Wednesday, May 15, 2013

US wholesale prices fall 0.7 pct., most in 3 years

US wholesale prices fall 0.7 pct. in April, most in 3 years, driven lower by cheaper gas, food

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Sharp drops in fuel and food costs reduced a measure of wholesale prices last month by the most since February 2010, indicating inflation has slowed.
The Labor Department says the producer price index, which measures price changes before they reach the consumer, fell a seasonally adjusted 0.7 percent in April from March. It was the second straight decline.
Gas prices dropped 6 percent. The price of home heating oil fell by the most in almost four years. Food prices declined 0.8 percent.
Excluding the volatile food and energy categories, core prices ticked up 0.1 percent in April.
Overall wholesale prices have increased just 0.6 percent over the past 12 months. That's the smallest yearly gain since July. During the same period, core prices have risen 1.7 percent.


GE13: You can rule Malaysia with only 17% of the popular vote

It's been more than a week since Malaysia's historic elections ended, and Malaysians are still feeling emotional about it.  Some were relieved that the country went through its electoral processes peacefully, while some were angry with the results tabulated in the early hours of May 6. Some even questioned the way the Elections were carried out in the country.

We discovered on Facebook that many users had taken the trouble to tabulate the results of GE13 to learn for themselves, as well as share with others, about what happened on May 5. The terms blackout and phantom voters literally haunted the pages of social networks for days. But one term that was frequently brought up, was gerrymandering, a term used to describe an electoral practice of delineating electoral seats to favour certain parties.

How does it work? Well, we can illustrate it with a simple example. One of the largest electoral districts in the country has close to 150,000 registered voters while the smallest with only over 37,000. While both in the state of Selangor, it puzzles people why are numbers spread out more evenly. Critics often question the fairness of such delineations, which tend to keep pro-government seats small as possible to so it would be 'easier' for the coalition to multiply their number of seats, and in turn, win enough to form government.

We know this has been the arguments of many organisations, such as Bersih and the Malaysian Electoral Roll Analysis Project or popularly known as Merap, groups like these are strongly calling for electoral reform in the country. 

Opposition politicians had also blamed the ruling coalition Barisan Nasional for packing in pro-opposition seats with pro-BN supporters.  Voters in Selangor had also increased by over 600,000 people since the 2008 polls, to which opposition politicians have not been able to verify, while the election commission reasoned that it was a natural rise as the number of new voters had increased.

Facebook users Jason Lim and James Chong did the hard work by meticulously analysing GE13's results and presented their findings on the social network in detailed spreadsheets.  We knew it was hard work because we took over 8 hours ourselves to verify and double-check the data with official figures from the Election Commission (EC).

Based on their analysis, it was revealed that should any one of the coalitions win in 148 of the parliamentary seats with the smallest number of voters, with just 50.01%, this meant that the minimum percentage of popular vote needed to form a simple majority is only 17%.

And, what's more important, is that even if 83% of Malaysians voted against a particular coalition, the said coalition could still form government with a tiny percentage of the popular vote.

So, simply said, if BN had won all the small parliamentary constituencies with just a minimum 50.01% of the votes, they can still run the country with only 17% of the total popular vote.  And that would apply to PR, of course.  So, all that was needed by a particular coalition is minimum number of seats won, regardless of how many voters are registered in the constituency. 

We looked further into Chong's work, and he pointed another interesting aspect from his analysis. 

He raised this question: How come the number of spoilt votes outnumber the majority votes in seats where BN won by very slim margins?  Let's take a look at some examples here:

In the Cameron Highlands parliamentary seat, BN won with 462 votes and the EC had recorded 877 spoilt votes. The same trend was spotted in the Labis parliamentary seat, as BN candidate Chua Tee Yong won with only 353 votes while EC recorded 689 spoilt votes.

While in the hotly contested Bentong parliamentary seats, 988 spoilt votes were recorded, outnumbering BN's majority of 379. 

In Sungai Besar, BN won with 399 votes, smaller than the 690 spoilt ballot papers recorded and finally in Kuala Selangor, PAS lost 460 votes to BN, but spoilt votes more than double the majority at 934.

Just few days after polls closed, the EC had clarified that it accepted votes that were not specifically marked with 'X', but with checks and dots as well.  This year's elections saw an increase in spoilt votes of 332,297 up from 2008's 324,120 ballot papers.  Spoilt votes, as we know, are ballot papers that are rejected by authorities and not included in the final count.

These are just a couple of interesting leads we found from the analysis on Facebook.  If you don't believe us, just find out for yourselves how Chong and Lim painfully crunched election data, here and here.

