Friday, May 31, 2013

America facing wheat export crisis as Europe and Japan lead the way in rejecting genetically modified crops

  • EU will test incoming shipments after GM crops discovered in Oregon
  • Japan cancels tender offer to buy U.S western white wheat
  • No GM wheat varieties are approved for general planting in U.S
By Anna Edwards

Unapproved genetically modified wheat has been discovered growing in the United States.
The revelation is threatening the outlook for U.S. exports of the world's biggest traded food commodity, with importers keenly aware of consumer sensitivity to gene-altered food.
The European Union is preparing to test incoming shipments, and will block any containing GM wheat. Chicago Board of Trade wheat futures fell 0.5 percent on Thursday.
USDA officials said that when a farmer sprayed the so-called 'volunteer' plants (not pictured) with a glyphosate herbicide, some of them unexpectedly survived
USDA officials said that when a farmer sprayed the so-called 'volunteer' plants (not pictured) with a glyphosate herbicide, some of them unexpectedly survived
Major importer Japan has cancelled a tender offer to buy U.S. western white wheat, while other top Asian wheat importers South Korea, China and the Philippines said they were closely monitoring the situation.
'We will refrain from buying western white and feed wheat effective today,' Toru Hisadome, a Japanese farm ministry official in charge of wheat trading said.
GM wheat was discovered this spring on a farm in the west coast state of Oregon, in a field that grew winter wheat in 2012.
USDA officials said yesterday that when a farmer sprayed the so-called 'volunteer' plants with a glyphosate herbicide, some of them unexpectedly survived.
Major importer Japan has cancelled a tender offer to buy U.S. western white wheat
Major importer Japan has cancelled a tender offer to buy U.S. western white wheat, while other top Asian wheat importers South Korea, China and the Philippines said they were closely monitoring the situation
Scientists found the wheat was a strain field-tested from 1998 to 2005 and deemed safe before St. Louis-based biotech giant Monsanto withdrew it from the regulatory approval process on worldwide opposition to genetically engineered wheat.
No GM wheat varieties are approved for general planting in the U.S. or elsewhere, the USDA said.
The EU has asked Monsanto for a detection method to allow its controls to be carried out.
With high consumer wariness to genetically-modified food, few countries allow imports of such cereals for direct human consumption. However, the bulk of U.S. corn and soybean crops are genetically modified.
With high consumer wariness to genetically-modified food, few countries allow imports of such cereals for direct human consumption
With high consumer wariness to genetically-modified food, few countries allow imports of such cereals for direct human consumption
The latest finding revives memories of farmers unwittingly planting genetically modified rapeseed in Europe in 2000, while in 2006 a large part of the U.S. long-grain rice crop was contaminated by an experimental strain from Bayer CropScience , prompting import bans in Europe and Japan.
The company agreed in court in 2011 to pay $750 million to growers as compensation.
Asia imports more than 40 million tonnes of wheat annually, almost a third of the global trade of 140-150 million tonnes. The bulk of the region's supplies come from the United States, the world's biggest exporter, and Australia, the No. 2 supplier.
The USDA said there was no sign that genetically engineered wheat had entered the commercial market, but grain traders warned the discovery could hurt export prospects for U.S. wheat.
'Asian consumers are jittery about genetically modified food,' said Abah Ofon, an analyst at Standard Chartered Bank in Singapore. 'This is adding to concerns that already exist on quality and availability of food wheat globally.'
European traders said Black Sea and EU wheat was well positioned to benefit in any displaced demand for U.S. grain. But some were more pragmatic on the overall impact.
'The market is going to need U.S. wheat, we won't be able to do without it, so that could mean more checks and more sanitary certificates,' one European dealer said.
'Japan is in a position to be selective and to react sharply. It has other suppliers and the financial means to be choosy and pay more if needed. This is not necessarily the case for (top global wheat importer) Egypt which is in a difficult financial situation.'
A major flour miller in China, which has been stocking U.S. wheat in recent months, said importers will tread carefully.
China has emerged as a key buyer of U.S. wheat this year, taking around 1.5 million tonnes in the past two months.
Chinese purchases in the year to June 2014 are estimated to rise 21 percent to 3.5 million tonnes, according to the USDA, with most shipments coming from the United States, Australia and Canada.
The Philippines, which buys about 4 million tonnes of wheat a year and relies mainly on U.S. supplies, is waiting for more details before acting, an industry official in Manila said.
'I won't be surprised if other countries start cancelling or reducing their purchases of U.S. wheat, particularly Asian countries, putting pressure on wheat demand,' said Joyce Liu, an investment analyst at Phillip Futures in Singapore.
Genetically modified crops cannot be grown legally in the United States unless the government approves them after a review to ensure they pose no threat to the environment or to people.
Monsanto in a statement posted on its website said: 'While USDA's results are unexpected, there is considerable reason to believe that the presence of the Roundup Ready trait in wheat, if determined to be valid, is very limited.'

Another electric car company goes belly up

English: EVs charging at the Better Place visi...
EVs charging at the Better Place visitor centre at the Pi-Glilot former gas depot in Ramat Hasharon, Israel, north of Tel Aviv (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
JERUSALEM (AP) — It was an audacious idea that came to symbolize Israel’s self-described status as “Start-Up Nation,” a company that believed it could replace most gasoline-powered cars with electric vehicles and reduce the world’s reliance on oil — and all within a few years.
But it all came crashing down.
The company, Better Place, started out as a source of pride and a symbol of Israel’s status as a global high-tech power, but it suffered from a local brand of hubris and overreach. On Sunday, it announced plans to liquidate after burning through almost a billion dollars and failing to sell its silent fleet of French-made sedans to a skeptical public.

“This is a very sad day for all of us. We stand by the original vision as formulated by Shai Agassi of creating a green alternative that would lessen our dependence on highly polluting transportation technologies,” the company said. “Unfortunately, the path to realizing that vision was difficult, complex and littered with obstacles, not all of which we were able to overcome.”

Agassi, 45, believed that in an era of global warming and rising oil prices, environmentally friendly electric cars could be the wave of the future, if only a way could be found to overcome the limited range of their batteries.
Full story here:

Basel III: How The Bank For International Settlements Is Going To Help Bring Down The Global Economy

A new set of regulations that most people have never even heard of that was developed by an immensely powerful central banking organization that most people do not even know exists is going to have a dramatic effect on the global financial system over the next several years.  The new set of regulations is known as “Basel III”, and it was developed by the Bank for International Settlements.  The Bank for International Settlements has been called “the central bank for central banks”, and it is headquartered in Basel, Switzerland.  58 major central banks (including the Federal Reserve) belong to the Bank for International Settlements, and the decisions made in Basel often have more of an impact on the direction of the global economy than anything the president of the United States or the U.S. Congress are doing.  All you have to do is to look back at the last financial crisis to see an example of this.  Basel II and Basel 2.5 played a major role in precipitating the subprime mortgage meltdown.  Now a new set of regulations known as “Basel III” are being rolled out.  The implementation of these new regulations is beginning this year, and they will be completely phased in by 2019.  These new regulations dramatically increase capital requirements and significantly restrict the use of leverage.  Those certainly sound like good goals, the problem is that the entire global financial system is based on credit at this point, and these new regulations are going to substantially reduce the flow of credit.
The only way that the giant debt bubble that we are all living in can continue to persist is if it continues to expand.  By restricting the flow of credit, these new regulations threaten to burst the debt bubble and bring down the entire global economy.

