Category: News


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A great tribute to our queen

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Thousands of members of the Royal Navy, Army and Royal Air Force have taken part in a parade and flypast to mark the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.

(Please Click on image for news story)

 

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By god can you imagine the size and weight of the tumour

Les


Eliana Mann and her mother Tara

A 10-year-old girl, Eliana Mann, is like a “new child” after having a massive tumour that weighed more than 3kg removed.

Her mother said Eliana, from north London, had been transformed by the operation at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London.

Surgeons said the growth had reached the size of a small football.

The tumour was benign, but it would have been deadly had it continued to grow.

In the summer of 2009, Eliana was not growing properly. Her feet had not grown for a couple of years, she was not eating properly and was tired all the time.

Her father, Paul, thought her stomach felt quite hard. Her doctor agreed and Eliana was sent to hospital for testing.

The results showed she had a massive benign tumour growing in her abdomen.

‘Absolutely enormous’

As it was so large, doctors first tried to shrink it with chemotherapy. However, after a year and a half of therapy the tumour was still growing.

In July 2011, the decision was made to remove the tumour.

Eliana’s mother, Tara, said the tumour was “absolutely enormous” and “took up 50% of her abdomen”.

She told the BBC: “If she didn’t have the tumour removed it would end up just growing and growing and growing and it would kill her just by its size.

“We didn’t really have much option – it was a lifesaving operation.”

Surgeon Edward Kiely said: “This type of tumour in this location is very rare – fewer than one per year at Great Ormond Street Hospital.”

Success was not guaranteed; there was a one in 10 chance of not being able to remove the tumour.

The operation took nine hours. Several pieces of tumour were removed – the largest weighed in at more than 3kg.

Tara said: “By September when Eliana went back to school she was like a new child. She’s grown, she’s put on loads of weight, she’s got loads of energy, she does boxing, netball, she goes swimming.”

Eliana still needs scans every three months to see if the tumour returns.

Eliana’s story is featured in the BBC2 documentary series Great Ormond Street on Tuesday, May 15 at 2100 BST.

Hi

Please click on the image to go to the updated list of our dead military hero’s in Afghanistan

God Bless them

The Royal British Legion – Leeds Group

The Leeds Group Royal British Legion are holding their Annual Parade and Service in Leeds Parish Church, at 1500hrs on Sunday, 10 June 2012 and I would like to take this opportunity of inviting members of your Organization to take part alone with your Standard Bearer. The Service this year will be joint event with the Normandy Veterans Association and will commemorate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.

Standards Muster at the bottom gate at 1400hrs, where they will assemble before marching into Church.

The Service will finish around 1545hrs afterwards a short Remembrance Service and wreath laying ceremony will be held at the Leeds Rifles Memorial situated at the roadside in front of the Church, also a wreath will be laid at the memorial of the policeman killed on duty in Leeds.

Refreshments will be served afterwards in the Church.

Dress: Regimental Blazers, Grey Slacks, Ties, Medals, Beret, etc.

Branch Members are urged to attend, please inform the Branch Secretary by no later than the 5th June 12. (standards required).

Best Regards

Micky Miles
Leeds Branch Secretary



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This is great for the coders and web developers, PLEASE click on the image below to read and see the video





Hi

Our army is getting smaller and smaller

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Philip Hammond said the Army is getting smaller
Entire infantry and armoured units will face the axe as a result of the Government’s programme of cuts to the armed forces, Defence Secretary Philip Hammond has warned.

In an interview with The Daily Telegraph he said the planned scale of reductions could not be achieved without the loss of some units.

Under the plans set out in the Strategic Defence and Security Review, the Army is to be reduced from 102,000 soldiers to 82,000.

The Telegraph reported that units with large numbers of soldiers recruited from the Commonwealth would be particularly vulnerable. Currently around one in 10 infantry soldiers comes from outside the UK, although some units have significantly larger foreign contingents than others.

“The Army is getting smaller,” Mr Hammond said. “Clearly the Army can’t get smaller by 17% without losing some units.

“I can’t say to you that there will be no loss of battalions in the infantry as we downsize the Army. We are looking at the options in the Army and the armoured corps.”

An MoD spokesman said: “A review of the future structure of the Army is ongoing and no conclusions have yet been reached.

“As General Sir David Richards, Chief of the Defence Staff, has stated previously, the Army is confident it can meet its target of 82,000 by 2020.

“This is in line with the agreement between the Defence Secretary and the Chief of the General Staff for a gradual move towards the new Army structure so operations are not adversely affected by necessary changes.”



It’s not every day that someone writes down an equation that ends up changing the world. But it does happen sometimes, and the world doesn’t always change for the better. It has been argued that one formula known as Black-Scholes, along with its descendants, helped to blow up the financial world.

Black-Scholes was first written down in the early 1970s but its story starts earlier than that, in the Dojima Rice Exchange in 17th Century Japan where futures contracts were written for rice traders. A simple futures contract says that I will agree to buy rice from you in one year’s time, at a price that we agree right now.