One thing's for sure, if the GE13 data doesn't leave you cross-eyed, we hope it leaves you more informed and enlightened about how Malaysia's electoral system works.

Perkasa wants end to benefits for Chinese

MALAY rights group Perkasa has called on the government not to off er new concessions to the Chinese following the community's rejection of Barisan Nasional (BN) in the general election.
"We know the Chinese are not with the government despite the BN's deeds. We call on the government to stop giving new benefi ts or gifts to the Chinese," said Perkasa secretary-general Syed Hassan Syed Ali.
He also said the government should not go beyond fulling promises already made to the community.
"We call on the government to fulfi l promises made to the Chinese community before the general election. It is the responsibility of the government to honour promises.
Related story: NGOs urge boycott of 'Chinese pro-Pakatan' firms
At the same time, Perkasa wants the government to revert to original policies, including what he described were Malay privileges which were taken away and given to the Chinese.
Syed Hassan also said Perkasa would call on the government to focus more on the development of Bumiputras and Malays in every aspect since the group was still far behind compared to the Chinese community.
Meanwhile, Perkasa is not throwing in the towel, despite losing both seats it contested under Barisan Nasional's ticket at the recent general election.
Both its president Datuk Ibrahim Ali, who contested in Pasir Mas and deputy Datuk Zulkifl i Noordin who contested in Shah Alam, were defeated.

NGOs urge boycott of 'Chinese pro-Pakatan' firms

A group of Islamic NGOs has asked the Malay community to boycott several products and companies belonging to Chinese Malaysians, which it claims funded Pakatan Rakyat in the 13th general election.
Muslim Consumers Association of Malaysia (PPIM) chief activist Nadzim Johan ( left ) said the actions of these companies have caused disunity in the country.
As such, Nadzim told a press conference this morning, the NGOs wish to "send a signal to the companies concerned not to misbehave".
Among the products and companies in the firing line are two restaurant chains, a supermarket chain, as well as popular bread and flour brands.
In a joint statement that was later distributed, the NGOs said that the boycott would be a simple but effective way of curbing PKR de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim from further "inciting the rakyat" and the DAP from making use of the Chinese Malaysian community to "obtain power".

PM Najib announces new Cabinet

Hindraf's Waytha Moorthy, Maybank CEO & Khairy all appear in Najib's new Cabinet


Hindraf leader Waytha Moorthy, Maybank CEO Abdul Wahid Omar and Khairy Jamaluddin all hit the Cabinet jackpot as Prime Minister Najib Razak announced his executive lineup on Wednesday.

Calling it a balanced team of ministers ranging from experienced faces, technocrats and newcomers, the PM's list contained a blend of old-timers and interesting new additions.
Najib said the old heads were there to provide continuity, while the technocrats provided expertise and the young ones; youth, ability and vigor. 
He said team will continue his agenda of national transformation and help the government regain the trust of the rakyat. Najib also said issues like integrity and corruption will be areas of focus for the new Cabinet.
Below is the full list of office bearers in Najib Razak's 2013 Cabinet:



Jamil Khir Baharom
Abdul Wahid Omar (Maybank CEO)
Idris Jala
Joseph Kurup
Shahidan Kassim
Nancy Shukri
Joseph Entulu Anak Belaun
Paul Low Seng Kuan (Transparency International president)

