Monday, December 21, 2009

Russia surprised by U.S., EU stance on UN anti-Nazi resolution

Russia is concerned over the stance of the United States and the European Union on a UN resolution condemning the glorification of Nazism and the desecration of WWII monuments, the Foreign Ministry said on Sunday.

The UN General Assembly adopted on December 18, 2009 a draft resolution proposed by Russia on combating racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.

The resolution is aimed at condemning attempts to heroize the Nazi movement and former Waffen SS members and desecrate monuments to the fighters against Nazism.

"It is highly bewildering and regrettable that the United States voted against the resolution, supported by an overwhelming majority of UN member states, and a number of states, including all European Union members, abstained in the vote on the draft," the ministry said in a statement.

The ministry said it was surprised by the position of the former Soviet republics of Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova which abstained from the vote, even though their peoples fought against Nazis during World War Two.

"We believe this is disrespect for the heroism of those who glorified these countries by their heroic deeds in the struggle against Nazism," the statement said.

On Saturday, the Georgian authorities demolished a memorial to WWII heroes in the country's second largest city, Kutaisi. The blast, which was used to demolish the monument, killed two people.

Russia has condemned the Georgian war memorial demolition blast as an act of barbarism and state vandalism.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said the Georgian authorities "have committed an act of state vandalism, offending the feelings of any civilized person."

Health Insurance Company Stock Prices Say it All

For OpEdNews: background n015e - Writer

Dylan Rattigan on MSNBC recently gave Rep. Wassersman-Schulz (D-Fl) a hard time about the health care package. He disputed her contention the bill was a big win for consumers. He wanted to know why the stock prices for Big Insurers (e.g., Aetna, Cigna, Wellpoint, United Health) shot up if this was such a big loss for them.

Unfortunately, he was so exercised on the point, he didn't give her a chance to address the question. It's an important question. Asked another way, the question is "Why are stocks in this sector at a 52-week high if this legislation is such a blow to their profits?"

That's worth investigating. Follow the money and things get real clear real fast.

The validity of Rattigan's point is clear even with this thumbnail of a stock chart. A lot of stocks are up over the last 52 weeks. This chart covers the last three months. It compares the S&P 500 to stock prices for some large health insurance companies. Each one is represented by a different color as follows:

S&P 500 (brown), Cigna (red), Aetna (blue), Wellpoint (gold), and United Health (green).

TheS&P 500, a broad indicator of the market, fluctuates but is largely unchanged. However, all the health insurers fell towards the end of September, for an average loss of about 12%. They stayed down throughout October. However, they started rising in November to reverse their losses. Last week they all moved again.This time to gain over the S&P. In sum, over the last three months, these stocks have posted an average 10% gain, after making up their losses. That's about a 20% swing in value. That's a big move compared to the overall market.

It's true these stocks are more volatile than the overall index. That's the point of the index, to smooth out volatility. The fact these stocks all move in concert shows they are being affected by the same forces. That's not surprising. Stocks in the same sector should be responding in roughly similar ways to the same news. The interesting point is when they made their moves. That reflects the conversation of the time.

Where were we in mid-September?

On September 9, Obama had made a clear pitch for the public option in his speech on health care. This resonated with the public. A CBS poll from that time showed growing public suport for a public option. The reason people argue for a public option is to provide a competitive break on run away prices. That would not be good for profits. The stocks fell.

Where were we in early November?

Lieberman had become the center of attention. He made it clear he wasn't supporting a public option. Of course, it was not just Joe blowing smoke that moved the stocks. Even if he did support it, the public option was so diluted it wouldn't matter. As Ezra Klien noted, the public option at that point wouldn't be available to 90% of the people in states that allowed it. Nor would it have any pricing leverage over private competitors. Basically it was going to be hollow. Safe in the knowledge their profits weren't going to get hammered, the stocks started to rise.
What happened in early December?

On December 10th, Pelosi caved on the public option. That followed the death of expanded Medicare. That killed any hope the House would force this back on track. In other words, the profits of these companies are going to be just fine. Once again, stock values jumped.

The bottom line: During those different time points a lot of ink got spilled, pixels got burned, and bytes bit it. But for all the noise, one thing is clear. If you want to know how the insurance companies are viewing the legislation, just follow their stock prices. The second image is a comparison for the same stocks over the last year. See the cliff they all fell off towards the end of February? That was their response to Obama's February 24 speech in front of a joint session of congress where he announced health care reform was a central pillar of his recovery strategy. It didn't take the folks at Cigna long to figure out that was just noise. You don't need to believe in conspiracy theories to see that people who buy stocks in this sector are responding to the political kabuki by betting insurers will do just fine.

An observer of the human condition, surprised to see we have such powerful tools but not the wisdom to use them.

