Bank runs are generally discouraged by governments. The idea of long lines of people lining up outside financial institutions to suddenly withdraw money tends to destabilize banks, economies and sometimes even entire nations.
So the decision by the Republic of Cyprus this past weekend to take a sizeable portion of bank depositors’ money to help recapitalize the nation’s banks seems shortsighted at best.
Cypriots will have to hand over up to 9.9 percent of their deposits, part of a deal worked out with the EU and International Monetary Fund that would see the latter two organizations pump more than 4 billion euros into the nation.
Fearing bank runs, the Greek Cypriot cabinet is seeking to extend Monday’s state-mandated bank holiday through Tuesday, even though the European Central Bank has said it will offer unlimited liquidity to banks that experience deposit flight, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Under terms of the plan, the Cyprus government would impose 9.9 percent “stability levy” on deposits larger than 100,000 Euros and a 6.75 percent levy on deposits smaller than that, the publication added.
The rather stunning move comes as a result of the exposure of Cypriot banks to the Greek government debt crisis, the downgrading of the Greek Cypriot economy to junk status by international rating agencies and the inability of the government to cut state expenses.
The depth and breadth of the New York Times’ Disunion series never ceases to amaze. The articles focus on the War Between the States, but go far beyond examinations of battles and leaders, delving into an amazing array of topics, including the medical, legal and financial aspects of the 1861-65 period.
Recently, Disunion, which is written by a variety of historians, academics and other individuals knowledgeable on specific aspects of the war, focused on the ingenious concept of cotton bonds, financial instruments issued by the Confederacy in 1863.
In January of that year, the Confederate Congress secretly authorized bankers at the noted Paris-based financial house of Erlanger et Cie. to underwrite $15 million of Confederate bonds, to be denominated in British pounds or French francs.
“But unlike ordinary bonds backed only by the faith and credit of the issuing country, at the option of the holder an Erlanger certificate could be converted into a receipt for a pre-specified quantity of cotton,” Phil Leigh writes for Disunion.
This was important because Confederate currency was all but worthless in Europe at that point of the war.
The conversion rate for the cotton bonds was fixed at 12 cents a pound, regardless of the commodity’s market price, at the time about 48 cents. In addition, the bonds paid a 7 percent annual interest rate.
A glazed plate that had sat in a make-shift frame hidden behind a door in an English cottage for years was recently discovered to be worth far more than its owner knew.
The 16.5 inch Italian maiolica plate was ”uncovered” by an auctioneer who been asked to assess some items in the unidentified woman’s home in Dorset, England.
Only about two inches of it were visible when appraiser Richard Bromell caught a glimpse of the plate behind a door.
“It had been on the wall for a number of years and you couldn’t really see it but it was hugely exciting …” he told the BBC.
When put up for sale by Charterhouse Auctioneers on Feb. 14, the plate brought $880,000, despite having a small chip.
The perfume of longleaf pine pitch is one of the Southeast’s inherent charms.
The wonderful fragrance is particularly evident on hot summer days, evoking an aromatic reminder of an era when forests of Pinus palustris were found throughout the region, before clear-cutting reduced longleaf populations by more than 95 percent, to be replaced by faster growing pine species.
Today, about 3 million acres of longleaf pines remain in the region. The good news is the trees and their environment are making a slow but steady comeback.
“Many Southeastern landowners have converted parts of their farmland to use for contract hunting, fishing, camping and even bird-watching. The ecosystem supported by native longleaf pines fits perfectly into the business plan for such rural enterprises,” according to Southeast Farm Press.
In addition, timber from longleaf pines is very desirable because it tends to be long, straight and has tight growth rings, the publication added.
Not only does longleaf pine timber tend to bring a premium price compared to pines species such as the loblolly, but longleafs also produce a huge amount of pine straw, which can also be sold to help offset the costs associated with the latter’s longer growing period.
Longleaf ecosystems have other benefits, as well. These include being home to 26 federally listed endangered or threatened species, including the red-cockaded woodpecker, gopher tortoise and flatwoods salamander.
The above graphic produced by State Farms shows, state-by-state, the likelihood of deer-car collision.
Any deer reading this may want to consider vacationing in Hawaii, The chances of a driver hitting a deer in Hawaii during the 2011-2012 period were 6,801 to 1, according to State Farm.
The state one was most likely to hit a deer was West Virginia, where the odds were just 40-to-1. That’s 25 out of every 1,000 people during the period recorded. The auto-body repair business must be doing very well in the Mountain State..
Given that West Virginia is a well-known hunting locale, being a deer there has got to be a real challenge.
Of course, once you’ve had you’re garden or fruit trees repeatedly ravaged by the relentless ruminants, it’s hard to have a whole lot of sympathy them.
(HT: Carpe Diem)
Nigeria represents for many both the great potential and the great frustration of Africa.
The nation’s oil reserves, among the largest in the world, have flooded the country’s coffers. Yet Nigeria has long been dogged by high levels of crime, poverty and violence, and government corruption has been a serious problem for decades.
