Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Las Vegas Vs. Homeless People

I am so embarrassed for Las Vegas. There seems no limit on how outrageous the city is willing to be in what is becoming an out of control campaign to persecute the least fortunate people in all of Las Vegas. Let's review. This year Las Vegas made it illegal to give food to homeless people in parks. Then Las Vegas made it illegal for people to sleep near "deposits" of urine and feces. To be fair the "deposit" law was deemed too outrageous to keep on the books and the city repealed it; after which the police began jailing homeless people in an effort to enforce the nonexistent law. Today's Review-Journal headline: "Shopping carts taken from homeless: They say they were denied chance to keep belongings." To Oscar Goodman, Las Vegas City Council and Metro: Shame on you. Shame on you. Shame on you.

Government Stopping Charities From Feeding The Homeless

The National Coalition for the Homeless has issued a report detailing laws and ordinances in a couple of dozen localities across the nation that prohibit charities – churches, civic organizations, charities, etc. – from feeding the homeless. Or, at least, inhibit their ability to do so with burdensome regulation.

You can read the full report here. Some examples:

– Gainesville, Florida began enforcing a rule limiting the number of meals that soup kitchens may serve to 130 people in one day.

– Phoenix, Arizona used zoning laws to stop a local church from serving breakfast to community members, including many homeless people, outside a local church.

– Myrtle Beach, South Carolina adopted an ordinance that restricts food sharing with homeless people in public parks. …

– In Orlando, Florida the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a lawsuit against the City of Orlando on behalf of local organizations, challenging a 2006 law requiring a groups sharing food with 25 or more people to obtain a permit that was only available twice a year per park. A federal district court found the law to be unconstitutional and in violation of Free Exercise of Religion and Freedom of Speech in October of 2008. The city has appealed the decision and the appeal is pending.

– In San Diego, California the zoning department attempted to prohibit a local church from serving a weekly meal to community members, many of them homeless.7 In 2008, attorney Scott Dreher successfully defended the church’s First Amendment right to practice its religion. The weekly meal continues to take place on church property and serves 150 to 200 people each week.

I did some Googling as well to flesh out more examples, and found communities all over the country who are essentially criminalizing or at least prohibiting/inhibiting private charity.

This seems like lunacy to me. There are people who are destitute and hungry. There are other people who are willing to give of their own time, talent and wealth to provide for those people. But the government is limiting their ability to do so, or in some instances stopping them.

Why? The motivation is hard to pin down. One chief motivation, no doubt, wanting homeless people out of parks and public areas. They believe that feeding them in a public place like a park only lures more homeless to that park. And some people just don’t want to seehomeless people during their day-to-day lives. It’s the old “not in my back yard” attitude.

There is no doubt some truth to that, but I think there’s another motivation at work here as well.

But I think another motivation may well be that the government hates competition. Rather than allowing private charities like churches, etc. do their own part to feedthe homeless I think the government would much rather homeless get help through government-sanctioned, government-funded, government-administered social programs.

Because that gives more power to the government. That justifies bigger budgets for the government. That means more bureaucrats employed by the government. And besides, the government always knows best right?

If we allow citizens to help one another, if we put the emphasis on individual acts of charity and families/friends taking care of their own, then we have a diminished need for government.

And the government isn’t in the business, these days, of promoting independence.

The 18 States Facing The Most Brutal Austerity Cuts

Even the sober Center on Budget and Policy Priorities says 46 states are facing a Greek-like crisis. These state governments must inaugurate an austerity regime to cut spending by $112 billion for FY2011.

FY2011 begins on Thursday.

States have already cut over $300 billion from budgets in the past two years to make up for rising costs and disappearing revenue. For California and New York, this means some of the bloodshed is over. For other states, it's getting much worse.

Unlike the Federal government, states can't just print their way out of a crisis. Except for Vermont, all states MUST balance the budget.

spending into poverty legend. How the allure and trappings of consumption led the middle class into a modern form of debt servitude.

Ludwig the II of Bavaria is rarely discussed in history class but most would recognize many of his castles especially the one that is replicated in Disneyland (Neuschwanstein Castle). Ludwig spent money he didn’t have to indulge in his eccentric desire to build opulent castles. Even wealthy royalty can put their balance sheet into jeopardy if they indulge every whim and wish. The banking sector for the last decade has allowed many Americans to satisfy nearly every consumer desire they had. Boats, cars, vacations, clothing, recliners, Jacuzzis, or anything else you can imagine. Some took this to the extreme and created a massive market that demanded bigger and more extravagant homes even though average Americans were not getting wealthier or earning more money. How this was accomplished was by allowing massive amounts of debt to accumulate until a crisis imploded the economy. The credit bubble bursting has forced many into a new life of austerity. No more Sleeping Beauty castles.

On a GDP percent basis the U.S. isn’t the worst offender but we are up there on the list. The above list spans out to 2003 (and it only got worse until 2007) and you can already see what big amounts of household debt will do. Take for example Iceland or Portugal that are now facing major headwinds ahead. A country cannot go into massive amounts of debt and expect to have a sustainable economy for years moving forward. It is a short term indulgence that masks deeper rooted problems. The middle class in America were allowed to think they were all dukes and countesses but when the crisis hit, the banks retreated to protecting only their kings on Wall Street. This was an economy built on a fairytale.

Part of this naïve belief was pushed by Wall Street and D.C. propaganda. For decades the idea was that you can spend more than you earn. This came all the way from the top so it shouldn’t be a surprise that many in the middle class took their signal from their leaders. What happened?

Source: Lew Rockwell

The personal savings rate went so low that it went from the double digits in the early 1980s and actually hit a negative percentage not too long ago. At the same time, the amount of household debt went off the charts. It is hard to remember that there was a time in our history when debt was actually something to be handled with caution. In the last decade, the careless risk taking banks did with debt created a massive housing bubble but also created bubbles in the auto industry, student loan market, and other areas that were financed induced. Industries where banks are heavily involved have somehow turned out to harm the working and middle class of the country.

Many financed their lifestyles through credit cards:

We have dropped from the peak of nearly $1 trillion in credit card debt down to approximately $850 billion in credit card debt. Yet this contraction didn’t happen because people started paying down debts. This has occurred through bank write-downs and many of the bailed out banks constricting access to credit cards to the American public. In a way, this is what should have been done decades ago. But what is troubling is that banks used this as an excuse and reason for receiving trillions of dollars in U.S. taxpayer money. The bailout funds were to keep lending going so people could use the funds to live in their debt fantasy. Well that fantasy has ended for the middle class but banks can continue on pretending and living in their fairytale world where taxpayer money and bailouts are somehow congruent with a free market. Retail spending has contracted because people no longer have access to the amount of debt that was available only a few years ago.

If you want to see the new royalty in America, just look at the below:

Source: Institute for Policy Studies

I’ve talked about the distribution of wealth in the U.S. in many articles but the above shows a solid plutocracy is already here. Wealth is the key issue. As many people are now finding out simply having a massive home with a jumbo mortgage and a leased foreign car is no sign of wealth. In fact, that can be taken from you quickly (and it is by the number of foreclosures and repossessions we are witnessing). But true wealth is actually owning the stock, or share of ownership in companies in the U.S.

“The above chart shows that half of all stock wealth is concentrated with the top 1 percent. In fact, over 90 percent of Americans in the lower rungs own roughly 9 percent of all the stock wealth. This is why the stock market is largely a game for the rich and jobs are largely a game for the rest of us.”

We are at a major crossroads for the U.S. If action isn’t taken soon this massive inequality will dig deeper and the middle class will lose more and more people as the economy knocks people off the treadmill. If we follow the money, our government, Democrat or Republican is largely bought out by the Wall Street cause. Money is shifted to the least productive sector of finance at the expense of building real tangible assets that help the majority. The real fairytale going on today is believing that our government and Wall Street are looking out for the economic good of the entire country. Ask the 40 million people on food assistance how things are going. Ask the over 15 million Americans with no job how the economy is progressing. Let us ask the millions that are being foreclosed on how solid growth is. For big banks, all is well and this is reflected by their billion dollar profits since they are stealing from taxpayers and gambling on Wall Street. Not even a Disney fantasy is this outlandish.

