Wednesday, December 9, 2009

$246,000 per ObamaJob

Ed Yardeni of Yardeni Research has performed a Cost Benefit Analysis of Jobs Stimulus created under President Obama’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act:

The Obama Administration is touting that their stimulus program has saved or created 640,329 jobs since it was enacted back in February through the end of October. This number is updated and posted on the Administration’s web site. That amounts to $246,436 per job based on the $157.8bn that has been awarded so far! Total compensation earned by the average payroll employee during October, on an annualized basis, was $59,867. If the government had simply used the funds awarded so far to pay for a year’s worth of labor, that would have paid for 2.6mn jobs!

Does this leave any doubt about government’s inability to efficiently handle this economic crisis or pretty much anything else? Rather than saving, we are spending even more. Private industry can create a $60,000 job and it costs $60,000. Government bureaucracy has somehow managed to complicate this seemingly simple process and increase costs by 300%.

A quick review of open and awarded bids for contract jobs created by the Recovery and Reinvestment Act available for viewing at FedBizOpps gives taxpayers some insight into the productivity and sustainability of the jobs being created with their hard earned and forcibly seized money:

–Repairing of existing roof needing correction on the Youth Services Building, Bldg. 45410, Fort Gordon, GA. (Open bidding) (Link)

–Removal and disposal of existing transite (asbestos) roof system and installation of new metal roof system including 24 gauge roof panels, roof insulation, rake & eave fascia, gutters & downspout, ridge vents, flashing, ridge caps, flashing, lightning protection system, and related items (Open Bidding) (Link)

–The Directorate of Contracting at Fort Carson intends to issue an Invitation for Bid (IFB) for the construction of a pre-engineered metal building to serve as the 71st EOD headquarters facility at Fort Carson, Colorado. (Open Bidding) (Link)

–The Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), Alaska Volcano Observatory has a requirement for fifty-nine (59), 1 Hz vertical borehole seismometers and fourteen (14) 1 to 2Hz 3-component borehole seismometers with delivery to Anchorage, Alaska. (Link)

–The intent of the contract is to stabilize existing roads near Yakutat in the Tongass National Forest - The work to be performed includes constructing cross drains, excavating and placing stumps and woody slash, excavation and barrier construction with locally available gravel. (Link)

–Margaret Bay Fish Passage Improvement - Work includes but is not limited to dewatering, installation of structures, excavation, placement of embankment, reconstructing stream bed and banks with in-stream weirs or log structures, haul, end haul, and rock excavation. (Link)

It is clear, after reviewing the synopsis for these contract offers, that the jobs being created are not actually jobs. They are contracts, and in most cases, are short-term. They will end as soon as the contract has been completed. There is nothing revolutionary here in terms of technology being created, or in terms of increasing the productive capacity of America for the long-term.

Yes, some of these projects are helpful, such as the roof needing repair in the Youth Services Center. But, that doesn’t mean we can just print billions of dollars to fund these types of projects just because we “need” them based on a bureaucrat’s subjective opinion. We need a lot of things in this country. But guess what? We’re broke, we’re actually worse than broke, which means we should only be funding projects related to essential services until we lower our existing debt load.

On top of that, the inefficiency in the system is obvious, as pointed out by Mr. Yardeni. To pay $246,000 per job created is asinine. Why not just print the money at the Fed, monetize Treasury debt, and then have the Treasury flush it down the toilet? The end result will be the same.

Author: Mac Slavo

Is Tiger Woods a Sex Addict?

(CBS) A report on the Daily Beast Web site Monday said superstar golfer Tiger Woods might have a problem with prescription medications, but more talk came Tuesday that Woods may really be addicted to sex.

Woods is just the latest celebrity embroiled in allegations of infidelity.

When does cheating constitute a sex addiction?

The number of women claiming to have had a sexual relationship with Woods has reportedly grown to ten.

Dr. Drew Pinksy, of the VH1 series "Sex Rehab with Dr. Drew," told CBS News, "You've got to wonder about addiction. That's the process that has people doing things that don't make sense."

And that's raised the question -- when does infidelity cross over into sex addiction?

Pinksy speculated that Woods' behavior could be part of a larger problem.

He said, "I wouldn't be surprised if we find out there is a chemical addiction, as well. Sometimes, these sexual compulsions come out as part of an overall addictive process to a chemical."

However, according to Pinksy, there is a way out of this for Woods and his wife, Elin Nordegren.

How much money do you need?

I don't mean how much do you need right now in order to keep you from dipping into the red for Christmas - although that would be nice - I'm talking about how much you would need to earn in order to feel truly secure.

For most of us the idea of doubling our income would more than do it. Twice the salary - even after the massive tax bill - would see us comfortable that we could make ends meet, and even finally give us the chance to put away a decent chunk of money for our retirement and a rainy day.

But apparently, if we actually had that kind of bump in pay, it still wouldn't be enough.

A new survey has found that most people with incomes of nearly £100,000 do not consider themselves to be well off. Around 2.5 million people have a household income of around £93,000 but 95% of them don't consider themselves to be rich.

They certainly don't seem to be struggling. The survey, by Hiscox, found that one in four has savings of more than £25,000 and 35% take at least two holidays abroad a year.

