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April 10, 2006, 11:59 PM CT

Snippet of Rupert's film "Driving Lessons"

Snippet of Rupert's film
Last month we told you that Harry Potter actors Julie Walters and Rupert Grint's film Driving Lessons would be screened at this year's Tribeca Film Festival in New York, which runs from April 5th through May 7th. You can now see a snippet from the film on the festival's web site.

The synopsis of the film reads:

Ben (Rupert Grint) is a shy teenager living in London and trying to escape from the clutches of his religious mother (Laura Linney). He finally gets his chance when he meets a retired actress who whisks him off to Edinburgh, where he learns to drive, dance, and pick up girls. Brock's loosely autobiographical coming-of-age tale is a heartwarming treat.........

Posted by: Edwin      Permalink


April 6, 2006, 11:36 PM CT

Lewis "scooter" Libby Testified That Leak Was Authorized

Lewis
As per federal prosecutors, Lewis "Scooter" Libby Jr., the former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, told a grand jury that his superiors authorized him to disclose to reporters information from the U.S. National Intelligence Estimate. Portions of the report included still-classified information on Iraqi weapons capability leaked in June and July 2003.

Libby's claim of authorization was revealed in a letter by special prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald, written January 23 and included in papers filed in court by Libby's defense team on Monday. Eventhough this letter did not say which "superiors" Libby referred to, the National Journal reported on Thursday that their sources said this included his immediate boss, V.P. Cheney. If this is confirmed, it could broaden the scandal.

Mr. Libby was obliged to step down after he was indicted on charges that he lied about his role in exposing the identity of Valerie Plame Wilson, a C.I.A. operative, to the journalist Robert Novak in July 2003.

Federal prosecutors plan to use the confession to establish that Mr. Libby was part of the Bush administration's public relations campaign to rebut Mr. Wilson's op-ed column in The New York Times. The column stated that there was little evidence to support the administration's claims that Saddam Hussein was pursuing weapons of mass destruction.........

Posted by: Edwin      Permalink         Source


April 6, 2006, 11:32 PM CT

I Thought We Were Talking About Plame?

I Thought We Were Talking About Plame?
I don't have to go to the liberal blogs to know they're jumping all over the news that Scooter Libby has said that President Bush approved the leaking of intelligence information to the media. Of course, while the issue up to this point has been the leaking of Valerie Plame's identity, no where is it said that the disclosure of her identity was ever authorized by President Bush or Vice President Cheney.

That being said, the information that was reportedly released-a document regarding Iraq's attempts to obtain uranium-the President has the authority to declassify information anyways, so, whether or not classified information was leaked in this case is a moot point.

In addition, it has neither been proven that Plame was in fact covert, or that her position in the CIA (and the revelation thereof) had any impact whatsoever on national security. It's quite humorous reading various criticisms by Democrats lambasting President Bush over this so-called leak, considering when classified information that did have a direct impact on national security was leaked. Were the Democrats outraged when the details of the NSA terrorist surveillance program was leaked and reported by The New York Times. Nope.

Just another case of Democrats trying to make a mountain out of a molehill.........

Posted by: Edwin      Permalink         Source


April 4, 2006, 9:45 PM CT

Kids' TV Time And Consumerism

Kids' TV Time And Consumerism Image courtesy of .awn.com
Peace at any price? More than one parent has forked over cash in a desperate bid to stop their kids' badgering for the hottest toy or the latest snack. Now scientists at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital and Stanford's School of Medicine have found that the more time California third-graders spent in front of the tube or playing video games, the more often they asked an adult to buy them items they saw on the screen.

"It's called the 'nag factor,'" said Lisa Chamberlain, MD, MPH, Packard Children's researcher and clinical instructor at the medical school, "and it's very effective".

What's more, the connection between increased screen time and subsequent requests for toys and junk food held true for over a period of 20 months.

Chamberlain warns that, if left unchecked, increasing amounts of screen time for children could foster a rise in obesity and consumerismthat will reverberate for decades. She is the lead author of the research, which would be reported in the recent issue of the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

"We're proving what marketers have known for years," said Chamberlain. "Kids have discretionary income of their own, and they also have a lot of influence of how their parents spend the family's money".

Chamberlain collaborated with pediatric researcher Thomas Robinson, MD, for the study. Robinson is well-known for his investigations into the links between television viewing and obesity, violence and test scores. He is also the director of Packard Children's Center for Healthy Weight, and an associate professor of pediatrics at Stanford's School of Medicine.........

