Thursday, November 25, 2010

Tensions high as North, South Korea trade shelling

INCHEON, South Korea – North and South Korea exchanged artillery fire Tuesday along their disputed frontier, raising tensions between the rivals to their highest level in more than a decade. The communist nation warned of more military strikes if the South encroaches on the maritime border by "even 0.001 millimeter."

The skirmish began when North Korea warned the South to halt military drills near their sea border, according to South Korean officials. When Seoul refused and began firing artillery into disputed waters — but away from the North Korean shore — the North retaliated by shelling the small island of Yeonpyeong, which houses South Korean military installations and a small civilian population.

Seoul responded by unleashing its own barrage from K-9 155mm self-propelled howitzers and scrambling fighter jets. Two South Korean marines were killed in the shelling that also injured 15 troops and three civilians.

Officials in Seoul said there could be considerable North Korean casualties.

The confrontation lasted about an hour and left the uneasiest of calms, with each side threatening further bombardments.

North Korea's apparent progress in its nuclear weapons program and its preparations for handing power to a new generation have plunged relations on the heavily militarized peninsula to new lows in recent weeks.

South Korea's military was put on high alert after the shelling — one of the rivals' most dramatic confrontations since an armistice halted the Korean War in 1953 and one of the few to put civilians at risk.

"I thought I would die," said Lee Chun-ok, 54, an islander who said she was watching TV in her home when the shelling began. Suddenly, a wall and door collapsed.

"I was really, really terrified," she told The Associated Press after being evacuated to the port city of Incheon, west of Seoul, "and I'm still terrified."

The attacks focused global attention on the tiny island and sent stock prices down worldwide. The dollar and gold rose as investors sought safe places to park money. Hong Kong's main stock index sank 2.7 percent, while European indexes fell between 1.7 and 2.5 percent. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 142 points, or 1.3 percent.

South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, who convened an emergency security meeting shortly after the initial bombardment, said an "indiscriminate attack on civilians can never be tolerated."

"Enormous retaliation should be made to the extent that (North Korea) cannot make provocations again," he said.

The United States, which has more than 28,000 troops stationed in South Korea, condemned the attack. The White House said President Barack Obama was "outraged" by North Korea's actions.

Top national security aides planned to meet later Tuesday to discuss the situation. The White House said it would work with its international partners to determine the appropriate next steps.

Gen. Walter Sharp, commander of U.S. forces in South Korea and the U.S.-led U.N. Command, said in a Facebook posting that the U.S. military is "closely monitoring the situation and exchanging information with our (South Korean) allies as we always do."

China, the North's economic and political benefactor, which also maintains close commercial ties to the South, appealed for both sides to remain calm and "to do more to contribute to peace and stability on the peninsula," Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned North Korea's artillery attack, calling it "one of the gravest incidents since the end of the Korean War," his spokesman Martin Nesirky said. Ban called for "immediate restraint" and insisted "any differences should be resolved by peaceful means and dialogue," the spokesman said.

The clash "brings us one step closer to the brink of war," said Peter Beck, a research fellow with the Council on Foreign Relations, "because I don't think the North would seek war by intention, but war by accident, something spiraling out of control has always been my fear."

South Korea holds military exercises like Tuesday's off the west coast about every three months, and they typically provoke an angry response from North Korea, but Tuesday's confrontation was far from typical.

Skirmishes flare up along the disputed border from time to time, but this clash follows months in which tensions have steadily risen to their worst levels since the late 1980s, when a confessed agent for North Korea bombed a South Korean jetliner, killing all 115 people aboard.

The communist regime in Pyongyang has sought to consolidate power at home ahead of a leadership transition and hopes to gain leverage abroad before re-entering international talks aimed at ending its nuclear weapons programs.

In March, North Korea was blamed for launching a torpedo that sank the South Korean warship Cheonan while on routine patrol, killing 46 sailors. South Korea called it the worst military attack on the country since the war. Pyongyang denied responsibility. South Korea did not retaliate for the sinking of the Cheonan.

Six weeks ago, North Korean leader Kim Jong Il anointed his youngest son, Kim Jong Un, heir apparent. This week, Pyongyang claimed it has a new uranium enrichment facility, raising concerns about its pursuit of atomic weapons.

South Korea faces an uphill struggle if it wants the U.N. Security Council to condemn North Korea for the attack or to impose a third round of sanctions.

While Seoul can count on strong support from the U.S. and other Western powers on the council, it is likely to face opposition from China, a veto-wielding member.

China agreed to two rounds of sanctions against Pyongyang after its nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009, and Seoul wanted the U.N.'s most powerful body to condemn North Korea for the Cheonan sinking. But North Korea warned that its military forces would respond if the council questioned or condemned the country over the sinking, and China opposed direct condemnation or a third round of sanctions.

Yeonpyeong lies a mere seven miles (11 kilometers) from — and within sight of — the North Korean mainland. Famous for its crabbing industry, it is home to about 1,700 civilians as well as South Korean military installations. There are about 30 other small islands nearby.

North Korea fired dozens of rounds of artillery in three separate barrages that began in midafternoon, while South Korea returned fire with about 80 rounds, South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said. Naval operations had been reinforced in the area, the military said early Wednesday, declining to elaborate.

Columns of thick black smoke rose from homes on the island, video from YTN cable TV showed. Screams and shouts filled the air as shells rained down on the island just south of the disputed sea border.

Island residents fled to some 20 shelters on the island and sporadic shelling ended after about an hour, according to the military.

A North Korean statement said it was merely "reacting to the military provocation of the puppet group with a prompt powerful physical strike," and accused Seoul of starting the skirmish with its "reckless military provocation as firing dozens of shells inside the territorial waters of the" North.

The supreme military command in Pyongyang threatened more strikes if the South crossed their maritime border by "even 0.001 millimeter," according to the North's official Korean Central News Agency.

Government officials in Seoul called North Korea's bombardments "inhumane atrocities" that violated the 1953 armistice halting the Korean War. The two sides technically remain at war because a peace treaty was never signed, and nearly 2 million troops — including tens of thousands from the U.S. — are positioned on both sides of the world's most heavily militarized border.

