Saturday, June 20, 2009

U.S. Govt. Threatens to Prosecute Waterboarding

We've been lobbying the Department of Justice all these months without realizing that the key to justice lay in the Department of the Interior, and specifically in the National Park Service, which has told activist Steve Lane he will be prosecuted if he attempts to demonstrate waterboarding at Thursday's anti-torture rally in Washington, D.C. The permit for the rally reads "Waterboarding exhibit will not be allowed for safety reasons."

Of course it's not news that the government views waterboarding as a crime. Attorney General Eric Holder called it torture at his confirmation hearings. But it is news that someone has been threatened with prosecution if he engages in torture. We learn about ongoing torture by the government all the time, and we're told all the time that torture is no longer official policy, and yet in neither type of story is there ever any suggestion that the laws against torture might be enforced, now or in the future. In the government's view, torture must be less safe when performed without the benefit of government resources, doctors, lawyers, psychologists, videographers, and vice presidents. However, street demonstrations of waterboarding have yet to produce a single corpse to add to the pile produced by official U.S. government torture.

Other crimes in Washington are also crimes if you or I commit them, but not if someone else does. When a group of us ordinary citizens spoke against the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Palestine in the lobby of a senate office building on January 6th of this year (video) we were hauled off to jail. Bill Moyers' Journal covered the story (video). But when tourist groups are spoken to by senators in the same lobby, no crime occurs (video). I'm not talking about the people who hung banners from the balconies, or the passersby who cheered. I'm talking about those of us who stood and read the names of the dead. Seventeen of us (including some who hung banners) were arrested. Some of us paid a fine. On Monday, four face prosecution for unlawful assembly even though freedom of assembly is guaranteed in the Constitution, while warrantless wiretapping -- just to pick one example of ongoing government crimes -- is banned by the Constitution.

The greatest hypocrisy is not that tour groups can make noise whereas citizens with a political message cannot. The greatest hypocrisy is not that our president is speaking up for protesters as long as they are in Iran, while the Pentagon considers protesting to constitute "low level terrorism" when practiced within the United States. The greatest hypocrisy is that laws are being enforced while the most important laws and the most egregious violations are being ignored as a matter of loudly announced principle. When Laurie Arbeiter, Robbie Diesu, Michelle Grise, and Pete Perry appear in court on Monday they will not be able to ask the judge to stop looking backward, even though their "crimes" occurred in January. They will not be able to accuse the judge of petty vengeance for his or her refusal to "look forward." They will be compelled to face the question of whether they violated a law. (Never mind that the Capitol Police arrested us and then figured out hours later something they could most plausibly charge us with.)

Meanwhile, Dick Cheney confesses to felonies every time he opens his mouth, a civil suit against John Yoo has produced a 42-page order that could easily serve as an indictment, and the families our drones keep bombing in Afghanistan could never be persuaded that reading the names of the dead is the most serious crime that has occurred. The House has impeached a judge for groping despite his already having been convicted in court. But another judge responsible for torture is permitted to continue ruling on cases.

Here are two ideas to try to straighten our priorities out:

First, call Assistant Attorney General Elizabeth A. Meyers and ask that the charges against those who read the names of the dead be dropped: 202-727-3500 or 202-727-4783.

Second, take part in Torture Accountability Action Day on Thursday, June 25th, by joining our rally and march in Washington, D.C., (11 a.m. at John Marshall Park) or any of the rallies happening around the country on the same day:

By David Swanson

Inflation, Money Supply, GDP, Unemployment and the Dollar - Alternate Data Series


Inflation: Chart of the CPI.
Last Updated: Jun 17, 2009

Money Supply

Chart of U.S Money Supply Growth. M1,M2,M3
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Chart of Unemployment Rate. U-3, U-6, SGS
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Gross Domestic Product

U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) Chart
Last Updated: May 29, 2009


Chart USD Indexes
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US stocks log first weekly loss since early May

NEW YORK: Caution has once again overcome the U.S. stock market.

Stocks finished mixed Friday, leaving all the major indexes with their first weekly loss since early May.

