Monday, October 4, 2010

After 21 years...The Wealthy Barber Returns

One of the finest pieces ever written on the saving/spending challenge was an essay penned way back in 1772 by the witty and wise French philosopher Denis Diderot. It was entitled Regrets on Parting With My Old Dressing Gown: Or, A Warning to Those Who Have More Taste Than Money.

In it, Diderot eloquently chronicles how his beautiful, new, scarlet dressing gown came to wreak havoc on both his mood and his finances. Soon after receiving the gown, it became apparent that his surroundings, though formerly very pleasing to him, were not in keeping with the gown’s elegance. He felt compelled to replace his tapestry, his art works, his bookshelves and chairs and finally even the beloved table that had served as his desk. Eventually, a poorer Diderot sat uncomfortably in his stylish and now formal study. “I was absolute master of my old dressing gown, but I have become a slave to my new one,” he lamented.

All of us have some Diderot in us. Therefore, the reference “group” you often need to be most wary of is not your affluent friends, or even your wealthier work colleagues; it’s you, yourself.

Few things influence your spending decisions of today more than your spending decisions of yesterday.

Spending begets spending.

The aforementioned cookbook author and entrepreneur Greta Podleski provides us with a perfect example. Not surprisingly, it involves clothing. Several years ago, “GP” informed me that she had just bought a stunning dress at a “ridiculously” low price. “I couldn’t afford not to buy it!” was her interesting assessment.

If the story stopped there, it wouldn’t have been that big a deal. But, of course, it didn’t. Defying all mathematical odds, none of Greta’s ninety-plus pairs of shoes was a match to her version of Diderot’s gown. One hundred and forty dollars later, that problem was solved. However, a new one had taken its place. Amazingly, not one of Greta’s purses from her vast collection was “a suitable partner” to the new shoes. The colours clashed or — “wouldn’t you know it” — the bronze clasp didn’t perfectly complement the copper hue of the newly purchased footwear.

“I need a new purse or the rest of the money I’ve spent will be wasted,” Greta reasoned.

“You can’t afford not to buy a purse,” I replied.

“Exactly,” she agreed, apparently immune to sarcasm.

Two tubes of lipstick and a pair of earrings later, The Curious Case of the Inexpensive Dress That Wasn’t came to a close.

I probably shouldn’t throw stones here. Last year, I bought two new fairway woods, ironically, to hit from the rough. Suddenly, with my new woods beaming from my bag, my irons looked old and tired to me as I’m sure I did to them. Once they had been replaced, it was only fitting to add a fantastic high-tech driver and a properly-weighted-for-my-stroke putter. Carrying all this new equipment quickly made my previously attractive golf bag appear ratty, tatty and not so natty. So I replaced it too, followed a few days later by the purchase of a deluxe pair of golf shoes that seemed to boast almost superhuman powers. Eighteen hundred dollars poorer, I had the look of a professional.

My swing, though, showed great resistance, warded off the ghost of Diderot and refused to join the rush to “new and improved.” It remained a unique cross between those of Jim Furyk and Lizzie Borden. I hate golf.

Nowhere does the “Diderot effect” do more financial harm than in the area of home renovations. In fact, I’m convinced that during the renovation process, many people go temporarily insane – well, for most it’s temporary. How else can their spending decisions be explained? First, most set their initial budgets from slightly to wildly beyond what their finances and common sense would dictate. Then, invariably, the projects come in over budget because, well, that’s what projects do. “If we’re going to re-do the bathroom floor, we might as well put in radiant heat while the tile is pulled up.” Finally, and most troublingly, once the bathroom has become palatial, the kitchen pales by comparison. “Our cupboards are so 90’s.” Diderot is once again resurrected and the “cycle of renovation” rolls on.

The four most expensive words in the English language? “While we’re at it ...” And the four most expensive letters? HGTV.

I’m not saying “Never renovate.” Heck, a lot of my close friends and family members are in the industry and I made significant improvements to my own home last year. I love Mike Holmes. But, for crying out loud, get a hold of yourself or, as I wish someone would have advised me as I Diderot’ed my way down the fairway: get a grip! The upgrades, including the future changes that the current reno will inevitably lead to, have to be completed within the context of affordability.

Over half of the people I know who are in trouble with their lines of credit (more on that in a few chapters) arrived there via excessive home-renovation expenses. I really don’t have a problem with indulgences like heated marble floors — I wish I had them. However, when people are purchasing that type of extreme-pampering item, especially with borrowed money, while not fully funding their RRSPs or saving for their children’s educations, yeah, that’s an issue. And in this particular case, there’s no excuse: the low-cost, old-style technology still works wonderfully — buy slippers!

Remember Diderot. Above all, remember the alternative title of his insightful piece: A Warning to Those Who Have More Taste Than Money.

© The Wealthy Barber Returns: Significantly Older and Marginally Wiser, Dave Chilton Offers His Unique Perspectives on the World of Money. The book will be published in summer, 2011.

Terror, Terror, Terror... Where's The Proof?

