Monday, June 30, 2014

Oh Canada

Canada Day (French: Fête du Canada) is the national day of Canada, a federal statutory holiday celebrating the anniversary of the July 1, 1867, enactment of the British North America Act, 1867 (today called the Constitution Act, 1867), which united three colonies into a single country called Canada within the British Empire. Originally called Dominion Day (French: Le Jour de la Confédération), the holiday was renamed in 1982, the year the Canada Act was passed. Canada Day observances take place throughout Canada as well as among Canadians internationally.

Where is the best place to celebrate Canada Day? Ottawa! Hundreds of thousands go to the nation's capital to celebrate Canada Day. There's a big concert, fireworks and plenty of Molson Golden Ale. Canadians love beer. Labatt's and Molson's, the country's two biggest breweries, are among the most recognized brands in Canada.

What Canadian music should I listen to? Canadian artists you're going to hear a lot of on Canada Day include: Neil Young, the Tragically Hip, Stompin’ Tom, Gordon Lightfoot, Arcade Fire, Broken Social Scene, Joni Mitchell and, ironically, Bryan Adams. Play Nickelback, Celine Dion or Justin Bieber at your own peril.

What do I talk about with Canadians? Well, Canadians do love hockey (the playoffs just ended, the Los Angeles Kings won btw) and the Blue Jays (the country's remaining baseball team is doing pretty well). But if sports aren’t up your alley, Canadians love to talk politics. Their political parties are the Liberals, Conservatives, New Democrats, Bloc Québécois, and the Green party.

What not to talk about with Canadians: Tim Horton donuts, Seal hunting, Windsor Ontario, Toronto Maple Leafs and Canadian Professional Football.

RAMADAN BEGINS - From Morocco to Jakarta, Muslims mark Ramadan: Across a wide belt that stretches halfway around the globe, the world's estimated 1.6 billion Muslims will mark the beginning of Ramadan this weekend. The holy season is marred by unprecedented turmoil, violence and sectarian hatreds that threaten to rip apart the Middle East, the epicenter of Islam. ... A Muslim holy month of fasting during which Muslims abstain from food, drink and other pleasures from sunrise to sunset.

MEAT & DRINK - Beer and beef are two staples of every Fourth of July picnic, making this week an important one for both industries. Big brewers are offering citrus and margarita-flavored beers in an effort to win back drinkers lured away by cocktails and "craft" beers. The U.S. beer industry, sales during the week of July Fourth are traditionally 30% to 40% higher than average. Meanwhile, surging beef prices come as supermarkets gear up for what is typically the busiest week of the year for beef sales. A prolonged drought in the southern Great Plains has shrunk the nation's cattle supply to six-decade lows and wholesale prices for choice-grade beef—the main variety consumed in the U.S.—surged 11% over the 12 months through May. Many restaurants looking for the best ways to deal with the rising prices, are passing along the costs, while also offering new menus, smaller burgers and more side dishes.

PRIVATE LIVES - Cellphones are more like computers than old-fashioned address books, according to the U.S. Supreme Court—an important distinction that provides them greater protection under the law. In what privacy advocates hailed as a landmark decision, the court unanimously ruled that police must obtain a warrant to search data on mobile devices, providing law-abiding Americans—and criminals—with a safeguard in the digital age. The court has been forced to grapple with the implications of modern technology on constitutional rights, our story notes, alternately siding with law enforcement and the individual. Acknowledging that the ruling would make some police work harder, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in his decision, "Privacy comes at a cost." Law-enforcement officials, meanwhile, expressed disappointment. Technology "is making it easier and easier for criminals to do their trade," said one district attorney, while the court "is making it harder for law enforcement to do theirs."

IS THERE A CHINA BUBBLE? - The party line is that there is no bubble and the massive inventory of empty apartment and office complexes across the vast nation will eventually be filled with the 12 to 15 million citizens the government wants to move from farms to urban areas over the coming decades. Zhang Hongli, senior executive vice president of ICBC, China's largest bank, told a group of visiting journalists that ICBC's ratio of non-performing loans, at 0.7 percent, is far below the average of most Western institutions. And he said local governments, which carry heavy debt loads, could just sell property to pay off creditors if they get in trouble.

