Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Video Showing the Huge Gap Between Super Rich and Everyone Else Goes Viral

Actual wealth gap explainedDaily Finance – by Bruce Watson
For much of the past decade, policymakers and analysts have decried America’s incredibly low savings rate, noting that U.S. households save a fraction of the money of the rest of the world. Citing a myriad of causes — from cheap credit to exploitative bank practices – they’ve noted that the average family puts away less than 4 percent of its income.
“Wealth Inequality in America,” a six-minute video produced by a YouTube user named “Politizane,” casts an interesting angle on the plummeting savings rate. Set to depressing piano music and packed with crystal-clear animations, it gives a powerful snapshot of the American economic landscape. Noting that “The top 1 percent own nearly half the country’s stocks, bonds, and mutual funds,” the video goes on to contrast those impressive holdings with the rest of the country. By comparison, it points out, the bottom 50 percent of earners own only 0.5 percent of those investments.
It isn’t hard to see why there is such a yawning gap between the richest Americans and the rest of us. Since 1976, the share of national income earned by the top one percent of workers has nearly tripled, from 9 percent to 24 percent. It’s not hard to see why their share has increased: As Clinton administration Labor Secretary Robert Reichrecently pointed out, the economy has roughly doubled in size over the last 30 years — and, in an ideal world, more money in the economy should mean more money in everyone’s pocket.
But the distribution of this huge economic bonanza has been startlingly uneven. While the earnings of the top 1 percent have tripled, the average household income has effectively stagnated. Put another way, there’s a reason Americans haven’t saved: they haven’t had much money to save.
In terms of information, Politizane’s video isn’t offering anything new: Its analysis of American perceptions of wealth distribution, the line between rich and poor and the issue of America’s wealth continuum echo stories that have been in the media for years. But there’s something about seeing the country’s wealth gap in easy-to-follow animations that allows the dry analysis to hit home. Or, as the video puts it, these illustrations make it easier for viewers to “wake up and realize that the reality in this country is not at all what we think it is.”

 Bruce Watson is a senior features writer for DailyFinance. You can reach him by e-mail at bruce.watson@teamaol.com, or follow him on Twitter at @bruce1971

