piloting the use of social media in investigations, have stopped because they haven’t gotten that top-cover, that policy document from the DNI that says it’s ok to use it.”
While the legislation directs that agencies use social media for reinvestigations, the DNI will still need to issue a directive permitting them to begin using that kind of information, Sowell said.
The legislation makes no mention of continuous evaluation — the practice of consistently conducting automated checks on an employee’s financial, travel and criminal history records — which some agencies have begun to experiment with.
“I’m not sure this is as practical as moving whole hog into continuous evaluation, because you’d have to set up random checks that launch for every single person at different intervals,” Sowell said. “It’s not 5 percent of the population; it’s everyone. So why not go all the way to continuous evaluation?”
Two years after its start, each agency’s inspector general will conduct at least one audit of the program using performance standards that the Director of National Intelligence developed.
Inspectors general will submit the results of their audits to the Director of National Intelligence, who will assess how well agencies are implementing enhanced personnel security programs governmentwide.
The 2016 budget also includes a resolution requiring the Director of National Intelligence to develop a plan to eliminate the security clearance backlog.
“The plan … shall use a risk-based approach to identify high risk populations and prioritize reinvestigations that are due or overdue to be conducted,” the legislation says.
That comes as the future of the federal security clearance process remains unclear.
Following multiple cyber breaches at the Office of Personnel Management, the White House mandated a 90-day review of the federal security clearance process in July. A request for proposal that OPM released in November for a workforce planning study of its Federal Investigation Services (FIS), indicates that the results of that review might be coming soon.
It’s still unclear which agency will ultimately own the security clearance process. A former federal counterintelligence official said the White House will create a new organization, the National Investigative Service Agency, which would assume oversight of the clearance process.
Other options included moving the services back to the Defense Department or keeping them under OPM’s oversight.
Previous attempts to reform the security clearance process have died in Congress.
The Enhanced Security Clearance Act, which had multiple versions and sponsors in 2013 and 2014, had marked similarities to the program included in the 2016 omnibus. It asked agencies to use publicly available information to review security clearance holders twice every five years.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Tuesday 12-29-15

Jefferson’s view on Taxation

Did you know for the first 140 years of the America  (1776-1916) there was virtually no direct taxation on American citizens? In 1802 when Thomas Jefferson took office he eliminated all direct taxation on US citizens. Tax free America. This was Jefferson’s vision and I have quotes from him to back it up.
There were times in US history, like war, when it came back temporarily but the federal government was established to protect citizens against the burden of government. There were some excise taxes and duties on foreign imports but government was kept to a minimum and each person was free and responsible for their own life. This was the vision on the founding fathers for establishing the United States of America.
During the tax free time in America, citizens rich, poor and middle class of the United States grew richer and there was no social state, which was seen by the founding fathers as the road to serfdom. The whole world envied the US and tried to immigrate. If you want to read even more on the history of taxation in the United States including Jefferson’s views on taxation the US Treasury has an article.

Jefferson on taxes: they are wrong

Jefferson’s view on taxes were clear, they were wrong.  I think it is better to look at people’s original words so I have put together some quotes by Jefferson on the issue. Jefferson believed large debt and direct taxes were a curse and something to be avoided as it was the source of oppression.  Jefferson was one of the founding fathers whose vision of the United States was one of freedom for people to live their lives without the excess burden of government.
And the forehorse of this frightful team is public debt. Taxation follows that, and in its train wretchedness and oppression.
Thomas Jefferson in his state of the Union wrote about the “the freedom of labor from taxation”. He felt government should protect its citizens from internal taxation.
Thomas Jefferson believed in times of war when a nation was fighting for its survive with enemies at the gate it could raise capital, but it should be paid off as soon as possible and with least burden to its citizens.
I can not but hope that Congress in reviewing their resources will find means to meet the intermediate interest of this additional debt without recurring to new taxes, and applying to this object only the ordinary progression of our revenue. Its extraordinary increase in times of foreign war will be the proper and sufficient fund for any measures of safety or precaution which that state of things may render necessary in our neutral position.
Jefferson continued to write addressing the Nation:
Direct taxation was to be avoided, this could be done by  avoiding expense that are not necessary. when merely by avoiding false objects of expense we are able, without a direct tax, without internal taxes, and without borrowing to make large and effectual payments toward the discharge of our public debt and the emancipation of our posterity from that mortal canker, it is an encouragement, fellow citizens, of the highest order to proceed as we have begun in substituting economy for taxation, and in pursuing what is useful for a nation placed as we are, rather than what is practiced by others under different circumstances.
Jefferson even did not like the idea of accumulating wealth for a treasury for times of war in case it happened.
…but sound principles will not justify our taxing the industry of our fellow citizens to accumulate treasure for wars to happen we know not when, and which might not, perhaps, happen but from the temptations offered by that treasure.
Jefferson recommend no internal taxes on the citizens of the United States:
there is reasonable ground of confidence that we may now safely dispense with all the internal taxes.