By the 20th Century the Chicago Board of Trade was providing a marketplace for traders to deal not only in futures but in options contracts. An example of an option is a contract where we agree that I can buy rice from you at any time over the next year, at a price that we agree right now – but I don’t have to if I don’t want to.

Options allow a trader to have a delicious risk-free portfolio You can imagine why this kind of contract might be useful. If I am running a big chain of hamburger restaurants, but I don’t know how much beef I’ll need to buy next year, and I am nervous that the price of beef might rise, well – all I need is to buy some options on beef.

But then that leads to a very ticklish problem. How much should I be paying for those beef options? What are they worth? And that’s where this world-changing equation, the Black-Scholes formula, can help.

“The problem it’s trying to solve is to define the value of the right, but not the obligation, to buy a particular asset at a specified price, within or at the end of a specified time period,” says Professor Myron Scholes, professor of finance at the Stanford University Graduate School of Business and – of course – co-inventor of the Black-Scholes formula.

The young Scholes was fascinated by finance. As a teenager, he persuaded his mother to set up an account so that he could trade on the stock market. One of the amazing things about Scholes is that throughout his time as an undergraduate and then a doctoral student, he was half-blind. And so, he says, he got very good at listening and at thinking.

When he was 26, an operation largely restored his sight. The next year, he became an assistant professor at MIT, and it was there that he stumbled upon the option-pricing puzzle.

One part of the puzzle was this question of risk: the value of an option to buy beef at a price of – say – $2 (£1.23) a kilogram presumably depends on what the price of beef is, and how the price of beef is moving around.

The year after Myron Scholes won the Nobel prize, his hedge fund crashed But the connection between the price of beef and the value of the beef option doesn’t vary in a straightforward way – it depends how likely the option is to actually be used. That in turn depends on the option price and the beef price. All the variables seem to be tangled up in an impenetrable way.

Scholes worked on the problem with his colleague, Fischer Black, and figured out that if I own just the right portfolio of beef, plus options to buy and sell beef, I have a delicious and totally risk-free portfolio. Since I already know the price of beef and the price of risk-free assets, by looking at the difference between them I can work out the price of these beef options. That’s the basic idea. The details are hugely complicated.

“It might have taken us a year, a year and a half to be able to solve and get the simple Black-Scholes formula,” says Scholes. “But we had the actual underlying dynamics way before.”

The Black-Scholes method turned out to be a way not only to calculate value of options but all kinds of other financial assets. “We were like kids in a candy story in the sense that we described options everywhere, options were embedded in everything that we did in life,” says Scholes.

But Black and Scholes weren’t the only kids in the candy store, says Ian Stewart, whose book argues that Black-Scholes was a dangerous invention.

“What the equation did was give everyone the confidence to trade options and very quickly, much more complicated financial options known as derivatives,” he says.

Scholes thought his equation would be useful. He didn’t expect it to transform the face of finance. But it quickly became obvious that it would.

“About the time we had published this article, that’s 1973, simultaneously or approximately a month thereafter, the Chicago Board Options Exchange started to trade call options on 16 stocks,” he recalls.

Scholes had just moved to the University of Chicago. He and his colleagues had already been teaching the Black-Scholes formula and methodology to students for several years.

“There were many young traders who either had taken courses at MIT or Chicago in using the option pricing technology. On the other hand, there was a group of traders who had only intuition and previous experience. And in a very short period of time, the intuitive players were essentially eliminated by the more systematic players who had this pricing technology.”

That was just the beginning.

“By 2007 the trade in derivatives worldwide was one quadrillion (thousand million million) US dollars – this is 10 times the total production of goods on the planet over its entire history,” says Stewart. “OK, we’re talking about the totals in a two-way trade, people are buying and people are selling and you’re adding it all up as if it doesn’t cancel out, but it was a huge trade.”

The Black-Scholes formula had passed the market test. But as banks and hedge funds relied more and more on their equations, they became more and more vulnerable to mistakes or over-simplifications in the mathematics.

After Black-Scholes it was the computer that said yes, or no
“The equation is based on the idea that big movements are actually very, very rare. The problem is that real markets have these big changes much more often that this model predicts,” says Stewart. “And the other problem is that everyone’s following the same mathematical principles, so they’re all going to get the same answer.”

Now these were known problems. What was not clear was whether the problems were small enough to ignore, or well enough understood to fix. And then in the late 1990s, two remarkable things happened.

“The inventors got the Nobel Prize for Economics,” says Stewart. “I would argue they thoroughly deserved to get it.”

Fischer Black died young, in 1995. When in 1997 Scholes won the Nobel memorial prize, he shared it not with Black but with Robert Merton, another option-pricing expert.

Scholes’ work had inspired a generation of mathematical wizards on Wall Street, and by this stage both he and Merton were players in the world of finance, as partners of a hedge fund called Long-Term Capital Management.

