Sunday, August 16, 2009

Strong quake strikes Indonesia's Sumatra, 7 hurt

10-degree map showing recent earthquakes

Legend with age and magnitude scale

JAKARTA — Seven people were injured after a strong, 6.9-magnitude quake struck Indonesia's western Sumatra Sunday, an official said.

The epicentre of the quake, which struck at 2:38 pm (0738 GMT), was located 43 kilometres (29 miles) southeast of Siberut island off western Sumatra.

It was measured at a depth of 32 kilometres.

West Sumatra provincial health crisis centre chief Jasmarizal told AFP seven people were being treated in hospital for "light injuries" in Padang city on the west coast of Sumatra.

"Five people were injured when an escalator at a mall in north Padang collapsed. Two others were hurt when the fences of their homes gave way. They had light injuries like abrasions on their arms and legs," he added.

There were no reports of casualties or damage on Siberut island, Jasmarizal said.

"But the residents there had fled to the mountains for safety," he added.

The country's geophysics agency's technical chief Suharjono said no tsunami warning had been issued.

"It was a sea quake but there's no potential of tsunami. We'll only issue a warning if the magnitude is greater than seven," he added.

Earlier, Suharjono said "people panicked in nearby cities, in Padang and Sibolga in Sumatra".

"Siberut is not as developed as big cities but at such magnitude, brick houses without strong foundation could collapse," he added.

Strong tremors could be felt for 10 minutes in Padang, south Padang city police official Andreas told AFP.

"Everyone panicked and ran out of their houses. But the situation is calmer now and people have gone back into their homes," he added.

Police in the field were monitoring the situation but "so far, there's no report of damage or casualty yet", Andreas said.

Indonesia sits on the Pacific "Ring of Fire", where the meeting of continental plates causes high volcanic and seismic activity.

China's top lawmaker starts torch relay for National Games

People attend the starting ceremony of the 11th National Games torch relay at the east gate of the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, on Aug. 16, 2009. The 11th edition of the National Games, which are held every four years, will take place in Shandong Province from Oct. 16 to 28. (Xinhua/Pang Xinglei)

People attend the starting ceremony of the 11th National Games torch relay at the east gate of the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, on Aug. 16, 2009. The 11th edition of the National Games, which are held every four years, will take place in Shandong Province from Oct. 16 to 28. (Xinhua/Pang Xinglei)

BEIJING, Aug. 16 (Xinhua) -- China's top lawmaker Wu Bangguo lit a torch here on Sunday morning, marking the official start of the torch relay throughout the country for the 11th National Games.

Wu, chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, China's top legislature, set the flame in the cauldron placed at the eastern gate of the Great Hall of the People to the torch and waved it to the enthusiastic crowds.

Wu Bangguo, chairman of the Standing Committee of China's National People's Congress, lights the torch during the starting ceremony of the 11th National Games torch relay at the eastern gate of the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, capital of China, on Aug. 16, 2009. The 11th edition of the National Games, which are held every four years, will take place in Shandong Province from Oct. 16 to 28. (Xinhua/Pang Xinglei)

Wu Bangguo, chairman of the Standing Committee of China's National People's Congress, lights the torch during the starting ceremony of the 11th National Games torch relay at the eastern gate of the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, capital of China, on Aug. 16, 2009. The 11th edition of the National Games, which are held every four years, will take place in Shandong Province from Oct. 16 to 28. (Xinhua/Pang Xinglei)

Wu, also member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC), then handed the torch to Liu Peng, minister of the State General Administration of Sports who passed it on to the first bearer, Du Li, a two-time Olympic shooting champion.

Also attending the ceremony were other Chinese leaders and top sports officials.

The flame, which was ignited in a traditional sun-ray ceremony on the top of Mount Tai that symbolizes prosperity and peace, will travel across China over the next two months before arriving in Jinan, the provincial capital of Shandong, for the opening ceremony of the National Games.

The 11th edition of the National Games, which are held every four years, will take place in Shandong Province from Oct. 16 to 28.

Wu Bangguo (R, front), chairman of the Standing Committee of China's National People's Congress, watches the torch during the starting ceremony of the 11th National Games torch relay at the east gate of the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, capital of China, on Aug. 16, 2009. The 11th edition of the National Games, which are held every four years, will take place in Shandong Province from Oct. 16 to 28.(Xinhua/Pang Xinglei)

Wu Bangguo (R, front), chairman of the Standing Committee of China's National People's Congress, watches the torch during the starting ceremony of the 11th National Games torch relay at the east gate of the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, capital of China, on Aug. 16, 2009. The 11th edition of the National Games, which are held every four years, will take place in Shandong Province from Oct. 16 to 28.(Xinhua/Pang Xinglei)

莫拉克農損逾122億元 漁損破41億

(中央社記者楊淑閔台北16日電)農委會公告,累計至今天上午9時,莫拉克風災農業產物估計損失及民間設施毀損計新台幣122億3675萬元;其中農產損失占95億9242 萬元,創近19年新高的漁損為41億2885.1萬元。

農委會統計,整體農損122億3675萬元,內容包含「農產損失」40億46萬元:其中農作物損失39億9808萬元,農作物被害面積7萬2345公頃, 損害程度27%,換算無收穫面積1萬9316公頃,受損作物以香蕉倒伏最為嚴重,被害面積達5945公頃,次為木瓜、番石榴、二期水稻、番荔枝(釋迦)、 棗、竹筍、葉菜類水傷等;另一類是養蜂損失,估計金額238萬元。









印度測試辣椒手榴彈 催淚驅敵效果良好


   印度「國防研究發展組織(Defence Research andDevelopment Organization)」生命科學部主任斯里瓦斯塔瓦(R.B. Srivastava)告訴媒體說,對印度準軍事安全部隊而言,最大的困擾就是無法逼使頑抗的恐怖份子走出藏匿的地方。



據斯里瓦斯塔瓦表示,這種手榴彈使用的原料,是產於印度東北地區阿薩姆省(Assam)著名的斷魂椒(Bhut Jolokia)。他表示,目前已計劃量產,供應安全部隊鎮暴使用,同時也考慮商業用途,製作女性防身用的噴霧器。



Competing Ads on Health Care Plan Swamp the Airwaves

By the time President Obama left Montana on Saturday, the Bozeman media market had been saturated with an advertisement opposing his health care plan — hard for anyone to miss since it ran 115 times in 36 hours on network and cable television channels.

“Say no to government-run health care,” a narrator says in the advertisement by a conservative group that particularly went after the idea of a government insurance option.

The spot, timed in advance of Mr. Obama’s visit, is part of a cascade of advertising swamping the airwaves across the country as the health care fight has become a full-blown national political campaign, replete with battleground states, polling, leafleting, fractious town-hall-style meetings, op-ed articles, talking points and videos. He held one of those public meetings in Colorado on Saturday .

Interest groups on all sides of the debate have spent more than $57 million on television advertisements in six months, most of it in the last 45 days, said Evan Tracey, chief operating officer of the Campaign Media Analysis Group, which tracks television advertisements.

