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20 февраля 2013, 02:42

Beach's 'Seal Cam' Catches Disturbing Pregnant Seal Abuse

A San Diego beach's "Seal Cam" has captured video of a pair of women apparently harassing the area's harbor seals -- some of which are pregnant -- in the middle of the night. The web camera was set up in January to monitor the seal colony that lives in the La Jolla Cove area, according to the Associated Press. The high-def technology includes infrared capability because many of the seals are pregnant. Video shows a pair of women apparently hitting the marine mammals, according to CBS affiliate KFMB. "Sitting on them, pulling their flippers, kicking them, flashing lights in their faces -- until each and every one of them is driven off the beach," Larry Wan, founder of the Western Alliance for Nature, told the station. Fox5 San Diego reports that while the women were allowed on the beach, they were supposed to stay behind a rope intended to separate people from the animals. Dr. Jane Reldan, a proponent of the "Seal Cam," told Fox5 that said she was horrified by the video. "Knowing that they're pregnant and chasing them into water and doing gestures and sitting on them,” Reldan said, “I think it’s a horror show.” How to deal with seals in the Children's Pool area -- a location known for its harbor seals -- has been a complicated and controversial issue, San Diego SealWatch notes. The advocacy group writes that for years, a group of activists has attempted to "discourage the seals from coming back to the beach by scaring them into the ocean." Marine mammals, including seals, whales, dolphins, sea otters and other animals, are all protected under the U.S. Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), which makes it illegal to harass, feed, hunt, capture, collect or kill any marine mammal or part of a marine mammal, according to the Marine Mammal Center. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, harbor seals live in temperate coastal areas, including both the west and east coasts of the United States. The mammals "haul out" of the water to rest, regulate their temperatures, interact with each other and to give birth.

15 февраля 2013, 00:08

Securing our Nation’s Borders

Flying on the U.S. side of the U.S.-Mexico border and overlooking the Rio Grande River, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano tours the border in a U.S. Customs and Border Protection Office of Air and Marine helicopter over Clint, Texas, Feb. 5, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson) Last week, I travelled to San Diego, CA and Clint and El Paso, TX where I saw firsthand the need for more modernized immigration laws that make it harder for criminals and transnational criminal organizations to operate, while encouraging immigrants to choose to pursue a pathway to legal immigration rather than breaking the law. See a photo gallery of Secretary Napolitano's visit Over the past four years, we have dedicated historic levels of personnel, technology, and resources to the Southwest border, and undertaken an unprecedented effort to transform our Nation's immigration enforcement systems into one that focuses on public safety, border security, and the integrity of the immigration system. We have matched our success at the border with smart, effective immigration enforcement, with a focus on identifying and removing criminal aliens and other public safety threats, recent border crossers, repeat violators, and employers who break the law. We have also increased funding to our state and local law enforcement partners to make sure they have the resources they need. read more

11 февраля 2013, 07:11

Al Gore, Sociologists, Address HFT

Al Gore's latest tome The Future warns us that:  There are already several reckless practices that should be immediately stopped: the sale of deadly weapons to groups throughout the world; the use of antibiotics as a livestock growth stimulant; drilling for oil in the vulnerable Arctic Ocean; the dominance of stock market trading by supercomputers with algorithms optimized for high-speed, high-frequency trades that create volatility and risk of market disruptions..As to how the stock market volume hurts the economy, he isn't clear, but his intuition is that 'trading' doesn't add value, and gives the example of the project to trim 3 milliseconds off the internet trip from New York to Chicago, which he says could have been spent on something productive.  Just stop trading, and boom, one could transfer say 50% of the 8% of GDP we currently spend on finance to our inner cities. Yet, a lot of innovation is an off-shoot of something pretty banal, like porn and VCRs, and I would hate to have all projects need a sign off from some centralized Star Chamber because that would lead to all sorts of corruption. One could say that Al adds dubious value on his various boards and venture investments, as his main value consists of knowing the right regulators and big government contractors, crony capitalism, which is much more destructive than those dreaded limit orders that are often cancelled.  The thought that this guy is a Nobel Peace Price winner, Oscar Nominee and centimillionaire should remind everyone that Life Isn't Fair because he hasn't had an original or courageous thought in his life, as his book presents a caricature of free markets that is obviously indefensible. Only the simplest minds can think that in any great controversy such as that between those believing in more government the other in less, one side is mere folly or cupidity.It's strange that a lot of people with no real interest or knowledge have very strong opinions on how much assets should trade, even though it doesn't affect them. They hate the idea that someone's getting rich doing something they don't think adds value, though it occurs in a competitive environment. If the average daily volume for a stock was 100% of the shares outstanding, should it optimally be 200%? 50%? I don't think anyone knows, anymore than one knows whether interest rates should be 2% or 5%. The great thing about markets is that while they are often wrong, they correct themselves a lot faster than collectives do, and further, they decentralize decision making. Asset markets don't just produce prices, but they allocate investments to their highest perceived value; when wrong, the owners pay the price, so incentives are aligned. If you are a dictator the last thing you want to see is your work being second-guessed in real time, you would rather see it evaluated at completion, and never compared to anything. Further, like the Post Office or Medicare, you would like to have no shareholders so you could say you are doing a great job regardless, just point out the services provided to customers without a choice. A stock market on such entities would highlight how inefficient such programs are being run relative to those who would like to run them, and they would have motive, means, and opportunity to follow through. Unfortunately, such idle rambling is not merely a spectator sport of closet socialists, but PhD students. There's a Howard Zinn-type exegesis of trading in Destructive Destruction? An Ecological Study of High Frequency Trading by some students of Heterodox Economics and Sociology of Financial Markets:According to heterodox economics the development of thermodynamics brought an end to the dominance of classical physics in economic theory, in particular the dogma of efficient markets hypothesis, and reversal to equilibrium.Given that the theory of efficient markets wasn't really developed until the 1960's, and Hayek's The Use of Knowledge in Society was written in 1945 I'd say the relation between physics, especially thermodynamics, and this economic theory was pretty independent, though I would agree that every broad economic theory has a vague relation to some physics (optimizing individuals are kind of like the principle of least action). Anyway, these poor saps figure that it's all based on the 'fourth law of thermodynamics.' The true novelty of Georgescu-Roegen's formulation lies in his proposal for a fourth law of thermodynamics, where it is not only energy that is subject to decreasing returns, but also matter; friction robs us of available matterTrading is like friction that simply robs the economy of value.In as much as it diminishes the risk of trading through higher matching speeds, HFT allows buyers and sellers to reduce their transaction costs considerably. Like most discussions of risk and return, they suggest there's a risk-return nexus and these firms are merely accessing it, but that metaphor is as misguided as their entropy-flow thesis (not discussed here, but its a vague metaphor these authors think is the key to everything). How does HFT reduce risks, and for whom? I actually think of HFT as simply trying to efficiently parcel orders out of a big trade, and reacting quickly to movements in related securities when providing liquidity. This reduces the risk to retail traders because it gives them greater liquidity because placing a bunch of limit orders at the best bid/ask is like being an electronic market maker.  This allows regular Joe's to trade without moving prices so much, and at more efficient prices. It does not reduce risk for the high frequency trader himself, as this activity generally takes risks because you can't make profits without taking risks in this highly competitive domain. Further, taking intraday positions does not generate a positive return per se, so there's no risk-return relationship merely for taking the position.As someone against the status quo, I have to say my fellow anti-current-paradigm intellectuals are mostly moon-bat crazy like those above. Clowns to the left of me, but I find myself more broadly sympathetic with the 90% of the jokers to the right such as Cam Harvey, John Campbell, or John Cochrane.  Not that I think they are correct, just that they are much more fruitful to read than those who think there's a fourth law of thermodynamics that's essential to understanding the economy.