Eric Sprott: Central Bankers Are Gaming Gold

JT Long of The Gold Report (3/4/13)
Some people may look at the stock market and see economic recovery. Eric Sprott of Sprott Asset Management and Sprott Money looks at myriad other economic indicators and sees an economy still in decline. Despite his suspicions that central banks are keeping gold prices artificially low, he tells The Gold Report that he favors gold, platinum, palladium and especially silver, over the near and long term.
The Gold Report: The price of gold has dipped under $1,600/ounce ($1,600/oz); silver is below $30/oz. Is this a case of living by the sword and dying by the sword, where precious metals prices only go up in a bad economy and are doomed to languish when things go well?
Eric Sprott: That is an interesting question because I do not know what it means to go well these days. I see things going from bad to worse economically, and so do many others. Walmart just announced that January 2013 was a lousy month and its start to February was its worst in years. Apple’s iPhone manufacturer Foxconn just announced a hiring freeze in China because of a decline in iPhone production. Italian industrial production new orders were down 15%. You can feel the recessionary malaise setting in.
Weakness begets weakness, and there are only two ways to stop weakness: fiscal policy and monetary policy.
No one has any room for aggressive fiscal policy anymore. The U.S. is looking at sequestration. We just had a 2% tax increase. There is nothing left in the cupboard for fiscal stimulation. On the monetary side, we are at 0% interest rates, and we are printing money nonstop.
We are entering a period of steady decline in economic well-being, notwithstanding the suggestions of central planners that H2/13 will be great. They always say the second half will be great because they know the first half will not be.
TGR: In your opinion, what are the most important indicators of what is really happening in the economy?
ES: There are many indicators: rail car loadings, car sales, personal income, consumer sentiment, to name a few.
Granted, most of the consumer sentiment numbers have been OK, but a lot of those numbers follow in line with the stock market. Anyone who thinks that 70% of the population is better off has to be mistaken. The 2% increase in withholdings on someone’s salary implies a much bigger impact on his or her discretionary spending because a lot of spending is dedicated to things that do not change: mortgage payments, insurance costs, the cable bill. When you knock 2% off the top, it could affect discretionary spending by 4–5%.
The one indicator you do not want to watch is the stock market because it is part of the financial fabric that the central planners are desperately trying to hold together. Not a week goes by without a crisis. Four weeks ago, it was Banco Monte dei Paschi. Three weeks ago, the third largest bank in the Netherlands had to be bailed out. Last week, Peugeot had to get a loan from the European Central Bank. Now the largest homebuilder in Spain has declared bankruptcy.
TGR: Which takes us back to the first question: If there is no recovery and the economy is still languishing, why did gold and silver both drop last week?
ES: This will sound like a conspiracy theory, but unusual things are happening in the gold and silver markets.
For example, on Feb. 19, nearly an entire year’s supply of gold traded on the Comex in a single day. The same volume of silver trading happened on the commodities exchange. You and I both know that the people selling that much metal cannot deliver it because it is just not available. Yet somehow they are out there, pounding down these contracts and keeping the price suppressed.
I would hypothesize that the central bankers know their policy of printing money is the most irresponsible thing imaginable, and they are suppressing gold and silver prices to hide their irresponsibility. When one is printing that much money, gold and silver prices are the first things you would expect to rise. If we saw gold going to $2,000/oz, the price of oil would probably go to a new high and the price of agricultural commodities would go up. Then you would have a huge inflation problem on your hands.
Based on my research, I believe the Western central banks have been surreptitiously supplying gold to the market. I say this because the demands I see for physical gold are way beyond the supply of gold. The annual gold supply has not changed in 12 years, and demand just keeps increasing from China, India, the U.S. Mint and silver and gold coin sales; even the non-Western central banks are buying gold. Where is this gold coming from? I think the Western central banks are selling gold to keep the lid on the price so everyone thinks their monetary policies are benign. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
TGR: But wasn’t Feb. 15′s volume blamed in part on reports of a few large fund managers selling their gold exchange-traded funds (ETFs).
ES: That may very well have happened. A lot of these paper things trade together, and the gold in the ETFs is paper gold at best. I have serious reservations about whether there is actual physical gold in the gold ETFs.
When I see China buying 95 tons of gold in a month and I know that the world’s monthly production is only 180 tons, that represents half the gold. India bought 100 tons in January, more than 50% of the gold supply. Between China and India, they bought 100% of the available gold. So, where did the gold bought by the rest of the world come from? From the Western central banks, as far as I’m concerned.
TGR: Does this policy of suppressing the price of precious metals hold for silver, platinum and palladium as well and how is it affecting supply and demand in those metals?
ES: The monetary authorities have never really focused on platinum and palladium because they are more industrial metals and very few people watch their prices. We watch them now because we have a public platinum and palladium trust.
The platinum price has gone up and the paper markets are starting to get involved. I suspect that is because there are shortages of platinum and palladium. If their prices skyrocket, it might kick over into silver and gold. There are people willing to sell contracts for platinum and palladium, even though there will be shortages of both this year. It seems ridiculous to be shorting platinum and palladium, but these misplaced bets were probably placed for a reason: they do not want metals to look as if they could knock the cover off the ball and reveal what the real money printing has caused.
TGR: But would you not expect platinum and palladium to track with the economy and go up in a recovery, while gold would not do as well?
ES: Gold is more of an investment vehicle. About 90% of all gold produced each year is used for investment. And, yes, a lot of platinum and palladium are used for industrial purposes. The same is true of silver. When there is not very much available for investment, the investment demand for silver, platinum and palladium will make the difference.
In my view of the economy, industrial demand might decrease. But if that happens, we would go right back to the unresolved problem of all this outstanding debt. In a weak economy, people start questioning the value of the credits of the outstanding loans. We go back into the same banking crisis that we had in 2008, in which the banks would have failed had the government not stepped in. Now, government intervention is a regular occurrence.
TGR: You invest in equities and physical metals through your various funds and trusts. What do you consider to be a balanced portfolio in today’s world?
ES: You must have, at a minimum, 10% in gold and silver. I probably have 80% of my money in gold and silver. For my funds, I have 80% in gold and silver and equities.
Did you know that gold and gold shares represent 1% of all financial assets today? Some very mainstream people have come out in favor of gold recently: Bill Gross at PIMCO, Ray Dalio at Bridgewater Associates and Ned Davis Research, for example.
TGR: How do you adjust your portfolio based on what is happening in the world?
ES: I do not adjust my portfolio. I take a long-term view of gold and silver. When I first got in the gold and silver markets, I could see that there should be a supply shortage. I never dreamed of the tailwinds provided by money printing and bank runs.
Your readers should ask themselves if, in a weakened economy, they would rather own a U.S. bond that yields 2%, a stock trading at a multiple of 15 or gold and silver, which are in bull markets already and undoubtedly will be up at the end of the year? The answer should be obvious.
TGR: What balance do you strike between the physical metal, the junior companies and the producing gold and silver companies?
ES: Our funds probably own one-third of their precious metal assets in physical bullion. Of course, we have $5 billion ($5B) in funds dedicated 100% to physical assets.
In the funds I manage, I am about one-third physical, one-third gold equities and one-third silver equities. Silver equity is way overweighted because the number of silver equities available is very small.
I think silver will outperform gold this year and for the next 10 years. I think silver should trade at a 16 to 1 ratio to gold; in other words, if gold is $1,600/oz, silver should be $100/oz; if gold goes up to $3,200/oz, silver should go to $200/oz. I am way more inclined to be involved in the silver space than the gold space, but I am involved in all of it, and that is what I would recommend.
However, people can make their own risk assessments. The risk in the gold equities is that they are leveraged to the gold price at least 2:1, if not 3:1. If gold goes up 10%, the equities go up 30%, and vice versa. Gold is a riskier bet, but if you believe in the thesis of gold going higher, it is a bet that has to win given the passage of time.
Precious metals investors are not going to win the game in the paper market. We have to win it in the physical market. More and more people are taking delivery of their physical gold.
TGR: This was supposed to be silver’s decade. Why is it still below $30/oz?
ES: Silver has had a good run. I think it started the decade at $20/oz, reached $50/oz and is now at $29/oz. A lot of money can and will be printed in the next seven years. There is lots of time for physical silver to prove that it was the investment of the decade.
TGR: Why is it so important where physical bullion is stored?
ES: There are examples of people thinking they owned gold when they did not. For example, when MF Global went down, people could not get possession of their gold. In the case of the SPDR Gold Trust (GLD:NYSE) and the iShares Silver Trust (SLV:NYSE), we know they are short sellers. Therefore, there is no silver there for the person who bought it from the short sale.
If a fund’s physical assets are being stored with a financial counterparty that goes broke, the gold and silver will not be available. People should reduce their risk by buying it from a bullion dealer and either taking physical delivery or knowing where it is on deposit.
You want to own and store physical metal assets yourself or know that you have access to them. Our trusts, for example, are all redeemable in gold, silver, platinum and palladium. That requires investing in larger amounts. I think you have to buy a 400-oz gold bar, which puts it out of most people’s reach. But you can rest assured the gold is there.
TGR: What final piece of advice would you leave our readers with today?
ES: Be very wary of what we are being told about a recovery. We were told there would be a big recovery in 2012; there was none. Now we are being told about a nice second half recovery, because there has been no recovery in the first half. There probably will not be a recovery in the second half either.
On Jan. 17 the Treasury Department reported its Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP)-based budget deficit for 2013. It reported a $1.2 trillion ($1.2T) cash deficit, which is a measure of the change in the present value of future liabilities, such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid payments, and civil service pension plans, that the government must pay. In 2011, the total deficit was $5T. In 2012, it was $6.9T. Yet, Congress is haggling over how to save $100B. This is a $16T economy.
You cannot like bonds. It is difficult to like stocks in this environment. Instead, stick with the precious metals; sooner or later, we will win the physical war, and the prices will react accordingly.
TGR: Thank you for taking the time to share your time and insights, Eric.
Click here to read The Gold Report’s transcript of the Sprott Precious Metals Round Table webcast with Eric Sprott, John Embry and Rick Rule.
Learn more about Sprott Money’s storage service here.
Eric Sprott has over 40 years of experience in the investment industry. In 1981, he founded Sprott Securities (now called Cormark Securities Inc.), which today is one of Canada’s largest independently owned securities firms. After establishing Sprott Asset Management Inc. in December 2001 as a separate entity, Sprott divested his entire ownership of Sprott Securities to its employees. Sprott’s predictions on the state of the North American financial markets have been captured throughout the last several years in an investment strategy article that he authors titled “Markets At A Glance.” Sprott has been widely recognized for his strategic insights and his accurate market predictions over the years.His newest ventures are Sprott Money Ltd., one of Canada’s largest owners of gold and silver bullion, and the recently launched Sprott Physical Platinum and Palladium Trust.
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1) JT Long conducted this interview for The Gold Report and provides services to The Gold Report as an employee or as an independent contractor. She or her family own shares of the following companies mentioned in this interview: None.
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In Debt We Trust America Before the Bubble Bursts – When It Burst, People Are Going To Suffer On A Biblical Scale!

Mannarino tells Hunter, “The global debt bubble is the biggest in all of mankind, and every single one has burst in the past.”  He thinks what has been going on since the 2008 financial meltdown, “Is theft on a scale that is unimaginable.”   When this debt bubble bursts, Mannarino thinks, “People are going to suffer on a Biblical scale. . . . People are not going to be able to acquire basic resources.
Full interview below:

The Sovereign Debt Bubble Will Continue To Expand Until – BANG – The System Implodes
Why are so many politicians around the world declaring that the debt crisis is “over” when debt to GDP ratios all over the planet continue to skyrocket?  The global economy has never seen anything like the sovereign debt bubble that we are experiencing today.  The United States, Japan, and nearly every major nation in Europe are absolutely drowning in debt.  We have heard a lot about “austerity” over in Europe in recent years, but debt to GDP ratios continue to rise in Greece, Spain, Italy, Ireland and Portugal.  In general, most economists consider a debt to GDP ratio of 100% to be a “danger level”, and most of the economies of the western world have either already surpassed that level or are rapidly approaching it.  Of course the biggest debt offender of all in many ways is the United States.  The U.S. debt to GDP ratio has risen from 66.6 percent to 103 percent since 2007, and the U.S. government accumulated more new debt during Barack Obama’s first term than it did under the first 42 U.S. presidents combined.  This insane sovereign debt bubble will continue to expand until a day of reckoning arrives and the system implodes.  Nobody knows exactly when that moment will be reached, but without a doubt it is coming.

