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“Users of Google’s Chrome browser are vulnerable to attacks that allow malicious websites to use a computer microphone to surreptitiously eavesdrop on private conversations for extended periods of time, an expert in speech recognition said.
The attack requires an end user to click on a button giving the website permission to access the microphone. Most of the time, Chrome will respond by placing a blinking red light in the corresponding browser tab and putting a camera icon in the address bar—both indicating that the website is receiving a live audio feed from the visitor. The privacy risk, according to a blog post published Tuesday, stems from what happens once a user leaves the site. The red light and camera icon disappear even though the website has the ability to continue listening in…..”Comments »
“While the Dow Jones Industrial Average has dropped 1.2 percent so far this year, the Russell 2000 index of small stocks has gained 1.5 percent.
That reflects the superior economic environment in the United States compared with overseas, says Richard Bernstein, CEO of Richard Bernstein Advisors, because small stocks are more tied to the domestic economy than large ones are.
“Small stocks have been up,” he tells CNBC.
“Part of what’s happening in large cap land — multinational exposure is hurting them. The market is starting to recognize the difference, that whatever is going on here in the United States is healthier than what’s going on in the emerging markets.”
Bernstein notes that it’s not surprising that Wall Street strategists are calling for gains by the stock market this year.….”Comments »
“Government figures understate the actual unemployment rate and misery index, says David John Marotta, president of Marotta Wealth Management in Charlottesville, Va.
He and colleague Megan Russell write in a commentary to clients that the true unemployment rate stands at a whopping 37.2 percent, rather than the 6.7 percent calculated by the government for December.
And the misery index, which adds together inflation and unemployment, totals 14.7, the worst in almost 40 years, rather than the 7.5 that would be derived using government data.
Editor’s Note: 5 Shocking Reasons the Dow Will Hit 60,000
The government’s unemployment rate errs because it includes only the unemployed who are looking for a job, Marotta says.
His 37.2 percent reading “obviously includes some people who are not or never plan to seek employment,” Marotta and Russell explain. “But it does describe how many people are not able to, do not want to or cannot find a way to work.”
The government also understates inflation…”Comments »
With many parts of the world gearing up to commemorate the one hundredth anniversary of the start of the First World War, Nouriel Roubini has solidified his hold on the title “Dr. Doom” by suggesting parallels between 2014 and 1914.
There may be no Austro-Hungarian empire or Archduke Franz Ferdinand, but Roubini tweeted this from the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos today: He then tweeted some of the reasoning behind this train of thought.
#wef14 many speakers compare 2014 to 1914 when WWI broke out & no one expected it. A black swan in the form of a war between China & Japan?
#wef14 Echoes of 1914: backlash against globalization, gilded age of inequality, rising geopolitical tensions, ignoring tail risks
While Roubini is renowned for his bubble warnings and doom scenarios, his concerns weren’t drawn out of thin air, but rather taken mainly from the lips of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
According to report from both The Financial Times and BBC, Abe said on Wednesday that China and Japan were in a “similar situation” to that of Britain and Germany ahead of World War One.
(Read more: Timeline of latest flare-up in China-Japan tensions)
However, Reuters reported that Abe’s top spokesman has denied the Japanese leader meant war was possible or imminent, which is still unthinkable for many.
Still, Abe said that China’s increase in military spending was a source of instability in the region and he reiterated his calls for a military hotline to avert a conflict. In November, China tried to impose an air defense zone over a small collection of islands in the East China Sea, which the Japanese call the Senkaku Islands while the Chinese refer to them as Diaoyu….”
“Corporate profits were strong in 2013, with S&P 500 profits jumping an estimated 11% year-over-year.
With profit margins at record highs, some fear that we are due for some mean reversion, which could mean falling profits and tumbling stock prices.
However, Goldman Sachs’ Jan Hatzius doesn’t believe 2014 will see profits pull back.
“Profits are likely to accelerate in 2014, as GDP and productivity growth recover but wage growth picks up only gradually,” wrote Hatzius in a new note to clients. “Eventually, the pendulum will swing back in the direction of lower profits, but probably not until the labor market has recovered sufficiently to push up hourly wage growth up to 4% or more.”
Let’s unpack this.
To understand his bullish thesis, you have to look back at 2013, a year when profit growth overcame significant headwinds. Hatzius identified three: 1) relatively weak GDP and productivity growth in the U.S.; 2) very weak growth outside of the U.S.; and 3) low and declining inflation.
Despite these challenges, after-tax corporate profits grew an estimated 6.5% using the definition of the national income and product accounts (NIPA).
Here’s Hatzius on the strength:
What accounts for the strength? We believe that the key reason is the continued slack in the US labor market, and the resulting weakness of nominal wage growth. Exhibit 1 shows that our wage tracker–a composite measure based on the three most widely used hourly wage measures–is still only growing at about 2%. This weakness has held down unit labor costs even in an environment of sluggish GDP and productivity growth. And in turn, the subdued growth of unit labor costs has supported profit margins even in an environment of low price inflation…
For 2014, Hatzius expects wage growth to remain modest. Furthermore, he expects the three headwinds mentioned earlier to act as tailwinds…”Comments »
“The “sun, the moon and the stars” have finally begun to align for the U.S. economy, creating room for companies to grow, JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon told CNBC on Wednesday.
