Monthly Archives: May 2015

Mount Rainier


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Criminal Banks

It’s not hyperbole or conspiracy theory.  This story from Reuters is mind boggling in its acceptance of banks as criminal enterprises, by the journalist, the SEC, and the market:

The settlements on Wednesday stood out in part because the U.S. Department of Justice forced Citigroup’s main banking unit Citicorp, and the parents of JPMorgan, Barclays and Royal Bank of Scotland to plead guilty to U.S. criminal charges.

It was the first time in decades that the parent or main banking unit of a major American financial institution pleaded guilty to criminal charges.

Until recently, U.S. authorities rarely sought criminal convictions against the parents of global financial institutions, instead settling with smaller foreign subsidiaries. That made it easier for the government and the banks to control any fallout on the financial system and bank customers.

Banks involved in the plea deals have been negotiating regulatory exemptions to avoid serious business disruptions that could be triggered by the pleas.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has granted waivers to JPMorgan and the other banks that pleaded guilty, allowing them to continue their usual securities business.

With prosecutors and the banks working out ways for the institutions to keep doing business, analysts worried that convictions would become more routine and costly for banks.

“The broader problem is that this now sets the stage for the Justice Department to try to criminally prosecute banks for all sorts of transgressions,” said Jaret Seiberg, an analyst at Guggenheim Securities.

Barclays had set aside $3.2 billion to cover any forex-related settlement. Shares in the bank rose more than 3 percent to an 18-month high as investors welcomed the removal of uncertainty over the forex scandal.

UBS’s penalty was lower than expected, and helped its shares rise to their highest in six-and-a-half years.

So, the top priority here is not following the law, but making things easier for the banks to continue business as usual.  This really defines moral hazard.   Just like a criminal organization of any kind, the fines are simply a cost of doing business.  Unlike other types of cartels or syndicates, the criminal convictions here are meaningless and punish neither the organization nor any individual.


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Larry Wilmore in Baltimore

By far, the best segment I have seen yet on the Nightly Show.  To be honest, I’m not a huge fan of the show.  I would like to be, and it is amusing, so hopefully they will get through the growing pains and stop with the Hillary campaigning.

Anyway, this is just GREAT.


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Filed under Positive Mind

Hyperbaric treatment for brain injuries

Joe Namath has been working with the Jupiter Medical Center in Florida to try to heal brain injury.  From Yahoo News:

Until recently, the NFL had been lacking in helping players with their medical issues after their careers were done. Namath knew that more needed to be done, so he reached out to Jupiter Medical Center in Jupiter, Fla. and asked about possible ways that brain injuries could be dealt with. He was willing to be tested to see how possible treatments may – or may not – work.

That led to the creation of the Joe Namath Neurological Research Center at the Jupiter Medical Center.

Namath started a series of hyperbaric treatments – 120 dives during the span of roughly nine months. Each chamber dive takes about an hour and 20 minutes. The first 15 minutes is used to get to the proper atmosphere. The chamber is designed to allow the atmospheric pressure to be doubled or tripled, allowing the lungs to take in more air.

Conceptually, injured body tissue needs more oxygen to heal. So for someone with a brain injury such as a concussion, the hope is that these treatments can and will restore the function of damaged or dead brain cells.

Joe Namath's brain scans, courtesy of Joe Namath Neurological Research Center at the Juniper Medical Center

Joe Namath’s brain scans, courtesy of Joe Namath Neurological Research Center at the Juniper Medical Center

To be able to see, to literally be able to see, with the nuclear scan the cells that had stopped working to start working, to get blood flow. To be restored, renewed and start looking like the rest of my brain. The FDA approved this study and they want another study, this one on 100 people,” Namath told Yahoo Sports.

This is a common treatment and it’s widely available.  Hopefully the VA will begin testing as well to see if it helps all the people injured with TBI in the service.

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Home sales for cash

I had no idea the numbers were in this range.  From Barry Ritholtz:



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Tom Brady, Take your underinflated ball and go home.

Well, as a Steelers fan, I couldn’t be happier about Tom Brady’s suspension.  It’s shocking, really, that Goodell didn’t suspend him for the second through fifth games of the season.  Not only as a Steelers-hater, but for the ratings of the opening game of the 2015 season.

However, as a Tom Brady fan, and Goodell skeptic (OK, hater,) this punishment is ridiculous.  It is random, harsh, and unwarranted.  Like expelling students who take toy guns to school, because of zero tolerance policies.  At least the school is basing their nonsense on a written policy.  Goodell is basing his nonsense on, well, nothing, as far as I can tell.  Just a lot of innuendo and suspicious circumstances.  Add on the insult that this is the same punishment (for the player) as Ray Rice initially received, and this female fan is pissed.  I really thought I hated Goodell before.

