Thursday, October 8, 2009

Macau's casino boom over, says gambling tycoon

MACAU (MarketWatch) -- Among the casualties of the global credit crisis, add Macau's casino arms race.

Harder times in the global credit markets mean it's now unlikely there will be a repeat of the development-at-light-speed building frenzy in the Chinese gambling capital, according to the 32-year-old co-chairman and chief executive of Melco Crown Entertainment, Lawrence Ho.

"I don't see major resorts opening for the next couple of years now," Ho said.

He said the days of easy credit, which helped fund his own $2.4 billion casino are over, adding that banks won't be so willing to fund the ambitions of the next player any time soon.

The new mood is a huge reality check after the last three years.

"People were blindly chasing market share without any regards for margin." Ho said.

"The good thing that came out of the financial crisis is that, while the market was booming, the competitors looking at this industry were more concerned about ego and market share than creating value for shareholders," he said.

On the other hand, Ho believes the tighter credit situation could pay dividends for those developers who rolled the dice when times were good, as the dearth of new casinos brightens the prospects for a market that has shown worrying sings of overcapacity.

Ho said his casino's return on capital looks set to improve, as competitor's projects remain frozen.

"Liquidity in the banking market is not going to be as free as it was from 2005 to 2008, so with these massive projects, if you don't have the proper balance sheet and financial structures, it's impossible to build," Ho said.

Risky bets

Ho, the Toronto-educated son of 87-year-old Macau gambling kingpin Stanley Ho, spoke with MarketWatch at the City of Dreams, a casino and hotel complex kitted out with the latest multimedia technology.

City of Dreams was the brainchild of Ho and his Australian joint-venture partner James Packer. It is operated under Ho's U.S.-listed Melco Crown unit /quotes/comstock/15*!mpel/quotes/nls/mpel (MPEL 6.82, -0.21, -2.99%) , with both Ho and Packer sharing the title of co-chairman.

The casino is located on Macau's Cotai Strip, China's answer to the Las Vegas Strip, built on land linking outlying islands and connected by bridge to the main Macau peninsula.

Cotai is located well off the traditional center of Macau's casino industry, and partly because of this, many analysts saw the City of Dreams as a risky bet when it opened in June. See story on the opening of City of Dreams.

But given the recovery in the enclave's gambling industry, Ho and his peers seem to be doing better than many expected just months ago.

Revenues in the former Portuguese colony contracted during the first half of the year, falling 12%, but in July, the territory's six casinos concessionaries reported year-on-year gains in revenue, and in August, they were the highest on record. September's revenue was up more than 50% from a year earlier.

Ho doesn't expect a double-dip in the Macau casino industry, even if China eases back on its pro-growth fiscal and monetary policies.

By Chris Oliver, MarketWatch

Max Keiser - China and Russia don't want to 'finance American military

Check this link ........

Jim Rogers-Abolish the Federal Reserve - Buy Silver

Check this link ......

Robert Fisk: A financial revolution with profound political implications

Such large financial movements will have major political effects in the Middle East

The plan to de-dollarise the oil market, discussed both in public and in secret for at least two years and widely denied yesterday by the usual suspects – Saudi Arabia being, as expected, the first among them – reflects a growing resentment in the Middle East, Europe and in China at America's decades-long political as well as economic world dominance.

Nowhere has this more symbolic importance than in the Middle East, where the United Arab Emirates alone holds $900bn (£566bn) of dollar reserves and where Saudi Arabia has been quietly co-ordinating its defence, armaments and oil policies with the Russians since 2007.

This does not indicate a trade war with America – not yet – but Arab Gulf regimes have been growing increasingly restive at their economic as well as political dependence on Washington for many years. Of the $7.2 trillion in international reserves, $2.1trn is held by Arab countries – China holds about $2.3trn – and the nations interested in moving away from dollar-trading in oil are believed to hold over 80 per cent of international dollar reserves.

Saudi Arabia's denials of any such ambitions were regarded by Arab bankers as a normal part of Gulf politics. The Saudis, of course, managed to deny that Iraq had invaded Kuwait in 1990 – even when Saddam Hussein's legions stood along the Saudi frontier, until the US broadcast the news of Iraq's aggression to the world.

Saudi bankers are well aware that in nine years' time – the current timeframe for a transition away from the dollar in oil trading to Japanese and Chinese currencies, the euro, gold and a possible new Gulf currency – China will have doubled its national income to $10trn (assuming a growth rate of 7 per cent), at which point the US might hold no more than 20 per cent of the world's gross income.

Such massive financial movements, encouraged by the de-dollarisation of oil, will have enormous political effects in the Middle East, especially if economic superpower rivalry between America and China comes to dominate the Arab world. Will American economic support for Israel remain as loyal in nine years' time if China and the Arabs are setting the pace in global financial markets? Indeed – perhaps with this in mind – some Israeli financiers have been expressing interest over the past two years in non-dollar Arab bank investments. Whenever a change of this magnitude takes place over a number of years, it has to be commenced in secrecy.

Nor can it be denied that the very project to take oil trading away from the dollar market has deep political roots. The collapse of the Soviet Union has allowed the US to dominate the Middle East more than any other world region, and the Arabs – who can no longer contemplate an oil boycott of the kind they imposed on the West after the 1973 Middle East war – are still anxious to prove that they can flex their economic power to bring about change.

Saudi Arabia's pan-Arab offer to recognise Israel and its security in return for an Israeli withdrawal from occupied Arab land is not – according to the Saudis themselves – indefinite. If they are ignored or rebuffed, then they can search for other allies through new financial institutions to force a new Middle East peace. China will be happy to help.

Airline asks passengers to pee before boarding | Travel News |

The airline believes that empty bladders will equal lighter passengers, which will mean lighter aircraft and therefore a reduction in fuel use, Japan’s NHK television reports.

All Nippon Airways began the strange policy on October 1 as an experiment, which will last one month.

However, it may expand the trial if it’s successful and well-received by passengers.

It hopes to achieve a five-tonne reduction in carbon emissions over the month.

This is really nonsense. The most this could possibly result in is less than a couple hundred pounds or so of weight, not enough to make much of an impact on the efficiency of an airliner.

If it were simply for the sake of efficiency and cost savings, then whatever…. however, notice that “carbon emissions” crap in this article. Is anyone else getting absolutely sick of all this carbon emission nonsense? These snot-nosed idiots who come up with the numbers of our individual and collective carbon emissions have us emitting carbon that weighs as much as the entire earth itself! Don’t believe me? Check it out yourself sometime. Carbon Dioxide is not a pollutant. It is a necessary, vital ingredient to our atmosphere, and without it, there would be no plant life on the planet.

On another note, why isn’t there more discussion of charging airline passengers by the pound? Then all this talk of limiting checked baggage, etc., simply goes away. Also the issue of a hugely obese person paying the same for essentially two seats as a skinny waif or young person. It isn’t right. The costs are actually determined by weight, why not the price of a ticket?


Check this link ...

Gold Extends Record: $1,043.30

Gold prices extended their record gains as speculative and investment buying continued for a second day, drawn to the metal mostly due to weakness in the dollar.

Nearby but lightly traded October gold settled $4.70 higher, or 0.5%, to a closing record of $1,043.30 a troy ounce on the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange. It hit a spot-month record of $1,048.20.

Most-active December gold rose $4.70 to $1,044.40 and hit an intraday high of $1,049.70.


