Saturday, January 12, 2013

Greek bank employees protest government privatization plans

 Hellenic Postbank employees gather in front of the bank headquarters in the center of Greece’s capital Athens to protest against the planned privatization of the state-owned institution, January 11, 2013.
Hellenic Postbank employees gather in front of the bank headquarters in the center of Greece’s capital Athens to protest against the planned privatization of the state-owned institution, January 11, 2013.
Employees of Greece's Hellenic Postbank (HPB) have once again held a demonstration in Athens to protest against plans by the government to privatize state-controlled banks.

On Friday, HPB employees gathered near the bank headquarters to express discontent with plans by the government of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras for the privatization of the bank, saying the government should change its austerity plans.

The Greek government has announced plans to sell off national banks such as HPB.

In December 2012, a similar protest was held near the country’s Finance Ministry in the capital where employees called on officials to change their decisions on the sale.

HPB bank employees are likely to lose their jobs if the government sticks to the harsh strategy it has adopted to manage the economic crisis. The bank has over 2,000 employees.

Athens has introduced austerity measures and other debt cutting methods to meet the conditions set by the European Union for receiving a 34.3-billion-euro aid package.

With the rest of the package of almost 50 billion euros in financial assistance coming in March 2013, the government is pushing even harder to cut back its debt in order to satisfy the eurozone's requirements.

Greece has been at the epicenter of a debt crisis in the eurozone and is experiencing its sixth year of recession, while harsh austerity measures have left about half a million people without jobs.

One in every five Greek workers is currently unemployed, banks are in a shaky position, and pensions and salaries have been slashed by up to 40 percent. Greek youths have also been badly affected, and more than half of them are unemployed.

Fort Knox Receives Just $85 From Cash4Gold

This just in from the Onion...

Check this out:

White House Petition To Audit U.S. Gold Supply

Bob Rice Explains: 'How Central Banks Lease Their Gold'

Bob Rice Explains: 'How Central Banks Lease Their Gold'

Marc Faber: The Government Will Keep Printing Money

Marc Faber: The Government Will Keep Printing Money

BAILOUT SUPERSTARS: Obama, Jacob Lew And Citigroup

Robert Rubin wins again.
By John Titus, creator of the new documentary Bailout.
Obama Keeps Top Bailout Recipient Citigroup In Charge Of U.S. Treasury
President Obama has picked former Citigroup executive Jacob Lew to replace Citigroup minion Timothy Geithner as Treasury Secretary.
Tim seemed to view his job as protecting Citigroup,” said then-FDIC Chair Sheila Bair.
At Obama's Treasury, the “change you can believe in” is apparent only from the difference in roles played by Lew and Geithner with respect to Citigroup: Lew personally benefited from the corporate welfare lavished on Citigroup in the bailouts that began in 2008, whereas Geithner orchestrated the welfare on Citigroup’s behalf.
For 2008, Lew received an enormous bonus--$944,578--shortly after Citigroup posted a loss of $27 billion that year. Despite the unprecedented size of the loss, Citigroup was able to pay Lew’s bonus because it received $45 billion from the TARP program.
In fairness to the much-maligned TARP bailout, it is unclear whether Citigroup paid Lew’s bonus directly out of the $45,000,000,000.00 check it received from the Treasury as part of that program. That’s because Citigroup also received $2.5 trillion in loans from the Federal Reserve—where Tim Geithner worked when the loans began.
The Federal Reserve concealed the loans until a GAO audit forced their disclosure in 2011.
Nor is it clear whether Geithner directed that taxpayers ring-fence $300 billion in Citigroup’s toxic assets as a cushion against Lew’s bonus, which amplified what would have been merely a $27.699 billion loss into the full $27.7 billion loss actually reported by the bank that year.
Whatever the case, Lew felt the $944,578 bonus was enough of an issue that he concealed it from the public until 4 days after filing his ethics disclosure to join the White House.
It would not be the last of Lew's financial disclosure problems, which continued when Lew became Obama's budget director.
"Lew, as the president's budget director, appeared before Congress and continued to insist that President Obama's budget-which Lew had crafted-would not add to the debt of the United States," [Senator] Sessions said.
Historians expect Lew to ascribe blame for his fiscal obfuscation to the popular Turbo Tax software when he appears before the Senate.
If confirmed, Lew would be the most recent additon to a long line of Robert Rubin protégés in the Obama Administration and indeed controlling the White House itself.
John Titus has practiced law in federal courts for more than 15 years.

