Market predictions for 2014 from Barry Ritholtz

Barry Ritholtz, the brains behind the Big Picture blog, is out with his 2014 global market and economic forecasts, and they are brilliant.

Category —— Forecast

Dow Jones Industrials —— No idea

S&P500 —— WTF are you asking me for?

10 Year Bond —— Could not fathom a guess

Fed Fund Rates —— Haven’t a clue

US Housing Market —— That’s a really good question

Inflation ——- Not a clue

GDP —— Yes, we will probably have a GDP

Unemployment —— Thhhhpppptttt?

Possibility of Recession in 2014 —— Possibility & Probability are 2 different things

Thanks to the BUSINESS INSIDER for republishing this and spreading the word.

As always, thanks to Barry Ritholtz for being not only informative and a thoughtful pedant; but, for being entertaining.

Fewer than half of Republicans believe in evolution

Fewer U.S. Republicans believe in evolution now than five years ago, with a Pew Research poll finding an 11 percentage point drop…43 percent of Republican respondents said they believe humans have evolved over time, a drop from 54 percent in 2009, a Pew release said Monday.

Sixty-seven percent of Democratic respondents said they believe in evolution, a rise of 3 percent from 2009.

Not a surprise. Why would anyone – even a conservative – with a bit of science education and understanding stay in a political party dominated nowadays by religious nutballs and economic ostriches?

Party differences remained even when factors such as the racial and ethnic composition, and religious and educational background of the political groups were taken into account, the Pew researchers said.

“It’s an intriguing finding that is suggestive of greater polarization,” Cary Funk of the Pew Research Center’s Religion & Public Life Project and Social & Demographic Trends project told NBC News.

Fits the standard one-liner among coneheads I know who work at a nearby national laboratory, e.g., 94% of scientists are atheists. The other 6% are Republicans.

Test Sites chosen for civilian, private use of drones

The U.S. approved drone test centers in six states, including New York, as the start of research efforts to eventually allow civilian unmanned aircraft widespread access to the nation’s airways.

The Federal Aviation Administration, after sifting through 25 applicants, also approved bids from Alaska, Nevada, North Dakota, Texas and Virginia…

The selection is one of the first U.S. regulatory moves to begin integrating unmanned aircraft with piloted planes and helicopters as companies including Amazon.com…push to develop commercial drones…

The test sites will be used to help the FAA develop certification standards for unmanned aircraft and how they can be operated within the air-traffic system, according to the law requiring the sites…

The winners were the University of Alaska, which also has test sites located in Hawaii and Oregon; the state of Nevada; Griffiss International Airport in Rome, New York, which also plans to use a facility in Massachusetts; the North Dakota Department of Commerce; Texas A&M University at Corpus Christi; and Virginia Polytechnic Institute, in Blacksburg, which will also conduct testing in New Jersey.

The first site will become operational within 180 days and will operate at least through 2017, Huerta said.

In response to concerns that drones put people’s privacy at risk, the FAA will require test-site operators to maintain records of devices flying at the facility, create a written plan for how data collected by airborne vehicles will be used and retained, and conduct a yearly privacy review.

Facilities must also adhere to all privacy laws that may apply to drone use, such as restrictions on law enforcement to obtain search warrants, according to the FAA’s privacy policy.

And we all know how thoroughly the federal government guarantees privacy laws. Right?

China’s high-speed rail on fast track – 7 new routes opened


Click to enlarge

Several new high-speed railway links in China are expected to start operations by the end of 2013, extending the network to over 12,000 kilometers, more than half of the world total…

It is the last link in the chain between the most dynamic cities and manufacturing centers in east and south China, with a population over 700 million, and almost as large as Europe…”Convenient transport will…strengthen the links between the economic engines,” said Long Guanghui, director of DTZ Shenzhen.

The “engines” Long refers to are the Yangtze Delta, the Pearl River Delta, and the Western Taiwan Strait Economic Zone, which are connected by several high-speed rail links now, and may turn into a world-class urban belt on a par with the northeast coast of the United States, or the Seto Inland Sea of Japan, according to Chen Hongyu, counselor of Guangdong provincial government.

Other new high-speed rail lines which began services on Saturday include one in the northwestern province of Shaanxi, starting point of the ancient Silk Road, and another in south China’s Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, the bridgehead of China-ASEAN cooperation…

Huge shadow was cast in 2011 when a crash claimed 40 lives in east China. Since then, a series of corruption scandals have brought about the arrest of the former railways minister, Liu Zhijun, on charges of corruption and abuse of power…

“The former railways ministry was a mixture of administrative and commercial operations and a monopoly. It was a hotbed of corruption,” said Xiao Jun, a professor at Shenzhen University. “Besides investigating the accident and scandals, the government has taken action to solve institutional problems…”

Xiao Jun believes that what happened in the high-speed rail sector proves that fighting corruption will not hamper economic development…”On the contrary, it is the zero-tolerance of corruption and the improvement of systems that restored public confidence in the industry,” Xiao added.

