Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Mindful Meditation

From nytimes.com

May 27, 2008
Lotus Therapy
The patient sat with his eyes closed, submerged in the rhythm of his own breathing, and after a while noticed that he was thinking about his troubled relationship with his father.
“I was able to be there, present for the pain,” he said, when the meditation session ended. “To just let it be what it was, without thinking it through.”
The therapist nodded.
“Acceptance is what it was,” he continued. “Just letting it be. Not trying to change anything.”
“That’s it,” the therapist said. “That’s it, and that’s big.”
This exercise in focused awareness and mental catch-and-release of emotions has become perhaps the most popular new psychotherapy technique of the past decade. Mindfulness meditation, as it is called, is rooted in the teachings of a fifth-century B.C. Indian prince, Siddhartha Gautama, later known as the Buddha. It is catching the attention of talk therapists of all stripes, including academic researchers, Freudian analysts in private practice and skeptics who see all the hallmarks of another fad.
For years, psychotherapists have worked to relieve suffering by reframing the content of patients’ thoughts, directly altering behavior or helping people gain insight into the subconscious sources of their despair and anxiety. The promise of mindfulness meditation is that it can help patients endure flash floods of emotion during the therapeutic process — and ultimately alter reactions to daily experience at a level that words cannot reach. “The interest in this has just taken off,” said Zindel Segal, a psychologist at the Center of Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto, where the above group therapy session was taped. “And I think a big part of it is that more and more therapists are practicing some form of contemplation themselves and want to bring that into therapy.”
At workshops and conferences across the country, students, counselors and psychologists in private practice throng lectures on mindfulness. The National Institutes of Health is financing more than 50 studies testing mindfulness techniques, up from 3 in 2000, to help relieve stress, soothe addictive cravings, improve attention, lift despair and reduce hot flashes.
Some proponents say Buddha’s arrival in psychotherapy signals a broader opening in the culture at large — a way to access deeper healing, a hidden path revealed.
Yet so far, the evidence that mindfulness meditation helps relieve psychiatric symptoms is thin, and in some cases, it may make people worse, some studies suggest. Many researchers now worry that the enthusiasm for Buddhist practice will run so far ahead of the science that this promising psychological tool could turn into another fad.
“I’m very open to the possibility that this approach could be effective, and it certainly should be studied,” said Scott Lilienfeld, a psychology professor at Emory. “What concerns me is the hype, the talk about changing the world, this allure of the guru that the field of psychotherapy has a tendency to cultivate.”
Buddhist meditation came to psychotherapy from mainstream academic medicine. In the 1970s, a graduate student in molecular biology, Jon Kabat-Zinn, intrigued by Buddhist ideas, adapted a version of its meditative practice that could be easily learned and studied. It was by design a secular version, extracted like a gemstone from the many-layered foundation of Buddhist teaching, which has sprouted a wide variety of sects and spiritual practices and attracted 350 million adherents worldwide.
In transcendental meditation and other types of meditation, practitioners seek to transcend or “lose” themselves. The goal of mindfulness meditation was different, to foster an awareness of every sensation as it unfolds in the moment.
Dr. Kabat-Zinn taught the practice to people suffering from chronic pain at the University of Massachusetts medical school. In the 1980s he published a series of studies demonstrating that two-hour courses, given once a week for eight weeks, reduced chronic pain more effectively than treatment as usual.
Word spread, discreetly at first. “I think that back then, other researchers had to be very careful when they talked about this, because they didn’t want to be seen as New Age weirdos,” Dr. Kabat-Zinn, now a professor emeritus of medicine at the University of Massachusetts, said in an interview. “So they didn’t call it mindfulness or meditation. “After a while, we put enough studies out there that people became more comfortable with it.”
One person who noticed early on was Marsha Linehan, a psychologist at the University of Washington who was trying to treat deeply troubled patients with histories of suicidal behavior. “Trying to treat these patients with some change-based behavior therapy just made them worse, not better,” Dr. Linehan said in an interview. “With the really hard stuff, you need something else, something that allows people to tolerate these very strong emotions.”
In the 1990s, Dr. Linehan published a series of studies finding that a therapy that incorporated Zen Buddhist mindfulness, “radical acceptance,” practiced by therapist and patient significantly cut the risk of hospitalization and suicide attempts in the high-risk patients.
Finally, in 2000, a group of researchers including Dr. Segal in Toronto, J. Mark G. Williams at the University of Wales and John D. Teasdale at the Medical Research Council in England published a study that found that eight weekly sessions of mindfulness halved the rate of relapse in people with three or more episodes of depression.
With Dr. Kabat-Zinn, they wrote a popular book, “The Mindful Way Through Depression.” Psychotherapists’ curiosity about mindfulness, once tentative, turned into “this feeding frenzy, of sorts, that we have going on now,” Dr. Kabat-Zinn said.
Mindfulness meditation is easy to describe. Sit in a comfortable position, eyes closed, preferably with the back upright and unsupported. Relax and take note of body sensations, sounds and moods. Notice them without judgment. Let the mind settle into the rhythm of breathing. If it wanders (and it will), gently redirect attention to the breath. Stay with it for at least 10 minutes.
After mastering control of attention, some therapists say, a person can turn, mentally, to face a threatening or troubling thought — about, say, a strained relationship with a parent — and learn simply to endure the anger or sadness and let it pass, without lapsing into rumination or trying to change the feeling, a move that often backfires.
One woman, a doctor who had been in therapy for years to manage bouts of disabling anxiety, recently began seeing Gaea Logan, a therapist in Austin, Tex., who incorporates mindfulness meditation into her practice. This patient had plenty to worry about, including a mentally ill child, a divorce and what she described as a “harsh internal voice,” Ms. Logan said.
After practicing mindfulness meditation, she continued to feel anxious at times but told Ms. Logan, “I can stop and observe my feelings and thoughts and have compassion for myself.”
Steven Hayes, a psychologist at the University of Nevada at Reno, has developed a talk therapy called Acceptance Commitment Therapy, or ACT, based on a similar, Buddha-like effort to move beyond language to change fundamental psychological processes.
“It’s a shift from having our mental health defined by the content of our thoughts,” Dr. Hayes said, “to having it defined by our relationship to that content — and changing that relationship by sitting with, noticing and becoming disentangled from our definition of ourselves.”
For all these hopeful signs, the science behind mindfulness is in its infancy. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, which researches health practices, last year published a comprehensive review of meditation studies, including T.M., Zen and mindfulness practice, for a wide variety of physical and mental problems. The study found that over all, the research was too sketchy to draw conclusions.
A recent review by Canadian researchers, focusing specifically on mindfulness meditation, concluded that it did “not have a reliable effect on depression and anxiety.”
Therapists who incorporate mindfulness practices do not agree when the meditation is most useful, either. Some say Buddhist meditation is most useful for patients with moderate emotional problems. Others, like Dr. Linehan, insist that patients in severe mental distress are the best candidates for mindfulness.
A case in point is mindfulness-based therapy to prevent a relapse into depression. The treatment significantly reduced the risk of relapse in people who have had three or more episodes of depression. But it may have had the opposite effect on people who had one or two previous episodes, two studies suggest.
The mindfulness treatment “may be contraindicated for this group of patients,” S. Helen Ma and Dr. Teasdale of the Medical Research Council concluded in a 2004 study of the therapy.
Since mindfulness meditation may have different effects on different mental struggles, the challenge for its proponents will be to specify where it is most effective — and soon, given how popular the practice is becoming.
The question, said Linda Barnes, an associate professor of family medicine and pediatrics at the Boston University School of Medicine, is not whether mindfulness meditation will become a sophisticated therapeutic technique or lapse into self-help cliché.
“The answer to that question is yes to both,” Dr. Barnes said.
The real issue, most researchers agree, is whether the science will keep pace and help people distinguish the mindful variety from the mindless.
A variety of meditative practices have been studied by Western researchers for their effects on mental and physical health.
Tai Chi
An active exercise, sometimes called moving meditation, involving extremely slow, continuous movement and extreme concentration. The movements are to balance the vital energy of the body but have no religious significance.
Studies are mixed, some finding it can reduce blood pressure in patients, and others finding no effect. There is some evidence that it can help elderly people improve balance.
Transcendental Meditation
Meditators sit comfortably, eyes closed, and breathe naturally. They repeat and concentrate on the mantra, a word or sound chosen by the instructor to achieve state of deep, transcendent absorption. Practitioners “lose” themselves, untouched by day-to-day concerns. Studies suggest it can reduce blood pressure in some patients.
Mindfulness Meditation
Practitioners find a comfortable position, close the eyes and focus first on breathing, passively observing it. If a stray thought or emotion enters the mind, they allow it to pass and return attention to the breath. The aim is to achieve focused awareness on what is happening moment to moment.
Studies find that it can help manage chronic pain. The findings are mixed on substance abuse. Two trials suggest that it can cut the rate of relapse in people who have had three or more bouts of depression.
Enhanced awareness through breathing techniques and specific postures. Schools vary widely, aiming to achieve total absorption in the present and a release from ordinary thoughts. Studies are mixed, but evidence shows it can reduce stress.

