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Latest News

  • Five Reported Killed In East Ukraine Following Ultra-nationalist Attack

    And to think it was just two days ago when all the USDJPY momentum ignition algos roared to life on flashing headline news of yet another diplomatic "de-escalation" of tensions in Ukraine. What was clearly ignored is that since John Kerry was involved, it was nothing but the latest sham. And the proof came moments ago when Reuters reported, citing Russian state television on Sunday, that five people were killed when Ukraine gunmen attacked a checkpoint manned by pro-Russian separatists near the eastern Ukrainian city of Slaviansk.

    Reuters was not immediately able to verify the report. Ukraine's Interior Ministry in Kiev could not immediately be reached for comment and Interior Minister Arsen Avakov had no word of the reported incident on his Facebook page, where he usually posts updates on any clashes - perhaps because this one was allegedly started by Ukraine ultra-right nationlists of the Right Sector.

    Russia's state-run Rossiya 24 news station, citing its correspondent in Slaviansk, said three of the dead were with the pro-Russian separatists who control Slaviansk, and the other two were from the group which attacked their checkpoint.

    The self-declared mayor of Slaviansk, who supports the pro-Russian separatists in the city, said there had been a clash overnight and there were casualties, a Reuters Television team in Slaviansk said.

    RT has more:

    The fatalities came after a night attack on a protester checkpoint on the outskirts of the city, a Rossiya 24 news channel correspondent reported. Four cars drove by the checkpoint and opened fire at the local residents holding it, killing three people and seriously injuring another one.

     

    A group of protesters, who had firearms unlike those holding the checkpoint, was called from their camp in the city. They opened fire at the attackers, killing two of them, the report said.

    The protesters in the confrontation reportedly captured the attackers’ two cars. Firearms, explosives and aerial photos of Slavyansk were discovered there. RIA Novosti cites a doctor at the city’s main hospital as saying that four people with gunshots were brought in overnight.

     

    “Apparently, something serious happened,” the doctor said.

     

    The protesters believe that they were attacked by paramilitary from the Right Sector.

    So if this is not merely another attempt at provocation and indeed the attackers' cars were captured and can be provided as evidence, and it can be verified that it was indeed Ukraine elements who were in breach of the now clearly null and void Geneva agreement, this may just be the escalation that Putin, who last week admitted for the first time the massing of Russian forces at the Ukraine border, will be free and clear to finally roll the tanks across the border purely with intentions to "protect" a "separatists" population which is clearly now targeted by its own government.








  • The Secret World Of Gold

    In light of the Chinese demand we discussed earlier, the ongoing manipulation of 'rigged' markets everywhere, and rising geopolitical tensions (as the de-escalation continues), we thought it worth dusting off this excellent  and wide-ranging look at the history and present of the barbarous relic, gathering many perspectives (pro and con) on gold.

    The following documentary moves from historical shipwrecks to Nazi 'death gold' and England's war chest to recent years where widespread economic uncertainty has given the yellow metal a "new luster in the world of high finance." Valued for its permanence, beauty and scarcity, people will lie, cheat, steal and kill in the name of gold; and the clip provides color on many of the market manipulations of the last few years. As MacDonald says, whether it’s a few gold coins or gold bars stored in one of the many vaults around the world, many investors are taking a shine to gold. But there’s not a lot of it. It is said that, even melted down, there would not be enough to fill an Olympic swimming pool. Some claim that much of the gold held by the Bank of Canada, the Bank of England, the Federal Reserve and Fort Knox is gone - that for every 100 ounces of gold traded, there exists only one ounce of real, physical gold. So, where is the gold - and who really owns it?








  • The 5 Faces Of Income Inequality

    Submitted by Lance Roberts of STA Wealth Management,

    Since Easter is a time of family, compassion, forgiveness and resurrection, I thought this would be a good weekend to think about the income inequality/wealth gap which will be part of the mid-term election debate. There are many questions that must be answered from not only “how” to solve the issue, but also “should” it be?

    There is no historical evidence that wealth redistribution leads to stronger economic outcomes as it discourages “hard work.” However, there is also little argument that the current state of crony capitalism and corporate greed has gotten more than just a bit out of hand.