North Korea does not recognize the western maritime border drawn unilaterally by the U.N. at the close of the conflict, and the Koreas have fought three bloody skirmishes there in recent years.


Pentagon, Military Actively War Gaming ‘Large Scale Economic Breakdown’ and ‘Civil Unrest’

The majority of Americans believe that recent government intervention into financial markets, the economy and corporate insolvency has reversed the economic downturn which was described by former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson as being “on the brink” in 2008. The stimulus, bailouts and unrelenting quantitative easing by the Federal Reserve have thus far been perceived as having averted the further erosion of the U.S. real estate and equities markets. And though the Federal Reserve and economic analysts have recently readjusted their economic growth forecasts downward for the next six months, Americans no longer have to worry about, as Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA) said on the house floor in October of 2008, the sky falling, multi-thousand point drops in stock markets and martial law in America.

The recovery – if our government, the Federal Reserve and mainstream media are to be believed – is on the road to recovery – albeit slowly and with some more pain ahead.

If we’ve “prevented economic collapse” and “avoided the depression many feared,” according to President Obama, inquiring minds are asking why the Pentagon and US Military are actively and aggressively engaged in planning responsive action to large scale economic breakdown and civil unrest scenarios:

Ever since the crash of 2008 the defense intelligence establishment has really been paying a lot of attention to global markets and how they can serve as a threat to U.S. national security interests. At one upcoming seminar next month they’re taking a look at a lot of the issues.

source: see CNBC video report below

According to the report, the Army has spent time on financial market trading floors with JP Morgan and others, in the hopes that they can learn more about how a financial and economic attack may occur, and what the ramifications of such attacks on US stocks and bonds may be.

The Army, in a year-long war games series called Unified Quest 2011, is looking at a variety of possibilities and how to deal with them, including:

  • the implications of “large scale economic breakdown” inside of the United States
  • how to maintain “domestic order amid civil unrest”
  • and ways to deal with fragmented global power and drastically lower budgets

Clearly, the U.S. government is making contingency plans to deal with a worst-case, all-out-collapse scenario of not only the economy, but our social and political systems.

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« George Soros Says "US Banking System Is Effectively Insolvent" - Reuters Video & Transcript »

Video - Soros tells Bloomberg and Retuers today that the "US banking sytem is effectively insolvent" and that new "mark-to-market accounting rules keep zombie banks alive."


These are flashback clips to last year, but absolutely nothing has changed about the banking sector.

From Bloomberg:

Billionaire George Soros said the change to fair-value accounting rules will keep troubled banks in business, stalling a recovery of the U.S. economy.

“This is part of the muddling through scenario where we are going to keep zombie banks alive,” Soros, 78, said today in an interview with Bloomberg Television. “It’s going to sap the energies of the economy.”

The Financial Accounting Standards Board last week relaxed so-called mark-to-market rules, allowing banks to use “significant” judgment in gauging prices of some investments on their books. While analysts said the measure may reduce writedowns and boost net income, investor advocates and accounting-industry groups said it will help financial institutions hide their true health.

Soros said that banking system is “seriously under water” with banks on “life support.” U.S. stocks fell for the first time in five days today on concern that government measures to shore up banks may not help as much as expected and loan losses will exceed levels from the Great Depression.

“They are weighed down by a lot of bad assets, which are still declining in value,” he said. “The amount is difficult to estimate, but I think it’s in the region of maybe a trillion- and-a-half dollars.”

Soros said there is a risk the U.S. economy will fall into a depression if nations don’t act collectively to solve the economic crisis.

George Soros

Tarpley: US using Korea to make money

Summary: North Korea and South Korea exchanged artillery fire yesterday. All the while the United States dollar has strengthened as bad blood between North and South Korea means big business for the US. Investigative journalist Webster Tarpley says the financ ...

London streets in flames again as 25,000 go on rampage in new student fees riot

  • Demonstrators smash into police van and steal uniforms
  • Two officers injured as they clash with protesters
  • Territorial Support Group rushed in to bolster police lines
  • Huge crowds are 'kettled' on section of Whitehall
  • New unite chief Len McCluskey hails 'poll tax spirit'
  • More protests in Cambridge, Birmingham, Manchester and Glasgow

Police officers were seriously injured today as angry demonstrators protesting against the hike in tuition fees again brought chaos to the streets.

Around 10,000 students and protesters flooded London for a new demonstration just a fortnight after anarchists unleashed mayhem at the Tory Party headquarters. More than 25,000 students in total are believed to have taken part in protests across the country today.

Scotland Yard, determined not to be caught on the hop a second time, ensured hundreds of officers were on duty and quickly reinforced numbers as flashpoints developed.

Confrontation: Police remove a demonstrator during clashes in Whitehall this evening

Confrontation: Police remove a demonstrator during clashes in Whitehall this evening

Flashpoint: Demonstrators vent their anger by setting a bus shelter alight in London's Whitehall

Flashpoint: Demonstrators vent their anger by setting a bus shelter alight in London's Whitehall

One constable suffered a broken arm and a second officer was knocked unconscious as he battled to contain protesters outside the Foreign Office. He injured his leg and was taken to hospital. Six members of the public were also taken to hospital with minor injuries.

Huge crowds had attempted to break the security cordon outside the building but the line of police was quickly bolstered to ensure the barricades were not breached.

Confrontation: Although the demonstration began peacefully, tensions increased once student protesters reached Whitehall and came head-to-head with a barrier of police officers

Confrontation: Although the demonstration began peacefully, tensions increased once student protesters reached Whitehall and came head-to-head with a barrier of police officers

School's out: Pockets of protesters were still lingering in the capital well into the evening

School's out: Pockets of protesters were still lingering in the capital well into the evening

officer out cold

Out cold: A police officer lies on the road, apparently out cold after clashing with protesters outside the Foreign Office

Police battling to hold back protesters outside Foreign Office and Treasury buildings

Surge: Police battling to hold back protesters outside Foreign Office and Treasury buildings

Protesters tried to use a barrier to smash through the police cordon

Protesters tried to use a barrier to smash through the police cordon

The Territorial Support Group, who are more highly-training in public order containment, were then rushed in after protesters tried to batter their way to Downing Street using a barrier.

