Links 3/23/11

Long-Neglected Experiment Gives New Clues to Origin of Life ScienceNow

Religion may become extinct in nine nations, study says BBC. Not at all surprised re Australia.

Moore’s Law for gene sequencing. Prices drop, power increase…genetic medicine here they come! SingularityHub (hat tip reader Francois T)

GM maize trials done on the sly: Nitish Kumar Times of India (hat tip reader furzy mouse)

Tougher Sentencing For Pharma Fraud? Pharmalot (hat tip reader Francois T)

Judge throws out Google book deal Financial Times. Hooray!

Tokyo Warns on Water Supply as Radiation Hampers Nuclear Cleanup Bloomberg

Radiation fuels fears over Japanese fish Financial Times

Quake leaves Tokyo waiting for the Big One Financial Times

Saudis prepare to abandon Yemen Financial Times

Shock and Awe in Libya: From Civil Unrest to Armed Rebellion Pater Tenebrarum (hat tip reader tap). Good historical background.

‘Death and After in Iraq’ Chris Hedges. Warning: very graphic.

Iron ore in the crosshairs MacroBusiness. Actually has more to do with China.

ESM / EFSF: An Inverted Capital Structure Morally Bankrupt, self evident. A crisp discussion of wrong way risk in the Eurobailout mechanism.

FBI helps with probe into cross burning in Arroyo Grandev SanLuisObispo Tribune (hat tip reader Buzz Potamkin)

Guns Easier to Get Than Abortions in South Dakota Gawker

The National Sheriffs’ Association Endorses Legislation Calling for Broad Examination of the Nation’s Criminal Justice System ACLU (hat tip reader Francois T)

Incentives Don’t Work James Kwak. Important but I think not fully correct. I have a flat 20% copay which is enough to trigger a bit of cost sensitivity and am (as one can imagine) not particularly intimidated by authorities like doctors. I don’t know how many times I’ve had to argue them about overtesting and overmedicating (NYC doctors hand out drugs like candy). And I’ve still been hit with real abuses when I let my guard down (like a $1300 supersensitive echocardiogram, of course conducted in the doctor’s office, when my prior GP, a board certified cardiologist affiliated with Mount Sinai, had declared I”d be immortal based on my heart).

Ignoramitocracy Paul Krugman

Educating College Graduates So They Can be Unemployed Mike Konczal, New Deal 2.0

Mortgage Delinquencies Keep Falling Nasdaq

Foreclosure crisis: Common ground between investors and homeowners Tampa Bay (hat tip Lisa Epstein)

Banks Hit for Credit Union Ills Wall Street Journal. This is interesting. A comparatively unknown regulator, the National Credit Union Administration, is suing some of the big mortgage backed securities sponsors for securities law violations. Where is the SEC?

Antidote du jour:

Screen shot 2011-03-23 at 6.20.32 AM

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  1. Max424

    Jess Goodell — a remarkable young women.

    A Buffalo girl, it turns out. Maybe I’ll run in to her around town. I hope I do. I’d like to shake her hand; wish her the best.

  2. rjs

    re: Moore’s Law for gene sequencing. Prices drop, power increase…genetic medicine here they come! SingularityHub
    Costs of DNA Sequencing Falling Fast – Look At These Graphs!

    “With costs falling so quickly we will soon be able to afford to produce a monumental flood of DNA data. The question is, will we know what to do with it once it arrives?”

    eternal life for the plutocracy, of course…what else would you expect?

    1. wunsacon

      That’s my prediction, too.

      The past few or more years, so that they can instead spend the money on building yachts and other luxuries, the plutocrats/kleptocrats (running our economic “machine”) have deprived many in the lower class of health care, a roof over their heads, nutritional food, and some income security in their advanced years.

      Extrapolating from that, I expect the plutocrats will:
      – grant themselves immortality through biotech
      – push the middle class and poor under the heel of peak resources
      – use private high-tech security services, including drones, to protect their resources from the lower classes.

