How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Hedge Funds

The Obama administration has announced a plan to join forces with private equity firms and hedge funds to forge public-private partnerships to reverse the housing and credit crisis. This comes after weeks of threatening the rich with income and capital gains taxes, calls for a "redistribution of wealth" and pushing for a "cram down" on home mortgages. Something doesn't seem right.

As Paul Krugman wrote in the Times, "Here’s how the pattern works: first, administration officials, usually speaking off the record, float a plan for rescuing the banks in the press. This trial balloon is quickly shot down by informed commentators. Then, a few weeks later, the administration floats a new plan. This plan is, however, just a thinly disguised version of the previous plan, a fact quickly realized by all concerned. And the cycle starts again. Why do officials keep offering plans that nobody else finds credible?" Could it be they don't have any other ideas?

The most recent idea is for a nine-to-one leveraging with private capital to purchase recently issued highly rated securities to fund consumer lending—thus allowing private capital to make the profits with minimal risk of loss. This program, sexily named the Term Asset-Backed Securities Loan Facility, will be rolled out in two separate one trillion dollar moves, one of which may come in the next two weeks as Treasury Secretary Geithner stated in congressional testimony on Wednesday.

Here is an outline of how TALF would work. According to The Washington Post, a "hedge fund uses one million of its own money and gets a nine million loan from the Fed, payable after three years, to buy a $10 million asset-backed security, which finances consumer loans. Hoping that the market for these assets recovers, the hedge fund would hold the asset for three years. If the security rises in value to $11 million, the investor would keep the profit, essentially doubling the initial investment. The government, meanwhile, would consider the deal a success because consumer lending was spurred. If the value fell below $9 million, the hedge fund would lose its down payment but nothing more. The Treasury, using bailout funds approved by Congress, would cover the next set of losses, with the Fed ultimately on the hook for anything more." Are you following?

Meanwhile, the stock market continues to flounder as it becomes increasingly obvious that Obama intends to do just what he promised in redefining the way government works, including rapidly shrinking defense budgets, raising taxes, increasing entitlements and decreasing itemized tax deductions for charitable contributions. These moves of course ignore the likely impact on future economic growth. But the Dow Jones seems to realize something is amiss. It has dropped more than 20% since Inauguration Day, the biggest fall in at least 90 years according to Bloomberg.

And not only is Secretary Geithner facing one of the worst economic crises of all time,but he is doing so with an only partially staffed Treasury Department. The staffing problem is so dire that the department did not have anyone available to testify before Congress regarding the recent AIG bailout. Neel Kashkari, a Bush holdover who took significant heat in December for the mismanaging TARP is still in charge of TARP, but cannot disclose policy initiatives or negotiate with banks because he is on his way out and is not privy to future plans.

When it comes to finger pointing, the Essential Information and Consumer Education Foundation may have identified the true players. According to a 231-page report, the financial sector invested more than $5 billion to purchase political influence in Washington over the past decade with as many as 3,000 lobbyists winning deregulation and other policy decisions that led directly to the current situation.

​There are two kinds of failure – but only one is honorable

Malcolm Gladwell teaches "Get over yourself and get to work" for Big Think Edge.

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Why are so many objects in space shaped like discs?

It's one of the most consistent patterns in the unviverse. What causes it?

  • Spinning discs are everywhere – just look at our solar system, the rings of Saturn, and all the spiral galaxies in the universe.
  • Spinning discs are the result of two things: The force of gravity and a phenomenon in physics called the conservation of angular momentum.
  • Gravity brings matter together; the closer the matter gets, the more it accelerates – much like an ice skater who spins faster and faster the closer their arms get to their body. Then, this spinning cloud collapses due to up and down and diagonal collisions that cancel each other out until the only motion they have in common is the spin – and voila: A flat disc.

Scientists study tattooed corpses, find pigment in lymph nodes

It turns out, that tattoo ink can travel throughout your body and settle in lymph nodes.

17th August 1973: An American tattoo artist working on a client's shoulder. (Photo by F. Roy Kemp/BIPs/Getty Images)

In the slightly macabre experiment to find out where tattoo ink travels to in the body, French and German researchers recently used synchrotron X-ray fluorescence in four "inked" human cadavers — as well as one without. The results of their 2017 study? Some of the tattoo ink apparently settled in lymph nodes.

Image from the study.

As the authors explain in the study — they hail from Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility, and the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment — it would have been unethical to test this on live animals since those creatures would not be able to give permission to be tattooed.

Because of the prevalence of tattoos these days, the researchers wanted to find out if the ink could be harmful in some way.

"The increasing prevalence of tattoos provoked safety concerns with respect to particle distribution and effects inside the human body," they write.

It works like this: Since lymph nodes filter lymph, which is the fluid that carries white blood cells throughout the body in an effort to fight infections that are encountered, that is where some of the ink particles collect.

Image by authors of the study.

Titanium dioxide appears to be the thing that travels. It's a white tattoo ink pigment that's mixed with other colors all the time to control shades.

The study's authors will keep working on this in the meantime.

“In future experiments we will also look into the pigment and heavy metal burden of other, more distant internal organs and tissues in order to track any possible bio-distribution of tattoo ink ingredients throughout the body. The outcome of these investigations not only will be helpful in the assessment of the health risks associated with tattooing but also in the judgment of other exposures such as, e.g., the entrance of TiO2 nanoparticles present in cosmetics at the site of damaged skin."

Photo by Alina Grubnyak on Unsplash
Mind & Brain

Do human beings have a magnetic sense? Biologists know other animals do. They think it helps creatures including bees, turtles and birds navigate through the world.

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