But when asked how much money they needed to be secure, they said they'd need £150,000.

So what does this tell us? Does it really take far more than we think to make ends meet?


It shows us two fundamental flaws in being human that we will have to overcome if we are ever to get our finances on the straight and narrow.

The first is that there's always a good reason for doing the wrong thing. We can always tell ourselves we don't have enough money to save for ourselves or our kids, to put money aside for emergencies or our retirement, and no matter how much we are earning, we can still come up with these excuses.

And the second is that we will always succumb to temptation. People who earn more spend more. They don't need to. They just see they have a bit more in their account, and they spend it. They buy a bigger house, or stock it with all the latest gadgets. These people probably don't need that sixth bedroom or the five TVs, but they convince themselves that they do, and they are tempted into it. Only when we can look at any extra cash and decide not to spend it will we ever be on the path to financial security.

And from the look of these statistics, it's more than most of us can muster.

Germany still paying off £50million in reparations following World War One

is still paying off £50million of the 'reparations' demanded from it after the end of First World War.

The German Finance Agency, its authority on debt management, said tens of millions of euros are still being transferred to private individuals holding debenture bonds as agreed under the Treaty of Versailles signed on June 28, 1919.

The bonds were issued at the time to investors.

Delegates gather in the hall during the signing of the Treaty of Versailles

Delegates gather in the hall in the Trianon during the signing of the Treaty of Versailles, a peace treaty that officially ended World War I in June 1919

'The still-open contract for interest and amortisation payments is around €56 million,' said spokesman Boris Knapp.

'That is the debt that is still outstanding from all those years ago but Germany will make good on it.'

The news that modern-day Germany is still in debt for one world war that laid the foundations for the next was revealed by the agency after a written request by a newspaper.

With the signing of the Versailles accord Germany accepted blame for the war which cost nine million men their lives.

Article 231 of the peace treaty the so-called 'war guilt' clause - declared Germany and Austria-Hungary responsible for all 'loss and damage' suffered by the Allies during the war and provided the basis for reparations.

The treaty was despised by Germans and seized upon by the Nazis to foster a feeling of victimhood among their followers.

Palace of Versailles

Crowds outside the Palace of Versailles awaiting the signal that the peace treaty had been signed

The initial sum agreed upon for war damages in 1919 was 226 billion Reichsmarks, a sum later reduced to 132 billion. In sterling at the time this was the equivalent of some 24 billion pounds.

, which had been ravaged by war – its farmlands devastated by battles, industries laid waste and some three million men dead – pushed hardest for the steepest possible fiscal punishment for Germany.

The principal representative of the British Treasury at the Paris Peace Conference, , resigned in June 1919 in protest at the scale of the demands, warning correctly that it was stoking the fires for another war in the future.

'Germany will not be able to formulate correct policy if it cannot finance itself,' he warned.

When the Wall Street Crash came in 1929, the Weimar Republic – Germany’s first and only democracy until after the defeat of Nazism in 1945 – spiraled into debt.

German infantrymen

German infantrymen dig trenches in norther France during World War One

What the Bank of England calls ‘quantitative easing’ now was started in Germany with the printing of money to pay off the war debt, triggering inflation to the point where ten billion marks would not even buy a loaf of bread.

Up until 1952 Germany had paid some 1.5 billion marks in war reparations to Allied countries.

But in 1953 the balance was suspended pending a reunification of East and West Germany.

On October 3, 1990, the old debts went into effect again with 20 years for payment. Germany plans to pay off its World War I debts by October 3, next year.

Japan GDP revised heavily downward

Official estimates of Japan’s growth between July and September were revised down heavily on Wednesday, suggesting the country’s recovery is more fragile than previously thought.

Growth on the previous quarter was revised down from 1.2 per cent to 0.3 per cent. At an annualised rate the revision was from 4.8 per cent to 1.3 per cent.

The growth revision highlights the risk of a “double dip” recession – with the economy turning down again by the second quarter of next year – that prompted Japan’s government to announce a Y7,200bn ($81bn) fiscal stimulus package on Tuesday.

A recovery in business investment reported in the first release proved an illusion. The figure was revised down from a 1.6 per cent rise on the previous quarter to a 2.8 per cent fall, accounting for two-thirds of the total revision.

The second-biggest revision was to private sector inventories, now judged to have contributed 0.1 per cent to quarter-on-quarter growth, rather than 0.4 per cent.

While the revision undermined the idea that Japanese businesses have regained confidence and are preparing to expand output, private consumption was a bright spot, with growth revised up from 0.7 per cent to 0.9 per cent quarter on quarter.

Fiscal stimulus – such as incentives to scrap old cars – has been a prime cause of increased consumer spending, and economists have feared it would drop back as stimulus measures expired at the end of the fiscal year in March.

News that the economy was even more reliant on stimulus-driven growth in consumption than previously thought supports the government’s decision to launch a new fiscal package.

The package includes Y3,500bn in transfers to local governments, Y1,200bn in support for small businesses, and assistance for various environmental, employment and housing measures.

Of the the Y7,200bn, however, Y2,700bn represents funds saved from a previous fiscal stimulus announced by the previous government, so there is only Y4,500bn in new money.

