Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Government's New Right to Track Your Every Move With GPS

Government agents can sneak onto your property in the middle of the night, put a GPS device on the bottom of your car and keep track of everywhere you go. This doesn't violate your Fourth Amendment rights, because you do not have any reasonable expectation of privacy in your own driveway - and no reasonable expectation that the government isn't tracking your movements.

That is the bizarre - and scary - rule that now applies in California and eight other Western states. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which covers this vast jurisdiction, recently decided the government can monitor you in this way virtually anytime it wants - with no need for a search warrant. (See a TIME photoessay on Cannabis Culture.)

It is a dangerous decision - one that, as the dissenting judges warned, could turn America into the sort of totalitarian state imagined by George Orwell. It is particularly offensive because the judges added insult to injury with some shocking class bias: the little personal privacy that still exists, the court suggested, should belong mainly to the rich.

This case began in 2007, when Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents decided to monitor Juan Pineda-Moreno, an Oregon resident who they suspected was growing marijuana. They snuck onto his property in the middle of the night and found his Jeep in his driveway, a few feet from his trailer home. Then they attached a GPS tracking device to the vehicle's underside.

After Pineda-Moreno challenged the DEA's actions, a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit ruled in January that it was all perfectly legal. More disturbingly, a larger group of judges on the circuit, who were subsequently asked to reconsider the ruling, decided this month to let it stand. (Pineda-Moreno has pleaded guilty conditionally to conspiracy to manufacture marijuana and manufacturing marijuana while appealing the denial of his motion to suppress evidence obtained with the help of GPS.)

In fact, the government violated Pineda-Moreno's privacy rights in two different ways. For starters, the invasion of his driveway was wrong. The courts have long held that people have a reasonable expectation of privacy in their homes and in the "curtilage," a fancy legal term for the area around the home. The government's intrusion on property just a few feet away was clearly in this zone of privacy.

The judges veered into offensiveness when they explained why Pineda-Moreno's driveway was not private. It was open to strangers, they said, such as delivery people and neighborhood children, who could wander across it uninvited. (See the misadventures of the CIA.)

Chief Judge Alex Kozinski, who dissented from this month's decision refusing to reconsider the case, pointed out whose homes are not open to strangers: rich people's. The court's ruling, he said, means that people who protect their homes with electric gates, fences and security booths have a large protected zone of privacy around their homes. People who cannot afford such barriers have to put up with the government sneaking around at night.

Judge Kozinski is a leading conservative, appointed by President Ronald Reagan, but in his dissent he came across as a raging liberal. "There's been much talk about diversity on the bench, but there's one kind of diversity that doesn't exist," he wrote. "No truly poor people are appointed as federal judges, or as state judges for that matter." The judges in the majority, he charged, were guilty of "cultural elitism." (Read about one man's efforts to escape the surveillance state.)

The court went on to make a second terrible decision about privacy: that once a GPS device has been planted, the government is free to use it to track people without getting a warrant. There is a major battle under way in the federal and state courts over this issue, and the stakes are high. After all, if government agents can track people with secretly planted GPS devices virtually anytime they want, without having to go to a court for a warrant, we are one step closer to a classic police state - with technology taking on the role of the KGB or the East German Stasi.

Fortunately, other courts are coming to a different conclusion from the Ninth Circuit's - including the influential U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. That court ruled, also this month, that tracking for an extended period of time with GPS is an invasion of privacy that requires a warrant. The issue is likely to end up in the Supreme Court.

In these highly partisan times, GPS monitoring is a subject that has both conservatives and liberals worried. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit's pro-privacy ruling was unanimous - decided by judges appointed by Presidents Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton. (Comment on this story.)

Plenty of liberals have objected to this kind of spying, but it is the conservative Chief Judge Kozinski who has done so most passionately. "1984 may have come a bit later than predicted, but it's here at last," he lamented in his dissent. And invoking Orwell's totalitarian dystopia where privacy is essentially nonexistent, he warned: "Some day, soon, we may wake up and find we're living in Oceania."

Cohen, a lawyer, is a former TIME writer and a former member of the New York Times editorial board.

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Schoolgirls fined for bugging teachers

Two Stockholm schoolgirls have been taken to court for trying to bug their teachers during a grading conference. They were found out after one of them revealed all on Facebook.

The pair, who are in their mid-teens, came up with the idea after finding a key to the staff common room. They bought basic bugging equipment in a gadget shop, waited until the end of the school day, and planted the device in the staff room.

The girls, who attend a middle school in the capital, planned to listen in on a meeting the following day at which teachers would decide their grades. They were hoping to glean information that would enable them to get their grades improved.

The plan might have gone off without a hitch if one of the girls in her enthusiasm had not revealed all on Facebook, according to Metro. The girls were prosecuted for trespass and arbitrary conduct and fined 2,000 kronor ($270) each by Stockholm District Court.

Bill Gross Pushing for MORE Bailouts for PIMCO Bond Fund

Two years ago when Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were collapsing, former Goldman Sachs CEO and U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson repeated the promise of “no more bailouts,” so as to calm worried Americans who feared they would be on the hook for hundreds of billions of dollars of toxic mortgages held by these GSEs.

At the time, I discussed my opinion that Paulson was lying, and that both GSEs would be bailed out to the detriment of tax payers. When Washington approved this disastrous bailout, they accepted the ridiculous assurances made by Wall Street hacks like Paulson, Bill Gross and others that $150 billion of taxpayer funds would be sufficient to restore solvency of these lenders, helping to strengthen the housing market.

Washington even claimed that taxpayers would make a profit from the deal!

I knew this would not be the case. Back in 2006, when I wrote America’s Financial Apocalypse, I discussed the data on the $10 trillion of new mortgages that had been underwritten over the past several years. Over $2 trillion of this amount consisted of sub-prime mortgages, while another $3 trillion fell into the Alt-A and option-ARM category.

I also discussed the fact that the credit rating agencies were rubber-stamping these toxic mortgages with AAA ratings in return for payouts from Wall Street. Finally, I detailed the risk of a meltdown of the multi-trillion mortgage-related derivatives market.

Let’s have a look at some excerpts from a book that very few even know about …

“What would happen if one or more GSE (i.e. Fannie or Freddie) got into financial trouble? Not only would investors get crushed, but taxpayers would have to bail them out since the GSEs are backed by the government. Everyone would feel the effects. With close to $2 trillion in debt between Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae alone, as well as several trillion held by commercial banks, failure of just one GSE or related entity could create a huge disaster that would easily eclipse the Savings & Loan Crisis of the late 1980s.”

“Furthermore, the GSEs have created very risky derivatives exposures for themselves and many financial institutions. As these debt instruments evolve into different products, less transparency and more uncertainty is created. Fannie Mae has taken about half of its MBS and pooled them into another security called a Real Estate Mortgage Investment Conduit (REMIC), otherwise known as a restructured MBS or Collateralized Mortgage Obligation (CMO). These mortgage derivatives are complex and considered very speculative. According to recent data, the total derivative exposure for all securities stands at nearly $300 trillion. However, it’s not known for certain what the net exposure is.”

Reference: Stathis, M. Chapter 10, America’s Financial Apocalypse. 2006.

In 2006, I realized up to $1.5 trillion could be lost by Fannie and Freddie. Two years later after Fannie and Freddie used tax dollars to delay insolvency, it was apparent to me that the $150 billion bailout was intentionally set at such a low level as a way to get it passed more easily. The real purpose was to open the door for more bailouts to come. As you know, we saw many more bailouts. As a result of the GSE bailout, taxpayers now own 80% of Fannie and Freddie.

From Chapter 10, America's Financial Apocalypse (2006)...

