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Monthly Archives: December 2012

Panic Spreads as 12/21/12 Approaches

“Ahead of December 21, which marks the conclusion of the 5,125-year “Long Count” Mayan calendar, panic buying of candles and essentials has been reported in China and Russia, along with an explosion in sales of survival shelters in America. In France believers were preparing to converge on a mountain where they believe aliens will rescue them.

The precise manner of Armageddon remains vague, ranging from a catastrophic celestial collision between Earth and the mythical planet Nibiru, also known as Planet X, a disastrous crash with a comet, or the annihilation of civilisation by a giant solar storm.

In America Ron Hubbard, a manufacturer of hi-tech underground survival shelters, has seen his business explode.

“We’ve gone from one a month to one a day,” he said. “I don’t have an opinion on the Mayan calendar but, when astrophysicists come to me, buy my shelters and tell me to be prepared for solar flares, radiation, EMPs (electromagnetic pulses) … I’m going underground on the 19th and coming out on the 23rd. It’s just in case anybody’s right.”

In the French Pyrenees the mayor of Bugarach, population 179, has attempted to prevent pandemonium by banning UFO watchers and light aircraft from the flat topped mount Pic de Bugarach…”

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U.S. Prepares to Squash al-Qaeda in Mali

“It’s only December, but it looks like the Pentagon has all planned out how they’ll spend a good part of 2013. US officials now claim that the Defense Department is busy preparing a military operation in the nation of Mali.

United States officials with knowledge of the matter tell the Washington Post that the Department of Defense and the US State Department will assist next year in a mission to overthrow Islamic extremists with ties to al-Qaeda who took under control a significant part of Mali, a small West African country that is still picking itself up after a coup this past March.

Earlier this year, military officers displaced the administration of then-President Amandou Toumani Toure, claiming that he was reluctant in addressing the extremist issue himself. However since then the military junta failed to improve security in the country and retake control of the northern part of Mali captured by the Islamists.Now the US is claiming that it’s ready to help the military rulers, even though it may be a clear violation of American laws: the Pentagon cannot assist first-hand with people responsible for ousting a democratically elected leader. That doesn’t mean, however, that Washington won’t find a way to send support overseas…”

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The Clam & Co. Discuss the Punch Bowl and More One Last Time for 2012

“(MoneyWatch) The Federal Reserve’s Open Market Committee will finish its 2012 work this week with the final policy meeting of the year; economic forecasts; and a Bernanke press conference chaser. The central bankers are likely to urge the president and lawmakers to avert the so-called “fiscal cliff,” a term now credited to Chairman Ben Bernanke himself.

Also on the agenda will be the nation’s moribund economic growth and ways the Fed may be able to help boost it through monetary policy. Analysts now believe that economic growth for the fourth quarter will sink to about 1 percent, down from the 2.7 percent annualized rate seen in the third quarter. If that were the case, total growth for 2012 would be less than 2 percent, matching 2011’s pokey rate.

At that rate and given the continued weakness in the nation’s labor market (see “November jobs report: Sandy impact muted“), the question facing the Fed is whether to extend “Operation Twist” beyond its year-end expiration. Operation Twist, which was implemented in September 2011, was a policy where each month, the Fed sold $45 billion worth of short-dated government bonds and bought an equal amount of government bonds with longer maturities. The goal was to lower long-term rates to encourage more borrowing and spending, which would in turn (hopefully) create more economic growth….”

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Daryl Jones: As US Debt Rises, Avoid Growth Stocks

“Investors should avoid growth stocks as long as U.S. debt burdens continue to build, said Daryl Jones, director of research at Hedgeye Risk Management, an independent research firm.

Lawmakers and the White House are scrambling to steer the economy away from the year-end fiscal cliff, a combination of tax hikes and deep spending cuts set to kick in at the same time and tip the country into a recession if left unchecked by Congress.