Capital Economics said the stimulus “will not transform the prospects for the economy” but that “the measures appear to be well-aimed to get the biggest bang for the yen”.

VW to pay $2.5bn for 20% Suzuki stake

Volkswagen is to pay Y222.5bn ($2.5bn) to buy a 19.9 per cent stake in Japan’s Suzuki Motor in a deal that would create the world’s largest carmaker alliance.

The German car group on Wednesday confirmed it had agreed to form a “comprehensive partnership” with Suzuki, adding that both companies’ management had concluded their complementary strengths made them a “perfect fit”.

Osamu Suzuki, Suzuki’s chief executive, also confirmed long-circulating rumours that that the groups had been in negotiations.

“In terms of product portfolio, global distribution and manufacturing capacities, Volkswagen and Suzuki ideally complement each other,” the German carmaker said in a statement.

The tie-up will be designed as a cross-shareholding similar to the alliance between France’s Renault and Japan’s Nissan. The two companies would buy each others’ shares and would respect “each other’s independence as a standalone entity,” VW said.

VW said that it would buy 19.9 per cent of Suzuki’s shares, and that it expected the deal to close in January. Suzuki said it was looking at buying up to Y50bn of VW shares to cement the mutual alliance.

The news comes less than a week after Peugeot Citroën of France revealed that it was considering buying a stake in another Japanese carmaker, Mitsubishi Motors, as part of an expanded partnership.

Taken together, the moves suggest an expected wave of global consolidation in the motor industry may be gaining force. The global slump has put pressure on carmakers to seek alliances, but with the exception of Fiat’s embrace of Chrysler little has happened so far.

Suzuki only recently ended a three-decade partnership with General Motors. GM owned 20 per cent of Suzuki at the peak of its involvement but sold the last of its shares late last year.

This week Suzuki agreed to offload its half of the pair’s Canadian manufacturing venture to GM.

By partnering with Suzuki, Volkswagen would gain a foothold in the fast-growing Indian market, where Suzuki’s majority-owned venture Maruti Suzuki enjoys a 50 per cent share. Suzuki, for its part, would gain access to hybrid and other environmental technologies, an area where it has lagged its Japanese competitors.

VW, the world’s number two carmaker and the largest in Europe, sold 5.3m vehicles worldwide in the 10 months to October. Suzuki, which ranks ninth globally, sold 1.9m. Together the pair’s sales exceeded Toyota Motor’s 6.4m.

After taking over as VW’s chief executive at the beginning of 2007, Martin Winterkorn said he wanted the company to take on Toyota, the industry’s best-selling carmaker. Since then, VW has climbed the the industry’s league table, thanks to a range of well-received vehicles, strong sales in emerging markets including China, and Germany’s scrappage programme, which boosted demand in Europe’s largest market this year by about 2m cars.

VW said that it and Suzuki would offer “a compelling solution” for customers buying their first cars in emerging markets, and for drivers in advanced countries seeking to lower their carbon footprint.

Suzuki’s shares ended up 3.7 per cent on Wednesday.

Why Switzerland Has The Lowest Crime Rate In The World

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EPA Misled Public on 9/11 Pollution

White House ordered false assurances on air quality, report says

NEW YORK -- In the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attack on the World Trade Center, the White House instructed the Environmental Protection Agency to give the public misleading information, telling New Yorkers it was safe to breathe when reliable information on air quality was not available.

That finding is included in a report released Friday by the Office of the Inspector General of the EPA. It noted that some of the agency's news releases in the weeks after the attack were softened before being released to the public: Reassuring information was added, while cautionary information was deleted.

"When the EPA made a September 18 announcement that the air was 'safe' to breathe, it did not have sufficient data and analyses to make such a blanket statement," the report says. "Furthermore, the White House Council on Environmental Quality influenced . . . the information that EPA communicated to the public through its early press releases when it convinced EPA to add reassuring statements and delete cautionary ones."

The Statue of Liberty stands in the foreground as New York is shrouded in smoke and pollution in New York image made from television, Tuesday Sept. 11, 2001. (ABC via APTN)
On the morning of Sept. 12, according to the report, the office of then-EPA Administrator Christie Whitman issued a memo: "All statements to the media should be cleared through the NSC (National Security Council in the White House) before they are released." The 165-page report compares excerpts from EPA draft statements to the final versions, including these:

The draft statement contained a warning from EPA scientists that homes and businesses near ground zero should be cleaned by professionals. Instead, the public was told to follow instructions from New York City officials.

Another draft statement was deleted; it raised concerns about "sensitive populations" such as asthma patients, the elderly and people with underlying respiratory diseases.


A statement about discovery of asbestos at higher than safe levels in dust samples from lower Manhattan was changed to state that "samples confirm previous reports that ambient air quality meets OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) standards and consequently is not a cause for public concern."

Language in an EPA draft stating that asbestos levels in some areas were three times higher than national standards was changed to "slightly above the 1 percent trigger for defining asbestos material."

This sentence was added to a Sept. 16 news release: "Our tests show that it is safe for New Yorkers to go back to work in New York's financial district." It replaced a statement that initial monitors failed to turn up dangerous samples.

A warning on the importance of safely handling ground zero cleanup, due to lead and asbestos exposure, was changed to say that some contaminants had been noted downtown but "the general public should be very reassured by initial sampling."

