Friday, April 25, 2014

Is The US Military Preparing For The Collapse Of The Dollar? RICHARD RUSSELL: “IN A MATTER Of MONTHS, I SEE THE DOLLAR CRASHING”

It almost happened in 2008… but as this excerpt from Casey Research’s Meltdown America documentary notes, it appears the US military is preparing for the potential collapse of the US dollar. As Scott Taylor warns, “…if the carrot (of credit worthiness) is fading, and the stick (of military threat) is weak, that empire is going to come down in a hurry…” which leaves a serial economic mis-manager only one option to ‘secure’ the empire.
To see what the consequences of economic mismanagement can be, and how stealthily disaster can creep up on you, watch the 30-minute documentary, Meltdown America. Witness the harrowing tales of three ordinary people who lived through a crisis, and how their experiences warn of the turmoil that could soon reach the US.
I think we are seeing the greatest transfer of wealth (West to East) in all history. China is amassing a huge hoard of gold while I don’t know how much the US and the English speaking nations actually have. The western central banks’ policy of selling gold to knock down the price is a disaster (and China must love it). The US will lose its reserve currency advantage within a few years or probably less time. Our defense against a weak economy is always to print more money. In a matter of months, I see the dollar crashing.”
U.S. Debt Clock:
The Central Bankers Are Pushing War To Cover Up The Economic Collapse

Third world America: phony statistics“Face it, America is hurtling toward third world status, and the signs are all around us, from the growth of a violent underclass to the rise of an oligarchy to a government that lies without shame and re-doubles on those lies when challenged. 

One of the other symptoms is the emergence of phony government statistics. John Crudele of the New York Post has broken story after story on fraud in the Census Bureau’s statistics, which are used for many political and economic purposes, affecting the lives of all Americans. 

Based on sources throughout the Bureau, he is now charging widespread fraud, and some of his sources have agreed to speak with an Inspector General. These whistle blowers need protection against retaliation.” 
No Dhimmim

America And Oil: This Chart Shows Why OPEC’s Knees Are Trembling

What would have been a demented propagandist’s flight of fancy a decade ago has become reality: For the first time in history, the US imports more oil from our dear and reliable neighbor Canada than from OPEC. With major consequences.
Two primary reasons:
  • Rising oil production in Canada; hence, more oil to import.
  • Soaring oil production in the US, hence drastically lower oil imports in general.
Their combination has come out of OPEC’s hide. The chart, based on EIA data from January 1993 through January 2014, shows that imports from OPEC have been cut nearly in half from about 200 million barrels during the peak months of January and August 2008 to 102.7 million barrels in January 2014. During that time, US domestic oil production has jumped 49%.
For those who remember the oil embargo in the 1970s, what it did to the price of gasoline at the pump, and how it sucked money out of your wallet faster than you could put it back in – a condition that persists today – and for those who always wondered why the heck Saudi Arabia was ever considered an ally of the US though it’s one of the worst dictatorships on the planet, this is a welcome development.
US independence from all crude oil imports? Not anytime soon. But North America as a whole – Mexico, US, and Canada – will likely increase production enough to where imports from OPEC become essentially irrelevant over the next few years.
Implications? You bet. For decades, oil has been the driver of US foreign policy in the Middle East. Horrific and costly wars were started for the general enrichment of US defense contractors and others as part of this oil policy. But soon, America should be able to simply shrug off any threats of extortion wafting over from Saudi Arabia, or from the countries around the Persian Gulf. As the Saudis and the Chinese become very unhappy bedfellows, America’s hypocritical Middle East policies – we bow reverentially before one dictator and bomb another – might become just a tad less hypocritical, though I’m not all that hopeful in that regard.
Another conundrum: The tiny country of Belgium that became famous to the chagrin of some people because it did just fine for a couple of years without a national government – well, it’s growing an enormous mountain of US Treasuries. Read…. What the Heck is Going on With US Treasuries In Belgium?

