January 13th, 2009
03:02 PM ET

The short squeeze of death

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/01/13/art.adolf.merckle.jpg caption="German billionaire Adolf Merckle in Germany on April 26, 2004."]

Wayne P. Weddington III
Author and hedge fund manager

Last week, Adolf Merckle threw himself in front of a train.

Merckle committed suicide on Tuesday January 6 2009 in the face of a crumbling financial situation. The German billionaire’s speculation in Volkswagen stock pushed his business empire to the edge of ruin. Last Fall, Mr. Merckle lost hundreds of millions of euros in a speculative battle with Porsche, the sports car manufacturer, to seize control of Volkswagen. Mr. Merckle had lost a sizable bet that shares in Volkswagen would fall, in a financial transaction known as short-selling. The loss of “the low hundreds of millions” does not seem a huge loss compared to an estimated net worth of $9.2 billion (Forbes 2008). But the agony of defeat at the hands of one of the decade’s most aggressive short squeezes proved too much to bear for Merckle. He eventually took his own life.

I am not making light of Merckle’s suicide. As pointed out by Douglas Faneuil on The Huffington Post “though often characterized as the result of some life event, [suicide] is nearly always caused by an underlying mental disorder… 90-95% of those who kill themselves exhibit clear and commons signs of mental illness well before their lives end. Certain tragedies… may trigger an acute depression, which can lead to suicide, but nearly all victims of suicide have… illness.”

Yet the event stands a macabre illustration to the perils of short selling – the short squeeze.

Editor's note: Wayne Weddington is a partner at Brunswick Capital Partners and author of "Do-It-Yourself Hedge Funds: Everything You Need to Make Millions Right Now," Grand Central Publishing

Filed under: 360° Radar • Economy • Global 360° • Wayne P. Weddington III
January 13th, 2009
02:54 PM ET

Clinton talks of challenges

Secretary of State nominee Hillary Clinton addresses the Senate foreign relations committee.

January 13th, 2009
02:30 PM ET

Bush still doesn't get it

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/01/12/bush.press.conference/art.bush.last.cnn.jpg caption="President Bush addresses reporters at the White House on Monday in his final news conference."]

Ed Rollins
CNN Contributor

One week from today, a historic presidency begins and a tarnished presidency ends.

The inauguration of Barack Obama, the first African-American president, cannot come quickly enough for the vast majority of Americans.

This young man with the keen disciplined mind and the buffed body begins a presidency with high hopes, goodwill and a never-ending list of problems left on the Oval Office desk by George Walker Bush, the ever-confident occupant of that high office who seems like the dinner guest who will not leave.

In all my years around Washington as an observer and as a member of several administrations, I have rarely witnessed an event as bizarre as President Bush's farewell press conference yesterday.

Keep Reading...

January 13th, 2009
02:15 PM ET

Children of polygamist family happy to be home

CNN's Gary Tuchman talks to family members at the FLDS ranch in El Dorado, Texas, about being back together.

Filed under: Gary Tuchman • Polygamy
January 13th, 2009
12:11 PM ET

Back In BlackBerry? Obama Could Get PDA

Declan McCullagh

Bill Clinton sent only two e-mail messages as president and has yet to pick up the habit. George W. Bush ceased using e-mail in January 2001 but has said he's looking forward to e-mailing "my buddies" after leaving Washington, D.C.

Barack Obama, though, is a serious e-mail addict. "I'm still clinging to my BlackBerry," he said in a recent interview with CNBC. "They're going to pry it out of my hands."

One reason to curb presidential BlackBerrying is the possibility of eavesdropping by hackers and other digital snoops. While Research In Motion offers encryption, the U.S. government has stricter requirements for communications security.


Filed under: Barack Obama • Technology
January 13th, 2009
12:02 PM ET

Hillary Clinton – eyes on the hot spots

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/01/13/clinton.confirmation/art.clinton.hearing.cnn.jpg caption="Sen. Hillary Clinton poses for pictures with Sens. John Kerry, right, and Dick Lugar, left."]

Elise Labott
CNN State Department Producer

In the confirmation hearing today, Clinton said she would work not only with government agencies, but NGOs and the private sector to address world problems because "we all have a lot of work to do."

"It's really all hands on deck," she said.

But Clinton stressed she wanted to boost the resources of the State Department, because there is no replacement for seasoned diplomats. She said that the Defense Department received 10 times more the resources going to the State Department and conducts a lot of work in the field traditionally handled by State, which in effect means the DOD is "recreating the State Department."

She acknowledged a frustration with the bureaucracy of the State Department – and didn't want a "pile of paper," but rather new strategies, ideas and best practices from not only her staff, but also asked for suggestions from the senate committee itself.

On Iran
Clinton said Iran's nuclear program is "of great concern," and that there is an ongoing policy review on how to approach it. "Our goal will be to do everything we can through diplomacy and the use of greater sanctions," she said.

On sanctions, she said "we won't know what we are capable of achieving until we begin work." Says they are committed to working with friends and adversaries in the United Nations, making a case to the UN security council that "a nuclear-armed Iran is in no one's interest."


January 13th, 2009
11:13 AM ET

As Senate Hearings Begin, Hillary Clinton’s Image Soars

Jeffrey M. Jones

A new Gallup Poll finds 65% of Americans saying they have a favorable opinion of Hillary Clinton, the highest rating for her in almost 10 years.

Clinton had not had a favorable rating above 60% since 1999, after having been consistently above that level during the Monica Lewinsky scandal that led to the impeachment but ultimate acquittal of husband Bill Clinton. That included Hillary Clinton's all-time high 67% favorable rating immediately after the House of Representatives voted to impeach the president in December 1998.


January 13th, 2009
10:57 AM ET

New Orleanians, and the nation, know what happened after Katrina

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.l.cnn.net/cnn/2007/US/08/29/katrina.day/art.superdome.05.gi.jpg caption="The roof of the Lousiana Superdome, pictured on August 30, 2005, shows the scars of Hurricane Katrina."]

The Times-Picayune Editorial Staff

Metro New Orleans residents will never forget the despair of those dark days after Hurricane Katrina and the federal levee failures flooded much of the region.

The wound of those memories is still raw just below the surface. Thus, President George W. Bush's defense Monday of the federal response immediately after the storm stirs deep emotions.

In his last scheduled press conference, the president vigorously dismissed criticism of the government's performance.


January 13th, 2009
10:48 AM ET

Financial Dispatch: More money for Wall Street?

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/WORLD/asiapcf/12/02/global.markets/art.sinking.stocks.gi.jpg]

Andrew Torgan
CNN Financial News Producer

Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke says President-elect Barack Obama's proposed fiscal stimulus package could help the economy, but he added that Wall Street may need additional government bailouts to bring about a sustained economic recovery. Speaking in London, Bernanke said that the nearly $800 billion plan being discussed by the incoming Obama administration and Congress "could provide a significant boost to economic activity." But he cautioned that the plan is "unlikely to promote a lasting recovery unless they are accompanied by strong measures to further stabilize and strengthen the financial system."

The nation's trade deficit narrowed sharply in November to the lowest level in 5 years, reflecting the sharp drop in the price of imported oil. The Commerce Dept. says imports exceeded exports by $40.4 billion, down substantially from a revised $56.7 billion trade gap in October. The last time that the trade deficit was so small was November 2003, when the gap was $40 billion.


Filed under: Economy • Finance • Gas Prices • Oil
January 13th, 2009
10:38 AM ET

Medics live dangerously in Gaza

CNN's Fionnuala Sweeney reports on the plight of ambulance workers in Gaza.

Filed under: Crisis in Gaza • Palestine
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