Sign stolen from Auschwitz found, police say

WARSAW (AP) — Polish police have recovered the infamous Nazi sign stolen from the former Auschwitz death camp cut into three pieces, and said Monday it appeared to have been taken by common criminals seeking profit.

Five men were arrested late Sunday after the damaged "Arbeit Macht Frei" ("Work Sets You Free") sign was found near one of their homes in a snowy forest outside Czernikowo, a village near the northern Polish city of Torun, on the other side of the country from the memorial site.

The brazen pre-dawn Friday theft of one of the Holocaust's most chilling symbols sparked outrage from around the world. Polish leaders launched an intensive search for the 16-foot sign that spanned the main gate of the camp in southern Poland where more than 1 million people, mostly Jews, were killed during World War II.

The men's arrest late Sunday came after more than 100 tips, said Andrzej Rokita, the chief police investigator in the case.

Police said it was too soon to say what the motive for the theft was but they are investigating whether the Nazi memorabilia market may have played a part. The suspects do not have known neo-Nazi or other far-right links, Rokita said.

"Robbery and material gain are considered one of the main possible motives, but whether that was done on someone's order will be determined in the process of the investigation," added deputy investigator Marek Wozniczka.

"They are ordinary thieves," Rokita said.

The suspects have not been identified publicly, but Rokita said they were between the ages of 20 and 39 and that their past offenses were "either against property or against health and life," implying that at least one of them has a record for violent crime.

Four of them are unemployed and one owns a small construction company, he said. He would not give any other details.

Four of the five men are believed to have carried out the theft, removing the 65- to 90-pound steel sign from above the Auschwitz gate in the town of Oswiecim, about 30 miles west of Krakow.

"It seems they cut the sign up already in Oswiecim, to make transport easier," Rokita said at a news conference in Krakow. It was "hidden in the woods near the home of one of them."

Police in Krakow released a photograph showing investigators removing the cut-up sign — covered in brown protective paper — from a van. A second photograph showed one of the suspects being pulled from the van, a hooded sweat shirt pulled over his head and hiding his face.

Wozniczka said the suspects will all be charged with theft of an object of special cultural value and could face up to 10 years in prison. He said other charges could possibly be added during the investigation.

Museum authorities welcomed the news with relief despite the damage. Spokesman Pawel Sawicki said authorities hope to restore it to its place as soon as it can be repaired and was working to develop a new security plan.

An exact replica of the sign, produced when the original underwent restoration work years ago, was quickly hung in its place Friday.

In a statement e-mailed to the Associated Press, Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder and dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, welcomed the sign's swift recovery.

"Whatever the motivation, it takes warped minds to steal the defining symbol of the Holocaust from the world's most renowned killing field," he said.

The chairman of Yad Vashem, Israel's official Holocaust memorial, expressed relief.

"The theft of the sign, which had become a symbol both of the ultimate evil that found its expression in Auschwitz, and of the memory of the Shoah — Jewish Holocaust, gave pain to Holocaust survivors and people of conscience everywhere," Avner Shalev said in a statement. "The concern expressed by people around the world, illustrates the importance and awareness of Holocaust remembrance today."

Noach Flug, an Auschwitz survivor and chair of a consortium of survivors' groups, welcomed the sign's recovery and called for tighter security.

Security guards patrol the 940-acre site around the clock, but due to its vast size they only pass by any one area at intervals.

After occupying Poland in 1939, the Nazis established the Auschwitz I camp, which initially housed German political prisoners and non-Jewish Polish prisoners. The sign was made in 1940. Two years later, hundreds of thousands of Jews began arriving by cattle trains to the wooden barracks of nearby Birkenau, also called Auschwitz II.

More than 1 million people, mostly Jews, but also Gypsies, Poles and others, died in the gas chambers or from starvation and disease while performing forced labor. The camp was liberated by the Soviet army on Jan. 27, 1945.

The grim slogan "Arbeit Macht Frei" was so counter to the actual function of the camp that it has been etched into history. The phrase appeared at the entrances of other Nazi camps, including Dachau and Sachsenhausen, but the long curving sign at Auschwitz was the best known.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.































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Sick corporate fluff piece compares Rothschild heir to Jesus

The December 2009 issue of Outside magazine, which is on display now at retail outlets, features a front page photo and profile of the purported Prius-driving Rothschild heir.
In a story entitled "Plastics Jesus: David de Rothschild", the magazine notes how the 31 year old is "resurrecting purpose in big-time adventure", by building a boat out of plastic bottles to get attention to the topic of waste. Rothschild is wearing what appears to be a skull & bones belt buckle in the magazine photo.

Described as searching for a "concrete cause" after a series of marginal attempts at notoriety, Rothschild admits that he just recently took his first sailing lessons. He has been promoting his project
"Plastiki" for three years while they build his boat at Pier 31 in San Francisco.