An Apartheid of Dollars: Life in the New American Minimum-Wage Economy

Peter Van Buren
There are many sides to whistleblowing. The one that most people don’t know about is the very personal cost, prison aside, including the high cost of lawyers and the strain on family relations, that follows the decision to risk it all in an act of conscience. Here’s a part of my own story I’ve not talked about much before.
At age 53, everything changed. Following my whistleblowing first book, We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People, I was run out of the good job I had held for more than 20 years with the U.S. Department of State. As one of its threats, State also took aim at the pension and benefits I’d earned, even as it forced me into retirement. Would my family and I lose everything I’d worked for as part of the retaliation campaign State was waging? I was worried. That pension was the thing I’d counted on to provide for us and it remained in jeopardy for many months. I was scared.
My skill set was pretty specific to my old job. The market was tough in the Washington, D.C. area for someone with a suspended security clearance. Nobody with a salaried job to offer seemed interested in an old guy, and I needed some money. All the signs pointed one way — toward the retail economy and a minimum-wage job.
And soon enough, I did indeed find myself working in exactly that economy and, worse yet, trying to live on the money I made. But it wasn’t just the money. There’s this American thing in which jobs define us, and those definitions tell us what our individual futures and the future of our society is likely to be. And believe me, rock bottom is a miserable base for any future.
Old World/New World
The last time I worked for minimum wage was in a small store in my hometown in northern Ohio. It was almost a rite of passage during high school, when I pulled in about four bucks an hour stocking shelves alongside my friends. Our girlfriends ran the cash registers and our moms and dads shopped in the store. A good story about a possible date could get you a night off from the sympathetic manager, who was probably the only adult in those days we called by his first name. When you graduated from high school, he would hire one of your friends and the cycle would continue.
At age 53, I expected to be quizzed about why I was looking for minimum-wage work in a big box retail store we’ll call “Bullseye.” I had prepared a story about wanting some fun part-time work and a new experience, but no one asked or cared. It felt like joining the French Foreign Legion, where you leave your past behind, assume a new name, and disappear anonymously into the organization in some distant land. The manager who hired me seemed focused only on whether I’d show up on time and not steal. My biggest marketable skill seemed to be speaking English better than some of his Hispanic employees. I was, that is, “well qualified.”
Before I could start, however, I had to pass a background and credit check, along with a drug test. Any of the anonymous agencies processing the checks could have vetoed my employment and I would never have known why. You don’t have any idea what might be in the reports the store receives, or what to feel about the fact that some stranger at a local store now knows your financial and criminal history, all for the chance to earn seven bucks an hour.
You also don’t know whether the drug tests were conducted properly or, as an older guy, if your high blood pressure medicine could trigger a positive response. As I learned from my co-workers later, everybody always worries about “pissing hot.” Most places that don’t pay much seem especially concerned that their workers are drug-free. I’m not sure why this is, since you can trade bonds and get through the day higher than a bird on a cloud. Nonetheless, I did what I had to in front of another person, handing him the cup. He gave me one of those universal signs of the underemployed I now recognize, a we’re-all-in-it, what’re-ya-gonna-do look, just a little upward flick of his eyes.
Now a valued member of the Bullseye team, I was told to follow another employee who had been on the job for a few weeks, do what he did, and then start doing it by myself by the end of my first shift. The work was dull but not pointless: put stuff on shelves; tell customers where stuff was; sweep up spilled stuff; repeat.
Basic Training
It turned out that doing the work was easy compared to dealing with the job. I still had to be trained for that.
You had to pay attention, but not too much. Believe it or not, that turns out to be an acquired skill, even for a former pasty government bureaucrat like me. Spend enough time in the retail minimum-wage economy and it’ll be trained into you for life, but for a newcomer, it proved a remarkably slow process. Take the initiative, get slapped down. Break a rule, be told you’re paid to follow the rules. Don’t forget who’s the boss. (It’s never you.) It all becomes who you are.
Diving straight from a salaried career back into the kiddie pool was tough. I still wanted to do a good job today, and maybe be a little better tomorrow. At first, I tried to think about how to do the simple tasks more efficiently, maybe just in a different order to save some walking back and forth. I knew I wasn’t going to be paid more, but that work ethic was still inside of me. The problem was that none of us were supposed to be trying to be good, just good enough. If you didn’t know that, you learned it fast. In the process, you felt yourself getting more and more tired each day.
Patient Zero in the New Economy
One co-worker got fired for stealing employee lunches out of the break room fridge. He apologized to us as security marched him out, saying he was just hungry and couldn’t always afford three meals. I heard that when he missed his rent payments he’d been sleeping in his car in the store parking lot. He didn’t shower much and now I knew why. Another guy, whose only task was to rodeo up stray carts in the parking lot, would entertain us after work by putting his cigarette out on his naked heel. The guys who came in to clean up the toilets got up each morning knowing that was what they would do with another of the days in their lives.
Other workers were amazingly educated. One painted in oils. One was a recent college grad who couldn’t find work and liked to argue with me about the deeper meanings in the modern fiction we’d both read.
At age 53, I was the third-oldest minimum-wage worker in the store. A number of the others were single moms. (Sixty-four percent of minimum-wage employees are women. About half of all single-parent families live in poverty.) There was at least one veteran. (“The Army taught me to drive a Humvee, which turns out not to be a marketable skill.”) There were a couple of students who were alternating semesters at work with semesters at community college, and a small handful of recent immigrants. One guy said that because another big box store had driven his small shop out of business, he had to take a minimum-wage job. He was Patient Zero in our New Economy.
State law only required a company to give you a break if you worked six hours or more under certain conditions. Even then, it was only 30 minutes — and unpaid. You won’t be surprised to discover that, at Bullseye, most non-holiday shifts were five-and-a-half hours or less. Somebody said it might be illegal not to give us more breaks, but what can you do? Call 911 like it was a real crime?
Some good news, though. It turned out that I had another marketable skill in addition to speaking decent English: being old. One day as a customer was bawling out a younger worker over some imagined slight, I happened to wander by. The customer assumed I was the manager, given my age, and began directing her complaints at me. I played along, even steepling my fingers to show my sincere concern just as I had seen actual managers do. The younger worker didn’t get in trouble, and for a while I was quite popular among the kids whenever I pulled the manager routine to cover them.
Hours were our currency. You could trade them with other employees if they needed a day off to visit their kid’s school. You could grab a few extra on holidays. If you could afford it, you could swap five bad-shift hours for three good-shift hours. The store really didn’t care who showed up as long as someone showed up. Most minimum-wage places cap workers at under 40 hours a week to avoid letting them become “full time” and so possibly qualify for any kind of benefits. In my case, as work expanded and contracted, I was scheduled for as few as seven hours a week and I never got notice until the last moment if my hours were going to be cut.
Living on a small paycheck was hard enough. Trying to budget around wildly varying hours, and so paychecks, from week to week was next to impossible. Seven hours a week at minimum wage was less than fifty bucks. A good week around the Christmas rush was 39 hours, or more than $270. At the end of 2013, after I had stopped working at Bullseye, the minimum wage did go up from a little more than $7 to $8 an hour, which was next to no improvement at all. Doesn’t every little bit help? Maybe, but what are a few more crumbs of bread worth when you need a whole loaf not to be hungry?