Gold is melted at a workshop in Beirut on Wednesday. The yellow metal is up 18% so far this year.


The rise appeared to be momentum-based, analysts said.

"The dollar is a little bit stronger," said Craig Ross, vice president of "But you are seeing gold and silver hold their gains and a little bit up."

But while slightly higher Wednesday, the dollar still has an overall weak tone. The euro isn't far from the late-September highs against the greenback that were the European currency's strongest levels in a year. Investors often turn to gold as a hedge against dollar weakness.

The foreign-exchange market seems to be the main focus for gold, especially because the Treasury market has risen in recent months, meaning bond traders aren't factoring in foreseeable inflation for the U.S., said Frank Lesh, broker and futures analyst with FuturePath Trading.

"I think the gold trade is really about gold being an international currency," Mr. Lesh said. "And I think it's a big inverse trade against the dollar."

Two events that pressured the dollar Tuesday and sent gold soaring were an Australian interest-rate increase and a report in a U.K. newspaper, denied by several countries, suggesting that Persian Gulf states, China and some other nations were considering an alternative to the dollar for pricing oil.

[Gold Futures]

"The more concern there is about the U.S. dollar, the more likely we are to see gold moving higher, not so much as an inflation play but a safe-haven play," said Dan Cook, senior market analyst with IG Markets.

Still, others said buying as an inflation hedge is offering at least some support for gold. Mr. Ross pointed out that even if U.S. inflation doesn't kick in for the foreseeable future, economic improvement in emerging-market nations could mean inflation there.

In other commodity markets:

CRUDE OIL: Prices fell as the latest weekly energy data from the U.S. failed to showcase any rebound in oil demand. Consumption usually sags in September, but for the four weeks ended Oct. 2, demand for core oil products was at its lowest since the government started recording the category in April 2004. Light, sweet crude oil for November delivery settled $1.31 lower, or 1.9%, at $69.57 a barrel on the Nymex.

NATURAL GAS: Prices finished slightly higher as traders weighed forecasts of colder weather in the major gas-consuming regions against profit-taking ahead of U.S. inventory data expected to show a record amount of gas in storage. Nymex November gas settled up 2.4 cents, or 0.5%, at $4.904 a million British thermal units.

Fed Frets About Commercial Real Estate

Banks in the U.S. "are slow" to take losses on their commercial real-estate loans being battered by slumping property values and rental payments, according to a Federal Reserve presentation to banking regulators last month.

The remarks suggest that banking regulators are girding for a rerun of the housing-related losses now slamming thousands of banks that failed to set aside enough capital during the boom to cushion themselves when the bubble burst. "Banks will be slow to recognize the severity of the loss -- just as they were in residential," according to the Fed presentation, which was reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.

A Fed official confirmed the authenticity of the document, prepared by an Atlanta Fed real-estate expert who is part of the central bank's Rapid Response program to spread information about emerging problem areas to federal and state banking examiners throughout the U.S.

While the Sept. 29 presentation by K.C. Conway doesn't represent the central bank's formal opinion, worries about the banking industry's commercial real-estate exposure have been building inside the Fed for months. "More pain likely lies ahead for this sector and for those banks with heavy commercial real estate exposures," New York Fed President Bill Dudley said in a speech Monday.

[federal reserve and commercial real estate]

In another sign that many U.S. financial institutions are inadequately protected against potential losses on commercial real-estate loans, banks with heavy exposure to such loans set aside just 38 cents in reserves during the second quarter for every $1 in bad loans, according to an analysis of regulatory filings by The Wall Street Journal. That is a sharp decline from $1.58 in reserves for every $1 in bad loans from the beginning of 2007.

The Journal's analysis includes more than 800 banks that reported having more half of their loans tied up in commercial real-estate, ranging from apartments to office buildings to warehouses.

Loan-loss reserves typically rise and fall during any credit cycle, being drawn down as losses mount. Some analysts and investors say the recession combined with inadequate loan-loss provisions when times were good have left banks dangerously vulnerable to the deteriorating commercial real-estate market.

Mr. Conway's presentation painted a bleak picture of the sliding real-estate values and enormous debt that will need to be refinanced in the next few years. Vacancy rates in the apartment, retail and warehouse sectors already have exceeded those seen during the real-estate collapse of the early 1990s, Mr. Conway noted. His report also predicted that commercial real-estate losses would reach roughly 45% next year. Valuing real estate has always been tricky for banks, and the problem is particularly acute now because sales activity is practically nonexistent.

Some of the banks with especially low levels of loan-loss reserves are teetering. Capmark Bank, based in Midvale, Utah, and owned by commercial real-estate finance firm Capmark Financial Group Inc., had 11 cents in reserves for every $1 in bad loans it reported in the quarter ended June 30, the Journal analysis shows.

A Capmark spokeswoman said in a statement that the amount of loans written off by the bank, totaling $357 million as of June 30, "should be taken into account when evaluating possible future losses."

Capmark's parent company, owned by investors led by private-equity firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co., warned last month that a bankruptcy filing could be imminent and said regulators intend to order Capmark Bank to raise capital and improve its liquidity. Capmark Bank got a $600 million capital infusion from its parent company in late September.

These days, many U.S. banks have adopted a policy of extending loans when they come due even if they wouldn't make those loans now. In some cases, values of the underlying property have fallen below the amount of the loan.

"There's been an extend-and-pretend philosophy by banks to forestall hits to their balance sheets that might occur," says Patrick Phillips, new chief executive of the Urban Land Institute, a real-estate industry group.

Matthew Anderson, a partner at research firm Foresight Analytics, adds: "It's like taping paper over a hole in the wall."

Last month's Fed presentation supports criticisms that banks have been slow to take losses on bad commercial real-estate loans. The value of commercial real-estate loans as recorded by banks has declined at a much slower rate than property values since 2005. But banks have been slow to absorb losses on their loans partly due to "capital preservation" concerns, the report states.

Bank examiners are stepping up their scrutiny of commercial real-estate portfolios at U.S. banks. Michael Stevens, senior vice president of regulatory affairs at the Conference of State Bank Supervisors, said regulators are reviewing greater volumes of commercial real-estate loans than they did before the financial crisis erupted.

Commercial real-estate loans are the second-largest loan type after home mortgages. More than half of the $3.4 trillion in outstanding commercial real-estate debt is held by banks.

The Fed presentation states that the most "toxic" loans on bank books are so-called interest-only loans, which require borrowers to repay interest but no principal. Those loans "get no benefit from amortization," the report states.

"Today, most of the borrowers are paying because interest rates are so low, but the question is whether the loans will get paid off when they come due," said Michael Straneva, global head of Ernst & Young's transaction real-estate practice.

Regulators are zeroing in on banks that use interest reserves to mask bad construction loans. When such loans are made, banks typically calculate interest that would be paid and set that money aside, basically paying themselves until the loan becomes due or the property generates cash flow.

Regulators want to make sure banks don't have a false sense of security only because the interest reserve is paying the loan. Banks need to look at "the sources of repayment" to determine whether the loan will get repaid, says Darryle Rude, supervisor of industrial banks at the Utah Department of Financial Institutions.

According to Foresight Analytics, more than 40 U.S. banks have been hit so far this year with enforcement actions by regulators that include alleged misuse of interest reserves.

Some banks with unusually low levels of loan-loss reserves based on the Journal analysis said those figures reflect their decision to aggressively write off hopeless loans. "We've tried to both build up our charge-offs and reserves," says David Shearrow, chief risk officer of United Community Banks Inc. About 80% of the Blairsville, Ga., bank's problem loans have been charged down to a level where the bank thinks it can sell them.