Not that the current global financial system is sustainable by any means.  Anyone with half a brain can see that the global financial system is a pyramid scheme that is destined to collapse… but Basel III may cause it to collapse faster than it might otherwise have.

From The Economic Collapse Blog:
So precisely what is Basel III?  The following is a definition from the official website of the Bank for International Settlements…
“Basel III” is a comprehensive set of reform measures, developed by the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision, to strengthen the regulation, supervision and risk management of the banking sector. These measures aim to:
  • improve the banking sector’s ability to absorb shocks arising from financial and economic stress, whatever the source
  • improve risk management and governance
  • strengthen banks’ transparency and disclosures.
All of that looks good at first glance.  But when you start looking into the details you start realizing what it is going to mean for the global financial system.  Banks are going to be required to have higher reserve ratios and use less leverage.  Banks are going to have to be more careful with their money, which is a good thing, but it is also going to mean that credit will not flow as freely.  Unfortunately, the only way for a debt bubble to survive is if it keeps expanding.  Anything that restricts the flow of easy money threatens to bring a debt bubble to an end.
These new regulations are going to be phased in between 2013 and 2019.  You can see a chart which shows the implementation schedule for the Basel III regulations right here.
So why is bringing the debt bubble to an end a bad thing?
Well, because it will cause the false prosperity that we have been enjoying to disappear, and that will be an exceedingly painful adjustment.
Sadly, most people have no idea what is happening.  Most people have never even heard of “Basel III” or “the Bank for International Settlements”.  Most people just assume that the people they voted into office know what they are doing and have everything under control.
Unfortunately, that is not the case at all.  The truth is that an unelected, unaccountable body of central bankers is making decisions which deeply affect us all, and there is not much that we can do about it.
This unelected, unaccountable body of central bankers played a major role in bringing about the last financial crisis.  The following is a brief excerpt from a recent article posted on Before It’s News
If you have any questions about the power of these Basel Banking Regulations you can also see the effects that Basel II and 2.5, mark to market accounting, had on the Housing Markets in the United States of America in 2008. There were many causes for that housing bubble, then housing crisis, but Basel II and 2.5 was most assuredly the pin that popped the housing bubble that led to the financial crisis of 2008-09.
But do most people know about this?
Of course not.  Most people want to blame the Republicans or the Democrats or Bush or Obama, and they have no idea about the financial strings that are being pulled at the highest levels.
It is so important that we get people educated about how the global financial system actually works.  The following is a summary of how the Bank for International Settlements works from one of my previous articles entitled “Who Controls The Money? An Unelected, Unaccountable Central Bank Of The World Secretly Does“…
An immensely powerful international organization that most people have never even heard of secretly controls the money supply of the entire globe.  It is called the Bank for International Settlements, and it is the central bank of central banks.  It is located in Basel, Switzerland, but it also has branches in Hong Kong and Mexico City.  It is essentially an unelected, unaccountable central bank of the world that has complete immunity from taxation and from national laws.  Even Wikipedia admits that “it is not accountable to any single national government.“  The Bank for International Settlements was used to launder money for the Nazis during World War II, but these days the main purpose of the BIS is to guide and direct the centrally-planned global financial system.  Today, 58 global central banks belong to the BIS, and it has far more power over how the U.S. economy (or any other economy for that matter) will perform over the course of the next year than any politician does.  Every two months, the central bankers of the world gather in Basel for another “Global Economy Meeting”.  During those meetings, decisions are made which affect every man, woman and child on the planet, and yet none of us have any say in what goes on.  The Bank for International Settlements is an organization that was founded by the global elite and it operates for the benefit of the global elite, and it is intended to be one of the key cornerstones of the emerging one world economic system.
Even though most people have never even heard of the BIS, the truth is that the global elite have had big plans for it for a very long time.  In another article I included a quote from a book that Georgetown University history professor Carroll Quigley wrote many years ago entitled “Tragedy & Hope”…

[T]he powers of financial capitalism had another far-reaching aim, nothing less than to create a world system of financial control in private hands able to dominate the political system of each country and the economy of the world as a whole. This system was to be controlled in a feudalist fashion by the central banks of the world acting in concert, by secret agreements arrived at in frequent private meetings and conferences. The apex of the system was to be the Bank for International Settlements in Basle, Switzerland, a private bank owned and controlled by the world’s central banks which were themselves private corporations.
Today we have such a system, and most of the public does not even know that it exists.
And when the next great financial crisis strikes, there will probably be very little ever said about the Bank for International Settlements in the mainstream media.
But right now the BIS is helping set the stage for the great credit crunch that is coming.
Get prepared while you still can, because time is running out.

New York Stock Exchange Margin Debt Hits A New Record, Surpasses 2007 Figures

: Is it just me, or have investors completely abandoned the concept of risk and reward?
The reality of the situation is that the key stock indices are treading in shark-infested waters and the risks are piling up daily. I see bearish signals all over, but the theme among investors, even conservative investors, continues to be “keep buying.”
It’s official…

Margin debt—that’s the amount of money borrowed to purchase stocks—on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) reached its all-time high in April. Margin debt on the NYSE registered at $384.3 billion as the key stock indices hit new record-highs. (Source: New York Stock Exchange web site, last accessed May 29, 2013.) The highest margin debt ever reached prior to this was in July of 2007, when it stood just above $381.0 billion. At that time, just like today, the key stock indices were near their peaks and “buy now before it’s too late” was the prominent theme of the day
Looking ahead, corporate earnings, which ultimately drive the direction of the key stock indices, don’t look so good. So far, 106 companies in key stock indices like the S&P 500 have provided their corporate earnings outlooks for the second quarter, and more than 80% of them have issued earnings outlooks that are negative! Corporate earnings growth for the second quarter is now projected to be only 1.4%—and the estimate keeps going down! (Source: FactSet, May 28, 2013.)
And this chart doesn’t look good either:
 XLU Utilities Selected Sector SPDR NYSE Chart May 2013
Chart courtesy of
The above chart shows the performance of the S&P 500 utilities stocks through an exchange-traded fund (ETF) called the Utilities Select Sector SPDR (NYSEARCA:XLU). Why is this chart important? Utilities stocks are considered safe because the companies in the sector usually have good long-term growth and consistent corporate earnings. But this chart shows how investors are fleeing the safety of utilities stocks—and I think they are running to high-risk stock sectors.

