Tuesday, September 30, 2008
Monday, September 29, 2008
Leo (July 23 — Aug. 22)
You can resolve to be more sensible about your plans or you can listen to your intuition, trust your imagination and go even further in your wish to follow a dream. It's precarious, delicate and difficult, but the magic of the stars is with you.
heStar.com - World - TSX in biggest drop in 8 years
North American stock markets plummeted today after the U.S. House of Representatives rejected a $700 billion (U.S.) bailout plan for Wall Street while the financial crisis stiffened its stranglehold on global banks.
Canada's benchmark stock index bore the brunt of the losses - erasing more than 800 points or 6.93 per cent - in a stunning freefall that marked its biggest percentage drop in nearly eight years.
The Wall Street bailout bill - defeated by a vote of 228-205 - left White House officials scrambling, while the world's central banks ramped up their efforts to resuscitate the floundering financial system through more massive injections of cash.
Market sentiment wilted right from the opening bell after investors panned Citigroup Inc.'s speedy takeover of Wachovia Corp., the latest in a string of government-arranged marriages to rock America's financial services industry. What's more, the forced rescue of some European banks fuelled fears the credit crisis was deepening despite unprecedented government intervention in several countries.
After the dust settled, Toronto's S&P/TSX composite index lost 840.93 points to 11,285.07. The TSX had fallen by more than 900 points at its session low, capitulating under the weight of spiralling energy and financial shares.
The energy sector lost more than 10 per cent as the price of crude oil sank as the botched bailout bill dimmed prospects for global growth. Crude oil for November delivery fell $10.52 (U.S.) to $96.37 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
"The recent sharp decline in commodity prices, as well as the extreme day-to-day volatility, reflects as much the impact of U.S. and global financial market developments as it does actual world supply/demand fundamentals for commodities," observed Patricia Mohr, a commodity market specialist with the Bank of Nova Scotia.
The TSX financial sub-index, meanwhile, was 5.79 per cent lower as investors worried domestic lenders would be caught in the undertow of the cascading financial crisis. Royal Bank of Canada, this country's largest lender, saw its shares lose $3.42 to $47.50 (Canadian).
Stock in Manulife Financial Corp., meanwhile, lost $1.55 to $36.25 after the insurance giant revealed about $600 million in exposure to Wachovia.
CEO Dominic D'Alessandro said Manulife is in an "excellent position" to weather the ongoing tumult. Nonetheless, he cautioned: "I can't tell you at this moment what the impact is or what the prospects are for our $600 million."
This country's financial institutions have so far been relatively sheltered from the winds howling around the global financial community - in part because of their cozy market position and limited exposure to the toxic mortgage-backed securities that have toppled other lenders.
Global banks and securities firms have already taken some $590.8 billion (U.S.) in asset writedowns and credit losses since America's subprime mortgage market imploded last year. At $11.6 billion, the running tally for Canadian banks is a mere fraction of that total.
"They are some of the healthiest banks on the planet," said Andrew Martyn, a portfolio manager at Davis-Rea Ltd. "But remember that banks are leveraged 15 to one on their book, so they can't afford to take on much damage without sinking ..... That's the danger.
"In simple terms, it doesn't matter if you are a good bank or a bad bank, the cost of money and the cost of funding is rising around the world."
On Wall Street, the blue-chip Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 777.68 points to 10,365.45. Investors were digesting news of Citigroup's hastily-arranged deal to buy Wachovia's banking operations. The deal, partially-assisted by the U.S. Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., would see Citigroup absorbing up to $42-billion (U.S.) of losses from Wachovia's $312-billion loan portfolio.
A new research report from American research and advisory services firm TowerGroup predicted that more mergers and restructuring would be in the cards for U.S. banks over the coming months.
The Federal Reserve, meanwhile, announced a $330 billion expansion of arrangements to boost U.S. dollar liquidity throughout the global financial system to combat the credit crisis. The action increases the reciprocal swap lines with global central banks to $620 billion, including $30 billion for the Bank of Canada.
Adding to investor angst was a flurry of news that various European governments were being forced to bail out some of that continent's most-storied lenders. The Belgian, Dutch and Luxembourg governments took a 49 per cent stake in Fortis with an 11.2 billion euro injection.
The German government and a consortium of banks pledged 35 billion euros in credit guarantees to lender Hypo Real Estate and the British government bought up the 50 billion pounds of loans held by Bradford & Bingley. Iceland's government, meanwhile, took a 75 per cent stake in Glitnir.