Working to Be Poor
So how do you live on $50 a week, or for that matter, $270 a week? Cut back? Recycle cans?
One answer is: you don’t live on those wages alone. You can’t. Luckily I had some savings, no kids left in the house to feed, and my wife was still at her “good” job.  Many of my co-workers, however, dealt with the situation by holding down two or three minimum-wage jobs. Six hours on your feet is tough, but what about 12 or 14? And remember, there are no weekends or holidays in most minimum-wage jobs. Bullseye had even begun opening on Thanksgiving and Christmas afternoons.
The smart workers found their other jobs in the same strip mall as our Bullseye, so they could run from one to the next, cram in as many hours as they could, and save the bus fare. It mattered: at seven bucks an hour, that round trip fare meant you worked your first 45 minutes not for Bullseye but for the bus company. (The next 45 minutes you worked to pay taxes.)
Poverty as a Profit Center
Many low-wage workers have to take some form of public assistance. Food stamps — now called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP — were a regular topic of conversation among my colleagues. Despite holding two or three jobs, there were still never enough hours to earn enough to eat enough. SNAP was on a lot of other American’s minds as well — the number of people using food stamps increased by 13% a year from 2008 to 2012. About 1 in 7 Americans get some of their food through SNAP. About 45% of food stamp benefits go to children.
Enjoying that Big Mac? Here’s one reason it’s pretty cheap and that the junk sold at “Bullseye” and the other big box stores is, too: those businesses get away with paying below a living wage and instead you, the taxpayer, help subsidize those lousy wages with SNAP. (And of course since minimum-wage workers have taxes deducted, too, they are — imagine the irony — essentially forced to subsidize themselves.)
That subsidy does not come cheap, either. The cost of public assistance to families of workers in the fast-food industry alone is nearly $7 billion per year. McDonald’s workers alone account for $1.2 billion in federal assistance annually.
All that SNAP money is needed to bridge the gap between what the majority of employed people earn through the minimum wage, and what they need to live a minimum life. Nearly three-quarters of enrollments in America‘s major public benefits programs involve working families stuck in jobs like I had. There are a lot of those jobs, too. The positions that account for the most workers in the U.S. right now are retail salespeople, cashiers, restaurant workers, and janitors. All of those positions pay minimum wage or nearly so. Employers are actually allowed to pay below minimum wage to food workers who might receive tips.
And by the way, if somehow at this point you’re feeling bad for Walmart, don’t. In addition to having it’s workforce partially paid for by the government, Walmart also makes a significant portion of its profits by selling to people receiving federal food assistance. Though the Walton family is a little too shy to release absolute numbers, aresearcher found that in one year, nine Walmart Supercenters in Massachusetts together received more than $33 million in SNAP dollars. One Walmart Supercenter in Tulsa, Oklahoma, received $15.2 million, while another (also in Tulsa) took in close to $9 million in SNAP spending.
You could say that taxpayers are basically moneylenders to a government that is far more interested in subsidizing business than in caring for their workers, but would anyone believe you?
Back in the Crosshairs
Some employees at Bullseye had been yelled at too many times or were too afraid of losing their jobs. They were not only broke, but broken. People — like dogs — don’t get that way quickly, only by a process of erosion eating away at whatever self-esteem they may still possess. Then one day, if a supervisor tells them by mistake to hang a sign upside down, they’ll be too afraid of contradicting the boss not to do it.
I’d see employees rushing in early, terrified, to stand by the time clock so as not to be late. One of my fellow workers broke down in tears when she accidentally dropped something, afraid she’d be fired on the spot. And what a lousy way to live that is, your only incentive for doing good work being the desperate need to hang onto a job guaranteed to make you hate yourself for another day. Nobody cared about the work, only keeping the job. That was how management set things up.
About 30 million Americans work this way, live this way, at McJobs. These situations are not unique to any one place or region. After all, Walmart has more than two million employees. If that company were an army, it would be the second largest military on the planet, just behind China. It is, in fact, the largest overall employer in the country and the biggest employer in 25 states. When Walmart won’t pay more than minimum, it hurts. When it rains like that, we all get wet. This is who we are now.
I Was Minimum
It’s time to forget the up-by-the-bootstraps fantasies of conservative economists bleating on Fox. If any of it was ever true, it’s certainly not true anymore. There is no ladder up, no promotion path in the minimum-wage world. You can’t work “harder” because your hours are capped, and all the jobs are broken into little pieces anyone could do anyway. Minimum wage is what you get; there are no real raises. I don’t know where all the assistant managers came from, but not from among us.
I worked in retail for minimum wage at age 16 and again at 53. In that span, the minimum wage itself rose only by a few bucks. What changed, however, is the cast of characters. Once upon a time, minimum-wage jobs were filled with high school kids earning pocket money. In 2014, it’s mainly adults struggling to get by. Something is obviously wrong.
In his State of the Union Address, President Obama urged that the federal minimum wage be raised to $9 an hour. He also said that a person holding down a full-time job should not have to live in poverty in a country like America.
To the president I say, yes, please, do raise the minimum wage. But how far is nine bucks an hour going to go? Are so many of us destined to do five hours of labor for the cell phone bill, another 12 for the groceries each week, and 20 or 30 for a car payment? How many hours are we going to work? How many can we work?
Nobody can make a real living doing these jobs. You can’t raise a family on minimum wage, not in the way Americans once defined raising a family when our country emerged from World War II so fat and happy. And you can’t build a nation on vast armies of working poor with nowhere to go. The president is right that it’s time for a change, but what’s needed is far more than a minimalist nudge to the minimum wage. Maybe what we need is to spend more on education and less on war, even out the tax laws and rules just a bit, require a standard living wage instead of a minimum one. Some sort of rebalancing. Those aren’t answers to everything, but they might be a start.
People who work deserve to be paid, but McDonald’s CEO Donald Thompson last year took home $13.7 million in salary, with perks to go.If one of his fry cooks put in 30 hours a week, she’d take in a bit more than $10,000 a year — before taxes of course. There is indeed a redistribution of wealth taking place in America, and it’s all moving upstream.
I got lucky. I won my pension fight with my “career” employer, the State Department, and was able to crawl out of the minimum-wage economy after less than a year and properly retire. I quit Bullseye because I could, one gray day when a customer about half my age cursed me out for something unimportant she didn’t like, ending with “I guess there’s a reason why people like you work at places like this.” I agreed with her: there is a reason. We just wouldn’t agree on what it was.
I’m different now for the experience. I think more about where I shop, and try to avoid big places that pay low wages if I can. I treat minimum-wage workers a little better, too. If I have to complain about something in a store, I keep the worker out of it and focus on solving the problem. I take a bit more care in the restroom not to leave a mess. I don’t get angry anymore when a worker says to me, “I really can’t do anything about it.” Now I know from personal experience that, in most cases, they really can’t.
Above all, I carry with me the knowledge that economics isn’t about numbers, it’s about people. I know now that it’s up to us to decide whether the way we pay people, the work we offer them, and how we treat them on the job is just about money or if it’s about society, about how we live, who we are, the nature of America. The real target now should be to look deeply into the apartheid of dollars our country has created and decide it needs to change. We — the 99% anyway — can’t afford not to.