“The whole idea of this company was that it was going to base its trading on mathematical principles such as the Black-Scholes equation. And it actually was amazingly successful to begin with,” says Stewart. “It was outperforming the traditional companies quite noticeably and everything looked great.”

But it didn’t end well. Long-Term Capital Management ran into, among other things, the Russian financial crisis. The firm lost $4bn (£2.5bn) in the course of six weeks. It was bailed out by a consortium of banks which had been assembled by the Federal Reserve. And – at the time – it was a very big story indeed. This was all happening in August and September of 1998, less than a year after Scholes had been awarded his Nobel prize.

Rice futures were being traded in the 17th Century Stewart says the lessons from Long-Term Capital Management were obvious. “It showed the danger of this kind of algorithmically-based trading if you don’t keep an eye on some of the indicators that the more conventional people would use,” he says. “They [Long-Term Capital Management] were committed, pretty much, to just ploughing ahead with the system they had. And it went wrong.”

Scholes says that’s not what happened at all. “It had nothing to do with equations and nothing to do with models,” he says. “I was not running the firm, let me be very clear about that. There was not an ability to withstand the shock that occurred in the market in the summer and fall of late 1998. So it was just a matter of risk-taking. It wasn’t a matter of modelling.”

This is something people were still arguing about a decade later. Was the collapse of Long-Term Capital Management an indictment of mathematical approaches to finance or, as Scholes says, was it simply a case of traders taking too much risk against the better judgement of the mathematical experts?

Ten years after the Long-Term Capital Management bail-out, Lehman Brothers collapsed. And the debate over Black-Scholes and LTCM is now a broader debate over the role of mathematical equations in finance.

Ian Stewart claims that the Black-Scholes equation changed the world. Does he really believe that mathematics caused the financial crisis?

“And it wasn’t just that equation. It was a whole generation of other mathematical models and all sorts of other techniques that followed on its heels. But it was one of the major discoveries that opened the door to all this.”

Black-Scholes changed the culture of Wall Street, from a place where people traded based on common sense, experience and intuition, to a place where the computer said yes or no.

But is it really fair to blame Black-Scholes for what followed it? “The Black-Scholes technology has very specific rules and requirements,” says Scholes. “That technology attracted or caused investment banks to hire people who had quantitative or mathematical skills. I accept that. They then developed products or technologies of their own.”

Not all of those subsequent technologies, says Scholes, were good enough. “[Some] had assumptions that were wrong, or they used data incorrectly to calibrate their models, or people who used [the] models didn’t know how to use them.”

Scholes argues there is no going back. “The fundamental issue is that quantitative technologies in finance will survive, and will grow, and will continue to evolve over time,” he says.

But for Ian Stewart, the story of Black-Scholes – and of Long-Term Capital Management – is a kind of morality tale. “It’s very tempting to see the financial crisis and various things which led up to it as sort of the classic Greek tragedy of hubris begets nemesis,” he says.

“You try to fly, you fly too close to the sun, the wax holding your wings on melts and you fall down to the ground. My personal view is that it’s not just tempting to do that but there is actually a certain amount of truth in that way of thinking. I think the bankers’ hubris did indeed beget nemesis. But the big problem is that it wasn’t the bankers on whom the nemesis descended – it was the rest of us.”

 

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-17866646

What a TERRIBLE tragedy in Norway

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This is the timeline of the Norway massacre  http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-14260297

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Looks to be a great occasion on this day

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A man has been charged over comments made on Facebook following the deaths of six soldiers in Afghanistan last week

A teenager will appear in court after making comments on Facebook about the deaths of six soldiers in Afghanistan last week, police said.

Azhar Ahmed, 19, posted the comments on his profile page and has been charged with a racially aggravated public order offence, according to West Yorkshire Police.

A police spokesman said Ahmed, of Fir Avenue, Ravensthorpe, West Yorkshire, was bemoaning the level of attention the British soldiers who died in a bomb blast last week received compared to Afghan civilians who have died in the war.

The spokesman said: “He didn’t make his point very well and that is why he has landed himself in bother.”

Ahmed will appear at Dewsbury Magistrates’ court on March 20.

He was arrested on Friday and charged over the weekend. He has been bailed to an address outside the county.

Last week, six men were killed in the deadliest single attack on British forces in Afghanistan since 2001.

The soldiers who died – five of them aged between 19 and 21 – were killed when their Warrior armoured vehicle was blown up by a massive improvised explosive device.

Sergeant Nigel Coupe, 33, of 1st Battalion The Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment was killed alongside Corporal Jake Hartley, 20, Private Anthony Frampton, 20, Private Christopher Kershaw, 19, Private Daniel Wade, 20, and Private Daniel Wilford, 21, all of 3rd Battalion the Yorkshire Regiment.

The tragedy was the biggest single loss of life for British forces in Afghanistan since an RAF Nimrod crash killed 14 people in September 2006. It took the number of UK troops who have died since the Afghanistan campaign began in 2001 to 404.