The report also notes examples when EPA officials claimed that conditions were safe when no scientific support was available.

New York's leaders responded with dismay.

Rep. Jerry Nadler, a Manhattan Democrat, called for a Justice Department investigation. "That the White House instructed EPA officials to downplay the health impact of the World Trade Center contaminants due to 'competing considerations' at the expense of the health and lives of New York City residents is an abomination," he said in a news release.

Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said in an interview it was "understandable that in the midst of a crisis the White House did not want the EPA to sound alarmist." But, he warned, "If the public loses faith that things are safe when the government says so, we'll have done more damage than a pointed statement the week after 9/11 would have."

The White House did not respond to requests for comment.


Acting EPA Administrator Marianne Horinko, who sat in on EPA meetings with the White House during the attack's aftermath, said in an interview that the White House had played a coordinating role, assembling information from various federal agencies.

"It was a role someone had to play," Horinko said. "There was a potential for a Tower of Babel, and we needed to speak with one voice."

The National Security Council played the key role, filtering incoming data on ground zero air and water, Horinko said. "I think that the thinking was, these are experts in WMD (weapons of mass destruction), so they should have the coordinating role."

The focus at EPA, she continued, was on gathering data and making it public as rapidly as possible.

"Under unbelievably trying conditions, EPA did the best that it could," she said.

Copyright © 2003 Newsday












































英國《衛報》聲稱獲得一份氣候峰會外泄的“丹麥文本”(Danish text)協議草案,這由西方主導的協議草案,內容竟是賦予發達工業國在未來氣候變化談判上有更大話事權,並揚棄《京都議定書》減排原則,及削弱聯合國在當中的角色。
























Obama's "We Got No Money" Rap

There's no fixed number of greenbacks in a vault at the Treasury that limit how much the federal government can spend. Since the US pays its debts in its own currency--it can print as many dollars as it pleases. Of course, if boosting the money supply triggers inflation, the Fed has to withdraw liquidity and raise interest rates. But that's not the problem at present. The problem is how to zap the economy back to life. The problem is how to get 16 million people out of unemployment lines and back to work. That's the real challenge. The problem is political not economic. Obama is surrounded by industry reps who are trying to scare him about the size of the deficits. But deficits aren't the problem; unemployment is. Once people get back to work and build their savings, their creditworthiness will improve, and the next economic expansion will begin. When more people are paying into the system, the deficits will come down. But the deficits won't come down if tens of millions of people are still on the sidelines and forced to cut their spending. Judging by last Thursday's speech at the "Jobs Summit", Obama still doesn't grasp this:

"But I want to be clear," Obama boomed. "While I believe that government has a critical role in creating the conditions for economic growth, ultimately true economic recovery is only going to come from the private sector. We don't have enough public dollars to fill the hole of private dollars that was created as a consequence of the crisis. It is only when the private sector starts to reinvest again, only when our businesses start hiring again and people start spending again and families start seeing improvement in their own lives again that we're going to have the kind of economy that we want. That's the measure of a real economic recovery."

This is nonsense. When Obama says "We don't have enough public dollars to fill the hole of private dollars that was created by the crisis." He's just flat wrong. As Marshall Auerback pointed out on this site yesterday, the government can print as much money as it wants; it's not "revenue constrained". What keeps the Fed from printing its way out of every jam, is the fear of inflation. But, consider this: inflation fears never stopped Fed chair Ben Bernanke from hosing down the entire financial system with $11.4 trillion, did it? Also, the Fed never hesitated to bulk up excess reserves at the banks by $1 trillion so bankers could shove it into high-risk assets and make windfall profits for themselves while the real economy drifted into coma. The only time the Fed's "inflation alarm" goes off is when there's the remote chance that someone on the low end of the economic food-chain might benefit from a government jobs program. Then the trumpets blare, the lights blink red, and Bernanke scuttles up to Capital Hill with dire warnings of impending doom. It's all politics. Bernanke's world view is shaped by institutional bias, the same as Summers and Geithner. Obama has aligned himself with this swarm of rogues.

Obama again:

"Now, let me be clear. I am open to every demonstrably good idea, and I want to take every responsible step to accelerate job creation. We also, though, have to face the fact that our resources are limited. When we walked in, there was an enormous fiscal gap between the money that is going out and the money coming in. The recession has made that worse because of fewer tax receipts and more demands made on government for things like unemployment insurance. So we can't make any ill-considered decisions right now, even with the best of intentions. We're going to have to be surgical and we're going to have to be creative. We're going to have to be smart and strategic. We'll need to look beyond the old standbys and fallbacks and come up with the best ideas that give us the biggest bang for the buck." (Remarks by the President and Vice President at the Opening Session of the Jobs and Economic Growth Forum)

This is infuriating. Our resources are NOT limited. Obama is just parroting the GOP "deficit hawk mantra". Hasn't the president noticed the Fed's printing presses purring-along at full-throttle to keep the financial markets flooded with liquidity? And where does he think demand is going to come from if consumers continue to cut back sharply on spending? When consumers and businesses stop spending, the government has to pick up the slack or the economy nosedives. Fiscal expansion--particularly through government jobs programs--is the best way to put money in the hands of people who will spend it pronto. It's a way to circumvent the credit bottleneck created by insolvent banks. Surely, Obama's advisors realize this, which is why there must be a more sinister motive behind the rhetoric. Here's how economist Marshall Auerback sums it up:

"The Obama Administration continues to fantasize that it can get away with creating Potemkin prosperity of levitating asset prices via trillions of dollars of financial guarantees to Wall Street in lieu of deploying fiscal resources needed to lay the groundwork for the real thing.