The life-blood of terrorism is built upon the all-pervasive and continuing irrational-fear of the unknown. Think of this as you would of someone yelling "FIRE" in a crowded theater, when there is no fire at all. The resulting panic can cost lives, and will create havoc in that small place. But when a government or several governments collude to scream "TERRORISM," using unclear and unfounded "security" claims as their only justification-then that is different not just in the size of the audience affected, but with the added political-lie that is policy-based; the result is to terrify and threaten the world at the same time as they continue to build the future depicted above.
Unfortunately I played a small part in helping the feral government obtain an image for their plan. I did this 32 years ago in 1978: Two years before Reagan stole the White House, and eleven years before the Berlin Wall went down in 1989. This is significant because while Ronnie claimed credit for the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the demise of the Soviet Union: It was also on his watch that the world failed to get their promised "peace dividend" when the cold war officially ended. Instead we got a new and all-powerful; enemy to oppose-worldwide Terrorism!
This image does not fit in with the other topics at all, in the Republican project called The Forgotten Victims of Violent Crime.*
When I went to the interview with the person who described what was needed at Research West Inc. in Emeryville California ­ the interview was conducted from behind a bullet-proof glass wall. She had no sense of humor, and she was the personification of paranoia incorporated. It bothered me that this subject should have been included with the other topics ­ but I didn't fight it because it seemed harmless at the time. It was only later, after Reagan took office that I began to grasp the depth of how important it was to begin to focus on Terrorism, long before anyone would take this 'threat' seriously.
What eventually became clear to me was that this almost baseless-fear in 1978 would become the centerpiece for the War on Terror that has now become what its owners had always planned for it to be-the non-specific nightmare of Fear that cannot be banished because it is a phantom an omnipresent shadow that lurks behind every gesture and potentially every misunderstood encounter.
This small part of Deukmejian's bid for Attorney General of California was spread far and wide in Washington, and would eventually play a much larger role as events began to accelerate after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Without an enemy after theUSSR collapsed, the world was in danger of discovering peace and a dividend that none had not known before (because it meant that the planet for the first time in memory could stop wasting money on wars and the machinery of war. That is why the manufacture of TERRORISM had to begin long before it would be employed.
These people who are doing this were the architects of 911, and everything that has followed since. Throughout the Cheney-Bush years the same drumbeat was carried on with absolutely no proof of anything they said was happening here. Overseas there were some events: But in the USA the only "terrorist-attacks" that ever happened on US soil, aftrer 911 were those created for film, for television, or for video-games wherein lots of death and blood flowed freely to the point that subconsciously people actually came to believe that this nation is in direct danger from these false-flag organizations, like Al Qaida, that was created specifically by the CIA and the NWO for just this purpose.
The travesties that happen daily in the courts, the total farce of Obama promising to shut down Gitmo, the back-and-forth over the legalities and the treachery involved in maintaining secret prisons worldwide while we can now kill people, openly, without having any charges being filed against them; thus removing all the rights of anyone that the government might think of as a threat. The accused now has no protection from government at any level, and no defense is recognized when it comes to 'the national-security-state' in a time of war. This is beyond fascism, and the belligerent prosecution of US citizens by local, state and national thugs in uniform, has nothing to do with either the US constitution or the administration of justice which the constitution called for. Proof of this lies in the fact that police departments no longer keep track of how many people are injured, tortured tasered or murdered while supposedly in police custody.
There is real terrorism in the United States but it's coming from those in the government since Bush Junior stole the office in the 2000 elections.
Whenever this government begins to warn the public about terror-strikes they need to furnish checkable facts-because their word is not enough-they have lied too many times for anyone to believe anything they say on any topic: But especially on anything to do with national security matters. So the next time you hear the government say that there's a terrorist threat, just say: "PROVE IT!" We've been living in the hollow threat now for nearly ten years, and nothing has changed except that tens of trillions of our dollars have been stolen, our jobs and personal security have gone away, and none of this is going to come back again-all in the name of a series of wars that we did not demand but that we are still suffering from in the extreme.
Millions upon millions of people have died, have been maimed or displaced in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Palestine, and throughout Africa at our hands, and through the use of our weapons-yet we do not question anything.
We have no recognizable representation within this government-yet we are being taxed into oblivion. (In January of 2011 there will be a huge tax increase across the board) and those that cannot pay will likely be jailed. "Taxation without Representation Is Tyranny" was once an American battle-cry during the Revolutionary War here. (1)
Right now The Secretary of War, William Gates, is demanding that we reinstitute the draft in order to get more bodies to feed into the meat-grinder of the wars that have no point except for the filthy-rich. His complaint is that we've run out of people to volunteer. He could just draft all those Americans that are currently serving as mercenaries-thereby saving a great deal of money while putting those who refuse in prison instead of letting them feed from the troughs of illegal private enterprise ­ it's our money that the government is spending on the mercenaries so why not reduce that totally unnecessary expense? (2)
This is all part of the very real TERRORISM that afflicts Americans today, in every walk of life-and this has to stop!
1) Huge Tax Increase Starting on January 1st, 2011
2) Gates says too few in US bear the burdens of war.
*Forgotten Victims of Violent Crime

Foreclosure Fraud Crisis, Banks “Mishandle” Thousands of Home Foreclosures

Foreclosures bungle could hit US banks

NEW YORK (AFP) – Already fragile US financial firms are facing a raft of law suits and potential fines after three major mortgage lenders admitted to mishandling thousands of home foreclosures.

Major mortgage lenders Bank of American, JPMorgan Chase and GMAC have in recent days announced they were suspending tens of thousands of foreclosure processes across the country due to apparent improper handling of documents.

Attorney generals in six states are already investigating claims by borrowers that lenders have committed errors in the foreclosure documentations.

Foreclosures have evolved into a massive industry since the start of the economic crunch as Americans faced massive debts, with the number of mortgage defaults soaring from an annual average of one percent before 2008 to 10 percent today.

Read Entire Article

Lenders told to review foreclosure procedures

Fears of Chinese land grab as Beijing's billions buy up resources

China is pouring another $7bn (£4.4bn) into Brazil's oil industry, reigniting fears of a global "land grab" of natural resources.

State-owned Sinopec clinched the deal with Spain's Repsol yesterday to buy 40 per cent of its Brazilian business, giving China's largest oil company access to Repsol Brasil's estimated reserves of 1.2 billion barrels of oil and gas. The whopping price tag for Repsol Brasil – which values the company at nearly twice previous estimates – is a sign of China's willingness to pay whatever it takes to lock in its future energy supplies and avoid social unrest. It will give the company enough cash to develop all its current oil projects, including two fields in the Santos Basin.
Related articles

* Michael Klare: This expansion has not gone unnoticed in Washington
* Annexed by China – for good or ill
* Beijing launches lunar probe
* Search the news archive for more stories

The Repsol deal is not China's first in Brazil. In February last year, Sinopec stumped up a $10bn loan to Petrobras, the state-owned oil company, in return for guaranteed supplies of 10,000 barrels of oil every day for the next 10 years.

It also follows a slew of similar deals across the world. While much of the developed world is baulking at its debts in the aftermath of the financial crisis, China has continued a global spending spree of unprecedented proportions, snapping up everything from oil and gas reserves to mining concessions to agricultural land, with vast reserves of US dollars.

This year alone, Chinese companies have laid out billions of dollars buying up stakes in Canada's oil sands, a Guinean iron ore mine, oil fields in Angola and Uganda, an Argentinian oil company and a major Australian coal-bed methane gas company.

"China is rich in people but short of resources, and it wants to have stable supplies of its own rather than having to buy on the open market," Jonathan Fenby, China expert and director of research group Trusted Resources, said.

But it is a strategy causing anxiety elsewhere in the world. Rumours in recent weeks that China's Sinochem may make a bid for Canada's Potash Corporation raised fears that the Middle Kingdom would corner the global market for fertiliser.

Similarly, when BP's share price plummeted after Barack Obama's criticisms in the wake of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, there was concern that the company would be driven into the hands of the Chinese.

More explicitly still, when the aluminium giant Chinalco was trying to buy Anglo-Australian Rio Tinto last year, television ads protesting against the scheme from no less than the Senate opposition leader bellowed "Keep Australia Australian".

"Chinese acquisitions are increasingly on the political radar," said Robin Geffen, the chief executive of Neptune Investment Management, which runs a leading China investment fund. "The pinch points come when people feel that supplies affecting national security could be threatened by China buying them all up."

Contrary to the conspiracy theories, China is not looking for world domination. It has seen economic growth averaging a massive 10 per cent for the best part of three decades, and although it is expected to drop into the high single-digits in the coming years – in response to a dip in export demand – the natural resources required to support even slightly moderated growth are an overwhelming priority.

China is already the second-largest oil consumer in the world and far outstrips its domestic supplies. Neptune estimates that it will need to buy two companies the size of BP each year for the next 12 years to meet its growing domestic energy demand. Demand for electricity alone is growing each year equivalent to Britain's entire output.

"These are massive, massive numbers," Mr Geffen said. "The deal with Repsol today, and all the others we have seen in recent years, are wholly strategic, to nail down what they estimate future demand will be."

But, despite the concerns that China is cornering the market and will push up prices, the developed world also has a vested interest in China pursuing a successful strategy.