- With files from Chris Sorensen and the Star's wire services
Sunday, September 28, 2008
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Saturday, September 27, 2008
Paul Newman dies at 83
Paul Newman, the legendary actor whose steely blue eyes, good-humored charm and advocacy of worthy causes made him one of the most renowned figures in American arts, has died of cancer at his home in Westport, Connecticut. He was 83. full story
Friday, September 26, 2008
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
This remote town in western Finland is in a state of shock, still trying to understand what had pushed Matti Saari, a 22-year-old trainee chef, into murdering 10 fellow students in the local catering and tourism college yesterday.
Saari had been quizzed by police on Monday over YouTube videos showing him firing his Walther P22 pistol at a woodland shooting range. They had no legal reason to detain him, however, and the officer in charge of the case decided not to suspend his handgun permit.
But a police spokesman said today that Saari would have been held had a more incriminating video in which he made an explicit threat of violence – "You will die next," he declares in English before firing his gun repeatedly (see above) – surfaced earlier.
That video was not posted on YouTube but on a Finnish social networking site, from which it was copied and disseminated via file-sharing sites after the killing started.
"The officer made his decision, he thought there was no reason to take the gun off him," said the spokesman, Mintala Urpo. "The only video we saw was where he was shooting at the range. It was only afterwards that much more information came out."
Mr Urpo refused to say whether the officer in question had been suspended but said that a person believed to have acted as Saari's cameraman was being sought.
In the meantime, this sleepy town, surrounded by lakes and forests, is trying to come to terms with the tragedy. The college where the massacre occurred was sealed off this morning behind police tape and guarded by soldiers from the Finnish army.
It has been closed until Monday but a steady a stream of pupils, dressed mostly in black, were arriving during the day to leave candles and messages for their lost friends.
Heidi Viittanen, who studies at a nearby school, said that she had heard nothing about her best friend since the shooting spree yesterday. "My friend was in the same classroom but I just don't know anything. I don't know if she's dead or alive."
Of Saari's 10 victims, all but one were in a room set aside for exams. Police said that Saari set off petrol bombs after the shooting, leaving the bodies charred beyond recognition. The nine corpses - seven females and two males - have been taken to the capital, Helsinki, for analysis.
The other victim, a young woman, was shot in the corridor outside and is thought to have died at Tampere University Hospital, where Saari himself died of self-inflicted head wounds yesterday afternoon.
Tapio Varmola, the college principal, today described Saari as a "silent young man" and said that nobody had any inkling about his deadly plan. "I am very depressed at the moment," he said. "He was a young man with two faces."
Monday, September 22, 2008
Sunday, September 21, 2008
The Tribulation (or "Great Tribulation") is an event referred to in the New Testament of the Bible at Matthew 24:21 ("For then shall be great tribulation..." - King James Version) and other passages. In the futurist view of Christian eschatology, the Tribulation is a relatively short period of time where people who follow God will experience worldwide persecution and be purified and strengthened by it.
Dispensationalist or futurist view
While it is considered a period of immense suffering and sacrifice, greater than anything before in history, believers are promised strong faith and powers to help them endure and prevail. Persecution is attributed to the believers rebelling against the Antichrist and his regime.
The Tribulation is generally thought to occur before the Second Coming of Jesus and the end of the world. A viewpoint first made popular by John Nelson Darby in the 19th century and recently popularized by Hal Lindsey in The Late Great Planet Earth is that it will last seven years in all, being the last of Daniel's prophecy of seventy weeks. It is theorized that each week represents 7 years, with the timetable beginning from the order by King Artaxerxes to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem. After 7 plus 62 weeks, the prophecy says that the messiah will be "cut off", which is taken to correspond to the death of Christ. This is seen as creating a break of indeterminate length in the timeline, with one week remaining to be fulfilled.
This seven-year week may be further divided into two periods of 3.5 years each, from the two 3.5-year periods in Daniel's prophecy where the last seven years are divided into two 3.5-year periods, (Daniel 9:27) The time period for these beliefs is also based on other passages: in the book of Daniel, "time, times, and half a time," interpreted as "a year, two years, and half a year," and the book of Revelation, "a thousand two hundred and threescore days" and "forty and two months" (the prophetic month averaging 30 days, hence 1260/30 = 42 months or 3.5 years). The 1290 days of Daniel 12:11, (rather than the 1260 days of Revelation 11:3), is thought to be the result of either a simple intercalary leap month adjustment, or due to further calculations related to the prophecy.
