Thursday, September 16, 2010

U.S. to tell Congress of up to $60 billion Saudi arms deal

(Reuters) - The Obama administration will soon notify Congress of an arms package for Saudi Arabia worth up to $60 billion, U.S. officials said on Monday, a potentially record-breaking deal that may help counter Iran's growing regional muscle.

A senior U.S. defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said he expected the Saudis to initially commit to $30 billion in purchases, but that could double.

The package would include 84 new Boeing Co F-15 fighter jets and upgrades to another 70 of them. It also involved 72 Black Hawk helicopters built by Sikorsky Aircraft, a unit of United Technologies Corp.

"It's massive," said Andrew Exum, an analyst at the Center for a New American Security, calling the long-anticipated deal a "shot-in-the-arm" for the U.S. defense industry.

"What the United States is trying to do here is pretty clear. (It is) basically trying to work by, with, and through our partners in the region to balance against Iran," he said.

The regional buildup comes amid deepening international concern about Iran's moves to bolter its military muscle, including advances in its nuclear program the West believes is aimed at developing atomic bombs -- accusations Iran denies.

The United States has also flagged concern about Iran's growing missile capabilities, and has been quietly helping Arab states boost their missile defenses.

The Saudi package, Exum said, had to be viewed in the context of other deals in the region. He cited the expected sale of a missile defense system manufactured by Lockheed Martin Corp to the United Arab Emirates.

Earlier on Monday, Pentagon spokesman Colonel Dave Lapan said he expected Congress would receive official notification of the long-anticipated Saudi deal within the next week or so.

Lapan declined to comment on details, however, saying Congress needed to be notified first.


The senior defense official said the U.S.-Saudi arms deal also included 70 of Boeing's Apache helicopters and 36 Little Birds.

If approved, the Saudi deal would provide a huge boost to Boeing Co's defense unit, which had several key programs axed by Defense Secretary Robert Gates last year.

"This transaction shows that there may still be a lot of life in the F-15 fighter and other Boeing legacy aircraft programs," said defense analyst Loren Thompson of the Virginia-based Lexington Institute.

"The Saudi sale by itself will make a big difference to the company's revenues for at least the next five years," Thompson said.

Boeing share were up 36 cents at $64.20 in mid-afternoon trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

Upon congressional notification, lawmakers get 30 days to object to the deal. But notifications are usually not sent unless lawmakers have already broadly agreed to the sale.

Saudi Arabia was the biggest buyer of U.S. weapons during a four-year span of 2005 through 2008, with $11.2 billion in deals, according to the U.S. Congressional Research Service.

(Additional reporting by Andrea Shalal-Esa, editing by Jackie Frank and Vicki Allen)

The United States of Inequality

Previously, Timothy Noah looked at whether race, gender, or the breakdown of the nuclear family affected income inequality, and then he examined immigration, the technology boom, federal government policy, the decline of labor unions, and international trade. Tomorrow, is the decline of K-12 education to blame?

In 1915, a statistician at the University of Wisconsin named Willford I. King published The Wealth and Income of the People of the United States, the most comprehensive study of its kind to date. The United States was displacing Great Britain as the world's wealthiest nation, but detailed information about its economy was not yet readily available; the federal government wouldn't start collecting such data in any systematic way until the 1930s. One of King's purposes was to reassure the public that all Americans were sharing in the country's newfound wealth.

King was somewhat troubled to find that the richest 1 percent possessed about 15 percent of the nation's income. (A more authoritative subsequent calculation puts the figure slightly higher, at about 18 percent.)

This was the era in which the accumulated wealth of America's richest families—the Rockefellers, the Vanderbilts, the Carnegies—helped prompt creation of the modern income tax, lest disparities in wealth turn the United States into a European-style aristocracy. The socialist movement was at its historic peak, a wave of anarchist bombings was terrorizing the nation's industrialists, and President Woodrow Wilson's attorney general, Alexander Palmer, would soon stage brutal raids on radicals of every stripe. In American history, there has never been a time when class warfare seemed more imminent.

That was when the richest 1 percent accounted for 18 percent of the nation's income. Today, the richest 1 percent account for 24 percent of the nation's income. What caused this to happen? Over the next two weeks, I'll try to answer that question by looking at all potential explanations—race, gender, the computer revolution, immigration, trade, government policies, the decline of labor, compensation policies on Wall Street and in executive suites, and education. Then I'll explain why people who say we don't need to worry about income inequality (there aren't many of them) are wrong.

Illustration by Robert Neubecker. Click image to expand.Income inequality in the United States has not worsened steadily since 1915. It dropped a bit in the late teens, then started climbing again in the 1920s, reaching its peak just before the 1929 crash. The trend then reversed itself. Incomes started to become more equal in the 1930s and then became dramatically more equal in the 1940s. Income distribution remained roughly stable through the postwar economic boom of the 1950s and 1960s. Economic historians Claudia Goldin and Robert Margo have termed this midcentury era the "Great Compression." The deep nostalgia for that period felt by the World War II generation—the era of Life magazine and the bowling league—reflects something more than mere sentimentality. Assuming you were white, not of draft age, and Christian, there probably was no better time to belong to America's middle class.

The Great Compression ended in the 1970s. Wages stagnated, inflation raged, and by the decade's end, income inequality had started to rise. Income inequality grew through the 1980s, slackened briefly at the end of the 1990s, and then resumed with a vengeance in the aughts. In his 2007 book The Conscience of a Liberal, the Nobel laureate, Princeton economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman labeled the post-1979 epoch the "Great Divergence."

It's generally understood that we live in a time of growing income inequality, but "the ordinary person is not really aware of how big it is," Krugman told me. During the late 1980s and the late 1990s, the United States experienced two unprecedentedly long periods of sustained economic growth—the "seven fat years" and the " long boom." Yet from 1980 to 2005, more than 80 percent of total increase in Americans' income went to the top 1 percent. Economic growth was more sluggish in the aughts, but the decade saw productivity increase by about 20 percent. Yet virtually none of the increase translated into wage growth at middle and lower incomes, an outcome that left many economists scratching their heads.

Here is a snapshot of income distribution during the past 100 years:

Chart of the Top Ten Percent Income Share, 1917 - 2008.

Why don't Americans pay more attention to growing income disparity? One reason may be our enduring belief in social mobility. Economic inequality is less troubling if you live in a country where any child, no matter how humble his or her origins, can grow up to be president. In a survey of 27 nations conducted from 1998 to 2001, the country where the highest proportion agreed with the statement "people are rewarded for intelligence and skill" was, of course, the United States. (69 percent). But when it comes to real as opposed to imagined social mobility, surveys find less in the United States than in much of (what we consider) the class-bound Old World. France, Germany, Sweden, Denmark, Spain—not to mention some newer nations like Canada and Australia—are all places where your chances of rising from the bottom are better than they are in the land of Horatio Alger's Ragged Dick.

Where do I stand?
Enter your zip code and income to find out where you fall on the curve.

How you compare:


Sources: American Community Survey (State and National Data), IncomeTaxList (Zip code data).
NOTE: All information you enter is private and will not be recorded or stored in any way.

All my life I've heard Latin America described as a failed society (or collection of failed societies) because of its grotesque maldistribution of wealth. Peasants in rags beg for food outside the high walls of opulent villas, and so on. But according to the Central Intelligence Agency (whose patriotism I hesitate to question), income distribution in the United States is more unequal than in Guyana, Nicaragua, and Venezuela, and roughly on par with Uruguay, Argentina, and Ecuador. Income inequality is actually declining in Latin America even as it continues to increase in the United States. Economically speaking, the richest nation on earth is starting to resemble a banana republic. The main difference is that the United States is big enough to maintain geographic distance between the villa-dweller and the beggar. As Ralston Thorpe tells his St. Paul's classmate, the investment banker Sherman McCoy, in Tom Wolfe's 1987 novel The Bonfire of the Vanities: "You've got to insulate, insulate, insulate."