“From inflated appraisals alone, 10 to 15 percent of MBS securities or up to $1.5 trillion have been overvalued by conservative estimates. Combine that with the lack of transparency, questionable risk exposure and fraudulent practices by executives at Fannie and Freddie, and you have a disaster ready to strike.”

“Now combine that with over 10 million Americans holding interest-only and ARM mortgages, throw in a million or two job losses due to say the failure of Delta, Ford, General Motors, or some other large vulnerable company, and you could end up with a blowup in the MBS market. This scenario would devastate the stock, bond and real estate markets. Most likely, there would also be an even bigger mess in the swaps and derivatives markets, leading to a global sell-off in the capital markets. Needless to say, the dollar would take a huge dive and interest rates would soar to double digits.

“The real estate fallout will no doubt cripple smaller companies such as mortgage lenders, home builders, and home improvement stores. But it will also affect huge financial institutions such as Citigroup, Bank of America, Chase, General Motors (GMAC), General Electric (GE Finance), and Washington Mutual, depending upon the extent of their exposure. As well, if things get really nasty the credit problems could extend to the ABS market which would cause further devastation.”

“Combined with the fragility of the economy, it should be easy to appreciate the enormous credit risk the collateralized markets have generated. Depending on how, when and to what extent the real estate and credit bubbles correct, large aftershocks could ripple throughout America’s financial system, triggering a massive stock and bond market sell-off, as well as huge problems for Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and all other banks involved with ABS and MBS.”

“Based on today’s grossly overvalued housing prices, a 35 percent correction on average seems very likely. And in some areas, a 50 to 60 percent correction is possible. Most likely, it will take several years for the real estate washout to be completed. We can only hope that the MBS market doesn’t experience its first blow up since inception, but don’t bet on it.”

“Under normal conditions, anywhere from 25 to 30 percent of the U.S. economy is directly affected by the housing sector. However, due to exaggerated asset prices from the housing bubble, this share is significantly higher. Housing prices have up to two times the effect on consumer spending as they do on declines in stock prices. Consequently, if housing prices decline by 25 percent, the economic impact will be as if the stock market declined by 50 percent.”

Reference: Stathis, M., Chapter 10, America’s Financial Apocalypse. 2006.

As you can imagine, virtually nothing that has happened over the past three years has surprised me, other than the incompetent response from Washington and the Federal Reserve.

Given the warnings I was ready to issue (specific warnings and investment guidance which could have helped anyone up to 100% returns) you might want to ask yourself why the media has continued to ban me.

What was this advice? To short the mortgage, bank and homebuilder stocks, as detailed in Cashing in on the Real Estate Bubble (2007).

You should understand why the media has issued a widespread ban on me. The financial media doesn’t want you to have access to individuals who can truly help you make money and avoid losses because Wall Street buys the ads and pays for the commercials, which accounts for the majority of the media’s revenues.

In September of 2008, I reiterated my forecasts

“Despite attempts made by Greenspan and Bernanke, there is no way to avert the payback period that has been building for over two decades. Over this stretch, America has consumed much more than it has produced. As a result, both consumer and federal debt have ballooned to record levels. And now, the payback period is upon us.

The bailout buffet won’t end with Fannie and Freddie. There’s a lot more where that came from because the ‘Fed’s food court’ remains open, as does that of the U.S. Treasury.”

Two years later we see the reality. Indeed, the bailout buffet is alive and well. Meanwhile, Fannie and Freddie continue to reach new depths of the abyss. As defaults continue to soar, the foreclosure avalanche continues to grow. Despite the Federal Reserve’s $1.5 trillion purchase of toxic mortgages, the GSEs are once again staring insolvency square in the face.

Even after countless subsidies and mortgage aid programs issued by Washington, nothing has helped the housing market. These tax payer subsidies have been a complete failure, as I predicted, adding more debt to future generations.

The only thing that’s surprised me is that Americans haven’t stormed Washington and demanded the resignation of every single one of these criminals (excluding Dennis Kucinich and Ron Paul).

We know there’s always two sides to every trade.

Taxpayers have been the losers in the deal. But who have been the winners?

Although there have been many beneficiaries, the single largest beneficiary of the Fannie/Freddie bailout has been Bill Gross and the investors in his total return fund.

Despite tax payer assistance totaling $150 billion, Bill Gross’ Total Return fund still hasn’t managed to perform exceptionally well. Much of the problem of course is due to the excessive fees charged by PIMCO, as discussed previously.

Why has there never been mention in the financial media of the excessive fees charged by Gross’ bond fund? Instead, all you hear from the media is praise for the “bond king.”

The same is also true when the media interviews Alan Greenspan, Ben Bernanke, Timothy Geithner, and a long list of others who have caused American consumers and investors to lose much of what they had, from jobs and homes, to retirement savings and hope for their future.

By now, you should realize America’s corporate media monopoly is an accomplice to the theft of tax payer dollars, investment losses and the complete rape of the nation.

Now, as Fannie and Freddie search desperately for another life preserver, Bill Gross has stepped up to the plate to offer another “brilliant” idea.

First, Gross has proposed that Washington completely nationalize the GSEs, guaranteed by taxpayer dollars. As the basis for his logic, he has stated that this will resolve the housing problem. Taken from a recent speech he gave to members of a special committee in Washington,

“The only way to bring housing back, and to create liquid, financeable mortgage finance going forward, would be to provide a government guarantee.”

The first point I want to make is that if Washington made the mistake of nationalizing the GSEs, U.S. taxpayers would be exposed to up to $2 trillion in losses, if not more. Of course, Gross is the single largest shareholder of Fannie and Freddie bonds, so he stands to gain from this seemingly unconstitutional proposal.

The second point is that Gross is misguided in his claim that nationalization would “bring housing back.” This is complete nonsense to anyone who has a reasonable grasp of the economy and housing market. The problem is that no one in Washington has an idea what’s going on.

While a total government bailout of the GSEs might initially create some improvements in the housing market, I’ll guarantee such improvements would be small and temporary because the fundamental issues are not being addressed. Meanwhile, up to $2 trillion would be added to the national debt. Is $2 trillion a fair price to pay for small temporary improvements to the housing market?

Housing prices will only be boosted when consumers have good jobs and sufficient credit to QUALIFY for mortgages. Right now, the U.S. doesn’t have much of either. Jobs continue to be shipped overseas due to Washington’s long-standing policy of enriching corporate America through unfair trade policies.

Meanwhile, the banking cartel continues to hoard the money printed by the Fed. Instead of making new loans, this criminal cartel is receiving capital at essentially no cost from the Federal Reserve and investing it in U.S. Treasuries.

This is the big banking bailout the media isn’t talking about, and it’s causing you to miss out on interest payments on your savings. The Federal Reserve is artificially holding rates down in order for the insolvent cartel to receive risk-free returns. This is nothing short of fraud.

Once tax payers have guaranteed the GSEs, Gross suggests Washington allow Fannie and Freddie mortgages to be refinanced at below-market rates, regardless of the loan-to-value. In other words, refinancing options would even be made available to homeowners with negative equity.

Gross claims this tax payer-subsidized refinancing wave would add $60 billion to the pockets of homeowners, which would boost consumer spending. He uses this as his selling point because he knows it’s a solution Washington wants to hear; a way to boost consumer spending by artificial means.

With many of the GSE mortgages set at around 6%, a refinance rate at say 4% would lower the investment returns of Gross’ GSE bonds. But Gross doesn’t mind taking a small haircut from these toxic investments in exchange for reduced credit risk.

The real kicker is that these bonds would be guaranteed like U.S. Treasuries. So for Gross, it’s like getting AAA-rated U.S. government bonds paying 4%. That’s a pretty good deal considering the 30-year Treasury is yielding 3.8%.