Posted by: Edwin      Permalink         Source

March 21, 2006, 11:24 PM CT

Volume 79, number 2: The Subjective and Objective Evaluation of Incentive Stock Options

Owners of incentive options invariably hold undiversified portfolios. This paper derives a model for the subjective and objective values of such options. The subjective value—the value to the holder—is less than the market value because the option is held in an undiversified portfolio and because it is exercised suboptimally from the market perspective. The objective value is the cost to the firm of issuing the option and lies between the market and subjective values. This value recognizes the suboptimal exercise but not the undiversified discount. The model, which is the Black-Scholes model with modified parameters, is simple to use.



Volume 79, number 2: On the Profitability of Media Mergers

We examine incentives for nonconsolidating horizontal mergers in commercial media industries. In a model with differentiated media and products, we show that such a merger is profitable if merging media firms gain a relative bargaining advantage vis-à-vis advertisers in the negotiations for advertising space. Whether a bargaining advantage yields profitable conditions for a merger depends on the extent of competition for audiences among media firms. Higher levels of competition make media mergers more profitable. This result contrasts those implied by oligopoly models for traditional product markets, which suggest that mergers become less profitable for higher levels of competition.



Volume 79, number 2: Predictability in Emerging Sovereign Debt Markets

I find strong evidence of economically and statistically significant predictability in Brady bonds, the most liquid emerging debt market, by implementing a new model for credit spreads. Active management provides U.S. investors in emerging markets with double the buy-and-hold returns at lower risk and the equivalent of free options on Brady bonds. My analysis suggests that predictability is primarily driven by credit spread deviations from fundamentals rather than time-varying risk or risk premia. This inefficiency results from the restrictions of a nontransparent, institutionally dominated, dealer market and the lack of a fully developed derivatives market for emerging country credit risk.



Volume 79, number 2: Nationwide Branching and Its Impact on Market Structure, Quality, and Bank Performance

The paper examines the effects of the Riegle-Neal branching deregulation in the 1990s on banking market structure, service, and performance. While concentration at the regional level has increased, deregulation has left almost intact the structure of metropolitan markets, which have between two and three dominant banks—controlling over half of market deposits—both at the beginning and the end of the sample. A significant portion of the observed increase in branch networks can be traced to the deregulation, allowing consumers to enjoy larger fee-free networks locally and regionally. Costs, service fees, and credit risk increase, spreads fall, and profits are unaffected.



Volume 79, number 2: The Costs and Benefits of Moral Suasion: Evidence from the Rescue of Long-Term Capital Management

This study examines the level of unsecured borrowing done by the firms that ultimately rescued Long-Term Capital Management in the days leading up to the hedge fund’s rescue. Although these banks borrowed less at the height of the crisis, evidence suggests that this reduction in borrowing was demand-driven and did not result from rationing by the market. Further, it is shown that large banks that were not involved with the LTCM rescue saw the rates they pay for unsecured funds decline following the hedge fund’s resolution. This finding is consistent with an increase in the strength of a too-big-to-fail policy.



Volume 79, number 2: Irreversible Investment under Interest Rate Variability: Some Generalizations

We study the impact of interest rate and revenue variability on the decision to carry out irreversible investment. We provide a mathematical characterization of the two-dimensional optimal stopping problem and show that interest rate variability has a decelerating or accelerating impact on investment depending on whether the current interest rate is below or above the long-run steady state. Allowing for interest rate volatility decelerates investment by raising both the required exercise premium of the investment opportunity and the value of waiting. Finally, increased revenue volatility is shown to strengthen the negative impact of interest rate volatility and vice versa.



Volume 79, number 2: On the Out-of-Sample Predictability of Stock Market Returns

In this paper, I provide new evidence of the out-of-sample predictability of stock returns. In particular, I find that the consumption-wealth ratio in conjunction with a measure of aggregate stock market volatility exhibits substantial out-of-sample forecasting power for excess stock market returns. Also, simple trading strategies based on the documented predictability generate returns of higher mean and lower volatility than the buy-and-hold strategy does, and this difference is economically important.