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04 февраля 2013, 13:03

WATCH: Sweet But Creepy Coca Cola 'Security Camera' Super Bowl Ad

As moving as Coca Cola's "Security Camera" Super Bowl ad was -- pointing out the hidden, quiet ways that life can be beautiful and people wonderful -- we couldn't help but feel a little unsettled by the reminder that we're always being watched. Twitter's response to the commercial was similarly mixed: Coke commercial about security cameras was so cool. Let's look at the world a little differently. Going to drink a coke in honor.— Samuel Yup (@samtwomiller) February 4, 2013 RT @glenngarvin: Ad full of hidden security-cam moments: Coke proudly proclaims itself Official Soft Drink Of The Security State.— Jack Shafer (@jackshafer) February 4, 2013 That Coke security camera commercial is pretty cool. Very different. Not funny or goofy. Really interesting— David Otero (@David_ODog) February 4, 2013 Was that Coke commercial just endorsing the use of privacy-shredding security cameras? And was the guy watching drinking a Coke? #perplexed— astromarko (@astromarko) February 4, 2013 Coke is doing security camera propaganda now?— John Hammontree (@JohnHammontree) February 3, 2013 Sweet or creepy? Tell us what you think below. CLICK HERE to see the rest of the 2013 Super Bowl commercials as well as all of the best, worst and most unforgettable from the past. As the San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens battled for the right to lift the Lombardi Trophy, Super Bowl advertisers competed for another prize: your attention. Each time that CBS cut away from Super Bowl XLVII to pay the bills (or because the lights went out), another group of blockbuster commercials and movie trailers were unveiled (although many had been teased). At your Super Bowl party, were people paying closer attention during the game or the commercial breaks? While memorable Super Bowl commercials like Apple's '1984' and Snickers' spot that featured Betty White will be remembered so many more are soon forgotten or, even worse, ridiculed as super fails. Will this ad make this year's best list? Is it controversial? Or, even worse, destined to be forgotten?