Watch a Trailer for BAILOUT

Best Buy Survives…For Now

On Friday, Best Buy (BBY) investors got another warning that the electronics chain may have a hard time sticking around long enough to close the deal on a buyout. Reporting preliminary results from the holiday season, Best Buy said sales remained relatively flat but reduced estimates for free cash flow in 2013 to somewhere around $500 million, 50% lower than the high end of what the company guided to at the end of October.
Best Buy blamed the cash-flow shortfall on vendors demanding earlier payment for goods. Cash-flow issues often mark the beginning of the end for troubled retailers. Retailers run on credit. They buy the goods then sell them and pay back the debts. This is referred to as a revolving line of credit. When vendors demand early payment it's because they don't think the company is good for the money later. As a result the retailer doesn't have money for day to day improvements, forced as they are to keep more cash on hand to buy goods.
Related: Best Buy-Out: The Numbers Don’t Add Up
In Best Buy's case cash flow is no small matter. The company is effectively biding its time as it waits for an offer from founder Richard Schulze and his buyout group. Best Buy has given Schulze a deadline of February 28th for making a bid but the truth is the company will take an offer whenever it gets it. The cash flow issue on top of Best Buy's other problems make it unlikely Schulze's Private Equity partners will make an offer anytime soon. The smart play is to wait instead for the company to fall into bankruptcy or at least further dis-repair.
Related: All Hope May Be Lost for Best Buy Shareholders
Hitha Prabhakar, author of "Black Market Billions" disagrees. To her it's about sales, and sales are "less bad" than expected. Analysts had expected holiday figures to come in down 2% year over year. Instead Best Buy posted flat results suggesting, at least to Prabhakar and some other analysts that the earnings in the fourth quarter will be better than what had been expected.
What's more, Prabhakar says Best Buy is seeing a pick up in sales in markets where Amazon (AMZN) has been forced to pay sales tax. The tax bump was a key driver in Amazon's ability to undercut rivals. Prabhakar and others think this marks the end of Amazon's unfair advantage and breaths new life into Best Buy's online sales efforts.
Related: Best Buy On Life Support: How Showrooming Can Save the Chain
So far on Friday the market agrees with Prabhakar and the rest of the bulls but there's a long way between here and sustainable existence.

Could CANADA'S Sky be falling?

Prime minister’s wife sells off entire stock portfolio
OTTAWA — An ethics disclosure filed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper shows that his wife Laureen liquidated her entire portfolio of stock market investments late last year.
The prime minister last month amended a disclosure of assets and liabilities he had filed with Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson and removed its reference to his wife’s investments.
Previous versions of Harper’s MP disclosure said his wife held an “investment account with Raymond James Ltd. partly composed of publicly traded securities.”
That line item was not found in an updated December 8 version of the document, which lists no other declarable assets - Harper’s disclosure did not itemize the individual stocks his wife owned.
“Mrs. Harper’s updated disclosure reflects the fact this account was liquidated,” explained Andrew MacDougall, Harper’s director of communications.
MacDougall did not respond to a follow-up email asking why she had suddenly sold off her portfolio at a time when the economy is still recovering from a deep recession.
The prime minister declared no stock investments of his own, suggesting that those made in his wife’s name may effectively be joint assets. The disclosure notes that the Harpers share a joint line of credit from the Bank of Nova Scotia.
In October, the Prime Minister’s Office declined a Citizen request to provide a list of equities in Laureen Harper’s portfolio. The PMO also refused to say whether any of her stocks were among the resource sector companies that would be affected by her husband’s decision on foreign investments by China’s CNOOC and Malayasia’s Petronas.
It is unclear whether Laureen Harper simply saw last year’s rise in stock prices as a good time to cash in her portfolio or if the move was made in response to the Citizen story pointing out the apparent loophole in the ethics rules.
Under an agreement with ethics commissioner, Harper is required to step aside from any decision involving Talisman Energy, where his brother Grant works as an accountant.