“It’s the most we’ve seen this quick,” Mr. Tracey said. “If it goes on all year, we’re looking at one of the biggest public policy ad wars ever.”

Supporters of Mr. Obama’s plan to overhaul the system have outspent opponents, with $24 million worth of advertising, compared with $9 million from opponents. An additional $24 million has been broadly spent in support of overhauling the system without backing a specific plan.

Geoff Garin, a Democratic pollster who is advising several Democrats on Capitol Hill, said whoever defined the debate would win it. “Opponents are trying to cement the notion that this is all about government-run health care,” Mr. Garin said, “while supporters want to cement the notion that this is about fixing a badly broken system.”

Advertisements in favor of Mr. Obama’s effort mostly seek to reassure those who already have insurance that they will benefit because insurance companies will not be able to drop them if they are sick or deny them coverage for pre-existing conditions.

But at times, Democrats in favor of remaking the health system have been attacking fellow Democrats who are undecided or oppose an overhaul, which may partly explain why support for Mr. Obama’s effort has been eroding, even though his side has spent more money.

Opponents’ advertisements are sharper in tone. They are intended to fire up the conservative base and appeal to independents who may share conservatives’ concerns about a government takeover of the health system or excessive spending.

One commercial shows a red balloon that expands as the narrator warns that an overhaul would increase deficits, taxes and government control. Eventually, the balloon pops.

Other advertisements from opponents make more emotional but unsubstantiated assertions that an overhaul would ration care and deny treatment to older people.

Mr. Tracey said that, generally, the advertisements in favor of an overhaul had been “cheerleading” up to this point, while those against it had successfully raised doubts about it. “People may favor health care reform,” he said, “but if you can pull out end-of-life issues or taxpayer-funded abortions or rationing care and dictating lifestyle, those fit really well into 30-second spots.”

White House aides concede that Mr. Obama, who is stumping the country for his health care plan, has lost some ground; they chalk it up partly to misleading advertisements suggesting that the government will ration health care or that senior citizens will be denied end-of-life care.

Both sides are broadcasting their message in many of the same battleground states — including Arkansas, Colorado, Louisiana, Maine, Nebraska and North Carolina — to reach conservative Democrats and moderate Republicans who may determine the fate of the bill.

In a $12 million advertising buy that began last week in 12 states, a coalition of drug companies, doctors, for-profit hospitals and union members defended overhauling the system. With piano music playing over pictures of patients with health care workers, the commercial portrays the overhaul as providing “quality, affordable care you can count on.” The coalition calls itself Americans for Stable Quality Care.

“It’s very carefully drafted,” Ken Johnson, senior vice president of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, one of the biggest players in the debate in support of an overhaul, said of the commercial. “We don’t want to fan the flames; we want to calm people down.”

The pharmaceutical industry has also resurrected “Harry and Louise” from 1993-94, when the fictional couple, like the drug industry, was against President Bill Clinton’s health reform proposal. But now, both the drug industry and the couple, still at their kitchen table 16 years later, have had a change of heart and are promoting an overhaul.

The commercials range from the macro to the micro, with some aimed at tiny demographic slices. One ad by an autism awareness group urges viewers to tell Congress that any plan that does not prevent autism insurance discrimination “is unacceptable.”

Both parties have also gotten into the act. The Republican National Committee has run radio advertisements in more than 30 states aimed at Democrats in conservative and swing districts.

“If Barack Obama and the Democrats get their way, the federal government will make the decisions about your health care,” the narrator says. “And their plan costs a trillion dollars we don’t have.”

The Republican committee also created a Web advertisement that received much attention for its humor but that has been called misleading by critics. Reminiscent of commercials for male potency drugs, it shows carefree couples in various settings but warns of “side effects,” like being denied coverage “based on patient age.”

The Democratic National Committee has tried to capitalize on recent town-hall-style meetings with raucous protesters. In one Web advertisement, it warned that “the right-wing extremist Republican base is back” and is “organizing angry mobs, just like they did during the election.” (Last week, however, Gallup found that voters, particularly independents, said they were more sympathetic to town-hall protesters than not.)

And in a highly unusual move, the Democratic committee even broadcast advertisements intended to put pressure on senators of its own party — Kent Conrad of North Dakota, Evan Bayh of Indiana, Bill Nelson of Florida, Mary L. Landrieu of Louisiana, Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas and Ben Nelson of Nebraska — who have been skeptical of an overhaul or of the public option. The spot shows average voters with tales of woe who say “it’s time” for an overhaul.

Organizing for America, the reconstituted Obama campaign team, is working hand in hand with the Democratic National Committee and features the “it’s time” commercial on its Web site.

Liberal groups like are presenting more personal attacks against conservative House Democrats, including Representatives John Barrow of Georgia, Jim Matheson of Utah and Charlie Melancon of Louisiana, all of whom voted against a Democratic health bill in committee. The advertisements tell viewers in those districts that their congressman “sided with the special interests and insurance companies.”

The commercial in Montana that urged Mr. Obama to drop the public option dogged him as he headed to Colorado, where it ran 50 times in the Grand Junction media market over 24 hours. It was sponsored by Conservatives for Patients’ Rights, started by Richard L. Scott, the former chairman and chief executive of Columbia/HCA, a large hospital chain. Mr. Scott was ousted in 1997 amid a fraud scandal, though he was not directly implicated.

More prominent nationally is the “red balloon” commercial, sponsored by the United States Chamber of Commerce. R. Bruce Josten, executive vice president for governmental affairs at the chamber, said his group started advertising in Arkansas, Colorado, Louisiana, Maine and North Carolina to bolster lawmakers who had expressed opposition to a government-run insurance option. The chamber expanded its multimillion-dollar advertising campaign last week to 15 more states.

“I’m up against a dozen groups running ads that will spend between $50 million and $80 million to promote a public plan and promote an employer mandate, regardless of the cost,” Mr. Josten said. “We’re trying to create a dialogue rather than cede the ground.”


Military Confirms States Deciding Mandatory Vaccination

While asking questions with the CDC Pentagon representative, We Are Change Colorado was able to get a video confirmation that States will be deciding on the issue of mandatory vaccinations, not the Federal government.We Are Change Colorado attended a CDC meeting held in Denver, Colorado to advise on a vaccination program. They educated everyone at the event on vaccinations and the reality of what we are faced with right now, the Military representative from the pentagon who was there was so frustrated with our objections and questions he left before the meeting was even done.Also, We Are Change Colorado is launching a website dedicated to Vaccination Awareness called where free downloadable fliers and information will be made available as well as videos and so fourth. The website is in development now and will be up soon. It will offer DVDs as well for actions and begin a Vaccine truth day similar to the 11th of the month actions. Vaccine Awareness has never been more important. We are also considering starting a Pledge similar to Oathkeepers to have nurses and doctors pledge that in a mass forced vaccination program implemented, if ever, they will not give it if the person refuses.

The CDC will host 10 public engagement meetings to receive input on whether the nations vaccination plan should be a giant, comprehensive effort or one of a more modest scale, reports HC Pro. Informed citizens are being recruited through health departments and civic groups for meetings.