A Hidden $34 Billion Bank Subsidy? Study Exposes How Taxpayers Are Subsidizing Bank of America, Citigroup, Wells Fargo and Other Large Banks

One of the key terms to come out of the nation’s economic meltdown has been “too big to fail.” The government has funneled billions of dollars to large financial firms by arguing that their collapse would deal an irreparable blow to economic recovery. A new study has calculated the tab of the “too big to fail” approach, and it amounts to a far larger taxpayer-funded subsidy than previously thought. The Center for Economic and Policy Research says the bailout has allowed “too big to fail” banks to pay significantly lower interest rates than those paid by smaller banks. According to one estimate, that’s meant a subsidy for the nation’s eighteen largest bank holding companies of $34.1 billion a year. That amount represents nearly half these companies’ combined annual profits. We speak to the study’s author, Dean Baker. [includes rush transcript]

Restoring a Viable System of Bank Credit

Fed chief Ben Bernanke is in a bit of a bind. He's being asked to restore a system for credit expansion which collapsed more than two years ago and has shown no sign of life ever since. During the boom years, securitization accounted for more than 40 percent of the credit flowing into the economy. No more. When two Bear Stearns hedge funds defaulted in July 2007, the system crashed as investors of all stripes backed away from complex, illiquid assets. The Fed's TALF lending facility--which provides up to 94% government funding for investors who are willing to purchase bundled debt for credit cards, mortgages, auto loans and student loans--was intended to breathe new life into securitization, but has fallen woefully short of its original objectives. It pretty much fizzled on the launching pad. Even the shrewdest hedge fund sharpie couldn't figure out how to make money on (what amounts to) fetid assets.

Ironically, the Fed's original plan for the TALF would have involved a $20 billion loan from the Treasury levered 10 to 1 to provide up to $200 billion in funding support for applicants. In other words, the Fed was planning to borrow money, to lend to people (Investment banks and hedge funds) who were borrowing money to lend to people who were borrowing money. (consumer credit cards, mortgages, car loans etc) Read that sentence again to fully appreciate how utterly fouled up the credit system really is. The Fed and Treasury are like private equity hucksters overseeing an inherently corrupt and immoral system. Michael Moore is right.

Fortunately, Bernanke's plan to rebuild securitization has no chance of succeeding. The system can't be restored because it required conditions which no longer exist; a strong currency, mega-surplus capital, and credulous investors who were unaware of the implicit risks of illiquid assets. Today, the dollar is wobbly, money is tight, and the pool of dupes ready to be fleeced has been greatly reduced. The notion that Wall Street can better perform the tasks traditionally left to highly-regulated banks, has also been called into question....and rightly so. Unfortunately, the largest banks in the country--which have transformed themselves into investment casinos--don't have the ability to return to the more conservative model of long-term lending to qualified applicants. They are stuck in a post-Glass Steagall mold, incapable of turning a profit on conventional loans to consumers and businesses. There's a glaring need for some opportunistic entrepreneur (Warren Buffet?) to step into the breach and create a bank where depositors feel comfortable leaving their life savings knowing their bank is at least a notch-or-two above a Monte Carlo roulette table.

Bernanke will not give up the hope of resuscitating securitization because the financial mandarins who employ the Fed chief see it as an exportable model which will give them greater control over the global financial system. This is not taken lightly by the powers behind the curtain. The beauty of securitization is its utter simplicity; it simply transfers the authority to generate credit (money) from highly-regulated banks to rogue players in the shadow banking system. By borrowing short to invest in dodgy long-term assets, fund managers and PE smarties are able to expand credit to unimaginable levels, skimming off fat bonuses and salaries for themselves while the monster bubble limps slowly towards earth.

This is the system that Bernanke is trying to electroshock back into consciousness, albeit with negligible results. The Fed is essentially pumping blood into a corpse hoping for some fleeting sign of life. But dead is dead. Capitalism requires capital. This is the disturbing truth behind securitization--which was not developed to allocate resources to productive activity more efficiently--but to allow credit expansion on smaller and smaller chunks of capital, further enriching a handful of well-connected speculators. This is the sole function of off-balance sheets operations and unregulated derivatives--to conceal the abysmal lack of capital that supports the debt. When trillions of dollars in complex debt-instruments, derivatives contracts, and loans to unqualified applicants are stacked atop a tiny scrap of capital, disaster is inevitable.

Bernanke is now busy sifting through the rubble trying to reassemble Wall Street's Golden Goose for one-last wild credit fling, but with no luck. So far, he's come up snake-eyes, which is probably best for everyone.

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

Wall Street Titans Use Aliases to Foreclose on Families While Partnering With a Federal Agency

A federal agency tasked with expanding the American dream of home ownership and affordable housing free from discrimination to people of modest means has been quietly moving a chunk of that role to Wall Street since 2002. In a stealth partial privatization, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) farmed out its mandate of working with single family homeowners in trouble on their mortgages to the industry most responsible for separating people from their savings and creating an unprecedented wealth gap that renders millions unable to pay those mortgages. This industry also ranks as one of the most storied industries in terms of race discrimination. Rounding out its dubious housing credentials, Wall Street is now on life support courtesy of the public purse known as TARP as a result of issuing trillions of dollars in miss-rated housing bonds and housing-related derivatives, many of which were nothing more than algorithmic concepts wrapped in a high priced legal opinion. It’s difficult to imagine a more problematic resume for the new housing czars.

To what degree this surreptitious program has contributed to putting children and families out on the street during one of the worst economic slumps since the ’30s should be on a Congressional short list for investigation. HUD’s demand for confidentiality from all bidders and announcement of winning bids to parties known only as “the winning bidder” deserves its own investigation in terms of obfuscating the public’s right to know and the ability of the press to properly fulfill its function in a free society.

Despite three days of emails and phone calls to HUD officials, they have refused to provide the names of the winning bidders or the firms that teamed as co-bidders with the winning party. Obtaining this information independently has been akin to extracting a painful splinter wearing a blindfold and oven mitts.

That a taxpayer-supported Federal agency conducts a competitive bid program of over $2 billion and then refuses to announce the names of the winning bidders is beyond contempt for the American people. If the Obama administration does not quickly purge this Bush mindset from these Federal agencies, he is inviting a massive backlash in the midterm elections.

The HUD program was benignly called Accelerated Claims Disposition (ACD) and was said to be a pilot program. A pilot program might suggest to those uninformed in the ways of the new Wall Street occupation of America a modest spending outlay; a go slow approach. In this case, from 2002 to 2005, HUD transferred in excess of $2.4 billion of defaulted mortgages insured by its sibling, the FHA, into the hands of Citigroup, Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns while providing the firms with wide latitude to foreclose, restructure or sell off in bundles to investors. HUD retained a minority interest of 30 to 40 percent in each joint venture. Citigroup was awarded the 2002 and 2004 joint ventures; Lehman Brothers the 2003; Bear Stearns the 2005. I obtained this information by reconciling the aliases used by these firms in foreclosures of HUD properties to the addresses of the corporate parents. I further confirmed the information by checking the official records at multiple Secretaries of State offices where the firms must register their subsidiaries to do business within the state.

