January 24, 2013
- “Immortality”: Patrick Cox sorts out the controversy and confusion over an actual scientific term
- Debt ceiling suspended for four more months: Doug Casey on why Uncle Sam should deliberately default
- The real news from Hillary Clinton’s testimony… and the implications for your portfolio
- Don’t tell the Social Security Administration: Swede’s heavy metal addiction classified a disability
- Outrage with Wall Street — or apathy… an instant balanced budget… what Germany might be up to with gold repatriation… and more!
“Something’s going to kill you someday, even if it’s not aging,” says Patrick Cox — responding directly to the controversy generated by our God Switch presentation.
The anonymous researcher we put on the case stirred the pot by invoking the word “immortality.”
“Some readers,” says Patrick, “have pointed out that immortality is the sole domain of the Almighty, and I should confirm that I share this view.”
“Regenerative medicine,” Patrick explains, “is about reversing cellular aging and using those rejuvenated cells to repair parts of the body that have been damaged due to illness, injury or age.”
That’s what the controversial video in our presentation shows — nothing more, nothing less. It’s the transformation of skin cells via genetic engineering into induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells — identical to embryonic stem cells.
“The scientific term for those cells is ‘immortal,’ because they don’t age,” says Patrick. “This is because their telomerase genes are active, which causes the clock of aging, telomere loss, to constantly reset.”
“Our cells have about 120 telomeres per chromosome when we are born,” Patrick interjects. The analogy often used is the tips at the end of shoelaces — i.e., the red caps on the ends of these chromosomes.”
Patrick has a better analogy: “Telomeres are sort of like the ends of zippers. When the two sides of our DNA’s double helix unzip to replicate, it uses up one telomere. When a cell runs out of telomeres, it stops replicating. Before then, however, short telomere caps cause the cells to stop functioning optimally.”
So back to those skin cells: They were reprogrammed with the genetic code of heart muscle cells — cells as youthful as the day the patient was born. “At that point,” says Patrick, “the cells were aging normally, though they were young biologically.” That’s the essence of the video.
“Personally, I’m in awe,” says Patrick — because the breakthrough is about much more than heart cells.
“Cells at an earlier stage of development, called endothelial precursor stem cells, could have been made as easily as heart muscle cells. If they were injected into my body, they would restore my cardiovascular system to youthful function in about a year.
“My cardiovascular system would then have the life expectancy of an infant’s, which will vary according to genetics, behavior and the new medical therapies that will come online in the future. Scientists are currently working on strategizing the use of this technology to replace virtually every cell and organ in the body.”
“If every cell in your body was replaced by a rejuvenated version,” says Patrick, taking our thought experiment to its logical conclusion, “it would restore your apparent biological age to prime health, probably about age 25.
“We’ve got a long ways to go before all the details are worked out, but I think we’ll see it come together within the next 30-40 years.
“Regenerative medicine is going to change the way we think about mortality, and it will do it for many people alive right now. Theoretically, those therapies will allow periodic rejuvenation of all your body’s cells, indefinitely staving off the diseases of aging and aging itself.”
“Nevertheless,” Patrick concludes, “that’s not immortality.
“Immortality is clearly outside the domain of my newsletter and science itself. Regenerative medicine, however, is going to be taken for granted in the not so distant future, and those who know it’s coming are going make fortunes every step of the way.” You can take the first step right now.
The S&P 500 broke through 1,500 this morning. The Dow is up more than half a percent to 13,858.
Even the Nasdaq barely in the red despite Apple getting crushed this morning. AAPL delivered disappointing earnings, and shares are now sinking toward $450 – more than $80 below their level last March, when Chris Mayer fired up the fanboys by saying he didn’t own Apple but if he did, it would be a sell.
“Don’t even think about it,” says Greg Guenthner to anyone tempted to look at Apple as a bargain this morning.
“The price action has been horrible,” he says in today’s Rude Awakening. “The chart’s broken. There’s really no reason to try and catch shares as they continue to flame out.”