Best Buy sales flat or down during holidays

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Struggling consumer electronics chain Best Buy said Friday that a key revenue metric declined during the critical holiday season.
But its flat performance in the U.S. was better than the past several quarters, and online revenue showed strong growth.
Shares of Best Buy (BBY) climbed almost 12% Friday.
Sales for November-December can comprise up to 40% of a retailer's annual revenue, making it the most crucial period on the calendar.
Best Buy has been implementing a turnaround plan aimed at improving results as it faces tough competition from discounters and online retailers.
The chain said revenue at stores open at least a year fell 1.4% for the nine weeks ended Jan. 5. This figure is a key gauge of a retailer's health because it excludes results from stores recently opened or closed.
The company's U.S. performance was flat. While this was a hair below the 0.3% increase Best Buy reported in the prior-year period, President and CEO Hubert Joly said in a statement that it was an improvement over the past several quarters.
Best Buy tapped Joly in August to help reverse its slide. Joly has made management changes, including hiring CFO Sharon McCollam in November, and outlined a plan to improve results that includes beefing up customer service and revamping stores while cutting overhead and supply-chain costs.
Best Buy said that sales were strongest among cell phones, tablets, electronic readers and appliances, while sales of entertainment, televisions and computer-related items dropped.
Another encouraging sign was that online revenue rose 10% for the holiday period, bolstered by better traffic. This is notable because there's been ongoing concern that people browse electronics in Best Buy's stores and then go home to buy them more cheaply online, a practice known as "showrooming." The increase in online revenue over the holidays shows that the chain is managing to grab its share of online buyers as well.
"While it will be a journey with ups and downs, we are focused on becoming an increasingly effective multi-channel retailer and engaging with the tens of millions of consumers who shop us online and in-store," Joly added.
Revenue at stores open at least a year declined 6.4% internationally, stung by softness in China and Canada.
Total revenue for the holiday period fell slightly to $12.8 billion from $12.9 billion.
Best Buy lost CEO Brian Dunn in April, after an investigation showed he had an inappropriate relationship with a female staffer.
That led to the departure of co-founder Richard Schulze, who knew about the relationship but didn't report it properly, the investigation found.
Schulze stepped down, but he has been considering making a bid for the company. That bid had not materialized by the end of 2012, although Best Buy has given Schulze more time to look over its books before he makes an offer.
Best Buy's stock added 59 cents, or 4.8% to $12.80 about 90 minutes before the market opens.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

George Osborne to the EU: Change or Britain will leave

George Osborne has issued an ultimatum to the European Union, saying it “must change” in order to avoid a British exit.

George Osborne, the Chancellor. George Osborne, the Chancellor, has issued a threat to the European Union

The Chancellor made the threat despite saying that he still wants Britain to remain a member of the EU.
David Cameron is preparing to give a major speech about Britain’s future in Europe, which could pave the way for a referendum on EU membership.
Some Conservatives say Britain should leave the EU if other members do not agree to much looser membership.
Mr Osborne issued his warning to EU members in an interview with the German Die Welt newspaper published today.
“I very much hope that Britain remains a member of the EU,” the Chancellor said. “But in order that we can remain in the European Union, the EU must change.”

