Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Throwin' yourself on the MERSy of the County Judge

Guambat has to beg Barry's pardon here. Guambat considers himself a bit of a regular visitor on Barry Ritholtz' blog, The Big Picture. He also reckons he's a bit of an old timer, if irregular, member of the commentariat on Barry's blog.

Was, that is. He's just about now spit the dummy on trying to get past the ever changing, never remembering, wordpress moat that stand between quick qomment and the "try again" pop-up when the last known password fails to pass muster, or gas or anything else that passes for sesame.

So, here's the comment Guamtat would have posted had he been the least bit buddy-buddy with the gatekeeper. The context is this post:

Counties (Finally) Suing MERS Over Recording Fees
We’ve discussed Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems (aka MERS) repeatedly over the years, including its quasi-legal standing and how it illegally failed to pay lawful recording fees to states and counties. (Back in March ’11, we discussed that County & State Litigation vs MERS was coming soon).

The Dallas DA action may be the largest major City/County litigation versus MERS. This may break open the flood gates for other such suits by counties and states around the country.

Unfortunately, after all that, Guambat forgot just what it was that was so brilliant as to event attempt to run the wordpress gauntlet.

Sigh. Just as well, he supposes.


Chip on his shoulder

This item is big news, from LA to India to Wall Street. Really. Fair dinkum.

Let the chips fall where they may.

'Doritos' creator passes away
‘Doritos’ creator to be buried with the snack that made him famous Arch West, credited with the creation of the popular American snack food 'Doritos' has passed away, and according to his family he will be buried with the chips that made him famous.

Relatives of West said that they plan to pay tribute to him with the snack itself by sprinkling it over his body before he is buried.

"We are tossing Doritos chips in before they put the dirt over the urn. He'll love it," The Sun quoted his daughter Jana Hacker as telling the Dallas Morning News .

Arch West dies, will be buried with chips
West, who was 97 when he died of natural causes last week, was a former Frito-Lay executive. He reportedly came up with the idea of Doritos when he was on vacation with his family in Mexico and came upon a snack shack selling fried tortilla chips.

By the 1970s, Doritos was one of the best-selling chips in the Frito-Lay arsenal, but the chips that will accompany West to his grave are quite different from those the company released more than 40 years ago.

Doritos were given a big overhaul in 1995, when Frito-Lay made them 20% larger and 15% thinner. Frito-Lay also got rid of the sharp angles on the chip, giving it rounded corners.

Also, the company eliminated trans fats from the chips several years ago.

Food Marketer Struck Gold With Doritos
After he failed to persuade his bosses to copy the product as a companion to the company's corn-based Fritos and Cheetos, Mr. West secretly spent part of his budget on the project anyway.

Introduced nationally in 1966, Doritos—"little bits of gold" is how Frito-Lay translates the name—were a hit in plain and what the company called "taco" flavors. The Nacho cheese flavor, which Frito-Lay said was a blend of cheddar and Romano, debuted in 1972 under Mr. West's guidance.

The chips were aimed at the youth market, marketed as "the with-it chip." Doritos became Frito-Lay's second-biggest seller, behind Lay's potato chips.

Mr. West was a native of Franklin, Ind. He grew up in a Masonic home for boys after his father, a Mason, died. Mr. West won a scholarship to Franklin College and became a cheese salesman.

After serving as a gunnery officer in the Navy during World War II, he took a job as a food marketer at Lever Brothers. He worked on marketing campaigns for Jell-O.

But it didn't make Mr. West rich. "It's not like we got royalties," said his daughter, Jana Hacker. Mr. West was also involved with developing other products, including Funyuns.

Mr. West shared his marketing expertise with Texas picante sauce manufacturer Eric Pace, persuading him to embrace the synergy of selling his salsa in the chips aisle of the grocery store instead of the condiments aisle, with ketchup.

He remained proud of his big hit with Doritos, and during a recent hospital stay insisted his family bring big bags of them for the nurses to snack on.

