Shakespeare in Church

Wed, 2013/05/29 - 12:57pm | Your editor

My fellow newsletter writer (and fund manager), Joe Shaeffer, last Sunday went to services at St. Clement Dane in the City of London to commemorate Memorial Day abroad. Since Joe is a retired USAF general, and the restored church is dedicated to flyers, this made sense. But what to do on Monday, which was a holiday also in Britain. Here was my suggestion:

American history can be found at Southwark Cathedral south of the river where John Harvard was baptized. You have to walk across this scary swaying bridge over the Thames. Or take the Underground to London Bridge (not Southwark which is nowhere near.) Mr Harvard died of TB in Cambridge Mass and left all his books to the new university then named Harvard in his honor.
The Cathedral holds the tomb of Sachem Mohamet Weyonomon of the Mohegan tribe who died in London of smallpox in 1736; he was trying to get Connecticut back from the colonists. I have no idea why he was called Mohamet. Perhaps he was a Muslim red Indian.

There's a monument to Shakespeare whose Globe theater was nearby and to US actor Sam Wanamaker who built a replica Globe Theatre near the Cathedral where there are 5 services a day. Then you can walk to the Thames Bank and dine while looking at the HMS Belfast battleship.


Following the German near-abandonment of the Robin Hood tax proposal in its current form, France is also preparing changes to the plan proposed by the European Commission. Its central bank governor Christian Noyer said the 11-country EU plan for a wide-reaching financial transaction tax would "bring in nothing" while proving "detrimental" to the Euroland economy. The main irritant of the proposal is that it would apply to stock, bond, and derivative trading wherever this takes place if the entity traded, the buyer, or the seller was from an EU country. This extraterritoriality is called "the residence principle."

The latest French take on the FTT is to roll back secondary market impact of the tax by applying a form of stamp duty on the "issuance principle" on a first trade only. But to keep up revenues the French want to apply this tax not only to stocks, bonds, repos (repurchase agreements), and derivatives, but also to a new area of markets: currency trading. This would interfere with the free movement of capital, one of the key features of the current global economy.

Nearly six months since this newsletter first exposed the dangerous moves toward a Euroland FTT, it looks like the stalwarts of a new Tobin tax (as proposed by economist James Tobin two decades ago) are losing their zeal. This despite the fact that Avinash Persaud, a London Business School prof who used to be a senior advisor at JP Morgan and UBS, today embraced an FTT in a Financial Times editorial as a way to get markets to finance real economic activity rather than financial churning.


More corporate results today from India, Israel, and Chile, reported on by Abhimanyu Sisodia, Vivian Lewis, and Frida Ghitis follows in reverse alphabetical order along with other news from around the world, from Denmark to Colombia, from Britain to Brazil, from Mongolia to the Netherlands, from Canada to Germany. And a part sale.

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Robin Hood Tax

Tue, 2013/05/28 - 1:23pm | Your editor

The latest news on the vexed 11-nation European Union financial transaction tax is that it will be delayed, perhaps forever, to protect the bond trading and "repo" markets which handle the massive government bonds of the EU countries. This will be called a "recast" of the proposed laws with their heinous extraterritorial and cumulative impact, being granted to the European Central Bank which is not supposed to influence EU regulations. The so called Tobin tax, now also called the Robin Hood tax, has divided the EU into supporters of the measure like France, and sworn enemies like the UK.

The ECB has designated Benoît Coeur as its point man for "engaging constructively with governments and the European Commision over the tax." But the real key change is that German government officials now say the tax will not be introduced next year after all, because German banks are objecting to it.


Another EU initiative is also reportedly getting derailed, stopping Chinese exports of solar cells and modules which are priced below Chinese costs under anti-dumping rules of the World Trade Organization. At least one solar booster, Germany, wants cheap components to continue coming in duty-free, which also helps it export its own capital goods to China.


The EU discord is now moving well beyond bailing out banks and forcing austerity on southern member countries (plus Ireland.)


The rules against Jews mixing meat and milk at the same meal were a late rabbinic addition. When the angels visited Abraham, he sent Sarah off to get a kid [baby goat] cooked in its mother's milk to provide a delicacy for the guests.

