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Is This the End of Market Democracy? The 2012 election will offer voters a stark choice between right and left alternatives.
President Obama is calling for:
investing in things like education that gives everybody a chance to succeed. A tax code that makes sure everybody pays their fair share. And laws that make sure everybody follows the rules. That’s what will transform our economy. That’s what will grow our middle class again.
Republicans, in turn, are denouncing the expansion of a Democratic “entitlement society” and what they see as a trend toward European social democracy. They are calling for sharply reduced taxes, regulation and government spending to free market forces and revive private sector economic growth.
While Americans are going to be able to choose between two contrasting ideologies, what if both choices are off the mark? What if the legitimacy of free market capitalism in America is facing fundamental challenges that the candidates and their parties are not addressing?
Here are some of the issues that are making some politicians and political thinkers uneasy:
Are large segments of the American workforce — millions of people — at a structural disadvantage in the face of global competition, technological advance and ever more sophisticated forms of automation? Is this situation permanent?
Will the share of profits from improving corporate productivity flowing to capital and to high-earning C.E.O.s continue to grow, while the income of wage earners stagnates and their share of profits declines?
Has the surging wealth and income of the top one percent and of the top 0.1 percent reached a tipping point at which the political leverage of the very affluent decisively outweighs the influence of the electorate at large?
Is it possible that in the United States and Europe, democratic free market capitalism is no longer capable of providing broadly shared benefits to a solid majority of workers? (New York Times)
Tony Bennett Is Right That Legalizing Drugs Would Save Lives "First it was Michael Jackson, then it was Amy Winehouse and now the magnificent Whitney Houston. I'd like to have every gentleman and lady in this room commit themselves to get our government to legalize drugs. So they have to get it through a doctor, not just some gangsters that sell it under the table."
That's what Tony Bennett said at a pre-Grammy Awards party on Saturday night, shortly after learning of the tragic death of Whitney Houston, and he's exactly right. One of us (Neill) is a former police officer who fought -- and lost friends -- on the front lines of the failed "war on drugs." One of us (Katharine) learned about the commonality of human pain in another difficult way, spending two years in a residential facility ("rehab"). She wasn't there for drugs, but many of those struggling alongside her were.
There has been some confusion and criticism over Bennett's remarks and, because of our experience dealing with the pain and heartbreak of drug abuse and harmful drug laws, we feel compelled to expand upon his heartfelt remarks in the hopes that we can help break through some of the misunderstanding underlying the reaction to what Bennett said. (Huffington Post)
Awakening to Ron Paul’s Crony Capitalism Ron Paul believes in the feudalism of the land barons and gold bankers of King George. Ron Paul believes land and money are capital. Land and money are not capital. They are the common wealth. To declare any free market currency to be legal tender is state intervention and a corruption of free markets. Title to land is state intervention and corruption of free markets. The Bible and the classical liberals understand this distinction. Ron Paul does not understand this distinction. Ron Paul wants government to allow the banks and land barons to steal the common wealth. Ron Paul does not distinguish between earned wealth and wealth stolen through economic rent and monetary interest.
My article exposing Ron Paul as a globalist seeking the old world’s one world currency is getting a lot of traffic. Unfortunately, it seems a lot of people on forums discussing the article still have not awakened to the importance of the Endgame Ron Paul represents on the Grand Chessboard of the Red Symphony.
The awakening to the crimes of the New World Order is being misdirected into the worship of one man, Ron Paul, and into a blind faith of a false economic paradigm of crony capitalism and corruption of free markets of the worst kind by government, the Austrian School of Economics, funded by the same people, the Rockefeller Foundation, who take an active part in the funding and control of the New World Order. What is really dangerous is that it is sold as the opposition to the New World Order and as the opposition to crony capitalism and corruption of free markets by the government when it was funded by the New World Order and when it is crony capitalism and corruption of free markets by the government. (Liberty Revival)
The shocking truth about the crackdown on Occupy: The violent police assaults across the US are no coincidence. Occupy has touched the third rail of our political class's venality US citizens of all political persuasions are still reeling from images of unparallelled police brutality in a coordinated crackdown against peaceful OWS protesters in cities across the nation this past week. An elderly woman was pepper-sprayed in the face; the scene of unresisting, supine students at UC Davis being pepper-sprayed by phalanxes of riot police went viral online; images proliferated of young women – targeted seemingly for their gender – screaming, dragged by the hair by police in riot gear; and the pictures of a young man, stunned and bleeding profusely from the head, emerged in the record of the middle-of-the-night clearing of Zuccotti Park.
But just when Americans thought we had the picture – was this crazy police and mayoral overkill, on a municipal level, in many different cities? – the picture darkened. The National Union of Journalists issued a Freedom of Information Act request to investigate possible federal involvement with law enforcement practices that appeared to target journalists. The New York Times reported that "New York cops have arrested, punched, whacked, shoved to the ground and tossed a barrier at reporters and photographers" covering protests. Reporters were asked by NYPD to raise their hands to prove they had credentials: when many dutifully did so, they were taken, upon threat of arrest, away from the story they were covering, and penned far from the site in which the news was unfolding. Other reporters wearing press passes were arrested and roughed up by cops, after being – falsely – informed by police that "It is illegal to take pictures on the sidewalk." (London Guardian)
Mali's mining sector, a rich but unexploited potential Gold: Mali: Africa’s third largest gold producer with large scale exploration ongoing
Mali has been famous for its gold since the days of the great Malian empire and the pilgrimage to Mecca of the Emperor Kankou Moussa in 1324, on his caravan he carried more than 8 tonnes of gold! Mali has therefore been traditionally a mining country for over half a millennium. - Exploration is currently being carried out by several companies with clear indications of deposits of uranium in Mali. Uranium potential is located in the Falea area which covers 150 km² of the Falea- North Guinea basin, a Neoproterozoic sedimentary basin marked by significant radiometric anomalies. Uranium potential in Falea is thought to be 5000 tonnes. The Kidal Project, in the north eastern part of Mali, with an area of 19,930 km2, the project covers a large crystalline geological province known as L'Adrar Des Iforas. Uranium potential in the Samit deposit, Gao region alone is thought to be 200 tonnes.