Demonstrators were tonight being held in a section of Whitehall, using the controversial practice of 'kettling' despite criticism of previous attempts at using the strategy.

Earlier, a Metropolitan Police van parked in the middle of Whitehall was targeted by youths who leapt on the roof, smashed the windscreen, hurled sticks and sprayed graffiti.

Witnesses said a smoke bomb was thrown inside the van as protesters, some covering their faces with scarves, hit the windows with wooden sticks.

Destroyed: A vandalised police van is towed away from Westminster, in London, tonight

Destroyed: A vandalised police van is towed away from Westminster, in London, tonight

A protester wearing a police helmet and holding a riot shield in central London today

A protester wearing a police helmet and holding a riot shield in central London today

Fanning the flames: Demonstrators set fire to their placards in London

Fanning the flames: Demonstrators set fire to their placards in London

Students steal police riot shields from a police van
Pupil power: A student stands in front of a police van in London

Pupil power: Protesters steal police riot shields from a police van while another attempts to protect it

Student Zoe Williams tried to intervene when youths started rocking the van from side to side but was given short shrift.

She said later: 'Some kind of anger and aggressive behaviour can show the Government that we are not joking around and will just let them do it [hike fees] anyway but showing we're this violent and ready to take it to this level is detrimental.

'A lot of people aren't here to support the cause, they are doing it to have a day off school and be rebellious and burn stuff. It really does dampen the efforts of other people.'

Fireworks were let off nearby, greeted by cheers and whistles, as lights were smashed. There had been fears of serious injury when it was rocked and came close to toppling over.

Stop: Protester Zoe demands demonstrators do not overturn the police van

Stop: Protester Zoe demands demonstrators do not overturn the police van

Strictly come protesting
Light relief: A demonstrator urinates against a police van

Light relief: A demonstrator dances on a police van while another urinates against it

The van was abandoned a short distance from the Royal United Services Institute where Met boss Sir Paul Stephenson has been giving a speech on terrorism.

Students eventually managed to break inside the vehicle and looted police uniform and equipment, including body armour.

So far, three people have been arrested for violent disorder and theft and six members of the public have been treated for injuries.

Tom Lugg, 23, studying mental health nursing at Kingston University, Surrey, said: 'It shows the young people of Britain are pretty angry.

'I don't agree with what some of them are doing but we have to empathise. Why should the next generation have to pay more? The Tories are hitting working families, just like they did with the Poll Tax.'

Pursuit: A female protester sits at the wheel of a police van during the protests

Pursuit: A female protester sits at the wheel of a police van during the protests

Smash and grab: The protester sits at the wheel of the police van after students smashed their way in
Smash and grab: The protester sits at the wheel of the police van after students smashed their way in

Smash and grab: The protester sits at the wheel of the police van after students smashed their way in

The clashes came as newly elected leader of Unite, Len McCluskey, hailed the 'poll tax spirit' and called for a growing 'resistance' to spending cuts.

Mr McCluskey said the TUC had to 'co-ordinate' the anger that was building against the Government'.

He argued: 'The very fabric of our society is being dismantled before our very eyes and we have a duty to lead a resistance against this attack. It is slaughter by stealth.'

The lifelong activist refused to rule out anything over plans for fight the cuts, adding: 'I don't believe we should have an objective of bringing down the Government - that would be dangerous - but I do believe that when people come together, anything is possible.

'I am delighted that people are talking about the poll tax spirit because there we had a prime minister at the top of her power, with a big Commons majority, who was brought down by people power.

'We need to demonstrate to people that we are dealing with a Government that does not have a mandate, that is living a lie and has deceived the people.'

Kicking off: A protester attacks a police van in central London today

Kicking off: A protester attacks a police van in central London today

police van

Flashpoint: Protesters targeted a police van left in Whitehall during today's student demonstration

Protesters sitting on top of the van

Mayhem: Protesters sitting on top of the van, which is scrawled with anti-Tory slogans

Protesters rocking the police van left in Whitehall

Dangerous: Protesters rocking the police van left in Whitehall

In other areas of Whitehall there was a party atmosphere, with students jumping up and down to dance music as helicopters hovered overhead.

The protest has been dubbed Day X, with parents, teachers and trade unionists invited to join students.

Many of the rallies have been organised by the Education Activist Network and the campaign group Youth Fight For Jobs.

A delegation of students were due to present a letter to Nick Clegg expressing their disgust over the Lib Dem U-turn on fees and his office in Sheffield is also likely to be targeted.

The letter reads: 'No amount of twisted reasoning from either you or Vince Cable can hide what everyone can see: you have lied to us.

'We call on you to withdraw LibDem support for Conservative cuts to our education system, or face the disappointment and anger of a generation that has been betrayed.'

Sheffield protesters

Fury at Lib Dems: Protesters in Nick Clegg's home town today

students in Newcastle

Students expressing their anger in Newcastle and attacking wealthy Cabinet ministers

Protesters had also shown their anger last night by hanging an effigy of the Deputy PM on the gallows and chanted: 'Nick Clegg, shame on you, shame on you for turning blue.'

Such is the fury at the Lib Dems change of heart that Mr Clegg has been warned not to cycle to work in case he is attacked.

By mid-afternoon, police had given up trying to disperse the crowds and decided to contain them in Whitehall.

A Scotland Yard spokesman said: 'There is a containment on Whitehall to prevent further criminal damage and we will look to disperse anyone being held as soon as we can, when we can ensure that no further damage will be committed elsewhere.'

Jenny Jones, a member of the Met Police Authority, questioned their methods. She wrote on Twitter: 'Police have kettled demo. Mad. Just makes crowd distressed.'

University workers have organised simultaneous rallies in Birmingham, Glasgow, Manchester and Cambridge.

In an early sign of trouble elsewhere, around 50 students stormed the Great Hall at the University of Birmingham this morning after security had tried to force them out.

In Sheffield, around 1,000 students gathered in the city centre, many from schools as well as the two universities.