Several friends are mentioned in the article, including actress Karina Deyko, actor Adrian Grenier, Steve Cooper of the band Spirit Animal, and tv host Bruce Parry. Wikipedia describes Parry as speaking "on the importance of raising awareness for indigenous rights. He believes that if people understood the impact that our culture of greed and consumption has on the 'wonderful people' at the other end, they would act differently." (here's a yotube of Parry pushing his enviro agenda)

Also mentioned in the article as a friend of Rothschild's is author Paul Hawken, who writes on his own website that "there's a surplus of people while natural capital... is in decline", and that "most businesses still operate according to a world view that hasn't changed since the start of the industrial revolution."

The profile outlines how another activist beat Rothschild to the punch by building and sailing a plastic bottle boat. Marcus Eriksen of sailed "to Hawaii on 15,000 plastic bottles and a Cessna 310, to raise awareness about plastic fouling our oceans".

Deeper into the 3 page online version of the Outside article is the admission that Rothschild's boat will not even be comprised of any actual recycled bottles, but rather "self-reinforced polyethylene terephthalate, or srPET, a new fabric-like derivative of the stuff used in plastic bottles", which Rothschild later intends to hawk to corporate takers. It goes on to explain Rothschild hasn't spent a dime of his own fortune on his project, thanks to a myriad of corporate sponsors which include Hewlett-Packard.
Nickelodeon is set to run programs promoting Rothschild with SpongeBob, "and National Geographic Television will air a documentary" in the future, according to Outside magazine.

Rothschild, who hosted a short-lived outdoor program on a cable channel , is profiled as someone searching for a mission and message in order to reach younger generations, "raising awareness" for "tangible solutions". In reality the propaganda Rothschild is spreading is nothing more than claptrap to enslave the planet with regulatory tyranny based on lies.

In 2007, Rothschild appeared on the Alex Jones show and claimed that Mars, Saturn and Jupiter were closer to the sun than Earth.

See also:

David De Mayer Rothschild's Global Population Reduction Ideology

Cold hard truth: Meet The Rothschilds

Corporate press covers Yale's secret society skull & bones

Clearchannel host covers the history of eugenics in America

Mike Wallace questions Margaret Sanger on her opposition to the Catholic Church, 1957

Wicked government mandate forces immigrants to accept deadly vaccine

Why I carry a gun.

I don't carry a gun to kill people...
I carry a gun to keep from being killed.

I don't carry a gun to scare people.
I carry a gun because sometimes this world can be a scary place.

I don't carry a gun because I'm paranoid.
I carry a gun because there are real threats in the world.

I don't carry a gun because I'm evil.
I carry a gun because I have lived long enough to see the evil in the

I don't carry a gun because I hate the government.
I carry a gun because I understand the limitations of government.

I don't carry a gun because I'm angry.
I carry a gun so that I don't have to spend the rest of my life hating
myself for failing to be prepared.

I don't carry a gun because I want to shoot someone.
I carry a gun because I want to die at a ripe old age in my bed, and
not on a sidewalk somewhere tomorrow afternoon.

I don't carry a gun because I'm a cowboy.
I carry a gun because, when I die and go to heaven, I want to be a

I don't carry a gun to make me feel like a man.
I carry a gun because men know how to take care of themselves and the
ones they love.

I don't carry a gun because I feel inadequate.
I carry a gun because unarmed and facing three armed thugs, I am

I don't carry a gun because I love it.
I carry a gun because I love life and the people who make it meaningful
to me.

Police Protection is an oxymoron. Free citizens must protect themselves.
Police do not protect you from crime, they usually just investigate the
crime after it happens and then call someone in to clean up the mess.

Personally, I carry a gun because I'm too young to die and too old to
take an ass whoopin'.

A winter's worth of snow in 24 hours

With an official 23.2 inches – the second biggest snowfall ever in Philadelphia – the area incredibly has exceeded the amount of snow it ordinarily gets in an entire winter.

And winter is still 24 hours away.

It was far and away the biggest December storm – surpassing the 21.0 inches of Dec. 25-26 in 1909 – and second all-time only to the 30.7 of Jan. 6-8, 1996. On average, the city gets about 20 inches a season at the official airport measuring system.

“We have pretty well assured ourselves a White Christmas,” said Tony Gigi, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Mount Holly.

Another storm is due Christmas and it is expected to be wetter than whiter, said his colleague, Bob Wanton, but by Christmas morning plenty of snow should still be on the ground.

Other accumulation totals include 24 inches in Medford and Atco in South Jersey, 15.4 inches in West Chester and 11.4 inches in Newtown. It was only 5.6 inches in Allentown.

The sounds of silence that accompanied the falling snow yesterday will now be replaced today by the noise of the big-dig out as residents turn to shovels and snow blowers to clear buried sidewalks and driveways.