How To Make 500% Off This Tech Stock By August (Click Here)

But in spite of all these factors, it wouldn’t surprise me to see the key stock indices go even a little higher because of all the buying momentum. The bear market rally, which began in 2009, has done a masterful job at convincing investors that the stock market is safe again—but it will all end in a collapse. It’s only a matter of when it will happen.
Key stock indices rising on anemic economic growth, poor corporate earnings, and leveraged investors—this is not going to end pleasantly.
Michael’s Personal Notes:
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has officially lowered its growth expectation for the Chinese economy, the second-biggest engine in the global economy. The IMF expects China to grow 7.75% this year compared to the eight percent it previously projected.
The First Deputy Managing Director of the IMF, David Lipton, said, “while china still has significant policy space and financial capacity to maintain stability even in the face of adverse shocks, the margins of safety are narrowing.” (Source: “IMF Forecasts Lower China Growth, Warns on Debt,” Wall Street Journal, May 29, 2013.) This will be the first year since 2009 that China’s economic growth is in the single digits.
France, a key economy in the eurozone and the fifth-biggest in the global economy, is back in a recession for the third time in five years, as the economic slowdown in the country continues to take its toll. In May, consumer sentiment in the French economy reached lows not seen since July of 2008. (Source: France 24, May 28, 2013.)
As I have written before, there is no way the economic slowdown in the global economy will not end up affecting America. The price action in the stock market doesn’t show this, but in the first quarter of 2013, of the 11 companies on the Dow Jones Industrial Average that reported their revenues in Europe, nine of them posted a decline in sales from that region! (Source: FactSet, May 28, 2013.)
Dear reader, while the U.S. economy still hasn’t recovered from the last economic slowdown, more troubles from outside our domestic control lie ahead.
China and France are just a few of the many examples of what’s actually happening in the global economy. Other nations like Japan are facing severe scrutiny as well.
There are several countries in the eurozone that are in an outright depression. The youth unemployment rate in some eurozone countries is close to 50%. In Cyprus, the government has gone so far as to take money right out of its citizens’ bank accounts if their deposits totaled over 100,000 euros.
While you don’t read or hear as much about it as you did last year, the economic issues in the eurozone are dire—and the ramifications for the global economy are very real. Should Germany’s economy soften further, we could see all of Europe come under economic pressure, the winds of which will surely sail across the Atlantic to the West.
What He Said:
“Even the most novice investor can now read the chart of the Dow Jones U.S. Home Construction Index and see that it is trading at its lowest level in five years. If, like me, you believe that stocks are an indication of what lies ahead, this important index is telling us housing prices are headed to 2002 levels! What would that do to the economy? Such an event would devastate the U.S.” Michael Lombardi in Profit Confidential, December 4, 2007. That devastation started happening in the first quarter of 2008.
This article is brought to you courtesy of Michael Lombardi from Profit Confidential.

Inflation, Deflation or Hyperinflation In America & Effect on Gold and Silver Prices

Is the United States currently experiencing inflation, deflation or stagflation? Are we heading into hyperinflation? What effect will this have on gold and silver price?

Detroit Mayor: Let’s Force Employees to Live in City Limits for 7 Years

Breitbart – by BEN SHAPIRO
Detroit Mayor Dave Bing says that Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr, who has threatened to take the city into bankruptcy over its unsustainable finances, is bluffing. “I think he’s using it, at this point, judiciously to make sure that he can use it as leverage more than anything else,” Bing told the press. “He said to me, more than once, ‘[bankruptcy] is not where I want to go, but at least it’s on the table, and if I have to go there, nobody’s gonna like it.’”  
Bing added that he was glad he was leaving office thanks to Detroit’s status as an undeclared disaster area. “When you talk about a $15 billion debt and long-term liability issue, you don’t solve that in a short period of time. So that is somebody else’s issue at some point. And I’m glad that’s not me!”
Bing said that the city had seen the flight of its most important assets, “police and fire.” More than half no longer live within the city, so “not only don’t people feel safe anymore, but you also lose the tax benefits that you were getting.”
Bing wants to pass a law forcing the city to hire people who must stay within the city for seven years. “In seven years a lot of things can change,” Bing explained, neglecting to explain how the city could legally force employees to stay within the city limits.
Ben Shapiro is Editor-At-Large of Breitbart News and author of the New York Times bestseller “Bullies: How the Left’s Culture of Fear and Intimidation Silences America” (Threshold Editions, January 8, 2013).


Is There Reason To Worry About The Current Legacy Being Left To America's Children?

Why Is The Smart Money Suddenly Getting Out Of Stocks And Real Estate?

by Michael
Exit Sign - Photo by SheDreamsInRed
If wonderful times are ahead for U.S. financial markets, then why is so much of the smart money heading for the exits?  Does it make sense for insiders to be getting out of stocks and real estate if prices are just going to continue to go up?  The Dow is up about 17 percent so far this year, and it just keeps setting new record high after new record high.  U.S. home prices have risen about 11 percent from a year ago, and some analysts are projecting that we are on the verge of a brand new housing boom.  Why would the smart money want to leave the party when it is just getting started?  Well, of course the truth is that the “smart money” is regarded as being smart because they usually make better decisions than other people do.  And right now the smart money is screaming that it is time to get out of the markets.  For example, the SentimenTrader Smart/Dumb Money Index is now the lowest that it has been in more than two years.  The smart money is busy selling even as the dumb money is busy buying.  So precisely what does the smart money expect to happen?  Are they anticipating a market “correction” or something bigger than that?
Those are very good questions.  Unfortunately, the smart money rarely divulges their secrets, so we can only watch what they do.  And right now a lot of insiders are making some very interesting moves.
For example, George Soros has been dumping almost all of his financial stocks.  The following is from a recent article by Becket Adams
Everyone’s favorite billionaire investor is back in the spotlight, and this time he has a few people wondering what he’s up to.
George Soros has dumped his position with several major banks including JPMorgan Chase, Capitol One, SunTrust, and Morgan Stanley. He has reduced his exposure to Citigroup and decreased his stake in AIG by two-thirds.
In fact, Soros’ financial stock holdings are down by roughly 80 percent, a massive drop from his position just three months ago, according to SNL Financial.
So exactly what is going on?
Why is Soros doing this?
Well, there is certainly a lot to criticize when it comes to Soros, but you can’t really blame him if he is just taking his profits and running.  Financial stocks have been on a tremendous run and that run is going to end at some point.  Smart investors lock in their profits while they still can.
And without a doubt, stocks have become completely divorced from economic reality in recent months.  For example, there is usually a very close relationship between corporate earnings and stock prices.  But as CNBC recently reported, that relationship has totally broken down lately…
That trend disrupted a formerly symbiotic relationship between earnings and stock prices and is indicating that the bluechip average is in for a substantial pullback, according to Tom Kee, who runs theStockTradersDaily investor web site.
“They’ve been moving in tandem since 2009, until recently. Earnings per share for the Dow Jones industrial average have flatlined and the price has taken off,” Kee said. “There is something happening here that defines a bubble.”
At some point there will be a correction.  If the relationship between earnings and stock prices was where it should be, the Dow would be around 13,500 right now.  That would be a fall of nearly 2,000 points from where it is at the moment.

