Monday, May 24, 2010

U.S. senate votes to maintain big pharma's monopoly by blocking competitive imports

(NaturalNews) The United States Senate recently rejected two separate proposals that would have allowed the importation of cheaper medication from other countries, apparently in order to preserve a deal between the pharmaceutical industry and the White House.

The proposals were part of a wider effort to reform the U.S. healthcare system, in large part by cutting unnecessary costs.

Drug importation was first proposed by Sen. Byron Dorgan, a Democrat from North Dakota, in an amendment to the healthcare bill. The amendment would have allowed U.S. wholesale and retail drug distributors, including pharmacies, to import products from Australia, Canada, Europe, Japan or New Zealand, where price controls keep drug costs much lower than in the United States. The amendment eventually gained more than 24 sponsors from both major parties.

"This issue isn't rocket science," Dorgan said. "The American people are charged the highest prices in the world. They want Congress to stand up for their interests and do something about it."

According to Dorgan and co-sponsor Sen. John McCain, a Republican from Arizona and former presidential candidate, drug importation could cut $80 billion off the country's health spending over the next decade.

The United States spends $2.5 trillion on health care every year.

A vote on Dorgan's proposal was blocked on December 10 by fellow Democratic Sen. Thomas R. Carper of Delaware, who expressed concerns over the safety of imported medications. Like the FDA and the White House, Carper objected that the quality of imported drugs could not be assured.

"Senator Dorgan's amendment could potentially allow unsafe, counterfeited drugs into the United States, contaminating our drug supply," Carper said. "This is a complicated issue that affects people's lives. We should make sure that the FDA says it's safe before we reimport drugs from other countries."

"My amendment includes strong safeguards to prohibit drug counterfeiting and other practices that would put the consumer at risk," Dorgan replied. "It applies only to FDA-approved prescription drugs produced in FDA-approved plants from countries with comparable safety standards."

Other Senators charged that the real motive behind the claim of safety concerns was to preserve a recent deal between the White House and the pharmaceutical industry, in which the Pharmaceutical Research & Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) agreed to fund $80 billion worth of health care reform by accepting higher taxes and price agreements. According to a number of congressional staffers and pharmaceutical industry lobbyists, the deal included a verbal promise by President Obama to not support drug importation.

"There's great dissension in the Democrat caucus over Senator Dorgan's amendment," McCain said. "If it passes, as it should, it breaks the agreement that the White House made with PhRMA. So the White House, as well as PhRMA, has been over here lobbying furiously."

PhRMA denied that it had made any such deal, but the group and the White House both made statements earlier in the year saying that drug importation will not be necessary if Congress approves a healthcare bill implementing lower prices on U.S.-made drugs.

The $315 billion pharmaceutical industry has been the biggest healthcare-related industry to support the White House's healthcare reform effort. It is also one of the most influential lobbies in the country.

"People are walking on eggshells," Dorgan said. "If we pass legislation allowing people freedom to import drugs, the pharmaceutical industry might not support the health care amendment."

In the end, Dorgan's proposal, which needed 60 votes to be incorporated into the healthcare bill, failed 51-48. A separate amendment that would have allowed the importation of drugs specifically approved by the FDA also failed, 56-43.

"The drug industry has a lot of clout in this town, and they demonstrated that tonight," Dorgan said after the vote. "This is not over."

Dead In The Water - The Sinking of the USS Liberty

Click this link .....

U.S. Implicates North Korean Leader in Attack

WASHINGTON — A new American intelligence analysis of a deadly torpedo attack on a South Korean warship concludes that Kim Jong-il, the ailing leader of North Korea, must have authorized the torpedo assault, according to senior American officials who cautioned that the assessment was based on their sense of the political dynamics there rather than hard evidence.

The officials said they were increasingly convinced that Mr. Kim ordered the sinking of the ship, the Cheonan, to help secure the succession of his youngest son.

“We can’t say it is established fact,” said one senior American official who was involved in the highly classified assessment, based on information collected by many of the country’s 16 intelligence agencies. “But there is very little doubt, based on what we know about the current state of the North Korean leadership and the military.”

Nonetheless, both the conclusion and the timing of the assessment could be useful to the United States as it seeks to rally support against North Korea.

On Monday, South Korea’s president, Lee Myung-bak, who has moved cautiously since the assault, is expected to call for the United Nations Security Council to condemn the attack and is likely to terminate the few remaining trade ties between North and South that provide the North with hard currency.

But those steps have little chance of proving meaningful unless China, which hosted Mr. Kim two weeks ago, agrees to join the condemnation and refuses to make up whatever revenue North Korea loses from any trade embargoes. China, North Korea’s last true ally, has traditionally been reluctant to pressure the North too much, even when the North Koreans conducted nuclear tests, for fear of toppling the government and sending a flood of refugees across its border.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton will be in Beijing when the South Korean action is announced, leading a delegation of 200 American officials, including roughly half of the Obama administration’s cabinet, in an annual “strategic dialogue” with Chinese leaders on a variety of economic and political issues.

So far, at least in public, both American and South Korean leaders have been careful never to link Mr. Kim to the sinking of the Cheonan in March, which killed 46 sailors. Officials said that was in part because of the absence of hard evidence — difficult to come by in the rigidly controlled North — but also largely because both countries were trying to avoid playing into Mr. Kim’s hands by casting one of the worst attacks since the 1953 armistice as another piece of lore about the Kim family taking on South Korea and the West.

The North’s state propaganda surrounding that imagery has been used by the Kim family to sustain two generations of leaders since the end of World War II. Under the leading theory of the American intelligence agencies, Mr. Kim ordered the attack to re-establish both his control and his credentials after a debilitating stroke two years ago, and by extension reinforcing his right to name his son Kim Jong-un as his successor.

North Korea has denied any involvement in the attack, despite the presentation of forensic evidence on Thursday — including parts of the torpedo found in the wreckage — that experts from three countries said established that the torpedo was launched from a North Korean submarine.

Although the American officials who spoke about the intelligence assessment would not reveal much about what led them to conclude that Mr. Kim was directly involved, one factor appeared to be intelligence that he appeared on April 25, the anniversary of the founding of the Korean People’s Army, with a military unit that intelligence agencies believe to have been responsible for the attack.

Mr. Kim used the event to praise the group, Unit 586, the officials said, and around that time a fourth star appears to have been given to Gen. Kim Myong-guk, who officials believe may have played a crucial role in executing the attack. General Kim is believed to have been demoted to a three-star general last year, perhaps in response to the humiliation that took place after a North Korean ship ventured into South Korean waters. The North Korean ship was all but destroyed, and some analysts believe the attack on the Cheonan, which was in South Korean waters, was planned as retribution.

“Nobody is going to take overt credit for the sinking,” said Jonathan Pollack, a professor at the Naval War College and an expert on North Korea’s military. “But Kim’s visit to this unit has all the hallmarks of congratulating them for a job well done.”

The senior American officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the intelligence assessment is classified, said they ruled out the idea that General Kim or another military officer decided on his own to attack, but they did not explain how they reached that conclusion.

Victor Cha, a North Korea expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington and a former official in the National Security Council during President George W. Bush’s second term in office, noted that when Mr. Kim was on the rise three decades ago, “there were similar incidents designed to build his credibility” as a leader.

