Saturday, August 27, 2011

Snehal Manjreka: Mittel-Managing Chinese SMEs

Adaptability to changing economic landscape is more urgent than finance

By: Snehal Manjreka

China is continuing to be a mystery to global investors as it has always been. Array of debt fiascos in the EU, US and now Japan has raised global volatility and thus nullified the imminent possibilities of fresh rate hikes in the mainland. However, in a rather contrasting scenario the Finance Ministry’s auctioning of 6 month bill on 8/23/2011 attracted a rate of 6.5%, which has been the highest since December 2006. Bracket together the PBOC’s hike in 1 year bill yield last week by 8 bps to 3.8% is perceived by some market observers as the leading indicator of further tightening in China. On the other hand, slowing net inflows and shrinking maturity of central bank bills is likely to strain Chinese ban funding. According to a Morgan Stanley estimate in July 2011 report, net inflows into Chinese stocks and bonds plummeted by $67bn to $18bn in 2Q2011. Moreover, in comparison to 352bn Yuan in August, an aggregate of 351bn Yuan of central bank bills and repurchase agreements will mature next month with redemptions declining to 298bn Yuan in October, as told by an analyst of China Merchant Bank to Bloomberg.

Now as an SME owner in China how does it feel to be in China when the banks are paying more to access funding themselves? This article will not focus on the eye-popping rates charged to the SMEs in China by the lenders operating in the grey market. The intent of the article is to find solutions that are either fully or near functional. As a matter of fact, the nomenclature of the article is akin to consultation papers open for public opinion.

Traditionally state-owned Chinese banks have preferred to lend to asset-rich and government-backed State Owned Enterprises (Hereafter referred to as SOEs). Apart from being asset-rich and backed by the full-faith of the government SOEs are mainly exchange listed entities and hence it is easier to elicit information about them for due-diligence and other precautionary pre-lending investigation purposes. Moreover growing up as a banker in China has become bit tougher of late especially after reading into the balance-sheet horrors of Western banks during the 2007 credit crisis and the inexorable rise of Yuan loans made after the 2009 stimulus propelled inflation to above government’s official target. Interestingly, the government’s 12th five year plan, which envisages development of a service-oriented economy by cutting heavy reliance on growth achieved through investment and export-oriented model of governance has posed fresh challenges ahead of the Chinese SMEs. The 12th five year plan would accelerate appreciation of RMB and raising labor wages to boost domestic consumption. On the other hand, rising raw material prices and rampant inflation domestically owing to zero-interest-rate policy adopted by the deficit-laden nations has meant running an SME in China a herculean job. This is certainly a different world for Chinese SMEs than the ones they have seen during the early 2000s of low production cost and undervalued RMB (refer to the chart below summarizing the funding difficulties of Chinese SMEs, sourced from China Daily).

Shakeout in the manufacturing mix

Yes, the shakeout that is being witnessed in China’s manufacturing mix is also intensifying the worries of Chinese SMEs. According to a report, authored by Will Freeman of GaveKal Research in Beijing, the share of high-tech products in China's exports has risen from 19 percent in 2000 to 25 percent in 2009. The report duly captures China’s ascendancy in exporting capital equipment in the past decade, which has quadrupled from 2% to 8%. China’s thrust on construction machinery sector is another case in point. A recent Economist Intelligence Unit on Chinese export sector says China is likely to stole a march over Germany and Japan in construction machinery segment as the second largest exporter only after the US by the end of 2011. On the other hand, KHL, an industry magazine, in a global ranking of construction equipment producers for 2011 lists 3 Chinese companies in top 10 by sales revenue (compared to 1 in 2010 and none in 2009). Moreover, major SOEs are now moving up the manufacturing value chain also to decouple from the demand dynamics of the OECD markets, which are susceptible to shocks as witnessed during the global meltdown of 2008. The focus on non-OECD markets augurs good for the wider Chinese economy as supporting the growth story of Brazil, India and South Africa et al offers healthy order book and stable cash flows.

Reading the foreshadow – Does financing really matters?

China’s obsession to high-tech exports, green and solar businesses, High speed trains et al presents a great challenge ahead of the policy makers to re-train millions of migrant Chinese labors who contributed to China’s economic success in the last 30 years. Making low cost commodities (toys, shoes) and assembling mobile and smart phones provided much needed jobs to the less educated class of migrant Chinese labors. Back in 2008 when OECD consumers retrenched their consumption binge close to 20 million migrant Chinese labors working in low commodity manufacturing and assembly plants lost jobs and faced economic hardships. Looking at the prevailing situation one doesn’t need sophisticated forecasting model to chalk-out a prognosis. On 8/25/2011 China Securities Journal mentioned about China easing monetary policy in some sectors and that Beijing would encourage banks to lend more to smaller firms. But such promises often trigger a muted response from the Banking circles. As a matter of fact, the issues gyrating around the SMEs look more to be non-financial. The need of the hour is not to coerce banks to lend money to SMEs that are growing economically unviable owing to changing policy shift and the manufacturing mix. The supportive toolkit, which the SMEs need, is a mix of re-training, consultation followed subsequently by financial backup. Most importantly, consultation on how to adapt to the changing economic landscape (rising wages, inflation, raw material costs) should preclude any financial supportive measures. After all, the great Germany Mittelstands achieved glory not merely by financial support but rather thanks to its ethos of adaptability and constant innovation.