    To start our thought process in this week’s things to ponder here is a study on the wealth inequality gap in America by Politizane:

     

    1) Thomas Piketty, Whither The Bottom 90% by Scott Winship via Forbes

    "Piketty’s book lays his cards on the table from the start. He titles it to evoke Marx and begins with an epigraph quoting the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen to the effect that all inequality should be viewed as suspect. He poses the question in which he is interested as whether capitalism is fundamentally self-correcting in a way that prevents inequality from getting out of control or whether it will produce ever-rising inequality. While he allows that his answer is “imperfect and incomplete,” his modesty goes out the door before that paragraph ends. Piketty’s thesis, in his own words:

     

    'When the rate of return on capital exceeds the rate of growth of output and income, as it did in the nineteenth century and seems quite likely to do again in the twenty-first, capitalism automatically generates arbitrary and unsustainable inequalities that radically undermine the meritocratic values on which democratic societies are based.'"

    2) The War On Poverty Is Grounded In Paternalism by Scott Beaulier via Real Clear Markets

    “The plight of the poor is about a lot more than getting a better education or finding a job. It's about repairing the damage that has been done to their lives on a multitude of margins--broken families, stress and depression, fear of crime, drug use, etc. And, the plight varies from person to person and community to community. Like the broader effort to alleviate world poverty that I mentioned earlier, our War on Poverty has layered one bad idea on top of another in the hope something will stick. Yet, the problem persists, and there are few promising signs we are even headed in the right direction.”

    3) Baseball And Income Inequality by Nick Colas via ZeroHedge

    The United States already has the highest level of income inequality of any advanced country (according to the CIA’s World Factbook), but particular cities within the country display a considerably higher level than the national average.  And among cities with Major League Baseball teams, the inequality that exists regarding ticket prices directly correlates with the level of inequality in those urban areas.”

    4) The Mismeasure Of Inequality by Kip Hagopian and Lee Ohanian via The Hoover Institution

    “Perhaps the most important question left out of almost every discussion about income inequality is, “Why should we care about it?”

     

    Many of those who worry about high income inequality argue that it is an indicator of social injustice that must be remedied through redistribution of income (or wealth). Unfortunately, those who make this claim have not provided any generally accepted criteria for determining when an economic system is unjust. Nor have they provided a convincing argument that such injustice is widespread in the U.S. (In considering this issue, it is worth noting that Greece, Spain, and Italy all have substantially lower income inequality than the U.S. The same is true for Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Bangladesh.)

     

    Measuring inequality using the Gini coefficient. There are at least five methodologies used to measure income inequality. The most commonly used is the Gini coefficient (also called the Gini index) developed by Italian statistician Corrado Gini. The Gini coefficient is a method of measuring the statistical dispersion of (among other things) income, consumption, and wealth. The figure of merit for the Gini coefficient for income inequality ranges from zero to 1.0, where zero represents total equality (all persons have identical incomes) and 1.0 represents total inequality (one person has all of the income). By this measure, the U.S. has substantially higher income inequality than almost all other industrialized nations. In 2010, the Census Bureau reported that the U.S. Gini coefficient was .469, while the average Gini coefficient for the 27 European Union nations was .31.

    5) A Guide To Statistics On Historical Trends In Inequality via Center On Budget And Policy Priorities

    “Data from a variety of sources contribute to this broad picture of strong growth and shared prosperity for the early postwar period, followed by slower growth and growing inequality since the 1970s.  Within these broad trends, however, different data tell slightly different parts of the story (and no single source of data is better for all purposes than the others). 

     

    This guide consists of four sections. The first describes the commonly used sources and statistics on income and discusses their relative strengths and limitations in understanding trends in income and inequality. The second provides an overview of the trends revealed in those key data sources. The third and fourth sections supply additional information on wealth, which complements the income data as a measure of how the most well-off Americans are doing, and poverty, which measures how the least well-off Americans are doing.”


    Whatever your position is on income inequality or the “great wealth divide,” there is little argument that it currently exists.  As I stated at the beginning, the question is whether something should be done about it.  Raising taxes on “the rich,” forced redistribution, increases in social welfare, etc. all have potentially negative economic consequences which affects everyone.

    There is clearly no easy solution. However, for the upcoming mid-term elections this debate will waged to swing votes in favor of those who want to remain in political office on both sides of the aisle.  This is ironic considering that the majority of those individuals are currently in the top wealth brackets in the U.S. Maybe we should just start there?








  • Anti-HFT Trading Platform Comes To "Rigged" FX Markets

    The surge in volume on the anti-HFT equity trading platform IEX - of Flash Boys and TV-fight-night fame - makes it very easy to see how the buy-side (which the US retail investor is one small part of) clearly prefers an un-rigged place to find willing sellers (or buyers). Relatively light regulation and high volumes make the $5.3 trillion-a-day foreign-exchange market a prime target for high-frequency traders. More than 35% of spot currency volume in October was by speed traders, up from 9% five years earlier, but just as in equity markets, there are speculators and there are natural buyers and sellers in FX markets (looking to hedge payments and receipts from real business for example). As Bloomberg reports, a currency-dealing platform known as ParFX, established in 2011, offers a transparent marketplace and subjects orders to random pauses of about 20 to 80 milliseconds, and "is the industry’s effort to heal itself."