The budget deficits can maintain growth in demand to keep income growing and hence support private saving. Budget deficits should aim to fill in that “hole in private savings” and not allow aggregate demand to “fall through it”, which would lead to income and employment collapses. Government spending has to rise so as to ensure that firms are willing to maximize the use of their productive capacity, which in turn generates further employment. You don’t need a job summit to figure that one out, Mr. President. The only “resource deficiency” here is one of political courage.

The only unemployment increase worth applauding would be the sacking of the President’s entire economics team, all of whom persistently regurgitate deficit myths that constrain output and employment and prevent us from recouping genuine prosperity."

Amen, to that. Summers, Geithner and Bernanke should have been booted down the White House stairwell long ago. Instead, Obama is still in the thrall of Chicago school "trickle down" economics. Meanwhile, the nation's most valuable resource--its people--remain idle waiting for government to do what the private sector is no longer capable of doing; create jobs. Obama's task is to fill the hole left by the sudden rise in personal spending. That means government jobs programs to redistribute wealth, rebuild demand, and get the economy rolling again. Here's how progressive economist James Galbraith puts it:

"So long as we have people who need jobs, we should find them work. There are better and worse ways to do this, but the money isn't a limit. It's just a tool to get the job done. And if we do too much, we see it in the jobs. As joblessness falls, the private sector will pick up. Government can then ease off. Mission accomplished! Our real choice is between a large bold program that works quickly, and a slow cautious program that doesn't seem to work at all."

Unemployment is not going to bounce back like it did after previous recessions. In fact, unemployment is following the same flat-line trajectory as business investment. Too many high-paying jobs have been shipped overseas; too many businesses have moved offshore. Free trade has changed the economic landscape dramatically. If Obama doesn't take decisive action now, the wealth gap will widen, double-digit unemployment will be the norm, and a permanent underclass will emerge in America. The social unrest that this will generate, will be significant. It would be wiser to avoid potential disruptions and preemptively address the minimal needs of ordinary people in distress. That means jobs, lots of jobs.

Here's what Paul Krugman anticipates if we continue along the same path we are now:

"What’s going to happen, economically and politically... I have a vision (but) It’s fairly grim.. Start with the short-term economics.... unemployment is likely to stay near its current level for a year or more.

And politically it’s hard to do anything about that. Those economic half-measures have landed the Obama administration in a trap: much of the political establishment now sees stimulus as having been discredited by events, so that it’s very hard to come back and scale the policy up to where it should have been in the first place....

“The result, then, will be high unemployment leading into the 2010 elections, and corresponding Democratic losses. These losses will be worse because Obama, by pursuing a uniformly pro-banker policy without even a gesture to popular anger over the bailouts, has ceded populist energy to the right and demoralized the movement that brought him to power.

“Along with this will come a process of defining prosperity down. All the wise heads will tell us that 8 or 9 percent unemployment — maybe even 10 percent — is the ‘new normal’, and that only irresponsible people want to do anything about the situation.

So what I see is years of terrible job markets, combined with political best as I can tell, the administration strategy is to insist that only a few minor course corrections are needed, and to wait for the jobs to start coming in." (Paul Krugman, "Things to Come", The Conscience of a Liberal, New York Times)

Obama is deliberately precipitating another crisis on the advise of his chief lieutenants. Summers and Geithner are steering the economy back into recession so they can implement the same austerity measures and "structural adjustment" programs which have been used throughout the developing world. It's "starve the beast" all over again. As the stimulus dries up, revenue-depleted states will be forced to auction off public lands, resources, parks and other assets to the highest bidder. The banksters and robber barons will feast on the country's treasures while the middle class is crushed by the freefalling dollar, lost home equity, and persistent high unemployment.

Government jobs programs can help to avert another tragedy, but time is running out.


Glen Beck Cap and Trade breakdown

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Patrick J. Michaels discusses Climategate on CNN

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Marc Faber on sovereign debt default : American & Greek

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Can the Open Government Directive lead to Accountability?

Thanks to Sunlight Foundation for being on top of this:

"The White House has just released the Open Government Directive.

In a livestreamed chat, blogpost, and document online, the White House has announced a bold new plan for openness in the Executive Branch. The result of months of interior conversations, and three public components, the new policy introduces sweeping goals and initiatives aimed at bringing citizens closer to their government, through technology, information, and public interaction."

Here's my (admittedly skeptical) take:

Now that they've unveiled their plan, it's up to us to try to hold them to it. It's a pretty big task, and I'm wondering how they're going to accomplish it--not to mention how they'll incentivize agencies to cooperate.

Graveyard on the shore for thousands of starfish as storm throws them from the sea

Stretching along the shore as far as the eye can see, it is a galaxy of starfish.

