Saturday, December 11, 2010

A Grim Record: One In Seven Americans Is On Food Stamps

The number of people on food stamps keeps hitting new all-time highs; as of September, nearly 43 million people were using the program, according to figures out this week.

Of course, because of population growth, absolute numbers only tell part of the story. The best way to look at the numbers over a long period of time is as a percentage of the population. And when you do that, you see that we're also hitting new highs.

Food Stamps
Jess Jiang

The criteria for qualifying for food stamps haven't changed much over time, according to Jean Daniel, a spokeswoman for the government agency that oversees the food-stamp program (the program is officially known as SNAP, by the way).

Congress monkeys with the criteria a little bit now and then, but the basic rules are the same: People need to be at 130 percent of the poverty level or lower, Daniel said. For a family of four, that's an income of just under $29,000, according to government guidelines. There are also limits on liquid assets — investments, money in the bank, that sort of thing.

Over the years, you see the number of people in the program rise and fall along with broader economic cycles. But the uptick this time is much more dramatic.

"What we're seeing this time is quite a few people who are new to the program, who never before in their lifetime expected to take advantage of any government program," Daniel told me.

Aerosmith - Eat The Rich

Jim Rogers - Britain is Bankrupt! - The UK just havent owned up to it yet.

Chart of the Month: TSX-V Speaks Volumes - Gold Mania Still Ahead

Andrey Dashkov
Casey's International Speculator

With the gold price hitting nominal highs last month, there is a lot of “mania” and “bubble” ranting going on in the gold community. Should we start selling?

A bull market typically progresses through 3 phases: the Stealth Phase, in which early adopters start buying; the Wall of Worry Phase (or Awareness Phase), when institutions begin buying and every significant fluctuation makes investors worry that the bull market is over; and the Mania Phase when the general public piles on, driving prices beyond reason or sustainability.

This is followed by the Blow-off Phase, when the bear takes over from the bull and the herd gets slaughtered. Judging by the volume on the TSX Venture Exchange (TSX-V), where a lot of gold juniors are listed, we conclude that the next phase of our current gold bull market, the Mania, still lies ahead.

Have a look at the chart below:

If a mania were unveiling now, we would expect to see a sharp increase in investment capital entering the TSX-V, driving its trading volume upward. Over the last few months, the TSX-V daily volume has spiked upward sharply, but as the chart clearly shows, short-term volume is extremely volatile, spikes are common, and equally large drops are just as common.

Stocks of junior exploration companies are leveraged to gold, meaning they rise or fall by a greater percentage than does the yellow metal itself. So a spike in volume should be expected in reaction to an ascending gold price. A more reliable barometer is volume’s 10-period moving average that removes interim market gyrations. Using this measure, the TSX-V’s volume looks like it has returned to a slope of ascent similar to before the 2008 market crash, and the longer-term trend is steadily upward – steady being the key word.

More investors are entering our market, but the pace is not yet accelerating greatly, as we’d expect in a true Mania Phase. In other words, an early indicator of the mania in this bull cycle will be a sustained parabolic move upwards in the TSX-V’s average volume. And that is not happening yet.

Our other volume indicator, the GLD gold ETF, behaves in an interesting manner: it frequently moves counter to the TSX-V. An explanation for this might be that GLD is considered a “blue-chip” stock; a safer haven for investors who actively trade on the TSX-V and park their cash in GLD during periods when they consider juniors overly risky.

The moving average of GLD’s volume remains on a moderate multi-year ascent but has turned down recently. However, its daily volume is up in recent trading. Given the observed correlation between trading volumes of the TSX-V and GLD, this may point to a cooling-down in TSX-V trading activity in the near term.

Finally, the ^HUI gold miners index has tracked TSX-V volume as well, also having resumed a slope of ascent similar to that of the years before the 2008 crash. We see this as another indication that we are in an accumulation phase of the bull market.

We will continue tracking these parameters and updates when we see significant changes. For now, the bottom line is that even with the gold price moving sharply higher, the mania remains an anticipated future event.
[But when the Mania Phase does hit, there’ll be no stopping it. And the best leverage – beating the S&P 500 by more than 8 times – comes from the little-known “gold nuggets” that International Speculator editor Louis James keeps digging up for his subscribers. For a very limited time, you can save $300 on the annual subscription fee – plus receive Casey’s Energy Report FREE for a year! To learn more, click here now.]

« Pissed Off Irishman Talks Bankster Bailouts: "Greed, Greed, Cheap Money, And More F**king Greed" »

Something about this clip feels staged, but it's damn funny.

Profanity Warning - Video - Text from Youtube page - We at xfm Dublin, Ireland, WANT this man to return home and run the country :-) Even if this man was in a fucking coma, he could do a better job than Fianna Fail and their wanker banker and developer mates. It will be a cold day in Hell, when another Banker / Builder / Property Developer / Speculator or 'Fianna Failure Lizard' wipes the eye of the Irish People. They should stick to shovelling shit! That is what they are used to, that's what they are good at.


Check out this slideshow...

This is my favorite. See the rest of the protest signs - 25 pics - all black & white...

Repo 105 Latest Accounting Trick By Large Brokers

The latest scathing report by an examiner from the bankrupcy court discloses a common but little known accounting trick called Repo 105 has been revealed to have been a major factor in the downfall of Lehman and may have contributed to the wide spread collapse of the financial system.

Analysts are now looking into whether this practice wes in fact more wide spread in other financial institutions and banks and may even still be in use today.

The practice known as repo 105 basically happened when assets were sold and then rebought after the reporting period had passed leading to a false picture of the companies assets and liabilities.

Tired of all the fraud. Check out the FOREX system for profitable returns and controled risk.

In August of 2008 most americans felt relatively safe in their economic lives. Although rummblings had been heard in the financial community of troubles in the credit markets and credit default swaps very few people had any idea of the extent the problems penetrated into the financial system.

Over the past almost 2 years the US has stumbled along and required massive governmental intrusion and financing of our banking industry. Numerous reporters and authors have beeen reviewing the causes of the crisis and they have been blamed on everybody from Bernie Maddof to Dick Chaney. Today it finally appears the true culprets may be coming into view.

It now appears that a rather cryptic and relatively unknown accounting practice may have been the real instigator behind the crisis. This practice called repo 105 will become well known over the next few weeks to the general public.

The practice is basically an accounting trick where current inventory, in this case securities and moved off the book as a sale around the time of reporting to investors and banking officials. these are then bought back a few days later and the debt reappears on the balance sheet after the reporting period has passed. This pactice led to a false picture of the financial institutions credit worthiness.

The practice has just been brought to light and is believed to be in use throughout the financial community. The extent and penetration of this practice is unknown at present. This calls into question financial reports from many of the nations largest financial institutions. Just how wide spread this practice is will become obvious over the next few weeks.

Financial markets may well roil in the throughs of this latest revelation, especially if the practice is shown to be widespread. Keep your ears tuned over the next few weeks as Repo 105 become a familiar phrase.

I think i may need to move assets into the Forex or Gold. Check out the above or click here for options. Check out this gold trading system by clicking here .. All the best.

It’s official: Ron Paul to lead House Federal Reserve oversight

The greatest critic of fiat currency perhaps anywhere in the world is about to take control of a congressional panel that would conduct oversight on the US Federal Reserve bank.

This could get interesting.

After November's Republican electoral wave crashed a Democratic majority in the US House of Representatives, Representative Ron Paul (R-TX) was one of several ardent critics of status-quo thought that GOP leadership thought about empowering.

To stifle Democratic efforts toward meaningful climate change legislation, they vowed to shut down funding for the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming. To block new regulations of greenhouse gases, Republicans picked Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI), who called "poisonous" any attempt at regulation, to chair the House Energy and Commerce Committee. And now, to feed their libertarian-leaning base of supporters, Ron Paul is headed to the Fed.