Mr Osborne declined to say in the interview whether or not the British government is planning a referendum.
Ms Osborne’s interview came to light only a day after a senior German official warned Mr Cameron not to blackmail the EU.
Gunther Kirchbaum, a politician close to German chancellor Angela Merkel said that Britain "cannot create a political future” if it is “blackmailing other states”.
“David Cameron has said recently that a new consensus is necessary for our relations with Europe,” Mr Osborne is reported to have told the newspaper, adding that the British people are currently “very disappointed” with the EU.
The Chancellor insisted that he wants Britain to remain “an active part of a reformed EU”.
A Treasury aide insisted that Mr Osborne’s comments were fully consistent with the Government's position that the EU needs to change "and indeed is changing".
Douglas Alexander, Labour’s Shadow Foreign Secretary, said Mr Osborne’s comments were designed to appease Conservative backbenchers.
“George Osborne may have been talking to a German newspaper but his real audience were Conservative backbenchers,” Mr Alexander said.
“No wonder only this week Britain’s allies and British business leaders warned the Government about the risk of sleepwalking to exit.”
Vince Cable, the Business Secretary, has used a speech to describe the ongoing questions about Britain’s membership of the EU as a “massive disruption”.
He said it was “deeply unhelpful” and welcomed the intervention by Philip Gordon, the US assistant secretary responsible for European affairs, who expressed concern about the consequences of Britain leaving the EU.
“I have to spend my time talking to business people, British and international, trying to have the confidence to invest here and create employment and the recent uncertainly is just deeply uncomfortable for the country,” Mr Cable said.
“I think the warning shot across the bows yesterday from the United States was actually quite helpful as well as very timely.”
Nick Clegg this week said the Prime Minister is risking the “livelihood and safety” of millions of British people by raising questions about Britain’s EU membership.
The Deputy Prime Minister said that “playing politics” with EU membership could jeopardise British jobs and hamper international police operations.
“When you have one in ten jobs in this country, 3 million people, whose jobs are dependent on our position as a leading member of the world’s biggest borderless single market, you play with that status at your peril – these are jobs at stake, livelihoods,” he said.
Werner Faymann, the chancellor of Austria, said he has a “hard time” dealing with Mr Cameron and accused him of being untrustworthy.
“Why I have a hard time with David Cameron, also in a personal relationship and when it comes to trust, [is] because I get the feeling with him that ... he speaks differently in his own country than he does in the European Council," Mr Faymann was reported to have said in newspaper Der Standard.
Mr Cameron’s approach is being resisted by Angela Merkel of Germany.
Mrs Merkel has told the Prime Minister she has no intention of opening an EU treaty negotiation in order to provide a new settlement that can be put to a referendum in Britain, The Daily Telegraph understands.

REPORT: Goldman & Morgan Stanley Agree To Settle On Foreclosure Fraud

A Fed-led wrist slap for Mother Lloyd.

N.J. Tax Receipts Missed Christie Target by $288 Million

New Jersey tax collections fell $288 million below Governor Chris Christie’s fiscal 2012 target, winding up closer to projections made by a legislative analyst the Republican once called the “Dr. Kevorkian of the numbers.”
Christie, who is seeking a second term in November’s state election, battled with David Rosen, a budget analyst with the nonpartisan Office of Legislative Services, after Rosen warned lawmakers that 2012 revenue was short of plan by $250 million.
Receipts came to almost $29.1 billion for the 12 months that ended June 30, while the budget Christie signed in 2011 called for $29.4 billion, according to the state’s Comprehensive Annual Financial Report posted yesterday and budget documents. Rosen’s warning in September led lawmakers to block funding for a tax-cut proposal from Christie, who is 50 years old.
“We had the right message: Let’s wait and see,” Assemblyman Vincent Prieto, a Democrat from Secaucus who leads the chamber’s budget panel, said in an interview. Lawmakers had set aside $183 million to cover the governor’s tax-relief program and have refused to release the money.
Bill Quinn, a Treasury spokesman, declined to comment on the annual financial report.
Christie’s administration trimmed some spending and moved money between accounts to cover most of the 2012 revenue shortfall. The administration covered a remaining $123 million gap by drawing down the year-end balance, leaving the amount that can be applied to this year’s spending plan at $446 million, state documents indicate.