What the program effectively did was allow the biggest retail banks in the country to get accelerated payment on their defaulted, FHA-insured, single family mortgage loans while allowing another set of the biggest investment banks to make huge profits in fees for bundling and selling off the loans as securitizations. Once the loans were securitized (sold off to investors) they were no longer the problem of HUD or the Wall Street bankers. The loans conveniently disappeared from the radar screen and the balance sheet. The family’s fate had been sold off by HUD to Wall Street in exchange for a small piece of the action. Wall Street then sold off the family’s fate to thousands of investors around the world for a large piece of the action.

HUD has attempted to spin this program as a win-win for everyone with the suggestion that families would have more options under this program. In a HUD February 17, 2006 report titled “Evaluation of 601 Accelerated Claims Disposition Demonstration,” a few kernels of truth emerged. It was noted on page 4 that the private partners “determine how best to maximize the return on the loan…Loans liquidated through note sales generally earn a higher return than property sales, so the JV [joint venture] has an incentive to maximize the share of note sales relative to property sales.” Rather than evaluating the success of the program on how many families were able to get a loan modification and remain in their homes, the report notes that “The benchmark for progress is the share of loans that have reached resolution.”

From its 2002 joint venture, Citigroup dumped en masse 2,599 loans in one securitization alone in August 2004. It sold another 1,177 at other unknown times. From its 2004 joint venture, it dumped 1,814 in one fell swoop. The 2006 HUD report notes that following securitization “there is no information available on the [home] retention after the sale.”

According to HUD’s web site, another major award of $400 million to $800 million in defaulted mortgages was slated for October 23 of last year in the midst of a foreclosure and eviction crisis. Lemar Wooley, in HUD’s Office of Public Affairs, advises that the deal never happened as a result of “no acceptable bids being received.” Given that we have been promised change we can believe in, I would have much preferred to hear: “We’ve sacked this program as an abhorrent example of privatizing profits and socializing losses while turning our backs on the neediest of our society.”

While this was clearly not a win-win for families in financial distress, two other red flags come to mind. The 2006 HUD report notes that to be eligible for this program, loans had to be four full payments past due (five full payments past due for the 2005 Bear Stearns deal). But to securitize the loans, the Wall Street firms had to bring the loans into performing status, that is, up to date in their payments. The question arises as to whether the investors in the securitizations were advised that these were heretofore defaulted HUD loans. One might be forgiven for pondering that as a material fact required in a prospectus since there is much data available showing that loans once in default tend to redefault. Some of these investors might unknowingly be you and your family members. The loans could be sitting right now in public employee pension funds, mutual funds held in 401(k)s, etc.

The second concern is that many of the homes in the deals were foreclosed on in 2006, 2007 and 2008. By HUD not keeping these loans and insisting on its legal mandate for lenders to attempt loan modifications, special forbearance or partial claims to bring the loans current, what impact did this program have on the foreclosure glut and overall property value declines.
It is worth noting what happened to the firms that HUD deemed qualified for this program: Lehman Brothers collapsed on September 15, 2008. Bear Stearns required a weekend rescue by JPMorgan Chase and the Fed on March 16/17, 2008. Citigroup, which got the lions share of the HUD deals, exists today only because of a $45 billion direct infusion from unwilling taxpayers (overruled by their Congress) and hundreds of billions of dollars more in various other government backstop operations – some still undisclosed despite Freedom of Information Act requests and litigation.
Future articles in this series will look at how these deals started under the Clinton administration with awards to Goldman Sachs, GE Capital, Blackrock and others, with the dubious protection of Merrill Lynch as the overseer for HUD. This program also went virtually unnoticed until charges of rigged computers and bid rigging erupted in headlines. We will also look at the human suffering resulting from this macabre rewriting of the social contract in America. The series begins today with the most unlikely candidate of all for helping people in need: Citigroup.

* * *

In the early evening of June 26, 2009 I was cleaning up emails I had saved for more careful reading at a later date when I bolted in my chair. A message from a reader whom I have permission to call Melissa X advised that she had documentation that Citigroup was engaging in dubious real estate transactions out west under an alias. I immediately answered with a request for specifics and received the following response:

“…a friend asked me to pull the real property records on a house a few doors down from him that he had heard sold at a very low price in a foreclosure sale. After pulling the property records I just couldn't believe the price this particular house sold for in the ‘foreclosure sale’ and started looking into the foreclosure purchaser, Liquidation Properties, Inc. (LPI). I have been a litigation paralegal for 14 years, thus I have a good amount of investigation experience and also in real estate law as we have a considerable practice in real estate litigation. Needless to say, my instinct told me something wasn't right about this and I Googled the Directors of LPI, who happened to be high level executives at Citigroup Global Markets. At first I thought that LPI wasn't a subsidiary of Citigroup because when I was reviewing court records they have filings that say they are a privately owned company with no connection to a publicly traded company. So, initially, I thought these high level Citigroup execs had formed this company that was purchasing these Citi foreclosures super cheap…one of the Directors of LPI is Jeffrey Perlowitz, who according to his online bio ran the trading desk at [Citigroup’s] Smith Barney during the housing ‘boom’ and is credited for ‘purchase, sales and trading of single family residential mortgages and asset backed securities…’ Then I ran LPI through Edgar [an SEC search engine] to see if I could find anything in SEC filings about this entity and that is how I ended up discovering LPI is actually a Citi subsidiary. I know from reading your articles that you are well aware of how shady Citi is with their subsidiaries. I particularly liked an article you wrote about the oil markets and how we can't expect the sleuths at Congress to figure out why the prices went out of control, and then you linked it to a little talked about Citi subsidiary.”

It took but a few minutes to confirm that Liquidation Properties, Inc. was indeed a subsidiary of Citigroup. Exhibit 21.01 of Citigroup’s December 31, 2008 SEC filing lists Liquidation Properties Holding Company Inc. and Liquidation Properties Inc. as subsidiaries chartered in Delaware. (But how many people are going to notice that when Citigroup has over 2,000 subsidiaries.) A quick click at the Secretary of State web site for Massachusetts, one of the many states in which Liquidation Partners, Inc. conducts business, revealed the following officers as of March 14, 2007: Randall Costa, President; Scott Freidenrich, Treasurer; Robyn Gomez, Secretary; Jeffrey Perlowitz, Director; Mark Tsesarsky, Director. But just as Melissa X had noticed, there was nothing on this filing to connect this firm with Citigroup or any publicly traded company. In fact, the form indicated that there were only 200 shares of common stock outstanding. Citigroup, on the other hand, has an unprecedented and unfathomable 22.9 billion (yes, billion) common shares outstanding, now withering in value alongside the faded dreams of financial security for its shareholders and customers.
I reviewed two other documents Melissa X had sent along: two foreclosure filings by Liquidation Properties, Inc. in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio stating that it was not a “party, a parent, a subsidiary or other affiliate of a publicly owned corporation.”

One other item stood out in this filing: the address of this firm was listed as 388 Greenwich Street in the trendy neighborhood of Tribeca, New York City. That is where the raucous trading of exotic derivatives, commodities and mortgage securities has traditionally been handled. The legacy of the swashbuckling culture of the notorious Salomon Brothers, a predecessor firm whose traders rigged the two-year note auction of U.S. Treasurys in 1991, remains alive in these trading rooms. Indeed, Jeffrey Perlowitz was a Salomon protégé. The seminal book on the Salomon culture, Michael Lewis’ “Liar’s Poker,” assigns mortgage traders a philosophy of “ready, fire, aim.”
In other words, this is the address of the investment bank of Citigroup with whom these individuals are involved, not the calm bean counters at the retail bank, Citibank. The investment bank specializes in mergers and acquisitions, lending and trading, with a sophisticated customer base of corporations, governments and institutions. An investment bank is an unfit place for conducting or even overseeing the hand holding and financial counseling of frightened families who need urgent and sincere help to avoid loosing the roof over their heads.