Mali has potential to develop its diamond exploration: in the Kayes administrative region (Mining region 1), thirty (30) kimberlitic pipes have been discovered of which eight are show traces of diamonds. Some eight small diamonds have been picked in the Sikasso administrative region (southern Mali). - Iron Ore, Bauxite and Manganese: significant resources present in Mali but still unexploited - Mali’s Petroleum potential already attracting significant interest from investors
Mali’s Petroleums potential has been documented since the 1970’s where sporadic seismic and drilling revealed probable indications of oil. With the increasing price of global oil and gas resources, Mali has stepped up its promotion and research for oil exploration, production and potential exports. Mali could also provide a strategic transport route for Sub-Saharan oil and gas exports through to the Western world and there is the possibility of connecting the Taoudeni basin to European market through Algeria. (Journées Minières et Pétrolières du Mali)
In Protest, the Power of Place THE ever expanding Occupy Wall Street movement, with encampments now not only in Lower Manhattan but also in Washington, London and other cities, proves among other things that no matter how instrumental new media have become in spreading protest these days, nothing replaces people taking to the streets.
Another reminder came late last week when the landlord of Zuccotti Park, where the demonstrators in New York City have settled, at the last minute withdrew a request for police assistance in cleaning up the park. This, at least temporarily, averted a confrontation in front of the global media over what protesters regarded as just a pretext to evict them.
We tend to underestimate the political power of physical places. Then Tahrir Square comes along. Now it’s Zuccotti Park, until four weeks ago an utterly obscure city-block-size downtown plaza with a few trees and concrete benches, around the corner from ground zero and two blocks north of Wall Street on Broadway. A few hundred people with ponchos and sleeping bags have put it on the map.
Kent State, Tiananmen Square, the Berlin Wall: we clearly use locales, edifices, architecture to house our memories and political energy. Politics troubles our consciences. But places haunt our imaginations. (New York Times)
A Victory for the Libyan People? The Top Ten Myths in the War Against Libya Since Colonel Gaddafi has lost his military hold in the war against NATO and the insurgents/rebels/new regime, numerous talking heads have taken to celebrating this war as a “success”. They believe this is a “victory of the Libyan people” and that we should all be celebrating. Others proclaim victory for the “responsibility to protect,” for “humanitarian interventionism,” and condemn the “anti-imperialist left”. Some of those who claim to be “revolutionaries,” or believe they support the “Arab revolution,” somehow find it possible to sideline NATO’s role in the war, instead extolling the democratic virtues of the insurgents, glorifying their martyrdom, and magnifying their role until everything else is pushed from view. I wish to dissent from this circle of acclamation, and remind readers of the role of ideologically-motivated fabrications of “truth” that were used to justify, enable, enhance, and motivate the war against Libya—and to emphasize how damaging the practical effects of those myths have been to Libyans, and to all those who favoured peaceful, non-militarist solutions.
These top ten myths are some of the most repeated claims, by the insurgents, and/or by NATO, European leaders, the Obama administration, the mainstream media, and even the so-called “International Criminal Court”—the main actors speaking in the war against Libya. In turn, we look at some of the reasons why these claims are better seen as imperial folklore, as the myths that supported the broadest of all myths—that this war is a “humanitarian intervention,” one designed to “protect civilians”. Again, the importance of these myths lies in their wide reproduction, with little question, and to deadly effect. In addition, they threaten to severely distort the ideals of human rights and their future invocation, as well aiding in the continued militarization of Western culture and society. (Counter Punch)
Rise of the Fourth Reich, how Germany is using the financial crisis to conquer Europe Yesterday’s crisis meeting between Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy was arranged before the participants knew of the disastrous growth figures in the Eurozone that emerged in the morning.
The background to the meeting was last week’s tumult in the world financial markets. Shares had gone into freefall after the downgrading of America’s credit rating.
Worse than that, however, were the tremors rattling some of Europe’s most important banks, notably in France, caused by further evidence of the utter failure of even the more developed European economies to live anything like within their means. (UK Daily Mail)
Squelching social media after riots a dangerous idea A pretty good article that explains why censoring social media is a bad idea, and not just for first world selfish privacy concerns. I am particularly impressed by how she ties it to the worldwide struggle for internet freedoms. - In an emergency session of Parliament on Thursday, British Prime Minister David Cameron said that the violence, looting and arson sweeping his country "were organized via social media." He said his government is now considering how and whether to "stop people communicating via these websites and services when we know they are plotting violence, disorder and criminality."
On Friday, China's state-run Xinhua news agency published a commentary contrasting Cameron's latest statements with his Arab Spring-inspired speech earlier this year, in which he loftily proclaimed that freedom of expression should be respected in Tahrir Square as much as in London's Trafalgar Square.
"We may wonder why Western leaders, on the one hand, tend to indiscriminately accuse other nations of monitoring, but on the other take for granted their steps to monitor and control the Internet," Xinhua said. "For the benefit of the general public, proper Web-monitoring is legitimate and necessary." (CNN)
Why Voters Tune Out Democrats BARACK OBAMA can’t catch a break from the American public on the economy, even though he prevented a depression and saved global capitalism.
Perhaps the president finds solace in knowing he’s not alone. During this period of economic crisis and uncertainty, voters are generally turning to conservative and right-wing political parties, most notably in Europe and in Canada.
It’s perplexing. When unemployment is high, and the rich are getting richer, you would think that voters of average means would flock to progressives, who are supposed to have their interests in mind — and who historically have delivered for them.
During the last half-century or so, when a Democratic president has led the country, people have tended to experience lower unemployment, less inequality and rising income compared with periods of Republican governance. There is a reason, however, that many voters in the developed world are turning away from Democrats, Socialists, liberals and progressives.