Barclays AGM: shareholders large and small protest over pay and bonuses

Major City investor Standard Life says £2.4bn bonus pool is 'not in the best interests of shareholders'

A demonstrator wearing a mask depicting Barclays Chief Executive Antony Jenkins in the shareholder queue. 
A demonstrator wearing a mask depicting Barclays chief executive Antony Jenkins in the shareholder queue. Photograph: Suzanne Plunkett/Reuters
Barclays faced a barrage of criticism over its pay policies at an acrimonious annual shareholders' meeting on Thursday, with the board being accused of greed after handing out £2.4bn in bonuses last year.
The bank's chairman, Sir David Walker, tried repeatedly to defend the bonus payouts, which resulted in 481 Barclays' bankers being paid more than £1m last year.
"Why do you think you're worth it?" asked one small shareholder. "It's jam tomorrow for the investors but champagne today for the investment bankers," said another. One was applauded after complaining of management greed.
One in three shareholders failed to support the bank's remuneration report, which showed that bonuses rose 10% despite a 32% fall in profits. Walker had promised a year ago to restrain top pay. One private investor, who expressed his irritation at the bank's dividend payments, poor performance and £5.8bn cash call to bolster its finances last year, told the packed Royal Festival Hall: "We're paying for Manchester United but we are getting Colchester United."
Annual investor meetings are usually dominated by private shareholders who hold small amounts of votes. But one major City investor, Standard Life Investments, which owns almost 2% of Barclays, spoke out to say it had voted against the pay deals. Alison Kennedy, a director at Standard Life Investments, told the board: "We are unconvinced that the amount of the 2013 bonus pool was in the best interests of shareholders, particularly when we consider how the bank's profits are divided amongs employees, shareholders and ongoing investment in the business."
Sir John Sunderland, the independent director who oversees Barclays' pay policies, said it had been forced to increase bonuses because the number of investment bankers quitting to earn more elsewhere had doubled and it had feared an exodus of these key staff.
He appeared to reprimand Kennedy for speaking out in a public meeting rather than raising her concerns during the private consultations that take place with major investors. After the AGM, Walker also admitted to "a bit of irritation" that Standard Life had raised its concerns late in the day.
Sunderland, who has been on the Barclays board for 10 years, maintained that bonuses were down 18% if the penalties imposed for Libor-rigging in the previous year were taken into account. When he asked the meeting: "Do you imagine we want to pay anyone more in this bank more than we need to?" he was met with resounding cries of "yes!".
F&C, another major City investor, later admitted it also did not back the remuneration report. But like the majority, it backed two other votes on pay: a new vote on the bank's pay policy over the next three years and a vote to allow bonuses of twice salary to be paid.
The latter vote was required because of the new EU bonus cap that would otherwise have restricted bonuses to one times salary. However, the bank will continue to make higher payouts than allowed under the new cap because it has introduced new "allowances" on top of pay and bonus payouts.
Boardroom pay was put in back in focus this week by Vince Cable when the business secretary wrote to the pay bosses of big companies to urge restraint.
Barclays was not the only business to face shareholder fury on Thursday. At the pharmaceutical company Astra Zeneca's AGM almost 40% of shareholders voted against the company's pay report.
And at the recruitment company SThree, where the Tory MP Nadhim Zahawi sits on the remuneration committee, just 50.5% voted in favour of its pay policies.
The Barclays chairman repeatedly defended the bank's bonus payouts and said it lost the two co-heads of its US bond-trading desk last year and faced losing two thirds of their team. The bonus payments, he said, were "in the interest of franchise protection and damage limitation".
The 73-year-old chairman – who was parachuted in after the 2012 Libor fine and whose successor is being sought – said the bank had made a mistake in cutting back bonuses too quickly after the interest rate-rigging scandal which forced out his predecessor, Marcus Agius, and the chief executive Bob Diamond.
The scale of the rebellion over pay – which was 34% if votes against and deliberate abstentions are included – was similar to that registered when Diamond was still chief executive.
Private investors stood up to question the bonus payouts at the meeting. "Is Barclays a prisoner to pay to its senior staff?" asked one to applause.
One investor who spoke up in defence of bonuses – the former City fund manager and Conservative party donor Patrick Evershed – was jeered by one of those present, who shouted "call him a taxi".
Walker opened the meeting with a promise not to have a repeat of this year's bonus row. "Your board and I do not intend or expect to face again a similar set of circumstances that led to the very difficult decisions we had to take last year," he said. "The decision on pay this year was among the hardest that we have had to take."

Living on a Dollar a Day: New book puts a face to the 1.6 billion people on earth who live in extreme poverty

A San Francisco-based law professor who founded an international organization to fight hunger and poverty has teamed up with a Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist to compile a collection of shocking images of poverty throughout the world for a new book that puts a face on global poverty and provides a window into the lives of people who survive on little-to-no money.
Renee C. Byer, who won the Pulitzer Prize for feature photography in 2007 for a collection of heartbreaking images that show a young boy's battle with cancer and his mother's anguish, traveled to four continents to photograph people living in some of the most extreme poverty on the planet for the new book Living on a Dollar a Day.
'The book is a call to action to eradicate global poverty,' Byer tells Mail Online.
She says the book is 'the vision' of The Forgotten International founder Tom Nazario, who also is the executive director of the Center for Community Legal Education at the University of San Francisco.
Byer traveled to places like Ghana, Liberia and several other poverty stricken areas across the globe to find the stories of some of the world's 1.2 billion people who live in extreme poverty.
The book is published by Quantuck Lane Press & The Mill Road Collaborative, with an introduction by the Dalai Lama.
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Poverty: 1.6 billion people on the planet are living in extreme poverty
Poverty: 1.6 billion people on the planet are living in extreme poverty

Call to action: Byer says the book should serve as a call to action for people to eradicate global poverty
Call to action: Byer says the book should serve as a call to action for people to eradicate global poverty

Global: Byer traveled to four different continents to countries where people live in extreme poverty
Global: Byer traveled to four different continents to countries where people live in extreme poverty

Pulitzer: Byer won the Pulitzer Prize in 2007 for a series of photos showing a young boy's battle with cancer and his mother's anguish
Pulitzer: Byer won the Pulitzer Prize in 2007 for a series of photos showing a young boy's battle with cancer and his mother's anguish

Forgotten: Tom Nazario is a law professor at the University of San Francisco and founder of The Forgotten International
Forgotten: Tom Nazario is a law professor at the University of San Francisco and founder of The Forgotten International

Brits suffered the biggest wages drop in the G7 but French and Germans enjoy pay rises despite working fewer hours than we do

  • Between 2007 and 2012 wages in UK fell by 6.1% in real terms
  • Pay rose over the same period in Canada, France and Germany
  • Brits worked 1,625 hours in 2012 but France 1,482 and Germany 1,406
  • Youth unemployment more than doubles in Eurozone countries

Britain has suffered the biggest squeeze on wages of any of the richest G7 countries, new research revealed today.
While other major economies have seen pay levels return to pre-crash highs, wages in the UK were 6.1 per cent lower in real terms in 2012 than in 2007.
To add to the misery, people in Germany and France who have seen growth in the salaries actually work fewer hours than Brits.
Between 2007 and 2012, wages in the UK fell by 6.1 per cent in real terms, the biggest drop of any of the G& richest countries
Between 2007 and 2012, wages in the UK fell by 6.1 per cent in real terms, the biggest drop of any of the G& richest countries

Brits work longer hours than Germans and the French, who have seen a big increase in their wages
Brits work longer hours than Germans and the French, who have seen a big increase in their wages
The UK has not seen the surge in unemployment which has blighted the economies of many European countries.
At the end of last year 7.2 per cent of people were out of work in Britain, half the level seen in Portugal and a quarter of the figure seen in Spain (25.8 per cent) and Greece (28 per cent).
Latest figures last week showed that the unemployment rate in the UK had fallen even further to just 6.9 per cent.

