" /> Coruscation: November 2010 Archives

« October 2010 | Main | December 2010 »

November 30, 2010


Dan Duncan advocated the "don't get mad, get even" strategy for Yves' Naked Capitalism:

While you sort it out, always include several internal internal links to other posts. As long as you have internal links to your other work, then at least the scraped content will get you deep links to your back pages.

Other technological considerations: Instead of a simple HTAccess denial--ie simply denying access from the offending IP address-- do an HTAccess "re-write". By doing this, you don't block access...rather, you send the asshole "false" content of your choice. It could be a HUGE file of jibberish like "hy^&GBHBDFNLG#$&H%" ...or even better send them "The Best of DownSouth"! ["Please Yves of Naked Cap, we won't ever scrape your site again. Please, just-make-it-stop! We're begging you!"] [Of course, you are more than welcome to send them my commentary as well.]

Or, you could send the scraper into an infinite loop with something like this in HTAccess:

RewriteCond %{REMOTE_ADDR} ^123.123.123
RewriteRule ^(.*)$ http://domain.tld/feed

Replace the IP address with that of the scraper and replace the feed URL with the feed from the scraper's site. That would actually be amusing. If you do this, please let us know what happens.

Here are some other good blacklist options from a helpful site:


Also, beyond the Cease and Desist, you need to file DMCA Reports with the Search Engines.


And finally, since they are scraping to game Google go to Google:

November 28, 2010

The F.H.A. set a minimum FICO score of 500 for borrowers

Conventional loans, which conform to Fannie and Freddie underwriting guidelines, do not require upfront mortgage insurance. But some may require monthly private mortgage insurance, if the borrower puts less than 20 percent down toward the purchase, or has less than 20 percent equity in a refinancing.

F.H.A. borrowers, meanwhile, can stop paying the monthly mortgage insurance only after five years and when their loan-to-value ratio reaches 78 percent, at which point they have 22 percent equity in their home.

F.H.A. loans are typically offered by niche direct lenders, and because of the insurance, they often carry interest rates equal to or slightly below those of conventional loans.

In October, the F.H.A. set a minimum FICO score of 500 for borrowers who want an F.H.A.-insured loan -- the first time a minimum was set. It also introduced a new minimum down payment of 10 percent for borrowers with FICO scores below 580. (Those above 580 still pay a minimum 3.5 percent.)

The issue for the F.H.A, Mr. Harriott said, is that the realm of borrowers has widened. "We see executives of little companies, teachers, people making $200,000 a year, doing an F.H.A. loan, because they've gotten into a financial situation," he said, adding that F.H.A. loans are perceived as safe by investors because of the insurance.

F.H.A. Rule Changes for Mortgage Borrowers
Published: November 24, 2010
Borrowers unable to qualify for conventional mortgages now pay a higher insurance premium on loans backed by the agency.

November 25, 2010

UV Radiation Poses Hidden Risk for Skiers - Vital Signs - NYTimes.com

Scientists studying sun safety took multiple readings of ultraviolet radiation at 32 high-altitude ski areas in western North America and interviewed thousands of skiers to find out whether they took precautions against the sun, like wearing hats, sunscreen and goggles, at appropriate times. Their conclusion was: only occasionally.

"There were lots of findings, but the big takeaway is that people do not know when UV is high and do not take precautions," said Peter A. Andersen, a professor of health communications at San Diego State University. "People took precautions not only when it was sunny but when it was warmer, and that's an erroneous calculation in people's minds. There is absolutely no correlation between temperature and UV radiation."

There can also be a lot of exposure to UV radiation on cloudy days, he said.

November 24, 2010

Schumer for the middle class ?

Officially, Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York will be both vice chairman of the Democratic caucus and chairman of the Democratic Policy Committee. In those roles, he will also share control over the party's messaging apparatus run out of the Senate Democratic Communications Center, better known as the war room.

Mr. Schumer has been outspoken in his belief that Democrats need to concentrate their energies on initiatives aimed at the middle class, a view that the rank and file applaud.

In Wake of Losses, New Powers for a Political Master
Published: November 20, 2010
Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York is still No. 3 in the Democratic pecking order, but will work to more closely meld the party's strategy and message.

November 21, 2010

Why not attend school on a student visa ?