Notwithstanding qualms about a change in the global balance of power, China's continued economic growth has been vital to hauling the world out of recession – and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. The threat from political instability if Chinese growth stalls has similarly global implications. "The whole world needs China to have these resources to help pull us out of recession and avoid local unrest," said Ian Sperling-Tyler, a partner and oil and gas expert at the consultancy Deloitte.

But concerns remain about China's involvement in politically difficult countries, particularly in Africa. China is not squeamish about the politics of its business partners. It follows a simple formula, offering premium prices and massive infrastructure investments in return for long-term concessions for key resources. There are several well-documented deals on the continent – including a recent $2.5bn tie-up with Britain's Tullow Oil in Uganda and off-shore production in Angola and Nigeria. And the positive impact is evident in spanking new infrastructure including hospitals, ports, and road and rail links being built with the influx of Chinese money.

But China is also involved in some of Africa's more controversial countries. It came in for widespread criticism in 2008 for arms sales to war-torn Sudan, a major trade partner, and its alleged refusal to help resolve the humanitarian crisis in Darfur. It has also been accused of paying multimillion-dollar backhanders in return for African leaders repudiating Taiwan at the UN, although nothing has ever been proved. And because the majority of the deals are done on a government-to-government basis, there is no way to be clear on the extent of the relationships.

Banks foreclose on homes that they don't own

Top 10 Low Pass Flybys of All Time

Preparing for a U.S. Border Crossing

If you're planning to leave – and especially to enter – the United States, you need to take several precautions before you do so.

That's because Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) agents can seize and copy the contents of any electronic device you carry across a U.S. border. That includes your laptop, your cell phone, your USB flash drives, your digital camera, etc. Agents don't need probable cause or even reasonable suspicion to conduct a search of your electronic data – just "gimme." They can copy the data for investigative purposes and then use that information against you in a subsequent criminal case.

Fortunately, such searches are relatively rare. For instance, logs from the Department of Homeland Security show that agents searched 1,000 laptops between October 2008 and August 2009. Only 46 of these searches were "in-depth." From these searches, five travelers were found to have "illicit information" on their laptops. During this nine-month period, 221 million travelers came through U.S. ports of entry.

Since the odds are low you'll be targeted for a search, you may be tempted to run the CBP gauntlet without taking precautions to protect your data. That would be a mistake, particularly if your laptop or other electronic device contains any information that you'd prefer not to share.

For instance, if you're an attorney, your laptop may contain information subject to attorney-client privilege. If it does…well, too bad. According to published CBP guidance, "a claim of privilege …does not prevent the search of a traveler's information at the border." Or perhaps your smartphone contains trade secrets or other data you'd rather not share with the U.S. government. But when you carry it across a U.S. border, you've given the government permission to review that data and retain it indefinitely.

The real problem, of course, is that now this policy is in place, it could be greatly expanded. Of course, this would be impractical without massive increases in CBP's budget – but another 9/11-type attack might be all that's needed to spur Congress into action.

To avoid a border inquisition, the best precaution is not to carry any electronic devices across a U.S. border. For most people, this isn't practical, so the next-best strategy is to carry only "sanitized" devices.

For instance, you could purchase an inexpensive laptop and use only for international travel. Keep nothing on it except for the operating system and program files. Before you cross the border, "sanitize" it using a program such as Window Washer. When you return to the United States, securely "wipe" any confidential information off your hard drive, along with the "free space," using a program like PGP Desktop.

Back up your data to an online backup site such as Carbonite. Encrypt the data before uploading it, using a product such as PGP Desktop or True-Crypt.

Buy an "unlocked" tri-band cell phone with a replaceable SIM card for international travel. When you arrive in a new country, purchase a domestic SIM card from a local phone dealer. This not only protects your privacy at the border, but also eliminates roaming charges.

If you must carry sensitive data across the border, encrypt whatever device containing that data. However, CBP officials may demand that you decrypt any encrypted files before you proceed. Refuse, and you might be detained until you agree to decrypt the device for inspection. If you're a foreign national, you might be turned away and informed that you won't be permitted to re-enter the United States. (One possible solution: True-Crypt lets you type in a special access code that provides access only to part of your hard drive. The remainder of your data remains protected in a hidden hard disk partition.)

Blackberries and other smartphones come with built-in encryption. However, many smartphone encryption systems have significant weaknesses. A better solution (unfortunately only for Windows mobile smartphones) may be PGP Mobile.

The CBP believes these rules are necessary to investigate terrorism, child pornography, etc., but I'm not so sure. For instance, if you were a terrorist, would you really bring your laptop across the border with your plans to blow up the White House? No, you'd simply e-mail yourself the plans to blow up, poison, or incinerate whatever you wish to target. As with most anti-terrorism initiatives, this one does little or nothing to fight terrorists. It merely inconveniences law-abiding travelers.

Welcome to the United States!

Race to the Bottom

Long ago, before economic models developed their current levels of sophistication, it used to be that the goal of a government's economic policy was to bring prosperity to its citizens; in other words, to raise the general level of material comfort, while at the same time reducing the amount of toil required to attain that end.

However, due to the blather spouted by modern economists, success is no longer measured in those terms. Instead, governments simply look to pump up nominal levels of gross domestic product (GDP), while simultaneously catering to the needs of entrenched political classes. As exports feed directly into GDP, currency devaluation has been widely used as a means to boost exports and therefore achieve "prosperity." In this model, selling is an end unto itself. There is no focus whatsoever paid to the obviously negative consequences of currency debasement: diminished purchasing power and lowered living standards.

Way back in the 20th century, a nation's currency was viewed much as a company's stock price. The reliability, competitiveness, and growth of a national economy usually translated into a strong currency. This system made sense.

Countries that offered the most fertile soil for investment capital or that made products other countries wanted would attract funds from abroad. Demand for the currency of these "blue chip" countries (which was needed to invest or buy locally) would inevitably push up the value of the currency. And so, much as shareholders of successful companies are rewarded by higher stock prices, citizens of successful countries were rewarded with stronger currencies – with which they could buy more goods and services both domestically and internationally, raising their living standards.

But all that has changed in recent years. With a strategy that seems to be taken from the playbook of Sam Walton, governments now look to take market share from competitors by lowering the cost of their exports. To do this, they have adopted a beggar-thyself policy of habitual currency debasement. Although such a move may benefit those who buy the products, it is a burden to the country's own workers who, like Wal-Mart employees, have to get by on subsistence wages. While the markets like a low-cost provider, this is not a niche that everyone can, or should, fill. While some will compete only on price, more successful ventures will compete on quality and innovation. For every Kia, there is a Mercedes Benz.

Given the US dollar's status as the world's reserve currency, America's oversized status as the world's biggest consumer, and the influence of overseas export-oriented businesses on their home governments, the falling dollar is a difficult issue for many countries to ignore. And with the imminent arrival of a second round of "quantitative easing" from the Fed, the big guns of dollar destruction are being locked and loaded. The move looks poised to set off a frantic race to the bottom among global currencies, which will have important ramifications for every investor. Unfortunately, this is one race the United States is poised to win.

The goal of those trying to win the race to the bottom is to promote exports and create jobs. However, people don't work simply for their love of labor. They work so that they can earn enough to consume the things they need and want. Under normal conditions, a nation only exports its production, rather than consuming it domestically, to leverage its comparative advantages. If a country can produce one type of good especially efficiently, it can trade that good for other goods it doesn't make as efficiently at home. As a result of this process, its citizens will be able to consume more goods than if consumption had been limited to domestically produced goods.