And we appear to be entering a time when revenues at many corporate giants are actually declining.  As I noted in a previous article, corporate revenues are falling at Wal-Mart, Proctor and Gamble, Starbucks, AT&T, Safeway, American Express and IBM.
Of course a stock market “correction” can turn into a crash very easily.  Financial markets in Japan are already crashing, and many fear that the escalating problems in the third largest economy on the planet will soon spill over into Europe and North America.
And things in Europe just continue to get steadily worse.  In fact, the New York Times is reporting that the European Central Bank is warning that the risk of a “renewed banking crisis” in Europe is rising…
The European Central Bank warned on Wednesday that the euro zone’s slumping economy and a surge in problem loans were raising the risk of a renewed banking crisis, even as overall stress in the region’s financial markets had receded.
In a sober assessment of the state of the zone’s financial system, the E.C.B. said that a prolonged recession had made it harder for many borrowers to repay their loans, burdening banks that had still not finished repairing the damage caused by the 2008 financial crisis.
And there are many financial analysts out there that are warning that their cyclical indicators have peaked and that we are on the verge of a fresh global downturn
“We see building evidence of a cyclical downturn,” said Fredrik Nerbrand, HSBC’s global asset guru. “We find it highly troubling that the eurozone is still marred in a recession at the same time as our cyclical indicators appear to have peaked.”
In the United States, a lot of the smart money has also decided that it is time to bail out of the housing market before this latest housing bubble bursts.  The following is one example of this phenomenon that was discussed in a recent Businessweek article
Hedge fund manager Bruce Rose was among the first investors to coax institutional money into the mom and pop business of single-family home rentals, raising $450 million last year from Oaktree Capital Group LLC.
Now, with house prices climbing at the fastest pace in seven years and investors swamping the rental market, Rose says it no longer makes sense to be a buyer.
“We just don’t see the returns there that are adequate to incentivize us to continue to invest,” Rose, 55, chief executive officer of Carrington Holding Co. LLC, said in an interview at his Aliso Viejo, California office. “There’s a lot of — bluntly — stupid money that jumped into the trade without any infrastructure, without any real capabilities and a kind of build-it-as-you-go mentality that we think is somewhat irresponsible.”
So what does all of this mean?
Is there a reason why the smart money is suddenly getting out of stocks and real estate?
It could just be that the insiders are simply responding to market dynamics and that many of them are just seeking to lock in their profits.
Or it could be something much more than that.
What do you think?
Why are so many insiders heading for the exits right now?
Feel free to post a comment with your thoughts below…

Near Zero Percent Interest Savings Rates Are Forcing Seniors to Ration for Survival, While Wall Street Investors Are Making Record Profits

interestratesHow much interest do you get on a regular savings account from a "bank to big to fail", such as Citibank?
In general, you'll get 0.01 % as listed at "Popular Banks" section and also Citibank standard savings account rate disclosure.)
 You read that right, 0.01%. So if you have a $1000 in your savings account, you will receive basically 10 cents in interest over the course of a year.  Meanwhile, a bank like Citibank is lending your money out in many ways, including its credit card division at rates up into the double digits (up to 29.99 % if you make a late payment).
But the real injustice here is that while Congress and the White House are talking about cutting back Social Security, seniors who are lucky enough to have savings are earning, in essence, no interest if they have some savings tucked in a bank account.
I was digging through some old papers recently and found a June 23, 1995, advertisement from then StPaul Federal Bank in Chicago.  It offered 5.65% on a four-month CD. Right now Citibank is offering 0.20% on a one-year CD (minimum deposits apply to most CD offers).
 In short, while the stock market is flying and those who are rich are seeing their portfolios swell with money, working stiff seniors are facing decreased payments on their earned benefits and are basically losing money in savings because inflation is outpacing virtually no interest being paid to them.
Here is a little bit of history about federal interest rates, which are the basis for bank interest to depositors:
The benchmark interest rate in the United States was last recorded at 0.25 percent. Interest Rate in the United States is reported by the Federal Reserve. Historically, from 1971 until 2013, the United States Interest Rate averaged 6.17 Percent reaching an all time high of 20 Percent in March of 1980 and a record low of 0.25 Percent in December of 2008. In the United States, the authority for interest rate decisions is divided between the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve (Board) and the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC). The Board decides on changes in discount rates after recommendations submitted by one or more of the regional Federal Reserve Banks. The FOMC decides on open market operations, including the desired levels of central bank money or the desired federal funds market rate.
Meanwhile, the stock market is crossing back and forth into record territory with bulging increases in portfolio value for the wealthy and record dividends.
In September of last year we penned a commentary entitled, "A Tale of Two Economies: Skyrocketing Stock Market for the Rich, Devaluation of Work for the Rest" in which we wrote:
The rich are making out like bandits in the booming Wall Street economy that is based on profits squeezed out of firing workers, lowering net wages (adjusted for inflation), and outsourcing jobs to exploited labor overseas.  There is no crisis in the top 1%; there is only increasing wealth.  
In that second economy, the financial returns are rising like a high tide.  The rich are not living in a recession; they are living in a gilded-age-bubble of increased profits and assets.If it is true that the richest 400 people in the US own more wealth than the bottom 185 million, that imbalance is increasing, not decreasing.That is the story of the tale of two economies, the story that you don't read about in the mass corporate media – but it is the financial reality of our times.
The continual cries of "austerity" by the wealthy integrally relate to this tale of two economies, because there is no austerity being imposed on the wealthy: it's like the 1920's all over again for them.
However, seniors and the working class are being squeezed by cuts in benefits, pay, and the inability to earn interest of any meaningful size on money that they saved for retirement.For most Americans, they have been living in austerity for years now.
It's time to see some austerity imposed upon the 1 percent.
Far too many of the rest of us are already "austeritied" to rationing for survival.

Bill aims to safeguard DIA artwork in the event of Detroit bankruptcy

The DIA, with its millions of dollars of artwork, was mentioned by Detroit emergency financial manager Kevin Orr as a potential target to help offset the cost of the budget crisis the City of Detroit is in. Legislation introduced in the state Senate intends to protect DIA artwork from possible sale. / Eric Seals/Detroit Free Press
By Matt Helms and Kathleen Gray

Detroit Free Press Staff Writers

Pledging a fight to prevent a sale of treasured works at the Detroit Institute of Arts in a potential city bankruptcy, a top state lawmaker introduced a bill to do just that — although it’s not clear a state law would suffice in a federal bankruptcy court.
The bill, sponsored by state Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, R-Monroe, would turn into state law an argument that the museum’s leaders have made amid the uproar that resulted after the Free Press revealed last week that DIA art is at risk if Detroit files a Chapter 9 municipal bankruptcy.
Richardville said Thursday that the details of how the bill would work are “somewhat technical.”
“This is such an important asset to the city of Detroit and to the people of Michigan, it was important that we introduce something that got everyone’s attention and said, ‘Hey, look, if it’s a problem in Detroit and Michigan, the Legislature has a responsibility to look at it,’ ” Richardville said.
He said the bill would be put into committee next week for discussions. Among those discussions is likely to be how the bill, if made into law, would square with federal bankruptcy law.
Laura Beth Bartell, a professor of bankruptcy law at Wayne State University Law School, cast doubt on whether a state law passed now could protect the DIA collection from a possible Orr-mandated sell-off. Federal law in general trumps state laws, and a state law that limits the powers that Orr could exercise under the federal bankruptcy code probably would not stand judicial review.
“I’m not sure what this would do” to protect the collection, Bartell said of the proposed legislation.
Richardville said he was unsure about the conflict between state and federal law, but said “we’re going to be in there like David and Goliath. David won, by the way. We’re going to articulate our position. I don’t know if there are other things that can be done. This is to get everyone to concentrate on the problem.
“We’re going to be in there fighting. It’s important to the state. Next week we’ll know a lot better.”
State officials, emergency manager Kevyn Orr and others insist there is no proposal on the table to use paintings or other DIA jewels to pay down Detroit’s $15 billion-$17 billion in bond debts and retiree pension and health care costs. But Orr has spoken with DIA leadership to alert them about the possibility of creditors seeking repayment of debts through sales of city-owned assets such as the museum and its artwork.
The issue also has raised questions about the propriety of placing so much emphasis on artworks when pressing quality-of-life issues like public safety and emergency response, vacant and abandoned homes, and streetlighting remain a daily struggle in the city.
Senate Bill 401 would amend a state law passed in 2010 to allow for a regional millage that voters approved to support DIA operations. It would add a key provision: “An art institute shall adhere to the code of ethics for museums published by the American Alliance of Museums or a successor organization.”
Kirk Profit, a former state representative and a lobbyist for the DIA, said that the bill would add the heft of state law to the DIA’s argument that professional ethics for museums preclude sales of art to satisfy debts, a move many fear would diminish the DIA’s stature as one of the nation’s leading museums and unleash a backlash among its biggest supporters and donors.
“We’re working very closely with everyone in state government to make sure we do the best we can to protect these assets,” Profit said Thursday at the Mackinac Policy Conference on Mackinac Island. “I think collectively we will succeed.”
News of the bill’s introduction came as state Treasurer Andy Dillon said discussion of potential DIA asset sales was premature. Dillon noted during a panel discussion Thursday that the city and Orr are still working to avoid a bankruptcy filing over the next 60-90 days and trying to arrange negotiated settlements with creditors, retirees and city unions.
“It’s putting the cart before the horse,” Dillon said. “What’s being discussed here is a legal possibility, not a hypothetical. We’re not there yet.”
Dillon noted that the DIA has hired legal counsel to advise it on protecting its public trust as a holder of the region’s art.
“I think it’s going to be a very complex legal issue,” Dillon said. “I just think it was way too soon for it to hit the press.”

