Archive for the ‘Biotech’ Category

What scientists are doing to develop a vaccine for the new coronavirus

 

What scientists are doing to develop a vaccine for the new coronavirus

It is critical to learn more about SARS-CoV-2, including its source and why transmission appears to be more efficient than with previous coronaviruses. (Shutterstock)

Courtesy of Marc-Antoine De La Vega, Université Laval

With an increasing number of confirmed cases in China and 24 other countries, the COVID-19 epidemic caused by the novel coronavirus (now known as SARS-CoV-2) looks concerning to many. As of Feb. 19, the latest numbers listed 74,280 confirmed cases including 2,006 deaths. Four of these deaths have occurred outside of mainland China: one each in the Philippines, Japan, Hong Kong and France. The case in France is the first COVID-19 death outside of Asia.

The World Health Organization (WHO) declared on Jan. 30 that the outbreak constituted a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.

In light of these events, health experts around the world are now divided as to whether this event will become a pandemic, or whether it will be possible to contain transmission of this virus.

Towards a pandemic?

In a recent New York Times article Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said it was “increasingly unlikely that the virus can be contained.” In the same article, Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID), said, “It’s very, very transmissible, and it almost certainly is going to be a pandemic.”

On the other hand, the WHO remains optimistic. Its head of emergency responses, Dr. Michael Ryan, told STAT News, “there’s enough evidence to suggest that this virus can still be contained” and that “until [containment] is impossible, we should keep trying.”

This brings us to the scientists and experts who are doing just that, throwing everything they have at this public health issue. Some are focused on treating patients with existing or novel therapeutics, others are focused on stopping transmission between individuals by developing a vaccine. Luckily for scientists, lessons learned during the 2013-16 West African Ebola epidemic are now enabling the fast-track development of vaccines, without compromising their safety and efficacy.

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Deep learning AI discovers surprising new antibiotics

 

Deep learning AI discovers surprising new antibiotics

A colored electron microscope image of MRSA. NIH – NIAID/flickr, CC BY

Courtesy of Sriram Chandrasekaran, University of Michigan

Imagine you’re a fossil hunter. You spend months in the heat of Arizona digging up bones only to find that what you’ve uncovered is from a previously discovered dinosaur.

That’s how the search for antibiotics has panned out recently. The relatively few antibiotic hunters out there keep finding the same types of antibiotics.

With the rapid rise in drug resistance in many pathogens, new antibiotics are desperately needed. It may be only a matter of time before a wound or scratch becomes life-threatening. Yet few new antibiotics have entered the market of late, and even these are just minor variants of old antibiotics.

While the prospects look bleak, the recent revolution in artificial intelligence (AI) offers new hope. In a study published on Feb. 20 in the journal Cell, scientists from MIT and Harvard used a type of AI called deep learning to discover new antibiotics.

The traditional way of discovering antibiotics – from soil or plant extracts – has not revealed new candidates, and there are many social and economic hurdles to solving this problem, as well. Some scientists have recently tried to tackle it by searching the DNA of bacteria for new antibiotic-producing genes. Others are looking for antibiotics in exotic locations such as in our noses.

Drugs found through such unconventional methods face a rocky road to reach the market. The drugs that are effective in a petri dish may not work well inside the body. They may not be absorbed well or may have side effects. Manufacturing these drugs in large quantities is also a significant challenge.

Deep learning

Enter deep learning. These algorithms power many of today’s facial recognition systems and self-driving cars. They mimic how neurons in our brains operate by learning patterns in data. An individual artificial neuron – like a mini sensor – might detect simple patterns like lines or circles. By using thousands of these artificial neurons, deep learning AI can perform extremely complex tasks like…
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These scientists are using DNA to target new drugs for your genes – Medicine made for you part 1

 

These scientists are using DNA to target new drugs for your genes – Medicine made for you part 1

By Science Photo/Shutterstock

Courtesy of Annabel Bligh, The Conversation; Gemma Ware, The Conversation, and Holly Squire, The Conversation

Welcome to the first episode of Medicine made for you, a brand new series from The Anthill, a podcast from The Conversation. Across three episodes we’re taking a deep dive into the future of healthcare – and finding out how it could soon get a lot more personal.