Next June, among the thousands of graduates in U.C.L.A.'s class of 2011, around 30 will be undocumented students, including Leslie, Ilse and Andrea. During the commencement ceremony, the women will move their cap tassels from right to left. They will listen to commencement speeches with phrases like "moving forward" and "a new future." They will know that many of the words do not apply to them. "It feels like a slam," Ilse said. "It's not closure for me. It doesn't promote me."

Like Ilse, Leslie will probably move home after her final quarter, losing the protection a university offers, where it is safe to take risks -- to say, "I'm undocumented." Leslie expects to work full time cleaning houses and waitressing. She says she hopes to earn a private scholarship for grad school, which would buy time for the Dream Act to pass, after which she could be employed legally. She'd like to be a social worker or a counselor or a lawyer for a nonprofit. For now, she knows the reality: many undocumented U.C.L.A. graduates are short-order cooks, waitresses, baby-sitters, doing jobs for which they do not need a high-school diploma.

Coming Out Illegal
Published: October 21, 2010
What happens when college students without papers reveal their status in public and put themselves on the line?

November 19, 2010

Flushing 0, Secaucus 1

The Flushing station is a grimy, crowded subway stop that has been around for about 70 years and handles an average of 57,753 trips through its turnstiles every weekday in an exercise that closely resembles a subterranean running of the bulls, but performed on stairways.

Secaucus Junction, which saw about 19,360 trips each weekday this spring, is a young station, less than 10 years old, that can best be characterized as civilized. It has a soaring central atrium that floods the sand-colored terminal with natural light. Its official name is the Frank R. Lautenberg Rail Station at Secaucus Junction, named for the longtime Democratic senator who was the station's patron and whose name is emblazoned in enormous lettering inside and outside.

The station is a main transfer point for several New Jersey Transit lines, with trains from throughout the state feeding passengers into Manhattan.

Still, during the morning rush, there is plenty of room to spread out, trot for a coming train or even sit on one of the wooden benches that surround a giant, shimmering sculpture of a cattail made of steel and glass.

Even the bathrooms are clean.

Real estate interests like the plan.

Extending a Subway Line, Linking 2 Worlds
Published: November 18, 2010
A proposal to expand the No. 7 subway line would create a connection between two very different places: Flushing, Queens, and Secaucus, New Jersey.

November 16, 2010

Shadow Banking

Abstract: The rapid growth of the market-based financial system since the mid-1980s changed the nature of financial intermediation in the United States profoundly. Within the market-based financial system, "shadow banks" are particularly important institutions. Shadow banks are financial intermediaries that conduct maturity, credit, and liquidity transformation without access to central bank liquidity or public sector credit guarantees. Examples of shadow banks include finance companies, asset-backed commercial paper (ABCP) conduits, limited-purpose finance companies, structured investment vehicles, credit hedge funds, money market mutual funds, securities lenders, and government-sponsored enterprises.

Shadow banks are interconnected along a vertically integrated, long intermediation chain, which intermediates credit through a wide range of securitization and secured funding techniques such as ABCP, asset-backed securities, collateralized debt obligations, and repo. This intermediation chain binds shadow banks into a network, which is the shadow banking system. The shadow banking system rivals the traditional banking system in the intermediation of credit to households and businesses. Over the past decade, the shadow banking system provided sources of inexpensive funding for credit by converting opaque, risky, long-term assets into money-like and seemingly riskless short-term liabilities. Maturity and credit transformation in the shadow banking system thus contributed significantly to asset bubbles in residential and commercial real estate markets prior to the financial crisis.

We document that the shadow banking system became severely strained during the financial crisis because, like traditional banks, shadow banks conduct credit, maturity, and liquidity transformation, but unlike traditional financial intermediaries, they lack access to public sources of liquidity, such as the Federal Reserve's discount window, or public sources of insurance, such as federal deposit insurance. The liquidity facilities of the Federal Reserve and other government agencies' guarantee schemes were a direct response to the liquidity and capital shortfalls of shadow banks and, effectively, provided either a backstop to credit intermediation by the shadow banking system or to traditional banks for the exposure to shadow banks. Our paper documents the institutional features of shadow banks, discusses their economic roles, and analyzes their relation to the traditional banking system.

FRB NY report.

November 15, 2010

a type of mortgage fraud known as "shotgunning," in which borrowers take out multiple loans on one or more properties, unbeknownst to the lenders.

The final weeks before a mortgage closing can be nerve-racking for any borrower, but new guidelines from Fannie Mae calling for an 11th-hour inspection of finances may mean even more headaches.