Mentioned below are some of the suggestions to perk-up the Chinese SMEs:

1) Government must ponder over setting up an oversight and advisory committee (comprising a group of officers from existing commercial banks) to organize the functions, operations and accounting structure of the SMEs so as to make them eligible for bank funding.

2) Setting up of credit rating agency assigning credible credit scores to SMEs under the auspices of a respectable watchdog like National Development Reform Commission.

3) Encourage top B-school/ law school graduates to visit and work on real-life case studies on SMEs. The topic could be operational management, labor productivity, Quality management, Financial management, Accounting, business, industrial laws and Succession Planning. This would be a great service to the SMEs as most of them do not have deep pockets to pay top consulting companies for this kind of consultation services. Moreover, this would be an ideal preparation for the SMEs to acclimatize to the dynamic environment the 12th five year plan would unleash in the form of decreased focus on exports and increased focus on service-oriented businesses.

4) Encourage banks to extend financing to SMEs based on the size of their order book or expected future cash-flows. This will free the SMEs off the worries related to absence of fixed assets.

About this author: Snehal Manjreka is a Business Decision Support Officer at CSC and former Senior Analyst at Thomson Reuters. This well-informed financial professional wishes to expand into the area of financial writing. As a guest writer and friend, I'd like to invite you to learn more about this promising young man by viewing his LinkedIn profile.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Retailer John Lewis Adds Technology for Customers on Reportlinker

When researching for this article, I got a glimpse into what to expect for the future of shopping. This article includes information on the following:
  • Cloud-based appointment system lets customers book from anywhere
  • Smart-technology virtual mirrors from Cisco set to boost cross selling of clothing and accessory
  • Customer interest, newness improves John Lewis sales figures

Retailer John Lewis Adds Technology for Customers on Reportlinker

More info on virtual mirrors here's a video from Cisco, the company mentioned in the article:

Industry Report: Jobs Opportunities Drop 11% for London's Financial Industry

  • 14,000 or 32% of London's financial industry looking for jobs
  • Banks cutting thousands of jobs, creating jobs abroad
  • LSBF offers new Trium program, guarantees full-time job in 6 months

Vacancies for financial jobs in London dropped 11% in July to 4,800 from 5,400 in June. The number of individuals within the industry seeking work reached over 14,000, or 32%. Find out more by clicking the link below.
Jobs Opportunities Drop 11% for London's Financial Industry on Reportlinker

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Snehal Manjreka: US Rating Downgrade

US Rating Downgrade

Snehal Manjreka
8/7/ 11

It is true that the political dogfight hastened the downgrade to a large extent, but I personally believe that the key holders of US debt and US currency pay little attention for such developments. Post financial crisis *astute* and *serious* investors have paid much little attention to credit ratings and their ratings actions. The market now seem to be ahead of the rating curve by getting more independent and intelligent.

I believe the recent panick-stricken selling of US equities is an overreaction from a bunch of bamboozled investors. The primary reason for the sell-off is possibly the diluting size of US corporate profits. As of Friday, the consensus forecast was that the S.& P. 500’s earnings would grow 15.8 percent in the third quarter. That’s off slightly from predictions of 16.7 percent third-quarter growth at the end of June, Mr. Butters said, senior earnings analyst at FactSet. On the other hand, Jeffrey N. Kleintop, chief market strategist at LPL Financial, says he thinks that “the estimates are still too high.” While profits might still grow by double digits, he said, they won’t be the 16 or 17 percent gains built into many analysts’ estimates. I believe this slight slowdown in US corporate profits reflects a conducive trend of squuezed margins due to increased hiring. I believe many manufacturing companies are returning back to the US and hence a subsequent rise in hiring will have a modicum downward impact on profits.

Talking about the S&P rating action as I mentioned above the key stakeholders of US denominated assets (Asian, Middle East nations, UK and Russia) are unfazed by the rating downgrade. Mentioned below are the comments of leading US denominated asset holders as sourced from Bloomberg:

Russia said the one-step cut “can be ignored.” Russia considers U.S. debt reliable and won’t review its policy of investing in the country, Deputy Finance Minister Sergei Storchak said by phone yesterday. The downgrade “can be ignored” for long-term investment strategy, he said. Russia is one of the 10 largest foreign holders of U.S. government debt.