In part 1 of Medicine made for you we look at genes, clinical trials and how possible it might be for the NHS to take a more personalised view of our health. And we find out why Scotland, a country of 5.4 million people, with one of the lowest life expectancies in western Europe, is a pioneer of this kind of research.

Taking a much more precise approach to treatment means that for some diseases, doctors can prescribe drugs based on a person’s DNA. This so-called precision medicine is breaking new ground in the treatment of some diseases. And it could change medicine for good.

We start with a trip to Glasgow to find out why Scotland is leading the way in precision medicine. Anna Dominiczak, regius professor of medicine, vice principal and head of the College of Medical, Veterinary and Life Sciences at the University of Glasgow, talks about the massive potential precision medicine has to help diagnose, treat and prevent disease.

Next we take a tour of a lab to find out what happens behind the scenes. Susie Cooke, head of medical genomics at Glasgow Precision Oncology Laboratory, shows us the sequencing process – allowing us to see first hand how DNA is tested and analysed.

Cooke is trying to improve treatment outcomes, since 90% of the top selling drugs only work for 30-50% of patients. The current so-called “trial and error” method of medicine results in only 25% of cancer patients responding to drugs – as Cooke explains:

Every year 165,000 people in the UK die from


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Coronavirus: the blow to the Chinese economy could be felt for years

 

Coronavirus: the blow to the Chinese economy could be felt for years

Courtesy of Chusu He, Coventry University

Investors are still being fairly complacent about the novel coronavirus. After the number of new daily cases suddenly shot up to more than 15,000 on February 12 following more than a week of decline, there were some jitters in the markets. With Chinese authorities saying the increase was due to a decision to broaden the definition for diagnosing people, there were falls in the region of 1% in European markets, and smaller retrenchments in Asia and North America.

It is a fairly minor shift in sentiment after a few days in which investor concerns had been steadily receding. There appears to be a real danger of underestimating the likely economic impact of this crisis. China’s manufacturing sector in particular faces an unprecedented challenge because supply chains have been so seriously disrupted.

Coronavirus daily new cases

Worldometers

Well over 80 cities have gone into lockdown, including the entire areas of five Chinese provinces – Hubei, Liaoning, Jiangxi, An’hui and Inner Mongolia – and four main cities in Zhejiang province, affecting well over 275 million people. Since February 10, Beijing and Shanghai have further restricted the movement of people, having already extended the Chinese New Year break.

My parents live in Jiangxi province and are among millions semi-quarantined at home. The local government allows one person from each household to go out every two day to buy necessities. Even in cities not under compulsory lockdown, there are rarely people on the streets. The tweet below shows the Nanjing Road in Shanghai, the busiest shopping precinct in the country. It was taken on January 26 but the situation is not much better now.

This is taking a serious toll on the Chinese economy. No statistics on the actual losses are available yet, but for example, the number of intercity passengers on public…
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Designing artificial brains can help us learn more about real ones

 

Designing artificial brains can help us learn more about real ones

Understanding how the computations in the brain go wrong could help scientists develop treatments for neurological disorders. (Shutterstock)

Courtesy of Blake Richards, McGill University

Despite billions of dollars spent and decades of research, computation in the human brain remains largely a mystery. Meanwhile, we have made great strides in the development of artificial neural networks, which are designed to loosely mimic how brains compute. We have learned a lot about the nature of neural computation from these artificial brains and it’s time to take what we’ve learned and apply it back to the biological ones.

Neurological diseases are on the rise worldwide, making a better understanding of computation in the brain a pressing problem. Given the ability of modern artificial neural networks to solve complex problems, a framework for neuroscience guided by machine learning insights may unlock valuable secrets about our own brains and how they can malfunction.

Our thoughts and behaviours are generated by computations that take place in our brains. To effectively treat neurological disorders that alter our thoughts and behaviours, like schizophrenia or depression, we likely have to understand how the computations in the brain go wrong.

However, understanding neural computation has proven to be an immensely difficult challenge. When neuroscientists record activity in the brain, it is often indecipherable.

In a paper published in Nature Neuroscience, my co-authors and I argue that the lessons we have learned from artificial neural networks can guide us down the right path of understanding the brain as a computational system rather than as a collection of indecipherable cells.