More than 10,000 were left high and dry on the sands after choppy seas washed them from their feeding grounds. And unfortunately, nearly all perished, unable to get back to the safety of the water. The graveyard of orange and pink extends more than a quarter of a mile along the golden sands of Holkham Beach in Norfolk.

Margaret Perrott, 63, was distraught after seeing the devastation on her morning walk.

Mass grave: More than 10,000 starfish died after a storm washed them onto Norfolk's Holkham beach

Mass grave: More than 10,000 starfish died after a storm washed them onto Norfolk's Holkham beach

'It's a long stretch of beach and there were just thousands of them littering the shore line for as far as you could see,' she said.

The starfish, which washed up early last week, may have been victims of dredgers scraping the seabeds for mussels, their favourite food. The process could have dislodged the feeding starfish and the currents carried them to the shore.

But Nigel Croasdale, of the Hunstanton Sea Life Sanctuary, believes Mother Nature is the most likely culprit.

Dead starfish on Holkham beach

Dislodged: It is thought that the starfish had gathered near the shore to feast on their favourite food of mussels

He said: 'Strandings tend to occur once a year or once every two years.

'They are also most common between November and March - the time of the year when we experience bigger tides.'

Mrs Perrott estimated that the carpet of orange and pink stretched for more than a quarter of mile.

Death site: The starfish were littered along a stretch of beach in Norfolk

Death site: The starfish were littered along a stretch of beach in Norfolk

The grandmother-of-four said: 'The sight of all these little creatures dying on the beach was horrendous. We only went on a short walk and found a starfish graveyard.

'It's a long stretch of beach and there were just thousands of them littering the shore line for as far you could see.'

There was one bright spot in Miss Perrott's sad stroll along the beach: She saw one starfish still alive and returned it to the sea.

By Fiona Macrae

Copenhagen climate summit in disarray after ‘Danish text’ leak

COP15: A Haitian delegation during second-day session at the Bella center in Copenhagen

Photograph: Attila Kisbenedek/AFP/Getty Images

The UN Copenhagen climate talks are in disarray today after developing countries reacted furiously to leaked documents that show world leaders will next week be asked to sign an agreement that hands more power to rich countries and sidelines the UN’s role in all future climate change negotiations.

The document is also being interpreted by developing countries as setting unequal limits on per capita carbon emissions for developed and developing countries in 2050; meaning that people in rich countries would be permitted to emit nearly twice as much under the proposals.

The so-called Danish text, a secret draft agreement worked on by a group of individuals known as “the circle of commitment” – but understood to include the UK, US and Denmark – has only been shown to a handful of countries since it was finalised this week.

The agreement, leaked to the Guardian, is a departure from the Kyoto protocol’s principle that rich nations, which have emitted the bulk of the CO2, should take on firm and binding commitments to reduce greenhouse gases, while poorer nations were not compelled to act. The draft hands effective control of climate change finance to the World Bank; would abandon the Kyoto protocol – the only legally binding treaty that the world has on emissions reductions; and would make any money to help poor countries adapt to climate change dependent on them taking a range of actions.

The document was described last night by one senior diplomat as “a very dangerous document for developing countries. It is a fundamental reworking of the UN balance of obligations. It is to be superimposed without discussion on the talks”.

A confidential analysis of the text by developing countries also seen by the Guardian shows deep unease over details of the text. In particular, it is understood to:

• Force developing countries to agree to specific emission cuts and measures that were not part of the original UN agreement;

• Divide poor countries further by creating a new category of developing countries called “the most vulnerable”;

• Weaken the UN’s role in handling climate finance;

• Not allow poor countries to emit more than 1.44 tonnes of carbon per person by 2050, while allowing rich countries to emit 2.67 tonnes.

Developing countries that have seen the text are understood to be furious that it is being promoted by rich countries without their knowledge and without discussion in the negotiations.

“It is being done in secret. Clearly the intention is to get [Barack] Obama and the leaders of other rich countries to muscle it through when they arrive next week. It effectively is the end of the UN process,” said one diplomat, who asked to remain nameless.

Antonio Hill, climate policy adviser for Oxfam International, said: “This is only a draft but it highlights the risk that when the big countries come together, the small ones get hurting. On every count the emission cuts need to be scaled up. It allows too many loopholes and does not suggest anything like the 40% cuts that science is saying is needed.”

Hill continued: “It proposes a green fund to be run by a board but the big risk is that it will run by the World Bank and the Global Environment Facility [a partnership of 10 agencies including the World Bank and the UN Environment Programme] and not the UN. That would be a step backwards, and it tries to put constraints on developing countries when none were negotiated in earlier UN climate talks.”

The text was intended by Denmark and rich countries to be a working framework, which would be adapted by countries over the next week. It is particularly inflammatory because it sidelines the UN negotiating process and suggests that rich countries are desperate for world leaders to have a text to work from when they arrive next week.

Few numbers or figures are included in the text because these would be filled in later by world leaders. However, it seeks to hold temperature rises to 2C and mentions the sum of $10bn a year to help poor countries adapt to climate change from 2012-15.