The nomination was made by Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-AL), who will lead the House Financial Services Committee in the next Congress. A prior report by Bloomberg noted discussion by aides to incoming House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) on how they might be able to prevent Paul's chairmanship.

Rep. Bachus dispelled any questions as to Paul's viability for the seat in a Thursday afternoon statement, promising "aggressive oversight" and an audit of the Fed.

"This is the leadership team that crafted the first comprehensive financial reform bill to put an end to the bailouts, wind down the taxpayer funding of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and enforce a strong audit of the Federal Reserve," he wrote. "By working together, we will honor our commitment to aggressive oversight, reform of the [government-sponsored enterprises], and monitoring the implementation of the Dodd-Frank Act to ensure more jobs aren’t lost to unnecessary regulations on community banks and businesses. We are ready to hit the ground running, and I look forward to continuing our work in the next Congress."

Rep. Paul is the only elected Republican to openly defend secrets outlet WikiLeaks in the wake of secret US diplomatic cables being passed along to the media. "What we need is more WikiLeaks," he suggested during a recent interview, suggesting that the Fed be targeted by whistleblowers. He's also a longtime critic of the Fed's manipulation of America's fiat currency, arguing that monetary value based on gold markets makes for a more stable economic system.

Most economists consider the position archaic and unwieldy, but he's not alone in the belief. Robert Zoellick, president of the World Bank, recently called for a renewed debate on what a global gold standard would mean. He suggested that gold markets were already being used as an alternative currency in the wake of severe financial instability seen across the industrialized world in recent years.

Speaking on the floor of the House yesterday, Paul again defended WikiLeaks to his colleagues.

"The hysterical reaction makes one wonder if this is not an example of killing the messenger for the bad news," he said, adding that the leaks had caused "no known harm to any individual."

Paul's same iconoclastic take on the Fed could cause serious divisions between Republicans, who've often defended the nation's central bank. “I think you’re going to see a significant dispute within the Republican Party," Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) told Bloomberg. Frank is the senior Democrat on the House Financial Services Committee and a Paul ally in the push to see an audit of the Fed. "I do not believe that Ron Paul’s views on the Fed represent the views of most Republicans."

Paul's "Audit the Fed" bill, HR 1207, passed the House but was side-tracked into committee and had its language stripped out of the Senate's financial reform legislation. Paul's bill would have put the Fed's complete balance sheet under the US Comptroller General's microscope, but leading Senate Democrats bucked Paul's bipartisan alliance and effectively let the bank "keep its secrets," the Texas Congressman said.

Paul's son Rand was elected last November to become the next Republican US Senator from Kentucky.

This video is from C-Span, broadcast Thursday, Dec. 9, 2010, as snipped by MoxNews.

Greenspan Discusses Bonds and Collapse 12/17/2009

Click this link .......

“Iceland well on its way to economic recovery”

Dagens Industri, Sweden’s most influental financial newspaper, recently reported that Iceland is well on its way to economic recovery following the financial collapse in 2008. According to Dagens Industri, Iceland had a positive GDP increase last quarter for the first time in two years.

The financial newspaper goes on to report that the sacrifices made during the first two years, such as Icelanders watching their currency plunge and living standards dropping to a similar level in 2003, are starting to pay off.

Dagens Industri reported that households involved in the last wave of home purchases are still struggling, but overall the situation is far better than the end of 2008.

Iceland’s unemployment rate is at 6.4 percent, which is very competitive compared to many European countries considered to be in better economic shape. The key interest rate is down from 18 percent to 4.5 percent.

Iceland’s ability to let its independent currency take the hit is described in the article as an important factor for the country’s quick economic turnaround.

According to Dagens Industri, the outlook for an Icesave agreement with the British and the Dutch is looking favourable for Iceland. It writes that the interest rate is likely to be half of the 5.5 percent that was previously discussed and that the reconstruction of Landsbanki’s assets is going so well that the total Icesave amount has dropped considerably.

However, the article also points out that even though Iceland is currently in recovery mode it still has a long way to go.

The article in Swedish can be found here:

« Caught By Mistake In Web Of Foreclosure »

Christopher Marconi was in the shower when he heard a loud banging on his door. By the time he grabbed a towel and hustled to his front step, a U.S. marshal's sedan was peeling out of his driveway. Nailed to Marconi's front door was a foreclosure summons from Wells Fargo, naming him as a defendant. But the notice was for a house Marconi had never seen — on a mortgage he never had.

Tom Williams was in his kitchen thumbing through the mail when he opened a letter from GMAC. It informed him that the bank would confiscate his house unless he immediately paid off his mortgage balance of $276,000. But Williams had never missed a mortgage payment. And his loan wasn't due to mature until 2032.

Warren Nyerges opened his front door in Naples, Fla., to find a scraggly-haired summons server standing on his stoop. He plopped a foreclosure notice from Bank of America in Nyerges' hands. But Nyerges had paid for his house in cash. And he'd never had a checking account, much less a mortgage, with Bank of America.

By now, you may have heard the stories of bank robo-signers powering through hundreds of foreclosure affidavits a day without verifying a single fact. But most of those involved homeowners who had stopped paying their mortgage. They were genuine defaulters. Now a new species of homeowner is getting pushed into foreclosure hell.

People have always loved to complain about their banks. The push-button circus that passes for customer service. The larding on of fees. But the false foreclosure cases are hardly the usual complaints. These homeowners paid their mortgages on time. Some even paid off their loans. Worse, those on the receiving end of a bad foreclosure claim tell similar stories of getting bounced from one bank official to the next with no resolution while the foreclosure process continues apace.

Many have to resort to paying a lawyer, even after presenting documentation. They say they have to sue not only to stop the wrongful foreclosure but also to attempt to win back their costs.

"This is the worst I've ever seen it," says Ira Rheingold, an attorney and executive director of the National Association of Consumer Advocates. Diane Thompson has defended hundreds of foreclosure cases. "In virtually every case, I believe the homeowner was not in default when you looked at the surrounding facts. It is a widespread problem throughout the country."

Homeowners in Florida, Nevada, Texas and Pennsylvania have filed lawsuits alleging that they were victims of mistaken foreclosure. In many of those cases, the bank went so far as to haul away belongings and change the locks on the wrong homes.

One such suit was filed in March by Pennsylvania homeowner Angela Iannelli. She was up to date on her payments when, she says, she arrived home in October 2009 to find that Bank of America had ransacked her belongings, cut off her utilities, poured anti-freeze down her drains, padlocked her doors and confiscated Luke, her pet parrot of 10 years. It took her six weeks to get the bank to clean up the house.

Iannelli's lawyer says the parties are in the process of "mutually resolving the issues" and the lawsuit is "in the process of being discontinued." Bank of America did not immediately respond to a request for comment on her case.

But the incidents haven't stopped. Maria and Jose Perez of Seguin, Texas filed suit in October after Bank of America sent them a notice that their house was scheduled for a foreclosure sale Nov. 2. The couple say they are current on their mortgage payment and they have no loan with Bank of America. A trial is set for June 13.

Now the class actions are coming. In Kentucky and California, class-action lawsuits have been filed against major lenders on behalf of homeowners who allege that they made all of their payments but got foreclosed on anyway.

"It is mind-boggling that these large banks accepted billions and billions of TARP money from the government, and they are just committing a fraud on the American people," says Jack Gaitlin, who filed the Kentucky suit on Oct. 4.

Continue reading at the Associated Press...


Bill Black and Dylan Ratigan tell the truth...