However, when a government debases its currency in order to gain sales overseas, the nation earns less foreign exchange for the goods that it exports. As a result, its comparative advantage is blunted, and its citizens consume less as a result. In other words, as a nation's currency declines, its citizens are forced to work harder for less.

If a department store decided to have a sale in which all of its merchandise were marked down 50%, it will surely sell a lot more stuff. However, it would earn a lot less than if it had been able to sell its goods without marking them down. This is how currency debasement works. Similarly, one way for the unemployed to get work is to accept lower wages. Workers will sell a lot more of their labor if they accept 50% pay cuts. However, are they better off as a result? Relative to being unemployed, the answer is yes – but they would be much better off being employed at full pay.

Last week, Brazilian Finance Minister Guido Mantega made headlines when he mentioned that a worldwide currency war was brewing, with the winner being the nation with the weakest currency. Ignoring the irony of why countries would want to destroy their own currencies, Mantega reasonably warned that the conflict could get out of hand and destabilize the global economy. His comments came in the wake of overt efforts by both the Japanese and Swiss governments to intervene in the foreign exchange market to push down their respective currencies.

The politics of currency intervention are actually quite simple. Japan's economy is dominated by large manufacturers that export lots of goods to Americans. The problem is that Americans can't really afford to buy in the quantities that they did just a few years ago. So, instead of looking for new customers with more money to spend, Japanese manufacturers use their political clout to force a bailout of their traditional US customers.

Essentially, in order to protect the status quo of their elite, governments are surreptitiously forcing workers to take pay cuts through inflation. Everyone works harder, but the extra effort does not raise living standards. In fact, despite the added jobs, overall consumption will fall.

The irony for the United States is that its currency debasement plan has little to do with saving export jobs. We don't have many of those left to save. The government is debasing our currency merely to "pay" its own bills, preserve bank profits and Wall Street bonuses, allow us to continue buying homes we can't afford, and prevent many service-sector workers from having to find more productive jobs. In return, they will perpetuate an unworkable economic model. So while the US will probably "win" the currency war, we will definitely lose the far more important battle to improve our quality of life.

Louisiana: Admiral Ends Role

Thad W. Allen, the retired Coast Guard admiral leading the federal response to the BP oil spill, stepped down as planned on Friday, transferring oversight duties to Rear Adm. Paul Zukunft. Admiral Allen, left, has been a familiar face on television and a target of criticism and praise for the federal government’s actions. He made significant changes in the response command structure, a reorganization that was broadly welcomed by residents and local officials. “At a time when he could have enjoyed a well-deserved retirement from the United States Coast Guard, Admiral Allen stepped up to the plate and served his country when his skills and experience were urgently needed,” President Obama said in a statement.

Global employment crisis will stir social unrest, warns UN agency

Global employment will not recover to pre-crisis levels until 2015 if current policies are pursued, creating social tension, the International Labour Organisation has warned

Garbages containers burns in central Barcelona during the general strike held in Spain on September 29, 2010: Global employment crisis will stir social unrest, warns UN agency
Rubbish bins burn in central Barcelona during the general strike Photo: AFP/GETTY

The United Nations work agency said it was putting back by two years from 2013 its previous assessment of the time needed to create the 22 million jobs still needed to regain the pre-crisis level - 14 million in rich countries and 8 million in developing states.

The global economy has started to grow again with encouraging signs of employment recovery especially in some Asian and Latin American emerging economies, the ILO said in its annual World of Work report.

"Despite these significant gains ... new clouds have emerged on the employment horizon and the prospects have worsened significantly in many countries," it said.

Raymond Torres, lead author of the report, told a news conference that job losses since the crisis started had totalled some 30-35 million. The ILO has forecast global unemployment this year of 213 million, a rate of 6.5 per cent.

For the United States - where persistent unemployment has become one of the main issues in this November's elections - the number of jobs still needed to regain pre-crisis levels is 6.9 million, Steven Tobin, ILO economist, said.

The extended loss of employment and growing perceptions of unfairness risked increasing social tension, the ILO said.

In 35 countries for which data exists, nearly 40 per cent of jobseekers have been without work for more than one year, running risks of demoralisation and mental health problems, and young people were disproportionately hit by unemployment.

It noted that social unrest related to the crisis has been reported in at least 25 countries, including some recovering emerging economies.

This week riot police were on the streets as protesters in Spain, Belgium, Italy and Greece demonstrated against tough austerity measures.

In more than three quarters of 82 countries with such information available, peoples' perceptions of their quality of life and standard of living had declined in 2009 from 2006, with job satisfaction also declining even among those in work.

Torres warned governments against withdrawing fiscal stimulus measures while recovery was still weak.

The ILO recommended three policies for a jobs-led recovery:

* A combination of active labour market policies including work-sharing that target vulnerable groups such as young people, and training;

* A closer link between wages and productivity gains in surplus countries to boost demand and job creation;

* Reforms of the financial sector to ensure savings are channelled to productive investment.

Farewell to Arms: Jenny, Iraq and the Next War

Let’s call her Jenny. Jenny was alone, and clearly confused. Her face was dotted with acne, and her short, blond hair was stiff at the ends. As the Skyline train sped towards the next destination, she stood ‘at attention’ in her military fatigue and boots staring aimlessly into the vastness of the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport.

Jenny was not the only returnee from Iraq. The airport was bustling with men and women in uniform. There seemed to be little festivity awaiting them. The scene was marred with the same confusion and uncertainty that have accompanied this war from the start: unclear goals that kept on changing while its own advocates - in the media, the government and within right-wing think tanks - began slowly and shamelessly disowning it. They all changed their tune, and many of them redirected their venom at Iran. In the meanwhile, the soldiers continued to fight, kill and fall in droves. Following the recent reduction of troops in Iraq, thousands were expected to come home, while others headed to Afghanistan to battle on, carrying with them their inconceivably heavy gear and their continued bewilderment.

America’s poor have always carried the burden of wars undertaken by America’s rich, who barefacedly scurry for the spoils while soldiers give up their lives, or are otherwise left with medals and untold physical and psychological scars.

“As of Wednesday, Sept. 22, 2010, at least 4,421 members of the U.S. military had died in the Iraq war since it began in March 2003,” reported the Associated Press. “Since the start of U.S. military operations in Iraq, 31,951 U.S. service members have been wounded in hostile action, according to the Defense Department's weekly tally.” As for the Iraqi body count, the number fluctuates from hundreds of thousands to well over the one million mark. This doesn’t include those who perished in the first Iraq war (1990-91) or as a result of the long-term sanctions that followed. But one cannot blame the Associated Press for not spitting out exact numbers. The rate of death among that shattered nation was happening at such an imaginable speed that the victims were lucky to even get a proper burial.

The Skyline high-speed train came to a stop at Terminal A and quickly resumed its circular journey. Passengers departed and newcomers embarked. Jenny remained in her place. She reminded me of Lynndie England, the army reservist famed for dragging a poor, tortured Iraqi prisoner with a leash in Abu Ghraib. The prisoner’s face was a testament to all the pain an expression can possibly communicate. England’s face was frozen, as she stared at her captive without a decipherable expression. She was later convicted with connection to the torture.