    IEX volumes hit record highs...

     

    And now the FX markets - also dominated by High-Frequency-Trading - have an anti-HFT platform upon which to transact...

    The FX market is just as plagued by the HFT "parasite" as equity markets...

    Relatively light regulation and high volumes make the $5.3 trillion-a-day foreign-exchange market a prime target for high-frequency traders. More than 35 percent of spot currency volume in October was by speed traders, up from 9 percent five years earlier, according to Boston-based consultancy Aite Group LLC.

     

    ...

     

    There’s been a lot of dissatisfaction, particularly on the buy-side and asset-management community, about high-frequency trading,” said Richard Bentley, the vice president for financial services at Software AG, which aggregates trading platforms including ParFX. “There’s the perception that they’re parasites. What ParFX have done is essentially play to that and said, come and trade in our pool, because we’re not going to allow the HFT people to come and spoil the fun.”

    And ParFX was set up specifically to rmeove HFT's ability to front-run orders (just like IEX did in equity markets)...

    A currency-dealing platform known as ParFX, established in 2011 by firms from Deutsche Bank AG to Citigroup Inc...

     

    The system started trading in July, and now executes deals for 15 firms including Deutsche Bank, Citigroup, Barclays Plc and UBS AG, the four biggest currency dealers. It expects to have 25 percent more clients by the end of April.

     

    ParFX offers a transparent marketplace and subjects orders to random pauses of about 20 to 80 milliseconds, and “is the industry’s effort to heal itself,” according to Marcus.

    The bottom line is a search for "trust" is on the rise...

    “These banks do need to trade foreign exchange because it’s their business and they’re hedging their currency exposure across the world,” London-based Marcus said in an April 15 interview. “They would rather trade in an environment that they can trust.”








  • It's Time To Retire Gross Domestic Product As A Measure of Prosperity

    Submitted by Charles Hugh-Smith of OfTwoMinds blog,

    What if we used wellness (Gross Domestic Happiness) as a metric for prosperity rather than GDP?

    Distilling an economy's success in delivering "prosperity" to a single number has outlived its purpose. Zachary Karabell describes the birth of GDP in far less complex times in (Mis)leading Indicators: Why Our Economic Numbers Distort Reality (Foreign Affairs):

    A GDP that is growing in sync with expectations can enhance a country’s reputation and thus its strength and power. A GDP that is contracting or failing to meet expectations, on the other hand, can lead to disaster. Yet a hundred years ago, the concept of GDP did not exist; history unfolded without it. The United States, for example, managed to win its independence, fight a civil war, and conquer a continent without any measure of national income.

    GDP’s origins lie in the 1930s, when economists and policymakers in the United States and the United Kingdom struggled to understand and respond to the Great Depression.

     

    It is not terribly surprising that economists and policymakers came to favor a statistical technique that helped the United States survive a depression and win a war. But not even the economists who invented this metric imagined that GDP would become so central to every state in the world within a few short decades.

    The problem is this radical reductionism at the heart of any single measure is irrevocably flawed:

     

    Leading indicators were invented to measure the economies of the industrial nation-states of the mid-twentieth century. In their time, they did so brilliantly. The twenty-first century, however, is proving more challenging to measure. Industrial nation-states have given way to developed economies rich in services and to emerging industrial economies exporting goods made by multinational companies. The statistics of the 20th century were not designed for such a reality, and despite the assiduous efforts of statisticians, they cannot keep up.

    These shifts have created a temptation to find new formulas, better indicators, and new statistics. But the belief that a few simple numbers or basic averages can capture today’s multifaceted national and global economic systems is a myth that should be abandoned. Rather than seeking new simple numbers to replace old simple numbers, economists need to tap into the power of the information age to figure out which questions need to be answered and to embrace new ways of answering them.

    The limitations of GDP are so severe that the number is at best misleading. Karabell identifies three intrinsic flaws in any single-number scheme to measure GDP:

    1. GDP does not include vast swaths of economic output and value

    2. GDP is useless in measuring real-world trade

    3. GDP counts digging a hole and filling it but not conservation of energy or resources.

    If a steel mill produces pollution that then requires a cleanup, both the initial output (the steel) and the cost of addressing its byproduct (the cleanup) add to GDP. So, too, would the cost of health care for any workers or residents injured or sickened by the pollution. Conversely, if a company replaces its conventional light bulbs with long-lasting LED bulbs and, as a result, spends less on lighting and electricity, the efficiency gains would detract from GDP. Yet few would argue that the pollution example represents a positive development or that the lighting example constitutes a negative one.