Video: Ratigan with Black and Inside Job Director Charles Ferguson

I've never posted this clip before, and it's better than the one at the top, in my view. Click here for Ratigan's complete interview with Charles Ferguson.

  • "There have been ZERO criminal referrals."
  • “None of that is happening because the people in charge don’t look.”
  • “If you looked you would have seen fraud incidence in these mortgages in the 80% range and they could not have been sold.”
  • “The real losses are being hidden BY THE FEDERAL RESERVE to the tune of trillions of dollars RIGHT NOW.”

5 foreclosure links:


« Secret GOP Plan: Avoid A Massive Bailout By Pushing States To Declare Bankruptcy, Smashing Unions »

This has been anticipated for months. Watch bubble-state muni bond portfolios crater as ponzinomic reality sets in for California, Illinois and others.


From Reuters

Congressional Republicans appear to be quietly but methodically executing a plan that would a) avoid a federal bailout of spendthrift states and b) cripple public employee unions by pushing cash-strapped states such as California and Illinois to declare bankruptcy. This may be the biggest political battle in Washington, my Capitol Hill sources tell me, of 2011.

That’s why the most intriguing aspect of President Barack Obama’s tax deal with Republicans is what the compromise fails to include — a provision to continue the Build America Bonds program. BABs now account for more than 20 percent of new debt sold by states and local governments thanks to a federal rebate equal to 35 percent of interest costs on the bonds. The subsidy program ends on Dec. 31. And my Reuters colleagues report that a GOP congressional aide said Republicans “have a very firm line on BABS — we are not going to allow them to be included.”

In short, the lack of a BAB program would make it harder for states to borrow to cover a $140 billion budgetary shortfall next year, as estimated by the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities. The long-term numbers are even scarier. Estimates of states’ unfunded liabilities to pay for retiree benefits range from $750 billion to more than $3 trillion.

Republicans in the House of Representatives already want to stop state and local governments from issuing tax-exempt bonds unless they are more forthright about these future obligations. Republican Representatives Devin Nunes and Darrell Issa of California and Paul Ryan of Wisconsin have introduced a bill that would require state and local governments to estimate the size of public pension liabilities if their assets earned a more conservative rate of return than many plans currently expect. Failure to do so would result in the suspension of their ability to issue tax-exempt bonds

Greater transparency on these obligations can’t be bad. In fact, the federal government itself would do well to report deficit numbers not just on the current cash-in, cash-out basis but also incorporating the underfunding of promised pension and healthcare benefits to retirees.

But it’s about more than just openness. Some Republicans hope the shock of the newly revealed debt totals will grease the way towards explicitly permitting states to declare bankruptcy.

Continue reading at Reuters...


Give States A Way to go Bankrupt

The Best Option for Avoiding a Federal Bailout

With liquidation off the table, the effectiveness of state bankruptcy would depend a great deal on the state’s willingness to play hardball with its creditors. The principal candidates for restructuring in states like California or Illinois are the state’s bonds and its contracts with public employees. Ideally, bondholders would vote to approve a restructuring. But if they dug in their heels and resisted proposals to restructure their debt, a bankruptcy chapter for states should allow (as municipal bankruptcy already does) for a proposal to be “crammed down” over their objections under certain circumstances. This eliminates the hold-out problem—the refusal of a minority of bondholders to agree to the terms of a restructuring—that can foil efforts to restructure outside of bankruptcy.

The bankruptcy law should give debtor states even more power to rewrite union contracts, if the court approves. Interestingly, it is easier to renegotiate a burdensome union contract in municipal bankruptcy than in a corporate bankruptcy. Vallejo has used this power in its bankruptcy case, which was filed in 2008. It is possible that a state could even renegotiate existing pension benefits in bankruptcy, although this is much less clear and less likely than the power to renegotiate an ongoing contract.

Whether states like California or Illinois would fully take advantage of such powers is of course open to question. During his recent campaign, Governor-elect Jerry Brown promised to take a hard look at California’s out-of-control pension costs. But it is difficult to imagine Brown taking a tough stance with the unions. Even in his reincarnation as a sensible politician who has left his Governor Moonbeam days behind, Brown depends heavily on labor support. He doesn’t seem likely to bring the gravy train to an end, or even to slow it down much.

Continue reading at the Weekly Standard...


One last link...

Fill this out - Forms for GOP Chairmanships - Politico

Want to be a chairman? Answer 20 questions first.

Incoming Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and incoming Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) distributed a four-page questionnaire to candidates for House chairmanships, asking them to detail everything from spending cuts to their specific plans for their committee to their commitment to enacting new GOP priorities.



Video - Public unions and you...

Polish posted this clip in comments, and it's very funny. Profanity warning.


Setting Up Wall Street's Next Tax Trade

This week's tax compromise between the White House and congressional Republicans is a big win for Wall Street.

The deal extends the lower tax rates on dividends and capital gains. That should provide investors incentive to stay in the market —or get in if they were uncertain. Big bonuses and compensation packages are safe for at least two years, with the extension of the Bush-era cuts on high-income earners.

That is the short-term outlook. A long-term part of the agreement also is good for Wall Street. The compromise takes baby steps toward two end-game goals: One is obvious, and the other has been dormant since the early part of Bush's second term.

If Republicans compromised at all, it was with the sacrifice of permanent tax cuts: income taxes and the capital gains and dividend cuts that now set to expire in two years. That concession was almost a given considering the political pressure on President Barack Obama. A permanent extension was just not going to happen.

But a two-year extension may be just as welcome. Republicans hope that by reviving the tax cut question in an election year will be a winning issue. The impact during the next two years almost doesn't matter. If the economy is in full recovery mode, tax cutters can take credit. If we're in a stall or worse they can argue that raising taxes in such a climate is a bad idea.

Either argument will put President Obama in a corner.

In other words, if the Republican House victory in November gave the GOP leverage to extend the cuts, the climate in 2012 almost certainly will give Republicans stronger leverage toward extending them permanently.

The less obvious impact of the tax compromise is its impact on Social Security. As part of the deal, Democrats insisted on a one-year 2% payroll tax cut aimed at giving Americans more money to spend and stimulate the economy.

It isn't free money, of course. The payroll taxes in question will be trimmed from Social Security, costing the program roughly $120 billion. Relative to revenue, that isn't a deal breaker, since the program's annual receipts are around $2.6 trillion. Still, the cut definitely makes a bad situation worse.

Recession and high unemployment have hit Social Security hard. More people are claiming benefits. Social Security is expected to run a $41 billion deficit this year, something that wasn't supposed to happen until later in the decade.

By the 2030 or sooner, the U.S. government will either have to borrow heavily to meet the demands of baby boomers or cut benefits. During the next 75 years, there is a $5.3 trillion gap that needs to be filled.

So what is a nation to do? How about privatizing Social Security? Past defeats aside, the idea hasn't died and probably won't until an airtight plan to fix the system is enacted. Consider that in recent weeks, the privatization idea ( in which participants would be allowed to invest some or all of the money they pay into the system) has been percolating.

Rick Crawford, a Republican from Arkansas, won a Congressional seat after advocating during his campaign Social Security "private accounts." John Boozman, an Arkansas Republican who defeated Democratic incumbent Blanche Lincoln in her Senate re-election race, also supports private accounts. Marco Rubio, another Republican who was elected to the Senate from Florida, championed the idea before constituents in the retiree-heavy state complained.

"It is a mathematical fact that the least expensive way to provide for an almost certain future liability is to save and invest in capital markets prior to the onset of the liability," wrote William Shipman, a former mutual-fund executive, and Peter Ferrara, a former Reagan policy adviser, on the Journal's Opinion page Oct. 27.

Wall Street has long coveted the trillions of dollars pumped into the government-run retirement plan. Time and expense are on the side of securities and asset-management firms. The more Social Security's financial picture gets more dire, the more radical alternatives are considered.