Jordan has “faith” that the dollar and dollar debt “will continue to be the prime benchmark for risk-free debt,” Central Bank Governor Faris Sharaf said yesterday by telephone in Amman. “We are willing to accept U.S. risk even with S&P’s action,” he said.

Lebanese central bank Governor Riad Salameh said “the dollar is a shelter in times of crisis, and we have no plans to cut our dollar holdings.”

Japan, the second-largest international investor in American government debt, sees no problem with trust in the securities, a Japanese government official said on condition of anonymity.

In the U.K., the world’s third-largest foreign holder of U.S. debt, Business Secretary Vince Cable said yesterday the dollar is “the key international currency” in the short run.

South Korea on the other hand has scheduled an emergency meeting to mull over the matter. I have been hearing that the Bank of Korea is buying lot of gold in the market. Probably, to emgineer a slight decoupling from the dollar. But the size of the purchase wasn't big enough to talk about a real decoupling from the dollar as such.

Post this rating downgrade we might see demand for gold rising as central bankers might start shopping for gold in international bullion markets. Global fund managers have been bearish on US denominated assets since quite sometime now. They rather place more faith in US corporate debt than ramping up sovereign bonds holdings. Hence, a slew of negative comments from them should be ignored. I believe the most efficient investors presently existing in financial markets are central bankers. If they are reinstating their faith and trust in US denominated assets then the markets need not indulge in the unwarranted and value-destroying game of panick-selling of financial assets. Watch out for Central bankers and the SWFs for guidance!

About this author: Snehal Manjreka is a Business Decision Support Officer at CSC and former Senior Analyst at Thomson Reuters. This well-informed financial professional wishes to expand into the area of financial writing. As a guest writer and friend, I'd like to invite you to learn more about this promising young man by viewing his LinkedIn profile.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

China's Response to US Debt Crisis

The article explains how China is reacting to the US and European debt crisis, giving investors some insight as to what to expect. My latest article for ReportLinker is one of my most important pieces for the company. I hope you find this article useful and informative.

China Unable to Release Economy Buffer on Reportlinker

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Study: Sunscreen Users Tend To Burn

A new study has found that most who use sunscreen actually burn more. So what can you do to help reduce the risk of sunburn, melanoma?
My latest ReportLinker article explains how to use sunscreen correctly and what to look for in the new FDA labels.

Study: Sunscreen Users Tend To Burn on Reportlinker

Friday, July 29, 2011

Mining Protests Across Three Continents Threaten Commodity Prices

My article for ReportLinker regarding the mining strikes (gold, coal, oil, and diamond industries) in Australia, South Africa, and Brazil. They are demanding higher pay and better work conditions. Although the companies have responded differently, none of the situations have been resolved as of yet.

UBS to Cut Jobs, Push Back Profit Target

My latest ReportLinker article on Swiss banking and the effects of the European sovereign debt crisis on investment banking.


Saturday, July 23, 2011

Long-term Migraine Relief

I've seen so many gurus talk about how medicine isn't necessary for headache relief. While medicine is not always the most helpful, it is necessary from time to time. I have found that the most effective way to relieve a migraine headache is by mixing both natural and medical options and creating a spa-like zone for immediate and long-lasting recovery.

Headaches form due to stress on the body and mind. So alleviating one of these causes is sometimes not enough. First let's start with the body. The most simple and effective recovery step is to pop a pill... but not just any pill. Some headache medicines can be detrimental to your health; so read the back to make sure you find one that is suitable to your health needs. As I am young and have little to no pre-existing health issues, I have tried almost all of these headache medicines at one time or another. The two that I personally have found to be the most helpful are Tylenol Rapid Release and Aleve.

Once you take medicine to heal from the inside-out, it is time to heal the area from the outside-in. Some people use acupuncture, but since I have an aversion to needles, I have found EFT to be a good alternative. EFT is a method of pain relief that uses finger tapping motions across specific points on the body to ease tension. EFT uses self-affirmations to help ease inner turmoil that could be triggering tension as well. EFT can also be used for weight loss, determination, and improving self-image.

Here is a video I have found using EFT. She tells you the basics but I'd recommend tapping several times in each spot shown in the video and repeating until you are completely relaxed. Don't focus on what you're doing, focus on relaxing the muscles in your face.

If you are at work or out of your home, you can stop here and just take deep breaths and focus on relaxing your body and mind as you work. Frequent meditation helps to develop the skill of relaxing in hectic atmospheres. During a lunch break or any break, try to go outside within nature or in a quiet room to meditate and do EFT alone.

If you are at home, I'd recommend taking the next step in immediate and long-term healing: the soul. Mental stress causes headaches just as often, if not more often, than physical stresses.

