3.30.2015

University of Minnesota Clostridium difficile study published



Fecal Transplant Treats Serious, Recurrent Intestinal Infection
Excerpt:

Fecal transplants, using stool from a donor, have been successful at treating a serious gut infection, researchers report. The infection is called Clostridium difficile. It causes diarrhea and severe abdominal pain and kills thousands of people worldwide each year, the authors of the small study explained. It's believed that the infection overwhelms the good bacteria required to maintain a healthy intestine. The fecal transplant method was developed to treat people with C. difficile infections, particularly those who have repeat infections. Fecal matter is collected from a donor, purified, mixed with a saline solution and transferred to the patient, usually by colonoscopy. However, not much is known about the long-term stability of fecal transplants, the University of Minnesota researchers pointed out. The study, published in the current issue of the journal Microbiome, included 14 people who had recurring C. difficile infections. Four received fecal transplants. The healthy changes in the patients' intestinal bacterial populations ("microbiome") were sustained for up to 21 weeks after transplant, according to the report.
Comment: Full article of the study in Microbiome (too technical for me!). I am 837 days post Fecal Transplant

Life imitating "The Office"

Police: Driver follows GPS off bridge ramp Excerpt:

Police say a driver apparently was following GPS navigation when he drove off the ramp to a demolished bridge that had been closed since 2009, killing his wife. The Times of Munster reports 51-year-old Zohra Hussain of Chicago died of burns after the car caught fire following the 37-foot plunge Saturday morning onto property owned by BP. Her 64-year-old husband, Iftikhar Hussain, survived. Lake County Sheriff's Department spokeswoman Patricia Van Til says the road is marked with numerous barricades including orange barrels and cones, large wood signs stating ROAD CLOSED with orange striped markings and concrete barricades across the road. Construction of a new bridge over the Indiana Harbor and Ship Canal is scheduled to begin this spring

Non-Savers "don't see a correlation between where they are now and where they will be"



Guess what? America's best savers aren't wealthy

Excerpt:

A quarter of middle-class households (those earning between $50,000 and $75,000 annually) set aside more than 15 percent of their income, according to a survey that accompanied Bankrate's March Financial Security Index. That money is rerouted from their daily expenses to fund long-term goals such as a retirement investment plan or an emergency savings account. Comparatively, 8 percent of lower wage earners contributed this much. And only 17 percent of the highest earners in the survey (households making $75,000 and above) elected to put the same amount of their salaries away for a rainy day. "Middle-class Americans (have) to do the saving, because nobody is going to do it for them," says Greg McBride, CFA, Bankrate's chief financial analyst. "They don't have the six-figure income to fall back on" for expenses, including household emergencies, long-term health care, children's education or their own retirement. In contrast, people between 18 and 29 years old -- the youngest group in the survey -- were the most likely to save relatively little: 37 percent said they save 5 percent or less. Another 18 percent said they save nothing at all. "They don't see a correlation between where they are now and where they will be," independent budgeting expert Tiffany Aliche says.
Comment: Image source: The origin of the Piggy Bank. Jim's simple savings tips:

  • Eat out less
  • Travel less (we've had great times just going to a neighboring state!)
  • Less clothes
  • Older cars
  • Simpler gifting. 
  • Enjoying the simple things of life 


Chicago's shell game



How Chicago has used financial engineering to paper over its massive budget gap
Excerpt:

Two administrations have:
  • Used long-term debt to finance everyday expenses and maintenance;
  • Used long-term debt to finance judgments and settlements, including police brutality cases, and retroactive wage increases and pension contributions for its unionized employees;
  • Restructured the city’s existing debt to extend the maturities on its bonds far out into the future in order to avoid having to pay the debt as it was coming due;
  • Borrowed more money than it needed in order to make payments on the bonds its was issuing to avoid debt service expenses, essentially using debt to pay debt; and
  • Possibly used the city’s portfolio of interest rate derivatives as an ATM.
Comment: "Conjurer Bosch" by Hieronymus Bosch (circa 1450–1516). See wiki on shell game. Next decade's Detroit!

The "dystopian “Mad Max” scenario if Iran gets nukes"



Obama’s race to chaos

Excerpt:

Close your eyes and imagine that those countries and terrorists have nuclear weapons. Imagine their barbarism going nuclear as they blow up cities, wipe out ethnic and religious groups and turn the region into cinders. Now open your eyes and realize you’ve seen the future, thanks to President Obama’s policies. It is a future that will be defined by Obama’s Wars. Yes, plural. I’ve written frequently about the likelihood of a dystopian “Mad Max” scenario if Iran gets nukes. My thinking is guided by a belief among American military and intelligence officials that a nuclear exchange would take place in the Mideast within five years of Iran getting the bomb. To judge from events, the future is arriving ahead of schedule.

