Wednesday, December 28, 2011

US lawmakers get richer as voters struggle

Lawmakers are increasingly likely to be multimillionaires
and are on average nine times richer than
the other Americans
© AFP/File Saul Loeb

WASHINGTON (AFP) - The wealth gap between members of Congress and ordinary Americans is growing larger, with nearly half of all lawmakers now worth more than one million dollars, according to US media reports Tuesday.

US lawmakers are increasingly likely to be multimillionaires and are on average nine times richer than the other Americans, according to data made available to the New York Times and Washington Post.

The papers reported figures from the Center for Responsive Politics that showed the median net worth of a member of Congress stood at $913,000 and is climbing, compared to $100,000 and falling for the rest of the population.

Amid protests against the country's wealthy elite that have seen many US cities "occupied" by demonstrators, it appears elected many elected representatives make up the "one percent."

Among the richest is Republican representative from California, Darrell Issa.

According to separate figures from the Center for Responsive Politics' released in November, Issa was worth $195 to $700 million last year, his fortune coming from his car alarms business.

Texas Republican Representative Michael McCaul and Democratic Senators John Kerry, Mark Warner and Herb Kohl were also among the most wealthy.

 According to the Washington Post, members of the House of Representatives were worth an average of $725,000 in 2009 compared to $280,000 in 1984, adjusted for inflation. Those figures do not include home equity.

Their wealth stands in stark contrast to the economic fate of most Americans, who have seen their value shrink over the last two decades.

Over the same period American families saw their average wealth drop from $20,600 to $20,500, also inflation-adjusted and not including home equity.

The reasons for the gap are far from clear, although many point to the cost of running for office being a deterrent to the poor, and also lawmakers being able to profit from market-moving knowledge.

"I am sure that there are multiple reasons for it," Alan Ziobrowski -- a professor at Georgia State University -- told AFP.

Ziobrowski, who has studied how lawmakers' stock investments have faired, said "the situation is pretty straight forward" with regard market-generated wealth.

"You have got a Congress which is preoccupied with three things, with regulation of industries; they are preoccupied with taxes and they are preoccupied with the federal budget. Any one of those things can have an absolutely profound impact on stock price."

"They know about them before anyone else does and that certainly leaves them in a position that they can take advantage."

But that also gives rise to suspicious that the game might be rigged: "That is the underlying ethical question... when they do cast a vote are they casting it for their constituents, or are they casting on behalf of their portfolio? Unless you look in their head, there is no way of knowing."

© AFP -- Published at Activist Post with license

Egypt Charge 2 Israelis and 1 Ukrainian with Smuggling Weapons

CAIRO — Egypt’s state prosecutor on Monday charged two Israelis and a Ukrainian with smuggling weapons and trying to implicate Egyptian security, the first case of its kind against foreigners since longtime President Hosni Mubarak was ousted in February.
A statement from the prosecutor’s office said the three would be tried in an emergency state security court, usually reserved for terrorism cases. No date for the trial has been set.
The charges are the first case of bringing foreigners to trial in connection with the turmoil in Egypt since the ousting of longtime President Hosni Mubarak in February.
Although not directly holding the suspects responsible for any of the violence, the statement said the smuggled weapons were to be used in “illegal” operations aimed to implicate Egyptian security. No further details were given in the statement.
Read Entire Article

Japan's industrial output down, unemployment flat

TOKYO (AP) -- Japan's industrial output dropped last month — with production, shipments and inventory figures all decreasing — but government forecasters had manufacturing and production looking for a rebound this month and next, officials said Wednesday.
The unemployment rate adjusted for seasonal differences was unchanged in November from the previous month, at 4.5 percent, the government also announced.
Industrial output dropped a seasonally adjusted 2.6 percent in November, according to the Ministry of Economics, Trade and Industry. It was the first decline in two months.
It said industries contributing most to the decrease were transport equipment, information and communication electronics equipment and iron and steel. Large and small passenger cars and cellphones were among the commodities adding to the decline.
The ministry described the data as "flat," and said manufacturing and production were expected to increase 4.8 percent in December and to increase 3.4 percent in January
In other economic data announced Wednesday, the government said the core Consumer Price Index fell 0.2 percent in November from year-earlier figures, its second consecutive monthly fall. The index, which does not include fresh foods, was 99.6 against the 2010 base of 100.
Core CPI for Tokyo in December — considered an indicator of future trends for the entire country — fell 0.3 percent.
In recent years, Japan has wrestled with deflation, or falling prices, which can drag on economic growth.
The ratio of job offers to job seekers was 0.69 in November, an improvement from 0.67 the previous month.
Figures released by the Ministry of Internal Affairs said there were 2.80 million people unemployed in Japan in November.

Obama Nominates Carlyle Group Partner to The Federal Reserve

Dees Illustration
Activist Post

While on vacation in Hawaii, Obama tapped Jerome Powell to serve on the Federal Reserve Board of Governors.

Powel served as the undersecretary for finance under the president George H. W. Bush and was a partner of The Carlyle Group. The Carlyle Group is a massive private equity firm and one of the largest defense contractors in the world.

They're made up of some of the most influential policymakers over the last five administrations including both Bush presidents, former Secretary of State James Baker III, former Secretary of Defense Frank Carlucci, former Clinton Chief of Staff Mack McLarty, and former SEC Chairman Arthur Levitt to name a few.

Other notable investors in The Carlyle Group include the bin Laden family and the Saudi Royal Family.  Coincidentally, George H. W. Bush was meeting at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Washington on the morning of September 11th with one of Osama Bin Laden's brothers.