Homeless Tent City in Navada

Click this link .... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hbzlGWPwrZI&feature=player_embedded

Pakistan Aid: Hillary Clinton Announces $7.5 Billion Aid Effort For Pakistan

ISLAMABAD — U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton sought Monday to convince skeptical Pakistanis that American interest in their country extends beyond the fight against Islamist militants by announcing a raft of new aid projects worth $500 million.

The projects, which include hospitals and new dams for badly needed electricity, are part of a $7.5 billion aid effort to win over Pakistanis suspicious about Washington's goals here and in neighboring Afghanistan, where U.S. troops are being killed in ever greater numbers in an insurgency with roots in Pakistan.

Mistrust over U.S. intentions in Pakistan is in part due to Washington's decision to turn away from the nuclear-armed country after enlisting its support to defeat the Soviets in Afghanistan in the 1980s.

"Of course there is a legacy of suspicion that we inherited. It is not going to be eliminated overnight," said Clinton following talks in Islamabad.

"It is however our goal to slowly but surely demonstrate that the United States is concerned about Pakistan for the long term and that our partnership goes far beyond security against our common enemies," she said.

Clinton said the U.S. will complete two hydroelectric dam projects to supply electricity to more than 300,000 people in areas near the Afghan border, will renovate or build three medical facilities in central and southern Pakistan and will embark on a new initiative to improve access to clean drinking water in the country.

These projects and several others focused on promoting economic growth will cost some $500 million and will be funded by legislation approved by Congress to triple nonmilitary aid to $1.5 billion a year over five years. The initiatives mark the second phase of projects begun under a new and enhanced strategic partnership.

Clinton acknowledged rebuilding trust between the countries would be difficult, comparing the effort to launching a rocket into space.

"We're trying to escape the bonds of gravity, leave behind an era of mistrust and launch a new period of cooperation," she said during a town hall meeting attended by several hundred Pakistanis.

Despite the U.S. initiatives, Clinton faces challenges in appealing for greater Pakistani cooperation in cracking down on militants who use their sanctuaries in Pakistan to launch cross-border attacks against NATO troops in Afghanistan.

The U.S. has had no success in pushing Pakistan to go after al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden or Taliban chief Mullah Omar, both of whom are believed to be hiding near the Afghan border.

"I believe they are here in Pakistan and it would be really helpful if we could get them," said Clinton in response to a question during a contentious round-table discussion with Pakistani TV news anchors.

Many analysts believe Pakistan is reluctant to target Afghan Taliban militants in the country with whom it has historical ties because they could be useful allies in Afghanistan after international forces withdraw.

Pakistan has shown more interest in supporting Afghanistan's push to reconcile with Afghan Taliban rather than fight them, a tactic the U.S. believes has little chance of succeeding until the militants' momentum on the battlefield is reversed.

Clinton said Monday that any insurgents who wish to reconcile must lay down their arms, renounce any partnership with al-Qaida and accept Afghanistan's constitution.

"We would strongly advise our friends in Afghanistan to deal with those who are committed to a peaceful future where their ideas can compete in the political arena through the ballot box, not through the force of arms," said Clinton.

The U.S. has pushed Pakistan and Afghanistan to improve their often frosty relations and prodded the two countries to seal a landmark trade deal Sunday that was reached after years of negotiation. The pact, which eases restrictions on cross-border transportation, must be ratified by the Afghan parliament and Pakistani Cabinet.

U.S. officials said they believe it will significantly enhance ties between the two countries, boost development and incomes on both sides of the border and contribute to the fight against extremists.

While the United States has encourged more trade between the two countries, it has expressed concern about a deal with China that would give energy-starved Pakistan two nuclear power plants. Critics say transferring the reactors would violate international nonproliferation agreements.

Clinton said the U.S. was waiting to receive answers about the deal posed by the Nuclear Suppliers Group before deciding how to proceed. The group restricts nuclear trade with states that have not signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty or don't have comprehensive safeguards.

Pakistan's nuclear activities have been a particular area of concern since 2004 when the architect of the country's nuclear program, A.Q. Khan, confessed to spreading sensitive technology to Iran, North Korea and Libya.


Associated Press writer Sebastian Abbot contributed to this report.

Washington Post exposes US 'intelligence flaws'

The US secret intelligence gathering systems have grown so much since 9/11 that no-one knows their exact cost, nor size, the Washington Post reports.

The newspaper says the system is now so massive and unwieldy that it is impossible to determine its effectiveness in keeping the US safe.

The report, Top Secret America, follows a two-year investigation by the paper.

Acting US intelligence chief David C Gompert has dismissed the picture painted by the report as inaccurate.

Related stories

"The reporting does not reflect the intelligence community we know," Mr Gompert said in a statement.

"We accept that we operate in an environment that limits the amount of information we can share. However, the fact is, the men and women of the intelligence community have improved our operations, thwarted attacks, and are achieving untold successes every day."

Before the report was published, the White House told the Washington Post it knew about the problems within US intelligence gathering and was trying to fix them.

DNI criticised

The report says the growth of the security industry - with billions of dollars of contracts farmed out to various government agencies and private contractors - has resulted in an unwieldy system lacking in oversight and with high levels of redundancy and waste.

According to the Washington Post:

  • Nearly 2,000 private companies and 1,270 government agencies are involved in counter-terror work at 10,000 locations across the country
  • Some 854,000 US citizens have the highest level of security clearance
  • A fifth of the US government's anti-terror organisations have been created since the September 2001 attacks
  • More than 250 security bodies have been created or restructured since 9/11
  • More than 30 complexes with 17m sq ft of space (1.6m sq m) have been built for top-secret intelligence work in the Washington area since the attacks
  • Various agencies publish so many reports that they are often ignored by officials
'Continuing weaknesses'

Intelligence failures that allowed the September 2001 attacks to happen have produced the regular refrain that the American intelligence community had "failed to join up the dots", says the BBC's defence and security correspondent, Nick Childs.

US intelligence and surveillance systems have changed dramatically since those attacks, with reforms - such as the creation a Directorate of National Intelligence to oversee some 16 agencies in the intelligence community - and a massive injection of resources.

US officials insist these reforms have led to significant improvements.

But recent incidents - such as the failed Detroit airliner bombing in December and the failed Times Square attack on New York in May - have exposed continuing weaknesses, and failures still to "join up the dots", our correspondent adds.

Defence Secretary Robert Gates said the bureaucracy of US intelligence gathering had not become unmanageable, but that it was sometimes hard to get precise information.

"There has been so much growth since 9/11 that getting your arms around that - not just for the DNI [Director of National Intelligence], but for any individual, for the director of the CIA, for the secretary of defence - is a challenge," Mr Gates told the newspaper.

Confirmation hearing

Last month, President Barack Obama nominated retired Gen James Clapper, a top Pentagon official, to replace Adm Dennis Blair as his next intelligence chief.

Adm Blair resigned as director of national intelligence (DNI), apparently because of internal administration battles.

The DNI was heavily criticised in a report by the president's Intelligence Advisory Board which said it was overstaffed and dysfunctional.

Gen Clapper faces a Senate confirmation hearing this week at which some of the issues raised in the Washington Post are bound to be aired, says our correspondent.

Top Secret America was compiled by Pulitzer Prize-winner Dana Priest and some two dozen reporters, and is being published in three instalments this week.

The Washington Post said its investigation was based on government documents, public records and hundreds of interviews with intelligence, military and business officials and former officials.

Most of those interviewed requested anonymity because they were not allowed to speak publicly, or because they feared retaliation at work, the newspaper said.

US intelligence spending completely out of control, Washington Post reveals

Since the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 top-secret intelligence gathering by the government has grown so unwieldy and expensive that no one really knows what it cost and how many people are involved, The Washington Post reported Monday. (The Post's incredible article, written by Pultizer-prize winning reporter Dana Priest, can be found here).

A two-year investigation by the newspaper uncovered what it termed a "Top Secret America" that's mostly hidden from public view and largely lacking in oversight.