However, a new analysis comparing the UK to other countries suggests pay has been squeezed at the expense of keeping jobless numbers down.
It suggests employers have avoided laying off staff by cutting or freezing pay in the wake of the 2007 financial crash.
The average unemployment rate varies from 28 per cent in Greece to just 3.7 per cent in Japan. Figures come from 2013
The average unemployment rate varies from 28 per cent in Greece to just 3.7 per cent in Japan. Figures come from 2013

George Osborne has set a target for full employment in the UK, but remains behind Germany, Canada and Japan for jobs figures
George Osborne has set a target for full employment in the UK, but remains behind Germany, Canada and Japan for jobs figures
There have been stark increases in youth unemployment in many countries hit by the Eurozone crisis
There have been stark increases in youth unemployment in many countries hit by the Eurozone crisis

The Office for National Statistics said that wages have been falling ‘markedly’ since 2007, and by 2012 were 6.1 per cent lower in real terms five years earlier.
At the same time, wages were 4 per cent higher in Canada, 2.8 per cent higher in France and 3.1 per cent higher in Germany. Wages in the US were down only 0.2 per cent over the same period.
The ONS said: ‘These trends point to differing economic conditions across the G7 countries. The notable fall in real wages for the UK compared with the US suggests that the labour market adjustment following the downturn has perhaps taken place more on the wages side for the UK – with nominal wage growth being less than the rate of inflation – and on the employment side for the US, with a notable increase in the unemployment rate. 
The European statistics body Eurostat has also compiled data on average earnings across the continent.
It shows that annual earnings dropped off in the UK from 2008 – 2009 before recovering again in 2010 but not returning to 2008 levels by 2011.
At the same time Sweden and Germany both saw a fall in earnings after 2008 but wage levels have risen consistently in subsequent years.
Canad and France have seen real terms increases in pay in every year since 2009
Canad and France have seen real terms increases in pay in every year since 2009

The Danes enjoy some of the highest wages in Europe, with Bulgarians receiving the lowest
The Danes enjoy some of the highest wages in Europe, with Bulgarians receiving the lowest

By dividing the total national income among the number living in the country, researchers can compare the wealth of individuals in different parts of the world
By dividing the total national income among the number living in the country, researchers can compare the wealth of individuals in different parts of the world

Pay has fallen for people in the UK, despite them working longer hours.
Brits worked 1,625 hours in 2012, well ahead of France (1,482 hours) and Germany (1,406 hours).
Amongst the G7 leading economies, Americans worked the longest hours - 1,787 hours - in 2012, overtaking Italy on 1,772 hours.
Chancellor George Osborne has set an ambition for ‘full unemployment’. At the end of 2013, 71 per cent of people in the UK were in work, up from 69 per cent in early 2010.
But the UK remains behind Germany, Canada and Japan among the G7 – the world's leading developed economies.
Almost 9 in 10 new jobs created last year in the UK went to Brits. Between October to December 2012 and October to December 2013 the total number of people in work employment in the UK increased by 425,000 to reach 30.24million.
Of those, 367,000 UK nationals found work compared to 54,000 non-UK nationals.
There have been stark increases in youth unemployment in many countries hit by the Eurozone crisis.
In early 2008, 22.5 per cent of young people were out of work in Greece but the figure had rocketed to 58 per cent by the third quarter of 2013.
Over the same period the figure rose from 20.7 per cent to 56.7 per cent in Spain and from 20.7 per cent to 49.7 per cent in Italy. In the UK the figure increased from 13.8 per cent in 2008 to 20.7 per cent last year.

Oakland County sees 77% increase in poverty rates, reports shows

Bridget Agnello puts a face to the Oakland County poverty report: Bridget Agnello, a resident at Lighthouse of Oakland County, shares her story of struggling to make ends meet for she and her son. Mandi Wright/DFP

Poverty in Detroit’s suburbs skyrocketed — and rose 77% in affluent Oakland County — during the Great Recession years of 2005-12, key social service executives said at a news conference today in Pontiac.
The shift makes it important to change how services are delivered in order to maximize the limited resources available for metro Detroit’s poor people, said John Ziraldo, CEO of Lighthouse of Oakland County. The nonprofit agency in Pontiac released a 10-page report today on the increase in suburbanites now mired in poverty.
Raw Data: Michigan ZIP codes with the highest average adjusted gross income
Being poor in suburban Detroit is different, and in some ways more challenging, than for those in a large city, Ziraldo said. He cited Oakland County’s spotty mass-transit service and a safety net that’s concentrated in Pontiac — the area’s longtime urban core — as hurdles.
The report, which was based on U.S. Census data, is mind-numbing for people who’ve been oblivious to poverty amid their own suburban affluence, said Gilda Jacobs, a former state senator from Huntington Woods and now president of the Michigan League for Public Policy.
Jacobs called for federal lawmakers to restore the earned-income tax credit, to boost the fortunes of those who work at low wages. She also championed raising the minimum wage along with other steps she said would alleviate poverty, she said.
Related: Michigan senator to propose alternative minimum-wage legislation
Related: History of the minimum wage
Bridget Agnello, 49, told listeners she’d become homeless and a resident of the two-year housing program at Lighthouse after losing her job and then her Ferndale house.
“I guess I am the new face of poverty” in Oakland County, said Agnello, a Wayne State University graduate and former marketing manager at several Fortune 500 employers.
“It’s not somebody in the deepest part of Detroit or Pontiac. It’s somebody standing next to you at the grocery store who can’t afford the broccoli.”
Agnello, who divorced six years ago and has a son, 11, said her ex-husband has a good job and always did his share to support and care for their child. But when she was laid off several years ago from a job that paid $74,000 a year, she tried to reinvent herself as a script supervisor in the film industry, then saw her hopes dashed after the state ended tax incentives for Michigan’s film industry.
Agnello’s three-year absence from marketing put her at a disadvantage to an endless stream of other applicants, she said. And she has been turned down for low-paying retail jobs because “they always say, ‘You’re over-qualified and as soon as you find something better, you’ll leave’ — and they’re right,” Agnello said.
She hopes her refuge at the two-year Path program of Lighthouse “is going to be my way back to normalcy,” she said.
According to the report, 58% of families and individuals living below the federal poverty level in the tricounty area now live in suburban communities.
“While Detroit continues to have the largest concentration of poor in the region, the total number of individuals in poverty is higher outside the city of Detroit than in the city itself,” the report said.
Contact Bill Laitner: and 313-223-4485.