Evidence that little oil revenue makes its way to the nation’s 170 million citizens can be seen in the fact that in more than one instance in recent years, hundreds of Nigerians scavenging petroleum products from punctured pipelines have been killed when puddles of fallen fuel ignited.
If government corruption and endemic poverty weren’t enough, the nation is divided between Muslims, who are concentrated mostly in the north, and Christians, who mostly live in the South.
In recent years, efforts by Islamists to establish sharia law have resulted in armed conflict with government forces, particularly in the north, though the clashes pale in comparison to the Nigerian Civil War of the 1960s that claimed as many as 3 million lives.
Yet, not all the news from Africa’s most populous nation is bad. The railway linking Nigeria’s capital city Lagos, in the south, with Kano, the second-largest city, located in the north, has reopened after more than a decade.
It cost more than $150 million to rehabilitate the line, according to the state-owned Nigeria Railway Corporation.
My younger girls were taken aback when they recently learned that movie theaters once were stand-alone structures with but a single screen, rather than multi-screen monstrosities that today often accompany major malls and show eight or more movies at a time.
They were also flabbergasted to learn that theaters like the above, the old Saluda Theater in Saluda, SC, once charged kids as little as a dime for admission, particularly when some of today’s shows cost $10 or more.
The Saluda Theater was built in 1936 and operated as a regular movie theater until 1981. It’s been listed on the National Historical Register since 1993.
Designed by Charles B. Thompson, the two-story, stuccoed masonry building sits on the Saluda town square. Although like many small Southern towns, Saluda has been in decline for decades, the theater served as a focal point for entertainment in the community during the 1930s and 1940s.
“The crisp simple lines of the façade the geometric designs of the interior wall finishes and lighting features reveal the influences of the Art Deco style,” according to the National Register of Historical Places registration form.
At one point last week, the African nation of Zimbabwe had just $217 left in its public coffers.
Welcome to the club, guys; I feel your pain.
The Atlantic eloquently summed up the country financial situation: ”Zimbabwe, the country that’s home to some of the world’s largest plutonium and diamond reserves, literally has the same financial standing as a 14-year-old girl after a really good birthday party.”
Zimbabwe’s Finance Minister Tendai Biti admitted that Tuesday when he said his nation had all but depleted its financial reserves after paying civil servants last Thursday.
By the following day, though, some $30 million of revenue had flowed in the country’s accounts, he told journalists in the capital city of Harare.
Biti has been struggling to balance the nation’s budget, which is hampered by a low tax base, an underperforming economy and public sector wages which take up 73 percent of the total budget, according to the publication New Zimbabwe (look for it at your newsstand).
“We’re in a challenging position, we’re a small economy and we’ve got huge things to be done …” Biti told the BBC.
Last year proved a solid one for nearly all cotton farmers except those in Texas and Oklahoma.
While states in the South and West registered overall harvest rates of 97 percent or better, Texas farmers lost 40 percent of their crop, more than 2.5 million acres, according to the US Department of Agriculture.
Oklahoma growers planted a smaller amount of cotton than their counterparts in Texas, but lost nearly half their crop, hurt by drought conditions that hit the region.
Overall last year, 12.3 million acres of cotton were planted in the US, and 9.4 million acres were harvested, according to the USDA.
Texas farmers planted more than 6.5 million acres of cotton but were only able to harvest 3.9 million acres. And the yield was just 600 pounds per acre in the Lone Star State, off from the five-year average of 700 pounds.
In Oklahoma growers planted 305,000 acres but only harvested 140,000 acres. Yield per harvested acre was just 480 pounds, down from a five-year state average of 770 pounds.
The parent company of Sears announced last week that Chairman Edward Lampert would shortly take over as chief executive, succeeding Louis D’Ambrosio, who is leaving for health reasons.
Lampert apparently has enjoyed a successful career: the Associated Press describes him as a hedge fund billionaire.
However, turning around Sears, which along with Kmart is under the umbrella of the Sears Holding Corporation, would appear to be a task of herculean proportions. The company has struggled mightily in recent years and, if personal experience is any indication, appears fully committed to foundering on the shoals of incompetence.
Case in point: About 10 days before Christmas, I decided to get my wife a recumbent bicycle as an early Christmas present. Recumbent bikes allow the user to recline while riding in place and are good good for cross-training.
Understanding that these items take time to put together, and that there’s no guarantee one would be in stock at a nearby store, my wife began scouring the Web.
After a bit of research, she found just the recumbent bike she wanted at Sears. Best of all, it was located at the nearest of the three Sears stores in our area, just a couple of miles away. My wife phoned the store and the Sears’ representative assured her that the company computer showed there was indeed one of the desired models in stock.
I set off a short while later to pick it up, and things proceeded to deteriorate quickly. When I got to the store I had to wait for several minutes before I was able to track down a salesperson in the fitness area.