Abu Ghraib was only a microcosm of Iraq. No one was convicted for the much larger crime that has decimated the civilization that served as the cradle of all civilizations. Cheney, Rumsfeld and Bush are enjoying retirement to the fullest. Those who fabricated the ‘case for war’ on Iraq are still as busy as ever, in their think-tanks, universities and media outlets. Now they are concocting a ‘case for war’ against Iran.

But Jenny might not be the Lynndie England type at all. Maybe she did some clerical work in the Green Zone. Maybe she developed an affinity to Iraq. Maybe she even befriended an Iraqi family or two. Maybe she is currently carrying in her handbag some photos of an Iraqi child named Hiyyat, meaning “life”.

Jenny might never have committed even the most minor of crimes. She might have genuinely thought that her deployment to Iraq was going to better the world, to protect the US from the terrorists that she was mislead to believe coordinated their attacks on America with Saddam Hussein. She may be too young to understand how the world works. She has the face of a teenager, because she is one. They gave her a gun and taught her how to shoot. They told her things about democracy, and how the Arabs think. They promised her tuition and a variety of other perks. Is Jenny at all responsible for what happened in Iraq?

Now at terminals B and C, Jenny doesn’t seem to be paying the slightest attention to the robotic voice in English and Spanish informing passengers about the upcoming stop and when to get off the train.

When was Jenny even sent to Iraq? Were the disasters created by the war as clear then as they are now? Those who lead wars always promise that the world will be a better place - once the guns are silenced, the dead are buried and the ‘collateral damage’ is conveniently justified and forgotten. But in the case of this war at least, the world has certainly not emerged a better place. Neither the Middle East region nor the US are in any way safer. It fact, the whole world is much more dangerous now. The war was provoked on faulty premises, concocted evidence and forgery. It created chaos, enlivened sectarian divisions, pitted governments and people against each other. While the Iraqis, of course, have paid the heaviest price by far, the war is also a major component of the current crisis engulfing the United States: political division at home, loss of foreign policy direction (and leadership) abroad, economic recession, which struck first nationally, then internationally, among many other manifestations.

The war is not over, and an older war is being expediently reignited. Jenny, once home, will be told of how bad things have been. How difficult it is to find a job. Her chances of making a dignified living in America have dwindled significantly since she joined the army, regardless of when that was. The army, after all, might be her best chance at making a living.

Where will it be now, Jenny? Back to Iraq, maybe, but under a mission with a different title? Operation New Dawn?

At the last terminal, D, Jenny is still in her place. Now every last passenger will have to disembark, as the Skyline speed-train is about to restart its circular journey. Where will it be, Jenny? It is, after all, your choice.

Ramzy Baroud ( is an internationally-syndicated columnist and the editor of His latest book is My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza's Untold Story (Pluto Press, London), available on

Global Research Articles by Ramzy Baroud

UN suppressed report on US, Soviet ‘atrocities’ in Afghanistan: report

By Agence France-Presse

GENEVA — The United Nations buried a report into rights violations in Afghanistan between 1978 and 2001 that accused Soviets, Islamists and US forces of “atrocities”, a Swiss newspaper said on Saturday.

The revelations emerged a day after the UN published a hotly contested report into crimes committed by armed groups in the eastern Democratic Republic Congo at the end of the 1990s.

A UN report “on crimes committed in Afghanistan between April 1978 and December 2001 was deliberately suppressed by the United Nations for political reasons”, Le Temps said after obtaining a copy of the 300-page document.

Read Entire Article

Russian experts flee Iran, escape dragnet for cyber worm smugglers


Intelligence sources report from Iran that dozens of Russian nuclear engineers, technicians and contractors are hurriedly departing Iran for home since local intelligence authorities began rounding up their compatriots as suspects of planting the Stuxnet malworm into their nuclear program.

Among them are the Russian personnel who built Iran’s first nuclear reactor at Bushehr which Tehran admits has been damaged by the virus.

One of the Russian nuclear staffers, questioned in Moscow Sunday, Oct. 3 by Western sources, confirmed that many of his Russian colleagues had decided to leave with their families after team members were detained for questioning at the beginning of last week. He refused to give his name because he and his colleagues intend to return to Iran if the trouble blows over and the detainees are quickly released after questioning.

Gates (Delicately) Criticizes the All-Volunteer Military

To be very clear, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates is not at all calling for a draft. What he really wants is for more young people to join the military. But Gates’ speech today at Duke University still offered a rare senior-level view of the downsides of the military’s 35-year experiment with optional military service.

In Gates’ view, the all-volunteer force, an outgrowth of political anger over Vietnam and the draft, has been an “extraordinary” success in terms of military professionalism in one conflict after another. But that success has come “at significant cost” — namely, the lopsided burdens that emerge when fewer than 1 percent of Americans serve in uniform during a decade of war.

Some of those costs are material. The all-volunteer force is expensive: the military’s personnel costs have ballooned from $90 billion in 2001 to $170 billion today. Military health care costs rose $30 billion in that period. “There is no avoiding the challenge this government, indeed this country faces, to come up with an equitable and sustainable system of military pay and benefits that reflects the realities of this century,” Gates told the Duke audience. But he didn’t offer a solution, either, since no political figure wants to cut veteran benefits or troop salaries during wartime in the name of balancing a budget.

Then there are the greater “cultural, social” and human costs of the volunteer military. Putting only a narrow slice of the country into uniform — though not the overwhelmingly poor and uneducated enlistees that many feared would be the result of scrapping the draft — means repeated deployments in a time of protracted war. Those pressures lead to elevated rates of depression, substance and family abuse, “and, most tragically, a growing number of suicides,” Gates recognized. He might also have mentioned post-traumatic stress.

Culturally, Gates warned of a self-perpetuating cycle of civilian-military alienation. Fewer percentages of Americans are serving in uniform, but a big factor determining who serves is “growing up near people who served.” As military budgets shrink, that’s going to mean that the services concentrate themselves in enclaves like the south and mountain west, while large urban, wealthy and coastal populations increasingly grow distant from military life. “There is a risk over time,” Gates said, “of developing a cadre of military leaders that politically, culturally, and geographically have less and less in common with the people they have sworn to defend.”

It’s usually wonks and wags who make these points, not defense secretaries. In 1996, Tom Ricks reported for the Atlantic about a yawning cultural gap between the Marine Corps and the rest of the country, with young servicemembers growing contemptuous of soft civilians. (And that was before the U.S.’s decade of war.) In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, the Washington Monthly ran a piece headlined, “Now Do You Believe We Need A Draft?” Politicians have found it much safer to cheer on the troops than to address the structural failings with the volunteer force.

Gates, who says he’s retiring next year, doesn’t have that inhibition. But he left a big subject unaddressed in his Duke speech. Some of the problems Gates identified are endemic to a volunteer military. Others, like the troop and family stress issues, are more attributable to the fact that the the U.S. has been at war for nine years with no end in sight. And all the issues Gates identified are exacerbated by prolonged combat. There aren’t just social and material costs inflicted on troops and families by the all-volunteer military. There are social and material costs inflicted on the all-volunteer military by U.S. strategy. Gates, a supporter of the troop surges in Iraq and Afghanistan, left that difficult subject alone.