Gerald Celente: 12 Trends for 2012

“Hold onto your hat, your wallet, and your wits.”
“After a tumultuous 2011 in which many of the trends we had forecast became headline news around the world, we are now forewarning of an even more tumultuous year to come.
While it would give us great pleasure to forecast a 2012 of joy and prosperity – all brought about by the wisdom and benevolence of our fearless leaders – since we are not running for office or looking to profit by gulling the people, we tell it as we see it in our 12 Top Trends 2012.”
One megatrend looms on the near horizon. And we forecast that when it strikes, it will be a shock felt around the world. Hyperbole it’s not! Our research has revealed that at the very highest levels of government this megatrend has been seriously discussed. Read on:
1. Economic Martial Law: Given the current economic and geopolitical conditions, the central banks and world governments already have plans in place to declare economic martial law … with the possibility of military martial law to follow.
2. Battlefield America: With a stroke of the Presidential pen, language was removed from an earlier version of the National Defense Authorization Act, granting the President authority to act as judge, jury and executioner. Citizens, welcome to “Battlefield America.”
3. Invasion of the Occtupy: 15 years ago, Gerald Celente predicted in his book Trends 2000 that prolonged protests would hit Wall Street in the early years of the new millennium and would spread nationwide. The “Occtupy” is now upon us, and it is like nothing history has ever witnessed.
4. Climax Time: The financial house of cards is collapsing, and in 2012 many of the long-simmering socioeconomic and geopolitical trends that Celente has accurately forecast will come to a climax. Some will arrive with a big bang and others less dramatically … but no less consequentially. Are you prepared? And what’s next for the world?
5. Technocrat Takeover: “Democracy is Dead; Long Live the Technocrat!” A pair of lightning-quick financial coup d’états in Greece and Italy have installed two unelected figures as head of state. No one yet in the mainstream media is calling this merger of state and corporate powers by its proper name: Fascism, nor are they calling these “technocrats” by their proper name: Bankers! Can a rudderless ship be saved because technocrat is at the helm?
6. Repatriate! Repatriate!: It took a small, but financially and politically powerful group to sell the world on globalization, and it will take a large, committed and coordinated citizens’ movement to “un-sell” it. “Repatriate! Repatriate!” will pit the creative instincts of a multitude of individuals against the repressive monopoly of the multinationals.
7. Secession Obsession: Winds of political change are blowing from Tunisia to Russia and everywhere in between, opening a window of opportunity through which previously unimaginable political options may now be considered: radical decentralization, Internet-based direct democracy, secession, and even the peaceful dissolution of nations, offering the possibility for a new world “disorder.”
8. Safe Havens: As the signs of imminent economic and social collapse become more pronounced, legions of New Millennium survivalists are, or will be, thinking about looking for methods and ways to escape the resulting turmoil. Those “on-trend” have already taken measure to implement Gerald Celente’s 3 G’s: Gold, Guns and a Getaway plan. Where to go? What to do? Top Trends 2012 will guide the way.
9. Big Brother Internet: The coming year will be the beginning of the end of Internet Freedom: A battle between the governments and the people. Governments will propose legislation for a new “authentication technology,” requiring Internet users to present the equivalent of a driver’s license and/or bill of health to navigate cyberspace. For the general population it will represent yet another curtailing of freedom and level of governmental control.
10. Direct vs. Faux Democracy: In every corner of the world, a restive populace has made it clear that it’s disgusted with “politics as usual” and is looking for change. Government, in all its forms – democracy, autocracy, monarchy, socialism, communism – just isn’’t working. The only viable solution is to take the vote out of the hands of party politicians and institute Direct Democracy. If the Swiss can do it, why can’t anyone else?
11. Alternative Energy 2012: Even under the cloud of Fukushima, the harnessing of nuclear power is being reinvigorated by a fuel that is significantly safer than uranium and by the introduction of small, modular, portable reactors that reduce costs and construction time. In addition, there are dozens of projects underway that explore the possibility of creating cleaner, competitively priced liquid fuels distilled from natural sources. Plan to start saying goodbye to conventional liquid fuels!
12. Going Out in Style: In the bleak terrain of 2012 and beyond, “Affordable sophistication” will direct and inspire products, fashion, music, the fine arts and entertainment at all levels. US businesses would be wise to wake up and tap into the dormant desire for old time quality and the America that was.

Jim Rogers Global Recession is Coming and It Will Be Worse Than 2008!

Stupidest government enterprise: $406k on coffee enemas

Joe Raedle / Getty Images / AFP
Joe Raedle / Getty Images / AFP 

Want to know where your tax dollars are going? Washington has a rapid response for that one on the ready: stick it up your ass.

No, really.

A recent report carried out by the Chicago Tribune reveals that the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine — a branch of the federally-funded National Institutes of Health — has spent around $1.4 billion since it began 12 years ago on finding out, among other things, that coffee enemas aimed up the butt and into the intestines will, believe it or not, not aid in pancreatic cancer treatment. That messy test, reports the Tribune, was made possible thanks to a $406,000 grant.

What other scientific breakthroughs were made possible by your involuntary donations to Uncle Sam? Over half-a-million dollars helped scientists determine that AIDS could not be cured with prayer, and it took $374-grad to come to the conclusion that, contrary to popular belief, sniffing lemon juice will not help heal external wounds.

Dr. Wallace Sampson of Stanford University tells the Tribune that real medical wizzes “don't take public money and invest it in projects that are just made up out of people's imaginations." The government, on the other hand, likes to act on instinct. Such was the case with a study that spent $1.25 million to conclude that, “Hey, people with cancer feel better after being massaged.”

Also keen on massages: people without cancer.

While most of these makeshift science experiments are done without merit, the writer reveals that two-out-of-five American adults say that they’ve used alternative treatments during the last year. The Tribune doesn’t tackle how many people tried the coffee enema — before or after the results of the study — but with the alternative therapy industry raking in around $34 billion annually, the NIH seems to think that their little-known branch of barbaric home remedies is worth American tax dollars, even if it comes to the tune of $1.4 billion.

Think your money could have been better well spent? Take it up with the lawmakers that allow such funding. As RT reported earlier this year, your pennies on the dollar could have ended up elsewhere. After all, $900,000 in government funding recently went to the NIH to determine, among other things, the correlation between penis size and sexual health among gay men.