2014 Outlook

The governor’s 2013 budget counted on a $570 million carryover from the previous year. The lower actual amount may affect his 2014 spending plan if revenue continues to trail targets through June.
Christie’s characterization of Rosen in May followed the analyst’s statement that state revenue may miss the governor’s projections by as much as $1.8 billion through the end of the current fiscal year, potentially dousing the Republican’s tax- cut plans. Dr. Jack Kevorkian advocated for the legalization of assisted suicide before he died in June 2011.

Libor Scandal: UBS Bosses, ‘We Knew Nothing’

Senior executives at major Wall Street banks claiming they ‘knew nothing‘ of the scandalous rigging of Libor that generated untold billions of dollars in revenue over a multi-year time period might only be compared to one other comedic actor. Which one is that? How could we ever forget  the fabulously funny . . .

While Schultz, Hogan and the boys brought enormous comic relief to so many, there is little to laugh about rigged markets and incomplete information emanating from Wall Street.
Regrettably we get far too much of both from the oligopoly on Wall Street overseen by “in the hip pocket” regulators and attorneys that seemingly also ‘knew nothing’ for far too long.
Remember, justice neglected is justice denied. Yet we are fed another serving of this cold dish once again this morning as we read in the Financial Times, We Knew Nothing of Our Libor Troubles, Say Former UBS Bosses,
Four former top UBS executives on Thursday denied all knowledge of Libor manipulation during their tenures, insisting they had not realised their bank’s rate-setting mechanism was under scrutiny until reading about it in the newspapers years after they had left the institution.
According to regulators, 40 people including senior managers were involved or aware of the misbehaviour, although they agreed that UBS top executives were not.
Forty people? Who’s talking? How high up in the organization does the scandal run? It is hard for 40 people to all maintain a ‘party line’ approach. Will criminal charges be filed? Given the scope of this racket, how could they not be. Some of these individuals will certainly want to save their own skin and be willing to talk. That said, if the regulators continue to run into a similar “know nothing’ stonewalling on the part of other UBS executives, what might they do?
Where might they turn? Will they be willing to play their trump card?
What card is that?
Call in the Pres.
The Pres, yeah, call up our guy, President Barack Obama!!
Yes, call on President Obama to engage his closest relationship on Wall Street, that being former UBS North American head Robert Wolf. Wolf only left UBS this past summer so there is a chance he might be able to share or find some info on this scandal. You think? Worth a call, no?
I would have to imagine that if anybody can find out just how high in the UBS organization this Libor scandal ran that it would be our leader. I know he is a busy guy but we are talking about the greatest scandal in the history of Wall Street so I have to believe he could find a little time to help the cause.
We do want the total truth here and meaningful justice here. . . don’t we?
I mean . . . this is no comedy.
For a comprehensive review of most angles of this scandal, I welcome providing:
Sense on Cents/Libor Scandal
Navigate accordingly.
Larry Doyle
Isn’t it time or overtime to subscribe to all my work via e-mail, an RSS feed, on Twitter or Facebook.
I have no business interest with any entity referenced in this commentary. The opinions expressed are my own. I am a proponent of real transparency within our markets so that investor confidence and investor protection can be achieved.

One Response to “Libor Scandal: UBS Bosses, ‘We Knew Nothing’”

America’s PhDs on Food Stamps

Trillion Dollar Platinum Coin Is "Not The Solution" - PIMCO's Gross

Today’s AM fix was USD 1,669.50, EUR 1,258.29 and GBP 1,036.25 per ounce.
Yesterday’s AM fix was USD 1,663.00, EUR 1,269.37 and GBP 1,036.65 per ounce.
Silver is trading at $30.68/oz, €23.24/oz and £19.12/oz. Platinum is trading at $1,629.00/oz, palladium at $694.00/oz and rhodium at $1,150/oz.