Again, Gates didn’t come close to calling for any structural changes to the volunteer military. He sought to sell the Duke student body — and other elite youth — on military service, noting that troops at war have found themselves “dealing with development, governance, agriculture, and diplomacy” while their civilian peers “are reading spreadsheets and making photocopies.” Gates wants the kids to enlist. He also wants them to recognize the social consequences if they don’t.

Photo: DoD

Read More

2,840 Millionaires Claimed Jobless Benefits in 2008

Bloomberg, Some 3,000 Millionaires Claim Jobless Benefits, IRS Data Show, by Ryan J. Donmoyer:

After the economy slipped into recession in 2008, millions of Americans received unemployment benefits to make ends meet -- including almost 3,000 millionaires.

According to IRS data, 2,840 households reporting at least $1 million in income on their tax returns that year also collected a total of $18.6 million in jobless aid. They included 806 taxpayers with incomes over $2 million and 17 with incomes in excess of $10 million. In all, multimillionaires reported receiving $5.2 million in jobless benefits. ...

“Getting an insurance payment doesn’t depend on need but only on suffering an insured loss,” said Roberton Williams, a senior fellow and expert on tax policy at the Urban Institute, another Washington policy research organization. “We don’t say that your homeowners’ policy shouldn’t pay off if you’re a millionaire.” [Click on chart to enlarge.]


WARNING U.S. Considering Travel Alert for Europe ( after FAKE Bin Laden ...

Microsoft CEO had his bonus cut due to KIN failure

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer did not receive his maximum bonus for the last fiscal year, despite a record year for the software giant, according to Reuters. 54-year-old Ballmer took the hit due to the "unsuccessful launch of the Kin phone, loss of market share in the company's mobile phone business, and the need for the company to pursue innovations to take advantage of new form factors," as described by the company's annual proxy filing. Earlier this week, Ballmer did say in an interview that the KIN defocused activity from Windows Phone.

Ballmer received a cash bonus of $670,000 for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2010. That might seem like quite a lot, and it's actually equal to Ballmer's salary, but it's only half the maximum bonus payout. Despite Microsoft's successful sales of Windows 7, the company has had a poor year in the mobile space.

Microsoft killed the KIN just a few weeks after the handsets started to ship. In the mean time, Windows Mobile has been steadily losing share to competitors Apple, Google, Nokia, and RIM. Windows Phone 7 is launching in the next two months, just in time for the holiday season; will Ballmer get a bigger bonus in the next fiscal year?

Cronkite: Osama bin Laden c/o Karl Rove?

On October 29, 2004, Larry King interviewed Walter Cronkite on CNN. This is how Cronkite reacted to seeing a video clip of Osama bin Laden threatening America.

KING: OK, Walter. What do you make of this?

CRONKITE: Well, I make it out to be initially the reaction that it's a threat to us, that unless we make peace with him, in a sense, we can expect further attacks. He did not say that precisely, but it sounds like that when he says...

KING: The warning.

CRONKITE: What we just heard. So now the question is basically right now, how will this affect the election? And I have a feeling that it could tilt the election a bit. In fact, I'm a little inclined to think that Karl Rove, the political manager at the White House, who is a very clever man, he probably set up bin Laden to this thing. The advantage to the Republican side is to get rid of, as a principal subject of the campaigns right now, get rid of the whole problem of the al Qaqaa explosive dump. Right now, that, the last couple of days, has, I think, upset the Republican campaign.

KING: Are there enough undecideds to tilt this? Or what do you think of the whole election picture?

CRONKITE: Well, I think it's one of the biggest messes we've had in a long time. I believe that we're undoubtedly not going to know the results of this election. I don't want to knock you off the air on Monday night or anything, or Tuesday night. But I suspect that we're not going to know who the next president is, whether it is Bush or the new man, until very probably sometime in the early spring. There's so much controversy that they're planting, deliberately planting at the polls, that there's almost certainly to be a suit going back to the Supreme Court eventually, going through the other courts slowly first...

Osama bin Laden: A Weapon of Mass Convenience

March 14, 2002

Bush says bin Laden no Threat

"We haven't heard from him in a long time," Bush told reporters at the White House. "I truly am not that concerned about him."

Bush's attitude to ex-CIA asset bin Laden proves he is a nemesis wheeled out of his casket whenever the 9/11 terror factor is required.

"The elevation of the threat level in New York, and New Jersey, and Washington DC is a serious reminder, a solemn reminder, of the threat we continue to face." [8/2/2004]

WMV video download (372kB)

The Bush administration periodically put the USA on high alert for terrorist attacks even though then-Homeland Security chief Tom Ridge argued there was only flimsy evidence to justify raising the threat level, Ridge now says.

Ridge, who resigned Feb. 1, said Tuesday that he often disagreed with administration officials who wanted to elevate the threat level to orange, or "high" risk of terrorist attack, but was overruled. [USA Today 5/10/2005]

Last Thursday on Countdown, I referred to the latest terror threat - the reported bomb plot against the New York City subway system - in terms of its timing. President Bush's speech about the war on terror had come earlier the same day, as had the breaking news of the possible indictment of Karl Rove in the CIA leak investigation.

I suggested that in the last three years there had been about 13 similar coincidences - a political downturn for the administration, followed by a "terror event" - a change in alert status, an arrest, a warning. We figured we'd better put that list of coincidences on the public record. [Full details]

The following graph shows how Bush's approval ratings benefited from terror alerts:

Click image for full size

Osama bin Laden is, quite literally, a weapon of mass convenience.

"Terror is the most dreaded weapon in modern age and the Western media is mercilessly using it against its own people. It can add fear and helplessness in the psyche of the people of Europe and the United States. It means that what the enemies of the United States cannot do, its media is doing that." [Osama bin Laden 09/28/01]


THE first town to switch off its speed cameras is celebrating the decision after accident rates and fines plummeted.

There have been no deaths on Swindon’s roads since the fixed cameras were turned off in August last year.

In the past 12 months, the town has had just two serious accidents and 14 slight accidents.


This is compared to one death, five serious and 15 minor crashes the year before. The council raked in £80,000 less than the previous year, issuing 1,341 fewer speeding tickets.

Councillor Peter Greenhalgh, in charge of transport for Swindon, said: “I am encouraged by these figures. They justify what we did.”

Swindon’s move came after the Government cut £38million from the Road Safety Grant, which funds the devices.

But the AA’s Andrew Howard said: “We have said that cameras should not be switched off. ”

U.S. troops' presence in the Philippines altruistic?

It’s where security analysts believe al-Qaida first got its foothold in Southeast Asia, and at least a year before the U.S. invaded Iraq, it was the second front of America’s so-called “war on terror.”

Today, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the U.S. Joint Special Operations Task Force Philippines (JSOTF-P) say they have made strides in their southern Philippines counterterrorism mission.

“The safe havens are getting smaller on the islands,” said Master Sgt. Wade Christensen, a U.S. Army Special Forces instructor who came to Mindanao in 2003 on his first tour. He’s now on his second as part of JSOTF-P. “Since we’ve been here, there have been no attacks on the U.S. from terrorist organizations that originated here or terrorists that were trained in the Philippines.”

