Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Post Office to Announce Rate Increases as Losses Mount

The U.S. Postal Service will announce new mail rates on Tuesday in a bid to generate more revenue after posting a massive loss in the last fiscal year.

Rates for first-class and other types of mail will rise, the Associated Press reported. The increases are subject to review by the independent Postal Regulatory Commission.

The Postal Service, which receives no tax funds to cover operations, is legally limited to keep rate increases within the rate of inflation. The agency is allowed to seek higher increases in unusual circumstances only.

Considering that the Postal Service lost $3.8 billion last fiscal year, even as it cut 40,000 full-time positions, this may be such a circumstance.

"The projections going forward are not bright," Postmaster General John Potter said in March. But he added: "All is not lost. . . . We can right this ship."

See full article from DailyFinance:

Bettencourt’s ex-accountant says Sarkozy received illegal cash donations

Presidential aides deny allegations Nicolas Sarkozy received cash payments from France’s richest woman Liliane Bettencourt, the day after Bettencourt’s former accountant said her employer funded Sarkozy’s election campaign via envelopes containing cash.

In an interview with the website Mediapart, the accountant, identified as Claire T, says Bettencourt’s financial manager, Patrice de Maistre, wanted to withdraw 150,000 euros in March 2007 with the intention of giving it to Eric Woerth to fund Sarkozy’s presidential campaign. At the time Woerth was Sarkozy’s campaign treasurer.

Woerth on Tuesday denied the charges.

The accountant, who alleges she worked for Bettencourt from 1995 to 2008, says she testified to the police about the cash donations on Monday evening.

She also said Sarkozy himself was a regular visitor at the Bettencourt family home, where he too allegedly received envelopes of cash when he was mayor of the town of Neuilly.

On Tuesday, a spokesperson for the Elysée Palace said allegations Sarkozy received cash payments were “totally false”. He added that allegations Woerth received a 150,000 cash donation from Bettencourt “seemed groundless.”

Claire T alleges that she refused to give De Maistre 150,000 euros because she was only authorised to withdraw 50,000 euros. She says she gave him 50,000 euros and that De Maistre withdrew 100,000 euros from Bettencourt’s bank accounts in Switzerland.

“Then Maistre told me he would be joining Eric Woerth for diner soon, so as to give him 150,000 euros ‘discreetly,’ I quote. And the dinner did indeed take place quickly,” Claire T told Mediapart.

Sarkozy is the latest politician to be dragged into the scandal surrounding L’Oréal heiress, which was sparked by secret recordings alleging Bettencourt was evading tax.

Bettencourt’s butler secretly recorded conversations between Bettencourt, her lawyers and financial managers, which allude to bank accounts held in Switzerland.

Labour Minister, Eric Woerth, who was budget minister at the time, was mentioned several times in the recordings, which prompted the opposition to call for his resignation.

On Sunday evening, International Development Secretary Alain Joyandet and Christian Blanc, who is responsible for the Paris region, resigned over scandals involving the spending of public money on cigars and jets.

Virtually the entire French press saw the resignations as an attempt to take the spotlight off Woerth, a key figure in Sarkozy’s government.

Madhouse Medical Tyranny: When Health Becomes Sickness

Dictatorships know that the battle for complete control is ultimately won or lost in the minds of the target population. As the oppression advances, it tends to move from propaganda mind control to the direct intervention into the mind via pharmaceuticals. We are now seeing the overt global coordination of the psychiatry profession to convince every resident of planet Earth that all clear thinking, healthy living, and wholesome innocence is some kind of disorder that needs to be corrected (suppressed) with drugs to render zombie-like those whose instincts afford them the ability of discernment.

We have seen this before -- the role of the medical establishment in dictatorships such as Nazi Germany is well documented. It is the pre-Endgame, if you will, before the final culling takes place. The proof that we are being led by a medical tyranny to soften us up for population reduction is of course not something to make light of. However, it is absurd, because it is a manufactured attempt to re-define the natural human condition. So, let us get up to speed on our mental disorders as a gallows humor descends.

Independent Thinking
This disorder is naturally a wide-ranging one, as each unique human being tends to have opinions. Some of the more deviant forms of individuality are questioning authority and anxious distress, which includes symptoms like the "fear that something awful may happen." Like the fear that individuality will be declared a mental disorder by a scientific dictatorship?

The natural highs and lows that come with being a sentient human being experiencing the joys and sorrows of life apparently need to be eradicated. Happiness tests should be given to children to be sure that they feel elated at all times, and perfectly at peace with their indoctrination. If not, be sure to take your happy pills each day.

Healthy Eating
Concern for your own well-being is apparently in direct opposition to the goals of those who wish to keep the population fat, dumb, and toxic. Mike Adams gives a run-down on the latest crazy thinking associated with eating broccoli, taking vitamins and minerals, drinking purified water, and avoiding known toxins.

The act of experiencing the emotions of childbirth is definitely something that needs strong legislation. Instead of thinking about creating life, and the family bonding process, it is much healthier instead to focus on the increasing numbers of disorders surrounding the most natural of processes and how the medical establishment can keep mothers worried sick about their babies.

The Psychiatric Dictatorship has begun in earnest to target infants as mental patients. The amniotic world and the newly born are now under surveillance by agents of the medical elite such as John H. Gilmore, Director of the UNC Schizophrenia Research, for signs of schizophrenia. Unfortunately, Gilmore is not an isolated mad scientist; this is a global initiative. The Citizens Commission on Human Rights International recently covered the story of "Australian of the Year," Patrick McGorry, who would like Australia to lead the world in treating mental illness. Consulting fees and research grants are raining down on pre-detection initiatives from all of the major pharmaceutical peddlers.

Once again, it is up to us to resist this insanity. Let them write the legislation, design the drugs, and tell us that black is white, and health is sickness. We will not cooperate. Advice given to us by the mentally deranged should really be a laughing matter.

How city workers pulled off alleged scam

It was their own Treasure Island.

Bored and unsupervised, five highly paid electricians working for the city of San Francisco spent years allegedly stealing from taxpayers during a remarkable binge that investigators say involved sex parties with prostitutes, moonlighting on city time and fraudulent billing to pay for their suburban lifestyles.

They allegedly charged the city hundreds of thousands of dollars for personal purchases, including BMW tires, lease payments on a truck and even remodeling a home in Contra Costa County's tony Blackhawk subdivision. The men are accused of running a private contracting business on city time, collecting government paychecks while working on unauthorized jobs and billing the costs to taxpayers as well.