Ever since the mortgage meltdown commenced, Washington has acted consistently with irresponsible and ineffective responses to the real estate collapse and economic turmoil. Only once since the onset of the collapse has Washington raised the minimum down payment for FHA mortgages, from 3% to 3.5%.

Late last year, after the clowns in Washington began to realize the housing market was getting worse, politicians began to float a bill that would boost the minimum down payment for FHA mortgages to a “whopping” 5%. In case you weren’t aware, the FHA is probably in worse trouble (in terms of the percentage of toxic mortgages) than Fannie and even Freddie.

All throughout the housing bust, Washington has permitted the GSEs to lower standards for refinancings. For instance, in 2009 Fannie Mae started accepting mortgage refinancings for homes with a LTV of 125%.

The motivation underlying this highly dangerous strategy was not only to help homeowners with negative equity refinance at lower rates, but also to supply the GSEs with greatly needed cash. This has added significant risk to the 80% ownership of Fannie and Freddie held by tax payers. In fact, I would argue that it represents tax payer fraud.

I don't know about you, but if I was a mortgage lender, I sure as hell wouldn't want to hold these risky mortgages on my books. Try and see if you can find an independent mortgage lender willing to give you a mortgage refi at 125% LTV. Perhaps Washington has already instructed Fannie that it won't need to worry because tax payers will back the $5 trillion GSE mortgage pot by 100%.

Let's not forget that Franklin Raines (former CEO of Fannie Mae) was largely responsible for Fannie’s meltdown. Along with the help of Washington, Raines and Syron (former CEO of Freddie Mac) lobbied for looser loan restrictions, while maintaining dangerously low capital requirements. As millions of unqualified Americans were approved for GSE mortgages, Raines and Syron racked up millions of dollars in bonuses.

In addition, under Raines’ watch, Fannie committed $11 billion in accounting fraud. Today, Raines and Syron are much wealthier. Meanwhile, tax payers and investors have paid dearly for the criminal acts committed by these and many other men.

“Fannie and Freddie hold between 20 to 50 percent of the capital required by bank regulators for depository institutions holding mortgages. As of 2003, the GSEs had $1.6 trillion in combined assets, $1.4 trillion in retained mortgages in their portfolios, $1.5 trillion in outstanding debt, and $1.5 trillion in derivatives. In addition, outstanding MBS generated by the GSEs but held by third parties totaled $1.7 trillion.”

“Lack of congressional oversight and transparency with the GSEs has already resulted in mismanagement, fraud, and abuse of power. Only in 2003 did Fannie Mae finally agree to register under the SEC Act of 1934 due to mounting pressure from outside critics. It will now be required to provide annual and quarterly financial filings. But the damage has already been done. Recent investigations have forced Fannie to restate earnings to the tune of nearly $11 billion from 1998 to mid-2004. The SEC has fined them $400 million and the management is now being investigated by the Department of Justice. The SEC has a long track record of acting too little too late, and this could prove to be another example.”

“Thus far, Fannie Mae was found to have misrepresented its risk position, acted irresponsibly, and manipulated earnings so company executives would receive huge bonuses. Fannie was able to meet earnings goals for all bonuses from 1996 to 2003. No doubt, these bogus numbers would have continued if they were not caught.”

“Given the lack of standards for traditional FRMs and interest-only ARMs, it seems odd that America’s home ownership is not closer to 90 percent. Think about a person who pays $600 per month for an apartment; he can get a loan for $200,000 and have lower monthly payments using an option-ARM. There’s virtually no limit to the different types of mortgage products that have been issued. If you want you can get a 1 percent interest loan (a negative amortization loan) reducing the monthly payment even further.”

Reference: Stathis, M., Chapter 10, America’s Financial Apocalypse. 2006.

As an early indicator of the kind of change Obama promised, in August 2008 Raines was reportedly hired by Obama's staff to provide the presidential candidate with solutions to the real estate collapse. Perhaps this explains why the real estate situation has gotten much worse since Obama took office.

And now, Bill Gross wants to add additional risk by proposing that Fannie and Freddie allow its mortgages to be refinanced at below-market rates, but only after tax payers are forced to guarantee the $5 trillion dollar pool of GSE mortgages.

Gross doesn’t stop there. Using his clout to position him as a “voice of wisdom,” Gross has stated that without a complete tax payer bailout of Fannie and Freddie, he would not buy GSE-backed bonds unless new mortgages required a 30% a down payment.

Let’s examine Gross’ statements more closely.

First, Gross wants Washington to guarantee all Fannie and Freddie mortgages, and then allow every homeowner to refinance at below-market rates. Next, he states that without a complete guarantee of GSE mortgages from tax payers, he won’t buy any more mortgage bonds unless homeowners make a 30% down payment.

Do you see the contradiction here?

Gross is basically saying that it’s a very risky proposition to loan people money for mortgages, so he would insist on a 30% down payment. Alternatively, he wants tax payers to guarantee all of the previously issued GSE mortgages, then allow everyone to refinance at below-market rates.

It should be obvious that current outstanding mortgages are higher risk than any new mortgages that would be underwritten with Gross' 30% down payment (since credit standards are much higher now). So if current outstanding mortgages are even higher risk than Gross' 30% down mortgages, why is he advising that Fannie and Freddie allow homeowners to refinance them? Because Gross wants to ensure his bonds have the lowest possible risk.

It should be clear that Bill Gross is once again trying to leverage his celebrity status as the “bond king” as a way to convince Washington to give his (relatively poorly-performing) bond fund another bailout.

Furthermore, Gross is trying to scare Washington into a tax payer bailout of the GSEs. He realizes Washington would never go for his 30% down payment requirement because very few prospective homebuyers have that kind of cash.

Gross is trying his hardest to intimidate Washington to go forward with a complete bailout of the GSEs, since that would transform these bonds into essentially risk-free investments. I don’t even think Gross would buy mortgages bonds tagged with a 30% down payment. It’s just a scare tactic.

Hey Bill, are you not capable of delivering nice fee-adjusted returns without the use of tax payer capital?

Apparently not. If you compare annual returns from a basket of similar quality, similar maturity bonds to the returns registered by Gross’ Total Return fund since inception, you’ll find that the fund has underperformed. Why fork over 35% of your gross investment returns from Gross’ bond fund in fees when you can buy the bonds yourself? It doesn’t exactly take a genius to manage a bond fund containing 80% AAA-rated bonds. If Gross really wanted to boost the net return of his fund, he would slash the fund’s excessive fees.

Furthermore, if Washington was not so concerned with running a Ponzi scheme economy built on credit, they would pass a law making the minimum down payment for all mortgages at no less than 20%.

Instead, Washington works with its criminal partner, the Federal Reserve, to ensure consumers spend beyond their means, while America relies on foreign nations to finance the majority of its debt.

Aside from Gross’ obvious misaligned intentions, the so-called solution he offers fails to address the fundamental problems with the housing market; the lack of good jobs.

Gross is like his colleagues in Washington, and those they have chosen to consult with for remedies to the housing problem and economy. None of them have real solutions to the housing mess. This explains why the U.S. economy remains in deep trouble. If Washington wants solutions to this mess, they should start by consulting with those of us who predicted the catastrophe in detail.

Not only did Gross fail to see the meltdown coming, he didn’t even make wise investment decisions once the collapse of the GSE was apparent to even novice investors. If he had, he wouldn’t have bought Fannie and Freddie bonds in the spring of 2008. He would have waited until August.

