February 20, 2013
- Vastly enhanced life spans… and fewer sniffles too: a positive side effect of “practical immortality”
- “Can the regulators screw this up?” Candid question gets a serious answer as the God Switch secret is only hours away from going public…
- Gold dips below $1,600… guess who’s swooping in to buy…
- What if a major player in the “currency wars” sat on its hands?
- Bourbon backtracking… the country’s weirdest “sin taxes”… a new tale of IRS perfidy… and more!
“What if the common cold could cure itself?”
The thought crossed our mind this morning as we pored over the latest news related to the “God Switch”… and perhaps the most controversial forecast we’ve ever issued.
First, a refresher. We’ve been talking about regenerative medicine — or “reversing cellular aging and using those rejuvenated cells to repair parts of the body that have been damaged due to illness, injury or age,” as our biotech guru Patrick Cox puts it.
“The scientific term for those cells is ‘immortal,’ because they don’t age,” he adds. “This is because their telomerase genes are active, which causes the clock of aging, telomere loss, to constantly reset.
The longer the telomeres — those red caps — the better…
“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.”
It turns out shorter telomeres are correlated with a higher risk of contracting the common cold.
In the latest Journal of the American Medical Association, scientists at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh describe how they recruited 152 adults age 18-55. They drew blood and measured the telomeres attached to the patients’ white blood cells. Then they gave their subjects nasal drops containing a potent strain of rhinovirus.
About 60% of the patients with the longest telomeres contracted a cold. But about 80% of the patients with the shortest telomeres got sick.
Imagine doctors taking a sample of your skin tissue, turning the cells into healthy white blood cells with long telomeres and injecting them into your bloodstream. Your body’s defenses against the cold are strengthened.
OK, it’s not as impressive as taking a skin sample and turning it into healthy beating heart cells to repair your aging and damaged heart muscle… but it’s another potential application of the “God Switch.”
From Japan comes news of the first human trials putting the God Switch to work.
The Center for Developmental Biology in Kobe plans to take patients’ cells, turn them into induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells identical to the embryonic kind… and use those cells to treat macular degeneration, a condition affecting the retina that can lead to blindness.
“The trial will enroll six patients older than 50 years of age,” according to the website of the scientific journal Nature. “The researchers will remove damaged pigment epithelium and then implant a small sheet of new epithelium. The sheet will be created by coaxing iPS cells, created from the patient’s body cells, to become epithelium cells.”
Alas, the trial is likely to only arrest the development of macular degeneration — not reverse it. Which is why we get a lot more excited about Patrick’s youthful beating heart cells that were originally taken from his arm.
“Reading Mr. Cox’s in-depth article,” writes a skeptical reader — an MD, at that — “makes me wonder how long Dr. Blanc’s research will begin bearing fruit, if any.
“With all the regulatory hurdles our beloved FDA, et al., keeps adding, will any of us see anything in the marketplace to warrant a subscription?”
It’s a valid question. Only yesterday came word that a stem cell company working on a different kind of treatment plans to relocate from Houston to Mexico, to get out from under the FDA’s thumb.
And while FDA approval of the “God Switch” is still pending, approval in Europe could come as early as this spring. European regulators aren’t as fussy and risk-averse as the FDA.
What’s more, the company that’s moving to Mexico tried to play fast and loose with the FDA — claiming it wasn’t subject to FDA oversight because it was only working with patients’ existing cells, introducing no foreign substances. The FDA didn’t take too kindly to that dodge.
The company behind the “God Switch” is smarter than to tick off the regulators for no good reason. Indeed, it’s recruited a former FDA chief to serve on its board.
So worst-case scenario, the treatment is such a success in Europe that public pressure overwhelms the FDA to act. Sooner or later, it all pays off… for scientists, patients and early investors alike.
But the early-investor window is closing quickly. If you missed the email from our publisher Joe Schriefer this morning, here’s the key part: “We’ve found at least one website that’s exposed nearly all the secrets of our video. The site listed the full name of the scientist behind the God Switch… the company he runs… and the ticker symbol of the investment opportunity.”
In the interest of preserving your “first-to-profit” advantage as an Agora Financial reader, our offer to share the video with you will expire tonight at midnight. We’d hate to see you miss out… so act while you still can.
Stocks are treading water this morning. The Dow is slightly in the green, the other major indexes in the red.
Traders are biding their time until they get to play amateur Kremlinologist this afternoon when minutes are released from the Federal Reserve’s January meeting. In the meantime, they’re chewing on the following numbers…
- Housing starts: Down 8.5% from December to January. Permits — a better indicator of future activity — continue to rise
- Producer prices: Up 0.2% from December to January. The Bureau of Labor Statistics pulled off an — um — interesting feat here considering the price of oil rose 6.3% last month.
Year-over-year producer prices supposedly rose 1.4%. We can hardly wait to see what the BLS has in store with its report on consumer prices tomorrow.
Gold made the decisive break below $1,600 overnight. It’s down to $1,582 at last check, on its way to the $1,550 target Greg Guenthner called last Wednesday.