Am constantly amazed by how much old traditions from India are becoming the rage. The momentum towards a more antiwar, more vegan, more conscious (no pun intended), more spiritual yet less religious (organized religion) society continues apace. I have come to believe that this is the course of human evolution. Or deja vu evolution because Indians once practiced these things and many still do.

Coming back

Just returned from a trip to beautiful St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands. Sapphire Beach - gorgeous view and fantastic snorkeling.

Monday, May 19, 2008

McCain and Obama on Iran

from nytimes.com
McCain and Obama on "EyeRan"

McCain and Obama Trade Barbs on Iran
By Michael Luo
Senator Barack Obama at a town hall meeting in Billings, Mont., on Monday. (Photo: Doug Mills/The New York Times)
CHICAGO — Senator John McCain challenged Senator Barack Obama on his home turf here today, attacking him for comments he made over the weekend downplaying the threat posed by Iran relative to the former Soviet Union.
Mr. McCain, who was in Mr. Obama’s hometown to address the National Restaurant Association, diverged from prepared remarks on economic issues to get in his jab at Mr. Obama.
Believing keeping the focus on national security is advantageous to Mr. McCain, his campaign has been continuing to try to make hay over Mr. Obama’s stated willingness to sit down with the leaders of rogue nations.
Arguing for engagement with the country’s foes, Mr. Obama said in a speech on Sunday that “strong countries and strong presidents talk to their adversaries.”
John McCain in Chicago today. (Photo: Jeff Chiu/The New York Times)
“That’s what Reagan did with Gorbachev,” he said, adding, “I mean think about it. Iran, Cuba, Venezuela—these countries are tiny compared to the Soviet Union. They don’t pose a serious threat to us the way the Soviet Union posed a threat to us. And yet we were willing to talk to the Soviet Union at the time when they were saying we’re going to wipe you off the planet.”
He went on to argue that Iran spends “one-one hundredth of what we spend on the military. If Iran ever tried to pose a serious threat to us, they wouldn’t stand a chance. And we should use that position of strength that we have to be bold enough to go ahead and listen.” Mr. McCain seized upon those comments today, his voice stern and dripping with contempt: “Obviously, Iran isn’t a superpower and doesn’t possess the military power the Soviet Union had. But that does not mean that the threat posed by Iran is insignificant.”
Speaking during a town hall meeting in Billings, Mont., Senator Obama fired back at Senator McCain. “Let me be absolutely clear: Iran is a grave threat.” But the Soviet Union posed a bigger threat, he said.
Mr. Obama said Iran has been emboldened as a result of the U.S. war in Iraq. “Iran is the biggest single beneficiary of the war in Iraq,” he said. “John McCain wants to double down that failed policy.”
“We should not just talk to our friends we should be willing to engage our enemies as well,” Mr. Obama added. “That’s what diplomacy is all about.”
Mr. McCain’s appearance was marred shortly after his skewering of Mr. Obama by a trio of protesters who stood up and began to shout anti-war slogans. The crowd of several thousand booed the protesters as they were being escorted out. The women were wearing aprons that read variously: “McCain don’t buy Bush’s war” and “Cookin’ up war with John McCain.”
Unruffled, Mr. McCain picked up where he left off, saying “we all have the right to free speech.”
Mr. McCain made sure to make note of his presence on his likely Democratic opponent’s home turf, drawing laughter and applause with this joke: “Many Democratic voters in Illinois are especially proud of their junior senator. They believe more than ever that Barack Obama was the right choice for the Senate in 2004. I couldn’t agree more, and I promise to do everything in my power to help him finish his first term in the United States Senate.”
But the bulk of Mr. McCain’s remarks were on the economy, where he sought to differentiate himself from his Democratic counterparts—he mentioned Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton and Mr. Obama early on but then focused exclusively on Mr. Obama—on taxes, trade and farm subsidies.
“Senator Clinton and Senator Obama have agreed to raise your taxes, to regulate your business more than ever, and to spend more of your money in Washington,” Mr. McCain said. “That’s their idea of “change,” but it sure sounds familiar to me.”
Mr. McCain also highlighted the episode that put Mr. Obama on the defensive while campaigning in Ohio earlier this year, when news leaked out that one of his senior policy advisers, Austan Goolsbee, had met with Canadian officials. According to a memo that was written up about the meeting by one official, Mr. Goolsbee downplayed the harsh rhetoric Mr. Obama had been using on the trail about the North American Free Trade Agreement as “political positioning.”
At the time, Obama officials said the memorandum inaccurately described Professor Goolsbee’s comments, as well as Mr. Obama’s position.
“Senator Obama is fond of scolding others for engaging in the “old-style politics,” but when he plays on fears of foreign trade he’s resorting to the oldest kind of politics there is,” Mr. McCain said. “It’s the kind of politics that exploits problems instead of solving them, that breeds resentment instead of opportunity.”