In its first installment of a series of reports, the Post said there are now more than 1,200 government organizations and more than 1,900 private companies working on counterterrorism, homeland security and intelligence in some 10,000 locations across the U.S.

Some 854,000 people — or nearly 1 1/2 times the number of people who live in Washington — have top-secret security clearance, the paper said.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates told the Post that he doesn't believe the massive bureaucracy of government and private intelligence has grown too large to manage, but it is sometimes hard to get precise information.

"Nine years after 9/11, it makes sense to sort of take a look at this and say, 'OK, we've built tremendous capability, but do we have more than we need?" he said.

The head of the CIA, Leon Panetta, said he knows that with the growing budget deficits the level of spending on intelligence will likely be reduced and he's at work on a five-year plan for the agency.

The White House had been anticipating the Post report and said before it was published that the Obama administration came into office aware of the problems and is trying to fix them.

Read the full Washington Post report by Dana Priest and William M. Arkin online here.

Source: AP News

Hungary Minister: IMF Talks Break Off On Lack Of Austerity

BUDAPEST (Dow Jones)--Hungary's talks with the International Monetary Fund and the European Union broke off Saturday as the government refused to implement fiscal austerity measures to reach this year's budget deficit target, Economy Minister Gyorgy Matolcsy said Sunday.

"We said that ...

Home-Builder Confidence Drops

Rattled by economic conditions and the expiration of a government subsidy for home buyers, U.S. builder confidence in July sank to its lowest level in more than a year, casting doubt on the housing sector's recovery.

The National Association of Home Builders' monthly gauge of confidence in new-home sales fell two points to 14, the lowest level since April 2009.

The bigger-than-expected drop marked the second ...

After Training, Still Scrambling for Employment

In what was beginning to feel like a previous life, Israel Valle had earned $18 an hour as an executive assistant to a designer at a prominent fashion label. Now, he was jobless and struggling to find work. He decided to invest in upgrading his skills.

It was February 2009, and the city work force center in Downtown Brooklyn was jammed with hundreds of people hungry for paychecks. His caseworker urged him to take advantage of classes financed by the federal government, which had increased money for job training. Upgrade your skills, she counseled. Then she could arrange job interviews.

For six weeks, Mr. Valle, 49, absorbed instruction in spreadsheets and word processing. He tinkered with his résumé. But the interviews his caseworker eventually arranged were for low-wage jobs, and they were mobbed by desperate applicants. More than a year later, Mr. Valle remains among the record 6.8 million Americans who have been officially jobless for six months or longer. He recently applied for welfare benefits.

“Training was fruitless,” he said. “I’m not seeing the benefits. Training for what? No one’s hiring.”

Hundreds of thousands of Americans have enrolled in federally financed training programs in recent years, only to remain out of work. That has intensified skepticism about training as a cure for unemployment.

Even before the recession created the bleakest job market in more than a quarter-century, job training was already producing disappointing results. A study conducted for the Labor Department tracking the experience of 160,000 laid-off workers in 12 states from mid-2003 to mid-2005 — a time of economic expansion — found that those who went through training wound up earning little more than those who did not, even three and four years later. “Over all, it appears possible that ultimate gains from participation are small or nonexistent,” the study concluded.

In the last 18 months, the Obama administration has embraced more promising approaches to training focused on faster-growing areas like renewable energy and health care. But most money has been directed at the same sorts of programs that in past years have largely failed to steer laid-off workers toward new careers, say experts, and now the number of job openings is vastly outnumbered by people out of work.

“It’s such an ugly situation that job training can’t solve it,” said Ross Eisenbrey, a job training expert at the Economic Policy Institute, a labor-oriented research institution in Washington, and a former commissioner of the federal Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. “When you have five people unemployed for every vacancy, you can train all the people you want and unfortunately only one-fifth of the people will get hired. Training doesn’t create jobs.”

Labor economists and work force development experts say the frustration that frequently results from job training reflects the dubious quality of many programs. Most last only a few months, providing general skills without conferring useful credentials in specialized fields. Programs rarely involve potential employers and are typically too modest to enable cast-off workers to begin new careers.

Most job training is financed through the federal Workforce Investment Act, which was written in 1998 — a time when hiring was extraordinarily robust. Then, simply teaching jobless people how to use computers and write résumés put them on a path to paychecks. Today, even highly skilled people with job experience of two decades or more languish among the unemployed. Whole industries are being scaled down by automation, the shifting of work overseas and the recession.

“A lot of the training programs that we have in this country were designed for a kind of quick turnaround economy, as opposed to the entrenched structural challenges of today,” said Carl E. Van Horn, a labor economist and director of the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University. “It’s like attacking a mountain with a toothpick. You take a policy that was designed for the best economy that we had since World War II and you lay it up against the economy that is the worst since World War II. It can’t work.”

Claiming Successes

The Obama administration argues that expanded job training has already delivered success. As part of the nearly $800 billion stimulus package begun last year, the administration increased grants sent to states for training programs devoted to laid-off workers by $1.4 billion for 2009 and 2010. Those funds came on top of $2.9 billion allocated through normal budget channels for grants in those two years.

Last year, the number of laid-off workers in job training reached 241,000, up from about 124,000 the year before, according to the Labor Department.

“These programs are really working,” said the assistant secretary of labor, Jane Oates. “These are folks who clearly want to go back to work and we’re able to help them get back to work. The investment in job training is one that’s not only going to pay off in the short term, it’s going to help us be more competitive in the long term.”

In Ireland, a Picture of the High Cost of Austerity

Eoin O'Conaill for the International Herald Tribune

The planned headquarters of the now nationalized Anglo Irish Bank along the North Quays of Dublin’s docklands. The shell lies abandoned after the bank cratered from excessive lending to property developers, and the government infused it with 22 billion in taxpayer money. More Photos »

DUBLIN — As Europe’s major economies focus on belt-tightening, they are following the path of Ireland. But the once thriving nation is struggling, with no sign of a rapid turnaround in sight.

Nearly two years ago, an economic collapse forced Ireland to cut public spending and raise taxes, the type of austerity measures that financial markets are now pressing on most advanced industrial nations.

“When our public finance situation blew wide open, the dominant consideration was ensuring that there was international investor confidence in Ireland so we could continue to borrow,” said Alan Barrett, chief economist at the Economic and Social Research Institute of Ireland. “A lot of the argument was, ‘Let’s get this over with quickly.’ ”

Rather than being rewarded for its actions, though, Ireland is being penalized. Its downturn has certainly been sharper than if the government had spent more to keep people working. Lacking stimulus money, the Irish economy shrank 7.1 percent last year and remains in recession.

Joblessness in this country of 4.5 million is above 13 percent, and the ranks of the long-term unemployed — those out of work for a year or more — have more than doubled, to 5.3 percent.

Now, the Irish are being warned of more pain to come.

“The facts are that there is no easy way to cut deficits,” Prime Minister Brian Cowen said in an interview. “Those who claim there’s an easier way or a soft option — that’s not the real world.”

Despite its strenuous efforts, Ireland has been thrust into the same ignominious category as Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain. It now pays a hefty three percentage points more than Germany on its benchmark bonds, in part because investors fear that the austerity program, by retarding growth and so far failing to reduce borrowing, will make it harder for Dublin to pay its bills rather than easier.

Other European nations, including Britain and Germany, are following Ireland’s lead, arguing that the only way to restore growth is to convince investors and their own people that government borrowing will shrink.

The Group of 20 leaders set that in writing this weekend, vowing to make deficit reduction the top priority despite warnings from President Obama that too much austerity could choke a global recovery and warnings from a few economists about the possibility of a much sharper 1930s style downturn.

“Europe is in a tough bind,” said Kenneth S. Rogoff, a former chief economist at the International Monetary Fund and now a Harvard professor. “If you want to escape default, the Irish path is the only way to go. But the Ireland experience points to the profound challenges that the current strategy implies.”

Politicians here have raised taxes and cut salaries for nurses, professors and other public workers by up to 20 percent. About 30 billion euros ($37 billion) is being poured into zombie banks like Anglo Irish, which was nationalized after lavishing loans on developers.