Technology, financial and retail stocks gained, while utilities and energy stocks were lower.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 15.87, or 0.2 percent, to 8,539.73.

The broader Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 2.86, or 0.3 percent, to 921.23.

The Nasdaq composite index gained 19.75, or 1.1 percent, to 1,827.47.

The market had started the day stronger following suprisingly good reports the day before on jobs and manufacturing.

But with little in way of corporate or economic news Friday, prospects were poor for restarting a rally that powered the market up as much as 40 percent this spring after hitting its lowest level in more than a decade in early March.

Traders have grown worried in recent weeks that an economic recovery may be more subdued than originally hoped and that the huge run-up in stocks may have been overdone.

"There's no question in my mind that the economy is improving," said Phil Orlando, chief equity market strategist at Federated Investors.

"But investors are betting on some sideways consolidation rather than a continuation of a sharp spike in share prices."

Trading was also jumpy because of the occurrence of a quarterly "quadruple witching," which marks the simultaneous expiration of four different kinds options and futures contracts.

About three stocks rose for every two that fell on the New York Stock Exchange, where volume came to a heavy 2.13 billion shares, compared with 1.09 billion shares at the end of trading Thursday.

All the major indexes closed the week down for the first time since the week of May 11.

The Dow lost 3 percent, the S&P 500 index fell 2.6 percent, and the Nasdaq shed 1.7 percent.

Traders have been anticipating a pullback after such big gains in such a short period. Usually, a 40 percent move like the one in the S&P 500 index takes years to develop, not months.

"It's not going to be a one-way ride," said Keith Walter, portfolio manager of Artio Global Equity Fund.

Analysts are divided over whether the market's pullback this week has more to go, or if it can now move higher after back-to-back weeks of relatively sideways movement; Last week all the major indexes rose less than 1 percent.

Many predict choppy trading well through the summer, when there is typically less volume, and as the market heads into earnings season in July.

Bond prices rose slightly after sliding Thursday.

The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note, a widely used benchmark for mortgages and other loans, fell to 3.78 percent from 3.81 percent late Thursday.

Tech stocks moved higher as Apple Inc.'s latest version of its popular iPhone hit store shelves.

Apple shares added $3.60, or 2.7 percent, to $139.48, while rival smart phone maker Palm Inc. jumped more than 6 percent, rising 87 cents to $13.93.

In other trading, the Russell 2000 index of smaller companies rose 3.24, or 0.6 percent, to 512.72.

25 GROs caught hiding in karaoke’s secret rooms

IPOH: Twenty-five women from China, working illegally as guest relations officers, hid in secret rooms to evade detection during a raid at a karaoke centre here.

However, enforcement officials, wise to their game, traced them by knocking on the walls to detect the rooms.

The 45-minute raid, which started at 1am on Saturday, was carried out by Bukit Aman’s anti-vice, gaming and secret society division.

“The raid was carried out following public tip-off and our own investigations,” said the division’s spokesman, adding that six officers and eight other personnel conducted the raid.

Initial investigations revealed that all the women did not have valid working permits and had entered the country through social visit passes.

“They are suspected of being involved in immoral activities,” added the spokesman.

All the women were handed over to the Immigration Department for action.

Oil and other energy prices fall

NEW YORK: Benchmark crude for July delivery dropped US$1.82 on Friday on the New York Mercantile Exchange to settle at US$69.55 a barrel.

The August contract fell $1.89 to settle at $70.02 a barrel.

The slump in crude came as gasoline markets showed the first signs this week that an extended rally in pump prices is nearing an end after 52 straight days of price increases.

Gasoline for July delivery fell Friday by 10.5 cents, more than 5 percent, to settle at $1.9244 a gallon.

Crude prices have doubled their value in three months, hitting a high for the year of $73.23 a barrel last week.

Money has poured into oil markets as the dollar weakened against the euro.

While demand for energy remains weak, oil markets are attracting a lot of attention because crude can be used as a hedge against inflation.