Jefferson Vs Hamilton on the role of government

When I was in high school and first read about the Hamilton and Jeffersonian views of America, I thought only hippies and people who did not understand economics would side with Jefferson. Clearly we needed a strong central bank, treasury and debt to finance the government, centralised financial markets. Jeffersonian views of a libertarian America seemed too radical for me. I was 16 years old in high school when I thought that. Now that I have studied economics and lived in the world for at least 30 years, I realize the opposite.  The government that governs least governs best. If the freedom and prosperity of the citizens are to be protected no or low taxes and debt are clearly the way to go.
Economically speaking it is a question of who can spend your money better, you or the government? Why did Jeffersonian America prosper and not fall apart without taxation? The reason is what Jefferson wrote was correct.

Jefferson’s letters and original writings on taxes in the USA

1787 to James Madison about the issue of taxes:
…the fundamental principle, that the people are not to be taxed
Jefferson’s letter to John Jay in 1789 (August 27th):
The embarrassments of the government, for want of money, are extreme.
What does this seem like to you? If you can find Jefferson quotes to the contrary please let me know. Why does the current President not understand this?
Jefferson when on to write to John Taylor in 1789:
I wish it were possible to obtain a single amendment to our constitution. I would be willing to depend on that alone for the reduction of the administration of our government to the genuine principles of its constitution; I mean an additional article, taking from the federal government the power of borrowing.
In 1799 Jefferson when on to Edmund Pendelton about:
the disgusting particularities of the direct tax.
In 1801 to John Dickerson Thomas Jefferson wrote on taxes:
You will perhaps have been alarmed, as some have been, at the proposition to abolish the whole of the internal taxes. But it is perfectly safe. They are under a million of dollars, and we can economize the government two or three millions a year.
Jefferson's views independence
Hand written by Thomas Jefferson

My view’s on Taxation

  • As an economist I think a tax on consumption, is the least offensive as it does not discourage investment and savings and productive effort.
  • I  pay taxes in the EU and the US as I am a dual citizen, I do not like it. I think it is unfair. I agree with Jefferson. The absence of direct taxes made the US great.
  • ‘No country was every taxed into prosperity’ – Ronald Reagan
  • Government wastes more money than any private person or company ever could.
  • Taxation is a violation of your life, if you work more than 1/2 (aggregate all the taxes including sales and loss of productivity indirectly related to taxes etc) your life for your neighbors wife this is unfair. This is what taxes are, working for your neighbor’s wife. How do you feel about that?
Thomas Jefferson was not a saint, but he was enlighten.