But if you listen to the mainstream media in the United States, you would be tempted to think that this giant bubble of debt is not much of a concern at all.  For example, in a recent article in the Washington Post entitled “The case for deficit optimism“, Ezra Klein wrote the following…
“Here’s a secret: For all the sound and fury, Washington’s actually making real progress on debt.”
How many times have we heard that before?
About a decade ago, government officials were projecting that we would be swimming in gigantic government surpluses by now.
Instead, we are running trillion dollar deficits.
But right now there is a lot of optimism about the economy.  The stock market recently hit a 5 year high and the business community is loving all of the false prosperity that all of this debt is buying us.
Even Warren Buffett does not really seem concerned about the exploding U.S. government debt.  He recently made the following statement
“It is not a good thing to have it going up in relation to GDP.  That should be stabilized. But the debt itself is not a problem.”
Oh really?
A debt of 16 trillion dollars “is not a problem”?
Perhaps we should all run our finances that way.
Why don’t we all go out and open up 20 different credit cards, run them all up to the max, and then tell the credit card companies that we can’t pay them back but that it “is not a problem”.
Of course real life does not work that way.
The truth is that government debt is becoming a monstrous problem all over the globe.  Just check out how debt to GDP ratios all over the planet have grown over the past five years
United States
Debt to GDP ratio in 2007: 66.6 percent
Debt to GDP ratio in 2012: 103 percent


Peter Schiff: We're Headed for Economic Crisis Worse Than in '07

Peter Schiff: We're Headed for Economic Crisis Worse Than in '07

Jeff Gundlach: Stocks “Obviously Overbought”, Peter Schiff: US Debt Crisis Will Be Worse Than Europe’s, Axel Merk: There’s A Great Threat To The U.S. Dollar Brewing, Ron Paul: The Government Is Not Taking Our Fiscal Crisis Seriously

Gundlach Says Stocks “Obviously Overbought”, Buys “More Long-Term Treasuries In Last Month Than In Four Years”

Doubleline’s Jeff Gundlach must not be a GETCO algo because unlike the algorithmic programs who are all that’s left of traders in this policy farce of a manipulated market and who are programmed to BTFD especially when there is a massive stop hunt program about to be unleashed on 10-20 ES contracts, he is not buying stocks. Instead the bond manager has closed his July 2012 call when he called the top in Treasurys, and told Reuters that he has bought “more long-term Treasuries in the last month” than in the last four years.” And this coming form the so-called new “bond king.” Gundlach said he started buying benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury notes in the last month after yields popped above 2 percent, because he sees value there relative to other asset classes, including stocks, which he said are “overbought.”

Trader alert: This market-leading stock could be in trouble
“There’s a strong chance of a breakdown…”

Peter Schiff: US Debt Crisis Will Be Worse Than Europe’s

Axel Merk: Compares the U.S. to Italy and says that there’s a great threat to the U.S. dollar brewing

Will the Bond Market Cause the Next Crash?

Ron Paul: Here are the facts on the sequester “crisis”

“We are speeding toward collapse…”
Despite what the media and politicians would have us believe, the United States did not collapse last Friday when the package of spending reductions known as “sequestration” went into effect. The financial markets hardly blinked, as they have come to be more skeptical about these periodic government-hyped “crises.”

What had been portrayed as a drastic reduction in government spending was merely a decrease in the projected rate of increase in government spending over the next decade. Under sequestration, government spending increases by $2.4 trillion over the next 10 years rather than $2.5 trillion without it.
So we are speeding toward collapse at only 100 miles per hour instead of 110 miles per hour.
Some in Congress are using the panic over sequestration to justify another surrender of legislative authority to the executive branch. These members want to “pass the buck” on prioritizing federal programs by giving the president, cabinet officials, and high-level bureaucrats authority to set spending priorities. However, it is Congress’s job to set priorities in federal spending.
The drafters of the Constitution gave the legislature the authority over spending because they recognized it was a threat to liberty to allow this power to be concentrated in the executive branch. Congress’s willingness to cede more authority to the executive should be opposed by everyone who values liberty and limited government.
Some of the loudest objections to sequestration have come from the champions of the military-industrial complex. Yet under sequestration, defense spending will still increase by 18 percent over 10 years as opposed to 20 percent without sequestration.
Despite the alarm over cuts that are not real cuts, it is clear that the US government is not serious at all about changing its ways. In a recent tour of the Middle East, newly-confirmed Secretary of State John Kerry announced that the US would be sending another $60 million to the rebels seeking to overthrow the Syrian government – in the midst of the sequester “crisis”!
Despite the rhetoric, there appears no intention on the part of the government to take our fiscal crisis seriously or abandon the idea that we should run the rest of the world.

How Ben Bernanke could be creating a brand-new housing bubble

It is important to understand the magnitude of the stimulus that is propping up the market..
The country is spending more than it makes, to the tune of over $1 trillion per year for the last four years and the foreseeable future. Households are spending more to keep up a lifestyle supported by borrowed money.
[The U.S. is] an addict using borrowed money to support the drug habit… [L]owering the borrowing cost so the addict can buy more drugs is not the answer.
We are still on drugs. That is why real estate is in a bubble. Here are the specifics:
QE~ (Infinity).
The first part of QE~ is the purchase of $45 billion of treasuries each month. To put this in perspective, the sequester in the news is $85 billion for this year and $1.2 trillion over 10 years. The sequester is less than what Bernanke finances in 2 months. Why worry about the sequester? Bernanke can just add $7 billion a month to the $45 billion and the debt would be covered.
The second part of QE~ is…