Cross Currency Table – (Bloomberg)
Gold climbed $15.50 or 0.94% in New York yesterday and closed at $1,672.90/oz. Silver surged to a high of $30.926 and finished with a gain of 1.45%. The yellow metal was on track for a 1% weekly rise, after falling for five of the past six weeks.
Gold edged off in euros on Friday, following the European Central Bank’s decision to keep its rates unchanged.
Japan's gold market (TOCOM ) made news as benchmark Tokyo gold futures hit a record high of 4,820 yen a gram ($1,699.62 an ounce) after the yen dropped to a 2-1/2-year low vs. the dollar on expectations of more QE by the BoJ.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made has pushed increased jobs growth as part of the Bank of Japan’s directive as his government approved $117 billion of spending to revitalize the economy in the biggest stimulus since the financial crisis.
Abe is leaning hard on the BOJ to adopt a 2% inflation target at its January 21-22 rate review, which is double its current goal, and consider easing monetary policy again, most likely by increasing government debt and asset purchases, sources told Reuters.
Spain's first debt auction of the year was positive, as appetite for high-yielding assets improved.
PIMCO founder and co chief investment officer Bill Gross gives no credence to the trillion dollar platinum coin scheme.
Concerns over the debt ceiling have prompted Washington politicians and political and economic activists to argue that the U.S. treasury should simply use its authority to mint a platinum coin worth $1 trillion.

Platinum in USD, 2 Years – (Bloomberg)

Proponents argue the coin could be deposited at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York to cover the Federal government’s debts until and unless Congress raises the debt limit.
Gross acknowledges that they can do this and says it is not a novel idea as it has been advanced in the last several years.
However, whether Bernanke and Treasury in combination would jeopardise their standing with Congress by this type of "end run" ... no we "don't give it much credence."
We feel that such an action would not only jeopardise the U.S. Fed and Treasury standing with Congress but with creditor nations internationally - particularly the Russians and Chinese.
It appears to be a bit of a stunt by and may be a convenient distraction away from the substantive issue of how the U.S. manages to address its massive budget deficits, national debt and unfunded liabilities of between $50 trillion and $100 trillion. It may also be designed to create the false impression that there are easy solutions to the intractable US debt crisis - thereby lulling investors and savers into a false sense of security ... again.
Gross said that subject to the debt ceiling, the Fed is buying everything that Treasury can issue. He warns that we have this "conglomeration of monetary and fiscal policy" as not just the US is doing this but Japan and the Eurozone is doing this also.
Gross has recently criticised the Fed's 'government financing scheme.'  He has in recent months been warning of the medium term risk of inflation due to money creation and recently warned of 'inflationary dragons.'
Gross in his monthly Investment Outlook note to clients of the world's biggest bond fund, argues that the quantitative easing and near zero  interest rate strategies employed by central banks in the US, UK, Europe and Japan, China and Switzerland have the potential to permanently distort financial markets and create significant long-term inflation risks.
 Gold in USD, 2 Years – (Bloomberg)

Incredibly, the world's most important central banks have issued more than $6 trillion dollars' worth of "essentially free" money into the global economy since the financial crisis in a misguided recovery effort that could erode stocks, bonds and currencies for generations to come.
"While they are not likely to breathe fire in 2013, the inflationary dragons lurk ... a case of quantitative easing," Gross wrote. The tactics, he says, "destroy financial business models and stunt investment decisions which offer increasingly lower (equity and investment returns). Purchases of 'paper' shares as opposed to investments in tangible productive investment assets become the likely preferred corporate choice."
Thus, PIMCO remain favorably disposed towards gold as an allocation in a portfolio.
On December 30, PIMCO tweeted @PIMCO:Gross: 2013 Fearless Forecasts: 1) Stocks & bonds return less than 5%. 2) Unemployment stays at 7.5% or higher 3) Gold goes up……