    The simplistic assignment of "import" and "export" completely misses the reality of modern manufacture and trade, where parts come from multiple nations. As Karabell explains:

     

    If trade numbers more accurately accounted for how products are made, it is possible that the United States would not have any trade deficit at all with China. The problem, in short, is that trade figures are currently calculated based on the assumption that each product has a single country of origin and that the declared value of that product goes to that country. Thus, every time an iPhone or an iPad rolls off the factory floors of Foxconn (Apple’s main contractor in China) and travels to the port of Long Beach, California, it is counted as an import from China.

    A more reasonable standard, of course, would recognize that iPhones and iPads do not have a single country of origin. More than a dozen companies from at least five countries supply parts for them. Infineon Technologies, in Germany, makes the wireless chip; Toshiba, in Japan, manufactures the touchscreen; and Broadcom, in the United States, makes the Bluetooth chips that let the devices connect to wireless headsets or keyboards.

     

    Taking these facts into account would leave China, the supposed country of origin, with a paltry piece of the pie. Analysts estimate that as little as $10 of the value of every iPhone or iPad actually ends up in the Chinese economy, in the form of income paid directly to Foxconn or other contractors.

    I have addressed this issue for years, for example: Trade War with China: Who Benefits? (April 11, 2007)

    Trade and "Trade War" with China: Who Benefits? (October 5, 2010)

    No single number, regardless of the inputs, can possibly reflect the real economy. Karabell concludes:

    How entrepreneurs run effective businesses; how individuals buy homes, pay for college, or retire -- none of those decisions should be based on the leading indicators of the last century. Old attachments to those indicators, and to the myth that there is something called “the economy” that affects all people equally, poses a major obstacle to progress.

    Karabell also discusses what I call the propaganda value of GDP:

     

    These measurements were not invented to serve as absolute markers of national success or failure or to indicate whether some governments were visionary and others destructive. But the transformation of these numbers from statistics into markers of national success happened so quickly over the course of a few decades that no one quite noticed what was happening.

    I tend to think political authorities knew exactly what was happening: they realized that their own credibility could be boosted by a rigged GDP number. Thus we have the central government of China issuing blatantly bogus claims of 7+% annual GDP, as anything less will severely erode their claim of managerial brilliance.

    In our own propaganda-dependent state, GDP is almost always positive, much like corporate earnings always beat expectations by a penny.

    But we should be paying attention to an even deeper critique of GDP: that prosperity no longer depends of the "growth" of consumption, financialization, etc. but on the Degrowth of narcissistic consumerism and more efficient use of resources and capital.

    What if we used Bhutan's guiding national policy of Gross Domestic Happiness, as a metric for prosperity?

    A second-generation GNH concept, treating happiness as a socioeconomic development metric, was proposed in 2006 by Med Jones, the President of International Institute of Management. The metric measures socioeconomic development by tracking seven development areas including the nation's mental and emotional health.GNH value is proposed to be an index function of the total average per capita of the following measures:

    1. Economic Wellness: Indicated via direct survey and statistical measurement of economic metrics such as consumer debt, average income to consumer price index ratio and income distribution

     

    2. Environmental Wellness: Indicated via direct survey and statistical measurement of environmental metrics such as pollution, noise and traffic

    3. Physical Wellness: Indicated via statistical measurement of physical health metrics such as severe illnesses

     

    4. Mental Wellness: Indicated via direct survey and statistical measurement of mental health metrics such as usage of antidepressants and rise or decline of psychotherapy patients

     

    5. Workplace Wellness: Indicated via direct survey and statistical measurement of labor metrics such as jobless claims, job change, workplace complaints and lawsuits

    6. Social Wellness: Indicated via direct survey and statistical measurement of social metrics such as discrimination, safety, divorce rates, complaints of domestic conflicts and family lawsuits, public lawsuits, crime rates

     

    7. Political Wellness: Indicated via direct survey and statistical measurement of political metrics such as the quality of local democracy, individual freedom, and foreign conflicts.

    Here in the U.S., we give lip-service to all these values, but ask yourself: where do we spend most of our time? Serving our masters in the State/crony-cartel economy, creating GDP.

    Yes, we all still need to earn a livelihood, but imagine a society constructed around generating Gross Domestic Happiness instead of GDP. The power structure would collapse because none of these activities generate enough profits or taxes to keep the Machine operational.

    It is a sad statement that we often only awaken to real value and meaning when we've run out of time to change the way we "invest" our time.









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