Besides, Apple’s tumble isn’t the real story: “What’s important now,” says Greg, “is how the market will fare with shares of a rather large and formerly-leading stock steadily trending lower.”
No longer is the Nasdaq held hostage to every squiggle in Apple’s chart: “Over the past six months, the Nasdaq is up nearly 7%, while Apple stock has dropped double digits.”
“Apple’s drop won’t be the demise of this market,” Greg concludes. “And don’t worry— the company will be fine, too. They’ll continue to make money and fun gadgets. The only difference is the stock will never be the momentum darling it once was.”
Precious metals are in retreat, even as the dollar index holds steady around 80: Gold is down to $1,671, silver to $31.80. After a drop yesterday, crude is back above $96 today.
For the record: The House has voted to temporarily “suspend” the debt ceiling through May 19.
Supposedly, House Speaker John Boehner rallied credulous Republicans to vote for the arrangement by promising a plan to balance the budget in 10 years. We swear we’re not making this up.
Assuming the Senate and president go along, the measure buys time for Congress to hash through two more bogus deadlines…
- March 1: Implementation of the “sequester” or automatic budget cuts that were postponed from New Year’s Eve
- March 27: Expiration of a “continuing resolution” that keeps the government nominally funded in lieu of an actual budget.
“I think the U.S. government should default on the national debt,” says Doug Casey, rousing us from our stupor.
Mr. Casey chatted recently with our acquaintance Lauren Lyster, now holding court at Yahoo Finance. And yes, he knows a deliberate default is a radical notion to sensitive ears.
“I say that for several reasons,” he explains. “The most important of them is if they don’t default on it, it’s going to make the next several generations of Americans, in effect, indentured servants, serfs, to pay off the debt that their parents and grandparents have incurred.”
That’s not only the official national debt of $16.4 trillion, but the so-called “unfunded liabilities” that dig the hole as deep as $87 trillion. That’s the estimate of two former congressmembers we cited in November. But that figure’s too low, Doug says: Throw in promises like FDIC deposit insurance and we’re north of $100 trillion.
“This is far more than can conceivably be repaid, so the debt is going to be defaulted on. It’s simply a question of how.”
“There is no doubt that the Algerian terrorists had weapons from Libya,” said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton yesterday — the one item of real news to emerge from ballyhooed, theatrical, nay, hysterical hearings in Washington.
Weapons from Libya? Gee, no one coulda seen that coming, huh? Oh, wait…
The toll from the attack and rescue attempt at that Algerian natural gas plant last week is still hazy — 38 dead hostages by one count.
“The troubles within this region,” says Byron King of the Middle East and North Africa, “make a strong case for energy investing elsewhere.
“In a fortuitous development of history, North America is experiencing a rebirth of its own fossil fuel energy industry. We can harvest our own hydrocarbon molecules. And this could not have come at a more opportune time. There are vast new investment opportunities here.”
And there are more opportunities in the offshore space. “It’s hard for a bunch of revolutionary religious zealots to drive their Toyota ‘technical’ trucks up to a drilling ship that’s 100 miles offshore moored in 2,000 feet of water.”
At our editorial meeting here in Baltimore last week, Byron laid out a compelling case for a U.S.-based energy play. He’s still refining that case for his readers, but in the meantime, he has plenty more candidates worthy of your consideration in the Outstanding Investments portfolio.
“I listen to heavy metal music 24 hours a day,” Roger Tullgren told the Swedish news The Local.
“I’m taking medication that makes it hard to sleep,” he goes on, “which leaves me with even more time to listen to metal.”
Five years ago, Mr. Tullgren gained worldwide notoriety for convincing his government that his love for hard rock is a disability — and he should get paid.
“I’m still very addicted,” he says now at age 47, making it nearly impossible for him to hold down a full-time job. After 10 years of attempting to get his “disability” classified as a handicap, “I spoke to three psychologists, and they finally agreed that I needed this to avoid being discriminated against.”
