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Time Will Stop for a Second

Time will stop in the night of June 30 and July 1, but don’t worry: It will only be for a second. Researchers will add a sliver of time—a leap second—to the world’s clocks. Just as leap years keep our calendars lined up with Earth’s revolution around the sun, leap seconds adjust for Earth’s rotation. This kind of fine-tuning wasn’t much of an issue before the invention of atomic clocks, whose ticks are defined by the cycling of atoms. Cesium-based clocks, one kind of atomic clock, measure the passage of time much more precisely than those based on the rotation of our planet, so adding a leap second allows astronomical time to catch up to atomic time. With the leap second on June 30, coordinated universal time (UTC) will move from 23:59:59 to 23:59:60, and then to 00:00:00 on July 1. Most of us won’t notice the addition unless we deal in timescales shorter than a second, or if we use a computer program that crashes because it can’t handle the leap second. The last leap second was added at 23:59:60 UTC on June 30, 2012. The International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service continuously monitors our planet and will recommend adding leap seconds to the International Telecommunications Union (ITU). The ITU makes the ultimate decision on whether to add a leap second or not. The last leap second was added in 2012, but in the early 1980s, time scientists […]

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Iraq Is Planning for a $5 Billion Bond Issue

Iraq is planning for a $5 billion sovereign bond issue. The government has hired JPMorgan, Citibank and Deutsche Bank to arrange its first debt sale in nine years, to cover a budget deficit caused by low oil prices and its conflict with Islamic militants. Iraq plans to obtain a sovereign credit rating and is approaching rating agencies as it prepares for a $5 billion bond issue. Iraqi officials recently met with the three banks and credit rating agencies — Fitch Ratings and Moody’s Investors Service. In early June, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) reached a staff level agreement to provide a $833 million loan under the Rapid Financing Instrument (RFI). Subject to IMF management approval, the agreement is expected to be submitted to the IMF Executive Board for consideration in July. Iraq has an outstanding U.S. dollar bond maturing in 2028; panic selling late last year as oil prices plunged pushed its yield to a record high of 10.49 percent from around 7.2 percent in September, but it has since dropped back to around 8 percent. The economy contracted by 2.1 percent in 2014, primarily due to the conflict with ISIS, and is expected to achieve only a modest recovery of 0.5 percent in 2015. With low oil prices, export revenues have contracted, pushing the current account into a deficit expected to reach 8 percent of GDP in 2015. The country’s need for cash is acute; the government has projected […]

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Kurdistan Eyes International Debt Financing

The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) is moving forward with a plan to raise money for stalled infrastructure projects by issuing bonds. Bloomberg reported that the KRG has picked Goldman Sachs International and Deutsche Bank AG for a potential bond sale. Kurdistan, a semi-autonomous region of northern Iraq, needs money to meet a growing security bill, to pay public-sector employees and to fund much-needed infrastructure development. In purely economic terms, Kurdistan could be an attractive investment. It sits on a quarter of Iraq’s total oil reserves. The Kurdish region holds 45 billion barrels of oil reserves, while the rest of Iraq has 150 billion barrels, the world’s fifth-largest known deposits. The KRG started crude exports by pipeline through Turkey in 2014. The efforts to sell crude separately from the central government has provoked legal action by authorities in Baghdad. There are some other key outstanding issues that needs to be clarified for attracting investments. The KRG wants the region to become an independent state. Its neighbours — Iran, Turkey and most importantly the government in Baghdad — are opposed to the region’s secession. Its tense relations with the Iraq central government mean there are several grey areas about how exactly Kurdistan would raise any funds — or even if it can do so without Baghdad’s authorisation. This uncertainty also extends to the servicing of any debt and whether or not the regional government will need either explicit or implicit approval from the […]

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International Day of Yoga in Baghdad

Yoga is an Indian physical, mental, and spiritual practice or discipline. There is a broad variety of schools, practices and goals in Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. The origins of Yoga have been speculated to date back to pre-Vedic Indian traditions, but most likely developed around the 6th and 5th centuries BCE, in ancient India’s ascetic circles, which are also credited with the early sramana movements. The chronology of earliest texts describing yoga-practices is unclear, varyingly credited to Hindu Upanishads and Buddhist Pāli Canon, probably of 3rd century BCE or later. Maharshi Patanjali compiled Yoga sutras, which forms the basis of yoga circa 400 CE. Derived from the Sanskrit word yuj, Yoga means union of the individual consciousness or soul with the Universal Consciousness or Spirit. Yoga is over 6000 year old Indian body of knowledge. Though many think of yoga only as a physical exercise where people twist, turn, stretch, and breathe, these are only superficial aspects of a profound science of unfolding the infinite potentials of the human mind and soul. Yoga gurus from India later introduced yoga to the west, following the success of Swami Vivekananda in the late 19th and early 20th century. In the 1980s, yoga became popular as a system of physical exercise across the Western world. June 21 was declared as the International Day of Yoga by the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) on December 11, 2014. The declaration of this day came after the call […]

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Neymar Scores Goal from Behind the Net