01 февраля 2013, 04:08

Black Ex-Coaches: NFL Rooney Rule Is Broken

NEW ORLEANS — Three black former NFL head coaches say the league needs to rethink its Rooney Rule for promoting minority hiring after 15 top vacancies – eight head coaching jobs and seven general manager positions – were all filled by white candidates since the regular season ended a month ago. "I know the concept is good and something we need to do," said Tony Dungy, who was with the Indianapolis Colts during the 2006 season when he became the first black coach to win a Super Bowl. "Obviously, it's not working the way it should." The Rooney Rule, implemented in 2003, was named for Pittsburgh Steelers chairman Dan Rooney, who steadfastly pushed the league to require every team to interview at least one minority candidate every time there is a coaching or general manager opening. Before the rule went into effect, the NFL had had only six minority head coaches in more than 80 years. Since it has been in place, 12 have been hired. But none were hired this year to replace the two black coaches who were fired – Romeo Crennel in Kansas City and Lovie Smith in Chicago – and the one fired black GM, Rod Graves in Arizona. Herm Edwards, former coach of the New York Jets and Kansas City Chiefs and now an ESPN analyst, has called for not only revising the rule but perhaps even changing its name. "When you use the Rooney Rule and not correctly, you put a little bit of a bad mark on Mr. Rooney's name, and that is not good," Edwards said Wednesday. "If it keeps going this way, we might need to take his name off the rule. It is not being used in the right manner that Mr. Rooney meant it to be." Robert Gulliver, the NFL's executive vice president of human resources, said that the hiring results were "disappointing" and that he expects to make revisions in the rule. The Fritz Pollard Alliance, a group of minority coaches and front-office, scouting and game-day NFL officials, wants the Rooney Rule expanded to apply to coordinators, assistant head coaches and club president positions. Unlike Dungy and Edwards, Jim Caldwell is still coaching, albeit as an assistant. Not only that, his team, the Baltimore Ravens, will play the San Francisco 49ers in Sunday's Super Bowl. But he wasn't even invited to interview for one of the eight vacant coaching jobs, though having a team in the playoffs can be a hindrance to such opportunities. Fired as the Colts' coach following the 2011 season, Caldwell joined the Ravens as quarterbacks coach. When head coach John Harbaugh fired offensive coordinator Cam Cameron in December, Caldwell was promoted. With his guidance, Baltimore's offense responded. Caldwell is no stranger to the Super Bowl, having led the Colts there three years ago after replacing the retired Dungy. It was only after Peyton Manning was sidelined for the 2011 season that Caldwell was fired. "It has been a great rule and it has worked in the past," he said. "Just like anything else, you have to, after a certain period of time, revisit it and take a look and see if it needs a little tweaking. I think it does in this particular case." Caldwell added: "That's one of the reasons that the Rooney Rule was put in place, because you're trying to avoid those situations, if possible. We're at that stage where guys like Lovie Smith, who didn't get an opportunity, who had won and been very successful previously ... obviously, there's some concern there, and that's why I think the rule is going to be revisited." Dungy said he believes the entire system is broken. He cited 21 head coaching jobs changing in a three-year span, which he said indicates owners are making the wrong hires regardless of race. Edwards said he wonders whether minority candidates get interviewed only to satisfy the rule, even though they have no chance of getting the job. He and Dungy noted that the last black head coach hiring – other than coaches promoted from within, like Leslie Frazier, Raheem Morris, Mike Singletary, Hue Jackson and Crennel – was Mike Tomlin by Pittsburgh, in 2007. There are currently four minority head coaches: Tomlin, Frazier in Minnesota, Marvin Lewis in Cincinnati and Ron Rivera in Carolina. Minority general managers include Baltimore's Ozzie Newsome, Detroit's Martin Mayhew, Houston's Rick Smith, the New York Giants' Jerry Reese and Oakland's Reggie McKenzie. "I am not saying you have to hire a minority candidate. No one is saying that," Edwards said. "I am saying you can't be blinded. It can't be, `Who is the guy to interview to get this out of the way?'" "The problem I have is you don't really abide by the Rooney Rule the correct way," he said.