THE DARKER VIEW - The private view from foreign officials in China and some internal critics is much darker. These people note that local Chinese governments have set up massive off-balance sheet vehicles to finance the nation's massive construction boom (the most common sight in China is a half-finished building) as well as tapped trillions of dollars’ worth of loans from the nation's giant shadow banking industry. These largely opaque liabilities could go bust in potentially disastrous ways. Think of the U.S. real estate collapse on a much larger scale.

And one foreign official noted that local governments actually do not have endless amounts of land to sell or long lists of willing buyers who could snap up property during a financial collapse. And the most common line - that the central government will bail out any big bank or local government - sounds good until you contemplate what the Chinese might do to raise cash to pay off foreign creditors demanding dollars. That could include selling some of its massive pile of $1.3 trillion in U.S. debt with potentially brutal impacts for U.S. borrowing costs. China could in fact engage in the mother of all bailouts, but the results might be very ugly.


First, John Boehner abused his power by blowing through $2.3 million of taxpayers’ money in a failed attempt to defend the unconstitutional Defense of Marriage Act. Then he wasted $73 million of our cash on 55 pointless votes to repeal Obamacare. Now, just months after refusing to do his job and permit a vote on the Employment Nondiscrimination ACT (ENDA) because he said it would spark “frivolous lawsuits” (and forcing Obama to issue an Executive Order to create the largest single expansion of LGBT workplace protections in US history), John Boehner is launching a lawsuit against POTUS.

It’s so dumb even some conservative legal scholars say Boehner has no legal grounds for the suit. It’s so ludicrous even Fox News’ Neil Cavuto has laughed in Michele Bachmann’s face about it. But it’s summertime in an election year. Silly season for the GOP and Speaker Boehner needs some kind of moronic gimmick to distract the Tea Party nut jobs who just ended his buddy Eric Cantor’s political career.

The fake IRS scandal has fizzled. Benghazi’s over. And Obamacare’s here to stay.  And now he’s suing Obama simply for doing his job. Finally, like some associates (male) we know Speaker Boehner has a fake tan and he dyes his hair.

Speaker John Boehner, for the 3rd time, is Jack Ass of the Month.

THE FRENCH CONNECTION - In a landmark settlement with U.S. authorities expected today, BNP Paribas will pay nearly $9 billion and plead guilty to attempting to conceal $30 billion in transactions with countries blacklisted by Washington. A surprising management failure at the mother ship of France's banking industry led to this crisis. The bank admitted to U.S. officials last summer that it had been processing transactions with Iran and other sanctioned countries—including some even after the U.S. had begun its investigation of BNP in 2009. Bank executives said they had no knowledge of the alleged misconduct before the probe, and instead pointed the finger at a small group of employees at its trade-finance unit that handled oil and commodities deals in countries targeted by sanctions. Also note the bank's efforts to get the French government to put pressure on the Obama administration, including arguments that a disproportionate punishment for BNP could destabilize Europe's banking industry. On Friday, BNP Chief Executive Jean-Laurent Bonnafé sent a message to the bank's 200,000 employees: "Let me put it clearly: we will be severely punished."

COLLEGE CHRONICLES – Top Five best paying college majors:

1).        Petroleum Engineering (starting pay: $98,000)
2).        Chemical Engineering (starting pay: $67,500)
3).        Nuclear Engineering (starting pay: $66,800)
4).        Electrical Engineering (starting pay: $63,800)
5).        Materials Science and Engineering (starting pay: $60,100)

BIRTHDAYS THIS WEEK – Birthday wishes and thoughts this week to: Former President George W. Bush (68), Larry David (67), Julie Nixon Eisenhower (66), Nancy Reagan (93), Eva Marie Saint (90).

SUMMER READING – Rink Rats recommends these Business books for the summer:

Moneyball by Michael Lewis: When the odds are stacked against you, you need to change the way the game is played.

The Innovator’s Dilemma by Clayton Christensen: It’s an inspiring book for entrepreneurs.

They Call Me Coach by John Wooden: The best coach ever.

Creative Confidence by David and Tom Kelly: You don’t have to be an artist to be creative. It can be developed and learned.

Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg: It was brave of her to have written that book. She doesn't need to prove anything about how strong she is. A good account of her mistakes, lessons and anecdotes on her career at Facebook.

TOP SUMMER CONCERT TOURS – If Rink Rats could afford the tickets we would go to these concerts this summer:

Arcade Fire “Reflektor” Tour: Arcade Fire, the Canadian indie-rock band that includes a husband-wife tandem, has come out with four critically acclaimed albums, one of which won a Grammy for Album of the Year. They also scored the 2013 film “Her”, resulting in an Oscar nomination for Best Original Score. A suggestion for concertgoers: wear your fancy clothes.