There were reports of pupils walking out of a number of secondary schools before gathering at Sheffield University Students' Union.

Many in the crowd appeared to be of school age, some as young as 13 or 14. A line of police guarded the front of the Victorian town hall as the crowd chanted and waved placards.


Hundreds more took action in Leeds, attacking Nick Clegg for 'turning blue'


Demonstrators also protested in Glasgow, despite Scotland being unaffected by the fee rise

In Manchester, where several thousand protesters had gathered, a group of several hundred broke away from the main demonstration and headed towards the town hall.

Around 3,000 protesters had made their way from Manchester University student union shouting 'No ifs, no buts, no education cuts'.

In Cambridge, more than 200 students scaled a fence of the Senate House - a building reserved for graduations - and marched into the grounds of King's College shouting and waving placards.

Bystanders reported a huge police presence and said officers were using batons and their fists to push back the students. Around 3,000 people staged a noisy but peaceful protests in Liverpool.

There were some minor scuffles between protesters and police in Bristol, where around 2,000 people joined a demonstration.

About three dozen police officers were blocking the entrance to the town hall, where protesters were sitting down reading books. Horses being ridden by mounted police were spooked by a firework.

Youth Fight for Jobs spokesman Paul Callanan claimed the fees hike will create a two-tier education system. 'Education will become a privilege for the few that can afford it,' he said.

Mark Bergfeld, of the Education Activist Network, said: 'We're there to build a mass movement, we're there to build a movement which can overcome the divisions between the different people, between the different sections of society and actually start to generalise the fight against austerity.'


Mounted police lead the crowds in Bristol, where the protests remained mainly peaceful

Police horses were spooked in Bristol after protesters threw fireworks

Police horses were spooked in Bristol after protesters threw fireworks

Demonstrators brandishing placards condemning the cuts in Oxford

Demonstrators brandishing placards condemning the cuts in Oxford

Police monitored all information sources in a bid to avoid a repeat of the violence two weeks ago, which saw Millbank overrun.

Government plans to raise fees up to as much as £9,000-per-year from 2012 have caused outrage, particularly to the Lib Dems who had promised to oppose any hike during the election.

Parliament is due to vote on the increase before Christmas, with several top Lib Dems still likely to vote against despite Mr Clegg supporting the Tories over the change.

The Lib Dem leader insisted again today that he 'massively regrets' his U-turn after pledging to stop fee rises but urged students to examine the fine print.

Asked how it felt to have students hang him in effigy, the Deputy PM told the BBC's Jeremy Vine: 'I'm developing a thick skin.'

He said: 'I regret of course that I can't keep the promise that I made because - just as in life - sometimes you are not fully in control of all the things you need to deliver those pledges.

'But I nonetheless think that when people look at the detail of these proposals (they will) realise that all graduates will be paying less per month than they do at the moment and the poorest quarter will be paying much, much less and we will be making it easier for some of the youngsters currently discouraged from going to university to go to university.

'I hope that over time - perhaps not overnight - people will say "OK, this was controversial, it was difficult for the Liberal Democrats, but actually they have put something into place which will finally allow our education system to do something which it hasn't done for generations, and that is to promote rather than thwart mobility."'

Fail and Grow Rich on Wall Street

Welcome to the brave new world of post-bailout capitalism. The Commerce Department announced Tuesday that corporate profits are at their highest level in U.S. history, and the Fed released minutes of an early November meeting in which officials predicted a stagnant economy and continued high unemployment.

The lead on the New York Times story read like a line from a Dickens novel: “The nation’s workers may be struggling, but American companies just had their best quarter ever.” What the Times story neglected to mention is that the bulk of the increase in corporate profits was nabbed by the financial industry rather than manufacturing and other productive sectors. A whopping $33.3 billion out of the total corporate profits increase of $44.4 billion went to the banks and investment houses that those same workers had bailed out with their tax dollars.

Much of the rest of the corporate profit, in the non-financial sector, was also taken out of the hides of workers through increased “productivity” growth—meaning they had produced more for less personal income. Case in point: the plant that GM is reopening in Orion Township, Mich., where, under a deal negotiated with the beleaguered UAW union, 40 percent of the workers crawling through cars on the assembly line will be paid 15 bucks an hour. That’s about half the traditional UAW wage.

The Obama administration now feels totally vindicated for bailing out GM. Such a deal. Let’s offer up half a clap for the news that GM came back from bankruptcy to mount a successful IPO and pay something back to the taxpayers, which is better than nothing. Some jobs were saved, and that prospect was why folks like me supported this bailout in the first place.

Don’t call it a success story: The government unloaded some of its GM stock holdings at a $10.67 loss over the average per-share price it paid for its $49.5 billion investment. As the Bloomberg news service noted, “The Treasury, which is taking a loss on its portion of the sale, will break even only if the shares climb more than 60%,” referring to the GM shares the Treasury still holds.

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11/24/2010 Peter Schiff : The Irish Should Default On Their Debt, Not Become Slaves To Bankers

Summary: Make Sure To Subscribe To Peter Schiffs' Official YouTube Channel At To Be Notified Immediatelly When Peter Posts A New Economic Video Blog Update!! ***Don't forget to add Peter as a friend on FaceBook!! (face ...

11 Greater Tampa Area Sonic Drive-Ins Close

Three Sonic Drive-Ins in Manatee County have shut down along with eight other locations throughout the greater Tampa Bay area. The locations were all owned by the same franchise owner. The closings are an obvious sign that the depression is intensifying for the central Florida region.

Company officials did not say the number of employees that would be effected as a result of the closings which included locations in Citrus, Hillsborough, Hernando, Levy, Pinellas, and Sarasota counties. However officials did say that some employees from the closed locations will be transferred to other Sonic restaurants.

Florida’s rapidly deteriorating economy will soon be seeing more fast food restaurants along with other types of businesses close throughout the state. The amount of people who will be getting cutoff from their unemployment benefits will damage the state’s business environment even further. Unless Congress acts soon over 106,000 people throughout Florida will lose their benefits on December 4th.