I suppose when you can convince Washington to bail out your mutual fund, you don’t really need to be that good of an investor. The next time you hear the liars and hacks on the financial networks and print media refer to Gross as the “bond king,” you’ll know they aren’t telling you the truth. They’re fabricating an undeserved celebrity status in the same manner as they have done with Paris Hilton, Peter Schiff, Marc Faber, Nouriel Roubini, etc. And they create these illusions of celebrity so that you will tune in each time they interview these individuals. This is what drives ad and commercial revenues. It’s how the media makes money. Meanwhile, he audience never seems to benefit.

Although Treasury Secretary Geithner has stated that Gross’ idea of nationalization of the GSEs is out of the question, you shouldn’t pay much attention to that. After all, Paulson made similar statements only to flip-flop thereafter.

I suspect Geithner’s rhetoric has been crafted as a manner by which to reduce the momentum republicans have gained as the result of Obama’s failure to deliver on his promises of change.

Geithner has no idea how bad the housing problem or economy is, so he is likely to panic and give into one of Gross’ demands after the November election has passed. Either way, taxpayers stand to lose again.

I think it’s safe to say that Americans are sick and tired of the same lip service from everyone in Washington. And if they are truly sick and tired of bailouts to corporate criminals, they should show it with action. Talk is cheap.

I have just one question for the criminal idiots in Washington.

Why on Earth would you listen to the advice of a man who has already hoodwinked U.S. taxpayers, and stands again to benefit from his useless plan of nationalization?

Moreover, why is the media airing this hack?

Folks, I hope you see the finer details of this scam. The reality is that not only is Bill Gross trying to take more of your money, the media is magnifying the impact of his one-sided advice by airing what he has to say. You should be as outraged at the media in airing these hacks and idiots as you are with Bill Gross’ misaligned intentions.

Mr. Gross, knows solution to the housing problem just as well as many others. The short-term solution is to let the markets figure things out. I’m sure there are plenty of investment firms out there willing to step in and carve up the GSE mortgage pie. Let the opportunists fight for the price of these securities on the open market. Tax payers have already suffered more than enough.

The longer-term solution to the housing debacle as well as the economy is to restructure U.S. trade policies so that America can compete fairly with the rest of the world. Doing so would necessarily revitalize manufacturing and production in the U.S., creating good, stable jobs; an absolute requirement for responsible homeownership.

Instead of consumers depending on Asia for cheaply-manufactured and hazardous products, Americans could consume goods domestically while fueling domestic job growth.

Instead of Washington depending on Asia to finance its debt, America would become a net creditor nation.

These aspirations are nothing new. It was the way America operated a few decades ago, when it celebrated the most robust period of economic growth and improvement in living standards in the nation’s history.

For those of you who need a reminder of what’s going on in the U.S. economy, have a look here and here.

For those of you who are curious as to what happened to America, have a look.

It’s up to the people of the United States to reclaim their nation from the Washington mafia that has been disguised as a two-party democracy. This day will only happen once Americans realize their media industry remains as the most dangerous weapon of mass delusions.

Those who read America's Financial Apocalypse(2006) and Cashing in on the Real Estate Bubble (2007) were not only alerted to the catastrophe we see today, but were provided with SPECIFIC ways to profit that have yielded over 100% gains since then.

If you want access to institutional-level research, analysis and investment guidance, subscribe to the AVA Investment Analytics newsletter today.

As you might imagine, this article (like most of my others) has been banned throughout the Internet. You aren't going to find it anywhere else for a very good reason. Everyone out there is committed to deceiving you for their own interests. Thus, you can help others by spreading this article all over the Internet.

Remember that this information will have no real impact unless YOU spread it around. The more people who come to realize the truth about the media liars and snake oil salesmen, the better chance things will come to an end.

BP Gulf Oil Spill's Walking Dead

"And I think the media now has to...tell the American people who’s getting money for poisoning the millions of people in the Gulf." - Hugh Kaufman, senior EPA analyst, admits millions have been poisoned in the Gulf states.

NASA image of gulf oil spill
NASA photo courtesy:

(CHICAGO) - A biochemical bomb went off in the Gulf of Mexico on April 20, 2010--as dangerous and destructive as a nuclear blast.

While an atom bomb’s destruction can be measured immediately after detonation, BP’s unintentional biochemical bomb is a slow-motion explosion that's driving a continuing disaster. Unfortunately, lingering death occurs with both types of explosions.

Millions exposed to uncontrolled hemorrhaging, lesions, cancers

Recently, frustrated scientists presented evidence that millions of Gulf area residents were poisoned by the BP Gulf disaster. Worse, they believe that millions more could be exposed to long term poisoning.

Yet other than those worried scientists few seemed to care.

Now more frightening evidence has emerged: areas of the Gulf Coast may have been saturated with high levels of benzene, hydrogen sulfide and radioactive hydrocarbon effluents--three deadly substances that can cause disease and death years after the initial exposures.

[Full report available here.]

The EPA and the ongoing news blackout

The curtain of silence that dropped just days after the Deepwater Horizon blowout has never been fully lifted. At the time, a no-man's land was created prohibiting fishermen, reporters, news helicopters and civilian sea and air craft from approaching the immediate disaster zone. The US Coast Guard and BP conducted joint operations feverishly attempting to quell the spreading disaster.

Reporters were threatened with arrest. News stories were yanked. Scientific reports buried. And data from the NOAA research vessel--initially sent to the region to take readings of the seafloor--was suppressed.

Yet some information leaked.

Beyond the oil gushing into the Gulf at a rate never before seen, deadly methane gas flooded the region. The methane reached such high levels of density in the Gulf that brilliant scientists like Dr. John Kessler of Texas A&M recorded stunning readings of methane--amounts one million times higher than normal. His reports managed to reach the media.

Although access to the forbidden zone has been restored, a partial news blackout remains in place blocking public access to the data that measured toxicity in the Gulf waters and Gulf states from April into August.

A conveyor belt of death: deep sea oil plume 22-miles long

Poisons flooded into the Gulf for three months. Unabated, these poisons have affected the ecology of the region. Now evidence is mounting that the delicate infrastructure of life inhabiting the Gulf continues to absorb much of the poison and is passing it on to unsuspecting humans. Reports that sea life in the Gulf have remained uncontaminated are being vigorously challenged.

And new reports are circulating the globe that the missing oil’s been found. A plume 22-miles long is suspended deep in the cold, dark waters of the Gulf. It’s not breaking up and it’s not being eaten by microbes.

It is, however, acting as a conveyor belt of death.

Cocktail of poisons

Some environmental experts are calling what’s pouring into the land, sea and air from the seabed breach ‘a chemical cocktail of poisons.’

Areas of methane dead zones devoid of oxygen are continuing to drive species of fish into foreign waters, are killing plankton and other tiny sea life that are the foundation for the entire food chain, and are polluting the air with cancer-causing chemicals and poisonous rainfalls.

And before the news blackout fully descended, the EPA released data that benzene levels in New Orleans had rocketed to as high as 3,000 parts per billion (ppb).

Benzene is extremely toxic, even short term exposure at low levels can cause agonizing illness and slow death from cancerous lesions and leukemia years later. But 3,000ppb is far from a low reading.

Hydrogen sulfide was also detected by the EPA monitoring stations around the New Orleans area. The EPA reported hydrogen sulfide levels as high as 1200ppb. A normal, safe level falls between 5 to 10ppb.

Recently, Ron Kendall, an ecotoxicologist from Texas Tech University, was interviewed by National Geographic concerning the affect of the poisons released by the blown out well on bacteria and plankton in the Gulf.

The results were not looking good. Indications of a major, ongoing poisoning occurring in the Gulf were widespread. "This is what we've been worried about, because this is the base of the food chain," he told National Geographic. "Any effects on that level can work their way right on up."

Meaning right up the food chain to humans--many of whom have already been exposed to poisons from the air and water.

