Saturday, December 31, 2011

Mish's Global Economic Trend Analysis: Additional 2012 Predictions: Trade Wars, US Election, Precious Metals, Energy

Mish's Global Economic Trend Analysis: Additional 2012 Predictions: Trade Wars, US Election, Precious Metals, Energy:

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2011 The Sad Year That Was

The Sad Year That Was:
January, 2011 Betse Streng died at age 83 of natural causes in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. I first met her in 1988. She was a real Steel Magnolia and an incredible lady. I will miss her always.
February, 2011: My Aunt Relda died at age 91 of natural causes. She had a full and a long life.
March, 2011: Olivier “Frenchie” Avegnon took his own life at age 66. He was living as a homeless man in a church shelter in San Francisco. “Frenchie” earned a chemical engineering degree from City College of New York. He started as a US Navy officer in 1967. I’m sure that he experienced the worst of the Vietnam War and that destroyed his life. He did some wonderful work on our house and on Sue’s house.
March 26, 2011: Our dear dog Eloisa died after a battle with cancer. She lived 11 years and 9 months. She gave birth to 21 puppies. She was so intelligent and sensitive I considered her almost human.
May, 2011: My Uncle Charles D. Walters died of natural causes at age 87. In World War II he was a US Marine sniper under the command of Lt. Colonel “Chesty” Puller. He survived the war with no wounds. He went on to have a career in insurance and the postal service. He was always an inspiration to me. May I have such a long and a full life!
August, 2011: Nicholas Humy lost his battle with cancer and died. He was only 53 years old. He was a great lawyer who literally saved my life in 1998. He did something that I did not think was possible in the Federal system. He stopped me from being sent back to Texas where I would have had a hard ride I would have lost 9 more months of my life for not reporting to some official. It’s madness to spend money locking people up for trivial administrative matters!!
September, 2011: My dear sister Marianna saw her house burn to the ground in Bastrop, Texas. A century or more of memories were lost.
November 8, 2011: Our wonderful and talented contractor John R. Jolivette, Jr. was killed when his motor bike collided with a truck on Hwy 101 North near the Vermont Street exit in San Francisco. He was 49 years of age. It was a huge shock to Elena and I. He left us with a house that was 98% complete. We have been lucky enough to find good people to finish up this project.
The High Points Of 2011:
January 24, 2011: Elena and I celebrated ten years together and her 50th birthday at the Universal City Hilton Hotel in Los Angeles. Elena and I had an unforgettable birthday dinner with Raquel Cinat.
February, 2011: I got to spend some quality time with my daughter Anna in Sao Paulo after being apart for 4 years.
February, 2011: I got to see my granddaughter Bianca Santos for the first time.
March, 2011: I got to spend an incredible two weeks in Bariloche, Argentina. This is the place that I want to retire to!!
Early April, 2011: I attended the Explore Mars, Inc. Mars and The International Space Station program in Washington, DC. It was the best space conference I have attended in my life. I also got to spend a lot of time n the campus of George Washington University where I was a graduate student in the early 1970’s.
April 15, 2011: I was featured on a CBS Channel 5 program due to a huge problem that I had with Pay Pal while being in Bariloche.
June 15, 2011: After four years of work and preparation, work began on the remodel of our house.
July 31, 2011: Copernicus’s daughter Cassiopeia was born near our house. Her mother is named Alice. She had 4 other puppies.
August, 2011: Elena and I had an incredible adventure in Montana. We spent a lot of time in Yellowstone National Park and did some adventurous and dangerous hiking.
Late December, 2011: The remodel of our house is now complete.
The Great People of 2011:
Sarah Angeles, who took care of Eloisa while Elena and I were in Argentina.  Eloisa became deathly ill. Sarah spent hours without pay taking her to various hospitals and vets. She gave Eloisa a few weeks of precious life.
Julie Watts of CBS Channel 5 in San Francisco who publicly exposed what Pay Pal had done to me while I was in South America.
The late John S. Jolivette, Jr., who did an incredible job of rebuilding our house.  May his soul rest in peace in Heaven.
Yehia Alansi and the team at Alansi Plumbing and Rooter who did an incredible job on our house plumbing.
The People Who Were Huge Disappointments:
Adolfo Sequeira, Jr.
Bill Baldwin

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Closing Strait of Hormuz not so easy for Iran

Closing Strait of Hormuz not so easy for Iran:

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Stop payment! A homeowners’ revolt against the banks | The Big Picture

Stop payment! A homeowners’ revolt against the banks | The Big Picture:

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China Could Be The World's Largest Economy By 2018