Start by creating a spa-like atmosphere. Dim the lights, close the blinds, fluff up your pillow and lay down on your back. Play the video below on repeat, listening to the music to help you relax. Take a wet rag and cover the top part of your face with it. As you let the cool air hit the rag, use EFT and repeat the affirmation stated in the above video.

After you repeat it a few times you will notice that the "I have a migraine at level 7" will become "I have a migraine at level 3" and eventually you'll begin simply saying "I have a migraine". Once you get to that stage, tap through one last cycle and stop. Breathe in deeply and focus on your facial muscles. Feel your head relaxing, feel your brow, your ears, your mouth, your tongue all falling deeply. Feel your shoulders and arms fall into the bed. Do this all the way down to your fingers and toes.

Just sit there in your relaxed state, thinking of nothing but how relaxed you are and how this is your time for you. Every once in a while you just need some time for you, a time to rejuvenate your body and mind. To prevent further headaches, spend some time in solitude reading, listening to peaceful music or to birds chirping outside. Lay in the grass or a hammock, play with your pets, or sing and dance when you're all alone.
"A little nonsense now and then is relished by the wisest men." -Willy Wonka

Friday, July 22, 2011

Industry Reports: China

My new Industry Reports are available on ReportLinker!

... and it's on China!

VW introduces Kai Li Electric Vehicle to the Chinese Market: Link
Daily Chinese Steel Output Reaches Record in April: Link
Foreign Bank Mutual Funds Are No Match for China's Big Four: Link
China's Inflationary Pressure Begins to Ease: Link
Is China's Trade Surplus Rebalancing?: Link

Industry Report: Airplanes and Airports

My latest industry articles for ReportLinker are now available!
... about the airplane industry!

About Airports

Austrialia's "Airport of the Future" Trials Begins: Link
US May Reduce Security Checks for Low-Risk Passengers: Link
US Air Travel: Will Passengers Pay for Security Checks?: Link

Commentary: While writing these articles I couldn't help but think to myself "What were all these security procedures all about?" Now body scanning will be traded for an increase in other privacy violations using RFID chips. These chips are more of a security risk for the country and for individuals.

About Airplane Engines
Pratt and Whitney, GE Aviation To Launch New Turboprop Engines: Link
Nextant Aerospace Announces Engine FAA Certification: Link

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Government Intervention and The Online Poker Industry

Just as Full Tilt Poker reached a new partnership, Full Tilt, Poker Stars, and Absolute Poker web sites are all down! If you don't believe me, try clicking here. Nope, your eyes are not playing tricks on you. These domains have been taken over by the United States government. It doesn't stop there. The executive officers have been arrested and threatened with 30 years in prison if indicted!

What happened? Our story begins in 2006 during the Bush regime. That year the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) was among the many controversial bills passed through Congress and signed into law. Bush stated that the Freedom of Information Act would not ensure the release of the UIGEA documents because of "national security" concerns. Seriously?!! Ever since then some lawmakers, especially Barney Frank and Ron Paul, have been trying to revoke the UIGEA. Internet poker pros became fearful of the possibility that their means of cash flow could be shut down. Well, thankfully no case could be proven against the giants of online poker and all appeared to be safe... until now.

A case has now been brought by a Manhattan attorney against the online poker giants for supposedly "tricking" banks into accepting money for "illegal gambling" and "bank fraud". These are some pretty serious charges if they are true. But considering the fact that online poker is in itself now "illegal" means that all these new charges could be built on that fact alone. The banning of online poker is even more ridiculous than the prohibition of alcohol because online poker is an investment and an asset, not an expense. Now ESPN is considering scrapping its poker coverage involving Poker Stars and Full Tilt players. I wonder what will happen to the hit TV show High Stakes Poker now that it has partnered with Poker Stars?

Why is online poker so dangerous that it has to be illegal in the US? Ever since the turn of the century, poker (and especially online poker) has skyrocketed in popularity with stars like Daniel Negreanu, Tom "Durrr" Dwan, and Phil Ivey as spokespeople. TV programs have emerged that show the Average Joe winning against these poker pros. Online poker sites facilitate the money transaction between poker players wishing to become wealthy pros themselves. One by one these new internet players have popped up on the radar. More and more Americans began forming their own poker dreams and monetary ambitions. If a person invests in learning the basics in poker like poker hands, poker psychology, reading body language, pot odds, outs and percentages, and how to bluff effectively, then that person can make money as a grinder (a relatively safe poker player), a reader (someone who bets on what they think others have as opposed to their own hand), or a gambler (someone who bets based their hand instead even if the odds are stacked against them). Although gamblers win more money in the short run, they can lose it just as easily. Most online poker pros fall in that category. There are a growing number of grinders who MAKE A LIVING through ONLINE POKER. These players are the ones who will lose the from this new controversy. I think poker grinders are the real risk to the US government, or rather, to the non-federal Federal Reserve. Financial independence is not profitable for debt investors, especially the Fed who makes a profit from printing debt.