Over the longer term, however, major fiscal reforms will be needed to address the country’s $16 trillion debt, which should make investors very cautious, as hefty debt loads tend to crimp growth rates…”

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Money Manager Pento: “The Real Cliff That We Should Be Concerned About is When Our Currency Loses its World Reserve Status”

“The U.S. dollar could lose its status as a reserve currency used by countries worldwide for foreign reserves and to conduct commerce if Washington doesn’t make lasting fiscal reforms soon, said Michael Pento, founder of Pento Portfolio Strategies.

Washington needs to push through both short-term and long-term reforms to taxes and spending to keep the greenback attractive.

In the more immediate future, lawmakers and the White House will be scrambling during the coming days to steer the economy away from the year-end fiscal cliff, a combination of tax hikes and deep spending cuts set to kick in at the same time and tip the country into a recession.

Over the longer term, however, policymakers must pay down debts and narrow deficits if investors are to continue to view the dollar as a reserve currency and asset of choice to ride out uncertainty.

Should debt burdens become unmanageable, investors could lose their appetite for the greenback and avoid U.S. government Treasury bonds, which would send interest rates rising and seriously bruise the economy…”

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Republicans Want to Move Beyond Tax Rate Fight on the Wealthy

“…..Rank and file Republicans are eager to move beyond that fight to overhauling Social Security and Medicare, which are both on track to start running out money without major reforms.

“A lot of people are putting forth a theory – and I think it has merit – where you go ahead and give the president the … rate increase on the top 2 percent, and all of a sudden the shift goes back to entitlements,” Corker said….”

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Mobile Growth Explodes Into M-Commerce

“Don’t look now e-commerce, but m-commerce has arrived.

So says EBay‘s vice president of mobile Steve Yankovich, who told CNBC’s“Squawk on the Street” that the Thanksgiving weekend kickoff of this shopping season saw more than double the transactions on the company’s mobile platform than last year.

“Mobile growth has been phenomenal,” said Yankovich. “Think of only four years back — no one thought about mobile at all. Now we expect to do $10 billion globally on eBay Mobile.”

As mobile devices become increasingly ubiquitous — smartphone shipments are expected to be up 45 percent compared with last year, reaching 718 million new units globally, according to IDC Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker — for many, they are the go-to vehicle for shopping…”

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Italy’s Monti Ready to Quit Over Political Crisis

“Premier Mario Monti told the Italian president Saturday he is resigning soon, saying he can no longer govern after Silvio Berlusconi’s party withdrew crucial support. It paves the way for early elections a year after the unelected economist helped pull the country back from the brink of financial disaster.”

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The Rise and Fall of Lenny Dykstra

“The members of the 1986 world champion Mets walked somberly through the doors of the Christ Fellowship Church in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., one sunny day last February. Darryl Strawberry,Mookie Wilson, Howard Johnson and Wally Backman, names engraved in Mets lore, were there for the funeral of Gary Carter, the team’s Hall of Fame catcher, who had died at age 57 of brain cancer.

Lenny Dykstra, who patrolled centerfield, also was among the more than 2,000 mourners.

In Game 3 of the 1986 National League Championship Series against the Astros, Dykstra hit one of the most important home runs in Mets history, a walk-off shot that drove in Backman. At 5-9, small for a professional athlete, Dykstra personified the fire and toughness on a team of fighters. He played all out, all the time. He was cocky and brash.

Many of his former Mets teammates had not seen him in years. All they knew of him were the rumors — that Dykstra, who had lived in mansions and flown in private jets, was flat broke, sometimes sleeping in hotel lobbies. Now he was under house arrest after being charged with federal bankruptcy fraud — stealing and selling property that no longer belonged to him — and he needed the permission of a federal judge in Los Angeles to attend Carter‘s funeral.

Dykstra’s appearance stunned his old teammates. No longer was he the tough guy nicknamed Nails. His once-strong body was bent over. He looked far older than his 49 years.