Economics focus

How to get a date

The year when the Chinese economy will truly eclipse America’s is in sight

IN THE spring of 2011 the Pew Global Attitudes Survey asked thousands of people worldwide which country they thought was the leading economic power. Half of the Chinese polled reckoned that America remains number one, twice as many as said “China”. Americans are no longer sure: 43% of US respondents answered “China”; only 38% thought America was still the top dog. The answer depends on which measure you pick. An analysis of 21 different indicators chosen by The Economist (see the full set) finds that China has already overtaken America on over half of them and will be top on virtually all of them within a decade.
Economic power is best gauged by looking at absolute size rather than per-person measures. On a few indicators, such as steel consumption, ownership of mobile phones and beer-guzzling (a crucial test of economic superiority), the milestone was reached as long as a decade ago. Several more have been passed since. In 2011 China exported about 30% more than the United States and spent some 40% more on fixed capital investment. China is the world’s biggest manufacturer, and partly as a result it burns around 10% more energy and emits almost 40% more greenhouse gases than America (although its emissions per person are only one-third as big). The Chinese also buy more new cars each year than anybody else.
The country that invented the compass, gunpowder and printing is also challenging America in the innovation stakes. We estimate that in 2011 more patents were granted to residents in China than in America. The quality of some Chinese patents may be dubious but they will surely improve. The World Economic Forum’s “World Competitiveness Report” ranks China 31st out of 142 countries on the quality of its maths and science education, well ahead of America’s 51st place. China’s external financial clout also beats America’s hands down. It has total net foreign assets of $2 trillion; America has net debts of $2.5 trillion.
The chart shows our predictions for when China will overtake America on several other measures. Official figures show that China’s consumer spending is currently only one-fifth of that in America (although that may be understated because of China’s poor statistical coverage of services). Based on relative growth rates over the past five years it will remain smaller until 2023. Retail sales are catching up much faster, and could exceed America’s by 2014. In that same year China also looks set to become the world’s biggest importer—a huge turnaround from 2000, when America’s imports were six times those of China.
 Find even more indicators and adjust the figures to make your own predictions using ourinteractive chart
What about GDP, the most widely used measure of economic power? The IMF predicts that China’s GDP will surpass America’s in 2016 if measured on a purchasing-power parity (PPP) basis, which adjusts for the fact that prices are lower in poorer countries. But America will only really be eclipsed when China’s GDP outstrips it in dollar terms, converted at market-exchange rates.
In 2011 America’s GDP was roughly twice as big as China’s, down from eight times bigger in 2000. To predict how quickly that gap might be closed, The Economist has updated its interactive online chart (also here) which allows you to plug in your own assumptions about real GDP growth in China and America, inflation rates and the yuan’s exchange rate against the dollar. Our best guess is that annual real GDP growth over the next decade averages 7.75% in China (down from 10.5% over the past decade) and 2.5% in America; that inflation (as measured by the GDP deflator) averages 4% and 1.5% respectively; and that the yuan appreciates by 3% a year. If so, then China will overtake America in 2018. That is a year earlier than our prediction in December 2010 because China’s GDP in dollar terms increased by more than expected in 2011.
Second place is for winners
Even if China became the world’s biggest economy by 2018, Americans would remain much richer, with a GDP per head four times that in China. But Rupert Hoogewerf, the founder of the annual Hurun Report on China’s richest citizens, reckons that it may already have more billionaires. His latest survey identified 270 dollar billionaires but the true total, he says, is probably double that because many Chinese are secretive about their wealth. According to the Forbes rich list, America has 400 billionaires or so.
America still tops a few league tables by a wide margin. Its stockmarket capitalisation is four times bigger than China’s and it has more than twice as many firms in the Fortuneglobal 500, which lists the world’s biggest companies by revenue. Last but not least, America spends five times as much on defence as China does, and even though China’s defence budget is expanding faster, on recent growth rates America will remain top gun until 2025.
Being the biggest economy in the world does offer advantages. It helps to ensure military superiority and gives a country more say in fixing international rules. Historically, the biggest economy has become the issuer of the main reserve currency, which is why America has also been able to borrow more cheaply than it otherwise would. But it would be a mistake for American leaders to try to block China’s rise. China’s rapid growth benefits the whole global economy. It is better to be number two in a fast-growing world than top dog in a stagnant one.

Jack's Beautiful WOman For Wednesday 28 December, 2011

Drug gangs strike back in Rio’s ‘pacified’ slums -

Drug gangs strike back in Rio’s ‘pacified’ slums -

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I Love It When A Plan Comes Together!