Paul McCartney “Out There” Tour: It’s a rare thing to see an artist with a career spanning over 50 years, who can still kill it onstage. Paul McCartney is one of those artists. While the former Beatle has been resting up from an illness that hit him while on the road, we’re sure that once he’s fully recovered it will have been worth the wait.

Nine Inch Nail & Soundgarden Tour: Soundgarden and NIN were the leaders of grunge music in the 90s. Twenty years later, and they’re still as popular as ever. Formed by Chris Cornell, Soundgarden has sold over 20 million albums worldwide. And how about the Trent Reznor-led NIN? Over 20 million as well. And, the last time that these two bands performed together? You guessed it: 20 years ago.

Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers Tour: When he was starting out, Tom Petty’s goal was to “break some new ground” and “make some little dent in rock.” He and his band have definitely succeeded. Since forming in 1976, Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers have been one of the most popular rock bands of all-time, with over 80 million records sold worldwide. Catch them on tour this summer with Steve Winwood performing as the opener.

Jack White “Lazaretto” Tour: After making a name for himself as the leader of the rock duo The White Stripes, Jack White has had tremendous success as a solo artist. Rolling Stone magazine listed him as one of the 100 greatest guitarists of all-time, while The New York Times called him “the coolest, weirdest, savviest rock star of our time.” Now, the rock icon will hit the road in support of his amazing new record, Lazaretto.

WORLD CUP WATCH – FIFA: Faking Injuries For Attention If these soccer (football) boys played hockey they all would be in the morgue.


WORLD CUP – Brazil to beat Spain in the World Cup Final.

2014 WIMBLEDON – Serena Williams to win the Women’s Title, Rafael Nadal to win the Men’s (going out on that limb  J )

2014 Season to date (38-33)

MARKET WEEK - Despite an uneven month and a losing week last week, the major U.S. stock averages are nonetheless on track to post gains for both the month of June and the second quarter. The S&P 500 and Nasdaq will both post their sixth straight positive quarters, having not lost ground in a three-month period since the final quarter of 2012.

DRIVING THE WEEK -  Lots of critical economic data this week that will give us a sense for just how much the U.S. will bounce back from the brutal first quarter. ISM manufacturing at 10:00 a.m. Tuesday excepted to rise to 55.5 from 55.4 ... Construction spending 10:00 a.m. Tuesday expected to rise 0.5 percent ... ADP private sector employment report at 8:15 a.m. Wednesday expected to rise 205K after 176K ... BLS June non-farm payrolls on Thursday at 8:30 a.m. expected to rise 210K with no change to the 6.3 percent unemployment rate and a 0.2 percent increase in hourly earnings ... ISM non-manufacturing at 10:00 a.m. Thursday expected to dip to 56.1 from 56.3.

Next week: Summer School Finance style and four indicators on why you need a summer vacation.

Until Next Monday, Adeus.

Claremont, CA

June 30, 2014

#V-11, 220

Monday, June 23, 2014

Summer Finance 101: Three Purchases Worthy of Debt

What advice would I give to college graduates starting off their careers with enormous student debt?  Perhaps the most important part of the repayment plan is to realize that “debt” is a four letter word, which the recent grad is undoubtedly grasping quickly.  So it’s important to chip away at the current debt without piling more on.

The most critical factor to achieving long-term financial success is to never ever finance current consumption with debt.  Never go to a restaurant or purchase a pair of shoes and pay with a credit card for which you will roll the debt forward.  Note that it is fine to use a credit card as a convenience, as long as you intend to pay it off at the end of the month.

While the use of debt must be minimized, I believe there are two significant purchases in addition to education that can appropriately be financed by debt.  The first is housing and the second is transportation.  Like education, these are long-term investments, as opposed to short-term consumption, such as a shopping spree.  The reality is that most people will have to manage a combination of these three types of debt for the first 20-30 years of their working career.

At this point, you may be more depressed than before you started reading this post, but a prudent, disciplined budget can create a successful financial life.  The first two items in the budget are debt service and retirement savings.  It’s easy to accept that the debt service payment is non-negotiable, but I would argue that so is retirement savings.  If you don’t start saving from day one, when will you?  Unfortunately, for most of us the day never comes when we can save for retirement without making sacrifices.