The Cheonan episode has posed some difficult choices for the Obama administration at a time when its national security team is preoccupied with Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran.

In an intense series of back-channel discussions with Mr. Lee, senior administration officials, including President Obama, have praised South Korea for its calm response. Like the South Koreans, American officials fear that any military retaliation against the North could quickly escalate, leading to rocket attacks on Seoul, major casualties and a panic among investors in South Korea. At the same time, they worry that if North Korea gets through the episode without paying a price — one that American officials decline to define — it could embolden the North Korean military.

The North Korean defense commission, which rarely issues public statements, turned out a fiery-sounding warning last week, saying it would respond to any military retaliation with “all-out war.”

Video: Pyramids in Bosnia?

Picture: Bosnian Pyramid buried under thousands of years of cover? Here's their website - fascinating reading...

Perhaps you will find this video as fascinating as did I. As usual there is the establishment opposition to new discoveries - I wonder why that is the case? Is it vested interests? Is it selfishness? Is it "just business? "

One would think it a simple matter to focus everyone's energy on getting to the bottom of the mystery - not wasting energy on arguing about whether or not there is a mystery or not at hand.

This pattern of opposition to new information that challenges our BELIEFS is paralleled in many subject areas that confront us today - whether it be the Truth movement, secret societies, NWO, banking, chemtrails, mind control and the rest of it.

It seems to me we need to steer our culture toward becoming one that lauds the inquisitive and treats those afraid of the exploration of new ideas as pariahs. This cultural change would help us to usher in the new age of enlightenment that seems so near but just out of our present reach. Children must be taught that the only stupid question is the one that goes unasked - perhaps adults of the future would not share some of our existing burdens of ignorance that result from the stifling of ideas.

As a slightly imperfect person myself, it has, at times, been a struggle to face the truth about that which I'd been so sure I knew in the past. Sometimes the new knowledge is so hard to face - I have to take it in a little bit at a time - sometimes over a period of time - sometimes requiring exploration in many other directions first. But I cannot NOT keep looking for the answers - and cannot NOT face the truth - whatever it turns out to be - however much I like it or not.

...some more videos

Although not related to the above Bosnian Pyramids - this is worth watching as it gives an overall view of a possible "bigger picture"

1. The guy in Egypt seems to stand in the way of progress
2. 10,500 BC is magic number shared by many sites that don't at first seem related. The monuments seem to point to constellations that match their construction:
3. A "we don't have all the answers" approach honors the subject by serving as a reminder of the mystery surrounding the monuments.

...and a video from the BBC on Pyramids found at Caral, Peru:

1. I don't like this video as much as previous ones - some "experts" interviewed seem too positive in their conclusions. They seem to claim to know more than I think they are capable of concluding - as compared to a "we don't have the answers" approach taken above.

2. Perhaps I'm mistaken - but following the logic of their theory that war/conflict is magic force behind civilization - one might be led to conclude that "war is good" and "good things come out of war" and "war brings progress." I don't begrudge them their ideas - but wasn't it a soldier that killed Archimedes? Wasn't it soldiers that burned the Library of Alexandria? Wasn't it the American war machine that paved a parking lot over Nebuchadnezzar's palace wiping out the cultural heritage of Iraq? Wasn't it an Army that destroyed the historical Monte Cassino?

NOTE: Mayans, Money, Mayhem - an old post you may enjoy - the Google video linked called Mayan Calender comes North is highly recommended

ALSO: Here's an old post about the Georgia Guidestones - ominous and somehow I don't likee

The Future of Money

The recent global economic crisis has revealed the contradictions of privatised finance. If taxpayers have to prop up the system when it fails, why should they not also have control over the supply and allocation of money in the first place? By Mary Mellor.

12th May 2010 - Published by Red Pepper

At the height of the financial crisis, the total public financial exposure in rescuing the world’s financial systems was around $15 trillion – a quarter of world GDP. Most of this was not used, but the existence of public backing prevented a worldwide collapse of financial institutions. This vital role of the public sector has in practice been ignored, as the surviving banks return to the bonus culture, benefiting from reduced competition and further state support through, for example, quantitative easing (increased money supply).

Not all states could support their bloated financial sectors. Iceland collapsed with financial commitments up to ten times its GDP. Britain, with a financial sector worth around five times GDP, could have faced similar problems. Globally the financial sector eclipses world GDP by at least ten times.

Finance Is Not Private

Why do governments feel obliged to spend untold billions rescuing the banks and financial sector when other businesses are often left to fail? The answer is that the financial sector is not a private sector at all. It embraces a public function, the issue and circulation of money – something that has been appropriated by private capital.

The contemporary banking and financial system has hijacked this public activity for its own benefit. However, when the financial system goes into crisis, the need to retain this public function means that it becomes a liability on the public, as represented by the state or equivalent monetary authority. As John McFall, chair of the UK Treasury select committee, wrote (Guardian, 9 January 2009), ‘After the extraordinary self-induced implosion of the financial system, the future of the market system now rests in the hands of governments. The politicians are the only show in town.’ The financial crisis and the public response have revealed both the instability of the global financial system and the importance of a public monetary authority of last resort.

The latter half of the 20th century saw a rapid growth in the financial sector as people became enmeshed in debts (particularly consumer debts and mortgages), as collective and public financial security was abandoned in favour of personal investments (particularly pensions), and because there was benefit to be had from inflated financial assets (particularly housing). Even institutional investors were tempted by the promise of higher profits in the most speculative areas, such as hedge funds.

With such a large proportion of the population entangled in the financial system, a demand for public rescue became more likely. A collapse in the financial system is much more threatening to social order than failures in the productive sector. If one factory fails it does not automatically close the rest (they may even benefit from less competition). But if a bank fails the panic threatens to become systemic as people lose confidence in the banking system. This alone was a major reason why states had to step in.

The need for state intervention has exposed the contradictions of financialised capitalism and its reliance on ‘Wall Street socialism’. A pivotal point was the rescue of the US investment bank Bear Stearns. The US monetary authorities were not only bailing out the retail banks, but finance capital as well. When the US Treasury later tried to isolate the investment sector by letting Lehman’s fail, there were nearly fatal consequences for the banking sector. The financial sector was so interconnected that a crisis of default in the US subprime sector could bring down a relatively small bank in the UK via the functioning of the global money market and the drying up of credit.

Public Foundations of the Financial System

The financial system is concerned with the issue and circulation of money. Within capitalism the aim is to direct money to the most profitable use.

Money is a strange phenomenon, real and yet not real. In essence it is a promise. Holding money is a claim on any resources, goods or services that are denominated in money terms. However, for these claims to be realised, the sellers of resources, goods or services must trust in the continued value of that money.

Historically, money has been made of a commodity that can itself be resold, such as gold, but today it mostly consists of base metal, paper, or merely electronic record. People trust it because convention and experience tells them it will be honoured. It is also backed by a public monetary authority as legal tender that has a stated value.

This is critical to public responsibility for money. All monetary activities designated in pounds are collectable from the British banking system (or its international agents). Underlying the whole banking system is the Bank of England. Despite it having been made independent in policy terms, the Bank’s authority rests on the financial viability of the nation in terms of its productivity (GDP) and its ability to collectively assemble money through taxes.