These new quality-control guidelines were rolled out this summer and call for a second credit review. They are designed to ferret out borrowers who, in the weeks between applying for a mortgage or refinancing and closing on it, might have changed jobs, taken out additional consumer loans or fallen behind on monthly bills. Such activities could affect their credit rating -- and delay or torpedo a new loan.

Even having an informal credit inquiry before the purchase of a big-ticket item like a washer and dryer could affect the closing, or prompt the mortgage lender to change the loan terms.

Freddie Mac has similar new guidelines for lenders that go into effect in February.

"We've heard of many instances of a loan not closing or of having to be reunderwritten," said Karen Deis, a real estate agent and mortgage broker in Hudson, Wis., who publishes Loan Officer Magazine, a trade publication.

Fannie Mae, the largest buyer of mortgages, instituted the guidelines in part to root out a type of mortgage fraud known as "shotgunning," in which borrowers take out multiple loans on one or more properties, unbeknownst to the lenders. They often skip town with the cash and default on the loans.

The guidelines are also designed to uncover that fresh car loan or run-up on credit-card limits, all of which would appear on a credit report, or the fact that in recent weeks you lost your job or switched employers -- changes that lenders now verify through phone calls. A salary cut in those final weeks also could prompt lenders, under the guidelines, to reunderwrite a loan.

"Fannie is looking for undisclosed liabilities," said Matthew Cammarota, the senior vice president for consumer finance operations at Webster Bank in Waterbury, Conn.

It sounds clear enough, but lenders have taken different approaches to the guidelines, with varying impact for borrowers.

In August, Fannie Mae clarified that it was not suggesting the only option for banks was a second "hard pull," or formal, credit check, which can adversely affect credit scores, just before closing. It outlined other ways to comply, including the use of credit monitoring services.

But Terry Clemans, the executive director of the National Credit Reporting Association, a trade group based in Bloomingdale, Ill., noted that "by definition of what Fannie is trying to accomplish, a 'hard pull' is really the only way."

More Closing Jitters
Published: October 29, 2010

November 14, 2010

F1 2010 standing cumulative plot

Fernando Alonso, Mark Webber, Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton chase the Formula One championship..


Via Autosport / AtlasF1

November 12, 2010


People spend 'half their waking hours daydreaming'

Daydreaming 'does not make you happy'
Continue reading the main story
Related stories

The joy of daydreaming
People spend nearly half of their waking hours not thinking about what they are actually doing, according to a US study conducted via the iPhone.

More than 2,200 volunteers downloaded an app which then surveyed them about their thoughts and mood at random times of day and night.

The Science study suggested minds wander, even from demanding tasks, at least 30% of the time.

November 11, 2010

Four Loko vs Sen. Schumer

Four Loko is a fruit-flavored malt beverage that has an alcohol content of 12 percent.

In New York, Senator Charles E. Schumer called on the State Liquor Authority on Wednesday to halt sales of caffeinated alcoholic drinks, describing them as "a toxic and dangerous brew" sickening young people around the country.

In recent months, a rash of cases involving students and others who ended up hospitals after drinking Four Loko and other beverages that blend caffeine with alcohol have alarmed college and health officials nationwide. The drinks are dangerous, doctors say, because the caffeine masks the effects of the alcohol, keeping those who consume them from realizing just how intoxicated they are.

November 10, 2010

Startpage, Scroogle private

Use a search engine that does not track users' activity.

Scroogle.org lets you search with Google without being tracked or seeing ads.

Startpage runs simultaneous searches on multiple engines anonymously.

November 9, 2010

the original notion of the Washington consensus

For fast-growing economies like Brazil and Turkey, where currencies are now overvalued against the dollar by an estimated 9 percent and 16 percent, respectively, the paper concludes that they are justified in raising selective barriers.

What gives the study an extra bite is that one of its authors is John Williamson, an international economist who conceived the original notion of the Washington consensus in 1989.

Broadly defined, that long-held view was that developing nations must absorb 10 policies, like balancing their budgets, privatizing state-owned enterprises and opening their markets to foreign investors, to achieve lasting economic success.

Although there is no mention in the original 10 principles of the importance of the free flow of capital, such a view came to be associated with a promarket stance that such flows, along with fiscal discipline and open markets, were crucial for emerging markets to succeed.

"The term took on a life of its own and became associated with free market fundamentalism," said Mr. Rodrik, who added that an apogee was reached in the mid-1990s when the I.M.F. tried to include the free flow of capital as one of its articles of agreement.