My vantage point on voter behavior comes through my company, Greenberg Quinlan Rosner, and its work for center-left parties globally, starting with Bill Clinton’s presidential campaign in 1992. For the last decade, I have worked in partnership with James Carville conducting monthly polls digging into America’s mood and studying how progressives can develop successful electoral strategies. (I am also married to a Democratic congresswoman from Connecticut, Rosa L. DeLauro.) (New York Times)
Radioactive dust from Fukushima plant hit N. America soon after meltdown: researchers Radioactive materials spewed out from the crippled Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant reached North America soon after the meltdown and were carried all the way to Europe, according to a simulation by university researchers.
The computer simulation by researchers at Kyushu University and the University of Tokyo, among other institutions, calculated dispersal of radioactive dust from the Fukushima plant beginning at 9 p.m. on March 14, when radiation levels around the plant spiked. (Mainichi Daily News)
Drug Legalization: A Step Closer, But Still a Long Shot A recent report on drug policy, backed by high-profile political figures, argues for a move away from the “zero tolerance” approach. However, it fails to offer any clear solutions on halting violence and organized crime, and has been rejected by a number of Latin American governments.
The Global Commission on Drug Policy's report (get it English and Spanish here) -- issued June 2 in New York City and signed by an unprecedented 19 high level world leaders, including former presidents of Brazil, Mexico, Colombia and Switzerland, the incumbent Prime Minister of Greece, the former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, the former U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz, the former European Union High Commissioner Javier Solana, and the British billionaire Richard Branson, among others -- may be the most important call ever for reform to the 1988 United Nations Convention on Drugs (pdf version here).
That convention, adopted worldwide and enforced largely by the United States, set the international ground rules for the so-called “war on drugs.”
The Global Commission is trying to rewrite those rules. And this recent proposal is nothing short of a paradigm shift. (In Sight)
Al Qaeda Could Try to Replicate Fukushima-type Meltdowns A May 5 "intelligence brief" prepared by a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) official at the Pacific Regional Information Clearinghouse (PacClear) in Hawaii, warned Al Qaeda might try to cause the meltdown of certain vulnerable nuclear power plants in the US and Europe by replicating the failure of the electric supply that pumped cooling water to the reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan. The plant's primary and backup power supplies were knocked out by the earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan in March, resulting in partial meltdowns of the plant's reactors.
Only a week after the intelligence brief was circulated, federal officials dispatched a security alert notifying US power plant operators to raise the level of their security awareness.
According to the analysis in the “for official use only” intelligence brief, which was obtained by Homeland Security Today, “the earthquake and tsunami in Japan were ‘acts of nature,’ but a catastrophic nuclear reactor meltdown could potentially be engineered by Al Qaeda” by replicating the cascading loss of electric power that knocked out the Fukushima nuclear power plant’s ability to cool its reactors’ fuel rods, which led to the partial meltdowns of the reactors, causing the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl. (Homeland Security Today)
After sanctions on Syria, an apparently organized attack on EU Parliament’s Facebook page The European Union says supporters of the Syrian government are flooding the European Parliament’s Facebook page with hostile posts.
A Parliament spokesman says that since Tuesday night the page has been “flooded by posts which are coming from Syria and are probably well organized.” Jaume Duch says many posts, which support Syrian President Bashar Assad, were probably generated automatically.
Assad is trying to repress an uprising, and human rights advocates say hundreds of people have been killed and thousands arrested. (Associated Press)
'Nuclear hellstorm' if bin Laden caught: 9/11 mastermind The mastermind of the 9/11 attacks warned that Al-Qaeda has hidden a nuclear bomb in Europe which will unleash a "nuclear hellstorm" if Osama bin Laden is captured, leaked files revealed Monday.
The terror group also planned to make a 9/11 style attack on London's Heathrow airport by crashing a hijacked airliner into one of the terminals, the files showed.
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed told Guantanamo Bay interrogators the terror group would detonate the nuclear device if the Al-Qaeda chief was captured or killed, according to the classified files released by the WikiLeaks website.
Sheikh Mohammed, the self-professed mastermind of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States, has been held at Guantanamo since 2006 and is to be tried in a military court at the US naval base on Cuba over the attacks. (Agence France-Presse)
WikiLeaks: Guantanamo Bay terrorist secrets revealed Guantanamo Bay has been used to incarcerate dozens of terrorists who have admitted plotting terrifying attacks against the West – while imprisoning more than 150 totally innocent people, top-secret files disclose. - Al-Qaeda terrorists have threatened to unleash a “nuclear hellstorm” on the West if Osama Bin Laden is caught or assassinated, according to documents to be released by the WikiLeaks website, which contain details of the interrogations of more than 700 Guantanamo detainees.
However, the shocking human cost of obtaining this intelligence is also exposed with dozens of innocent people sent to Guantanamo – and hundreds of low-level foot-soldiers being held for years and probably tortured before being assessed as of little significance.
The Daily Telegraph, along with other newspapers including The Washington Post, today exposes America’s own analysis of almost ten years of controversial interrogations on the world’s most dangerous terrorists. This newspaper has been shown thousands of pages of top-secret files obtained by the WikiLeaks website.
The disclosures are set to spark intense debate around the world about the establishment of Guantanamo Bay in the months after 9/11 – which has enabled the US to collect vital intelligence from senior Al Qaeda commanders but sparked fury in the middle east and Europe over the treatment of detainees. (London Telegraph)
America's two-class tax system: Records bear out that corporations and the wealthy live by a different set of U.S. rules from everyone else. Eric Cantor, who has represented a section of Richmond, Va., in Congress since 2001 and now is the House majority leader, appears to want to craft a permanent U.S. tax system that caters exclusively to those at the top. So does Michele Bachmann, the Republican representative from Minnesota, a onetime tax lawyer who hopes to make a run for the White House. Likewise, Tim Pawlenty, the former two-term Republican governor of Minnesota, who also sees himself sitting in the Oval Office. Needless to say, none state their proposals like that. But that's the way their numbers and provisions add up.
Like others in Congress and the media, Cantor, Bachmann, and Pawlenty insist that American businesses are paying too much in corporate income tax. They claim the onerous tax burden is killing jobs and forcing companies to move abroad. To reverse the nation's fortunes, they say, all Washington need do is slash the corporate tax rate, thereby reducing the amount of taxes these businesses are forced to pay. What's scary is a growing number of citizens believe them.