Notice how the article completely veered off Iran and drifted off into all kinds of other issues without a substantial discussion of Iran. What I am dumbfounded by is the unwillingness of our elected leaders to engage in any sort of substantive discussion of the politics on the ground in Iran - The Iranian people, Iran's version of Islam, Iran's place in the modern world, Iranian academic leaders, the Iranian version of democracy and theocracy, Iran's oil and gas resources and our strategic interests in it, Iran's influence as a Shiite theocracy on the rest of the Middle East, Iran's conflict with Al Qaeda, Iran's relationship with Syria and Hezbollah, A real clear discussion of where Iran is in building the bomb (people seem to have a muddled idea of where Iran is in terms of how much time they will need to build one. Estimates vary from 30 days to 10 years) etc. Do these people running for President think that we cannot handle the truth? Or do they think that our attention span is so limited that any substantive discussion is bound to fail? Is electing someone now an art of picking the wanna be with the best sound bites and who is able to project the most of scorn and contempt into their words? How tragic.

Byrd supports Obama

The NY Times Political Blog

May 19, 2008, 1:55 pm
Byrd Supports Obama
By Jeff Zeleny and Katharine Q. Seelye

BILLINGS, Mont. – Less than a week after his state went for Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton by 41 points, Senator Robert C. Byrd, West Virginia’s senior Democrat, endorsed Senator Barack Obama.
Mr. Byrd, the longest-serving member of the Senate, had purposefully steered clear of showing a preference in the presidential nominating battle between Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton ahead of his state’s primary last Tuesday. But today he announced his support for Mr. Obama, declaring: “The stakes this November could not be higher.”
“After a great deal of thought, consideration and prayer over the situation in Iraq, I have decided that, as a superdelegate to the Democratic National Convention, I will cast my vote for Senator Barack Obama for President,” Mr. Byrd said in a statement. “Both Senators Clinton and Obama are extraordinary individuals, whose integrity, honor, love for this country and strong belief in our Constitution I deeply respect.” “I believe Barack Obama is a shining young statesman, who possesses the personal temperament and courage necessary to extricate our country from this costly misadventure in Iraq, and to lead our nation at this challenging time in history,” added Mr. Byrd, who voted against giving President Bush the authorization to go to war in Iraq in 2002 and has been a vociferous opponent of the war. “Barack Obama is a noble-hearted patriot and humble Christian, and he has my full faith and support.”
Two words worth noting in that statement: “humble Christian.” In the post-mortem of his overwhelming defeat, aides to Mr. Obama suspect many voters believed the misdirected rumors that he was Muslim.
So will the sentiment of Mr. Byrd -– an iconic figure in West Virginia who has served in the Senate since 1958, before Mr. Obama was born -– help allay concerns of some Democrats in a general election? Can Mr. Obama still be competitive in states that he lost by significant margins to Mrs. Clinton?
Above all, that is the question on the minds of Democrats this week.
With the endorsement, Mr. Byrd joins West Virginia’s other senator, Jay Rockefeller, in supporting Mr. Obama.
The endorsement also makes three more superdelegates for Mr. Obama on Monday, on the eve of the primaries in Oregon and Kentucky. Kansas Democratic Party Chair Larry Gates and Washington State Democratic Party Chairman Dwight Pelz also announced their support for Mr. Obama.
Mrs. Clinton has been courting Mr. Byrd for some time, and openly did so on Mother’s Day, when she was campaigning in West Virginia in advance of its primary.
She told a small gathering that when she first began serving in the Senate, in 2001, her mother used to watch CSpan to try to catch a glimpse of her daughter. And during her TV-watching, she became familiar with Mr. Byrd, regarded by his colleagues as the chief expert on Senate history and procedure.
Mrs. Clinton said that her mother came to admire Mr. Byrd and hoped one day to meet him. Eventually she brought her mother to lunch with Mr. Byrd and they had a fine old time.
But apparently the personal connection was not strong enough to sway Mr. Byrd to her side as her hopes dwindle for the nomination.
Mr. Byrd’s endorsement of Mr. Obama is all the more interesting considering that as the senator once opposed integrating the military, filibustered the 1964 Civil Rights Act, and a young man he was briefly a member of the Ku Klux Klan. Mr. Byrd has frequently expressed regret for his past actions.

I have enormous respect for Senator Byrd.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

What Global Warming?

May 14, 2008
Polar Bear to Be a Protected Species
Filed at 4:06 p.m. ET

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Interior Department declared the polar bear a threatened species Wednesday, saying it must be protected because of the decline in Arctic sea ice from global warming.
Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne cited dramatic declines in sea ice over the last three decades and projections of continued losses. These declines, he told a news conference, mean the polar bear is a species likely to be in danger of extinction in the near future.
Kempthorne also said, though, that it would be ''inappropriate'' to use the protection of the bear to reduce greenhouse gases, or to broadly address climate change.
Reflecting views recently expressed by President Bush, Kempthorne said the Endangered Species Act was ''never meant to regulate global climate change.''
He said the decision to list the bear includes administrative actions aimed at limiting the impact of the decision on energy development and other climate related activities.
''This listing will not stop global climate change or prevent any sea ice from melting,'' said Kempthorne. He said he had consulted with the White House on the decision, but ''at no time was there ever a suggestion that this was not my decision.''
Kempthorne cited as support for his decision conclusions by the department's scientists that sea ice loss will likely result in two-thirds of the polar bears disappearing by mid-century.
Notwithstanding the secretary's disclaimers, this is the first time the Endangered Species Act has been used to protect a species threatened by the impacts of global warming. There has been concern within the business community that such an action could have far-reaching impact and could be used to regulate carbon dioxide.
Kempthorne proposed 15 months ago to investigate whether the polar bear should be declared threatened under the Endangered Species Act.
That triggered a year of studies into the threats facing the bear and its survival prospects at a time when scientists predict a continuing warming and loss of Arctic sea ice. The Arctic sea ice serves as a primary habitat for the bear and is critical to its survival, scientists say.
''The science is absolutely clear that polar bear needs protection under the Endangered Species Act,'' said Andrew Wetzler, director of the endangered species program at the Natural Resources Defense Council.
A decision had been expected early this year, but the Interior Department said it needed more time to work out many of the details, prompting criticism from members of Congress and environmentalists. Environmentalists filed a lawsuit aimed at forcing a decision and a federal court on April 29 set a May 15 deadline for a decision.

Hey wait...How do you protect a species from a threat that doesnt exist?