Military Confirms States Deciding Mandatory Vaccination 150709banner2

It is critical we have a presence at these meetings. Here are the times and places:

Vincennes, Indiana, Saturday, August 15

Birmingham, Alabama, Saturday, August 15

Sacramento, California, Saturday, August 15

El Paso, Texas, Saturday, August 22

El Paso, Texas, sábado 22 de agosto del 2009

Bucks County, Pennsylvania, Saturday, August 22

New York, New York, Saturday, August 22

Spokane, Washington, Saturday, August, 29

Additional meetings are being planned in the following cities. Please check back frequently for registration information.

Somerville, Massachusetts, Saturday, August 29

CDC to take nations pulse on H1N1 vaccination program -nation%E2%80%99s-pulse-on-h1n1-vaccinat ion-program/

CDC to seek publics advice on H1N1 vaccination drive swineflu/news/jul3109public.html

The CDC needs to told we will not accept mandatory vaccination and Northcom militarization of our communities under the cover of a contrived flu pandemic.

As Wayne Madsen noted on the Alex Jones Show today, a conference scheduled for Aug 19 Aug 21 in Washington, D.C. will address mass fatality management, continuity of government, break down of public services, unwillingness to follow government orders, civil disturbances, etc., during a flu pandemic. See our Preparing for Martial Law: International Swine Flu Conference to Be Held in Washington.

Jonathan Elinoff has designed a 2 sided flier that you can print out and fold in half. I uploaded the PDF images of both sides of the flier to so we can make this available to everyone in the world to start printing out now and distributing at actions. This is a double sided flier. It folds over so each of these PDF’s is one side of the flier. MAKE SURE to download and print out BOTH pdf images because each is a side of the flier. It is for standard 8.5 x 11 paper.

This is the outside of the flier (side 1) eTruthAwareness/Side1Flier.pdf

This is the inside of the flier (side 2) Flier/Side2Flier.pdf

Also, a Mass Duplication Ready DVD was made by We Are Change Colorado with a few documentaries about vaccines and around 20 news clips from credible news agencies like 60 minutes and so fourth all showing vaccine dangers, cancers, cautions and more. You can contact and get the DVD sent to you for free.

If you download torrents, here is the DVD you can download it now and start burning it: on+vaccine+anthraz+h1n1+swine+flu+awaren ess+conspiracy+new+world+order+11+truth. torrent

How Apathy Will Destroy America

“By far the most dangerous foe we have to fight is apathy – indifference from whatever cause, not from a lack of knowledge, but from carelessness, from absorption in other pursuits, from a contempt bred of self satisfaction”
William Osler

In Lebanon yesterday the Lebanese populace marked the 3rd year anniversary of the ‘Divine Victory’ over Israel during the July 2006 war between the Lebanese resistance and the IDF.
The crowd that gathered in support of the resistance and Hezb’Allah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah was impressive to say the least,but the most stirring part of the whole celebration did not come in the amount of chants the crowd shouted in support of Sayyed Hassan or the number of people that made up this crowd but the burning scent of vehemence and zeal – like a deeply scented incense which caught every ones attention.
I sat translating the speech over twitter for those who did not understand Arabic and with every sentence I heard and decoded I felt a pang of jealousy hit me – The way this man spoke in regards to his people was astounding:

I would like to tell you with all my love,my dear people in Lebanon,in Palestine and Iraq – our strength is in our unity,in our coherence.The future is for us,we can create our future,with our blood and our faith.This is the way we achieve the victory – with you,the people-so that this Lebanon can be the one of a strong will,one which will never bow down to any challenge.

We have two options. One is to succumb to Israel and let it call the shots in the region. The other is to be strong so that the Israelis would think a thousand times, even a million times, before they launch a war against Lebanon and Hezb’Allah. This option is ours.

I tell Israel,You can put as many soldiers as you can in your tanks,hold training etc I tell you that these tanks will be destroyed in our mountainsin and in our villages!

Can any of you imagine our President saying these words,or our citizens feeling at all motivated in supporting such rhetoric?

With our blood and our faith” – Many Lebanese are willing to stand up and die for their freedoms just as our own Sons of Liberty did long ago,but the questions is – But the question is,are we?
A majority of you are not even willing to donate your blood to the Red Cross,let alone shed some in fighting for your or anyone else.

Apathy is a disease which runs rampant in the United States over soil drenched in the blood of martyrs who gave their lives for this nation.But what do we have to show for it America?
To each his own‘ is a typical slogan that marks the way of life for a majority of Americans.

Dissidence,one of the rarest and most impavid of facility, is a straggling virtue which is only used when our own selfishness arises.
But when we are willing to shout and scream out the truth,when we are willing to fight and die in order to live in a free nation and when we as a people are willing to break the silence – then we can rightfully claim to be free.
Until then we are nothing more than slaves,shackled and bound to perversity,power and ignorance.

The death of individual and united autonomy will not come via our government or the powers that will but from the inside.
The death of America will come from selfishness,apathy and indifference to that which is wrong and unjust.

Americans,stop saying that you don’t care or that it doesn’t matter – this is the rhetoric of foolishness and of asininity.

When we,as people of the world,cry out to punish the guilty yet refuse to cry out for the innocent to be freed…
When we,as people of the world,demand justice for our own people yet neglect asking for the same for others…

That is when we know that the vile disease of apathy is claiming us and crawling into the deepest part of our hearts.
Liberty is never lost in one shot,but in stages,and until we cure ourselves of apathy we will find our precious Lady Liberty crawling on her knees.

This is not the America our found fathers died for.

“It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace– but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!
-Patrick Henry, March 23, 1775.

Swine flu jab link to killer nerve disease: Leaked letter reveals concern of neurologists over 25 deaths in America

A warning that the new swine flu jab is linked to a deadly nerve disease has been sent by the Government to senior neurologists in a confidential letter.

The letter from the Health Protection Agency, the official body that oversees public health, has been leaked to The Mail on Sunday, leading to demands to know why the information has not been given to the public before the vaccination of millions of people, including children, begins.

It tells the neurologists that they must be alert for an increase in a brain disorder called Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS), which could be triggered by the vaccine.

GBS attacks the lining of the nerves, causing paralysis and inability to breathe, and can be fatal.

The letter, sent to about 600 neurologists on July 29, is the first sign that there is concern at the highest levels that the vaccine itself could cause serious complications.

It refers to the use of a similar swine flu vaccine in the United States in 1976 when:

  • More people died from the vaccination than from swine flu.
  • 500 cases of GBS were detected.
  • The vaccine may have increased the risk of contracting GBS by eight times.
  • The vaccine was withdrawn after just ten weeks when the link with GBS became clear.
  • The US Government was forced to pay out millions of dollars to those affected.

Concerns have already been raised that the new vaccine has not been sufficiently tested and that the effects, especially on children, are unknown.

It is being developed by pharmaceutical companies and will be given to about 13million people during the first wave of immunisation, expected to start in October.

Top priority will be given to everyone aged six months to 65 with an underlying health problem, pregnant women and health professionals.

The British Neurological Surveillance Unit (BNSU), part of the British Association of Neurologists, has been asked to monitor closely any cases of GBS as the vaccine is rolled out.

