Thursday, December 3, 2009

Gold strikes record high above $1,217 an ounce

LONDON — Gold struck a record price above 1,217 dollars on Wednesday as the US currency weakened, cementing the precious metal's surge over the past year as nervy investors seek safe-haven investments.

Gold hit 1,217.23 dollars on the London Bullion Market one day after breaking through the 1,200-dollar barrier for the first time.

After reaching a new high on Wednesday, gold pulled back slightly to trade at 1,207.82 dollars at 1122 GMT.

Gold has smashed record after record over recent days and weeks on the back of inflationary fears and increasing moves by central banks to diversify assets away from the dollar, which has weakened against the European single currency.

A falling greenback makes dollar-denominated gold cheaper for buyers holding stronger currencies, pushing up demand for the metal and eventually its price.

In European foreign exchange trading on Wednesday, the euro rose to above 1.51 dollars.

After surging above 1,200 dollars, the market is staring "into the unknown," said VTB Capital commodities analyst Andrey Kryuchenkov.

"Resistance could yet prove to be very strong and we are looking for a sustained push above it to signal gains to 1,230/50 dollars.

"There is little doubt that the market remains bullish and even though we expect trading to subside later this month, the downside is still limited. At the moment we favour little profit-taking," he added.

The price of gold has soared by more than 55 percent in value over the past 12 months.

The yellow metal, whose two main drivers are jewellery and investment buyers, has won favour in the uncertain economic climate which has been fuelled in recent days by Dubai's debt crisis. Gold is traditionally viewed as a safe-haven investment.

"It is a store of value while investors have serious doubts about the global financial system," said CMC Markets analyst Michael Hewson.

"It is something that is not going to lose its value like a currency."

Gold prices have won support from central bank purchases of the metal.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) last week announced it had sold 10 tonnes of gold to Sri Lanka's central bank for 375 million dollars as part of a restructuring of its financial resources.

The record run for gold comes also after a recent newspaper report that India was mulling the purchase of more IMF gold reserves.

Canadian mining giant Barrick Gold meanwhile on Tuesday announced it had eliminated all of its hedges on the world's largest gold production and reserves, hoping to profit from rising gold prices.

The gold hedges were contracts whereby Barrick -- the world's number one gold producer -- sold gold ounces it expected to produce in advance for a fixed price.

In the meantime, if the price of gold increased, Barrick was obligated to sell its gold at the lower price or buy it in the marketplace at a higher price to meet its contractual obligations.

Hedging is normally used to insulate companies from market price fluctuations and provide a level of financial stability for their operations.

Barrick announced in September it would pull the plug on its remaining gold hedges, as it was not benefiting from any increase in the gold price, which is forecast to continue rising over the long term as deposits are depleted.

Copyright © 2009 AFP. All rights reserved

Global Warming on Mars, Pluto, Triton and Jupiter

Global Warming on Mars, Pluto, Triton and Jupiter strongly points towards the Sun or Some other cosmic force being the cause of the recent global warming on Earth.

From National Geographic:

“Habibullo Abdussamatov, head of the St. Petersburg’s Pulkovo Astronomical Observatory in Russia, says the Mars data is evidence that the current global warming on Earth is being caused by changes in the sun.

From MIT on Pluto

“the average surface temperature of the nitrogen ice on Pluto has increased slightly less than 2 degrees Celsius over the past 14 years.”

Since Pluto is moving further away from the Sun and continuing to warm despite that fact, it indicates that something doesn’t fit into “Solar Constant” dismissal theories.

From on Jupiter:

“The latest images could provide evidence that Jupiter is in the midst of a global change that can modify temperatures by as much as 10 degrees Fahrenheit on different parts of the globe.”

From MIT on Triton:

“At least since 1989, Triton has been undergoing a period of global warming. Percentage-wise, it’s a very large increase,” said Elliot, professor of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences and director of the Wallace Astrophysical Observatory. The 5 percent increase on the absolute temperature scale from about minus-392 degrees Fahrenheit to about minus-389 degrees Fahrenheit would be like the Earth experiencing a jump of about 22 degrees Fahrenheit.”

So there is Global Warming on at least 4 other bodies in our Solar System that co-insides with the recent warming on Earth. Doesn’t this point strongly towards the Sun or some other Cosmic force as the cause?

On the origin of the runaway global warming theory of CO2 Feedback and Venus (PDF):

“Why is the albedo of Venus important? When the albedo is at 0.80, the Global Warming Theory falls apart. . .

The carbon dioxide levels on Earth have risen from approximately 0.028% to 0.036% in the last few decades. It is a major stretch to compare this with Venus at a 96.500% carbon dioxide level and promote an uncontrollable runaway condition. Earth in its early history, 385 million years ago, had an atmosphere with 10 times the present carbon dioxide levels. Those elevated levels did not produce runaway global warming then, so why should we theorize that it would today?”

Pre-conceived agendas and a scorched earth policy of accusing any critics of complicity with Big Oil or the Republican Party impedes the scientific process. Likening people who do not agree with doomsday Anthropogenic Global Warming theories to Holocaust Deniers does not get us closer to the truth. In Science, when did “Skeptic” become such a bad word?

An experiment that hints we are wrong on climate change:

“The best measurements of global air temperatures come from American weather satellites, and they show wobbles but no overall change since 1999.

That leveling off is just what is expected by the chief rival hypothesis, which says that the sun drives climate changes more emphatically than greenhouse gases do. After becoming much more active during the 20th century, the sun now stands at a high but roughly level state of activity. Solar physicists warn of possible global cooling, should the sun revert to the lazier mood it was in during the Little Ice Age 300 years ago.