Warning Clouds on the Horizon for World Markets

stromcloudsLiberty Gold and Silver
Behind the hoopla of the mainstream financial pundits, behind the forced exuberance of the talking heads on the business news networks, behind the shills who pimp themselves for Wall Street, there are, like a dark, ominous thunderstorm on the horizon that is the precursor to a dangerous rash of tornadoes soon to descend from the sky, chilling signs that the stock market is on its way to being taken down. If and when this happens, there are going to be trillions upon trillions of losses that will drive the final nail into the financial coffin for baby boomers, retirees, pension funds, and the world economy at large.
This may seem hard to believe to the novice investor. After all, in just the last three months, US stock markets have rallied 6.5%; the Dow flirting with 14,000 and the S & P Index within seemingly easy reach of its 2007 high of 1576.
However, there are foreboding danger signals lurking behind the giddy “ticker tape” exuberance of the CNBC, Fox Business News, and Wall Street Journal pundits.  Just one of these should put a chill up the spine of any seasoned investor.  Let’s take a look at some of these.
WALL STREET INSIDERS SELLING – The Vickers Weekly Insider is reporting that in the last few weeks, insider selling of company stock was nine times greater than any buying.  The last time executives sold their company stock this aggressively was in early 2012, just prior to the S & P making a 10% correction to its low for the year.  Writes David Coleman of Vickers Weekly, “Insiders are waving a cautionary flag in an increasingly aggressive manner.”  Enis Taner, global macro editor for RiskReversal.com, agrees, saying, “Insiders know more than the vast majority of market participants.  And they’re usually right over a long period of time.”
In addition, CNBC reported last week that JP Morgan executives have just dumped over $6 million dollars of personal shares in just the last ten days, in what trading experts have referred to as “unusual activity.”  Unusual activity indeed!  When a gaggle of top bank executives in the nation’s large bank suddenly unload $6 million of their own shares, you had better pay attention.
BILLIONAIRES DUMPING STOCKS – Famous billionaire traders, such as Warren Buffet and John Paulson, have been unloading shares in their funds at a brisk pace.  Buffet’s holding company, Berkshire Hathaway, has been dramatically reducing its exposure to consumer related stocks, selling nearly 19 million shares of Johnson & Johnson.  Berkshire Hathaway also sold its entire stake in computer parts giant, Intel.  Commenting on this, investmentWatchblog.com presciently adds, “With the 70% of the US economy dependent on consumer spending, Buffet’s apparent lack of faith in these companies’ prospects is worrisome.”
Not to be outdone, fellow billionaire John Paulson, who made his vast fortune by short selling the sub-prime mortgage meltdown, is vacating US stocks as well.  Paulson’s hedge fund, Paulson & Company, dumped 14 million shares of JP Morgan Chase last year, along with liquidating its entire position in consumer goods maker, Sara Lee, and discount retailer, Family Dollar.
It is also reported that George Soros last year sold his entire portfolio of US bank stocks.  If this is true, this in itself should be a glaring warning sign.
GOOGLE CHAIRMAN SELLING LARGE STAKE IN PERSONAL SHARES – Google, Inc., executive chairman, Eric Schmidt, has notified the SEC last week of his plans to sell 2.51 billion of his shares in the company.  This represents an astounding 42% of his stake in the internet search giant.  Since nearly all of Google’s income is derived from advertising revenue, it would seem that Schmidt may be seeing the writing on the wall that the bull market for equities is coming to an abrupt end.
ENORMOUS PUT OPTION S & P ACTIVITY – Last week, an anonymous trader bought 100,000 put option contracts on the exchanged traded fund (ETF) XLF, which charts the S&P Financial Select Sector Index. What is especially revealing about this is that this order has a very short time premium, expiring on April 25, 2013.  This, then, represents an enormous one million share short-term bet that financial equities are soon to take a very big hit.  Normally, the maximum high-end option contract purchase will not be greater than 500. That’s why astute professionals took notice, last week, when a put option purchase 200 times of the normal high-end range hit the trading floors.  An order of this magnitude (especially for such a short time span) absolutely screams of insider foreknowledge of a possible giant sell-off.
It is time to be forewarned!  All the big money interests are selling into the last hurrah of the last financial bubble. This same group did it to the investing public at the end of the tech-stock rally of the late 1990s.  They did it again to John Q Public with the sub-prime mortgage collapse in 2007, and they are getting ready to do it again.  This time, we believe, is going to be the real BIG ONE, a mafia-style bust-out scam for the ages. Trillions upon trillions of hard-earned dollars may be erased.  Protect yourself and move all your assets accordingly. We specifically recommend precious metals as the ultimate safety net for such a financial catastrophe.
To learn more about the rewards of precious metals investing, including how to fund your existing IRA with gold or silver, call Liberty Gold and Silver seven days a week at 888.751.3330. To learn about the most generous referral program in the precious metals industry, please visit the Liberty Gold and Silver Referral Program.
We’re happy to spend as much time as you need to discuss the details with you.

REPORT: How A Secret Goldman Team Violates The Volcker Rule

UPDATE - Exclusive: Goldman finds new way to do buyouts in face of Volcker

Similar to JPMorgan's London Whale.
Neil Barofsky on Goldman's secret trading team.
(Bloomberg) -- Neil Barofsky, former special inspector for the U.S. Treasury's Troubled Asset Relief Program, talks about a secretive Goldman Sachs unit called Multi-Strategy Investing that wagers about $1 billion of the firm’s own funds on the stocks and bonds of companies.
Here's the story.  It's worth reading in full.
How Goldman Sachs Skirts The Volcker Rule
Sitting onstage in Washington’s Ronald Reagan Building in July, Lloyd C. Blankfein said Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS) had stopped using its own money to make bets on the bank’s behalf.
“We shut off that activity,” the chief executive officer told more than 400 people at a lunch organized by the Economic Club of Washington, D.C., slicing the air with his hand. The bank no longer had proprietary traders who “just put on risks that they wanted” and didn’t interact with clients, he said.
That may come as a surprise to people working in a secretive Goldman Sachs group called Multi-Strategy Investing, or MSI. It wagers about $1 billion of the New York-based firm’s own funds on the stocks and bonds of companies, including a mortgage servicer and a cement producer, according to interviews with more than 20 people who worked for and with the group, some as recently as last year. The unit, headed by two 1999 Princeton University classmates, has no clients, the people said.
The team’s survival shows how Goldman Sachs has worked around regulations curbing proprietary bets at banks. Former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul A. Volcker singled out the company in 2009, saying it shouldn’t get taxpayer support if it focuses on trading. A section of the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act known as the Volcker rule, drafted to prevent banks from taking on excessive risk, limits short-term investments made with firms’ capital.
Continue reading...

Budget cuts hit North Island aircraft maintenance jobs

At North Island Naval Air Station, Allen Kosmalski and Myra Balina look over the F/A-18 Hornet that was painted to resemble a Korean War Corsair fighter. UT San Diego – by Jeanette Steele
The Navy announced Tuesday that budget cuts will force it to reduce aircraft maintenance at its North Island Naval Air Station depot, putting up to 480 jobs in jeopardy at two civilian contracting firms.
Navy F/A-18s, C-2s and E-2s and helicopters go to Fleet Readiness Center Southwest at the Coronado air base for regular overhauls. About 2,700 civilian government employees do the work, alongside 1,000 uniformed service members and roughly 480 contract employees.
The civilian federal employees will likely face furloughs that the Pentagon announced last week. But the contract workers face the prospect of layoffs.
Affordable Engineering Services has 440 contractors working at the North Island maintenance depot. President Dan Kamdar said he expects to issue layoff notices to 103 people on Friday.
That’s the first day of the sequester, the automatic $1.2 trillion in federal budget cuts over a decade that will commence unless Congress acts to halt it. Half of that is slated to be taken out of U.S. defense spending. The Navy is also facing a spending shortfall because Congress has not passed a 2013 budget, forcing the military to live within 2012 limits.
Kamdar said more layoff notices may come in the future. The workers are machinists, sheet-metal workers and electricians who earn $20 to $30 an hour.
National Technologies Associates, another contractor, employs about 40 people at the North Island depot.
The Navy also announced maintenance reductions at aircraft depots in Cherry Point, N.C., and and Jacksonville, Fla.
In San Diego, the cuts affect 124 aircraft or components, which equates to 478,000 work hours, the Navy said.

Rat-bots ram world into Great Depression

Rat-bots ram world into Great Depression

In this episode of the Keiser Report, Max Keiser and Stacy Herbert discuss HFT and QE3 rat-bots chasing and bullying the world into a Great Depression. They also discuss the dangerous situation of France once again becoming a peripheral country to German. In the second half of the show, Max Keiser talks to Pierre Jovanovic, French radio talk show host and author of Blythe Masters, about the smell of not napalm but revolution in the air in France where unemployment is worsening, suicides by jumping in front of a train are up drastically and Goldman Sachs says workers need to cut their pay by 30%. They also discuss history repeating itself as Germany once again finds itself looking for its gold as in Wagner's Das Rheingold. 