That means a forecast made years ago by William J. Casey, a wily Republican from another era who liked to dabble in the intelligence world's black arts inside and outside the country, and who helped craft the election of Ronald Reagan, is coming true. After taking office, President Reagan installed Casey as head of the CIA in 1981. After his first staff meeting at the agency, Casey was quoted as saying:
"We'll know our disinformation program is complete when everything the American public believes is false."
One of the more egregious falsehoods being peddled by the corporate tax cutters is that companies doing business in the United States are taxed at an exorbitant rate. Not so. Though the United States has one of the highest statutory rates on the books at 35 percent, the only fair way to measure what companies actually pay is their effective rate - what they ultimately pay after deductions, credits, and assorted write-offs. By that yardstick, companies in the United States consistently pay taxes at rates lower than corporations in Japan and many nations in Europe. (The Philadelphia Inquirer)
America and EU Agree: Raise Radiation Levels for Food On March 28, 2011, I wrote an article entitled EPA to Help Mainstream Media Obscure The Truth About Radiation Exposure to Americans, in which I discussed the changes to the PAGs (Protective Action Guides) being proposed by the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) that would raise the acceptable levels of radiation allowed in the environment, food, and even the general public themselves in the event of a nuclear emergency.
Interestingly enough, an article was published on April 3, 2011, by Alexander Higgins citing Kopp Online and Xander News, stating that a similar rule change was occurring in the European Union.
PAGs are policies and guidelines established by the EPA that guide the agency’s response in the event of a radioactive emergency. Specifically, PAGs deal with how the EPA should enforce laws such as the Clean Air and Water Act in relation to the disaster. Although PAGs had already been established by the EPA in 1992, the agency now plans to amend these guidelines to much higher levels of acceptable radiation.
No congressional approval is legally needed to makes such changes, because the EPA is a regulatory agency that sets “policy” and, although these types of agencies can be directed by congress or the president, they often form their own policies. All that is required when agencies such as the EPA wish to change their policy is that they first publish the proposed changes in the Federal Register for a designated period of “public comment.”
However, since public opinion is worth virtually nothing, once a proposed change is published in the Federal Register, it is well on its way to becoming new policy. This is unfortunate considering the fact that, according to PEER (Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, the new standards would result in a “nearly 1000-fold increase for exposure to strontium-90, a 3000 to 100,000-fold hike for exposure to iodine-131; and an almost 25,000 rise for exposure to radioactive nickel-63” in drinking water. (Activist Post)
How a big US bank laundered billions from Mexico's murderous drug gangs As the violence spread, billions of dollars of cartel cash began to seep into the global financial system. But a special investigation by the Observer reveals how the increasingly frantic warnings of one London whistleblower were ignored - On 10 April 2006, a DC-9 jet landed in the port city of Ciudad del Carmen, on the Gulf of Mexico, as the sun was setting. Mexican soldiers, waiting to intercept it, found 128 cases packed with 5.7 tons of cocaine, valued at $100m. But something else – more important and far-reaching – was discovered in the paper trail behind the purchase of the plane by the Sinaloa narco-trafficking cartel.
During a 22-month investigation by agents from the US Drug Enforcement Administration, the Internal Revenue Service and others, it emerged that the cocaine smugglers had bought the plane with money they had laundered through one of the biggest banks in the United States: Wachovia, now part of the giant Wells Fargo.
The authorities uncovered billions of dollars in wire transfers, traveller's cheques and cash shipments through Mexican exchanges into Wachovia accounts. Wachovia was put under immediate investigation for failing to maintain an effective anti-money laundering programme. Of special significance was that the period concerned began in 2004, which coincided with the first escalation of violence along the US-Mexico border that ignited the current drugs war.
Criminal proceedings were brought against Wachovia, though not against any individual, but the case never came to court. In March 2010, Wachovia settled the biggest action brought under the US bank secrecy act, through the US district court in Miami. Now that the year's "deferred prosecution" has expired, the bank is in effect in the clear. It paid federal authorities $110m in forfeiture, for allowing transactions later proved to be connected to drug smuggling, and incurred a $50m fine for failing to monitor cash used to ship 22 tons of cocaine. (London Guardian)
The moment nuclear plant chief WEPT as Japanese finally admit that radiation leak is serious enough to kill people * Officials admit they may have to bury reactors under concrete - as happened at Chernobyl
* Government says it was overwhelmed by the scale of twin disasters
* Japanese upgrade accident from level four to five - the same as Three Mile Island
* We will rebuild from scratch says Japanese prime minister
* Particles spewed from wrecked Fukushima power station arrive in California
* Military trucks tackle reactors with tons of water for second day
- The boss of the company behind the devastated Japanese nuclear reactor today broke down in tears - as his country finally acknowledged the radiation spewing from the over-heating reactors and fuel rods was enough to kill some citizens
Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency admitted that the disaster was a level 5, which is classified as a crisis causing 'several radiation deaths' by the UN International Atomic Energy.
Officials said the rating was raised after they realised the full extent of the radiation leaking from the plant. They also said that 3 per cent of the fuel in three of the reactors at the Fukushima plant had been severely damaged, suggesting those reactor cores have partially melted down.
After Tokyo Electric Power Company Managing Director Akio Komiri cried as he left a conference to brief journalists on the situation at Fukushima, a senior Japanese minister also admitted that the country was overwhelmed by the scale of the tsunami and nuclear crisis. (UK Daily Mail)
Libya army transport deal frozen after US approval In the months before Libyans revolted and President Barack Obama told leader Moammar Gadhafi to go, the U.S. government was moving to do business with his regime on an increasing scale by quietly approving a $77 million dollar deal to deliver at least 50 refurbished armored troop carriers to the dictator's military.
Congress balked, concerned the deal would improve Libyan army mobility and questioning the Obama administration's support for the agreement, which would have benefited British defense company BAE. The congressional concerns effectively stalled the deal until the turmoil in the country scuttled the sale. Earlier last week, after all military exports to the Gadhafi regime were suspended, the State Department's Directorate of Defense Trade Controls informed Capitol Hill that the deal had been returned without action — effectively off the table, according to U.S. officials who spoke on condition of anonymity to describe the deal's sensitive details.