      Indeed, since about the start of the US invasion of Iraq, I started perceiving the Terminator series differently. From the perspective of the humans in John Conners’ future, the machines are autonomous. Now, what’s the perspective of an Iraqi/Afghani/Pakistani civilian? They do not see the human operators. They just see machines flying around and shooting missiles at them. The Terminator future bears some similarity to the present.

      Further, I fear the wealthy will eventually use these weapons to enforce their “property rights” here at home, from all manner of groups that demand their elected representatives take back the kleptocrats’ ill gotten gains.

      …And, if we don’t use 1984/Terminator tactics here, I expect to see them in China, where their politicians’ net worth is supposedly $75 billion (and where some of the statements from their oligarchs suggest they’re every bit as delusional as ours).

      1. The Terminator

        Do a search for unmanned aerial vehicles on detroit. people were stealing electricity and the power company is using this technology to find those people, who are freezing to death. After the drone does an IR sweep to find the theifs, the power company was sending out agents to disconnect them. It is already here.

  3. rjs

    re: hooray! on Judge throws out Google book deal Financial Times.

    curious to hear your thinking on this, yves…

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      As a book author, the Google deal was antithetical to my interests.

      Google has already ripped off substantial portions of books under copyright and in print. Just go and see, for instance, how much of The Shock Doctrine they’ve republished. When I was working on my book, they had all of it online but a few pages here and there. They appear to have taken some back down but they still have a ton online for free (I assume Klein or her publisher went after them but she is also a big fish, how many small authors can do that). They are unabashed thieves.

      1. ScottS

        Google certainly is zealous about copyrights on their work. When China did nothing about the theft of Google’s source code they went ballistic. When Microsoft used Google as a source for their search engine, Google made a big stink.

        Other people’s copyright doesn’t seem to matter to Google, however.

        It’s the typical inversion of copyright — protecting big business’ copyright, trampling on the little guy’s copyright.

      2. Copied Right

        If you don’t mind responding, given the ubiquity of filesharing, there’s not much you can do to stop this type of thing. Why is Google any worse? At least authors were given ssomething–via torrents, rapidshare, scribd, etc, authors won’t get anything at all.

        Naomi Klein is a good example of this–I can find and download everything she’s written in less than five minutes, provided I was willing to waste the time to read it.

        It’s also an (unintendedly) interesting example to use, given the way she rails against the rich and their influence ;)

      3. rjs

        fair enough, yves…as someone who’s very limited budget precludes my purchasing any books, you can understand my interest in being able to read for free online…

        1. globalCherry blossomGroundhog

          provided I was willing to waste the time to read it.

          It’s also an (unintendedly) interesting example

          ~~Copied Right~

          Reading time is finite, as is music listening time. We are flooded with things to read, listen, visit, do, etc. Face it, Patentee, face it, CopyWritee — you don’t need no stinking copyLeft, let alone no copyRight.

  4. rd

    Extend and pretend, state and local edition:

    Page C1 of the WSJ has a story that should be front and ceter of the front page. Calpers is insisting on maintaining its 7.75% return rate for its investments because otherwise governments would have to contribute too much money. They also insist that their investment geniuses can achieve these rates despite Bernanke blowing bubbles in just about every market he can influence.

    Their actuaries recommended using a 6% return, which is about where my long-term planning (30 year+) number is. A bar chart shows that most large government pension plans are using around 8%. One lonely plan was at 7%. There are far more assuming more than 8% than under 7.5%.

    Many more Wisconsins to come at this rate as the population comes to realize that both their politicians and the union leaders have been lying to them for years and the promises were never funded. This is going to be the fatal mistake of the unions. They should be screaming about this now. Otherwise, they will go down as part of the slaughter in the future when the population refuses to double their taxes and slashes union benefits instead.