The high will be about 30, but northwest winds of between 14 and 18 mph will make it feel even colder when you’re digging out.

Crews were busy all night clearing snow at Lincoln Financial Field in an effort to get ready for today’s delayed 4:15 p.m. start for the game between the Eagles and the San Francisco 49ers.

Snow from the stadium and its surrounding parking lots is being trucked to the former Naval Ship Yard.

Malls around the region -- who lost one of the busiest Christmas shopping days yesterday -- also are busy clearing snow in the hopes shoppers will return today.

Officials say major thoroughfares should be cleared by noon, but urge motorist to drive with caution or not at all, if possible. Airports up and down the East Coast have been affected by the storm and travellers should expect cancellations and delays until the airlines can resume normal service.

Mayor Nutter says the city plans to have major roads cleared so that schools will be able to open tomorrow.

Read this morning’s Inquirer story about the storm here.

Record-breaking snowfalls paralyse US cities

Firefighters rescue a driver beside an icy highway in Delaware.

Firefighters rescue a driver beside an icy highway in Delaware. Photo: AP

A SNOWSTORM described as one of the worst in a decade has blanketed much of the eastern United States, grounding flights and bringing traffic to a standstill on the last weekend of the holiday shopping season.

In the eye of the storm, the cities of Baltimore and Washington set a December snowfall record of 40 centimetres, shattering a 1932 record.

And with more snow forecast to fall on Washington today, the enormous snowstorm stretching some 800 kilometres across a dozen states is set to become one of the biggest in the capital since record-keeping began in 1885.

Local authorities have suspended public transport, declared a state of emergency and pleaded with residents to stay home.

Hundreds of flights have been cancelled and shopping malls closed early because few customers could navigate the treacherous roads.

The storm began in the Gulf of Mexico and swept north-east, growing most intense over the Washington area.

At a time of year notable for its bustle, much of the region was in cancellation mode. The Smithsonian closed its museums.

The Washington Ballet called off its performance of The Nutcracker and Ford's Theatre shut down two performances of A Christmas Carol. Washington DC police cancelled their Toys for Tots distribution. The archdioceses of Baltimore and Washington reminded Catholics that church law excused them from Sunday Mass if it was unsafe to travel, and urged them to watch Mass on television instead.

In some spheres, life went on as normal, with a twist. True to its credo, the US Postal Service delivered mail, though several post offices closed early.

President Barack Obama flew into Andrews Air Force Base, returning from climate talks in Copenhagen, but weather conditions forced him to ride back to the White House in a motorcade instead of a helicopter.

One other thing may take a few days to figure out - whether the storm was officially a blizzard. The designation is reserved for storms with winds over 56 km/h and visibility under 400 metres.

An official at the Weather Service said the criteria needed to be confirmed.

''Even if it doesn't officially meet the criteria for a blizzard,'' he said, ''it's doggone close.''


Gerald Celente - 2010 Prepare for the Worse -

Click this link ........

Tarpley-Hyperinflation Just Around The Corner

Click this link .......

Lenders reject homeowners who apply for Obama plan

Ten months after the Obama administration began pressing lenders to do more to prevent foreclosures, many struggling homeowners are holding up their end of the bargain but still find themselves rejected, and some are even having their homes sold out from under them without notice.

These borrowers, rich and poor, completed trial modifications of their distressed mortgage, and made all the payments, only to learn, often indirectly, that they won't get help after all.

How many is hard to tell. Lenders participating in the administration's Home Affordable Modification Program, or HAMP, still don't provide the government with information about who's rejected and why.

To date, more than 759,000 trial loan modifications have been started, but just 31,382 have been converted to permanent new loans. That averages out to 4 percent, far below the 75 percent conversion rate President Barack Obama has said he seeks.

In the fine print of the form homeowners fill out to apply for Obama's program, which lowers monthly payments for three months while the lender decides whether to provide permanent relief, borrowers must waive important notification rights.

This clause allows banks to reject borrowers without any written notification and move straight to auctioning off their homes without any warning.

That's what happened to Evangelina Flores, the owner of a modest 902-square-foot home in Fontana, Calif. She completed a three-month trial modification, and made the last of the agreed upon monthly payments of $1,134.60 on Nov. 1. Her lawyer said that in late November, Central Mortgage Company told her that it would void her adjustable-rate mortgage, which had risen to a monthly sum above $2,000, and replace it with a fixed-rate mortgage.

"The information they had given us is that she had qualified and that she would be getting her notice of modification in the first week of December," said George Bosch, the legal administrator for the law firm of Edward Lopez and Rick Gaxiola, which is handling Flores' case for free.

Flores, 58, a self-employed child care worker, wired her December payment to Central Mortgage Company on Nov. 30, thinking that her prayers had been answered. A day later, there was a loud, aggressive knock on her door.