That is why dipping into Social Security for a short-term tax benefit helps the cause. Even if the payroll tax expires—and that is hardly a given considering how hard it is to roll back tax cuts—the money lost for the program isn't coming back.

That is why Wall Street should see the compromise not only as a short-term win, but a step toward the bigger victor of bringing in fresh investor cash and the fees that come with it.

The boon might not happen immediately, partly because the public's mistrust of Wall Street is too high.

But as any retiree can tell you, memory is one of the first things that goes.

2nd study traces Haitian cholera to South Asia

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) -- Scientists reported Thursday the strongest evidence yet that a cholera outbreak that has killed more than 2,000 people in Haiti can be traced to South Asia.

The analysis fits with, but does not prove, the controversial idea that the disease came from U.N. troops dispatched from that region.

DNA analysis found that cholera bacteria recovered in Haiti were nearly identical to strains predominant in South Asia, and different from those found in Latin America, researchers said.

That indicates that cholera was introduced by people, rather than arriving through ocean currents or arising within Haiti, as has been suggested, said Harvard researcher Dr. Matthew Waldor.

The most likely explanation is that the germs were released in excretions from people, but they could also have come from contaminated food or water brought in by people arriving from South Asia, he said.

Waldor is an author of a report published online Thursday by the New England Journal of Medicine. The paper confirms a South Asian link reported last month by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, and presents a more detailed analysis of the DNA.

Cholera has sickened nearly 100,000 people in Haiti since October, and it's feared the germ could infect six times that number. Before the current outbreak, no cholera had been confirmed in Haiti since World Health Organization record keeping began in the mid-20th Century. And no cases had been suspected for at least a century.

The origin of the outbreak became politicized with suspicions that U.N. soldiers from Nepal brought the disease to Haiti and transmitted it because of sanitation problems at their base. The suspicions were strengthened when sanitation problems and questionable human waste-dumping practices were found by journalists.

A week of anti-U.N. riots broke out. Riots are again raging in Haiti over a disputed political election and clashes with U.N. peacekeepers are a constant occurrence.

On Tuesday, The Associated Press obtained a copy of an undisclosed report by French epidemiologist Renaud Piarroux that said "no other hypothesis could be found" to explain how a strain never before seen in Haiti erupted in a village far from the coast and the earthquake zone, in an area directly abutting the peacekeepers' base.

Waldor said his report is consistent with the Nepalese-troops hypothesis, but does not prove it or deal directly with it. The researchers didn't compare the Haitian samples with those from Nepal or test Nepalese troops stationed in Haiti, he noted.

The researchers may examine cholera strains from Nepal and elsewhere around the world to get a better idea of where the Haitian cholera came from, he said.

While the evidence is strong that human activity brought cholera to Haiti, "we don't need to really indict any particular human group," Waldor said.

Dr. John Mekalanos, another study author from Harvard, said he'd like to do enough additional DNA research to trace the Haitian strain to a particular country, be it Nepal or some other nation.

"This fact simply will prove that the travel of infected individuals to areas that are at risk for epidemic cholera needs to be addressed as a public health concern," he said.

The World Health Organization, the United Nations and the U.S. CDC have said pinpointing the outbreak's origin was unimportant, likely impossible and counterproductive to fighting the disease. Several epidemiologists and public health experts, however, have said seeking the origin was important for scientific and social reasons, in Haiti and globally.

In any case, Waldor said the finding that the germ was brought in by outsiders suggests that preventive steps should be taken whenever troops or relief workers are sent to a disaster scene from a nation where cholera is widespread. Such people should be routinely screened for the disease or given antibiotics or a dose of vaccine, he said.

"We can intervene to prevent human transmission of cholera around the globe," he said.

For the paper, researchers compared DNA of cholera bacteria from two Haitian patients with samples from Peru and Bangladesh.

The new study says it's important to try to keep Haiti's cholera from spreading elsewhere. Waldor said evidence suggests that if the Haitian strain reached Latin America, it might replace the local strains and cause a more severe and lethal disease in that region.

So that provides further rationale for a large cholera vaccine campaign in Haiti, he said, although he noted that is "not immediately possible" because the vaccine is in short supply. Perhaps production could be stepped up over the next few months, he said.

Wall Street gorges on record bonuses

'They were lucky not to be shot': Police chief says armed officers showed 'enormous restraint' as mob attacked Charles and Camilla

The Met Commissioner promised there would be a 'full and thorough' investigation but stressed there had to be a balance between security and allowing the Royals to interact with the public.

'Short of locking everything down, then frankly we have to do our best to try and achieve that balance that facilitates that closeness with the public while still providing security,' he said.

'Yesterday was a very shocking incident but minutes beforehand that route was clear; a very unpredictable demonstration, a very difficult night.

Scroll down for video

A yob attacks the car containing Prince Charles, Prince of Wales and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall en route to the Royal Veriety Performace at the Palladium

A yob attacks the car containing Prince Charles, Prince of Wales and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall en route to the Royal Veriety Performace at the Palladium

Alarm: Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall react as their car is attacked

Alarm: Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall react as their car is attacked

Dai Davies, the former head of Scotland Yard's royal protection squad, said Sir Paul must be 'embarrassed and surprised' at the security lapse.


The security blunder that led to rioters attacking Charles and Camilla's car is not the first lapse under the watch of the current head of Royal protection.

Aristocrat Commander Peter Loughborough, 52, came under serious fire after Aaron Barshak gatecrashed Prince William's 21st birthday party in 2003.

His job was throught to be at risk after the incident, which came just seven months after he was chosen to head the Royalty Protection Department.

In an earlier lapse, when Michael Fagan broke into Buckingham Palace in 1982, his predecessor Commander Michael Trestrail lost his post.

But father-of-four Commander Loughborough, whose real name is Peter St Clair-Erskine and is the seventh Earl of Rosslyn, survived the 2003 incident.

He is now billed as the Queen's favourite policeman and was last year handed the Queen's Police Medal for 'services to policing'.

Commander Loughborough was handed the job because he is deemed to have the social skills to move in aristocratic circles.

Educated at Eton and Bristol University, his privileged background is highly unusual for a police officer. He joined the Metropolitan Police in 1980 on the recommendation of a cousin in the force.

In his down time, he is a Crossbencher in the House of Lords - where he survived the cull of hereditary members by the Labour government.

The Royalty Protection Department is made up of more than 400 officers, each vetted and recommended for the job.

He questioned why a different car had not been used or alternative routes to keep the Prince and his wife out of harm's way.

'Presumably someone must have told royal protection there was a demonstration of this sort and intelligence should have co-ordinated a better system,' he said.

'I'm sure my successor is looking very carefully at what went wrong and indeed how it must never happen again. It was an atrocious attack on their two Royal Highnesses and I'm appalled, frankly.'

Security analyst and former police officer Charles Shoebridge said: 'One can visualise a situation where police felt they had no alternative but to open fire. It wasn't potentially dangerous. It was dangerous.

'The police will need to look at this in great detail. They need a rapid and robust investigation to identify how it could have happened.'

He added: 'This is a very serious incident. It ranks amongst the most serious security breaches of the past decade.

'Some of the demonstrators yesterday were carrying petrol, specifically to use in arson attacks. If the can of paint had been a can of petrol, it would have been very different.'

The former intelligence officer condemned how Charles and Camilla were allowed to 'blunder' into the demonstration and questioned whether Scotland Yard had the right people in charge.

Today, the Prince and his wife hailed the efforts of police and expressed their gratitude but Clarence House refused to be drawn on the security lapse.