26 января 2013, 00:02

Revealed: who can fly drones in UK airspace

Missile manufacturer, police forces and golf video company among more than 130 groups licensed to use technologyDefence firms, police forces and fire services are among more than 130 organisations that have permission to fly small drones in UK airspace, the Guardian can reveal.The Civil Aviation Authority list of companies and groups that have sought approval for the use of the unmanned aerial vehicles, UAVs, has not been published before – and it reflects the way the technology is now being used. The BBC, the National Grid and several universities are now certified to use them – as is Video Golf Marketing, which provides fly-over videos of golf courses.Including multiple or expired licences, the CAA has granted approval to fly small UAVs more than 160 times."People are going to see more and more of these small vehicles operating around the country," said John Moreland, general secretary of the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Systems Association (UAVS), a trade body with more than 100 members. "There are any number of uses for them, and the technology is getting easier to use and cheaper all the time. These vehicles can operate anywhere in the UK, within reason."However, privacy campaigners have grave concerns about the proliferation of the technology and want an urgent review of regulations. "The increasing use of drones by private companies and government bodies poses a unique set of problems," said Eric King, head of research at campaign group Privacy International."The CAA considers health and safety issues when deciding whether or not to grant licences to operate drone technology, but this is a very low bar. We need new regulation to ensure privacy and other civil liberties are also taken into account during the decision-making process."In the last two years the CAA has required anyone who wants to fly a small UAV in British airspace to apply for permission. The aircraft must weigh less than 20kg and operators have to abide by certain rules. These include not flying them higher than 122 metres (400ft), or further away from the operator than 500 metres – this is deemed the pilot's "line of sight".The CAA list shows that three police forces, Merseyside, Staffordshire and Essex, have permission to use UAVs, as do three fire services, Dorset, West Midlands and Hampshire.Some of Europe's biggest defence companies can also fly them, including BAE Systems, Qinetiq and missile manufacturer MBDA. A company that supplies UAVs and other equipment to the Ministry of Defence, Marlborough Communications, is also registered, along with crime-scene and counter-terrorism specialist GWR & Associates.Shane Knight, a spokesman for Marlborough, said: "If you can put these systems up in the sky, and they are safe, then they have many uses. If you are a police force, a fire or ambulance service, and, for instance, you are responding to a large fire, then you have a choice of sending out your people to do reconnaissance of an area, or you could use one of these small UAVs. Why put people in danger when you can use one of these systems? These UAVs are getting much better, and much smaller."The National Grid uses them to inspect power lines, while the Scottish Environment Protection Agency wants one to patrol and photograph remote areas, said Susan Stevens, a scientist in the agency's marine ecology department. "The UAV equipment is currently being trialled," she said."As an operational service it will have many uses, such as capturing aerial imagery of estuaries, wetlands and riverbanks, and to provide a snapshot of the environment before and after development work," she said.Moreland said the unmanned systems suffered from the perception that they were all "killer robots" flying in the sky, but he thought this would diminish as the public got used to seeing them."We are going to see all sorts of systems coming out over the years," he said. "The operating bubble is going to expand like mad. Some of these systems will be able to look after themselves, and others will rely on the quality of the operators."You don't have to be a qualified pilot … The person could come from a modelling background, or he may be a video game player. There are plenty of people you could imagine being able to control these systems in a delicate way."Gordon Slack, who owns Video Golf Marketing, said he had taught himself to use his UAV. "Once you know how to operate it, it is not too complicated. We've done six videos for golf courses, with a few more in the pipeline."However, Chris Cole, the founder of the Drone Wars UK website, also raised concerns about privacy and civil liberties. "While companies and regulators are putting in place the technologies, procedures and regulations that will see drones routinely fly over our heads, they appear to be washing their hands of the consequent and obvious impact on privacy and civil liberties," he said."We are already under huge amounts of surveillance when we are in public. Unless we are vigilant, drones will see surveillance – by police and security agencies or simply by private companies – spread into our private space."King added: "The British government's abject failure to recognise and address the human rights issues involved in the increasing ubiquity of surveillance drones has created a huge potential for abuse."Bigger UAVs can be flown only in restricted airspace. The military has permission to fly UAVs in certain areas, but otherwise, the testing of the larger systems takes place at the privately owned West Wales airport, which says it is "the only site in Europe that can enable the flying of unmanned aerial systems under regulated conditions … over land and sea".Organisations seeking approval to fly small UAVs in UK airspace(Owner ID number/Company name)1 HoverCam2 Meggitt Defence Systems3 EagleEye (Aerial Photography) Ltd4 Remote Services Limited5 High Spy RC Aerial Photography6 Magsurvey Limited7 Pi In The Sky8 Qinetiq9 Eye In The Sky10 AngleCam11 Helicam Ltd12 Flying Minicameras Ltd13 S & C Thermofluids Ltd14 Remote Airworks (pty) Ltd15 National Grid16 Dragonfly Aerial Photography17 BlueBear Systems Research18 William Walker19 European UAV Systems Centre Ltd20 In-House Films Ltd21 MBDA UK Ltd22 European UAV Systems Centre23 Dorset Fire & Rescue Service24 Conocophillips Limited25 Hampshire Fire & Rescue Service26 West Midlands Fire Service27 Advanced Ceramics Research28 UA Systems Ltd (Swisscopter)29 Hybrid Air Vehicles Ltd30 Flight Refuelling Limited31 BAE Systems (Operations) Ltd32 Lindstrand Technologies Ltd33 Upper Cut Productions34 Cranfield University35 Peregrine Media Ltd36 Horizon Aerial Photography37 Rory Game38 Alan Stevens39 Helipix LLP40 Re-use*41 Mike Garner42 Cyberhawk Innovations Ltd43 Staffordshire Police TPU44 Merseyside Police45 Health and Safety Laboratory46 David Hogg47 MRL Ltd48 MRL Ltd49 Re-use*50 Dominic Blundell51 Re-use*52 Re-use*53 Skylens Aerial Photography54 Bonningtons Aerial Surveys55 Small UAV Enterprises56 British Technical Films57 CARVEC Systems Ltd58 Flying-Scots'Cam59 Pulse Corporation Ltd (t/a Overshoot Photography)60 Motor Bird Ltd61 Advanced Aerial Imagery62 AM-UAS Limited63 Re-use*64 Gatewing NV65 Questuav Ltd66 Advanced UAV Technology Ltd67 Air 2 Air68 MW Power Systems Limited69 Re-use*70 Roke Manor Research Ltd71 Re-use*72 NPIA73 Pete Ulrick74 Re-use*75 SSE Power Distribution76 University of Worcester77 Re-use*78 Rovision Ltd79 Callen-Lenz Associates Ltd (Gubua Group)80 SKM Studio81 GWR Associates82 Phoenix Model Aviation83 Copycat84 HD Skycam85 Re-use*86 Gary White87 Aerial Target Systems Ltd88 Aerial Target Systems89 Re-use*90 Video Golf Marketing Ltd91 Re-use*92 Helivisuals Ltd93 Essex Police94 Marlborough Comms Ltd95 Re-use*96 Siemans Wind Power A/S97 Altimeter UK Ltd t/a Visionair98 T/A Remote Imaging99 Re-use*100 Daniel Baker101 Sky Futures102 Aerovironment Inc103 Spherical Images Ltd104 Flying Camera Systems105 Highviz Photography106 ESDM Ltd107 Flying Camera Systems Limited108 Edward Martin109 Digital Mapping and Survey Ltd110 EDF NNB GenCo Ltd111 EDF112 Re-use*113 AerialVue Ltd114 Minerva NI Limited115 Flying Fern Films Ltd116 Out Filming Ltd117 Hexcam Ltd118 McKenzie Geospatial Surveys Ltd119 Resource UAS120 Plum Pictures121 Jonathan Malory122 Mas-UK Ltd123 Bailey Balloons Ltd124 David Bush125 Southampton University126 Helipov127 Costain Ltd128 Sky-Futures129 Jonathan Blaxill130 Roke Manor Research Ltd131 Colin Bailie132 British Broadcasting Corp133 Simon Hailey134 Re-use*135 Trimvale Aviation136 PSH Skypower Ltd137 Aerosight Ltd171 Re-use*173 Colin Bailie174 Simon Field175 Re-use*176 Aerial Graphical Services177 Think Aerial Photography178 Hedge Air Limited179 Scottish Environment Protection Agency180 Skypower Limited181 Elevation Images182 Universal Sky Pictures183 MBDA UK Ltd184 Helicammedia185 Oculus Systems Ltd186 MASA Ltd187 Doozee Aerial Systems Ltd188 Selex Galileo189 Whisperdrone190 Z-Axis191 Rotarama Ltd192 Re-use*193 BBC (Natural History Unit)194 Flying Camera Company195 Flying Camera Company* Short-term approval that was granted, but now no longer appliesSource: CAADronesSurveillancePoliceMilitaryEmergency servicesBAE SystemsPrivacyNick Hopkinsguardian.co.uk © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