So, Guambat expects to have a bag or three of Mr. West's chips as he heads off to Margaritaville, Kauai. When the chips are down, the tough get more chips.

Make a note, Mickey.


Monday, September 19, 2011

Crowd computing

Going where no computer has gone before. May the formidable force be with them.

US gamers crack puzzle in AIDS research that stumped scientists for years
In just three weeks, online gamers deciphered the structure of a retrovirus protein that has stumped scientists for over a decade, and a study out Sunday says their breakthrough opens doors for a new AIDS drug design.

Looking for a solution, researchers at the University of Washington turned to Foldit -- a program created by the university a few years ago that transforms problems of science into competitive computer games -- and challenged players to use their three-dimensional problem-solving skills to build accurate models of the protein.

With days, the gamers generated models good enough for the researchers to refine into an accurate portrayal of the enzyme's structure. What's more, the scientists identified parts of the molecule that are likely targets for drugs to block the enzyme.

"We wanted to see if human intuition could succeed where automated methods had failed," said Firas Khatib, a lead author of the study, published in the journal Nature Structural & Molecular Biology.

"The ingenuity of game players is a formidable force that, if properly directed, can be used to solve a wide range of scientific problems," Khatib said.

Seth Cooper, a co-creator of Foldit, added, "People have spatial reasoning skills, something computers are not yet good at. Games provide a framework for bringing together the strengths of computers and humans. The results in this week's paper show that gaming, science and computation can be combined to make advances that were not possible before."


Saturday, September 17, 2011

First thing we do, let's kill Lady Justice

God save your majesty!

I thank you, good people—there shall be no money; all shall eat and drink on my score, and I will apparel them all in one livery, that they may agree like brothers, and worship me their lord.

The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers.

Nay, that I mean to do.
Henry The Sixth, Part 2 Act 4, scene 2, 71–78

Brazil judge Patricia Acioli shot dead in Niteroi
A Brazilian judge renowned for her work against organised crime has been shot dead in Rio de Janeiro State.

Patricia Acioli was gunned down outside her home in the city of Niteroi late on Thursday by masked men travelling on two motorbikes, officials said.

She was best known for convicting members of vigilante gangs and corrupt police officers.

Brazil officers held in judge's death
Three military police officers have been ordered held as suspects in last month's killing of a Rio de Janeiro judge who had been investigating police links to organized crime, authorities said Monday.

The three officers, who had already been arrested in connection with an earlier killing of an 18-year-old slum resident, were members of a special tactical police battalion in the community of Sao Goncalo outside of Rio.

Read more: http://www.windsorstar.com/news/Brazil+officers+held+judge+death/5392544/story.html#ixzz1YAbVtzkT

Rio Reacts to Murder of Judge Patrícia Acioli
Judge Acioli is one of three judges executed in Brazil in the past eight years for their investigations into organized crime. A task force formed by three judges will take over Judge Acioli’s cases.

Over the past ten years, Criminal Judge Acioli was known for taking a tough stand against militia members, death squads and corrupt police officials. She was responsible for the arrest of some 60 officers linked to militias.

Hours before she was murdered, she had ordered the arrest of eight police officers suspected of killing a young woman in a favela in Sao Gonçalo, a municipality of Niterói. All eight officers have been arrested and placed in custody.

Reports show the bullets that killed Jugde Acioli came from .40 and .45 caliber pistols, weapons restricted to the Armed Forces and Civil and Military Police. Family members said that Judge Acioli had received several death threats and requested, but failed to receive, police protection. Several press outlets report that Acioli’s name appeared on a Black List marked for death, found on militia leader Wanderson Silva Tavares, known as Gordinho (Fatty), who was arrested in January this year.

Chief Justice Peluso asked for immediate action by the Federal Police. “On behalf of the Supreme Court, the National Council of Justice and the Judiciary, [I] repudiate the brutal murder of Judge [Acioli]. Cowardly crimes against magistrates are attacks on judicial Independence, rule of law and democracy in Brazil,” he said in a statement.