He stressed that the world’s largest constructor and operator of high-speed rail must continuously eliminate institutional flaws, carry on the separation of government and enterprise, and enforce supervision of investment in the public sector.

It’s difficult for Western rail builders to compete when your country hasn’t suitable track or the inclination to build their own high speed rail system. France can compete – and does. The United States hasn’t a clue.

Yes, there are people in government, members of Congress who are fully aware of the benefits of high speed rail for transport as well as the commercial possibilities for domestic and mostly foreign consumption. They could probably carry enough votes to change the name of a railroad station somewhere on one of the coasts.

That’s it, folks.

First person to cycle to the South Pole!

Shortly before Christmas, we heard about 35 year-old British adventurer Maria Leijerstam’s planned attempt to ride to the South Pole on a recumbent fat-tired tricycle. On December 27th at 1am GMT, she achieved that goal, becoming the first person to ever successfully cycle from the edge of the Antarctic continent to the Pole.

Leijerstam used a modified version of the commercially-available Sprint trike, made by recumbent tricycle manufacturer Inspired Cycle Engineering (ICE). She chose to go with a recumbent trike because it would allow her to maintain stability in the often very-high winds. This allowed her to concentrate simply on moving forward, instead of having to waste time and effort keeping her balance.

The strategy paid off, as she not only made it, but also beat two other cyclists who had set out for the Pole on two-wheelers, days before her Dec. 17th start date. Her victory wasn’t just due to the fact that she could move faster, but also because the stability of her trike allowed her to take a different route that was shorter but technically more challenging.

That “shorter” route was nonetheless approximately 644 km long, stretching from the edge of the Ross Ice Shelf, up over Leverett Glacier, and onward to the South Pole.

Bravo! Difficult enough to develop, plan and build the whole process of a challenge like this. That took two years of training in Siberia, Norway and Iceland.

Having the courage, stamina and complete physical skill to win a first like this one – is worth worldwide recognition.

One Christian arguing with another over the 10 Commandments – hits him in the face with her bible

A conversation about the 10 Commandments led to blows between a man and a woman at a Cartersville motel.

According to a police report, Carolyn Unfricht and Daniel Camarda were arrested on charges of simple battery in connection with a physical altercation that followed a discussion about the Bible and the Commandments. Unfricht was also accused of trespassing, the report says.

Unfricht and Camarda were “highly intoxicated with slurred speech and having some difficulty walking,” authorities said.

A Cartersville police officer responded to the Crown Inn just after 1 a.m. Saturday morning. When the officer entered the room, there was blood on the carpet and a bloody towel in the sink, the report says.

Unfricht told the officer that the conversation “became heated” and she hit Camarda across the face with a Bible she was holding. The blow left a mark on Camarda’s face and broke his glasses.

Unfricht said Camarda “slung her across the room,” where she hit the television and a table, according to the report. She sustained a cut to her head and injured her right foot…

The pair was arrested and taken to the Cartersville Police Department and then booked into the Bartow County Jail.

Unmarried Christians? Married Christians? To each other or someone else – fighting in a motel at 1AM?

They were charged under laws governing family violence. Har.

Best photos of the year 2013 from Reuters

WARNING: SOME IMAGES CONTAIN GRAPHIC CONTENT OR NUDITY In this showcase of some of Reuters’ most memorable photos, the photographers offer a behind the scenes account of the images that helped define the year. 93 PHOTOS

I’ve featured a few of these over the year. Here’s a link to all 93. So far, the Thomson Group’s purchase of the venerable news organization hasn’t screwed-up their reputation for news photos – gathering and distribution. I wish I could say the same about the quality and neutrality of the news articles.

Things looked as if there wouldn’t be any negative conservative changes – the neutral character of Reuters news gathering was, after all, part of the value of the company. To my mind, they’re on the way to doing the same crap that will diminish a wonderful history the same way Rupert Murdoch has crushed the WALL STREET JOURNAL.

Back to the point. A couple of samples of the photos:


Click to enlargeDARRIN ZAMMIT LUPI, Malta

A man runs up the “gostra”, a pole covered in grease, during the religious feast of St Julian


Click to enlargeBRIAN BLANCO, United States

Members of the North Florida Survival Group wait with their rifles before heading out to perform enemy contact drills


Click to enlargeSAJID HOSSAIN, Bangladesh

The hand of a garment worker is seen among the rubble of the collapsed Rana Plaza building…