But then in Leviticus the injunction against "braising a kid in its mother's milk" was repeated four times, so the Jewish theological establishment decided this must be important. They invented the rule against mixing milk and meat in the same meal, which by some weird extension also applies to not eating poultry with milk (although chicken with eggs is allowed.) In my mother's kosher kitchen there were separate dishes and cutlery and pots and pans and even soaps and scrubbing brushes for milk (milchding in German) and meat (fleischding.) You had to wait 3 hours after meat to eat milk if you were a yecke; other Orthodox Jews wait up to 6 hours. These rules make it hard for observant Jews to eat at the tables of non-Jews.

However, my family ate normal cheeses rather than "chalav yisrael", Israel milk. I only learned about kosher cheese because my sister-in-law is a vegetarian.

There are more rennet-free cheeses for vegetarians and kosher eaters than I realized. The Essex St. Market cheesemonger sold me another cheese made with non-calf rennet, Chiviri from Spain, like Azeitão also made with sheep´s milk, but with a sharper bite than the Portuguese mild cheese. I read in The New York Times yesterday that the computer system which was linking up fragments of Hebrew writing from the Genizah from the Ibn Ezra Synagogue of Fustat (Old Cairo), essentially a storeroom for discarded manuscripts, had notes about kosher cheese trading dating back to the 10th-13th centuries.

We visited the synagogue when we were in Egypt and our government guide had no idea what the Genizah was, but luckily the ticket collector told us where to go. We climbed up to the women's gallery and off on the right side was a low doorway leading to the paper store. But by then the discoverers had cleared out all the papers.
Any document which may have religious significance was put in the Genizah rather than in the trash, with the aim to eventually bury it. But they never did this. Cairene Jews between 950 and 1250 AD imported sheep cheeses from Sicily which was considered kosher (and therefore presumably made without rennet from a calf's stomach which would have mixed milk and meat in violation of the Rabbis' rules.)

The Genizah fragments are being pieced together using a computer which is much faster than trying to do it by eye, particularly since they are in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Cambrige and Oxford (UK), St Petersburg (Russia), and the Sorbonne (in Paris), with the odd paper scattered in other US collections as well. The fragments are in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Judeo-Arabic (Arabic written with Hebrew letter) and they cover close to 1000 years. There are 157,500 fragments or more.

I am not sure if the Sicilian kosher cheese was made using nettles (Azeitao) or the seeds of the cardon plant (Chiviri), but it would have had to use something other than calf rennet.

The digitization and piecing together of the Genizah documents was financed by a $20 mn grant from Canadian hedge fund mogul Dr Albert Friedberg. I am not sure if there still is a kosher cheese made in Sicily. None is sold at Essex St.


More for paid subscribers follows including a Canadian company report and news from Brazil, Britain, South Korea, Norway, Sweden, Israel, Chile, Australia, Canada, and India.

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Have a Nice Memorial Day and a Nice May Bank Holiday

Sun, 2013/05/26 - 4:30pm | Your editor

The tables at have been posted. Everyone can view the closed positions but only current subscribers get to view the current holdings. Remember that you can click to "view printer friendly" versions of the spread sheets.

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Trading Halt

Fri, 2013/05/24 - 11:55am | Your editor

One of our shares was hit by a trading halt on Friday. Here's what it means. Read more »

Scout's Honor

Fri, 2013/05/24 - 10:50am | Your editor

When we lived in France our children both belonged to the same scout troop, which enrolled both boys and girls. This is a centuries-old tradition in France for troops of children who are Protestant, Jewish, or left-wing. Late in the 19th century, when the national secular school system was set up, Catholic priests created scout troops for French boys to continue to influence their upbringing, and soon nuns were doing the same thing for French girls. The results was the the official Scouts de France became identified with Catholicism.

When we went apartment hunting the agent, a Protestant, went on for hours about how we should never enroll our children in "Les Scouts."

Jews, Protestants, and secularists had created a separate scouting movement, called Eclaireurs et Eclaireuses, also divided by religion--but not by sex or sexual orientation. In many French regions, there weren't enough Protestants or Jews to create separate troops for boys and girls. The solution: co-ed troups. This avoids the whole argie-bargie over gays although that was hardly the intention.

During the German occupation of France in the 1940s, the co-ed Jewish Eclaireurs and Eclaireuses became a contributor to the Resistance and the rescue of Jewish children, mainly because intrepid female ex-Scouts could more easily hide their religion than male ones.