Brain network models

Artificial neural networks are computational models that loosely mimic the integration and activation properties of real neurons. They have become ubiquitous in the field of artificial intelligence.

To construct artificial neural networks, you start by first designing the network architecture: how the different components of the network are connected to one another. Then, you define the learning goal for the architecture, such as “learn to predict what you’re going to see next.” Then, you define a rule that tells the network how to change in…
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Coronavirus: The latest disease to fuel mistrust, fear and racism

 

Coronavirus: The latest disease to fuel mistrust, fear and racism

Medical staff strike over coronavirus concerns in Hong Kong. Hospital workers are demanding the border with mainland China be shut completely to ward off the virus. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)

Courtesy of Korey Pasch, Queen's University, Ontario

With the outbreak of the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) in Wuhan, China, stories of courage and strength have captured our collective attention as the disease spreads.

We have also seen large-scale efforts in China to combat coronavirus, including the construction of new hospitals and facilities in provincial areas as well as the massive quarantine of millions of people.

While efforts to address the disease move forward, the outbreak has also revealed the darker side of human nature and our responses to new diseases and other catastrophic events: mistrust, fear and outright racism.

Here in Canada, we have seen racism and stereotyping of the Chinese community as the number and location of cases of coronavirus have spread and fear of the outbreak festers.

The surge of fear and racism in the face of this latest outbreak is similar to previous experiences in the wake of other diseases, such as the Ebola and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) viruses.

Yet the prevalence of racism and scapegoating in the face of catastrophes and disasters has a much longer history than these more recent outbreaks.

This history provides important context and is worth reflecting upon. It reminds us that disasters and catastrophes are not exclusively natural phenomena, and are also a result of the economic, political and social decisions that create vulnerability to risk.

Importantly, discrimination, racism and scapegoating has been used to distract from the underlying economic, political and social decisions that produced vulnerability to disaster and disease in the first place.

Disasters aren’t natural

While many headlines highlight “natural” disasters in the aftermath of the latest catastrophe, researchers in the field of disaster studies have long demonstrated the social construction of these events.

This means that catastrophes, whether they’re the latest earthquake, hurricane or outbreak of disease like the coronavirus, are fundamentally connected…
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Natural supplements can be dangerously contaminated, or not even have the specified ingredients

 

Natural supplements can be dangerously contaminated, or not even have the specified ingredients

Some supplement products contain substances that are harmful. Getty Images / David Malan

Courtesy of C. Michael White, University of Connecticut

More than two-thirds of Americans take dietary supplements. The vast majority of consumers – 84% – are confident the products are safe and effective.

They should not be so trusting.

I’m a professor of pharmacy practice at the University of Connecticut. As described in my new article in the Annals of Pharmacotherapy, consumers take real risks if they use diet supplements not independently verified by reputable outside labs.

What are the risks?

Heavy metals, which are known to cause cancer, dementia and brittle bones, contaminate many diet supplements. One study of 121 products revealed 5% of them surpassed the safe daily consumption limit for arsenic. Two percent had excess lead, cadmium and aluminum; and 1% had too much mercury. In June 2019, the Food and Drug Administration seized 300,000 dietary supplement bottles because their pills contained excessive lead levels.

Bacterial and fungal contamination in dietary supplements is not uncommon. In one assessment, researchers found bacteria in all 138 products they investigated. Toxic fungi were also in many of the supplements, and counts for numerous products exceeded the acceptable limits set by the United States Pharmacopeia. Fungal contamination of diet supplements has been linked to serious liver, intestinal and appendix damage.

From 2017-18, dozens were hospitalized with salmonella poisoning after ingesting kratom, a highly addictive natural opioid. Thirty-seven of the kratom products studied were contaminated.

There are ways consumers can verify the quality and safety of supplements. Getty Images / Tanya Constantine

Some dietary supplements contain drugs, yet the manufacturers don’t disclose that information to consumers. Frequently, the concealed drugs are experimental and, in some cases, removed from the market because they’re dangerous. Hundreds of weight-loss, sexual-dysfunction and muscle-building products are adulterated with inferior or harmful substances.