They also are accused of hiring prostitutes for sexual encounters at their remote worksite on the former Navy base in San Francisco Bay and stocking a private bedroom in their office suite with liquor, condoms, Viagra and pornographic DVDs.

They were known as the Hetch Hetchy Power Crew, an elite unit named for the reservoir in Yosemite National Park that supplies the city with hydroelectric power. Their difficult, sometimes dangerous job was to maintain the city's high-voltage electrical system, especially during emergencies.

Five members of the power crew were arrested last year after a whistle-blower complained that crew leader Donnie Alan Thomas, 46, was moonlighting on city time. The men, along with two women accused of creating fake invoices to further the scheme, are awaiting trial in San Francisco Superior Court on felony charges. All have pleaded not guilty.

New insights

A never-publicized investigator's affidavit and other documents filed since the arrests offer new insights into how the city gave the power crew extraordinary autonomy - and how, under the direction of Thomas, the workers allegedly exploited that freedom to carry out a particularly brazen theft scheme.

At a time when fiscal crisis has forced deep cuts in public services throughout California, the case of the Hetch Hetchy Power Crew is a cautionary tale about how easily taxpayer dollars can be squandered without proper oversight and auditing.

As prosecutor Ana Gonzalez told a judge last year, "During the last four years of his employment, Thomas stole from the city in every conceivable way." Among the alleged thefts pulled off at Thomas' direction, according to court records, the crew:

-- Spent thousands of dollars in city funds to remodel and landscape Thomas' $1.5 million home in Blackhawk, billing the city for chandeliers, a $4,350 "classic Italian fountain" and $18,000 worth of "petrified seashore flagstone."

-- Moonlighted for other government agencies while on city time, allegedly bribing a federal employee with envelopes stuffed with thousands of dollars in cash to get electrical contracting jobs.

-- Billed taxpayers for a dizzying array of private purchases - cell phones, bar stools, a Palm Pilot, custom parts for a Ford Mustang and $880 worth of meat for a barbecue.

Four-year spree

The theft spree went on for about four years, investigators assert. By the time it was over in 2007, the workers had billed taxpayers for more than $235,000 in personal purchases and charged the city thousands more for time they had never actually worked, court records show.

Crew leader Thomas, whose annual city pay was more than $160,000, and electrician Miles Bonner, 61, who was paid more than $130,000, are charged with 41 felonies, including theft of public funds and embezzlement. Supervisor John Rauch, 70, who retired in 2005, and crew members Robert Mazariegos, 57, and Vincent Padilla, 28, each face one felony charge.

For accusations of falsifying city invoices, Jean Quiroz, 43, former vice president of a defunct city vendor called Centennial Distributors, was charged with 14 felonies; Elizabeth Bradford, 41, a saleswoman at Cole Hardware, another city vendor, was charged with 12 felonies. The defendants are free on bail.

Bonner, said defense lawyer Colin Cooper, is "a guy who's never been in trouble forever." He has been "completely cooperative and forthcoming" with the probe, Cooper said. Lawyers for the other defendants didn't respond to requests for comment.

Records show that Mazariegos also has been cooperative: He told investigators that he frequently didn't have to show up for work to collect his full $110,000-a-year salary and instead spent two days a week partying with a prostitute.

'Isolated outpost'

Susan Leal, who was general manager of the city's Public Utilities Commission at the time an anonymous tipster reported Thomas, said she was deeply discouraged by the scandal.

"But you have to fight those feelings and realize you've got to get rid of these people and they have to be prosecuted," she said in an interview. District Attorney Kamala Harris and City Attorney Dennis Herrera began a probe that led to the arrests.

Leal's successor, Ed Harrington, says the PUC has ordered a series of reforms, starting with pulling "all the people on T.I., that isolated outpost, back in the city," where they have regular contact with their managers. Thomas' direct supervisor, Marla Jurosek, was reassigned, a spokesman said. Jurosek didn't respond to an interview request.

To investigators, it was obvious that the crew's isolation made the theft scheme possible: While the crew itself was based on the island, Thomas' supervisors worked downtown and had "no idea what his job was," as one official familiar with the case put it. A contributing factor was the nature of the work - waiting for calls to fix outages or downed power lines.

Thomas grew up in Vallejo and was trained as an electrician at the old Mare Island Naval Shipyard, court records show. Before they joined the power crew, Thomas and Bonner worked at the Oakland Army Base.

For years, Bonner had moonlighted as an electrical contractor. Thomas allegedly saw possibilities in Bonner's side business, Tri Delta Electric, and devised a scheme to turn big profits doing electrical work at decommissioned military bases.

As district attorney's investigator Matt Irvine described the scheme in an affidavit, costs and materials were billed to the city, and the crew performed the outside work while on the city payroll.

Files on Thomas' computer suggest that as Tri Delta Electric, the crew began moonlighting on the city's dime in 2001. In the years that followed, they did jobs at the Oak Knoll Naval Hospital in Oakland, the Presidio of San Francisco and the Coast Guard station in Monterey and were paid more than $400,000 by other government agencies, according to the records.

Private work

Initially, "we were all nervous" about doing so much private work on city time, Bonner told investigators. Still, moonlighting took up more and more of each work day.

In his statement to investigators, Mazariegos said that between his side jobs and days off with the prostitute, he spent less than half of his workweek on city business.

Thefts and bribes were built into some projects, records show. For the Presidio job, the crew needed about $100,000 worth of wire. Investigators believe the crew bought some wire and billed it to the city and obtained more by stealing it from public agencies. Leftover wire was sold to a scrap dealer for $68,400, they believe, and some of that money allegedly went for payoffs to a federal employee who was steering contracts to the power crew.

The employee, former Presidio Trust electrician Robert Malaca, "got a kickback," Bonner told investigators: "We did a job, and we put $4,000 or $5,000 in an envelope and gave it to him." The power crew also partied with the Presidio employee - in one e-mail, Thomas reminded him to bring money to pay the strippers at Rauch's retirement party.

In an interview with California Watch, Malaca acknowledged receiving cash from the power crew but said the money was for legitimate purchases.

"Granted, they did some work for me, but I never got any kickbacks from those guys," he said. "They never even bought me lunch, that's how cheap they were."

Malaca said he was interrogated by the district attorney's investigators about his association with the power crew, and lost his job as a result.