Volume 79, number 2: The Impact of Short Selling on the Price-Volume Relationship: Evidence from Hong Kong

This paper considers the relationship between traded volume and volatility allowing for the impact of short sales. The evidence supports a nonlinear, bidirectional relationship between volume and volatility. Short selling is found to have a significant impact on this relationship, and our results suggest (i) that the Hong Kong market displays greater volatility following a period of short selling and (ii) that asymmetric responses to positive and negative innovations to returns appear to be exacerbated by short selling.



Volume 79, number 2: Temporal Resolution of Uncertainty and Corporate Debt Yields: An Empirical Investigation

Designing novel proxies for temporal resolution of uncertainty (TRU), we find that the later the uncertainty facing the firm is resolved, the larger the yields on corporate debt issued between 1987 and 1996. This result is robust to different test specifications and is of nontrivial economic significance. An ordered probit test confirms that the speed at which uncertainty is resolved for a given firm is not incorporated in the grading process, although it is priced by the market. Further tests lend more support to the hypothesis of investors’ intrinsic timing preferences than to agency-driven increases in risk.



Volume 79, number 2: Hybrid Mutual Funds and Market Timing Performance

I examine the stock market timing ability of two samples of hybrid mutual funds. I find that the inclusion of bond indices and a bond timing variable in a multifactor Treynor-Mazuy model framework leads to substantially different conclusions concerning the stock market timing performance of these funds relative to the traditional Treynor-Mazuy model. Results from the multifactor Treynor-Mazuy model find less stock timing ability over the 1981–91 time period and provide evidence of significant stock timing ability across the second fund sample during the 1992–2000 time period.



Volume 79, number 2: The Hedge Ratio and the Empirical Relationship between the Stock and Futures Markets: A New Approach Using Wavelet Analysis

This paper examines the relationship between the stock and futures markets in terms of lead-lag relationship, correlation, and the hedge ratio using wavelet analysis. Empirical results show that (1) there is a feedback relationship between the stock and futures markets regardless of time scales, (2) wavelet correlation between two markets varies over investment horizons but remains very high, and (3) hedge ratio and the effectiveness of hedging strategies increase as the wavelet time scale increases. Simulation for utility comparisons shows that hedging effectiveness depends not only on the time scale but also on the risk aversion coefficient of an individual investor.



Volume 79, number 2: Promotions in the Internal and External Labor Market: Evidence from Professional Football Coaching Careers

We study job movements of professional football coaches. The likelihood of an external promotion is strongly related to measures of individual performance and only weakly related to team performance. In contrast, the likelihood of an internal promotion is not related to individual performance. This difference arises from the process governing internal job openings, since openings are negatively related to performance. Conditional on the presence of an opening, promotion likelihood is increasing in individual performance. Relationships matter, as coaches are often hired and fired as a group. These findings have implications for several issues related to incentives and organizational design.



Volume 79, number 2: Size, Leverage, Concentration, and R&D Investment in Generating Growth Opportunities

We show that a firm’s ability to reap growth opportunities from R&D investments depends on its size, leverage, and the industry concentration. While the direct effects of these factors are significant, the size-leverage interaction reveals further important insights. Large firms’ advantages over small firms disappear as their leverage increases. Specifically, small firms with high leverage reap the greatest growth opportunities. Our results provide explanations for inconsistent findings observed when size and leverage are considered independently in existing studies on value and stock return relevance of R&D investment. We also highlight firm-specific factors that guide investors’ valuation of R&D.



Volume 79, number 2: On the Patterns and Wealth Effects of Vertical Mergers

We use industry commodity flows information to measure vertical relations in completed mergers from 1962 to 1996. Almost one-third of the mergers display vertical relatedness. Vertical merger activity is more intensive in the 1980s and 1990s and less so in the 1960s and the 1970s. Vertical mergers generate positive wealth effects that are significantly larger than those for diversifying mergers; the wealth effects in vertical mergers are comparable to those in pure horizontal mergers.



Volume 79, number 2: Relative Portfolio Performance Evaluation and Incentive Structure

Mutual fund managers are the agents of investors, and their efforts to improve their performance are influenced by either explicit or implicit incentive structures within fund organizations. An efficient fund evaluation should control for organizational elements that affect managerial incentives in evaluating their performance. I propose an incentive-compatible portfolio performance evaluation measure in which managers are to maximize investors’ gross returns net of managerial compensation. I consider the effect of organizational elements such as economies of scale on incentive and thus on performance. Finally, I compare this new measure with the Sharpe ratio.