Sometimes, the herb you think you’re buying…
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The story of the pharma giant and the African yam

 

The story of the pharma giant and the African yam

Traditional medicines sold at a South African market. Rebecca and William Beinart

Courtesy of William Beinart, University of Oxford

It was a drug produced in Nottingham in the United Kingdom that led us on a journey to South Africa to visit muthi markets, archives, herbariums and nature reserves.

We spoke with traders, healers, scholars and conservationists to learn more about Dioscorea sylvatica.

Dioscorea is a wild yam. Its name in different languages connects to its appearance – its rough skin resembles a tortoise shell. It’s known as ‘Elephant’s Foot’ in English, in isiZulu ‘ingwevu’, meaning grey/old or ‘ifudu’, meaning tortoise; in Sepedi the name is ‘Kgato’ – ‘to stamp’.

In the 1950s, the yam was heavily exploited by the British pharmaceutical firm Boots for the production of cortisone. But provincial conservation officials in South Africa fought back against the plundering of a wild plant that they recognised was in danger of being exploited to extinction.

A factory in Johannesburg

In 1949 scientists in the US announced the dramatic effects of a new drug, cortisone. It could be used to treat a variety of ailments, from arthritis to allergies to lupus and skin conditions. They found that cortisone could be made cheaply from diosgenin, extracted from Mexican wild yam species, and began a global search for supplementary plants.

By the early 1950s, South African botanists had identified Dioscorea sylvatica as promising. Boots, a major British pharmaceutical company, was keen to develop a source of diosgenin to manufacture corticosteroid medicines and started a factory in Johannesburg in 1955 for the initial stages of processing the plant.

Systematic extraction began in the eastern and north eastern part of the country, plundering a plant used by traditional healers for muthi (traditional medicine).

These actions weren’t a direct case of ‘biopiracy’ – in the sense of an obvious and deliberate theft of indigenous knowledge for profit. Nevertheless the exploitation of this plant took place against the backdrop of the history of plant collection and export from South Africa. Bioprospecting was facilitated by a longer process that involved drawing on…
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Coronavirus outbreak: a new mapping tool that lets you scroll through timeline

 

Coronavirus outbreak: a new mapping tool that lets you scroll through timeline

Coronavirus outbreak mapper.

Courtesy of Edward Parker, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine

In the final weeks of 2019, a virus slipped furtively from animal to human somewhere in the Chinese city of Wuhan. This inauspicious moment marked the sounding of a starting pistol, unheard at first but now echoing deafeningly across the globe. The race to stop a pandemic had begun.

We have been trying to keep up with the novel coronavirus ever since. Each day, we are faced with worrying headlines reporting the latest twists and turns of this outbreak. We have seen the virus spill over China’s borders and spread to at least 25 countries worldwide, and watched with mounting anxiety as the number of cases creeps ever higher. We wait apprehensively to see where the virus shows up next.


You can access the real-time map here.


At the time of writing, there have been 43,036 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus and the death toll stands at 1,018. Both of these numbers will be out of date by the time you read this.

In isolation, the daily headlines can be difficult to interpret, offering a static snapshot of a moving target. It is hard, for instance, to tell if the situation is getting better or worse, and to what extent control efforts are having any effect.

To provide a clearer picture of this evolving story, at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, we have developed a new outbreak mapping tool.

The site is updated daily based on figures published by the World Health Organization (WHO). While other live trackers developed by Johns Hopkins University and the WHO are updated more frequently, our tool enables users to wind back the clock and view the global situation on any given day of the coronavirus outbreak. It also enables the unfolding situation to be compared with other recent outbreaks, including the epidemic of severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) in 2003 (also caused by a coronavirus), the 2009 swine flu pandemic, and the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa.


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As China suffers from coronavirus, some wonder: Is it really that serious? 3 questions answered

 

As China suffers from coronavirus, some wonder: Is it really that serious? 3 questions answered

A women wearing a protective face mask delivers a leaflet on coronavirus, in Hong Kong, Friday, Jan 24, 2020. AP Photo.Achmad Ibrahim

Courtesy of John A. Lednicky, University of Florida

Editor’s Note: The coronavirus outbreak continues to worsen in China, with 28,200 confirmed cases as of Feb. 6, 2020. The Chinese government has announced even stricter measures to stop the spread of the disease, including the rounding up of people in Wuhan, the city where the outbreak began, for mass quarantine. And the doctor who warned authorities about the disease has died. Just how bad might this outbreak become? Virologist and public health expert John A. Lednicky explains.