The budget went from surpluses in 2006 and 2007 to a staggering deficit of 14.3 percent of gross domestic product last year — worse than Greece. It continues to deteriorate. Drained of cash after an American-style housing boom went bust, Ireland has had to borrow billions; its once ultralow debt could rise to 77 percent of G.D.P. this year.

“Everybody’s feeling quite sick at what happened because things were going so well for Ireland,” said Patrick Honohan, the Irish central bank governor. “But we don’t have the flexibility to do a spending stimulus now. There’s no one who is even arguing for it.”

Mr. Honohan predicts growth could revive to a rate of about 3 percent by 2012. But that may be optimistic: Ireland, as one of the 16 nations in Europe that has adopted the euro as its common currency, is trying to shrink the deficit to 3 percent of G.D.P. by 2014, a commitment that could weaken its hopes for recovery.

These troubles sting many Irish, given the head start Ireland has on most members of the euro club. Its labor market is one of Europe’s most open and dynamic. After its last major recession in the 1980s, it lured knowledge-based multinationals like Intel and Microsoft — and now Facebook and Linked-In — with a 12.5 percent tax rate, giving Ireland one of the most export-dependent economies in the world.

Now, the government is pinning nearly all its hopes on an export revival to lift the economy. Falling wage and energy costs, and a weaker euro, have improved competitiveness.

Turning statistics into jobs, however, will be a herculean task. “Exports alone don’t drive a significant number of jobs,” said Paul Duffy, a vice president at Pfizer in Ireland.

Wage cuts were easier to impose here because people remembered that leaders moved too slowly to overcome Ireland’s last recession. This time, Mr. Cowen struck accords swiftly with labor unions, which agreed that protests like those in Greece would only delay a recovery.

But pay cuts have spooked consumers into saving, weighing on the prospects for job creation and economic recovery. And after a decade-long boom that encouraged many from the previous years of diaspora to return, the country is facing a new threat: business leaders say thousands of skilled young Irish are now moving out, raising fears of a brain drain.

Moody’s Cuts Ireland’s Credit Rating

PARIS — Ireland’s efforts to pull out of a deep economic slump suffered a setback Monday when a major credit agency downgraded the country’s bond rating, citing a weak banking system and rising debt.

Moody’s Investors Service downgraded Ireland one notch, to Aa2 from Aa1, although it remains comfortably above junk level. Moody’s also changed the outlook on the ratings to stable from negative.

“Today’s downgrade is primarily driven by the Irish government’s gradual but significant loss of financial strength, as reflected by its deteriorating debt affordability,” said Dietmar Hornung, a senior credit officer at Moody’s.

The agency also said that the downgrade had been driven by the increased burden in liability for banks after a series of recapitalization measures led by the state.

Yields on the benchmark 10-year Irish bond rose 0.04 percentage point — a moderation from the initial gain — in reaction.

Gerard Fitzpatrick, fixed income portfolio manager at Russell Investments in London, said “relatively modest” market reaction to the downgrade — and one last week for Portugal — “indicates that the market has largely priced in the negative factors driving these downgrades.”

“This is especially true given the austerity measures in place which in the long term aim at limiting debt to G.D.P. ratios,” he added.

A test of investor confidence in the government will come Tuesday when Ireland plans to sell €1 billion to €1.5 billion, or $2 billion, worth of bonds maturing in 2016 and 2020.

In a sense the near-term pressure is off Dublin. The government does not face any redemptions of benchmark bonds this year and it has raised sufficient money to last until the first quarter of 2011 — regardless of the outcome of coming sales, according to analysts.

Recent bond sales by other European governments under pressure, like Spain and Portugal, have been stronger than some analysts had expected, given the size of their deficits.

Elsewhere in Europe, markets were stable Monday, with most stock indexes down slightly. The euro was quoted in London at $1.2973, up from $1.2930 late Friday.

Once one of the fastest-growing economies in Europe, Ireland has suffered a dramatic turnaround in recent years as the removal of easy credit and a crash in home prices hurt consumer confidence.

The economy shrank 7.1 percent last year, causing a steep decline in tax revenue. The ratio of debt to G.D.P. rose to 64 percent by the end of 2009, from 25 percent before the crisis, and is continuing to grow. Moody’s predicted it would stabilize at 95 percent to 100 percent over the next two to three years.

The budget went from surpluses in 2006 and 2007 to a staggering deficit of 14.3 percent of G.D.P. last year — worse than the deficit in Greece. It continues to deteriorate.

Joblessness in the country of 4.5 million is now above 13 percent.

In response to the rising deficit, Irish politicians have raised taxes and cut salaries for nurses, professors and other public workers by as much as 20 percent. They have also thrown money into the country’s main lenders to prevent bank failures.

Moody’s said that the recapitalization measures announced to date could reach almost €25 billion, equivalent to 15.3 percent of Ireland’s G.D.P. last year. Moody’s said that it expected Anglo Irish Bank, the most troubled, might need further support.

Ireland's National Asset Management Agency, also known as its “bad bank,” said Monday that it had completed the transfer of a second batch of loans from domestic banks, excluding Anglo Irish Bank.

The agency bought loans with a nominal value of €5.2 billion from Allied Irish Banks, Irish Nationwide Building Society and EBS Building Society at a 48 percent discount.

To date, loans with a nominal value of €20.5 billion of loans have been acquired by the agency for €10.4 billion.

The IMF last week said Dublin would not meet a European Union-agreed deadline to reduce its budget deficit to 3 percent of G.D.P. by 2014, also citing threats to Ireland's growth target.

The agency said growth would be below the historical trend over the next three to five years because banking and real estate will not contribute meaningfully, and because the decline in private-sector credit is dampening the growth outlook.

The Moody’s downgrade put its ratings in line with other agencies. S&P downgraded Ireland to AA in June 2009, after lowering it to AA+ from AAA in March 2009, while Fitch downgraded Ireland to AA+ from AAA in April 2009 and then to AA- in November 2009.

Moody’s has also downgraded, to Aa2 from Aa1, the rating of Ireland’s National Asset Management Agency, its so-called bad bank, whose debt is guaranteed by the government.

Chris Patten urges bolder EU approach over Middle East conflict

Former EU commissioner Chris Patten calls Gaza blockade an immoral failure and says bloc must be more independent

Chris Patten
Chris Patten said Israel’s relaxation of its blockade had not gone far enough. Photograph: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

The European Union must shake off US dominance and take a bolder approach in pressing for a settlement of the Israel-Palestinian conflict, the former EU commissioner Chris Patten said today on a visit to Gaza.

Israel's policy of blockading Gaza had been a "terrible failure – immoral, illegal and ineffective", he said, which had "deliberately triggered an economic and social crisis which has many humanitarian consequences".

In an interview with the Guardian, the former Conservative cabinet minister suggested it was time to reassess the isolation of Hamas, saying that approach had failed to weaken it.

Patten's visit, his first since 2002, coincided with a lightning second trip by the EU foreign policy chief, Lady Ashton, who called on Israel to open Gaza's borders rather than merely allow in more consumer goods.

Ashton's second visit since her appointment last December "showed a preparedness to be more independent-minded," said Patten. "The default European position should not be to wait to find out what the Americans are going to do, and if the Americans don't do anything to wring our hands. We should be prepared to be more explicit in setting out Europe's objectives and doing more to try to implement them."

He implicitly criticised US dominance of the Middle East quartet – the US, EU, UN and Russia – by saying he concurred with the description of it by the leader of the Arab League as the "quartet sans trois".

Patten, who found it "easier to get into a maximum security prison in the UK than to enter Gaza", said Israel's relaxation of its blockade had not gone far enough. "It's moved from about minus 10 to about minus eight. It doesn't do anything to help restore economic activity in Gaza.

"It's difficult to understand what preventing exports has to do with security. It has everything to do with the view that Gaza should be collectively punished to discredit Hamas. Unfortunately there are some centuries, if not millennia, of history that show that does not work. Presumably the international community as well as Israel wants at some stage – sooner rather than later – to be able to persuade Gaza and its political leadership to take a course which will lead to reconciliation and peace and stability. It's difficult to know how you accomplish that if you deny the people of Gaza any social or economic progress."