    1. zephyrum

      I think they’ll get at least 8% in the long run. Nominal. And there’s a long history of managing CPI to keep indexed benefits under control. You’ll get your $5K/month pension, but gas will cost $17/gallon while CPI will stay under 4%.

  5. olddeadmeat

    Thanks for the link to the NCUA article. I would have missed that one.

    rd – re: CalPers. Agreed. The WSJ had an article out this morning about more public workers retiring before the pension rules change. Sadly, in their rush to the exit they will only speed up the crisis.

  6. badreligion

    Religion may become extinct in nine nations, study says

    can’t happen soon enough.

    strangely I’ve notice that most of those countries don’t have a problem with people killing each other either. but the religious states of america do, because Jesus packed heat.

  7. Ina Deaver

    “Tougher Sentencing For Pharma Fraud?” —

    Watch this space: this is going to get really interesting. I agree in general that real punishment and the “death penalty” (as used in this context, it means exclusion from participating in anything that bills in any way to the Federal health care programs) is the only way to end the incredibly rampant fraud. But on the other hand, recognize that the ability under the regs as currently formulated to go after “owners and responsible employees” is INCREDIBLY broad. Frighteningly so in the wrong hands. And that the crimes we’re talking about here are strict liability: under the PPACA, officially, whereas the law was headed that way anyway.

    This is definitely a big deal and a trending topic. I agree that the way to get corporations is through the people who run them, but I’d like to see corporations dismantled, instead of seeing a subsidiary created to hold the guilty plea and then snuffed out. Sometimes the rot really is throughout the organization.

  8. Ina Deaver

    As a side note, everyone should also take a look at the amendments to the sentencing guidelines that are listed as relating to the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and as “7. Proposed Amendment: Terrorism.” Combined with the definition of “money laundering” now found in 18 U.S.C., this is some fairly interesting information, I believe.

  9. john

    Paul Kedrosky spotted this you may be interested in in the Journal:


    Why anyone still does business with the big banks is a total mystery to me!

  10. tyaresun

    On the educated unemployed:
    My D is a sophomore in biomedical engg at a top 10 engg school. Also, I have an engg background and am currently hiring for analytics jobs. She is not getting the skills she needs to be employable. Period. I would never hire her or her collegues because of lack of skills and this is after shelling out 200K for her education. The US educational system is as bad a parasite as the financial system and needs a complete overhaul.

    1. emca

      Second try turn the key.

      There is a certain satisfaction in soothsaying the apocalypse.

      Nevertheless Mr. Singer does convincing argue several points; of note is the observation that Lehman were really not the exception, only the worst of a corrupted culture, and perhaps even not that, but a victim of time, place and circumstance within a certain temporal mode of assumptions, incentives and deceit. The first to fall but not necessary outside the pack. Victims of events not fully understood or understandable?

      Is his vision fully convincing? Is he parsing the future? No, but he adeptly spins some troubling projections, which should give one pause in rosy conjecture.

  11. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    I don’t see it in any of the links, but apparently the Portugese prime minister is on the verge of rounding the Cape of No Hope.

    History does not repeat itself in this case, as he will not be the first European politician to do so in the Age of Austerity.

  12. Chris,1518,752712,00.html

    On Tuesday, Germany’s Federal Court of Justice, the country’s highest court for civil cases, ruled that Deutsche Bank had to compensate Ille, a medium-sized German paper company, for losses it suffered on a complex investment product that the bank sold it in 2005. Ille had sued the bank, claiming it had not been adequately informed about the risks that the financial product entailed.

    The presiding judge, Ulrich Wiechers, ruled that Deutsche Bank had abused its obligation to give its customers proper advice. The product, called a “spread ladder swap,” was essentially a bet on how interest rates would develop in the future. The judge said that bank did not explain the risk of the product properly, particularly given the fact that the risk to the customer was unlimited if they lost the “bet.”

    There was also a conflict of interest, the court ruled, as the bank was effectively betting against its own customer and giving them advice at the same time. Wiechers also said that the bank had deliberately structured the product to the customer’s disadvantage, in order to make a profit from the deal.