The bio-chemical time bomb

According to a report issued by Michael Harbart, Professor of internal medicine at Wayne State University and Kathleen Burns, Ph.D., Director of Sciencecorps, long-term exposure of the chemicals released by the ongoing BP Gulf disaster--at relatively low levels--should be avoided at all costs because "the potential for serious health damage is substantial. Chronic health effects are typically evaluated for specific crude oil components and vary from cancer to permanent neurological damage. They cover a range of diseases affecting all the organ systems..." [ “Gulf Oil Spill Health Hazards”]

Senior EPA analyst admits millions poisoned in Gulf

Recently--in an eye-opening interview with 'Democracy Now!'--Hugh Kaufman, a senior policy analyst at the EPA’s Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response, made this shocking admission:

"And I think the media now has to follow the money, just as they did in Watergate, and tell the American people who’s getting money for poisoning the millions of people in the Gulf."

As Alexander Higgins at 'Democracy Now!' points out: “Hugh Kaufman has been at the EPA since the Agency was created in the early 1970s, as an engineer, investigator and policy analyst. Prior to joining the EPA in the beginning of 1971, he was a captain in the US Air Force. He helped write all the Federal laws regulating the treatment, storage, disposal, and remediation of solid and hazardous waste. He has been the Chief Investigator on numerous contamination cases, including Love Canal and Times Beach.”

[For links to the transcript of interview and the EPA analyst’s video testimony, go here.]

The walking dead

Like those exposed to the Russian Chernobyl disaster, or the many thousands now sick and dying after exposure to the 9-11 Twin Towers toxic cloud, the people of the Gulf coast may have joined the ranks of the walking dead.

Experts cannot predict with any certainty that the poisons will be contained exclusively to the Gulf states. Weather patterns and the variable density of the substances could conceivably expand the Death Zone into parts of the Midwest and East coast of the United States.

Download the PDFs and study the scientific papers here.

Review the 26 source links here.

Access the video interview of EPA whistle blower Hugh Kaufman here.


>Terrence Aym is a Contributor based in Chicago, who is well known nationally for his stirring reports on the top ranked site, Born in Minnesota, Terrence Aym grew up in the Chicagoland suburbs. Having traveled to 40 of the 50 states and lived in 7 of them, Aym is no stranger to travel. He's also spent time in Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, Europe, Asia and Western Africa. An executive for many years with Wall Street broker-dealer firms, Aym has also had a life-long interest in science, technology, the arts, philosophy and history. If it's still possible to be a 'Renaissance man' in the 21st Century, Aym is working hard to be one.

Aym has several book projects in the works. Media sites that have recently featured Aym, and/or discussed his articles, include ABC News, TIME Magazine, Business Insider,, Discover, Dvice, Benzinga and more recently, his work has been showing up in South Africa and Russia.

"Enron Accounting" Has Bankrupted America: U.S. Deficit Really $202 Trillion, Kotlikoff Says

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) forecasts the U.S. budget deficit will hit $1.3 trillion this year. An astronomical figure, to be sure, but that’s lower than was projected in March. It’s also less than last year’s record $1.41 trillion deficit, which was close to 10% of GDP.

And, that's the good news.

As the deficit grows so does the national debt, which is currently more than $13.3 trillion, according to official figures.

But the situation is actually much, much worse, according to Boston University economics professor Laurence Kotlikoff.

“Forget the official debt,” he tells Aaron in this clip. The “real” deficit - including non-budgetary items like unfunded liabilities of Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and the defense budget - is actually $202 trillion, the professor and author calculates; or 15 times the “official" numbers.

“Congress has engaged in Enron accounting,” says Kotlikoff, who recently penned an op-ed for Bloomberg entitled: The U.S. Is Bankrupt and We Don't Even Know It.

Yet, the debt market continues to have an insatiable appetite for U.S. Treasuries; heading into Monday's session, the yield on the 30-year Treasury bond (which moves in opposition to its price) was at its lowest level since April 2009.

Kotlikoff says that's because the market is focused on the "mole hill" of official debt. In time, the U.S. will have a major inflation problem to rival that of Germany's post World War I Weimar Republic, he predicts. “We have to think about the fact that unless the government gets its fiscal act in order we’re going to have the government printing lots and lots money to pay these enormous bills that are coming due over time.”

America is in need of major reform of the health-care, retirement, tax and financial system, Kotlikoff continues. “We need (to perform) heart surgery on this economy, not putting on more band-aids which is what we’ve been doing.”

Barring that, your hard-earned dollars will soon be worthless, he declares.

Postal Workers Protest Delivery Cut

Postal workers marched through through downtown Detroit on Tuesday in protest of plans to suspend mail delivery on Saturdays.Members of the American Postal Workers Union started at Cobo Center and ended in Campus Martius. The union is having its national convention at Cobo.Mail volume has decreased nationally as people and businesses switch to the Internet in place of letters and paper bills.Officials said dropping Saturday delivery will help fend off projected losses. A Senate Appropriations subcommittee voted to block the change.A House subcommittee is looking at changing a requirement that the Postal Service pay more than $5 billion annually into a fund for future health benefits for its retirees.

Copyright 2010 by All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Home Sales Plunge 27 Percent to 15-Year Low as Economy Weakens

Sales of previously occupied homes plunged last month to the lowest level in 15 years, despite the lowest mortgage rates in decades and bargain prices in many areas.

July's sales fell by more than 27 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 3.83 million, the National Association of Realtors said Tuesday. It was the largest monthly drop on records dating back to 1968, and sharp declines were recorded in all regions of the country.

The plunge in home sales also magnified fears about the broader economy.

"The housing market is undermining the already faltering wider economic recovery," said Paul Dales, U.S. economist with Capital Economics. "With the increasingly inevitable double-dip in prices yet to come, things could yet get a lot worse."

Sales were particularly weak among homes in the lower- to mid-priced ranges. For example, in the Midwest, homes priced between $100,000 and $250,000 tumbled nearly 47 percent.

The weakness follows a strong spring, when now-expired government tax credits sparked sales, especially among first-time buyers of lower-priced homes.

The tax credits caused many of those buyers to speed up their home purchases. Sales have weakened since the credits expired on April 30.

As sales have slowed, the inventory of unsold homes on the market grew to nearly 4 million in July. That's a 12.5 month supply at the current sales pace, the highest level in more than a decade. It compares with a healthy level of about six months.

One reason the market is hurting is that buyers and sellers are in a standoff over prices. Many sellers are reluctant to lower their prices. And buyers are hesitating because they think home prices haven't bottomed out.

Laurie Salaman has been trying to sell her home in New York City for a year so she can move to the suburbs. She's had no offers, even after cutting her listing price on the three-bedroom Bronx home from $475,000 to $449,900.

She notes that she has upgraded the kitchen and bathrooms, refinished the basement and put in new decks and patios. Her goal is to take about $100,000 from the sale and put it toward the purchase of the new house. She said she won't lower her price any further.

"That's my bottom price," said Salaman, 55. "If I don't get that price, then I will hold off until the market gets a little better," she said.

The housing market is also being hampered by the weakening economic recovery. Unemployment remains stuck at 9.5 percent and many potential buyers worry they might not have a job to pay the mortgage.

Prices have fallen in part because foreclosures are running about 10 times higher than before the housing bust. Though the average rate for a 30-year fixed mortgage has sunk to 4.42 percent, many people can't qualify because banks have tightened their lending standards.

Home sales picked up in the spring when the government was offering tax credits. But sales have sputtered since the tax credits expired.

The drop in July's sales was led by 35 percent plunge in the Midwest. Sales were down 30 percent in the Northeast, 25 percent in the West and 23 percent in the South.

