China Plans To Seize South China Sea Island From Philippines, Says "Battle Will Be Restricted"

Following Japan's proclamations that it will take over another 280 'disputed ownership' islands, it appears the increasingly dis-approved of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's path of militarism and provocation is working. As China Daily Mail reports, citing experts, China intends to take back Zhongye Island - 'illegally' occupied by the Philippines, according to the Chinese. The Chinese navy has drawn a detailed combat plan to seize the island and the battle will be restricted within the South China Sea. Philippines military is building up on the island and the Chinese see as 'intolerable' the "arrogance" relying on US support. It seems the Obama administration may have to 'not take sides' in another fight soon.

Hope In The Face Of Disaster – Creating A Sustainable, Viable, Future Path For Civilisation

... We have created an apparently wonderful economic model that seems to provide us with so many benefits. When you consider the incredible feats of technology and the global consumerist lifestyle we enjoy it is easy to marvel at what has been achieved. Of course what may be less obvious is the dark side of the growth economic model which is deeply inequitable, restricting its benefits to the relative elite in the western world and trapping the rest of the world in poverty. Most dangerous of all is the unsustainability of the model and where it is taking us in the future. There is now a perfect storm gathering that includes economic indebtedness, resource shortages, population pressures, and climate change that is guaranteed to derail civilisation. Despite this the political and economic mainstream are largely in denial about what is happening– like the hapless engineer and politician in the story everyone agrees that we must restart the ‘growth economy’ and continue to progress down the business as usual pathway. Very few people are taking the long term view and watching the direction towards doom that this pathway leads us. Too invested in the benefits of our current lifestyle, no one wants to hear the counsel of the philosopher who sees the disaster that looms ahead.

World War II From Space

With tensions raging in Asia (and the Middle East) and the anniversary of the start of World War I drawing closer, we thought it contextually useful to look at World War II from a different (and more broad) perspective. This History Channel documentary shows - using an all-seeing CGI eye - a satellite view of the conflicts, allowing you to experience it in a way that places key events and tipping points in a global perspective. By re-creating groundbreaking moments that could never have been captured on camera and by illustrating the importance of simultaneity and the hidden effects of crucial incidents, the war's monumental moments in never- before-seen context. And with new information brought to the forefront, you'll better understand how a nation ranked 19th in the world's militaries in 1939 emerged six years later as the planet's only atomic superpower.

Bill Ryerson: The Challenges Presented By Global Population Growth

As we embark on a new year, it's important to keep the really big elements of our global predicament squarely in mind. At the heart of the resource depletion story that Peak Prosperity tracks so expertly is the number of people on earth competing for those resources. The global population is more than 7 billion now and headed to 9 billion by 2050. If world population continues its exponential growth, when we will hit planetary carrying capacity limits with our key resources (or are we already exceeding them)? What are the just, humane, and rights-respecting options that are on the table for balancing the world’s population with the ability of the earth to sustain it? Population management is an inflammatory issue. It's nearly impossible to discuss without triggering heated emotions, and rare is the leader who's willing to raise it. And by going unaddressed globally, the risk of problems created by overpopluation grow unchecked. War, poverty, starvation, disease, inequality...the list goes on. Simply put - We are eating into the capital to sustain the growing population.

Bubble Or Not; U.S. Stocks Are Priced To Deliver Dismal Long-Term Returns

If you’ve ever sought advice from a financial advisor, you probably asked the question: “How much of my portfolio should I hold in stocks?” Somewhere in the answer, you were probably offered long-term return estimates. These estimates probably placed stock returns at approximately inflation plus 5 or 6%. But what if standard estimates are too optimistic, as they were in the 1990s when advisors typically predicted double-digit long-term returns? Shouldn’t this change your investment allocations? We’ll argue that the usual estimates are overoptimistic, and that investment allocations should be based on more realistic expectations. Worse still, the discrepancy has reached enormous proportions.

Bitcoin ATMs Are Coming To New York City

With over 1,000 new merchants adopting Bitcoin every week, it is perhaps not surprising that, as NY Post reports, the first Bitcoin ATM is about to debut in New York City. Following success in Canada and Europe, Brooklyn native Willard Ling, 30, is set to introduce the first bitcoin ATM to New York City at the East Village bubble tea shop 'Just Sweet'. State regulators with the Department of Financial Services are expected to hold hearings later this month to discuss how the digital currency should be regulated; and until then, Ling’s bitcoin ATM will sit in his apartment.

French First Girlfriend Hospitalized After Francois Hollande Affair With Actress Exposed

When it comes to socialism, the world's premier promoter of egalite - France's Francois Hollande - is very aware that in a socialist utopia, no property is private. Hence everything can be shared, such as actress Julie Gayet with whom it was revealed last week he had an affair. The problem is that the First Lady, er, Girlfriend of France, Valerie Trierweiler, 48, did not share her boyfriend's Marxist view. And, as Reuters reports, when Trierweiler found out about an affair between Francois Hollande and the aforementioned Julie Gayet, 41, she was hospitalized on Sunday morning "because of exhaustion." But before readers cry for Madame Trierweiler, recall that while Hollande is a fervent fan of socialism, the former first girlfriend some far more interested in being more equal than others. Per the Mail: "She currently has five staff working for her at her office as well as numerous other taxpayer-funded perks, including homes across France, private jets and limousines. As anger at the scandal grew, politicians suggested Miss Trierweiler’s position was already untenable."