Call it divine intervention or call it happenstance, but Melissa X had chosen to electronically communicate with a stranger on the other side of the country who just happened to have an indelibly forged mental picture of 388 Greenwich Street in Tribeca.

At 1 pm on May 20, 1997 an eclectic group of protesters filled the sidewalk in front of 388 Greenwich Street. I was one of them. My group, which included Gloria Steinem, came to name the firm (then known as Smith Barney) a Merchant of Shame for its privatized justice system which barred employees, as a condition of employment, from suing the firm in a public court setting. Tribeca residents spontaneously joined us as they walked by to raise hell about the company’s bizarre selection of signage.

Cemented into the middle of the sidewalk in front of the firm was a 16 foot, 5300 pound, red steel umbrella representing the company’s logo at the time and, I imagined, the physical equivalent of Sandy Weill’s ego, then CEO of the firm. A Business Week article once quoted a former employee saying Weill would steal pennies off a dead man’s eyes. Mr. Weill’s pennies, plucked from the dying firm’s eyes, eventually added up to $1 billion and he retired not long before the tens of billions of losses squirreled away in Structured Investment Vehicles (SIVs) in the Cayman Islands came home to roost.

In what I now recognize as the electronic manifestation of the whoring of Wall Street, a four-story red neon lighted umbrella was mounted near the top of this 39-floor building. Both the sidewalk and building umbrellas were later removed but I did note in a recent visit to Manhattan that giant and bizarre electronic signs flash messages to pedestrians from the formerly sedate wealth management offices of major Wall Street firms in midtown.

Having verified Melissa X’s information that Liquidation Properties, Inc. was indeed a subsidiary of Citigroup with officers employed by the firm, endowed with the uncanny knack of capturing an inordinate amount of winning bids at foreclosure auctions in depressed neighborhoods, I sat about unraveling the multitude of Byzantine transactions in which it was involved.

The trail led to four more entities: Reo Management 2002, Reo Management 2004, SFJV-2002, and SFJV-2004. (Reo is an acronym for real estate owned by a bank, typically after an unsuccessful foreclosure auction.) SFJV, I would later learn, was the name of the HUD joint ventures, an acronym for Single Family Joint Venture. SFJV-2002 and SFJV-2004 were, indeed, subsidiaries of Citigroup and being used to facilitate the transfer of foreclosed homes around the country.

The Reo Management firms were listed as subsidiaries of Residential Capital Corp. (ResCap) on its July 15, 2005 filing with the SEC but filings with the Secretary of State in Massachusetts showed the same Citigroup officials at 388 and 390 Greenwich Street in Tribeca as officers and directors: Costa, Freidenrich, Perlowitz, Tsesarsky. Filings with other Secretaries of State showed these same four individuals along with numerous other officials at Citigroup. Reo Management 2002 showed 200 shares of stock issued to unnamed parties while Reo Management 2004 said stock details were not available online.

Why on earth would Citigroup managers be officers of a competitor? I called people in the know on Wall Street. No one had ever heard about it or could offer an explanation. I called Jeffrey Perlowitz’ secretary and sent her an email requesting an explanation from Mr. Perlowitz. Mr. Perlowitz took the same position as HUD: silence.

ResCap's operations include GMAC Mortgage and GMAC-RFC. Until 2006, GMAC was a wholly owned subsidiary of General Motors, a company that had been around since 1919 to provide car financing to GM dealers and customers. In 2006, a majority stake was sold to Cerberus Capital Management, a private equity/hedge fund whose investors are a tightly held secret. The firm is now known as GMAC Financial Services. In 2008 the Federal Reserve waived its magic wand and GMAC became a bank holding company (now called Ally Bank) and TARP gave $5 billion of taxpayer funds to the entity. Another $7.5 billion was provided in 2009. As of June 30th of this year, you and I involuntarily own 35.4 per cent of the firm with Cerberus and its secret investors owning 22 percent.

Since all of us hold the largest block of stock, I felt I might get some answers. I emailed GMAC and asked what all of this was about. A spokeswoman responded that “the loans which we acquired from the [HUD] auction happened to be those in which we co-bid with Citi. The Reo Management 2002 and 2004 entities were set up as subs of those joint ventures to hold the resulting Reo properties until they were resolved.” I countered with: “Why were officials of Citigroup serving as principals and directors of subsidiaries of ResCap?” The spokesperson replied that both Reo Management 2002 and Reo Management 2004 had been dissolved and she had no further information.

After scrutinizing every scrap of paper available through HUD on these deals for endless weeks, I was, as a taxpayer, more than a little nonplussed that I had seen nary a word about co-bidders. Citigroup operating under an alias in consumer real estate transactions was scary enough, but allowed to team up with another giant player also operating under an alias, all under the imprimatur of a Federal agency, that was beyond rational comprehension.

It’s not like the Federal government didn’t know Citigroup was a serial rogue. Our tax dollars have been used since this Frankenbank was created to investigate serious crimes, while letting the company off with a fine so it could live on to create even bigger problems the next time around. In 2001, Citigroup settled with the Federal Trade Commission for $215 million for predatory lending at one of its divisions. In 2003, Citigroup paid $400 million to U.S. regulators for fraudulent research reports and improper handling of new stock offerings. In 2004, Citigroup paid $2.65 billion to WorldCom stock and bond holders over its role in the demise of the firm. Also in 2004 its private bank was kicked out of Japan for money laundering. In 2005 Citigroup was fined $26 million by Europe’s Financial Services Authority for conducting a trade it internally named “Dr. Evil” that roiled the European bond market. In that same year, it settled with the SEC for $101 million for helping Enron inflate cash flows and under report debt. Also in 2005, it settled a private litigation over its role in the bankruptcy of Enron for $2 billion.

HUD’s own Regional Inspector General wrote in a 45-page report issued on November 13, 2008 that CitiMortgage, a unit of Citigroup, placed the FHA insurance fund at an increased risk of loss on one-third of the loans HUD audited at CitiMortgage as result of improper underwriting practices.
Melissa X took her concerns not just to me but to the U.S. Attorney’s office. In one passage of an email to this U.S. Attorney she wrote: “It is such a disappointment to me that our Government has failed us so, and only continues to do so…One must wonder how much the American people will take of this before a total revolution occurs…”

While I was researching this story, a friend forwarded a video clip of Laura Flanders of Grit-TV interviewing the filmmakers of “American Casino,” Andrew and Leslie Cockburn. (Yes, they’re all – Laura included - part of that intrepid Cockburn clan whose spirit resides here at CounterPunch in the form of Alexander Cockburn.) Carefully observe the face of Flanders, the Cockburns and the victims in the film clips. They all muster a brave front but I sense an ever present emotion to hang one’s head and weep for the nation. At one point Flanders asks: “So you think it was all really a scam to transfer money from the vulnerable and the poor to the wealthy? There was no positive interest in home ownership distribution involved?” The answers from the Cockburns go to the heart of this crisis. Both this clip and the movie “American Casino,” playing now in theatres across the U.S., provide a critical foundation for understanding that while our government and mighty military chased down men in caves in Afghanistan, the ivy league educated enemy within sacked our nation. The film premiered in the U.S. in April, ironically, in Tribeca, just moments away from the real, live American Casino, Citigroup. Watch the interview and clips from the film here:


Detroit Cheap Foreclosure Homes for Sale Search Results

Check for cheap house .....