Infastructure, shminfastructure. These are real investments, America!

Ron Paul: Town crier for radical ideas now taken seriously

Ron Paul
Born:1935, in Pittsburgh
Family:Married, five children
Education:B.A., GettysburgCollege, M.D., Duke University
Early career: Physician, U.S. Air Force, 1963-68; obstetrician
Political career: 1976, elected to U.S. House from Texas in special election, did not win re-election; 1978, elected to U.S. House; 1984, unsuccessful run for U.S. Senate; 1988, Libertarian Party presidential candidate; 1997-present, member of U.S. House; 2008, ran for Republican presidential nomination

- McClatchy Newspapers
WASHINGTON -- Rep. Ron Paul remembers the day he was transformed from a mild-mannered physician into the feisty political Nostradamus of the Republican Party.

It was the evening of Aug.15, 1971. Then-President Richard Nixon announced that he was taking the United States off the gold standard, which had anchored the dollar based on a fixed amount of the precious metal.

"He just, by executive order, ended the gold standard, put on wage and price controls, put on tariffs," Paul, R-Texas, recalled in an interview with McClatchy. "And I thought that was bad news for America and it was going to usher in an age of rampant inflation and financial bubbles and, finally, bankruptcy."

Nixon's actions launched Paul's four-decade political career. At times it's been a lonely journey. Paul has predicted a coming U.S. economic Armageddon, with hell to pay for overly aggressive American military and foreign policies. He also has called for a strict interpretation of the Constitution. At times his views were greeted with derision and laughter, even within his own party.

But a funny thing has happened to Paul as he runs for president a third time: Some of his positions once dismissed as kooky or quirky don't seem so bizarre anymore to many voters or to his fellow Republican lawmakers.

Federally funded bank bailouts, trillion-dollar deficits, high unemployment and the nation's weariness with wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have caused some Republicans to view the 76-year-old Paul in a different light.

Ideas find favor

Many of his ideas are now part of the GOP playbook, including some that once deviated from Republican doctrine. Now they all want to tame federal spending and debt and to rein in the federal government. And increasingly, many Republicans are considering reducing America's military and diplomatic role overseas. Some even favor Paul's long crusade to return to the gold standard.


China and Japan plan direct currency exchange agreement

Yuan and dollar notes

China has been pushing for the yuan to become an alternate reserve currency along with the US dollar
China and Japan have unveiled plans to promote direct exchange of their currencies in a bid to cut costs for companies and boost bilateral trade.

The deal will allow firms to convert the Chinese and Japanese currencies directly into each other.

Currently businesses in both countries need to buy US dollars before converting them into the desired currency, adding extra costs.

It is the latest step by China as it seeks a more global role for the yuan.

"Given the huge size of the trade volume between Asia's two biggest economies, this agreement is much more significant than any other pacts China has signed with other nations," Ren Xianfang of IHS Global Insight was quoted as saying by the Bloomberg news agency.

China is Japan's biggest trading partner. According to the Japan External Trade Organization, trade between the two countries stood at 26.5tn yen ($339bn; £218bn) in 2010.
More collaboration
Continue reading the main story
“Start Quote

    This should encourage Japanese private investment into Chinese bonds, as well as into other Asian emerging currencies”

End Quote Takuji Okubo Societe Generale

The plans were announced during a visit to China by Japan's Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and after a meeting with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao.

The two leaders also agreed to allow the Japan Bank for International Cooperation to issue yuan-denominated bonds in China, the first time a foreign government body has been allowed to do so.

At the same time, Japan said it was also looking to buy Chinese government bonds, a move that analysts believe may prove to be mutually beneficial to both nations.

"By adopting Chinese bonds as a part of official foreign exchange reserves, Japan is labelling Chinese bonds as an investable asset," according to Takuji Okubo of Societe Generale Tokyo.

"This should encourage Japanese private investment into Chinese bonds, as well as into other Asian emerging currencies. Such development in turn should help develop offshore currency trading in Japan," he added.

As for China, Mr Okubo explained that the move will help China further open up its financial markets.

The deal "is a manifest of a higher level of commitment from China to the open-up reform, which would add credibility to the ongoing offshore yuan experiment", he said.
Tripartite agreement?

Along with promoting bilateral business ties, China and Japan said they had also made progress on a free trade agreement between China, Japan and South Korea.

The proposed agreement is expected to boost trade between the three nations.

"On a free-trade agreement among Japan, China and South Korea, we've made a substantial progress for an early start of negotiations," Mr Noda said.

China has been pushing for the three parties to speed up talks and proceedings on the deal, especially after Japan showed a keen interest to participate in the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP).

The TPP, a trade pact led by the US, includes Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.

It is aimed at eliminating tariffs and other barriers to goods and services trade and investment among the member countries to boost growth.

Obama to ask for debt limit hike: Treasury official

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The White House plans to ask Congress by the end of the week for an increase in the government's debt ceiling to allow the United States to pay its bills on time, according to a senior Treasury Department official on Tuesday.
The approval is expected to go through without a challenge, given that Congress is in recess until later in January and the request is in line with an agreement to keep the U.S. government funded into 2013.
The debt is projected to fall within $100 billion of the current cap by December 30, when the United States has $82 billion in interest on its debt and payments such as Social Security coming due. President Barack Obama is expected to ask for authority to increase the borrowing limit by $1.2 trillion, part of the spending authority that was negotiated between Congress and the White House this summer.
Under the agreement struck in August during the showdown over the government's debt limit, the cap is automatically raised unless Congress votes to block the debt-ceiling extension. Lawmakers have 15 days within receiving the request to vote, which is largely symbolic because the president can veto it and Congress would be unlikely to muster the two-thirds majority to override it. Moreover, the U.S. House of Representatives also is in recess until January 17.
The deal called for raising the debt ceiling by $2.1 trillion to serve the nation's borrowing needs into 2013 and also included mandatory cuts to the federal budget deficit. Since then, the extension has been increased twice by a total of $900 billion.
The debt limit currently stands at $15.194 trillion and would increase to $16.394 trillion with the request.
(Reporting By Margaret Chadbourn; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)

