Wall Street Says It May Be Forced to Fundamentally Question How Capitalism Is Working.

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Wall Street Says It May Be Forced to Fundamentally Question How Capitalism Is Working.

One of the most heated debates among investors is the question of whether corporate profit margins can maintain their elevated level, or whether they will inevitably revert to mean.

Here’s a quick look at S&P 500-stock index profit margins, for example, going back more than 25 years. They remain high by historical standards.

A new note from Goldman Sachs Group Inc. analysts led by Sumana Manohar looks at the bull and bear arguments for the profit margins debate.

Manohar argued that profit margins have expanded, thanks to four key trends: strong commodities prices, emerging market cost arbitrage (companies making things more cheaply in emerging markets), demand growth from emerging markets, and improved corporate efficiency driven by the use of new technology. Continuing one of its major analytical themes of recent months, Goldman also noted that the market has rewarded companies that have undertaken mergers and share buybacks, as opposed to companies that have invested internally, further bolstering margins.

So will profit margins inevitably roll over?

Goldman went through both sides of the argument. On the bull side, the bank said that ongoing consolidation in industries, cost deflation, and tighter purse strings help keep a floor under margins. Ultimately though, it found that the above trends, coupled with weak demand and general industrial overcapacity, mean that margins are likely to come down.

But what if margins stay elevated? That too is possible, and its implications could be unsettling.

Goldman wrote: “We are always wary of guiding for mean reversion. But, if we are wrong and high margins manage to endure for the next few years (particularly when global demand growth is below trend), there are broader questions to be asked about the efficacy of capitalism.”

In other words, profit margins should naturally mean-revert and oscillate. The existence of fat margins should encourage new competitors and pricing cycles that cause those margins to erode; conversely, at the bottom of the cycle, low margins should lead to weaker players exiting the business and giving stronger companies more breathing space. If that cycle doesn’t continue, something strange is taking place.

Needless to say, it’s not every day you see a major investment bank say it might have to start asking broader questions about capitalism itself.

Source: http://bloom.bg/1nJAS0j

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Facebook bans private guns sales.

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Facebook bans private guns sales.

Facebook is banning private guns sales on the social media site in response to pressure from President Barack Obama for stricter firearms control.

The prohibition, announced on Friday, will also apply to Instagram, its photo-sharing network, and will stop the networks being used to conduct gun sales between private individuals.

The new rule comes after President Obama bypassed the United States congress by introducing a series of executive orders bringing in tougher background checks for gun ownership in response to a series of deadly mass shootings during his presidency.

The changes announced by Mr Obama in a tearful speech at the White House included requirements for checks for those purchasing weapons at gun shows or on the internet.

The White House, state attorneys general and pro-gun control groups have raised the pressure on Facebook to stop the flow of posts offering weapons for sale.

“Over the last two years, more and more people have been using Facebook to discover products and to buy and sell things to one another,” said Monika Bickert, Facebook’s head of product policy. “We are continuing to develop, test and launch new products to make this experience even better for people and are updating our regulated goods policies to reflect this evolution.”

The ban would apply only to posts relating to “peer-to-peer” sales, not to those taking place in stores or from licensed on-line dealers. “Licensed firearm retailers will still be able to post about their goods and services on Facebook while completing sales transactions off Facebook,” Ms Bickert said.

Facebook, with 1.59 billion monthly users, acted in 2014 to limit gun sales by shielding minors from firearms adverts on its site.

The network already bans sales of pharmaceuticals, marijuana and other illicit drugs.

Source: http://bit.ly/23GNB4V

BREAKING NEWS: World Health Organization Declares Zika virus a Public Health Emergency.

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BREAKING NEWS: World Health Organization Declares Zika virus a Public Health Emergency.

The spread of Zika virus across the Americas is a public health emergency of international concern and deserves urgent attention, the World Health Organization said Monday.

“I am now declaring that a recent cluster of microcephaly and other neurological abnormalities reported in Latin America following a similar cluster in French Polynesia in 2014 constitute a public health emergency of international concern,” WHO director general Dr. Margaret Chan told a news conference.

WHO said last week that Zika was spreading “explosively” across the Americas and predicted 3-4 million people could be infected within a year.

It would not have been of concern -Zika normally causes only mild symptoms at worst – but Brazil noted a marked increase in cases of a severe and devastating birth defect called microcephaly that coincided with Zika’s arrival. Some doctors also fear the virus may cause a paralyzing condition called Guillan Barre syndrome.