New Asthma Inhaler

from nytimes.com

May 13, 2008
Rough Transition to a New Asthma Inhaler
Millions of people with asthma and other lung diseases will have to switch inhalers by the end of the year. And for many, the transition will not be smooth.
The change — mandated by the federal government in 2005, to go into effect next Jan. 1 — is to comply with the 1987 treaty to protect the earth’s ozone layer. It bans most uses of chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs, which are used as propellants in many inhalers.
CFC-free inhalers have been available for more than a decade. But four million to five million users have yet to switch, according to the consumer advocacy group Allergy and Asthma Network Mothers of Asthmatics.
For one thing, the old inhalers cost much less — an average of $13.50, or one-third the price of a CFC-free inhaler, which uses propellants called HFAs, for hydrofluoroalkanes. (CFC inhalers are generic; HFA inhalers are brand-name.) People with asthma use an average of three or four inhalers a year, but some patients use one a month.
Moreover, the new and old inhalers differ in feel, force and taste, and how they are primed and cleaned. Advocates for people with asthma say doctors and patients have not been educated about the changes.
“What the government failed to do is to mandate anyone to tell patients and physicians this transition was happening,” said Nancy Sander, president of the asthma group. “There is no education, no monitoring of patients, no financial assistance to patients who have to pay higher prices for the new drugs.”
As a result, she and others say, there have been unnecessary fears about the newer inhalers, preventable trips to the emergency room and even some hoarding of CFC inhalers.
Callers to a hot line run by Ms. Sander’s group have complained that when they were switched to the new inhalers, the differences between the two types were never explained. Many thought that their device was broken or that their symptoms were not being relieved by the new inhalers.
The Food and Drug Administration says that since January 2007 it has received 415 complaints about HFA inhalers’ costing too much or not working properly. After a public meeting last month in which doctors and patients said most people were unaware of the transition, the agency has been stepping up educational efforts, with several public service announcements expected by the end of this month, said Deborah Henderson, an official at the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research.
Both types of inhalers use albuterol, a short-acting medication that can prevent an asthma attack when used preventively — before exercising, for example — or at the first sign of breathing trouble.
But the cost difference has meant huge gains for drug companies. As people switched to HFA inhalers in 2006 and 2007, sales of all albuterol inhalers jumped from about $500 million to $1.1 billion, according to I.M.S. Health, a health care information company. Of the 40.5 million prescriptions written for albuterol inhalers last year, it said, about half were CFC and half were HFA inhalers.
And even though there are important differences between the four brands of HFA inhalers, some insurers cover only one of the four. Advocates say the higher cost may keep patients from buying inhalers or force them to cut back on other medications or switch to a less effective over-the-counter inhaler that uses epinephrine.
Several members of Congress are asking the Bush administration to require insurers, including the Medicare and Medicaid programs, to cover the new inhalers equally. Representative Steve Kagen, a Wisconsin Democrat who is also an allergy and asthma physician, said it was important “to make sure there’s as little co-pay as possible.”
The four HFA inhalers are Ventolin by GlaxoSmithKline, ProAir by Ivax, Proventil by Schering-Plough and Xopenex by Sepracor. (Xopenex uses a different chemical, levalbuterol.) All companies have give-away programs for those in need and are providing free samples that doctors give to their patients. There is also financial assistance available through the Partnership for Prescription Assistance (1-888-477-2669).
Studies show that HFA inhalers are as effective as CFC inhalers and have the same rate of side effects. But if they are not used properly, patients will not get adequate doses. There are three critical differences.
HFA inhalers must be pumped four times to prime them — a number that was not so critical with the more forgiving CFC inhalers, said Dr. Leslie Hendeles, professor of pharmacy and pediatrics at the University of Florida. And each brand of the newer inhaler requires a different frequency of priming.
HFA inhalers have a weaker spray. “It’s very soft so people think it’s not working,” Dr. Stoloff said. Where CFC inhalers deliver a powerful force that feels as if the airway is being pushed open, the newer ones provide a warm, soft mist that also has a distinct taste.
They also require a slower inhale. “You have to take a nice slow, deep breath and hold it,” Ms. Sander said. If people worry that it’s not working, they may not take the second puff, may fail to wait the necessary 30 seconds between puffs or may take too many puffs. ,And their anxiety may rise, further constricting their airways.
HFA inhalers need to be washed with warm water and air dried once a week. The medication is stickier and will clog the hole, reducing the amount of medication the spray delivers.
There are also important differences among the brands, though some doctors simply write Albuterol HFA on the prescription, leaving the pharmacist to choose the brand. Only one, Ventalin, has a dose counter, which helps users keep track of how much medication is left. ProAir appears to be on many insurance companies’ lists of approved medications, but it has the softest spray, Dr. Stoloff said.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

India to US: Dont Blame us - go on a diet

from nytimes.com

May 14, 2008
Indians Find U.S. at Fault in Food Cost
NEW DELHI — Instead of blaming India and other developing nations for the rise in food prices, Americans should rethink their energy policy — and go on a diet.
That has been the response, basically, of a growing number of politicians, economists and academics in this country, who are angry at statements by top United States officials that India’s rising prosperity is to blame for food inflation.
The debate has sometimes devolved into what sounded like petty playground taunts over who are the real gluttons devouring the world’s resources.
For instance, Pradeep S. Mehta, secretary general of the center for international trade, economics and the environment of CUTS International, an independent research institute based here, said that if Americans slimmed down to the weight of middle-class Indians, “many hungry people in sub-Saharan Africa would find food on their plates.”
He added, archly, that the money spent in the United States on liposuction to get rid of fat from excess consumption could be funneled to feed famine victims.
Mr. Mehta’s comments may sound like the macroeconomic equivalent of “so’s your old man,” but they reflect genuine outrage — and ballooning criticism — toward the United States in particular, over recent remarks by President Bush.
After a news conference in Missouri on May 2, he was quoted as saying of India’s burgeoning middle class, “When you start getting wealth, you start demanding better nutrition and better food, and so demand is high, and that causes the price to go up.”
The comments, widely reported in the developing world, followed a statement on the subject by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that had upset many Indians.
In response to the president’s remarks, a ranking official in the commerce ministry, Jairam Ramesh, told the Press Trust of India, “George Bush has never been known for his knowledge of economics,” and the remarks proved again how “comprehensively wrong” he is.
The Asian Age, a newspaper based here, argued in an editorial last week that Mr. Bush’s “ignorance on most matters is widely known and openly acknowledged by his own countrymen,” and that he must not be allowed to “get away” with an effort to “divert global attention from the truth by passing the buck on to India.”
The developing nations, and in particular China and India, are being blamed for global problems, including the rising cost of commodities and the increase in greenhouse gas emissions, because they are consuming more goods and fuel than ever before. But Indians from the prime minister’s office on down frequently point out that per capita, India uses far lower quantities of commodities and pollutes far less than nations in the West, particularly the United States.
Explaining the food price increases, Indian politicians and academics cite consumption in the United States; the West’s diversion of arable land into the production of ethanol and other biofuels; agricultural subsidies and trade barriers from Washington and the European Union; and finally the decline in the exchange rate of the dollar.
There may be some foundation to Indians’ accusations of hypocrisy by the West. The United States uses — or throws away — 3,770 calories a person each day, according to data from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization collected in 2001-3, compared with 2,440 calories per person in India. Americans are also the largest per capita consumers in any major economy of the most energy-intensive common food source, beef, the Agriculture Department says.
And the United States and Canada lead the world in oil consumption per person, according to the Energy Information Administration, an Energy Department agency.
When it comes to trade, Western farming subsidies undercut agricultural production in fertile areas of Africa, India’s commerce minister, Kamal Nath, said in a telephone interview, repeating the point that Americans waste more food than people in many other countries.
The United States is responsible “many times more” than India for the world food crisis, said Ramesh Chand, an economist with the Indian Council of Agricultural Research, which advises the government on farm policy.
The Bush administration has called for a truce. President Bush is a “great friend and admirer” of India, the United States ambassador here, David C. Mulford, said last week. He added that “this is a time for increased cooperation among nations to solve this problem and that hostile political commentary is not productive.”
A White House spokesman, Scott Stanzel, said, “We think it is a good thing countries are developing, that more and more people have higher standards of living.”
Some economists argue that blaming India’s growth is not only unfair, but makes little sense.
Food prices have not been rising continually as developing nations grew, said Ramgopal Agarwala, a former World Bank economist and senior adviser at RIS, a research institute in New Delhi. “They were static until 2006, then in 2007 and 2008 there was a sudden spark,” he said. But India has been growing for the last decade. This is “not last year’s phenomena,” he said.
“I don’t know who advised the president” on his recent comments, Mr. Agarwala added, but his analysis is “subprime.”
Mr. Mehta of the research institute conceded that his remarks on liposuction were meant to be tongue in cheek, but that “politically incorrect” attitudes like President Bush’s and Ms. Rice’s needed to be challenged. Rather than blaming India, Mr. Mehta said, the West should be adjusting to a changing world.
“If the developing world is going to develop, demand is going to go up and there are going to be new political paradigms,” he said.
Hari Kumar contributed reporting.