Debt distress level at highest since recession

Higher interest rates are about to hit companies - just when many are ill prepared to handle them.
The Federal Reserve this month took interest rates up for the first time in nearly a decade - ending the days of free money. It might take a few years for higher rates to hit companies - as they look to refinance debt. But the troubling part is many companies aren't in great shape to eat the higher costs.
The number of companies with the lowest credit ratings and negative outlooks jumped to 195 in December, the highest level since March 2010, says Standard & Poor's. The biggest culprit for the jump in these so-called "weakest links" is the oil and gas sector, which accounts for 34 of them. But financial companies are close behind, representing 33 of the weakest links, says S&P.
The bond markets are starting to factor in the dangerous combination of rising interest rates as well as profit weakness in several sectors. The U.S. distress ratio - a measure of the amount of risk the market has priced into bonds - hit 20.1% in November, which is the highest level since hitting 23.5% in September 2009, says S&P. That's an onerous indicator since September 2009 takes investors back to the last recession.
The largest percentage of the distressed debt - 37% - is concentrated in the oil and gas sector. The sector is getting hammered by falling commodity prices. But metals, mining and steel is hurting too, with a 72% distress ratio. Time will tell if the debt market can handle this shock.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Monday 12-28-15

Scientists are developing road surfaces that can de-ice themselves

If you drive in places where the temperature drops below freezing on a regular basis, you'll know all about the danger of icy roads - a danger that's not always easy to accurately predict or compensate for. In an effort to make wintry motoring easier for the average driver, scientists in Turkey have been working on a new surface material that could effectively de-ice itself. The team from KoƧ University has developed a road material that delays the formation of ice. Starting with a salt potassium formate, the researchers mixed in a styrene-butadiene-styrene polymer and added the mixture to bitumen - a major component of asphalt. When tested in the lab, it "significantly" delayed ice formation when compared with a regular road surface, they report, while at the same time remaining just as sturdy as unmodified bitumen.
According to the American Chemical Society, the new composite was able to release de-icing salt over a period of two months, but the effects could last even longer when used on real roads. With the salt-polymer composite spread out evenly through the asphalt, the pressure of cars and trucks wearing away the road would slowly release the mixture and keep the surface ice-free - perhaps even for several years at a time.
Of course, it wouldn't just be drivers who would benefit. Local authorities have to spend money and use up other resources clearing roads during the winter, not just once, but time and time again if the conditions persist. A road surface that de-ices itself would take these gritting lorries off the streets, easing congestion and saving funds for local governments. "Salt can be easily removed by rain or automobiles and requires frequent application on roads," notes the team. "Besides this economic consideration, anti-icing agents compromise the mechanical properties of asphalt and have a negative impact on living organisms and the environment when used in large amounts." If the new bitumen composite can be made commercially viable and replicate the same effects in real-world testing, driving in snowy or freezing cold conditions might soon be a lot less hazardous than it currently is. It's not the only innovation potentially coming to our streets, though: other teams of researchers are busy working on embedding solar panels, recycled plastic and car recharging capabilities into the road surfaces of tomorrow.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Saturday 12-26-15

Islamic State okays taking organs of living non-Muslims

The Islamic State's religious scholars have ruled that taking the organs of non-Muslims is permissible under Islamic law to save the life of a Muslim, because killing apostates to eat their flesh has previously been allowed.
The revelation comes in a January 2015 document that was capured by U.S. special forces in Syria in May and obtained by Reuters.
The news agency posted a U.S. government translation of the document attributed to the Islamic State's research and fatwa committee.
"Allah almighty knows what's best and knows what's right and what is wrong and there is evidence from texts and Islamic principles and laws supporting the notion that transplanting organs from an apostate's body into a Muslim body in order to save the latter's life or replace a damaged organ with it is permissible," the document reads.
Citing the Koran, the Islamic State scholars wrote that saving a Muslim from "death and deterioration is an Islamic legal duty."
But the document notes that Islamic jurists have "permitted, when necessary, the killing of the infidel combatant or the apostate should one need to consume their flesh for the purpose of saving his own life." Islamic scholar Imam al-Nawawi, according to the document, wrote about the "legitmacy of killing the infidel fighters and apostates and eating them."
The Islamic State scholars argue that "If the jurists had permitted, when necessary, the consumption of human flesh as a means counter to death or harm, then it is even more appropriate to transplant of organs from the apostate to the Muslim to save the life of the latter. This is especially true because it was ruled that the apostate's life and organs are not protected. On the contrary, the apostate's life and organs don't have to be respected and can be taken with impunity."
The document notes that, "The permission to transplant the apostate's organs into a Muslim body facilitates, allivieates and removes the diffculties endured by Muslims is corroborated by a reason strongly rooted in the pure Sharia."
Reuters notes that the document is "raising concerns that the violent extremist group may be trafficking in body parts" but that there is no evidence to support the notion that it has already done so.