Image: Brazil Baby Measured
Dr. Vanessa Van Der Linden, the neuro-pediatrician who first recognized and alerted authorities over the microcephaly crisis in Brazil, measures the head of a 2-month-old baby with microcephaly in Recife, Brazil, on Jan. 27. The baby’s mother was diagnosed with having the Zika virus during her pregnancy. The ailment results in an abnormally small head in newborns and is associated with various disorders including decreased brain development. Mario Tama / Getty Images

Some health experts have accused WHO of acting too slowly and the organization’s been under pressure to move more quickly against Zika.

Chan said travel or trade restrictions are not called for at this time. The most important measures will be to protect people from the mosquitoes whose bites transmit the virus.

She made the decision after a meeting of WHO’s 18-member emergency committee.

The spread of Zika alone would not be an emergency, said Dr. David Heymann, Chair of WHO’s emergency committee. “Zika as we understand today is not a clinically significant infection,” Heymann said. “It’s only because of this association, if it is proven, that Zika could be considered as a public health emergency of international concern. That’s why it was a very difficult deliberation.”

WHO makes clear that it is not certain that Zika causes microcephaly and says a lot more work needs to be done to show it. However, that work needs to be done quickly.

“The evidence is growing and it is getting strong,” Chan said.

“If we do not do all this work now and wait until the scientific evidence comes out, people will ask why we did not take action?” Chan added.

“I don’t think people are concerned about raising false concern. I think they are concerned about getting to the bottom of what’s causing microcephaly,” Heymann said.

Related: How Worried Should You be About Zika?

There is not a whole lot WHO can do. The organization doesn’t have a lot of cash to pour into research or immediate medical care. But the largely bureaucratic declaration can encourage countries to donate money, to coordinate efforts and, of course, it raises the profile of a disease outbreak.

The idea of a public health emergency of international concern has only existed since 2007. WHO has declared the emergencies for the H1N1 swine flu pandemic in 2009; for a resurgence in polio and for the Ebola epidemic in West Africa.

WHO has declined to call the spread of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) a public health emergency of international concern.

Source: http://nbcnews.to/1Sys8FU

 

Deepak Chopra Says Bacteria Listen To Our Thoughts.

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Deepak Chopra Says Bacteria Listen To Our Thoughts.

Deepak Chopra, author, public speaker and alternative medicine advocate who shot to fame on The Oprah Winfrey Show in the 90s, was the first guest at this week’s “Fat Summit” online conference. Hosted by Mark Hyman, celebrity doctor, long time Clinton family advisor and author of upcoming book, Eat Fat, Get Thin, the Fat Summit’s tagline– “Separating Fat From Fiction”– is clever fluff.

While “leaky gut syndrome” is poorly understood and is not a diagnosis taught in medical school, Chopra blames stress and an “inflamed microbiome” for causing the condition, which he implicates in a raft of health problems. Though “leaky gut syndrome” is largely promoted by pseudoscientists and is not recognized by the mainstream medical community, scientists are learning that “the gut,” or intestinal tract, can “leak,” allowing substances through microscopic openings in its lining and into the rest of the body. And although our understanding of intestinal permeability is changing, Chopra’s misinformation-laden messaging is a far cry from evidence-based.

According to Chopra, that pesky inflamed microbiome is sentient. The genome, microbiome and epigenome, which the author collectively calls the “super gene,” are referenced throughout the interview. His book, Super Genes: The Key to Health and Well-Being, was published last year.

In the world of science, the genome is the entirety of the genetic information, contained in the nucleus of each somatic cell in any organism’s body, coding for the functions of life. The microbiome is a term used to describe the entirety of all of the microorganisms in any environment, as well as the genetic information contained therein, with those myriad little guys’ genes outnumbering the human genes in our body by 100 to 1. The epigenome is an array of structural compounds that don’t code for proteins the way genes do, but that interact with and affect gene activity.

The functions, interactions and inner workings of these “omes” are complex, with our understanding of them still at an infant stage. In other words, what we know about the microbiome, epigenome and genome is dwarfed by what we have yet to learn, and Deepak Chopra exploits this, taking brazen liberties to fill in the gaps.

Source: http://onforb.es/1ROczLJ

El Salvador battling a Zika virus epidemic asks women to wait until 2018 to get pregnant.

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El Salvador battling a Zika virus epidemic asks women to wait until 2018 to get pregnant.

When in human history has an epidemic become so alarming that a nation feels compelled to urge its people not to have children for two years?

Grappling with a mosquito-borne virus linked to brain damage in infants, El Salvador is doing just that, advising all women in the country not to get pregnant until 2018 — the equivalent of a Hail Mary pass that, to many here, only illustrates their government’s desperation.