Thinking a relative was playing a prank, she opened her front door to find two strangers handing her an eviction notice.

"They arrived real demanding, saying that they were the owners," recalled Flores. "I have high blood pressure, and I felt awful."

Court documents show that her house had been sold that very morning to a recently created company, Shark Investments. The men told Flores she had to be out within three days. The eviction notice had a scribbled signature, and under the signature was the name of attorney John Bouzane.

A representative in his office denied that Bouzane's law firm was involved in Flores' eviction, and said the eviction notice was obtained from Bouzane's Web site,

Why would a lawyer provide for free a document that gives the impression that his law firm is behind an eviction?

"We hope to get the eviction business," said the woman, who didn't identify herself.

Flores bought her home in 2006 for $352,000. Records show that it has a current fair-market value of $99,000. The new owner bought it for $78,000 at an auction Flores didn't even know about.

"I had my dream, but now I feel awful," said Flores, who remains in the house while her lawyers fight her eviction. "I still can't believe it."

How could Flores go so quickly from getting government help to having her home owned by Shark Investments? The answer is in the fine print of standard HAMP documents.

The Aug. 25 cover letter from Central Mortgage Company, the servicer that collects Flores' mortgage payments, offered Flores a trial modification with this comforting language:

"If you do not qualify for a loan modification, we will work with you to explore other options available to help you keep your home or ease your transition into a new home."

CMC is owned by Arkansas regional Arvest Bank, itself controlled by Jim Walton, the youngest son of Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton.

A glance past CMC's hopeful promise finds a different story in the fine print of HAMP document, which contains standardized language drafted by the Obama Treasury Department and is used uniformly by lenders.

The document warns that foreclosure "may be immediately resumed from the point at which it was suspended if this plan terminates, and no new notice of default, notice of intent to accelerate, notice of acceleration, or similar notice will be necessary to continue the foreclosure action, all rights to such notices being hereby waived to the extent permitted by applicable law."

This means that even when a borrower makes all the trial payments, a lender can put the house up for auction if it decides that the homeowner doesn't qualify - assuming that foreclosure proceedings had been started before the trial period - without telling the homeowner.

Until now, lenders haven't even had to notify borrowers in writing that they'd been rejected for permanent modifications.

In January, 11 months after Obama's plan was announced, homeowners will begin receiving written rejection notices, and the Treasury Department finally will begin receiving data on rejection rates and reasons for rejections.

The controversial clause notwithstanding, the handling of Flores' loan raises questions.

"Foreclosure actions may not be initiated or restarted until the borrower has failed the trial period and the borrower has been considered and found ineligible for other available foreclosure prevention options," said Meg Reilly, a Treasury spokeswoman. "Servicers who continue with foreclosure sales are considered non-compliant."

CMC officials declined to comment and hung up when they learned that a reporter was listening in with permission from Flores' legal team. Arvest officials also declined comment.

McClatchy Newspapers did hear from Freddie Mac, the mortgage finance agency seized by the Bush administration in September 2008. Freddie owns Flores' loan, and spokesman Brad German insisted that Flores was reviewed three times for loan modification.

"In each instance, there was a lack of documentation verifying that she had the income required for a permanent modification," German said.

That response is ironic, said Michael Calhoun, the president of the Center for Responsible Lending, a nonpartisan group in Durham, N.C., that works on behalf of borrowers.

"These lenders gave loans with no documentation and charged them a penalty interest rate for doing so. And now when the people ask for help, they are using extravagant demands for documentation to give them the back of their hand and continue to foreclosure," Calhoun said.

German said that Flores was sent a letter on Nov. 24, which would have arrived several days later, given the Thanksgiving holiday, informing her that she'd been rejected for a permanent modification. Flores and her attorney said she never got a letter, and neither Freddie Mac nor CMC provided proof of that letter.

Exactly one week after the letter supposedly was sent, Flores' home was sold to Shark Investments. That company was formed on Aug. 19, according to records on the California Secretary of State's Web site. Shark Investments, apparently an unsuspecting beneficiary of Flores' woes, has no phone listing. The Riverside, Calif., address on the company's filing as a limited liability company traces to a five-bedroom, four-bath house with a swimming pool.

German didn't comment on whether Flores received sufficient notice under Freddie Mac rules, or how the home could move to sale so quickly.

Flores' legal team, which specializes in foreclosure prevention, thinks that lenders and servicers are gaming Obama's housing effort.

"It seems servicers are giving people false hopes by sending them a plan, and they are using the program as a collection method, getting people to pay them with no intention of modifying the loan," said Bosch. "I believe they are using this as a tool to suck people dry."

Dashed hopes aren't exclusive to the working poor such as Flores.

David Smith owns a beautiful home in San Clemente, Calif. Smith purchased his five-bedroom home four years ago for $1.3 million. Today, the real estate Web site estimates the value of Smith's home at $981,000, slightly below the $1 million he still owes on it.