Deputy Ministers

P. Waytha Moorthy
Razali Ibrahim

Najib Razak

Minister II
Ahmad Husni Hanadzlah

Deputy Minister
Ahmad Maslan

Muhyiddin Yassin
Minister II
Idris Jusoh

Deputy Ministers
Mary Yap
P. Kamalanathan

Hishamuddin Hussein
Deputy Minister
Abdul Rahim Bakri

Minister (Acting)
Hishamuddin Hussein

Deputy Minister
Abdul Aziz Kaprawi


Ahmad Zahid Hamidi

Deputy Minister
Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar

Fadillah Yusof

Deputy Minister
Rosnah Rashid Shirlin


Mustapa Mohamed

Deputy Minister
Hamim Samuri

Anifah Aman
Deputy Minister
Hamzah Zainuddin


Hasan Malek
Deputy Minister
Ahmad Bashah Md Hanipah


Ahmad Shabery Cheek

Deputy Minister
Jailani Johari


Richard Riot Anak Jaem

Deputy Minister
Ismail Abd Mutalib


Shafee Apdal

Deputy Minister
Alexander Nanta Linggi

Abdul Rahman Dahlan

Deputy Minister
Halimah Saddique

Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor

Deputy Minister
Loga Bala Mohan


Khairy Jamaluddin

Deputy Minister
M. Saravanan

S. Subramaniam

Deputy Minister
Hilmi Yahaya


Maximus Ongkili

Deputy Minister
Mahdzir Khalid

Ismail Sabri Yaakob

Deputy Minister
Tajuddin Abdul Rahman


Mohamed Nazri Aziz

Deputy Minister
Joseph Salang Gandum


G. Palanivel

Deputy Minister
James Dawos Mamit

Ewon Ebin

Deputy Minister
Abu Bakar Muhamad Diah


Rohani Abdul Karim

Deputy Minister
Azizah Mohd Dun

Douglas Uggah Embas

Deputy Minister
Noriah Kasnon

Prime Minister 1 position
Deputy Prime Minister 1 position
Ministers (exc. PM) 33 positions
Deputy Ministers (exc. DPM) 26 positions
Total 61 positions
Total ministries 24

The Euro Is Destroying Europe

There's a fantastic and depressing new survey out from Pew Global (via Cardiff Garcia) examining the attitudes of Europeans towards the European Project (AKA: the EU).
What it finds, not too surprisingly, is that there's been a tremendous decline in support for the European Project during the crisis, and that the last year was especially bad.
As you can see in this table, every single country polled (except the Czech Republic) has seen a decline in support for the EU from last year to this year. Spain and France have seen support totally collapse. Favorable ratings of the EU in Greece have dropped from the basement to cistern. The median level of support across the countries polled is down to 45%.
EU attitudes
This chart takes the same numbers going back a bit further, and you can see the steady decline throughout the economic crisis.
EU attitues
The report is very broad and very grim. The multi-year economic crisis (which is showing no signs of ebbing) is threatening to upend a project of European integration that's taken place over decades.
It's no surprise that in 2013, the politics have begun to turn in a sharp anti-Eurozone, anti-EU direction.
In Italy we saw the rise of Beppe Grillo's rebellious 5-Star Movement. In recent local elections in the UK, the anti-EU UKIP party surged at the expense of conservatives.
And in Germany, everyone will be watching the fortunes of Alternative für Deutschland (AfD), an anti-Euro party rising in the polls whose argument is that the Euro must be destroyed in order to save Europe.
Looking at these numbers, it's hard to argue that they're wrong. The Euro needs to be radically altered in short order to avoid destroying a project that won the Nobel Peace Prize for bringing Europe together.

Amid Economic Collapse, South Carolina Approves Another $1M for Police State

Anthony Freda Art
Brandon Turbeville
Activist Post

A little over a week ago, on May 7, 2013 and in the midst of a worldwide economic depression, Columbia, South Carolina City Council members met to discuss the funding of a million dollar project even as the State government continued its regularly scheduled hysteria over budgets, spending, and deficits.

So what was the project so vital to the people of Columbia to be pushed through by a 4-2 vote of the council during the midst of such trying economic times? Was it regarding the road systems? Was it the dismal state of Columbia schools? Was it tax relief for residents? Was it economic development? Water? Power? Sewage? Waste disposal?

Actually, it was the purchase and installation of 800 new surveillance cameras all across the city of Columbia that prompted the Council to spend $1.22 million, much of which is scheduled to come from an “emergency reserve fund” that is actually part of next year’s budget. As The State reports, “That previous $1 million fund will be reduced to $250,000. A capital projects fund that was to be $1.7 million next year will be down by $200,000.”

Once again, Columbia City Council members have come to the decision that maintaining and expanding the police state should always be paramount to any concerns facing elected officials at any time. In other words - Surveillance at all costs! Survival is secondary.

Even as the city’s meal taxes will be used to fund the camera installation to the tune of $100,000, budget cuts will also take place regarding the amount of money spent to house inmates in the Richland County Jail. This simply means that, if you are arrested (which will likely happen in the New United Police States of America) for one of the innumerable mundane and victimless activities that can result in temporary (or indefinite) imprisonment, the conditions in which you are held are likely to be even more abominable than they currently are.

Another $100,000 infusion of cash will come from “eliminating the city’s planned reserves in the event that fuel or utility bills jump.”

Who cares if the city can’t pay its utility bills? After all, it’s only ordinary citizens that would suffer as a result. Besides, you can always raise their taxes yet again to meet the payment requirements.
Oh, and police will be receiving raises in January. All other City workers, however, will be forced to continue to do their jobs as normal, receive the same amount of pay, and constantly be told how “government workers” make six figure salaries and do nothing as a justification for new cuts in the budget.