In the U.S., the diagnosis would disqualify him from owning firearms…
How much social security does a heavy metal addict net in Sweden? According to Tullgren “a few thousand kronor” a month (1,000 kronor equals $155).
But there is hope: “I took a new job as a janitor,” he says. “I work four hours a day and spend most of the rest of my time with my band, Papa Midnite.”
“We still have some bread, plenty of circuses,” a reader replies to our where’s-the-outrage query about Wall Street fraud and the double standards of the “justice” system.
“However, the most important factor holding unrest in check is our terribly uneducated populace, and their ostrichlike behavior. To wit, ‘Go away, I don’t want or need to know.’ They will know, albeit, far, far too late.”
The 5: Evidently, that applies not only to the masses. Consider the editors of Fraud Magazine, the journal of the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners.
The guy who came off looking worst in the Frontline documentary that prompted our query is Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer. Last month, he justified a cost-of-doing-business fine for HSBC’s money laundering thus: “Our goal here is not to bring HSBC down, it’s not to cause a systemic effect on the economy, it’s not for people to lose thousands of jobs.” Too big to fail… and too big to jail.
Breuer was the subject of an effusive profile in Fraud Magazine’s May 2011 issue: “Lanny Breuer is emphasizing high-impact, white-collar criminal enforcement as the U.S. assistant attorney general,” the rag slobbers.
Oy… More reader feedback on “Where’s the outrage?” tomorrow.
“Instant balancing of the budget,” writes a reader revisiting a topic from last week, “will, of course, require a 40% federal spending cut.
“Far from sinking the economy, this will leave dollars in the capital markets (worldwide), which will be available to businesses at all levels to expand, to innovate, create jobs and generate wealth for their stockholders. These dollars currently are diverted to useless or counterproductive government programs and are a net drag on the economy. Quiet Coolidge proved this in the ’20s, responding to severe recession with government spending and tax cuts. Luckily, he had not drunk the Keynes Kool-Aid and, therefore, allowed a quick recovery. Any questions?”
The 5: Credit where it’s due: It was Harding who presided over the Depression of 1920-21 by “doing nothing.” The Fed uncharacteristically stood aside too. Unemployment fell from 12% in 1920 to 6.7% by late summer 1921… and 2.4% by 1923.
But there is a painful shakeout along the way. It’s what modern-day politicians and central bankers go out of their way to avoid. No, they won’t succeed… and the longer the shakeout is put off, the more painful it becomes.
“It seems to me that Germany has found a very simple, direct way to ‘audit’ (at least their portion of) the gold held by the folks in the United States,” says another reader revisiting recent ground.
“Return it to its rightful owner… what a concept. Do you think that’d work for U.S. citizens?”
The 5: Heh.
“Here’s a future scenario on which to chew,” suggests Byron King. “Perhaps Germany might look at its gold, smile and then back out of the euro as we know it. The effect will be to ditch the southern countries — certainly Greece, Spain and Portugal — from a ‘European’ currency.
“Then Germany will do what we all know it wants to do anyhow — that is, form a ‘new’ euro including the economies of northern European countries. Think in terms of an expanded version of the old Hanseatic League, perhaps. And there’s the possibility of offering membership to Italy (or perhaps just ‘northern’ Italy).
“Oh, and don’t dismiss the possibility of a German-Russian monetary alliance. They already have an energy alliance. Why not start coordinating things in terms of currency as well. We’ll see, right?”
The 5 Min. Forecast
P.S. Congratulations to readers of Chris Mayer’s premium advisory Mayer’s Special Situations. Yesterday, Chris urged them to collect 111% gains on a sports-and-media play… and another 26% on a company in the thick of the U.S. manufacturing revival.
For a glimpse at Chris’ favorite special situations at the moment, follow this link.
P.P.S. Marc Brown at Rancho Santana informs us there’ve been a couple of cancellations for our Chill Weekend scheduled for Feb. 23-27. As a result, two slots are once again available. Interested? Drop Marc a line.