After the Asian crisis in 1997 and the Russian market collapse in 1998, the notion that such flows were an unquestioned good began to be challenged. Of course, at the time, many countries were concerned mostly about capital flight and its effect, not inflows.

Despite China's success in maintaining tight control over its currency and the recent actions of Taiwan, Brazil and others, not all emerging markets are erecting barriers.

In India, where a record-breaking stock market has lured billions of dollars, officials have said that they do not intend to impose new restrictions.

Similarly, policy makers in booming Turkey say they will not impose controls, despite calls for action from some of the country's exporters.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan even went so far as to say that a strong currency was a source of pride for Turks.

"I think there has been a bit of exaggeration in this need for capital controls," said William R. Cline, the co-author of the Peterson Institute report.

Free Flow of Capital Turns Into Menace
Published: November 10, 2010
Foreign capital in emerging markets has played a crucial role in development, but some are questioning its benefits.

November 7, 2010

Pay for foreclosure defense with a second mortgage ?

Foreclosure defense is a new legal specialty whose strategies and techniques are still being worked out. Mr. Ticktin, who has some 3,000 foreclosure clients, says his plan to collect fees by taking another mortgage on his clients' properties has already been copied by other firms.

The Ticktin mortgages resemble the loans that the clients originally got from Countrywide, GMAC and other lenders. Each will be a contractual obligation with the law firm, labeled as a mortgage and structured like one, too, with the client paying a certain sum every month and using the house as collateral.

Unconventional payment structures are becoming popular in the foreclosure hotbed of Florida. Whether they yet have caught on elsewhere is unclear. Certainly, Mr. Ticktin is far from the only lawyer being forced to innovate.

"We can put in $100,000 of our time but over the length of a case be paid only $6,000 in monthly fees," said Thomas E. Ice of Ice Legal in Royal Palm Beach.

Mr. Ice, Mr. Ticktin and many other Florida foreclosure lawyers typically receive a few hundred dollars a month from each client. To supplement that, they seek legal fees from the banks they successfully challenge as well as contingency fees.

Contingency fees are standard in cases in which the client has little money but there is the possibility of a large payout. A slip and fall on a store's wet floor or a medical malpractice claim are classic contingency cases. If the plaintiff wins, insurance companies ultimately foot the bill.

In foreclosure cases, however, the client pays the contingency fee. While such an approach is sometimes used in commercial litigation, this is a first for consumer cases, said Lester Brickman, a professor at Cardozo Law School in New York.

"For a lawyer to supplement or replace the banks as a long-term mortgage creditor of homeowners leaves me a little queasy," said Mr. Brickman, an expert on contingency fees. "It's an invitation for the public to say, 'There go the lawyers again.' "

If the Ticktin lawyers -- there are 19 now and will be two more soon -- cause the original mortgage to be nullified or reduced because of the bank's misdeeds, the client must take out a new mortgage for 40 percent of the savings.

For instance, if the mortgage was $500,000 and is reduced by the bank to $200,000, the client would owe Ticktin 40 percent of $300,000, or $120,000, minus any legal fees paid by the losing bank as well as any monthly sums paid to the law firm.

Clients would be attracted to this arrangement because they might save nearly $200,000 and avoid foreclosure. They can either stay in their house or -- after another legal hurdle -- sell it.

Mr. Ticktin conceded there were potential problems with this "pay later" plan, starting with the uncertainty over whether the clients could and would pay the debt over a period of many years and what Mr. Ticktin's response would be if they did not.

"We would never enforce the mortgage and foreclose," he said. "We're not in that end of the game. We're not money lenders. We're charging a small amount of interest" -- four percent -- "just to make it legal."

Taking 2nd Mortgage to Pay the Foreclosure Lawyer
Published: November 6, 2010
Some defense lawyers call the mortgages crass. Yet they solve a vexing issue: How can clients who are broke pay?

November 6, 2010

Apple vs IBM: different strategies of innovation

Fostering consistent innovation, experts say, requires a balance of management systems and inspirational leadership. At Apple, the inspiration wellspring is the megawatt personality of its leader, Mr. Jobs, and its ability to make consumer products that delight millions of people.

At I.B.M., the inspiration engine is more subtle and conceptual. In late 2008, Mr. Palmisano and his team settled on a theme: the deployment of scientific research and technology to tackle big challenges for business and society in fields like energy, pollution, transportation and health care. And the company has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on its "Smarter Planet" advertising campaign.