1. Is this outbreak really that serious?

Epidemics are spreading more quickly and farther in the 21st century than in previous centuries due to globalization and air travel. When outbreaks occur, there is a predictable pattern that can be summarized as: (a) There is a delay in recognizing that an outbreak is occurring; (b) a significant impact on trade and travel typically occurs due to quarantine measures; (c) the public panics due to misinformation and fear of the unknown, and this can be exacerbated by media coverage.

This outbreak is serious to China, to millions of people there, to its economy and potentially to the world’s economy. China’s main concern is for its own citizens. It has experience controlling outbreaks of different types of influenza viruses, SARS coronavirus, and so on, and the resources to effectively deal with large outbreaks.

China’s government can exert stringent outbreak control measures, such as shutting down public transportation, and take unprecedented moves, such as imposing a citywide quarantine, which would not be easy to do in other countries. Because it is a wealthy country, China is also able to respond to large areas affected by an outbreak, whereas many countries would not be able to afford to do this.

Unlike country-specific responses to outbreaks, the World Health Organization provides guidance on how to control outbreaks worldwide. Its stated primary purpose is to direct international health within the United Nations’…
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Zero Hedge

10-Year Treasury Yield Plunges To Just 1 Basis Point Away From Recession "Tipping Point"

Courtesy of ZeroHedge View original post here.

After more than a month of shocking complacency (because what, central banks will somehow print antibodies and "fix" the covid pandemic which will restore collapsing global supply chains?) traders are "suddenly" realizing that the coronavirus outbreak contains a significant likelihood of impact to the global economy and the potential to become a black bat, pardon, black swan type event. An event which could quickly spiral into a US - and global - recession.

How to determine if a recession is coming? One place to wat...



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Phil's Favorites

Threats to democracy: oligarchy, feudalism, dictatorship

 

Threats to democracy: oligarchy, feudalism, dictatorship

Courtesy of David Brin, Contrary Brin Blog 

Fascinating and important to consider, since it is probably one of the reasons why the world aristocracy is pulling its all-out putsch right now… “Trillions will be inherited over the coming decades, further widening the wealth gap,” reports the Los Angeles Times. The beneficiaries aren’t all that young themselves. From 1989 to 2016, U.S. households inherited more than $8.5 trillion. Over that time, the average age of recipients rose by a decade to 51. More ...



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Biotech & Health

What scientists are doing to develop a vaccine for the new coronavirus

 

What scientists are doing to develop a vaccine for the new coronavirus

It is critical to learn more about SARS-CoV-2, including its source and why transmission appears to be more efficient than with previous coronaviruses. (Shutterstock)

Courtesy of Marc-Antoine De La Vega, Université Laval

With an increasing number of confirmed cases in China and 24 other countries, the COVID-19 epidemic caused by the novel coronavirus (now known as SARS-CoV-2) looks concerning to many. As of Feb. 19, the latest numbers listed 74,280 confirmed cases including 2,006 deaths. Four of these de...



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Members' Corner

Why do people believe con artists?

 

Why do people believe con artists?

Would you buy medicine from this man? Carol M. Highsmith/Wikimedia Commons

Courtesy of Barry M. Mitnick, University of Pittsburgh

What is real can seem pretty arbitrary. It’s easy to be fooled by misinformation disguised as news and deepfake videos showing people doing things they never did or said. Inaccurate information – even deliberately wrong informatio...



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The Technical Traders

Gold Rallies As Fear Take Center Stage

Courtesy of Technical Traders

Gold has rallied extensively from the lows near $1560 over the past 2 weeks.  At first, this rally didn’t catch too much attention with traders, but now the rally has reached new highs above $1613 and may attempt a move above $1750 as metals continue to reflect the fear in the global markets.

We’ve been warning our friends and followers of the real potential in precious metals for many months – actually since early 2018.  Our predictive modeling system suggests Gold will rally above $1650 very quickly, then possibly stall a bit before continuing higher to target the $1750 range.

The one thing all skilled traders must consider is the longer-term fear that is build...