Hattip: Fearless About Jailing Rogue Police, Brazil Judge Was Slain in Hail of Police-Issue Bullets


Wednesday, September 07, 2011

The new attack of the killer tomato

Think of that pretty ripe red tomato, with stem all green and beckoning, as a hand grenade.  Before you pull the stem ...

... Read this.

Go on, click the link.  You're not afraid of a little ole tomato are ya?


Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Lost or leaked

Guambat owes this thought to local radio guy, the cynically savvy Ray Gibson:  Is the not-again "lost iphone" story a bit too iphonie? 

Might it be a way to both leak and attract attention in ways money can't buy??


Monday, September 05, 2011

China gags on free speech (again)

Communist bosses move in at Beijing newspapers
Authorities claim the move was aimed at reigning in an advertising war between the competing publications, and say the two papers may be merged into one.

Propaganda authorities take over Beijing papers
Beijing's Communist Party-run media authorities have taken over at the helm of the popular "Beijing News" and the "Beijing Times," the government-run Qianlong website reported late Saturday.

Both papers routinely run stories critical of local governments around China, as well as articles that defy edicts issued by the party's propaganda bureau ordering media to show Chinese society in a positive light.

Both began publishing about a decade ago and gained widespread popularity for their colourful stories and advertisements.

The Chinese government strictly censors the country's newspapers, broadcast media and the Internet, blocking any information it considers sensitive.

Controls have been further tightened by a heavy clampdown on dissent, with a number of prominent lawyers and activists detained amid official fears that recent uprisings in the Arab world could spark similar movements in China.

Read more: http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5iZ12sK_YThnbWggqHX3sjTRe3n0g?docId=CNG.e829052752a5436e909ab280ad561af6.7e1

Pen, Meet Market. Market, Meet Sword
"We are a commercial enterprise," an editor at the Beijing News told the Financial Times. "We need to produce a paper that has what people want to read." The remark is revealing of the way in which today's Chinese media think about their trade—that is, as a business, and a competitive one at that.

China's press is usually referred to as "state-run," but that obscures the fact that the country's media landscape today is diverse, commercialized and relatively free of direct state interference. In 1967 there were only 43 regular newspapers and a handful of mostly Communist Party-run television and radio stations. Today China boasts some 2,200 newspapers, 8,000 magazines, 2,900 television channels and 1,000 radio stations—all vying for audience attention.

Turning the media into a business has had profound effects on Beijing's ability to shape public sentiment. Some forms of censorship have become less feasible. The sheer volume of output makes it difficult to screen every title and broadcast. Municipal outlets—smaller and farther from the centers of power—enjoy relatively free rein in covering local affairs, even when doing so touches on sensitive national issues. Because local governments provide the most direct oversight of local media, one city's press may get away with reporting on another city's controversial news.

Read more: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424053111903918104576499743117798916.html?mod=googlenews_wsj

China’s risky game of cat and mouse censorship
Mao Zedong famously suggested in 1957 that 100 flowers should bloom. Ostensibly it was an invitation for intellectuals to air diverse, even critical, opinions about the direction China’s leadership was taking. The campaign lasted six weeks. When it was over, many of those who had taken the Chairman at his word were marched off to labour camps.

So having a degree of free speech is a good way of keeping tabs on the mood of the non-electorate. It is also a means of flushing out egregious corruption or other misdemeanours by local officials who, far from the watchful eye of Beijing, may be abusing power. Encouraging citizens to express themselves can also be a relatively harmless way of allowing people to let off steam, providing a social safety valve and the illusion of free speech. And if they go too far, you can always lock them up.

There is a cat-and-mouse game going on between the state censors and a public testing the bounds of the permissible.

Read more: http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/d6c0fc3c-c816-11e0-9501-00144feabdc0.html#axzz1X1ywVk98


Sunday, September 04, 2011

Unlike the last two?