... Iran wants it both ways — nukes and a free hand to impose its Islamic Revolution throughout the region. Against all good sense and the lessons of history, Obama is saying yes and yes. Sightings of the Revolutionary Guard leader, Maj. Gen. Qasem Suleimani, leading Iranian-sponsored militias against the Islamic State in Iraq has spread alarm throughout the region. The fears reached a fever pitch when Iranian-allied Houthi rebels took over Yemen, chasing out our soldiers and allies with chants of “Death to America, death to Israel.”

... The nuclear program will have the United Nations’ stamp of approval, as will Iranian control of four Arab capitals — Damascus, Beirut, Baghdad and now Sanaa, Yemen. Indeed, Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry suggest Iran even could be an ally in the fight against the Islamic State and al Qaeda. Already there has been coordination there, leading critics to say America is acting as the Iranian air force. Israel, of course, sees the pattern as insane and a threat because Iran has threatened to wipe it off the face of the Earth. In retaliation for complaining about the nuke deal, Obama denounces our ally and threatens to “re-evaluate” our support for the Jewish state. But Israel is not alone, with our Sunni Arab allies also viewing Iran as their mortal enemy. Sen. John McCain quoted one of those Arab leaders as concluding, “We believe it is more dangerous to be a friend of America’s than an enemy.” These are unprecedented developments, veering so far from the norm and happening so fast that consequences are piling up faster than they can be comprehended. Alliances built over decades are shattered in a relative flash, inviting aggression and endless conflict. The toxic brew of Islamic fanaticism and nuclear proliferation could ignite a world conflagration.
Comment: Image source. See also


Disastrous Iran deal may prove fatal to Israel

In his determination to strike a deal with Iran over its nuclear weapons program (which Iran has denied exists, so what is the U.S. negotiating?), President Obama has traded history, facts and reality for a potential deal with a regime that promotes terrorism around the world and is busy attaching Iraq to its vision of a greater Persian Empire. Last Saturday, Iran's Supreme leader Ali Khamenei again called for "Death to America," just one day after President Obama appealed to Iranians in a video message to seize a "historic opportunity" for a nuclear deal and a better future. The leader of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, also continues to use inflammatory rhetoric about the ultimate destruction of Israel. What should this tell us? The president is cozying up to a nation that oppresses women, has an apocalyptic view of the world and believes that if it starts a nuclear war the 12th Imam -- the Islamic messiah -- will emerge from a well and bring peace on Earth and good will, at least to Shia Muslim men. Women will remain subject to male domination and have only the few rights given to them by men.

Yet more: Iran like a modern day Nazi Germany: Ex-CIA chief:
Iran is trying to expand its empire much like Hitler's Germany before World War II, former CIA Director James Woolsey said Monday, citing Tehran's moves to exert its influence in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen. "They are doing it on a highly ideological basis. They never cease chanting 'Death to Israel' and 'Death to the United States,'" Woolsey said in a CNBC " Squawk Box " interview. "They are an imperial power and trying to become more of an imperial power." Woolsey called for a halt in the six-nation nuclear talks with Iran, which include the U.S. "Given Iran's aggressiveness and the fanaticism of its leaders, I don't think we can do a reasonable deal with them. They'll cheat." Regardless of whether an agreement can be reached to curtail Iran's nuclear ambitions with verification measures, the rogue nation could have nuclear weapons capabilities in a "year or so," Woolsey said. "If we stop the talks, clamp further sanctions, introduce far more competition than exists today into the oil business ... we could slow them down." Speculating on why the U.S. is participating, he said, "I think the president wants a good relationship with Iran and an agreement so he can claim a diplomatic victory."

3.28.2015

Depraved Sinner or Depressed Psycho?





Killer co-pilot sought treatment for problems with his VISION: Haunting selfie emerges of Andreas Lubitz as it emerges he was suffering from 'serious psychosomatic illness' 

They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice [evil-mindedness] (NKJV) (Romans 1:29) (NIV)
Comment: Source of "heinous act" quote is WND. Unthinkable acts like the Germanwings Flight 9525 mass murder cause one to wonder about the nature of evil. Some atheists claim that religion is evil, but as Frank Turek notes "evil [that] the civilized world abhor(s) doesn't disprove God—it disproves atheism." The phrase "evil-mindedness" above is a translation of the hapax legomena (meaning: "occurs only once in the New Testament") κακοήθεια. κακοήθεια means "malignant subtlety, malicious craftiness". As our society degrades we seem to be seeing malicious inventions of killing in greater degrees of magnificent wickedness. 10 years ago one could not imagine the IPhone. And 10 years ago one could not imagine the wicked act of March 24th. One the horizon will be greater technological advancements ... and greater evil acts and wicked actors. Albert Mohler commented on this evil in a recent briefing:
there is now evidence that there was an intentionality behind this that goes beyond our moral imagination. Or that’s at least what the international media are now saying, that it goes beyond our moral imagination. Of course that’s not exactly true; this doesn’t go beyond our imagination. It just enters into the realm of moral horror