Smith said he went from "making a lot of money to making hardly any" as the national and California economies plunged into deep recession. He's a salesman serving the hard-hit residential and commercial construction sector. On top of his hardship, Smith's mortgage exceeds the limits for the HAMP plan.

In late August, Smith signed and returned paperwork in a prepaid FedEx envelope to Bank of America that said it had received the contract needed to modify the adjustable-rate mortgage he originally took out with the disgraced lender Countrywide Financial, which Bank of America bought last year.

The modification agreement shows that Bank of America agreed to give Smith a 3.375 percent mortgage rate through September 2014, and everything Smith paid between now and through 2019 would count as paying off interest. He'd begin paying principal and interest in October 2019, with the loan maturing in 2037.

The deal favors the lender, but Smith, 55, jumped on it because it kept him in the home.

Armed with what he thought was "a permanent modification," Smith returned a notarized copy of the agreement and made subsequent payments on time.

In return, he got a surprising notice from Bank of America saying that his house would be auctioned off on Dec. 18.

"It looks like they're trying to sell this out from underneath me," Smith said. "My wife cries all the time."

After a Dec. 16 call from McClatchy asking why Bank of America wasn't honoring its own modification, the lender backed off.

"The case has been returned to a workout status and a Home Retention Division associate will be contacting Mr. Smith for further discussions," said Rick Simon, a Bank of America spokesman. "The scheduled foreclosure sale will be postponed for at least 30 days to allow for review of the account in hope of completing a home retention solution for Mr. Smith."

The Center for Responsible Lending says such problems are common.

"Everyone acknowledges that the system is not working well," Calhoun said.

Deep South calls in Iran to cure its health blues

In ground-breaking project, one of America’s poorest communities is turning to the Middle East to try to resolve its crisis

AS Marie Pryor shuffles along a Mississippi roadside collecting discarded drink cans to sell for a few cents, her breath comes in short puffs caused by a congenital heart defect. The same condition caused her granddaughter’s death earlier this year.

The last place on earth she would look for help is Iran, a country widely regarded in America as the enemy. The US and Iran have not had diplomatic relations for 30 years and the two governments trade daily insults over Iran’s nuclear programme. Last week Tehran charged three American hikers with espionage after they apparently strayed across the border.

But with Congress acrimoniously debating the reform of healthcare, it is to Iran that one of America’s poorest communities is turning to try to resolve its own health crisis.

A US doctor and a development consultant visited Iran in May to study a primary healthcare system that has cut infant mortality by more than two-thirds since the Islamic revolution in 1979.

Then, in October, five top Iranian doctors, including a senior official at the health ministry in Tehran, were quietly brought to Mississippi to advise on how the system could be implemented there.

The Mississippi Delta has some of the worst health statistics in the country, including infant mortality rates for non-whites at Third World levels.

“It’s time to look for a new model,” said Dr Aaron Shirley, one of the state’s leading health campaigners.

“Forty years ago, when I was a resident at Jackson hospital, I was in charge of admitting sick babies and was astonished at all the children coming in from the delta with diarrhoea, meningitis, pneumonia.

“After years of health research and expenditure of millions of dollars, nothing much has changed.”

As the House of Representatives and Senate weigh the cost of President Barack Obama’s health reforms, Shirley points out that good primary care prevents people from ending up in hospital in the first place.

Besides, nowhere is the need for reform more acute than in Mississippi. The southern state has the highest levels of child obesity, hypertension and teenage pregnancy in the US. More than 20% of its people have no health insurance.

Baptist Town, where Pryor lives, is typical. A rundown suburb of Greenwood, the collapse of the cotton industry has led to massive unemployment. The local stores are a pawn shop, Juanita’s Beauty Salon and Bail Bonding, and an office offering “payday and title loans”.

Pryor’s son Kenneth and daughter-in-law Lizzie, who live with her, are both out of work and their only daughter died from her heart condition at the age of 26. With no local clinics or transport, they go to the hospital’s accident and emergency department if they need a doctor.

The idea of looking for solutions in Iran emerged when James Miller, a consultant based in Mississippi, was called in to advise a rural hospital in financial difficulty. He was shocked to find that the state had the third highest medical expenditure per capita, but came last in terms of outcome.

Miller, managing director of Oxford International Development Group, remembered a conference in Europe where Iranian officials had explained how their country had revolutionised its healthcare system.

Facing shortages of money and trained doctors at the start of the Iran-Iraq war in 1980, the new government launched a system based on community “health houses”, each serving about 1,500 people.

Locals were trained as health workers known as behvarz, who would travel their area, dispensing advice about healthy eating, sanitation and contraception as well as monitoring blood pressure and conditions such as diabetes.