Once you’ve committed to these two expenditures the rest of the budget requires tradeoffs.  Look for ways to minimize or eliminate certain costs.  When you’re young, consider having roommates to defray the costs of housing.  Avoid buying things just because you want them or because they’re on sale.  Buy the things you need.  Do you really need that expensive coffee drink every day?  Do you really need that new car?  I drive a 1997 Mercury Grand Marquis (Big Red or aka Dragnet Car).  I will probably need a new car in 3 years.

Tradeoffs aren’t easy, but remember that when you make a frivolous purchase today, you are trading your future.  At the age of 59, I find that the future comes sooner than you think.

I have a friend who never made more than $40,000 in any year, and now, in his 80s, he is a multi-millionaire.  He didn’t inherit the money.  Like most people, he had a mortgage and a car loan.  But he accumulated his wealth through a disciplined spending and investing approach.

I view Wall Street as a largely parasitic enterprise that flourishes at the expense of ordinary investors. Every dollar is fees and expenses you pay brokers comes directly out of your pocket. I recommend using basic, low-cost index funds whenever possible.  My plan is simple but not easy; save at least 15% of income beginning no later than the age of 25, and continuing every year until retirement. This does not include rainy day funds, a home’s down payment, a car, college, vacation or wedding. These funds you cannot touch. It is not easy but suck it up and you will reap the rewards.

HOME IS WHERE THE TAX ISN’T - Merger-and-acquisition activity continues to intensify. Medtronic's agreement on last week to buy rival medical-device maker Covidien for $42.9 billion is the latest in a wave of recent moves designed, at least in part, to bypass U.S. corporate taxes. Covidien's U.S. headquarters are in Mansfield, Mass., where many of its executives are based, but its official home is in Ireland, which is known for having a relatively low tax rate. Meanwhile, Germany's Siemens and Japan's Mitsubishi Heavy Industries were close on Sunday to finalizing an offer for much of Alstom's energy business, potentially entering a bidding war with General Electric for the French industrial jewel. Google's $500 million acquisition of Skybox Imaging, which puts satellites into orbit, could have a bigger impact on its bottom line and on the world than any other recent acquisition by the search giant or its rivals.

SCOTUS MAKES IT MESSY FOR ARGENTINA : Argentina's elation after a win in its opening World Cup match last week was short-lived as the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday upheld a lower court ruling requiring the country to pay holders of defaulted debt before the next scheduled payment on restructured bonds that come due June 30. Officials say the country can't afford to pay both sets of investors. Bloomberg has an in-depth look at the next steps: "According to a memo leaked to an Argentine website last month, the country's attorneys recommended a default and immediate restructuring in the event the Supreme Court rejected the appeal. Argentina's economy minister last week raised the prospect of negotiating with the holdouts, a step the country has previously rejected.

BLINDED BY SCIENCE - New blood test could detect heart transplant rejection up to five months earlier than heart biopsy:

COLLEGE CHRONICLES – For-profit colleges in the U.S., already suffering sharp declines in student enrollment, now are facing mounting pressure from Washington. Industry stocks tumbled at the end of the week after the Obama administration on Thursday suspended access to federal funds for Corinthian Colleges Inc., COCO +19.32%  one of the nation's largest operators of for-profit colleges. The move was part of a federal probe into the Santa Ana, Calif.-based company's marketing techniques, including questions over whether it lied about graduates' job-placement success.

The cutoff immediately sparked a crisis for the company, which warned it may have to close. It was also the latest signal that federal regulators are getting tough with the industry amid growing concerns about student debt and college dropout rates.

BIRTHDAYS THIS WEEK – Birthday wishes and thoughts this week to: Dan Dierdorf (65), Beth Elmore …ULV you should of kept her as Alumni Director, Juli Inkster (54), Derek Jeter (40), U.S. Senator, D- Mich. Carl Levin (80), Ross Perot (84), Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor (60), Vera Wang (65).