What an unbelievable mess this political theater has become.  One clown upstaging another one, it is not surprising as it is sad.  The rank and file people, say about him, he speaks what they feel.  The news media is set against him, I guess that is a good as a reason as any to vote for him.  The media is against anyone that is going to rock the boat.  I just wish they were more concerned that he will sink the boat.

It's a very Trump Christmas

Donald Trump may be getting the best gift of all this holiday season, as he enters 2016 firmly on top in the Republican race for the White House.
The GOP presidential hopeful has proved the doubters wrong, solidifying a double-digit lead in national polls while running one of the most unorthodox campaigns in history.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) — who has seen his support plunge amid Trump’s rise — predicted at a private Dallas fundraiser in mid-November that Trump would falter by the next GOP debate.
“Come December 15, Trump will be in decline,” Bush reportedly said.
But on the eve of Christmas, Trump still tops the Republican field by 17 points, even as Bush lags behind in the single digits. 
“He’s obviously been able to defy political gravity for much of this campaign,” GOP strategist Matt Mackowiak said, noting Trump’s advantages of being a celebrity and attracting heavy media coverage.
The latest national polls confirm that Trump’s momentum isn’t slowing down. Within the past week, the real estate mogul:
• topped the field in a post-debate survey from Public Policy Polling, increasing his lead by 8 points;
• bested the second-place finisher by 4 points in a Quinnipiac University poll;
• and opened up a 21-point lead in a CNN/ORC International poll.
Trump frequently boasts about his poll numbers on Twitter, using them to fight back against a media he says is biased against his candidacy.  

The poll numbers highlight how Trump has displaced President Obama as the central player on the political stage, with both parties reacting daily to his insults, tweets and attack lines.
His dominance is something few political observers would have predicted back on Jun. 15, when he entered the presidential race with a rambling launch speech that some people were allegedly paid to attend. 
But Trump quickly gained momentum during the summer, with tens of thousands of people flocking to his rallies to hear how he planned to “make America great again” by deporting illegal immigrants and taking on China.
And even as he’s fired up crowds, the businessman and former reality television star has courted controversy at every turn, creating a steady stream of conflict that has kept his name in the headlines. 
Conventional wisdom held that the political storms generated by Trump — most recently from his call to temporarily ban most Muslims from entering the United States — would be fatal to his candidacy. 
Yet six months after his entry in the race, Trump sits atop national polls with 35.1 percent support, according to the latest RealClearPolitics average.
His unwavering dominance has stirred anxiety among establishment Republicans, who fear the businessman would be a disastrous nominee.
But while some in the GOP have spoken out against Trump, it has had little impact.
Trump’s lead in the race has become so entrenched that it has allowed him to turn his attention from rival candidates to Hillary Clinton, the front-runner for the Democratic nomination.
Still, there are signs that Trump’s closest GOP rival, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), is gaining ground. 
Cruz even leads Trump in Iowa, which will hold the first presidential contest of the year, on Feb. 1. A RealClearPolitics average of Iowa GOP polls shows Cruz narrowly edging out Trump by 4 percentage points in the caucus state.
Craig Robin­son, a former polit­ic­al dir­ect­or for the Iowa GOP, said Trump has the ability to turn out the tens of thousands needed to win the caucuses. That grassroots fervor could be tough for Cruz to compete with, he said. 
“Voting for Trump is going to be a protest vote just like Ron Paul,” Robinson said. 
“Trump could completely underperform or overperform," he continued. “I don’t know if Cruz has anything in their arsenal that can deal with the Trump campaign that is bringing new people to the process.” 
But he noted the possibility of a dark-horse candidate emerging in the caucuses, such as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie or the last two Iowa caucus winners, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.).
Should Trump lose Iowa, he will be counting on the next state in line, New Hampshire, to keep his candidacy on track.
Trump has dominated in polls of New Hampshire for months, even as rival candidates such as Bush and Christie have campaigned heavily there.
In the final stretch before the first ballots are cast, the upcoming GOP debate on Jan. 14 could prove crucial, said Mackowiak, who also writes for The Hill's Contributors blog.
“That debate may impact results in Iowa and New Hampshire and start that narrowing of the field,” Mackowiak said. He said the big question for Trump would be getting his supporters to the polls. 
“In a way, he’s playing a short-term game,” Mackowiak said.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Thursday 12-14-15