Meanwhile, retail gas prices added a half cent overnight to a new national average of $2.69 a gallon, according to auto club AAA, Wright Express and Oil Price Information Service.

Pump prices could remain near the current level through the Fourth of July weekend.

"Gas prices should back off a bit after that," said Phil Flynn, an analyst at Alaron Trading Corp.

"However, you still have a wild card with oil. If crude keeps driving higher, then gas will too."

For the first time in months, geopolitical events are also beginning to at least get some attention in oil markets.

In Nigeria, Africa's largest crude producer, a militant group said it blew up a major pipeline run by Italian oil company Agip.

Violence has been escalating in the oil-rich southern region as the military intensifies operations to flush out rebels battling for a larger share of the Nigeria's oil revenues.

In Iran, protesters loyal to presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi have been staging massive street rallies to protest what they believe to be a rigged election.

However, because of the recession, there's so much extra oil production capacity around the world that experts say a drop in Iranian or Nigerian exports won't lead to any price spikes.

In other Nymex trading, heating oil dropped 5.03 cents to settle at $1.7867 a gallon, and natural gas for July delivery lost 6.1 cents to settle at $4.032 per 1,000 cubic feet.

In London, Brent prices lost $1.87 to settle at $69.19 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange.

Police attacks a student at a peaceful german student demonstration in Berlin.

Check this link from You Tube .....

100,000 people a month made redundant as jobless rate soars to 13-year high

  • A job is now being lost every 30 seconds
  • McDonald's receiving 2,200 applications a day
  • Directors and CEOs claiming the dole up 200%

A hundred thousand people a month are being made redundant as the number out of work soars to a 13-year high.

In a grim milestone for Labour, the jobless total has reached the highest since late 1996, just before it came to power.

Official figures from the Office for National Statistics showed that 302,000 people were made redundant in the three months to April, 36,000 more than in the previous quarter and the most since records began in 1995.

Looking for work: Yvette Cooper (right) the new Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, talks to job advisor Simon Brocklesby at the Marylebone Jobcentre in central London

New in the job: Yvette Cooper (right) talks to job advisor Simon Brocklesby at the Marylebone Jobcentre in London. The new Secretary of State for Work and Pensions said today that UK unemployment is lower than in the US and eurozone

At the same time, job vacancies hit a record low.

The number of people classed as officially out of work has soared to 2.26million, an increase of 232,000 over the quarter and 605,000 over the past year.

The number claiming Jobseeker's allowance increased by 39,300 in May to 1.54million, the highest since 1997. The 'claimant count' has increased for 15 months in a row.

Britain's unemployment rate is now 7.2 per cent, up 0.7 per cent from the previous three months.

Only the public sector was insulated - seeing an increase in overall employment by 15,000 to more than six million.

In stark contrast, private sector employment fell by 286,000 in the same period, to 23million.

young feel the pain.jpg

LibDem spokesman Lord Oakeshott said: 'Every day brings fresh proof of the dangerous divide between Britain's two nations.

In the public sector, jobs and pay are rising, bonuses are booming and pensions are index-linked.

'Out in the cold private sector, jobs are cut, pay is frozen, bonuses and final salary pension schemes are history. Government must govern for Britain, not just the public sector.'

There was also concern that British-born workers are being hit more than those born abroad.

Labour MP Frank Field and Tory MP Nicholas Soames, cochairmen of a cross-party group on migration, said the employment rate for people born in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh had increased over the past year but rates for all other groups, including those born in Britain, had fallen.

thousand s give up.jpg

Shadow work and pensions secretary Theresa May pointed out last night that Labour has had four different work and pensions secretaries in less than two years.

She said: 'The Government is continuing to sleepwalk through this unemployment crisis. We need stability, not a revolving door at the Department of Work and Pensions.'

David Kern, chief economist at the British Chambers of Commerce, said: 'Jobs are being lost relentlessly and many businesses are facing a major threat to their skills base.

'It is much too early to talk about the end of recession.

'The Government should consider easing harmful labour market regulations that are adding pressure on businesses.'