SUMMER BARBECUE – Rink Rats Barbecued Ribs

Total Time: 2 hr 20 min
Prep: 10 min
Cook: 2 hr 10 min
Yield: 4 to 6 servings
Level: Easy

2 slabs baby back ribs (about 3 pounds)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Extra-virgin olive oil
2 bacon slices
4 sprigs fresh thyme
1/2 onion
3 smashed garlic cloves
2 cups ketchup
1 cup peach preserves
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard or 1 tablespoon dry mustard
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 cup molasses
2 tablespoons red or white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground paprika

Special equipment: Kitchen twine
Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F. Put the ribs on a baking sheet, season with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil. Stick them in the oven, and let the ribs bake, low and slow for 1 1/2 hours.
Meanwhile, make the sauce. Wrap the bacon around the middle of the thyme sprigs and tie with kitchen twine so you have a nice bundle. Heat a 2-count of oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the thyme bundle and cook slowly for 3 to 4 minutes to render the bacon fat and give the sauce a nice smoky taste. Add the onion and garlic and cook slowly, without coloring, for 5 minutes. Add all of the rest of the sauce ingredients, give the sauce a stir, and turn the heat down to low. Cook slowly for 20 minutes to meld the flavors. Put some sauce in a separate bowl for basting, reserving the remaining sauce for serving.
Baste the ribs with the sauce and let them continue cooking, basting twice more, for 30 more minutes. When the ribs are cooked, take them out of the oven. You can let them hang out like this until you're ready to eat.

When ready to eat, preheat the broiler for 5 minutes and broil the ribs, basting with the sauce. They should become crisp and charred, about 5 minutes on each side. Pick the onion and garlic out of the sauce and serve with ribs.

SUMMER MOVIE STATS - The Las Vegas ensemble comedy "Think Like a Man Too" topped a slow weekend at the summer box office with $30 million, besting blockbuster holdovers from last week and Clint Eastwood's new Four Seasons musical "Jersey Boys."
The Kevin Hart sequel "Think Like a Man Too" narrowly edged out "22 Jump Street," which took in $29 million in its second week of release, according to studio estimates Sunday. DreamWorks Animation DWA -1.88%  SKG's "How to Train Your Dragon 2" slipped to third, with $25.3 million.

The top three films are sequels that moved into the big box-office summer season following originals that were surprise hits as springtime releases.


crapulous  \ KRAP-yuh-luhs \  , adjective;   
1. given to or characterized by gross excess in drinking or eating.
2. suffering from or due to such excess.
“Hastily running across the court to his own rooms, he groped his way—giddy and crapulous —up the dark and narrow staircase, and, after some fumbling with his key, opened the door.”
-- Frederic W. Farrar, Julian Home: A Tale of College Life , 1866

cóctel, noun
1.      Cocktail
2.      Spanish often respells words it’s borrowed from English to represent how Spanish-speakers say them, and el cóctel is an example.
“Es mi cóctel preferido.”
-                       It’s my favorite cocktail.

WORLD CUP WATCH - After a brutally disappointing tie Sunday night, the United States faces a dizzying array of possibilities heading into its final match in the World Cup's group stage. ... The United States advances so long as one of three things happen: 1) It beats Germany; 2) It ties Germany; 3) Ghana and Portugal tie in their match. No, avoiding a loss to Germany will not be easy. But the United States has shown it belongs in this tough World Cup group, and Germany looked mortal in its 2-2 tie against Ghana (which the United States beat, 2-1).


WORLD CUP – Brazil to beat Spain in the World Cup Final.

Gold Cup Stakes – Saturday, June 28, Santa Anita Park - $500,000 Grade 1, 3 Year Olds and up.
We like Bob Baffert’s Game on Dude to win. 

2014 WIMBLEDON – Serena Williams to win the Women’s Title, Rafael Nadal to win the Men’s (going out on that limb  J )

2014 Season to date (38-31)

MARKET WEEK - The Dow is just 53 points away from 17,000 after another record close. The S&P 500 is coming off an all-time high. And the Nasdaq is now at its highest level in more than 14 years. Investors will get a fresh update of the housing market’s health, with the National Association of Realtors issuing its existing home sales report for May at 10 a.m. ET. Economists are expecting an annual sales rate of 4.75 million units, up slightly from April’s 4.65 million unit rate.