Stanford U. Bans Skeptical Climate Film from Airing Interview

Stanford University has banned a skeptical documentary film from airing a climate change interview with one of its prominent warming activist professors, Stephen Schneider. After legal threats from Stanford University — apparently on behalf of Prof. Schneider — the documentary filmmakers were forced to use a blank screen and an actor had to read the transcript of Schneider’s already taped but legally banned climate interview. The skeptical global warming documentary “Not Evil Just Wrong”, set for its international premier on October 18, 2009, interviewed Schneider about his flip-flop from a coming ice age proponent in the 1970s to his current advocacy of man-made global warming fears. Schneider is a professor of biological sciences at Stanford University. (email:

Irish filmmaker Phelim McAleer told Climate Depot: “Lawyers for Stanford University have tried to ban our documentary from reporting on how one of their professors previously predicted an imminent ice-age, but is now a leading global warming advocate.” (Schneider joins others like Obama Science Czar John Holdren. See: Climate Depot’s Factsheet on 1970s Coming ‘Ice Age’ Claims — ‘Fears of a coming ice age, showed up in peer-reviewed literature, at scientific conferences, by prominent scientists and throughout the media’)

To watch the “banned” video excerpt from “Not Evil Just Wrong” of an actor portraying Schneider’s interview click here.

Climate Depot has obtained a copy of Stanford University’s legal letter prohibiting the Irish filmmakers from airing Schneider’s already taped interview in which he was questioned about his inconvenient conversion from a global cooling advocate in the 1970s to a present day global warming activist.

‘You are prohibited’

Stanford University sent a scathing letter to the documentary makers declaring: “You are prohibited from using any of the Stanford footage you shot, including your interview of Professor Stephen Schneider. Professor Schneider likewise has requested that I inform you that he has withdrawn any permission for you to use his name, likeness or interview in connection with any film project you may undertake.”

‘Removed from your footage’

The Stanford letter concluded: “Please confirm to me in writing that you have received and will comply with Stanford’s directive that all shots of Stanford University (both indoors and outdoors) and all parts of Professor Schneider’s interview will be removed from your footage. We appreciate your prompt attention to this matter.”

Climate Depot has also obtained the exclusive pre-release video and the transcript of Schneider’s interview which Stanford University lawyers deemed too hot for broadcast. McAleer called on Stanford to withdraw the legal threat which has forced the filmmakers to use a blank screen and an actor’s voice to read the text of Professor Schneider’s interview about his changing climate positions.

“The lawyers at Stanford sent the unprecedented letter after we asked Schneider about his flip-flopping on climate alarmism,” the film’s director McAleer explained. McAleer said he is shocked at the legal maneuvering by Stanford to censor an interview with one of their most prominent professors.

‘Chilling effect’

“This will have a chilling effect on academic freedom and students. It sends out the message – don’t ask your professors embarrassing questions because they will not be tolerated,” McAleer said.

McAleer’s documentary “Not Evil Just Wrong” takes a skeptical look at man-made global warming claims. “Not Evil Just Wrong” attempts to “show the human cost of extreme environmentalism.” “It reveals how global warming legislation such as cap-and-trade will chase jobs out of America during one of the biggest recessions in living memory,” McAleer said.

To watch the “banned” video excerpt from “Not Evil Just Wrong” of Schneider’s interview click here.

‘Sufficient to trigger an ice age’

In the 1970s Professor Schneider was one of the leading voices warning the Earth was going to experience a catastrophic man-made ice-age. However he is now a member of the UN IPCC and is a leading advocate warning that the Earth is facing catastrophic global warming. In 1971, Schneider co-authored a paper warning of the possibility of a man-made “ice age.” See: Rasool S., & Schneider S.”Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide and Aerosols – Effects of Large Increases on Global Climate”, Science, vol.173, 9 July 1971, p.138-141 – Excerpt: ‘The rate of temperature decrease is augmented with increasing aerosol content. An increase by only a factor of 4 in global aerosol background concentration may be sufficient to reduce the surface temperature by as much as 3.5 deg. K. If sustained over a period of several years, such a temperature decrease over the whole globe is believed to be sufficient to trigger an ice age.”

Schneider was still promoting the coming “ice age” in 1978. (See: Unearthed 1970’s video: Global warming activist Stephen Schneider caught on 1978 TV show ‘In Search Of…The Coming Ice Age’ – September 20, 2009) By the 1980’s, Schneider reversed himself and began touting man-made global warming. See: “The rate of [global warming] change is so fast that I don’t hesitate to call it potentially catastrophic for ecosystems,” Schneider said on UK TV in 1990.

‘Scary scenarios’

Schneider also has made controversial remarks advocating “scary scenarios” to convince the public of climate threat. “So we have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts we might have.” (For full context of Schneider’s quote see here.)

‘Slaughter’ skeptics in a debate?

Schneider also reversed himself after issuing a public debate challenge to skeptical scientists in 2009. Schneider originally boasted that skeptics would be “slaughtered” in a debate, but after numerous challengers stepped forward, he quickly backed off and declared he would not “schedule some political show debate.” See: Scientist who boasted he could ’slaughter’ skeptics in debate backs off…’I certainly will not schedule some political show debate in front of a non-scientific ‘ – June 1, 2009

1970s ‘Ice Age’ Fears Were Widespread

Despite many claims to the contrary, the 1970’s global cooling fears appeared in peer-reviewed literature, scientific conferences and were widespread among many scientists and in the media. Newsweek Magazine even used the climate “tipping point” argument in 1975 to hype global cooling. Newsweek wrote April 28, 1975 article: “The longer the planners delay, the more difficult will they find it to cope with climatic change once the results become grim reality.”

But on October 24, 2006, Newsweek admitted it erred in predicting a coming ice age in the 1970’s. (See also: NYT: Obama’s global warming promoting science czar Holdren ‘warned of a coming ice age’ in 1971 – September 29, 2009 & also see: NASA warned of human caused coming ‘ice age’ in 1971 – Washington Times – September 19, 2007 and also see: 1975 New York Times: “Scientists Ask Why World Climate is Changing, Major Cooling May Be Ahead”, May 21, 1975 and see: 1974 Time Magazine: “Another Ice Age,” June 24, 1974)

For a full report on the 1970’s ice age scare, see Climate Depot’s 1970’s Ice Age Fact Sheet. Climate Depot’s Factsheet on 1970s Coming ‘Ice Age’ Claims — ‘Fears of a coming ice age, showed up in peer-reviewed literature, at scientific conferences, by prominent scientists and throughout the media’

Climate Depot Exclusive: Transcript of Professor Stephen Schneider segment from “Not Evil Just Wrong.” International Release Date October 18, 2009:

Video Clip of Prof. Schneider’s interview from “Not Evil Just Wrong” available here.

VO (Voice Over): In the 1970s one of those who believed the earth was facing an ice age caused by humans was Professor Stephen Schneider of Stanford University. However Professor is now one of the leading scientists claiming the earth is heating up because of man made global warming. He is a senior member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and a close advisor to former vice-president Al Gore. Professor Schneider was with Al Gore when he heard he had won the Nobel peace prize.

