Hugh Hendry Throws in the Bearish Towel | The Reformed Broker

Is this capitulation emblematic of a market top, as Hendry jests above? Is he doing his followers any favors by turning bullish now, after a 40% growth rate in the market’s sentiment toward stocks (expanded PE multiple) backed by very little in the way of earnings, sales or economic growth? Is there anything to gain by such a late-in-the-game admission?

And what if he’s actually been right all along about how at risk everything is? What if future events play out just as he’d been predicting over the last five years after he gives in? Can he turn back? Can he resurrect the old playbook in time should the crash begin shortly?

This game is really hard, even for the smartest guys who play it, guys like Hugh Hendry who can get almost all of the facts right and yet still reach a precisely incorrect conclusion. And if that can happen to him, think about how difficult the prediction game can be for the rest of us.

[Hugh Hendry Throws in the Bearish Towel | The Reformed Broker]

Indeed.

Boy, do I empathise with Hendry. It’s been a rotten time for anyone attempting to be “rational” about equities. Still, all of us who’ve been around for a while ought to have taken on board one simple lesson. Keynes put it best: “Markets can remain irrational a lot longer than you and I can remain solvent.” And even that’s assuming our (the would-be bears) take on things is in fact rational. I still think it is, but . . . .

In any case, it does feel good not to be beating my head in on this particular brick wall any more (or not much!). With a bit of luck, Hendry will have at least some time to savour the same peculiar pleasure.

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The US has 43 nuclear power plants’ worth of solar energy in the pipeline |Quartz

The boom in solar energy in the US in recent years? You haven’t seen anything yet. The pipeline of photovoltaic projects has grown 7% over the past 12 months and now stands at 2,400 solar installations that would generate 43,000 megawatts MW [equal to Australia’s total current generating capacity], according to a report released today by market research firm NPD Solarbuzz.

via The US has 43 nuclear power plants’ worth of solar energy in the pipeline – Quartz.

Nut consumption reduces risk of death | Harvard Gazette

According to the largest study of its kind, people who ate a daily handful of nuts were 20 percent less likely to die from any cause over a 30-year period than those who didn’t consume nuts, say scientists from the Harvard-affiliated Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and the Harvard School of Public Health.

Their report, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, contains further good news: The regular nut-eaters were found to be more slender than those who didn’t eat nuts, a finding that should alleviate fears that eating a lot of nuts will lead to overweight.

via Nut consumption reduces risk of death | Harvard Gazette

A Post-Antibiotics Future? | Maryn McKenna

Most of us know that bacteria can develop resistance to antibiotics: hardly surprising given their generational cycles can be as short as 20 minutes.

What’s not so well known is that this process is now leading us (seemingly inexorably) towards a crisis. Already, many bacterial infections are resistant to all but one or two types of antibiotics, some are even “pan-resistant”. In other words, untreatable with current drugs:

In 2009, three New York physicians cared for a sixty-seven-year-old man who had major surgery and then picked up a hospital infection that was “pan-resistant” — that is, responsive to no antibiotics at all. He died fourteen days later. When his doctors related his case in a medical journal months afterward, they still sounded stunned. “It is a rarity for a physician in the developed world to have a patient die of an overwhelming infection for which there are no therapeutic options,” they said, calling the man’s death “the first instance in our clinical experience in which we had no effective treatment to offer.”

Because the reliable life cycle of new antibiotics is often so short, pharmaceutical companies have mostly backed away from developing new variants. It’s too expensive and takes too long. The medical armoury is therefore emptying out and new weapons against infection are (at best) likely to be a long way off.

It doesn’t help that antibiotics have been used so indiscriminately over the years. Resistant bacteria were always inevitable (something that Sir Alexander Fleming emphasised right from the start back in the 1940s) but our carelessness has turbocharged the process. Continue reading

Stuxnet’s Secret Twin | Foreign Policy

The sober reality is that at a global scale, pretty much every single industrial or military facility that uses industrial control systems at some scale is dependent on its network of contractors, many of which are very good at narrowly defined engineering tasks, but lousy at cybersecurity. While experts in industrial control system security had discussed the insider threat for many years, insiders who unwittingly helped deploy a cyberweapon had been completely off the radar. Until Stuxnet.

And while Stuxnet was clearly the work of a nation-state — requiring vast resources and considerable intelligence — future attacks on industrial control and other so-called “cyber-physical” systems may not be. Stuxnet was particularly costly because of the attackers’ self-imposed constraints. Damage was to be disguised as reliability problems. I estimate that well over 50 percent of Stuxnet’s development cost went into efforts to hide the attack, with the bulk of that cost dedicated to the overpressure attack which represents the ultimate in disguise – at the cost of having to build a fully-functional mockup IR-1 centrifuge cascade operating with real uranium hexafluoride. Continue reading

AWS revolutionised startup economics | GigaOM

I had a ringside seat for the startup creation during the 1990s Internet boom and it was clear that in order for a web-based company to exist, the table stakes were about $2-to-$3 million. That money was spent on servers, storage systems, networking gear, database licenses and web server software. And that’s before taking into account the data center space rentals and bandwidth costs.

In short, if you didn’t have venture capitalists backing you, then getting going was a monumental task. A lot of that money went to line the pockets of Sun Microsystems, Oracle, Microsoft, IBM, EMC, Dell and Compaq/HP.

Today, all it takes to hang up a shingle is the proverbial dollar and a dream. It’s more like a credit card, Amazon account and an idea. In Silicon Valley, it is fashionable to laud and celebrate the accelerators and new funding tools such as AngelList, but to be fair, none of those would have much to do had it not been for AWS.

via New startup economics: Why Amazon (web services) and Dropbox need each other — GigaOM.

Judge Rakoff: Why Have No High Level Financial Executives Been Prosecuted?

Without multiplying examples further, my point is that the Department of Justice has never taken the position that all the top executives involved in the events leading up to the financial crisis were innocent, but rather has offered one or another excuse for not criminally prosecuting them – excuses that, on inspection, appear unconvincing. So, you might ask, what’s really going on here? I don’t claim to have any inside information about the real reasons why no such prosecutions have been brought, but I take the liberty of offering some speculations, for your consideration or amusement as the case may be.

via Judge Rakoff: Why Have No High Level Executives Been Prosecuted In Connection With The Financial Crisis? | The Big Picture.