DRIVING THE WEEK - President Obama today hosts a summit on working families ... Secretary of State John Kerry arrives in the Middle East to try and build support to block the Sunni uprising in Iraq ... House OGR has hearings on the IRS and the missing Lois Lerner emails scheduled for tonight at 7:00 p.m. and Tuesday at 9:30 a.m. ... President Obama meets with Israeli President Shimon Peres for lunch at the White House on Wednesday ... Obama goes to Minneapolis on Thursday ... Treasury Secretary Jack Lew testifies Tuesday morning at 10:00 a.m. before House Financial Services on the Annual Report of the Financial Stability Oversight Council. Lew testifies on the report on Wednesday at 10:00 a.m. before Senate Banking ... House Financial Services has an Ex-Im reauthorization hearing on Wednesday at 10:00 a.m. ... Existing home sales today at 10:00 a.m. expected to rise to 4.74M from 4.65M ... 

Case-Shiller home prices at 9:00 a.m. Tuesday expected to rise 0.8 percent ... Consumer confidence at 10:00 a.m. Tuesday expected to rise to 83.5 from 83.0 ... Third estimate of Q1 GDP at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday expected to be revised down to -1.8 percent from -1.0 percent on lower health care spending. The number could even go below -2.0 percent which would probably create some significant headlines ... Personal income and spending at 8:30 a.m. Thursday both expected to rise 0.4 percent with the core deflator at 0.2 percent.

Next week: Summer concerts, Jack Ass of the Month and Oh Canada.

Until Next Monday, Adios.

Claremont, CA

June 23, 2014

#V-10, 219

Monday, June 16, 2014

Summer in the CIty

Schools out, days are longer, worthless movies and television, flip flops, it is summer time. Time to catch up on reading, family, and barbecue; we here at Rink Rats can offer some suggestions.

SUMMER MOVIES - Summertime is blockbuster time and the next few months offer a wealth of Hollywood's biggest movies.

Lots of toy flicks -- "Transformers," "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" -- the latest Marvel film, "Guardians of the Galaxy," and a new comedy from Melissa McCarthy are among more than 90 films to check out this summer.

Rink Rats recommends:

'Citizen Koch'
This documentary looks into the tea party by following the group's funding, which ties back to wealthy folks like the Koch brothers. (June 6)

'Ivory Tower'
This documentary investigates whether higher education is worth the time and money. (June 13)

'Jersey Boys'
Clint Eastwood brings the popular musical to the silver screen. The film chronicles the rise of early rock 'n' rollers Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. Starring John Lloyd Young and Christopher Walken. (June 20)

'A Long Way Down'
Based on a novel by Nick Hornby, this comic drama follows four people who meet on a rooftop on New Year's Eve and form a support group. Starring Pierce Brosnan, Rosamund Pike, Aaron Paul, Imogen Poots and Toni Collette. (July 11)

'The Two Faces of January'
Three people are on the run after a police officer is killed. Starring Oscar Isaac, Kirsten Dunst and Viggo Mortensen. (Aug. 8)


This refreshing Cuban cocktail relies on a balance of mint, lime, rum, sugar, and club soda.

2 tablespoons (1 ounce) fresh lime juice
2 heaping teaspoons superfine sugar
1 cup crushed ice
12 fresh mint leaves, plus 5 small sprigs for garnish
1/4 cup (2 ounces) white rum
2 tablespoons (1 ounce) club soda

In 10-ounce glass (such as Collins or highball), stir together lime juice and sugar until sugar dissolves. Add 1/4 cup crushed ice. Rub mint leaves over rim of glass, then tear leaves in half and add to glass. Gently stir for 15 seconds, then add rum, remaining crushed ice, and club soda. Gently stir for 5 seconds, then tuck mint sprigs into top of glass and insert tall straw.

SUMMER DESSERT – Strawberry Shortcake with Orange Whipped Cream

Prep Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Cook Time: 12 to 14 minutes
Servings: 8
Our classic strawberry shortcake with the addition of orange whipped cream is sure to please any palate. Tender buttermilk shortcake is filled with a pile of sweetened berries and fluffy homemade whipped cream with a hint of orange. This strawberry shortcake recipe is a keeper.

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Combine flour, 1/2 cup granulated sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt in a medium bowl. Cut in butter with a pastry blender or 2 knives until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. In a separate bowl whisk together 1 cup buttermilk, egg yolk, and vanilla extract and stir into flour mixture until just moistened.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and gently knead 4 to 5 times with floured hands. Gently pat dough to 3/4-inch thickness. Using a 3-inch-round biscuit cutter, cut out 8 shortcakes, gathering scraps and patting out again if necessary, and transfer to the prepared baking sheet. Brush tops of shortcakes with remaining 2 tablespoons buttermilk and sprinkle with remaining 2 teaspoons sugar.
Bake shortcakes until lightly golden, 12 to 14 minutes. Cool on the baking sheet on a wire rack 10 minutes. Carefully split shortcakes horizontally using a serrated knife.