What options are there for online poker players? Well, if you are a poker player who can read your opponents well, you will probably do well in live cash games and live tournaments. For those who have never played live and do not yet have the bank roll to try, you are safe... for now. If you already have an account with Ultimate Bet (UB) or Absolute Poker (AP), your cash account has not been closed. You can continue to play for money even though you are an American; however, they will not allow you to withdraw or start a new account due to the massive uncertainty. I think after all this mess, online play will continue in America and the sites that are temporarily not allowing US players will once again pursue American clients. Until then, Carbon Poker is allowing US players to start new accounts. I'm sure there are others who are too.

There is no way the government can win this case. If they do, that will be the end of online poker and maybe eventually an end to all forms of "gambling". Where is the line drawn? Online wager transfer could include, in theory, online horse racing, fantasy sports, and lotteries. This is protectionism at its very worst! As a result of this law, the US government is in conflict with the World Trade Organization (WTO). Now Europe is considering doing the same to American companies. Wow, what a great way to get out of a global recession... by limiting global trade and commerce! This is why taxing them (also known as a tariff) is a bad idea: it will cause retaliation against American companies from any, and all, industries. Casinos based in other countries do not (and should not) pay American taxes, nor do Las Vegas casinos pay foreign taxes. So why should Full Tilt or Poker Stars who also have American customers? Online casinos are NOT FROM AMERICA, but they DO pay taxes... in their HOME COUNTRY. Americans who win the lottery, the slot machines, or a poker game all have to pay taxes on their winnings... so why should the Fed care? Some individuals fail to report their winnings but that should not be an excuse to close down the whole online poker industry. Instead those who lied should be the ones held accountable. Shouldn't individuals have the right to choose how they invest their money? Hell, I think investing in poker (once you know the basics) is safer than investing in retirement and long-term stocks. As you can tell, I am steaming. But don't try to steal my pot, the government doesn't like competition.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

New Free Program to Increase Your Financial Literacy

It's that time again! I have a brand new program that will be posted on Seek2ruth next month. I do not yet have a date planned, but I will update Seek2ruthers once I have all the details. It will be called How to Manage Your Money and will take place over seven days. I already have the topics chosen:

  1. Assets and Liabilities

  2. Diversification

  1. Tax Savings

  2. Decreasing Debt

  3. Saving for the Future

  4. Wealthy Mindset

  5. Finance 101

Unlike my last free program, this program will include activities to improve your financial literacy. In total the program will include e-books, activity worksheets, videos, links to resources, and recommended reading. This program has been requested for some time now and I am happy to finally announce it. I will update you soon as possible as to the progress of the program.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Rating Professional Networks + 2 Handy Tools

(Yes this image is from Scooter's Nessaja) ;P

I spent the day checking out professional sites for those who need a job... because I need a job. I stumbled across a few really handy sites and have decided to give a rating for each site. I applied to all of them and played around with their features. I hope this helps in your job search.


This is THE professional network to use. Your professors, past employers, coworkers, and friends are all there. There's so much to do there... it's almost like having a business Facebook.
I give this site:

I have to admit that this site LOOKS impressive; however, substance comes at a cost. This site has a lot of resources but minimal tools to make your internet resume stand out. In order to add any cool features to your profile, you have to upgrade. For that, and the limited spaces available for the experience section, I give this site:

Pros and cons of using this site. Cons are very few but include: confusing tabs and ugly site graphics. Most importantly, you can't add groups and companies to follow. The pros outweigh most of the cons though. You have the most options for your profile out of any other site, including Linkedin. You can add video resumes, portfolios, links, and answers to typical interview questions (which no other site has). Overall it's a really, really good site. This is why I give it:

Although Uboast is also not very pretty, it is very thorough. It allows for video resumes, portfolios, links, and favorite quotes. It has more networking options than Jobster but isn't as handy for those trying to hire you. I give it:

MyWorkster is the most like a social network. It even has the chat bar on the bottom. You can search for people just like you. You can add video, music, image, and text files to your portfolio. The profile looks professional too. My only complaints are that there are no groups on MyWorkster and that there are no interview questions. Overall I give this site:

VisualCV is visually appealing and allows for graphs, text, photos, and videos. It is the least social of all the professional networks. It is easy to use and the profile graphics are simplified as to appeal to most employers. Overall, this deserves:

This isn't a social professional network. This is an online video resume site. As it is not like the above sites I will not rate it. It is just a handy tool that I thought I'd pass on.

This is not a place to put your video resume. It's a site full of advice. I highly recommend this site.

Good luck on the job search!