As has been shown in Iceland, the people, through the state, are forced to take on financial liabilities created by the private sector. If a company produces a car that ceases to function, the owner does not go to the state asking for a new one. With money, however, this is exactly what the holder of that money will do. People invested in Icesave, the Icelandic online bank, because it offered higher interest. Despite the fact that the bank was linked to a small country of only 300,000 people, investors did not see it as a risky investment.

When the parent bank failed, depositors turned en masse to the British government and demanded payment in full. In order to secure the safety of its own banks, the UK lent Iceland the money to repay deposits – a huge debt on the Icelandic people against which they are now protesting.

How could Iceland’s banks have financial commitments several times larger than its economy? Partly this was because the banks took in deposits from around the world, but mainly it was because banks can themselves create money. They do this by issuing bank credit – loans.

Capitalism has been built on bank credit. Traders and companies have borrowed bank money to set up their businesses. Recently most credit issue has been related to consumption or financial investments such as housing. The illusion is that banks act as intermediaries between savers and borrowers, but that is not so. Banks take in deposits, some paying interest. They also issue loans and charge interest. There is no direct relationship between savers and borrowers.

All deposits are returnable, regardless of what loans are still outstanding. Banks can also lend much more than they have in deposits, traditionally up to ten times more and even more in recent years. This is how financial sectors can explode in total value, eclipsing the productive economy and inflating financial assets.

Recently bank lending has contributed to the vast use of ‘leverage’ to enable the investments of the rich to go even further. Hedge funds, private equity investments and the investment arms of banks use borrowed money to inflate their speculative gambles. Some of these may even be gambles against the banks themselves or the national currency. As more money is issued it floods into the financial system and becomes part of the waves of money looking for a profitable home. As it is impossible to separate the interests of bank depositors or pension holders from financial speculators, in a crisis the whole system must be secured.

In such a crisis, the public underpinning of the money and banking system becomes clear. As all bank-created credit is designated in the national currency, this becomes a liability on the state. The logic would be that such a public liability should also be seen as a public resource. If the people are to be made ultimately responsible for whatever money is issued in their name, should they not have a say about how this money is used?

Far from having democratically controlled access to the process of credit issue, the public, as represented by the state, has itself to borrow from the capitalist owners and controllers of the nation’s money supply or tax money for public expenditure as it circulates. Today more than 95 per cent of money issue is through bank credit. Historically states controlled much higher levels of money issue as coinage. As expenditure on social or public needs are seen as secondary to privatised economic forces, the private sector determines how much public expenditure can, or cannot, be ‘afforded’.

Privatised control of money issue creates the impression that it is the private market that is creating wealth. Certainly it is making money, quite literally, largely through issuing it to itself as leverage to swell speculative trading. Private ownership and control of money issue has created huge differences of wealth. The mass of the people can only hope for a trickle down of economic activity through the consumption of the champagne-swigging traders and increasing numbers of billionaires. On the illusion that the manipulators of money have actually generated the wealth they gamble with, those playing the money markets demand a huge percentage of the product. The levels of pay and bonuses have become so obscenely bloated that they have become an economic ‘gated community’ set apart from ordinary mortals by their wealth. In fact they have stolen what should be a public resource and harnessed it for private benefit.

The Contradictions of Privatised Finance

Financialised capitalism rests on its capacity to create credit to lend to itself to inflate its speculative profits and financial assets. But financial asset inflation is always a pyramid scheme, whose value will collapse as soon as there are no new investors.

Traditionally states had a concentration of financial power through their ability to issue money as currency and tax it back. Capitalism has similar power through its control of financial resources. It creates money and calls it back with interest. This puts a growth dynamic into the economy. More money must come back than has been issued; this in turn demands that more money be created.

The neoliberal rationale for private control of money issue is that the market is more ‘efficient’. This is despite the endemic tendency to crisis in financialised capitalism. People have been encouraged to trust their future security in terms of pensions and savings to the financial markets, which in itself creates the conditions for a boom.

While hedge speculators can make money on rising or falling assets, for most people money can only be made on inflating financial assets such as housing or equities. This requires constant creation of credit to fuel the new buyers, a phenomenon that was clearly seen in the mortgage market. When the market has peaked and no one is willing to take on more credit, or the borrowers can no longer pay, the value of the financial assets must fall. Even in the case of hedge speculators, winners will be balanced by losers.

Why were the banks so desperate to lend money recklessly to homebuyers and to develop such complex financial packages? The answer lies in the demand for increased profits to raise dividends and share prices. The bonus strategy of payment in shares also drove this. In such a situation banks engaged in the most profitable aspect of banking, which was also the most risky. It is not without irony that financialised capitalism fell because of its exploitation of the very poor. As capitalism runs out of a market for its goods, services or investments, all that is left is the poor. In the case of financialised capital this was the subprime householder. However, the subprime borrowers did not cause financialised capitalism to fail; the cause was its own contradictions.

Profit-driven banks must always be tempted towards speculation, no matter how many firewalls are put up between deposits and investments. For this reason the calls for narrow banking or smaller banks will not work. As long as the companies running the banks are driven by capitalist values they must be driven by the drive for profit, and therefore risk. This would not be so important if the activities of the privatised banking sector were not a liability on the public. But the financial system is interconnected and the only way to save some parts is to save the whole. The speculative sector can only be separated if the deposit-based sector is not part of the capitalist system and if its credit creation capacity is brought under democratic control.

The private control of banking and finance is fundamentally flawed in that its neoliberal claim to financial freedom is in contradiction to the social foundation of money systems. The crisis has also undermined the claim that through global financialisation a substantial portion of national populations can sustain their economic future through appreciating financial assets. Far from ‘rolling back’ the state, the implosion of deregulated finance has directly contradicted the neoliberal case that the market and its money system is a self-regulating process that would be distorted by state intervention.

Under the illusion that money was a neutral representation of the wealth of the market, financial institutions operated far and wide. Financial traders speculated on currencies and borrowed from low-interest countries to invest in higher-interest ones. Claiming that their industry was global they played off countries against each other, demanding favourable tax status or lodging themselves in tax havens. In doing so they undermined the conditions of their own existence, the public authority of money.

A major problem for countries such as Greece or Argentina is that they have considerable problems in raising tax with substantial informal economies and high levels of tax avoidance. Finance may have escaped regulation but it has also separated itself from the legitimisation of money through public authority. This led the sector to expand to such an extent that the amounts of money at risk threatened the solvency of countries that had residual responsibility for their activities.

The Need for Radical Change

Proposed solutions to the financial crisis tend to involve more regulation and the break up or separation of banking activities, but these merely scratch the surface. The financial sector is not only too big; it embodies massive contradictions. In particular, the social role of finance makes it impossible for monetary authorities to let the system fail. This creates moral hazard on an epic scale, ‘Wall Street socialism’ with massive benefits for the financial elite and costs and liability for the many.

Given that the public nature of money makes the financial system a public liability, there is no case for its private ownership and control. As bank credit issue is the main engine of money creation in modern societies, how that money is issued and circulated is a crucial question. The allocation of that credit determines economic priorities.

Under capitalism the only priority is private profit. On this basis global speculative ventures are supported while local, particularly social, businesses are marginalised.