20 января 2013, 18:17

NRA Spreads Its Message On Cable TV

By Ronald Grover LOS ANGELES, Jan 20 (Reuters) - When President Barack Obama announced a raft of proposals in the biggest U.S. gun-control push in decades, C am Edwards, ho st of Sportsman Channel's "Cam & Company" talk show, wasted no time siding with the National Rifle Association. "Assault weapon is a made-up name for a gun I can ban," said Edwards, an avowed Second Amendment advocate, who later in the program read, word for word, the NRA's statement in response to Obama's announcement. Edwards, whose show is produced by NRA News, is one of the cable TV personalities the NRA hopes will promote the right of Americans to bear arms. That effort might become more important if public and political sentiments harden in favor of gun control in the wake of the Newtown shootings that claimed 26 lives. Another Program, Outdoor Channel's "Friends of the NRA," is hosted by former baseball player Matt Duff a nd champion shooter Jessie Harrison Duff and is an offshoot of the group that raised more than $200 million for national and local programs "that ensures the availability of quality training and educational opportunities," the group says on its site. In the show, the two hosts visit NRA banquets and fundraisers as they tour the country. The NRA produces or sponsors six cable TV shows that appear on either the Outdoor or Sportsman channels, which are each available in more than 30 million homes, including many gun owners. "They're consolidating their base," said Larry Gerbrandt, a former cable TV executive who founded Valuation Partners, which appraises media assets for acquisitions and other purposes. "It's a lot easier to get your message across with video than it was a printed pamphlet. Edwards, whose show started and continues online and on SirusXM's conservative Patriot channel, said on his TV show on Jan. 16 that he "is not a spokesman for the NRA" and that NRA News is separate from the lobbying group. The NRA did not return calls and emails. Other shows, which are mostly history or competition programs, help the NRA promote the gun owning lifestyle and are an important advertising platform for advertisers such as gun makers Smith & Wesson Holding Corp or Remington Arms Co Ltd.. It is also a potential profit center for the NRA, which produces the shows and sells most of the advertising. Programs on the Sportsman Channel can charge premium advertising rates, said Graig Hale, the channel's programming vice-president, because it is watched by men aged 25-54 years who are hard for advertisers to reach. "Sometimes the shows can be controversial," said Hale. "But they are mostly about a range of topics that affect the sportsman." One of the Sportsman Channel's highest rated shows is "Guns and Gold," a NRA-produced program in which two officials from the National Firearms Museum tour the country to value heirlooms and ancient guns. The NRA also sponsors the shooting competition show "3-Gun Nation" on the Sportsman Channel and Outdoor Channel's "American Rifleman," which reviews products and airs stories about gun owners from the NRA's "American Rifleman" magazine. Edwards' one-hour show, airing nightly at 5pm Eastern, is the only program that overtly supports the Second Amendment, which is at the center of NRA's promotional efforts. NRA members viewpoints can come through in other shows. In one episode of "Friends of the NRA," the hosts visit a wild-game chef and NRA member who tells them that, in the past, there was never an issue of losing the right to bear arms and hunt. "(Now) that's all you hear," he added. During the episode, hosts Matt and Jessie Duff attend a wild game cook-off that is followed by a message urging viewers to "support Friends of the NRA and the NRA Foundation by attending a banquet today." Not surprisingly, the shows attract a large dose of hunting and shooting ads. Nearly two dozen advertisers crammed into one recent 30-minute episode of "American Rifleman," including Crimson Trace laser sights, hunting gear discounter Cheaper Than Dirt and gun makers Smith & Wesson and Remington. Many of the same names also sponsor "Cam & Company," but the heaviest advertiser in one recent episode was the NRA itself with three ads that criticized Obama for sending his children to a school that is protected by armed guards, while failing to embrace the NRA plan to arm teachers and others in schools.