Home remodeling

In 2003, when he was remodeling his home in Martinez, Thomas allegedly began billing the city for expensive personal purchases.

Either Quiroz at Centennial Distributors or Bradford at Cole Hardware would write up fake city invoices and take a big markup for their trouble, prosecutors allege.

And so, in June 2003, investigators say, Centennial ordered a $5,500 barbecue grill for Thomas. Quiroz is accused of splitting the purchase among 12 fake invoices for such items as an "Enerpac hydraulic machine" and a "flexible braid jumper." The city paid Centennial $9,580 - about a 75 percent markup on the alleged scam purchase.

In that way, investigators say, Thomas got himself cell phones, a Palm Pilot, custom auto accessories, a heating and air conditioning system for the Martinez house and, after he moved to Blackhawk, the fountain and fancy flagstone.

For crew members, there was one additional perk: access to the locked bedroom that had been constructed at Treasure Island adjacent to a tool room. Inside, in addition to liquor, pornographic DVDs, condoms and lubricant, investigators found Viagra prescribed to crew member Bonner. Mazariegos said the men used the room to entertain girlfriends and prostitutes.

The power crew has been reconfigured. In the first full year after Thomas' departure, the expenses the crew billed to the city decreased by $100,000, according to court records.

Hetch Hetchy Power Crew

Five electricians who worked for the city of San Francisco are accused of running a private contracting business on city time, moonlighting for other governmentagencies and billing the cost to taxpayers, according to court records. They also hired prostitutes for sex parties on their isolated work site on Treasure Island, investigators say. As part of the alleged four-year scheme, employees of two city vendors, Cole Hardware and now-defunct Centennial Distributors, are charged with falsifying invoices submitted by the crew's supervisor to remodel his home in the Blackhawk subdivision in Contra Costa County.

Source: San Francisco district attorney's office

Donnie Alan Thomas

Job: Power crew supervisor

Pay (2006): $169,691

Role: Accused of masterminding Power Crew theft scheme, billing city for more than $235,000 in personal purchases, approving unearned overtime for himself and employees, running a private business on city time.

Today: Charged with 41 felonies, including grand theft and embezzlement.

Miles Bonner

Job: High-voltage electrician

Pay (2007): $133,539

Role: Accused of conspiring with Thomas to run a private business on city time and bill the city for personal purchases. Told investigators a federal employee was given a kickback for contracting work at the Presidio, court records show.

Today: Charged with 41 felonies.

Robert Mazariegos

Job: High-voltage electrician

Pay (2006): $110,470

Role: Told investigators he collected a full city paycheck although he spent up to half his work week moonlighting or entertaining a prostitute, court records show.

Today: Charged with grand theft.

John Rauch

Job: Power crew supervisor (part time after 2005 retirement)

Pay, part time (2007): $47,328

Role: Accused of moonlighting while on city time.

Today: Charged with grand theft.

Vincent Padilla

Job: Power crew worker

Pay (2007): $80,300

Role: Accused of taking unearned overtime pay and working private jobs on city time.

Today: Charged with grand theft.

Elizabeth Bradford

Job: Cole Hardware saleswoman

Role: Accused of helping Thomas bill the city more than $47,600 in personal purchases by falsifying invoices

Today: Charged with 12 felonies including grand theft and embezzlement.

Jean Quiroz

Job: Vice president, Centennial Distributors

Role: Accused of helping Thomas bill the city more than $168,600 in personal purchases by falsifying invoices

Today: Charged with 14 felonies, including grand theft and embezzlement.


Senior BBC Mideast Correspondent: “Here’s what may have REALLY happened on 9/11″!

Breaking his self-imposed rule against talking about 9/11, former Senior BBC Mideast Correspondent and author Alan Hart described what he thinks may have really happened on that fateful day on yesterday’s Kevin Barrett show.

Hart, who got to know Yasser Arafat and Golda Meir while serving as a Security Council-briefed Mideast peace negotiator, said that he has been assured by a top-level demolitions/engineering expert who wishes to remain anonymous that the three World Trade Center skyscrapers were destroyed by controlled demolitions, not plane crashes and fires. (For the names of more than 1000 experts willing to go on the record with the same opinion, see

During the hour-long interview, Hart discussed Israel’s record of engaging in outrageous attacks on friend and foe alike, and spreading even more outrageous lies to cover them up. (Around the midpoint of the show he explained the real reason Israel attacked the U.S.S. Liberty in 1967.)

Regarding 9/11, Hart suggested that while there may have been some original terrorist plot conceived by fellow-travelers of Osama Bin Laden, the Israeli Mossad, with its near-total penetration of Middle Eastern governments and terrorist groups alike, would have quickly detected and hijacked the operation to its own ends, orchestrating a spectacularly successful attack on America designed to be blamed on its Arab and Muslim enemies. Hart added that the Mossad operation that became 9/11 would have been aided and abetted by certain corrupt American leaders.

Sounding a chilling note, Hart added that the U.S. is in grave danger of an Israeli-instigated false-flag nuclear attack, perhaps using an American nuclear weapon stolen from Minot Air Force Base during the “loose nukes” rogue operation of August, 2007. The motive would be to trigger a U.S. war with Iran, and perhaps to finish the ethnic cleansing of Palestine under cover of war–which Hart is convinced the Zionists are planning to do as soon as the opportunity presents itself.

When a warning this serious is delivered by a messenger with the stature of Alan Hart, the American people had better find a way around the news blackout imposed by the Zionist-dominated corporate and pseudo-alternative media. The only thing standing in the way of an Israeli false-flag nuclear attack on America, a disastrous US war on Iran, and a horrendous acceleration of the ethnic cleansing of Palestine, is the awareness of the American people. Please copy, post, and mass-email this story.

FDIC Loss-Share Guarantees Balloon To $177 Billion Putting Taxpayers At Risk

FDIC’s Increased Use Of Loss-Share Program Enriches Some At Taxpayers Expense

The FDIC’s use of loss-sharing agreements has grown into a huge multi-billion dollar program that almost guarantees profits for the purchasers of failed banks. Originally introduced in 1991, loss-share agreements have now become a standard tool of the FDIC for moving failed bank assets into the private sector.

Under a loss share agreement, the FDIC agrees to absorb losses on up to 80% of a failed bank’s assets that are purchased by an acquiring bank. The loss protection provides the incentive for private equity investors or other banks to purchase failed banks from the FDIC.