In a box of air in the basement, they were able to show that electrons set free by cosmic rays coming through the ceiling stitched together droplets of sulfuric acid and water. These are the building blocks for cloud condensation. But journal after journal declined to publish their report; the discovery finally appeared in the Proceedings of the Royal Society late last year.”

Open Letter of Resignation to the IPCC from Chris Landsea:

“I personally cannot in good faith continue to contribute to a process that I view as both being motivated by pre-conceived agendas and being scientifically unsound.”

Global-warming alarmists intimidate dissenting scientists into silence:

“But there is a more sinister side to this feeding frenzy. Scientists who dissent from the alarmism have seen their grant funds disappear, their work derided, and themselves libeled as industry stooges, scientific hacks or worse. Consequently, lies about climate change gain credence even when they fly in the face of the science that supposedly is their basis.”

– MIT Professor Richard Lindzen

Watch this video of Richard Lindzen and tell me he’s just some crackpot:

It’s not about links. This won’t get many links.

It’s not about getting on Digg – anything that challenges Anthropogenic Global Warming automatically gets buried.

and it’s not about popularity: most of you don’t like the “anti anthropogenic global warming” stance.

It’s about the science. The scientific method has helped me to become successful in SEO, Business and many other aspects of my life - and it can help you too. Let’s make sure that the process is not destroyed to appease what’s popular.

A New Economic System for the Connected Banking Sector and Political Elites. Providing the new Serfdom Massive Debt Servitude.

The typical American family is struggling with the current recession and is having a hard time pinpointing the nexus of the problem. Some try to argue the failures of capitalism but our current system is more of a corporatocracy. A system designed for the few by the few. Even Adam Smith argued that society would need to be vigilant against monopolies and charlatans. Yet somehow we arrive at our current time with gigantic investment banks pulling on political strings and operating under Darwinian economics where the overall health of the economy is only an afterthought. We are a very long way from the capitalism Adam Smith advocated.

The too big to fail banks are a case and point of the corporatocracy. If we truly had a capitalistic system in place many of these gigantic banks would have failed. And in large part, they have failed. The banking system has and is, failing the American public. How is it that the FDIC, the seal of protection, backs $5.3 trillion in deposits and has an insurance fund that is now negative? If you are wondering why the U.S. dollar is being crushed like a bug it is because of these oxymoronic situations. How can it be called an “insurance fund” when it is insolvent? Of course, we have the benefit of being the world reserve currency for the moment but our punishment is a dollar that is being slowly devalued. Would you lend money to a country that is backing its deposits with no funds and is bailing out their entire financial sector that is largely the nucleus of the current crisis?

The true evil of the corporatocracy is that it has preached a religion that believed for many decades that producing goods was second to paper pushing and believed in praying at the altar of debt:

manufacturing jobs and credit card debt

It is stunning that we have as many manufacturing jobs today as we did in the 1940s. That is because half a century ago one-third of all workers were part of the manufacturing sector in the U.S. Today, it is under 10 percent. Yet this is the idealized model. Somehow there is nothing wrong with a Wall Street banker making tens of millions a year not because he beat the market or is producing a good product, but simply for his connections to Washington D.C. This is not capitalism at all. This is selling our country to the financial industry. I mean how can you argue that a subprime mortgage or a collateralized debt obligation is something the market demanded? The hidden costs are now being dealt with and if this was factored in, they would have never occurred in the first place. Short term profits at the expense of long term profits.

And if we look at the chart above closely, all this was possible by getting the American public addicted to debt. Look at the exponential growth in credit card debt above. At the peak, Americans were carrying nearly $1 trillion in credit card debt. In other words, people spent $1 trillion they did not have. Even today, nearly $900 billion in credit card debt is still outstanding. Given current Black Friday trends people once again pulled out the plastic to spend. Show me another country that has the luxury to spend $1 trillion in money it doesn’t have.

And credit card debt is only one aspect of the debt induced binge that started in the 1970s. Mortgage debt has exploded since that time as well:

gdp debt

The above chart sums up our current situation well. Early in this decade we had the distinct pleasure of having household debt outstanding match up with our annual GDP. The chart above is rather clear. From the 1950s to the early 1970s we had a nice cushion. Didn’t seem to be a problem that we were producing things during this time. Also, the recession lines indicated by the gray area didn’t seem to be that prolonged. All that shifted in the 1970s. What you see is deeper and more prolonged recessions while the solution out of each economic funk was more and more debt. It is not a coincidence that this occurred as the financial sector took a bigger role in our economy. All this reached a climax with our current recession that is the deepest and longest since the Great Depression. The notion that the financial sector was somehow going to save our economy was a perverted ideology pushed by the corporatocracy. Clearly that has failed.

Capitalism hasn’t failed but the toxic form we are living in will destroy our country. Communism in the form of the U.S.S.R. or North Korea is clearly not the answer either. But we did something right in the 1950s. And what we did was produce and also spent within our means. Our entire culture wasn’t dominated by this hamster consumerism that tries to keep people numb by massive marketing, Big Macs, and credit card addictions. Even the reverse psychology is fascinating. Don’t let anyone touch your 2,000 calorie milk shake because that is capitalism! How dare someone tell you that you don’t deserve a $500,000 mortgage if a broker is willing to give it to you! The problem of course is these short-term gains have long-term consequences. Health care isn’t cheap and we are now collectively paying for massive holes in the system. That broker that gave you the loan? Now the U.S. taxpayer is bailing out the entire housing industry and crushing the U.S. dollar. The housing market is merely a reflection of a produce nothing and get something for free culture. Why even save for any down payment when you can over extend on a mortgage for the price of a trip to Disneyland?