In 1915, King wrote, "It is easy to find a man in almost any line of employment who is twice as efficient as another employee,"

but it is very rare to find one who is ten times as efficient. It is common, however, to see one man possessing not ten times but a thousand times the wealth of his neighbor. … Is the middle class doomed to extinction and shall we soon find the handful of plutocrats, the modern barons of wealth, lined up squarely in opposition to the propertyless masses with no buffer between to lessen the chances of open battle? With the middle class gone and the laborer condemned to remain a lifelong wage-earner with no hope of attaining wealth or even a competence in his old age, all the conditions are ripe for a crowning class-conflict equaling in intensity and bitterness anything pictured by the most radical follower of Karl Marx. Is this condition soon coming to pass? [emphasis his]

In the end, King concluded it wasn't. Income distribution in the United States, he found, was more equal than in Prussia, France, and the United Kingdom. King was no socialist. Redistributing income to the poor, he wrote, "would merely mean more rapid multiplication of the lowest and least desirable classes," who remained, "from the reproductive standpoint, on the low point of their four-footed ancestors." A Malthusian, he believed in population control. Income inequality in the United States could be addressed by limiting immigration (King deplored "low-standard alien invaders") and by discouraging excessive breeding among the poor ("eugenicists are just beginning to impress upon us the absurd folly of breeding great troops of paupers, defectives and criminals to be a burden upon organized society").

Today, incomes in the U.S. are more unequal than in Germany, France, and the United Kingdom, not less so. Eugenics (thankfully) has fallen out of fashion, and the immigration debate has become (somewhat) more polite. As for income inequality, it's barely entered the national political debate. Indeed, the evidence from the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections suggests that even mild economic populism was a loser for Democrats. (To sample authentic economic populism, click here.)

But income inequality is a topic of huge importance to American society and therefore a subject of large and growing interest to a host of economists, political scientists, and other wonky types. Except for a few Libertarian outliers (whose views we'll examine later), these experts agree that the country's growing income inequality is deeply worrying. Even Alan Greenspan, the former Federal Reserve Board chairman and onetime Ayn Rand acolyte, has registered concern. "This is not the type of thing which a democratic society—a capitalist democratic society—can really accept without addressing," Greenspan said in 2005. Greenspan's Republican-appointed successor, Ben Bernanke, has also fretted about income inequality.

Yet few of these experts have much idea how to reverse the trend. That's because almost no one can agree about what's causing it. This week and next, I will detail and weigh the strengths and weaknesses of various prominent theories as to what has brought about the income inequality boom of the last three decades. At the same time, I'll try to convey the magnitude of its effects on American life. The Great Divergence may represent the most significant change in American society in your lifetime—and it's not a change for the better. Let's see if we can figure out what got us here.

Click here to view a visual guide to inequality. Click here to subscribe to this series. Navigate the series from a single page.

Where Has Journalism Gone?

This country is an amazing place. It is filled with wonders from natural to intellectual and everyday. When I leave my house, I straighten the flag flying at my door to ensure the eagle on the end is straight and pointing to the sky. I am proud to be an American, for there is no other place on Earth that ensures genuine freedom in all its aspects. There is, however, one thing that makes me wonder about my country’s future and brings a taint to my love of this Great Land. It lies within the educational and cultural depravity enhanced and enforced by a growing mental laziness and blinding devotion to ignorance perpetuated by irresponsible journalism.

We are all, in some aspect or another, ignorant of many things. If you consider the amount of information there is to absorb in the modern world, one cannot help but be so on one level or another. I am ignorant of many sports, forensics, genetics . . . the list goes on and on. Each day in an effort to quell this I venture to understand as much as I can, because I truly believe that a day without learning is a day wasted. The problem I’ve had in this endeavor is searching for relevant data. The ability to collect and distill information has become incredibly difficult, not only because of the sheer amount of it available, but because of the questionable content which is in the available sources.

Today’s journalism is rather similar to these roadside vendors. There are places or providers that represent integrity, while there are those others who erect plaster dinosaurs to attract sales from a walk through fake history and manipulated facts. The latter of these two seem only to serve themselves; their own political agendas and their sacred profit margins. Some of these “journalists” are in the business of deception, of manipulation, rather than the delivery of real facts to allow the viewing audience some depiction of the real world around them.

One example of the aforementioned deceptions: In July of this year, Shirley Sherrod was forced to resign because a speech she made was butchered to emphasize a seemingly racist comment. A single part of the speech was taken out of context and distorted by an over-zealous reporter trying to discredit her in order to outline racism existing within the current White House administration. This simple 30-second clip was extracted and paraded as a statement of her personal beliefs, when it was quite obviously taken out of the context of her greater message of tolerance and personal growth. It was a purposeful manipulation of the facts to support a political agenda by the conservative media.

Similarly, the “facts” of the World Trade Center destruction have been used passionately to support a Neo-conservative Tea Party agenda of National Isolationism, Neo-Liberal Constitutionalism, and, the most ridiculous of all, the conspiracy theorist’s agenda of furthering the idea of a CIA cover-up to garner support for oil seizure in the Middle East. Within this particular media manipulation also has been the use of these quasi-facts to garner support of Islam phobia to encourage the continued isolation of America for the purposes of resisting the “One Global Community” desires by some groups in this country.

I find this all so deeply troubling. News used to mean something. The anchors of old would tell the story to inform the audience. They based their reports upon the unwavering devotion to journalistic integrity and a responsibility to report the news to the general public. These people prided themselves on reporting what occurred, and allowed the listener to form their own opinions. Today, the opinions are given to the listener. Facts are manipulated to include “snippets” of fact to purposely deliver the political or cultural message of the reporting corporation. Many “News” agencies weed through clips for information to back their story and intentionally lead the audience toward one side of an issue or the other.

What happened to the media of old? I understand the depth of a system more open to the public and the psychology of our leaders, corporations, and individual citizens being open to the gauging of their viability and devotion to actually helping American citizens, but the facts should not be manipulated as weapons to this effect. The facts should be held as their own form of information. Changing a statement by taking a snippet out of the whole of a speech is lying to the public. There is no integrity to be had in this act. There is no responsibility. It makes me wonder whether the people practicing journalism are so weak in their craft that this is the only way they can succeed in a system of higher intellect. It also makes me wonder how weak we as Americans have become to blindly follow like sheep and listen to these irresponsible people.

The world today is in a very great deal of trouble. We are reaching maximum human density, an oncoming shortage of food met with genetic manipulation, political deception and a direct assault on the education system in this country. As we head toward the next decade, we NEED responsible journalism to inform us all. We can no longer stand idly by and allow the journalism of the Great Country to lie to us for their own purposes. We MUST have the facts so we can stand together prepared for the future and the problems to come. Only in this way can we come up with the right solutions. We all, in one way or another, realize where journalism has gone. The real question is: How do we get it back?

Gold Confiscation: Straws in the Wind

David Galland
Managing Director
Casey Research

In the emails that our readers at Casey Research send our way, questions and concerns about the possibility of gold confiscation rank high.

My somewhat standard response is that, yes, it’s possible, but that we should see straws in the wind well before it happened… allowing us to take measures to protect ourselves.

While I don’t want to make too big a deal about it, there have been clear signs of late that the U.S. government is taking an unhealthy interest in your gold.