From 2007 to date there have been 254 banking failures with the FDIC taking into receivership $616 billion of failed banking assets. With potentially hundreds of additional banking failures and weak property markets, the FDIC has had to provide generous loss-sharing agreements on the majority of banking failures since 2007. Through the end of June 2010, the FDIC has entered into 167 loss sharing agreements covering $176.7 billion in assets of failed banks acquired by other institutions.

The FDIC insists that loss-sharing agreements save the FDIC’s Deposit Insurance Fund money. From the FDIC’s standpoint, loss share transactions are simpler, reduce cash outflows and allow troubled assets to be sold or restructured in an orderly fashion instead of being sold at steep discounts in a poor market. To investors in failed banks, the program means huge potential upside gain with very limited downside loss.

According to the FDIC, a competitive bidding process is used to ensure that the best sales price is obtained on a failed bank. In addition, a financial analysis of asset values is performed by the FDIC which dictates the terms and conditions of the loss-share agreements. Nonetheless, as Problem Bank has noted in the past, there are examples of buyers of failed banks reaping huge profits due to the loss protection guarantees provided by the FDIC:

OneWest Makes Billions On Failed Bank Purchases -

The FDIC has been heavily criticized lately by those who question whether OneWest got too good of a deal on its purchase of failed banks. Indy Mac was the most costly banking failure in U.S. history at $10.7 billion and the FDIC could still face billions more in losses under its loss-share transactions with OneWest. The question of whether OneWest received a windfall at taxpayer expense became even more relevant this week when OneWest reported huge profits of $1.6 billion last year.

The private investors who formed OneWest had initially contributed only $1.55 billion. Bert Ely, a well respected banking consultant remarked that “This is one hell of a deal for those owners, but hardly a good deal for the banking industry, which pays the FDIC’s bills. These are just incredibly sweet numbers..The public policy question is, why are they so good? Particularly given the magnitude of the loss estimated at the FDIC.”

Insiders Reap Huge Profits On Purchase Of Failed South Carolina Bank -

This week’s bank closing is certain to raise the level of debate over the FDIC’s competence in resolving banking failures on the best terms for the taxpayers.

Investors also apparently view the purchase of failed Beach First as a huge profit opportunity for BNC Bancorp. The stock of BNC Bancorp skyrocketed 12.5% in after hours trading, up $1.03 to $9.28. Bank management and insiders who hold almost 20% of BNC’s float of 7.34 million shares, have instantly reaped a $1.5 million windfall, courtesy of the US taxpayer who ultimately pays for the cost of failed banks (in this case alone $130 million). Keep in mind that BNC Bancorp “purchased” failed Beach First with no money down and an FDIC guarantee to pick up most of the losses on the failed bank’s assets.

“Loss-Share Agreements” - Is The FDIC Postponing Losses On Bank Failures? -

The ultimate gain or loss by the FDIC on their long tailed obligation to absorb losses on the ultimate disposition of failed bank assets is impossible to predict. If property markets eventually recover, the FDIC’s losses should be less than estimated.

It will be some time before the results of the loss share programs can be evaluated, since certain assets are covered by loss share agreements for up to 10 years. The cost of expected losses on a failed bank’s assets covered by a loss share transaction is included in the FDIC’s estimated cost of a banking failure.

The FDIC has used the loss-share program to unload failed banks which has resulted in huge gains for certain investors, while the losses on the failed banks have ultimately been borne by the taxpayers. If property markets continue to weaken and credit losses are more than expected, the FDIC could be liable for billions of dollars in additional payments, exposing the American taxpayer to additional losses. Meanwhile, the Deposit Insurance Fund, which is used to cover banking losses, has been depleted and currently has a negative balance of $20.7 billion.

Maine foreclosures still rising

Home foreclosures in Maine continue to rise, according to new data from the Bureau of Financial Institutions.

During the first quarter of 2010, the number of completed home foreclosures was 76, an increase over the previous quarter's 42 completed foreclosures, which is an 81% increase. There were 38 completed foreclosures in the first quarter of 2009. However, the bureau reported that the overall number of completed foreclosures is still low in relation to the total of outstanding mortgages, or one for every 1,123 mortgages. The bureau also found that out of the 84,991 home loans held by state-chartered banks and credit unions, 289 in the first quarter were in the process of foreclosure, a drop from 305 in proceedings during the fourth quarter of 2009 -- the first quarterly decrease since surveying began in October 2006.

The bureau also found that the number of new home loans in the first quarter dropped 24% compared with the prior quarter. The bureau used data submitted by 32 state-chartered institutions.

Foreclosures plague Metro area towns

Neglected properties, tax revenue losses strain Metro communities

Mike Wilkinson / The Detroit News

The pain of home foreclosure is spread throughout the region, from the poor communities wracked by unemployment to wealthier ones with empty homes in unfinished subdivisions, according to new data compiled by Southeast Michigan Council of Governments.

Causing trouble for homeowners and municipalities alike, the crisis is putting pressure on homeowners trying to sell, spreading fear among neighbors about neglected properties and challenging municipal leaders to address resulting blight with dwindling taxes.

"We deal with this every single day," said Frank Vaslo, the mayor of Lincoln Park, where an estimated one in 28 homes is in foreclosure. "Sixty percent of my time is spent on this."

Neighbors complain about abandoned pools and mosquitoes that spawn there, high weeds and the potential for crime at abandoned homes, Vaslo and others said. Lincoln Park spent $147,000 this past year maintaining other people's property.

It's little comfort for Vaslo that the foreclosure mess isn't rooted solely in Detroit and other economically distressed parts of the region. High foreclosure rates can be found in just about every corner of Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties, including some of the most prosperous neighborhoods.

"It's happening everywhere," said Macomb County real estate manager Don Symons of Real Estate One. "It's in every price range."

New Baltimore, which is serviced by Symons' firm, has one of the highest foreclosure rates in Macomb County, with one in 21 homes in foreclosure. Many are big, sprawling new homes built without a dedicated buyer. Many sit on dirt lots, waiting for an owner and a landscaper.

It's a similar situation in Waterford Township, where one in 35 homes -- nearly 1,000 -- are in foreclosure. The township is spending more on cutting lawns and dealing with abandoned properties, Township Supervisor Carl Solden said. "It's been a struggle this year," he said.

Long a community tied to big manufacturing firms in Pontiac, Waterford Township is hit hard by the evaporation of thousands of well-paying factory jobs, and many of the vacant homes will likely remain empty, Solden said.