Monday was a holiday. Nonetheless Giorgi's Furniture Store delivered the two desks for our computers. I worked all evening moving all of the computers from the old area to the new computer room. Today I hooked up my complex speaker system and Comcast came out and got the high-speed internet on line. It feels great to make a plan and see it work out.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Elon Musk Plans To Put Millions Of People On Mars

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I'll Put Millions of People on Mars, says Elon Musk

posted Dec 22, 2011 9:10 PM by Michael Stoltz   [ updated Dec 22, 2011 9:29 PM ]
By Greg Klerkx, New Scientist, 12.22.11
The swashbuckling SpaceX founder says that he can get to Mars on a shoestring within 20 years – thanks to the fully reusable rockets he's determined to build.
ELON MUSK has an unusual new decorative item in his office at SpaceX, the California-based space company he founded in 2002. On his desk are the usual models of the iconic Saturn V rocket and Apollo spacecraft alongside pieces of the SpaceX vehicles Musk envisions as their successors. Photographs of his five children are dotted among the space memorabilia. Hung on a wall there is a large photo of Muhammad Ali. And near it is a very lethal-looking sword. Perhaps it is appropriate given Musk's fearsome reputation as an entrepreneur.
By the age of 30, Musk had set up and sold two companies, including the online payment business PayPal, and he started two more before turning 40: SpaceX, and the electric vehicle business Tesla Motors. The sword was awarded to him in June as part of the Heinlein prize for accomplishments in commercial space activities, set up in honour of the American science fiction writer Robert Heinlein who supported the idea of commercial space travel. "It sure beats your average trophy," says Musk.
The sword is a replica of the one wielded by the swashbuckling hero of Heinlein's novel Glory Road. However, Musk perhaps more closely resembles Valentine Michael Smith, the charismatic protagonist of Heinlein's most famous book,Stranger in a Strange Land. Both are comfortable in the role of outsider, often remaining aloof, almost ethereal; both evince an almost super-human focus and energy. Another link is more obvious. Smith is born on Mars and comes to Earth; Musk would like to be the person who takes humankind to Mars.
That moment may be closer than anyone thinks. Musk declared recently that he could put a human on Mars in 10 to 20 years' time. It is a remarkable claim, yet even more astonishingly Musk tells me that he could do it for $5 billion, and possibly as little as $2 billion - a snip when you consider that the International Space Station (ISS) has cost at least $100 billion to build and operate, or that $2 billion is roughly the cost of launching four space shuttle missions.
Musk doesn't just want to stop at one human. In his Heinlein prize acceptance speech, he said he wants to put 10,000 people on Mars. Musk rarely makes public statements merely for effect but a call for 10,000 would-be Martians is extraordinary, even by his standards. When I query him on this point, he pauses. Is he reconsidering? Yes... but, as with so much else about Musk, not in a predictable way. "Ultimately we don't really want 10,000 people on Mars," he says, after letting the pause linger a few seconds more. "We want millions."
The first time I met Elon Musk was at a party for someone else's spaceship. It was 2004 and I spotted him amid the high-fiving crowd of VIPs gathered at the Mojave Air and Space Port in California to celebrate the first successful sub-orbital flight of Burt Rutan's now-legendary SpaceShipOne.
Musk went almost unnoticed in the heaving crowd, which isn't altogether surprising. Back then Elon Musk was not yet "Elon Musk" - international icon, purported inspiration for Iron Man's playboy alter ego Tony Stark in the movie franchise, and would-be rescuer of humankind's hopes of interplanetary glory. In fact, as the guests strained to lay hands on SpaceShipOne's sleek composite frame, Musk seemed almost reluctant to join in.
What's true about Musk, then and now, is his iconoclasm about the new space revolution, which is often characterised by doing things, like SpaceShipOne, without the help of space agencies such as NASA. As we stood on the steaming Mojave tarmac, Musk politely praised SpaceShipOne's achievement but quickly noted that getting into orbit would require eight times the speed and about 65 times the energy. He said that symbolic victories wouldn't achieve what he was certain was humankind's ultimate destiny: to become a multi-planetary species. And unlike Rutan who believes NASA is a nemesis to be vanquished, Musk believes that NASA is a critical part of any space-faring future.
Fast-forward seven years and Musk's importance to the modern space industry is undeniable. SpaceX launched its Falcon 9 rocket last year, the first successful new rocket in a generation that could carry heavy loads and the first of its class built from scratch by a privately financed company. In December 2010 another Falcon 9 carried a reusable capsule called Dragon that can be fitted for cargo, crew or a combination of both. It completed nearly two orbits before splashing down in the Pacific Ocean where it was recovered in much the same way as NASA retrieved returning Apollo capsules.
SpaceX is now preparing to send the Dragon capsule to dock with the ISS early next year. Dragon's closest competitor, the Orion capsule built by the US aerospace company and long-time NASA partner Lockheed Martin, won't attempt such a feat until 2013 at the earliest.
As well as making history, SpaceX is making money. Last year the company signed a $492 million deal to launch Iridium satellites, the largest single commercial launch contract in history. It also has a $1.6 billion contract to service the ISS, with options to provide another $3.1 billion's worth, too.
"I feel like what SpaceX has done considering the resources we've had is pretty impressive," says Musk. "We started off with just me in the beginning and now we're almost 1500 people. And that's double what we had two years ago."
Such numbers dwarf the achievements of previous space entrepreneurs. But Musk isn't your typical space junkie. True, he read Heinlein and Isaac Asimov as a boy growing up in South Africa. He also built model rockets with his younger brother and frequent business partner, Kimbal, which he says "was a little more challenging in South Africa because there was nothing off-the-shelf. We made the rockets and mixed the fuel." But when it came to spaceflight ambitions, Musk was always more Scotty than Kirk: "I never wanted to be an astronaut or anything like that," he says.
Musk does have a driving cosmic ideology though: "This is the first time in four billion years that life has the possibility to move beyond Earth," he says. He passionately believes we need to move fast to avoid losing the knowledge and expertise we have built up. "The window to become multi-planetary is open now and we need to take advantage of it now, just in case it closes," he says.
Pronouncements like this, which Musk offers frequently, have occasionally led to accusations of egomania. But rather Musk seems to be someone who doesn't suffer fools gladly. "Pah!" is his response to those lamenting the demise of the space shuttle. "It is a massive opportunity!" The only vaguely kind words Musk has for the shuttle is that it was an experiment in the right area: rapid reusability. "That's been critical in every mode of transport in history, whether it's horses, bicycles or cars," he says.