How Much Is Your Congressional Representative Worth: The Complete Infographic

As we reported several days ago, for the first time in history the majority of members of Congress currently have a net worth over $1,000,000. Of course, this also means that just under half are still aspiring to get in Wall Street's "preferred politician" rolodex, and says nothing about any one politico's individual's assets. So for all those curious how much their congressional representative is worth, the following comprehensive summary infographic from Vizual Statistix has the answers.

The Great Buyback Surge Is Over: Corporations Are Once Again Net Sellers Of Shares

By now most are aware that the primary reason there was EPS growth last year was the relentless buying back of their own stock by corporate treasurers, accounting for 75% of the increase in S&P500 earnings per share even as revenues stagnated for the second year in a row and actual earnings growth was comatose at best. At $500 billion in net stock buybacks in 2013, this was an immense amount of bidding power, equal to half of the Fed's entire annual liquidity injection. And while EPS was artificially boosted by an allocation of capital that most would say is the least efficient in terms of future growth (remember when companies spent on capital expenditures to fund long-term growth, not satisfy activist shareholders?) the only good thing that could be said about the second highest annual corporate buyback in history was that companies still saw their stocks as cheap: after all, not even the most aggressive of CFOs would greenlight a massive buyback campaign if they expected their stock to plunge. That is no longer the case.

The Best Scientific Images Of 2013

It is a slow Saturday with virtually no financial, economic or any other news, so what better way to spend it than looking at the coolest non-finance related images of the past year. Without further ado, here they are, courtesy of Wired: the best scientific visualizations of 2013.

Guest Post: The Greatest Myth Propagated About The Fed: Central Bank Independence (Part 1)

It has been commonplace to speak of central bank independence - as if it were both a reality and a necessity. Discussions of the Fed invariably refer to legislated independence and often to the famous 1951 Accord that apparently settled the matter. [1] While everyone recognizes the Congressionally-imposed dual mandate, the Fed has substantial discretion in its interpretation of the vague call for high employment and low inflation. It is, then, perhaps a good time to reexamine the thinking behind central bank independence. There are several related issues.

  • First, can a central bank really be independent? In what sense? Political? Operational? Policy formation?
  • Second, should a central bank be independent? In a democracy should monetary policy—purportedly as important as or even more important than fiscal policy—be unaccountable? Why?
  • Finally, what are the potential problems faced if a central bank is not independent? Inflation? Insolvency?

Government Spent $224,863 On "Custom-Fit" Condoms

Money well-spent, we are sure some would suggest; but when the National Institute of Health spends $224,863 to test 95 "custom-fitted" condoms so every hard-working American man can choose the one that fits 'just right', we suggest the government is stretching the tax dollar a little too far. As NY Post reports, the study was prompted by concern that despite the wide-scale promotion of latex condoms to help prevent the spread of HIV, their use remains "disappointingly low," because, the government says, one-third to one-half of men complain of poor-fitting prophylactics and are less likely to use them... apparently. Of course, we assume, when questioned, all said the condom was 'too small'.


From Non-GAAP To Non-Sense: David Stockman Slams The "Earnings Ex-Items" Smoke-Screen

We noted on Thursday, when Alcoa reported, that "non-recurring, one-time" charges are anything but; indicating just how freely the company abuses the non-GAAP EPS definition, and how adding back charges has become ordinary course of business. But it's not just Alcoa, and as David Stockman, author The Gret Deformation, notes Wall Street’s institutionalized fiddle of GAAP earnings made P/E multiples appear far lower than they actually are, and thereby helps perpetuate the myth that the market is "cheap."

How Twitter Algos Determine Who Is Market-Moving And Who Isn't

Now that even Bridgewater has joined the Twitter craze and is using user-generated content for real-time economic modelling, and who knows what else, the scramble to determine who has the most market-moving, and actionable, Twitter stream is on. Because with HFT algos having camped out at all the usual newswire sources: Bloomberg, Reuters, Dow Jones, etc. the scramble to find a "content edge" for market moving information has never been higher. However, that opens up a far trickier question: whose information on the fastest growing social network, one which many say may surpass Bloomberg in terms of news propagation and functionality, is credible and by implication: whose is not? Indeed, that is the $64K question. Luckily, there is an algo for that.

Obamacare "Approval" Drops To Record Low

For the current administration, now with a fresh developer to fix all the problems (with the website), the reality of public perception over Obamacare has gone from worst to worster-er this week. As Gallup polls show, nearly half of Americans say the Affordable Care Act will make the healthcare situation in the U.S. worse in the long run. When asked more broadly if they approve or disapprove of Obamacare, Americans come down on the disapprove side by 54% to 38% - a new record low for 'approval'.

Relax Or You Will Be Fired

It's not just Bank of America that is 'worried' about the health of its junior employees. As Bloomberg BusinessWeek reports, Americans eat at their desks, work longer days, and retire later than their counterparts in most other parts of the world (especially France). But, while the likes of Oprah offer holistic solutions to harness yopur stress, and bosses insist that you take your weekends off (or else), the workload itself is not reduced. Do not fear though as Senator Glenn Grotham is pressing to undo a "goofy" law requiring employers to give workers a day off - "all sorts of people want to work 7 days-a-week," he noted... indeed they do Senator.