Robert Benmosche, AIG CEO Dies at 70

Robert Benmosche, Chief executive officer of American International Group photo courtesy of AIG via wikipedia
Robert Benmosche, Chief executive officer of American International Group photo courtesy of AIG via wikipedia

Robert Benmosche, well-known for his role in the recovery of AIG (American Insurance Company) after its bailout by the government in 2009, died last week at the age of 70.

He took over AIG in August 2009 after the Obama administration rescued the company from collapse with a $182 billion bailout. Before stepping up to the helm of AIG Benmosche had been the chief of MetLife.

The government recruited Benmosche to lead AIG to avoid another collapse of a huge financial institution such as Lehman Brothers at the height of the financial crisis which began in 2008.

Benmosche retired in 2006 after serving as CEO of MetLife since 2000, when it went public. He moved to his villa in Dubrovnik, Croatia, and lived there until being asked to take over at AIG.

Benmosche died of lung cancer on Friday, February 28, at the NYU Langone Medical Center in New York.

Pakistan to Hold US-Pak Business Opportunities Conference

Chundrigar Road, with 20th century architecture, in central Karachi, Pakistan
Chundrigar Road, with 20th century architecture, in central Karachi, Pakistan

Businessmen, investors and others will be gathering on February 27 for the Pak-US Business Opportunities Conference to take place in Islamabad, Pakistan. In attendance will be US ambassador Richard Olson, plus members of the American Business Council and the Pakistani Minister for Commerce, Khurram Dastgir Khan.

On the agenda of events will be a speech by the Minister for Commerce, who will explain Pakistan’s efforts to bring more foreign investment to the country as well as to increase the amount of trade outside the country.

The major goal of the conference is to introduce Pakistan to the rest of the world as a reliable business and investment partner. Included in discussions about trade will be textiles, agriculture, rice, fruit and vegetables.

There will also be discussions about creating a “US-Pakistan Joint Business Forum.” Organizers of the conference have sent invitations to over 100 American companies and businessmen. The Ministry of Commerce has high expectations that the maximum number of attendees will participate.

Scientists Fear Unprecedented Drought in Western US

"Farmer walking in dust storm Cimarron County Oklahoma2" by Arthur Rothstein, for the Farm Security Administration - This image is available from the United States Library of Congress's Prints and Photographs division under the digital ID ppmsc.00241.This tag does not indicate the copyright status of the attached work. A normal copyright tag is still required. See Commons:Licensing for more information.??????? | ?eština | Deutsch | English | español | ????? | suomi | français | magyar | italiano | ?????????? | ?????? | Nederlands | polski | português | ??????? | sloven?ina | slovenš?ina | Türkçe | ?? | ??????? | ??????? | +/?. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons -
“Farmer walking in dust storm Cimarron County Oklahoma 1936″ by Arthur Rothstein, for the Farm Security Administration -

A “mega-drought” is defined as any drought that is at least as bad as the worst drought already experienced during the 20th century, but whose duration is much longer, such as 35 years or more. Researchers are predicting that unless some serious steps are taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions significantly.

This most recent study, co-authored by Toby Ault, assistant professor in the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at Cornell University, is the first such study to predict that future dry spells might surpass the decades-long droughts that took place centuries ago. The demise of several civilizations during the 13th century is blamed on these mega-droughts.

“I was honestly surprised at just how dry the future is likely to be,” said Ault. “I look at these future mega-droughts like a slow moving natural disaster. We have to put mega-droughts into the same category as other natural disasters that can be dealt with through risk management.”

Jason Smerdon, also a co-author of the study and a climate scientist at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of the Earth Institute at Columbia University adds that the today the risks and dangers are more serious because of the larger population effected and its greater dependence on water resources.

“We are the first to do this kind of quantitative comparison between the projections and the distant past, and the story is a bit bleak,” Smerdon said. “Even when selecting for the worst mega-drought-dominated period, the 21st century projections make the mega-droughts seem like quaint walks through the Garden of Eden.”

Currently, during the past fourteen years the western United States has suffered through eleven drought years. The area of drought includes California, Nevada, New Mexico, Arizona, Texas and Oklahoma. Other parts of the region are also included, directly effecting over 64 million people.

“Natural droughts like the 1930s Dust Bowl and the current drought in the Southwest have historically lasted maybe a decade or a little less,” said Benjamin Cook of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies and the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.

“What these results are saying is we’re going to get a drought similar to those events, but it is probably going to last at least 30 to 35 years,” added Cook.

The research study was published in a new online journal of the American Association of the Advancement of Science called Science Advances, and present at the AAAS annual meeting.

US Federal Reserve Looks at ETF Risks & Finds Surprises

A fascinating and important study from US Federal Reserve researches looks at ETF Risks and find results that many may not expect. In their white paper, “Are Concerns About Leveraged ETF’s Overblown,” researchers Ivan T. Ivanov and Stephen L. Lenkey argue that concerns about ETF Volatility are overblown.

Most people’s concerns focus on common “perception” as the report explains, that re-balancing leveraged and inverse ETF portfolios poorly influences performance. The researchers in this case, however, disagree. As they wrote in the white paper, “Such reasoning is incomplete because it overlooks the effects of capital flows.” They noted that such concerns about these products are “likely exaggerated.”

The paper counter-intuitively explains that capital that comes in and out of leveraged ETFs actually diminish potential volatility. The capital flows happen often and offset the need for ETFs to then re-balance their portfolios. As the report explains, “The large decline in the value of the S&P 500 during 2008-09 leads to a large capital inflow. This results in more assets under management for the ETF relative to the benchmark case with no capital flows. Then, as the index recovers, the ETF undergoes a greater amount of rebalancing on a day-to-day basis because it has more assets under management.”

Chinese President Xi to Visit US Later this Year

"Leon Panetta and Xi Jinping in Beijing, Sept. 19, 2012" by DoD photo by Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo
“Leon Panetta and Xi Jinping in Beijing, Sept. 19, 2012″ by DoD photo by Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo  Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

In what will be Chinese President Xi Jinping’s first official visit to the US as president, plans are now underway to invite him for a state visit later this year. It is expected that President Xi will push for a “new model of major-country relations,” an idea Xi first introduced during his 2012 visit to Washington.

The visit is also being planned during a time of a strong American Asia-Pacific military presence whose goal is to contain he military power of the communist country. The visit is being planned with the help of China’s ambassador to the United States, Cui Tiankai.

No date for the visit has yet been determined, but discussions are now underway, according to Cui, who also pointed out that high-level meetings have been going on successfully in recent years, despite the many differences in each country’s outlooks.

“We are also very willing to see such interactions continuing this year, and we may even have a greater success,” Cui said.

The future meeting will not be the first meeting between Xi and President Obama. They leaders met after the informal summit in California in June 2013. They also met informally at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meetings in Beijing this past November.

Although no date has been fixed, US National Security Adviser Susan Rice said that the US had officially invited President Xi for a state visit to be held later this year.