In an interview on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Dimon said that profit margins are up, cash hoards are growing, and small and midsize businesses are better placed.
“I believe the sun, the moon and the stars are lined up. … Corporate America’s in excellent shape,” Dimon said. “Six million more Americans are working. Americans are wealthier in their homes, their 401(k)s. And government is doing no damage.”
“I think those things are going to line up, that it’s possible that we’re just going to start to strengthen as a company, that investors will be looking for opportunities,” he added. “Remember, companies want to expand.”
Dimon’s comments came just days after his bank reported earnings, which were down year-over-year on investment banking weakness and legal costs related to the Bernard Madoff case….”
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World’s Wealthiest Expect Equities to Outperform, Discuss Income Inequality as Biggest Threat to Global Economy
“Billionaires attending the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting this week in Davos, Switzerland, expect to be richer when they return to the Alpine village next year.
About a half-dozen of the wealthiest participants, including Aliko Dangote, Africa’s richest person, and Irish telecommunications mogul Denis O’Brien, said stocks will rise, interest rates will remain low and they’d avoid investing in the virtual currency Bitcoin in 2014.
“The bull market will continue, we’ve actually turned the corner,” Dangote said in an interview at the forum’s Congress Center last night. “I believe it’s going to be a whole new ballgame. Things are improving in all sectors: in banking, in vehicle manufacturing, almost all the sectors. And I think we’ve left the bad past behind.”
Dangote is one of at least 80 billionaires joining more than 2,500 business and political leaders in Davos this week, according to a list of attendees and promotional materials obtained by Bloomberg News.
As billionaires bet on accelerating growth and rising asset prices, income inequality is emerging as a key theme for this week’s annual meeting. A study released last week by the forum identified the income gap as the most probable menace to the global economy during the next decade. Wealth disparity — driven by globalization and the recent financial crisis — threatens to breed poverty and social disorder, it said.
Billionaires attending Davos two years ago said income inequality was an issue they wanted to discuss amid the Occupy Wall Street movement, which targeted the world’s richest 1 percent.
The wealthiest people on the planet got even richer last year, adding $524 billion to their collective net worth, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, a daily ranking of the world’s 300 wealthiest individuals. The aggregate net worth of the world’s top billionaires stood at $3.6 trillion at the market close yesterday, according to the ranking.
A study by UBS AG economist Paul Donovan last month found that pretax income of the top one percent of Americans amounts to about 20 percent of all U.S. income, which is comparable with levels in the early 20th century.
Using Gini coefficients to measure income inequality, Donovan found those for the U.S., U.K., Japan, France and Canada have each risen since 2005….”Comments »
“A short-covering rally is in store for gold after its 28 percent drop in 2013, says legendary investor Jim Rogers, chairman of Rogers Holdings.
Already, the precious metal has gained 4 percent this month, with the February Comex contract trading at $1,241 an ounce Wednesday morning.
Investors sold gold last year as anticipation that the Federal Reserve would taper its quantitative easing quelled worries about inflation.
“There are huge shorts that have developed in precious metals,” Rogers explains, according to The Economic Times of India.
“So, it’s overdue for a rally. We had a big drop in 2013. Everybody got negative, everybody got short. So, we are going to have a rally.”
But the upswing is unlikely to last, Rogers notes…..”Comments »
“When the corporate cash dam bursts, everything will be ok, right? Well, maybe.
Investors betting that the past year of more than 20 percent gains in western stock markets can be echoed, or at least sustained, through 2014 have long assumed that a corporate spending revival will nurture a building economic recovery.
The argument is simple. Years of banking crises, credit droughts and economic uncertainty have prevented businesses investing for the future. Instead, they have clipped costs, wages and jobs and built up huge stockpiles of cash rather than investing in new plants, staff, updated technology, equipment or acquisitions.
As the economic fog lifts, this idle, near zero-yielding cash will surely be put back to work eventually, they argue, creating a potentially virtuous circle of greater demand, higher growth, earnings and employment all round.
The problem, however, is that assumes cash stockpiling has all been due simply to a hiatus in the economic cycle. Many argue the hoarding is instead driven by more durable demographic trends and political reforms that are stirring corporate anxiety about exposure to soaring pension and healthcare costs as workforces age and government coffers shrink.
If that’s true, then this brewing economic recovery may not release pent-up business cash on any scale close to that suggested by the eye-popping cashpiles…..”Comments »
“A new report and analysis on the deadly chemical-weapon attack in Syria last August — blamed on the Assad regime by warmongering Western governments and Sunni Arab dictators — offers further evidence that the Obama administration almost certainly used deception in its failed bid to more deeply embroil the United States and its military in Syria’s ongoing war. Congress and a public uproar eventually slammed the brakes on overt intervention in Syria by U.S. armed forces, but the experts behind the latest study say the implications surrounding the use of bogus “intelligence” to start wars are massive.