Fitness Update: Setbacks

Well, life happens. I have lost three pounds and my weight is stabilizing. I have been consistent in my workout and diet routine. I have, however, had three dieting setbacks. I met with my friends for coffee and a movie. The coffee shop was closed and so we had frozen coffee at a place that serves terrible regular coffee. I also had a chicken pot pie (1075 calories!) one day and two slices of spinach pizza (280 per slice) on another day when my dad and I were expecting company.
I have also had emotional setbacks recently. The job search has worn me down. Just today I received another job refusal and cried in my hands. I know that emotions make me normally want chocolate or alcohol but I have no intention of doing either.
The most important thing is that I have not become discouraged and am only more eager to achieve my goals. I am exercising every day and will include running in the morning instead of yoga. I looked on WebMD and found that although my calorie intake is in tact, I am not meeting my exercise requirements for successful weight loss.
As for my job search, I can't let it bother me. If I do not try then I can not succeed. I am stepping it up a notch in that area as well. If things get really bad I can wear a "Hire Me" sign as I take my morning runs ;). I know that when I see the pounds shed, a more confident, active self will step forth into the world. I look forward to meeting her.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Edible Toxins: Dangerous Chemicals We Consume Daily

Warning, Warning: Three hazardous chemicals can be found in items you and your family often consume. They reside in both sweet and savory dishes... and even in your water! To find out if these are in your food, check the ingredients label on the back or side of each package.

1. Mono-sodium Glutamate (aka MSG)
MSG is naturally occurring in seaweed but is now used instead of salt to flavor a wide variety of foods, anything from french fries to soup. If you live in Europe, you probably will not see "monosodium glutamate" on the back of your labels. Instead, you will see an E number, "E621". Those who eat it are said to have Chinese Restaurant Syndrome which has recently been re-named to "MSG symptom complex". I simply do not have the time nor the patience to explain this chemical's effects on so many disorders... so, I am posting this link to a web site dedicated to raising awareness. Apparently people are beginning to wake up because Campbell and Progresso soups proudly advertise that their soups no longer have MSG.

2. Aspartame
Aspartame is an artificial sugar replacement. It can be found in products bearing the labels "sugar free", "no sugar", and "diet". Although aspartame can have immediate harmful effects on the body, most people display symptoms over months or even years of frequent use. I am one of the unfortunate ones who can not eat or drink anything with aspartame without immediate symptoms. I feel tightness in my throat, instant thirst, sweating, and migraine headaches. Long-term, serious side-effects can include diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and even blindness. According to the Wikipedia article on aspartame: "Upon ingestion, aspartame breaks down into natural residual components, including aspartic acid, phenylalinine, methanol, and further breakdown products including formaldehyde and formic acid, accumulation of the latter being suspected as the major cause of injury in methanol poisoning." Here is a news report from the 90s regarding the dangers of aspartame:

I have saved the most dangerous chemical for last...

and this might be a shocker...

3. Fluoride

The fact that this is in the list might surprise some people. Fluoride is believed to help in the prevention of tooth decay. As a result, it is now in our tooth pastes, our mouth washes, and our water. Although it is naturally occurring in water, it is now being added in higher concentrations to the water supply in order to combat cavities. Here is a map of water fluoridation according to levels of concentration worldwide. Note that Germany shows <1% water fluoridation and most of Europe is fairly low in comparison with America. Germans conducted a study which showed that water fluoridation has little to no effect on tooth enamel. Even if it did, there is a toxic level of fluoride in our tooth paste... which is why we are supposed to call Poison Control if it is swallowed. The same amount of fluoride is in an 8 oz glass of water in some states. This is why I try not to consume tap water, even if a filter is added. The filter does not remove fluoride. I drink spring water daily in its stead. Fun fact: fluoride was used in Nazi Germany to keep the prisoners docile. Imagine what effect it has on your brain. Well, it is now known that fluoride induces something called dental fluorosis... which permanently damages your teeth, and over time, your bones. Most concerning is the fact that fluoride is believed to be a contributing factor to Alzheimer disease. Here is my third and final video about the dangerous chemicals we consume:

Friday, March 4, 2011

Week 1: The Struggle

This week has been intense! I decided to start by doing the exercise posted in the last article three times a week. Next week I will add yoga in the evenings (all week). The third week I will add belly dancing in the mornings (all week). Then on week four I will increase to five times a week for the main exercise. This is the plan... but I will listen to my body.

For instance, the first day of exercise was extremely tough. I did it completely with very little breaks in-between. As a result, I was dizzy, shaky, and nauseated. I drank two bottles of spring water to no avail. My dad handed me a bottle of Gatorade and wallah!... the sick feelings were gone! I now know to not underestimate the power of electrolytes and not overestimate my body's ability to change rapidly.