Many other groups, such as Jehovah's Witnesses do not believe in a rapture at any point. According to Jehovah's Witnesses, the Great Tribulation is coming and is soon to arrive. This period will see the fall of Babylon the Great, the Great Harlot, as spoken of in Revelation. After Babylon the Great has been removed, they say, the world powers shall move against God's chosen people for a short while. This will then usher in the ending of this "world" (not the earth, but the removal of all those who do not wish to follow God by standards). The Great Tribulation ends with the battle of Armageddon.
- 1st Seal (Rev. 6:1-2): The White Horse of the Apocalypse. When he comes, he is given a crown and he goes out bent on conquest. This represents the Antichrist's rise to power through diplomacy.
- 2nd Seal (Rev. 6:3-4): When the Red Horse comes he is given a large sword and he takes peace from the world, causing men to kill each other. The Antichrist reveals his true war-like self, and a world war erupts.
- 3rd Seal (Rev. 6:5-6): When the Black Horse comes he causes severe famine possibly resulting from the war.
- 4th Seal (Rev. 6:7-8): The Pale Horse causes pestilence and death from the sword, famine, plague and wild beasts and Hades follow it. 1/4 of the world's population die from the horsemen.
- 5th Seal (Rev. 6:9-11): Martyrs begin dying during the Tribulation (The Antichrist begins his persecution of believers).
- 6th Seal (Rev. 6:12-17):
- Worldwide earthquake;
- Visible sunlight ceases and the image of the solar disk goes from granular to woven;
- The image of the moon resembles blood (possibly intensified transient lunar phenomena);
- The stars of the heaven fall to earth (possibly aircraft and orbiting satellites);
- The sky rolls up;(possibly intensified auroral activity or nuclear Mushroom Cloud)
- Every mountain and island are dislodged;
- The entire world population flees to caves, dens, and cliffs; and
- The world population interprets the Sixth Seal events as signs for the beginning of the wrath of the Lamb (the Day of Wrath).
- 7th Seal (Rev. 8:1-6): Silence in Heaven, seven angels given seven trumpets, followed by fire being hurled to the Earth.
From works depicting dead animals to a diamond-encrusted skull, artist Damien Hirst has always defied convention. It’s paid off - handsomely - as correspondent Sheila MacVicar reports from London.
A Wall Street Week Of Biblical Proportions
(CBS) We're taking stock this morning of the economic whirlwind that swept from Wall Street across the world this past week. Our Cover Story is reported by Martha Teichner:
At least the Dow ended the week up … 410 points Thursday, 366 points Friday, a glimmer of optimism that the economy might not be allowed to implode after all.
From the moment word reached Wall Street Thursday afternoon that Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson was about to meet with congressional leaders about a massive bailout plan, stocks soared.
The photo op after the meeting was a picture of cooperation and bipartisan unity.
Then there was Paulson, looking like a man in a hurry, announcing his plan:
"We must now take further, decisive action to fundamentally and comprehensively address the root cause of our financial system's stresses."
And President Bush, speaking to an audience larger than Wall Street, on Friday morning: "Investors should know that the United States government is taking action to restore confidence in America's financial markets so they can thrive again."
Confidence … there is no more ephemeral, or essential, component in what amounts to a huge gamble that our leaders can pull our economy (perhaps even the global economy) back from the brink of collapse. Yes, that's apparently how bad things had gotten.
"These are the most difficult times I think our markets have faced in the last 200 years," former Securities and Exchange Commissioner Harvey Pitt told Martha Teichner.
Pitt spent a dozen years at the SEC and was its head from 2001-2003.
"Certainly it's been historical; it could've been Biblical," said Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody's Economy.com and author of the book "Financial Shock: A 360º Look at the Subprime Mortgage Implosion, and How to Avoid the Next Financial Crisis" (FT press). "I mean, I was waiting for the locusts to fly through my office at one point."
"This could be comparable to the Great Depression in terms of just its effect on financial markets," said Robert Reich.
Now a professor at Berkeley, Reich was Labor Secretary under Bill Clinton. We asked him what lots of Americans are asking: How did it come to this?
"The people who were issuing warnings were not listened to," he said, "partly because Wall Street is very powerful in Washington. Wall Street kept on saying, 'Well, don't worry about anything, we have everything under control, we don't need more regulation.'"