On earlier visits, he said, he had observed "a community that was poor, but at least economic activity was taking place". Since the blockade, "economic and commercial life has been squeezed out of Gaza in what looks and feels and is like a medieval siege".

Israel's change in policy was not a "fundamental shift in its position but it has plainly deflated some of the criticism" following the lethal assault on the aid flotilla on 31 May. That, he added, was "a terrible own goal" for Israel.

On negotiations with Hamas, Patten referred to his involvement with the Northern Ireland peace process, which "would not have been successfully concluded if we hadn't – with considerable American encouragement – agreed to talk to Sinn Fein/IRA.

"You don't always agree with people you talk to – indeed sometimes you find them despicable – but you need to ease them out of the corners into which they've painted themselves rather than lay on the paint much thicker.

"I think it's wholly reasonable to say we couldn't deal with Hamas unless they agreed to a comprehensive and complete ceasefire. But do we need to insist on them accepting all past agreements? Has Israel accepted all past agreements? If you simply isolate them, do you weaken them?" In fact, he said, "you strengthen people who are even more extreme than they are".

Before crossing to Gaza with the charity Medical Aid for Palestinians, of which he is president, Patten visited the West Bank and was shocked by the "huge new settlements".

"We're told there is an 'unprecedented freeze', but I saw large numbers of houses and flats being built as we speak. One of the key elements of a final agreement [between Israel and the Palestinians] will be how you cope with settlements. The more difficult it is to secure a viable and contiguous Palestinian state, the more difficult a final agreement will be."

If two states were no longer possible, then there would have to be one state on the land, he said. "But can you have that and retain a Jewish state which is democratic? I haven't heard anyone argue that convincingly."

He said public opinion in Europe and Britain was moving in favour of a change in Israeli policy towards Palestinians, but that could be endangered by growing demands for a boycott of Israel.

"I don't think a boycott would help," he said. "It could have the reverse consequences to those intended."

Cameron Raids Dormant U.K. Accounts as Minister Attacks Banks

U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron announced plans to use “hundreds of millions of pounds” from dormant bank accounts to fund community projects, while Business Secretary Vince Cable said lenders “ripped off” customers.

Cameron said he will press ahead with a proposal set out in the coalition government’s program to establish a “Big Society Bank” to finance moves by charitable groups and not-for-profit companies to take over jobs currently done by the government.

“These unclaimed assets, alongside the private-sector investment that we will leverage, will mean that the Big Society Bank will over time make available hundreds of millions of pounds of new finance to some of the most dynamic social organizations in our country,” Cameron said in a speech in Liverpool, northwest England, today.

Cameron said the idea ties in with his plans for a general overhaul of the public services, as the government tries to narrow a record budget deficit. The new Office for Budget Responsibility forecasts that 490,000 public-sector jobs will be lost by April 2015.

“We’ve got to get rid of the centralized bureaucracy that wastes money and undermines morale,” Cameron said. “In its place, we’ve got to give professionals much more freedom and open up public services to new providers like charities, social enterprises and private companies so we get more innovation, diversity and responsiveness to public need.”

Existing Legislation

A law passed in 2008 under Gordon Brown’s Labour government allows the government to use money from dormant bank and building-society accounts “for social or environmental purposes.” An account is dormant if the holder has made no transactions over a period of 15 years.

The British Bankers’ Association, a lobby group, estimates that about 400 million pounds ($610 million) is unclaimed in bank accounts. The government will set up a fund to be administered by Co-operative Financial Services that will hand over money to Cameron’s Big Society Bank by the end of this year, the Treasury said. The Co-op expects as much as 100 million pounds to be disbursed.

A senior Labour lawmaker, Tessa Jowell, said in an e-mailed statement that Cameron’s proposals are “simply a brass-necked rebranding of programs already put in place.”

The coalition of Conservatives and Liberal Democrats elected in May is maintaining pressure on the financial-services industry following the bailout of Royal Bank of Scotland Plc and Lloyds Banking Group by Labour.

Banking Probes

Parliament’s Treasury Committee announced a probe into banking to run alongside a government panel looking at the future of the industry. Cable has attacked the level of interest charged by banks, saying lenders in Britain face less competition now and can keep costs higher.

“One of the negative side effects of this crisis is that our banking system that was already very concentrated, is now even more concentrated so there’s less competition, less choice and a bigger temptation for banks to earn margins at the expense of their customers,” Cable told BBC television’s Panorama program, which will be broadcast this evening.

“When we talk about restructuring the banks, what’s going to come out of this is a more competitive system where the customers are not ripped off,” Cable said.

He went on to attack the culture of bonuses. “Unacceptable bonuses are continuing and that is something we want to try to stop,” he said. “That reflects the lack of moral compass.”

15 Mind-Blowing Facts About Wealth And Inequality In America

The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. Cliché, sure, but it's also more true than at any time since the Gilded Age.

While politicians gloat about our "recovery," our poor are getting poorer, our average wages are still falling behind inflation, and social mobility is at an all-time low.

But, yes, if you're in that top 1%, life in America is grand.

Here's 15 Mind-Blowing Charts About Wealth And Inequality In America >

Obama Flaunts His Insanity: Freaks Over U.S. Chamber Attack

With practically every action, President Barack Obama is demonstrating that he is, indeed, in a Hitler-in- the-bunker mode. Sources close to the White House have reported that the President went absolutely berserk over an open letter to him, issued by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, assailing the Administration for failing to do anything to promote jobs, at a time when this is the number one problem on the minds of the vast majority of Americans.

The public rebuke letter was released July 14, the same day that the Chamber held a high-profile jobs summit, where not a single Obama Administration representative was present. At the last moment, according to a Washington Post account, the White House requested that Valerie Jarrett be given a prominent speaking slot at the event, right after the keynote by Chamber CEO Thomas Donohue. The request was rejected, outright. Jarrett complained in an interview with the Bloomberg News, "We would have loved to have gone and participated. We were not invited. In fact, we were told not to come."

In an absolutely insane tit-for-tat response, the White House hastily arranged its own series of pow-wows for the President on the same day—with Warren Buffett, former President Bill Clinton, and a group of business executives. The White House also released a totally fabricated report, claiming that the stimulus had created a massive number of jobs.

The letter from the Chamber of Commerce only served to underscore that the only true viable solution to this systemic collapse is that proposed by Lyndon LaRouche—starting with the restoration of Glass-Steagall. The Chamber of Commerce letter was full of free-market platitudes, calls for tax cuts, and lip service to the need to create jobs and to revive infrastructure investment—through public-private partnerships.

LaRouche's own comment on the Obama/Chamber of Commerce dust-up and the President's insane behavior was: "Obama is only concerned about his own, personal situation. He is insane. And the proposals put forward by the Chamber of Commerce are, in their own right, insane. Their policies are insane, under this current crisis. But Obama is personally nuts. He has no capacity to do anything. He is truly Hitler in the bunker. If you avoid facing that reality—that the President has gone absolutely insane—you are making a grave strategic miscalculation."

The Wingman and the Village

Lt. Col. James Robert Hildreth arrived in Pleiku, South Vietnam in March 1967. A career Air Force officer trained to fly combat missions, he was anxious to get into the fight before the war ended. So he took the first available assignment, flying an A-1E Skyraider.

The aircraft provided close air support to ground forces and attacked supply lines. Hildreth was commander of his squadron and flew 285 combat missions during his tour in Vietnam.

The A-1 was heavily armed and low flying, so he could see the people he was shooting at and who were often shooting at him, unlike high performance jets where the pilot seldom sees the people killed when a target is destroyed.

On one mission, Hildreth commanded two A-1s ordered to a target on the northern coast of South Vietnam. He does not remember the name of the village or province. “It was on the coast along Route One, the main north-south highway,” was all that he could recall in a recent interview.

The forward air controller (FAC), whose primary job was ensuring the safety of friendly troops, told him it was an enemy village. But Hildreth wondered.