Al Gore: I am of course deeply honored…

VO: In the 1970s he was a leading voice warning of an imminent ice-age Professor Schneider now gives frequent interviews warning the complete opposite – that we are all in danger from imminent Global Warming.

Prof. Stephen Schneider: Don’t be poor in a hot country, don’t live in a hurricane alley, watch out about being on a cost or in the arctic, it’s bad idea to be up in high mountains with your glaciers melting and losing your water supply and if you are in Mediterranean climate you’re gonna have a fire season in the summer and it’s really gonna be a problem.

VO: Professor Schneider was interviewed for this documentary. We asked him about his support in the 1970s for the theory of man-made Global Cooling. After the interview lawyers for the university wrote stating we could not use our footage of Stanford and that Professor Schneider was withdrawing permission for his interview to be screened. According to legal advice we are prevented from screening Professor Schneider’s image or footage of Stanford filmed during our interview. But we can report what he said, using an actor saying his actual words.

Actor’s Voice (words of Prof Stephen Schneider): I was initially in 1970 and ‘71 more worried about cooling.

VO: Indeed Professor Schneider in the 1970s published papers and praised books which warned of the devastating consequences of the forthcoming man made ice age. But within ten years Professor Schneider and the scientific consensus claimed the earth was experiencing global warming.

Actor’s Voice (words of Prof Stephen Schneider): The scientific community is very, very confident that it is warming.

VO: Despite this dramatic reversal of the scientific consensus Prof. Schneider, Al Gore and their supporters are now urging governments to increase taxes and ban oil coal and gas, the fossil fuels, that are the main source of worlds cheap energy.

Recession Spells End for Many Family Businesses

Siblings Georgia, Jimmy and John Roussos have spent most of their lives working in the kitchen of the restaurant their father opened in 1954. The eatery managed to survive a hurricane and other setbacks, but it wasn’t until this August that the recession took its toll, forcing Roussos Restaurant in Daphne, Ala., to permanently shut its doors.

After months of slow sales, family businesses are being forced to close, ending legacies and leaving behind a wake of sad customers and loyal employees. “Some family businesses that were just hanging on have said it’s time to get out,” says Dann Van Der Vliet, director of the Vermont Family Business Initiative at the University of Vermont.

An estimated 90% of U.S. businesses are family-owned or controlled, from traditional small businesses to a third of Fortune 500 firms, according to the Small Business Administration. Hard data are hard to come by on the number of small family-controlled enterprises that have closed in this recession, but experts say the prolonged slump has hurt a significant number. About 4.3 million businesses with 19 or fewer employees closed during the fourth quarter of 2007 through the fourth quarter of 2008, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

These businesses, often steeped in tradition and not as flexible to change, tend not to have formal plans in place to respond to crisis. “They’ve seen reductions in top line revenue that they just can’t react fast enough to,” says Beth Wood, assistant vice president of market development and family-business advocacy with MassMutual. Problems securing credit in this recession have also prevented some family businesses from getting the funding they need, she adds.

The economic downturn is really just the latest setback for family-run businesses. In the 1970s and '80s, exorbitant income taxes and estate taxes forced many to close, says John Ward, professor of family enterprise with Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management. Before that, the anti-establishment movement during and after the Vietnam War made many children reluctant to take over the family business, he says.

Jimmy Roussos, 60 years old, says the financial meltdown last fall caused business at Roussos Restaurant to drop in half practically overnight.

The restaurant, which claims to have served the likes of Elvis Presley and Jimmy Buffett, began offering specials to help drive traffic, but the attempts ate into its bottom line. "You had to discount so heavily to get someone in the door that it just wasn't profitable anymore," says Georgia Roussos, 53.

After months of being unprofitable, the siblings made the difficult decision to close shop, leaving their 55 employees -- many who have worked there for more than 35 years -- out of work. The siblings say it was emotional not only for them, but for their workers and loyal customers.

Harry W. Schwartz Bookshops, a family-run chain of four small bookstores in Milwaukee, had to shut its doors in March. The shops, started in 1927, were a fixture in the community, known for author visits, children's story time and ability to bud romances. Carol Grossmeyer, former president of the shops, says she met her late husband David Schwartz at one of the locations when she applied for a job and he hired her.

Mr. Schwartz passed away in 2004 and Ms. Grossmeyer eventually took over. Already the book business was suffering, with customers gravitating toward online orders and larger chains eating into sales. The economy's rapid decline in the last year put an even bigger dent in sales, 5%. and Ms. Grossmeyer says she realized she couldn't remain in business.

"It was really hard because you're closing your family legacy," says Ms. Grossmeyer. "I cried for a month before it happened and a month after."

To be sure, there are many family businesses that are holding their own, better equipped to survive a downturn because they usually hold less debt than public companies and can turn to older family members who have navigated other recessions.

But for those who couldn't shake the current lapse, losing a legacy is particularly difficult.

"To shutter an enterprise that often has a family's name above the door is a horrible experience to go through; there is grief and loss associated with it," says Drew Mendoza, managing principle of The Family Business Consulting Group Inc.

It can also be a curveball for would-be heirs. Austin Blankenbeckler, 27, grew up on his family's car lot in Waxahachie, Texas. As a child he washed cars at Carlisle Chevrolet and always expected he would one day run the business like his grandfather and father. Now, the General Motors Co. dealership that has been around since 1926 and managed to survive the Great Depression and World War II, is faced with closing.

Mr. Blankenbeckler worries about his career options. "I actually never really thought about doing anything else," he says.

300 California Hotels in Foreclosure or Default, More to Follow

Green shoots continue to grow and the smell of recovery is in the air, except in the sunshine state, where 300 California Hotels in Foreclosure or Default.

More California hotels are being pushed into foreclosure as tourists and businesses alike scale back their travel plans and owners are unable to pay their mortgages.

Statewide, more than 300 hotels were in foreclosure or default on their loans as of Sept. 30 — a nearly fivefold increase since the start of the year, according to an industry report released Tuesday.

The list of troubled properties includes the St. Regis Monarch Beach in Dana Point, the downtown Los Angeles Marriott, the Sheraton Universal and the W hotel in San Diego.

Most struggling hotels remain open, but industry experts believe many properties are likely to be closed down in the months ahead, even if they are not in foreclosure, because they are losing so much money.

We are often told to look at government issued economic statistics like GDP as an indicator of economic health, but rarely do mainstream media sources point out the real leading economic indicators. In our opinion, the fact that vacation related businesses around the country are going bankrupt, and hundreds are lined up to follow in their footsteps going forward, is a sure sign of a continued contraction. Other real leading indicators we like to consider when trying to understand where we are in this economic cycle are the transportation industry, specifically train, truck and boat cargo, all of which are significantly down from the boom-times of just a few years ago. The smell of this recovery is peculiar — rotten eggs maybe?

Dollar tumbles on report of its demise

Gold price at record high as Independent story sends global markets into a frenzy

The price of gold is surging on world markets amid fears that the old economic order based on the supremacy of the US dollar could be breaking down.

A new spike has sent the cost of the precious metal to a level not seen before. The dollar slid sharply after yesterday's report in The Independent that Gulf Arab states are secretly planning to stop trading oil in dollars, and a senior UN official said that the US should be stripped of its position as the main source of currency reserves for other countries.

The developments come on top of speculation that the Obama administration is operating a policy of benign neglect of the dollar, engineering a devaluation that could help repair some of the economic damage caused by the recession

Not since the collapse of the Bretton Woods system in 1971 has gold been treated as the equivalent of a world currency, but The Independent reported that it could form part of a basket of currencies that would be used for oil trading by the end of the next decade.