The corporatocracy would like to convince you that it is fantastic that we are now a service oriented society. The demonizing of work is something deep in our culture. Even Mike Rowe, the host from Dirty Jobs does a great job explaining this in a subtle way:

mike rowe

There has to be a balance in any economy. At one point in the bubble 40 percent of profits were coming from the financial sector and as the bubble popped right in our faces, we realized just like Bernard Madoff’s clients did, that pushing paper and flipping houses really wasn’t such a productive venture. It is stunning to think that prominent MBA programs like Harvard were grooming students to be the future leaders of the corporatocracy (i.e., Geithner, Paulson, Rubin, Summers, etc). Everyone aspired for the brass ring at one of the big five investment banks on The Street. What do these people know about engineering or producing actual goods in the economy? If it were up to them we’d all be working at a bank and off shoring every productive part of our economy overseas. They would see no problem with that. Yet they fail to see that eventually you shift all your resources out and inflation kicks in and makes you poorer because ultimately your lifestyle is only as good as what you can buy. If you made $1,000 a year but a home cost $500, a car $200, and a month of food $50 then you are sitting pretty. But if you make $50,000 with homes costing $400,000 and cars going for $30,000 then there is pricing problems. Housing is correcting and so is the auto sector. Yet the banking sector is raking in profits even though unemployment is still rising. Credit card fees are soaring even though banks can borrow from the Fed for zero percent. This is no accident or conspiracy. This is all out in the open because this is the apex of the corporatocracy.

At a certain point the American psyche will shift and see the multi-decade long fleecing into the corporatocracy:

“(NY Times) He tried to fill up on cereal and eggs. He ate a lot of Spam. Then he went to work with a grumbling stomach to shine lights on food he could not afford. When an outreach worker appeared at his son’s Head Start program, Mr. Dawson gave in.

“It’s embarrassing,” said Mr. Dawson, 29, a taciturn man with a wispy goatee who is so uneasy about the monthly benefit of $300 that he has not told his parents. “I always thought it was people trying to milk the system. But we just felt like we really needed the help right now.”

The outreach worker is a telltale sign. Like many states, Ohio has campaigned hard to raise the share of eligible people collecting benefits, which are financed entirely by the federal government and brought the state about $2.2 billion last year.”

You think Mr. Dawson doesn’t want to work? Of course he wants to work but the manufacturing sector has been gutted. The system is being turned on its head. 36 million Americans are on some form of food stamps, the largest percentage in the program’s history. This while the connected banking elite on Wall Street would like to convince you that somehow companies firing thousands of workers is good for the bottom line and the long-term prosperity of the country. These cronies have no allegiance to one country. They have accounts offshore and travel freely between boarders. What’s it to them that you lose your job? Do you think they care about the long term vitality of this nation? They are too focused on their bottom line. Welcome to the economic system known as corporatocracy. It has infiltrated both the Democratic and Republican parties.

'Doomsday for the greenback'

A preemptive attack on Iran would "provoke other industrial nations to strategically abandon the dollar en masse"... "in an effort to thwart the neoconservatives from pursuing their desperate strategy of dominating the world's hydrocarbon energy supply." William R. Clark "Petrodollar Warfare; Dollars, Euros and the upcoming Iranian Oil Bourse"

The Federal Reserve is the financial headquarters for the cartel of multinational banking establishments. The confederation of banks in the Fed underwrites the exploitative activities of the world's main industries and sets rates in a manner that best serves their objectives. This is how the bankers perpetuate the system of economic hegemony and apply the shackle of debt and dependence to the planet's most destitute countries. The Federal Reserve is every bit as critical to the maintenance of the empire as its political counterparts in Washington or its blood-brothers in the US Military. It is the largest of the empire's three gears; economic, political and military, which mobilize the mighty wheel of state terror.

If we look carefully at the Iraq war, the main financial institutions stood squarely behind the hostilities and did their best to create a hospitable economic environment for aggression. The Federal Reserve dropped the prime rate to a paltry 1.5% just 6 months before the Iraq invasion to keep the American economy purring along while Bush dragged the nation to war. The bloody footprints for Iraq lead straight to the oak-panel doors of America's primary lenders even before they trail off to the bastions of America's energy giants.

There's a reason for this. The main impetus for the war was not petroleum, but greenbacks and the future of a currency that is underwritten by $8 trillion of debt. The only way to safeguard its dominance is to back up the listing dollar with boatloads of oil. And, that is exactly the plan.

The Capital of Empire

America's capital is not in Washington DC. In fact, it is not geographic location at all. It is the greenback, the epicenter of the global rule. The dollar is the cornerstone upon which the mighty pillars of empire rest.

At the same time, the greenback is the greatest swindle in human history; a worthless scrap of paper buried beneath a mountain of debt. It is only through the skillful mix of politics, diplomacy, and brute force that the grand deception is maintained. As America's fortunes grow more tenuous, the probability of attacks on the dollar will increase exponentially. Even now, nations are conspiring to knock the dollar from its towering summit and introduce a more equitable system.

At present, the greenback serves as the world's reserve currency, the main medium of exchange. This allows the US to pile up enormous debt while avoiding the pitfalls of skyrocketing interest rates or hyper-inflation. The $2 billion of borrowed wealth that props up the faltering empire every day comes primarily from the exporting powerhouses Japan and China. This means that America's profligate spending is financed by the labor of some of the most poorly paid workers in the world.

Ironically, sweatshop workers in Kwantung Province are now bankrolling the criminal occupation of Iraq by facilitating America's massive trade deficits.