The allocation of credit is only part of the problem, however. The main question must be why the private banking system should have control of the monetary system at all. Historically this was developed through the link between trading money, promissory notes and bills of exchange, which were exchanged for bank credit notes designated in the national currency (legal tender). More recently the system has shifted to ‘sight accounts’, money records rather than cash in hand. The question that needs to be asked is: why is the private issue of notes and coin (counterfeiting) punished by law while the private creation of sight accounts is seen as a natural function of banking?

Capitalist control of the financial system has played a major trick on the public. Given that bank credit is created out of fresh air, like fresh air it should be a public resource, not a private horn of plenty. Decisions about the allocation of that credit should be made democratically. Private profit should not be the only criterion for money issue.

Nor should all money be issued as debt with the interest charged accruing to the issuing financial institution. Debt-based money builds in a growth dynamic that prevents the emergence of a more socially and ecologically sustainable economic system. Instead money could be issued without debt as grants or interest-free loans. The only reason this is not done is that capitalism has ideologically captured economic reasoning. The right of banks to issue money for profit is not challenged.

If people demand to issue money themselves or demand that social and ecological priorities come first they will be told that ‘this cannot be afforded’. The pretence is that the market puts some kind of brake on money creation and allocates it most efficiently. The recent crisis shows that neither of these claims is true. Any money creation by the public is decried as inflationary, while massive inflation of the capitalist financial system was given the euphemism ‘capital growth’. The public were to be grateful for the few crumbs of taxes that were reluctantly extracted from the financial sector.

In fact, there is no reason why money should be issued through the private banking system. It may be that with money under democratic control the public would vote to give financial resources back to the private sector, but it is more likely that social expenditure would be prioritised. The private sector would then have to re-orient its activities to serving public needs. This could form the basis of an economy in which growth would occur in response to social need, rather than the demand for ever expanding profits. Money circulation would return to the production of goods and services and not the never never land of perpetual financial growth. The idea that the whole of society could secure itself on constantly inflating financial assets is a total illusion.

The financial crisis has revealed the financial system’s enormous power and lack of democratic control. Money and finance, nationally and internationally, must be socially and politically re-embedded to enable socially just and ecologically sustainable economies to emerge. Rather than asking ‘can the financial crisis be the basis of radical change?’ the crisis must be the basis of radical change if we are not to continue on the capitalist financial merry-go-round until we all fall off.

Mary Mellor is a professor of social science at Northumbria University. Her book The Future of Money: From Financial Crisis to Public Resource is published by Pluto Press.

Link to original source

US official: At odds with China over NKorea, Iran

BEIJING — The United States and China are still at odds about how to deal with North Korea over the sinking of a South Korean warship it has been blamed for, a senior U.S. official said Sunday. They also remain apart on the specifics on new U.N. sanctions to impose on Iran over its suspect nuclear program, the official said.

On the eve of two days of high-level, U.S.-China talks, the official said China is not yet convinced that North Korea was responsible for the sinking of the South Korean vessel despite an international report that found it responsible. The official also said the two sides have not yet agreed on the details of penalties to impose on Iran.

The official spoke to reporters on condition of anonymity to describe discussions held at a private dinner hosted by a top Chinese official for U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton ahead of the talks. Clinton and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner are the U.S. co-chairs of the two-day strategic and economic dialogue with the Chinese.

The differences outlined by the official underscore the difficulties the Obama administration faces in trying to improve cooperation with China, particularly on international security issues. Both issues will be the subject of intense consultations over the course of the next two days, the official said.

The U.S. official said that during the dinner the American side raised with the Chinese the seriousness with which the United States and its allies South Korea and Japan take the March ship sinking, which the report blamed on a torpedo fired by a North Korean submarine.

The Americans also told the Chinese that it was important for Washington and Beijing to work closely on the matter, which the U.S. and South Korea say is a serious breach of the armistice that ended the Korean War, the official said. South Korea is expected to announce on Monday that it will take the issue to the U.N. Security Council.

The official would not discuss the steps that South Korea would announce but said there had been close consultation between Washington and Seoul and that the U.S. would support whatever the South announces.

The dinner was hosted by Chinese State Councilor Dai Bingguo.

China, North Korea's primary ally and benefactor, holds a permanent, veto-wielding seat on the Security Council and its support for any action there will be key. It has called the sinking "unfortunate" but has said little else about it publicly.

The U.S. official said that the Chinese were not ready to support such action and were still seeking proof of North Korean involvement in the sinking of the ship.

On Iran, the official said that while China had agreed in principle to a new Security Council sanctions resolution, there was still substantial work to do with Beijing on the specifics, including the names of Iranian companies and individuals that would be hit with penalties.

Those details are to appear in annexes to the resolution, which was agreed to in general last week by the five permanent members of the Security Council — Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States — along with Germany after months of painstaking negotiations.

Singapore, Hong Kong surpass US in competitiveness


GENEVA (AP) - Singapore and Hong Kong are the world's most competitive economies, an annual survey said Friday, demoting the United States from the top spot for the first time since 1993.

The study lists 58 economies according to 328 criteria that measure how the nations create and maintain conditions favorable to businesses - a formula that had favored the U.S. for 16 years.

"They are so close in the rankings, that it would be probably better to define them as a leading trio," said Stephane Garelli, professor at the Lausanne, Switzerland-based IMD business school, publisher of the World Competitiveness Yearbook.

Despite high unemployment and debt, and continued market instability, the United States was better placed than European nations and others to attract new investments and help companies grow.

"The U.S. has weathered the risk of the financial and economic crises thanks to the sheer size of its economy, a stronger leadership in business and an unmatched supremacy in technology," Garelli said.

Switzerland and Australia rounded out the top five. Then came Sweden, Canada, Taiwan, Norway and Malaysia.

China continued its rise in the survey, reaching 18th and highlighting that it is no longer dependent on foreign markets buying up its cheap exports. It led fellow emerging economies India, 31; Brazil, 38; and Russia, 51.

Debt-laden Greece actually improved in the 2010 ranking, rising six places to 46th.

Venezuela ranked last for the fifth year in a row, preceded by Ukraine, Romania, Argentina and Croatia.

The Unbelievably Rampant Corruption On Wall Street

In order for a financial system to be able to function properly, it is absolutely essential that the general population has faith in it. After all, who is going to want to invest in the stock market or entrust their money to big financial institutions if there is not at least the perception of honesty and fairness in the financial marketplace? For decades, the American people did have faith in Wall Street. But now that faith is being shattered by a string of recent revelations. It seems as though the rampant corruption on Wall Street is seeping up almost everywhere now. In fact, some of the things that have come out recently have been absolutely jaw-dropping. The truth is that the corruption on Wall Street is much deeper and much more systemic than most of us ever dared to imagine. As the general public digests these recent scandals, it is going to result in a tremendous loss of faith in the U.S. financial system. Once faith in a financial system is lost, it can take years or even decades to get back. So how is the U.S. financial system supposed to work properly when large numbers of people simply do not believe in it anymore?

Just consider some of the recent revelations of Wall Street corruption that have come out recently....

*Bloomberg is reporting that a massive network of big banks and financial institutions have been involved in blatant bid-rigging fraud that cost taxpayers across the U.S. billions of dollars. The U.S. Justice Department is charging that financial advisers to municipalities colluded with Bank of America, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Lehman Brothers, Wachovia and 11 other banks in a conspiracy to rig bids on municipal financial instruments. Apparently what was going on was that it was decided in advance who would win the auctions of guaranteed investment contracts, which public entities purchase with the proceeds from municipal bond sales, and then other intentionally losing bids were submitted in order to make the process look competitive. The U.S. Justice Department claims that this fraud has been industry-wide and has been going on for years. In fact, at least four financial professionals have already pleaded guilty in this case.