State Department spokesman Mark C. Toner said the proposed license was suspended along with the rest of "what limited defense trade we had with Libya."
The Gadhafi regime's desire to upgrade its troop carriers was so intense that a Libyan official told U.S. diplomats in Tripoli in 2009 that the dictator's sons, Khamis and Saif, both were demanding swift action. Khamis, a commander whose army brigade reportedly attacked the opposition-held town of Zawiya with armored units and pickup trucks, expressed a "personal interest" in modernizing the armored transports, according to a December 2009 diplomatic message disclosed by WikiLeaks, the whistleblower website. (Associated Press)
Why the Dollar's Reign Is Near an End For decades the dollar has served as the world's main reserve currency, but, argues Barry Eichengreen, it will soon have to share that role. Here's why--and what it will mean for international markets and companies. - The single most astonishing fact about foreign exchange is not the high volume of transactions, as incredible as that growth has been. Nor is it the volatility of currency rates, as wild as the markets are these days.
Instead, it's the extent to which the market remains dollar-centric.
Consider this: When a South Korean wine wholesaler wants to import Chilean cabernet, the Korean importer buys U.S. dollars, not pesos, with which to pay the Chilean exporter. Indeed, the dollar is virtually the exclusive vehicle for foreign-exchange transactions between Chile and Korea, despite the fact that less than 20% of the merchandise trade of both countries is with the U.S.
Chile and Korea are hardly an anomaly: Fully 85% of foreign-exchange transactions world-wide are trades of other currencies for dollars. What's more, what is true of foreign-exchange transactions is true of other international business. The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries sets the price of oil in dollars. The dollar is the currency of denomination of half of all international debt securities. More than 60% of the foreign reserves of central banks and governments are in dollars. (Wall Street Journal)
Libya protests: Oil prices rise as unrest continues Oil prices have risen in the UK and US after continued unrest in Libya and worries about the impact on the country's crude exports.
In London Brent crude rose by more than $2 a barrel to $108.5, before falling back to $105.78 a barrel.
In New York, US light sweet crude oil rose by $7.37 to $93.57 a barrel.
US shares also closed heavily down. Asian stocks had closed down, and European shares also fell before recovering by mid-afternoon. (BBC)
Revolution U: What Egypt Learned From The Students Who Overthrew Milosevic Early in 2008, workers at a government-owned textile factory in the Egyptian mill town of El-Mahalla el-Kubra announced that they were going on strike on the first Sunday in April to protest high food prices and low wages. They caught the attention of a group of tech-savvy young people an hour's drive to the south in the capital city of Cairo, who started a Facebook group to organize protests and strikes on April 6 throughout Egypt in solidarity with the mill workers. To their shock, the page quickly acquired some 70,000 followers.
But what worked so smoothly online proved much more difficult on the street. Police occupied the factory in Mahalla and headed off the strike. The demonstrations there turned violent: Protesters set fire to buildings, and police started shooting, killing at least two people. The solidarity protests around Egypt, meanwhile, fizzled out, in most places blocked by police. The Facebook organizers had never agreed on tactics, whether Egyptians should stay home or fill the streets in protest. People knew they wanted to do something. But no one had a clear idea of what that something was.
The botched April 6 protests, the leaders realized in their aftermath, had been an object lesson in the limits of social networking as a tool of democratic revolution. Facebook could bring together tens of thousands of sympathizers online, but it couldn't organize them once they logged off. It was a useful communication tool to call people to -- well, to what? The April 6 leaders did not know the answer to this question. So they decided to learn from others who did. In the summer of 2009, Mohamed Adel, a 20-year-old blogger and April 6 activist, went to Belgrade, Serbia. (Foreign Policy)
All-Time Record: Wall Street Compensation Hits $135 Billion Wall Street was on the ropes just 25 months ago. Citigroup, Merrill Lynch, Lehman Bros., Bank of America, Wachovia, maybe Morgan Stanley; Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan Chase were wounded. GE could not role over its commercial paper. European banks required cash infusions from our central bank.
Just in the wake of a report highlighting Wall Street’s narrow, selfish imbecilities, we are treated to the stunning realization that the captains of the sinking liner are today enjoying the all-time record payoff for surviving with massive transfusions. The payout of $135 billion to employees of Wall Street firms in 2010 is equivalent to the total market value of both Bank of America and Citigroup. Imagine– in two years. (Forbes)
Iceland Shows Ireland Did 'Wrong Things' Saving Banks On his second day as head of Iceland’s third-largest bank, Arni Tomasson faced a crisis: The firm he had been asked by regulators to run was out of cash.
It was Oct. 8, 2008, at the height of the global financial meltdown, and Iceland's bank assets in the U.K. had been frozen, Bloomberg Markets magazine reports in its March issue. Customers flocked to branches of Tomasson's Glitnir Banki hf to withdraw money, even though the government had guaranteed their deposits. By the end of the day, the vaults were empty, says Tomasson, recalling the drama two years later.
The only way Glitnir and other lenders could avoid a panic the next morning was to get more cash, which they were having trouble doing. A container of crisp kronur sat on the tarmac at Reykjavik's airport awaiting payment, Tomasson says. The British company that printed the bills, De La Rue Plc, was demanding sterling, and the central bank couldn't access its U.K. account.
"Everybody was panicked -- depositors, creditors, banks around the world," Tomasson says. "The effort by all of us at the time was to make sure life could go on as normal." (Bloomberg)
Too much fluoride in water, government says -- High levels causing spots on teeth; recommended limit to be lowered Fluoride in drinking water — credited with dramatically cutting cavities and tooth decay — may now be too much of a good thing. Getting too much of it causes spots on some kids' teeth.
A reported increase in the spotting problem is one reason the federal government will announce Friday it plans to lower the recommended levels for fluoride in water supplies — the first such change in nearly 50 years.
About 2 out of 5 adolescents have tooth streaking or spottiness because of too much fluoride, a surprising government study found recently. In some extreme cases, teeth can even be pitted by the mineral — though many cases are so mild only dentists notice it.