Basel Banksters: Secretive elite group pulls strings of finance

European Cashless Society: EU Hopes to Ban Cash Transactions Over 500 Euros

Cash transactions ceiling is set to drop to 500 euros, as the EU Finance Ministry is mulling incentives for the use of credit and debit cards
By Prokopis Hatzinikolaou
Jan 13, 2013
Any transaction in excess of 500 euros will soon only be allowed via credit or debit card or by check, according to a plan by the Finance Ministry aimed at combating tax evasion.
The ceiling for cash transactions is to be lowered from 1,500 euros today to 500 euros and could be reduced further over in the course of 2013. Ministry sources say that in the first quarter of the new year all companies and certain self-employed individuals will have to obtain the POS (point-of-sale) terminals that provide for card transactions.
This forms part of the government’s plan to contain tax evasion and increase state revenues. Ministry officials stress that public revenues can only grow through beating tax evasion, as there can be no more cuts to expenditure except for procurements.
The ministry is also making plans to create incentives for taxpayers to use payment cards and checks, either through the return of some money or via bonuses. “The changes we are planning for 2013 include incentives to encourage citizens to use means of electronic payment in order to attain greater transparency in transactions and to combat tax evasion that is facilitated by the use of cash,” Deputy Finance Minister Giorgos Mavraganis told Kathimerini.
“As you know, transactions in excess of 1,500 euros are currently not allowed to be conducted in cash. We will have to review this limit and generally we must see how we can make it easier for Greeks to change their years-long habit of paying for goods and services in cash and instead use other means of payment. This is a problematic situation in our country that has to change, albeit without upsetting social cohesion,” the deputy minister added.
Although the government is determined to move ahead swiftly with legislation that will make it obligatory to use payment cards for transactions, it has not yet decided on the incentives to encourage taxpayers to do so. “Rewards to citizens who use electronic means of payment as a rule are in other countries provided through gifts or money. We still have to examine certain issues pertaining to European Union legislation and we will have to think very hard about how forms of bonuses in transactions have worked in other countries,” Mavraganis noted.
Source: Ekathimerini

Best Buy same-store sales drop 1.4%

By Steve Gelsi 

NEW YORK (MarketWatch) -- Best Buy Co. Inc. BBY +16.38% said Friday sales at stores open at least a year fell 1.4% in the nine weeks ended Jan. 5. Domestic same-store sales were flat. Total company sales dipped to $12.8 billion for the nine weeks ended Jan. 5, compared to $12.9 billion in total sales for the nine weeks ended Dec. 31, 2011. Shares of the Minneapolis-based electronics retailer jumped 5% to $12.21 on Thursday.
Read the full story:

To "The Precious Metal Purchasing Act" From Executive Order 6102 - Santelli's Take

"Ever heard of SB3341?" is Rick Santelli's opening salvo in today's rantless discussion of the concerns he has with Illinois' 'Precious Metal Purchasing Act'. While passed in the Illinois Senate last year, and moth-balled in the House since, Rick notes that "the long and short of it is is they want an audit trail to any precious metals, whether you're talking coins or bullion." It does not seem too much of a stretch to this Chicagoan to the 1933 Executive Order #6102 that confiscated gold and cleared the way eventually for Nixon's 1971 disconnect of the dollar from gold. As Liberty Blitzkrieg's Mike Krieger notes: "So let me get this straight.  First they want gun registration and now precious metal registration?  I’m sure the government would only use such information in our best interests, because as we all know: Your Government Loves You.  Sounds reasonable, after all, only 'terrorists' buy guns and gold anyway."
From the bill (found here)
...Provides that a person who is in the business of purchasing precious metal shall obtain a proof of ownership, create a record of the sale, and verify the identity of the seller. Provides that a person who is in the business of purchasing precious metal shall not pay for the precious metal in cash and shall record the method of payment.
Requires the purchaser to keep a record of the sale for one year or, if the purchase amount is over $500, for 5 years.