My recent article “I Smell a VAT” touched on one such straw. The relevant point being that, thanks to a regulation slipped into the healthcare legislation, coin dealers – and all businesses, for that matter – will have to begin reporting any purchases of $600 or more from anyone, including clients selling back their gold.

While I think the overriding intent is to pave the road for the implementation of a value-added tax (VAT), there’s no question that the legislation simultaneously paints a target on the back of the free trade of precious metals.

Then, a couple weeks ago a friend sent me a copy of Mother Jones, an a unapologetically “progressive” mouthpiece with a cover story titled “Glenn Beck’s Golden Fleece.”

And friend and correspondent Lowell sent along an article with an embedded video link to an lengthy ABC News “investigation” by Clintonista George Stephanopoulos that picks up on the Mother Jones story.

Now that you’ve watched the video – and if you don’t, some of what follows won’t make any sense – I’d like to share some observations based on personal experience.

About Coins

Years ago, I headed up the publishing division of a company (that will go unnamed) with a separate division selling coins. I was there when the coin business started, and while not involved, was impressed at its rapid growth in the heady days of the 1970s gold bull market.

Then something happened. While the founder was a strong advocate for hard money and sincere in his intent to do the right thing by his customers, as the coin business grew, he increasingly recruited “professional” managers to run the firm – hired guns whose sole focus was boosting the bottom line and, by so doing, their bonuses. And the business hired more and more “professional” salespeople – the sort of folks who know how to squeeze a client good and hard.

As the company’s sales soared, fueled by hard-hitting marketing, the founder’s good intentions began to weaken under the onrushing flood of cash that began to wash in. In time, the entire conversation at the coin division switched from “What’s good for the customer?” to “What coins can we sell with the biggest mark-up?”

On those occasions when I was invited to comment on what was going on, I did what I could to argue against the corporate culture that had developed, but my impassioned and increasingly angry fights with the managers of the coin division couldn’t win out over the millions in profits being made. As much as I enjoyed my job, the situation became so degraded, I had no choice but to resign.

Now, let me be clear. The company broke no laws and, in fact, did nothing that I suppose most businesses on to a good thing might not do; marketing was generating lots of prospects, and the sales force was selling.

The problem was that the product line had moved from selling highly liquid government-issued gold and silver bullion coins to selling illiquid “modern rarities,” an oxymoron if there ever was one. Whether “proof” Mexican silver dollars, “treasure” coins, or privately minted commemorative coins, the one thing you could be sure of was that the mark-ups were huge.

Which meant that, in the absence of an active collectors market – which, when it comes to “modern rarities,” just doesn’t exist, and never will – the coins were very unlikely to ever provide a reasonable return on investment, let alone be a good asset to preserve capital. Quite the opposite, they were almost certain losers.

Buyer Beware

In the ABC video, you’ll hear a sound bite from a client of Goldline who spent $5,000 on “collectible” coins, saying that he wanted to buy bullion, but that the sales guy “kinda, sorta talked me into buying these other coins.” Soon thereafter the buyer decided to sell those coins and, when he did, he took a 42% loss. Which, he points out, was a big hit to his net worth.

You can probably spot all the things wrong in that paragraph, but I’ll do it anyway.

First, the disgruntled former client says he was looking to buy bullion coins, but the sales guy switched him to a “collectible.” Whose fault is it that he allowed himself to be swayed? Quoting Nancy Reagan, when dealing with a salesperson, often times the best thing to do is “just say no.”

Second, if taking a loss of about 42% on an investment of $5,000 really hurts his net worth – he shouldn’t have been buying illiquid coins in the first place.

Third, buying any “collectible,” or pretty much any asset, at full retail and then turning right around and selling it, is invariably a sure-fire ticket to a quick loss.

Finally, who is to say that the coin dealer that bought the coins off the client didn’t lowball him? That, too, is part of generating a profit in the coin business.

While I feel sorry for the former Goldline client, he really can’t blame anyone but himself for that loss. He didn’t do his homework or stick to his guns when the salesman tried to move him up to a higher-margin product line.

As for the company, I don’t know them, but I do know that they spend a lot on marketing and celebrity endorsements. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that money has to be recouped from somewhere – specifically, the clients. Which is why I strongly suspect that, yes, the company’s salesmen are especially aggressive. And that they try very hard to load their clients up with high-margin coins.

Let me recap some lessons from this article, and based on my own brush with the business.

First, if you’re going to become a coin collector, don’t think you can stumble into it and enjoy any measure of success. Do your homework – then do some more – before actually laying out your hard-earned cash. Fortunately, there are a lot of useful resources out there for you to rely on… pricing guides, auction results, and numismatic groups, to name just a few.

More important, however, is that if you are not going to be a collector, then stay away from anything but U.S. or Canada-minted bullion coins, or bullion bars issued by the widely acknowledged mints such as Johnson Matthey.

Will the bullion products be exempt from confiscation, should it come to pass? No. But trying to avoid confiscation by dealing yourself into a large loss right out of the box by overpaying for an illiquid pseudo-collectible is just silly… no matter what the sales person tells you.

What’s in the ABC Video That Should Concern You

While imminent confiscation isn’t really addressed in the ABC exposé of Goldline, there were some things that caught my eye as worthy of further reflection.

The first was the contention by the appropriately named NY congressman, Anthony Weiner, that it was ludicrous to suggest that the government could ever just confiscate a person’s gold. Excuse me? Deep breath. If the Weiner were to repeat that contention to my face, the conversation might roll out something like this…

“What!?! Did you actually just say what I think you said?”

“Why, yes, David, I did.”

“Are you kidding?”

“Why, no, David, I am not.”

“So, a government that can invade countries on false pretenses… arrest people and throw them into prison camps and hold them indefinitely without trial… whisk suspects off to foreign countries to be tortured… hit targets in sovereign nations on the other side of the globe with missiles fired from drones… declare imminent domain to take private property in order to give it to a hotel developer… confiscate homes because someone on the property, maybe not even the owner, is caught with a marijuana cigarette… freeze the bank accounts of anyone suspected of a crime, then not let them use their own money to defend themselves… offer known criminals, murderers even, ‘Get out of jail free’ cards if they testify against someone else… but they wouldn’t confiscate gold? Oh, and by the way, Roosevelt already did it once, you moron!”

“Who are you calling a moron? Security, we have a problem.”

Another deep breath. Pat hair back into place and resist urge to apply my forehead to the keyboard.

But enough of Mr. Weiner.

The second thing that should concern you – and the EVP of Goldline tossed Stephanopoulos a soft pitch down the middle on this one – was when he mentioned that his salesmen have instructions to “advise” their clients on the best sort of coins to buy. Paraphrasing Stephanopoulos, “But your people aren’t licensed as investment advisors, are they?”

No, but I suspect that, if this witch hunt continues, they may soon have to be.

Especially because a congressional committee has been set up to investigate this serious matter. Surprise, surprise, the co-sponsor of the committee is none other than Congressman Weiner. Apparently he was chosen for this particular bit of dirty work. While all of this may be nothing more than grand standing and bare-knuckle politicking, any time Congress gets involved, pretty much anything can happen; keep your eyes open for a fresh assault on the gold coin industry.

And, finally, the thing that probably concerns me most is that, whatever else he is, Glenn Beck is a highly visible and apparently effective critic of the current administration. Having failed to knock him off the air by unleashing a well-financed boycott that chased away many of his advertisers, it appears the Democrats are now pursuing their vendetta against Beck by attacking the business practices of the show’s largest sponsor. No matter what your opinion is of the man, this sort of determined government-backed assault should make your antenna go up.