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Kimble Charting Solutions

Precious Metals Eyeing Breakout Despite US Dollar Strength

Courtesy of Chris Kimble

Gold and silver prices have been on the rise in early 2020 as investors turn to precious metals as geopolitical concerns and news of coronavirus hit the airwaves.

The rally in gold has been impressive, with prices surging past $1600 this week (note silver is nearing $18.50).

What’s been particularly impressive about the Gold rally is that it has unfolded despite strength in the US Dollar.

In today’s chart, we look at the ratio of Gold to the US Dollar Index. As you can see, this ratio has traded in a rising channel over the past 4 years.

The Gold/US Dollar ratio is currently attempting a breakout of this rising channel at (1).

This would come on further ...



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Insider Scoop

68 Stocks Moving In Friday's Mid-Day Session

Courtesy of Benzinga

Gainers
  • Trans World Entertainment Corporation (NASDAQ: TWMC) shares climbed 120.5% to $7.72 after the company disclosed that its subsidiary etailz entered into a deal with Encina for $25 million 3-year secured revolving credit facility.
  • Celldex Therapeutics, Inc. (NASDAQ: CLDX) fell 39.8% to $3.1744. Cantor Fitzgerald initiated coverage on Celldex Therapeutics with an Overweight rating and a $8 price target.
  • TSR, Inc. (NASDAQ: TSRI) gained 36.2% to $8.17.
  • ...


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Digital Currencies

Altcoin season 2.0: why bitcoin has been outgunned by crypto rivals since new year

 

Altcoin season 2.0: why bitcoin has been outgunned by crypto rivals since new year

‘We have you surrounded!’ Wit Olszewski

Courtesy of Gavin Brown, Manchester Metropolitan University and Richard Whittle, Manchester Metropolitan University

When bitcoin was trading at the dizzying heights of almost US$2...



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ValueWalk

What US companies are saying about coronavirus impact

By Aman Jain. Originally published at ValueWalk.

With the coronavirus outbreak coinciding with the U.S. earnings seasons, it is only normal to expect companies to talk about this deadly virus in their earnings conference calls. In fact, many major U.S. companies not only talked about coronavirus, but also warned about its potential impact on their financial numbers.

Q4 2019 hedge fund letters, conferences and more

Coronavirus impact: many US companies unclear

According to ...



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Chart School

RTT browsing latest..

Courtesy of Read the Ticker

Please review a collection of WWW browsing results. The information here is delayed by a few months, members get the most recent content.



Date Found: Tuesday, 01 October 2019, 02:18:22 AM

Click for popup. Clear your browser cache if image is not showing.


Comment: Wall of worry, or cliff of despair!



Date Found: Tuesday, 01 October 2019, 06:54:30 AM

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Comment: Interesting.. Hitler good for the German DAX when he was winning! They believed .. until th...



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Lee's Free Thinking

Why Blaming the Repo Market is Like Blaming the Australian Bush Fires

 

Why Blaming the Repo Market is Like Blaming the Australian Bush Fires

Courtesy of  

The repo market problem isn’t the problem. It’s a sideshow, a diversion, and a joke. It’s a symptom of the problem.

Today, I got a note from Liquidity Trader subscriber David, a professional investor, and it got me to thinking. Here’s what David wrote:

Lee,

The ‘experts’ I hear from keep saying that once 300B more in reserves have ...



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Mapping The Market

How IPOs Are Priced

Via Jean Luc 

Funny but probably true:

...

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Promotions

Free eBook - "My Top Strategies for 2017"

 

 

Here's a free ebook for you to check out! 

Phil has a chapter in a newly-released eBook that we think you’ll enjoy.

In My Top Strategies for 2017, Phil's chapter is Secret Santa’s Inflation Hedges for 2017.

This chapter isn’t about risk or leverage. Phil present a few smart, practical ideas you can use as a hedge against inflation as well as hedging strategies designed to assist you in staying ahead of the markets.

Some other great content in this free eBook includes:

 

·       How 2017 Will Affect Oil, the US Dollar and the European Union

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About Phil:

Philip R. Davis is a founder Phil's Stock World, a stock and options trading site that teaches the art of options trading to newcomers and devises advanced strategies for expert traders...

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