A spokesman said: 'Their Royal Highnesses totally understand the difficulties which the police face and are always very grateful to the police for the job they do in often very challenging circumstances.'

The Royal vehicle was ambushed by a 'steaming gang' of masked protesters, who attacked the car with their firsts, boots and bottles.

Photographer Matt Dunham, who captured Camilla looking aghast, said: 'It [the car] was unable to move because it was surrounded. It was stuck in a gridlock.

'There were people kicking it and screaming. So I raced towards it and then saw it was Camilla and Charles. Charles seemed to be waving calmly at first, trying to be amicable, but then he looked worried. Camilla was visibly agitated.'

One witness said Charles kept calm, gently pushing his wife towards the floor to get her out of the line of fire.

'Charles got her on the floor and put his hands on her,' said Adnan Nazir, a 23-year-old podiatrist who was following the protesters.

charles and camilla

Charles and Camilla's Rolls Royce Phantom VI with a smashed window parked outside the London Palladium

A yob's handprint seen on the passenger side window of the Royal's Rolls Royce

A yob's handprint seen on the passenger side window of the Royal's Rolls Royce

David Cameron, who described the attack as 'shocking and regrettable', insisted lessons had to be learned and those responsible held to account.

'It's no good to say this was a very small minority. It wasn't,' he said. 'There were quite a number of people who clearly were there wanting to pursue violence and destroy property.

'I know that the Metropolitan Police Commissioner is going to be working hard to report on this. I also know quite rightly he will look into the very regrettable incident where the Prince of Wales and his wife were nearly attacked by this mob.'

The Prime Minister spoke to the Met Chief and Prince Charles' private secretary last night but he stressed the police were not to blame. 'It was the fault of the people who tried to smash up that car,' he said.

London mayor Boris Johnson hailed Charles and Camilla's 'great fortitude of spirit' and called for an end to the violent tuition fee protests.

He said: 'Clearly, it is very regrettable that in the heart of London, the heir to the throne can be surrounded by agitators and his wife can be put in a position where she's plainly alarmed.'

Charles and Camilla's journey began when they left Clarence House at approximately 7.15pm.


The couple's ordeal began as their limousine, escorted by three police outriders and an unmarked police car, turned into Regent Street from Piccadilly Circus.

At first they were seen talking happily and waving at passers-by. But then suddenly the crowd began to close in around them, swelled by student fee protesters who had run to the scene from the riot outside Parliament.

Bags of rubbish, traffic cones, bottles and plastic barriers from roadworks started to rain down on the Rolls-Royce, which was stopped in its tracks when a large bin was thrown in front of it.

Rioters, wearing balaclavas and scarves over their faces, surrounded the car, banging on the windows – one of which was open – and shouting ‘Tory scum’ and ‘off with your heads’. A lone policewoman tried desperately to clear the mob.

Camilla could be heard screaming as she gripped Charles’s hand. Terrified for her safety, she then dived on to the floor of the car. One witness said Charles pushed her down in an attempt to protect her.

The Prince, however, defiantly remained sitting in his seat and continued to wave at the crowd.

Viscount Palmerston in flames
A student urinates on statue of Churchill

Defiled: The statues of two of Britain's greatest premiers, Lord Palmerston, left, who was in power almost continuously from 1807 until his death in 1865, and Churchill were targeted by the student demonstrators

Charlie Gilmour, son of Pink Floyd guitarist David, swinging from the Cenotaph

Disrespect: Charlie Gilmour, son of Pink Floyd guitarist David, swinging from the Cenotaph

British riot come under attack from flares as they clash with protestors during student demonstrations in Parliament Square

British riot come under attack from flares as they clash with protestors during student demonstrations in Parliament Square

More police appeared and cleared the mob, allowing the car to continue its journey along Regent Street.

But shortly after it drove past Hamley’s toy shop, it was hit with a can of white paint that smashed a passenger window.

Following protection officers were said to have used the doors of their car to push protesters out of the way as the convoy continued through the melee.

Observers said as few as half of the yesterday's crowd of protesters were students, with a rent-a-mob of anarchists and other thugs taking control.

The clashes left 12 police officers and 43 protesters injured, and 34 people were arrested.

In the Commons, the Coalition was plunged into crisis as MPs voted to approve a rise in the university tuition fees cap from £3,290 a year to £9,000.

Three ministerial aides – two Lib Dems and one Tory – resigned as the Government’s majority of 83 was slashed to just 21, a quarter of its normal size.

In a blow to Nick Clegg’s authority, 21 Liberal Democrats including former leaders Menzies Campbell and Charles Kennedy voted against the Government.

Another eight Lib Dems abstained rather than back the plans, meaning the Deputy Prime Minister failed to get even half his 57 MPs to vote with the Government.

Mr Cameron’s authority was also undermined as eight Tories defied personal pleas to get in line.

Senior Government officials saw the rebellion either side of the walls of the Palace of Westminster as a grim portent of further protests to come at the Coalition’s cuts.


One senior figure said the Government will have to accept that up to 20 Liberal Democrats are now ‘virtually part of the opposition’ and will begin to align themselves with Labour rather than the weakened Mr Clegg.

Mr Clegg, who promised not to raise fees during the General Election campaign, denied he should feel ashamed for voting in favour of the policy.

‘I would feel ashamed if I didn’t deal with the way that the world is, not simply dream of the way the world I would like it to be,’ the Deputy Prime Minister said.

But Liberal Democrat MPs openly defied their leader. Greg Mulholland, who voted against the fees rise, accused him of ‘failing to listen’.

He said: ‘Sometimes governments are wrong and sometimes you have to have the courage to stand up and say so, that’s what I’m doing today.’

Tory backbenchers formed an unlikely alliance with Labour MPs to fire awkward questions at Lib Dem Business Secretary Vince Cable as he presented the plans to the Commons.

Flanked by Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg and David Cameron, Mr Cable was met with jeers as he argued that the new system of fees, repaid once graduates start earning £21,000, was ‘more progressive and more related to the ability to pay of graduates’.

During the heated five-hour debate, shadow business secretary John Denham said: ‘Most graduates will be asked not to pay something towards their university education, but to pay the entire cost of their university education.’

A demonstrator adds to a bonfire as it burns in Parliament Square, as students demonstrate in Westminster

A demonstrator adds to a bonfire as it burns in Parliament Square, as students demonstrate in Westminster

A British riot policeman is covered in paint during student demonstrations in London yesterday

A British riot policeman is covered in paint during student demonstrations in London yesterday

A 20-year-old student was left unconscious with bleeding on the brain after a police officer hit him on the head with a truncheon, his mother has claimed.

Alfie Meadows, a philosophy student at Middlesex University, was allegedly struck as he tried to leave the area outside Westminster Abbey during last night's tuition fee protests.

After falling unconscious on the way to Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, he had a three-hour operation for bleeding on the brain.

Susan Meadows, 55, an English literature lecturer at Roehampton University, said: 'He was hit on the head by a police truncheon. He said it was the hugest blow he ever felt in his life.

'The surface wound wasn't very big but three hours after the blow, he suffered bleeding to the brain. He survived the operation and he's in the recovery room.'

And now the clean-up: Council workers do their best to make good the devastation left by the student protesters

And now the clean-up: Council workers do their best to make good the devastation left by the student protesters

Parliament Square was left daubed with graffiti following the demonstration

Parliament Square was left daubed with graffiti following the demonstration

Read more:

U.S. Military Spending Is Out Of Control: 12 Facts That Show That We Cannot Afford To Be The Police Of The World

Today, the United States has become the police of the world. The U.S. military has a total of over 700 military bases in 130 countries around the world. Total military spending by the U.S. government is nearly equal to the combined military spending of the rest of the globe. Meanwhile, the federal government is literally drowning in debt. So if we make some significant cuts to military spending will we fix the national debt problem? Of course not. In fact, it would only put a small dent in it. But at least it would help. The truth is that we cannot afford to be the police of the world and the Pentagon wastes so much money that it is almost incomprehensible. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld once publicly admitted that the Pentagon lost track of 2.3 trillion dollars and cannot tell us how it was spent. Just imagine how your boss would react if you lost track of just 2.3 thousand dollars. So why wasn't there more of an uproar about losing track of 2.3 trillion dollars? Have we become so accustomed to military waste that we don't even care anymore?