As for my diet, I have replaced Toaster Strudels, Pop Tarts, and waffles with Nutella and toast, Nutella & banana wheat wraps (which is absolutely divine!), Fiber One and Cheerios cereals with and without sliced bananas, and spinach filled omelets & scrambled eggs. I drink only water except for my coffee in the morning served black. For lunch I have a spinach salad with strawberries, organic granola, and low-fat raspberry vinaigrette; cooked garlic spinach; fruit smoothies with v8 juice, milk, strawberries, bananas, yogurt, and granola; peanuts and yogurt (sometimes w/ granola instead of peanuts), and spinach salads in a wheat wrap. For supper I have whatever my dad is eating but I have reduced my portions. I also only have a 60 calorie mousse, ONE chocolate mint cookie, or ONE piece of Dove's dark chocolate singles for my daily chocolate intake.

This diet and exercise plan is what works best for me. I am going to always listen to my body and constantly make improvements as I see fit. It was very, VERY difficult at times to say no to my chocolate cravings... especially during my job search. After weighing in, I realized how instant the rewards are and how glad I am to have started this now instead of later. I am now craving fruits and vegetables and am repulsed by fake breaded chicken and french fries. I actually couldn't finish eating them; most of my plate was full! I have lost two pounds since Monday. Seeing results so soon is encouraging. I was so down this week because I was turned down for the job that I had wanted for months. I was so close to turning to my comfort zone and returning to my chocolate indulgence. I am glad I made it through week one. I think as I lose weight and can fit in my old clothes again I will begin to regain my confidence and the cravings will subside. I know that by sticking with it despite my depressive moments will help motivate me to take control of my life and hopefully radiate that confidence to future employers. I will write again at the end of week 2 to update Seek2ruth on my progress. From now on I will write every two weeks. I wanted to update you during my tough first week in hopes that it can be helpful to those who are also struggling with their weight or are lacking confidence. Keep on keeping on and do something that will make you happy until something comes along.
Much love

Friday, February 25, 2011

My 90 Day Challenge

I'm going to do it! I'm going to finally take control of my body and my life!

I was inspired by a man in Mississippi who had lost a substantial amount of weight... 100 lbs! He used social media sites to record his progress. He claimed that the thought of letting others down was his motivation to see it through. Here is his inspirational story. I thought I would try it out. Another man who was overweight is now a weight trainer and health guru. He now posts his advice and exercise videos on his Youtube page, sixpackshortcuts. One of his videos is below. As many of you know, I LOVE chocolate and Italian food. These two factors contribute to most of my calorie intake. I don't drink sodas nor do I eat fried foods or eat out. I have vegetables only during supper though and I hardly ever eat fruits. I exercise for fun and thus only sporadically do relaxing yoga and belly dancing. I sometimes step it up a notch by kick boxing. Other than that, I hardly ever move around. I spend most of my time behind my laptop writing articles, talking on Skype, or looking for a job. This all has to change! I figure that if I can do it (especially with all my failed attempts) anyone can. Now it's my turn to make myself put my feet where my mouth is (eww).

I will record my results and post it here every two weeks. I chose not to use one week as sometimes that could lead to discouragement. I want to focus on my actions and not the results.

Exercise plan:
For 90 days I will be spending 25 minutes doing this intense exercise. In the evenings I will do some yoga to relax my body and mind before bed. After the 90 days, I will do kick boxing exercises in the morning, and belly dancing + yoga in the afternoon or evening (whichever my future job permits).

Diet plan:

As I am only 5 ft tall and have a small to medium frame, I will limit my daily calorie intake to only 1,000-1,200 lbs. I will have fiber for breakfast, a fruit snack, then vegetables for lunch, calcium (ie cheese or yogurt) for a snack, then supper with my father. I will have coffee in the mornings but black (no sugar, no milk, no creamer... nothing!). In order to not impose my diet goals upon another, I will eat what is cooked for supper... but in small portions. After supper, I will have only one piece of dark chocolate for my final snack of the day.

Needless to say, this will be very tough. I am determined though. I normally think about dieting as cutting calories but not chocolate. That is a negative way of looking at food. I don't want heart or esophagus problems in the future. I want to live a long, healthy life so I can do the things I want. Once every week I will weigh myself. I will share with Seek2ruth my results. I am hoping that if my friends and family see that I can do it despite my long-lived addiction to chocolate, that they will be motivated to live more healthily themselves.

Here is a website full of handy tips that I will also be using to lose weight and keep it off:

Wish me luck!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

SDA Network News: Managing Economic Bubbles Before They Burst

By clicking the image above, you will be directed to my first article as the new Chief Economics Correspondent for SDA Network News. Here's some information about my article:

There are many theories as to what governments should do in order to manage and prevent bubbles and recessions. The US government uses Keynesian economic theories of expansionary economics, but rarely contracts as it should. This is fine during recessions; however, I will demonstrate that a constant expansion of the money supply and steadily growing government is not sustainable in the long-run.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Learning to Coexist

Since the beginning of mankind, people have fought over opinions. Every person believes that their philosophy is "the right one", but if we decide to listen to another perspective, we might learn a little about ourselves. Tolerance is a very strange thing as it eases conflict externally and increases it internally. When we allow ourselves to question our place in the universe, we open the door to limitless opportunities. When we realize the vast array of possibilities, we are suddenly much more tolerant of others and their perceptions of reality.