Every greenback carries with it the accumulated weight of two centuries of war, slavery, and ethnic cleansing of Native Americans. It is the flaccid script that has fueled 50 years of covert activities, coup d'etats, and third-world death-squads. It churns through the arteries of the empire to the furthest most extremities where torture and abuse are carried out beneath the tri-colored standard. It is strewn across the empire like the myriad gulags that now speckle the planet. It is the heart of the beast; a venom-pumping organ with arteries strung across the globe like the concertina-wire that surrounds Falluja, Samarra and Tal Afar.

Eventually the stately images of Lincoln and Washington will be stripped from the currency; replaced with the looming specter of Guantanamo's gun towers or the iconic figure of an Abu Ghraib prisoner, hooded in sackcloth, arms outstretched in Christ-like submission, wires draped from his hands and feet. These are the freshly minted symbols of the new realm, the republic of terror.

As the empire extends its withering grip to the world's last resource-centers, the dollar is coming under increasing scrutiny. It is the dollar that facilitates the perennial war and the vast expansion of military force; just as it is the dollar that binds together the constellation of American colonies that function exclusively in the interests of their Washington overlords. The asymmetrical warfare that is approaching will put the greenback squarely in the crosshairs; the weal-link in America's coat of mail.

Hugo Chavez knows this, as did Saddam; that's why he switched to the euro 6 months before "Shock and Awe". Now, Putin is trading oil in euros and Iran will open an oil bourse in petro-euros in March. For Iran, its actions are tantamount to a declaration of war. Already, America's proxy Israel has threatened to attack in March. Is it merely coincidence that Iran's oil bourse is scheduled to open at the same time?

No, it's not.

The empire requires a steady diet of petrodollars to maintain its gluttonous appetite for debt. If the oil-producing nations switch to euros, the dollar would freefall like a wingless gull and America would be trapped in a bottomless vat of red ink.

America's prodigious dept has made the war for the world's remaining resources an existential struggle. A retreat from Iraq is no longer possible. If America's debt is not propped up with oil reserves the anemic dollar will crumble with the economy following right behind.

In William R. Clark's "Petrodollar Warfare; Dollars, Euros and the upcoming Iranian Oil Bourse", Clark outlines the problems the dollar faces if Iran proceeds with its plan to use a euro-based oil trading exchange. The new Iranian bourse would compete head-on with the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX) and London's International Petroleum Exchange IPE) giving international buyers an option of "buying a barrel of oil $60 on the NYMEX or IPE or 45 to 50 euros via the Iranian bourse." Clark calls this the Federal Reserves "biggest nightmare" as it would precipitate a face-off between the dollar and the euro and would fundamentally change the dynamics in the world's largest market.

"In essence, the US will no longer be able to effortlessly expand credit via US Treasury Bills, and the dollars demand-liquidity will quickly fall." This will "challenge the hegemony currently enjoyed by the financial centers in both London and New York."

In other words; doomsday for the greenback.

Clark also notes that "both Russia and China significantly increased their central bank holdings of the euro, which appears to be a coordinated move to facilitate the anticipated ascendance of the euro as a second world reserve currency." This would effectively end the petrodollars hegemony as the "monopoly oil currency".

The world is preparing for a seismic shift in the global power-structure, but Washington believes it can forestall that change through military force.

The prospect of a competing Iranian oil-exchange greatly increases the likelihood of a unilateral attack by the US. Clark anticipates that this may "provoke other industrial nations to strategically abandon the dollar en masse"..."While central bankers throughout the world community would be extremely reluctant to 'dump the dollar'"... "They would likely move in tandem on the currency exchange markets in an effort to thwart the neoconservatives from pursuing their desperate strategy of dominating the world's hydrocarbon energy supply."

A strategy to "dump the dollar"?

Some variant of Clark's scenario will undoubtedly transpire pending an American attack on Iran. The world will not confront the empire militarily, but neither will they stand idly by while vital oil resources are put at risk. A coordinated assault on the dollar is an extreme, but probable consequence.

The vulnerability of the dollar, skittering atop an ocean of red ink, has become the Achilles heel of the empire. Washington may believe that its weakness is well-concealed behind a wall of high-tech weaponry and media propaganda, but potential adversaries will certainly know where to strike if they are forced to respond.

America's future has grown increasingly uncertain due to the reckless militarism of its leaders. An attack on Iran is sure to incite an asymmetrical war that will target the greenback; dislodging it from its lofty perch.

When the dollar collapses, the baling-wire of economic coercion that keeps the empire sewn together will quickly unravel.

Why They Hate Us: How Many Muslims Has The U.S. Killed In 30 years?

Why They Hate Us: How Many Muslims Has The U.S. Killed In 30 years?

Tom Friedman had an especially fatuous column in Sunday’s New York Times,which is saying something given his well-established capacity for smug self-assurance. According to Friedman, the big challenge we face in the Arab and Islamic world is “the Narrative” — his patronizing term for Muslim views about America’s supposedly negative role in the region. If Muslims weren’t so irrational, he thinks, they would recognize that “U.S. foreign policy has been largely dedicated to rescuing Muslims or trying to help free them from tyranny.” He concedes that we made a few mistakes here and there (such as at Abu Ghraib), but the real problem is all those anti-American fairy tales that Muslims tell each other to avoid taking responsibility for their own actions.

I heard a different take on this subject at a recent conference on U.S. relations with the Islamic world. In addition to hearing a diverse set of views from different Islamic countries, one of the other participants (a prominent English journalist) put it quite simply. “If the United States wants to improve its image in the Islamic world,” he said, “it should stop killing Muslims.”