Not that we don't need a strong military. The truth is that liberals are dead wrong when they claim that we now live in a world where a strong military is no longer necessary. China is a bigger threat than it ever has been before. Russia is a bigger threat than it ever has been before. North Korea is absolutely insane and they have nuclear weapons. There are several other radical regimes around the globe that are working hard toward getting nuclear weapons.
But you know what? The U.S. military is spread so thin right now that they could not even respond adequately if a real threat did emerge. Trying to be the police of the world is not only incredibly costly, it is also strategic suicide.

What possible justification could there possibly be for having U.S. troops in 130 different nations?
Why in the world do we still need huge contingents of troops in Germany and Japan? It is funny when people talk about us pulling out of Afghanistan or Iraq, because we never even pulled out of Germany or Japan after World War II. Once the U.S. military gets boots on the ground somewhere, they very rarely ever leave.
Look, it is about darn time that nations like Japan and Germany learned to defend themselves. Nobody is going to invade them any time soon. Everyone knows they are protected by U.S. nukes. So why do we have to station so many troops in both countries?
We are spending so many resources patrolling the streets of Iraq and rounding up goat herders in Afghanistan that we aren't even preparing ourselves for the real threats. If World War III does break out in the coming years, it is probably going to be the United States against an allied front of Russia and China. But we aren't preparing to fight that war. Instead, Bush and Obama have been slashing our nuclear arsenal to the bone as they obsessively hunt for "boogeymen" in the caves of the Middle East.

So in our attempt to police the world, we are spending way too much money, our military is stretched far too thin and we aren't even preparing to fight our real threats.
The truth is that U.S. military spending is totally out of control. The following are 12 facts that show that we cannot afford to be the police of the world....
#1 Today the U.S. military has over 700 bases (some say it is actually over 1000 bases) in 130 different countries around the globe. It is estimated that it costs about $100 billion a year to maintain these bases.
#2 The U.S. military budget for 2010 was $693 billion.

#3 However, when you throw in all "off budget" items and other categories of "defense" spending not covered in the Pentagon budget you get a grand total of somewhere between $1.01 and $1.35 trillion spent on national defense in 2010.
#4 The truth is that U.S. military spending is greater than the military spending of China, Russia, Japan, India, and the rest of NATO combined.
#5 Total U.S. military spending makes up approximately 44 percent of all the military spending on the entire globe.

#6 The Pentagon currently gobbles up 56 percent of all discretionary spending by the federal government.
#7 Together, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan cost more than $150 billion a year.
#8 Up to this point, it is estimated that the U.S. government has spent over 373 billion dollars on the war in Afghanistan.

#9 Up to this point, it is estimated the the U.S. government has spent over 745 billion dollars on the war in Iraq.
#10 Since 2001, the total cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan breaks down to $3,644 for every man, woman and child in the United States.
#11 The total price tag for each F-22 fighter jet is approximately $350 million.

#12 The Sustainable Defense Task Force has produced a report which shows that the U.S. could easily slash a trillion dollars from the defense budget over the next ten years.
But isn't the U.S. the wealthiest nation in the world?
Can't the U.S. government afford all of this military spending?
The truth is that the U.S. government has accumulated the biggest mountain of debt in the history of the world.

The U.S. national debt is 13 times larger than it was just 30 years ago. We are literally drowning in red ink, and the farther you project things into the future, the more apocalyptic the financial outlook becomes.
We have become so addicted to debt that we have borrowed hundreds of billions of dollars from China, Russia and other strategic enemies in recent years - thus putting our national security at risk.
Sadly, as bad as they are, the "official" budget deficit figures are largely a fraud. If the U.S. government was forced to use GAAP accounting principles (like all publicly-traded corporations must), the U.S. government budget deficit would be somewhere in the neighborhood of $4 trillion to $5 trillion.
But establishment Democrats and establishment Republicans have both refused to take a stand on all this debt. That is one of the reasons why so many Americans have been attracted to the Tea Party movement.

Unfortunately, we have now reached a point where an economic collapse seems virtually inevitable. There is no way that we are going to be able to continue to police the world. In fact, unless our military spending becomes far more efficient and far more focused on the real threats we may not even be able to protect our own nation when the time comes.
I have a feeling that the vast majority of my readers are going to disagree with something that they have read in this article. That is okay - debate is healthy and is good for our country. If you disagree with any of the points made above, please post a comment below and tell us what you think....

Brown Water Advisory issued for Oahu, Kauai, Maui, Molokai

OAHU and KAUAI (HawaiiNewsNow) - A Brown Water Advisory has been issued for Oahu, Kauai, Maui and Molokai due to heavy showers.

The Department of Health's Clean Water Branch says the public should stay out of flood waters and storm water runoff due to possible overflowing of cesspools, pesticides, animal fecal matter, dead animals, chemicals and associated flood debris.

The public is also advised to stay out of turbid and brown coastal waters.

Copyright 2010 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.

The Foreclosure Crisis: Punchline to a Michael Lewis Joke from 2008?

The foreclosure crisis is being written and spoken of as though it were exclusively a paperwork crisis. For example, an October 18, 2010 Associated Press wire described the scandal as one concerning “questions on the accuracy of documents used in the foreclosure process” and “faulty paperwork”. The narrative is that banks got behind in their processing, hired robo-signers, bluffed folk out of homes, etc.

That all sounds true and unsurprising. However, there may be another element that is being missed.

In late 2008 Michael Lewis wrote a Portfolio article (“The End“) weaving together a story line concerning a then-recent lunch between himself and John Guttfreund of Salomon Brothers and Liar’s Poker fame (thus, arguably, nemeses), and another concerning Steve Eisman, a money manager who bet heavily against the MBS market. The climax of the Eisman story runs as follows:

“That’s when Eisman finally got it. Here he’d been making these side bets with Goldman Sachs and Deutsche Bank on the fate of the BBB tranche without fully understanding why those firms were so eager to make the bets. Now he saw. There weren’t enough Americans with shitty credit taking out loans to satisfy investors’ appetite for the end product. The firms used Eisman’s bet to synthesize more of them. Here, then, was the difference between fantasy finance and fantasy football: When a fantasy player drafts Peyton Manning, he doesn’t create a second Peyton Manning to inflate the league’s stats. But when Eisman bought a credit-default swap, he enabled Deutsche Bank to create another bond identical in every respect but one to the original. The only difference was that there was no actual homebuyer or borrower. The only assets backing the bonds were the side bets Eisman and others made with firms like Goldman Sachs. Eisman, in effect, was paying to Goldman the interest on a subprime mortgage. In fact, there was no mortgage at all. ‘They weren’t satisfied getting lots of unqualified borrowers to borrow money to buy a house they couldn’t afford,’ Eisman says. ‘They were creating them out of whole cloth. One hundred times over! That’s why the losses are so much greater than the loans. But that’s when I realized they needed us to keep the machine running. I was like, This is allowed?’”

Investors who bought mortgage-backed securities believed that if interest payments stopped coming through the piping they would be able to recapture some value via the foreclosure process. If Michael Lewis was right, sometimes there were actually no underlying homes on which to foreclose.