This would be laughable if it wasnt so sad. The food crisis is here to stay. There will likely be famines in Sub Saharan Africa. Many people will suffer and many will die. The rise of Chindia, the credit crisis in the US leading to low interest rates leading to the dollar crisis leading to commodity inflation all in an upward spiral. Money (Wealth) is ultimately denominated in terms of Energy available for consumption. This applies to food as well to actual energy sources. Growth is directly proportional to both growth of energy availability and the growth of energy efficiency.

Clinton Sweeps West Virginia

From nytimes.com
May 13, 2008

Clinton’s Remarks in Charleston, W.Va.

The following is a transcript of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton’s speech to supporters following the West Virginia primary, as provided by CQ Transcriptions.
HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON: Thank you all so much. Thank you.
You know, like the song says, it's almost heaven. (APPLAUSE)
And I am so grateful for this overwhelming vote of confidence.
Now, there are some who have wanted to cut this race short. They say, "Give up. It's too hard. The mountain is too high." But here in West Virginia, you know a thing or two about rough roads to the top of the mountain.
We know from the Bible that faith can move mountains.
And, my friends, the faith of the Mountain State has moved me.
I am more determined than ever to carry on this campaign...
... until everyone has had a chance to make their voices heard.
I want to command Senator Obama and his supporters. This continues to be a hard-fought race from one end of our country to the other. And, yes, we've had a few dust-ups along the way, but our commitment to bring America new leadership that will renew America's promise means that we have always stood together on what is most important.
Now, tonight, tonight, I need your help to continue this journey.
We are in the homestretch. There are only three weeks left in the final contests. And your support can make the difference between winning and losing. So I hope you'll go to HillaryClinton.com...
... and support our campaign.
You've heard this before. There are many who wanted to declare a nominee before the ballots were counted or even cast. Some said our campaign was over after Iowa, but then we won New Hampshire. Then we had big victories on Super Tuesday, and in Ohio, and Texas, and Pennsylvania. And, of course, we came from behind to win in Indiana.
So this race isn't over yet. Neither of us has the total delegates it takes to win. And both Senator Obama and I believe that the delegates from Florida and Michigan should be seated.
I believe we should honor the votes cast by 2.3 million people in those states and seat all of their delegates.
Under the rules of our party, when you include all 50 states, the number of delegates needed to win is 2,209, and neither of us has reached that threshold yet. This win in West Virginia will help me move even closer.
Now, in a campaign, it can be easy to get lost in the political spin and the polls or the punditry, but we must never lose sight of what really counts, of why all of us care so much about who wins and who loses in our political system.
An enormous decision falls on the shoulders of Democratic voters in these final contests and those Democrats empowered to vote at our convention. And, tonight, in light of our overwhelming victory here in West Virginia, I want to send a message to everyone still making up their mind.
I am in this race because I believe I am the strongest candidate...
... the strongest candidate to lead our party in November of 2008, and the strongest president to lead our nation starting in January of 2009.
I can win this nomination, if you decide I should. And I can lead this party to victory in the general election, if you lead me to victory now. The choice falls to all of you, and I don't envy you.
I deeply admire Senator Obama, but I believe our case -- a case West Virginia has helped to make -- our case is stronger. Together, we have won millions and millions of votes. By the time tonight is over, probably 17 million, close to it.
We've won them in states that we must be prepared and ready to win in November: Pennsylvania and Ohio, Arkansas and New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Nevada, Michigan, Florida, and now West Virginia.
It is a fact that no Democrat has won the White House since 1916 without winning West Virginia.
The bottom line is this: The White House is won in the swing states, and I am winning the swing states.
And we have done it by standing up for the deepest principles of our party, with a vision for an America that rewards hard work again, that values the middle class, and helps to make it stronger.
With your help, I am ready to go head-to-head with John McCain to put our vision for America...
... up against the one he shares with President Bush.
Now, I believe our party is strong enough for this challenge. I am strong enough for it. You know I never give up. I'll keep coming back, and I'll stand with you as long as you stand with me.
Together, we will draw the stark distinctions that will determine the future direction of our nation, the difference between ending the war in Iraq responsibly or continuing it indefinitely, between health care for everyone and more uninsured Americans, between standing up for the middle-class families that you represent or standing up for the corporate special interests.
So I ask you, Democrats, to choose who you believe will make the strongest candidate in the fall and who is ready to execute the office of the presidency of the United States.
People ask me all the time, why am I in this race? Well, I'm in it because of the people that I have worked for my entire life and the people I meet along the campaign trail, people who need someone who fights for them, because they're fighting so hard every single day, the people who drive for miles to show their support, who come with the homemade signs, who raise money by skipping those dinners out, who have stood fast and stood strong.
I'm in this race for the millions of Americans who know that we can do better in our country...
... for the nurse on her second shift, for the worker on the line, for the waitress on her feet, for the small business owner, the farmer, the teacher, the coal miner, the trucker, the soldier, the vet, the college student...
... all of the hardworking men and women who defy the odds to build a better life for themselves and their children, you will never be counted out, and I won't, either. You will never quit, and I won't, either.
The question is, why do so many people keep voting? Why did 64 percent of Democrats say in a recent poll they wanted this race to continue? Because...
... in the face of the pundits and the naysayers, they know what is at stake. They know that we have two wars, an economy in crisis, on the brink of a recession, $9 trillion of debt, oil prices shooting through the roof, gas prices and grocery prices hurting people who desperately are looking for a way to just keep going day to day.
They know they need a champion. They need someone who's going to never stop fighting for health care that covers everyone, no exceptions; for an economy that lifts everyone up; for good jobs that won't be shipped overseas; for college affordability; for all that you can do to own a home and then to keep it.
AUDIENCE: Hillary! Hillary! Hillary! Hillary! Hillary! Hillary! Hillary! Hillary! Hillary! Hillary! Hillary! Hillary!
MRS. CLINTON: This election is fundamentally about whether or not the American dream remains alive and well, for our children and our grandchildren. This is the core of my life and my political beliefs, that we owe so much to future generations, that we do not want to see that dream recede, that we know people have to work hard, and we expect you to do just that, and to take responsibility.