Now I don’t think the issue is quite that simple, but the comment got me thinking: How many Muslims has the United States killed in the past thirty years, and how many Americans have been killed by Muslims? Coming up with a precise answer to this question is probably impossible, but it is also not necessary, because the rough numbers are so clearly lopsided.

Here’s my back-of-the-envelope analysis, based on estimates deliberately chosen to favor the United States. Specifically, I have taken the low estimates of Muslim fatalities, along with much more reliable figures for U.S. deaths.

To repeat: I have deliberately selected “low-end” estimates for Muslim fatalities, so these figures present the “best case” for the United States. Even so, the United States has killed nearly 30 Muslims for every American lost. The real ratio is probably much higher, and a reasonable upper bound for Muslim fatalities (based mostly on higher estimates of “excess deaths” in Iraq due to the sanctions regime and the post-2003 occupation) is well over one million,equivalent to over 100 Muslim fatalities for every American lost.

Figures like these should be used with caution, of course, and several obvious caveats apply. To begin with, the United States is not solely responsible for some of those fatalities, most notably in the case of the “excess deaths” attributable to the U.N. sanctions regime against Iraq. Saddam Hussein clearly deserves much of the blame for these “excess deaths,” insofar as he could have complied with Security Council resolutions and gotten the sanctions lifted or used the “oil for food” problem properly. Nonetheless, the fact remains that the United States (and the other SC members) knew that keeping the sanctions in place would cause tens of thousands of innocent people to die and we went ahead anyway.

Similarly, the United States is not solely to blame for the sectarian violence that engulfed Iraq after the 2003 invasion. U.S. forces killed many Iraqis, to be sure, but plenty of Shiites, Kurds, Sunnis, and foreign infiltrators were pulling triggers and planting bombs too. Yet it is still the case that the United States invaded a country that had not attacked us, dismantled its regime, and took hardly any precautions to prevent the (predictable) outbreak of violence. Having uncapped the volcano, we are hardly blameless, and that goes for pundits like Friedman who enthusiastically endorsed the original invasion.

Third, the fact that people died as a result of certain U.S. actions does not by itself mean that those policy decisions were wrong. I’m a realist, and I accept the unfortunate fact that international politics is a rough business and sometimes innocent people die as a result of actions that may in fact be justifiable. For example, I don’t think it was wrong to expel Iraq from Kuwait in 1991 or to topple the Taliban in 2001. Nor do I think it was wrong to try to catch Bin Laden — even though people died in the attempt — and I would support similar efforts to capture him today even if it placed more people at risk. In other words, a full assessment of U.S. policy would have to weigh these regrettable costs against the alleged benefits to the United States itself or the international community as a whole.

Yet if you really want to know “why they hate us,” the numbers presented above cannot be ignored. Even if we view these figures with skepticism and discount the numbers a lot, the fact remains that the United States has killed a very large number of Arab or Muslim individuals over the past three decades. Even though we had just cause and the right intentions in some cases (as in the first Gulf War), our actions were indefensible (maybe even criminal) in others.

It is also striking to observe that virtually all of the Muslim deaths were the direct or indirect consequence of official U.S. government policy. By contrast, most of the Americans killed by Muslims were the victims of non-state terrorist groups such as al Qaeda or the insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan. Americans should also bear in mind that the figures reported above omit the Arabs and Muslims killed by Israel in Lebanon, Gaza, and the West Bank. Given our generous and unconditional support for Israel’s policy towards the Arab world in general and the Palestinians in particular, Muslims rightly hold us partly responsible for those victims too.

Contrary to what Friedman thinks, our real problem isn’t a fictitious Muslim “narrative” about America’s role in the region; it is mostly the actual things we have been doing in recent years. To say that in no way justifies anti-American terrorism or absolves other societies of responsibility for their own mistakes or misdeeds. But the self-righteousness on display in Friedman’s op-ed isn’t just simplistic; it is actively harmful. Why? Because whitewashing our own misconduct makes it harder for Americans to figure out why their country is so unpopular and makes us less likely to consider different (and more effective) approaches.

Some degree of anti-Americanism may reflect ideology, distorted history, or a foreign government’s attempt to shift blame onto others (a practice that all governments indulge in), but a lot of it is the inevitable result of policies that the American people have supported in the past. When you kill tens of thousands of people in other countries — and sometimes for no good reason — you shouldn’t be surprised when people in those countries are enraged by this behavior and interested in revenge. After all, how did we react after September 11?

Still Shedding Jobs

Bloomberg reports:

Companies in the U.S. cut an estimated 169,000 jobs in November, according to a private report based on payroll data.

The drop, the smallest since July 2008, compares with a revised 195,000 decline the prior month, data from ADP Employer Services showed today. The figures were forecast to show a decline of 150,000 jobs, according to the median estimate of 32 economists in a Bloomberg survey.

The report signals the job market is still deteriorating and unemployment will probably climb further even as the economy is emerging from the worst recession since the 1930s. After overestimating payroll losses by 103,000 on average in the five months to September, ADP’s initial estimate for October was in line with the government’s payroll figures.

“Our economy is still a long way from adding jobs,” Guy LeBas, chief fixed-income strategist at Janney Montgomery Scott LLC in Philadelphia, said before the report. “Labor markets remain the one area where significant improvement in economic conditions has yet to manifest.”

ADP includes only private employment and doesn’t take into account hiring by government agencies.

Optimists will say this report shows "The Bleeding is Slowing', but the fact is that after shedding THIS many jobs and we are still losing 150k+ jobs per month is simply stunning.

Source: ADP

Jon Stewart Talks Climategate

Click this link ........

Ron Paul : Obama Preparing for Perpetual War!

Click this link .......