Welcome To The Third World, Part 4: Boomers Reap What They’ve Sown

It was fun while it lasted. We Baby Boomers got to diss our elders when we were young and borrow without restraint through middle-age. Few generations have traveled such a smooth stretch of financial/psychological highway.
But now that we’re…old…the world we created isn’t so congenial. Our savings are inadequate, jobs are scarce, and retirement, as a result, is out of reach for many of us. We are, in short, reaping what we’ve sown these past four decades. From today’s Wall Street Journal:

Oldest Baby Boomers Face Jobs Bust

Many older Americans fear they will be working well into their 60s because they didn’t save enough to retire. Millions more wish they were that lucky: Without full-time jobs, they are short of money and afraid of what lies ahead.
Deborah Kallick was a professor of biomedical chemistry at the University of Minnesota until she ventured into the private sector in 2000 with a job in genome research. She is now one of more than four million Americans aged 55 to 64 who can’t find full-time work. That number has nearly doubled in five years, according to U.S. Department of Labor figures in October.
Ms. Kallick, 60 years old, has been unemployed since 2007 and lives in the Northern California home of an ex-boyfriend. She has run out of unemployment insurance, used up most of her retirement savings and is indebted to relatives and credit-card companies.
A good job could settle her accounts, she said. Until then, Ms. Kallick relies on generosity, occasional consulting work and the sale of sweaters, purses and other possessions on eBay.
“It is very hard to work through this and learn to be calm and happy day to day,” said Ms. Kallick, who never married. “It has taken a lot of strength and courage to learn to do that.”
Older Baby Boomers are trying to postpone retirement, as many find their spending habits far outpaced their thrift. With U.S. unemployment at 8.6%, and much higher among people in their teens and 20s, younger members of the labor pool accuse Boomers of refusing to gracefully exit the workplace.
But their long-held grip is slipping, as employers look past older Americans to younger, cheaper workers.
The Labor Department counts people as unemployed only if they have looked for a job in the previous month. By that definition, 6.5% of workers aged 55 to 64 were unemployed in October, below the national average but more than twice the jobless rate for the group five years earlier.
Taking into account the number of older people who want full-time work but are unemployed, working part-time or need a job but have quit looking, the percentage jumps to 17.4%, or 4.3 million Americans ages 55 to 64, according to the government data. The number has grown from 2.4 million in October 2006.
This group without full-time work now accounts for more than one in six older Americans seeking positions.
In some ways, older people are doing better than everyone else: Among all U.S. workers, 20% are unemployed, underemployed or have given up looking for jobs. But older people have far less time to rebuild savings.
“This is new. It is different. It is worse than we have experienced before and it is very widespread,” said Carl Van Horn, head of the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University. “It is going to get worse. You are going to have a higher level of poverty among older Americans.”
Older people have more trouble finding new jobs. Among unemployed workers older than 55, more than half have been looking for more than two years, compared with 31% of younger workers, according to the Heldrich Center. Among older workers who found a new job, 72% took a pay cut, often a big one, the Rutgers data show.
The problem has been building for decades: Inflation-adjusted, middle-class incomes have stagnated in parallel with a free-spending culture of indebtedness that has left many Americans with too little saved. Over the same time, many U.S. companies cut pensions and shifted to less-generous retirement-savings plans such as 401(k) accounts that have stagnated or diminished in the market tumult of past years.
Older families aren’t just failing to save, they are increasingly draining accounts that were supposed to help finance retirement.
The median household headed by someone aged 55 to 64 has $87,200 in retirement accounts and other financial assets, according to Strategic Business Insights’ MacroMonitor database. If each of the 4.3 million unemployed or underemployed people in this age group runs through half the family savings, that will, in theory, total $188 billion in lost retirement money.
The typical retirement-age household has too little saved to maintain its standard of living in retirement, according to actuarial and Federal Reserve data.
Financial planners often advise that retirement resources be large enough to provide 85% of a person’s working income. Median households headed by a person aged 60 to 62 with a 401(k) account have saved less than one-quarter of what is needed in that account to live as well in retirement, according to Fed data analyzed for The Wall Street Journal by the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College.
The trouble spreads across generations. Older people hang on to jobs or, out of desperation, take lower-level jobs for which they are over-qualified. Either way, they displace younger workers.
In the past, older people who lost jobs often gave up and retired. No longer. In October, two-thirds of people aged 55 to 64 had jobs or wanted them, up from 59% in 1994, according to Labor Department data.
At an age when they should be generating peak incomes and savings, many unemployed and underemployed Americans are applying for early Social Security benefits and spending what’s left in their retirement accounts.
Kathi Paladie, 64 years old, lost her job as an executive assistant at a mortgage company in Tacoma, Wash., six years ago. She hasn’t found full-time work since but works occasionally as a phone interviewer for a political survey firm.
Her retirement savings is spent, and she said her monthly $800 Social Security checks, $100-a-week unemployment benefits and occasional paychecks barely cover expenses.
“If I don’t buy a lot of groceries, then I am OK,” said Ms. Paladie, who is divorced. “I do a lot of puzzles sitting here and watching TV. And I play with my bird. And that’s about it.”
She rarely goes out, she said, “but I’ve got a clean house.” To save money, she sometimes eats Frosted Flakes for dinner. She shares them with her African Grey parrot, Muffin, who also likes the sweetened cereal.