Is Goldline an angel? Based on my experience with the industry, probably not. But in this case, I’m not sure that that matters as much as that they sponsor Beck’s show.

A Final Word – on Confiscation

Do I think confiscation is imminent? No.

But I do think that the straws in the wind point to yet more regulation. This could ultimately place gold dealers under the watchful eye of the SEC or some other Frankenaucracy that emerges out of the new financial reform legislation.

I am not a fan of regulation – even if it sounds like a good idea. For instance, to protect the ignorant from predatory salesmen. My rationale is that this is not a perfect world and never will be. Humans can and will find a way around every rule (witness the fact that Madoff, the former head of the NASDAQ, was able to scam billions off clients). Therefore, the sooner the citizenry learns that they have to rely on their own common sense – and actually educate themselves – before reaching for their wallets, the better. Having an implied government blessing over every transaction does nothing but create a false sense of security.

But that’s just my particular, and some think peculiar, world view. Back in the world we live in, any new regulations will, if nothing else, assure that any private transactions between you and your favorite coin dealer will become a thing of the past. The new reporting requirement on purchases of over $600 pretty much makes that a reality.

With this new layer of reporting in place, should the sovereignty come to the conclusion that it, versus you, should be in possession of your gold – they’ll know whose door to knock on.

Of course, we can’t know if and when such a thing might occur… but to pretend it can’t is to be naïve or, in the case of Weiner, disingenuous.

In my article, “I Smell a VAT,” I touched on some ideas for how you might protect yourself from a possible gold confiscation (none of which involved buying overpriced coins.

There is one other option I didn’t mention – expatriate. Many of the happiest people I have met in my life have their passport from one country, residency in another, and money/gold in a third.
As David says, getting your money – and maybe yourself – out of the U.S. is one of the smartest strategies to protect your wealth from the long and ever-growing arm of the government. Click here to read our new report on the 5 best ways of internationalizing your assets.

'Goldman Conspiracy' helps China defeat U.S.

Source: Market Watch

Goldman's "ultimate goal is hunting and killing China," warns Li Delin, the Chinese author of "The Goldman Sachs Conspiracy," a bestseller in China.

Li is not as visually dramatic as Matt Taibbi's Rolling Stone picture of Goldman as a "great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money." But Li's Chinese readers love his "Goldman Sachs knows when to go for your neck" like a "Manchurian tiger."

China's Trump shows no fear

Ren Zhiqiang, chairman of Hua Yuan Property Co. and one of China's most outspoken real estate tycoons, explains why he criticizes the Communist Party and what it takes to attract two million followers to a Chinese microblog.

But is the Goldman Conspiracy really a threat to China? That's a joke, right?

It's the exact opposite. In fact, it should be obvious that China is actually a "great vampire squid wrapped around the face of Goldman, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like Goldman's capital, talent and connections."

Then, eventually, in a generation, by 2040, China will suck the life out of Goldman. At the same time, back here stateside, China must be quietly cheering as America's "bloodsucking vampire squid" sucks the life out of our capitalism and democracy, as the Goldman Conspiracy's insatiable greed aggressively sabotages America from within.

Get it? China is very effectively using the out-of-control Goldman Conspiracy greed machine as a vital weapon in China's two-pronged global strategy against America, over in China and back here in America. And tragically, Goldman's insatiable greed is so blinding that Goldman has lost the ability to see the long-term consequences of its sad un-American behavior.

Today, the Goldman Conspiracy is America's unfortunate Black Swan, a Trojan Horse helping our enemy abroad, undermining our economy back home.

China: $123 trillion economy by 2040, three times bigger than America

All this became obvious while reading the Foreign Policy Journal. Earlier this year Nobel economist Robert W. Fogel of the University of Chicago published a feature article in Foreign Policy titled: "$123,000,000,000,000: Why China's Economy Will Grow to $123 Trillion by 2040."

It's crucial to see why China is so successful, so prosperous while Americans are trapped in a paranoid self-destructive culture, why we're blinded, virtually incapable of thinking outside a box that's projecting years of high unemployment ... as our suicidal war economy continues eating up roughly 50% of our tax dollars ... as our ideological battles dig us deeper into debt ... as our press keeps distracting us, focusing narrowly on self-serving warmongering wingnuts ... as the actions of partisan leaders irresponsibly and unconsciously aid and abet China's grand strategy to replace America as the world's economic superpower ... and as the Goldman Conspiracy sabotages us from within.

Read this and weep, or get mad as hell: By 2040, in just one generation, 30 years, here's how Fogel sees the rapidly emerging new world order, with China as the world's sole superpower economy and America a distant second, a has-been on the global stage, thanks in part to the Goldman Conspiracy and its influence on so many bad decisions in recent years. Fogel warns:

"In 2040, the Chinese economy will reach $123 trillion, or nearly three times the economic output of the entire globe in 2000. China's per-capita income will hit $85,000, more than double the forecast for the European Union, and also much higher than that of India and Japan. In other words, the average Chinese megacity dweller will be living twice as well as the average Frenchman when China goes from a poor country in 2000 to a superrich country in 2040.

"Although it will not have overtaken the United States in per-capita wealth, according to my forecasts China's share of global GDP -- 40% -- will dwarf that of the United States (14%) and the European Union (5%) 30 years from now. This is what economic hegemony will look like" by 2040.

Yes, in one generation China's economy will be almost three times bigger than America's economy while our kids, the next generation of Americans, will still be digging out of the war deficits we've been piling on since 2000.

Fogel sees six reasons America will lose in this race with China:

IMF fears 'social explosion' from world jobs crisis

America and Europe face the worst jobs crisis since the 1930s and risk "an explosion of social unrest" unless they tread carefully, the International Monetary Fund has warned.

1 of 2 Images
Duration of unemployment in the US - Bureau of Labor Statistics
Duration of unemployment in the US, Bureau of Labor Statistics.

"The labour market is in dire straits. The Great Recession has left behind a waste land of unemployment," said Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the IMF's chief, at an Oslo jobs summit with the International Labour Federation (ILO).

He said a double-dip recession remains unlikely but stressed that the world has not yet escaped a deeper social crisis. He called it a grave error to think the West was safe again after teetering so close to the abyss last year. "We are not safe," he said.

A joint IMF-ILO report said 30m jobs had been lost since the crisis, three quarters in richer economies. Global unemployment has reached 210m. "The Great Recession has left gaping wounds. High and long-lasting unemployment represents a risk to the stability of existing democracies," it said.

The study cited evidence that victims of recession in their early twenties suffer lifetime damage and lose faith in public institutions. A new twist is an apparent decline in the "employment intensity of growth" as rebounding output requires fewer extra workers. As such, it may be hard to re-absorb those laid off even if recovery gathers pace. The world must create 45m jobs a year for the next decade just to tread water.

Olivier Blanchard, the IMF's chief economist, said the percentage of workers laid off for long stints has been rising with each downturn for decades but the figures have surged this time.

"Long-term unemployment is alarmingly high: in the US, half the unemployed have been out of work for over six months, something we have not seen since the Great Depression," he said.

Spain has seen the biggest shock, with unemployment near 20pc. Britain's rate has risen from 5.3pc to 7.8pc over the last two years, a slightly better record than the OECD average. This contrasts with the 1970s and early 1980s when Britain was notoriously worse. UK jobless today totals 2.48m.

Mr Blanchard called for extra monetary stimulus as the first line of defence if "downside risks to growth materialise", but said authorities should not rule out another fiscal boost, despite debt worries. "If fiscal stimulus helps avoid structural unemployment, it may actually pay for itself," he said.