“It just didn’t look right,” he said. “It was an old village with three or four hundred houses and probably twelve to fifteen hundred people. It had been there for a long time.”

So he asked why it was a target. The FAC said it had been identified as an enemy village because “three Vietcong in black pajamas were seen running into the village from the rice paddy across the road.”

Hildreth said, “I told the air controller, hell, I wear black pajamas. So I asked if they were armed and he said they were.” When Hildreth pointed out that they could have been carrying rakes or hoes, the FAC told him the provincial governor, a lieutenant colonel in the South Vietnamese army, was in the back seat of his plane and he said it was a Vietcong village.

Hildreth decided to fly in low for a closer look and see if he could draw some enemy fire. Instead, he saw small children smiling and waving in a courtyard.

The FAC instructed him to drop napalm so the breeze from the sea would burn the entire village. Hildreth and his wingman planned to approach from opposite directions, but the wingman dropped his napalm across the road.

When Hildreth saw a woman run from a hut with an infant strapped on her back and a young child holding her hand, he too dropped his napalm away from the village. The FAC was furious.

Back at their base his wingman told him, “Sir, I have three small grandchildren at home, and I could never face them again if I had followed those orders.” Hildreth transferred his wingman to another unit because he did not want to fly any more “combat” missions.

Hildreth reported what had happened to a brigadier general, the director of the command center of Seventh Air Force. His answer, he recalls, was: “Don’t you know what’s going on? The village didn’t pay their taxes and the [governor] was teaching them a lesson.”

A few days later, during another mission over the same area, Hildreth saw the village had been totally destroyed. Hildreth was sure the report read, “Target 100% destroyed, body-count 1200 KBA [killed by air] confirmed.” When asked if he would have destroyed the village had he been flying an F-105 supersonic fighter-bomber, Hildreth replied coolly, “Yes, [because] you don’t see the people.”

He continued flying combat, and went on to lead the entire Pacific region as commander of the 13th Air Force. [Major] General James R. Hildreth retired on July 1, 1981.


Obama’s War on the Internet

When I used an internet connection at a Venice hotel, my passport was demanded as a precondition and the inner page, containing all my personal information, was scanned and a copy made for the Ministry of the Interior — which controls the police force. The copy is retained and linked to the transaction. For home computers, the IP address of the service used is similarly recorded for identification purposes. All records of each and every internet usage, to include credit information and keystrokes that register everything that is written or sent, is accessible to the government authorities on demand, not through the action of a court or an independent authority. That means that there is de facto no right to privacy and a government bureaucrat decides what can and cannot be “reviewed” by the authorities. Currently, the records are maintained for a period of six months but there is a drive to make the retention period even longer.

The excuses being given for the increasing government intervention into the internet are essentially two: first, that the anonymity of the internet has permitted criminal behavior, fraud, pornography, and libel. Second is the security argument, that managing the internet is an integral part of the “global war on terror” in that it is used by terrorists to plan their attacks requiring governments to control those who use it. The United States government takes the latter argument one step farther, claiming that the internet itself is a vulnerable “natural asset” that could be seized or damaged by terrorists and must be protected, making the case for a massive $100 billion program of cyberwarfare. Senator Joseph Lieberman (D-CT) argues that “violent Islamist extremists” rely on the internet to communicate and recruit and he has introduced a bill in the Senate that will empower the president to “kill” the internet in case of a national emergency.

But all of the arguments for intervention are essentially themselves fraudulent and are in reality being exploited by those who favor big government and state control. The anonymity and low cost nature of the internet means that it can be used to express views that are unpopular or unconventional, which is its strength. It is sometimes used for criminal behavior because it is a mechanism, not because there is something intrinsic in it that makes it a choice of wrongdoers. Before it existed, fraud was carried out through the postal service and over the telephone. Pornography circulated freely by other means. As for the security argument, the tiny number of actual terrorists who use the internet do so because it is there and it is accessible. If it did not exist, they would find other ways to communicate, just as they did in pre-internet days. In fact, intelligence sources report that internet use by terrorists is rare because of persistent government monitoring of the websites.

The real reason for controlling the internet is to restrict access to information, something every government seeks to do. If the American Departments of Defense and Homeland Security and Senator Lieberman have their way, new cybersecurity laws will enable Obama’s administration to take control of the internet in the event of a national crisis. How that national crisis might be defined would be up to the White House but there have been some precedents that suggest that the response would hardly be respectful of the Bill of Rights. Many countries already monitor and censor the internet on a regular basis, forbidding access to numerous sites that they consider to be subversive or immoral. During recent unrest, the governments of both Iran and China effectively shut down the internet by taking control of or blocking servers. Combined with switching off of cell phone transmitters, the steps proved effective in isolating dissidents. Could it happen here? Undoubtedly. Once the laws are in place a terrorist incident or something that could be plausibly described in those terms would be all that is needed to have government officials issue the order to bring the internet to a halt.

But the ability to control the internet technically is only part of the story. Laws are being passed that criminalize expressing one’s views on the internet, including both “hate crime” legislation and broadly drafted laws that make it a crime to support what the government describes loosely as terrorism in any way shape or form. Regular extra-legal government intrusion in the private lives of citizens is already a reality, particularly in the so-called Western Democracies that have the necessary technology and tech-savvy manpower to tap phones and invade computers. In Europe, draconian anti-terrorism laws enable security agencies to monitor phone calls and e-mails, in many cases without any judicial oversight. In Britain, the monitoring includes access to detailed internet records that are available for inspection by no less that 653 government agencies, most of which have nothing whatsoever to do with security or intelligence, all without any judicial review. In the United States, the Pentagon recently sought an internet and news “instant response capability” which it dubbed the Office of Strategic Influence and it has also seeded a number of retired military analysts into the major news networks to provide a pro-government slant on the war news. The State Department is also in the game, tasking young officers to engage presumed radicals in debate on their websites while the growing use of national security letters means that private communications sent through the internet can be accessed by Federal law enforcement agencies. The Patriot Act created national security letter does not require judicial oversight. More than 35,000 were issued by the FBI last year and the recipient of a letter commits a felony if he or she reveals the receipt of the document. In a recent case involving an internet provider in Philadelphia, a national security letter demanded all details of internet messages sent on a certain date, to include account information on clients with social security numbers and credit card references.

The danger is real. Most Americans who are critical of the actions of their own government rely on the internet for information that is uncensored and often provocative, including sites like Campaign for Liberty. As this article was being written, a story broke reporting that WordPress host Blogetery had been shut down by United States authorities along with all 73,000 Blogetery-hosted blogs. The company’s ISP is claiming that it had to terminate Blogetery’s account immediately after being ordered to do so by law enforcement officials “due to material hosted on the server.” The extreme response implies a possible presumed terrorist connection, but it is important to note that no one was charged with any actual offense, revealing that the government can close down sites based only on suspicion. It is also likely only a matter of time before Obama’s internet warfare teams surface either at the Defense Department or at State. Deliberately overloading and attacking the internet to damage its credibility, witness the numerous sites that have been “hacked” and have had to cease or restrict their activities. But the moves afoot to create a legal framework to completely shut the internet down and thereby control the “message” are far more dangerous. American citizens who are concerned about maintaining their few remaining liberties should sound the alarm and tell the politicians that we don’t need more government abridgement of our First Amendment rights.

Source: Campaign For Liberty

Microsoft Confirms Windows 7 SP1 Zero-Day Flaw

Microsoft has reported the first critical 'zero-day' vulnerability in the Windows 7 Service Pack 1.

The company advised developers testing the SP to update their systems before the vulnerability can be exploited.

In an advisory, the company explained: “The vulnerability exists because Windows incorrectly parses shortcuts in such a way that malicious code may be executed when the user clicks the displayed icon of a specially crafted shortcut.”

The company also said that the vulnerability can be exploited using a removable device such as a USB stick.

The vulnerability affects both 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Windows 7, as well as Windows XP Service Pack 3 and Windows Vista Service Pack 1 and 2.

Microsoft said that the critical zero-day vulnerability also affected all supported versions of Windows client or servers.