Join the #mpc13 conversation

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Contact Matt Helms: 313-222-1450 or Staff writer John Gallagher contributed to this report.

Westpac caught up in world’s biggest money laundering sting

The Sydney Morning Herald – by Peter Mitchell, Tom Hays and Raphael Satter
US prosecutors have announced what they say is the biggest international money laundering prosecution in history – a $US6 billion ($A6.2 billion) trail that allegedly includes $US36.9 million ($A38.4 million) deposited in Westpac Bank accounts.  
The trail was allegedly left by Costa Rica-based Liberty Reserve, a currency-transfer and payment-processing company that allowed customers to move money anonymously from one account to another via the internet with almost no questions asked, and has travelled through 17 countries, including the Westpac accounts in Australia.
One person was registered under the name of “Joe Bogus” and the address “123 Fake Main Street” in “Completely Made Up City, New York.”
Prosecutors described Liberty Reserve as a “financial hub of the cyber crime world … one of the principal means by which cyber criminals around the world distribute, store and launder proceeds of their illegal activity … including credit card fraud, identity theft, investment fraud, computer hacking, child pornography and narcotics trafficking.”
“The scope of the defendants’ unlawful conduct is staggering,” officials said. Over roughly seven years, Liberty Reserve processed 55 million illicit transactions worldwide for 1 million users.
Prosecutors said 45 bank accounts have been restrained or seized.
According to the indictment, three Westpac accounts held in the name of Technocash Ltd contained $US36.9 million ($A38.4 million).
"The bank of choice for the criminal underworld": US Attorney Preet Bharara.“The bank of choice for the criminal underworld”: US Attorney Preet Bharara. Photo: AP
“We have rigorous processes in place to combat money laundering and have been working closely with regulators and law enforcement agencies,” said a Westpac spokeswoman.
In Australia, the agency responsible for detecting money laundering is AUSTRAC, which passes on intelligence to the Australian Federal Police and Australian Crime Commission.
‘Bank of choice’
The Liberty Reserve network “became the bank of choice for the criminal underworld,” US Attorney Preet Bharara said in announcing the unsealing of an indictment against the defendants, including founder Arthur Budovsky, an American who renounced his US citizenship after deciding to set up in Costa Rica.
Unlike traditional banks or legitimate online processors, Liberty Reserve did not require users to validate their identities, it is alleged.
It allowed users to open accounts using fictitious names, including “Russian Hacker” and “Hacker Account.” One person was registered under the name of “Joe Bogus” and the address “123 Fake Main Street” in “Completely Made Up City, New York.”
“The only liberty that Liberty Reserve gave many of its users was the freedom to commit crimes – the coin of its realm was anonymity, and it became a popular hub for fraudsters, hackers and traffickers,” said Bharara. ”It was the opposite of a know-your-customer policy.”
Cyber-age laundering
“We’re now entering the cyber age of money-laundering,” said Richard Weber, chief of the Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigation division, who also alluded to Chicago Crime boss Al Capone. “If Al Capone were alive today, this is how he would be hiding his money.”
The company operated one of the world’s most widely used digital currencies, allowing users to send and receive “instant, real-time currency,” according to the indictment in US federal court in Manhattan.
Digital currency, such as Bitcoin, was developed as a way to make anonymous transfers over the internet without paying fees to a bank. The US Justice Department warned as early as 2008 that criminals would increasingly rely on the digital currency industry to launder and move funds because it facilitates financial transactions outside the rules of the traditional banking system.
The alleged crimes involved only Liberty Reserve and its operators, and not any other digital currency, Bharara said.
“The actions brought today relate only to Liberty Reserve and no other system,” Bharara said. “We’re not taking any position on virtual currency generally and we’re not taking any position with respect to any particular other company that engages in something that may look on the surface that something that Liberty Reserve was doing.”
Five of the seven defendants were arrested last week in a global swoop.
Budovsky, 39, was arrested in Spain, co-founder Vladimir Kats, 41, was arrested in Brooklyn, New York, while two other defendants, Ahmed Abdelghani, 42, and Allan Jimenez, 28, remain at large in Costa Rica, prosecutors said.
The names of the defendants’ attorneys were not immediately available.
“The global enforcement action we announce today is an important step towards reining in the Wild West of illicit internet banking,” said Bharara. ”As crime goes increasingly global, the long arm of the law has to get even longer, and in this case, it encircled the earth.”
A notice pasted across Liberty Reserve’s website on Tuesday morning said the domain “has been seized by the United States Global Illicit Financial Team.” As of Wednesday morning, the website is no longer accessible. Attempts to reach Liberty Reserve by phone and email were not immediately successful.
Liberty Reserve was incorporated in Costa Rica in 2006 and billed itself as the internet’s largest payment processor and money transfer system serving millions of people around the world.
Prosecutors alleged Liberty Reserve was used extensively for illegal purposes, providing an infrastructure that enabled cyber criminals around the globe to conduct untraceable financial transactions.
The network charged a 1 per cent fee on transactions through “exchangers” – middlemen who converted actual currency into virtual funds and then back into cash.
It is alleged when US authorities began to investigate the company, the defendants pretended to shut it down.
But it is alleged that they continued operating “and moved tens of millions of dollars through shell company accounts maintained in Cyprus, Russia, China, Hong Kong, Morocco, Spain, Australia and elsewhere”.
Budovsky and Kats have previous convictions on charges related to an unlicensed money-transmitting business, according to court papers. After that case, the pair decided to move their operation to Costa Rica, the papers said.
In an online chat captured by law enforcement, Kats admitted Liberty Reserve was illegal and noted that authorities in the US knew it was “a money-laundering operation that hackers use”.
Legitimate users
While authorities described Liberty Reserve as being rife with criminals, the site’s ease of use, low fees and irreversible transactions that deterred fraud also attracted legitimate users.
Mitchell Rossetti, whose Houston-based was one of several mainstream merchants that accepted Liberty Reserve’s online-only currency, said his business still had about $US28,000 tied up in Liberty Reserve accounts.
“The irony of this is I went to them because of the security,” Rossetti said. “All sales were final.”
He acknowledged that the currency was being used by scammers but said Liberty Reserve funds were just like any other currency: “The US dollar can be donated to a church or it can pay a prostitute.”
Liberty Reserve appears to have played an important role in laundering proceeds from the recent theft of some $US45 million from two Middle Eastern banks, according to documents made public by authorities earlier this month. In that scheme, thieves stole debit card information and then used it to drain cash from thousands of ATMs around the world in a matter of hours.
As part of the Liberty Reserve investigation, authorities raided 14 places in Panama, Switzerland, the US, Sweden and Costa Rica. In Costa Rica, investigators recovered five luxury cars, including three Rolls-Royces. Bharara said authorities also seized Liberty’s computer servers in Costa Rica and Switzerland.
The seven defendants are each charged with one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering, which carries a maximum term of 20 years jail.
They’re also charged with one count of conspiracy to operate an unlicensed money transmitting business and of operation of an unlicensed money transmitting business. Both of those charges carry a maximum jail term of five years.