Brazilian striker Neymar Jr. scores yet another ridiculous goal — from behind the net. He pulled off another ridiculous move yesterday putting just enough backspin to score from behind the net, during practice before a friendly football match against Honduras in preparation for the South American football championship — Copa America, which began today in Chile. Neymar scored a goal — even though he was on the wrong side of it. He’s six yards behind the goal line. How is this possible? Amazing technique, the perfect weight on the strike and the exact right amount of spin… all at the same time. We’re almost at the point where Brazil’s new king of Europe is defying the laws of physics. The craziest thing? If any mere mortal managed to pull this off, they’d be hopping around celebrating. Neymar? He acts like it’s all perfectly normal. He’s not even trying. He’s just messing about during a break – and he’s done this before. He pulled off the same move in practice before a friendly match against France this year.

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Innocence or Ignorance

There’s a proverb — “Ignorance is bliss.” Is ignorance the same as innocence? Ignorance is having the opportunity to learn, but choosing not to. Innocence is a natural state that we are all born with and supposed to grow out of. People often think of ignorance as if it’s a blank, but it has a shape, either because of unacknowledged motives or as the result of the sequence of historical conditions that led to it. Some people avoid going to the doctor because they don’t want to find out that anything is wrong with them. But ignorance of our sickness doesn’t make us healthy, ignorance of our sin doesn’t make us innocent as well. Ignorance is a choice of the conscious mind. Once you chose to close your eyes and rejected the knowledge, innocence was converted into ignorance. You can accept the information, maybe choosing to research the subject matter further, or choose to stay ignorant ignoring the information. Innocence is a state that can invite opportunities for learning while ignorance is a state brought about by the lack of desire to learn. If the lack of knowledge was not by choice then it can’t be called ignorance and in that case, it would be innocence. We cannot, therefore, deem an innocent person as ignorant, nor affirm the statement in another way. Is it innocence or ignorance that is bliss?

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A Short Story on Privilege

Recent comic of Toby Morris, The Pencilsword’s “On a Plate” illustrates the concept of privilege, and delivers the truth with a punchline. He places two individuals side by side, showing how financial security and benefits, or the lack of it, affects them even if they come from households that love and support them, leading to two completely different outcomes. This short story may change your mind about privilege. Image Source: The Wireless

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Six Banks Fined $6 Billion Over Rigging of Forex Markets

Six of the world’s biggest banks will pay nearly $6 billion — bringing the total sums paid in connection with alleged forex manipulation to about $10 billion. These banks are also among the world’s biggest foreign-exchange traders. Five of them agreed to plead guilty to charges tied to a currency-rigging probe as they seek to wind down almost half a decade of enforcement actions. Separately, the Federal Reserve fined Bank of America Corp $205 million for unsound practices in foreign exchange. Citicorp, JPMorgan Chase & Co., Barclays Plc and Royal Bank of Scotland Plc agreed to plead guilty to conspiring to manipulate the price of US dollars and euros in settlements with the Department of Justice. UBS Group AG agreed to plead guilty to charges related to interest-rate manipulation. They were the first to cooperate with antitrust investigators and were granted immunity in the currency probe. Between December 2007 and January 2013, forex traders at Citi, JPMorgan, Barclays, RBS  and a few other big banks colluded by sharing proprietary information on pending client orders ahead of the 4 p.m. fix. This information sharing was allegedly done through instant-message groups – with catchy names such as “The Cartel,” “The Mafia,” and “The Bandits’ Club” – that were accessible only to a few senior traders at banks who are the most active in the forex market. The audacious nature of the dealing desks is revealed in the chatroom transcripts as one employee at Barclays remarks, […]

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Allowing Banks to Fail

Shortly after the financial crisis broke out in 2008, regulators around the world embarked on a regulatory reform in order to prevent such a crisis from happening again. This regulatory reform is as complex and multi-layered as the crisis itself. Many observers wish there was a silver bullet that would solve the crisis with one clean shot. But, there is no such silver bullet. Too Big to Fail It refers to banks that are so big, so interconnected or so important that their failure might bring down the entire financial system. Consequently, the government has an incentive to step in and bail out these banks in order to prevent a systemic meltdown. Banks that were deemed “too big to fail” therefore operated with implicit government support that was provided free of charge. Such support, however, can induce banks to engage in risky transactions. If things go well they take the profit, but if things go wrong the taxpayer foots the bill. Obviously, this is a less than optimal situation from any point of view but the banks’. How can this problem be solved? The first step is to reduce the likelihood of a large bank failing. To this end, regulation has, among other things, imposed stricter capital requirements in general and introduced surcharges for systemically important banks. But capital can only shield against losses up to a point. A system that entirely prevents the failure of banks is neither possible […]

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Peer-to-Peer Lending Disrupting the Banking Model

bii-how peer to peer lending works

Banks have historically handled most consumer and small business lending because they have the resources to assess a borrower’s creditworthiness, and the regulatory approval to fund loans. However, this model has some key inefficiencies — interest rates are not individualised, the costs of underwriting loans are high, loan decisions can take months, and small & micro enterprises in particular have generally […]

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