Microsoft has confirmed that it is working on developing a permanent patch for the zero-day vulnerability.

10 Ways You're Being Fleeced by Banks

Taxpayers are rightfully angrier than ever before about the state of the U.S. economy and the government's handling of the financial crisis; perhaps even more so than the Colonists at the original Tea Party. After all, it appears that the only group benefiting during this painful slide into recession are the very people who caused the crisis -- The Banks.

On the verge of bankruptcy in 2008, the banks are now once again making record profits and paying record bonuses, while nearly every other industry struggles to keep their head above water. The banks seem to have designed the system where all businesses and individuals are dependent on them for credit, and without new lending industry grinds to a halt. Given that banks can make risk-free profits by front running the stock market and selling $600 trillion of worthless derivatives for monster gains, there seems to be little motivation for them to lend money at today's record-low interest rates.

Average Americans continue to be looted by this bank-controlled economic system through taxation and other more subtle ways:

1. Bailouts/TARP -- The major banks warned in 2008 that their massively over-leveraged Ponzi scheme was about to take down the world financial system, and demanded a taxpayer bailout or else the sky would fall. Well, they got their bailout which may be upwards of $23 trillion between direct cash infusions and accounting write-downs, which amounts to around $76,667 for every citizen. The Federal Reserve also secretly bailed out foreign economies to at least the tune of $500 billion.

2. Predatory Lending -- The banks have long practiced predatory lending to Third World countries, private businesses, and individuals. This strategic over-lending creates a situation where banks anticipate and manufacture default to obtain real assets. Since banks lend money they don't have by making accounting adjustments, private bankers and their cohorts could conceivably, over time, own everything "real" in the world from money they created out of thin air.

3. Credit Cards -- From marketing to teenagers with "Happy Meal-style" gifts and toys at sign-up, to Mafia-style loansharking with usury interest rates, banks use credit cards to further enslave the public. According to the credit card repayment calculator, if you owe $6,000 on a credit card with a 20 percent interest rate and only pay the minimum payment each time, it will take you 54 years to pay off that credit card. During those 54 years you will pay $26,168 in interest rate charges in addition to the $6,000 in principal that you are required to pay back. (Source)

4. Stock Market -- The Goldman Sachs-dominated scheme called "front running" is where brokers use computer programs with intricate algorithms to buy or sell nanoseconds before large orders from the public. Originally designed to prevent this activity, these programs have been hijacked to "Beat the Street." It's the ultimate in insider trading, likened to a poker player being able to see his opponent's cards. Is it any wonder why four of the largest U.S. banks (Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, and Citigroup) had zero days of trading losses during the first quarter of 2010?

5. Pensions/401(k) -- Although severely weakened by stock market manipulation and other fraudulent behavior, Pensions and 401(k) retirement savings plans still represent a large portion of the people's remaining liquid wealth -- and the banks want it. Nearly $4 trillion worth of retirement savings was wiped out in the first weeks of 2008, where half of the losses were traditional pension plans, while another 46 million people were riding the stock market with 401(k). It was estimated in 2009 that two-thirds of public sector pension plans were underfunded to the tune of $430 billion. Long term, these public pensions are reportedly underfunded by $3.5 trillion due to banks using the contributions to prop up toxic junk.

6. Social Security -- Social Security represents a $40 trillion unfunded liability. It is estimated that taxes must be raised substantially and benefits must be slashed to cover this gap. Through no fault of Social Security contributors and recipients, the government has completely mismanaged the program while other debts eat up any chance of actually making good on the entitlements promised to the working public. According to their "austerity" playbook, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) recommends that the U.S. squeeze Social Security to cover their ever-growing debts to banks.

7. Inflation -- The Federal Reserve's shadowy printing presses have created an estimated $23.7 trillion in credits, grants, loans and guarantees, and that is just the paper backed by taxpayers. The fractional reserve banking system is one where banks can create loans (money) based on a fraction of their reserves, which inherently weakens the strength of the dollar. Inflation ends up being a hidden tax on those who worked hard, played by the rules, and saved their pennies. You have been paying for this hidden tax ever since the Federal Reserve was created in 1913, coincidentally the same year the income tax was passed. To make matters worse, many experts now predict that America is headed toward hyperinflation. For an in-depth education on how money creation creates a tax on every dollar printed please watch The Money Masters and Money as Debt.

8. Commodity Prices -- Banks use the commodity casino to manipulate food prices as another way to line their pockets and starve the public. There is a direct correlation between food costs and oil prices, so when they drive up oil on speculation, food tends to follow suit. During oil's record run up to $147 per barrel in 2008, the price of rice tripled in six months. Between the ominous signs of food shortages and predictions of $200/bbl oil in the near future, you can expect to pay much more of your hard-earned crippled dollars to eat. Obviously, inflation -- especially hyperinflation -- also causes commodity prices to spike, since they trade in U.S. dollars.

9. Debt and Deficits -- Banks make it easy for politicians to love credit as much as everyone else, only their shiny new toys are things like pork projects for their states, wars, and mandated private healthcare. You can almost see the commercial: "You can have all this today, get re-elected tomorrow, and in a decade your successor can figure out how to pay for it." Recent reports show continued record deficits, while total debt and unfunded liabilities are figured to be $138 trillion -- around ten times annual GDP. Furthermore, the U.S. national debt has already surpassed the IMF default threshold of 90% GDP which will trigger austerity measures on the American public.

10. Wars -- When the original reasons for wars don't pan out, and the secondary reasons don't add up, you can bet the real reason in the first place was money. Indeed, wars are the biggest moneymakers for the banks and the fastest way for them to imprison countries with debt. Wars have historically been manipulated by the banks funding both sides, much like they fund both political parties. In fact, some historians suggest that the American Civil War was actually a battle between Lincoln's Greenback vs. the "oligarchy of high finance." Ultimately, Lincoln was killed along with his Greenback and the private banking cartel ruled America once more.

All of this is leading to a loss of financial independence -- The masters of manipulation -- the money changers -- have rigged the system from every angle and continue to loot all of us. We would be wise to learn about the history of money and banking in our economy, which is a compendium of booms and busts orchestrated by private banks. Wars, fiat currencies that lead to inflation, and obscure financial instruments are their tools of the trade to consolidate wealth at the top, while the foundation of the pyramid scheme -- the hardworking taxpayers -- are fleeced again and again.

Matt Simmons Sets The Record Straight About BP's Bogus Statements

Click this link ..... http://tinyurl.com/34djkhm

Clinton believes Osama bin Laden still in Pakistan

ISLAMABAD (AFP) - US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Monday she believed Osama bin Laden was still in Pakistan, in a television interview between high-level talks in Islamabad.

"I believe (bin Laden) is here in Pakistan and it would be very helpful if we could take them (Al-Qaeda leaders)," Clinton said.

Last month head of the CIA, Leon Panetta, said Al-Qaeda mastermind bin Laden remained in "very deep hiding", nine years after the world's most-wanted fugitive first disappeared following the 2001 attacks.

BP says Gulf oil seep may not be from its well

LONDON (Reuters) - Oil giant BP Plc said a seep detected in the Gulf of Mexico may not be related to its blown out Macondo well, which has caused the biggest offshore oil spill in U.S. history.

Spokesman Robert Wine said on Monday that BP engineers were the source of information behind comments from the government's top official overseeing the spill response effort, Admiral Thad Allen, that a seep was detected "a distance from the well."

"The data is being reviewed by the government's technical team," Wine said.

Last week a cap was placed on the well, halting the flow of oil for the first time in three months.

If the data confirmed that Macondo was the source of the seep, the choke on the cap would be opened, and oil flowed to support vessels on the surface, Wine said. (Reporting by Tom Bergin; editing by Simon Jessop)

An American “Terrorist” in London

Welcome to Orwell’s ‘1984’ ladies and gentlemen, where black is white, white is black, and the truth is nothing but a word.

My 1984 reality is culminating with the United States and Israeli Governments treating me and/or charging me with being a “terrorist”. Americans worry not, you can sleep better at night knowing your “homeland” is being defended from the likes of me. And Israel, rest easy as well, it’s Ken O’Keefe and his Arab collaborators who are in the Mossad crosshairs.