UK supermarkets reject 'wasted food' report claims

Britain's biggest supermarkets have been defending their practices after a report suggested that up to half of the world's food is thrown away.
The Institution of Mechanical Engineers said the waste was being caused by poor storage, strict sell-by dates, bulk offers and consumer fussiness.
The British Retail Consortium said supermarkets have "adopted a range of approaches" to combat waste.
They also lobbied the EU to relax laws stopping the sale of misshaped produce.
According to the report - Global Food; Waste Not, Want Not - from the UK-based institution, as much as half of the world's food, amounting to two billion tonnes worth, is wasted.
Its study claims that up to 30% of vegetables in the UK were not harvested because of their physical appearance.
'Waste of resources' The report said that between 30% and 50% of the four billion tonnes of food produced around the world each year went to waste.
It suggested that half the food bought in Europe and the US was thrown away.
Dr Tim Fox, head of energy and environment at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, said: "The amount of food wasted and lost around the world is staggering. This is food that could be used to feed the world's growing population - as well as those in hunger today.

"It is also an unnecessary waste of the land, water and energy resources that were used in the production, processing and distribution of this food.
"The reasons for this situation range from poor engineering and agricultural practices, inadequate transport and storage infrastructure through to supermarkets demanding cosmetically perfect foodstuffs and encouraging consumers to overbuy through buy-one-get-one-free offers."
He told the BBC's Today programme: "If you're in the developing world, then the losses are in the early part of the food supply chain, so between the field and the marketplace.
"In the mature, developed economies the waste is really down to poor marketing practices and consumer behaviour."
Dr Fox called on "governments, development agencies and organisation like the UN" to work to help change people's mindsets on waste and discourage wasteful practices.
But the BRC questioned the report's link between promotions and food waste, highlighting a UK government survey that showed buy-one-get-one-free offers were becoming rarer.
"Retailers want to help customers make their money go further," it said.
"They've also adopted a range of approaches to help people make the best use of the food they buy, including giving clear storage advice and recipe ideas, and offering a wider range of portion sizes."
It added that "using more of the crop to cut food waste and increase sustainable production is an objective for all retailers. This is how we are exceeding government targets for food waste."
The supermarket giant Morrisons said it was working with farmers and suppliers to eliminate wastage.
A spokesperson said: "We understand how important it is to tackle the issue of food waste and make an effort to do so in every area of our business - from our manufacturing facilities right through to store.
"We don't currently offer buy-one-get-one-free offers on our fruit and vegetables, have relaxed our specifications on this produce to accept more 'wonky' crops and offer clear labelling for customers."
Toine Timmermans, from Wageningen University and Research Centre in the Netherlands, described the IME publication as a "relevant report that draws attention to an important issue and topic".
But he added: "Based on years of research I find the conclusion about the amount of food waste (1.2-2 billion tonnes) unrealistically high."
Tristram Stuart, from food waste campaign group Feeding the 5000, said: "Amazingly, there has been no systematic study of food waste at the farm level either in the UK or elsewhere in Europe or the US.
"In my experience, it's normal practice for farmers to assume that 20% to 40% of their fruit and vegetable crops won't get to market, even if they are perfectly fit for human consumption."
Tom Tanner, from the Sustainable Restaurants Association, said: "It is the power of major retailers - convenience shopping and supermarkets on everyone's doorstep, you can nip out and buy a ready made meal in two minutes rather than make use of what's in your fridge."

Wasted food in a bin  
The report said half the food bought in Europe and the US ended up in the bin

Food waste is a subject that people get very incensed about. But this report, while re-iterating the scale of the problem, doesn't really advance the story.
The Institution of Mechanical Engineers review draws heavily on work carried out over a number of years for the Food and Agriculture Organisation of UN. However one expert in the field suggested that there was no absolutely reliable global data on the level of waste.
One of the boldest claims in the report is that "30% of the UK vegetable crop is never harvested."
It suggests that farmers are leaving vegetables in the ground because they don't meet the supermarket standards required. The research on which that claim is based is from 2008 and only looks at potatoes. It concludes that 6% is lost at field level while 22% is either thrown away or diverted to other markets during processing.
The headline claim that up to 50% of all food is thrown away really depends on your definitions, one researcher told me. At least a difference should be made between food losses and food waste.

The world does produce enough food to feed all the humans.
So why isn't it happening? Because money=junkies make choices based on profit, not humanity.

Underneath all the jewels, a jeweled pig is still just a pig!