Ms. Paladie hasn’t been to the doctor for five years, she said. She frets about paying rent after her unemployment benefits run out next year. Her daughter lives nearby but doesn’t have the room for her, Ms. Paladie said. “It is kind of a standing joke,” she said, “that if this fails, that I can always move in with them and sleep in the garage.”
The problem of older, out-of-work Americans extends beyond individuals to the U.S. economy. Among jobless people aged 55 to 64 who want to work, lost annual wages exceed an estimated $100 billion, based on the median income of this age group.
Retirement savings losses exceed $10 billion a year, assuming contribution rates of 8% for employees and 2% for employers. Even if only half the people were working, the economy would gain $50 billion a year in income and another $5 billion in retirement savings.
That doesn’t count the lost wages of people who have taken salary cuts to get new jobs.
Richard Foster, 59 years old, a former computer programmer and software analyst in Arvada, Colo., near Denver, has been unemployed several times over the past decade. The older he gets, the more trouble he has finding jobs in computer mainframes, his specialty, amid changing technologies. And the longer his absence from programming, the harder it is to attract recruiters, who prefer people with experience in the past six months, Mr. Foster said.
These days, he works on the telephone nearly full-time as a customer-service representative. His employer grades him on how fast he finishes each call and how customers rate his service. Mr. Foster recently contracted Bell’s palsy, a temporary facial paralysis thought to be stress-related.
The work pays a lot better than a previous job, delivery driver for a dry cleaner. Still, Mr. Foster said, it pays 40% less than what he earned as a programmer at the University of Colorado Hospital, a job he lost in a restructuring that kept more tenured employees.
Mr. Foster’s wife, Tina, has complications from a detached retina, which keeps her from working. Her treatment is only partially paid for by his medical plan, which classified Ms. Foster’s eye problem as a pre-existing condition.
He has a retirement-savings plan at his new employer, he said, but it’s hard to save, given the couple’s struggle “to make ends meet day to day.” He is putting off dental work, for example, to save money.
While out of work, Mr. Foster said, he sometimes depended on food banks. He filed for personal bankruptcy in 2003. He and his wife got a break recently: his wife’s sister and her husband helped them purchase a home. Mortgage payments to his in-laws are less than his rent. Retirement? He said he has no idea when.
Mr. Foster’s worries aren’t unusual. More than two-thirds of unemployed people older than 50 report extreme stress, trouble sleeping or family strains, according to surveys by the Heldrich Center at Rutgers. More than 60% of respondents said they didn’t expect to hold another full-time job in their field and a similar percentage said they were pessimistic about finding any job soon. One-third of those over 55 reported selling possessions to stay afloat.
In another unfortunate consequence, the younger people are when they apply for Social Security retirement benefits, the lower their monthly checks for the rest of their lives. Two-thirds of Americans older than 50 expect to file for the benefits earlier than they would prefer, or already have done so, according to the Rutgers survey.
“People are taking in boarders, they are moving in with their kids, selling their homes for the cash that they can live on,” said Abby Snay, executive director in San Francisco for JVS, a community agency that teaches work skills.
Although her agency has long focused on young people, the fastest-growing client group is closer to retirement age. Before the recession, only 11% of her clients were older than 55; now, it is 17%.
“We are seeing people in a panic, in survival mode,” she said. “They are about to finish their financial assets and all they have after that is their retirement funds. They are trying to figure out some kind of bridge so they won’t have to pay an early withdrawal fee for their retirement incomes.”
Ms. Snay has even seen former donors return as clients. “There is a level of shame and humiliation,” she said, “and, ‘What have I done wrong?’ ”
She recently offered older clients a workshop on the website LinkedIn. She recalled some people said, “‘If I put up a picture, no one will hire me.’”
Her response: “We advise people to put up a photo, put their best foot forward.”
Some thoughts
Where to start? Maybe with the observation that prolonged good times produce a lack of foresight. If the world is only going to get better, worrying about the downside and planning for it is wasted effort, since there will always be resources and opportunities more than adequate for tomorrow’s challenges. In evolutionary biology terms, late-20th century America selected for optimistic, present-tense people.
But that attitude and the behaviors it engendered — borrowing rather than saving, building excessive entitlement and military structures, breaking the dollar’s link to stabilizing forms of money like gold — inevitably convert good times into hard times, in which an optimistic, present-oriented perspective begins to look like utter cluelessness.
In retrospect it seems so obvious. If Boomers had been paying attention, instead of buying 4,000 square foot houses, new cars and big screen TVs, we’d have reacted to rising indebtedness by living small and saving big from the 1980s onward. Instead of voting for whoever promised the most free stuff, we’d have demanded balanced budgets and hard choices.
But we didn’t. We became “consumers” rather than builders. Our savings rate was near-zero for much of this time, and our debt ballooned during what should have been our prime saving years. So what’s coming isn’t a natural disaster. It’s the result of choices made by intelligent, well-educated people who should have known better.
Today, if you’re 55, haven’t saved a lot of money and can only find part-time work, the math is pretty clear: you’ll never retire because you’ll never accumulate any more capital.
And the truly sad part of this story is that there’s no solution. As the debts we’ve taken on really bite in coming years, the US (and Europe and Japan) will be presented with the choice of liquidating excessive debt through default (producing massive job losses for marginal workers and eliminating the whole concept of retirement for most people) or inflating it away (evaporating the nest eggs of savers who own bonds, cash, or bank CD, also making retirement a lot harder). Either way, Boomers are the main victims.