    In the future, banks will be obliged to ensure that their customers have essentially the same “level of knowledge” as the bank itself when selling such products, the court said. Only then could customers decide if they wanted to take on such a bet.

    Wave of Cases Expected

    The landmark decision is the first of its kind and could unleash a wave of other claims. There are dozens of other ongoing disputes between Deutsche Bank and local authorities and companies in Germany that claim they were not properly warned about the risks of investments. Customers of other German banks are also seeking damages.

  13. Tertium Squid

    Religion dying?

    These guys knew what they needed to say on the research summary to get themselves on the news.

    The claim is garbage (and the researchers admit as much at the end of the article), but the dynamic they are examining is real enough. FTA:

    “For example in languages, there can be greater utility or status in speaking Spanish instead of [the dying language] Quechuan in Peru, and similarly there’s some kind of status or utility in being a member of a religion or not.”

    I belong to a religion that is for the most part scattered, but has a subtantial concentration in the Intermountain US. The relative domination of local culture and civics mean that even believers who are weak as water can go along content and relatively orthodox. So long as their religion (as they observe it) doesn’t demand much from them, they are content. However, if the cultural and social props are removed or at least reduced, then their faith will be tested as it hadn’t been before.

    But are all believers like this? The headline’s statement would require us to believe that religion is just like language, a mechanism of social and cultural distinction and nothing more, and extinction follows naturally once some tipping point in population is reached. What kind of religion would that be, with millions of casual adherents ready to abandon as soon as it’s popular, but nobody who actually believes? Can you think of any religions that are like that?

    My own perspective is that we are working out the tail end of a huge cultural overhang from centuries of government-funded, military-supported state religions. We are slowly moving from that to a new equilibrium.

    When it was safe, popular and even lucrative to be religious then everyone would be religious, but in this world the majority will only observe the way a majority ever will: superficially and in name only.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      As indicated, I found very little in the way of practicing anything in Australia. Religion is just not part of the fabric there. Very different from the US.

      1. Tertium Squid

        Then I guess it depends on the definition of “extinction”, and the prominence of religious belief and practice in public life. Just because people aren’t going on and on about it all the time doesn’t mean they aren’t practicing.

        1. skippy

          It is more pre-functionary, down under, than obligatory and private schools are the last breeding ground…vestige…of its former self.

  14. kevinearick

    The Grim Reaper

    Many are under the wrong impression. It is not my job to persuade anyone to go through the new gate system. I hope they don’t. My job was to make the old gate system transparent, to give everyone notice of the new system, and to start the kids off, which I am doing now. Those that the kids choose to connect with will go along for the ride. I will be laughing my arse off at the gate, because there is no point in crying, when everyone else shows up late, to be burned off by the perfect storm.

    Everyone going along has already jettisoned their non-performing assets in return for the required adaptive skill set. Anyone that fails to make the window of opportunity will do so of their own accord. Nearly all were all trained from birth to be a pawn in a chess game they couldn’t see, only to be cast aside when used as designed, to rebuild themselves for the next chess game, and repeat the process, expecting a different result.

    The women are now awakening to this harsh reality. They are specifically designed to consume efficiently, to induce their men to think one way while they do another, with female pride, leaving their men behind in the killing field created by Family Law, for legacy consumption. Now, it is time for everyone to reap what they have sown, not because they cannot go, but because they cannot willingly give up their habits, even with the gate wide open before them. Sex is a double-edged sword. Loving another more than self is the antidote.

    Don’t expect the kids to wait any longer; their train is leaving the station and will not be back this way again. The legacy families cannot budge because they are packed quite specifically within the nucleus, locking each other in. They must release their external protons but cannot for force of habit.