Work and Pensions Secretary Yvette Cooper said: 'It is vital we do everything we can, both to help people into work right now and to prevent long-term unemployment scarring families and communities.

'That is why we are investing ??5billion extra into helping jobseekers.

'The figures show the number of new claimants has fallen for the last two months, but many people are still facing significant difficulties and we are determined to provide more help.'

North Korea Intends to Lift Border-Crossing Restrictions

North Korea indicated during the second government-level talks Friday that it was willing to completely lift restrictions on inter-Korean boarder-crossings imposed last December in a bid to help solve problems at companies operating in the Gaeseong Industrial Complex.

Meanwhile, the South Korean delegation called for the prompt release of a worker detained in the North and suggested making the industrial park an internationally competitive complex.

``Through the 40-minute key note speech, we proposed having a joint inspection of industrial complexes in third countries, starting from July,'' Unification Ministry spokesman Chun Hae-sung told reporters.

``The first destinations would be Asian countries such as China and Vietnam, the second areas would be central Asia and the final places would be America,'' he added.

North Korea's response to the proposal has yet to be reported, a government official said on condition of anonymity.

More than 100 local companies running factories in the industrial park have had difficulty doing business there after North Korea began to restrict border crossings in retaliation for the Lee Myung-bak administration's tougher stance toward it.

Some conservative civic groups fueled Ptongyang's anger by sending fliers attached to balloons across the border criticizing North Korea leader Kim Jong-il's dictatorship.

The secretive state claimed during the second meeting that the early payment for rent of the complex should be settled first, the spokesman said.

The Ministry of Unification defined the meeting as a second round of negotiations, seeing the April 21 talks as a preliminary contact.

Pyongyang in the previous meeting last Thursday asked for the South to pay $500 million for the use of 1-million-pyeong of land (approximately 3.3 square kilometers) in the complex and increase the monthly salary of workers there to $300 from the current $70-80.

The five delegates from Seoul, instead, called on their counterparts to immediately release a South Korean detainee and rejected North Korea's demands.

President Lee also affirmed earlier that Seoul cannot accept the North's excessive demands to quadruple wages and hike the rent 31-fold.

The delegates urged North Korea to set free the 34-year-old Hyundai Asan worker identified as Yu, who has been held at the complex for more than 80 days.

He was detained late March on charges of making derogatory comments about the North Korean regime and attempting to entice a North Korean female worker to defect to the South.

North Korean authorities have refused to allow South Korean officials and attorneys to see him.

The two sides agreed to have a third round of talks on July 2.

By Kim Sue-young

U.S. housing market to get boost from home demolitions

As millions of Americans lose their homes to the process of foreclosure, they eventually end up as statistics, adding numbers to the one third of the population that rents housing. This process would result in rising rents except that foreclosed homes are being bought by small scale entrepreneurs as rental houses. To date, rental rates have been fairly stable in most locations, while large numbers of foreclosed homes have been held off the market. As many as one in nine U.S. homes are unoccupied this year. Meanwhile many Americans have been doubling up with relatives or have become homeless.

Last year the Senate Housing Committee came up with a scheme to support high real estate values in order to protect the assets of institutions that hold mortgage debt. The
Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008 provides general fund financed grants to local governments through the Federal Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP). According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), NSP funds may be used to:

  • Establish financing mechanisms for purchase and redevelopment of foreclosed
    homes and residential properties;
  • Purchase and rehabilitate homes and residential properties abandoned or foreclosed;
  • Establish land banks for foreclosed homes;
  • Demolish blighted structures;
  • Redevelop demolished or
    vacant properties
While the program allows for local governments to go into the real estate flipping and/or landlord business, it is doubtful that most towns will opt to take on such an unusual role, especially given the current unsettled state of the real estate market. The most economical and least risky choice would likely be razing homes and banking the raw land for future development. That is exactly the outcome which will stabilize artificially high real estate prices, the ultimate aim of the Senators and the financial industry which has spent $5 billion lobbying Congress over the past decade.