"Most advanced countries should not tighten fiscal policies before 2011: tightening sooner could undermine recovery," said the report, rebuking Britain's Coalition, Germany's austerity hawks, and US Republicans. Under French socialist Strauss-Kahn, the IMF has assumed a Keynesian flavour.

The report skirts the contentious issue of whether globalisation lets companies engage in "labour arbitrage", locating plant in low-wage economies such as China to ship products back to the West. Nor does it grapple with the trade distortions caused by China's currency policy, except to call on "surplus countries" to play their part in rebalancing.

The IMF said there may be a link between rising inequality within Western economies and deflating demand.

Historians say the last time that the wealth gap reached such skewed extremes was in 1928-1929. Some argue that wealth concentration may cause investment to outstrip demand, leading to over-capacity. This can trap the world in a slump.

Lone Star Steakhouse closes three unprofitable Mid-Michigan locations

BANGOR TWP. — People looking to eat lunch at Bay County’s Lone Star Steakhouse on Monday were greeted with locked doors and signs announcing the restaurant’s closure.

The restaurant, 4107 E. Wilder, shut down Sunday, following a corporate decision to close 19 of its under-performing restaurants throughout the country.

The Lone Star restaurants at 2255 Tittabawassee Road in Saginaw Township and on Miller Road in Flint also were closed.

The closures leave just four Lone Star Steakhouse locations in the state in Battle Creek, Dundee, Jackson and Mount Pleasant.

“It’s a sad day and we hate doing it, because in a lot of cases, these locations are the original steakhouse in its marketplace,” said Howard Terry, vice president of marketing for Lone Star.

Terry said the decision to close the 19 locations was because of poor sales over the past three years. No other closings are planned, he said.

All of the 19 restaurants were unprofitable, despite efforts to turn things around, Terry said.

“We put a lot of money into all of these restaurants and they just weren’t responding,” he said.

Of the 131 Lone Star locations in the country, those three were among the lowest-performing from a sales perspective, Terry said.

The weak performances, he said, are site specific and not a regional issue.
Terry referred to the recently renovated Dundee location, which is one of the best-performing stores in Lone Star’s system, in both sales and profits.

Reasons behind the poor sales aren’t clear, Terry said, though changes in those areas since those restaurants opened likely played a role.

While the Wilder Road Lone Star struggled to turn a profit for several years, the nearby Lucky’s Steakhouse has done “very good and consistent sales” since opening last November, according to a store manager.

Mary Lagalo said from a price and portion perspective, she thought Lucky’s had the edge on Lone Star.

“I didn’t hear a lot of comparisons, but from what I understand, our prices and portions were a bit better. People also seemed to say we had more variety to offer,” Lagalo said.

The Lone Store closures open a possibility for a new restaurant to assume the vacant location.

That may not come quickly, though. The nearby building at 3893 State in Bangor Township that housed Ruby Tuesday’s remains unoccupied nearly two years after the restaurant closed.

The three Michigan Lone Star closings are further signs of how tough the state’s restaurant industry has been hit by the economic downturn, said the vice president of public affairs for the Michigan Restaurant Association.

Andy Deloney said despite a small upturn in sales, the industry remains “very tough” in the state.

“There’s never been a tougher time to operate a restaurant in Michigan,” Deloney said.

The Michigan Restaurant Association released data last week that showed state restaurant sales over the first six months this year are up 1.6 percent from the first six months of 2009.

Though encouraging, Deloney said the small increase can’t come close to making up what’s been lost during the last several years.

“Sales have been down so much that it’s created other challenges. When your sales are reduced, you have to put off renovations and expansion of growth,” he said.

Eiffel Tower evacuated after bomb alert

French police at the base of the Eiffel Tower

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Tourists and guards around the Eiffel Tower after its evacuation

About 2,000 people have been evacuated from the Eiffel Tower in Paris and its surrounding park after a bomb scare, French officials say.

They say the alarm was raised after an anonymous call to the company which manages the famous landmark.

A police cordon was formed and about 1,000 people were moved to the banks of the nearby River Seine. Officers with sniffer dogs searched the area.

But police later said it was a false alarm.

"Nothing was found," a French police officer told AFP news agency.

The 324m (1,063ft) iron lattice tower, built in 1889, is one of the world's most popular tourist attractions.

The evacuation of the tower and the Champ de Mars park took place calmly shortly before 2100 local time (1900 GMT), police said.

Within hours, the Saint-Michel train station - which was the target of a deadly attack in 1995 - was also briefly evacuated following a similar threat.

The French government increased security at certain sites between 2 August and 15 September, in part because of threats from al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, French TV channel TF1 reported.

Problems Reported With New Voting Machines

Early morning voting at PS 75 located at 735 West End Avenue on Manhattan’s upper west side.Katie Orlinsky for The New York Times Confusion during early-morning voting at Public School 75 on West End Avenue on the Upper West Side.

A new voting system unveiled in New York City for the primary election on Tuesday was plagued by problems, with some polling places opening hours late and others verging on chaos as workers coped with malfunctioning machines.

Some polling sites did not receive the optical scanners needed to read paper ballots by 6 a.m., when voting was supposed to begin. At other polling places, the scanners failed to operate properly when they were switched on, forcing voters to wait while election workers struggled to get the devices going.

In still others, workers seemed flummoxed by procedures that accompanied the new equipment, especially for accepting ballots when the scanners did not function. At times the frustration boiled over, and there were shouting matches between voters and poll workers.

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg called the glitches “a royal screw-up” and said: “It’s completely unacceptable. New Yorkers deserve better than this.”

The mayor denounced the city’s Board of Elections, which was responsible for overseeing the change from mechanical voting machines to computerized ones.

The elections board said that 71 polling places opened late and that it had spent months training its workers for the introduction of the $50 million system bought early this year.

But the agency, frequently criticized as having a patronage-heavy work force, drew widespread voter anger for its lack of preparedness.

Herb Gingold of Kew Gardens, Queens, could not vote when he got to his polling site about 9 a.m. because the machines had yet to arrive. “It’s very disturbing that in this country, with all the talk about the election 10 years ago being mismanaged so badly, that this continues to happen,” Mr. Gingold, a psychologist, said.

“We’ve had plenty of time to get these machines out and get them ready, and it’s a scandal that they’re not ready.”

The public advocate, Bill de Blasio, discovered that, for lack of keys to start the new machines, his polling place in Park Slope, Brooklyn, did not start collecting ballots until around 9 a.m.

“Whatever the exact protocol is, it didn’t happen,” Mr. de Blasio said. “So basically, the folks in Park Slope were disenfranchised.”

Even Senator Charles E. Schumer was held up when he arrived at Public School 321, also in Park Slope, just before 6 a.m. He and other voters had to wait 15 to 20 minutes before the machines were ready to take their ballots.

There were also reports of problems at some polling places in Harlem, where Representative Charles B. Rangel faced a tough primary fight.

Alberta Slappy, the president of the tenants association at the George Washington Carver Houses, said residents had been turned away at the polling place at Public School 72 on East 104th Street.

“There were no machines,” Ms. Slappy said, adding that the poll workers eventually let people vote on paper ballots.

Valerie Vazquez, a spokeswoman for the Board of Elections, said every new machine used in one of the city’s 1,358 polling places had been tested in advance to make sure it met state standards.

The board had increased training for poll workers by 50 percent, Ms. Vazquez said, to prepare for the debut of the new machines.

“Every year, Election Days bring challenges,” she wrote in an e-mail. “This year, the Board of Elections in the City of New York knew the change to the new voting system would present additional challenges.”

Ms. Vazquez promised the board would do better in the Nov. 2 general election. “We will apply all lessons learned,” she said.