Reusable rockets

The urgency in Musk's voice makes it clear that reusability is what truly motivates him where SpaceX is concerned: "That we don't really have it with space travel has been a choice and I think a tragic one," he says, his voice tinged with regret. "It's meant we've not gone beyond Earth's orbit in a generation. I want to change that. Rapid reusability is what will take us to Mars."
The fact that humans have not yet been to Mars isn't down to lack of interest. Schemes, sketches and plans for sending humans to the Red Planet have been around as long as the space age itself, beginning with NASA rocket guru Wernher von Braun, who envisioned a massive Mars-bound spacecraft built in orbit. The Saturn rockets - and even the space shuttle - were mooted for use in Mars missions, as were more daring concepts such as nuclear rockets.
Virtually every conceivable part of a Mars mission has been, or is, the subject of testing and experimentation by one of the world's space agencies or their satellite companies and laboratories. While there continues to be debate about hazards like deep-space radiation and micrometeorite impacts, there is broad agreement over why any serious humans-to-Mars plan has failed to get off the drawing board. It's simply too expensive.
The price tag for a Mars mission varies as widely as the concepts for achieving it, from $20 billion to $500 billion. And as the decades pass, the cost has typically gone up, not down. NASA still aspires to send humans to Mars one day, though it has largely abandoned actual planning.
Musk knows that his rockets aren't yet affordable enough for a feasible Mars mission. The reason is that of the $60 million cost of launching a Falcon 9, just 3 per cent is fuel. The remaining $58 million is predominantly hardware - all of which can only be used once. So, Musk admits that with the present Falcon design he has lost the reusability fight.
But that is set to change. In September Musk announced the company's plans for developing a fully reusable space launch system. The concept would see the rocket's first stage - the one that separates at the lowest altitude - reignite its engines and coast to a vertical landing at the launch site. If that sounds tricky, the following part of Musk's plan is harder still.
The rocket's second stage, which would be well into orbit after delivering its payload, needs to flip nose-first and endure the fiery re-entry into Earth's atmosphere with a special heat-shielded nose cone, before flipping over again, firing its engines and landing like the first stage. Even if it works, the extra fuel and heat shielding are likely to add weight and cost, which could make Musk's reusable rockets far more expensive than his current Falcon line-up.
"Reusability is ridiculously hard," he says. "But it's the thing we're working hardest at."
Musk is eventually hoping to build this kind of reusability into SpaceX's newest launch vehicle, the Falcon Heavy. Scheduled for testing in early 2013, Falcon Heavy will be the largest rocket flown since NASA's Saturn V launched astronauts to the moon. Musk says that a reusable version of the rocket could deliver a payload of up to 15 tonnes to Mars at a cost of $100 to $200 per kilogram. That makes his $5 billion humans-to-Mars price tag seem realistic. Even so, the Falcon Heavy would need to be "heavier" still to carry the minimum 50-tonne payload needed for a Mars mission. But Musk, whose title at SpaceX is CEO and chief technology officer, is working on that too.
At no point in our discussions does he withdraw or alter his 10 to 20 year time-frame for Mars. Even at the far end of that range, Musk would be only 60 when the first Martian expedition launched. Would he consider going on that first trip? "If someone had solved the rapidly reusable launch system problem, then yes, I'd definitely go," he says. "But if it were simply a one-time flight, then no, because I'd need to stay and keep at the challenge with SpaceX. It is too important. This is something that I'm in for the long haul."
[Images: SpaceX]