It was a stunning success, reducing child mortality rates by 69% and maternal mortality in rural areas from 300 per 100,000 births to 30. There are now 17,000 health houses in Iran, covering more than 90% of its rural population of 23m.

Miller contacted Shirley, who is seen as a community health pioneer in Mississippi and had recently converted a deserted shopping centre in Jackson into a “medical mall” for the poor.

“I thought if the Iranians could do it with a fraction of resources we have, then why shouldn’t we?” said Shirley.

An Iranian doctor helped them make contact with Shiraz University, which manages more than 1,000 health houses and trains healthcare workers.

Shirley and Miller visited Iran in May and were astonished to be welcomed with open arms. When they went to remote villages to see the health houses, the Iranians were equally amazed.

“They told us this is a miracle,” said Miller. “Not only were Americans coming here, but also they were learning from us rather than telling us what to do.”

One villager exclaimed: “We always knew rain fell down but never knew it could fall up.”

They signed an agreement with Shiraz University to form the Mississippi/Islamic Republic of Iran rural health project and applied to the US Treasury for a special licence for “Iranian transactions”.

The next step was to win over communities in Mississippi. They started with Greenwood, where Shirley had already been in talks about setting up a local clinic.

Community leaders were shocked when he advised using Iran as a model. “To be honest, I wasn’t overwhelmed with the idea of copying Iran,” said Larry Griggs, the local fire chief. “It’s not exactly one of the most favourable countries to the US.”

They also had to overcome the legacy of distrust between blacks in the American south and public health officials after a series of scandals over medical experiments. The most notorious was the Tuskegee experiment between 1932 and 1972, in which 399 impoverished, black, illiterate farmers were left to suffer from syphilis even though penicillin was available. More than 100 died.

To sell the Iranian idea, Miller promoted it as “a healthcare model just like the Beetle”, pointing out that the popular Volkswagen Beetle had been conceived by the Nazi regime to show “good things can come out of somewhere not very popular in the world right now”.

The Iranian experts who came to Mississippi included two of the programme’s architects, Dr Hossein Malekafzali, a former minister who is professor of public health at Tehran University, and Dr Kamal Shadpour, the initiative’s co-ordinator in the health ministry.

The Greenwood community was convinced and leased a defunct car showroom for $1 a month for the first Mississippi health house, which is due to open next month. Fifteen Delta communities have expressed interest and Harvard’s School of Public Health will monitor the project.

Paula Gutlove, deputy director of the Institute for Resource and Security Studies, a US think tank, said there was a positive shock value to using an Iranian model. “The exotic nature of working with Iran makes it intriguing to potential funders and sponsors,” she said.

The first candidates from the Mississippi Delta are expected to be trained as health assistants in Iran this spring. If it works, Shirley hopes to extend the programme to the rest of the US. “Just as Mississippi was ground zero in the civil rights movement, so it can be for health,” he said.

Nonetheless, the Iranian connection poses a problem. Knowing that many Americans might be outraged, they have not spoken about the project. Even the governor of Mississippi is unaware of it. “We’ve been deliberately working under the radar,” said Shirley.

The programme chimes with Obama’s policy of engagement and his support of so-called “smart diplomacy”, using links between scientists as a way of breaking down barriers between countries. Following his speech in Cairo last June, aimed at reaching out to the Islamic world, the president has appointed three science envoys who will head to the Middle East next month.

“The Iranians are a proud people with 5,000 years of history and huge contributions to science and medicine,” said a State Department official.

“A project like the Mississippi one is incredibly powerful as it appeals to that Iranian concept of history. It’s a great way to keep the door open between the two countries.”

Gutlove points out that similar meetings between American and Soviet scientists in the 1980s helped pave the way for the end of the cold war. “What we did in the 1980s created lasting relationships which cut across the divide,” she said.

“It’s a win-win project,” said Shirley. “Not only do we finally have a way of addressing disparities in Mississippi, but also building relations between peoples.”

There may be a long way to go. Tehran has refused to co-operate on granting access to its nuclear programme and last week, in a clear act of provocation, test-fired a missile capable of reaching Israel and Europe.

Iran ‘arrests MI6 nuclear informant’

An informant who is said to have told British intelligence about Iran’s secret nuclear facility at Qom has been arrested, Israeli news organisations claim.

The alleged MI6 source, whose name and nationality have not been disclosed, was taken prisoner after he discovered firm evidence that the plant was enriching uranium for Tehran’s secret nuclear weapons programme, according to the reports.

His fate is being kept secret and the Iranian authorities have made no mention of the arrest.

Israel’s television network, TV2, announced on its main evening news programme last week that “a spy for western intelligence has been caught by the Iranians”.

The internet news site, Ynet, went further and pointed to MI6 involvement, saying: “A British agent exposed the true purpose of the Qom reactor. Iran revealed the construction of a secret plant to the International Atomic Energy Agency [IAEA] only after learning that an MI6 agent had told operatives that it was designed for uranium enrichment.”