(新加坡)環球人力資源信息及顧問機構ECA International公司的最新調查顯示,新加坡在亞洲的排名從去年的第12位連跳三級,成為亞洲生活費最高的第9大城市,全球排名更上升近20位,從去年的第97位躍升至第78位。





















































Bank of America plans to repay $45bn to US Treasury

Bank of America plans to repay the entire $45bn (£27bn) it owes the US Treasury as it aims to recapitalise its balance sheet and move out from under the government’s control.

The unexpected move, which comes just four weeks before chief executive Ken Lewis is due to retire, leaves Citigroup as the only major US bank still in hock to the federal government.

The plan to repay the funds – which will eventually free the banking conglomerate from the Obama administration’s stringent compensation rules – is understood to be the result of months of at-times tense discussions with both the Federal Reserve and the US Treasury.

BoA intends to use $26.2bn of excess liquidity on its balance sheet and raise an additional $18.8bn from investors in order to repay the funds, which came from the Treasury’s $700bn Troubled Assets Relief Programme (TARP).

In addition, BoA has agreed to raise up to increase its equity by $4bn through asset sales by June 2010 to bolster its capital position.

The bank originally took on $25bn in TARP capital in October 2008, followed by a further $20bn in January of this year after buying Merrill Lynch.

The development allows Mr Lewis, who agreed to fall on his sword following controversy surrounding the Merrill acquisition, to retire with some form of satisfaction.

It also allows the board - which has been searching for a replacement since Mr Lewis resigned in September – to be able to offer a competitive pay package to whoever his successor might be.

Barack Obama facing backlash over Afghanistan troop surge

President Barack Obama faced an immediate backlash over his surge plan for Afghanistan, amid fears that setting out a timetable for withdrawal could aid the Taliban and unnerve allies.

Critics said that the target date of July 2011 to begin a reduction of US forces and the transfer of security to Afghan security forces would enable the enemy to lie low and wait for the departure of US and Nato forces.

Senator John McCain, the former presidential candidate, said: "We don't want to sound an uncertain trumpet to our friends in the region."

Offering a dire warning, he said: "Hamid Karzai knows very well that if US troops leave, he'll be leaving shortly thereafter or find himself probably assassinated."

Mr Obama's political future could rest on the course he set in his speech on Tuesday night on the eight-year-old conflict, which he redefined narrowly as defeating al-Qaeda, preventing the Taliban from returning to power and creating a functioning government in Kabul.

Sir Jock Stirrup, Chief of the Defence Staff, said he was "delighted" with Mr Obama's plan.

"There's absolutely nothing wrong with having targets and milestones against which we can measure progress and against which to be frank we can force the pace," he said.

But he gave warning that a British withdrawal in earnest could not begin until 2014.

Senior aides to Mr Obama were forced to clarify the timeline, stressing that July 2011 was only a starting date and would not lead to a rapid abandonment of the Afghans.

Gen Stanley McChrystal, the Nato commander in Afghanistan, said that "the 18 month time line is not an absolute and then everyone leaves".

He added: "There are going to be more long nights, more cold mornings, more memorial services."

Robert Gates, the US defence secretary, added that more stable areas in Afghanistan's north and west would be handed over to the Afghan security forces first, and welcomed the prospect of the Taliban lying low.

"If they are inactive for 18 months it would give the United States an open run to build capacity with our allies," he said.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the Nato Secretary General, said he was confident that the alliance could supply a further 5-7,000 troops, while Gordon Brown called on "all our allies to unite behind President Obama's strategy".

With the prospect of renewed heavy fighting ahead, Gen Sir Graeme Lamb, a former SAS officer and now special adviser to Gen McChrystal, said the surge would allow the allies to strike the Taliban "until their eyeballs bleed".

A Taliban spokesman said: "The extra 30,000 troops that will come to Afghanistan will provoke stronger resistance and fighting."

Escape a debt, face the IRS

Congratulations. You just talked a lender into reducing or canceling a troublesome debt. The bad news? Now you may have a tax problem.

Did you get a credit card company to reduce your debt or even cancel it? Good for you. It's a huge relief for you and your family.

But don't congratulate yourself for too long. You may have a created a second problem that needs some careful planning. The amount of the debt reduction is taxable income, and you will owe money to the Internal Revenue Service.

Sorry, but that's the rule -- generally speaking. There are exceptions to the rule, and we'll get to those.

The problem begins with what, until recently, was the a great credit environment for borrowers. Banks were begging you to take their money.

If you couldn't qualify for a fixed-rate loan, you'd probably be offered an adjustable-rate loan, even now. And if you don't have enough cash for a 20% down payment, you can still get private mortgage insurance and go without.

In fact, if you take out a new mortgage with PMI, you may even be able to deduct the monthly premium from your income taxes.

As for credit cards, it was ridiculous. All three of my grandchildren were offered gold cards before their first birthdays. The banks were giving them away like prizes in a Cracker Jack box. I filled out applications for my dog and cat, and it turns out even they can get credit cards.

Or could until the credit crunch hit. In fact, with credit so easy, it's no wonder so many people got in trouble, falling behind on their mortgages and credit cards. Many people are so far behind they'll never catch up. Many, in fact, have just stopped paying.

A lender's deal will have a nasty bite

Fact is, your creditors really aren't your friends. But they understand that if you don't have any assets and have minimal cash flow, there's very little they can do. We don't have debtor prisons. In many cases, creditors almost automatically turn your account over to professional collectors, who get paid based on what they collect.

This gives you two opportunities to resolve your problem by paying less than the full amount of your debt. In both cases -- with the original creditor and with the collector -- they're willing to take whatever cash they can get.