Note that mortgage-backed securities backed by phantom mortgages are actually “mortgage”-backed securities. Such instruments are in reality derivatives that in calm markets would track the performance of securities that are really mortgage-backed. In calm markets one security may track another security (or basket thereof), but when a market reaches its shear strength nothing tracks anything. In fact, “shear strength” actually means “the point at which parallel internal surfaces in a material slide past one another” (a strangely beautiful discussion of which can be found on this engineering site). That’s a good way to think about what happens in markets under sufficient stress: surfaces which had previously stayed parallel begin sliding past each other.

If Michael Lewis was right, banks packaging up mortgages did not just do sloppy packaging. They were also selling the packages several times over. Buyers of the “fake” packages were kept unaware of the situation because they continuously received the “interest payments” they were due, those payments being funded out of the money Goldman charged investors like Eisman to keep their bearish positions in place.

Which, to readers of, may sound familiar.

If this is really what happened down below, how would things appear on the surface? Like this: A bunch of lawyers representing the interests of owners of these “mortgage”-backed securities would be going into court trying to foreclose on homes, but not be able to establish clear chain of title. Which is precisely what is happening. That’s not the same as saying it is why it is happening. However, if Lewis’ story about Steve Eisman is correct, then eventually this would have to happen.

Whatever the cause (or amalgam of causes) of this foreclosure crisis, its effects could ripple into our financial system in a way that some say will become catastrophic (e.g., “The Real Danger from the Foreclosure Crisis“, George Washington, Zerohedge). Banks which believe that millions of people owe them money suddenly realize that no specific people owe them money while millions of borrowers suddenly realize they don’t owe money to any specific bank; banks suspend foreclosures, but people thrown out of their homes by banks who lacked chain of title form classes to recover what is rightfully theirs; title insurance becomes impossible on a non-negligible fraction of homes. Etc.

Yet the foreclosure crisis may become an opportunity for the United States. DeepCapture has, I think, adequately documented that one of the great problems within American society is that Wall Street’s megabanks have Washington, D.C. under their thumb. Two years ago this country drew a firebreak around those Wall Street megabanks and said, “We won’t let them burn.” The better answer would have been to draw the firebreak around them and say, “Let them burn first.”

Next time around, let’s do it.

At least it will take care of the thumb.

UPDATE 1-U.S. Fed's balance sheet grows to record size

(Adds details)

NEW YORK Dec 9 (Reuters) - The U.S. Federal Reserve's balance sheet expanded for a sixth straight week, bolstered to a record by purchases of Treasuries, Fed data released on Thursday showed.

The balance sheet, a broad gauge of Fed lending to the financial system, rose to $2.364 trillion in the week ended Dec. 8 from $2.329 trillion the previous week.

Last month, the U.S. central bank began a second bout of quantitative easing, known as QE2. The Fed expects to buy about $600 billion in U.S. government debt purchases over an eight-month period in an effort to stimulate the economy.

The balance sheet exceeded the previous record of $2.333 trillion set in May as the Fed was about to end its initial round of bond purchases that involved $300 billion of Treasuries and $1.425 billion in mortgage-related securities.

The Fed's QE2 follows its use of proceeds from maturing mortgage securities in its portfolio to buy Treasuries -- a move that started in August. Since that time, it has purchased about a combined $175 billion in Treasuries. For details see [ID:nN20EDTABL].

The central bank's holdings of U.S. government securities totaled $949.61 billion on Wednesday, up from $917.45 billion last week. ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ For balance sheet graphic: ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

The Fed's ownership of mortgage bonds guaranteed by Fannie Mae (FNMA.OB), Freddie Mac (FMCC.OB) and the Government National Mortgage Association (Ginnie Mae) was unchanged from a week ago at $1.023 trillion.

The Fed's holdings of debt issued by Fannie, Freddie and the Federal Home Loan Bank system totaled $148.18 billion, unchanged from the prior week.

The Fed's overnight direct loans to credit-worthy banks via its discount window averaged $38 million a day in the week ended Wednesday, below the $191 million daily pace the prior week. (Reporting by Chris Reese, Editing by Kenneth Barry)

U.S.-China Tensions Intensify Over Korean Crisis

South Korean Gen. Han Min-koo looks at houses destroyed by North Korean shelling on Yeonpyeong Island.
Kim Ju-sung/AP/Yonhap

South Korean Gen. Han Min-koo looks at houses destroyed by North Korea's Nov. 23 shelling of Yeonpyeong Island. Two weeks after the attack, the rivals are still trading threats, while tensions are also rising between South Korea's ally, the U.S., and China, an ally of North Korea.

After two weeks of prodding by the U.S., China has sent a top envoy to North Korea to help defuse the growing crisis on the Korean peninsula. Washington has been watching with growing alarm as North Korea has taken a series of provocative actions, and has been pushing Beijing to try to rein in Pyongyang.

North Korea has been blamed for the sinking of a South Korean warship in March that killed 46 sailors. Last month, Pyongyang announced it had a uranium enrichment program. And, just before Thanksgiving, North Korea launched an artillery barrage on a South Korean island, killing four people, including two civilians.

David Schambaugh, director of the China Policy Program at George Washington University, says the incidents have heightened tension on the Korean peninsula and eroded relations between the U.S. and North Korea's traditional ally, China.

"It's an extremely serious situation and in the context of U.S.-China relations only adds further friction and tensions to an already stressful relationship," Schambaugh says.

After each incident, Washington has pressed China to intervene, but with little success. Schambaugh says there has been growing mistrust between Beijing and Washington for more than a year over a series of issues, such as human rights and currency manipulation, and the United States' good relations with Taiwan.

South Korean veterans burn a banner showing photos of North Korean leaders.
Ahn Young-joon/AP

South Korean veterans burn a banner showing photos of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il (center), his late father, Kim Il Sung (left), and his youngest son and heir apparent, Kim Jong Un, during a rally Tuesday in Seoul denouncing North Korea's bombardment of Yeonpyeong.

Schambaugh says when the U.S. asks Beijing to restrain North Korea, "the Chinese sit on their hands and stick their head in the sand and do nothing." That, Schambaugh says, is irritating, to put it mildly.

U.S., China Clash Over How To Handle Crisis

Meanwhile, the situation on the Korean peninsula has grown more serious after last month's attack. After the incident, the U.S. sent an aircraft carrier to the Yellow Sea and staged naval exercises in the region. South Korea has vowed to retaliate the next time it is attacked from the North.

The U.S., South Korea and Japan have created a united front. And as the days wear on, Beijing and Washington are exchanging barbed statements about how to handle North Korea.

Kenneth Lieberthal, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, says both sides want to defuse the Korean crisis; they just go about it in different ways. "The United States and South Korea believe that you have to deter North Korea, to demonstrate to North Korea that we are prepared to take very tough actions, military actions," he says. "To Beijing, the way to calm things down is to engage in talks, not challenge North Korea, try to just tamp it down."

Michael Green, an Asia adviser in George W. Bush's White House, says China has real fears about North Korea collapsing.

Now a senior Asia adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Green says Beijing has a legitimate worry about instability leading to a massive influx of refugees into China and destabilizing its own domestic situation.

"They also, I think, at a strategic level, have no stomach for ... unification under the South, which would put a democratic, unified nation of 75 million, aligned with the United States, right on their border," he says.

Chances Of Escalation Very Real

China has been encouraging the resumption of six-party talks involving North Korea and regional powers. But U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Jim Steinberg says Washington sees that as simply a reward for bad behavior.

"What we've seen in the past [is] that talks for the sake of talks do not produce the kind of results that we need to see to move the Korean peninsula in a more stable and peaceful direction," he says.