“His health, it looked like it was in decline,” former closer Jesse Orosco said. “He was a little bit slouched over and he was talking a little different.”

At times he was incoherent, Backman said. Through the mumbling, “it was hard to even understand Lenny.”

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Why Too Much Data Disables Your Decision Making

“Quick, think back to a major decision. You know, the kind that compelled you to read everything on a topic and lead you to spend hours devouring every last scrap of data.

How’d that work out for you?

We like to think that more information drives smarter decisions; that the more details we absorb, the better off we’ll be. It’s why we subscribe to Google Alerts, cling to our iPhone, and fire up our TweetDeck.

Knowledge, we’re told, is power. But what if our thirst for data is actually holding us back? What if obsessing over information actually reduces the quality of our decisions?

That’s the question raised by Princeton and Stanford University psychologists in a fascinating study titled On the Pursuit and Misuse of Useless Information.

Their experiment was simple. Participants were divided into two groups. Group 1 read the following:

Imagine that you are a loan officer at a bank reviewing the mortgage application of a recent college graduate with a stable, well-paying job and a solid credit history. The applicant seems qualified, but during the routine credit check you discover that for the last three months the applicant has not paid a $5,000 debt to his charge card account,

Do you approve or reject the mortgage application?….”

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8 Scams Designed to Get Your Holiday Cash

“CHICAGO (MarketWatch) — ‘Tis the season for scammers to shop too, and the bad guys are stepping up their game, taking advantage of consumers through traditional rip-off methods — and some new schemes too.

“Most of these scams we see all year, but they become much more prominent this time of year because of all the holiday hustle and bustle,” says Robert Siciliano, a security expert for McAfee, the online security technology firm. In the flurry of store-hopping and cyber shopping, we tend to forget stuff, like credit cards and packages at cash registers. We leave exposed gifts in the front seat of a car and purchase products on websites we’ve never visited (or worse yet, have never heard of).

The fraudsters are out there, ready to pounce on the vulnerability — due to the overall exhaustion and anxiety — that the happy holidays can bring on. Keep your guard up and consider this your scam alert tip sheet: “

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MI May Lead the Way to Drive a Final Nail in the Coffin of Unions


“Michigan is on the verge of passing a “right to work” law that experts say would be a massive symbolic blow to the nation’s labor movement and could set the stage for further such legislative fights.

The law would allow workers at unionized companies to not pay dues to the union, severely cutting the funds that give unions their strength. The legislation, which won key votes in the legislature Thursday, could be signed into law next week.”

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5 Ways to Reduce Identity Tracking

“There’s a well-known saying, “On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog.” But it’s getting increasingly harder to stay completely anonymous on the Web, as a Page One article in Saturday’s Wall Street Journal shows.

So how do you avoid having your browsing linked to your real identity online? It’s pretty difficult, assuming you want to use the Internet like a normal person. But there are a few steps you can take….”

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BARRON’S: Here Are The Top 10 Stocks For 2013

“Barron’s just published its 10 Favorite Stocks For 2013.  The feature has writeups on each stock.  But here’s a peak:


  • Apple: “Even after implementing a dividend — now providing a 1.9% yield — and a modest buyback program, Apple should build cash at a rate of $40 billion annually.”
  • Barnes & Noble: “The Nook division is losing money, but that reflects a market-share grab, as Barnes & Noble seeks to get its e-readers into the hands of as many consumers as possible and then sell them profitable digital content, including books and magazine subscriptions.”
  • BlackRock: “Bulls such as Morgan Stanley analyst Matthew Kelley see double-digit earnings growth next year, driven by iShares.”

Top 10 picks

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Silvio Berlusconi Is Running For Italian PM Again


“Silvio Berlusconi on Saturday ended weeks of speculation by announcing he would again run for the job of prime minister, which he was forced out of last year.

“I am running to win,” the leader of the right-wing populist People of Freedom (PDL) party told journalists in Milanello, near the northern city of Milan.”

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