Sunday, October 12, 2008

Thoughts on the News

What a week. If you’ve got the money, I'm told we should all be buying for the economy will come roaring back . . . someday. Well, maybe not roaring but meowing, anyway. Someday. So, while you can - BUY! Buy silver, gold, Blue Chip stocks, real estate, my friend William's house, General Motors, the banking institution of your choice, all of the above, or whatever.

NEW YORK (AP) - Wall Street capped one of its worst weeks ever with a wild session Friday that saw the Dow Jones industrials gyrate within a 1,000 point range before closing with a relatively mild loss and the Nasdaq composite index actually ending with a modest advance. Investors were still agonizing over frozen credit markets, but seven days of massive losses and the possibility of further government support for the markets tempted some investors late in the session.

That’ll be the key, of course, to getting the markets back: Luring investors. What will lure investors? Hank Paulsen in a short dress and fishnets? No, I hope. Confidence in the economy; confidence that their investment will pay off. But if that doesn’t work, let’s keep the fishnets around as Plan B.

Right now I’m pleasure reading Amity Schlaes book “The Forgotten Man,” a reexamination of the Great Depression, its root causes and how it was perpetuated longer than it needed to be by the wrong kind of government intervention. Schlaes is a CFR fellow and she is frequently quoted by Newt Gingrich.

So, are we in a Depression? How can we tell? This week, the market lost 18% of it’s value just since Monday, Oct. 5th. How does that compare to the Great Depression? According to Wikipedia:

In September of 1929, the market fell sharply for a month, losing 17% of its value on the initial leg down. Prices then recovered more than half of the losses over the next week, only to turn back down immediately afterwards. The decline then accelerated into the so-called "Black Thursday", October 24, 1929.

What took a month for the stock market to do in 1929, Wall Street did in five days. But is the past always prologue?

Researchers and economists have been studying the history of economic collapses in this country and Europe to see what we can learn from them. Who has been behind the collapses? What kept them going on longer? Have bailouts helped historically?

You heard that AIG is getting another “mini-bailout,” right? Ugh!

* * * * *

From London's Daily Mail . . .

Newly evolved "superworms" that feast on toxic waste could help cleanse polluted industrial land, a new study says. These hardcore heavy metal fans, unearthed at disused mining sites in England and Wales, devour lead, zinc, arsenic, and copper. The earthworms excrete a slightly different version of the metals, making them easier for plants to suck up. Harvesting the plants would leave cleaner soil behind.

"These worms seem to be able to tolerate incredibly high concentrations of heavy metals, and the metals seem to be driving their evolution," said lead researcher Mark Hodson of the University of Reading in England.

"If you took an earthworm from the back of your garden and put it in these soils, it would die," Hodson said.

DNA analysis of lead-tolerant worms show they belong to a newly evolved species that has yet to be named, he said.

So they need a name for this new superworm, huh? I forgot. What was the name of the President of AIG who spent $440,000 on a spa weekend for his cronies?

Speaking of names, I assume you heard about the so-called “Jesus Shark”?

From National Geographic News

October 10, 2008

A female blacktip shark in Virginia fertilized her own egg without mating with a male shark, new DNA evidence shows. This is the second time scientists have used DNA testing to verify shark parthenogenesis—the process that allows females of some species to produce offspring without sperm.

Question: If it can happen with sharks, is it out of the question that it could happen with people? I don’t think so. For example, my parents had my older sister when they were practically newlyweds but I’m pretty sure by the time I came along, I was parthenogenitically conceived.

Self-reproducing sharks can’t be any scarier than killer catfish of India.

From The Sun: A FEARSOME mutant fish has started killing people after feeding on human corpses, scientists fear.

They figure that a huge type of catfish, called a goonch, may have developed a taste for flesh in an Indian river where bodies are dumped after funerals. Locals have believed for years that a mysterious monster lurks in the water. But they think it has moved on from scavenging to snatching unwary bathers who venture into the Great Kali, which flows along the India-Nepal border. The extraordinary creature has been investigated by biologist Jeremy Wade for a TV documentary to be shown soon.

Nature loves her monsters. Mutant, recently micro-evolved metal-eating superworms, mutant man-eating catfish - and vampires. Or at least - the undead, such as the story of the Zombie Johnson.

From The News Journal

When Louis Johnson brought his wife to the emergency room on May 6, 2007, he didn't think they would be there long -- she just had a bad case of indigestion. About an hour later, Johnson said, he was "blown away" when staffers at Beebe Medical Center in Lewes took him into a room to tell him his wife was dead.

But she wasn't.

As they later learned, when the body of Judith Johnson, 61, was set to be taken to the morgue, someone noticed the "corpse" was breathing - even with a tube still down her throat.

I’m sure I don’t have to remind you that this type of medical misdiagnosis and the against-all-odds recovery is the kind of phenomenon that created an interest in vampires but it does not define it. Oh by way, welcome to October: The Creepy Month. This month look for my series of articles on Southern Ghost Stories and Legends. As the wind howls around your castle in the wee hours, just make sure you have everything locked up for the night.

To update my reading list: The annotated Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” is definitive, however. I re-read “Dracula” a couple years ago and I was amazed at how well it stood up. I am re-re-reading it in this new complete, annotated version and it’s like I’ve never read it before.

And there’s something about curling up with a Gothic horror story on a windy, October night with the leaves blowing around that lets you know it is the season of the creepy.

I don’t just mean the annual time when thousands of men and women rise from the grave in cities like Chicago and Boston and linger around just long enough to vote before re-entering the underworld.

And when I say vampires I don’t mean the kind bleeding us dry in Washington.

Congress isn’t cool enough to be the un-dead, So far, they’re just the un-smart and ocassionally creepy.


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