    The point of the obey clause in the marriage contract is to test both parties. The investor is only to use it to protect the consumer from the empire’s black hole. The problem with the civil contract for marriage is that it makes both men and women consumers, leaving no one to make the pie that everyone wants to eat. That is the point of Adam and Eve. You could just as easily make Eve the man and Adam the woman if not for the biological clock, which is the function of the great illusion, and the outcome would be the same.

    Just start walking back and forth across the borders. There are a million of you for every one of them, Or don’t.

  15. James Kwak

    Yves, I agree with you. I think incentives do work as advertised for a majority of people (like you). The problem is that they have perverse results for the minority of people who are responsible for a majority of the costs.

  16. emca

    Looking at the past is not as perilous as projecting the future.

    Pater Tenebrarum’s article on Libya is indeed a good background on a nation as it exists today. Unfortunately his presentation of the complexities of conditions on the ground today are less stellar.

    A couple of points.

    Pater states:

    “Firstly, there can be no aerial attack that does not end up harming civilians.”

    What is meant by “harming”. Is that the same as killing and maiming? Is intentional ‘harming’ the same as unintentional ‘harming’? Does Pater have information on victims of allied bombing runs verify Libyan state television’s claims of 50 civilian fatalities? There certain have been no shortage of bombing runs on Qaddafi’s military infrastructure. (there is one confirmed incident of confirmed injuries or civilians do to allied intervention; the accidental shooting of friendly villagers south of Benghazi rushing to greet the downed “crusaders”, although at this point victims holds the perpetrators (U.S.) blameless).

    As to the Arab League and Amr Moussa (who later backtracked on the quoted statement), Pater seems not to understand the reason for the original Arab League resolution, that Arab leaders, despots or not, remember Moamar for his past antics insulting their persons or regimes. They would in fact like to in all probability want to see regime change, not humanitarian relief (the core of resolution UN 1973).

    (For a summary of the Arab League’s actions in reference to Libya see:

    “Backtracking on Libya: the Arab world breaks ranks”

    from France24.)

    Pater Tenebrarum’s mentions briefly Quadafi’s army action against civilian populations and suggest that maybe a regime or government replacing the tyrant would be no better. He mentions not M.Q.’s previous 40 year war on civilians, the numbers tortured, maimed, missing or prematurely rendered unto their maker in order to retain Q’s hold on power, outside the idealogical reference to failed attempts at “Islam Socialism”. Retainment of established power would, with a very high degree of probability, be a prescription for more (as well as state sponsored international terrorism?).

    The concept that replacement is no better than the original is certainly a possibility. So it is with the Egyptian ouster of Hosni Mubarak or Ali in Tunisia. Does this mean they shouldn’t have been done? Without sympathy and retrospect can not the same be said of the revolution of 1776 on the American continent (which coincidentally, France, a foreign power, materially supported)? Or maybe Arabs are unsuited to democracy and will inevitably fail? Or are we to wait for a better revolutionary scenario?

    Incidentally, Pater also misses historic background of the present conflict in Libya. So I’ll fill in with this overview courtesy of BBC’s Panorama:

    Figthing Gaddafi

    As to Pater’s proposal to split Libya along historic precedents, a few observations:

    -Water in Libya is in the West, oil in the East (actually not even in the east-east, but the west-east or more central portion of the nation.) How is these assets going to be divided?

    -Libyan revolutionaries don’t won’t a division of the country, and I presume if queried, most other Libyans would not view it favorably. Is not their opinion valid?

    -Misrata and other cities in turmoil are in the West. What’s to happen with their populations?

    The situation in parts of Libya from information we now have, is dire. More must and should be done and soon. The allied intervention has already saved hundreds of civilian lives (Qaddafi’s rats) in Benghazi alone not to mention misery that would have been inflicted otherwise. Whether in the long run intervention will lead to a saner, more humanitarian government is in my mind secondary to the present imperatives. From here hopefully, Libya and other Arab nations can go forward without their government imposed misery and suffering, but we need in the short term, in this instance, to do what is right – now.

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