Volume 79, number 2: Asset Pricing When Returns Are Nonnormal: Fama-French Factors versus Higher-Order Systematic Comoments

A growing literature contends that, since returns are not normal, higher-order comoments matter to risk-averse investors. Fama and French (1993, 1995) find that nonmarket risk factors based on size and book-to-market ratio are priced by investors. We test the hypothesis that the Fama-French factors simply proxy for the pricing of higher-order comoments. Using portfolio returns over various time horizons, we show that adding a set of systematic comoments (but not standard moments) of order 3–10 reduces the explanatory power of the Fama-French factors to insignificance in almost every case.



Volume 79, number 2: A New Variance Bound on the Stochastic Discount Factor

In this paper, we construct a new variance bound on any stochastic discount factor (SDF) of the form [FORMULA], with x being a vector of state variables, which tightens the well-known Hansen-Jagannathan bound by a ratio of one over the multiple correlation coefficient between x and the standard minimum variance SDF, [FORMULA]. In many applications, the correlation is small, and hence the bound is much improved. For example, when x is the growth rate of consumption, the new variance bound can be 25 times greater than the Hansen-Jagannathan bound, making it much more difficult to explain the equity-premium puzzle.



Volume 79, number 2: Anatomy of a Government Intervention in Index Stocks: Price Pressure or Information Effects?

In a massive intervention designed to deter speculators, the Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) bought Hang Seng index stocks in August 1998. These stocks experienced a 24% abnormal return during the intervention period. The abnormal returns are not reversed over the next eight weeks, refuting the hypothesis that returns are due to temporary liquidity effects. Cross-sectional analysis of daily abnormal returns during the intervention period reveals that these returns are related to overall intervention activity rather than stock-specific intervention. This evidence is consistent with information effects rather than price pressure effects.



Volume 79, number 2: Merger Momentum and Investor Sentiment: The Stock Market Reaction to Merger Announcements

This paper examines the effects of mergers on bidding firms’ stock prices. I find evidence of merger momentum: bidder stock prices are more likely to increase when a merger is announced if recent mergers by other firms have been received well (a “hot” merger market) or if the overall stock market is doing better. However, there is long-run reversal. Long-run bidder stock returns are lower for mergers announced when either the merger or stock markets were hot at the time of the merger than for those announced at other times.



Volume 79, number 2: Reputation, Certification, Warranties, and Information as Remedies for Seller-Buyer Information Asymmetries: Lessons from the Online Comic Book Market

Signaling strategies that sellers of higher-quality products or securities employ to differentiate their products include (1) development of a reputation for quality, (2) third-party certification, (3) warranties, and (4) information disclosure. These signaling strategies are compared using data from the online auction market for classic comic books. This market’s advantages include that (1) the information asymmetry is substantial, (2) good measures of reputation are available, and (3) all four signals are common. We explore which signals are strongest and why, which are substitutes or complements, and how choice among the other three strategies depends on the reputation of the seller.



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  • March 15, 2006, 6:29 AM CT

    Reducing Fine Particulate Air Pollution May Save Lives

    Reducing Fine Particulate Air Pollution May Save Lives
    Investigators who extended the Harvard Six Cities fine particulate air pollution study by eight years found that reduced levels of tiny particle pollution during this period lowered mortality risk for participants.

    The results appear in the second issue for March 2006 of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, published by the American Thoracic Society.

    The findings of the original Harvard Six Cities study (1979 to 1990) revealed an association between levels of fine particulate matter pollution and mortality risk. The new study, which was conducted from 1990 to 1998, reports on this later period of reduced air pollution concentration.

    Francine Laden, Sc.D., of Channing Laboratory in Boston, Massachusetts, and three associates found that the largest drops in adjusted mortality rates were in cities with the greatest reduction in fine particulate air pollution (PM2.5). The investigators' findings remained valid even after setting controls for the general increase in adult life expectancy that occurred in the U.S. during both study periods (1979 to 1989 and 1990 to 1998).

    "This reduction was observed specifically for deaths due to cardiovascular and respiratory disease and not from lung cancer, a disease with a longer latency period and less reversibility," said Dr. Laden.........