One senior neurologist said last night: ‘I would not have the swine
flu jab because of the GBS risk.’

There are concerns that there could be a repeat of what became known as the ‘1976 debacle’ in the US, where a swine flu vaccine killed 25 people – more than the virus itself.

A mass vaccination was given the go-ahead by President Gerald Ford because scientists believed that the swine flu strain was similar to the one responsible for the 1918-19 pandemic, which killed half a million Americans and 20million people worldwide.

Swine flu vaccines being prepared

The swine flu vaccine being offered to children has not been tested on infants

Within days, symptoms of GBS were reported among those who had been immunised and 25 people died from respiratory failure after severe paralysis. One in 80,000 people came down with the condition. In contrast, just one person died of swine flu.

More than 40million Americans had received the vaccine by the time the programme was stopped after ten weeks. The US Government paid out millions of dollars in compensation to those affected.

The swine flu virus in the new vaccine is a slightly different strain from the 1976 virus, but the possibility of an increased incidence of GBS remains a concern.

Shadow health spokesman Mike Penning said last night: ‘The last thing we want is secret letters handed around experts within the NHS. We need a vaccine but we also need to know about potential risks.

‘Our job is to make sure that the public knows what’s going on. Why
is the Government not being open about this? It’s also very worrying if GPs, who will be administering the vaccine, aren’t being warned.’

Two letters were posted together to neurologists advising them of the concerns. The first, dated July 29, was written by Professor Elizabeth Miller, head of the HPA’s Immunisation Department.

It says: ‘The vaccines used to combat an expected swine influenza pandemic in 1976 were shown to be associated with GBS and were withdrawn from use.

‘GBS has been identified as a condition needing enhanced surveillance when the swine flu vaccines are rolled out.

‘Reporting every case of GBS irrespective of vaccination or disease history is essential for conducting robust epidemiological analyses capable of identifying whether there is an increased risk of GBS in defined time periods after vaccination, or after influenza itself, compared with the background risk.’

The second letter, dated July 27, is from the Association of British Neurologists and is written by Dr Rustam Al-Shahi Salman, chair of its surveillance unit, and Professor Patrick Chinnery, chair of its clinical research committee.

America swine flu 1976

Halted: The 1976 US swine flu campaign

It says: ‘Traditionally, the BNSU has monitored rare diseases for long periods of time. However, the swine influenza (H1N1) pandemic has overtaken us and we need every member’s involvement with a new BNSU survey of Guillain-Barre Syndrome that will start on August 1 and run for approximately nine months.

‘Following the 1976 programme of vaccination against swine influenza in the US, a retrospective study found a possible eight-fold increase in the incidence of GBS.

‘Active prospective ascertainment of every case of GBS in the UK is required. Please tell BNSU about every case.

‘You will have seen Press coverage describing the Government’s concern about releasing a vaccine of unknown safety.’

If there are signs of a rise in GBS after the vaccination programme begins, the Government could decide to halt it.

GBS attacks the lining of the nerves, leaving them unable to transmit signals to muscles effectively.

It can cause partial paralysis and mostly affects the hands and feet. In serious cases, patients need to be kept on a ventilator, but it can be fatal.

Death is caused by paralysis of the respiratory system, causing the victim to suffocate.
It is not known exactly what causes GBS and research on the subject has been inconclusive.

However, it is thought that one in a million people who have a seasonal flu vaccination could be at risk and it has also been linked to people recovering from a bout of flu of any sort.

The HPA said it was part of the Government’s pandemic plan to monitor GBS cases in the event of a mass vaccination campaign, regardless of the strain of flu involved.
But vaccine experts warned that the letters proved the programme was a ‘guinea-pig trial’.

Dr Tom Jefferson, co-ordinator of the vaccines section of the influential Cochrane Collaboration, an independent group that reviews research, said: ‘New vaccines never behave in the way you expect them to. It may be that there is a link to GBS, which is certainly not something I would wish on anybody.

‘But it could end up being anything because one of the additives in one of the vaccines is a substance called squalene, and none of the studies we’ve extracted have any research on it at all.’

He said squalene, a naturally occurring enzyme, could potentially cause so-far-undiscovered side effects.

Jackie Fletcher, founder of vaccine support group Jabs, said: ‘The Government would not be anticipating this if they didn’t think there was a connection. What we’ve got is a massive guinea-pig trial.’

Professor Chinnery said: ‘During the last swine flu pandemic, it was observed that there was an increased frequency of cases of GBS. No one knows whether it was the virus or the vaccine that caused this.

‘The purpose of the survey is for us to assess rapidly whether there is an increase in the frequency of GBS when the vaccine is released in the UK. It also increases consultants’ awareness of the condition.

Panic over? The number of swine flu cases has fallen sharply in the past week

Panic over? The number of swine flu cases has fallen sharply in the past few weeks

‘This is a belt-and-braces approach to safety and is not something people should be substantially worried about as it’s a rare condition.’

If neurologists do identify a case of GBS, it will be logged on a central database.

Details about patients, including blood samples, will be collected and monitored by the HPA.

It is hoped this will help scientists establish why some people develop the condition and whether it is directly related to the vaccine.

But some question why there needs to be a vaccine, given the risks. Dr Richard Halvorsen, author of The Truth About Vaccines, said: ‘For people with serious underlying health problems, the risk of dying from swine flu is probably greater than the risk of side effects from the vaccine.

‘But it would be tragic if we repeated the US example and ended up with more casualties from the jabs.

‘I applaud the Government for recognising the risk but in most cases this is a mild virus which needs a few days in bed. I’d question why we need a vaccine at all.’

Professor Miller at the HPA said: ‘This monitoring system activates pandemic plans that have been in place for a number of years. We’ll be able to get information on whether a patient has had a prior influenza illness and will look at whether influenza itself is linked to GBS.

‘We are not expecting a link to the vaccine but a link to disease, which would make having the vaccine even more important.’

The UK’s medicines watchdog, the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency, is already monitoring reported side effects from Tamiflu and Relenza and it is set to extend that surveillance to the vaccine.

A Department of Health spokesperson said: ‘The European Medicines Agency has strict processes in place for licensing pandemic vaccines.

‘In preparing for a pandemic, appropriate trials to assess safety and the immune responses have been carried out on vaccines very similar to the swine flu vaccine. The vaccines have been shown to have a good safety profile.

‘It is extremely irresponsible to suggest that the UK would use a vaccine without careful consideration of safety issues. The UK has one of the most successful immunisation programmes in the world.’


Hilary Wilkinson

Victim: Hilary Wilkinson spent three months in hospital after she was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre Syndrome
When Hilary Wilkinson woke up with muscle weakness in her left arm and difficulty breathing, doctors initially put it down to a stroke.

But within hours, she was on a ventilator in intensive care after being diagnosed with Guillain-Barre Syndrome.

She spent three months in hospital and had to learn how to talk and walk again. But at times, when she was being fed through a drip and needed a tracheotomy just to breathe, she doubted whether she would survive.