Bernanke’s Next Easing May Not Aid Jobless
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke will probably try to spur economic growth this month by cutting near-record-low borrowing costs, economists said. His new stimulus may not aid the 14 million Americans without work.

QEs I and II went down like the Titanic if all you watched were employment figures and housing prices/foreclosures.

But have a squidge of the DJIA. QE I ushered in one of the great bull runs in history. QE II somewhat less so, given that it was seen more as taking the punch bowl away than spiking it with a double, but still we're not that far from the post-Greatish Recession highs, and holding above Dow 11000.

All in all, the stocks and banks (Wall Street) have been fairly well bailed out. But Joe Sixpack (Main Street)? How's that workin' out for ya?

At least Joe the Plumber seems to have got a job. Never let a bit of media frenzy go to waste: Joe The Plumber Gets A Teevee Show

And, he's stimulating (government) employment:
Ohio state snooper who targeted Joe the Plumber gets new government job

GOP says Joe the Plumber may challenge Kaptur in '12

Guambat's off to have a stein of tea, Texas tea, and enjoy the Labor Day off. This could be the Labor Decade off.


Saturday, September 03, 2011

Banks will be banks, Silly Silly

U.S. sues big banks over mortgage losses
The Federal Housing Finance Agency, which oversees government-seized mortgage firms Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, is seeking billions of dollars in compensation. The lawsuits were filed in federal court and announced after the close of trading on Friday.

The FHFA argues that, when it came to mortgage securities purchased by Fannie and Freddie during the years leading up to the financial crisis, the banks failed to meet their due-diligence duties under securities law.

Large financial institutions are facing investor lawsuits over problem mortgages as well, though these investors want the big banks to repurchase problem loans they sold them before. FHFA is reportedly seeking reimbursement for losses on securities held by Fannie and Freddie.

The list of defendants is a who-who’s of mortgage finance: Bank of America Corp., Goldman Sachs Group Inc., J.P. Morgan & Chase & Co., Citigroup Inc., Deutsche Bank, Barclays PLC, Nomura Holdings Inc., Morgan Stanley, Ally Financial Inc., Credit Suisse Group Inc., First Horizon National Corp., General Electric Co., the HSBC North America Holdings unit of HSBC Holdings, The Royal Bank of Scotland Group PLC and Société Générale S.A.

There will be a lot of I told you so's and about times over that bit of news.

Robo-Signing Redux: Servicers Still Fabricating Foreclosure Documents
Several dozen documents reviewed by American Banker show that as recently as August some of the largest U.S. banks, including Bank of America Corp., Wells Fargo & Co., Ally Financial Inc., and OneWest Financial Inc., were essentially backdating paperwork necessary to support their right to foreclose.

Some of documents reviewed by American Banker included signatures by current bank employees claiming to represent lenders that no longer exist.

The banks argue that creating such documents is a routine business practice that simply "memorializes" actions that should have occurred years before. Some courts have endorsed that view, but others, such as the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, have found that this amounts to a lack of sufficient evidence and renders foreclosures invalid.

According to a document submitted in a Florida court by Bank of America Corp., bank assistant vice president Sandra Juarez signed a mortgage assignment on July 29 of this year that purported to transfer ownership of a mortgage from New Century Mortgage Corp. to a trustee, Deutsche Bank. Two problems with that: New Century, a subprime lender, went bankrupt in 2007; and the Deutsche Bank trust that purported to hold the loan was created for a securitization completed in 2006 — about five years before Juarez signed it over to the trust. (Bank of America, as the servicer of the loan, was seeking to foreclose on behalf of the trust and its bondholders.)

Most of the pooling and servicing agreements governing securitizations require a complete chain of endorsements.

Banks Continue to Fabricate Documents, Commit Foreclosure Fraud
This is the dirty secret about robo-signing: it’s still happening. So are the forgeries and the document fabrication and the fraud upon state courts. After the scandal erupted last October, the banks promised to fix their operations. They did so by waiting everyone out and engaging in the exact same practices.