"Sure, it's marketing, but it's also a big idea that explains the company's mission to the world and to its employees," says John Kao, an innovation consultant to governments and business.

A striking difference between the companies, experts say, is in their approach to research. I.B.M. has laboratories around the world, spends $6 billion a year on research and development, and generates more patents a year than any other company. Five I.B.M. scientists have won Nobel prizes; the company's researchers attend scientific conferences, publish papers and have made fundamental advances in computing, materials science and mathematics.

Apple, by contrast, focuses only on product innovation, not scientific invention. "Apple does research insofar as it advances their laser-focused product aspirations," observes Michael Hawley, a computer scientist who worked for Mr. Jobs at NeXT, a pioneering but commercially unsuccessful computer company.

At Apple, the emphasis is not on the basic science of traditional research but on the "behavioral science" of the user experience, explained a former Apple manager, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he still had ties to the company.

APPLE has technical experts who constantly scout new commercial technologies, he said; they work with suppliers, often co-inventing down to the chip level. Then prototypes and initial products are produced, with constant refinements. They are shown not to focus groups or to other outsiders, but only to Mr. Jobs and his lieutenants. For example, three iPhone prototypes were completed over the course of a year. The first two were tossed out, the third passed muster, and the product shipped in June 2007, the former manager said.

"That is the rocket science -- the product," he said.

Wait Long Enough, and They Look Alike
Published: November 6, 2010
The two companies can be viewed as the yin and the yang of high-tech innovation, with more in common than is generally understood

Fannie: check credit at closing, not just at application

New guidelines from Fannie Mae calling for an 11th-hour inspection of finances may mean even more headaches.

These new quality-control guidelines were rolled out this summer and call for a second credit review. They are designed to ferret out borrowers who, in the weeks between applying for a mortgage or refinancing and closing on it, might have changed jobs, taken out additional consumer loans or fallen behind on monthly bills. Such activities could affect their credit rating -- and delay or torpedo a new loan.

Even having an informal credit inquiry before the purchase of a big-ticket item like a washer and dryer could affect the closing, or prompt the mortgage lender to change the loan terms.

Freddie Mac has similar new guidelines for lenders that go into effect in February.

"We've heard of many instances of a loan not closing or of having to be reunderwritten," said Karen Deis, a real estate agent and mortgage broker in Hudson, Wis., who publishes Loan Officer Magazine, a trade publication.

More Closing Jitters
Published: October 29, 2010
The agency's new quality-control guidelines are designed to catch changes in a borrower's credit rating.

November 2, 2010

Paladino vs. Cuomo, battle of NY 2010

Looks like Cuomo is outspending Paladino ten to one on online ads in NY.

November 1, 2010


Blekko, a search engine that will open to the public on Monday.

Rich Skrenta, Blekko's co-founder and chief executive, says that since Google started, the Web has been overrun by unhelpful sites full of links and keywords that push them to the top of Google's search results but offer little relevant information. Blekko aims to show search results from only useful, trustworthy sites.

"The goal is to clean up Web search and get all the spam out of it," Mr. Skrenta said.

Blekko's search engine scours three billion Web pages that it considers worthwhile, but it shows only the top results on any given topic. It calls its edited lists of Web sites slashtags. The engine also tries to weed out Web pages created by so-called content farms like Demand Media that determine popular Web search topics and then hire people at low pay to write articles on those topics for sites like eHow.com.

It is also drawing on a fruitful category of Web search -- vertical search engines that offer results on specific topics. Many companies assume that Google won the contest to search the entire Web, so they have focused on topical search. Bing from Microsoft has search pages dedicated to travel and entertainment, and Yelp is a popular choice for searching local businesses.

People who search for a topic in one of seven categories that Blekko considers to be polluted with spamlike search results -- health, recipes, autos, hotels, song lyrics, personal finance and colleges -- automatically see edited results.

Users can also search for results from one site ("iPad/Amazon," for instance, will search for iPads on Amazon.com), narrow searches by type ("June/people" shows people named June) or search by topic. "Climate change/conservative" shows results from right-leaning sites, and "Obama/humor" shows humor sites that mention the president. Blekko has made hundreds of these slashtags, and users can create their own and revise others.

See also: Cuil, Inktomi, Tehoma, ...

A New Search Engine, Where Less Is More
Published: October 31, 2010
Blekko aims to show search results from only trustworthy sites, weeding out sites filled with little relevant information