The mother of two, 57, from Maryport, Cumbria, had been in good health until she developed a chest infection in March 2006. She gradually became so weak she could not walk downstairs.

Doctors did not diagnose Guillain-Barre until her condition worsened in hospital and tests showed her reflexes slowing down. It is impossible for doctors to know how she contracted the disorder, although it is thought to be linked to some infections.

Mrs Wilkinson said: ‘It was very scary. I couldn’t eat and I couldn’t speak. My arms and feet had no strength and breathing was hard.

I was treated with immunoglobulin, which are proteins found in blood, to stop damage to my nerves. After ten days, I still couldn’t speak and had to mime to nurses or my family.

‘It was absolutely horrendous and I had no idea whether I would get through it. You reach very dark moments at such times and wonder how long it can last.

But I’m a very determined person and I had lots of support.’

After three weeks, she was transferred to a neurological ward, where she had an MRI scan and nerve tests to assess the extent of the damage.

Still unable to speak and in a wheelchair, Mrs Wilkinson eventually began gruelling physiotherapy to improve her muscle strength and movement but it was exhausting and painful.

Three years later, she is almost fully recovered. She can now walk for several miles at a time, has been abroad and carries out voluntary work for a GBS Support Group helpline.

She said: ‘It makes me feel wary that the Government is rolling out this vaccine without any clear idea of the GBS risk, if any. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone and it certainly changed my life.

‘I’m frightened to have the swine flu vaccine if this might happen again – it’s a frightening illness and I think more research needs to be done on the effect of the vaccine.’

Hotline staff given access to confidential records

Confidential NHS staff records and disciplinary complaints could be accessed by hundreds of workers manning the Government’s special swine flu hotline.

They were able to browse through a database of emails containing doctors’ and nurses’ National Insurance numbers, home addresses, dates of birth, mobile phone numbers and scanned passport pages – all details that could be used fraudulently.

And private and confidential complaints sent by hospitals about temporary medical staff – some of whom were named – were also made available to the call-centre workers, who were given a special password to log in to an internal NHS website.

It could be a breach of the Data Protection Act.

The hotline staff work for NHS Professionals, which was set up using taxpayers’ money to employ temporary medical and administrative staff for the health service.

The not-for-profit company runs two of the Government’s swine flu call centres – with 300 staff in Farnborough, Hampshire, and 900 in Watford, Hertfordshire.

Shadow Health Secretary Andrew Lansley described the revelations as ‘disturbing’.

Anne Mitchell, a spokeswoman for Unison, said: ‘There’s no excuse for such a fundamental breach of personal security. Action needs to be taken as soon as possible to make sure this does not happen again.’

A spokeswoman for NHS Professionals would not confirm whether access to the confidential files had been granted.

By Jo Macfarlane

The Worst is Ahead of Us

The news that the jobless rate in this country has gone from 9.5 percent in June to 9.4 percent last month has led President Obama to declare that his policies have “saved the U.S. economy from catastrophe” and have led to another rally in the stock market. While I wish I could agree with the President – I really do wish that – I cannot do so, and I must say, “Not so fast, Mr. Obama.”

In fact, not only have Obama’s policies made this downturn worse, the policies have not yet begun to run their full course, and that means we have further to go before we hit bottom. I do not say this in any partisan spirit; indeed, I believe that the Obama policies pretty much are what John McCain would have done had he been elected.

No, the problem is not partisan politics; the problem is bad economic policy. Really bad economic policy.

Why am I saying this, given that it contradicts what many professional economists are claiming? For example, Joe Davis, chief economist at Vanguard in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, says:

It [the drop in the jobless rate] suggests the recession will be ending before the end of the year. There isn’t any part of the economy that hasn’t shown some slowing in deterioration.

I respectfully disagree, although I realize that people are not willing to pay me the large bucks that Davis earns for his prognostications. My reasoning is simple but forthright: The Obama administration continues to subsidize the weak sectors of the economy and punish the healthy sectors to pay for this largess. It is an unsustainable pattern. Furthermore, many of the worst aspects of his policies have not yet kicked in, and when they do, the damage will be severe.

First, we have to realize that the trends of mass layoffs had to end, albeit temporarily. Bankrupt Wall Street firms and General Motors already have shed huge numbers of workers and are having a lull, as the government bailout cash has stabilized these outfits – for the time being. There still are healthy firms out there, but they won’t be healthy for long, as the government is going to punish any company that is profitable with higher taxes, more onerous regulations, and other wealth-stunting.

Second, the effects of the environmental policies such as “cap and trade” and other new regulations have not yet been fully felt by U.S. employers. Don’t kid yourselves about how onerous these new laws and regulations are going to be. They will put many companies out of business, drive other business overseas, and add to our unemployed.

Don’t be fooled by the “millions of new green jobs” rhetoric coming from Congress and the New York Times. For every “green” job created by building windmills or other horse-and-buggy technology items, many regular jobs will be eliminated. If ever there were a Frédéric Bastiat “broken window” moment, it is the “green jobs” nonsense.

Third, increases in the minimum wage will take their toll on lower-wage workers, while other new labor and “workplace safety” policies are going to make it more costly to run a business. That will translate into layoffs soon enough.

Last, whether or not Obama’s health plan will pass Congress intact is irrelevant. The government is going to make medical care more costly, less available, and a greater financial burden on employers and employees. That is a given, and it also translates into higher rates of unemployment.

At best, the “stimulus” has created a lull in the downturn, an eye in the economic hurricane. There is nothing – I repeat, nothing – that the government has done in the past few years to alter the course of a real tragedy. From its expensive wars abroad to its multitrillion-dollar borrowing to the continued criminalization of routine business practices, the government has sent a message to private enterprise that it is the enemy. The rest of us will feel the blunt edge of government policy as we watch the economy implode.

By William Anderson
William Anderson is an associate professor of economics at Frostburg State University. He received a doctorate in economics from Auburn University, and is an adjunct scholar with the Mises Institute and the Mackinac Center. He has written for The Freeman since 1981, and also has had articles in Reason Magazine, Forbes On-line, The Free Market, and a number of refereed journals. He is on the editorial board of The American Journal of Economics and Sociology, the Journal of International Business Disciplines, and the Journal of Economic, Social, and Political Studies.

Glenn Beck: What the Media Refuses to Tell You About Rahm Emanuel

Check this link .....

The Economy is in Deep, Deep Trouble...

Booyah. It's morning in America. The jobless numbers are stabilizing, the stock market is sizzling, quarterly earnings came in better than expected, traders have turned bullish, housing is showing signs of life, and clunker-swaps have given Detroit a well-needed boost of adrenalin. Even Cassandra economists --like Paul Krugman and Nouriel Roubini--have been uncharacteristically optimistic. Is is true; did we avoid a Second Great Depression? Is the worst really behind us?

Maybe. But there is only one way to find out for sure. Raise rates.

Bernanke should welcome the opportunity to show everyone how he's pulled the world's biggest economy back from the brink of disaster. All he needs to do is stop giving away free money, shut down a few of his so-called lending facilities, and stop manipulating interest rates by purchasing mortgage-backed securities (MBS) from Fannie and Freddie. How hard is that? The S&P 500 has skyrocketed 48 percent since March 9. What's Bernanke waiting for; a 75 percent increase; a 100 percent increase??? How high do stocks have to go to convince Bernanke that the economy can stand on its own two feet without the torrent of cheap liquidity issuing from the Fed?