Los Angeles County has 12,700 distressed properties with loan-to-value ratios greater than 100 percent. How many homes are for sale on the MLS? 13,900.

One of the biggest predictors for future foreclosure is negative equity.  In the current housing market, it is hard to tell how many people are still in a negative equity position. The challenge of course has been due to quickly rising home values brought on by investors and historically low interest rates.  One interesting tool now added to ForeclosureRadar is the ability to search for current properties in negative equity positions.  In other words, the amount of loans on the property are worth more than the current market value of the home.  What is surprising, in a county like Los Angeles where the median price is up 17 percent over the year, we have nearly the same amount of people in LTV positions of 100 percent or higher as we do for homes listed on the MLS for sale.  Let us take a look at Los Angeles County more closely and try to get a figure of those 100+ LTV properties.

Los Angeles and negative equity
Negative equity is the number one predictor for future foreclosure.  The discussion of underwater homeowners has largely been pushed aside because the housing market has been on a tear upwards for the last year or so.  Yet we still have a very high number of people in negative equity positions.  Let us take a look at Los Angeles County for the number of distressed homeowners with LTV ratios higher than 100 percent:
los angeles ltv greater than 100
I really like this new tool by ForeclosureRadar.  We went ahead and searched for properties where LTV is higher than 100 percent and that were in some stage of foreclosure (i.e., NOD, auction schedule, bank owned).  For Los Angeles County 12,700 properties hit this criteria.  Is this a lot?  Given that the MLS only has 13,900 homes listed for Los Angeles County, this is a massive number and keep in mind this data is up to date and factors in the boom of the last year where property values have surged.
Based on the last month of sales data for Los Angeles, there is only 2.6 months of inventory.  That is incredibly low.  Normal markets typically carry 6 months of available inventory. Yet we have discussed the trend of the last two years where available inventory for sales has virtually disappeared.  The fact that many are still underwater even in SoCal where many properties are selling at or above their peak bubble prices demonstrates the kind of leverage people took on.  I should add that many first time buyers are diving into major leverage via FHA insured loans just to have a chance to compete against the all-cash investor pool.  Even with that, many agents are preferring to work with all cash-buyers since the escrow close is clean and quick.  Sorry regular buyers, you are now last in line in the hierarchy of home buying.
One of the more telling figures regarding what people are able to afford is the figures on the typical monthly mortgage payment taken by buyers.  What we find is that buyers are very constrained when it comes to their monthly nut but lower rates have added a deeper level of leverage and of course the incredibly high number of all cash buying (in SoCal it was up to 34 percent last month).  Take a look at the typical mortgage payment taken by those with an actual mortgage:
typical mortgage payment
The typical mortgage payment is at decade lows.  As we have seen from forums and the current mania, SoCal households are willing to leverage every cent they have into housing just to squeeze in.  The above chart gives you a clear picture of what people are able to afford.  Which of course makes sense, since household incomes have been stagnant for over a decade.
The LTV data is interesting but with low inventory and investors still out there in droves, we can expect more of the same in the short-term.

NatWest misplaces £20,000 of family heirlooms

After a six-month-long hunt, NatWest is still unable to locate a safety deposit box containing £20,000 of jewellery and heirlooms.

The loss was discovered when a 69-year-old woman went to collect the contents for a wedding. Staff at the branch of NatWest bank where the box was supposed to be in safe-keeping told Hayat Panwar they could not find it.

"I went in and I had the box number and a set of keys, but they said they couldn't find it," she said.

"I cried, I was so upset.

"It makes no sense to me - how they could lose it?

"How can you trust a bank that loses something like that?"

The box contained several sentimental items including her father's gold pocket watch and wedding jewellery made from Indian gold given to her by her late mother and grandmother.

Mrs Panwar said she broke down in tears when she was told the news at the branch in Solihull, Birmingham.

She said her health has suffered and she has been "sick with worry" since being told of the loss in November 2012.

After almost six months of investigations, NatWest has so far been unable to trace the deposit box and has apologised.

Mrs Panwar, of Cheswick Green, Solihull, said the bank has now asked her to supply a value for the goods so they can discuss compensation.

"I'm not interested in money," she said.

"The money is worthless to me, the items are sentimental and no amount of money would pay for it."

She said she had planned to pass the jewellery on to her daughter, sons and grandchildren.

A spokesman for NatWest said: "We apologise to Mrs Panwar that we have so far been unable to locate her safe custody box deposited with us in February 2009.

"We continue to do all we can to locate the box, to try to bring about the very best outcome for the customer.

"In addition, we have made a request for information from Mrs Panwar as to the contents of the safe custody box in order to discuss compensation to go some way to make amends for the loss she has experienced."

The bank said it has been keeping Mrs Panwar regularly updated on the progress of its investigation as to what has happened to the deposit box.

The Inflation Secrets Your Broker Won’t Tell You About

The US Government and the US Federal Reserve downplay the threat of inflation. There are two primary reasons for this:
1) Acknowledging higher inflation would mean both revising GDP growth much lower (last quarter’s FDP growth would have been negative 1% if you accounted for the real increase in costs of living).
2)One of the primary arguments the Fed uses for why it can print hundreds of billions of Dollars without hurting consumers it because inflation remains “contained” or “transitory.”
Because of this, you won’t see any real acknowledgement of inflation by the US Government or the Fed until it’s far too late. Remember, one of the central goals for these organizations is to maintain confidence in the system.
Indeed, while the mainstream financial media continues to trumpet the wonders of stocks closing in on all-time highs, larger, more sophisticated players are preparing for a financial meltdown in a much larger market: bonds.
The cause? Inflation
Goldman Sachs and other large financial entities have begun to warn their clients about an implosion in the bond market.
Goldman Sachs strategists have issued a big warning to clients hiding out in bond funds: You’re about to lose your shirt.
The reason: interest rates began rising this week, and if they return to the historical average yield of 3 percent, prices for long-term bonds will plummet. (By their very nature, fixed income prices must fall if rates rise.)
A reversion of risk premiums to historical averages of 6% nominal rates (3% real rates and 3% inflation) would suggest estimated losses in portfolios with bond durations of 5 years of 25% or more,” equity strategist Robert D. Boroujerdi said in a note.
Goldman is not the only group be warning of a bond market implosion courtesy of rising inflation.
Finra warned investors today that if interest rates rise – as most market pros expect – bond investors could be slammed by long duration.
In an investor alert, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority Inc. told investors that in the event of rising interest rates, “outstanding bonds, particularly those with a low interest rate and high duration may experience significant price drops.”