The board has long been seen as a vestige of the city’s political machines; it is run by five Democratic and five Republican commissioners who are appointed by the City Council and are not accountable to the mayor or any other city or state agency.

The political infighting has been so intense that the board could not agree on an executive director for much of this year. Finally, last month, the job went to George Gonzalez, who had been the deputy executive director, after the Democrats on the board persuaded a Republican commissioner from the Bronx to side with them.

The board employed 751 people, of whom roughly one-third were temporary election workers, in the fiscal year that ended in June 2009, the most recent for which figures were available. They were paid $25.7 million, according to the city’s Office of Payroll Administration.

In January, the board awarded a contract to Elections Systems and Software, an Omaha company, to provide the machines in time for the primary on Tuesday.

The contract was highly prized: bidders spent millions of dollars to hire lobbyists.

The day after the contract was announced, one of the lobbyists for Election Systems and Software, Anthony Mangone, a lawyer in Westchester County, was indicted by the United States attorney in Manhattan, Preet Bharara, on extortion and other charges related to real estate projects in Yonkers.

Months later, several members of the Board of Elections received subpoenas from Mr. Bharara’s office.

The subpoenas, according to people who have been briefed on them, were broad and related to the structure and contract procedures of the board. The status of the investigation is unclear, and a spokeswoman for the United States attorney declined to comment about it.

John S. Groh, a senior vice president for Elections Systems and Software who was in New York City on Tuesday visiting poll sites, said he could understand why some voters were irritated.

“Our staff has witnessed hundreds of poll sites that ran smoothly,” he said. “But when a jurisdiction switches to a new voting technique, we know and we expect voting issues to occur. They’ve used the same system for 60 years, and change is difficult.”

Some election workers said there was a learning curve as they tried to master the machines.

“Everything is new to everybody,” said Alice Wong, a poll worker at Public School 20 in Flushing, Queens.

Ms. Wong said two scanners had failed around 7 a.m. “Sometimes it scans, sometimes it doesn’t,” she said.

Promising to pursue the matter, Mr. de Blasio, the public advocate, said: “My office will work to hold the Board of Elections accountable for the problems voters experienced today. It is imperative we have an independent review and immediate action to fix the problem, so we don’t relive these mistakes in the November general election.”

At City Hall, Mr. Bloomberg noted that the Board of Elections had received many millions of dollars to help prepare for the new voting system.

“Over the past five years,” he said, “the city has provided the Board of Elections with more than $77 million to make the transition to the new machines — and that doesn’t include the $85 million in federal funds.”

“But there is a total absence of accountability for how the board performed on Election Day,” the mayor added, “because the board is a remnant of the days when Tammany Hall ran New York.”

Reporting was contributed by Ann Farmer, Elissa Gootman, Javier C. Hernandez, Raymond Hernandez, Colin Moynihan, Nate Schweber and Rebecca White.

Earlier versions of this post were updated.

How to Win Friends and Influence People with a COINTELPRO Paycheck - Famous Civil Rights Photographer Unmasked as Paid FBI Informant

This reminds of a related story that can be read below this main story about new jobs with the federal government, as they advertise the need for new spies to be used against fellow Americans, a job offer I received spring of last year by way of email from one of their headhunters, to do such work for the FBI due to my former life in US intelligence. I guess this is part of their economic stimulus package.

This also comes on the heels of the prosecution of a well known, highly paid FBI informant, Hal Turner. That story shows how the Feds will use you as a well placed spy and then turn on you in an instant and burn you as needed, as they eat their own and have no loyalties to anyone. That should be a lesson to anyone that is contacted by any Fed to be used by them for a little extra pocket cash, or a lot of cash like Hal Turner even in this slow motion engineered economic crash. You can't spend it in prison.

One thing to remember. Dr. William Pepper, one of MLK's oldest friends and a lawyer, proved and won his case in a televised court proceeding in '99 [ask yourself why you didn't see it and only one media outlet covered it], that James Earl Ray was framed for the killing and that King had been murdered in a conspiracy [oh no, not that word!] by the Memphis Police, Tennessee State Police, FBI, US Military and the CIA. You really should read An Act of State by Pepper.

Should You Buy a House Now?

Recently, we have had a number of queries about real estate. And no wonder. For starters, real estate prices have come down. Plus, in an environment with next to zero interest rates, the idea of possibly picking up some income-producing property on the cheap holds a certain appeal to some. Then there’s the fact that real estate is very much a “tangible” – and so should hold up reasonably well, should the fiat currency system come undone, as we expect it will before this crisis is over.
The following, from reader and correspondent Ross, considers the issue of home buying from an interesting angle.
    My wife and I have been considering buying/building a house for a while now. After long months of searching, we have had to ask ourselves about the “value” of a home. I say this because my parents in 1972 purchased a 2, 000 sq/ft home for $20,000. That was almost exactly what my father made per year at his job at the time of purchase. Is this ratio one to consider as a prudent homebuyer not trying to live beyond his means? I make about $150,000 a year and can’t imagine purchasing a house here in Pittsburgh for that price and being happy with that purchase.
    My parents sold their home in 2001 for $180,000, which is obviously 9 times what they paid for it. We are looking at homes in the low 300s to purchase, and I can’t imagine the sales price in 30 years being 9 times that price, which would be $2.7 million! So do you see my line of thinking?
    Could hyperinflation cause the price to “appreciate” that same way over time? Is inflation what caused my parents home to return 9 times what they paid for it? The reason I wrote to you regarding this topic is that I thought maybe there was a future missive buried in this line of thinking. Maybe not, but if you have time I would love to hear your thoughts on home purchasing at this time.

In response, I have to point out the obvious, that all real estate markets are local. Simply, unless it’s a mobile home, you can’t pick your home up and move. So, for example, you could offer me a house in downtown Detroit for free, and I wouldn’t take it. But a house up the road from me just traded hands at over a million dollars (for the record, a 25% discount off the offering price). So where, and when, to buy will largely depend on local market conditions… and the value proposition of the real estate on offer.
That said, given the dismal outlook for the U.S. economy and housing in particular, if you’re going to buy today – you should only do it on your terms. Don’t let a real estate agent push you into a quick decision or into raising your bid. Someone might beat your offer, but with the large housing inventory, the odds are good another dream house is available just down the block.
Now, as to the inflation question. If you do the inflation calculation, then based strictly on the government’s debasement of the currency over the last 30 years, the $20,000 that Ross’s parents spent in 1972 is the equivalent of $107,000 today. That they sold the property in 2001 for $180,000 confirms that there was more than inflation going on.
As you can see in the chart just below, while they sold it early on in the housing bubble, by 2001 housing prices – encouraged by the Fed’s loose money policies and a collapse in lending standards – were already on their way to the stratosphere.