Bernanke can prove to his critics that the US economy doesn't need the Fed's monetization programs and price fixing; that it doesn't need the liquidity injections and the buying up of junk mortgages. ($80 billion last month alone) After all, as Bernanke opines, "The fundamentals of our economy are strong!"

Right. Now prove it.

All Bernanke has to do is boost rates by a point or two and demonstrate that he's willing to mop up some of the $13 trillion he's pumped into the financial markets. With just one announcement, the Fed chair could show our biggest creditor--China--that he's serious about defending the dollar and the trillion dollars of US Treasuries China purchased believing that the US was a responsible trading partner who would never write checks on an account that was overdrawn by $12 trillion. (The National Debt)

So, go ahead, Ben. Raise rates, shut down the printing presses, roll up the corporate welfare programs. Be a He-man. Make your critics eat their words. This is from Bloomberg News 8-12-09:

"The Fed’s policy-setting Open Market Committee will today keep the target rate at zero to 0.25 percent and retain plans to buy as much as $1.45 trillion of housing debt by year-end to help secure a recovery, analysts said. The FOMC’s statement is expected at about 2:15 p.m. in Washington."

Hmmmmmm. So all the "green shoots" happy talk is pure gibberish, right? There is no recovery. Bernanke plans to continue flooding the financial system with cheap liquidity. It's all a fraud. Things aren't better; they're worse.

Look at the facts.

There were 1.9 million foreclosures in 2009 in the first six months, and there will be another 1.5 before the end of the year. Is that better? According to Bloomberg: "A glut of unsold homes is also pushing down prices. The 3.8 million homes for sale in June would take 9.4 months to sell at the current pace of transactions, according to the National Association of Realtors. The inventory turnover rate averaged 4.5 months in the six years from 2000 to 2005.....More than 18.7 million homes, including foreclosures, residences for sale and vacation homes, stood vacant in the U.S. during the second quarter. That compared with 18.6 million a year earlier, the U.S. Census Bureau said July 24

Total home sales fell 23.7 percent in June versus a year earlier." Bloomberg)

Massive supply, falling prices, record foreclosures, flagging demand--and according to Deutsche Bank--48 percent of all mortgages will be underwater by 2011. It's all bad.

Here's another clip from Bloomberg today 8-12-09:

"Home price declines in the U.S. ACCELERATED in the second quarter, dropping by a record 15.6 percent from a year earlier, as foreclosures weighed on values.

The median price of an existing single-family home dropped to $174,100, THE MOST IN RECORDS dating to 1979, the National Association of Realtors said today.

“I don’t think we’re at a bottom yet in home prices,” said Scott Anderson, a senior economist at Wells Fargo & Co. in Minneapolis. “There’s also a pretty big shadow supply of houses. People are kind of waiting for the bottom but there’s a pent up supply out there.”...Home prices are tumbling even as mortgage rates remain near all-time lows. The average U.S. rate for a 30-year fixed home loan was to 5.22 percent last week, down from 5.25 percent the prior week." (Bloomberg)

The decline in housing prices is ACCELERATING, not slowing down. The historic collapse in real estate is ongoing and it is wiping out trillions in homeowner equity making it increasingly difficult for consumers to borrow on the diminishing value of their collateral. This is why foreclosures, defaults and personal bankruptcies are soaring. (According to the American Bankruptcy Institute: consumer bankruptcy filings reached 126,434 in July, a 34.3% increase year over year, and a 8.7% increase sequentially (116,365 in June). July's number is the highest monthly total since the October 2005 bankruptcy reform aka the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act.)

This is why households and consumers can no longer spend as much as they had before the crisis. Credit lines are being pared back; personal savings are rising, and GDP (excluding fiscal stimulus) is shrinking. Every one of the 3.5 million foreclosures represents hundreds of thousands of dollars the banks will never recoup. NEVER. That's why the rate of bank failures will be much greater than current estimates. The banks are facing a triple-whammy; soaring foreclosures, plummeting asset prices, and a meltdown in commercial real estate. The combo has created a gigantic capital-hole which is forcing the banks to slow lending even to applicants with flawless credit. The Fed has built up excess bank reserves by $800 billion, but it hasn't made a bit of difference. They banks are still not able to lend.

The uptick in housing last month reflects seasonal changes and a shifting of pain from the low end of the market to higher priced homes; nothing more. Homes that are priced over $1 million are now sitting on the market for 20 months; a lifetime in real estate parlance. High-end neighborhoods have turned into leper colonies. Zero interest; zero traffic. Expect a crash this year.

Now take a look at this from CNBC's Diana Olick:

"The number of homes listed officially on the market, while still at historically high levels, might be only the tip of the iceberg," said Stan Humphries, chief economist at real estate website in Seattle, Washington. According to Zillow's latest Homeowner Confidence Survey, 12 percent of homeowners said they would be "very likely" to put their home on the market in the next 12 months if they saw signs of a real estate market turnaround, 8 percent said "likely," while 12 percent said "somewhat likely." Survey results could translate into around 20 million homeowners trying to sell their homes, a startling number given that the Census bureau indicates there are 93 million U.S. houses, condos and co-ops, Humphries said.

According to the National Association of Realtors, the market is currently on track to sell 4.89 million homes annually.

"At this pace, it would take about four years to run through this amount of backlogged inventory," he said. "Shadow inventory has the potential to give us another leg down on home prices during the second half of the year," said Steven Wood, chief economist at Insight Economics in Danville, California. (Diana Olick, "Shadow inventory lurks over US housing recovery" CNBC)

The banks are using all types of accounting tricks to hide the real losses or the true value of downgraded assets. The only difference between a common crook and a commercial banker is a well-paid accountant. The banking system is broken and its only going to get worse as the hammer comes down on the commercial real estate market. The Fed and Treasury are already working out the details for another stealth bailout that they'll initiate without Congress's approval. It's all very "hush-hush". The plan will involve more mega-leveraging of government liabilities. Bernanke has appointed himself the de facto Czar of Hedge Fund Nation, Clunkerville USA.

An article in this week's Financial Times further illustrates how the Fed has transformed the economy into a riverboat casino:

"The Federal Reserve Bank of New York is aggressively hiring traders as its seeks to manage its burgeoning securities holdings, making the central bank one of Wall Street's most active recruiters of financial talent.

The New York Fed - the arm of the US central bank that implements its monetary policy - plans to increase the staff in its markets group to 400 by the end of the year - up from 240 at the end of 2007.

The Fed, which says that most of its new recruits come from private sector financial firms, is hiring employees as many banks, rating agencies, hedge funds and private equity groups shed staff. New York city officials recently estimated that the sector's woes would lead to a loss of up to 140,000 jobs.