Aram Shishmanian, the chief executive of World Gold Council, said: "The financial and economic instability of the past 18 months has brought gold's historical role into sharp focus and has continued to increase its prominence among policy advisers, central banks, and investors around the world.

Across the world, investors have been reaching for gold as an alternative to the dollar and to other US assets, fearing that the American currency is headed inexorably lower.

The dollar index – which measures the greenback against other currencies – fell 0.7 per cent yesterday and the dollar was lower against all major currencies except the British pound.

The US government's debt – which stands at $11.86 trillion (£7.45trn) after tax revenues collapsed with the recession and the Treasury spent billions on propping up the banking system – would be easier to repay if the value of the dollar was lower. Economists noted that the US resisted pressure to include a promise to protect the stability of world currencies in last weekend's communiqué from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), sparking growing concern that the Obama administration could be content to see the currency fall. That would make US exports more competitive and could spark a manufacturing jobs revival.

Overseas governments are in a bind because they hold trillions of dollars as reserves to protect them against a financial crisis. They are seeing the value of those reserves decline, but starting to swap them for gold or other currencies could deluge world markets with unwanted dollars and send the value of the greenback even lower. The situation is particularly sensitive for oil-producing nations, who are paid in dollars for their exports and therefore hold high dollar reserves.

Gulf Arabs have begun planning – with China, Russia, Japan and France – to move from dollar dealings for oil to a basket of currencies including the Japanese yen and Chinese yuan, the euro, gold and a new currency planned for nations in the Gulf Co-operation Council, which includes Saudi Arabia, Abu Dhabi, Kuwait and Qatar.

Secret meetings have already been held by finance ministers and central bank governors in Russia, China, Japan and Brazil to work on the scheme, which will mean oil will no longer be priced in dollars. The revelation was met with public denials yesterday. The Saudi central bank governor, Muhammad al-Jasser, said: "The future is in God's hands. Today, the conditions are good for the arrangement we have." The Japanese Finance Minister, Hirohisa Fujii, said he "doesn't know anything about it".

Dennis Gartman, the US investment guru who writes the daily Gartman Letter, said that no one should be surprised to hear denials. "We are certain that spokespeople for every single nation will be brought to the fore to deny that any such meetings have occurred, that no such decisions have been made, that it is not in anyone's interest to have held such meetings or made such decisions," he told clients as The Independent story broke. "The market will care not a whit."

Simon Johnson, the IMF's former chief economist, said the countries involved would calculate that it was not in their interests to drive the dollar down by eroding its position as the currency of international commodities trading and central bank reserves.

"It would only be great news for the US. The US would love a little bit of devaluation, even though they can't say it," he said. "They have to pay lip service to the strong dollar policy, but if someone else were to engineer a devaluation, that would be lucky break for the US."

By Stephen Foley in New York

























菠菜(左)和萵苣(右)是很好的蔬菜, 但若洗不清潔就生吃, 很容易出問題。


















































(新加坡)三司上訴庭週三(10月7日)駁回即將在2個月後停刊的區域英文時事雜誌《遠東經濟評論》(Far Eastern Economic Review)的上訴,認為它在2006年刊登的一篇文章的確因影射李顯龍總理和內閣資政李光耀貪污,而誹謗了他們的名譽。







Celente on dollar: America sinks with its gold

Check this link .......

Part 1: Daniel Sunjata, new 9/11 investigation.

Check this link ........

Magnitude 6.7 - CELEBES SEA

2009 October 07 21:41:14 UTC

Earthquake Details

Location 4.043°N, 122.584°E
Depth582.8 km (362.2 miles)
Distances280 km (175 miles) SE of Jolo, Sulu Archipelago, Philippines
320 km (200 miles) S of Zamboanga, Mindanao, Philippines
1185 km (730 miles) S of MANILA, Philippines
2085 km (1300 miles) ENE of JAKARTA, Java, Indonesia
Location Uncertaintyhorizontal +/- 7 km (4.3 miles); depth +/- 10 km (6.2 miles)
ParametersNST= 61, Nph= 64, Dmin=470.9 km, Rmss=0.83 sec, Gp= 40°,
M-type=teleseismic moment magnitude (Mw), Version=6
Event IDus2009mlcb
  • This event has been reviewed by a seismologist.

Magnitude 7.8 - VANUATU

2009 October 07 22:03:15 UTC

Earthquake Details

Location13.052°S, 166.187°E
Depth35 km (21.7 miles) set by location program
Distances260 km (160 miles) S of Lata, Santa Cruz Islands, Solomon Isl.
295 km (180 miles) NNW of Luganville, Espiritu Santo, Vanuatu
785 km (490 miles) ESE of HONIARA, Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands
2100 km (1310 miles) NE of BRISBANE, Queensland, Australia
Location Uncertaintyhorizontal +/- 7.6 km (4.7 miles); depth fixed by location program
ParametersNST=169, Nph=169, Dmin=>999 km, Rmss=1.32 sec, Gp= 50°,
M-type=teleseismic moment magnitude (Mw), Version=6
Event IDus2009mlcf
  • This event has been reviewed by a seismologist.

9/11, Anthrax & Truth

Truth • noun (pl. truths /trooths, troo&ulth;z/) 1 the quality or state of being true. 2 (also the truth) that which is true as opposed to false. 3 a fact or belief that is accepted as true.


We, as the producers of ANTHRAX WAR, want our film to be seen by as many audiences as possible. That is why we didn’t think twice when the representatives of the Fifth Annual “9/11 Truth Film Festival” in Oakland, California contacted us and asked if we would be interested in screening our film as part of their 9/11 observances this year. This crowd of so-called ‘truthers’ exists on the fringes of polite political discourse in the U.S. and beyond. And we, filmmakers who rely upon mainstream journalism contacts for funding—i.e. the Canadian Broadcasting Corp, PBS in the States, and the ARTE Network in Europe—know that it is possible that we could experience some professional discomfort by being associated with these folks in any way.

Yet we believe that ‘conspiracy theorists’– as the ‘truthers’– have been labeled/libeled—is just an ugly sobriquet tossed at those who dare to question the official narrative promoted by government officials and broadcast by the mainstream media.

As serious investigative journalists who’ve made it a cardinal principal to challenge the ‘official story’ in most of our work, we feel a certain kinship with these “truth” skeptics and thus readily agreed to show our film at their event held at the beautiful Grand Theatre in Oakland, California Sept 9 and 10th, 2009.

We especially loved the fact that actor Ed Asner pitched our film and the fest on the radio and we enjoyed the publicity burst we received as a result on Pacifica Radio flagship KPFA and assorted media.

The impressive crowd of 500 souls who came to the screening was receptive to the arguments of our film, and we sold bunches of DVDs, trading cards and books during that weekend.

We also took the opportunity to film the events of that 9/11 anniversary weekend in the Bay area, and thus were planted the seeds of a new project of ours that examines the ‘Truth Movement’ as a fascinating cultural and political phenomenon. It is something that for now we’re calling “9/11—Where Truthers Dare”…and filming will continue as events heat up in the coming days….

FYI, our association with the fringe does not seem to have hurt our mainstream reputation. After returning from Oakland, we learned that our film has been nominated for the prestigious PRIX EUROPA for outstanding work in Current Affairs documentary.

The winner wil be announced next month…