Health officials note that most communities have fluoride in their water supplies, and toothpaste has it too. Some kids are even given fluoride supplements.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is announcing a proposal to change the recommended fluoride level to 0.7 milligrams per liter of water. And the Environmental Protection Agency will review whether the maximum cutoff of 4 milligrams per liter is too high. (Associated Press)
BEWARE: The Real Terrorists are Upping Their Chatter Remember the buzzword chatter? When our criminal government kept the sheeple on the razor's edge of fear because they'd say that chatter levels coming from Al-Qaeda were increasing?
Well, today, in this article, I'm going to openly fear monger to you, because the chatter by the real terrorists, the ruling elite, is getting louder and more urgent -- prompting me to warn you that it seems like a terror attack is coming soon.
All the signs are here. Clearly desperate for public approval and budget justifications, the government has recently made several bogus terror arrests of entrapped FBI patsies. Perhaps they thought the public would give them some political props for thwarting their own staged events. However, they're beginning to realize that the general public has a bad case of "boy who cried wolf" syndrome where these glorious victories in the ongoing war on terror don't carry much effect anymore with people struggling to pay bills. Therefore, the regular folks must be reminded that the wolf can still bite.
Three recent stories seem to indicate a higher than normal level of urgency about an impending attack. The first was the report from Iraq that "intelligence" gathered from the recent round-up of militants revealed a threat of an attack inside the U.S. and Europe during the Christmas season. (Activist Post)
Leaked Cable #r?a?p?e?: An Open Rant Against the Perpetuation of Rape Myths
A VERY important reminder in the current discussion of Assange:
"People say "but these charges are trumped up! the charges are bogus!" and that may be true and it may not. But why is the starting point for discussion the dismissal of the allegations? You know, it IS POSSIBLE that Julian Assange DID sexually assault a woman in Sweden AND that the charges are trumped up in a way and dealt with in a certain way because of his work with WikiLeaks.
So let's get this straight. You can wrap your head around the fact that there is cross-border collusion and manipulation by police, judicial, and other governmental authorities from various countries... and I agree that there is... but you cannot understand that there may *also* have actually been a sexual assault? Just because someone is being persecuted for their work means that they cannot be guilty of something like sexual harassment?"
"Why is the reaction "this is bogus!" as opposed to "why can't the investigation and prosecution of all sex crimes worldwide be so damn efficient?" Seriously. If there is persecution of Assange through the legal system, it is only clear because the reaction is so uncommon. "
"Calling the allegations "farcical rape charges," Shamir and Bennett write: "Julian Assange now stands accused of: (1) not calling a young woman the day after he had enjoyed a night with her, (2) asking her to pay for his bus ticket, (3) having unsafe sex, and (4) participating in two brief affairs in the course of one week."
Those are clearly not the accusations. Repeating irrelevant details, except perhaps for "having unsafe sex," comes across as dismissive and mocking. The inclusion of irrelevant information and the exclusion of relevant information is misleading and serves to discredit the woman alledging sexual assault." (Vancouver Media Co-op)
'Who the Hell You Think You Are?' Nigel Farage throws egg in Eurocrat faces British politician and the leader of the UK Independence Party (UKIP) Nigel Farage has slammed EU bosses over European crisis. "It's even more serious than economics because if you rob people of their identity, if you rob them of their democracy, then all they are left with is nationalism and violence. I can only hope and pray that the Euro project is destroyed by the markets before that" - Farage said at the end of his speech. (Russia Today)
China, Russia quit dollar China and Russia have decided to renounce the US dollar and resort to using their own currencies for bilateral trade, Premier Wen Jiabao and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin announced late on Tuesday.
Chinese experts said the move reflected closer relations between Beijing and Moscow and is not aimed at challenging the dollar, but to protect their domestic economies.
"About trade settlement, we have decided to use our own currencies," Putin said at a joint news conference with Wen in St. Petersburg.
The two countries were accustomed to using other currencies, especially the dollar, for bilateral trade. Since the financial crisis, however, high-ranking officials on both sides began to explore other possibilities. (China Daily)
Corporate Profits Hit New Record, U.S. Workers Still Struggling Happy days are back! During the summer months, corporations logged their biggest profits since the government started counting way back in the age of Elvis, and the economy expanded at a slightly faster pace than previously thought. Surely, when Caterpillar and Morgan Stanley are swimming in lucre, life must be getting more wonderful for everyone.
Alas, no. Word that American businesses sucked in profits at an annualized pace of $1.66 trillion between July and September is certainly better than the alternative. Ditto, the wholly expected news that the economy grew faster than an initially reported 2 percent annual rate, reaching a still modest 2.5 percent. But none of this has translated into the sort of job growth that will be required to cut into an unemployment rate stuck at 9.6 percent. Worse, there is little reason to suspect it will anytime soon.
We have been hearing for so long now that, once companies start making real money, they will feel the urge to expand. Then, they will hire lots of people, and we can stop worrying and resume shopping. Yet so far--this most recent quarter included--all we have gotten is an extended lesson in the modern workings of a stubbornly lean job market and a display of what now stands as American management's core competency: How to rack up profits and reward shareholders while keeping the cubicles empty. (Huffington Post)
My TSA Encounter: "You don’t need to see his identification." On November 21, 2010, I was allowed to enter the U.S. through an airport security checkpoint without being x-rayed or touched by a TSA officer. This post explains how.
Edit: For the sake of brevity, most of the quotes below are paraphrases. I have uploaded the actual audio and it is available here.
This past Sunday, I was returning from a trip to Europe. I flew from Paris to Cincinnati, landing in Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport.
As I got off my flight, I did all of the things that are normally requested from U.S. citizens returning from abroad. I filled out the customs declarations, confirmed that I hadn’t set foot on any farmland, and answered questions about the chocolates that I had purchased in Switzerland. While I don’t believe that these questions are necessary, I don’t mind answering them if it means some added security. They aren’t particularly intrusive. My passport was stamped, and I moved through customs a happy citizen returning home. (No Blasters!)