"The availability of homes is so great. There's no demand," he said.

In response, the township took its share of federal neighborhood stabilization money and created a down payment assistance program. It has put 40 families in previously foreclosed homes. If they make payments and live there a certain amount of time, the grant will be forgiven.

"That's 40 homes that are off the foreclosed list," Solden said.

But Solden is well aware of a longer-lasting problem: Foreclosures have triggered a steep decline in property values and a drop in tax dollars. Township tax revenues are expected to decline $4.1 million next year, prompting deep cuts in services, he said.

"This is scary," said Solden, who was a township police officer for 32 years before becoming supervisor in 2000. "I've never seen anything like it."

According to SEMCOG's numbers, Detroit led the region in foreclosures, with more than 12,200 properties owned by lenders. Because the regional planning agency calculated every community's rate using the estimated number of housing units, Detroit's rate -- one per 28 homes -- isn't as high as others.

But John Nutting of SEMCOG said Detroit is a unique case because many of the foreclosed units are ultimately taken over by the city, county or state and not returned to the housing market. He said a better measure for Detroit might be the number of occupied households, which SEMCOG estimates at 246,447, far below the city's 341,554 housing units. If occupied households are used to calculate Detroit's rate, it jumps to one in 20 homes.

SEMCOG has tracked foreclosures for less than a year and has contracted with a private service to get the data from courts. Nutting said the agency's research shows problems are widespread even if the causes are different.

"You kind of had multiple patterns occurring simultaneously," he said. "If you look at the region as a whole, a fair chunk is suffering for some reason or another."

In some communities, the foreclosures were rooted in job losses. But in some outer ring, fast-growing suburbs, he said developers got ahead of the demand. "What you had in those areas was overdevelopment," he said.

As communities continue to struggle with a glut of vacant foreclosed homes, many wonder if the end is in sight. Lincoln Park's Vaslo believes it could be years before the constant fear subsides. But Symons is basking in the glow of a good couple of months. He's hopeful that it's getting better but wouldn't bet the house on it.

"Time will tell," Symons said.

Grade Obama's First Year in Office

With President Obama completing his first year in office this week, we are giving you the chance to weigh in on how you think he has done on the job.

Below are 10 categories for you to give the president your grade (in A-F format), including an overall grade at the end.

Cast your grades below, and then explain your marks in the comments area below.

Special Report: Obama's First Year

NOTE: This is not a scientific poll. The results are for information purposes only, and should not be confused with the results of the scientific polls conducted by CBS News.

  • Quick Poll
The Economy
Foreign Policy
Health Care
Threat of Terrorism
Energy and the Environment
Social Issues
Obama's Overall Job as President

Graduates warned of record 70 applicants for every job

Class of 2010 told to consider flipping burgers or shelf stacking to build skills as they also compete with last year's graduates

Waiting to graduate is increasingly being followed by waiting to work as competition for jobs increases. Photograph: Matthew Power/Rex Features

Graduates are facing the most intense scramble in a decade to get a job this summer, as a poll of employers reveals the number of applications for each vacancy has surged to nearly 70 while the number of available positions is predicted to fall by nearly 7%.

The class of 2010 have been told to consider flipping burgers or stacking shelves when they leave university as leading firms in investment banking, law and IT are due to cut graduate jobs this year.

Competition in the jobs market is fiercer now than for the first "post-crunch" generation of students, last year, when there were 48 applications for each vacancy.

The number of applicants chasing each job is so high that nearly 78% of employers are insisting on a 2.1 degree, rendering a 2.2 marginal and effectively ruling out any graduates with a third, according to the survey published tomorrow.

The Association of Graduate Recruiters polled over 200 firms including Cadbury, Marks & Spencer, JP Morgan and Vodafone and found the number of applications per vacancy had risen to 68.8 this year, the highest figure recorded. In the most hotly contested sector – makers of fast-moving consumer goods such as food, confectionery and cosmetics – there were 205 applications for each job.

Carl Gilleard, the association's chief executive, said graduates needed to be more flexible in their career choices. "They need both short-term and long-term career goals because you're graduating in a very tough climate. It doesn't mean you should be put off applying for the profession of your choice.

"Any employment is better than no employment [even] if it's about flipping burgers or stacking shelves rather than being sat at home feeling sorry for yourself and vegetating. There are lots of other skills required and valued, like people skills: you could be on a counter in a store. It's all about building up your skills base. The big fear is that some people just drop off the bottom of the scale – because confidence goes very rapidly."

Gilleard warned that employers were raising the bar on degrees, and graduates with a 2.2 or worse faced being filtered out by automated applications. "There are dangers in that. You can miss out on some very good candidates."

He said it was too early to say whether this trend would lead to graduates with a 2.2 being excluded from the job market altogether.

In 2008, when the economy was buoyant, just 57% of employers insisted on a 2.1 or higher. Last year that rose to 60%. "We need to wait for 2011 to see if this is a trend," he said.

Graduate salaries are frozen at an average of £25,000, the first time in the survey's history that starting salaries have remained stagnant for two consecutive years. But there is some positive news; the survey noted a revival in banking, the insurance sector and accountancy where vacancies were predicted to rise this year.

Apprenticeships, which are likely to expand under the coalition government, might provide an alternative career path for some students, the survey noted.

Gilleard acknowledged there was snobbery about apprenticeships, but said the children of the middle classes should not assume they had to get a degree to succeed. "I think many middle class parents are actually questioning, is this [a degree] the right route that my son or daughter should follow.

"Too many young people go [to university] because it's expected of them, and they don't think it through from a personal perspective – what will it be like, apart from having a good time."

As applications for university places continue to soar, the government has urged universities to publish statements revealing the help they offer to get their students ready for work.

Responding to the survey, the minister for universities, David Willetts, said: "The job market remains challenging for new graduates, as it does for others.

"But a degree is still a good investment in the long term, and graduates have a key role to play in helping Britain out of the recession. We are committed to making it easier for current graduates to find work. That is why I have just asked all universities to provide statements on employability for their students."

The president of the National Union of Students, Aaron Porter, urged the government to invest in creating jobs and training: "We are concerned that the savage cuts to the public sector will create further unemployment, and will make the lives of graduates tougher in an already difficult jobs market."

For the fourth year in a row, demand for university places has hit a record high.

At the end of May, there were over 640,000 applications for places this autumn – an increase of nearly 14% on last year.