Steinberg will lead an American delegation to China next week to talk with officials there about North Korea. A top Chinese envoy and North Korea's ailing leader, Kim Jong Il, met Wednesday to discuss the situation on the Korean peninsula. The talks were described as candid and in-depth.

The Brookings Institution's Lieberthal says there is no doubt that Beijing has been telling Pyongyang to stop engaging in provocations. But Lieberthal says that's no guarantee North Korea will listen.

"Pyongyang has a habit of not listening to advice if they feel pressured by China or in the past by the United States," he says. "As often as not, North Korea's response to pressure is to do the opposite of what you're asking and to escalate."

Lieberthal says the chances of escalation on the Korean peninsula are very real, in part, because Kim Jong Il is trying to arrange for his youngest son to succeed him. The younger Kim will have to show he is tough enough to take over the reins from his father.

An Irishman abroad tells it like it is !! :-)

Silver price manipulation stalks bullion market

NEW YORK (Commodity Online): Is manipulation the root cause behind the sudden arrest of rising price of silver, the white precious metal this week?

Silver price has been rising along with gold in the past few months, driven by the bull run in commodities markets globally.

Last week, Comex silver futures contract hit a fresh three-week high of $28.88 an ounce. The silver bulls have gained good upside near-term technical momentum and hit another record of $30.50 per ounce on Tuesday, this week. With this, silver bull run touched a 30-year high.

But on Thursday, silver prices declined sharply to touch at $28.76 per ounce. Though analysts have argued that the drop in silver prices has been thanks to market corrections, there are some bullion dealers who suggest that the silver price is being manipulated these days.

Here is what Silver Investing News reported this week on possible silver market manipulation by banks:

Recently Max Keiser wrote in the The Guardian exposing JP Morgan’s positions in silver, claiming that the bank is acting as an agent of the Federal Reserve, holding down the price of silver, to buoy confidence in the US dollar.

“A lower silver price helps keep the relative appeal of the U.S. dollar and other fiat currencies high. By selling massive amounts of paper silver in the futures market, JPM has been able to suppress the price of the precious metal,” reported Scott Rubin for The San Francisco Chronicle.

JP Morgan also holds massive short positions in silver, according to the Article in The Guardian, upwards of 3.3bn ounces. The company is under investigation over silver price manipulation after whistleblowers alerted the CFTC in November 2009. If the price of silver remains high, or goes higher still, JP Morgan stands to loose a lot of money. It all is a self-fulfilling prophecy of sorts, if investors loose confidence in the US dollar and buy more silver, JP Morgan will loose on their short position, causing investors to loose even more confidence in the US dollar, causing them to buy more silver.

All of this is good for investors in silver as the price has been artificially manipulated downward. Industrial demand for the metal remains high, and supply issues in the future will most likely drive the price higher still.

Market participants who believe the silver market is being artificially controlled say it is major banks, including JP Morgan Chase and HSBC, that have big short futures positions and are trying to keep down prices.

Those who disagree say the futures market is being used as a hedge against positions in the physical and cash markets and that fluctuating short positions is how the markets operate.

These two banks just became subjects of separate lawsuits claiming manipulation of the silver futures and options prices are in violation of U.S. antitrust law.

In October, the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) sought to draft new regulations to stop market manipulation, with a proposal expected at the end of the year. Not surprising that silver quickly came to the forefront.

CFTC had then said during a hearing that the agency was concerned that “there have been repeated attempts to influence prices in the silver market.”

Bart Chilton, who spoke based on his personal beliefs, said regarding the CFTC’s current investigation into the silver market that: “the public deserves some answers to their concerns that silver markets are being, and have been, manipulated.”


FURY was mounting last night as it emerged that Irish bankers will pocket multi-million pound bonuses after being bailed out by British taxpayers.

The Allied Irish Bank will hand out £34million in bonuses for its executives this month, despite being on the brink of another rescue package.

Britain stumped up £3.2billion to save Ireland from collapse last month as part of a £72.1billion European bail-out.

The handout comes at a time when millions of hard-pressed Britons are struggling with the Government’s austerity measures to reduce its own budget deficit.


Irish opposition party Fine Gael yesterday called for the finance bill going through the Irish parliament to be amended to impose a 99 per cent supertax on the bonuses.

Barry O’Leary, the influential head of the Industrial Development Authority, called the decision to pay bonuses bizarre, and said the money would be better used to help repair the republic’s economy.

The bonuses were withheld in 2008 as part of the Irish government’s bank guarantee scheme. They are now being paid as a result of trader John Foy’s successful legal action against the bank, which resulted in it having to pay him a deferred bonus of £134,000.

As many as 90 employees in AIB’s capital markets division have issued similar legal proceedings, claiming the payouts were agreed before the economic crash. Last year staff at AIB received equal to £45million in bonuses.

Anarchy in UK: Video of Prince Charles's car bottled in London's protests

Click this link ......

Feast in Time of Plague: Wall Street Art of Sucking Money

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Winter of Discontent: London fee riots not the end

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China's foreign trade hits historic highs in November

Statistics released by General Administration of Customs of China today show that China's foreign trade has been soaring steadily in the first 11 moths of the year with imports and exports in November both hitting record highs.

From January to November, China's imports and exports totaled nearly 2.7 trillion U.S. dollars, a year-on-year increase of 36.3 percent, with the exports rising by 33 percent to 1.4 trillion U.S. dollars and imports soaring 40.3 percent to 1.25 trillion U.S. dollars.

However, the trade surplus shrank by 3.9 percent to 170.4 billion U.S. dollars.

In November, imports and exports totaled 284 billion U.S. dollars breaking the record of 273 billion U.S. dollar in September. It was also the first time that foreign trade has topped 280 billion U.S. dollars in history. Compared with the same month last year and the previous month of October, there was a growth of more than 36 percent and nearly 16 percent, respectively.

The value of both the imports and the exports set new monthly historic records in November. The exports in November amounted to 153 billion U.S. dollars, up nearly 35 percent year on year. The imports, driven by the rise of both volume and prices, were pushed by 38 percent higher than the same month of last year to 130.4 billion U.S. dollars. The imports grew 12.3 percentage points faster than that in October.

Trade with major partners is booming. Trade with the European Union, China's largest trading partner, reached 434 billion U.S. dollar over the first 11 months of the year, up by 33 percent year on year. Trade with the United States and Japan, the second and third largest partners, respectively, totaled 347 billion U.S. dollars and 159 billion U.S. dollars, marking a significant growth of 30 percent and 32 percent, respectively. Trade with the ASEAN soared by 40.6 percent to 263 billion U.S. dollars.

China’s trade deficit with Japan and ASEAN widened sharply in the period. The deficit with Japan of 49.6 billion U.S. dollars soared by 74 percent and the deficit with the ASEAN of 14 billion U.S. dollars was 17 times that of the first 11 months of last year.

U.S. Military Spending Is Out Of Control: 12 Facts That Show That We Cannot Afford To Be The Police Of The World

Today, the United States has become the police of the world. The U.S. military has a total of over 700 military bases in 130 countries around the world. Total military spending by the U.S. government is nearly equal to the combined military spending of the rest of the globe. Meanwhile, the federal government is literally drowning in debt. So if we make some significant cuts to military spending will we fix the national debt problem? Of course not. In fact, it would only put a small dent in it. But at least it would help. The truth is that we cannot afford to be the police of the world and the Pentagon wastes so much money that it is almost incomprehensible. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld once publicly admitted that the Pentagon lost track of 2.3 trillion dollars and cannot tell us how it was spent. Just imagine how your boss would react if you lost track of just 2.3 thousand dollars. So why wasn't there more of an uproar about losing track of 2.3 trillion dollars? Have we become so accustomed to military waste that we don't even care anymore? (Read More.....)