And you see, the banks HAVE to fabricate documents. Because they destroyed the private property system through improper and sloppy securitizations and lost or missing mortgage assignments during the bubble years, and as such they cannot prove standing to foreclose without lying. Robo-signing is a crime, but it’s also a cover-up for a much bigger crime, which involves MERS and improper mortgage transfer and securities fraud. The robo-signed, forged, fabricated documents are the smokescreen being used to foreclose and get the real problem off the books. Banks are trying to wriggle off the hook by saying they are merely “memorializing” past actions with the fake documents. Some courts aren’t buying it; the pooling and servicing agreements stipulate that all assignments showing transfers must take place within 60 days, not years later through “memorialized” actions.

Hattip to Barry Ritholtz.

Tsk tsk. Silly silly banks.


Friday, September 02, 2011

The meddle kingdom?

India, China Navies Face-Off
The Chinese Navy confronted an Indian naval ship in the South China Sea in July, demanding to know why the Indian vessel was in Chinese territory despite the incident appearing to take place in what are widely regarded as international waters, reports today are suggesting.

The face-off, which took place on July 22, is expected to heighten tensions in the often awkward relationship between Delhi and Beijing.

According to reports, the amphibious assault vessel INS Airavat was radioed by an unidentified Chinese naval vessel as it left Vietnamese waters. CNN-IBN reports that the Airavat was 45 nautical miles from Vietnam’s coast and heading towards the port of Haiphaong. ‘An unidentified caller who claimed to be from the Chinese Navy, but who was speaking in English, told INS Airavat that the Indian ship was entering Chinese waters and they must leave,’ according to IBN.

China has been engaged in a sometimes intense and long-running row with its Southeast Asian neighbours about ownership of the South China Sea, with China’s expansive claims disputed most notably by Vietnam and the Philippines. Indeed, Vietnam raised the stakes in June, calling on the United States and others to step in and help find some kind of resolution after a number of confrontations. But this may be the first time that China has directly challenged India.

Govt rejects confrontation between Indian, Chinese naval ships
[The Indian] Government on Thursday rejected reports of an alleged confrontation between an Indian Navy ship and a Chinese vessel off the coast of Vietnam and stressed it expected all countries to respect the freedom of navigation in international waters.

"There was no confrontation involving the INS Airavat," external affairs ministry spokesperson Vishnu Prakash said when asked about reports of a face-off between Indian naval ship and a Chinese warship. "At a distance of 45 nautical miles from the Vietnamese coast in the South China Sea, it was contacted on open radio channel by a caller identifying himself as the 'Chinese Navy' stating that 'you are entering Chinese waters'," the spokesperson said. "No ship or aircraft was visible from INS Airavat, which proceeded on her onward journey as scheduled," he added.

The spokesperson stressed that India backed "freedom of navigation in international waters, including in the South China Sea, and the right of passage in accordance with accepted principles of international law."

"These principles should be respected by all," he added.

‘Chinese ship caught spying on India’
In a worrying development, a Chinese spy ship disguised as a fishing trawler was tracked in the Indian Ocean recently, a report claimed on Wednesday.

The ship was detected near the coast of Little Anadaman.

It is believed that the ship had spent more than 20 days in the sensitive location before Indian radars could locate it.

While the Navy dispatched a ship as soon as the presence of the Chinese spy ship was confirmed, no action could be taken as the vessel was in international waters.

However, the Indian Navy ship did tail the Chinese vessel till it move towards Sri Lankan waters. The ship is reported to have docked at Colombo.

It is believed that the ship had as many as 22 laboratories on board.

Government sources say the Chinese ship had specific aims to map the Indian Ocean and collect Bathymetric data, which helps in submarine and aircraft carrier based operations.

The labs on board the ship are also believed to have been used to collect data on Ocean currents, the temperature at various depths and also underwater obstructions and obstacles. This information becomes crucial if one has to use torpedoes.

It is an open secret that both India and China are engaged in a race to assert their supremacy over the Indian Ocean region.