So if the mission to defeat terrorist networks and to eradicate safe havens has been successful, why are U.S. Special Forces still operating in the southern Philippines?

“The simple answer is that the Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiyah terrorist groups are still here,” said U.S. Navy Captain Robert Gusentine, the JSOTF-P Commander. “They’re still active. They still aspire to violence. They still aspire to be a regional threat.”

The Philippine military, in turn, says it still needs U.S. assistance in training its security forces and getting the momentum on economic development going. “Our defense budget [is] not that much,” said Col. Aminkadra Undug, AFP Commander of Special Forces (Airborne). “If we really want to finish off and continue with the development of that area…we have to continue.”

But some regional security specialists say the payoff today isn’t worth it.

“We’ve been there for so long, and there are real improvements,” said Zachary Abuza, a professor at the National War College. “But considering how long we’ve been there and the money we’ve put in, they’re not that big improvements…The quality of the AFP, the training and the investment, isn’t where it should be.”

America's forgotten frontline: The Philippines

Containing China?
Among some Filipinos, there’s another answer: that Washington is trying to engineer a return to the Philippines after shutting down two key military installations in the 1990s, Clark Air Base in 1991 and the Subic Bay Naval Station in 1992.

“People who are opposed to the U.S. military bases believe that the Americans are here not to provide security to the Philippines, they are here to advance their interests,” said Professor Benjamin Lim of the political science department at Ateneo de Manila University. “They are convinced that Washington’s motive precisely is to contain China, [and] the presence of the Philippines is to lay out the framework to strengthen Washington’s motive.”

U.S. officials dismiss the charges.

“The United States has no request, no need for bases in the Philippines,” said Harry Thomas, Jr., the U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines. “We’re here with JSOTF-P, our joint special operations task force, temporarily to eliminate terrorism, not to stage bases. We don’t want a conflict with China.”


During Sino-U.S. talks in March this year, Chinese officials asserted that the South China Sea is one of their government’s “core national interests,” a phrase that elevates the region to the same level of sovereign importance as Tibet or Taiwan.

Washington’s public response didn’t come until July, but it was strongly worded. On a visit to Vietnam for meetings with her counterparts from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke at length about South China Sea territorial sovereignty and the peaceful resolution of disputes. “The United States, like every nation, has a national interest in freedom of navigation, open access to Asia’s maritime commons, and respect for international law in the South China Sea,” Clinton said.

Her comments triggered an immediate and angry reply from Beijing. “The seemingly impartial remarks were in effect an attack on China,” said the Foreign Ministry.

In the meantime, relations between China and several neighbors have turned prickly. Seoul was disappointed that Beijing refused to criticize North Korea for allegedly sinking a South Korean warship in March. And last month a diplomatic dispute with Tokyo grew alarmingly heated over the Japanese arrest of a Chinese fishing captain who had rammed into Japanese patrol boats near a disputed island chain.

“The new threat is China,” said Manny Mogato, a Reuters journalist who’s been covering Philippine defense issues and the insurgency for years. “Remember they planted flags in the ocean.” (In August, the Chinese announced they’d sent a submersible to the ocean floor and planted a China flag.)

“The Chinese have become very aggressive about the South China Sea,” said Abuza, from the National War College. “This does terrify the Philippines, because they have no way to defend their claims in the South China Sea. They have no Navy. Their Air Force is absurd. So they really need the Americans there and committed to the regional security.”

“I think Philippine officials, especially the Philippine military, are afraid of China,” said Lim, the political science professor. “And they would like American support to contain China.”

Which helps explain why some may be hoping the Americans stick around.

The perception is that the “Americans are positioning themselves for China,” said Mogato. “They believe that’s why the U.S. developed the areas around General Santos City on southern Mindanao [island] for long-term preparations against China. That location cannot be reached by Chinese long-range missiles [and] it’s suitable for U.S. navy ships.”

We want Uncle Sam?
The Armed Forces of the Philippines is not the only group that might want a permanent U.S. military presence back in the Philippines. Villagers on Jolo island do, too – but for entirely different reasons.

“Why not?” said Nurada Abdurajak, a local official in Panamao, a city in the province. “They are not harming the people…They are securing our security here.”

And – in a country which has long enjoyed a close relationship with the U.S. – it was a common refrain that the Americans could be relied upon to provide much-needed aid and assistance. “We [thank] the U.S. government…for providing us a lot in services and [economic] development,” said Salim Aloy Jainal, a former mayor of Jolo City.

But the cozy relationship also explains why any potential tension between China and the U.S. could prove complicated for the Philippines.

“To us, [the Japan-China territorial dispute in September] looked like a showdown,” said Lim. “And it’s disturbing. We have military cooperation with the U.S. At the same time, we have economic cooperation with China. We might be forced into making a choice…We want help from both sides.”

Adrienne Mong is an NBC News Correspondent based in Beijing, China.

© 2010 Reprints


We can no longer blame our leaders, starting with President Obama, for betraying our trust and demand for change ~ for the time has come for Americans to realize that WE are the ones we have been waiting for: Allen L Roland

In 2008, I was one of the millions of Americans who voted for change. I felt Barack Obama represented a needed change from the blatant deception and lies of the Cheney/Bush administration.

I was one the millions of Americans who celebrated Barack Obama's victory and the chance for a new people oriented direction in Washington ~ based on integrity, transparency and honesty.

Little did I realize that a great river was beginning to flow .

I am now one of the millions of Americans who feel let down, if not betrayed, by President Obama and his promises of a new transparency in government, a withdrawal of our troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, the closing of guantanamo, the end of torture and renditions, the end of illegal spying of American citizens as well as the prosecution of those who betrayed our constitution.

The great river has slowly gained strength

With each column I write exposing the growing list of lies and deceptions of this administration I find myself joined by thousands if not millions of Americans who will no longer settle for politics as usual and are joined by our common desire
for truth and political fair play.

The great river is now beginning to run very fast .

Now I realize along with thousands if not millions of
Americans that I am in that swift river, trusting its destination and celebrating its power ~ for its power
is the voice of the people collectively demanding and acting for change .

For it's not the government we need to take back ~ it's the corporate control of our government and our citizens which must end.

The great river is now very powerful and swift and nothing can keep it from its destination.

It's message is clear ~ We can no longer wait for the leaders, we must all now be the leaders and demand honesty, transparency and change .

We must individually go inside and find our special role in an evolving loving plan in action and sing our song within a chorus of millions who are doing the same thing.

Only then will we understand this Message from
the Hopi Elders.

Allen L Roland

This weblog is sustained through donations from people like yourself. Please send check or Money Order to Allen L. Roland, PO Box 1221, Sonoma,CA 95476
Freelance Online columnist Allen L Roland is available for comments, interviews and speaking engagements ( )

Allen L Roland is a practicing psychotherapist, author and lecturer who also shares a daily political and social commentary on his weblog and website He also guest hosts a monthly national radio show TRUTHTALK on


Midnight Shopping On The Brink Of Poverty

Take a trip to one of those 24-hour Walmarts on the last day of every month, and you'll get a glimpse into the lives of low-income families trying to get by. At one location in Fredericksburg, Va., at around 11 p.m., families start to load up on necessities like diapers and groceries.