Once again, China is buying the dip in gold.
Traders took all of last week off for Chinese New Year. When the Shanghai Gold Exchange reopened Monday, volume for the benchmark cash contract set a record high — 22 metric tons by Bloomberg’s calculations.
“The slump in gold prices in the past week provided great incentive for buying,” said Bank of China trader Qu Mingyu, “as many Chinese are still holding a bullish outlook on gold.”
Perhaps Europe will sit out the currency wars.
“I have to once again applaud the European Central Bank, the Bundesbank and eurozone leaders,” writes EverBank’s Chuck Butler, “in making it perfectly clear that they will not participate in the ‘active exchange rate policies’ that most other countries are turning to. You know, the so-called Currency Wars.
“In fact, the euro got a boost this morning when German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that the ‘euro at $1.30-1.40 is normal.’ That’s a good indication that Germany doesn’t see a problem with a stronger euro.”
Despite the euro strength, the dollar index sits near a three-month high at 80.6.
Proving that “food fraud” takes you only so far, Maker’s Mark has backtracked on plans to dilute its bourbon from 45% alcohol to 42%.
A letter posted to the distillery’s website reads: “You spoke. We listened. And we’re sincerely sorry we let you down.”
Which puts parent company Beam Inc. back in a box: The firm is reluctant to raise prices in response to strong demand. That’s because Maker’s Mark is a foot in the door that Beam uses to get distributors, retailers and bars to buy Beam’s up-and-coming brands, like Knob Creek.
Too, there’s the fact Maker’s Mark has to age six years and it’s hard to gauge demand that far in advance.
Hmmm… What the world really needs is a futures market for bourbon! Until that happens, the limited quantities of the 42% variety have become quite the collector’s item. On eBay — where full bottles aren’t allowed — empties are going for up to $30.
While we have booze on the brain — as it were — we see that cash-strapped states are looking to sources beyond the usual alcohol and tobacco “sin” taxes to generate revenue.
Of course, it’s always draped in do-gooder clothing — protecting us from ourselves. “Vices are attractive targets for selective taxation,” write the folks from the Independent Institute in U.S. News, “because sinners are not very sensitive to increases in the prices of the sinful goods and services they buy. They reduce their purchases, of course, but not by much. Taxing sin thus is a tax revenue-generating engine.”
Beyond alcohol and tobacco, we have these strange examples…
According to CNN Money, North Carolina imposes a tax on illegal drugs. That’s right, after you buy your drugs you should stroll over to the Department of Revenue to buy stamps, like proofs of purchase, that you can affix onto them. Then you can be trucked off in handcuffs.
In Utah, there’s a 10% sales tax for any service provided by someone “nude or partially nude,” and that’s on top of the normal 4.75% sales tax. Just what “partially nude” covers is beyond us.
We can only imagine the amount of money blown lobbying for or against these things…not to mention the programs the government ends up spending the revenue on.
You can’t make this stuff up.
“This whole ‘God Switch‘ pump from Agora’s various publications and services,” an aggrieved reader writes, “looks more and more like a pump-and-dump affair to me, which, with your fine reputation, I have difficulty accepting.
“You are now using the ‘hurry up — time is limited’ ruse. ‘This has gone viral — get in whilst you can.’ Please!!! Credit your readers with a bit of intelligence. It may be the best thing since Adam, but let us make an informed decision based on rational information, rather than a Fox News-type approach, which insults us all and diminishes your credibility.”
The 5: Fair enough. Last chance.
“You think it ‘cannot happen here’?” a reader writes, leaving “it” to the imagination for the moment.
“Well, it does… about five weeks ago, I was hit by the IRS pretending JP Morgan ‘forgave’ a $4,700 debt somewhere in 2010, and because of that, I owe to IRS $700 plus interest and penalties.
“The only problem: I NEVER HAD ANY RELATIONSHIP WITH JP MORGAN CHASE! I never had an account with them, no credit cards, no mortgage, nothing!
“I told IRS the same thing, that it must be a case of identity theft, or just plain crooking from JP Morgan Chase (trying to cover their London Whale billions pit), but all fell on deaf ears…I just received the letter, ‘Pay, or else…’
“No wonder they want to try to grab our guns!”
“I have several friends who would sign your anti-drone petition,” a reader writes. “Can I forward this to them?”
The 5: By all means. Email it, share it on Facebook and Twitter, do whatever you can to spread the word.
“‘Leaders’? ‘Elected Officials’?” writes a reader perturbed with our verbiage (?).
“How about calling them what they are, that being ‘government clerks’? This would remind people, and maybe even the clerks themselves, that they are, one and all, the presidente included, nothing but clerks, and should not be viewed as having superior intelligence or understanding by dint of their employment.”
The 5: There was once a time such folk were called “public servants”. The term has become archaic — as if people recognize what a farce it is. We’ll take progress where we can find it…
The 5 Min. Forecast
P.S. Final reminder: Our presentation on “The Promise of Immortality” — and a significant discount on a subscription to one of our most expensive services — will be pulled from the Internet at midnight tonight.