But at the very least, you should have a president who's on your side again.
And I believe that this campaign has been good for the Democratic Party and good for our country. People are discussing and debating issues. They are turning out in record numbers to register and to vote. There is an excitement about politics that is the lifeblood of our democracy.
For me, this election isn't about who's in or who's out or who's up or who's down. It's about the common threads that tie us together: rich and poor, young and old, black and white, Latino and Asian, Democrats, Republicans, and independents, we are united by common values.
We all want a better world for our children, and we want the best for our country. And we are committed to putting a Democrat back in the White House.
And our nominee will be stronger for having campaigned long and hard, building enthusiasm and excitement, hearing your stories, and answering your questions. And I will work my heart out for the nominee of the Democratic Party to make sure we have a Democratic president.
So as we look at the stakes in this election, I think we can all agree it's been unprecedented. We haven't had an election like it for as long as anyone can remember.
It is still so close, and it really does depend upon those who will vote in these next contests and those who have the awesome responsibility as delegates of our great Democratic Party.
I'm asking that people think hard about where we are in this election, about how we will win in November, because this is not an abstract exercise. This is for a solemn, crucial purpose: to elect a president to turn our country around, to meet the challenges we face and seize the opportunities.
It has been a long campaign. But it is just an instant in time when compared with the lasting consequences of the choice we will make in November.
That is why I am carrying on. And if you give me a chance, Democrats, I'll come back to West Virginia in the general election, and we'll win this state, and we'll win the White House.
I am honored and grateful for the support and hospitality of the people of West Virginia. I spent a few minutes with your wonderful national treasure, Senator Byrd, this morning.
And we talked about his beloved West Virginia. I told him where I'd gone and what I'd seen. I talked about the people I had met. And he just broke into the biggest smile.
I don't know that any man has ever loved a state more than Robert C. Byrd loves West Virginia.
I am grateful for the graciousness of Governor and Mrs. Manchin. Governor Manchin is winning a great victory himself tonight, and I want to thank Joe and Gayle for welcoming me to Governor Manchin's hometown, as we went to Fairmont for a great election last night.
I want to thank Senate Majority Leader Truman Chafin, former Governor Hulett Smith, Brigadier General Jack Yeager, all of the West Virginia veterans who honored me by their support, and I honor their service.
Thanks to my friends in the labor unions who stood with us every step of the way. We wouldn't be here without you.
And a special thanks to my outstanding staff, volunteers and supporters here in West Virginia and across America.
You know, at least once, usually a half-a-dozen times a day, Bill and Chelsea and I check in with each other. And I wish every West Virginian could have heard our calls as we compared our experiences here in this state.
We've had the best time.
And I will be back. As we move on now to the next contests, in Kentucky and Oregon, in Puerto Rico, in Montana and South Dakota, tonight I'm thinking about Florence Steen from South Dakota, 88 years old and in failing health when she asked that her daughter bring an absentee ballot to her hospice bedside.
Florence was born before women had the right to vote, and she was determined to exercise that right...
... to cast a ballot for her candidate, who just happened to be a woman running for president.
Florence passed on a few days ago, but I am eternally grateful to her and her family for making this such an important and incredible milestone in her life that means so much to me.
I'm also thinking of Dalton Hatfield, an 11-year-old boy from Kentucky, who sold his bike and sold his video games to raise money to support my campaign.
This is a great and good nation because of people like Florence Steen, Dalton Hatfield, and their families. Her memory and his future are worth fighting for, as long as we remember that there is no challenge we cannot meet, no barrier we cannot break, no dream we cannot realize.
So let's finish the job we started. America is worth fighting for.
Thank you, and God bless you, and God bless America. Thank you all so very much.

I think she meant "time to COMMEND Senator Obama and his supporters." This is not about being the nominee anymore. This is about being in history books. And I say Good for you Hillary. You have been a good foil for Barack. The dual campaigns have been driving Republicans CRAZY! They dont have enough time to brand Barack Hussein Obama by transposing his name and his picture with Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden." Take your campaign all the way to the convention and buy Barack more time.

There is always next year...

Toll Bros. CEO: Customer Traffic 'Worst We've Ever Seen'
May 13, 2008: 03:40 PM EST

The housing market is improving in some areas of the country though "there is no indication that the end [of the downturn] is in sight," Toll Brothers Inc. ( TOL) Chairman and Chief Executive Robert I. Toll said Tuesday.
In a conference call after the luxury-home builder released preliminary results of its fiscal second quarter, Toll said home sellers seem to be more worried about whether they can sell their homes than about declining prices.
In its release, Toll Brothers said the average price of contracts signed in the quarter was $590,000, down from $711,000 a year earlier and $634,000 in the fiscal first quarter.
Robert Toll said current customer traffic is "the worst we've ever seen," but noted that potential buyers are well-qualified, with an average credit score of 747.
Asked for evidence of pent-up demand for homes, Toll described the company's recent efforts to sell homes in the Washington, D.C., area, which included many phone calls by salespeople and deals on prices. He said the number of customers who turned out to look at homes was five or six times the usual number and some signed contracts.
"They're there but they're scared," Toll said.
His best news was that Toll Brothers has almost eliminated its backlog of speculative homes, those built without a contracted buyer, in western Florida, and it recently raised home prices in Naples, Fla.
"That was a huge event," he said.
Offering to rate regional housing markets in the 21 states where Toll Brothers builds, the CEO gave Connecticut and the counties north of New York City a B- plus, New Jersey an average of C, the Philadelphia suburbs a C-minus and Delaware a D. F-minuses went to Illinois, Minnesota, the Poconos area of Pennsylvania, the Maryland shore, Atlanta, the Charlotte, N.C., area and the Hilton Head, S.C., area.
Toll rated Las Vegas F-minus-minus, saying the company simply can't sell homes there.
Earlier Tuesday, Toll Brothers reported a 30% drop in home-building revenue and said that with weak market conditions and challenging times ahead, it expects pretax write-downs of $225 million to $375 million.
Net signed contracts declined 44%, while cancellations fell 20% and Toll's backlog fell 50%.
The company is expected to report fiscal second-quarter results June 3.
Toll's shares traded recently at $23.19, up 18 cents, or 0.7%.
-By Kathy Shwiff, Dow Jones Newswires; 201-938-5975; Kathy.Shwiff@dowjones.com
(Saba Ali contributed to this report.)