David Stockman: “The Error Of Central Banking Has Become Universal”

In the old normal (“when we had an honest Fed,” under Volcker), David Stockman explains to CNBC’s Rick Santelli, “the market could judge what Congress and the White House was doing and decide where the risk/reward equation was and how to price the bond, the note, the bills,” but in the new normal, “today, the market is entirely rigged.” Stockman is no fan of deficits and as he notes “is no fan of money-printing,” pointing out that “it’s not honest,” for the Fed to fund these chronically growing deficits and “created an unsustainably dangerous financial system.” In thie brief interview, Stockman (of The Great Deformation fame) sums it up perfectly to a just-as-concerned Santelli, when he notes, “the error of central banking has become unversal.” We’re taxing the futures generations, he concludes, “they’re going to thank you for the massive disaster that was handed to them.” The honesty will never come…
“You have both parties in the military complex and we’re still spending billions for defense.
So the honesty will be in the raising of taxes.
The honesty will come when you tell the middle class you’re not going to get a tax cut – you’re going to pay more.
Then they will wake up.
Then they will march on Washington and demand that we do something about the giant programs that are drifting today because everybody thinks the Fed will take care of the debt.”
Well worth the price of admission:

Debt-laden eurozone countries get more time to cut deficits as OECD slashes region's growth forecast

Debt-riddled countries in Europe were given more time on Wednesday to hit their budget targets as the outlook in the region took a dramatic turn for the worse.
The European Commission granted six countries – France, Spain, Poland, Portugal, the Netherlands and Slovenia – an extra year, or two in some cases, to cut their deficits to below 3 per cent of GDP.
Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso urged governments to use the time to push through sweeping economic reforms to bolster growth and tackle sky-high unemployment.
‘There is no room for complacency,’ he said.
Fired up: Police in Barcelona clash with firefighters protesting against austerity cuts on Wednesday
Fired up: Police in Barcelona clash with firefighters protesting against austerity cuts on Wednesday
It came as the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development slashed its forecasts for economic output in the region.
The Paris-based watchdog said it now expects the eurozone economy to shrink by 0.6 per cent this year – far worse than the 0.1 per cent it forecast last November.
It said ‘still-rising unemployment is the most pressing challenge’ for Europe.
The OECD accused eurozone leaders of being ‘behind the curve’ throughout the crisis and warned ‘unemployment and social tensions are rising’.
Pier Carlo Padoan, the group’s chief economist, called on the European Central Bank to unleash a major programme of quantitative easing to drag the single currency bloc out of recession. ‘Europe is in a dire situation,’ he said.
With countries struggling to balance the books, the EC granted France, Spain, Poland and Slovenia an extra two years to cut their deficits below 3 per cent. The Netherlands and Portugal won 12 month extensions.
Barroso said: ‘Now is the time to step up the fundamental economic reforms that will deliver growth and jobs, which our citizens, especially our young people, anxiously expect.’
Fears are mounting that Europe faces a lost decade of economic misery. Pimco, the world’s biggest bond trader, warned that the eurozone faces ‘zombification’ over the next few years with many economies staving off collapse but unable to grow.
‘Weak growth means that political and social tensions will continue to build,’ said Andrew Balls, who leads Pimco’s investment team and is brother of shadow chancellor Ed Balls.
He said the eurozone’s four largest economies – Germany, France, Italy and Spain – were likely to bind themselves into an ever closer union.
‘However, it is not clear that all smaller countries will be either welcome or willing to take part,’ he added. ‘There remains a significant risk that some of these countries may exit the eurozone.’

David Stockman - We Are Taxing Future Generations

Half a million Britons using food banks. What kind of country is this becoming?

Let's not mess about: a skyrocketing number of people simply cannot afford to eat, thanks to deliberate government policy
Food banks
A report warns of 'destitution, hardship and hunger on a large scale'. Photograph: Christopher Thomond for the Guardian
Let no one say we didn't see it coming. Half a million people are now accustomed to using food banks, and according to a report by Oxfam and Church Action on Poverty, the UK is now facing "destitution, hardship and hunger on a large scale". Whether this news will achieve the impact it deserves is currently unclear: it doesn't quite feel like it, which only underlines how inured the media seems to have become to rising poverty, and how easily the government seems to be getting off the hook. Yet the facts are obvious enough: "Food aid" is something firmly built into our national life, the supposed safety net of social security is getting more threadbare by the month – and the question demands to be asked, not for reasons of melodrama, but hard political fact: what kind of country is Britain becoming?
According the Trussell Trust, the UK's single biggest organiser of food banks, in 2011-12, the number of people who received at least three days' emergency food was around 130,000. Their own informational material says that in 2012-13, "food banks fed 346,992 people nationwide", and of those who received help, "126,889 were children". Now comes this latest report, and the skyrocketing numbers speak for themselves – as does the mess of factors behind them, and the responsibility of the coalition for pushing up the demand – no, need – for food banks so drastically. While we're here, it may also be worth cutting through the kind of officialspeak used to deal with such things: even the term "food bank" occasionally seems designed to obscure what's actually afoot, which is simple enough. So, let's not mess about: a skyrocketing number of people simply cannot afford to eat, and they have been put in that predicament thanks to deliberate government policy.
Link to video: Oxfam: food bank use increase linked to benefit changes
We are now starting to see the consequences of George Osborne's move on so-called "welfare uprating", whereby increases in benefits are to be held at 1%, irrespective of inflation (over the last five years, incidentally, the cost of basic foods has risen by 35%). Changes to disability benefits are set to cut the income of about 600,000 people. A new council tax benefit regime has snatched money from vulnerable people's pockets, and the infamous bedroom tax has done its work. In all these cases, the people affected are hit by a straightforward enough problem. If your income comes down, your fixed costs – rent, most utility bills, the cost of a phone, or running a car – stay exactly where they are, and two budgets tend to be cut back.
The first is heating. The second, always, is food. By way of highlighting that straightforward fact, I'll quote from a mother of four I met earlier this year, in Hartlepool, who was facing a cut of at least £16 – and as much as £28 – a week in her family's housing benefit: "We can't cut it from fuel, or electricity, or petrol. So when you lay that budget out over a month, with your council tax and water, and all your bills, there's nowhere else it can come from: the only place we can cut from is our food budget. And we're already having the cheapest food you can buy."
There is another factor in all this, which does not get nearly enough coverage, and which plays a huge role in the rising need for food banks. For some time, it has become increasingly clear that rising numbers of people who need social security are being "sanctioned": having their benefits suddenly cut, or taken away altogether, on the flimsiest of pretexts. Whistleblowers working in job centres have spoken of a "culture change" and the imposition of targets for the numbers of people to be sanctioned, irrespective of the details of their cases. Again, a quote from a cob centre staffer on the frontline speaks volumes: "Most staff go in to work and they're thinking about it from moment one – who am I going to stop [ie sanction] this week?" Note also that job centre staff are now referring people to food banks, as are councils and housing associations.
At the same time, one other chronically overlooked issue further drives people's need for emergency food. A couple of months ago, I spoke to a senior manager at a food bank, who talked at length about modern labour markets, and how the rising number of temporary and insecure jobs – witness the rise of the infamous "zero hours" contract – tends to put people who need emergency food in a grim loop. In, say, January, they may turn up in dire need, take their parcel and go away. Weeks later, they'll apparently find work. But by March or April they'll be back – freshly laid off, hit by a delay in their benefit payments and hungry.
"The explosion in food poverty and the use of food banks is a national disgrace," says this latest report. It is. So too is the spectacle of silver-spooned politicians taking refuge in the language of "scroungers" and "welfare crackdowns"; and, for that matter, ministers demanding further cuts to social security so as to shore up defence spending. Enough, too, of those caricatured claims that hacking away at the benefits system will involve the sacrifice of nothing more than fags and flat-screen TVs, and the idea that hunger is something that happens only to the poor and unfortunate overseas. It's now here: outside everyone's door, gnawing away, ruining lives. Oh, and one other thing: research from the US suggests that the very "food uncertainty" the food bank phenomenon embodies may be a particularly insidious part of the obesity crisis – something you won't hear from any minister, but worth pointing out.
We are at a fork in the road here. One way lies a collective recognition that British society has tumbled somewhere hitherto unimaginable, and it is time to renew our social contract; in the other direction there lie outcomes that, at this rate, may sooner or later explode into social disorder. By all means let's start a conversation about the billions of pounds in housing benefit payments thrown at private landlords, the abject waste of money that is the work programme, and more. But enough of the relentless hacking-back of money used for people's most basic needs. As even the most knuckle-headed members of this wretched government now know, that way lies a world many of us thought we had left behind many, many decades ago.