The Fed's need for more traders is a direct consequence of the central bank's efforts to keep credit flowing through the US economy. The Fed has been buying fixed-income securities at such a rate that its assets have more than doubled to $2,000bn in the past year, leading the central bank to conclude that it needs more people to monitor the markets and to manage its credit risks." (Financial Times, "NY Fed in hiring spree as assets soar", Aline van Duyn)

Nice, eh? So now the Fed needs to enlist a gaggle of professional speculators just to keep all the balls in the air. What a joke. This isn't a rebound; it's just more hype. Here's Warren Buffett summing it up on CNBC:

"I get figures on 70-odd businesses, a lot of them daily. Everything that I see about the economy is that we've had no bounce. The financial system was really where the crisis was last September and October, and that's been surmounted and that's enormously important. But in terms of the economy coming back, it takes a while.... I said the economy would be in a shambles this year and probably well beyond. I'm afraid that's true." "The economy is in a shambles". That's from the horse's mouth. Inventories are down 11 percent year-over-year, durable goods are down 10.4 percent y-o-y, industrial capacity is at record lows, manufacturing is still contracting, housing is in the tank, shipping and rail freight are scraping the bottom, retail is in a long-term funk, and--according to Krugman--the slight dip in unemployment was a statistical anomaly. Here's Bob Herbert's great summary of the unemployment data:

"Some 247,000 jobs were lost in July, a number that under ordinary circumstances would send a shudder through the country. It was the smallest monthly loss of jobs since last summer. And for that reason, it was seen as a hopeful sign. The official monthly unemployment rate ticked down from 9.5 percent to 9.4 percent....The country has lost a crippling 6.7 million jobs since the Great Recession began in December 2007...

The percentage of young American men who are actually working is the lowest it has been in the 61 years of record-keeping, according to the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University in Boston. Only 65 of every 100 men aged 20 through 24 years old were working on any given day in the first six months of this year. In the age group 25 through 34 years old, traditionally a prime age range for getting married and starting a family, just 81 of 100 men were employed.... The numbers are beyond scary; they’re catastrophic.

This should be the biggest story in the United States. When joblessness reaches these kinds of extremes, it doesn’t just damage individual families; it corrodes entire communities, fosters a sense of hopelessness and leads to disorder....

A truer picture of the employment crisis emerges when you combine the number of people who are officially counted as jobless with those who are working part time because they can’t find full-time work and those in the so-called labor market reserve — people who are not actively looking for work (because they have become discouraged, for example) but would take a job if one became available.

The tally from those three categories is a mind-boggling 30 million Americans — 19 percent of the overall work force.

This is, by far, the nation’s biggest problem and should be its No. 1 priority.("A Scary Reality" Bob Herbert, New York Times)

Sorry, Bob, the media has no time for unemployment news. It tends to undermine the positive vibes from green shoots stories.

The stock market rally has made it harder for people to see the truth. But the facts haven't changed. Deflation is setting in across all sectors and the economy has reset at a lower rate of economic activity. Housing prices are falling, consumer spending is slowing, layoffs are rising, and demand is getting weaker. That means growth will be sub-par for the foreseeable future. Here's an excerpt from a speech given by San Francisco Fed Janet Yellen drawing the same conclusion:

"I don’t like taking the wind out of the sails of our economic expansion, but a few cautionary points should be considered... a massive shift in consumer behavior is under way.. American households entered this recession stretched to the limit with mortgage and other debt. The personal saving rate fell from around 8 percent of disposable income two decades ago to almost zero. Households financed their lifestyles by drawing on increasing stock market and housing wealth, and taking on higher levels of debt. But falling house and stock prices have destroyed trillions of dollars in wealth, cutting off those ready sources of cash. What’s more, the stark realities of this recession have scared many households straight, convincing them that they need to save larger fractions of their incomes.... a rediscovery of thrift means fewer sales at the mall, and fewer jobs on assembly lines and store counters....

This very weak economy is, if anything, putting downward pressure on wages and prices. We have already seen a noticeable slowdown in wage growth and reports of wage cuts have become increasingly prevalent—a sign of the sacrifices that some workers are making to keep their employers afloat and preserve their jobs. Businesses are also cutting prices and profit margins to boost sales..... With unemployment already substantial and likely to rise further, the downward pressure on wages and prices should continue and could intensify....

If the economy fails to recover soon, it is conceivable that this very low inflation could turn into outright deflation. Worse still, if deflation were to intensify, we could find ourselves in a devastating spiral in which prices fall at an ever-faster pace and economic activity sinks more and more."

"Falling prices." "Deflation." "Devastating spiral." That's not the kind of honesty that one expects from a Fed chief. Yellen must not be drinking the lemonade.

And don't forget the banking system is still broken. Not a dime from the $700 billion TARP bailout was used to purchase toxic assets. The banks are still drowning in red ink. . Bernanke has known since last September when Lehman Bros. defaulted, that the bad assets would have to be removed before the economy could recover. An underwater banking system is a constant drain on public resources and a drag on growth. Bernanke knows this, but rather than remove the assets by nationalizing the banks or restructuring their debt (as he should have done) he expanded the Fed's balance sheet by $1.2 trillion which provided the liquidity that financial institutions pumped into the stock market. "Bernanke's Rally" has generated the capital the banks needed to keep them from writing-down their debts or filing for Chapter 11, but the problems still persist right below the surface. Just this week, Elizabeth Warren's Congressional Oversight Panel released a damning report which stressed the need to address the issue of toxic assets. According to the COP's report:

"Financial stability remains at risk if the underlying problem of toxic assets remains unresolved....

If the economy worsens, especially if unemployment remains elevated or if the commercial real estate market collapses, then defaults will rise and the troubled assets will continue to deteriorate in value. Banks will incur further losses on their troubled assets. The financial system will remain vulnerable to the crisis conditions that TARP was meant to fix....

Changing accounting standards helped the banks temporarily by allowing them greater leeway in describing their assets, but it did not change the underlying problem. In order to advance a full recovery in the economy, there must be greater transparency, accountability, and clarity, from both the government and banks, about the scope of the troubled asset problem.

The problem of troubled assets is especially serious for the balance sheets of small banks. Small banks‘ troubled assets are generally whole loans, but Treasury‘s main program for removing troubled assets from banks‘ balance sheets, the PPIP will at present address only troubled mortgage securities and not whole loans.

Given the ongoing uncertainty, vigilance is essential. If conditions exceed those in the worst case scenario of the recent stress tests, then stress-testing of the nation‘s largest banks should be repeated to evaluate what would happen if troubled assets suffered additional losses."

To sum up: There will be NO real recovery until the toxic assets problem is resolved. Unfortunately, the Treasury and Fed have shown that they intend to sweep this issue under the rug for as long as possible.

Toxic assets, falling home prices, widespread malaise in the credit markets are just part of the problem. The deeper issue is the dismal condition of the US consumer who has seen his home equity dissipate, his retirement funds sawed in half,his access to credit curtailed, and his job put at risk. Ordinary working class Americans now face what David Rosenberg calls, "the era of consumer frugality---new paradigm of savings, asset liquidation and debt repayment ." Life styles will have to be toned-down and living standards lowered to meet the new deflationary reality. More and more people will be forced to jettison their credit cards and live within their means.