Regulatory firewalls were put in place to prevent the financial excesses that led to the Great Depression. By the 1970s, banks and securities firms, caught up in major turf wars, lobbied for deregulation … and got it.
"We had over-leveraging in many of these firms," said Pitt, "and the net result was that people were leveraged, in some cases, as high as 100 to one."
People were also making piles of money by trading in packages of questionable mortgages and complicated, unregulated securities, called derivatives.
"Derivatives, essentially, are bets on how stocks or how bonds are going to move, and they're called derivatives because they are derived from those movement," said Reich.
But what if you bet wrong? That, say, the housing market will just keep going up but instead, the subprime mortgage meltdown happens? The whole house of cards collapses, taking Bear Stearns, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch and AIG with it.
"We're scared, we're panicked, we don't even trust our money market mutual funds, which we all thought was one step removed from the mattress," said Zandi.
How's this for scared: Last Wednesday, after problems emerged in several funds, investors pulled nearly $90 billion out of others.
"Confidence, or the lack thereof, is what's driving this mess that we're in," Zandi said.
Which is why the U.S. government felt it had to intervene … fast.
"I am convinced that this bold approach will cost American families far less than the alternative: a continuing series of financial institution failures and frozen credit markets unable to fund economic expansion," Paulson said this week, in announcing the government's bid to bail out struggling financial institutions by purchasing their bad debt, at the cost of hundreds of billions of dollars.
We know a little more today about the proposal Paulson took to Congress: it would give the Treasury two years and $700 billion of taxpayer money to buy up distressed mortgages.
And then there's this scary number: $11,315,000,000,000, to which the federal debt ceiling would have to be raised, from the current $10.6 trillion dollars.
So will the bailout end the crisis?
"I think we're in the sixth inning of a nine-inning game," Zandi said, "and I don't think this is a double-header. So I think we're closer to the end than the beginning."
"Until we know for certain we've reached the bottom, that up-and-down motion is just going to continue," Reich said.
"I think that there will be a certain amount of continued difficulty through the end of the year," Pitt predicted.
But first there's tomorrow, when markets around the world take their next vote of confidence on the American economy as it prepares for emergency shock treatment.
Saturday, September 20, 2008
David Shukman heads deep underground to take a look at the LHC's tunnel
The Large Hadron Collider near Geneva will be out of action for at least two months, the European Organization for Nuclear Research (Cern) says.
Part of the giant physics experiment was turned off for the weekend while engineers probed a magnet failure.
But a Cern spokesman said damage to the £3.6bn ($6.6bn) particle accelerator was worse than anticipated.
The LHC is built to smash protons together at huge speeds, recreating conditions moments after the Big Bang.
Scientists hope it will shed light on fundamental questions in physics.
On Friday, a failure, known as a quench, caused around 100 of the LHC's super-cooled magnets to heat up by as much as 100C.
The fire brigade were called out after a tonne of liquid helium leaked into the tunnel at Cern, near Geneva.
Cern spokesman James Gillies said on Saturday that the sector that was damaged would have to be warmed up well above absolute zero so that repairs could be made.
While he said there was never any danger to the public, Mr Gillies admitted that the breakdown would be costly.
He said: "A full investigation is still under way but the most likely cause seems to be a faulty electrical connection between two of the magnets which probably melted, leading to a mechanical failure.
"We're investigating and we can't really say more than that now.
"But we do know that we will have to warm the machine up, make the repair, cool it down, and that's what brings you to two months of downtime for the LHC."
The first beams were fired successfully around the accelerator's 27km (16.7 miles) underground ring over a week ago.
The crucial next step is to collide those beams head on. However, the fault appears to have ruled out any chance of these experiments taking place for the next two months at least.
The quench occurred during final testing of the last of the LHC's electrical circuits to be commissioned.
At 1127 (0927 GMT) on Friday, the LHC's online logbook recorded a quench in sector 3-4 of the accelerator, which lies between the Alice and CMS detectors.
The entry stated that helium had been lost to the tunnel and that vacuum conditions had also been lost.
The superconducting magnets in the LHC must be supercooled to 1.9 kelvin above absolute zero, to allow them to steer particle beams around the circuit.
As a result of the quench, the temperature of about 100 of the magnets in the machine's final sector rose by around 100C.
The setback came just a day after the LHC's beam was restored after engineers replaced a faulty transformer that had hindered progress for much of the past week.
Published: 2008/09/20 11:55:27 GMT
© BBC MMVIII
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