World
When Wall Street Offers Free Money, Watch Out
Bankers and new accounting rules are emboldening governments to borrow-and-bet their way out of pension problems, a strategy that’s backfired in the past
 
This story was co-published with the Washington Post.
 
If there were ever a time not to bet the moon on the stock and bond markets, it's now, with U.S. stocks at near-record highs and interest rates on quality bonds at near-record lows. But Wall Street is urging state and local governments to do just that — and they're listening.
 
Despite the risks, governments are lining up to issue billions of dollars in new debt to replenish their depleted pension funds and, as a bonus, take some pressure off strapped budgets. In some cases, the borrowing makes their balance sheets look vastly better.
 
Bankers, who make fat fees for raising the money, are encouraging this borrow-and-bet trend. Their sales pitch is that borrowing at today's low interest rates all but guarantees a profit for the governments because they can invest the proceeds in their pension funds and for decades earn returns higher than the 5 percent or so in interest that they will pay on the bonds.
 
But there's a catch: If the timing is wrong, these so-called pension obligation bonds could clobber the finances of the government issuers. Pension funds and beneficiaries will be better off because pensions will be more soundly financed. But taxpayers — present and future — might be considerably worse off. They will be running huge risks and could get stuck with a massive tab.
 
"It's sold as a magic bean," said Todd Ely, a professor at the University of Colorado at Denver who has studied pension bonds. "But when it goes bad it's not free. Then it isn't really magic. If it could be counted on to work as often as it's supposed to, then everyone would be doing it."
 
Plenty of takers are bellying up to the borrowing bar. Governments sold $670 million worth of pension bonds through the first half of this year, more than double the $300 million raised for all of last year, according to deal-trackers at Thomson Reuters.
 
That total would more than double if Kansas completes a pending $1 billion deal, which would be its biggest bond issue. A $3 billion sale is under consideration in Pennsylvania, that state's largest as well. Lawmakers recently rejected record multibillion-dollar deals in Kentucky and Colorado, but those proposals are expected to resurface. And new proposals are being pitched to other governments.
 
Pension bonds have waxed and waned since the 1980s, but the current boom is different. An examination by The Washington Post and ProPublica found that it's being driven not only by the prospect of investment profits but also by a new accounting quirk that has largely escaped public notice while morphing into a major marketing tool for Wall Street banks.
 
The quirk stems from a rule change that, ironically, was meant to force governments to more clearly disclose the health of their pension funds. But a side effect is to allow governments with extremely underfunded pensions to slash reported shortfalls by $2 or more for each $1 borrowed.
 
Here's how: If a pension plan is so poorly funded that it is projected to run out of cash, the new rules require it to make less optimistic projections about future returns. That increases the reported pension shortfall. But if governments infuse a big slug of borrowed money into the fund, they can resume using optimistic projections, and the shortfall shrinks.
 
It's like getting a new credit card, borrowing on it to pay off part of an existing loan, then having the total amount owed magically shrink by more than what is borrowed. Sounds impossible — but it's true.
 
The impact can be dramatic. In March, the town of Hamden, Conn., reduced its unfunded pension amount by about $320 million with a $125 million pension bond and promises of future payments, according to an estimate by ProPublica and The Post. The Kentucky Teachers' Retirement System said it estimates that a $3.3 billion bond issue plus payment promises could carve $9.5 billion off its unfunded liability.
 
Those figures don't reflect… Continue Reading…
 
Courtesy: ProPublica

User

Controlling Your Mobile
You truly own your device only when you have root access and install a customised Android OS. Here is how to do it
 
If you want to control your mobile device, it literally means that you should be able to change its settings, parameters and themes (wallpapers too), according to your choice. Otherwise, what is the point of buying a device which is restricted? My point is simple. You own your mobile handset and should be able to do what you please with it, or use it as you please. 
 
It would be ideal if the manufacturer just supplied the hardware and installed the operating system (OS) as per the buyer’s choice. But this might take a few more years to become a reality. Almost all mobile handsets have certain limitations imposed by the manufacturers or mobile operators. Although it is done to protect the buyer, sometimes it also puts several restrictions on the usage.
 
Therefore, let’s see how you can take full control of your mobile device. The first step is rooting (for Android) which allows you to take control, like installing or using blocked apps and features or emulate some exclusive features. But, before proceeding further, let me warn you: rooting an Android device is not for the faint-hearted and you cannot hold anyone—including me—responsible if your device turns into a brick. (Don’t worry; there are ways to revive this brick, but more about this later.) One issue you need to be aware of is that rooting your device will void its warranty; unless the manufacture specifically allows it and all your data (on internal memory) will be gone, unless you had backed it up on an external SD card. Presently, Yureka from Yu Technologies (a unit of Micromax) allows device rooting without affecting the warranty. I would urge you to try this only on devices whose warranty has expired and the manufacturer is no more upgrading the OS or firmware. I am using Android KitKat (4.4.4) on my Galaxy SII that was left out in cold by Samsung at 2.3.6 without a chance for further updates.
 
Rooting can be done by using simple methods as well as using a command prompt and development interface known as Android Debug Bridge (ADB). Both methods are easy and there are plenty of detailed guides to follow. One of the best sites for Android-related devices is xda-developers.com. So, first search your device (exact name or model number is a must) on the portal and see if you can root or modify or install customised OS, like OmniROM or more popular CyanogenMod. From here, you need to download a custom recovery and the customised OS.
 
There are three steps involved in taking control of your Android device: unlocking bootloader, rooting and flashing customised read-only memory (ROM). Since several handset manufacturers these days are not locking the bootloader or selling devices with unlockable bootloaders, we can jump to the rooting task. 
 