CIA backed by military drones in Pakistan The CIA is using an arsenal of armed drones and other equipment provided by the U.S. military to secretly escalate its operations in Pakistan by striking targets beyond the reach of American forces based in Afghanistan, U.S. officials said.
The merging of covert CIA operations and military firepower is part of a high-stakes attempt by the Obama administration to deal decisive blows to Taliban insurgents who have regained control of swaths of territory in Afghanistan but stage most of their operations from sanctuaries across that country's eastern border.
The move represents a signification evolution of an already controversial targeted killing program run by the CIA. The agency's drone program began as a sporadic effort to kill members of the al-Qaeda terrorist network but in the past month it has been delivering what amounts to a cross-border bombing campaign in coordination with conventional military operations a few miles away.
The campaign continued Saturday amid reports that two new CIA drone strikes had killed 16 militants in northwest Pakistan, following 22 such attacks last month. (Washington Post)
Travel alert issued for U.S. citizens in Europe The U.S. State Department has issued a travel alert for U.S. citizens in Europe, based on information that suggests that al Qaeda and affiliated organizations continue to plan terrorist attacks.
Americans are warned to be aware of their surroundings and protect themselves when traveling, especially when they are in public places like tourist sites, airports or when they are using public transportation.
The alert does not warn U.S. citizens against travel to Europe.
Britain's Home Office has not raised its threat level. A statement released Sunday confirms that British authorities are keeping their threat level at "'severe," which means than an attack is highly likely.
But, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has changed its travel advisory for British citizens in France and Germany from a "substantial" threat of terrorism to a "high" threat. The FCO said it does not comment on intelligence matters and thus can't specify whether the change is related to the U.S. travel alert. (CNN)
Climate change: a summary of the science Changes in climate have significant implications for present lives, for future generations and for ecosystems on which humanity depends. Consequently, climate change has been and continues to be the subject of intensive scientific research and public debate.
2 There is strong evidence that the warming of the Earth over the last half-century has been caused largely by human activity, such as the burning of fossil fuels and changes in land use, including agriculture and deforestation. The size of future temperature increases and other aspects of climate change, especially at the regional scale, are still subject to uncertainty. Nevertheless, the risks associated with some of these changes are substantial. It is important that decision makers have access to climate science of the highest quality, and can take account of its findings in formulating appropriate responses.
3 In view of the ongoing public and political debates about climate change, the aim of this document is to summarise the current scientific evidence on climate change and its drivers. It lays out clearly where the science is well established, where there is wide consensus but continuing debate, and where there remains substantial uncertainty. The impacts of climate change, as distinct from the causes, are not considered here. This document draws upon recent evidence and builds on the Fourth Assessment Report of Working Group I of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), published in 2007, which is the most comprehensive source of climate science and its uncertainties. (The Royal Society)
Royal Society issues new climate change guide that admits there are 'uncertainties' about the science The UK’s leading scientific body has been forced to rewrite its guide on climate change and admit that it is not known how much warmer the Earth will become.
The Royal Society has updated its guide after 43 of its members complained that the previous version failed to take into account the opinion of climate change sceptics.
Now the new guide, called ‘Climate change: a summary of the science’, admits that there are some ‘uncertainties’ regarding the science behind climate change.
And it says that it impossible to know for sure how the Earth's climate will change in the future nor what the possible effects may be.
The 19-page guide says: ’It is not possible to determine exactly how much the Earth will warm or exactly how the climate will change in the future, but careful estimates of potential changes and associated uncertainties have been made.
‘Scientists continue to work to narrow these areas of uncertainty. Uncertainty can work both ways, since the changes and their impacts may be either smaller or larger than those projected.’ (UK Daily Mail)
Beware of Governments Trumpeting Terror Threats Fans of the movie Men in Black will be smirking quietly at the European terror plot story currently circulating.
According to reports attributed to security forces, al Qaeda affiliated groups have been planning Mumbai-style commando attacks in western Europe - and only strikes using unmanned U.S. drones in the lawless tribal areas of Pakistan have derailed those attacks by targeting the terror cells which have been planning them. The Mumbai attacks, organized by a terror group in Pakistan, killed more than 170 people in 2008. (CBS)
One in 28 US kids has a parent in prison: study The US's exceptionally high rate of incarceration is causing economic damage not only to the people behind bars but to their children and taxpayers as a whole, a new study finds.
The study (PDF) from the Pew Research Center's Economic Mobility Project, released Tuesday, reports that the US prison population has more than quadrupled since 1980, from 500,000 to 2.3 million, making the US's incarceration rate the highest in the world, beating former champions like Russia and South Africa.
This means more than one in 100 Americans is in prison, and the cost of prisons to states now exceeds $50 billion per year, or one in every 15 state dollars spent -- a figure the study describes as "staggering."
According to the authors, one in every 28 children in the US has a parent behind bars -- up from one in 125 just 25 years ago. This is significant, the study argues, because children of incarcerated parents are much likelier to struggle in life.
A family with an incarcerated parent on average earns 22 percent less the year after the incarceration than it did the year before, the study finds. And children with parents in prison are significantly likelier to be expelled from school than others; 23 percent of students with jailed parents are expelled, compared to 4 percent for the general population. (The Raw Story)
C.I.A. Steps Up Drone Attacks on Taliban in Pakistan The C.I.A. has drastically increased its bombing campaign in the mountains of Pakistan in recent weeks, American officials said. The strikes are part of an effort by military and intelligence operatives to try to cripple the Taliban in a stronghold being used to plan attacks against American troops in Afghanistan.
As part of its covert war in the region, the C.I.A. has launched 20 attacks with armed drone aircraft thus far in September, the most ever during a single month, and more than twice the number in a typical month. This expanded air campaign comes as top officials are racing to stem the rise of American casualties before the Obama administration’s comprehensive review of its Afghanistan strategy set for December. American and European officials are also evaluating reports of possible terrorist plots in the West from militants based in Pakistan.