04 января 2013, 16:38

Frontrunning: January 4

Just like last year: A Postholiday Letdown for Retailers (WSJ) Obama Fights Republicans on Debt as Investors Seek Growth (BBG) Housing a Sweet Spot for U.S. Economy as Recovery Expands (BBG) House chooses Boehner as speaker again despite dissent (Reuters) Backlash pushes Republicans to seek cuts (FT) Jobs Lost Hit 5 Million With Rigged Currencies (BBG) Chavez still has "severe" respiratory problem (Reuters) Paris promises flurry of economic reforms  (FT) Investors Sour on Pro Stock Pickers (WSJ) Abe moves to ease South Korea tensions (FT) Wildfires Hit Australia Amid Worst Heatwave in Decade (BBG) Monti attacks ‘extremist’ rivals (FT)   Overnight Media Summary WSJ * Investors are jumping out of mutual funds managed by professional stock pickers and shifting money into lower-cost funds that echo the broader market. Through November, investors pulled $119.3 billion from so-called actively managed U.S. stock funds in 2012, the biggest yearly outflow since 2008, according to data from research firm Morningstar. * U.S. antitrust regulators who spent nearly two years probing Google Inc's business practices came up virtually empty-handed, preserving the company's dominant Web-search business and dealing a blow to competitors such as Microsoft Corp. * Offshore driller Transocean Ltd will pay $1.4 billion to settle all federal civil and criminal claims relating to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon accident in the Gulf of Mexico, the U.S. Department of Justice said. * Cautious U.S. consumers restrained their spending in December, making for a disappointing holiday season for retailers at what is usually their busiest time of the year. * The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has wrapped up its investigation into possible insider trading by a former top executive at Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc and has decided not to take action, the executive's lawyer said Thursday. * Wegelin & Co, Switzerland's oldest bank pleaded guilty to a criminal conspiracy charge in the United States on Thursday and admitted that it helped wealthy Americans for years avoid tens of millions of dollars in taxes by hiding their income from secret accounts abroad. * Boeing Co said Thursday that it delivered 601 commercial jets last year, likely topping rival Airbus to become the world's largest aircraft manufacturer for the first time since 2002. * U.S. auto sales finished the year strong as consumers largely ignored the debate over the fiscal cliff in Washington, D.C., and headed to dealers to replace aging vehicles. * Hormel Foods Corp agreed to pay about $700 million for Unilever's Skippy peanut-butter business, seeking to expand its lunchtime offerings in the U.S. and accelerate growth in China.   NYT * The Federal Trade Commission on Thursday handed Google Inc a major victory by declaring, after an investigation of nearly two years, that the company had not violated antitrust or anti-competition statutes in the way it arranges its Web search results. * Just a few months after announcing a campaign to reduce unemployment, Federal Reserve officials are already debating how soon to stop it, reflecting persistent internal divisions about the effort's value. * Congressional investigators in the United States are wrapping up an inquiry into the accounting practices of Apple Inc and other technology companies that allocate revenue and intellectual property offshore to lower the taxes they pay in the United States. * Automakers on Thursday reported their strongest sales year since 2007, posting solid December results in the United States and promising more growth in 2013. * Transocean Ltd, the driller whose floating Deepwater Horizon oil rig blew out in 2010, causing a massive oil spill, has agreed to settle civil and criminal claims with the U.S. federal government for $1.4 billion, the Justice Department announced Thursday. * The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has decided not to file insider trading charges against David Sokol, a onetime top lieutenant at Berkshire Hathaway, Sokol's lawyer said Thursday. * Barnes & Noble Inc's Nook unit suffered a 12.6 percent decline in sales compared with the same period a year earlier, a blow to its hopes of building up its digital division to compete with behemoths like Amazon.com. * The Congressional budget deal brokered this week kept tax breaks in place for a variety of industries in the United States, but biodiesel got something even better: a retroactive reinstatement of a dollar-a-gallon credit going back to January 2012, when it lapsed.   Canada THE GLOBE AND MAIL * Canada's native leaders have petitioned the Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the Governor-General David Lloyd Johnston to gather three weeks from now to discuss perceived failings in the treaty relationships; but an Ontario chief on a hunger strike to force such a meeting says she can't wait that long. Theresa Spence, the chief of the impoverished community of Attawapiskat, who has been fasting for 24 days to demand the face-to-face discussion, has told her supporters and other native leaders that a meeting must occur within the next 72 hours, and she will not start eating until it has begun. Reports in the business section: * Facebook Inc, has chosen Canada to be the testing ground for an enhanced mobile app that allows users to make free calls from their smartphones. The world's largest social media site's Canadian pilot project centres on two key upgrades to its messenger app, bolstering the company's foray into the mobile market at a time when more and more consumers are flocking to data-hungry smartphones. * Canadians drove 1.67 million vehicles off car dealers' lots in 2012, with favourable financing conditions propelling the industry to the second-highest sales year on record. The best year since the record-setting tally of 1.70 million vehicles in 2002 was propelled by a surge in luxury sales, a strong rebound from 2011 levels by Japan-based auto makers, and continued growth at South Korea-based Kia Canada Inc and Hyundai Auto Canada Corp. NATIONAL POST * Canadian domestic extremists are capable of orchestrating "serious acts" of political violence, according to a newly released federal intelligence report that blames such groups for nine bombings since 2004. FINANCIAL POST * Tiff Macklem, the senior deputy governor of Bank of Canada, is seen by many as the front-runner to take over from Governor Mark Carney. The central bank has begun the process of finding a new governor and the focus will no doubt be on it's No.2 policymaker. * Cyber attacks targeting Canada's oil and gas industry and other major energy firms around the globe are occurring with disquieting frequency. Last March, three confidential "amber" alerts were issued by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security warning of attacks against U.S. and Canadian natural gas pipeline companies.   