It Is Now Mathematically Impossible To Pay Off The U.S. National Debt

A lot of people are very upset about the rapidly increasing U.S. national debt these days and they are  demanding a solution. What they don't realize is that there simply is not a solution under the current U.S. financial system. It is now mathematically impossible for the U.S. government to pay off the U.S. national debt. You see, the truth is that the U.S. government now owes more dollars than actually exist. If the U.S. government went out today and took every single penny from every single American bank, business and taxpayer, they still would not be able to pay off the national debt. And if they did that, obviously American society would stop functioning because nobody would have any money to buy or sell anything.
And the U.S. government would still be massively in debt.
So why doesn't the U.S. government just fire up the printing presses and print a bunch of money to pay off the debt?
Well, for one very simple reason.
That is not the way our system works.
You see, for more dollars to enter the system, the U.S. government has to go into more debt.
The U.S. government does not issue U.S. currency - the Federal Reserve does.
The Federal Reserve is a private bank owned and operated for profit by a very powerful group of elite international bankers.
If you will pull a dollar bill out and take a look at it, you will notice that it says "Federal Reserve Note" at the top.
It belongs to the Federal Reserve.
The U.S. government cannot simply go out and create new money whenever it wants under our current system.
Instead, it must get it from the Federal Reserve.
So, when the U.S. government needs to borrow more money (which happens a lot these days) it goes over to the Federal Reserve and asks them for some more green pieces of paper called Federal Reserve Notes. 
The Federal Reserve swaps these green pieces of paper for pink pieces of paper called U.S. Treasury bonds. The Federal Reserve either sells these U.S. Treasury bonds or they keep the bonds for themselves (which happens a lot these days).
So that is how the U.S. government gets more green pieces of paper called "U.S. dollars" to put into circulation. But by doing so, they get themselves into even more debt which they will owe even more interest on.
So every time the U.S. government does this, the national debt gets even bigger and the interest on that debt gets even bigger.
Are you starting to get the picture?
As you read this, the U.S. national debt is approximately 12 trillion dollars, although it is going up so rapidly that it is really hard to pin down an exact figure.
So how much money actually exists in the United States today?
Well, there are several ways to measure this.
The "M0" money supply is the total of all physical bills and currency, plus the money on hand in bank vaults and all of the deposits those banks have at reserve banks.  As of mid-2009, the Federal Reserve said that this amount was about 908 billion dollars.
The "M1" money supply includes all of the currency in the "M0" money supply, along with all of the money held in checking accounts and other checkable accounts at banks, as well as all money contained in travelers' checks.  According to the Federal Reserve, this totaled approximately 1.7 trillion dollars in December 2009, but not all of this money actually "exists" as we will see in a moment.
The "M2" money supply includes everything in the "M1" money supply plus most other savings accounts, money market accounts, retail money market mutual funds, and small denomination time deposits (certificates of deposit of under $100,000).  According to the Federal Reserve, this totaled approximately 8.5 trillion dollars in December 2009, but once again, not all of this money actually "exists" as we will see in a moment.
The "M3" money supply includes everything in the "M2" money supply plus all other CDs (large time deposits and institutional money market mutual fund balances), deposits of eurodollars and repurchase agreements.  The Federal Reserve does not keep track of M3 anymore, but according to it is currently somewhere in the neighborhood of 14 trillion dollars.  But again, not all of this "money" actually "exists" either.
So why doesn't it exist?
It is because our financial system is based on something called fractional reserve banking.
When you go over to your local bank and deposit $100, they do not keep your $100 in the bank.  Instead, they keep only a small fraction of your money there at the bank and they lend out the rest to someone else.  Then, if that person deposits the money that was just borrowed at the same bank, that bank can loan out most of that money once again.  In this way, the amount of "money" quickly gets multiplied.  But in reality, only $100 actually exists.  The system works because we do not all run down to the bank and demand all of our money at the same time.
According to the New York Federal Reserve Bank, fractional reserve banking can be explained this way....
"If the reserve requirement is 10%, for example, a bank that receives a $100 deposit may lend out $90 of that deposit. If the borrower then writes a check to someone who deposits the $90, the bank receiving that deposit can lend out $81. As the process continues, the banking system can expand the initial deposit of $100 into a maximum of $1,000 of money ($100+$90+81+$72.90+...=$1,000)."
So much of the "money" out there today is basically made up out of thin air.
In fact, most banks have no reserve requirements at all on savings deposits, CDs and certain kinds of money market accounts.  Primarily, reserve requirements apply only to "transactions deposits" – essentially checking accounts.
The truth is that banks are freer today to dramatically "multiply" the amounts deposited with them than ever before.  But all of this "multiplied" money is only on paper - it doesn't actually exist.
The point is that the broadest measures of the money supply (M2 and M3) vastly overstate how much "real money" actually exists in the system.
So if the U.S. government went out today and demanded every single dollar from all banks, businesses and individuals in the United States it would not be able to collect 14 trillion dollars (M3) or even 8.5 trillion dollars (M2) because those amounts are based on fractional reserve banking.
So the bottom line is this....
#1) If all money owned by all American banks, businesses and individuals was gathered up today and sent to the U.S. government, there would not be enough to pay off the U.S. national debt.
#2) The only way to create more money is to go into even more debt which makes the problem even worse.
You see, this is what the whole Federal Reserve System was designed to do.  It was designed to slowly drain the massive wealth of the American people and transfer it to the elite international bankers.
It is a game that is designed so that the U.S. government cannot win.  As soon as they create more money by borrowing it, the U.S. government owes more than what was created because of interest.
If you owe more money than ever was created you can never pay it back.
That means perpetual debt for as long as the system exists.
It is a system designed to force the U.S. government into ever-increasing amounts of debt because there is no escape.
We could solve this problem by shutting down the Federal Reserve and restoring the power to issue U.S. currency to the U.S. Congress (which is what the U.S. Constitution calls for).  But the politicians in Washington D.C. are not about to do that.
So unless you are willing to fundamentally change the current system, you might as well quit complaining about the U.S. national debt because it is now mathematically impossible to pay it off.
It has been suggested that the same dollar can be used to pay off debt over and over - this is theoretically true as long as the dollar remains in the system.
For example, if the U.S. government gives China a dollar to pay off a debt, there is a good chance that the U.S. government will be able to acquire that dollar again and use it to pay off another debt.
However, this is not true when debt is retired with the Federal Reserve.  In that case, money is actually removed from the system.  In fact, because of the "money multiplier", when debt is retired with the Federal Reserve it can remove ten times that amount of money (and actually more, but let's not get too technical) from the system.
You see, fractional reserve banking works both ways.  When $100 is introduced into the system, it can theoretically create $1000 as the example in the article above demonstrates.  However, when that $100 is removed, it can have the opposite impact.
And considering the fact that the Federal Reserve "purchased" the vast majority of new U.S. government debt last year, we have got a real mess on our hands.
Even if a way could be figured out how to pay off all the debt we owe to foreign nations (such as China, Japan, etc.) it would still be mathematically impossible to pay off the debt that we owe to the Federal Reserve which is exploding so fast that it is hard to even keep track of.