Based on the latest findings of two prominent experts, which appear to confirm other reports and investigations, it would have been impossible for the Assad dictatorship to have perpetrated the chemical attack outside Damascus as outlined by Obama and other Western officials. Instead, it seems that the more likely culprits of the attack were foreign-backed “rebel” groups hoping to overthrow the relatively secular regime and install an Islamist dictatorship based on sharia law. Estimates suggest almost 1,500 people died in the attack, including more than 400 children.
The new report, entitled “Possible Implications of Faulty U.S. Technical Intelligence,” was published by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Science, Technology, and Global Security Working Group. It was written by former United Nations weapons inspector Richard Lloyd and MIT Science, Technology, and National Security Policy Professor Theodore Postol. Among other major concerns, the two experts in the field found that despite official claims and “intelligence,” the August 21 nerve-agent attack in East Ghouta “could not possibly” have come from the center or even the Eastern edge of regime-controlled territory.
Indeed, the crude rockets with chemical agents on them only had a range of about two kilometers — a far cry from the five to ten kilometers required for them to have been fired from the heart of Damascus. Those findings concur with the conclusions of other investigators, including those of the UN independent assessment of the range of the chemical munitions. “We don’t know the weight, or a few other factors, but two kilometers is a good estimate,” UN weapons inspector Åke Sellström told reporters. Military experts quoted in German media reports agreed with the findings as well.
Other primary policy issues raised in the report include the fact that the “mistaken intelligence” could have led to an “unjustified U.S. military action based on false intelligence.” According to the authors, “a proper vetting of the fact that the munition was of such short range would have led to a completely different assessment of the situation for the gathered data.” Regardless of the reasons for what the authors called the “egregious errors in the intelligence,” the source of the errors needs to be explained, they said.
“If the source of these errors is not identified, the procedures that led to this intelligence failure will go uncorrected, and the chances of a future policy disaster will grow with certainty,” the report concluded. In other words, if the obvious problems in the so-called “intelligence” juggernaut are not fixed, the prospect of even more wars based on lies — or “faulty intelligence,” as some apologists for never-ending U.S. government interventionism refer to it — will continue to escalate.
Citing alleged “intelligence,” Obama and multiple top administration officials claimed repeatedly that the Assad regime had perpetrated the attack. In response to crossing the “red line,” the administration argued, the U.S. government must start raining missiles down on Syria. The dictatorship denied having deployed chemical weapons in the war, and as The New Americandocumented extensively, vast amounts of evidence emerged in the days and weeks after the attack suggesting that it had actually been perpetrated by rebel forces. Such attacks are often referred to as “false flags.”
While the report is not conclusive evidence that the regime was not in fact responsible for the attack, it does demolish multiple claims made by the Obama administration. Indeed, according to the MIT study, based on the estimated range of the rockets involved and their landing spots, all possible launch points for the primary weapons would have been inside rebel-held territory. Maps of the area provided by the White House showing what areas were under whose control were used to illustrate the conclusions in the report. The authors also noted that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s claim that “satellite images” had shown the location of impacts were probably not true.
“My view when I started this process was that it couldn’t be anything but the Syrian government behind the attack,” MIT Professor Postol was quoted as saying by the McClatchy news service after an interview about the findings. “But now I’m not sure of anything. The administration narrative was not even close to reality. Our intelligence cannot possibly be correct.” He also pointed out that the “Syrian rebels most definitely have the ability to make these weapons.” In fact, he added, “I think they might have more ability than the Syrian government.” Based on its disclosures, the Syrian regime does not even possess such weapons. “What, exactly, are we spending all this money on intelligence for?” Postol asked.
Of course, the implosion of the Obama administration’s apparently bogus narrative on Syria follows a long pattern of deceptive so-called “intelligence” being cited by U.S. presidents to wage unconstitutional and unwise wars. The most obvious example is Iraq, where the Bush administration continually cited claims and “intelligence” about “Weapons of Mass Destruction” that were never found. Former President Bush later joked about the non-existent WMDs, although few others found humor in the loss of life and treasure that followed the war based on “flawed intelligence.” In Libya, Obama also cited erroneous “intelligence” to justify an unconstitutional war without so much as approval from Congress.
Perhaps weary of bogus information being used to spark more wars, Americans were outraged, with a deafening public outcry and congressional opposition following Obama’s demand for war in Syria — likely putting an end to the plot to overtly inject the U.S. military into Syria’s civil war. However, from the start, the Obama administration and other foreign powers have been crucial to the jihadist rebels’ cause — supplying weapons, funding, training, and international cover in the establishment’s bid to secure “regime change” in Damascus. The fruits of those machinations are now clear to see: Over 100,000 dead, minorities being targeted for extermination, millions displaced, and more. ….”Comments »
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