Breaking Point 2010

KINGSTON, NY -- The first decade of the 21st century is going out the same way it came in with a bust and a bang.
The dot-com bubble burst in 2000, and the Bailout Bubble will bust in 2010.
9/11 terror ushered America into the decade, and terror will strike again before the decade ends.
The decade long wars waged by US and NAT0 against Afghanistan and Iraq are leading the world to the first Great War of the 21st Century.
The 20th century belonged to America, in 2010 Empire America will be breaking apart. The signs are there for all to see.
World leaders and most economists see a very different future unfolding. They insist the financial crisis is over and recovery is on the way.
On the military front, America's new Commander in Chief, Congress and the generals promised their war strategy will bring victory abroad and keep the homeland terror free.
Fed a steady diet of junk news du jour by the Cartoon News Networks, the general public remains largely oblivious or at best, grossly misinformed. As 2009 ends, the misadventures of Tiger Woods and the White House party crashers top the media menu.
Increased terror, escalating wars, economic calamity these are just a few of the 2010 Top Trends featured and analyzed at length in our Winter Trends Journal ® that you will receive by early January.
In the meantime, to keep you alert, focused, and above all, prepared, within two weeks we will send you an overview of our 2010 Trend forecasts. It is important to have plans and strategies in place for the holidays, a time when so many are caught up in the spirit and paying little attention to the headlines.
Our high alert is not alarmism. Last year, just two days after Christmas, with most people in a holiday state of mind, Israel launched a major war against the Palestinians. There were a number of factors that could have led either to an instant economic meltdown or an escalation of the war beyond the Palestinian borders.
The worst was averted. Had it happened, only those who'd taken proactive measures at the first signs of major hostilities would have gone through the crisis unscathed. The trend lesson? War, terror and calamity are not set to time clocks. Anything can happen, anywhere, at anytime. Prepare for the unexpected. It is the close-combat state of mind.
In addition to the ominous forecasts, we also foresee a variety of social, health, environmental, entertainment, cultural, business and consumer trends that will be both profitable and transformational.
Publisher's Note: If you have friends, family or acquaintances who still cling to "hope" and hope for "change", you may consider giving them a holiday gift of hard facts, penetrating analyses and prescient forecasts a subscription to the Trends Journal ®.
Gerald Celente

US Senate rejects abortion restrictions in health care reform

The United States Senate has rejected an attempt to tighten restrictions on abortion coverage in a health care reform, threatening a crucial Democrat's support for passage of the final bill.

Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska's amendment to ban the use of federal funds for abortions, identical to a provision approved by the House of Representatives last month, was defeated by a 54-45 margin.

Without the abortion language, Sen Nelson has said he was uncertain about supporting the final health care bill when it comes to a vote. If he follows through, Democrats would be one vote short of the 60 they need to pass the measure.

Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid said he was willing to keep working with Mr Nelson to add language to the bill that would resolve the concerns on both sides of the divisive issue.

"If in fact he doesn't succeed here, we'll try something else," Mr Reid said of Mr Nelson before the vote.

The amendment would have blocked people who receive federal subsidies from buying insurance plans that cover abortions and prohibited a proposed government insurance plan from offering abortion coverage in most circumstances.

The issue of a government-run insurance plan might be moot as Senate negotiators worked on a deal to substitute a non-profit plan operated by private insurers but administered by the Office of Personnel Management, which supervises health coverage for federal workers.

The abortion issue and the government-run insurance plan, which some moderates had opposed, are the two biggest stumbling blocks to passage of a sweeping health care overhaul that is President Barack Obama's top domestic priority.

The Senate was on its ninth day of debate on the bill, which would extend coverage to 30 million people unable to afford insurance and end industry practices such as refusing coverage to those with pre-existing medical conditions.

Senators are racing the clock to meet a self-imposed end-of-year deadline for the bill's final passage. It would still need to be reconciled with the House version in January.

US to spend $3bn compensating native Americans

The Barack Obama administration has offered to spend $3 billion (£1.8bn) to settle a long-running lawsuit with native American tribes that claim they were swindled out of billions of dollars in royalties for oil, gas, grazing and other leases dating back more than a century.

If cleared by Congress and the courts, the settlement would be the largest Indian claim ever approved against the US government – exceeding the combined total of all previous settlements of Indian claims.

President Obama said an agreement on the case, known as Cobell v. Salazar, was an important step to reconcile decades of acrimony between Indian tribes and the federal government.

"As a candidate, I heard from many in Indian Country that the Cobell suit remained a stain on the nation-to-nation relationship I value so much," the president said in a written statement. "I pledged my commitment to resolving this issue, and I am proud that my administration has taken this step today."

Under an agreement reached with tribes, the Interior Department would distribute $1.4 billion to more than 300,000 native American tribe members to compensate them for historical accounting claims, and to resolve future claims.

The government also would spend $2 billion to buy back and consolidate tribal land broken up in previous generations. The scheme would allow individual tribe members to obtain cash payments for land interests divided among numerous family members and return the land to tribal control.

The settlement would give every tribe member with an Interior Department account an immediate check for $1,000, with additional payments to be determined later under a complicated formula that takes into account a variety of factors.

Many tribe members also would receive payments for parcels of land that are held in some cases by up to 100 family members, in an effort to consolidate tribal land and make it more useful and easier to manage.