Of course we could repudiate that debt and shut down the Federal Reserve, but very few in Washington D.C. have any interest in doing that.
It has also been suggested that instead of just using dollars to pay off the U.S. national debt, we could use the assets of the U.S. government to pay it off.
That is rather extreme, but let us consider that for a moment.
That total value of all physical assets in the United States, both publicly and privately owned, is somewhere in the neighborhood of 45 to 50 trillion dollars.  Of course the idea of the U.S. government "owning" every single asset of the American people is repugnant to our entire way of life, but let's assume that for a moment.
According to the 2008 Financial Report of the United States Government, which is an official United States government report, the total liabilities of the United States government, including future social security and medicare payments that the U.S. government is already committed to pay out, now exceed 65 TRILLION dollars.  This amount is more than the entire GDP of the whole world.
In fact, there are other authors who have written that the actual figure for the future liabilities of the U.S. government should be much higher, but let's be conservative and go with 65 trillion for now.
So, if the U.S. government took control of all physical assets in the United States and sold them off, it could not even make enough money to pay for everything that the U.S. government is already on the hook for.
If you have not read the 2008 Financial Report of the United States Government, you really should.  Actually the 2009 report should be available very soon if it isn't already.  If anyone knows if it is available, please let us know.
The truth is that the U.S. government is in much bigger financial trouble than we have been led to believe.
For example, according to the report (which remember is an official U.S. government report) the real U.S. budget deficit for 2008 was not 455 billion dollars.  It was actually 5.1 trillion dollars.
So why the difference?
The CBO's 455 billion figure is based on cash accounting, while the 5.1 trillion figure in the 2008 Financial Report of the United States Government is based on GAAP accounting. GAAP accounting is what is used by all the major firms on Wall Street and it is regarded as a much more accurate reflection of financial reality.
So needless to say, the United States is in a financial mess of unprecedented magnitude.
So what should we do?  Does anyone have any suggestions?
***UPDATE 2***
We have received a lot of great comments on this article.  Trying to understand the U.S. financial system (even after studying it for years) can be very difficult at times.  In fact, it can almost seem like playing 3 dimensional chess.
Several readers have correctly pointed out that when the U.S. money supply is expanded by the Federal Reserve, the interest that is to be paid on that new debt is not created.
So where does the money to pay that interest come from?  Well, eventually the money supply has to be expanded some more.  But that creates even more debt.
That brings us to the next point.
Several readers have insisted that the Federal Reserve is not privately owned and that since it returns "most" of the profits it makes to the U.S. government that we should not be concerned about the debt owed to it.
The truth is that what you have with the Federal Reserve is layers of ownership.  The following was originally posted on the Federal Reserve's website....
"The twelve regional Federal Reserve Banks, which were established by Congress as the operating arms of the nation’s central banking system, are organized much like private corporations – possibly leading to some confusion about "ownership." For example, the Reserve Banks issue shares of stock to member banks. However, owning Reserve Bank stock is quite different from owning stock in a private company. The Reserve Banks are not operated for profit, and ownership of a certain amount of stock is, by law, a condition of membership in the System. The stock may not be sold, traded, or pledged as security for a loan; dividends are, by law, 6 percent per year."
So Federal Reserve "stock" is owned by member banks.  So who owns the member banks?  Well, when you sift through additional layers of ownership, you will ultimately find that people like the Rothschilds, the Rockefellers and the Queen of England have very large ownership interests in the big banks.  But there are so many layers of ownership that they are able to disguise themselves well.
You see, these people are not stupid.  They did not become the richest people in the world by being morons.  It was the banking elite of the world who designed the Federal Reserve and it is the banking elite of the world who benefit the most from the Federal Reserve today.  In the article above when we described the Federal Reserve as "a private bank owned and operated for profit by a very powerful group of elite international bankers" we may have been oversimplifying things a bit, but it is the essence of what is going on.
In an excellent article that she did on the Federal Reserve, Ellen Brown described a number of the ways that the Federal Reserve makes money for those who own it....
The interest on bonds acquired with its newly-issued Federal Reserve Notes pays the Fed’s operating expenses plus a guaranteed 6% return to its banker shareholders. A mere 6% a year may not be considered a profit in the world of Wall Street high finance, but most businesses that manage to cover all their expenses and give their shareholders a guaranteed 6% return are considered "for profit" corporations.
In addition to this guaranteed 6%, the banks will now be getting interest from the taxpayers on their "reserves." The basic reserve requirement set by the Federal Reserve is 10%. The website of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York explains that as money is redeposited and relent throughout the banking system, this 10% held in "reserve" can be fanned into ten times that sum in loans; that is, $10,000 in reserves becomes $100,000 in loans. Federal Reserve Statistical Release H.8 puts the total "loans and leases in bank credit" as of September 24, 2008 at $7,049 billion. Ten percent of that is $700 billion. That means we the taxpayers will be paying interest to the banks on at least $700 billion annually – this so that the banks can retain the reserves to accumulate interest on ten times that sum in loans.
The banks earn these returns from the taxpayers for the privilege of having the banks’ interests protected by an all-powerful independent private central bank, even when those interests may be opposed to the taxpayers’ -- for example, when the banks use their special status as private money creators to fund speculative derivative schemes that threaten to collapse the U.S. economy. Among other special benefits, banks and other financial institutions (but not other corporations) can borrow at the low Fed funds rate of about 2%. They can then turn around and put this money into 30-year Treasury bonds at 4.5%, earning an immediate 2.5% from the taxpayers, just by virtue of their position as favored banks. A long list of banks (but not other corporations) is also now protected from the short selling that can crash the price of other stocks.
The reality is that there are a lot of ways that the Federal Reserve is a money-making tool.  Yes, they do return "some" of their profits to the U.S. government each year.  But the Federal Reserve is NOT a government agency and it DOES make profits.
So just how much money is made over there?  The truth is that we have to rely on what the Federal Reserve tells us, because they have never been subjected to a comprehensive audit by the U.S. government.
Right now there is legislation going through Congress that would change that, and the Federal Reserve is fighting it tooth and nail.  They are warning that such an audit could cause a financial disaster.
What are they so afraid of?
Are they afraid that we might get to peek inside and see what they have been up to all these years?
If you are a history buff, then you probably know that debates about a "central bank" go all the way back to the Founding Fathers.
The European banking elite have always been determined to control our currency, and that is exactly what is happening today.
Ever since the Federal Reserve was created, there have been members of the U.S. Congress that have been trying to warn the American people about the insidious nature of this institution.
Just check out what the Honorable Louis McFadden, Chairman of the House Banking and Currency Committee had to say all the way back in the 1930s....
"Some people think that the Federal Reserve Banks are United States Government institutions. They are private monopolies which prey upon the people of these United States for the benefit of themselves and their foreign customers; foreign and domestic speculators and swindlers; and rich and predatory money lenders."
The Federal Reserve is not the solution and it never has been.
The Federal Reserve is the problem.
Any thoughts?