A bond fund with 10-year duration will decrease in value by 10% if rates rise one percentage point, the alert warns.
We get additional signs of the rising threat of inflation from the wave of Gold purchases made by Central Banks:
Worldwide gold demand in 2012 was another record high of $236.4 billion in the World Gold Council’s latest report. This was up 6% in value terms in the fourth quarter to $66.2 billion, the highest fourth quarter on record. Global gold demand in the fourth quarter of 2012 was up 4% to 1,195.9 tonnes.
Central bank buying for 2012 rose by 17% over 2011 to some 534.6 tonnes. As far as central bank gold buying, this was the highest level since 1964. Central bank purchases stood at 145 tonnes in the fourth quarter. That is up 9% from the fourth quarter of 2011, and the eighth consecutive quarter in which central banks were net purchasers of gol
Note… Central Banks, while talking down money printing and denying the presence of inflation, bought more Gold in 2012 that any year dating back to 1964. Indeed, However, since becoming net buyers of Gold in 2010, the Central Banks have been increasing their Gold purchases rapidly.
In 2010, Governments worldwide bought 77 tonnes of Gold. In 2011 it was 457 tonnes. And last year it was a whopping 535 tonnes. All told, they’ve accumulated 1,000 tonnes of Gold since 2Q09. At today’s price of $1600 per ounce, this stash is valued at over $56 billion.
The key issue here is not the amount ($56 billion in Gold purchases is nothing compared to the over $10 trillion in new money Central banks have printed since 2007), but the trend: Central Banks were net sellers of Gold for decades until 2010.
With that in mind, we’ve recently published a new Special Report outlining the dark secrets of inflation, which mainstream financial professionals never tell their clients.

To begin your journey towards becoming a more informed and profitable investor…Click Here Now!
Best Regards,
Graham Summers

Greek military prepares for mass repression

source: WSW
Former high-level Greek diplomat Leonidas Chrysanthopoulos told the UK’s New Statesman last week that discussions had taken place between senior Greek politicians and the armed forces on the military’s response to what Chrysanthopoulos described as an “explosion of social unrest” expected to occur “quite soon.”
Chrysanthopoulos said that in the coming months, “There will be further increases in armed actions. There will be bloody demonstrations.”
Without giving details, he said, “There are contacts by certain politicians with elements in the armed forces to guarantee that in the event of major social unrest, the army will not intervene.”
This last claim was likely made for public consumption. Even if such a request had been made, any assurances from the Greek military would be worthless given the recent history of the country, in which the “regime of the colonels” seized power in a military coup in 1967 that lasted until 1974. Since the onset of mass austerity in Greece in 2010 there have been constant rumours of coup discussions among high-ranking military personnel.
The most significant aspect of Chrysanthopoulos’ interview is the revelation of discussions between politicians and the military on how to respond to the threat of social revolution.
Greek ruling circles are working on the assumption that insurrectionary struggles are inevitable because of the intolerable level of suffering they have imposed on the working class. Within less than four years, the social position of the Greek working class has been reduced to levels not seen since the Nazi occupation during World War II.
Brutal poverty is a fact of life for millions. One major aspect of the assault on living conditions is the removal of public health provisions.
More than 50 pharmaceutical conglomerates have either halted or savagely cut supplies to Greece—citing concerns for their profits. The dangerous shortage of hundreds of basic medicines is resulting in chaotic scenes of patients rushing from one pharmacy to another in search of vital drugs, while public hospitals lack adequate supplies of drugs to dispense.
Such conduct is not confined to the big pharmaceutical companies. On Tuesday it emerged that the Swiss Red Cross, a non-profit relief agency, is set to slash the number of blood donor packets it supplies to Greece. It cited concerns that it has not received full payment for previous allocations and announced that beginning in 2015 the number of blood donor packets it sends to Greece will be halved from the current annual level of 28,000.
As a result of the austerity policies demanded by the “troika” (the International Monetary Fund, European Central Bank and European Union), a staggering 4.65 million people are now either unemployed or economically inactive. There are 450,000 households in which no one is employed. Of the 2.6 million people employed in the private sector in 2010, 900,000 have been laid off. Because the duration of benefits has been slashed, just 225,000 of the unemployed now receive unemployment pay.
In the private sector, just 600,000 workers (from a total 1.6 million) now work a regularly paid eight-hour day. Professor Savas Robolis of the University of Panteion in Athens recently said, “The remainder—a million workers—have had their hours cut or are getting paid late, four or five months late. They are in a state of desperation.”
This week’s annual report by the Bank of Greece found that 23 percent of the population lived below the poverty line in 2012, compared to 16 percent in 2011. Also noted was the exponential increase in child poverty, with the rate of families at risk reaching 31 percent in just one year (2010-2011). In the period 2010-2012, the average gross salary in the country was cut by 20.6 percent and labour costs for employers decreased by 18.5 percent.
Given the austerity measures already in place, there will be an overall reduction in labour costs in Greece for the period 2012-2014 of 17.6 percent. So savage are these measures that they are set to surpass the 15 percent reduction in overall costs demanded by the troika.
Presenting the report, the bank’s chairman, George Provopoulos, claimed that economic recovery would be achieved by means of austerity and demanded that even harsher measures be imposed. “Now that the finishing line is finally visible,” he said, “we ought to intensify efforts, to quicken our pace to cover the final stretch and ensure that citizens’ sacrifices have not been in vain…”
Speaking of the victims of these policies, he declared, “Extreme and unreasonable demands from social groups do not contribute towards this goal.”
The bank’s report was issued as representatives of the troika once again converged on Athens to monitor the implementation of the programme agreed with the New Democracy/PASOK/Democratic Left government.
Among the issues to be settled is how steeply this year’s pharmaceutical budget is to be slashed. As a result of previous troika demands, the budget was cut from €3.7 billion to €2.4 billion last year. Reports suggest it could be cut to €2 billion this year.
With pharmaceutical firms already withholding many drugs, this is a prescription for a health catastrophe and many needless deaths.
The troika is also set to demand a speedup in the layoff of 25,000 public sector workers this year (half by June) in order to meet the agreed 150,000 redundancies by 2015. If Athens were to fail to impose the cuts to the troika’s satisfaction, two tranches of loans for March and April totalling €8.8 billion would be withheld or much reduced. Failure to receive the finance would result in Greece defaulting on its entire debt.
By promising if elected to reverse the austerity programme, SYRIZA (Coalition of the Radical Left) won nearly 30 percent of the vote in last year’s election. It is put forward by a host of pseudo-left organizations as a progressive alternative to the pro-austerity governing parties and the means for countering the growth of the fascist Golden Dawn movement.
In reality, SYRIZA is no less a creature of the ruling elite than the right-wing New Democracy party, and is no less wedded to the austerity agenda. This week, SYRIZA press spokesman Panos Skourletis stated, “We do not have a magic wand that will improve and change the situation from one day to the next… We must realize that with every day this policy is applied, things grow worse. This devastation is incalculable and, therefore, restoration of the repercussions of this policy becomes even more difficult.”
The meaning of such comments—that it is impossible to reverse the austerity programme—is unmistakable. SYRIZA is readying its arguments and preparing for what it will be called on to carry out if it achieves its goal of entering a future anti-working class government.

