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Thursday, September 29, 2011

Wealth: How to protect it and how to lose it

Here are a couple of headlines regarding wealth that are at opposite ends of the spectrum. Who had the better system for protecting their wealth?

Bold Brazilian Bank Heist

Thieves pulled off a huge bank robbery on Saturday, August 27th, in São Paulo, Brazil, when they broke into 138 private safes belonging to at least 120 wealthy clients of Banco Itaú, Latin America’s largest bank. The heist took place in one of São Paulo's most highly secured buildings, which is on Paulista Avenue, in the heart of the city's financial district in Brazil's biggest metropolis. This was like robbing a big U.S. bank in New York's Times Square.

Banco Itaú, São Paulo, Brazil

The Mystery Behind Brazil's Biggest Jewelery Heist --
... the thieves left with cash, luxury watches, gold bars, sapphires, emeralds, rubies and diamonds. Loads of diamonds. According to the most optimistic estimates, the total amount of valuables taken was about R$ 100 million ($58.5 million). Little of the loot was insured...

For a bank, a huge robbery like the one in this case can somehow be compared to a plane crash for an airliner. Some 40 managers at the bank were ordered to put aside their daily tasks and devote to personally inform clients that their precious goods had been stolen. Many have had to be medicated after receiving the news...
Armed gang carry out £40 million bank heist --
An armed gang posing as maintenance workers have carried out an audacious bank robbery reminiscent of a Hollywood heist film in Brazil, seizing cash, jewellery and watches valued at around £40m...

Police reportedly believe it is highly likely that some of the gang were also involved in the country's biggest ever bank robbery in 2005 in the northern city of Fortaleza, in which the robbers escaped with 164m reais in cash...
Telegraph: Five audacious bank robberies in history
Cell Phone Safety Deposit

Six time zones and 5700 miles away from São Paulo, in Kenya, Africa, the poor people there have embraced using cell phones to keep their money safe. These poor folks can't afford banks and certainly not safety deposit boxes. So they have learned that storing their money on a cell phone is safer than hiding it in the house or in the grain bin.

The banks are certainly not happy with this new technology that keeps potential customers away. Will JP Morgan, Wells Fargo, and Bank of America's biggest competitor in ten years be Verizon?

The big banks in this country are reportedly going to start adding a $5 per month debit card service fee. If this happens, then poor people in this country will have a strong incentive to move over to a good cheap cell phone money transfer system, like the Kenyans.

More than 14 million Kenyans have a phone-transfer account

Bloomberg Business:
In Kenya, Keeping Cash Safe on a Cell Phone --
Moses Githua has no steady work. He pulls in money from odd jobs, tucking away what he can each month. Githua, who lives in Nairobi, is what development researchers call “unbanked”: He lacks access to a traditional banking system...

It’s not that poor people lack the will to save, Maurer says. They lack the tools. Local banks charge fees that discourage saving small amounts. Keep it in a jar or under the bed, and it becomes attractive to thieves or relatives in need. Instead, Githua, 33, found another way to manage his cash: He uses his account with M-PESA, a service that lets people transfer money with their mobile phones. Githua doesn’t use it that way, though. He loads up his account and lets it sit in his “digital wallet” until he’s ready to use it. This simple trick keeps his savings beyond the reach of thieves. “There was and is micro-finance,” says Maurer, but “what of the people who are too poor to become entrepreneurs, what do they need? A safe, secure place to store what little money they have.” Kenya’s example shows that a $20 mobile phone may be secure enough. By 2012, 1.7 billion of the unbanked poor worldwide will have one...
M-Pesa -- M-PESA (M for mobile, pesa is Swahili for money) is the product name of a mobile-phone based money transfer service for Safaricom, which is a Vodafone affiliate. It was entirely developed by Kenyans and was initially sponsored by the UK-based Dept. for International Development (DFID) in 2003–2007.

M-PESA runs as an application coded right into the SIM cards of users’ mobile phones.

New York City Cops Beat Down and Pepper Spray Peaceful Wall Street Protesters

Update: Jon Stewart hoses down "Tony Boloney" the rogue pepper-spraying New York cop.

Stewart did the out-of-control cop one better. He brought in ex-"Law & Order SVU" star Christopher Meloni to impersonate Bologna and his rogue, pepper-spraying ways in what's sure to be the next hit TV crime drama, "The Vigilogna."

HuffPo: Jon Stewart Spoofs Anthony Bologna...
Must Watch:

Shameful and disgusting.

via: Washington's Blog
The pepper spray attacks by Detective Inspector Antony (Tony Baloney) Bologna on defenseless women are reportedly under investigation.