Protesters Worldwide Demand An End to Crony Capitalism

People All Over the World Are Rising Up Against Crony Capitalism

Modern American conservatives and liberals both passionately hate crony capitalism – the malignant symbiotic relationship between governmental leaders and their cronies.
The Boston Tea Party in 1773 was largely a protest against crony capitalism.
Remember, it’s not just Western governments which fall prey to crony capitalism. (For example, Egypt’s Mubarak family raked in between U.S. $40 and $70 billion dollars through cronyism.) Indeed, people all over the world are starting to demand an end to crony corruption.
As Reuters global editor at large Chrystia Freeland noted yesterday, the global protests are really protests against crony capitalism:
Across the globe, this was a year when people took to the streets, often overthrowing their leaders in the process. That was true in the Arab world, in Russia, in India, in Western Europe, in the United States and even in China.
The unifying complaint is crony capitalism. That’s a broad term, to be sure, and its bloody Libyan manifestation bears little resemblance to complaints about the Troubled Asset Relief Programin the United States or allegations of corrupt auctions for telecommunications licenses in India. But the notion that the rules of the economic game are rigged to benefit the elites at the expense of the middle class has had remarkable resonance this year around the world and across the political spectrum. Could the failure of the experts to anticipate this anger be connected to the fact that the analysts are usually part of the 1 percent, or at least the 10 percent, at the top?
As for crony capitalism, this slogan of the street is both a challenge for the state and an opportunity. For some regimes, of course, crony capitalism, with a side order of repression, is the only dish on the menu. For them, the trends of 2011 do not bode well.
But most of today’s troubled market democracies don’t need a revolution to sweep away their cronies. What they do need is a new version of capitalism, designed for the 21st century. That is what the world’s protesters, in their different ways, are all asking for. Here’s hoping that 2012 provides some politicians with some answers.
Note: Don’t get confused by the word “capitalism” in the phrase “crony capitalism”. Crony capitalism is not at all free market capitalism. Instead, it is actually the same thing as fascism, communist style socialism, kleptocracy, oligarchy or banana republic style corruption.

Soros' Hand Seen in Anti-Putin Protests

Anti-Putin leader Boris Akunin has ties with Soros' foundations.

by Branden Moore

t appears that Global financial oligarchs, obsessed with erasing national sovereignty world wide, like George Soros and others are instigating another revolution in Russia under the veil of "free and fair democracy".

On December 24, 2011 a second opposition rally was held in Moscow, with an estimated 28 to 120 thousand protesters, over the alleged "vote-rigging" that occurred on the December 4th election, won by Putin's United Russia party.

As reported by Reuters, the Russian novelist Boris Akunin asked protesters from a large stage. "Do you want Putin to return to the presidency?" Whistling and jeering, protesters chanted: "No!" [1]

Boris Akunin is the pen name of Grigory Shalvovich Chkhartishvili, a writer, essayist and literary translator. As of now he is the most commercially successful writer in Russia, selling around 15 million books in Russia and more than 1 million abroad. [2]

He also happens to be the former chairman of the board for a Soros fund, called the Pushkin Library, where he helped compile a 100-volume edition of the best works of Russian Literature of all time. [3]

Marianna Tax Choldin, chair of the Soros Foundation's Network Library Program was quoted in an article back in August of 2000, after being awarded the Pushkin medal by the Russian government. "Through the Soros program, we've helped dozens of libraries in many areas of library development, including automation, collection development, preservation, Internet access and training," [4]

Interestingly enough, Soros himself had received the same award previously. The medal recognizes extraordinary contributions to Russian culture and education [5]

Many other highly publicized Russian individuals attended the Moscow rally in favor of the movement on December 24th. [6]

Even while simultaneously citing rally organizers and cultural leaders, the Wallstreet/London media giants have a habit of pretending as though the Arab spring, OWS and now the Russian rallies are all part of a global leaderless, grassroots movement...








McDonald’s close all their stores in Bolivia, making Bolivia the only Latin- American free McDonald’s.

McDonald's in Bolivia
Would you like some fries with that Big Mac or would you prefer just to go down the street and get yourself an empanada?
It seems like a very unlikely situation, but McDonald’s can now add the country of Bolivia where it came and attempted to conquer the food market and to its chagrin was tossed out. Hardly the exported American dream story it may have hoped for when it opened its first store 14 years ago.
hispanicallyspeaking: After 14 years in the nation and despite many campaigns and promos McDonald’s was forced to close its 8 Bolivian restaurants in the major cities of La Paz, Cochabamba and Santa Cruz de la Sierra.
McDonald’s served its last hamburgers in Bolivia Saturday at midnight, after announcing a global restructuring plan in which it would close its doors in seven countries with poor profit margins.
With over 33 000 stores (see map below) worldwide one could suppose that 8 less would hardly make a difference to the world’s largest food vendor’s bottom line. Though what may be at stake isn’t so much the immediate bottom line of the behemoth food chain but the fact that Bolivia represents the only Latin American country to exist without a McDonalds (and perhaps going forward not the only one?) which could inspire a revolt amongst other nations who equate the chain as low brow fast food that leads to health problems or worse American imperialism- something that has never gone down too well with the locals in Bolivia if one judges the leftist stance taking by as some would argue the belligerent Evo Morales, the leader of Bolivia who hasn’t hidden his disdain for private American interests and hegemony in the past, especially his outspoken stance on cocoa production and American politics.
McDonald’s served its last hamburgers in Bolivia Saturday at midnight, after announcing a global restructuring plan in which it would close its doors in seven countries with poor profit margins.
The failure of McDonald’s in Bolivia had such a deep impact in the company’s Creative and Marketing staff, that they produced a documentary titled “Why did McDonald’s Bolivia go Bankrupt,” trying to explain why did Bolivians never crossed-over from empanadas to Big Macs.
Within the (Spanish speaking) video, cooks, vendors, sociologists, nutritionists are all asked what brought McDonald’s demise, with one commentator reflecting that the large food vendor didn’t make the type of food that most Bolivians would consider good food. After all he continues, to be a good meal, the food has to be prepared with love, dedication, certain hygiene standards and proper cooking time- hardly the virtues that a fast food vendor with imperialistic aspirations is instilled with, at least in a nation that has by now taken a solid stance against what it perceives to be the meddling and cynical aspirations of American entities.
Going forward it will be interesting to watch how other American fast food vendors like Hungry Jacks fares in Bolivia (opened in 2002)  or whether they too will have to close their stores?
McDonald’s worker accused of beating 2 female customers to be set free.
Police seek 13 year old suspect after 5 year old girl is raped at McDonald’s.
Sometimes the best part about McDonalds are the gimmicks….
McDonalds fires employee who shot video of transgender being beaten into a seizure.
Did you manage to get into a brawl and then run over by a car while you waited to fill out your employment application at McDonald’s today?
Have you tried McDonald’s newest offering?