I don't have a problem with cutting a deal with a creditor, but you have to know what you're getting into.

Based on your individual situation, you can offer to pay, say, 10% of what's owed. Your creditor probably won't take your first offer, so start low, but within reason. It's really a function of your cash flow and your assets. You can always increase your offer, but you really can't go down.

Explain where you'd get the money -- say, from a relative. But make sure the creditor recognizes there is a limit to how much you can borrow. Bank money is out of the question, because you failed to stay current on your debt.

The shock of the tax problem

Eventually, you'll get a deal. It may cost you your house and your credit score, but they can't get blood out of a stone. Part of your debt is going to get written off.

Swell, you say. You exhale a sigh of relief . . . until tax time.

That's when your former creditor sends you a Form 1099-C (.pdf file) showing the amount of debt relief. Your ex-creditor also sends a copy to the IRS.

Unfortunately, those rascals in Washington expect you to pay tax on the amount of that debt relief. It's other income, reported on line 21 of your 2009 federal Form 1040 (.pdf file).

Say you file jointly and have a taxable income (before the additional debt relief income) of $67,900. You're in the 25% bracket. If you settled a $20,000 liability for $10,000, that gives you $10,000 in additional income. Those additional dollars will be taxed at a rate no lower than 25%. Add state taxes, and they're reaching into your pocket for an additional $3,000 in taxes.

You couldn't afford to pay the minimum on your credit cards. Now the IRS wants a check for what you were grossing in total over the last six months.

Now here are the exceptions to this scenario. The first is really important.

Until December 2006, if your mortgage lender forgave, say, $100,000 of a $200,000 loan, you would be required to report that forgiveness as income. That would have caused astounding amounts of hardship for some people.

Congress decided that was too much. In late 2007, our lawmakers decided that debt forgiveness on your primary residence, up to a $2 million ceiling, escapes taxation for 2007-2012. So, if you had a $200,000 mortgage, and your lender agreed to forgive $100,000 of the balance, you won't have to pay any tax on the $100,000.

And there are other ways the debt-relief amount may be free of taxes.

The IRS isn't completely without a heart. There was a special provision that made discharged debt tax free to some victims of Hurricane Katrina. You also don't recognize income from debt forgiveness if you were the victim of a terrorist attack.

For those who don't qualify, there's another escape hatch. If the debt was discharged as part of a filed bankruptcy, then there's no income.

What if you didn't even have the cash flow to file a bankruptcy petition? If you were "insolvent" immediately prior to the debt discharge, you may also escape taxation on the debt relief. You're "insolvent" if your liabilities exceed your assets.

But -- and this is a big but -- this exclusion is limited to the amount by which you are insolvent. Say you have $50,000 in assets and $70,000 in liabilities. You're insolvent to the extent of $20,000. So if you have $30,000 in debt relief, $10,000 is still going to be taxable.

That brings to the installment agreement or the offer in compromise.

The IRS may cut a deal

This is a potentially painful dilemma. If you don't have the cash, you have two options:
  • An installment agreement: This is an agreement to pay the tax bill over an agreed-upon time. You apply for that on Form 9465 (.pdf file). You will pay interest (currently 4%) on this agreement, but it's cheaper than the rate on a credit card.
  • An offer in compromise: You apply for that on Form 656 (.pdf file). This is an agreement between you and the IRS that resolves your tax debt. The IRS has the authority to settle tax liabilities by accepting less than full payment under certain circumstances. A warning, however. The IRS is, frankly, very stingy on agreeing to these.

By Jeff Schnepper

North Koreans dare to protest as devaluation wipes out savings

Rush for dollars and Chinese yuan after Kim Jong-il's surprise move to reassert control over economy

The North Korean leader Kim Jong-il is trying to smother his country's fragile free market with a shock currency devaluation that has reportedly sparked panic, chaos and protests inside the isolated Stalinist state.

Monday's devaluation of Pyongyang's nearly worthless currency from 100 to a single won has wiped out the savings of impoverished North Koreans and generated a scramble for dollars and Chinese yuan, say sources behind the bamboo curtain.

Millions of Koreans have been given until next Monday to exchange their savings for the new won following Monday's decree, which has caused "great confusion" and anger, says South Korea's Chosun Ilbo newspaper.

Intelligence services in the South report that Pyongyang has stepped up security around the country of 23.5 million people as a safeguard against possible protests and riots, with army bases placed on standby. Officials are bracing themselves for a furious reaction to news that a deposit of 200,000 won in cash to a North Korean bank will yield just 1,100 won in the new currency. There were unconfirmed reports that brief protests on the streets of Pyongyang had already forced the authorities to slightly increase the amount of currency people would be allowed to exchange.

The devaluation has already sent the price of rice skyrocketing 15-fold, according to Daily NK, an online newspaper sourced by defectors and informers in the North. "This move will do nothing other than destroy the fortunes of the people," it warns.

The significance of the move has divided Pyongyang analysts with some seeing it as an attempt to end inflation. But others believe the ailing Mr Kim is struggling to reassert control over the economy before he hands the keys to power to his son, Kim Jong-un.

Kim Jong-un has already been declared leader-in-waiting, according to Japan's Mainichi newspaper, which claims to have seen official documents confirming the handover. Many believe his father is worried he may not survive the transition unless the North's disintegrating economy improves.

Famine, compounded by a series of natural disasters, is thought to have claimed 2-3 million lives inside the country since the mid-1990s. Mr Kim has responded with a series of limited Chinese-style reforms designed to loosen central control over the economy.

The reforms have increased wealth disparities and incubated a growing class of wealthier farmers and merchants who are evading state controls and using bribery to keep government officials in line, say Pyongyang watchers. In January, the government failed in its attempt to rein in the reforms by limiting or closing private markets.