More from Sweden, Norway, Ireland, Switzerland, Colombia, Brazil, Portugal, Spain, Finland, China, and Israel follows along with yet more mixed company reports which do not seem to afflict share prices these days. No blog Monday as it is Memorial Day and the market closes an hour earlier today.

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Oops again

Thu, 2013/05/23 - 12:32pm | Your editor

You trade options in lots of 100 not ten as I wrote mistakenly in today's blog. Sorry.

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The 7% Solution

Thu, 2013/05/23 - 12:27pm | Your editor

My last email virus came from my cousin in Bangkok. I got rid of it with difficulty. Today a buddy who divides her time between Brooklyn and Seville sent me a warning that her email account had been hacked, probably from Spain. There are risks with global investing nobody warns you about.

Today we are suffering from the 7% solution, as Japanese stock indexes fell that fast on negative news on Chinese growth. At one point futures trading was halted because stocks fell too fast.

The HSBC "Flash" purchasing managers index for April came in below 50, an indicator of declining growth. So China growth targets have to be revised downward. The Shanghai stock exchange started the drop which quickly spread to European and now US markets. From Nomura in Hong Kong, Michael Kurtz describes the sell-off as "stomach-turning.) He expects that the Japanese and Pacific Rim markets will shortly resume their rise.

And despite the spread of the affliction, Mr. Kurtz insists that there has been a "global decline in equity correlations." The trick is to find new emerging markets and stocks selected for being ignored by the herd. Read on to know what this means for our portfolio.

Today we have a regular sell and a new type one, and news from Japan, Hong Kong, India, China, Israel, Ireland, Canada, and Jordan.

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Back issue

Wed, 2013/05/22 - 12:13pm | Your editor

At reader request, here is the explanation for why we are again trying to buy a GDR in London, a reprint of an earlier article by Patti the Biotech Maven and me published last Nov. Since then the stock has become more liquid and visible in the US. Read more »

TB Drug

Wed, 2013/05/22 - 11:57am | Your editor


Another cheap common supplement in your medicine chest, vitamin C, turns out to be able to kill multidrug-resistant tuberculosis, at least in vitro, in a test tube, scientists have found. The discovery may herald a new way of trying to treat resistant TB, the study authors from Yeshiva University wrote in Nature Communications. About 650,000 people worldwide have multidrug-resistant TB.

Work is needed see if TB germs in a live mouse are also killed by vitamin C. Then it can be tested as a TB drug in humans. “While the findings of this study appear promising, further research to confirm the observations would be essential before Vitamin C can be used to supplement TB treatment” said Dr Ibrahim Abubakar, Head of TB at Public Health England to the BBC.

In the lab, vitamin C acted as a "reducing agent", triggering production of of reactive oxygen species called free radicals. The free radicals killed off the TB germs, even drug ones untreatable with conventional antibiotics like isoniazid. Lead investigator Dr William Jacobs, professor of microbiology and immunology at Albert Einstein College of Medicine at Yeshiva U, said: "We have only been able to demonstrate this in a test tube, and we don't know if it will work in humans and in animals. "This would be a great study because we have strains of tuberculosis that we don't have drugs for, and I know that in the laboratory we can kill those strains with vitamin C. It also helps that we know vitamin C is inexpensive, widely available and very safe to use. At the very least, this work shows us a new mechanism that we can exploit to attack TB."

Vitamin C could be used alongside TB drugs. Alternatively, scientists could create new TB drugs that work by generating a big burst of free radicals. Vitamin C, or ascorbic acid, has many important functions in the body, including protecting cells and keeping them healthy. Good natural sources of the vitamin include oranges juice. Most people get all they need from their diet.


The news follows our report yesterday that in some cases, the advance of dementia and Alzheimer's disease can be controlled with vitamins B6, B12, and folic acid. These discoveries remind me of the miracle drug aspirin which reduces high blood pressure and platelet clotting, thereby reducing the risk of heart attacks and strokes.


More today from Australia, Canada, Singapore, Britain, Ireland, Dubai, and Hollywood.

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Tue, 2013/05/21 - 12:39pm | Your editor

I had better take some vitamins fast. That was supposed to be Steven A. Cohen not Stanley A. Cohen. I admit I do know a lawyer with the latter name which may have caused the senior moment.