Italian factory shutdown threatens 4,000 jobs

A blast furnace at an Italian steel plant was shut down on Thursday with 4,000 jobs at risk despite a call by Pope Francis for officials "to make every effort in terms of creativity and generosity to rekindle hope".
Emotional steel workers watched the shutdown at the Lucchini plant in Piombino on the Tuscan coastline, where production began in the early 20th century, as government sources said a rescue was being planned.
"The furnace is breathing its last in a surreal and dramatic atmosphere," said one worker, Lorenzo Fusco.
The plant gives work to 4,000 people including contractors and has been in trouble for years.
Source and full story: The Local (Italy), 24 April 2014

Bank Regulators Sure Are Doing Well These Days

Here’s a group of people the Obama economy has been good to – bank regulators. Wow! Who knew being a bureaucrat could be so lucrative?
Thanks to new financial “reform” rules — made possible through the demonization of “greedy” Wall Street — the average bank regulator now makes more than the average “fat cat” banker.
Since the 2010 enactment of the Dodd-Frank Act, federal bank regulator jobs have expanded and pay has climbed with them. Last year, according to Labor Department data, the average worker at a federal bank regulatory agency got 2.7 times the average pay of a private banker.
Average compensation at the FDIC, Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which has the power to police virtually every bank transaction, exceeds $190,000, the American Enterprise Institute calculates.
Meanwhile, Labor data show the hottest job in America is compliance officer, with salaries rising more than twice as fast as other professional jobs. Bank lobbyists and lawyers are also cleaning up along with the overpaid regulators they try to influence. It’s a lucrative racket.
Read the whole thing. It seems in this economy the only people doing well are government bureaucrats and politicians and the Democrats’ cronies and donors.

Taxpayers to pay £528,000 for Illegal Bilderberg Meeting

by Charlotte Ikonen
The remaining cost of policing the Bilderberg Group meeting in Watford will be paid by Hertfordshire tax payers after an application for a grant has been refused by the Home Office.
The controversial conference which took place in June 2013 attracted more than 2,000 people to The Grove Hotel and policing the event cost about £990,000.
Scores of officers from a dozen forces were drafted in for the event, which involved roads being closed with anti-terror legislation and a no-fly zone being imposed over the area.
The Bilderberg Group had made a donation of £462,000 and Hertfordshire Police applied to the Home Office for the remaining £528,000.
However, the cost of policing the event fell short of the one per cent threshold (£1.8 million) and was not assessed as bearing a risk to the force’s financial stability or capacity to deliver policing.
Hertfordshire Police and crime commissioner David Lloyd previously said the money would come from reserve and he was “disappointed” to have the application refused by the Home Office.
Councillor Lloyd said: “Along with all other police forces in the country Hertfordshire Constabulary has a core policing duty to prevent crime, maintain the Queen’s Peace, protect the public and prevent damage to property.
“The Bilderberg conference was an exceptional policing challenge that was very successfully policed by the constabulary with several thousand protestors attending over the period of the event.
“The constabulary fulfilled their legal responsibilities and ensured that the event took place peacefully with the minimum of disruption to Hertfordshire’s public and businesses.
“I am disappointed that the Home Office has turned down our grant application though I understand the Home Office’s criteria. Fortunately, our sound financial management means that this decision does not cause us immediate problems or require us to make further immediate savings on policing.  Ultimately, this money will come from our reserves and I would have wanted to have this money available for other policing purposes in the county.”
The Home Office explained that Special Grant funding is only available where necessary additional expenditure incurred would create a serius threat to financial stability of a Force and its capacity to deliver normal policing.
They advised that a Special Grant will usually only be considered once the costs reach one per cent of the Force budget and that Forces are generally expected to meet one-off exceptional spend below this level from their own reserves.
The cost of policing the event fell short of the one per cent threshold (£1.8 million) and was not assessed as bearing a risk to the force’s financial stability or capacity to deliver policing.