BRICS Development Bank to Compete with the World Bank

U.S. Poverty: By the Numbers

We’re proud to collaborate with The Nation in sharing insightful journalism related to income inequality in America. The following is an excerpt from Nation contributor Greg Kaufmann’s “This Week in Poverty” column.

U.S. poverty (less than $17,916 for a family of three): 46.2 million people, 15.1 percent
Click pie chart to enlarge. Read the full report at the National Center for Children in Poverty website.
Children in poverty: 16.1 million, 22 percent of all children, including 39 percent of African-American children and 34 percent of Latino children. Poorest age group in country.
Deep poverty (less than $11,510 for a family of four): 20.4 million people, 1 in 15 Americans, including more than 15 million women and children
People who would have been in poverty if not for Social Security, 2011: 67.6 million
(program kept 21.4 million people out of poverty)
People in the U.S. experiencing poverty by age 65: Roughly half
Gender gap, 2011: Women 34 percent more likely to be poor than men
Gender gap, 2010: Women 29 percent more likely to be poor than men
Twice the poverty level (less than $46,042 for a family of four): 106 million people, more than 1 in 3 Americans
Jobs in the U.S. paying less than $34,000 a year: 50 percent
Jobs in the U.S. paying below the poverty line for a family of four, less than $23,000 annually: 25 percent
Poverty-level wages, 2011: 28 percent of workers
Percentage of individuals and family members in poverty who either worked or lived with a working family member, 2011: 57 percent
Families receiving cash assistance, 1996: 68 for every 100 families living in poverty
Families receiving cash assistance, 2010: 27 for every 100 families living in poverty
Impact of public policy, 2010: Without government assistance, poverty would have been twice as high — nearly 30 percent of population
Percentage of entitlement benefits going to elderly, disabled or working households: Over 90 percent.
Number of homeless children in U.S. public schools: 1,065,794
Annual cost of child poverty nationwide: $550 billion
Federal expenditures on home ownership mortgage deductions, 2012: $131 billion
Federal funding for low-income housing assistance programs, 2012: Less than $50 billion

Obamacare Is Driving Some Doctors To Stop Taking Insurance Altogether

michael ciampi
A Portland, Maine family doctor is the latest poster child for private practitioners who are turning their backs on insurers altogether. In April, Dr. Michael Ciampi stopped accepting all forms of insurance, including Medicare and Medicaid, and started charging for his services a la carte.
"We're asking people to pay at the time of service just like you would pay at your garage or your lawyer or your plumber," Dr. Michael Ciampi told the Bangor Daily News' Jackie Farwell.  "Now, I work for patients. I don't work for the government and I don't work for insurance companies."
Primary care doctors are among the lowest paid in the industry, and they've seen big cuts to their bottom line recently, as insurers cap physician fees in order to rein in health care costs.  Once Obamacare goes into full effect in 2014, it's predicted that insurance premiums will skyrocket, and all the extra paperwork required will cost private practices like Ciampi's more time, money and manpower.
The Inquisitir explains:
A doctor’s income is what the office takes in payments minus expenses or overhead. Physician overhead cover many things but the most expensive cost is the staff necessary to handle insurance coverage. About 20 to 30 years ago this cost used to be around 15 to 30% of revenue. Now for many doctors this insurance overhead has grown to an outstanding 60% or more, with more staff being hired to handle the quickly enlarging piles of paperwork required by Obamacare.
To top it off, Medicare is beginning to cap payments while the overhead costs remain the same, or worsen. So doctors may stop insurance coverage from Medicare just because they’d see a huge drop in their annual income.
Since the switch, Ciampi says he has been able to slash his prices by half in some cases, just from his overhead savings alone.  But he's lost patients in droves, with several hundred of Ciampi's 2,000 patients ditching him altogether.
Nashville, Tenn.-based Dr. Robert Tomsett had similar results after converting to a no-insurance model at his practice in 2011. Unfortunately, his staff paid the price.
"We  did have to let some of the existing staff go as our patient count has dropped since initiating our transition to self-pay," Tomsett  wrote. "This is typical from accounts by other providers around the country that have converted their practices, some as much as a 75% drop in patient count."
Six weeks into his no-insurance model, Tomsett  saw only 75 patients and managed to break even.
"I am able to spend more time with each patient than any other time in my career," he wrote.
In a similar case in San Antonio, Texas, a pair of primary-care physicians made headlines when they stopped accepting third-party insurance a year ago. They told that they moved to a direct pay model because of the " expensive and bloated bureaucracy that drives financial reimbursements."
A 2012 survey of more than 13,500 doctors from around the country found that 26% have already cut services for Medicaid patients due to costs, and within the next two years more than  50% plan to cut some patient access to their services. About  7% plan to switch to cash-only practices, like Ciampi's, or "concierge practices" in which patients pay doctors an annual retainer.
What happens if more doctors follow Ciampi's lead and take matters into their own hands?
You've got a couple of options –– take your business elsewhere or pay the piper. Some insurers will offer partial reimbursements to out-of-network physicians, but the onus will be on you to deal with the paperwork involved.