God Yes, Religion No?

From nytimes.com
May 13, 2008

The Neural Buddhists

In 1996, Tom Wolfe wrote a brilliant essay called “Sorry, but Your Soul Just Died,” in which he captured the militant materialism of some modern scientists.
To these self-confident researchers, the idea that the spirit might exist apart from the body is just ridiculous. Instead, everything arises from atoms. Genes shape temperament. Brain chemicals shape behavior. Assemblies of neurons create consciousness. Free will is an illusion. Human beings are “hard-wired” to do this or that. Religion is an accident.
In this materialist view, people perceive God’s existence because their brains have evolved to confabulate belief systems. You put a magnetic helmet around their heads and they will begin to think they are having a spiritual epiphany. If they suffer from temporal lobe epilepsy, they will show signs of hyperreligiosity, an overexcitement of the brain tissue that leads sufferers to believe they are conversing with God.
Wolfe understood the central assertion contained in this kind of thinking: Everything is material and “the soul is dead.” He anticipated the way the genetic and neuroscience revolutions would affect public debate. They would kick off another fundamental argument over whether God exists.
Lo and behold, over the past decade, a new group of assertive atheists has done battle with defenders of faith. The two sides have argued about whether it is reasonable to conceive of a soul that survives the death of the body and about whether understanding the brain explains away or merely adds to our appreciation of the entity that created it.
The atheism debate is a textbook example of how a scientific revolution can change public culture. Just as “The Origin of Species” reshaped social thinking, just as Einstein’s theory of relativity affected art, so the revolution in neuroscience is having an effect on how people see the world.
And yet my guess is that the atheism debate is going to be a sideshow. The cognitive revolution is not going to end up undermining faith in God, it’s going end up challenging faith in the Bible.
Over the past several years, the momentum has shifted away from hard-core materialism. The brain seems less like a cold machine. It does not operate like a computer. Instead, meaning, belief and consciousness seem to emerge mysteriously from idiosyncratic networks of neural firings. Those squishy things called emotions play a gigantic role in all forms of thinking. Love is vital to brain development.
Researchers now spend a lot of time trying to understand universal moral intuitions. Genes are not merely selfish, it appears. Instead, people seem to have deep instincts for fairness, empathy and attachment.
Scientists have more respect for elevated spiritual states. Andrew Newberg of the University of Pennsylvania has shown that transcendent experiences can actually be identified and measured in the brain (people experience a decrease in activity in the parietal lobe, which orients us in space). The mind seems to have the ability to transcend itself and merge with a larger presence that feels more real.
This new wave of research will not seep into the public realm in the form of militant atheism. Instead it will lead to what you might call neural Buddhism.
If you survey the literature (and I’d recommend books by Newberg, Daniel J. Siegel, Michael S. Gazzaniga, Jonathan Haidt, Antonio Damasio and Marc D. Hauser if you want to get up to speed), you can see that certain beliefs will spread into the wider discussion.
First, the self is not a fixed entity but a dynamic process of relationships. Second, underneath the patina of different religions, people around the world have common moral intuitions. Third, people are equipped to experience the sacred, to have moments of elevated experience when they transcend boundaries and overflow with love. Fourth, God can best be conceived as the nature one experiences at those moments, the unknowable total of all there is.
In their arguments with Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins, the faithful have been defending the existence of God. That was the easy debate. The real challenge is going to come from people who feel the existence of the sacred, but who think that particular religions are just cultural artifacts built on top of universal human traits. It’s going to come from scientists whose beliefs overlap a bit with Buddhism.
In unexpected ways, science and mysticism are joining hands and reinforcing each other. That’s bound to lead to new movements that emphasize self-transcendence but put little stock in divine law or revelation. Orthodox believers are going to have to defend particular doctrines and particular biblical teachings. They’re going to have to defend the idea of a personal God, and explain why specific theologies are true guides for behavior day to day. I’m not qualified to take sides, believe me. I’m just trying to anticipate which way the debate is headed. We’re in the middle of a scientific revolution. It’s going to have big cultural effects.

This debate will only be held in coffee houses of the intellectual "elite." Try discussing this with deeply religious people from Middle America or the Middle East for that matter. Ok then, carry on...

The Millenial Generation

from nytimes.com

May 13, 2008
Op-Ed Columnist
Here Come the Millennials
An important aspect of the presidential race so far has been the generational divide, with Barack Obama doing very well with younger voters and Hillary Clinton drawing strong support from those who are older. A similar split can be expected in a general election race between Senator Obama and John McCain.

However the election ultimately turns out, the Obama campaign has tapped into a constituency that holds powerful implications for the future of American politics. The youngest of these voters, those ranging in age from roughly the late teens to the early 30s, are part of the so-called millennial generation.

This is a generation that is in danger of being left out of the American dream — the first American generation to do less well economically than their parents. And that economic uncertainty appears to have played a big role in shaping their views of government and politics.

A number of studies, including new ones by the Center for American Progress in Washington and by Demos, a progressive think tank in New York, have shown that Americans in this age group are faced with a variety of challenges that are tougher than those faced by young adults over the past few decades. Among the challenges are worsening job prospects, lower rates of health insurance coverage and higher levels of debt.

We know that the generation immediately preceding the Millennials is struggling. Men who are now in their 30s, the prime age for raising a family, earn less money than members of their fathers’ generation did at the same age. In 1974, the median income for men in their 30s (using today’s inflation-adjusted dollars) was about $40,000. The figure for men in their 30s now is $35,000.

It’s not hard to understand why surveys show that overwhelming percentages of Americans believe the country is on the wrong track. The American dream is on life support. Polls show that dwindling numbers of Americans (in some cases as few as a third of all respondents) believe their children will end up better off than they are.

The upshot of all this is ominous for conservatives. The number of young people in the millennial generation (loosely defined as those born in the 1980s and 90s) is somewhere between 80 million and 95 million. That represents a ton of potential votes — in this election and years to come. And the American Progress study shows that those young people do not feel that they have been treated kindly by conservative policies or principles.

According to the study: “Millennials mostly reject the conservative viewpoint that government is the problem, and that free markets always produce the best results for society. Indeed, Millennials’ views are more progressive than those of other age groups today, and are more progressive than previous generations when they were younger.”

The Demos study pointed to the very difficult employment environment confronting young adults. Fewer jobs offer the benefits of paid vacations, health coverage or pensions. And moving up the employment ladder is much harder.