As universities face an increased challenge in selecting the best candidates, there is some scepticism about the new A* grade, being awarded for the first time this summer in an attempt to distinguish the cream of the crop.

Fewer than a third of university admissions officers believe the A* grade would be crucial in selecting the most able students, according to a separate survey published today.

While over half of the 40 admissions officers surveyed believed grade inflation made it harder to pick the best candidates, fewer than a third thought the A* was "essential".

The survey was commissioned by a network of international schools which favour a rival qualification, the international baccalaureate.

Justice Dept. expected to sue Ariz. on immigration, citing 'preemption' grounds

The Justice Department has decided to file suit against Arizona on the grounds that the state's new immigration law illegally intrudes on federal prerogatives, law enforcement sources said Monday.

The lawsuit, which three sources said could be filed as early as Tuesday, will invoke for its main argument the legal doctrine of "preemption," which is based on the Constitution's supremacy clause and says that federal law trumps state statutes. Justice Department officials believe that enforcing immigration laws is a federal responsibility, the sources said.

A federal lawsuit will dramatically escalate the legal and political battle over the Arizona law, which gives police the power to question anyone if they have a "reasonable suspicion" that the person is an illegal immigrant. The measure has drawn words of condemnation from President Obama and Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. and opposition from civil rights groups. It also has prompted at least five other lawsuits. Arizona officials have urged the Obama administration not to sue.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton first revealed last month that the Justice Department intended to sue Arizona, and department lawyers have been preparing their case, said the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the government has not announced its plans. The filing is expected to include declarations from other U.S. agencies saying that the Arizona law would place a undue burden on their ability to enforce immigration laws nationwide, because Arizona police are expected to refer so many illegal immigrants to federal authorities.

The preemption doctrine has been established in Supreme Court decisions, and some legal experts have said such a federal argument likely would persuade a judge to declare the law unconstitutional.

But lawyers who helped draft the Arizona legislation have expressed doubt that a preemption argument would prevail. The law, signed by Gov. Jan Brewer (R) in April, is scheduled to take effect later this month.

Early buyers in Trump's tower pocket profits while he presses for loan extension

As Donald Trump negotiates to buy more time from lenders on his downtown high-rise, some early buyers in the high-end condominium-and-hotel tower have cashed out at a handsome profit.

Betting on The Donald paid off for most of the buyers who have resold their residential and hotel condos since the 92-story Trump International Hotel & Tower opened more than two years ago. Of the 31 units that have changed hands, 18 sold for a gain, and the average unit sold for 12% more than the original price paid to the developer, according to county property records.

The gamble hasn't worked out as well for Mr. Trump, who still hasn't sold enough condos to repay the lenders who financed the $850-million project, the tallest skyscraper built in the United States in more than three decades. But lawyers for the New York developer and his lenders say they are nearing a deal to restructure more than $200 million in overdue loan payments on the tower, an agreement that would give him more time to pay off his debts and end a legal dispute that began more than 18 months ago.

"We're in the last throes of negotiation," says Mr. Trump's attorney, Steven Schlesinger. He says an agreement "is probably two to three weeks away."

Trump Tower sales

After obtaining $770 million in construction loans from lenders including Deutsche Bank Trust Cos. Americas and Fortress Credit Corp., Mr. Trump broke ground on the tower at 401 N. Wabash Ave. in 2005, just as the downtown condo market was peaking.

By early 2008, when he started handing over units to buyers, the market was awash in unsold units and demand for condos had plunged. Buyers have closed on just 266, or 55%, of the project's 486 residential condos and 155, or 46%, of its 339 hotel units, according to property records filed with Cook County.

The sales total just $461.2 million, well short of what's needed to pay off his lenders, though Mr. Trump says he has sold slightly more than $500 million, including units that are under contract but haven't closed. His fading hopes of turning a profit on the tower depend on selling the remaining 220 residential condos and most of the unsold hotel units, and leasing out its still-empty retail space.

The project "is a good deal for people living in the building and the city of Chicago, but this is not a good deal for Donald Trump. But that's OK," the developer says.

Donald Trump
The project "is a good deal for people living in the building and the city of Chicago, but this is not a good deal for Donald Trump. But that's ok." — Donald Trump. AP photo
Among the five developers who announced plans for ultra-high-end condo-hotel towers in the neighborhood during the bubble era, Mr. Trump is the only one to succeed in building one. With less competition nearby, prices in the Trump Tower are likely to hold up better over time.


Meanwhile, dozens of buyers in the building have put their condos back on the market, many with hopes of flipping them for a quick profit. Some have been more successful than others.

The winners include former Chicago Sun-Times Editor-in-Chief Michael Cooke, who paid $543,000 for a one-bedroom condo on the 42nd floor in September 2008 and flipped it less than a month later for $790,000, county property records show.

The losers include former Chicago Bears quarterback Rex Grossman, who paid $2.68 million for a 36th-floor two-bedroom condo in September 2008 but sold it in January for just $2 million, or 25% less.

In addition to the 31 units already sold, another 54 in the building are offered for resale on the Multiple Listing Service. The average unit has been on the market for 326 days and is listed for 21% more than the seller paid the developer.

People who agreed to buy their units back in 2003 and 2004 generally reaped the biggest gains, because Mr. Trump offered low prices to buyers who signed purchase contracts before construction began. Buyers like Mr. Cooke, who bought their units at a discount through a special "friends and family" program, made out especially well.

"If they purchased later on in the program (after Mr. Trump hiked prices), that's where the pain is," says Gail Lissner, vice-president at Appraisal Research Counselors, a Chicago-based real estate consulting firm.

Adding to the challenge for many sellers, including Mr. Trump, is the reluctance of lenders to finance condo purchases in the building. Because it's a mixed-use building with a large hotel, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac won't buy loans on condos in the project.

Some lenders worry that potential problems with the condo-hotel could ripple throughout the building and lead to soaring assessments, says Andrew Glatz, president of Chicago-based brokerage Crown Heights Realty, who has several listings in the Trump building.

Mr. Trump says the hotel is doing "very well," and banks "love the building." But of the 34 sales in the tower this year, just five buyers have financed their purchases with mortgages, property records show.

No UK ban on refueling Iran planes

No ban has been imposed on refueling Iranian planes in British airports, an informed source in Iran Air's Britain and Ireland office says.