*An industry insider has come forward with "smoking gun" evidence that some of the biggest banks have been openly and blatantly manipulating the price of gold and silver. For a time it looked like the federal government was just going to ignore all of this fraud, but after substantial public uproar some action is indeed being taken. In fact, it has been reported that federal agents have launched parallel criminal and civil probes of JPMorgan Chase and its trading activity in the precious metals markets.

*Goldman Sachs is getting most of the press about fraud in the mortgage-backed securities market these days. Of course Goldman is strenuously denying that it "bet against its clients" when it changed its position in the housing market in 2007. But we all know the truth at this point. The truth is that Goldman Sachs clearly bet against its clients and was involved in a whole lot of things that were even worse than that. Many did not think the U.S. government would dare go after Goldman, but that is what we are starting to see. U.S. federal prosecutors have opened a criminal investigation into whether Goldman Sachs or its employees committed securities fraud in connection with its trading of mortgage-backed securities, and it will be very interesting to see if anything comes of that investigation.

*But not everyone is being held accountable for their actions. The guy who helped bring down AIG is going to get off scott-free and is going to be able to keep the millions in profits that he made in the process.

*Entire U.S. cities have been victims of this rampant Wall Street fraud. In fact, it is now being alleged that the biggest banks on Wall Street are ripping off some of the largest American cities with the same kind of predatory deals that brought down the financial system in Greece.

*The really sad thing is that fraud is very, very lucrative. Executives at many of the big banks that received large amounts of money during the Wall Street bailouts are being lavished with record bonuses as millions of other average Americans continue to suffer economically. Even the CEOs of bailed-out regional banks are getting big raises. It must be really nice to be them.

So does all of this make you more likely or less likely to invest in the stock market?

Do you think that the American people can see all of this and still believe that the financial system is "fair" and "honest"?

The truth is that Wall Street is full of rip-off artists and fraudsters who don't even try to hide their greed anymore.

It is as if a thousand junior Gordon Gekkos have been unleashed and they are all trying to be masters of the universe at any cost.

But what they are doing is ripping the heart out of the U.S. financial system.

If people lose faith in the system the system will ultimately fail.

A financial system that allows open fraud and manipulation is operating on borrowed time.

So will the rampant corruption on Wall Street now be cleaned up?

Only time will tell.

But one thing is for certain.

The American people will be watching.

Vast amounts of food trashed despite incentives

Farmers, restaurants and supermarkets throw away millions of tons of edible food each year at a time when a growing number of Californians struggle to put food on the table.

More than 6 million tons of food products are dumped annually, enough to fill the Staples Center in Los Angeles 35 times over, state studies have found. Food is the largest single source of waste in California, making up 15.5 percent of the state's waste stream, according to the California Integrated Waste Management Board.

An examination by California Watch and the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California found shortcomings along California's food distribution chain that allow vast amounts of food to go to waste in landfills, despite incentives that encourage food donations.

Among the findings:

-- Millions of tons of fruit and vegetables rot in fields and orchards or are plowed over each year. Some of these edible crops are left behind because they are misshapen or discolored. Gleaning programs rescue only a small portion of the field waste.

-- Major retail grocery chains are more likely to throw away fruits, vegetables and even entire hams and roasts than donate to distribution centers. While federal and state laws protect grocers from liability, many stores were concerned that donated food could sicken recipients even if it had not reached its expiration date. While some major chains donate food, others do not.

-- Restaurants dump tens of thousands of tons of edible food every year. The vast majority of the state's 90,000 restaurants do not participate in food-donation programs.

'Ridiculous' amount of waste

Waste is not just an issue for corporate chains and mom-and-pop food outlets. Discarded food represents a quarter of all waste tossed away by California households. While some waste is inevitable in all forms of business, the commodity of food takes on added significance, experts say.

"Waste is built into the food chain at all levels," said Jonathan Bloom, author of an upcoming book on food waste and of the blog Wasted Food. "The amount of food we waste is ridiculous, especially when you consider the number of Americans who experience hunger every day."

Several volunteer organizations work to "reharvest" California's vast produce landscape and divert edible food that would be wasted from grocery stores and restaurants into California's food banks and soup kitchens.

"It's a win-win situation," said Arlene Mercer, founder of Food Finders, a food recovery group in Long Beach that collects donations from supermarkets and restaurants for food pantries. "They can receive a tax write-off, people will be fed, and it will stop food waste."

But Mercer and others say too many opportunities are missed to divert food to the hungry before it is thrown away.

Produce left in fields

California's carpet of farmland spans 25 million acres and produces about half of the nation's fruits, nuts and vegetables, according to the California Department of Food and Agriculture.

"Waste is inevitable," said Mike O'Leary of Boskovich Farms in Ventura County. "We try to minimize it, but sometimes fields have to be disked," or cultivated, resulting in food being plowed under.

Some farms, such as Del Monte Foods Co.'s, try to cut their waste by donating produce to food banks. The California Association of Food Banks, which represents 45 food banks, has distributed more than 60 million pounds of food through its Farm to Family gleaning program.

But such efforts are only moderately successful. During one recent gleaning operation, about 10 percent of an estimated 140,000 pounds of carrots left above ground was rescued, according to Christy Porter, founder of Hidden Harvest, based in Coachella (Riverside County).

Farmers dispute such figures.

"We're not in the business of leaving commodities in the field," said Scott Deardorff of Deardorff Family Farms in Ventura County. He estimated that food left in the fields is closer to 5 percent.

Grocers fear liability

Some grocers are reluctant to donate much of the food left over because of liability concerns.

John Wadginski, 24, saw this firsthand. While in college, Wadginski worked at a Safeway store deli in Davis. The amount of food he tossed into the trash every night still bothers him.

"I had to throw out 10-pound hams that weren't even touched," he said. "It was easily 50 pounds of food a night."

Wadginski asked his supervisors if he could volunteer to take the food to a local shelter, but he said he was told not to that "because if anything happened, they would be liable."

A 1996 federal law protects all donations made in good faith. States have similar statutes. The only exceptions are gross negligence or intentional misconduct. A plaintiff would have to prove that a company or individual intentionally tried to harm another person by making a donation of food it knew to be unsafe.

Most grocery chains participate in some sort of hunger-relief program. But chains often limit donations to bakery items - the kind of foods that hunger organizations need the least. Other stores hesitate or refuse to donate perishable items such as produce and meat.

Safeway and Vons spokeswoman Teena Massingill acknowledged concerns about liability as a reason meats and other spoilable items aren't donated.

Costco sends about 45 million pounds of food each year to compost, its own records show. The chain has no companywide food recovery program. Mercer of Food Finders said that she has approached Costco but that the company has chosen not to participate, instead offering her discounts on food she buys for the programs and occasional free turkeys.

Albertson's Inc. was the first food chain to start a formal perishable-food-recovery program. In the Fresh Rescue program, stores within the Albertson's chain can partner with an organization in their community to receive food from the supermarket. Each store has one or two employees trained and designated to work with partner agencies.