Strawberry Filling
Hull and chop 15 strawberries and toss in a bowl with 2 teaspoons sugar; set aside. Combine heavy cream, confectioners' sugar, and orange zest in a bowl and beat with an electric hand mixer on high until stiff peaks almost form. Refrigerate until ready to use. Hull and halve 20 berries lengthwise. Hull and vertically slice 8 strawberries. Use any remaining strawberries for garnish or reserve for another use.

Place the bottom halves of shortcakes, cut side up, on eight serving plates and spread each with 2 tablespoons whipped cream. Arrange 5 strawberry halves, on their sides (with the cut side facing in towards the center) around the edge of each shortcake to form a ring. Spoon chopped strawberries into the center of the ring. Top with 2 tablespoons whipped cream and place shortcake tops, cut side down, on top. Spread tops with 1 tablespoon whipped cream, leaving a 1/2-inch border. Decoratively arrange 4 to 5 strawberry slices on top and sprinkle with remaining 1 teaspoon sugar. Drop a small dollop of whipped cream in the center of sliced berries and garnish with the orange zest strips if using. Serve or refrigerate until ready to serve.

SUMMER IN BEIJING - This sprawling city presents visiting travelers with often overwhelming levels of cognitive dissonance. After a hectoring by Chinese Communist Party officials on the unfairness of Western coverage of territorial disputes and the evils of our obsession with the Tiananmen Square massacre, it can feel like the capital of a country that remains a long way from reckoning with its past and carving out a future of greater freedom for its people.

But then you visit a company like the search engine giant Baidu and it feels like within the next generation the more oppressive aspects of the Communist regime will fall away under pressure from an exploding middle class glued to its smart phones. Baidu is doing incredible things with voice and visual recognition software aimed at mobile devices that far outstrip many of Google's current offerings.

And its director of international communications, Kaiser Kuo, a longhaired guitar player who grew up in the U.S., spoke to us about the massive new cloud data centers the company is building. These centers - designed to be highly green - are intended to enable the next generation of smart phones to be much thinner and lighter with far greater battery life as the bulk of the heavy processing work is done remotely. Just speak into this slim future phone or take a picture of something and the data centers will deliver whatever you want.

But for now, Baidu is also something of a cognitive dissonance generator. It's a search giant that trades on Nasdaq but it also must heavily censor the information it is able to provide to the Chinese people, which is among the reasons it has no plans to expand its offerings to North America, where its censorship would render it irrelevant. Try searching for Tiananmen or China's disputes with its neighbors and you will find very little objective information.

Baidu's Kuo is forthright on the topic: "We have to live within the existing constraints," he said. "We'd love to be able to give you everything. But we have to deal with reality." In these remarks, Kuo sounded much like Zhu Yinghuang, the retired former editor in chief of China Daily, whom our group also met with on Tuesday. Mr. Zhu, who was sent to the fields and factories after college during the Cultural Revolution, spoke of the "clear red lines" Chinese state-influenced media still must not cross.

Those lines are blurring just a bit with increased coverage of local-level Chinese government corruption. But even in that, Mr. Zhu noted that it was often "selective" coverage not aimed at high-level Beijing officials. "They are trying very hard to maintain control in all of the ways that they can," he said.

DEEP THROAT GARAGE IS HISTORY – Arlington, Virginia approves residential, office project that will also replace “Deep Throat” garage: One of the most historic journalism sites ... will soon vanish, following a decision by the Arlington County Board on Saturday to demolish the building and parking garage where FBI official Mark Felt secretly met with ... Bob Woodward [at parking spot 32D] ... The County Board unanimously agreed to allow Monday Properties to replace its two 12-story, 1960s-era buildings at 1401 Wilson Blvd. in Rosslyn with a 28-story residential tower and a 24-story commercial building.

The parking garage ... will be razed, although the county will save the historical marker it erected in 2011, and the landowner has pledged to create a commemorative memorial to the events ... Demolition [will be] no earlier than January 2017.

