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January 19, 2011

Nexus: speedy border pass ?

The Editor:

Am I the only person who complains about the southbound border wait times for NEXUS holders? I cross the border several times a week. Seldom is the wait more than a few minutes returning to B.C. when using the NEXUS lane. Typically, when I drive up to the booth after swiping my card the Canadian agent looks at me, looks at the screen and says go ahead or have a nice day and actually smiles.

Going south is a crapshoot. If you happen to be traveling south at the wrong time, you may end up waiting up to 30 minutes in the NEXUS lane. On a long weekend, don't be surprised to be waiting up to 90 minutes!

Why do NEXUS holders have to put up with such long waits going south compared to going north? NEXUS card holders have had a background check, been fingerprinted, photographed, interviewed and issued what apparently is supposed to be a secure ID card that can't be forged yet some U.S. border guards continue to ask 20 questions instead of relying on random checks with zero tolerance. Where are you going? Purpose of your trip? Why are you going there? How often do you come down? Are you meeting anyone there? Are they Canadian or U.S.? Are they friends? When are you returning? Anything to declare? (Good question, the only one that should be asked.)

Some U.S. border guards seem to grasp the trusted traveler concept and when they man the booth, things move along reasonably. Unfortunately, there is no consistency among them which leads me to the conclusion that there is a lack of proper training specifically related to the Nexus lane.

This has been an ongoing problem since the NEXUS program was introduced. I am sure that U.S. business owners would be happy to see more business in these difficult economic times.

Unless the border guards change their ways, you are going to see less business as people get fed up with the ridiculous waits and cancel their golf memberships, move their yachts to Canadian waters and return to shopping in Canada.

Name withheld by request
White Rock

January 14, 2011

Implied volatility vs historical volatility

I mean if you knew in advance that historical volatility will sit at 5 for the next month, then yes, selling SPY options at 15 volatility sounds like a great idea. The point is though one looks backward (HV) and the other estimates forward (IV). An HV of 5 is unsustainably low, it suggest 2/3 of all days will see a .3% range or less in SPY. The HV numbers we see now look back at an incredibly non-volatile holiday stretch. Options rightly price in that we won't see that kind of non-action going forward.

For an extreme example of how HV and IV can diverge, consider a small binary-ish biotech ahead of news on some product. The stock itself may have tiny volatility, while options price in that the stock will double or halve once the news comes out. The attached graph shows DNDN over the past year, 20 day HV vs. 30 day IV. In late April ahead of news, IV sat at 140, HV at 30. After the news and the 30% gap, HV shot up to 110, and IV plunged to 60. The news was out. And no one would suggest options were a major buy at 60 volatility, other than a bot that would pick them up as cheap vs. historical volatility.

-- Adam / Daily

January 13, 2011

Management Science Thinking

1. Emphasize the elements of management science thinking
a. Reasoning with models
b. How to use data
c. Assumptions
d. Objectives, alternatives and constraints
e. Omnipresence of variability
f. Measuring and modeling variability

2. Incorporate more concepts, fewer recipes and derivations

3. Foster active learning through problem solving.

-- Matt Bailey, ORMS Today (2010 August)

January 10, 2011

Law school rankings: misleading ?

Professor William Henderson of Indiana University and his allies. But he contends that law schools -- which, let's not forget, require students to take courses on disclosure and ethics -- have a special moral obligation to tell the truth about themselves. It's an obligation that persists, he says, even if students would sign on the dotted line no matter what.

Certain definitions in the surveys seem open to abuse. A person is employed after nine months, for instance, if he or she is working on Feb. 15. This is the most competitive category -- it counts for about one-seventh of the U.S. News ranking -- and in the upper echelons, it's not unusual to see claims of 99 percent and, in a handful of cases, 100 percent employment rates at nine months.

A number of law schools hire their own graduates, some in hourly temp jobs that, as it turns out, coincide with the magical date. Last year, for instance, Georgetown Law sent an e-mail to alums who were "still seeking employment." It announced three newly created jobs in admissions, paying $20 an hour. The jobs just happened to start on Feb. 1 and lasted six weeks.

Is Law School a Losing Game?
Published: January 8, 2011
Law schools' rosy statistics say most graduates are working. The problem is, many aren't working as lawyers, or making enough to pay back their student loans.

Michael Wallerstein, who has a law degree, has $250,000 in loans and only the occasional job as a legal temp.

January 3, 2011

How we live: Clean my computer room

Real scenes of real estate and dealing with clutter.


[ via StyleForum ]





January 2, 2011

Sponsored Prescription Rx Co-pays better than Generic

Patients were using a card distributed by the maker of an expensive antibiotic used to treat acne, sharply reducing their health insurance co-payments. With their out-of-pocket costs much lower, consumers had switched from generic alternatives to the more expensive drug.

With drug prices rising and many people out of work, pharmaceutical companies are increasingly helping patients with their co-payments. The use of such co-payment cards and coupons and other types of discounts has more than tripled since mid-2006, according to IMS Health, an information company that tracks the pharmaceutical industry.

"It seems the best strategy for a pharmaceutical company is to price their drug as high as they possibly can and offer that co-pay assistance broadly" to insulate consumers, said Joshua Schimmer, biotechnology analyst at Leerink Swann, an investment bank.

Jazz Pharmaceuticals has quadrupled the price of its narcolepsy drug Xyrem, to about $30,000 a year, over the last five years, according to a recent report from the securities firm Jefferies & Company. To cushion patients, the company recently increased its co-pay assistance to as much as $1,200 a month.

Drug companies cannot offer co-payment assistance for patients in federal programs like Medicare because such offers are considered an inducement to use a drug and in violation of anti-kickback laws. Some companies have responded by contributing to, or even helping to set up, charitable foundations that can provide co-payment assistance legally.

Massachusetts also bars drug company coupons, and on similar grounds. It is the only state to do so.

Last spring, the Massachusetts House of Representatives voted 156 to 0 to repeal the ban on coupons. The state Senate eventually passed a more narrowly worded repeal, but it came too late in the session for the two bills to be reconciled.

EXECUTIVES at insurers and pharmacy benefit management companies say they would like to counter the cards and coupons but are not sure exactly how to do so. One problem is that the information they receive from pharmacies does not specify whether the co-pay was made by the patient or by the drug company.

"The payer doesn't know, and the P.B.M. doesn't know," said F. Everett Neville, chief trade relations officer at Express Scripts, a pharmacy benefits manager. "We have no ability to stop it and no ability to prohibit it."

Analysts at Leerink Swann recently said a backlash against co-pay assistance might be inevitable but is not likely to happen in 2011.

Eileen Wood, a vice president at the Albany insurance company, Capital District Physicians' Health Plan, found her own solution. Her company started requiring patients to try the generic before using Solodyn. The cost per claim dropped back down.

Coupons for Patients, but Higher Bills for Insurers
Published: January 1, 2011
In their fight against generics, big pharmaceutical companies are covering part of patients' co-payment for their drugs. But insurers say the practice raises the overall cost of care.