Mission Passion Profession Vocation Purpose Graph




Finding your life purpose

Excerpt:


  • Passion: Is that which you love. The thing that sets your soul on fire. Something you think about constantly, and when apart from it, you count the minutes until you are with it again. The object of your passion could be a person, a job, a place, a food, a pet or a combination of all. When you are passionate about something, you can’t stop talking about it, or trying to learn more about it.
  • Mission: Is that which the world needs, and you are going to provide it for the world. Your mission, like your passion, drives you. But rather than coming from an internal place, a mission is usually doing something for someone other than yourself.
  • Vocation: Something that you can be paid for, usually your job. Your vocation is what gets you up each day and sends you off to work so that you can support yourself and your family. Some people are more attached to their vocation than others.
  • Profession: Is that which you are good at, and is closely aligned with vocation. You can call yourself a professional when you have reached a certain level of expertise in your job.
When these four components all intersect, you have arrived at your life purpose, for example: “Life purpose is when you have found something for which you get paid, and which you have a high level of expertise in that fires you up and inspires you every day to improve. Not only does your life purpose provide comfort for yourself, it also does good for others.”
Comment: Interesting graph. Source. Starecat. I need to think about this more but my initial take is thoughtful but not in complete agreement. What do you think?

  • My life purpose ... to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ. I know I do this imprecisely : "For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain" (Philippians 1:21)
  • My job or career: Information Technology (IT). There's a lot I love about IT. Some I don't like
  • The world needs it? Well IT jobs are generally in demand. In an economic sense I am in the supply (I supply my time and talent) and demand (my company still wants me) zone. 
  • Am I great at it? I would probably give myself a B+ here. 
There are some other good images of this on the Internet: here and here. Or use this search


3.27.2015

Coming low stock returns? "treat every nickel like a manhole cover"



The New Era of Low Stock Returns

Excerpt:

Leading investment analysts think you will be lucky to squeeze out an average return of 2% annually, after inflation and fees, from a typical portfolio of stocks and bonds over the coming decade or so.

.... Over time, the return on stocks after inflation has tended to come very close to the sum of two numbers: dividend yield—total dividends over the past year divided by the current share price—plus the inflation-adjusted growth rate in dividends. The yield on the S&P 500 is 2%. For more than a century, the growth rate has averaged about 1.5% after inflation. Add those two numbers and you get 3.5%. Now consider that the yield—interest income divided by price—on 10-year U.S. Treasury notes is 2% and that the government’s core measure of inflation is running at about 1.7% annually. If you have half your portfolio in stocks that return 3.5% and half in bonds that return 0.3%, you will earn about 1.9% after inflation. If stocks average the 2.5% return from Prof. Shiller’s data, then a balanced portfolio will return only 1.4% after inflation. (These numbers assume no fees, taxes or trading costs.)
Comment: Image source: Manhole cover - Oslo. Quote "treat every nickel like a manhole cover" is from the article with a context of using low-cost index funds or ETFs and minimizing advisor fees. As for us, we do not use a financial advisor. Our mistakes and successes are our own. My own target is 3% return from dividends and growth that matches inflation.

3.26.2015

Plate Tectonics and Oreos




Parents Must Sign Permission Slip Before Kids Can Eat Oreos

Comments: Permission slip image from the article. Plate Tectonics image source. Oreos from Wiki article. Interesting Oreo (but not plate tectonics) facts.

Texas .... a hot state for In-migration





Americans Love Big Hot Suburbs

Excerpt:


The new Census population estimates are out today, and only two metros added more than 100,000 people between July 2013 and July 2014. Houston and Dallas—both in Texas. Only one metro with a population greater than 1 million people grew by 3 percent last year. It's Austin—also in Texas. And you'll never guess what state had the most entries in the list of 50 counties with the greatest population gains. I'm kidding, you definitely will guess, because it's Texas.
Comment: Half of my family lives in Texas. Chart source ... image capture from article.

Money Advice



9 Basic Pieces of Money-Saving Advice No One Follows -- But Should
Excerpt:


  1. Run your financial life like a business.
  2. Make saving part of your lifestyle.
  3. Save the difference.
  4. Automate the process.
  5. Seek advice on your 401(k).
  6. Save your spare change.
  7. Fill a need.
  8. Live like a student.
  9. Trick yourself.
Comment: Image source.  I always find articles like this interesting. One thing we do well (but haven't always) is "automate the process". Upon paydays we have automated withdrawals to savings and then live on the rest.

3.23.2015

Bill Clinton: A real apology is needed .... not just "treacly crap"



What Bill Clinton still owes Monica Lewinsky

Excerpt:

All I can find on the record is an account of his 1998 speech to a roomful of religious leaders at a White House prayer breakfast in which he famously said, “I have sinned.”