Rooting needs a custom recovery image that can be flashed on the device. ClockworkMod (CWM) or TWRP are the two most popular ones. You need to copy either of the recovery images (in .zip file format), the customised ROM and Google Apps package to your device. You can even copy these files on the internal and external memory of your device. Every device is pre-set to enter into recovery mode. Use it to go into recovery mode. From there, select install .zip (from internal/external memory card) and choose the custom recovery file. Install the files. Reboot into recovery, install the ROM and Google Apps package using the same method. Reboot the device. 
 
And now you are a proud owner of your mobile handset. 
 
The steps I have mentioned here are most common; but please check detailed guidelines for your particular device on the website from where you have downloaded the recovery, ROM (OS) and Google apps files.

User

COMMENTS

saravanan ramamoorthy

2 years ago

Rooting the device is good, but its effect last only 3-6 months only and thereafter it starts malfunctioning - slow execution of app commands, frequent 'hang' like 'windows', etc. Even resetting the device to factory status does not work becuase the device should be unrooted now, so that the minimum speed functioning is restored at the factory status. So, virtually every device rooted need to be unrooted after a few months' time.

REPLY

Yogesh Sapkale

In Reply to saravanan ramamoorthy 2 years ago

Thanks for your comment. Rooting is basically done to explore more features of the OS besides gaining control over the device. Rooting remains till you unroot. so there is no question of effects lasting for limited period. What you are trying to say is the devices becomes slow after some time. But is has more to do with installing several applications or using more features. It is applicable to any and every OS, depending upon the hardware present and software installations.
Hope this clarifies your doubts.

Pravesh Pandya

2 years ago

I look forward to a day when you could just buy your mobile and install OS of your choice - as we get to do in laptops.

At one point or other, tablets, phones and laptops will converge. Currently the only difference between tablet/phone and laptop is 1. keyboard, 2. bulk 3. screensize, 4. hardware architecture.

The first three might get solved, but that last one would require industry wide effort to use standardised hardware.

Yoga: A New Awakening
Rules and regulations are more important than asanas for happy and healthy living
 
We must congratulate our prime minister for making the United Nations declare World Yoga Day on 21st June every year. I was invited to deliver the keynote address on that day at Vigyan Bhavan (Delhi). But, six months ago, I was invited to Lisbon (Portugal) to deliver the keynote and an inaugural lecture on the same day. Being a yoga enthusiast, I could not let down the organisers in Portugal by accepting the Indian government’s invitation at the last minute. Anyway, yoga is now becoming the mainstream.
 
Yoga is the lifestyle for a happy and healthy living in which rules and regulations (yama, niyamas) are much more important than the asanas. Pranayama, prathyaahaara, dhyana, dharana, samadhi and asana are the other legs. Commercialised yoga, especially in the United States, has become an asana-centred business with lots of unscientific methods like ‘hot yoga’ thrown in. I appeal to all: don’t reduce an asana to just a physical exercise, although the asana is an integral part of yoga. Sage Patanjali himself had noted that constant ease is the main role of asanas.
 
One can become a yogi just by pursuing an authentic lifestyle to be useful to mankind. Religiously doing asanas daily and chanting mantras for an hour, but doing negative business for the rest of the day, does not qualify one to be a yogi. The good that accrues from yogic lifestyle is due to the tranquillity of mind that it bestows as a positive side-effect. The responsibility of propounding the correct methodology of yoga to the world rested on the shoulders of India from where it originated. 
 
Morarji Desai National Institute of Yoga, New Delhi, must take the lead and should have regular week-long courses for people interested from all over the world, in addition to other courses. Dr Ishwar V Basavaraddy, the present director of the Institute, is a young, but wise, and able administrator. He should be able to achieve this target.
 
With this new awakening, the world should become aware of this simple method that could boost the inner healer to avoid many silent killers like diabetes, hypertension, cancers and other metabolic syndromes. A study showed that if 10% of the society becomes tranquil, the crime rate would come down by 50%. 
 
Pranayama, or true yogic breathing style, has many therapeutic benefits. Regular belly button breathing, otherwise called the abdominal breathing, benefits almost all human organs, except the menstrual cycle. This is called ‘mode-locking’ in physics. In this dynamic universe, the most dominant rhythm controls (mode-locks) all other rhythms. In the human system, breathing is the most dominant rhythm; hence, proper breathing can bring the following health benefits:
Quickly increases peripheral cell oxygenation helping people with heart failure.
Makes the mind tranquil, helps control anxiety and panic attacks, without drugs. Drug treatment of these is unscientific as the human mind is not confined to the brain nor is it a child of the brain function.
It improves the heart rate, a good yardstick to measure the heart’s health status.
In a study, 100 poor patients with multiple coronary blocks were told that they would die without interventions. They could not afford the treatment. A study of those patients showed that with a yogic life style and simple medication, all of them survived and the heart muscle was shown by scans to have been effectively re-vascularised!
Multiple benefits for various other musculoskeletal abnormalities.
David Shananoff-Khalsa, a researcher with University of California, San Diego, has been working with Kriya Yoga in diseases as disparate as epilepsy to obsessive compulsive disorders (OCDs) with remarkable results.
 
‘Yoga’, in Sanskrit means yuj or yolk, revealing the connect between individual consciousness and universal consciousness. The latter is the king now. Consciousness is the root from where all matter emanates. It is the reality.

 

(Professor Dr BM Hegde, a Padma Bhushan awardee in 2010, is an MD, PhD, FRCP (London, Edinburgh, Glasgow & Dublin), FACC and FAMS.)

User

COMMENTS

Achin

2 years ago

Why we need to cite Western Doctors or intellectuals to bring credibility to our writing ?
You have also done it in your last point. Why can't you take data from Indian institutions and quote them ?

Narendra Doshi

2 years ago

well said and worth remebering before doing without a thought / blind following.

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