Not going to be posting on Christmas day, just so you know

Giant comets may threaten Earth: astronomers

A comet strike is believed to have ended the reign of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago
View photo
A comet strike is believed to have ended the reign of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago (AFP Photo/)
Paris (AFP) - Planet Earth could be at higher risk of a space rock impact than widely thought, according to astronomers who suggested Tuesday keeping a closer eye on distant giant comets.
Most studies of potential Earth-smashers focus on objects in the asteroid belt roughly between Mars, Earth's outside neighbour, and Jupiter on its other flank, said the researchers.
But they noted that the discovery in the last two decades of hundreds of giant comets dubbed centaurs, albeit with much larger orbits, requires expanding the list of potential hazards.
These balls of ice and dust, typically 50-100 kilometres (31-62 miles) wide, have unstable, elliptical orbits that start way beyond Neptune, the most distant planet from the Sun.
Their paths cross those of the giant planets Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune, whose gravity fields occasionally deflect a comet towards Earth -- once about every 40,000-100,000 years.
As they draw closer to the Sun, the comets would gradually break up, which is what causes the trademark cometary debris tail -- "making impacts on our planet inevitable".
"The disintegration of such giant comets would produce intermittent but prolonged periods of bombardment lasting up to 100,000 years," the research team wrote in the Royal Astronomical Society journal, Astronomy and Geophysics.
And they argued that "assessment of the extraterrestrial impact risk based solely on near-Earth asteroid counts, underestimates its nature and magnitude."
They noted that a single centaur contains more mass than the entire population of Earth-crossing asteroids discovered to date.
"In the last three decades, we have invested a lot of effort in tracking and analysing the risk of a collision between the Earth and an asteroid," said co-author Bill Napier of the University of Buckingham.
"Our work suggests we need to look beyond our immediate neighbourhood too, and look out beyond the orbit of Jupiter to find centaurs.
"If we are right, then these distant comets could be a serious hazard, and it's time to understand them better."
Scientists believe a comet bombardment may have kickstarted life on Earth by bringing water and organic molecules.
A comet strike is also a leading contender for having ended the reign of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.
The team said no risk was "known to be imminent", although cometary encounters were largely unpredictable.
"A centaur arrival carries the risk of injecting, into the atmosphere... a mass of dust and smoke comparable to that assumed in nuclear winter studies," wrote the researchers, referring to the hypothesised climate effects from the soot that would be released by firestorms caused in an atomic war.
"Thus, in terms of magnitude, its ranking among natural existential risks appears to be high," they said.