Kevin Kaduk at Yahoo sports argues that Tom Brady should retire in response to this, and I agree.  It freaking hurts to play football at 37.  Save what’s left of your brain, Tom.

The most successful quarterback in league history should say in no uncertain terms that Goodell is the reason he’s leaving.

He can’t be suspended under Goodell’s arbitrary rules if he’s not playing any more, can he?

You may dismiss this as a hot take, but the there’s no such thing when you’re dealing with a NFL commissioner whose approach to discipline has been one long hot take. Seriously, read my colleague Frank Schwab’s expert vivisection of the four-game suspension that Brady unjustly received and tell me the quarterback should take his medicine like a good boy. There aren’t many players that could take on Goodell’s “next man up” system of wayward justice and win in the court of public opinion, but Brady tops the small handful. He might even have enough juice to cost Goodell his job.

Judging by the immediate reaction to Monday’s ruling, Brady would have a majority on his side if he held his career over Goodell’s head.

What would have been an appropriate response?  Well, since they really couldn’t prove that it was done on purpose, I think they should have instituted a special Patriots only equipment check.  Check everything that is going out on the field with a Patriot for compliance before every game.  This might be done by having the refs actually control all Patriots equipment.  And I mean all of it.  Uniforms, pads, cleats, balls, the tee, everything.  Or, charge the Patriots $50,000 per game to have all the equipment checked before it is delivered to the locker room, and station officials in the locker room and with the equipment managers to make sure they don’t mess with anything.  Do this just to the Patriots for a few years, then once the league has had time to review what equipment actually needs controls, institute whatever controls are appropriate, league wide.  Goodell’s response didn’t address this at all.  Because he isn’t a thinker and doesn’t understand corrective action.  Only punishment.  These are men, not dogs.

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Direct upload video

Here are some apps and information regarding direct upload of video from your mobile device.  The purpose of this is to film police or public events and have the video retained in case your device is damaged or lost (accidentally or on purpose).

From the Atlantic:  Film The Police.  References  Mobile Justice CA, Mobile Justice MO, Stop and frisk Watch NYC.

There’s also:



Hands Up 4 Justice

FiVo Film



Police Tape


A lot of these are sponsored by the ACLU.

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Mainstream medicine and gut biome

It’s good to see researchers taking on the overwhelming complexity of the gut biome.  At the VA, Dr. Dale Gerding has identified a specific bacteria that can be used to fight one that is often deadly.  From NPR:

“The key thing here is being able to use a spore-forming bacteria,” says Dr. Dale Gerding, a researcher at the Veterans Administration who has spent his career trying to come up with effective treatments for C. difficile. Not only are spores a lot easier to manage, they survive the trip through stomach acid to the gut where C. difficule wreaks its havoc, causing debilitating diarrhea and nausea.

Spore treatment in hand, Gerding and colleagues tested it in 157 people who had recently had a bout of C. difficile. Half of them took the spores in a water solution, and the other half took a watery placebo. Eleven percent of people given spores became reinfected with C. difficile, compared to 30 percent of the people on placebo. Sixty percent of the placebo patients had at least one more bout of diarrhea, compared to 46 percent of spore-takers.

Of course, the less specific method can work also:

Last fall we reported on efforts at Massachusetts General Hospital to test the poop pill concept. They filled capsules with fecal contributions from healthy volunteers and gave them to 20 people with recurring C. diff infections. The pills worked immediately for 14 of the patients. Four more got relief by taking another two-day course of the pills.

But obviously, no one can make much  money on a poop pill.

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Tesla Batteries

Oh, Elon Musk, can I love you any more?  Probably.  When you deliver broadband, somehow.

But for now, the battery is great news.  A couple weeks ago this was hinted at, but the details are mind boggling, really:

Last Thursday in California he introduced to the world his sleek new Powerwall – a wall-mounted energy storage unit that can hold 10 kilowatt hours of electric energy, and deliver it at an average of 2 kilowatts, all for US$3,500.

That translates into an electricity price (taking into account installation costs and inverters) of around US$500 per kWh – less than half current costs, as estimated by Deutsche Bank.

That translates into delivered energy at around 6 cents per kWh for the householder, meaning that a domestic system plus storage would still come out ahead of coal-fired power delivered through the conventional grid.

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sapC-DOPS cancer treatment

From Patrick Cox at Mauldin Economics:

SapC–DOPS makes tumor cells die with astonishing rapidity, but it’s harmless to all other cells. This has been verified in numerous cell cultures as well as animals infected by human tumors, including brain tumors.

If there’s a reason that sapC–DOPS would not work on tumors in people, I don’t know what it is. Clinical trials should start in the next few months, though, so we should know pretty soon. If it works as well as many scientists believe it will, the world will change.

Mr. Cox gives a detailed and fascinating account of what this drug is and precisely how it works.  Worth the read.

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