“It is important to me that everybody who has been hurt know that the sorrow I feel is genuine: first and most important, my family; also my friends, my staff, my Cabinet, Monica Lewinsky and her family, and the American people. I have asked all for their forgiveness.”

If that’s all, then it won’t do. You cannot put Lewinsky in the same sentence as the White House staff and Cabinet, not to mention “the American people.” Clinton’s aides were deceived and inconvenienced, and some were hopping mad, but none of them were flamed on the Internet, denounced as a tramp and a stalker, viciously condemned by commentators of both sexes, including a covey of journalistic harridans who have forever been on the lookout for any suggestion of extramarital sex in Washington. They simply won’t permit it.

Jessica Bennett, the writer of the commendably sympathetic Times piece, found Lewinsky to be “acutely intelligent, something for which she does not get much credit.” Actually, she does. Both her defense lawyers and even the prosecutors described her as both charming and smart, but it was important for her critics to consider her a crazed ditz, as if Clinton was her victim and could not have been genuinely charmed by her. (Remember how much they talked on the phone.) Lewinsky represented a middle-aged woman’s worst fear: the on-the-prowl young woman they once themselves were. She had to be dealt with.

I like Bill Clinton — always have. I think he was a very good president, and I think he’s a remarkable man, moral in a macro way. But I think his “I have sinned” statement is treacly crap, so generalized as to be meaningless. As he once acknowledged to me, he is forever linked to Lewinsky
Comment: Word of the day = "treacly". Image source. As for me ... I think he is immoral in a macro way!

The "Law of Unintended Consequences" and "Plain Packaging"



Despite a wave of regulation in Europe to ban branding on cigarette packages, tobacco shares have outperformed

Excerpt:

As with other major tobacco legislation—from advertising restrictions to bans on smoking in public—authorities hope plain packaging will reduce smoking rates. That means sales volumes at tobacco companies are likely to fall, as they have for many years across the industry. ... But with volumes in long-term decline, tobacco companies invest less in production facilities and new machinery. Not to mention the millions of dollars saved every year through advertising restrictions. That frees up cash, which is largely returned to investors. Europe’s three major listed tobacco companies have averaged dividend yields of just over 4% in the last three years, compared with 2.7% on the pan-European Stoxx Europe 600 index, according to FactSet. Some tobacco investors say plain packaging—which requires large, graphic health warnings on packs—could even benefit the companies because it will lock in market share. “Regulation has made it almost impossible to build a new brand,” said Simon Raubenheimer, a portfolio manager at Allan Gray Proprietary Ltd., a top British American Tobacco PLC shareholder. “The barriers to entry are massive. That’s probably the biggest positive.”

Comment: Imagine .... "Plain Packaging" advantages tobacco companies because it saves them money on advertisting and hinders competition. Image source. I do not invest in tobacco stocks despite their attractive dividends.

The stocks:






3.19.2015

"10-2-4" is the Doctor's Prescription for Centenarian



Dr. Pepper The Doctor Of Choice For A 104-Year-Old Woman

Excerpt:

A Fort Worth woman is celebrating her 104th year of life. “Well at 103 I didn’t think I’d make it, but I’m still perking along.” At 104 years old, Elizabeth Sullivan says she doesn’t need the advice of real doctors. So she keeps another doctor close by. “People try to give me coffee for breakfast. Well, I’d rather have a Dr. Pepper.” Sullivan fell in love with the soft drink’s trademark “23 flavors” when she was in her 60’s. “I started drinking them about 40 years ago. Three a day. Every doctor that sees me says they’ll kill you, but they die and I don’t. So there must be a mistake somewhere.”
Comment: The old bottles of Dr Pepper had "10 2 4" advertising slogan: "Drink a bite to eat at 10, 2, and 4." Image source. Dr Pepper history site.

3.18.2015

Retirement: " known knowns ... known unknowns ... unknown unknowns"



Here's one way not to fall short on retirement $$$

From the video: (if one makes $ 100,000)

  • If one is saving $ 10,000 per year that reduces the financial need by that amount
  • Also will not be paying payroll taxes that are 7.65% of paycheck
Channeling Rumseld's quote:
  • Known knowns:
    • While I expect to be able to save, we won't be saving & investing at our our current rate.
    • No need to pay for contracted downtown underground parking
    • We know what our social security income will be (or closely estimated)
    • We know what our pensions will be (or closely estimated)
  • Known unknowns:
    • We know our state and federal income taxes will be less. But what will be the new normal?
    • I have a general sense what our healthcare costs will be but will need to be more precise. 
    • We will not have dental insurance from our company but Delta sells individual plans. Needed?
    • Same with vision insurance. Provider. Needed?
    • How much will we need to draw from IRAs? When will we need to start?