All kidding aside, I am a family man, with a beautiful family, a loving wife and baby boy, a boy who will be the biggest victim if his father is no longer in his life.

How did I get here? Well my life is an open book, and one chapter includes meeting with people who resist war and occupation, but the idea that I would be involved in violence beyond self-defense is absurd. The character witnesses who truly know me will come out in force if ever I am locked up for conspiracy to commit a terrorist act. The real reason why I have been named by Israel as ‘operative of the Hamas Terror organization’ is that I speak and defend the truth, and more importantly, I act on it. The truth is that Hamas and every other government, group or individual does what just about any of us would do if we were oppressed and violated in the ways that are inherent in war/occupation. We would resist.

I say to every red blooded American, every European, every human, if someone came into your home, threatened your family, imprisons and even kills your family what would you do? I do not care if every westerner of any station is afraid to say it, it is part of my purpose in life to say it, I would fight. In fact I would kill before I would allow my family to be harmed. I would fight to the death.

I say to my American brothers and sisters in particular, can you not see that the Hamas Terror organization are people? They are mothers and fathers, uncles and aunts, brothers and sisters and sons and daughters. They love their family every bit as much as you. Imagine that you were in their shoes, would you be passive? Would you sit by and watch your wife and child being violated? Or would you fight?

I want every reader of this article to come on a journey with me. We are in our home, we are brothers, poor in terms of money but rich in our love of family, we love each other as brothers do. Our wives are in the kitchen preparing food for our children. We do our best, poor and impoverished, surrounded by war brought in the form of occupiers from half way around the world. The sound of rifle butts banging on the door shatters the semblance of peace. You, my brother go to the door quickly, but not quickly enough. The door slams open and the soldiers from another land come storming in.

With weapons pointed at our heads, they shout orders which we believe tell us to put our hands on our heads and get down on our knees. We are not sure, English is a language brought to us, not our mother tongue. Our wives come to the room frightened, begging the soldiers to calm down for the sake of the children in the other room. The soldiers respond by shouting at our wives and pushing my wife to the ground with their assault rifles. Our hearts are racing, our manhood is being crushed, and we wonder if we are men at all.

The shouting and the chaos increases. Next comes the sound of your baby girl, you hear her crying for her mother, you imagine the look of her, terrified. Thinking of your little baby girl tears begin to fall from your face. You look to your wife; she is now on the ground bleeding from where the rifle butt slammed into her head. In the chaos you do not even know when this happened. The soldiers begin throwing all that we own everywhere, overturning furniture, throwing papers and family items to the ground and breaking dishes. They ransack while one demands to know our names. As soon as I say my name they grab me and take me into the next room, the room between you and our children. They begin to beat me, mercilessly. They are shouting at me, but you do not know what they are saying.

Now all the children are crying frantically, the soldiers keep yelling, and you catch the word “terrorist”. You realize that they are calling me, your brother who you have known your whole life, a “terrorist”. I plead with them to stop the beating, blood drenching every inch of my face, for the sake of the children, who are by now screaming, crying and begging for mom and dad, I beg. All you can think to do is nothing, you are paralyzed, and eventually the soldiers take me away… You will never hear from me again.

Your children are alive, for now, and your wife will survive, but she is scarred. Your sister-in-law is without her husband, you are without your brother, your parents are without their son and the children are without a father. You find out later that “someone” gave your brother’s name to the soldiers as a “terrorist”, probably while being tortured. And that is the end of that, someone who you do not know accuses the brother you know through and through, and lives are shattered.

And so you ponder, do I do nothing or do I resist?

This is a scenario of war/occupation, it is not extreme, it is inherent. Indeed we could include scenarios where woman, wives and daughters are raped in front of husbands and fathers. You think Americans do not do this, you are wrong. War makes everyone crazy; the question is to what degree? Insanity is inherent in war, the folly of chanting the “Support the troops!” slogan while sending them off to bullshit wars could not be more stark.

And so I ask, if you came from the lands we invade, would you fight? And if you did, would you see yourself as a “terrorist”? Or a man?

And if you did not fight, would you see yourself as noble? Or a coward?

I do not intend to pass judgment, but I would fight. I would fight because I know I would rot from the inside out if I did not. As far as I am concerned, I feel nothing but kinship, love and respect for my brothers and sisters who resist, I see myself in them.

It pains me deeply to know that we, western hypocrites and citizens of morally bankrupt states are the root of the problem. We are the terrorists, us. Our entire society should face charges for crimes against humanity for our use of DU, white phosphorous, cluster bombs, etc. We should pay massive reparations and beg forgiveness for the sake of a better future world. We claim to live in democracies, therefore we are responsible. Rather than face up to it, we remain delusional and insane, functionally insane, pretending as if we are “civilized”. We are barbaric, and not just Americans, Europeans as well. We do not have a monopoly on barbarity, but we have far more than our fair share.

When Gandhi was asked what he thought of western civilization he replied by saying, “I think it would be a good idea.”


I will not abandon my brothers and sisters who resist war and occupation. By being labeled a “terrorist” myself, I join you, falsely accused and persecuted, the Arabs, the Muslims, Nelson Mandela, the African National Congress, the Founding Fathers of America, the eco-warriors, the people of conscience past and present. And so be it, I am a terrorist in the eyes of the American and Canadian Government who puts me on their so-called “terror watch list”. I am a terrorist because Israel issues press releases stating I am a “operative of Hamas” on a mission to “form and train a commando unit for the Palestinian terror organization” in Gaza; in this world of Orwellian doublespeak I am honoured, truly honoured. The lies and depravity are oozing from you like puss from an infection of greed and power gone mad. In response I shall draw the proverbial line in the sand, those accusing and threatening me on the one side, those with me on the other side. And here is what ‘WE THE PEOPLE’ stand for;

  1. Breaking of the blockade of Gaza and Palestine 100%.
  2. Ending imperialism, occupation and war and thus the need for violent resistance.
  3. Ending of all forms of terrorism, with immediate emphasis on the state sponsored terrorism that is conducted with our taxes and in our name.
  4. Replacing the war tax system with a humanity tax system.
  5. Replacing institutionalized indoctrination with genuine education.
  6. Rendering corporate media propaganda completely impotent.
  7. Replacing the colour of law with justice based law.
  8. Embracing sustainable living and respect for nature in every way.
  9. Absolute respect for human rights for all people, without exception.

10. The “Golden Rule”, to do unto others as we would have them do unto us.

11. The way of a world citizen whose ultimate allegiance is to his entire human family and to planet Earth.

There you have it, if I am to be a “terrorist” then that is the brand I endorse. And now, I’m looking for a ship and a flotilla to go to Gaza, and I look to do it pretty soon. Who would like to join me?

Ken O’Keefe (born July 21, 1969) is an American born activist who renounced his US citizenship on March 1, 2001. He has since acquired Irish, Hawaiian and Palestinian citizenship. On January 7, 2004, O’Keefe burned his US passport in protest of “American Imperialism” and called for US troops to immediately withdrawal from Iraq. He replaced his US passport with a World Citizen Passport, proclaiming “ultimate allegiance to my entire human family and to planet Earth.” He is a former U.S. Marine who served in the 1991 Gulf War and subsequently spoke out about the use of depleted uranium as a “crime against humanity” and the US military using soldiers as “human guinea pigs” (with experimental drugs that were directly linked to Gulf War syndrome). He is also a social entrepreneur utilising direct action marine conservation in which he pioneered endangered Green Sea Turtle rescues in Hawaii. But he is more widely known for leading the Human Shield Action to Iraq (2003) and as a survivor of the Israeli attack on the MV Mavi Marmara (2010) in which he participated in “defending the ship” and “disarming two Israeli Commandos”.

In October 2009 he founded Aloha Palestine, a social enterprise dedicated to purchasing a ship and conducting regular and reliable trade with Palestinians in Gaza. For more Information Click World Citizen – Ken O’Keefe http://www.worldcitizen.uk.net/