People like Tracy and Martin Young live nearby, and for the pair in their early 30s, it's a chance to shop quietly without their five children, two of whom are teenagers. Each is pushing a shopping cart overflowing with food. There's mac and cheese, bags of cereal and cans of evaporated milk. Most of this has to last for the whole month.

A Midnight Run, Come Rain Or Shine

Despite torrential rain outside and flash-flood warnings across the area, the couple arrives to shop. Tracy Young says they've been doing this midnight run on the last day of every month for so long now that they're on a first-name basis with Gloria, their cashier.

"It's been about a year. We used to go to Bloom, and then we found out we were saving more coming here," Tracy Young says. At a stroke or two after midnight they begin unloading their carts at the checkout. Tracy says they set aside $500 for groceries a month. With five kids, the money they get never lasts until the next monthly check.

"It's usually about a week and a half," she says. "We try to figure out what we need to do about a week and a half before the end of the month."

That's why they're here at midnight: It's when their food stamps and government checks for their 3-year-old daughter kick in on the first of every month.

Tracy works in retail and Martin works two jobs. One of those is as a waiter at a fast-food chain, so their monthly income goes up and down all the time. Tracy says all their income goes to groceries, the rent and the bills, and hardly anything is left over.

Living Paycheck To Paycheck

That's not unusual, says Heidi Shierholz, a labor economist at the Economic Policy Institute. "There's no question that there's going to be more people living paycheck to paycheck now," she says, adding that more and more families are living on the brink of poverty.

"They see wages get cut or not grow at all, so family incomes suffer, and when they take a hit some fall down" below the poverty line, she says.

Last year, 3.7 million Americans joined those already living in poverty, meaning families of four living on just under $22,000. That's 14 percent of the population. The government says the price of food has risen in the past year: Eggs cost 44 percent more and milk is up 21 percent, mainly because of fuel prices.

Shelf-Stocking Patterns For The First Of Every Month

Wal-Mart noticed that sales were spiking on the first of every month. In a recent conference call with investment analysts, Wal-Mart executive Bill Simon said these midnight shoppers provide a snapshot of the American economy today.

"And if you really think about it," Simon said, "the only reason somebody gets out and buys baby formula is they need it and they've been waiting for it. Otherwise, we're open 24 hours, come at 5 a.m., come at 7 a.m., come at 10 a.m. But if you're there at midnight you're there for a reason."

And so Wal-Mart has changed its stocking pattern. It brings out larger packs of items in the beginning of the month, and smaller sizes toward the end. It makes sure shelves have plenty of diapers and formula.

"It's definitely an indicator in terms of people who are struggling," says Charles Fishman, journalist and author of The Wal-Mart Effect. "That tells you there's a large swath of America that is still very carefully calculating how much money is available and how they're spending it on even the most basic things like diapers and milk and bread. That's not the sign of an economy that's shaken off the recession."

Checking Out Under Budget

At the checkout, Tracy and Martin Young see the total. It's $485.49. And they're under budget. Martin Young says they'll use the extra $60 to buy more canned vegetables from another store.

Tracy says their children know when the end of the month is approaching, because what they like to eat is gone and the kitchen shelves have emptied. The children are all home asleep while the parents are out shopping.

In the morning, Tracy says, they'll wake up and be able to have what they want for breakfast. Copyright 2010 National Public Radio. To see more, visit

They tried to make the world forget his name - Nikola Tesla the greatest Inventor of all time

Click this link .....

Google's CEO: 'The Laws Are Written by Lobbyists'

Watch the full video of this session

"The average American doesn't realize how much of the laws are written by lobbyists" to protect incumbent interests, Google CEO Eric Schmidt told Atlantic editor James Bennet at the Washington Ideas Forum. "It's shocking how the system actually works."

In a wide-ranging interview that spanned human nature, the future of machines, and how Google could have helped the stimulus, Schmidt said technology could "completely change the way government works."

"Washington is an incumbent protection machine," Schmidt said. "Technology is fundamentally disruptive." Mobile phones and personal technology, for example, could be used to record the bills that members of Congress actually read and then determine what stimulus funds were successfully spent.

Schmidt pushed back on the claim that the White House doesn't understand business. He acknowledged that the American business community distrusts the administration, but he said the criticism are mostly about tone. He also brushed off the idea that the White House needs more business executives as an argument about "symbolism" rather than substance.

On the hot topic of China versus America, he made an pithy distinction between what makes the world's leading powers uniquely successful. America is a bottoms-up entrepreneurial engine, and China is more like "a well-run large business."

"America's research universities are the envy on the world," he said. "We have 90 percent of the top researchers in the world. We also have a bizarre policy to train people and then kick them out by not giving them visas, which makes no sense at all."

China governs like a large industrial company, he added. "It wants to maximize its cash flow. It wants to maximize its internal and external demand. All of the interesting new ideas [for example, doubling down on solar tech] can be understood as a business expansion."

The end of the interview turned to the future of technology. When Bennet asked about the possibility of a Google "implant," Schmidt invoked what the company calls the "creepy line."

"Google policy is to get right up to the creepy line and not cross it," he said. Google implants, he added, probably crosses that line.

At the same time, Schmidt envisions a future where we embrace a larger role for machines and technology. "With your permission you give us more information about you, about your friends, and we can improve the quality of our searches," he said. "We don't need you to type at all. We know where you are. We know where you've been. We can more or less now what you're thinking about."

Full session below


According to the Mail on Sunday, Premier Wen Jiabao made this offer at the start of his two-day visit to Greece.

Wen said that "China is holding Greek bonds and will keep buying bonds that Greece issues.

"We will undertake to support eurozone countries and Greece to overcome the crisis."

Wen is to attend an EU-China summit.

In the USA, the House of Representatives has voted for a Bill designed to protect against Chinese imports if China does not allow the yuan to rise significantly.

China has warned the USA that this could damage economic ties.

(China warns US currency bill might harm ties)

Anti-Chinese riots in Indonesia, in May 1998.

The Independent tells us about The Great Haul of China:


China has acquired interests in methane, zinc, lead and iron ore.


China has a $1.3 billion investment in an ofshore oil field.


China spent $3.1 billion to gain a 50% stake in an oil and gas company.


China has spent $7.1 billion to gain a 40% stake in the energy firm Repsol


China paid $4.7 billion for a stake in an oil sands company.


China is working on the development of two major oil fields.


China paid $1.4 billion for a stake in an iron ore mine.


China won the bid to develop the giant Rumaila oil field.


China has agreed a $2.6 billion deal with the 4th largest oil producer.


China has a $3 billion investment in copper reserves.


China has a $25 billion deal for the supply of oil.


China bought $2.5 billion of oil assets from a UK company.


China has invested in a major oil field.

China also has investments in Sudan, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo and Zambia.

China has been buying everything from oil and gas reserves to mining concessions to agricultural land.

China is the second-largest oil consumer in the world.

China's economic growth is seen as being vital to getting the world out of recession.

China wins friends in places like Africa by offering top prices and big infrastructure investments, including hospitals, ports, and road and rail links.

China has been accused of paying bribes.