TEACHER TROUBLE - A group of students representing five California public school districts have prevailed against the state and its two largest teachers' unions. We report that the student plaintiffs in Vergara v. California argued that the statutes protecting teachers' jobs serve more often to keep poor instructors in the schools, hurting students' chances to succeed. Citing the Supreme Court's landmark 1954 Brown v. Board of Education ruling, a judge wrote in his decision that the laws in the case "impose a real and appreciable impact on the students' fundamental right to equality of education." The ruling also agreed with the plaintiffs' arguments that the worst teachers tend to end up in underprivileged schools. We note that the verdict could encourage similar lawsuits in other states. The teachers' unions, however, said they planned to appeal the ruling.

COLLEGE CHRONICLES – Starbucks soon will be helping college kids with more than pulling all-nighters. The company ... will pay a huge chunk of college tuition for its baristas and the rest of its 135,000 U.S. employees through a new partnership with Arizona State University. ... The Starbucks College Achievement Plan will fully reimburse employees enrolled as college juniors and seniors in one of more than 40 of ASU's online degree programs. Starbucks will pay partial tuition and provide need-based scholarships if students are enrolled as freshmen or sophomores.

BANKS, EDUCATION BATTLE OVER DEBIT CARDS: One of the biggest and least understood regulatory headaches for the banking industry this year isn't coming from a financial regulator but from the Education Department. The agency is poised to propose sweeping restrictions on the products banks sell to college students, after industry, schools and consumer groups failed to agree to a proposal for new rules last month. Banks argue the latest draft plan goes way too far and could put products like student debit cards and checking accounts out of business. Consumer advocates are urging Education to hold the line to keep banks from side-stepping new consumer protections, including limits on fees and disclosure rules ... In 2012, the federal government doled out about $142 billion in grants and loans to 15 million students under Title IV of the Higher Education Act, according to a Government Accountability Office report. At issue is the role that financial firms play in distributing that money and the lucrative fees they collect through deals with colleges and universities.

HAPPY 90th 41 - George H.W. Bush at the end of his parachute jump on his 90th birthday yesterday!

BIRTHDAYS THIS WEEK – Birthday wishes and thoughts this week to: Joan Ahrens …famous College Administrator, Lou Brock (75), Paul McCartney (72), Phil Mickelson (44), Meryl  Streep (65). Kathleen Turner (60), Brian Wilson (72).


WORLD CUP – Brazil to beat Spain in the World Cup Final.
2014 Season to date (38-31)

MARKET WEEK - It’s a busy Monday morning for economic reports, with investors most focused on the May industrial production and capacity utilization numbers out at 9:15 a.m. ET. Economists expect a 0.5 percent rise in industrial production following a 0.6 percent drop in April, while utilization is expected to come in at 78.9 percent for May after April’s 78.6 percent.

DRIVING THE WEEK - CFPB Director Richard Cordray testifies on the bureau's semi-annual report before the House Financial Services Committee on Tuesday ... The panel's oversight subcommittee holds its third hearing on allegations of discrimination at CFPB also on Tuesday ... Lew travels to the Middle East this week, with stops in Abu Dhabi, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, Jerusalem and Berlin ... Deputy Treasury Secretary Sarah Bloom Raskin and SEC Enforcement Director Andrew Ceresny among speakers at WSJ's Annual CFO Networking Meeting on Tuesday ... Senate Banking holds a hearing Tuesday on the nominations of Julian Castro to lead the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and Laura Wertheimer to be inspector general of the Federal Housing Finance Agency ... Consumer prices and housing starts on Tuesday ... FOMC policy statement on Wednesday ... The Senate's permanent investigations subcommittee holds a hearing on high frequency trading on Tuesday and a Senate subcommittee gathers for the same topic on Wednesday ... Philadelphia Fed survey on Thursday.

ALL EYES ON FED - Federal Reserve officials will meet Tuesday and Wednesday to consider whether to scale back support for an economy that is still showing signs of shakiness. The Fed will most likely continue reducing its bond-buying program, which is expected to wrap up later this year, as more attention will be paid to its economic forecasts and when the central bank will raise its benchmark interest rate. Even though the labor market is improving, most analysts expect officials to lower their outlook for growth after a rocky start to the year. "Despite these revisions, we expect the message to be patience regarding the timing of any rate hike cycle," which is still expected to come next summer, Barclays Capital analysts said in a note Friday.

Next week: Words of the month, summer concerts, and Jack Ass of the Month.

Until Next Monday, Adios.

Claremont, CA

June 16, 2014

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