    Posted by: Edwin      Permalink         Source

    March 12, 2006, 4:41 PM CT

    Understanding the Iranian Nuclear Crisis

    Understanding the Iranian Nuclear Crisis

    New Warwick Podcast:

    Tension between Iran and the International Community is increasing with negotiations over Iran's nuclear capability at the heart of a growing diplomatic crisis. With the likely recommdendation that Iran be referred to the UN Security Council for supposed breaches of its nuclear obligations the next few weeks will be cruicial in determining the outcomes of this latest confrontation.

    The current crisis is the culmination of years of Iranian nuclear development and diplomatic efforts on the part of the EU, the US and the UN. The history of the crisis and its implications for the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty are complex and go to the heart of the future ability of the International Community to regulate and monitor nuclear activity.

    Dr Daniel Joyner is a Lecturer in International Law at the Warwick Law School. Dr Joyner is an expert in public international law in the security context, with particular interest in the area of proliferation studies, including nonproliferation treaties and regimes, issues of international trade and export control law, use of force law, and international legal theory.



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  • March 8, 2006, 11:19 PM CT

    Rethinking of Theory of Giant Earthquakes

    Rethinking of Theory of Giant Earthquakes The tectonic plates are in motion. They are driven by the flowing mantle below and their motions are controlled by a complex puzzle of plate collisions around the globe.
    The Sumatra-Andaman earthquake of December 26, 2004, was one of the worst natural disasters in recent memory, mostly on account of the devastating tsunami that followed it. A group of geologists and geophysicists, including researchers at the California Institute of Technology, has delineated the full dimensions of the fault rupture that caused the earthquake.

    Their findings, published in the March 2 issue of the journal Nature, suggest that prior ideas about where giant earthquakes are likely to occur need to be revised. Regions of the earth previously believed to be immune to such events may actually be at high risk of experiencing them.

    Like all giant earthquakes, the 2004 event occurred on a subduction megathrust-in this case, the Sunda megathrust, a giant earthquake fault, along which the Indian and Australian tectonic plates are diving beneath the margin of southeast Asia. The fault surface that ruptured cannot be seen directly because it lies several kilometers deep in the Earth's crust, largely beneath the sea.

    Nevertheless, the rupture of the fault caused movements at the surface as long-accumulating elastic strain was suddenly released. The scientists measured these surface motions by three different techniques. In one, they measured the shift in position of GPS stations whose locations had been accurately determined previous to the earthquake.........

    Posted by: Edwin      Permalink         Source

    February 26, 2006, 8:59 PM CT
    Beverley Saturday Market


    The Saturday Market developed to the north of Beverley Minster and there has been a market on this location since the C13th. Further south the Wednesday Market (which still exists) lies upon the site of the original market designed to serve the religious community of the Minster.

    Around the life of the Minster the town grew and the Saturday Market was established to serve the secular community. The market is full of life with colourful awnings, rich aroma's and plenty of noise. European bread and olive stalls are contrasted against, jewellery and tool stalls. Whilst you walk around you do get a sense of the history of the place and your part in the tradition of commerce which has been alive for over 800 years. The vista's are remarkable - to the north we have the beautifully complete Perpendicular Gothic of Saint Mary's and to the south we have the aspiring twin towers of the Minster. On the wester boundary of the market the Green Dragon public house now takes up the full length of the original medieval burgage plot.

    Here's a whole raft of Beverley images taken over a period of several years

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    February 24, 2006, 7:23 PM CT
    Painter in your Pocket
    Seems I've been gushing with praise over just about everything lately (even more so than usual), but there's just been so much great shit that has come to my ears lately. 2006 is already shaping up to be an amazing year for music overall: I've been obsessed with the Fiery Furnaces' Bitter Tea, the new Hot Chip record, Band of Horses' Everything All The Time, The Knife's Silent Shout, and about 5 other things right now.



    And despite the greatness of all of the aforementioned albums, Destroyer's Rubies stands out as an early contender for album of the year.

    I know everyone's been talking about this record, but I've been kind of ingoring that until I had a chance to fully digest it. I think it's the most complex, ambitious, and beautiful thing Dan Bejar has ever created. Give this track a few listens, as there's a lot going on:

    Destroyer Painter in your Pocket mp3

    buy Destroyer's Rubies from Merge

    Dallas people: please vote for gorillavsbear.net for "Best Music Website/Blog" in the 2006 Dallas Observer Music Awards. It'll only take a second.

    elsewhere:

    Dodge has pics from last night's Voxtrot show in Bloomington.

    Read more....


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