While much of the appreciation in Ross’s parents’ home can be attributed to currency debasement, it is reasonable to attribute the additional appreciation to the general housing bubble and, finally, positive local market conditions.
But that was then, and this is now. Is now a good time to buy? Again, with the caveat that all markets are local, my general sense is that it’s too early, but maybe not by much.
Weighing in on the “wait a bit longer” side of the argument is the large inventory of homes. And while that inventory is high, it is likely understated due to the shadow inventory of houses owned by fed-up sellers who have pulled their homes off the market in order to rent them and offset some of their carrying costs while waiting for better days. In addition, there are millions of houses that are either in foreclosure or will be before too long, adding to the inventory.
On the demand side, because of high unemployment, a sluggish economy, and the end of government home purchase incentives, home sales are falling again – indicating no significant decrease in house inventories anytime soon.
On the flip side of the argument, today’s mortgage rates are unnaturally low – and so, unlikely to last. When they begin to rise again, they are likely to rise a lot, and in relatively short order. First and foremost, there is no way the government’s benchmark rates can continue to bump along next to zero, especially not with the amount of debt and deficits we’re running. And even a return to a rate close to the long-term norm will have a devastating effect… starting with mortgage rates (and, as a knock-on consequence, house sales and prices).
Secondly, something like 95% of all new mortgages are currently being purchased, or otherwise guaranteed, by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. As you don’t need me to tell you, those two organizations have essentially been nationalized and are broke and doomed to fail. Simply, outside of a full-on communistic system where all property is the property of the state, the government can’t be the mortgage lender of first, second, and last resort.
In time, as Fannie and Freddie are revealed for the scams they are – followed by another trillion-dollar bailout – the government is going to have to extricate itself from the mortgage business, which will result in rates being set by the market and not by government dictate.
Thus, buying a piece of property today with a fixed-rate mortgage of just over 4% would be about as cheap a mortgage as you’ll ever get… now and for the balance of your lifetime.
What about inflation? Though one is tempted to add the likelihood of a big inflation to the “buy now” side of the balance sheet – because property is tangible – my sense is that it’s mostly a moot point. While Ross can’t foresee a house that sells for $300,000 today being worth $2.7 million in 30 years, not only can we foresee that happening – we’d be surprised if that were all it sold for. Of course, my reference point is today’s currency units; in 30 years, much fewer “new dollars” will likely be necessary.
That’s because the past 30 years represent the salad days of the current fiat monetary experiment. The fun part, if you will, with everyone feeling wealthier because they had so many more dollars in their bank and brokerage accounts, and because the things they owned that were priced in dollars – Ross’s parents’ house, for example – had appreciated in nominal terms. The next 30 years, however, will include the dark years where the fiat monetary system comes unglued.
When that happens, some analysts expect that the dollar price of sound money – gold – will rise to $5,000 an ounce. Other analysts think it could go much, much higher than that. I don’t know, and to some extent, as long as I have a sufficient position in gold, I don’t care. That’s because the dollar is just a piece of paper with some numbers on it. As long as my gold, and other tangible assets I own, continue to hold their purchasing power, even as the number of zeros on the dollar expands – I’m good to go.
As a tangible, the price of your real estate is likely to rise in dollars’ terms, but only because the dollar is falling. However, the premium that Ross’s parents received as a result of the housing bubble will not rematerialize in our lifetimes. The overbuilding of the recent bubble years, coupled with fairly straightforward demographics related to the baby boom and bust – along with the inevitable return to sane, versus insane, lending standards – will conspire to keep the value of homes, regardless of their price in dollars, at or well below current levels for years and even decades to come.
So, no easy answer to the question of whether now is the time to buy. As with most things, it comes down to a personal calculation, based on how much you can comfortably afford to pay. By extension, that requires further contemplation as to how confident you are that your income and net worth will continue to allow you to afford the payments well into the future. Of course, in addition to your mortgage payments, that calculation has to take into account property taxes, which are going up, as well as maintenance, association dues, and more.
And because all real estate markets are local, you also need to do some serious due diligence on the outlook for local markets. In Ross’s general neighborhood, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, just defaulted on a $3.3 million municipal bond payment, and Philadelphia’s finances are also in poor shape – so, before buying, he should do enough research to be confident that the neighborhood isn’t going to deteriorate.
Finally, one more reason why we may not have to wait overly long before real estate becomes at least a rational investment. And that reason is that there is a lot of money on the sidelines just now, both in the U.S. and abroad. Much of that money is in cash, and much is in bonds – a disaster in the making.
As interest rates start moving up, and the fiat currencies start to come down, investors will become fairly desperate to get out of bonds and into pretty much anything with a discernable heartbeat. Once housing prices have fallen by another 20%, 30%, real estate will be again considered a safe asset to own, and some percentage of money will certainly begin to flow back into it.
So, personally, I would hold off buying real estate for the time being. At least in the post-bubble markets where the debt still really hasn’t been addressed (much of it now sits on the books of the Fed, and Fannie and Freddie), and where desperate governments will take advantage of the fact that you can’t pick up and move your house to raise your property taxes.
The Casey Report focuses on big-picture investing – analyzing emerging mega-trends and their effects on the economy and markets… and recommending the best ways to profit from those trends, whether they’re positive or negative. To learn more about one of the editors’ favorite investments of 2010, click here.

U.S. holding 324 metric tons of bomb-grade uranium, report says

The Obama administration, which is urging other nations to reduce their stores of the material, should declare part of the U.S. inventory surplus, a watchdog group says.

The Energy Department is holding 324 metric tons of bomb-grade uranium at the same time the Obama administration is urging nations to reduce or eliminate their stores of the material, according to a report to be released Tuesday by the nuclear watchdog group Project on Government Oversight.

The Washington-based group wants the administration to declare a portion of the U.S. inventory of highly enriched uranium as surplus and increase the amount that is blended down each year into commercial reactor fuel.

The inventory began to swell years ago after the U.S. agreed to a series of nuclear arms accords resulting in the decommissioning of thousands of nuclear warheads. The U.S. stopped making highly enriched uranium after the end of the Cold War.

The Energy Department's National Nuclear Security Administration, or NNSA, defended the rate at which it is blending the uranium into commercial fuel, noting the difficulty and cost of the process. It did not comment on the size of the surplus, which is classified.

The NNSA also said that it was not sending out a contradictory message by maintaining the surplus. It said that its facilities are secure from terrorists and that the agency provides technical assistance to other nations when they give up their bomb materials.

But the issue is drawing fresh scrutiny from nuclear nonproliferation groups and Congress.

"The U.S. would be on higher moral ground if we clearly articulated that we are working to minimize our use of highly enriched uranium," said Joan Rohlfing, president of the Nuclear Threat Initiative, a nonpartisan group. "It should be the norm that every country with these materials publishes their status."

Staff from the House Armed Services Committee is preparing to go to a new $500-million Tennessee facility where the uranium is stored. A spokesman for the Republican staff said they wanted to ask why existing highly enriched uranium surpluses were being "downblended" at a slower than expected rate.

Frank N. von Hippel, a Princeton University nuclear weapons expert and co-chairman of the International Panel on Fissile Materials, said, "We are awash in surplus" highly enriched uranium. But von Hippel makes a more conservative estimate of the surplus, putting it at about 60 metric tons.

The Navy uses highly enriched uranium to power its submarines and aircraft carriers. Under an earlier declaration, 160 metric tons of the material was set aside for future Navy needs, enough for 25 to 50 years of operation.

Small amounts of the material are also used by research reactors to produce medical isotopes and by NASA to power deep-space probes.

Bill O'Reilly: NYC Mosque Imam Associated With 9/11 Truth

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Summary: September 13, 2010

Talking Points: 9/13

It Is Unacceptable To Be A 911 Truther (Or Associate With One)

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Georgia Man Fined $5000 for Growing Vegetables

A Georgia resident who has been an organic farmer for years is now facing $5000 dollars in fines for growing too many vegetables on his OWN land. That’s right.

Steve Miller, who has sold some of his produce at local farmers markets, as well as growing food for himself, is likely the victim of an Online Aerial Invasion of Private Property. This invasion of property is probably due to the fact that unless visited or inspected by an official, there would be no way for there to be an accurate or factual accounting of what was going on at Mr. Millers property. The question is, “Does Steve Miller legally posses a reasonable expectation of Privacy on his own Private Property?

Recent reports of Local & State Officials and Bureaucrats using online mapping software have now become mainstream tools for assessing fines and generating money for cash strapped local & state budgets. Does it seem right that anywhere that Google Maps & Bing Maps can go is legal to use as a source of information. If a person was bathing in their pool, with every expectation of privacy, and someone peeked over a fence, wouldn’t that constitute a criminal offense?