Did Bankers Deliberately Crash MF Global to Crash Gold and Silver Prices?

Did bankers use the MF Global bankruptcy to suppress gold and silver prices and create the panicked appearance of collapsing precious metals to give themselves additional precious time to delay the crash of the Euro and the US Dollar? As crazy as this sounds, a closer investigation of some key data seems to imply this possibility. Though bankers claim that they created futures markets to provide a mechanism for commodity producers to hedge against volatile market prices, I have never bought the kool-aid the bankers were selling in this explanation for the rationale behind their creation of futures markets. Given that today, futures and spot prices for gold and silver in the short-term are entirely set by banker manipulation of the supply and demand for paper derivatives that often have no backing of any physical metal, I believe that bankers created futures markets for the explicit intent of allowing themselves to manipulate the prices of commodities and to enrich themselves, and themselves only, through the process of alternately and artificially inflating and deflating prices as would not be allowed in any type of free market. In other words, bankers invented futures markets to allow themselves to siphon off and steal money from other parties that wanted to invest in commodities with a mechanism, risk-free to them, that required deception and zero honest work and zero integrity.
The futures markets in commodities is such a deceptive market that it is hard to know even where to begin to unravel its many mechanisms of deceit in all their glory. Futures contracts traded on the world’s largest commodity markets such as the COMEX in New York and the LBM in London allow bankers to commit reverse alchemy, turning real physical gold and real physical silver into nothing but false paper contracts and air. Secondly, through futures contracts traded in New York and London, bankers routinely defy the economic principles of supply and demand, and set short-term prices for gold and silver that literally have zero to do with the supply and demand dynamics of the physical gold and physical silver market. In the world of physics, such an illogical, comparable feat of deception would be the indefinite suspension of the law of gravity. Bankers invented paper derivative gold and silver markets to allow themselves to literally defy and suspend every single sound economic principle that exists.
This is important to understand because not only does understanding this concept make the bulk of what you learn in business school a lie and entirely useless, but also because bullion banks such as Deutsche Bank, Citibank, JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs et al that serve as the puppet conduits for more powerful families that control Central Banks, routinely used to lease physical gold into the open market as their primary mechanism to suppress the price of gold and silver. However, as their mechanism of fractional reserve banking began to threaten the viability and utility of the most widely used fiat currencies in the world, the USD and the Euro, bankers understood that they needed to utilize and/or create another mechanism to suppress gold and silver prices that could replace selling physical PMs into the open market as they no longer wished to give up a solid asset with no third party counter-risk for what they knew they were turning into essentially worthless pieces of paper. Thus bankers increasingly turned to the paper futures markets to manipulate and control the price of gold and silver and also served up additional bogus derivative products to the public like the GLD and SLV ETFs. Bankers knew that there was no way they could possibly control the price of gold and silver if the supply and demand determinants of physical gold and physical silver had anything to do with the price, so they conspired to fool the world into believing that the fake paper price they set was set by the supply and demand of the physical markets.

Collapsing OI of Gold/Silver Futures Markets Directly Related to MF Global Collapse?

And here’s where MF Global enters the banking cartel gold and silver price suppression scheme. Today, short-term futures and spot prices of gold and silver have almost nothing to do with the physical supply and demand dynamics of gold and silver, as odd as that may sound. Bankers created the futures markets and paper derivatives in gold and silver to kill free markets and for the express purpose of suppressing gold and silver prices. Today we literally have no idea what the free market price of gold and silver should be or could be, besides the fact that both would be multiples higher than their current price, because of the fake paper market in gold and silver that the bankers created.
As well, bankers ensured that they armed a legion of worker bees in commercial investment firms all over the world that would represent these paper derivatives backed by very little physical gold and silver to their clients as the equivalent of investing in 99.999% pure physical gold and silver. In doing so, the worker bees thereby lured people all over the world into what will turn out to be the fatal mistake of not buying millions of troy ounces of physical gold and silver and instead buying their offering of fool’s gold and fool’s silver. When we receive a massive default of gold and silver futures contracts that stand for delivery on the COMEX or LBM, or if the SLV and GLD default, then, and only then, will the public start to see true price discovery of physical gold and physical silver in action. However, for clients of MF Global, unfortunately, they have already experienced the mistake of buying fool’s gold and fool’s silver from the bankers and have received air in exchange for gold and silver futures contracts they purchased that stood for delivery.
Bankers invented fake paper gold and silver contracts, because they knew that if they could not fulfill contractual obligations to deliver physical gold and physical silver because the contracts were a binding lie to begin with), that they could always renege on these contractual obligations and give the people the nothingness they truly owned in return. And thus, we have the story of MF Global.
Ratings agencies downgraded MF Global on Oct 25 and MF Global declared bankruptcy on Oct 31. If one scours the data that the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) releases via its aggregated Commitment of Trader (COT) reports during this time period, one may not notice any data that immediately stands. However, investigation of the disaggregated reports reveals far more interesting patterns that almost undoubtedly can be traced back to the collapse of MF Global. In a period just preceding the MF Global collapse, from late August to mid October, the open interest (OI) in longs in gold and silver futures within the Managed Money category collapsed by 33.75% in gold (202,430 to 136,103) and 44.74% in silver (29,849 to 16,494). During this exact same time period, shorts in the gold and silver futures in the Managed Money category increased by 19.3% and 83.82% respectively (see the chart below). Within the Managed Money category, between Sept 13th and 27th, in just a two-week period, the drop in OI in the longs in gold and silver futures was even more pronounced, with a 25.41% plunge and 34.3% plunge in silver. I imagine if someone could trace the connection of this plunge in OI in the Managed Money category in the gold and silver futures markets, one would discover that a good deal of the plunge was somehow directly tied to the impending MF Global bankruptcy and its freezing and/or liquidation of gold and silver futures accounts in its possession.