The median sale price was $182,600, up 0.7 percent from a year ago, but down 0.2 percent from June.

© Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Homo erectus and the Kiss of Rothschild.

Dog Poet Transmitting…….

Someone wrote me this morning to tell me that there are two types of human beings; Homo erectus and Homo sapiens. Apparently, the former turned into the latter but they have never found the missing link. He argued that maybe there was no missing link because they weren’t linked; being two different creatures and those of us that couldn’t see much of anything were in one and those of us who could see what was going on were in the other.

I saw a listing yesterday that had a selection of events that had taken place recently. As I studied them, I realized that the full impact of these events had not hit me in any real way, even though I knew such things were coming. Details about many of them were not presented to be as dramatic as they actually were. For instance, the Central European flooding was the worst in over 800 years. The heat wave and fires in Russia were the worst in over 1,000 years. The U.N. determined that the flooding in Pakistan was a greater disaster than the 2004 tsunami. Ten million people in Africa are in immediate danger of starving to death because of drought. Temperatures are so low in the Western United States that many fruits and vegetables are being destroyed. The southern and eastern portions of the United States are suffering from a terrible heat wave, which shows no signs of coming to an end. In Japan, 21,000 have been hospitalized for heat stroke. 6 millions fish, thousands of cattle and hundreds of people have been killed in South America. Thousands are dead in China from flooding. There’s a great deal that I haven’t mentioned but which you are familiar with.

I heard about some of these things but I had no idea of the scale and scope of them. I hear the word HAARP all the time lately. Someone tells me it’s just a radar machine. That would make it a ‘sensor’. Someone else tells me that pointing it upwards affects the jet stream and that the jet stream has a profound effect on global weather patterns. You can read about everything I mentioned in the last paragraph and a lot of other things in this article.

There is an ominous warning moving around in the areas where food production and distribution are monitored. It seems that there may be serious food shortages come this fall and winter. It looks certain to me that the stock market is going to crash pretty soon. Currency is going to start acting like a fish that jumped out of the Gulf of Mexico to avoid what I call The Kiss of Rothschild. Very shortly after that fish hits the beach, it will be symbolic of various currencies and especially the American dollar which is intricately tied to all sorts of important things on an international basis.

The bankers, stockbrokers, traders, hedge fund managers and all types similar have speculated and gambled like madmen, without restraint, concern or conscience and laid the effects of their irrational behavior, upon the backs of the public, in countries around the world. They deliberately engineered a number of whacked out scenarios that failed in spectacular fashion and which also wound up on the backs of the public. These agents of global chaos are the funding sources for elected politicians and so they were able to demand and get enormous bailouts with the excuse that they were “too big to fail”. The commercial real estate bubble hasn’t burst yet but it will.

Now countries are saddled with debt that was created by predatory elite that couldn’t keep it in their pants because they were trying to stuff it all in their pockets and these same elite, in order to generate maximum profit, destroyed manufacturing, jobs, benefits and pensions in order to push the margins. Their ally in all of this is the Homo erectus. This has been their greatest ally and victim. It’s two for one night at Little Caesars’.

What I am noticing is that many of the things I have seen coming for some time are happening all around but I am not seeing them with any intensity of awareness. There’s some kind of disconnect going on. The various types of response to the conditions of present time keep surfacing in front of me and offering options away from consideration of them. There are options of self-introspection and possibilities of getting high or going the other way on the ladder. There are freaky compulsions that come out of nowhere and demand attention. I’m crossing the lake in a small dingy and these things are leaping out of the water and trying to land in the boat.

They say that during the London blitz, people used to have wild and frenetic sex with total strangers in doorways or practically anywhere. It would seem that some sort of biological imperative was at work, tied to a sense of desperation and fatal despair. People’s lives crumble from drink and drugs, when these things take precedence over the usual concerns of life in terms of importance. Unusual fantasies come up into the surface mind when it can’t process what is taking place around it. The mind seems to want to defend itself against what it can’t explain by creating circumstances of compulsion and obsession that captivate and divert their attention.

Personally, I’m in the dingy rowing across the lake but I see other dinghies and I see the creatures jumping out of the water. I know if you bend over the edge of the boat you will see the faces of men and women, whose arms appear to be outstretched for your embrace. It is by this means that I am able to intuit or observe the conditions and forces I am discussing.

It makes sense to me that when the unpredictable replaces the predictable in terms of the power of manifestation that the same thing has to be going on inside the mind as well. I get the sensation that pornography is really humming at the moment. I get the sensation that any distraction that can be focused on, so that it will defend against consideration of the weirdness happening on all sides, is being engaged in by large groups of people.

Underneath all of this is the power of what any person believes, in respect of the power of everything that challenges it. This makes it a sort of living allegory or individual myth, where each person has to traverse their own personal underworld, as their belief system is tested against the forces that seek to destroy it. I know what I feel but don’t act on. I know what I see and walk away from. This leads me to believe it is pretty widespread since the general tenor of the common mind always intrudes upon the mind of the individual, whether they are already taken over by it or not. In one case it reinforces and in the other case it seeks to compel.

I know that some people see all of this in religious terms and some people see it as a random exercise, working itself out according to chaos theory. Some people see it as the natural progression of basic instincts in humanity and I suppose I could come up with other ways that people might see it or attribute meaning to these times but my sense is that each of us are in a specific relationship, in accordance with how we have conducted ourselves and what we value. Whatever we place the highest value on has had the greatest influence over the direction in which we walked and the occupations and amusements in which we indulged. This could be why some people can’t see and others can. It could be that we are now resident within the parameters of whatever world our values circumscribe. We are all living in the reality of what we believed was real and most important and are being challenged to save it and ourselves but… that will be determined by how our values measure up against archetypal values.

Our truth is going to come up against ‘the truth’. Our actions are going to come up against the cosmic range of permissible action. Our words are going to come up against whatever measuring tool defines the integrity of whatever we had to say and its impact on anyone who heard us.

You can see this in religious terms or you can see it in numbers and symbols and the pure math that lives at the top of the mountain, where our highest possibilities reside and which melt like the snow and run down into the valleys where they turn into all the colors of our natural and unnatural worlds. You can see it or not see it depending on whether you tried to see it enough to convince whatever determines your possession of sight to make it possible. This is how it looks to me today and, no doubt, this will account for something in terms of my tomorrow. I suspect we are all reaping similar rewards depending on what we found rewarding. I’ll say in conclusion that it is never too late until it is too late. It’s a pity that some people closed out their options by making themselves blind, so that they could see something that wasn’t real.

End Transmission…….

And we could all be Free

The New Shangri La

One Meridien Plaza

At about 8 p.m. on Saturday, 23 February 1991, linseed oil-soaked rags left behind by a cleaning crew burst into flames on the 22nd floor of the 38-story One Meridian Plaza in downtown Philadelphia. The fire quickly spread, unimpeded by fire sprinklers, throughout the 22nd floor and then upward. Sprinklers were not required by the City's building code at the time of construction and were being added to the building only as opportunity presented itself.

The twelve-alarm fire burned for 18 hours. The extreme heat caused window glass and frames to melt and concrete floor slabs and steel beams to buckle and sag dramatically. Large shards of window glass fell from the facade, cutting through fire hoses on the ground around the building. Three firefighters were trapped on a fully engulfed floor, and efforts to rescue them failed.

The fire would not yield and there were increasing concerns about the stability of the structure. Fire officials called off the attack and allowed the fire to "free burn," concentrating their efforts on containing the fire to this building. When the fire reached the 30th floor, a tenant-installed fire-sprinkler system was activated, and the worst high-rise fire in U.S. history was finally brought under control.