The disputed leases have been overseen by the Interior Department since 1887, when in an effort to assimilate native Americans, Congress passed the Dawes Act, allowing the federal government to seize tribal land, divide it up and assign it individual tribal members. Historically, tribes owned land collectively.

Complications ensued when control of resource-rich land was given to private companies. Tribal members were supposed to be compensated, but later generations made competing claims on land that was divided into smaller and smaller parcels as more claimants were born.

Ken Salazar, the Interior Secretary, said: "This historic step will allow Interior to move forward and address the educational, law enforcement, and economic development challenges we face in Indian Country."

Elouise Cobell, a member of the Blackfeet Tribe from Montana who was the lead plaintiff in the case, called the proposed settlement crucial for hundreds of thousands of native Americans who have suffered for more than a century through mismanagement of the Indian trust.

"Today is a monumental day for all of the people in Indian Country that have waited so long for justice," said Cobell, who appeared at a news conference with Mr Salazar, Eric Holder, the Attorney General, and other US officials.

"Did we get all the money that was due us? Probably not," Cobell said, but added: "There's too many individual Indian beneficiaries that are dying every single day without their money."

The settlement does not include a formal apology for any wrongdoing by the U.S. government, but does contain language in which US officials acknowledge a "breach of trust" on Indian land issues.

An apology "would have been nice," Mrs Cobell said, but was less important than settling the dispute. "Actions are more important to me than apologies," she said.

Record level of British population is foreign-born

More than one in 10 people living in Britain today were born abroad, a record level, new figures show.

Britain?s population is on course to pass 70 million in around two decades

The proportion of the population who are foreign-born has almost doubled in the past two decades to 11 per cent, or 6.7million people.

One of the key factors behind Britain’s population increase has been the flow of migrant workers from Poland, Lithuania and six other Eastern European countries that joined the EU in 2004.

At the same time, the percentage of children being born to foreign mothers has also reached new levels, reported Jil Matheson, the national statistician.

The Office for National Statistics figures showed that in 2008 some 11 per cent of the population were born abroad, up from around 8 per cent in 2001 and 6.7 per cent in 1991. Figures are not available for 1997 when Labour came to power but, based on trends, is likely to have been just over 7 per cent.

Britain’s population is on course to pass 70 million in around two decades, Ms Matheson warned. She said projections based on past demographic trends suggest a 17 per cent increase in population over the next 25 years to hit 71.6 million by 2033.

It currently stands at 61.4million and ministers have insisted the landmark total will not be reached.

The figures are likely to fuel recent claims by a former Government adviser that Labour deliberately ran an open-door policy on immigration to radically change the country and "rub the Right's nose in diversity".

Alan Johnson, the Home Secretary, and both his Conservative and Liberal Democrat counterparts will today stage a key debate on immigration.

Damian Green, the shadow immigration minister, said: "This Government has never had any control over immigration numbers. Some Government insiders have said this was a deliberate plot, others claim it was just a mistake.

"Either way they have left our borders unprotected. It is one of the biggest policy failures of the Labour years."

The number of Eastern European nationals that are resident in Britain has risen sharply from 114,000 in 2001 to 689,000 last year. More than a tenth of them are children.

Immigration is having a double impact on population numbers because as well as those arriving in the country, the proportion of children born here to foreign mothers has also hit a new high.

Some 24 per cent of the births in England and Wales last year – or 170,834 – were to mothers born outside the country, the highest level since records began in 1969.

That is double the 12 per cent in 1990 and the proportion has increased year on year since, according to the Population Trends report, produced by the ONS.

In England alone, the proportion is now as high as 25 per cent.

Sir Andrew Green, chairman of Migrationwatch, said: "The proportion of foreign born people in Britain has almost doubled in 20 years. This is a measure of the way in which our society is being changed without the British public ever having been consulted.

"Immigration on this scale can only add to the strains in our society and the pressure on our public services."

Chris Huhne, the Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman, said: “It is difficult for anyone to accurately forecast the population now, let alone in 30 years, after Labour and the Tories abandoned exit checks.

"We cannot know how many people live here if we do not count people out as well as in."

Phil Woolas, the immigration minister, said: "These population projections do not take into account the impact of future government policies or those Eastern Europeans who came here, contributed, and are now going home.

“Projections are uncertain. For instance in the 1960s they said our population would reach 76 million by the year 2000, this was off target by 16 million.

“And let’s be clear the category ‘foreign born mothers’ includes British people born overseas – such as children whose parents are in the armed forces or those who come to Britain at a very early age.

“Overall, net-migration is falling, showing that migrants come to the UK for short periods of time, work, contribute to the economy and then return home.”

In October, Andrew Neather, a former adviser to Tony Blair, Jack Straw and David Blunkett, claimed that the sharp increase in migrants over the past 10 years was partly due to a politically motivated attempt by ministers to boost multiculturalism.

He said Labour's relaxation of controls in 2000-01 was a deliberate plan to "open up the UK to mass migration", but ministers were nervous and reluctant to discuss such a move publicly for fear it would alienate its "core working-class vote".

It centred on early drafts of a Cabinet Office report in 2000, which allegedly also had passages if possible links between immigration and crime deleted before it was published.

Cabinet ministers have denied any suggestions of "secret plots".

Giant Waves Crash on Hawaii's Beaches

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