The strikes also reflect mounting frustration both in Afghanistan and the United States that Pakistan’s government has not been aggressive enough in dislodging militants from their bases in the country’s western mountains. In particular, the officials said, the Americans believe the Pakistanis are unlikely to launch military operations inside North Waziristan, a haven for Taliban and Qaeda operatives that has long been used as a base for attacks against troops in Afghanistan. Some Pakistani troops have also been diverted from counterinsurgency missions to help provide relief to victims of the country’s massive flooding. (New York Times)
Global ‘internet treaty’ proposed: Deal would enshrine in law the founding principles of open standards and net neutrality, and protect the web from political interference. The proposal was presented at the Internet Governance Forum in Lithuania last week, and outlined 12 “principles of internet governance”, including a commitment from countries to sustain the technological foundations that underpin the web’s infrastructure.
The draft law has been likened to the Space Treaty, signed in 1967, which stated that space exploration should be carried out for the benefit of all nations, and guaranteed “free access to all areas of celestial bodies”.
Under the proposed terms of the law, there would be cross-border co-operation between countries to identify and address security vulnerability and protect the network from possible cyber attacks or cyber terrorism.
It would also uphold rights to freedom of expression and association, and the principle of net neutrality, in which all internet traffic is treated equally across the network. (London Telegraph)
FDA rules won't require labeling of genetically modified salmon As the Food and Drug Administration considers whether to approve genetically modified salmon, one thing seems certain: Shoppers staring at fillets in the seafood department will find it tough to pick out the conventional fish from the one created with genes from another species.
Despite a growing public demand for more information about how food is produced, that won't happen with the salmon because of idiosyncracies embedded in federal regulations.
The FDA says it cannot require a label on the genetically modified food once it determines that the altered fish is not "materially" different from other salmon - something agency scientists have said is true. - The agency warned the dairy industry in 1994 that it could not use "Hormone Free" labeling on milk from cows that are not given engineered hormones, because all milk contains some hormones.
It has sent a flurry of enforcement letters to food makers, including B&G Foods, which was told it could not use the phrase "GMO-free" on its Polaner All Fruit strawberry spread label because GMO refers to genetically modified organisms and strawberries are produce, not organisms.
It told the maker of Spectrum Canola Oil that it could not use a label that included a red circle with a line through it and the words "GMO," saying the symbol suggested that there was something wrong with genetically engineered food. - Ever since the FDA approved the first genetically altered material for use in food in 1992, when Monsanto developed a synthetic hormone injected into cows to increase milk production, the agency has held that it cannot require food producers to label products as genetically engineered.
In the intervening years, the use of genetically engineered crops has skyrocketed; 93 percent of this year's soybean crop is genetically engineered, according to the U.S. Agriculture Department. (Washington Post)
It's a swine mess: Government set to force OAPs to have pig vaccine with flu jab MILLIONS of people will be given a secret swine flu jab by health bosses this winter.
The H1N1 vaccine will be mixed into the regular flu jab for OAPs, pregnant women and others at high risk.
While millions refused to take the jab during last winter's pandemic, this time they will have no choice if they want to be protected against normal flu.
The Government was left with more than 30million swine flu vaccines after the pandemic fizzled out in 2010. (New of the World)
Europeans Push Global Tax to Fund Poverty-Reduction, Climate Change Causes A group of 60 nations will meet next week at the United Nations to push for a tax on foreign currency transactions as a way to generate revenue to meet global poverty-reduction goals, including “climate change” mitigation.
Spearheaded by European Union countries, the so-called “innovative financing” proposal envisages a tax of 0.005 percent (five cents per $1,000), which experts estimate could produce more than $30 billion a year worldwide for priority causes. (CNS News)
No defence left against double-dip recession, says Nouriel Roubini The United States, Japan and large parts of Europe have exhausted their policy arsenal, leaving them defenceless against a double-dip recession as recovery slows to ‘stall speed’. - “The US has run out of bullets,” said Nouriel Roubini, professor at New York University, and one of a caste of luminaries with grim forecasts at the annual Ambrosetti conference on Lake Como.
“More quantitative easing (bond purchases) by the Federal Reserve is not going to make any difference. Treasury yields are already down to 2.5pc yet credit spreads are widening again. Monetary policy can boost liquidity but it can’t deal with solvency problems,” he told Europe’s policy elite.
Dr Roubini said the US growth rate was likely to fall below 1pc in the second half of the year, despite the biggest stimulus in history: a cut in interest rates from 5pc to zero, a budget deficit of 10pc of GDP, and $3 trillion to shore up the financial system.
The anaemic pace compares with rates of 4pc-6pc at this stage of recovery in normal post-war recoveries.
“We have reached stall speed. Any shock at this point can tip you back into recession. With interbank spreads rising, you can get a vicious circle like 2008-2009,” he said, describing a self-feeding process as the real economy and the credit system hurt each other.
“There is a 40pc chance of double-dip recession in the US, and worse in Japan. Even if it is not technically a recession it will feel like it,” he added. (London Telegraph)
Charles S. Robb and Charles Wald: U.S. must be prepared to attack Iran When President Barack Obama signed into law tough, new legislative sanctions against Iran last week, he capped a month of new measures against that country’s nuclear program. Earlier in June, the Obama administration achieved a new round of U.N. Security Council sanctions, and the European Union declared plans to adopt additional sanctions in July. This activity, the culmination of months of negotiations, is welcome. Absent a broader and more robust strategy, however, sanctions alone will prove inadequate to halt Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons. (Madison)
Burned girl a symbol of Roma hate and hope Natalka Kudrikova is a bright-eyed, three-year-old girl recovering from the severe burns she suffered when far-right extremists threw a Molotov cocktail into her home. - According to the prosecutor, the attack was planned for the 120th anniversary of Adolf Hitler's birth. Court experts confirmed swastikas and other Nazi memorabilia were found in the defendants' homes. (CNN)
Extreme DIY: Building a homemade nuclear reactor in NYC Many might be alarmed to learn of a homemade nuclear reactor being built next door. But what if this form of extreme DIY could help solve the world's energy crisis? - By day, Mark Suppes is a web developer for fashion giant Gucci. By night, he cycles to a New York warehouse and tinkers with his own nuclear fusion reactor. (BBC)
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