“It’s not up to the government, it’s up to God,” said Vanessa Iraheta, 30, who is seven months pregnant with her second child. “I don’t think the youth will stop having children.”

The virus, known as Zika, has rattled Latin America and the Caribbean, particularly Brazil, where more than 1 million people have been infected and nearly 4,000 children have been born with microcephaly, a rare condition in which babies have unusually small heads.

Other nations around the region have issued warnings similar to El Salvador’s, with officials in Colombia and Ecuador urging women to put off becoming pregnant for months, or until the dangers of the virus are better understood.

But El Salvador’s advice to stop having children for two full years struck many experts as particularly sweeping, leaving them to wonder when else a nation has tried to halt its birthrate in the face of an epidemic.

“I can tell you that I have never read, heard, or encountered a public request like that,” said David Bloom, a professor of economics and demography at the Harvard School of Public Health.

If El Salvador’s advice sounds like a cry for help, critics say, that’s because it is.

“I mean, the futility of saying something like this,” said Dr. Ernesto Selva Sutter, a leading public health expert in El Salvador, shaking his head. “Are you going to stop having sex?”

This small nation is already home to an epidemic of gang violence, pushing tens of thousands of its young people to flee north every year and stretching the government’s resources. By one estimate, El Salvador earned the unenviable title of being the Western Hemisphere’s most violent country.

Now the Zika virus is crashing through its doors. With at least 5,000 cases of Zika in a nation of 6 million, more than 1,500 in the last month alone, the government has been scrambling for solutions. It has dispatched teams of fumigators and treated water supplies to combat the Aedes mosquito, which also carries diseases like dengue, yellow fever and chikungunya.

Standing water, which allows the insects to breed, is a fact of life here, as are the pools of trash cloaking many city streets in the dense neighbourhoods that carve through the hillsides of the capital.

One community leader said that a government clinic in his neighbourhood shut down three months ago after repeated threats from the gangs, the kind of conditions that experts say make it harder to treat and combat the virus.

The country’s vice minister of health, Eduardo Espinoza, said that the recommendation to stop having children is not the government’s principal approach to the epidemic, but rather a “secondary” strategy stemming from “the fact that these mosquitoes exist and transmit this disease.”

“We see ourselves obligated to make this recommendation to partners trying to get pregnant,” he said.

The World Health Organization said it would not recommend suspending pregnancies for two years.

“There are many questions that need to be answered before making that recommendation,” said Dr. Marcos Espinal, the director of communicable diseases for the Pan American Health Organization.

One of the most important, he said, is whether the country is at the peak of its epidemic. “You have to assess the risk in making such a recommendation of how it will impact the birthrate of a country,” he said.

Other experts said that Zika had brought nations like El Salvador into uncharted territory.

“I have never seen or read of any instance of a government warning its citizens not to get pregnant,” said Dr. Howard Markel, who teaches the history of medicine at the University of Michigan.

Markel cited other medical warnings related to pregnancy: Pregnant women are cautioned by doctors to stay away from anyone with rubella, for instance, because it causes devastating birth defects, including microcephaly.

Early in the AIDS epidemic, when there was no treatment and mothers frequently passed HIV to their babies, he added, “there was some sotto voce debate about whether it was morally ethical for a doctor to advise a woman not to get pregnant because of the risk to her child.”

“But no one said, ‘It’s verboten, don’t do it.'”

The government’s advice to postpone pregnancy for years is a delicate issue in this conservative, religious nation. It would require the ubiquitous use of contraception, which can be complicated in a country that is more than 50 percent Roman Catholic.

Espinoza, the vice health minister, said that the government had not held specific talks about its request for women to refrain from having children. It has, however, asked various religious leaders to press their congregations to clear standing water and clean up trash, as well as use repellent and take other precautionary measures.

“Even if the religious leaders can help us combat these mosquitoes, we still feel obliged to make this recommendation to the couples,” he said, referring to the advice to avoid getting pregnant.

Like the government, the Roman Catholic Church in El Salvador seems unprepared for a confrontation. The archbishop has yet to weigh in. Over the weekend, when many expected him to discuss the issue, he was sick and unable to say Sunday mass. The auxiliary bishop, Gregorio Rosa Chavez, indicated that there would be a meeting of bishops next week that might yield some answers.

“Certainly this is a new theme, and it has to be looked at calmly,” he said in an interview. “I think that the church is going to take this very seriously. I would just wait a little.”

Waiting does not appear to be a problem for some women. Unlike many developing nations, the birthrate in El Salvador is already low, and the fear of Zika infecting a child seemed to rank third or fourth on the list of reasons many women cited for why they did not want to get pregnant.

