News from around the web: 2009-08-31
On this last day of August, I haven’t had any time to post as yet. However, I do expect to post later in the day. In the meantime, here are a number of stories making the rounds on the web.
Baker Hughes Inc. agreed to buy BJ Services Co. for $5.5 billion, the largest oilfield-services company takeover since 1998, in a bet on U.S. natural-gas shale formations.
Vicki Walker, an Auckland (New Zealand) accountant, was sacked for sending supposedly confrontational emails with words in red, in bold and in CAPITAL LETTERS.
Germany will this week call on the world’s largest economies to adopt joint measures to prevent banks from becoming “too big to fail” and hold governments to ransom in future financial crises. In a letter to counterparts from the Group of 20 largest economies sent late last week, Peer Steinbrück, German finance minister, urged the group to agree on “international rules that facilitate the insolvency and liquidation of large, internationally active banks.”
My guess is that if the local stock markets do not soon recover their bounce (and they won’t without government help) and, even worse, if we start to see the awful sentiment seep into the real estate sector, Beijing will once again push forcefully for credit and fiscal expansion. In my opinion there is simply no way that domestic consumption – unless it is primed with government giveaways – can make up the slack quickly enough.
The Democrats, however, currently have a 78-seat advantage in the House, meaning that it would take a 39-seat loss for them to lose control of the chamber. The over-under for how unpopular Obama would have to be in order to be more likely than not to cost his party those seats is not 50 percent — it’s probably more like 42 percent. Now, certainly, there’s some margin for uncertainty there: Dwight Eisenhower’s Republicans, in ’58, lost nearly 50 seats even though his approval was in the high 50’s. But the point is, there’s nothing particularly magical about Obama being above or below 50.
I have written a fair bit over the past two weeks about the overbought level of most global stock markets and also how China – a leading market on the way up – could be the catalyst for triggering a reversal of fortune in global stock markets. Of the global stock markets I monitor, the Shanghai Composite (2,667) is the only one to have breached its 50-day moving average (3,125) and now has the key 200-day line (2,476) firmly in its sight.
Swedish bank Nordea has signed a contract to buy Denmark’s Fionia Bank for 121m euros ($173m; £107m) from the Danish state.
The benchmark index tumbled 6.7 percent to 2,667.75, capping its biggest monthly loss since October. The gauge has slumped 23 percent from its 15-month high on Aug. 4 and is the worst performer this month among 89 benchmark indexes tracked by Bloomberg globally.
If we expand our survey to the top 1% of all households, we find … their after tax income averaged $916 thousand. If you assume this group had a savings rate of 33%, you get total savings of $452 billion…This is more than 100% of the personal savings of the entire population, according to the BEA data. It implies that 99% of the US population still has, on average, a negative savings rate of around 1.3%.
This column revisits the heated debate over international trade, offshoring, and US wages using new data. It says that increased international exchange with low-income countries has depressed US wages. That effect only arose during the 1990s, suggesting a different conclusion about trade, offshoring, and income inequality than the previous round of debate.
In a finding that sheds new light on the neural mechanisms involved in social behavior, neuroscientists at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) have pinpointed the brain structure responsible for our sense of personal space. The discovery, described in the August 30 issue of the journal Nature Neuroscience, could offer insight into autism and other disorders where social distance is an issue.
In a historic change in Japan’s parliamentary political history, the Democratic Party of Japan defeated the Liberal Democratic Party-Komeito ruling coalition in Sunday’s Lower House election. The DPJ has captured some 300 seats out of the 480 seats in the all-important chamber. The DPJ’s victory ends an almost uninterrupted rule by the LDP since 1955.
Many of the Liberal Democratic Party’s heavyweights did not escape defeat in their electoral districts Sunday at the hands of challengers from the Democratic Party of Japan. The losers included former Prime Minister Toshiki Kaifu, former LDP Vice President Taku Yamasaki, former Finance Minister Shoichi Nakagawa and ex-Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura.
The Democratic Party of Japan launched plans Sunday to put together a new administration as it headed for certain victory in a historic general election, DPJ members said. DPJ President Yukio Hatoyama is brainstorming with acting Presidents Naoto Kan and Ichiro Ozawa in Tokyo on how best to take over from Prime Minister Taro Aso’s Cabinet with the ouster of the Liberal Democratic Party-New Komeito ruling bloc.
Upholding "fraternalism" as his personal political banner, Yukio Hatoyama has often been called an "alien" in the political jungle but has arguably grown more capable as a leader in recent years. Now he is all but certain to become the prime minister when the Diet next convenes after his Democratic Party of Japan secured a landslide victory in Sunday’s House of Representatives election. A "soft-shell" liberal and thoroughbred from a blue-blooded political family, Hatoyama, 62, is one of the founding members of the DPJ, which was launched in 1996. He headed the party between 1999 and 2002, regaining the post last May.
She was married to a sweet, gentle man whom she loved, but who had become increasingly absent-minded. Finally, he was diagnosed with early-onset dementia. The disease is degenerative, and he will become steadily less able to care for himself. At some point, as his medical needs multiply, he will probably need to be institutionalized. The hospital arranged a conference call with a social worker, who outlined how the dementia and its financial toll on the family would progress, and then added, out of the blue: “Maybe you should divorce.”… If M.’s husband required long-term care, the costs would be catastrophic even for a middle-class family with savings… She would face a bleak retirement with neither her husband nor her savings.
colleagues and bosses in the insurance industry… are obsessed with sustaining the company’s stock price — which means paying fewer medical bills. One way to do that is to deny requests for expensive procedures. A second is “rescission” … a third tactic is for insurers to raise premiums for a small business astronomically after an employee is found to have an illness that will be very expensive to treat. That forces the business to drop coverage for all its employees or go elsewhere. All this is monstrous, and it negates the entire point of insurance, which is to spread risk.
"THE best thing you could do for the Amazon is to bomb all the roads." That might sound like an eco-terrorist’s threat, but they’re actually the words of Eneas Salati, one of Brazil’s most respected scientists. Thomas Lovejoy, a leading American biologist, is equally emphatic: "Roads are the seeds of tropical forest destruction."
If President Obama has been frustrated in his desire not to look back at Bush-era detention practices, it is because he is caught between two fundamental but seemingly irreconcilable American principles. On the one hand, … If torture violates U.S. law … that cannot be ignored, forgotten, swept away… Yet this is also a nation where two political parties… do not seek vengeance, through the courts or otherwise, as they succeed each other.
After a record-breaking summer of spending in La Liga, Spain believes it has the best league in the world
The battle to dent the dominance of Apple’s iPhone will intensify next month. Orange and T-Mobile are expected to unveil exclusive deals to stock the latest touchscreen phones that use Google’s Android software to British gadget fans.