HOT LINKS: Anonymous Strikes Wall Street CEOs

Monday linksbomb.  25 stories.
ANONYMOUS Strikes Wall Street CEOs, Releases Data
The leak is associated with Operation Wall Street, a new protest launched by Anonymous hacktivists against the US government, Wall Street and the financial services industry. The operation seeks justice for those “who have lost their homes and had their lives destroyed” by “the crimes of Goldman Sachs and other firms.”
The following is an excerpt from a statement announcing Operation Wall Street:
It is obvious that the DoJ and other government entities such as the SEC think that it is more important for them to regulate freedom of speech and information rather than to regulate the blatant organized crimes of the financial market. They persecute people like us, Occupy, and Aaron Swartz instead of the Bankers and Wall Street executives and CEOs who have robbed Americans of their hard earned tax dollars.
Thousands of innocent and exploited people are being forced into homelessness while these same CEOs and executives make billions in so called profit. They make their fortunes on the shattered lives and broken dreams of people who were nothing more than slightly ignorant when trying to establish a comfortable life for themselves and their family.
It is no longer tolerable that these men and women get to live in luxury and lawlessness while innocent people are pushed into poverty and people who fight for freedom are prosecuted and demonized.
They must be stopped.
The guilty must pay.
We are Anonymous, We are Legion, We do not Forgive, We do not Forget.
Expect Us.
Last week Anonymous hacktivists released 14 gigabytes of information implicating Bank of America and others in a massive spying operation. Hacktivists claim the data dump reveals that Bank of America hired at least one web intelligence firm to spy on hackers, social activists and numerous other private citizens.
Announcing Operation Wall Street: Proposal And Declaration
ANONYMOUS Hacks The Federal Reserve (Flashback - 2 weeks ago)
Sequester Jester - Kerry Hands Out $250 Million In Aid To Egypt
More Americans Giving Up Citizenship To Become British
Israel Is Worried By US Sequester
AIPAC To Hill: Don't You Dare Touch Aid To Israel
Wealthy Russian Banker Wanted For Fraud Granted Asylum In U.K.
Swiss Voters Slam Brakes On Huge Executive Salaries
Why Is The NAVY Building A MASSIVE Drone Base In Malibu?
Domestic Drones Already Reshaping Crime-Fighting...
Drones Can Now Detect If Citizen Is Armed...
Kill List Forces Dems Out Of The Closet As Unprincipled Hacks - Glenn Greenwald
Just $20 Billion More - UK Taxpayers Get Surprise Bill For Bailed-Out Banks
Chaos In Italy After Elections, May Have To Abandon Euro

Photo Break - Coach K Angry Face

Duke upset by UVa last Thursday.
Great timing by the kid holding the sign.
Back To The Links
DC Economy To Take The Worst Of Sequester... (Hallelujah!)
White House Adviser Backs Off Doomsday Forecast... (What a surprise!)
NYPD Caught Lying Under Oath In Occupy Wall Street Trial (Must read)
Stealth Hoodies - The Anti-Surveillance Clothing Line
China Turns Prisoner Executions Into Reality TV
Rachel Maddow Busted Using Multiple Fake Twitter Accounts To Boost Her Show
Girls Gone Wild Files Bankruptcy
God’s Racket: Why It’s High Time To Shut Down The Vatican Bank
Assembly-Line Pizza Draws Investors With 2 Minute Cooking Time - The Chipotle Of Pizza
NO PROBLEM! - 67 Damaged Tanks Are Leaking At U.S. Nuclear Site
How the U.N. Caused Haiti's Cholera Crisis -- And Won't Be Held Responsible
Cop Rear-Ends Me And It's My Fault!?!
City To Place Cameras On Police Officers' Sunglasses
Chihuahua-Size Horses Caused By Climate Change

Assorted Clips

Getting caught by a Helicopter with Nightvision in Iraq - Watch More Funny Videos

Video from an Apache helicopter in Iraq.
Conducting a little voyeurism on a couple having sex in a pick-up.  Drones are equipped with the same or better cameras.

NATO helicopter kills 7 year-old boys mistaken for Taliban.

Police Brutality – Cop beats elderly man.


Your Own Printable Assault Rifle Is A Free Download Away
Print This Gun: 3D-Printed Semi-Automatic Fires Over 600 Rounds
Popular Standard Shotgun Could Be Banned Under Proposed Bill


Raw Video - 3D Guns In Action
3D Downloads Of Semi-Automatic Weapons Hit The Internet...


Expeditionary Lab - Mobile
3D printers on the battlefield.


DARPA - Hummingbird Drone
Read more about it...

The Fall Of America And The Organized Destruction Of The Bill Of Rights And The Constitution (Video)

Both political parties act like they dislike each other, but behind closed doors they buddy up for a drink and make deals.
They put on this show that they disagree with each other, when in fact both political parties are working for the global elite, both political parties are working toward a New World Order.
This is the fall of the republic, the limitations on the government have been whittled away. These people want to take away the bill of rights and the constitution.
Do you feel that our current system of government is working for your best interest? Do you question our current governments intentions?
Scorecard: How Many Rights Have Americans REALLY Lost?

How Many Constitutional Freedoms Do We Still Have?

Preface: While a lot of people talk about the loss of our Constitutional liberties, people usually speak in a vague, generalized manner … or focus on only one issue and ignore the rest.
This post explains the liberties guaranteed in the Bill of Rights – the first 10 amendments to the United States Constitution – and provides a scorecard on the extent of the loss of each right.

First Amendment
The 1st Amendment protects speech, religion, assembly and the press:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
However, the government is arresting those speaking out … and violently crushing peaceful assemblies which attempt to petition the government for redress.
A federal judge found that the law allowing indefinite detention of Americans without due process has a“chilling effect” on free speech. And see this and this.

We the People, Armed, Are Too Big to Fail

With guns in our hands we the people are a threat 'Too Big To Fail' against any enemy foreign or domestic - and that threat is what will keep the peace. 

Dees Illustration
Jack Mullen
Activist Post

Events in America are taking a turn for the worst, and the story unfolding is nothing new: this movie has played out many times in history and without protection it's going to get very, very ugly.

For a criminal government, gun control is a necessary step in advance of an economic collapse that cannot be avoided - because it was deliberately created. The treasonous perpetrators of financial calamity are stone-cold-scared of armed Americans possessing a growing knowledge of banker-federal-government crimes; they know these patriots will rise up and take their country back.

Gun Control measures propose banning so-called ‘assault weapons’ but assault weapons are just ordinary weapons with distinctive cosmetics. The term assault is being used here as a pejorative term to marginalize and then isolate a certain expression or presentation of a weapon for political purposes. It has been established, even by those that are attempting to collect our weapons, that so-called 'assault weapons’ are responsible for very little gun crime in the US.

The idea of disarming starting with 'assault weapons’ is a ruse to remove weapons having the best chance of defending private citizens against any organized attack, either foreign or domestic.

The same people that funded Hitler, empowered Stalin and inserted Mao, the same families and their banks with unlimited resources, are now coming for your guns.

Evidence exists of accelerating plans for false flag events, gun-confiscation, gold and silver confiscation and military operations on American soil.

A quick look at the news verifies the criminals are showing their low hole cards.

For Americans the most important battle is the battle to stay armed. There is no time when being armed is more important than during the chaos of financial collapse. There is no time when tyranny works harder to create a new order than during a financial collapse.

With that in mind - think about this: guns are like competition; it’s not competition itself that improves products and services in a market, it is the threat of competition. This economic axiom also applies to guns in the hands of citizens. There will be no requirement to use weapons when the people are well armed (except in training as a show of force). Just like it is in Switzerland, the armed citizen is the final authority against tyranny; when all citizens are armed, tyranny is the disenfranchised minority.