As the study noted, “The well-paying middle-management jobs that characterized the work force up to the late-1970s have been eviscerated.” The longer-term outlook is depressing. Except for the expected continuing demand for registered nurses, the occupations projected to add the most jobs over the next several years do not offer much in the way of pay, benefits or career advancement. Demos listed the top five occupations in terms of anticipated job growth: registered nurses, retail sales, customer service reps, food preparers and office clerks. Often saddled with debt, and with their job prospects gloomy, young Americans feel their government ought to be doing more to enhance their prospects. They want increased investments in education, health care and initiatives aimed at expanding the economy and fostering the growth of good jobs.

The American Progress study found that Millennials are more likely to support universal health coverage than any other age group over the past 30 years. By huge percentages, they want improvements in health coverage and support for education, even if it means increases in taxes.
The landscape is changing before our eyes. Younger voters struggling with the enormous costs of a college education, or trying to raise families in a bleak employment environment, or using their credit cards to cover everyday expenses like food or energy costs are not much interested in hearing that the government to which they pay taxes can do little or nothing to help them.
Whether young Americans can shift the balance of the presidential election is an open question. But there is very little doubt that over the next several years they are capable of loosening the tremendous grip that conservatives have had on the levers of American power.

Have faith Bob. Infrastructure Development, Alternative Energy and Biotechnology advances will change the dynamics for the Millenials soon. I HOPE.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Trichet to Banks: Disclose by mid year. Pretty please?

from Dow Jones Newswire

ECB's Trichet: Banks Must Disclose Risks In 1st Half Results
April 12th 2008
MILAN -(Dow Jones)- Stability risks to the global financial system from de- leveraging and risk re-pricing shouldn't be underestimated, European Central Bank President Jean Claude Trichet said Monday, as he called on banks for full disclosure in their upcoming reporting.
"Financial institutions...should fully and promptly disclose their risk exposures, write downs, and fair value estimates for complex and illiquid instruments for their upcoming mid-year reporting," he said in a conference speech.
He was referring to recommendations made by the Financial Stability Forum ( FSF) at a recent G7 meeting.
"Moreover, the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB) and other relevant standard-setters should take urgent action to improve the accounting and disclosure standards for off-balance sheet entities, and to enhance guidance on fair value accounting, particularly valuing financial instruments in periods of stress," he said.
-By Jennifer Clark, Dow Jones Newswires, +39 335 833 5761, jenniferMclark@ dowjones.com

Oh Jean Claude, you manly man you. Noble

McCain on Climate Change

From nytimes.com

May 13, 2008
McCain Differs With Bush on Climate Change

PORTLAND, Ore. — Senator John McCain sought to distance himself from President Bush on Monday as he called for a mandatory limit on greenhouse gas emissions in the United States.
Mr. McCain, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, also pledged to work with the European Union to diplomatically engage China and India, two of the world’s biggest polluters, if those nations refused to participate in an international agreement to slow global warming.
In what his campaign promoted as a major speech on climate change, the Arizona senator renewed his support for a “cap-and-trade” system in which power plants and other polluters could meet limits on greenhouse gases by either reducing emissions on their own or buying credits from more efficient producers.
“Instead of idly debating the precise extent of global warming or the precise timeline of global warming, we need to deal with the central facts of rising temperatures, rising waters and all the endless troubles that global warming will bring,” Mr. McCain said at a wind power plant in Oregon, a state that is expected to be a political battleground in the general election and where the environment is a central issue for voters. “We stand warned by serious and credible scientists across the world that time is short and the dangers are great.”
Mr. McCain added pointedly: “I will not shirk the mantle of leadership that the United States bears. I will not permit eight long years to pass without serious action on serious challenges.”
The senator’s remarks were a direct criticism of Mr. Bush, who in his first term questioned the scientific basis for global warming and has remained adamantly opposed to mandatory caps on emissions as bad for the American economy.
The speech, a compilation and sharpening of many of Mr. McCain’s existing proposals, was most notable as a political address that sought to appeal to the independents the senator is wooing for the November election. It put Mr. McCain slightly to the right of center in the environmental debate.
Mr. McCain is the only Republican presidential candidate this year to call for mandatory limits on greenhouse gas emissions, but his target for reducing those emissions over time is lower than that of his Democratic competitors, Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama, and even lower than that in a bill proposed by Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, independent of Connecticut, and Senator John W. Warner, Republican of Virginia.
In his speech, Mr. McCain advocated cutting emissions 60 percent below 1990 levels by 2050; Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama propose cutting them by 80 percent over the same period, while the Lieberman-Warner bill calls for a 70 percent reduction.
In another contrast with Mr. Bush, Mr. McCain also sought to persuade voters that he has a personal concern and first-hand experience with the climate change that has emerged as a major issue in the 2008 presidential race.
“A few years ago I traveled to the area of Svalbard, Norway, a group of islands in the Arctic Ocean,” Mr. McCain said. “I was shown the southernmost point where a glacier had reached 20 years earlier. From there, we had to venture northward up the fjord to see where that same glacier ends today because all the rest has melted.”
He added: “On a trip to Alaska, I heard about a national park visitor’s center that was built to offer a picture-perfect view of a large glacier. Problem is, the glacier is gone. A work of nature that took ages to form had melted away in a matter of decades.”

Mr. McCain welcome to the real world. This issue is too important for partisanship or nationalism. Your positions are not yet aggressive enough but they are a start. Energy Efficiency is a not just good for the environment but is directly proportional to growth. Noble

Jamie Dimon on the Consumer Recession

Long slump may follow crunch: JPMorgan CEO
Mon May 12, 2008 2:37pm EDT

By Joseph A. Giannone
NEW YORK (Reuters) - JPMorgan Chase & Co (JPM.N: Quote, Profile, Research) Chairman and Chief Executive Jamie Dimon on Monday told bank investors that while the current credit market crunch may soon be over, the U.S. economy could still face a deep and extended recession.
The slump in mortgage and corporate loan markets could bottom out this year, said Dimon, whose bank largely side-stepped the losses and mark-downs that have hobbled rivals during the past year.
Yet the economy may face a longer-term challenge even as financial markets begin to function again, the "slower burn" of a recession that may rival the severity of the 1982 contraction, he said.
These challenging conditions, marked by tighter bank credit, new rounds of mark-downs, further capital infusions and asset sales by banks, could last through next year and into 2010, he said.
If that happens, Dimon warned that New York-based JPMorgan and its national consumer lending businesses would suffer some significant losses, such as home equity losses doubling to $900 million by year-end.
Dimon further warned that the bank would have to continue boosting loan-loss reserves if economic conditions deteriorate, further eating into profit.
In the current quarter, Dimon said subprime mortgage losses could rise to between $200 million and $250 million, with prime mortgages generating about $100 million in losses.
Loss rates in JPMorgan Chase's massive credit card business are expected to reach 5 percent in the second quarter and rise to as high as 6 percent next year, while at the same time interest and fee revenue decline.
The third-largest U.S. bank also expects to write down "several-hundred-million" dollars of auction rate securities, he said.
(Editing by Braden Reddall)