This Is What A Financial Crisis Looks Like

Just within the past few days, three major high yield funds have completely imploded, and panic is spreading rapidly on Wall Street.  Funds run by Third Avenue Management and Stone Lion Capital Partners have suspended payments to investors, and a fund run by Lucidus Capital Partners has liquidated its entire portfolio.  We are witnessing a race for the exits unlike anything that we have seen since the great financial crash of 2008, and many of those that choose to hesitate are going to end up getting totally wiped out.  In case you are wondering, this is what a financial crisis looks like.  In 2008, other global stock markets started to tumble, then junk bonds began to crash, and finally U.S. stocks followed.  The exact same pattern is playing out again, and the carnage that we have seen so far is just the tip of the iceberg.
Since the end of 2009, a high yield bond ETF that I watch very closely known as JNK has been trading in a range between 36 and 42.  I have been waiting all this time for it to dip below 35, because I knew that would be a sign that the next major financial crisis was imminent.
In September, it closed as low as 35.33 at one point, but that was not the signal that I was looking for.  Finally, early last week JNK broke below 35 for the very first time since the last financial crisis, and since then it has just kept on falling.  As I write this, JNK has plummeted all the way to 33.42, and Bloomberg is reporting that many bond managers “are predicting more carnage for high-yield investors”…
Top bond managers are predicting more carnage for high-yield investors amid a market rout that forced at least three credit funds in the past week to wind down.
Lucidus Capital Partners, a high-yield fund founded in 2009 by former employees of Bruce Kovner’s Caxton Associates, said Monday it has liquidated its entire portfolio and plans to return the $900 million it has under management to investors next month. Funds run by Third Avenue Management and Stone Lion Capital Partners have stopped returning cash to investors, after clients sought to pull too much money.
When it says that those firms “have stopped returning cash to investors”, what that means is that many of those investors will be lucky to get pennies on the dollar when it is all said and done.
Like I said, now that the crisis has started, the ones that are going to lose the most are those that hesitate.
And just check out some of the very big names that are “warning of more high-yield trouble ahead”
Scott Minerd, global chief investment officer at Guggenheim Partners, predicts 10 percent to 15 percent of junk bond funds may face high withdrawals as more investors worry about getting their money back. He joins money managers Jeffrey GundlachCarl Icahn, Bill Gross and Wilbur Ross in warning of more high-yield trouble ahead.
In this type of environment, the Federal Reserve would have to be completely insane to raise interest rates.
Unfortunately, that appears to be exactly what is going to happen.
If the Fed raises rates, that is going to make corporate debt defaults even more likely and will almost certainly drive high-yield bonds down even further…
Higher rates could make corporate bond defaults more likely and investors are already bailing out of the sector, pulling $3.8 billion out of high-yield funds in the week ended December 9, the biggest move in 15 weeks. The effective yield on U.S. junk bonds is now 17 percent, the highest level in five years, according to Bank of America Merrill Lynch data.
A whole host of prominent names are warning that the Fed is about to make a tragic mistake.  One of them is James Rickards
“The Fed should have raised interest rates in 2010 and 2011 and if they did that they would actually be in a position to cut them today,” said James Rickards, a central bank critic and chief global strategist at West Shore Funds. “The Fed is on the brink of committing a historic blunder that may rank with the mistakes it made in 1927 and 1929. By raising into weakness, they will likely cause a recession.”
In 2015, we have already seen stocks crash all over the globe.  Coming into December, more than half of the 93 largest stock market indexes in the world were down more than 10 percent year to date, and some of them were down by as much as 30 or 40 percent.  At this point, conditions are absolutely perfect for a frightening collapse of U.S. markets, and the Federal Reserve is about to pour gasoline on to the fire.
Anyone that says that “nothing is happening” is either completely misinformed or is totally crazy.
I like how James Howard Kunstler summarized what we are currently facing…
Equities barfed nearly four percent just last week, credit is crumbling (nobody wants to lend), junk bonds are tanking (as defaults loom), currencies all around the world are crashing, hedge funds can’t give investors their money back, “liquidity” is AWOL (no buyers for janky securities), commodities are in freefall, oil is going so deep into the sub-basement of value that the industry may never recover, international trade is evaporating, the president is doing everything possible in Syria to start World War Three, and the monster called globalism is lying in its coffin with a stake pointed over its heart.
The financial markets held together far longer than many people thought that they would, but now they are finally coming apart at the seams.
Moving forward, the “winners” are going to be the people that pull their money out the fastest.  This is especially true for high risk funds like the three that just imploded.  If you hesitate, you could end up losing everything.
And as this rush for the exits accelerates, sellers are going to greatly outnumber buyers, and this is going to push prices down at a very rapid pace.  We are going to hear a lot about a “lack of liquidity” in the days ahead, but the truth is that what we will really be looking at is a good old-fashioned panic.