Schwartz: AF ready to respond to Korea attack

The Air Force stands ready to respond if hostilities between North Korea and South Korea escalate, the service’s top uniformed officer said, but American fighter jets remained at their normal alert status a day after a North Korean artillery attack.

The North fired artillery shells at the island of Yeonpyeong on Tuesday, killing two people and dramatically raising tensions between American-allied South Korea and the nuclear-armed north.

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz, in a meeting with reporters later that morning, said his service has plenty of firepower in the region and listed the bases from which the service could send planes for a response: Osan Air Base and Kunsan Air Base in South Korea, Kadena Air Base on Okinawa, bases on mainland Japan and bases in the Pacific.

“The bottom line is that U.S. Forces-Korea certainly is monitoring the situation carefully,” he said. “[Commander Gen. Skip Sharp] has operational control of Air Force assets on that reside on the peninsula and can be augmented if required.”

Schwartz said the South Korean air force, which had eight F-15s flying combat air patrols, was leading in the air response.

He declined to give his opinion about the idea of sending tactical nuclear weapons to the Korean peninsula, an issue raised earlier this week by South Korean Defense Minister Kim Tae-yong. The U.S. removed its tactical nukes from South Korea in 1991.

Schwartz said the issue had not been discussed by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, but any advice he has would be offered confidentially to Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen.

“The bottom line is, we have substantial capability on the peninsula and in the immediate environments to sustain a very credible deterrent posture,” Schwartz said.

« CHART SHOCK: The REAL Unemployment Rate Is 22% »

Scratch the old headline - it's now 23% with the November update. Details inside from John William's Shadow Stats.

The seasonally-adjusted SGS Alternate Unemployment Rate reflects current unemployment reporting methodology adjusted for SGS-estimated long-term discouraged workers, who were defined out of official existence in 1994. That estimate is added to the BLS estimate of U-6 unemployment, which includes short-term discouraged workers.

The U-3 unemployment rate is the monthly headline number. The U-6 unemployment rate is the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) broadest unemployment measure, including short-term discouraged and other marginally-attached workers as well as those forced to work part-time because they cannot find full-time employment.


In the mood for a riot? Check out these photos...


Partial chart archive - Quick links:


Irish unveil harshest cuts, tax hikes in history

— Ireland unveiled the harshest budget measures in its history Wednesday, a four-year plan to slash deficits by €15 billion ($20 billion) so it can receive a massive bailout from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund.

The austerity plan axes thousands of state jobs, trims welfare benefits and pensions, and imposes new taxes on property and water. In all, it seeks to cut €10 billion ($13.3 billion) from spending and raise €5 billion ($6.7 billion) in extra taxes from 2011 to 2014.

Even Prime Minister Brian Cowen conceded the plan would hurt the living standard of everyone in the nation.

Yet analysts still expressed doubts that the EU-IMF rescue loan, which Cowen said would be about €85 billion ($115 billion), would be big enough to save Ireland from an eventual default.

And bank shares plummeted for a third straight day on the Irish Stock Exchange, reflecting growing expectations that investors will be wiped out if the government is forced to seize majority control of the country's two dominant banks, Allied Irish and Bank of Ireland.

"The government is completely in denial about the amount of money they'll have to borrow," said Constantin Gurdgiev, a finance lecturer at Trinity College Dublin and an economics adviser to IBM in Europe.

Ireland is still negotiating the terms of the bailout with European Central Bank and IMF experts. The government hopes its tough budgetary medicine will permit the country's 2014 deficit to fall to 3 percent of gross domestic product, the limit for the 16 nations that use the euro currency.

While most eurozone members are exceeding that rule, Ireland's deficit this year is forecast to reach 32 percent of GDP, a modern European record, fueled by exceptional costs from its unfathomable bank-bailout effort.

"Today is about Ireland putting its best foot forward, Ireland saying: Yes, here is what we're prepared to do as a government and a people to put right what has to be put right, and to give ourselves prospects and prosperity again," said Cowen, who is widely expected to resign or be forced from office within weeks.

Business leaders welcomed the package as brutal but unavoidable given that Ireland is all but frozen out of normal lending markets and its banks are running out of cash.

The EU's financial affairs commissioner, Olli Rehn, said the package "strikes a good balance ... to protecting the least well off." He said Ireland's determination to narrow its deficits quickly provided "a sound basis" for the bailout talks.

But outside the guarded iron gates of Cowen's office, about 100 activists denounced the government and the IMF.

"This is a road map back to the Stone Age," said Jack O'Connor, president of Ireland's largest union, SIPTU.

He noted that Ireland had already suffered nearly €15 billion in cuts and tax hikes since 2008, gutting economic growth and helping to double unemployment to 13.6 percent.

"Ireland needs a strategy for growth, but this plan will achieve the opposite," said O'Connor, who plans to lead a Dublin protest march on Saturday against the cuts.

Fellow Europeans have marveled at how the Irish, despite facing the eurozone's harshest cuts, have responded with only token protests until now. Glum acceptance remained the prevailing mood on Dublin's wintry streets.

"For the next 10 years we're going to be paying for this bailout," said Jordan Lancaster, a 29-year administrator at the Justice Department. "But they had to do it. There really wasn't any other choice."

Ireland's 140-page National Recovery Plan proposes to introduce property and water taxes, raise the sales tax from 21 percent now to 23 percent in 2014, and cut the minimum wage by €1 to €7.65 ($10.20).

Ireland's bloated civil service will be particularly hard hit — seeing cuts of about €1.2 billion and 24,750 state jobs.

Income tax bands will be widened so more lower-paid workers pay taxes, and higher-waged workers will see annual taxes rise more than €3,000 ($4,000). A raft of welfare payments will be gradually reduced.

Young and old alike face higher bills and less income. University fees will rise and monthly pensions will fall up to 12 percent.

Ireland's legendary tax-free status for authors, musicians and artists will be cut back so only the first €40,000 ($53,000) of income will avoid tax.

Left untouched, to the irritation of other EU nations, is Ireland's exceptionally low 12.5 percent tax rate on business profits. That rate is less than half the EU average and has helped to lure about 1,000 high-tech multinationals to Ireland, far more proportionally than any other European country.