Efforts to stabilize the structure and the facade began immediately and continued for six months. Over 2,000 steel poles were installed to shore the burned-out floors and to brace the steel girders supporting the concrete slab. During the night of the fire, one granite panel had fallen from the facade of the damaged middle section and other panels were suspect. Emergency belting was installed to lash the granite to the building until it could be safely detached and lifted down. Fabric netting covered the building to prevent debris from raining down on City Hall Plaza, the heart of Philadelphia's business and tourist activity.

Lawsuits and insurance claims, counter lawsuits, and counter claims were filed immediately. The challenge became one of determining the extent of structural and material damage and whether to repair or demolish the building.

To settle a vexing issue of the dispute, the owner's insurance company retained SGH several months after the fire to evaluate the condition of the building's facade. SGH was retained because of our experience in evaluating facade performance, both the materials which comprise facades and the structural systems which anchor facades to buildings. At the time of our initial walk-through, the owner was completing the emergency stabilization phase and was about to embark on the removal of the facade at the fire floors. The insurer was concerned that no one had yet evaluated the facade's condition in detail. While some areas of the facade suffered very severe damage, other areas at the fire floors exhibited much less damage. SGH was asked to conduct an in-depth investigation of the affected areas to determine whether repairs were feasible.

One Meridian Plaza's glass and granite facade consisted of granite-faced precast concrete spandrel panels, 8 in. thick granite column covers, and 4 in. thick splayed corner panels, surrounding 16 ft wide windows. SGH's investigation focused on the nine floors most affected by the fire by dividing the scope into three discrete yet interrelated pieces (windows, granite panels, and spandrel connections) the fire's dynamic effects can be discerned.

Damage At Window Openings

diagram of fire pathDuring the fire, flames lapped up the side of the building from window openings spreading the fire through to the window above. The windows were the least protected element of the facade and experienced the most intense fire and heat; consequently, they experienced the most widespread damage. At the fire floors, nearly all of the glass was broken from the windows. The glass that fell outward scratched the surface of the building on the way to the ground. Some of the aluminum framing and glass melted, indicating temperatures in the range of 1,000 degrees F to 1,300 degrees F.

The damage to other facade elements around the window openings varied widely. The granite panels surrounding the window openings, particularly those above the window head, experienced direct exposure to the flames and extreme heat levels. After the fire, some areas of the granite crumbled readily under hand pressure due to a phase change in the quartz crystals that occurs at temperatures of about 1,060 degrees F.

Temperatures were substantially lower in areas away from the window openings. The exterior granitetogranite joint sealant, which melts at less than 500oF in our laboratory testing, was not severely charred or melted in most areas away from the window openings.

During the fire, temperatures within the building along the interior of the facade varied widely. The plaster soffit above the windows and the plaster enclosure around the columns, along with the sprayed-on fireproofing, shielded much of the inner surface of the facade from the fire's heat. In some areas on the fire floors, we found uncharred cardboard, plastic shims, and rubber pipe insulation tucked into spaces next to the back of the facade panels. Our testing found that these materials disintegrate readily below 500oF. Concrete masonry unit walls behind the splayed corner panels shielded the corners, minimizing damage.

Granite Cracking

Although only one piece of the granite veneer actually fell during or after the fire, the granite facing on the spandrel panels contained numerous cracks. SGH investigated the extent and pattern of cracking to determine the dynamic forces of failure.

The granite cracks were vertical and coincided with the location of the hairpin anchor that connected the granite facing to its precast concrete back-up. Most of the cracks occurred in locations with large temperature changes, such as in the stones abutting the window head or on the west elevation where water had been sprayed on the facade during the fire. These temperature differences around and through the granite veneer created differential movement. Stresses built up as the hairpin anchors tried to restrain these movements, causing the granite to crack.

Most of the granite column covers contained one or more horizontal cracks typically coincident with the dowels that connected two pieces of the column cover beside the window jambs. The edges of the column cover were hotter and expanded more than the cooler central part. The resulting tensile stresses cracked the granite.

Failure of Spandrel Panel Connections

Although the cracking of the granite facing was pervasive, the granite generally held to the building. During the fire, many of the structural connections between the precast concrete spandrel panels and the building's steel frame had failed; typically by cracking or spalling of the concrete at the connection. In the one location where the structural connection of precast panel to the structural steel frame did fail, a seven-ton panel fell, landing on a roof below. The result was extremely sobering. It was fortunate other panels with broken connections did not fall from the facade.

At the broken connections, some of the spandrel panels shifted outward approximately 1 in. from the plane of the building. What pushed the panels outward? In many areas with failed connections, the edge of the concrete floor slab was in contact with the interior surface of the spandrel panel, and the slab was crushed around the exterior steel column. The concrete floor slab became very hot during the fire. On the 23rd floor, a firefighter reported that the carpet backing had melted and the wood nailing strip glowed red. The temperature of the slab rose faster than the fireproofed building frame. Consequently, the slab expanded more than the frame, closing the gap between the edge of the slab and the back of the spandrel panel. In moving outward, the slab crushed itself around the exterior columns. Eventually, the expanding slab pushed the spandrel panel outward, breaking the panel connections.

Repair Program

After our investigation, we recommended to the insurer that while some portions of the facade at the fire floors were damaged beyond repair (the window glass and frames obviously had to be replaced), other components could be restored and reused. In general, there was relatively little facade damage away from the fire floors.

SGH conducted field and laboratory testing of the remaining facade components. We tested the capacity of the hairpin anchors behind the granite veneer and the bending strength of the granite. We calculated the stresses in the facade components. Where obvious fire damage, such as cracking or granulation, did not exist, we found that the granite possessed sufficient strength to continue service.

Because the original facade was over-designed significantly, any minor reduction in material strength was inconsequential. Our testing of post-fire conditions found factors of safety on the order of 10 to 20 for the granite and the hairpin anchors, significantly higher than normal design factors of safety which are on the order of 5.

Following the completion of the investigation and analysis, SGH developed two sets of details and specifications: one for complete facade replacement at the fire floors; and one for a remedial program of spot replacement, repair, and inspection of the facade. The estimated cost for the remedial work nearly approached the cost of complete replacement at the fire floors. Based on this information, the insurance company agreed to the removal of the facade at the fire floors in late 1991.

The building, however, continued to be the object of dispute. Questions remained about the extent of structural damage and the need for further facade removal beyond the fire floors. Some parties to the matter claimed the building should be demolished entirely, others claimed at least the upper half of it should be razed, while still others wanted the building restored as it stood. The ensuing litigation has thus far prevented replacement of the facade. An undisclosed settlement reached in 1997 gives new hope for the abandoned building next to City Hall Plaza.

While the circumstances of the fire at One Meridian Plaza were extraordinary in their ferocity and intensity, there are several lessons to be drawn for individuals investigating the effects of fires on buildings and for design of buildings:

  1. Do not assume that a fire creates the need to replace a facade: evaluate the original design and test the postfire materials conditions before reaching a conclusion.
  2. Fire can spread easily from floor to floor via large window openings without adequate separation.
  3. Once again, One Meridian Plaza shows the efficacy and importance of sprinklers.
  4. Spray-on fireproofing and plaster provide substantial protection to key structural members and help shield much of the inside face of the facade from severe fire exposure, thereby reducing damage.
  5. Since floor slabs generally have lower fire resistance ratings than principal structural members, they can heat up and expand faster. Floor components need to be separated adequately from the facade to avoid damage from this expansion. Such gaps need proper fire safing.

Moldova seizes radioactive uranium

Police in the ex-Soviet republic of Moldova have seized 1.8 kg radioactive uranium in a garage in the capital and have arrested several people, government officials said today.

The substance was sent for tests in the United States which showed it to be uranium-238, Igor Volnitchii, a top state adviser to the government, said.