Is the expectation of privacy something the government wants to destroy altogether?

Is government today at a point where the end justifies the means? In January and February, when he received his first citations, Steve was able to get the property re-zoned allowing him to grow his garden – a right MOST AMERICANS believe he already had. The Declaration of Independence states one’s inalienable right to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. Isn’t growing your own personal food supply an exercise of that right to Life and Liberty? No Constitutional Government can assess any fee for exercising these inalienable rights.

In the recent past, Victory Gardens were encouraged. They were the pride of one’s back yard, and of a Nation that was self-sufficient. The television series The Victory Garden on PBS, documents gardening and provides gardening tips and features vegetable gardens as a great personal achievement.

Historically, Victory Gardens in World War II were encouraged to keep the supply of food at a maximum – and personal growing increased the industrial supply to the military.

Are people going to let this FASCIST TAKEOVER to continue – even growing a garden in the privacy of our own personal property be taken away? If the answer is NO – then what are you prepared to do about it?

You can watch the video aired on WSBTV in Georgia – County Sues Farmer for Excessive Crops

Let them know how you feel about this.

The question remain unanswered; “How did the code enforcement agency know Mr. Miller had a garden in the first place?” Eat Drink Better


Google Maps Criticisms

Street map overlays, in some areas, may not match up precisely with the corresponding satellite images. The street data may be entirely erroneous, or simply out of date:

” ‘The biggest challenge is the currency of data, the authenticity of data,’ said Google Earth representative Brian McLendon. In other words: The main complaints the Google guys get are ‘that’s not my house’ and ‘that’s not my car.’ Google Maps satellite images are not in real time; they are several years old.”[78]

As a result, in March 2008 Google added a feature to edit the locations of houses and businesses.

Restrictions have been placed on Google Maps through the apparent censoring of locations deemed potential security threats. In some cases the area of redaction is for specific buildings, but in other cases, such as Washington, D.C., the restriction is to use outdated imagery.

Bing Maps

Yahoo! Maps

All Rights Reserved © 2010

Does the Palestinian diaspora care enough to become engaged?

Alan Hart argues the time has come for Palestinians to disband the corrupt and discredited Palestinian National Authority and put policy making and implementation back into the hands of a reconstructed and reinvigorated Palestinian National Council, the pan-Palestinian parliament.

The real history of the making and sustaining of the conflict in and over Palestine that became Israel invites the conclusion that the Arab regimes – more by default than design in my view – betrayed the Palestinians. The question this article addresses is: Will future historians conclude that the Palestinian diaspora betrayed its occupied and oppressed brothers and sisters?

There’s no mystery about the Arab (regime) betrayal. When the Palestine file was closed by Israel’s 1948 victory on the battlefield and the armistice agreements, the divided and impotent Arab regimes secretly shared the same hope as the Zionists and the major powers. It was that the file would remain closed for ever. The Palestinians were supposed to accept their lot as the sacrificial lamb on the altar of political expediency.
“Will future historians conclude that the Palestinian diaspora betrayed its occupied and oppressed brothers and sisters?”

Nor is there any mystery about why the Arab regimes were at one with the Zionists and the major powers in hoping that there would never be a regeneration of Palestinian nationalism. They all knew that if there was, there would one day have to be a confrontation with Zionism, and nobody wanted that.

When Yasser Arafat, Abu Jihad and a few others lit the slow burning fire of the regeneration, it was the security services of Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon which took the lead in trying to put it out.

Fast forward to today.

The incredible almost superhuman steadfastness of the occupied and oppressed Palestinians is the reason why Zionism will never be able to close the reopened Palestine file again unless it resorts to a final round of ethnic cleansing, to drive the Palestinians off the West Bank and into Jordan or wherever. In my analysis it is more likely than not that Zionism’s in-Israel leaders will create a pretext to do just that at a point in the foreseeable future

What point?

When it becomes apparent even to them that with bombs and bullets and brutal repressive measures of all kinds they can’t break the will of the occupied and oppressed Palestinians to continue the struggle for their rights and compel them to accept crumbs from Zionism’s table.

As things are I think it is unrealistic to expect the governments of the major powers either to use the leverage they have to call and hold the Zionist state to account for its past crimes, or to intervene to prevent the crimes it will commit in a foreseeable future.

And it can be taken as read that the Arab regimes will not lift a finger to prevent a final Zionist solution to the Palestine problem. (Before Ariel Sharon sent the Israeli army all the way to Beirut to exterminate the Palestine Liberation Organization’s leadership and destroy its infrastructure, Gulf Arab leaders met in secret, without advisers present, in order to agree a message to the Reagan administration. The message was to the effect that they would not intervene in any way when Sharon made his move. After that message was sent, one of the Arab leaders present, Oman’s Sultan Qaboos, said to Arafat: “Be careful. You are going to ask for our help and it will not come.” Last year I had a private conversation in London with a major royal from the Arab world. I said to him, “Nothing is going to change in the Arab world until your regimes are more frightened of their own masses than they are of offending Zionism and America.” He replied, “You’re right.” I also said to him, “If the Zionists do resort to a final round of ethnic cleaning to close the Palestine file, Arab leaders, behind closed doors, will give thanks and celebrate.” His reply was the same, “You’re right.”)

The Palestinians “should wind-up (close down) the discredited Palestinian National Authority (PNA), and put policy making and implementation back into the hands of the Palestinian National Council...”

Question: What can the Palestinians do to help themselves?

My view is that they should wind-up (close down) the discredited Palestineian National Authority (PNA), and put policy making and implementation back into the hands of the Palestinian National Council (PNC), which is supposed to be (it once was) the highest and most supreme Palestinian decision-making body. To become relevant again it would have to be reconstructed and re-invigorated by elections in every place where there are Palestinians – the occupied West Bank including East Jerusalem, the Gaza concentration camp and the diaspora.

The fact that the PNA is corrupt, impotent and discredited is reason enough for it to be put out of its misery, but there’s more to it.

In their claim for justice, the Palestinians have 100 per cent of right, legal and moral, on their side (whereas the Israelis have 99 per cent of the might, conventional and nuclear, on their side). If this claim was properly presented and pressed by a credible Palestinian leadership, by definition a democratically elected leadership duly authorized to represent the views of all Palestinians, it would be more difficult for the governments of the major powers, the one in Washington DC especially, to go on refusing to use the leverage they have to end Israel’s occupation of Arab land grabbed in the Zionist state’s 1967 war of aggression (not self defence as Zionism asserts).

Because Israel and the major powers won’t talk to Hamas (despite the fact that its leaders have signalled their willingness to live in peace with an Israel inside its pre-1967 borders), and because the Fatah-dominated PNA is so discredited (I imagine Arafat is revolving with anger in his grave), the occupied and oppressed Palestinians are effectively leaderless in the sense that they are without an institution to represent them in the corridors of power.

It follows, or so I believe, that a demand for putting policy making and implementation back into the hands of a reconstructed and reinvigorated PNC must come from the Palestinian diaspora – from Palestinian communities in Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Eygpt, Kuwait, Iraq, Yemen, Western Europe, the USA, Canada, Australia, Chile, Honduras, Brazil, Columbia and Guatemala.

The question arising is the one of the headline for this article: Does the Palestinian diaspora care enough to become engaged?

I have long been of the view that the major difference between Jews and Arabs is that Jews know how to play the game of international politics and Arabs don’t. The Palestinians could prove me wrong. The world, not just the occupied and oppressed Palestinians, needs them to do so.