China CHINA DAILY -- China's trade policies will become more open this year to help boost sluggish imports and exports, said Wei Jianguo, secretary general of the China Center for International Economic Exchanges, a top official Chinese think tank. -- Pre-owned house sales in Beijing at were at a 23-month high in December, according to statistics from the Beijing Municipal Commission of Housing and Urban-Rural Development. That was a 24 percent rise against the previous month. SHANGHAI DAILY -- More than 40 foreigners travelling in China have made use of a 72-hour visa-free stay in Shanghai, under a new policy that came into effect on Jan. 1 with the aim of attracting more overseas travellers. PEOPLE'S DAILY -- The Chinese currency, the yuan, will rise modestly this year on the back of domestic economic recovery, while trading is likely to fluctuate in a wider band, the official People's Daily reported, citing economists.   Fly On The Wall 7:00 AM Market Snapshot ANALYST RESEARCH Upgrades Cardinal Health (CAH) upgraded to Buy from Neutral at MizuhoCitigroup (C) upgraded to Conviction Buy from Buy at GoldmanCorcept Therapeutics (CORT) upgraded to Overweight from Underweight at Piper JaffrayESCO Technologies (ESE) upgraded to Outperform from Neutral at RW BairdFirst Republic Bank (FRC) upgraded to Buy from Hold at Deutsche BankIllumina (ILMN) upgraded to Overweight from Neutral at Piper JaffrayJohnson & Johnson (JNJ) upgraded to Buy from Hold at Deutsche BankMattel (MAT) upgraded to Buy from Hold at NeedhamNuVasive (NUVA) upgraded to Underperform from Sell at BMO CapitalPerkinElmer (PKI) upgraded to Overweight from Equal Weight at Morgan StanleyQuiksilver (ZQK) upgraded to Buy from Neutral at GoldmanSangamo BioSciences (SGMO) upgraded to Overweight from Underweight at Piper JaffraySunTrust (STI) upgraded to Buy from Neutral at GoldmanTarget (TGT) upgraded to Buy from Neutral at Janney CapitalTexas Roadhouse (TXRH) upgraded to Buy from Hold at Deutsche BankU.S. Bancorp (USB) upgraded to Buy from Hold at Deutsche BankUnder Armour (UA) upgraded to Outperform from Neutral at Credit SuisseUrban Outfitters (URBN) upgraded to Outperform from Neutral at Credit Suisse Downgrades Abbott (ABT) downgraded to Hold from Buy at Deutsche BankAmerisourceBergen (ABC) downgraded to Neutral from Buy at MizuhoBB&T (BBT) downgraded to Neutral from Buy at GoldmanBNY Mellon (BK) downgraded to Neutral from Buy at CitigroupCepheid (CPHD) downgraded to Neutral from Overweight at Piper JaffrayDole Food (DOLE) downgraded to Underperform from Buy at BofA/MerrillFirst Solar (FSLR) downgraded to Underperform from Market Perform at Raymond JamesJPMorgan (JPM) downgraded to Buy from Conviction Buy at GoldmanLigand Pharmaceuticals (LGND) downgraded to Hold from Buy at CantorRuth's Hospitality (RUTH) downgraded to Hold from Buy at Deutsche BankTanger Factory (SKT) downgraded to Sell from Neutral at GoldmanWaters (WAT) downgraded to Equal Weight from Overweight at Morgan StanleyWells Fargo (WFC) downgraded to Neutral from Buy at Goldmanlululemon (LULU) downgraded to Neutral from Outperform at Credit Suisse Initiations AbbVie (ABBV) initiated with a Buy at BofA/MerrillAbbVie (ABBV) initiated with an Equal Weight at BarclaysAvanir Pharmaceuticals (AVNR) initiated with an Overweight at Piper JaffrayCameron (CAM) initiated with an Outperform at MacquarieContinental Resources (CLR) initiated with a Buy at Deutsche BankCytokinetics (CYTK) initiated with an Overweight at Piper JaffrayFactSet (FDS) initiated with a Sell at GoldmanNational Oilwell (NOV) initiated with an Outperform at MacquarieOrexigen (OREX) initiated with an Overweight at Piper JaffrayProspect Capital (PSEC) initiated with an Overweight at BarclaysSanchez Energy (SN) initiated with a Buy at C.K. CooperSupport.com (SPRT) initiated with a Neutral at B. Riley CarisTranscept Pharmaceuticals (TSPT) initiated with an Overweight at Piper JaffrayWhiteHorse Finance (WHF) initiated with a Buy at Deutsche BankWhiteHorse Finance (WHF) initiated with an Overweight at Barclays HOT STOCKS Microsoft (MSFT) criticized the "weak" ruling by the FTC on Google's (GOOG) improper business practicesAMR Corp. (AAMRQ) CEO expects to make merger decision “within matter of weeks,” the Wall Street Journal reportsLiberty Media (LMCA) announced FCC application approval for du jure control of SiriusXM (SIRI)Abbott (ABT), Johnson & Johnson (JNJ), Sanofi (SNY) said to show interest in Bausch & Lomb bid, Bloomberg reportsCliffs Natural (CLF), Anglo American (AAUKY) to sell stakes in Brazilian joint venture EARNINGS Companies that beat consensus earnings expectations last night and today include:Progress Software (PRGS), Franklin Covey (FC) Companies that matched consensus earnings expectations include:Sonic (SONC) NEWSPAPERS/WEBSITES Investors are leaving mutual funds managed by professional stock pickers and moving large amounts of money into lower-cost funds that echo the broader market, the Wall Street Journal reportsLast month cautious U.S. consumers restrained their spending, resulting in a disappointing holiday season for retailers at what is usually their busiest time of the year. Indications are that profit margins will suffer, as much of the holiday shopping was late and at discounted prices, the Wall Street Journal reportsGlobal shares, oil and copper moved lower today, and the dollar gained after Fed officials raised concerns about possible side effects of its stimulus program, Reuters reportsFiat (FIATY) plans to exercise an option to buy an additional 3.3% in Chrysler Group LLC for $198M, the latest step in its move to buy out the U.S. automaker's minority shareholder, a retiree healthcare trust fund called VEBA, affiliated with the UAW. Fiat now owns 58.5% percent of Chrysler, while the trust owns the rest, Reuters reports Google (GOOG) Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt may travel to North Korea over opposition from the U.S. State Department, becoming the highest-profile businessman to visit there since Kim Jong Un succeeded his father as leader just over a year ago, Bloomberg reportsBMW sales jumped 39% in the U.S. last month to beat Daimler’s (DDAIF) Mercedes-Benz in luxury-auto deliveries for the year as U.S. light-vehicle sales reached the highest level since 2007. Toyota’s (TM) Lexus was third, Bloomberg reports SYNDICATE Adecogro (AGRO) files to sell 2M common shares for holdersInsulet (PODD) announces sale of $85M of common stockSynageva Biopharma (GEVA) 2.15M share Secondary priced at $47.53