It's not the end of the world, but it does foreshadow a protracted period of negative growth, social unrest and persistent high unemployment. Here's how the Wall Street journal sums it up: "A surprisingly large number of money managers and economists are warning that, despite the hopeful signs, the economy is still deep in the woods, not strong enough to support a long-running stock and bond recovery....Even after the recession ends, economists expect the gradual reduction of the nation's massive consumer debt to take years.

The debt data are striking. According to the Federal Reserve, total household indebtedness peaked at the end of 2007 at 132% of disposable income. That was by far the highest level since at least the end of World War II, nearly quadruple the 36% of 1952. By the end of March, with families boosting savings, repaying debt and defaulting, the ratio had fallen to 124%, a tad lower but still miles from the level of, say, 69% in the middle of 1985. Consumer spending today accounts for two-thirds or more of economic output. But as they boost savings and cut borrowing, consumers can't be the drivers of economic growth that they were at the end of other recent recessions.

Consumer borrowing fell in June for the fifth consecutive month....

"Consumers are under significant financial pressure," Goldman notes in its report. "The weakness in household income -- partly resulting from the sharp slowdown in hourly wage growth -- will make it harder to raise saving without significant constraints on consumption."

As for home building and capital spending, two other possible growth motors, "we do not expect a 'traditional' rebound in these sectors, largely because the overhang of unused capacity in both the housing and business sectors remains enormous," Goldman said." ("Debt Burden to Weigh on Stocks", E.S. Browning and Annelena Lobb, Wall Street Journal)

Stock market euphoria can last a long time, but the laws of gravity still apply. The economy is in deep, deep trouble and Bernanke knows it or he'd be raising rates right now. The patient is haemorrhaging my friends, and no amount of happy talk is going to stop the bleeding.

by Mike Whitney
Mike Whitney is a frequent contributor to Global Research.

Chinese Christmas exporters hit by global recession

International Trade City – a wholesale market in Yiwu, eastern China, selling everything from buttons to golf bags – should be bustling but traders complain of fewer customers, spending too little
阅读中文 | Read this in Chinese.

Tania Branigan and Dan Chung in Yiwu Link to this video

Every day is Christmas Day in Yiwu, and especially in the height of summer, when temperatures soar into the 30s.

In Wang Qiaoling's store, model Father Christmases line the shelves, crowd the floors and scale the walls. Everywhere you turn, you see him: climbing down a chimney, rocking in a chair and rattling along on his sleigh. Sometimes just a few centimetres high, sometimes 1.5m tall, he is skating, parachuting, doing the twist and brandishing a frying pan – simultaneously belting out carols and jingling all the way.

This incongruous Santafest is our doing. Half of Europe's Christmas products are made in or traded through this eastern Chinese city, say officials; even more of America's. To ensure they are shipped to stores in time, western buyers arrive between June and August.

International Trade City – a gargantuan wholesale market selling everything from buttons to golf bags – should be bustling. But walk down the long aisles of Christmas outlets, past the fibre optic trees and boxes of baubles, and you hear a chorus of the same complaints: too few customers, spending too little.

Analysts hope the Chinese economy has turned the corner and predict the country is on course to hit its ambitious 8% growth target. According to the National Bureau of Statistics, annual GDP growth rose from 6.1% in the first quarter to 7.9% in the second – well above predictions. But that is largely thanks to the stimulus package and this week new figures showed a lower than expected rise in output and more bad news on exports.

Until last November, exports had not fallen for seven years. Since then, they have tumbled nine months in a row – even with the aid of tax rebates. In July they slid 23% year-on-year, compared with May's 26% drop and June's 21.4%.

Heady days

"Although we are seeing signs that a pick-up might happen in the US economy, it certainly seems that China is not going to return to the heady days of 20% export growth a year," said Tom Miller of the Beijing-based economic consultancy Dragonomics.

"From 2003 to 2007, exports accounted for about 2.5 percentage points of average 10% growth annually. That has been wiped out and it will have to come from somewhere else."

The global downturn was the last straw for many exporters, already struggling with rising costs – especially higher wages – and the appreciating yuan. And it has hit the Christmas industry particularly hard. Its customers are primarily European and American; its goods are hardly essentials; and – unlike clothes or air conditioners – nativity scenes are just not that easy to sell to Asian neighbours instead.

In Wang's store, a toy Santa croons the song Last Christmas into his gold microphone. His vendor is feeling equally nostalgic; it's the worst year for business since the Yule Sun Christmas Toys Company was founded 10 years ago. Usually it sells goods worth 12m yuan (£1m) annually, but this year it will be closer to 7m yuan. The factory has laid off 40 of its 100 workers.

"Because of the economic crisis, we have taken a big hit," she said. "Many of the items bought by Europeans and Americans last year didn't sell out. So when they came to shop this year they bought comparatively less and they were very cautious. They feared that they couldn't sell all of the goods in this climate."

But manufacturers are fighting back with the same entrepreneurial spirit that made them seize on a foreign holiday such as Christmas in the first place. Last year, about 40% of Wang's buyers were European or American while 60% were Russian. Now it is more like a 10/90 split and she is training her sights on more Russians. Father Christmas has ceded shelf-space to a new range of blonde Snow Maidens in fur-trimmed robes.

At the Yiwu Spaceflight Craftwork Company – despite its name, the firm is a Christmas specialist – boss Huang Yiming tells a similar tale. Last year, the firm sold about $10m worth of Christmas decorations to more than 50 countries, but the bulk of its customers have always been European and North American.

Now South America is its biggest client and it is diversifying a 10,000-strong product line to include Valentine's Day hearts, Easter bunnies and Halloween monster masks.

The firm hopes quality and innovation will see it through the worst; many manufacturers that collapsed were vulnerable because of their low-cost, low-margin model.

"Places like Yiwu need to be transformed anyway. I think they realise it and are changing already," said Li Jian, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation.

"Developing only by increasing the scale of factories or production is not enough, because many other countries with lower costs are coming up. They need to change their products to better quality ones."

Domestic efforts

Others – like Song Fengming, a professor of international trade at Tsinghua University – argue that China's age of export reliance is over, in any case. "Developing new markets overseas will be no easier than developing our domestic market," he said.

But while officials have long stressed the need to increase domestic consumption, progress is slow.

"The government is pumping money in rather than making the structural shift needed," said Dragonomics' Miller. "People simply don't have the kind of spending power needed."

Many firms will struggle to switch to local markets. Some have export-only production licences. Others face tough competition from well-established rivals. Christmas manufacturers in Yiwu have the daunting task of muscling into the crowded Chinese New Year sector – or selling a largely alien festival to their compatriots.

Huang is embracing that challenge with enthusiasm. He spotted a niche for festive goods in China some years ago, and realised he could produce them when the western rush was over and his factory would otherwise lie idle. Now he hopes to persuade more Chinese people to deck their halls this December.

"General sales will decline, and especially foreign trade, by about 20%. But we will do our best to make that up in domestic custom," he pledged.

"Christmas is becoming more common here and young people like it a lot."

Additional research by Cui Zheng and Chen Shi