Meanwhile, the number of hungry Americans continues to grow. In the past year, the Alameda County Community Food Bank has seen the number of same-day referrals increase 47 percent, said spokesman Brian Higgins.

Few restaurants donate

More than 90,000 eating and drinking establishments operate in California, according to the California Restaurant Association. But fewer than 1,000 restaurants donated last year through Food Donation Connection, the largest program that links food service donors with hunger-relief agencies.

The 940 California restaurants that participated in 2009 included almost 400 Pizza Huts, more than 100 KFC locations and more than 100 Chipotle Mexican Grill establishments.

Kevin Westlye, executive director of the Golden Gate Restaurant Association, which represents 800 firms in the Bay Area, said most members of his association participate in Food Runners, a 23-year-old San Francisco organization that feeds the hungry with food that would be otherwise discarded.

Vast amounts of food waste

To read more about food waste in California and to view a video on donations, go to

This story is the result of a collaboration between USC's Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism and California Watch, a project of the Center for Investigative Reporting. The reporters are graduate students at USC Annenberg. Chronicle staff writer Joe Garofoli contributed to this report.

This article appeared on page A - 1 of the San Francisco Chronicle

Which U.S. Volcanoes Are Most Dangerous Right Now?

There are 65 volcanoes in the United States and its territories that scientists consider active, including Mount St. Helens. Of those volcanoes, 12 are on alert, which means they are on heightened watch for eruptive activity, and two are erupting right now or expected to erupt shortly.

Volcanic activity is constantly monitored by the U.S. Geological Survey, which is responsible for alerting the population and airlines of potential volcanic activities and issuing a warning if there is an impending volcanic eruption, said USGS seismologist Seth Moran.

"For a remote volcano, airlines need to know that a volcano might erupt so they are prepared to change their route to avoid the ash," USGS Volcano Hazards Program coordinator John Eichelberger told Life's Little Mysteries.

For a volcano near population centers, people may need to take precautions, such as having dust masks or staying out of a danger zone, or in extreme cases they may need to evacuate, Eichelberger said.

Here are the seven most dangerous volcanic areas in the U.S., according to the USGS Volcano Hazards Program's Volcano Alerts watch list:

1. Kilauea Volcano

A currently erupting volcano, Kilauea means "spewing" or "much spreading" in Hawaiian and experienced frequent volcanic activity during the 19th century. Kilauea has been continually erupting since January 3, 1983. Lava flows from one of its vents and pours into the ocean.

Presently, the USGS has listed Kilauea as an orange level alert, because of elevated sulfur dioxide emissions from two of its vents and lava that is visible in the summit vent. (There are four warning levels – green, yellow, orange and red; red is the highest.)

One of the five volcanoes that form the Island of Hawaii, Kilauea is believed to be the home of Hawaii's mythical goddess of volcanoes and fire, Pele. Hawaiian tribal lore tells that Kilauea's eruptions are Pele's way of giving a gift.

2. Pagan Volcano

One of the two volcanoes that make up Pagan Island in the western Pacific, Mount Pagan is possibly the most dangerous volcano in the U.S. commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands because of its history of large eruptions.

The volcano's most recent massive eruption occurred in 1981, when debris from Mount Pagan mixed with heavy rainfall and buried a large area of the island, including a village containing a school and a church. The eruption forced residents to evacuate the island, and it has remained unpopulated ever since, with geologists surveying the volcano's activity via satellite imaging.

After the 1981 eruption, the volcano was intermittently active through 1996, mostly producing light ashfall. Currently, Mount Pagan is on yellow-level alert because of its gas emissions and the gas plumes it is producing on the island.

3. Anatahan Volcano

When Anatahan first erupted in 2003, the island's 23 residents were already long gone – they had been evacuated during seismic activity in 1990. Anatahan's most recent eruption lasted from 2007 to 2008, and the volcano remains on green-level alert.

The tiny volcanic island is located in the Northern Mariana Islands, and is about 5.6 miles (9 kilometers) long and 2 miles (3 kilometers) wide. It became well known after a group of Japanese World War II soldiers hid out on the island for years because they were unaware that the war had ended. They finally surrendered in 1951, when had already been over for six years.

4. Yellowstone Supervolcano

What makes the Yellowstone Volcano so unique is that it is the site of multiple calderas. These basin-shaped features usually form when a large volume of magma is removed from beneath a volcano, causing the ground to collapse into the emptied space and form huge depressions.

Situated in Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, the Yellowstone caldera's floor moved upward almost 3 inches (7.6 cm) each year between 2004 and 2008. Since 2009, the uplift has significantly slowed, but the movement of the caldera's floor is considered to be unpredictable. During the month of April 2010, the Yellowstone region experienced 117 minor earthquakes, which are common volcanic activities.

5. Long Valley Volcanic Center

Since April 23, 2010, at least ten minor earthquakes have occurred in or near the calderas of the Long Valley region, which lies east of the central Sierra Nevada Range in California. The Long Valley Caldera contains an active hydrothermal system that includes hot springs and steam vents. Some of the hot water is released into the Hot Creek Gorge, a popular year-round swimming hole.

6. Cascade Range

The Cascade Range stretches across the northwestern U.S. and into Canada, and has both active and non-active volcanoes, including Mount St. Helens in Washington.

In 1980, Mount St. Helens erupted, killing 57 people as well as thousands of birds and mammals. The explosive eruption created a volcanic ash cloud that drifted east across the U.S. in three days and circled Earth over the course of 15 days. Having caused an estimated $1 billion in damage, the Mount St. Helens eruption was the most economically destructive volcanic event in US history.

Minor eruptions at Mount St. Helens have occurred since then. The most recent lasted for three and a half years and ended in 2008.

The Cascade Range is a part of the Ring of Fire, an area containing half of the world's active volcanoes around the Pacific Ocean.

7. Redoubt Volcano

Alaska's Redoubt volcano erupted in December 2009 and then experienced a series of small repetitive earthquakes near its summit from April 17 to April 20, 2010. Located in the Chigmit Mountains of Alaska, Redoubt even has its own iPhone application for those interested in tracking its volcano alert status.

During its 1989-90 and 2009 eruptions, Redoubt produced ash plumes that significantly disrupted air traffic. One plane, KLM Flight 867, was nearly grounded after it flew through an ash cloud in 1989. All four of the aircraft's engines failed within 59 seconds of encountering the ash cloud, but then restarted with reduced performance as the aircraft approached to Anchorage. The eruption deposited fine gray dust in the city of Anchorage and other communities Alaska.

Another boomerang stuns the Venezuelan bourgeoisie

At today’s meeting of the PSUV (United Socialist Party of Venezuela) President Chávez did not waste any time reminding the beleaguered Venezuelan stock brokers that he would have no problem closing them all if they did not step into line.

This sharp reminder came after trading in all government debt was suspended by the Stock Market Commission yesterday in an all out assault on speculation against the national currency, the “bolívar fuerte”. This effectively means that the only legal route of converting local currency to US dollars in order to send them out of the country, capital flight, has been blocked.

Previously, Venezuelan brokers could trade in government bonds purchased at 2.15 to the US dollar and then offload them into the parallel exchange market at a rate 3 times greater. So, just for moving a few pieces of paper or keying in numbers on to a computer screen, so-called investors could free up their bolívares and make an easy 300% profit almost overnight.