Detective Inspector Antony (Tony Baloney) Bologna pepper spraying peaceful protesters


Charlie GrapskiFollow / Daily Kos:
Bologna's Second Attack with Pepper Spray  —  Gradually the exploits of Detective Inspector Anthony (Tony Baloney) Bologna have eeked their way even into the mainstream media.  It has become well known that he engages, in violation of policy, in an O.C. (Pepper) Spray attack on four defenseless women without provocation.
Anthony (Tony Baloney) Bologna has a history of attacking demonstrators.

Resist the New World Order:
Occupy Wall Street: 'Pepper-spray' officer named in Bush protest claim -- Anthony Bologna, NYPD officer accused of pepper-spray incident, is accused of civil rights violations at the time of the 2004 Republican national convention protests...

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Kent Sorensen on Liquid Flouride Thorium Reactors

A liquid flouride thorium reactor, also called a molten salt reactor, is safer and more efficient than the pressurized water reactors we are using now. If we want to avoid more Fukishima's then this is the way to go.

Mike Norman Economics:

Here is a video by Thorium Nuclear "crusader" Kirk Sorensen on the intriguing aspects of that potential global energy source. It is a long video (1:37:00) but is well worth the time. The first few minutes (8 or so) of the video are summary cuts of the formal presentation so you can watch that and it may whet your appetite for knowledge. Many peripheral issues come up such as the Fukishima nuclear melt down, general safety designs, Chernobyl, climate change, atmospheric carbon, water desalinization, effects of radiation on our bodies and of course politics...

Below is a schematic of a LFTR (Liquid fluoride thorium reactor) or Molten Salt Reactor. Salt stays in liquid over a wide range of temperature (1000° degrees) versus only 100°C for water. Molten Salt reactors would also run at a low pressure. The bottomline is that using salt and eliminating pressurized water in a reactor makes them much safer.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

1 World Trade Center Grows Tall

One World Trade Center, formerly Freedom Tower, is going up at the rate of one story a week. It is now over 1000 feet tall, on it's way to 1776 feet. The Port Authority of NY and NJ has a website (WTCprogress) that follows the progress.

One World Trade Center is now the tallest building in Lower Manhattan at 1,000 feet above street level, surpassing 40 Wall Street, which was built in 1930. Steel for the building has risen to the 80th floor.


The guy who wanted to kill the new World Trade Center is now developing it.

Real estate developer Douglas Durst in front of One World Trade Center, July 2011

Andrew Rice / Bloomberg Busineesweek:
The Saving of Ground Zero --
To the degree that it’s possible for a 102-story building to take a city by surprise, One World Trade Center snuck up on the New York skyline. For years the project, conceived in the throes of tragedy, has been debated, negotiated, renamed, redrawn, hailed as a beacon, and maligned as a boondoggle. It wasn’t until recently, though, that it presented itself as an immutable fact, beginning to replace the void above Ground Zero with steel and reflective glass. Designed to commemorate lost life and recapture lost revenue, the half-completed skyscraper is both a nationalistic statement—it was formerly known as the “Freedom Tower”—and the centerpiece of a speculative real estate project.

From his headquarters high above 42nd Street, about three miles to the north, real estate developer Douglas Durst has been keeping watch over One World Trade’s rise. “I think it’s going to be quite spectacular,” he says one sultry July afternoon, sitting in a room decorated with photographs of his forbears in the family real estate company. Looking south over the majestic spread of Manhattan, One World Trade was wrapped in midsummer haze, and the air was thick with irony. If anyone in power had listened to Durst years ago, the vastly expensive tower would not exist...
Daniel Libeskind: The Return Of Ground Zero's Master Planner

National Geographic:
One World Trade Center: Virtual View From the Top

Wall Street Journal:
After the Fall, World Trade Center Rises as Memorial and Workplace

The Telegraph:
9/11 anniversary: A tour around the new World Trade Center tower

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Steve Jobs: America's Greatest Failure

Lots of interest in decoding what made Steve Job successful, since he announced he was stepping down as Apple CEO.

Nick Schulz's take is especially interesting. He says it was the string of failures that eventually forged the successful Steve Jobs.

Nick Schulz /AEI.org:
Steve Jobs: America's Greatest Failure -- Glory is sometimes born of catastrophe...

All those successes were made possible by failure after failure after failure and the lessons learned from those failures.

There's a moral here for a Washington culture that fears failure too much. In today's Washington, large banks aren't permitted to fail; nor are large auto firms. Next up will be too-big-to-fail hospital systems. Steve Jobs is a reminder that failure is a good and necessary thing. And that sometimes the greatest glories are born of catastrophe.
The following quote also comes to mind:
Capitalism without bankruptcy is like Christianity without hell... — Frank Borman

A very interesting video series about the career of Steve Jobs.

The Passion of the Jobs - Chapter 1

The Passion of the Jobs - Chapter 2

The Passion of the Jobs - Chapter 3

The Passion of the Jobs - Chapter 4

The Passion of the Jobs - Chapter 5

The Passion of the Jobs - Chapter 6