Portugal Goes Pop? 'Euro burning, people pay, bankers get away'

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Cuts are Nuts: 'Govts in debt lie, people's rage spills on streets'

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U.S. Calls on China to Use Influence to Restrain North Korea

China should use its influence to restrain North Korea and urge it to denuclearize, U.S. State Department spokesman Philip J. Crowley said today.

“China does have influence with North Korea and we would hope and expect China would use that influence” to ease tensions on the Korean peninsula, Crowley told reporters in Washington.

North Korea’s artillery attack yesterday on a South Korean island near the disputed border between the countries killed four people.

Earlier, President Barack Obama said China should “make clear to North Korea that there are a set of international rules that they need to abide by,” according to a partial transcript of an interview with ABC News’s Barbara Walters.

To contact the reporter on this story: Nicole Gaouette in Washington at

Was the Big Bang Preceded by Another Universe (Which Was Preceded by Another Universe)?

The Cosmic Microwave Background NASA

The current widely-held theory of life, the universe, and everything holds that at some point roughly 13.7 billion years ago everything that now is was packed into a tight little package from which sprung the Big Bang, which violently hurled everything into existence. But 13.7 billion years to get to where we are isn’t enough for renowned physicist Sir Roger Penrose, and now he thinks he can prove that things aren’t/weren’t quite so simple. Drawing on evidence he found in the cosmic microwave background, Penrose says the Big Bang wasn’t the beginning, but one in a series of cyclical Big Bangs, each of which spawned its own universe.

By Penrose’s estimation, our universe is not the first – nor will it be the last – to spawn from a dense mass of highly-ordered everything into the complex universe we see around us. In fact, it’s that high degree of order that was apparently present at the universe’s birth that set him on this line of thought. The current Big Bang model doesn’t supply a reason as to why a low entropy, highly ordered state existed at the birth of our universe unless things were set in order before the Big Bang occurred.

According to Penrose, each universe returns to a state of low entropy as it approaches its final days of expanding into eventual nothingness. Black holes, by virtue of the fact that they suck in everything they encounter, spend their cosmic lifetimes working to scrub entropy from the universe. And as the universe nears the end of its expansion the black holes themselves evaporate, setting things back into a state of order. Unable to expand any further the universe then collapses back in on itself as a highly ordered system, ready to trigger the next Big Bang.

There are crazier theories out there, but as creation stories go it sounds relatively sane, and Sir Penrose claims he’s found the evidence he needs to bolster his cyclical universe hypothesis in the cosmic microwave background. The CMB is believed to have been thrust into existence when the universe was just 300,000 years old, and as such it’s treated as a kind of record of the state of the universe at that time.

The current model of the universe says any temperature variations in the CMB should be random, but Penrose claims he and a colleague have found very clear concentric circles within the CMB, suggesting regions where the radiation has much smaller temperature ranges. These, he posits, are spherical evidence of the gravitational effects of black hole collisions during the previous universe. The circles fit well in his theory, and not so well in the standard inflationary theory.

Of course, it’s not all that simple and Penrose has by no means shattered the foundation of modern physics. Not yet, anyhow. Peers will read his paper critically, and he still has some loose ends to tie up and some assumptions to prove. But it’s fun to try and wrap one’s head around it all. And if you’d care to give that a try, you can get a PDF of Penrose’s paper here.

Students stage day of protests over tuition fee rises

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Across the country thousands of students have been protesting

Police have dispersed the final student demonstrators in central London after a day of protests against higher tuition fees and university cuts.

Police said 17 people were injured, including two officers as protesters were contained on Whitehall.

There have also been occupations in at least 12 universities, including Oxford University's Bodleian Library.

School pupils walked out of lessons to join university and college students on local protest marches across the UK.

As darkness fell, fires were started, graffiti sprayed and windows broken in Whitehall by demonstrators who were being contained by police.

Hundreds of remaining protesters were gradually released by police throughout the evening.

Earlier a police van was attacked and barricades thrown as protesters tried to break through police lines.

Buses attacked

There were 32 arrests - mainly for public order offences and criminal damage, according to the Metropolitan Police.

Start Quote

The protest started peacefully - everyone around me wanted a positive outcome. But there are people here who are not in education, taking advantage”

End Quote Sam Lathwood Protester

Among the 17 people injured, the two officers and 11 members of the public were treated in hospital for minor injuries. No-one was seriously injured.

Transport for London (TfL) also reported that protesters had thrown missiles at buses in central London, smashing windows and causing many routes to be diverted away from the Whitehall and Trafalgar Square area.

Broken windows were reported on two routes, although no injuries were sustained.

A spokeswoman for TfL said: "We're still trying to assess the full extent of the damage from today's demonstrations.

"We know that bus shelters and ticket machines along Whitehall have been severely damaged and we're checking to see what other damage has been caused. As the protest moved on during the day we had to put in place rolling diversions to keep buses away from it."

The prime minister's spokesman said: "People have a right to engage in lawful and peaceful protest, but there is no place for violence or intimidation."


Protesters in London had intended to demonstrate outside the Liberal Democrat headquarters - with students accusing the party's leaders of planning to break their signed pledge that they would vote against higher tuition fees.

Speaking on BBC Radio 2, Mr Clegg said: "I hate in politics, as in life, to make promises that you then find you can't keep. We made a promise we can't deliver - we didn't win the election outright and there are compromises in coalition."

Pupils from a London school protected a police van that had been attacked. They told vandals to withdraw. Pupils from a London school protected a police van that had been attacked - they told vandals to withdraw

Students staged occupations at universities including Royal Holloway College, Plymouth, Warwick, Birmingham, London South Bank, University College London, Leeds, Essex, Cardiff, Sheffield and UWE Bristol.

In the iconic Bodleian Library in Oxford, students planned to hold a "teach-in" as part of the occupation.

In Birmingham, students called on the university authorities to reject what they call a "socially regressive plan that will limit access to education".

Students staging an occupation at University College London said they were protesting against "savage cuts to higher education and government attempts to force society to pay for a crisis it didn't cause".

Universities Minister David Willetts said students had not seemed to have understood the proposals on fees - and that they would not have to pay the higher fees up-front.