Dollar could be in danger as the world’s currency

Reuters / Kacper PempelThis could almost be laughable if the subject wasn’t so serious.  With the Federal Reserve printing more and more worthless fiat currency with “QE to Eternity” and the continual daily theft of our natural resources combined with an endless influx of illegal insurgents, it is not a matter of if, but when the dollar finally collapses.   
RT News
Though the US dollar continues to reign as the foreign reserve currency of choice, a new International Monetary Fund analysis shows that the currency has slumped to a 15-year low, heightening concerns that it may lose that status.
While the dollar currently constitutes 62 per cent of the $6 trillion in foreign holdings by the world’s central banks, when a historical view is taken into account, Dick Bove, vice president of equity research at Rafferty Capital Markets says the dollar’s actual percentage of total money supply worldwide has gone from 90 per cent in 1952 to about 15 per cent today.
Bove, like many other analysts, believes that the rise of the Chinese currency, the yuan, is at the expense of the US dollar’s dominance as a safe haven.
“Generally speaking, it is not believed by the vast majority that the American dollar will be overthrown,”says Dick Bove.
“But it will be, and this defrocking may occur in as short a period as five to 10 years,” he tells CNBC.
The repercussions of the dollar’s decline as the foreign currency holding of choice would be more than a symbolic hit to America’s economic standing. With a budget deficit exceeding $1 trillion per year, if the dollar were to decline against other currencies the US would find itself in the uncomfortable position of having to pay back this debt.
Bove goes further, arguing that the deadlock in Congress over the federal budget, and the now-mandatory cuts designated by the sequestration, are eroding confidence in America’s fiscal state.
“The ratings agencies are already arguing that the government’s debt may be too highly rated. Plus, the United States Congress, in both its houses, as well as the president are demonstrating a total lack of fiscal credibility,” says Bove.

Hong Kong Stock Exchange (AFP Photo / Laurent Fievet)
Hong Kong Stock Exchange (AFP Photo / Laurent Fievet)

Political wrangling over raising the federal debt ceiling was widely viewed as the primary reason that the US debt’s rating was downgraded in 2011. At the time, the rating agency Standard & Poor’s had issued a warning that progress towards balancing the country’s budget was required for a return to a “stable” outlook. In that same year Moody’s and Fitch Ratings both downgraded as well.
According to the Wall Street Journal, New Zealand and China are currently in talks to make their respective currencies directly convertible, eliminating the need to convert either country’s currency into dollars when making or receiving payments.
Though officials told the WSJ that the talks were in the “very early stages,” such a plan is likely to sound alarm bells for anyone worried over the dominance of the US dollar.
“There is no time frame for concluding an agreement,” said a spokeswoman for New Zealand’s prime minister to the WSJ.
“We are aware it took Australia around 12 months to achieve its recent agreement with China,” she added.
If China is indeed embarking on a project to establish its currency as more market-oriented, then its swelling trade with nearby countries such as New Zealand and Australia, which agreed last month to direct convertibility with the yuan, could well continue to undermine the greenback.
Beyond simply removing the American currency from trade, direct convertibility can also make Chinese government bonds more attractive as foreign-exchange assets. Australia, for one, says it plans to invest up to 5% of its total foreign-currency reserves to Chinese government bonds, while New Zealand’s Reserve Bank has thus far not made any announcements either way.
“The No. 1 security issue we have as a nation is the preservation of the US dollar as the world’s reserve currency,” said Michael Pento, president of Pento Portfolio Strategies to CNBC.
“It’s a thousand times more important than a nuclear bomb being tested by North Korea. It’s a thousand times more important that we keep the dollar as the world’s reserve currency, and yet we are doing everything to abuse that status,” he added.

Japan Cancels U.S. Wheat Order on GMO Fear

Reuters – by Naveen Thukral and Risa Maeda
SINGAPORE/TOKYO, May 30 (Reuters) – A strain of genetically modified wheat found in the United States fuelled concerns over food supplies across Asia on Thursday, with major importer Japan cancelling a tender offer to buy U.S. grain.
Other top Asian wheat importers South KoreaChina and the Philippines said they were closely monitoring the situation after the U.S. government found genetically engineered wheat sprouting on a farm in the state of Oregon.  
The strain was never approved for sale or consumption.
Asian consumers are keenly sensitive to gene-altered food, with few countries allowing imports of such cereals for human consumption. However, most of the corn and soybean shipped from the U.S. and South America for animal feed is genetically modified.
“We will refrain from buying western white and feed wheat effective today,” Toru Hisadome, a Japanese farm ministry official in charge of wheat trading, told Reuters.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Wednesday said the wheat variety was developed years ago by biotechnology giant Monsanto Co. It was never put into use because of worldwide opposition to genetically engineered wheat.
Wheat, long known as the staff of life, is the world’s largest traded food commodity and it is used in making breads, pastries, cookies, breakfast cereal and noodles.
Asia imports more than 40 million tonnes of wheat annually, almost a third of the global trade of 140-150 million tonnes. The bulk of the region’s supplies come from the United States, the world’s biggest exporter, and Australia, the No. 2 supplier.
The USDA said there was no sign that genetically engineered wheat had entered the commercial market, but grain traders warned the discovery could hurt export prospects for U.S. wheat.
“Asian consumers are jittery about genetically modified food,” said Abah Ofon, an analyst at Standard Chartered Bank in Singapore. “This is adding to concerns that already exist on quality and availability of food wheat globally.”
In 2006, a large part of the U.S. long-grain rice crop was contaminated by an experimental strain from Bayer CropScience , prompting import bans in Europe and Japan and sharply lowering market prices. The company agreed in court in 2011 to pay $750 million to growers as compensation.
A major flour miller in China, which has been stocking U.S. wheat in recent months, said importers will tread carefully.
China has emerged as a key buyer of U.S. wheat this year, taking around 1.5 million tonnes in the past two months. Chinese purchases in the year to June 2014 are estimated to rise 21 percent to 3.5 million tonnes, according to the USDA, with most shipments coming from the United States, Australia and Canada.
Japan’s Hisadome said the government has asked U.S. authorities to provide more details of their investigation and Japan will stop buying the wheat concerned, at least until a test kit is developed to identify genetically modified produce.
There is no U.S.-approved test kit to identify genetically engineered wheat. The USDA has said it is working on a “rapid test” kit.
The Philippines, which buys about 4 million tonnes of wheat a year and relies mainly on U.S. supplies, is waiting for more details from the USDA before acting, an industry official in Manila said.
An agriculture ministry source in South Korea said the government is reviewing the discovery, adding the country thoroughly inspects products from the United States as part of safety checks.
“I won’t be surprised if other countries start cancelling or reducing their purchases of U.S. wheat, particularly Asian countries, putting pressure on wheat demand,” said Joyce Liu, an investment analyst at Phillip Futures in Singapore.
The benchmark Chicago Board of Trade wheat futures eased half a percent on Thursday after rallying in the previous session.
Genetically modified crops cannot be grown legally in the United States unless the government approves them after a review to ensure they pose no threat to the environment or to people.
Monsanto entered four strains of glyphosate-resistant wheat for U.S. approval in the 1990s but there was no final decision by regulators because the company decided there was no market.
The St. Louis-based firm downplayed the incident in a statement posted on its website. “While USDA’s results are unexpected, there is considerable reason to believe that the presence of the Roundup Ready trait in wheat, if determined to be valid, is very limited,” it said.
Still, importers are not in a position to shun wheat from the United States, which accounts for about a fifth of the global supplies, analysts and industry officials said. (Additional reporting by Karl Plume in CHICAGO, Niu Shuping in Beijing, Erik dela Cruz in MANILA, Jane Chung in SEOUL and Yayat Supriatna in JAKARTA; Editing by Amran Abocar and Richard Pullin)