After Phase I of the collapse in OI in the gold and silver futures markets, Phase II followed. When the story about MF Global’s legalized client theft hit the presses, an enormous public distrust of the entire futures markets started to build. If clients lost millions of dollars in gold and silver futures accounts due to forced liquidation or freezing of contracts that they were holding for delivery, anyone that had considered using the futures markets to take delivery of real gold and real silver following the MF Global debacle obviously reconsidered their options. Thus, due to the massive fraud of the futures markets that was revealed by the MF Global collapse, another huge drop in the OI of gold and silver longs in the Managed Money category occurred during Phase II (as labeled in the above chart) that respectively amounted to an additional respective 11.79% and 7.48% plunge. In essence, it appears that the MF Global collapse served up the exact same price suppression effect as a CME issued initial or maintenance margin hike in gold and silver futures, which forces a tidal wave of unwanted and involuntary liquidation of gold and silver longs that consequently violate technical support lines and trigger technical sells.
Of course, we also have to factor in the temporary OI-increasing effect of the risk-on CME event when they lowered initial margins to a 1:1 ratio with maintenance margins at the onset of November. Still, given the figures presented in the chart above, it seems that bankers used the MF Global collapse to force liquidation of gold and silver longs in the futures market quite rapidly and drastically. Why is this important? This is important because typically strong hands ride out any temporary banker manipulations of gold and silver prices downward. In this case, strong hands, if they existed at MF Global, were not given this opportunity and were forced to liquidate or had their accounts frozen whether or not they desired such an outcome. Furthermore, if primarily strong hands were forced out of the futures market, this would leave the majority of volume in the gold and silver futures markets primarily in the hands of the criminal banking cartel. We’ve seen repeatedly, this past year in the US S&P 500 index, when low trading volume primarily controlled by the banking cartel has translated into curious and inexplicable market bounces of 2% in a single day. In other words, low trading volume allows bankers excessive and easy manipulation over markets. If this was indeed the scenario bankers deliberately created with the MF Global collapse, then the MF Global collapse and simultaneous collapse of open interest in gold and silvers futures certainly would have paved the way for the banking cartel to easily manipulate gold and silver prices.
There was also further circumstantial evidence that bankers used the MF Global collapse to collapse gold and silver futures markets at the end of 2011. For example, in an article posted on the SilverDoctors blog by Jim Willie in which he gathered data regarding the amount of physical gold and silver ounces represented by the longs at MF Global that were standing for delivery in the futures markets before these contracts imploded, he stated: “JP Morgan increased the amount of registered silver and gold by precisely the amount that was suppose to be delivered [by MF Global]…JP Morgan effectively averted both a Comex default and a European Sovereign Debt implosion.”
Silver Lining in the MF Global Debacle?
Can there be a silver lining in the MF Global debacle? I believe that in the long-term, this extremely unethical, negative event could transform into a positive game-changer in the way people buy large amounts of gold and silver. Obviously, the futures market is not a safe market for anyone seeking to take delivery of millions of dollars of physical gold and silver as many MF Global clients learned. The GLD and SLV ETFs, of course, are no safer than any gold or silver futures contract for the same reasons. So in the future, and I mean the immediate future starting now, I believe that large buyers of physical gold and silver will now opt to bypass the bullion bank’s middle men in the futures market and go directly to the gold and silver mining companies to buy large quantities of bullion. This should eventually help usher in the death of futures markets as a mechanism for buying physical gold and physical silver and be a step towards establishing a free market for gold and silver prices for the first time in our lives. Mark Cutifani, CEO of AngloGold Ashanti, recently echoed the same: “Major [asset management fund] buyers are finding it is hard to get physical gold. People are coming directly to us [for large gold purchases,] people who want tonnes of physical gold, people with serious financial muscle, because they are finding it is very difficult to secure the volume of gold they want. That is something we have noticed over the last 18 months, and it has been increasing in the last six months. People are finding it’s hard to get physical gold.”
People that want to own physical gold and physical silver never should have been buying the GLD, SLV, or gold and silver futures. Now, in light of the MF Global debacle, scores of people will stay away from these fraudulent vehicles for good.

About the author: JS Kim is the Chief Investment Strategist and founder of SmartKnowledgeU, a fiercely independent investment research and consulting firm with a mission to help re-establish the monetary freedom that bankers have stolen from us. Despite believing that gold and silver will remain highly volatile in 2012, JS believes that long-term holders of physical gold and silver will be richly rewarded as bogus paper gold and silver derivatives start collapsing and reach their intrinsic value in coming years. Follow JS on Twitter and Facebook.

Republishing rights:
The above article may be reprinted as long as all text, links and the author acknowledgment remain intact and exactly as printed above.

Real National Debt Crisis

HALLELUJAH CORPORATIONS (revised edition).mov

The 1% praise corporate greed…..

Sears, Kmart to close 100-120 stores

Kmart, Sears make cuts, close stores
(CNN) - Sears Holdings on Tuesday reported a sharp drop in holiday sales compared to a year ago, and said the results will force it to close 100 to 120 Sears and Kmart stores.
The company said the stores to be closed have yet to be identified.
Sears Holdings said sales at stores opened at least a year ago, a closely watched retail measure known as same-store sales, tumbled 5.2 percent in the eight weeks ending on Christmas Day. That came from a 4.4 percent drop in sales at Kmart stores and a 6 percent slide in sales at domestic Sears stores.

"Given our performance and the difficult economic environment, especially for big-ticket items, we intend to implement a series of actions to reduce on-going expenses," said Lou D'Ambrosio, CEO of the company.
Shares of Sears Holdings rose 75 cents, or 1.6 percent, in pre-market trading following the announcement.
The Sears and Kmart sales results were in contrast to the broader industry. The National Retail Federation forecast before the start of the year that holiday sales would be up 2.3 percent this year, a target that was helped by record Black Friday sales following Thanksgiving. Final sales figures are not yet available.
Sears Holdings signaled that additional store closings may lay ahead for poor performing stores.