"No limitation has been placed on the refueling of Iranian passenger planes in Britain so far. The Iranian flights to London are being conducted regularly and on a daily basis and Iran National Airlines Company conducts three direct flights to Tehran and one direct flight to Shiraz (from London) each week," the informed source told IRNA on Monday.

"No unusual behavior by the companies providing fuel for Iranian planes has been observed so far. Iran Air Lines Company, however, is fully ready to encounter any likely limitations in this regard," the source added.

The remarks came in reaction to some media reports indicating that the airports in the Untied Arab Emirates (UAE), Germany and Britain have refused to refuel Iranian planes following the ratification of unilateral US sanctions against Iran.

The Emirati and German airport officials, however, dismissed the reports on Monday, saying they continue refueling Iranian planes with no limitations.

"The countries, which are keen to counter the Islamic Republic, have spared no efforts over the past 30 years to impede Iran's air transportation. Following the Islamic Revolution, we have been constantly entangled by limitations and setbacks, but fortunately these hampering efforts have been to no avail as the enemies had expected," the source continued.

According to some media reports, the United States has violated international laws by exerting pressure on some companies in Germany, Kuwait and the UAE so that they would not provide Iranian passenger planes with fuel.

The United States approved unilateral sanctions against Iran's banking and energy sectors following a fourth round of UN Sanctions Resolutions passed against Iran's nuclear program on June 9.

The extra sanctions, signed by US President Barack Obama on Thursday, were approved by the US Congress as punitive measures against Iran's nuclear activities.

Under the new US measures, any company providing fuel to the Islamic Republic would be penalized.

While the US possesses and has used nuclear weapons in the past, Washington, in a politically-motivated move, is imposing unilateral sanctions against Iran, which does not possess nuclear weapons nor does it seek to develop such weapons.

Homeownership Is Overrated

Several generations of Americans have seen homeownership as a birthright and a necessity. We take it for granted that owning your home is a good thing. It goes along with higher incomes; it causes people to be more diligent, hard-working and productive; it leads to stable families, stable communities, and higher levels of happiness and well-being.

Homeownership certainly contributed significantly to the golden era of American prosperity that began after World War II and continued into the 1990s, fueling demand for the cars and appliances that were rolling off assembly lines. But the foundation of our economy no longer lies ...

The Importance of Concentration

Last month, a number of well known web sites and commenters were getting themselves worked up with comments like “Arctic ice dropping at the fastest rate in history” and “Arctic ice is dropping like a rock.” I advised repeatedly that prior to July, looking at the extent graphs is pointless.

July is here now, and the rate of ice extent decline has dropped dramatically over the last week. To put this in perspective, according to JAXA data, the June 28-July 4 rate is -53361 km²/day. In 2007 during the same period, ice was lost at -123104 km²/day.

In other words, 2007 was losing ice 2.31X faster than 2010.

This can be seen most dramatically in the DMI graph, which measures only higher concentration ice (30%.)

Close up image below.

So why the dramatic difference in slope? One reason is that sea ice concentration is at the highest level in the satellite record. Compare below vs. 1980, when ice was considered very “healthy.” Current concentration is considerably higher.

Ice concentration is particularly important this time of year because the sun is relatively high in the sky. When the ice concentration is low, sun shines into the water in “Swiss Cheese” holes around the ice, warms it, and corrodes away the edges of the ice. This year, ice concentration has been close to 100% in most of the Arctic – which means very little sunlight is reaching the water in the Arctic Basin. As a result melt will occur more slowly than during low concentration years.

The videos below represent an exaggerated visualization of the process. The first video shows an idealized view of future Arctic Basin melt during 2010 – i.e. a single large circle of ice surrounded by water.

The next video shows what happens in years when the concentration is lower. The sun is heating the water between circles, and because of the smaller circles a much larger surface area of ice is exposed to warm water. Warmer water and more exposed surface area causes melt to proceed faster.

Conclusion : Cold temperatures, cloudy skies, favorable winds and high concentration ice – all point to continued slow melt over the next few days.

Use World Currency to Renounce the Debt!

Use World Currency to Renounce the Debt!

By Henry Makow Ph.D.

In upcoming years, cities, states & nations will have one overwhelming choice:

1. Renounce all debt created by bankers out of nothing, or due to compound interest. This is probably 50-80% of all government debt.

2. Or accept the unbearable burden and be willing accomplices in our enslavement and destruction.

The central banking cartel wants a one-world currency. We keep seeing reminders. For example, today we read, "The dollar is an unreliable international currency and should be replaced by a more stable system, the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs said in a report released Tuesday."

What if that new currency was not based on central banking cartel (i.e. IMF) debt? What if most of the old debt was abolished?


The human experiment is in danger of failure because our forefathers were too weak, feckless or corrupt to get money creation right.

Money has no inherent value. It is a medium of exchange like sea shells or beads. It is simply a convenient method for billions of people to exchange millions of disparate products and services.

Nobody can own a medium of exchange. It must be public.

But a network of private Illuminati families do own it. They produce the medium of exchange in the form of a debt to them. And they charge compound interest on this "debt" created out of thin air. We are being strangled by these debts.

They know this lucrative fraud is unsustainable unless they enslave mankind, mentally and spiritually, if not physically.

These Illuminati banking families have used their position to control all major corporations and governments. Do you know that it takes only 3-4% of shares to control most widely-held corporations? These corporations in turn buy the executives and politicians, pundits and professors that run the world for the bankers.

Everybody in a position of power and influence today is indirectly employed by these dynastic banking families. Their primary role, whether they understand it or not, is to protect the fraudulent credit system. They are traitors and collaborators, and as long as we support them, we are all complicit in our own destruction.

Our perception of reality is controlled by these bankers through ownership of the mass media. We see through "spectacles they arrange on our noses."


Mankind is living a lie because our currency is based on a fraud. Our history is really the story of how these bankers have set countries against each other in pointless wars in order to kill our best men and destroy and demoralize humanity. These wars are endemic because they create enormous profits and debts which are used to enslave us.

Illuminati bankers are financing the "insurgents" in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq. When will we understand that they have been waging a war on humanity for centuries?

We are being gender neutered in the same way horses are gelded, to be obedient to their owners.

We are being morally degraded, dumbed down and distracted to paralyze us. Many believe we are being poisoned by chem trails, fluoride or by drugs and foods. Certainly our minds and spirits are poisoned by the mass media.