In fact the correct word for such investors would be “speculators” or even “parasites”. Their actions have caused the bolívar to weaken significantly against the US dollar sparking an inflationary spiral which affects all 29 million inhabitants of the Bolivarian Republic.

The implications of these actions were not only financial but also political. The background plan of the speculators is one of creating high inflation so as to prejudice the government’s chances of retaining control of the National Assembly in the September 26th elections.

Add to this the Venezuelan and international media campaign placing all the blame for climbing prices – especially food – at the government’s door – and you have an excellent strategy to turn voters against government candidates. Essentially, it is an attack on the successful social programs that have elevated the quality of live for Venezuela's poor and disenfranchised. The privately controlled media in Venezuela amounts to at least 80% of all print and audiovisual media countywide and not one of these media outlets ever mentions the fact that it is the producers, distributors, wholesalers and retailers who are continually increasing selling prices, undermining government policies and programs.

This corporate media campaign concentrates on the weakening of the bolivar without explaining that the cause lies not with the government but rather with the speculators. International news brokers like Reuters and Associated Press consistently misrepresent problems in Venezuela, placing the blame on the government rather than where it belongs - on the US-funded opposition. They also focus on the recent negative GDP figures and the rate of inflation. No mention is made of the consistent fall in poverty levels from 71% in 1996 to 23% in 2010; or the increase in the Human Development Index to .84 which is classified as “high” by the United Nations Development Body. The media campaign ignores

The Venezuela bourgeoisie which controls most of the media, supermarkets, factories and much of the arable land is behind this strategy and all work in concert to undermine government policy. Having control of trading the government bond market meant that they could influence the devaluation of the currency and by extension the inflation rate but now all that has been stopped dead in its tracks.

Government debt will have to be traded via the Venezuelan Central Bank (BCV) which will set the exchange rate. Brokers are excluded from these transactions. These companies will not be able to speculate on their own account and the end buyer will be vetted to ensure that no hidden buyers are lurking in the shadows.

Reaction in the press, radio and TV as well as internet blogs has amounted to desperation in the bourgeois ranks. “The country is going to rack and ruin”, they scream. Not so. A country goes broke when it has unmanageable debts in relation to its GDP such as Greece whose external debt amounts to 115% of its GDP.

Venezuela's public debt fell from 47.5 percent of GDP in 2003 to 13.8 percent in 2008. In 2009, as the economy shrank, public debt picked up to 19.9 percent of GDP. Even if we include the debt of the state oil company, PDVSA, Venezuela's public debt is 26 percent of GDP. The foreign part of this debt is less than half of the total.


The irony of this situation is akin to shooting oneself in the foot. The bourgeoisie created inflation and were moving their funds off-shore in US dollars. Now, with it being impossible to trade government debt without the oversight of the BCV, they will have to suffer the consequences of their own treacherous actions and suffer the inflation they themselves created.

This will devalue the purchasing power of the bolívares they hold and when a true illegal black market (or as Chavez recently quipped, "why are we calling it the black market and not the white market?) arises, which it surely will, the perpetrators run the risk of being caught with cash dollars acquired illegally. Jail sentences of 2 – 6 years are mandatory for amounts over US$20,000 plus huge fines.

Perhaps this will encourage honest investment in internal production and reduce the bill for imports in the longer term.

The perpetrators whose task was to destabilize the economy will have succeeded in prejudicing the middle class voters they need to win at least some seats in the National Assembly in September.

You can rest assured that businesses which speculate will be expropriated and hoarders sent to trial. It is unfortunate that the government has taken so long to act but it is not isolated in these actions internationally speaking.

The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has clamped down on “naked short selling” of debt as has Germany. Venezuela is simply protecting itself, as developed countries are doing, against unbridled speculation which can cause countries to default on their obligations.

Let the international and local media criticize Venezuela’s measures. Constitutionally Chávez is obliged to protect the population against such machinations and if that means closing down the stock broking fraternity and the Caracas Stock Exchange itself, so be it.

The greed of the Venezuelan bourgeoisie will have boomeranged back on itself and one can clearly understand why Chávez said today, “Tremble bourgeoisie! Long live the Bolivarian Revolution!”



  1. Associated Press, Venezuela temporarily halts bond trading

  2. Venezuela is not Greece, The Guardian (UK)

  3. Multinational Monitor, A People's Health System. Venezuela Works to Bring Healthcare to the Excluded Multinational Monitor

  4. Venezuela Analysis, A Look at the Venezuelan Healthcare System

  5. State, Venezuela Educational System overview

  6. Axis of Logic, Poverty in Venezuela fell from 70% in 1996 to 23% in 2009

  7. Ralph T. Niemeyer, Does Venezuela Suppress Free Media?

  8. MINCI (Venezuelan Ministry of Communication and Information)

  9. Radio Nacional Venezuela

  10. TeleSur

  11. El Universal, US dollar skyrockets in Venezuelan swap market

  12. Venezuelan National Television

  13. Axis of Logic, Mass Transportation System in Venezuela Leaps Forward

  14. Ven Global News, Venezuela's Railway Development Boosts Dynamically

  15. National Public Radio (U.S.)

  16. El Nacional, Venezolanos sufren para llegar a fin de mes por inflación récord

  17. Associated Press, Venezuela annual inflation rate hits 30 percent

  18. Venezuela Analysis, Venezuela Criticizes Bias in Inter-American Human Rights Commission Annual Report

  19. Venezuela Analysis, Women's Development Bank: Creating a Caring Economy

  20. Axis of Logic, Reuters busted for indecent exposure. The automobile industry in Venezuela.
© Copyright 2010 by

Hedge funds bet big on the falling euro

Hedge funds that made millions from the implosion of America's subprime market are betting on a similarly dramatic collapse of the euro.

Hedge funds, including Hayman Advisers and Matrix Group, have told investors that they expect the sovereign debt crisis to worsen despite the €110bn (£79bn) bail-out by the International Monetary Fund, the European Union and the European Central Bank.

Anxiety about the financial health of Europe increased yesterday after Spain’s national bank was forced to take control of CajaSur, a savings bank ridden with distressed property debt, after a rescue merger with a rival collapsed.

Traders and brokers told The Sunday Telegraph that hedge funds are using a range of financial instruments to bet that the value of the euro will fall. One trader said: “Shorting the euro is the biggest bet in town.

“We’re seeing big volumes in credit default swaps and short selling in equities that are exposed to the euro.”

Gennaro Pucci, manager at Matrix, which manages £3bn, generated 19pc returns last month in its €110m Global Credit Fund on bearish euro bets. Mr Pucci told Bloomberg: “The ECB is buying debt at artificial levels, but that won’t solve structural problems.”

Nick Swenson, manager of US-based Groveland, who made millions of pounds during the credit crisis, said he started buying credit-default swaps on Spanish, Italian and Irish government bonds in March.

Kyle Bass at Hayman, who made $500m in 2007 betting on the implosion of subprime mortgages, told investors: “The EU and the IMF went all-in with a bad hand in the highest stakes game of financial poker ever played with the world.”

There is evidence that bets against the euro are being placed by important investors around the world, which last week took the euro to four-year lows on fears Greece, Spain and Portugal may be forced to leave the single currency.