"Young people will be provided with the funds they need to meet whatever charges universities levy," said Mr Willetts.

Marches, walkouts and protest events took place at universities and colleges across the country.

There were protest marches in Manchester, Liverpool, Brighton and Bristol.

School pupils walked out of lessons in Winchester, Cambridge, Leeds and London.

Students were protesting against plans to increase tuition fees in England to £9,000 per year and to withdraw public funding for university teaching budgets for many subjects.

A much larger student march in London two weeks ago ended in an attack on the Conservatives' headquarters building - with the disturbances leading to 68 arrests.

Police cordon

In the protest on Wednesday, marchers were stopped by police on Whitehall, before the demonstration had reached Parliament Square.

There were crowd surges and attempts to break through - but the police cordons contained the protest.

Among those within the crowd held by police was 19-year-old Sam Lathwood.

Student protester at Oxford

Protests around the country

  • Up to 3,000 students paraded through Brighton city centre as eggs and fireworks were thrown.
  • In Manchester around 3,000 protesters gathered outside the town hall, disrupting city centre traffic.
  • In Oxford, hundreds of students and school pupils protested in the town centre, and police said about 70 students had occupied the Radcliffe Camera - part of the famous Bodleian Library.
  • In Cambridge, more than 200 students students scaled scaffolding to erect banners at the Senate House and protested in the grounds of King's College.
  • In Liverpool, more than 2,000 students marched, with about 300 of them blocking three major city centre roads to traffic.
  • In Sheffield, 2,000 students and secondary school pupils marched to the town hall.

"The protest started peacefully - everyone around me wanted a positive outcome. But there are people here who are not in education, taking advantage," he said.

"It's a disgrace. Things like this give students a bad name."

Protest leaders have claimed that an "unprecedented wave of student revolt is unfolding" - and they say they are following in the spirit of student protests of 1968.

Many of the events and walkouts have been organised using social networking websites.

University occupations are running their own blogs and websites.

As well as the planned rise in tuition fees, students are also campaigning about wider budget cuts for higher education.

Further education students and sixth-formers are also protesting at plans to remove the education maintenance allowance, which gives low-income students up to £30 a week to help with the costs of staying in full-time education.

Lewis Coyne, one of the organisers of a protest march in Liverpool, said: "It is important to get the message across that we aren't happy about what they are doing to the education budget and the rise in fees."

The fees protest held two weeks ago in Westminster was attended by an estimated 50,000 students - and ended with a breakaway group forcing their way into the Millbank office complex.

Are you planning to take part in the demonstrations? Is there a protest at your university, college or school? What do you think of the government's plans? Send your comments to the BBC using the form below:

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Largest-ever insider trading probe targets Goldman Sachs

NEW YORK — Insider-trading charges are being prepared against a vast network of consultants and traders across the US financial industry in a years-long probe that a report suggests will reveal a pervasive culture of backroom dealing.

The investigation could be the largest insider-trading probe in US history, The Wall Street Journal said Saturday citing people close to the issue, with federal officials examining if multiple, organized insider-trading rings reaped illegal profits of tens of millions of dollars.

Some charges could be brought before the end of the year, the Journal said.

The criminal probe is examining some three dozen companies in the probe, which is examining the "expert networks" to clients such as hedge funds and mutual funds, which connected managers of companies with investors in a bid to offer inside tracks on financial deals, according to the report.

Highlighting a focus on insider-trading by the Manhattan US attorney Preet Bharara, the Journal noted he has called the issue a "top criminal priority" for his post.

"Illegal insider trading is rampant and may even be on the rise," Bharara warned in a speech last month.

Pinpointing over a dozen companies based on both US coasts, the Journal reported that a federal grand jury in New York has already heard evidence in parts of the criminal probe.

Among those being investigated, the newspaper said prosecutors were examining whether bankers with the Goldman Sachs Group leaked information about transactions, including health-care mergers, in a bid to benefit investors.

Inside traders are generally known to profit after being tipped off on deals ahead of time -- for example, giving them an opportunity to buy stocks before acquisitions, and then selling them after the shares rise in value.

As well as large financial firms like Goldman Sachs, the investigation is also examining independent analysts and research houses for providing non-public information to hedge funds. The report suggest the three-year probe has involved wiretapping the telephone conversations between consultants and investors.

In one case, a leading analyst at the small Oregon-based Broadband Research wrote to clients on October 26 explaining the firm was under investigation.

Analyst John Kinnucan, in an email sent to two hedge funds and two mutual funds and that was obtained by the Journal, said FBI agents had attempted to get him to help with the probe.

The officials were "thoroughly convinced that my clients have been trading on copious inside information," Kinnucan wrote.

"(They obviously have been recording my cell phone conversations for quite some time, with what motivation I have no idea.) We obviously beg to differ, so have therefore declined the young gentleman's gracious offer to wear a wire and therefore ensnare you in their devious web," he wrote, according to the Journal.

In another part of the probe, trading firm First New York Securities anticipated mergers unveiled in 2009, and profited from that information, the financial daily said, citing people close to the investigation.

A spokesman for the 250-person firm acknowledged to the Journal that it was "one of more than three dozen firms that have been asked by regulators to provide general information in a widespread inquiry."

The Job of Bank Regulators Was To Protect Banks.

As Wall Street bonuses bulged and housing prices were peaking in 2005, Daniel Mudd found himself dreading his job as chief executive of Fannie Mae.

The nation’s largest provider of mortgage financing was under assault, as authors Bethany McLean and Joe Nocera show in “All the Devils Are Here: The Hidden History of the Financial Crisis.” Subprime mortgage originators had eroded Fannie’s lock on the secondary mortgage market, investors were on edge, and the Bush administration was pushing it to guarantee yet more loans for low- and middle-income Americans.

So Fannie waded into the subprime market, helped inflate the housing bubble and ultimately landed “the mother of all bailouts.” The truly sad thing is that none of this really helped low-income Americans to buy homes, McLean and Nocera say.

“What was the point of it all?” they ask, citing evidence that only 9 percent of subprime lending between 1998 and 2006 went to first-time home buyers. “The rest were refinancings or second home purchases,” and foreclosures soon wiped out ownership gains made during the bubble.