They have unleashed a pernicious satanic conspiracy on humanity in the form of Communism in its many manifestations. Barack Obama and Elena Kagan are Communists. The Illuminati bankers are responsible for assassinating JFK, for 9-11 and probably for the Gulf of Mexico disaster. They are responsible for most of mankind's woes.

To get back on course, we need to nationalize credit and money creation. We need to nationalize banks.

Who should own the medium of exchange, a private cartel or democratic governments?

If the bankers want a new currency, give it to them, as long as it is debt and interest-free and administered by a body that represents the best interests of humanity.

Then mankind can regain its path, and begin to fulfill its amazing promise.

Tony and the Shah of Palestine

Ever since a group of ordinary people from more than 40 different countries came together and set sail for Gaza have we seen various world leaders scramble to persuade Israel to lift the blockade on Gaza. Why? To honour the memory of those martyred by Israeli soldiers who shot nine unarmed peace activists at virtually point-blank range? Hell no!

They realize that people power has achieved more in that one heroic action, than any of them have achieved for the people of Palestine. And, despite that brutal episode, they know that more flotillas and convoys are being planned because people power is achieving more than anything else has over the past 60 years for the people of Palestine.

The so-called Middle East Peace Envoy Tony Blair certainly does not want to see any more flotillas sailing for Gaza. It’s not because he lies awake at night thinking about the deaths of those innocent humanitarian activists. No, Blair is afraid very afraid that people power will expose him for what he is, probably the most useless peace envoy on this planet. Exactly what has he done for the Palestinians since he took the job? Actually it would be easier to list what he hasn’t done:

*HE HAS NOT stopped the land-grabbing Israelis from building ever more illegal settlements in complete defiance of international law.

* HE HAS NOT managed to lift the Siege of Gaza so that the thousands left homeless after last year’s invasion can start rebuilding their homes.

* HE HAS NOT been able to push ahead with an independent UN investigation in to the Israeli raid on and hijacking of the Freedom Flotilla.

* HE HAS NOT been able to stop babies dying in the hopelessly under-equipped Gaza maternity units.

* HE HAS NOT stopped or even attempted to expose the corruption of the Palestinian Authority.

* HE HAS NOT been able to make one iota of progress in fulfilling his job description.

Apart from the Shah of Palestine – Mahmoud Abbas – I am struggling to think of a more redundant individual than Tony Blair, but I’ll come to Abbas later.

Blair was on television recently boasting about how life is improving in the West Bank for the Palestinians and saying that there’s been a reduction in the number of checkpoints. What a stupid, silly, silly little man he is, almost as blinkered as the journalist who was interviewing him. There are fewer checkpoints because the Israelis are grabbing more land and huge swathes of stolen land are merging into other tracts of stolen land, making some checkpoints redundant. That doesn’t change the fact that the West Bank is now a series of small islands, cut off by Israel and its Apartheid Wall and settler-only roads, as well as the illegal settlements.

The inference during the interview was that if the people of Gaza dumped Hamas and put their faith once more in the Fatah-controlled Palestinian Authority then everyone’s lives would be so much easier.

What the journalist failed to ask and Blair failed to address is the fact that even with the horrendous hardships facing the people of Gaza and their children, many Palestinians living in the West Bank are actually worse off. The truth is, children living in the poorest parts of the occupied West Bank face significantly worse conditions than their counterparts in Gaza, according to a report by Save the Children UK.

The European Commission-funded study found that in “Area C” the 60 percent of the West Bank under direct Israeli control – the poorest sections of society are suffering disproportionately because basic infrastructure is not being repaired due to Israel’s refusal to approve the work. Homes, schools, drainage systems and roads are in urgent need of repair, but instead of work being allowed, families are being forced to live in tents and do not have access to clean water. Restrictions on the use of land for agriculture have left thousands of Palestinian children without enough food and many are becoming ill as a result, the study found.

Conditions in Area C have reached “crisis point”, says Save the Children, with 79 percent of the local communities surveyed lacking sufficient food, a greater proportion than in blockaded Gaza, where the figure is 61 percent. Many children living in such communities are showing signs of stunted growth, with the figure running at more than double Gaza’s rate, and more than one in ten children surveyed for the study were found to be underweight.

So there you have it – the Shah of Palestine has delivered nothing but more hardship for his own people in the West Bank while lining his own pockets and those of his enforcers. Abbas has been praised by Tony Blair for making friends with Israel and proving he’s someone the West can do business with. This might be true but in the process he has well and truly sold his own people down the river and I hope they punish him in the ballot box, should there ever be another free and fair election.

No wonder Mahmoud Abbas has no time for the human rights activists and humanitarian aid workers who put their lives on the line to launch the Gaza-bound Freedom Flotilla. But that’s nothing new. I remember in 2008 being slightly crestfallen after arriving on the shores of Gaza on board one of the first boats in the Free Gaza Movement only to learn Abbas had brushed away our efforts with a shrug of the shoulders. Still, none of us were in it for the glory, we just wanted to raise public awareness about the Siege of Gaza, and I think it’s fair to say that virtually the whole world now knows about the Siege of Gaza and the brutality of the Israeli government. Why? Because of the efforts of those on board the Turkish-led flotilla, that’s why. The reality is that charities like the Turkish IHH and the UK-based Interpal, the Free Gaza Movement, Viva Palestina and other groups such as the International Solidarity Movement, have done so much more for the people of Palestine than the politicians.

That is why we can never leave Palestine to the politicians; if we had done so it would have been wiped off the face of the map completely by now. Instead, thanks to people power, Palestine has a global support movement among hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of ordinary people. We are too many in number to be bought off by the Israeli lobbies, and are too pure in heart to want our palms greased by even greasier individuals. We are people of all faiths and no faith, many cultures, skin colours, nationalities and political beliefs. We are going to cause great pain – as is already evident – through our boycotts of Israeli goods and products and we will continue until the Apartheid State of Israel is a fading memory just like the Apartheid State of South Africa.

It doesn’t matter how many corrupt politicians there are in the pay and sway of Tel Aviv, we, the ordinary people of the world, outnumber you and we are growing in number and strength.

There are more flotillas being planned, more land convoys in the making and more ordinary people prepared to step up to the plate to do what it takes to free Palestine. And we will. When the people lead the leaders must follow or they will become irrelevant and redundant. Just like Mr. Tony Blair.

* Yvonne Ridley was on board the first boat to break the siege of Gaza with the Free Gaza Movement and she is one of the founders of Viva Palestina. She is also the European President of the International Muslim Women’s Union.