Reality is a very fluid thing; even scientists have trouble pinpointing what it is. Once believed to be a stagnant, rigid fact that exists outside of ourselves and our control, now reality appears to be something that constantly changes due to each individual's relative view. Einstein realized that if five individuals witnessed the same event, let's say... a shooting, they would each have a different account as to what happened because they are all standing in different angles.

Vocabulary has helped humans make sense of our reality as we label anything and everything in an attempt to simplify the most complicated things. What one person calls something using one language may contradict another's term for the same thing. This has led to countless wars and social conflicts for thousands of years. God, Jehovah, Jesus, The Trinity, Source Energy, Allah, Enlightenment, The Holy Spirit, The Illuminated, The Universal Source... these terms are all describing the same thing: some thing we can not explain, nor prove, and yet these terms have been fought over for centuries. As a race seeking to preserve itself, we should be ashamed. We are all humans, all equal in every respect.

Each person's will is their own and no one can take that away from them. For anyone to claim that their way is the only way is naive and dangerous. They are unwittingly forcing their beliefs, ideals, and lifestyles upon another. No person has that right. We each have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It's entirely burdensome to feel the need to fix your family, friends, and the world. Just live life the way you want and allow others to do the same. It's okay to have your own philosophical views, logic and reasoning can not explain everything because everything is subjective. Because it is subjective, it is also okay to have people disagree. Variety is what makes life worth living. Choice is what makes us human.

To those who feel pressured to live a life which is not your own, be true to yourself and bask in the glorious light which is your own. No one can ever take away your free will unless you give it to them. If your family and friends are the culprit of this pressure, understand that they are doing what they think is right. They love you and want what they think is best for you. Try to not lash out at them, even if they are being very difficult. You know what is right for you, follow your own path. It's okay if you agree to disagree. You can not make them agree with you. They have the same rights as you to live the life they choose. Sit them down and explain how you feel and describe who you want to be. Maybe if you try conversation and reasoning, the blow won't be as emotionally impacting. Despite what they say at the moment, they will always be there for you. Even though you may be going through dramatic life changes, you have to be there for your family in order for them to be able to be there for you.

To those who make fun of others or wish to harm others who think differently than you, learn tolerance. People from different religions or cultures are not stupid or savage; they are just like you and me. By pushing away other cultures and philosophies, you are only hurting yourself. You will inevitably be absorbed by your hatred. People won't want to be around you because of your judgmental criticism. People like people who like them. Begin with a smile and casual conversation. If they bring up a topic you are not comfortable with, instead of shouting, just let them know that you try to not talk about religion because of its controversial nature. When you feel comfortable enough with your ability to get along with others, only then would I suggest moving into the stage of listening to others' perceptions of reality. Small steps can lead to a massive mind, heart, and soul expansion. Loving others is the only key to being loved.

For those who are family and friends of those who are questioning their faith or want to learn about other cultures, I know how difficult it must be for you. I know you might feel as though a big chunk of your heart was stomped on and that you must have not been there enough for your friend or relative. It's not your fault. This person might simply be trying to find themselves. Also, consider the possibility that this person might not be questioning their faith at all; they might just be interested in learning how others live or lived. Remember that they are not doing this to you; they are finding themselves. This is a tough time for everyone involved. Try to be supportive and discuss religion in a rational, relaxed manner. Try to understand what they are trying to learn and be supportive. Even if it hurts, remember that they are hurting too. They might feel pressured, like they are letting you down. Reassert your love for them and they will respond with greater respect and admiration for your respect. No matter what path they pave for themselves, know that their self-blossoming is not a sign of disrespect. They love you regardless of the cruel things they may say. If you let them know that it is okay to discuss these things calmly, they will. This can open the doors to a tighter bond.

Here are some songs that I found that relate to this and might express how some of you may feel. The songs are in the order of a heart gradually opening itself up to possibilities. Sit back and enjoy.

May you achieve all your dreams.

Love and peace to you all,


Saturday, January 8, 2011

Day 7: Opening Doors


Helpful Videos

Links to Help You Make Change a Reality:
52 Ways to Make Extra Money
WikiHow: How to Save Money

Inspirational Music

3 songs, use arrows to navigate

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Day 6: Relationships

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Day 5: Health

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Day 4: Create your Life

Monday, January 3, 2011

Day 3: Self-Esteem

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"An idealist is a person who helps other people to be prosperous." -Henry Ford

"All that we are is a product of what we have thought." -Buddha
So make sure you are worthy of what you create with your thoughts!