What emerges in these pages is a detailed and scrupulously balanced account of how the Great Recession bubbled up from decades of government housing goals, financial engineering, craven lawmakers, ignorant homebuyers, sleazy subprime lenders and arrogant Wall Street executives.

McLean, who writes for Vanity Fair, and Nocera, a New York Times columnist, have arrived late for the subprime party. Yet the authors succeed in pulling the jumbled pieces of the financial crisis together and showing how it flowed from human foibles ranging from Hank Greenberg’s autocratic rule at American International Group Inc. to Merrill Lynch CEO Stan O’Neal’s suspicions of everyone around him.

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Exclusive – Bethany McLean & Joe Nocera Extended Interview

Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor Rally to Restore Sanity

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Video Via The Daily Show

2 quakes strike off coast of Maui

Two small earthquakes struck within 20 minutes and 50 miles of each other last night off the coast of Maui, shaking residents as far away as Kapolei.

No damage was reported, according to the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Ewa Beach.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the first quake had a magnitude of 4.7 and occurred at 6:34 p.m., 11 miles beneath the earth's crust. The second quake struck at 6:51 p.m., about 50 miles southwest of the first, and had a magnitude of 3.3. It was 16 miles deep.

Gerard Fryer, a geophysicist at the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center, said the first temblor was beneath Kahoolawe and too small to generate a tsunami.

"It was felt widely on Maui, and apparently a few people on Oahu have felt it," Fryer said. "We've had a couple of reports from Wailuku and Maalaea, people saying, 'Hey, it really shook.'"

The second quake occurred in the channel between Maui and the Big Island, Fryer said.

"This is unusual," he said, adding that a quake farther up the island chain occurs about once a year or every few years.

"I think what's happening is the earth's crust is creaking and growing under the Hawaiian Islands," he said. "The creaking is the earthquake."

People reported feeling the first quake last night as far away as Kapolei on Oahu and Kurtistown on the Big Island, both more than 110 miles from the epicenter, according to the U.S. Geological Survey website.

The first quake was centered 30 miles south-southwest of Wailuku and 95 miles southeast of Honolulu, while the second was 140 miles southeast of Honolulu and 16 miles west-southwest of Hawi on the northern tip of the Big Island, the USGS said.

Maui police recruit Darren Dobashi, who was working in the Wailuku cellblock last night, said the shaking from the first temblor lasted about four to five seconds.

"It was small," he said.

Strike against austerity cuts brings Portugal to a halt

Many of Portugal's public services have ground to a halt as workers strike in a bid to weaken the government's resolve to make deep budget cuts.

Rail services, urban transport, flights, rubbish collection, healthcare and banking were all disrupted by the first general strike in decades.

The action was largely peaceful but two women were injured on a picket line.

Parliament is set to vote on a budget meant to tackle the mounting debt crisis on Friday.

The Socialist government wants to quell international unease over the country's public spending and deficit by cutting wages for public sector workers, freezing pensions and increasing taxes.

With the main opposition party saying it will not block the budget, analysts expect it to have an easy passage through parliament.

While the strike is unlikely to throw the government off course, it may fuel fresh concern on the markets, especially following the government's revelation this week that Portugal's budget deficit actually grew this year instead of shrinking, the BBC's Sarah Rainsford reports from Lisbon.

'Unfair sacrifices'

The country's main unions, the UGT and CGTP, hope the 24-hour action will be the most effective in two decades

Start Quote

It won't solve anything, it's just a way of demonstrating”

End Quote Unnamed Lisbon employee
  • Nearly 80% of trains were not running, and bus and ferry links in Lisbon were disrupted, along with the metro service
  • Both air traffic controllers and airport ground handling operators were on strike, meaning dozens of flights in and out of Lisbon had to be cancelled or rescheduled
  • All of the country's ports were closed, according to the unions
  • Fewer than 10% of the workforce at Volkswagen's Autoeuropa plant near Lisburn turned up for work, according to unions

Police in the northern town of Calendario arrested the manager of a hypermarket who allegedly drove his car into a picket line, injuring two women and threatening others.

A union official said one of the women had had her leg crushed by the car.

Police said they had arrested the man for dangerous driving and possession of a weapon.

Roads in and around the capital were choked with heavy traffic as many people chose to commute by car but in the city centre traffic was normal, Reuters news agency reported.

An information board shows cancelled flights at Lisbon's international airport, 24 November Flight after flight was cancelled at Lisbon's international airport

Cafes and shops were open and vans delivered goods as usual, it said.

In contrast to the recent protests against pension reform in France, the Portuguese strikers have not planned mass demonstrations but are confining themselves to pickets.

One CGTP leader, Manuel Carvalho da Silva, said there was strong public support for the strike as it expressed "outrage at injustices".

Another trade unionist in Lisbon told AFP news agency it was unacceptable that workers should "make all the sacrifices".

"We cannot accept that the first, second and third priority of Portugal is the deficit," said Joao Proenca.

But employees interviewed by Reuters said that, while they sympathised with the strikers' grievances, the action would only bring inconvenience and no resolution.

"It won't solve anything, it's just a way of demonstrating," said one.

Struggle to compete

The opposition Social Democrats have said that, in order to not jeopardise the country's fragile finances, they will abstain from the vote on Friday rather than vote against the measures.

Lisbon is trying to convince international investors that Portugal will not be forced to seek a bail-out like Ireland or Greece.

The budget aims to reduce Portugal's deficit from 7.3% to 4.6% of GDP in 2011.

Portugal has failed to prosper or drive up productivity since joining the euro at what many now say was an unrealistic exchange rate, BBC Europe business correspondent Nigel Cassidy says.

The country found it especially difficult to compete with China in a previously strong sector, the manufacturing of textiles and shoes.

With 80% of its public debt held abroad, Portugal now finds itself at the mercy of bond traders and wants to convince the markets that it will be able to meet its commitments, our correspondent says.

Are you in Portugal? Are you affected by the strike action? Are you taking part in the strike? Send your comments to the BBC using the form below:

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