"Currency reform was probably the only option left to neutralise the wealthy merchant class," a North Korean defector and analyst, Cho Myong-chol, told Chosun Ilbo yesterday. "The latest measure has made everyone poor again and possibly raised the North Korean government's hopes of regaining control over its people."

News of Mr Kim's decree comes amid claims that the North's military has also reasserted control over mines and other areas of the economy in a bid to earn hard currency before the transition of power – likely to be one of the most traumatic periods in the country's troubled history. The army is reportedly selling minerals to China and hoarding the earnings.

Observers say the devaluation will destroy the savings of poorer and middle-class North Koreans while leaving wealthier traders, who have hoarded yuan, dollars and gold, mostly untouched. Analysts in South Korea were warning last night that the move could backfire and even spark revolt.

"Currency reform... will follow in the footsteps of past currency reforms, most likely resulting in further reduced confidence in the North Korean currency and heightened reliance on foreign currency holdings, whilst doing nothing to address the underlying causes of inflation in the highly distorted North Korean market economy," says Daily NK. It said some areas of the North were under curfew and that shops have been ordered shuttered while the currency transition takes place.

"I worked like a dog for two months for the winter, but the money became useless paper overnight," said one man quoted by the Seoul-based support group Good Friends.

10 Films the US Government Would Rather You Not See

These are 10 films that I believe if watched by the majority of US citizens there would be demands of impeachment, a push

to pull out of Iraq and a complete shift in thought or at the very least some questioning of the government.

It’s also amazing to me how few people have seen most of these films even the “popular” ones.

'Aliens Cause Global Warming'

Cast your minds back to 1960. John F. Kennedy is president, commercial jet airplanes are just appearing, the biggest university mainframes have 12K of memory. And in Green Bank, West Virginia at the new National Radio Astronomy Observatory, a young astrophysicist named Frank Drake runs a two-week project called Ozma, to search for extraterrestrial signals. A signal is received, to great excitement. It turns out to be false, but the excitement remains. In 1960, Drake organizes the first SETI conference, and came up with the now-famous Drake equation:

N=N*fp ne fl fi fc fL

Where N is the number of stars in the Milky Way galaxy; fp is the fraction with planets; ne is the number of planets per star capable of supporting life; fl is the fraction of planets where life evolves; fi is the fraction where intelligent life evolves; and fc is the fraction that communicates; and fL is the fraction of the planet's life during which the communicating civilizations live.

This serious-looking equation gave SETI a serious footing as a legitimate intellectual inquiry. The problem, of course, is that none of the terms can be known, and most cannot even be estimated. The only way to work the equation is to fill in with guesses. And guesses -- just so we're clear -- are merely expressions of prejudice. Nor can there be "informed guesses." If you need to state how many planets with life choose to communicate, there is simply no way to make an informed guess. It's simply prejudice.

The Drake equation can have any value from "billions and billions" to zero. An expression that can mean anything means nothing. Speaking precisely, the Drake equation is literally meaningless, and has nothing to do with science. I take the hard view that science involves the creation of testable hypotheses. The Drake equation cannot be tested and therefore SETI is not science. SETI is unquestionably a religion. . . .

The fact that the Drake equation was not greeted with screams of outrage -- similar to the screams of outrage that greet each Creationist new claim, for example -- meant that now there was a crack in the door, a loosening of the definition of what constituted legitimate scientific procedure. And soon enough, pernicious garbage began to squeeze through the cracks. . . .

I want to pause here and talk about this notion of consensus, and the rise of what has been called consensus science. I regard consensus science as an extremely pernicious development that ought to be stopped cold in its tracks. Historically, the claim of consensus has been the first refuge of scoundrels; it is a way to avoid debate by claiming that the matter is already settled. Whenever you hear the consensus of scientists agrees on something or other, reach for your wallet, because you're being had.

Let's be clear: The work of science has nothing whatever to do with consensus. Consensus is the business of politics. Science, on the contrary, requires only one investigator who happens to be right, which means that he or she has results that are verifiable by reference to the real world. In science consensus is irrelevant. What is relevant is reproducible results. The greatest scientists in history are great precisely because they broke with the consensus.

There is no such thing as consensus science. If it's consensus, it isn't science. If it's science, it isn't consensus. Period. . . .

I would remind you to notice where the claim of consensus is invoked. Consensus is invoked only in situations where the science is not solid enough. Nobody says the consensus of scientists agrees that E=mc2. Nobody says the consensus is that the sun is 93 million miles away. It would never occur to anyone to speak that way. . . .

To an outsider, the most significant innovation in the global warming controversy is the overt reliance that is being placed on models. Back in the days of nuclear winter, computer models were invoked to add weight to a conclusion: "These results are derived with the help of a computer model." But now large-scale computer models are seen as generating data in themselves. No longer are models judged by how well they reproduce data from the real world -- increasingly, models provide the data. As if they were themselves a reality. And indeed they are, when we are projecting forward. There can be no observational data about the year 2100. There are only model runs.

This fascination with computer models is something I understand very well. Richard Feynman called it a disease. I fear he is right. Because only if you spend a lot of time looking at a computer screen can you arrive at the complex point where the global warming debate now stands.

Nobody believes a weather prediction twelve hours ahead. Now we're asked to believe a prediction that goes out 100 years into the future? And make financial investments based on that prediction? Has everybody lost their minds?

Cavuto - "ClimateGate" Rocking The New World Order

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Cavuto - Climategate - This Is The Greatest Lie Of All Time

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al gore isa dickhead

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