The Obama administration is also considering a "shrink to survive" proposal which involves razing entire districts. The radical experiment which would be tried in 50 U.S. cities is to be headed by Dan Kildee who describes the destruction of neighborhoods as similar to "pruning an overgrown tree." The program is planned to be applied to neighborhoods identified in a recent study by the Brookings Institution, including those with high vacancy and unemployment rates. Industrial policy to restore the health of the labor markets does not enter into consideration.

Real estate values became artificially high due to a prolonged sequence of actions undertaken by The Fed and Federal regulators: maintaining low interest rates, progressively relaxing mortgage loan qualifications while introducing unprecedented teaser rates and negative amortization loans. All of this within a frenzied bubble market environment. During this period of rapidly escalating real estate prices, buyers, fearing that rising prices would leave them behind, made purchases based on illusory monthly payment costs, often not realising the full interest rate reset risk involved. The actual sale price of the properties reflected a fraudulent monthly cost. Without the various loan products the high values would have never been realized.

Now the challenge for those who are managing our economy in the service of the financial sector is to maintain those artificial valuations and maintain the fraudulent high claims on American household budgets. With the overhang of vacant homes depressing real estate market values the solution is to destroy the excess supply. As the previous owners of the razed homes add demand for the existing rental housing market, rents will rise and put a floor under the broad real estate market. In effect the profits that the mortgage bundlers made will be covered by claims against the incomes of renters through higher rents.








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Israeli troops humiliate Palestinians - and put it on YouTube

Check this link ...........

US Drone Strike Imperils Delicate South Waziristan Negotiations

Check this link .............

Mullen: Unlikely Anyone Will Face Disciplinary Action Over Farah Killings

Check this link ......

US Stocks Modestly Higher; Tech Stocks Lead Gains

Technology stocks led a modest gain in the market Friday, with investors focusing on smart-phone makers as Apple's new iPhone device hit store selves.

Traders also tweaked their books heading into the "quadruple witching" expiration of exchange-traded derivatives at the closing bell.

Quadruple witching is the simultaneous expiration of options on individual stocks, index options, single-stock futures, and index futures. In the past, it has brought additional volatility to the market, with traders frantically selling or buying shares to deliver against their previous bets using futures and options contracts.

But some observers said that most of the expected pressure probably occurred in the beginning of the week, when the Dow Jones Industrial Average suffered a three-day losing streak in which it fell more than 300 points. From Thursday's opening bell through the latest action, the market has been relatively calm.

"What we've generally been seeing in this expiration cycle is people rolling over whatever options positions they have," settling the expiring contracts and then taking on similar bets in contracts for the following month, said Allen Greenberg, the Chicago-based options chief for brokerage BNY ConvergEx. "They're not necessarily looking for a big new move in either direction."

The Dow was recently up about 50 points, or 0.6%. However, the blue-chip measure remained on track to post a weekly decline of more than 2%, which would be its first weekly decline in a month.

The S&P 500 rose 0.8%, helped by a 1.4% gain in its technology sector. All the index's other categories posted gains as well, except utilities, which slipped 0.3%.

The Nasdaq Composite was up 1.6%, helped by a 2% gain in Apple. Rival Palm, which recently debuted its Pre smart phone, was up 10%. Research In Motion shares dipped 2.3% after it said on Thursday that its earnings jumped on strong sales of BlackBerry smart phones but issued an outlook that disappointed some traders.

Health-care stocks also gained, as insurers including Aetna, Cigna and UnitedHealth Group continued to rise after a rally on Thursday. Investors are betting that the Obama administration's health-care reform proposals will be scaled back.

Mineral extractors gained as investors continued to hope the global economy has moved past the worst point. Rio Tinto was up 1.9% and BHP Billiton rose 1.9%. Commodities prices were generally higher, with the front-month crude-oil futures contract hovering near $72 a barrel.

Asia stocks were mostly higher, but several indexes moved off their peaks. The Nikkei 225 finished up 0.9% higher, with the Hang Seng logging similar gains. In Europe, markets were stronger. The FTSE 100 was up 1.5%.

By Peter A. McKay