"A group of criminals involved in uranium smuggling planned to sell it abroad," Mr Volnitchii said. A value of €9 million was put on the haul.

He said three people had been arrested and several others were being sought. Two members of the group were former police officers.

He said Moldovan authorities were now waiting for tests conducted in Germany to determine the country of origin of the uranium.

Moldova, one of Europe's poorest states with borders with European Union member Romania and Ukraine, stands at the cross-roads between east and western Europe.

EU officials say its territory, which includes the rebel territory of Transdniestr bordering Ukraine, is vulnerable to all types of smuggling, including narcotics and human trafficking.

City uproots homeless from park

The city of Albuquerque removed the homeless from a park on Tuesday that had become a popular camping spot in the International District.

Campsites were cleared by Tuesday afternoon from Phil Chacon Park on Southern Avenue SE, east of Louisiana Boulevard.

One camp included a queen-sized mattress with a pillow and blanket right in the middle of running paths.

Neighbors say they are fed up with it.

“Well, we got a mattress, pillow, blanket, shoes, and somewhere around here we probably have some human excrement,” neighbor Robert Feuer. “I don’t think it’s fair that we have to put up with this for two months - at least two months - and multiple calls to the city a letter to the mayor and nothing gets done. This is a real sanitary mess here.”

Feuer says he reported the camps three times this summer and wrote a letter to the mayor with no response. In fact, some say one neighbor even works for the city and has tried to report the problems, but the campsites were still there.

Eyewitness News 4 called the city on Monday and within an hour we were told it would be taken care of by 7:30 a.m. Tuesday. The city said it never received a single 311 call about the problem.

“It’s a problem that occurs every summer or in the warmer months,” said city spokesman Chris Ramirez. “What we have done today is organized Joy Junction [and] our APD coast team to go and offer them alternative places to live.”

Jeremy Reynolds, founder of the Albuquerque homeless shelter Joy Junction, says mental health issues prevent many homeless people from getting help but it doesn’t mean they should sleep at a park located near a school.

“While not disturbing to me, it was not the right place for him to be. It could have been very distressing to young kids, parents,” said Reynolds.

Joy Junction workers plan to go out there weekly to see if they can help anyone sleeping there get some shelter.

Philly Is Not the “City of Blogger-ly Love”

Imagine you live in Philadelphia and you have a blog. You are like about 99.9 percent of the world’s bloggers so you make no money and the blog is a labor of love.

Now imagine that you are going to be charged $300 for the privilege of having your blog start from the City of Brotherly Love. Yup, that’s right, Philly is hitting bloggers with this and other measures. If you haven’t had enough of the government on every level getting into everyone’s business this may put you over the top.

This comes from NBC Philadelphia’s web site:

Taking a step closer to an eerie Orwellian state where creativity is crushed in the name of “the greater good,” the city of Philadelphia is demanding that bloggers pay $300 for the privilege of writing on the Internet.

This $300 “business privilege license” is for all local bloggers – even the ones that make no money off their words.

The city doesn’t stop there. In addition to the $300 for the license to write on the World Wide Web, bloggers must pay city wage taxes, business privilege taxes and taxes on any net profits — on top of state and federal taxes — even if the blogger only made $11 over two years, reports the City Paper.

Blogger Marilyn Bess, whose Ms. Philly Organic Blog has made her a whopping $50 over the past few years, went to the city’s tax amnesty program to explain that she makes pennies on her hobby. They told her to hire an accountant, she told the City Paper.

I know of more than a few bloggers that call Philadelphia home and I wonder what they are thinking about this approach.

I just want to go on record as saying that this is completely ridiculous. I get that things are bad. I get that the government provides services (how well they provide them is a completely different matter for a different place). I get that it takes money to do things but taking this action?

My hope is that other regions are not as desperate or ignorant to do this as well. Although I live in North Carolina where our governor thought it was a great idea to tax all Amazon affiliate sales in the state and Amazon basically said “Screw you!”. That eseentially closed that door on people who were just trying to bring more money into the state that would be spent in the state.

What is your take on this action by the city of Philadelphia? I think you already know mine.

The Government Has a Seed Bank Savings Account -- Why Shouldn't You?

Michael Edwards and Jeffrey Green
Government Seed Bank

On the CSU Campus, there is a storage facility for seeds that is described as "insurance against global change." It houses billions of seeds under the auspices of a Fort Collins division called The National Center For Genetic Resource Preservation.

William Engdahl has even written about a Doomsday Seed Vault in the Artic where, "Bill Gates is investing tens of his millions along with the Rockefeller Foundation, Monsanto Corporation, Syngenta Foundation and the Government of Norway."

If the governments and Elites of the world are taking seed protection so seriously, then it behooves the individual to develop a similar seed bank savings account that can offer real value in a world where traditional currency continues to show weakness and pressure. By saving your own seeds, you can take part in evolution, as well as increase your self-sufficiency.

Before the rise of commercial seed giants like Monsanto, local gardeners were adept at selecting seeds from the healthiest plants, saving them, and introducing them to the harvest for the following year, thus strengthening the species. Through local adaptation to pests, genetic diversity was further ensured; it was long-term thinking at its finest.

Farmers are the pillars of rural living, even though their endeavors have been corrupted in tandem with America's short-attention-span consumer who has been encouraged to forget their own history. However, there has been a recent revolution among farmers across the globe . . . and abject poverty does not seem to influence their mission. Even Haiti, despite their natural disaster and the worst general poverty imaginable, has rejected Monsanto's "gift." They know it is a Trojan Horse of the worst kind.

Seed prices still seem low enough for most people to buy packages at their local nursery, but the consumer must be aware that the quality of mass-produced and genetically modified seeds is akin to mass produced food these days: you had better know its provenance. Many of these genetically modified seeds are deliberately engineered by Monsanto not to germinate when the seeds of the mature fruit are re-planted. Seed cultivation and storage is not an area that is tailor-made for fast and cheap. However, with some basic knowledge, patience, and dedication, food independence is attainable.

In nature, the strongest harvests will come from the land where the species has proven its worth against the elements specific to that area. The resulting harvest will generally be much more bountiful and enduring than what a standardized package of seeds can provide. That said, there are some basics to know in order to insure that personal seed production and storage result in a growing savings account. The guide below provides a very general overview -- seed production and storage contain many variables based on climate, plant or flower type, number of crops, and area biodiversity.
  1. Pollination methods -- there are three methods to take into consideration: air-borne, insect, and self. Of these, self-pollinated crops offer the best opportunity for seed saving; to avoid cross pollination, it is necessary to separate varieties by a few rows of another crop.
  2. Root crops -- not all garden plants produce their seed at the end of the growing season. It may be necessary to dig the roots in fall to obtain seed, then store and re-plant when weather permits.
  3. Hybrids -- Hybrids result from a deliberate cross between inbred lines. Although popular for vegetables due to being more vigorous and uniform, hybrids can be a disappointment for a gardener who has unknowingly planted a hybrid. Only the person who controls the original parents can produce the hybrid seed.
  4. Harvesting -- Seed is extracted from fruit after it ripens, but before it rots. Separate the seed from its pulp and dry at room temperature. Leave pod crops on the vine until the pod dries. Harvest before the seed is dispersed.
  5. Storage -- Once the seed is dried, gently hand rub to rid it of any chaff, then store it in an envelope in a cool, dry, rodent free location. The seed will germinate best the following year. It is best to re-plant every year and select the best plants for seed.
There has never been a better time to re-connect with nature and your local community. The giants of GMO are engineering servitude to their inferior products. As the global financial crisis continues to produce additional dependence and insecurity, a seed savings program is a wonderfully productive solution that will pay dividends year after year.