Lincoln said, and I agree:
Shall we expect some transatlantic military giant to step the ocean and crush us at a blow? Never! All the armies of Europe, Asia, and Africa combined, with all the treasure of the earth (our own excepted) in their military chest, with a Bonaparte for a commander, could not by force take a drink from the Ohio or make a track on the Blue Ridge in a trial of a thousand years. At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer. If it ever reach us it must spring up amongst us; it cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen we must live through all time or die by suicide. – Lincoln’s Lyceum Address, January 27,1838
With guns in our hands we the people are a threat 'Too Big To Fail' against any enemy foreign or domestic - and that threat is what will keep the peace.

Willingly disarm and America dies by suicide.

Tobacco Firms Save $1 Billion With Kitty Litter in Cigars

Mark Elias/Bloomberg
A cigar factory in Miami in 2012. Large cigar smoking tripled from 2000 to 2011.

A dozen tobacco companies have gained from a legal loophole that helped them avoid as much as $1.1 billion in U.S. taxes. 

Their secret: Using fillers such as the clay found in cat litter or stuffing the products with more tobacco to tip the scales in their favor. The heavier weight let the companies sidestep a 2,653 percent increase in a federal excise tax, taking advantage of a 2009 law that spared so-called big cigars.
There were 22 companies producing small cigars in the year before the law created the new tax structure, according to data from the Treasury Department’s Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. Twelve of those companies, none of which the government would name, either switched to or increased production of large cigars in the year following the law, the bureau found.
“It shows what length the tobacco companies will go to avoid taxes and regulation that were designed to improve public health without regard to their customers,” Danny McGoldrick, vice president of research at the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids in Washington, said in a telephone interview. “They should equalize the tax to stop the shenanigans.”
The practice has contributed to a doubling in sales of the weightier tobacco products and slowed a decade-long decline in tobacco use. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in an Aug. 2 report blamed sharp increases in adult consumption of pipe tobacco and cigarette-like cigars since 2008 on the 2009 law “that created tax disparities between product types.”

Durbin Legislation

The Government Accountability Office estimated in an April report that “market shifts from roll-your-own to pipe tobacco and from small to large cigars reduced federal revenue by a range of” $615 million to $1.1 billion from April 2009 through September 2011.
U.S. Senator Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, introduced legislation Jan. 31 to close the loophole. The bill would equalize the tax structure so there wouldn’t be an incentive to manipulate products, generating $3.6 billion in new tax revenue over 10 years, Christina Mulka, a spokeswoman, said by e-mail.
The loophole appears to have mainly benefited smaller tobacco companies. Reynolds American Inc. (RAI), the second-biggest U.S. tobacco company, doesn’t operate in that market, David Howard, a spokesman for the Winston Salem, North Carolina-based company, said in an e-mail.
Altria Group Inc. (MO), the largest seller of tobacco in the U.S., said its John Middleton Co. unit had already been selling large cigars with its Black & Mild line before the change in the law. The company didn’t have to make any shifts in how it formulates the cigars, which mostly are wood or plastic tipped and come as singles or in packs of two or five, David Sylvia, a spokesman for Richmond, Virginia-based Altria, said by phone.

Customer Demand

Prime Time International Co., a closely held tobacco company, sells some of its large cigars and flavored cigars in 20-count packs, similar to regular cigarettes. Closely held Cheyenne International LLC, based in Grover, North Carolina, also specializes in smaller-sized cigars that have a similar look and design of cigarettes.
Jack Wertheim, chairman of Phoenix-based Prime Time, said shifts into the “large” cigar market are about responding to customer demands. The company sells large and small cigars to satisfy customers who prioritize taste and quality and appease those who want a lower-priced product, he said.
Prime Time isn’t saving on taxes, and any savings would be passed to the customer, Wertheim said.
Current rules require a rolled tobacco product to weigh at least 3 pounds per 1,000 to be labeled as a “large” or “premium” cigar, a category where taxes increased just 155 percent.

Nothing Illegal

The Treasury Department said tobacco companies aren’t doing anything illegal by making their products heavier.
“If you meet the definition of a large cigar, then you’re a large cigar,” Thomas Hogue, a spokesman for the tobacco bureau, said in a telephone interview. “There’s nothing in the Internal Revenue code that goes after the specifics on how that weight is achieved.”
Hogue wouldn’t provide the names of the tobacco makers switching to heavier products.
Cheyenne was found to make two kinds of cigars that look like cigarettes yet weigh enough to be taxed as big cigars. One of the two has a regular fiber filter; the other has filters made of white fiber cylinders surrounding a granular clay substance.

X-Ray Tests

Jim Pankow, a chemistry professor at Portland State University in Oregon, published the first measurements of how addictive nicotine is when delivered by tobacco smoke. He agreed to conduct X-ray diffraction tests on the weightier Cheyenne product on behalf of Bloomberg News and found the clay filters were made of sepiolite. The weighty mineral is used for absorption in waste treatment, industrial cleaners and pet litters, according to the European Industrial Minerals Association.
“They’re making products that are classified as cigars that are designed almost exactly like cigarettes,” Pankow said in a telephone interview.
The vast majority of Cheyenne’s cigars that are considered large began marketing in 2007, said Marc Scheineson, a partner at Alston & Bird LLP in Washington who is regulatory counsel for the tobacco company. He didn’t say when the company’s heavyweights hit shelves. He said less than 3 percent of the company’s sales come from little cigars and heavyweights.
The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau reviewed Cheyenne’s products to determine which excise class they fit in, he said.
“You can look at this as a loophole or tax planning or a way to perpetuate job growth or small business continuity,” Scheineson said in a telephone interview.

Filter Choice

British American Tobacco Plc (BATS)’s Kent cigarettes used a similar micronite filter at one point. The London-based company said it moved the cigarettes to charcoal filters long ago.
“The decision regarding whether to use charcoal or micronite filters is simply down to taste and currently, charcoal filters are used in Kent cigarettes in the vast majority of international markets where the product is sold,” Will Hill, a spokesman for the company, said in an e-mail.
Filtrona Plc (FLTR), a maker of cigarette and cigar filters, said its sepiolite-based Cavitec Flavour product is one of many specialty filter types. Altogether they represent about 17 percent of the Milton Keynes, U.K.-based company’s total filter sales globally, Melanie Hulbert, a spokeswoman, said in an e- mail. Filtrona wouldn’t reveal its customers’ names, citing confidentiality agreements.

FDA Oversight

In addition to avoiding some taxes, cigars also sidestep a ban on flavored cigarettes. Cheyenne’s heavyweight products come in wild cherry flavor, while their other cigars can be bought in flavors such as grape and vanilla.
The result is that while cigarette smoking -- the leading preventable cause of death in the U.S. -- continued an 11-year downward trend, large cigar smoking tripled from 2000 to 2011 and loose tobacco pipe smoking has jumped almost sixfold, the CDC said last year in a report.
Sales of large cigars more than doubled to 1 billion units a month in September 2011, from 411 million when the law took effect in January 2009, the GAO said. At the same time, small cigar sales dropped to 60 million from 430 million.
The FDA, which was given the authority by Congress in 2009 to regulate tobacco, primarily cigarettes, is now looking to broaden its rules.
The agency is “moving as expeditiously as possible to release for public comment a proposed rule to regulate additional categories of tobacco products,” Jennifer Haliski, an agency spokeswoman, said in an e-mail.
The FDA is scheduled to release a proposed rule by April, the federal Office of Management and Budget, which oversees all regulation development, said on its website.