First, they say, is the violence. Gangs operate with impunity and the war between them, as well as with the police, has produced homicide levels not seen since the country’s civil war that ended in 1992.

Women also mentioned economic fears, with severe underemployment and more than a third of the population living under the poverty line.

“It’s not a question of this disease,” said Sara Galdamez, 21, accompanied by her 3-year-old daughter and husband. “Honestly, it’s a question of economics and, well, the state of security.”

Despite the church’s influence, contraception does not appear to be especially stigmatized in El Salvador. Data from the US government suggests that its use here is on par with the United States.

Source: http://bit.ly/1Vqh3WW

Planned Parenthood cleared in court of any wrong doing and maker of slanderous videos has been indicted.

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Planned Parenthood cleared of any wrong doing. Maker of slanderous videos indicted.

A Texas grand jury has indicted two anti-abortion activists in a case involving covert videos on fetal tissue procurement talks with Planned Parenthood and found there was no wrongdoing on the part of the health group, a district attorney said on Monday.

The grand jury decision was a result of a probe launched last year under Texas Governor Greg Abbott, a Republican, who accused Planned Parenthood of the “gruesome harvesting of baby body parts.” No evidence was provided by Texas to back the claim.

The videos released last summer led Texas and several other Republican-controlled states to try to halt funding for local Planned Parenthood operations.

“After a lengthy and thorough investigation by the Harris County District Attorney’s Office, the Texas Rangers, and the Houston Police Department, a Harris County grand jury took no action Monday against Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast,” the Harris County District Attorney’s office said in a statement.

Planned Parenthood has denied the accusation and called the probe politically motivated.

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Portrait of David Daleiden, founder of The Center for Medical Progress at the Value Voters Summit on September 25, 2015 in Washington DC. (Charles Omm...

Portrait of David Daleiden, founder of The Center for Medical Progress at the Value Voters Summit on September …

David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt have been indicted by the grand jury for tampering with a governmental record, said prosecutors for the county in which Houston is located.

The two were involved in covert videos last year in which a discussion was held with a Planned Parenthood official on the procurement of fetal tissue.

Daleiden, founder of the Center for Medical Progress that released the videos, was also charged with violating a prohibition on the purchase and sale of human organs, a misdemeanor, the Harris County District Attorney said.

The videos purported to show Planned Parenthood officials trying to negotiate prices for aborted fetal tissue. Under federal law, donated human fetal tissue may be used for research, but profiting from its sale is prohibited.

Shortly after the release, Texas, the most populous Republican-controlled U.S. state, said it would launch a probe of Planned Parenthood.

“These people broke the law to spread malicious lies about Planned Parenthood in order to advance their extreme anti-abortion political agenda,” said Eric Ferrero, vice president of Communications for Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

“As the dust settles and the truth comes out, it’s become totally clear that the only people who engaged in wrongdoing are the criminals behind this fraud, and we’re glad they’re being held accountable,” he said.

The Texas governor said: “Nothing about today’s announcement in Harris County impacts the state’s ongoing investigation.”

In October, Texas raided several Planned Parenthood facilities in the state.

Source: http://yhoo.it/1S8W4tV

Environmental Crisis: The Oceans Will Contain More Plastic Than Fish by 2050

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Environmental Crisis: The Oceans Will Contain More Plastic Than Fish by 2050

By 2050, the ocean is expected to contain more plastic than fish by weight. The steady leakage of plastic packaging into the oceans—at the rate of one garbage truck full of plastic per minute—has been aided by the lack of a unified global effort to reuse the plastic produced every year. Currently, only 14% of plastic packaging waste is recycled.

But a new initiative, introduced by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation in a report published in advance of the World Economic Forum, proposes creating a circular economy for plastics. The New Plastics Economy presents three key platforms: creating an effective after-use plastics economy by improving global recycling efforts, reducing the leakage of plastic waste into the environment, and decoupling plastic from the fossil fuels used to create it.

“This report demonstrates the importance of triggering a revolution in the plastics industrial ecosystem and is a first step to showing how to transform the way plastics move through our economy,” the World Economic Forum’s Dominic Waughray said in a press release.

While the report concedes that the New Plastics Economy is not entirely attainable yet, it promises “an attractive target state for the global value chain and governments to collaboratively innovate towards.” But in contrast to the report’s hopeful plan, the recycling business in the United States is in a period of crisis. With the collapse of global oil prices, the largest recyclers like Waste Management have reported sharp drops in recycling revenue and stagnated recycling rates across the country.

Source: http://for.tn/1Qw7QwO