03 января 2013, 23:30

Rare Diseases Getting Attention From Drugmakers -- But At High Costs

By Ben Hirschler LONDON, Jan 3 (Reuters) - The Western world's first drug to fix faulty genes promises to transform the lives of patients with an ultra-rare disease that clogs their blood with fat. The only snag is the price. The gene therapy for lipoprotein lipase deficiency (LPLD), a hereditary disorder that raises the risk of potentially lethal inflammation of the pancreas, is likely to cost more than $1 million per patient when it goes on sale in Europe this summer. Rare or so-called orphan diseases are winning unprecedented attention from drug developers. More than a quarter of the 39 new medicines approved in the United States last year were designated for such conditions. These are therefore exciting times for campaigners such as Briton Jill Prawer, who leads an LPLD support group, and others championing the needs of people with equally obscure illnesses. Naturally, she is delighted by the arrival of the LPLD drug Glybera. "It's brilliant," said Prawer, a 50-year-old mother of three who has suffered all her life from LPLD. Until now, governments and insurance companies have largely accepted prices that can run into hundreds of thousands of dollars for products that treat orphan diseases. As only a handful of patients need the treatment, the overall cost to health budgets is relatively small. However, healthcare providers are increasingly having to balance the acute needs of the few against the wider interests of society, within constrained budgets. Scrutiny of the sky-high prices charged for this wave of new drugs is growing. "More companies are getting into this sector because they've seen the eye-wateringly high prices that can be charged for some of these very rare disease medicines," said Karl Claxton, professor of health economics at the University of York. "It's unsustainable. Healthcare systems around the world are under increasing financial pressure and all of them are starting to look very carefully at what they get for their money." PAYERS PUSH BACK As more treatments become available and scientists learn more about what causes the 6,000-7,000 diseases that affect less than 1 percent of the population, there are signs the payers may be pushing back - especially in austerity-hit Europe. As from this week, a new drug called Kalydeco is being made available on the state health service to about 270 patients in England with a rare form of the lung disease cystic fibrosis. It was cleared, however, only after Vertex Pharmaceuticals cut the official list price of 182,625 pounds ($297,000) a year. The size of the discount is confidential. In the Netherlands a row erupted last year over whether the healthcare insurance board, CVZ, should continue funding expensive enzyme replacement therapies for people living with Fabry and Pompe diseases. In the end CVZ agreed to keep paying but the case highlighted the difficulties of assessing the value of medicines for rare conditions, given the limited evidence that can be collected from clinical trials involving very few patients. In the case of gene therapy, extreme pricing may be unavoidable, since a single dose could last a lifetime, giving any drug manufacturer just one shot at recouping its investment. Glybera, developed by private Dutch firm uniQure, is the first gene therapy to win approval in the West, although China cleared one for head and neck cancer in 2003. Several companies are working on other gene therapies, including Sanofi's Genzyme unit, GlaxoSmithKline , Shire and small biotechs like Bluebird Bio. On both sides of the Atlantic, drugs for orphan diseases have changed ideas about what makes a profitable pharmaceutical. Traditionally, drugmakers have relied on mass-market pills to fight problems such as high cholesterol. But expiries of patents, allowing competitors to make cheap copies, have undermined their profits in this area. By contrast, rare diseases offer premium prices and far lower competition. The U.S. biotech company Alexion Pharmaceuticals shows how well the orphan drug model can work. Despite treating only a few thousand patients worldwide, sales of its rare blood disease drug Soliris are forecast by analysts to reach $1.5 billion this year and $2.6 billion by 2017 - thanks to a U.S. list price of $440,000 per patient a year. Soliris is not alone. The past decade has been the most productive in the history of orphan drug development, helped by the U.S. Orphan Drug Act in 1983 and similar later laws in Europe, Japan, Australia and Singapore that provide additional market exclusivity for medicines targeting small populations. While this policy has stimulated innovation, some investors are also nervous about future pricing. "The issue of the sustainability of orphan drug pricing is really front and centre for investors at the moment," said David Pinniger, investment manager of the International Biotechnology Trust, whose holdings include shares in orphan drug companies such as Alexion and Biomarin Pharmaceutical. "The question is will the orphan drug strategy become a victim of its own success? With austerity and pricing pressure, this area is going to come under increasing scrutiny." A Thomson Reuters analysis put the global orphan drug market at more than $50 billion at the end of 2011, with spending accounting for about 6 percent of total drug sales. A number of these drugs started out as treatments for rare cancers but have since become multibillion-dollar sellers as their use has expanded. The orphan drug market is expanding faster than traditional pharmaceuticals with annual growth averaging 25.8 percent from 2001 to 2010 compared with 20.1 percent for non-orphan drugs. Moreover, orphan drugs' average "present value" - which measures the current worth of future revenues - is higher than for non-orphan drugs, despite their tiny target populations. This reflects lower development and marketing costs, as well as longer market exclusivity. Unsurprisingly, big pharmaceutical firms are showing growing interest in rare diseases, reflected in Sanofi's $20.1 billion purchase of Genzyme in 2011 and decisions by companies including Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline to enter the market. That promises more competition in some established areas, with Pfizer, for example, launching its new Gaucher disease drug Elelyso at a 25 percent discount to Genzyme's Cerezyme. Large drugmakers are also likely to be under more pressure to curb excessive prices than small biotechs - a fact recognised by GSK, which has said it would like to see more responsible orphan drug pricing. TIME FOR NEW APPROACH? Tim Cox, professor of medicine at the University of Cambridge and the first UK doctor to give Gaucher patients enzyme replacement therapy, welcomes industry investment but believes pricing at present is "completely arbitrary". "I believe we can have a system to approve drugs for a reasonable time at a reasonable cost that can be reviewed after a period, so that the amount of health benefit gained can be used as an arbiter of the final cost," he said. That view is echoed by Yann Le Cam, head of the EU-wide orphan disease patients' group Eurordis, who wants to see more flexible licensing that would allow a new drug to come to market earlier with limited distribution while more data is collected. "At the end of the day, it will be cheaper," he said, since each clinical trial would need fewer patients and could be concluded faster. This concept also appeals to Joern Aldag, the CEO of uniQure, whose predecessor company Amsterdam Molecular Therapeutics (AMT) was torpedoed by initial rebuffs from EU regulators who wanted bigger trials before approving Glybera. AMT was taken private by newly created uniQure last April because it could no longer fund itself in the public markets. "We are breaking new ground in science and reimbursement - but we also have to also break new ground in how the regulations are set up," Aldag said. ($1 = 0.6141 British pounds) (editing by David Stamp)