News of the arrest appears to have been leaked by Israeli intelligence in a briefing to trusted journalists. Whitehall officials declined to comment.

Moody's Warns U.S. Could Lose Triple-A Rating

Credit rating agency Moody's (MCO) said Tuesday that the United States, along with 16 other countries, could lose their Triple-A credit rating if fiscal deficits and heavy debts are not effectively managed.

While Moody's analysts emphasized that the United States' Aaa rating is not under immediate threat, it did say the rating could be downgraded in 2013 if the fiscal position does not improve.

"Aaa governments with stretched balance sheets will find themselves under pressure to announce credible fiscal plans and -- if markets start losing patience -- to start implementing them," said Pierre Cailleteau, managing director of Moody's Sovereign Risk Group, in a statement.

The Triple-A credit rating of the United States is both a point of pride and financial importance. If the U.S. were to lose its credit rating, even by one notch, it would significantly increase the government's cost of borrowing.

Moody's said that the biggest issues for the U.S. and other Aaa-rated countries will be the ability to have sustained economic growth coming out of this recession while also reducing fiscal deficits. The U.S recorded a record $1.42 trillion annual deficit for 2009, which raised the total amount of debt held as a percentage of the nation's GDP to 53.8%, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

The U.S.'s deficit as a percentage of GDP is expected to rise to 67% by 2018, the CBO said.

According to Moody's, the U.S. and other major Aaa-rated countries are not at risk and retain the "characteristics necessary for a Aaa rating," but have "lost altitude" in the Aaa space.

Austan Goolsbee, a member of the President’s Council of Economic Advisers, disputed Moody's report, saying that "it’s rather obvious that the U.S. government is not in danger of default."

"The deficit in the short run is big because we confront the worst economic crisis since 1929," he said. "In the medium run, the fiscal situation is dramatically better and we need to have fiscal responsibility, but the argument that we’re going to be a higher risk of default I find close to absurd.”

Moody's Puts U.S., U.K. on Chopping Block

Moody's Investors Service says the U.S. and U.K. must prove they can whittle down their ballooning deficits to avoid threats to their triple-A credit ratings.

In a report released on Tuesday, Moody's set the two countries apart from other top-rated sovereign borrowers, calling them merely "resilient" rather than "resistant," a label it applied to Canada, France and Germany, where public finances are in better shape.

Moody's released the report as part of an effort, spurred by investor demand, to examine the creditworthiness of the world's most highly rated countries. There are 17 such "triple-A"-rated countries, ranging from the U.S. to Australia.

In both the U.K. and the U.S., Moody's said, much will depend on the vigor of the economic recovery and the willingness of governments to shrink the deficits.

Under the most pessimistic scenario put forward by Moody's, the U.S. would lose its top rating in 2013 if economic growth proves anemic, interest rates rise and the government fails to dent the deficit or recover most of its assistance to the financial sector.

Unlike several years ago, "now the question of a potential downgrade of the U.S. is not inconceivable," says Pierre Cailleteau, chief international economist at Moody's. "In a world that has lost its compass a bit, people want to understand what happens to risk-free assets."

The report noted that in a situation of moderate growth and deficit reduction—the path Moody's considers most likely—"the trajectory of the debt metrics, while unfavorable in the near term, does not currently threaten the ratings" of countries like the U.S. and the U.K.

In the U.S., a "credible fiscal consolidation strategy" is necessary to prevent the debt load and associated interest costs from tipping into the ratings agency's most pessimistic scenario, the report said.

The U.S. has advantages too, Moody's added. Despite registering a sharp increase in the amount of federal government debt outstanding in the year to September, interest payments as a percentage of government revenue actually declined, to 8.4% from 10%. That is a sign of strong investor demand for U.S. Treasury bonds and bills, which has allowed the country to borrow cheaply.

However, Moody expects the interest-to-revenue ratio to climb to 13% by 2012 in its most likely outcome. In its worst-case scenario, the figure could spike to 18%, a level only seen in the 1980s.

Buying insurance to protect €10 million ($15 million) worth of U.S. government debt currently costs €32,000 a year, according to data from credit-information firm Markit. That is down from a high of €100,000 in March, but well above the €8,000 it cost in the summer of 2008 before the worst of the financial crisis.

Moody's noted that the major political parties in the U.K. have acknowledged the need to improve the state of public finances. Such discussions "will have to be validated by actions in the not-too-distant future to continue to provide support for the rating," it said.

The rating rests less on the quality of public finances at the moment and "more on the ability of the government to repair its balance sheet in the future," said Arnaud Mares, Moody's lead analyst for the U.K. and France.

Moody's plans to update the report, called its "Aaa Sovereign Monitor," every quarter.