In Tokyo, the powerful Kokusai Asset Management has reportedly sold down euro assets in its $60bn (£41bn) Global Sovereign Open fund in favour of safer investments. The fund, which had been the biggest investor in Greek bonds in 2009, sold its entire holding in the troubled asset class in December.

According to the latest data from America’s Commodity Futures Trading Commission, there were over 100,000 more contracts from traders betting that the euro would fall rather than it would rise.

Two weeks ago, the number of contracts placed by speculators expecting the euro to fall in value hit a record high of 113,890.

Last week, Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, tried to ward off speculators by banning so-called “naked” short selling of some bonds and derivatives. But traders warned the move had only served to panic the markets and the euro was likely to be a target for bearish bets again this week.

On Friday, European finance ministers agreed a strategy to overhaul the EU’s single currency rules, committing themselves to implement greater budgetary discipline by strengthening the euro’s Stability and Growth Pact.

Meeting with Mrs Merkel, David Cameron reiterated that Britain had no plans to join the euro and had the right to veto any treaty.


Hundreds of Other Items Purchased More Than a Year Ago, Sitting Unused
(Los Angeles) – City Controller Wendy Greuel released an audit today showing that
various City departments could not locate hundreds of items purchased with taxpayer
funds, and that hundreds of other items had been sitting unopened or unused for up to 7
“With the City facing such a large budget deficit, it’s essential that any equipment that we
are able to purchase is easily located if needed and utilized immediately. It’s critical that
keep tight controls on the City’s scarce resources,” said City Controller Greuel.
“Unfortunately we found in this case that no one was minding the store.”
City Controller Greuel’s audit examined how the Department of Recreation and Parks
(RAP), Bureau of Sanitation (BOS), and the Information Technology Agency (ITA) track
equipment purchased with taxpayer funds. With the City facing a massive budget deficit,
it is critical that any equipment purchased in the past is utilized immediately and easily
located if needed. Overall, the audit found oversight of equipment location and use to be
severely lacking.
Some of the audit’s findings included:
· Of 254 items that we attempted to locate, 115 were not where they should have
been. While 56 items were ultimately found in the wrong location, 59 were
unable to be located at a cost of $938,000.
o Some of the items that were never found included a video recorder
purchased by ITA for almost $60,000.
· Departments are supposed to conduct a physical inventory of items every two
years to maintain accurate physical inventories of equipment. ITA and Sanitation
have not conducted a review in at least 5 years and Recreation and Parks has not
conducted a review of all items in at least 7 years.
· ITA and Recreation and Parks have 138 items that were purchased at least 1 year
ago, still in warehouses or staging areas. These items are worth $237,000, and
some were purchased over 7 years ago.
o Some of the items not placed into service included 9 microwaves, 1 deep
fryer and 2 television sets by the Recreation and Parks Department and
various computer equipment by ITA.

How To Save The Environment? Get Al Gore The Heck Away From It

Today more people than ever are talking about how we can save the environment. Well, if you want to save the environment here is one good first step - get Al Gore the heck away from it. The truth is that carbon dioxide is one of the basic building blocks of life on planet earth, and Al Gore's crusade to dramatically reduce carbon dioxide levels around the globe is not only foolish, it threatens to absolutely destroy the very environment that he claims that he is trying to save.

In his new book, Our Choice: A Plan to Solve the Climate Crisis, Al Gore stresses the "spiritual side" of preventing climate change and make this stunning admission: "Simply laying out the facts won't work."

Now why in the world would Al Gore say something like that?

Could it be that he is starting to realize that the facts are not on his side?

In fact, it is being reported that Al Gore is now saying that carbon dioxide is not the primary cause of "global warming".

But that isn't stopping the "eco-prophet" from continuing his reckless crusade against carbon dioxide. Gore continues to tirelessly advocate a "cap and trade" carbon credit trading scheme which could allow him to reap billions of dollars in profits if it is ultimately implemented.

Apparently what is good for the environment is very good for Al Gore's wallet too.

But that is not what this article is about.

What this article is about is showing how Al Gore's environmental policies would be an absolute disaster for the environment.

Firstly, let us examine the absolutely ridiculous claims that man-made carbon emissions are causing global warming. The reality is that any global warming that was going on was caused by the sun.

You see, a few years ago when the sun was experiencing record sunspot activity, our entire solar system experienced a period of "global warming". It was not just the earth. Every single planet circling the sun experienced a warming period.

Now that our sun has entered into a period of very low sunspot activity, our planet and the rest of our solar system is experiencing a period of "global cooling".

And yet carbon dioxide levels on earth continue to increase. If the rising carbon dioxide levels were causing global warming then the earth should still be warming.

But it isn't.

The truth, as you will clearly see in the outstanding video below, is that rising carbon dioxide levels follow a rise in earth temperatures. Carbon dioxide does not cause global warming. It never has and it never will. Instead, scientists have now been able to show that when there is higher sunspot activity temperatures on earth rise, and when there is low sunspot activity temperatures on earth fall. The following video absolutely tears apart Al Gore's theories from "An Inconvenient Truth" and it shows what the primary cause of climate change actually is.....

But does it matter if Al Gore's theories are nonsense?

Perhaps his ideas will not save the environment - does that mean that Al Gore is harming the environment?

Unfortunately the answer to that question is yes.

Al Gore, in his reckless crusade to help the environment, is determined to reduce levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by as much as possible.

But there is a problem.

Plants need carbon dioxide to live. It is one of the key building blocks of life on earth.

In fact, natural sources produce far, far, far more carbon dioxide than humans do. Wikipedia puts it this way.....

Carbon dioxide is released to the atmosphere by a variety of natural sources, and over 95% of total CO2 emissions would occur even if humans were not present on Earth.

Have you got that?

Over 95 percent of all carbon dioxide emissions would still occur even if you took the entire human race off the earth.

So even if carbon dioxide was causing global warming (which it certainly does not), the truth is that if all human carbon dioxide emissions went to zero, over 95 percent of all carbon dioxide emissions would still be occurring.

So to reduce worldwide carbon dioxide emissions by 50 percent or more, Al Gore and his fellow global warming cultists will NOT be able to do that by reducing carbon dioxide emissions caused by man.

Instead they will have to attack all life on earth.

In other words, Al Gore and his followers would have to brutally attack the earth's environment in order to get the kind of carbon emissions that they are after.

In fact, any reductions in carbon dioxide will seriously affect life. Less carbon dioxide emissions would mean less carbon dioxide for plant life. That means that crops would suffer. Less crops and less plant life would mean that there would be less food for men and animals. In a world that is already teetering on the verge of a major food crisis, any drop in the world food supply would be an absolute disaster.

The truth is that Al Gore absolutely does NOT know what he is talking about when it comes to the environment. He is simply a con man and a greedy investor who is looking forward to making a lot of money.

But if Al Gore's vision of a world with dramatically reduced levels of carbon dioxide comes to pass, the reality is that life on earth will greatly suffer. Starvation would be rampant. In fact, if carbon dioxide levels were reduced far enough, it just might be your own family that starves.

For those who do truly care about saving the environment, there is one thing that you need to know what it comes to Al Gore.....

Al Gore must be stopped. For the sake of life on earth, Al Gore must be stopped.

Max Keiser – GLOBAL BREAKDOWN: Gerald Celente’s latest trends

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