Another interesting aspect is that the Columbia City Council has decided to contract out to Statewide Security Systems (SSS), the company that already provides most of the cameras being used by the City. It is no surprise, then, that SSS received the City contract despite being the more expensive of the two options.
As reported in The State on April 30, at least one Columbia Police Department official lauded the camera expansion as a “game changer.” Could it be a coincidence that “game changer” is the motto most prominently displayed on the website of Statewide Security Systems, which provides the cameras ( Do we really want our police to rely on the advice of a private security company? Why did our mayor commend the owner of Statewide Security Systems while admitting it’s the most expensive option?
Deflem makes a great point. However, the Interim Police Chief, Assistant Police Chief, Mayor, and City Council all disagree. The State reports,
Wiser and Santiago told council that Statewide Security Inc., which provides most of the cameras now in public use in Columbia, prepared the plans council considered Tuesday. Though the city must open the bidding to others, they said it’s unlikely anyone else can offer a better plan.
In addition, the new cameras must be able to coordinate with the existing system, the senior police officials said.

Mayor Steve Benjamin seemed to agree. He commended Statewide Security owner Carey Shealy of Columbia and said, “We’d be foolish to award a contract to the lowest bidder.”

Yet while The State has erroneously claimed that the “need” for the cameras has “outstripped the city’s ability to pay for them,” the fact is that the city neither has the means to pay for, nor the need for these instruments of the surveillance state.

If the City were concerned with public safety, then perhaps the City would spend more time responding to and investigating violent crime and crimes with . . . well . . . actual victims. If the police were not wasting their time ruining lives for the mere possession of a plant, writing seat belt tickets, and attempting to micromanage the amount of alcohol consumed by Columbia citizens, then perhaps Columbia would be able to do a better job of protecting its citizens from actual dangers.

Nevertheless, in a stunning (I use that word liberally) example of just how far the Columbia City Council is willing to go in order to push the police state on those they supposedly serve, Clif LeBlanc of The State writes,
Council’s eagerness to focus on public safety prompted Councilman Cameron Runyan to ask if the police department has considered using a more high-tech option. 
“Have y’all looked at drones,” Runyan said to immediate chuckles from his fellow council members. “Not weaponized ones,” he added quickly. 
“Yes,” Santiago [Interim Police Chief] responded without elaborating.
Indeed, drones appear to be all the rage in South Carolina as of late, as the state has recently volunteered to become a drone testing site.

We are all sure that Columbia’s Interim Police Chief and at least five of Columbia’s City Council were pleased at the State’s generous offer to the Federal government and that they are eagerly awaiting the latest hi-tech police state toys to be placed at their disposal.

How the "recovery" is ripping you off

How the "recovery" is ripping you off

UK falls down the standard of living league: Austerity pushes Britain from 5th place to 12th of world's richest nations

  • British family incomes fell relative to other leading economies
  • UK public sector debt rocketed from 41.1% of GDP in 2000 to 85% in 2011
  • Inflation in the UK was high compared with the US, France and Germany

  • Britain has plunged down a league table measuring international standards of living.
    In a sign of the hard times facing families, the Office for National  Statistics said the UK has dropped from fifth in 2005 to 12th in 2011.
    The league table of the world’s wealthiest nations, using the latest available official figures, is based on how much money households have after paying their taxes and what they can afford to buy with their spare cash.
    Fall: Britain has fallen down the household league table from fifth in 2005 to 12th in the new 2011 table
    Fall: Britain has fallen down the household league table from fifth in 2005 to 12th in the new 2011 table
    While Britain used to be beaten only  by America, Luxembourg, Norway and Germany, it is now trumped by a much longer list of countries including Switzerland, Australia, France, Belgium, Sweden and Canada.
    While average incomes have risen in Britain, they have increased by more  in rival nations. At the same time, the price of goods has risen by a higher  margin in Britain – meaning we can buy less with our salaries compared with  people in other countries.
    The ONS’s research is based on what it calls each person’s ‘actual household  disposable income’. This is defined as their total income – not only their salary but also other items such as interest on their savings – minus their tax bill.
    It also includes the value of any free ‘benefits’ received from the Government, such as NHS treatment and education. But the total figure is then adjusted to take account of the prices of goods and services in each country.
    Plunging economic fortunes: David Cameron
    Plunging economic fortunes: George Osborne
    Plunging economic fortunes: David Cameron and Chancellor George Osborne were today hit by the news that Britain has slipped down the global family income league table, caused by the economic crisis
    In Britain, the average disposable income for 2011 is given as £18,291, which has risen slightly from 2005, when it was £17,069.
    Spending Money
    But in other countries it has risen much faster, pushing the UK  down the league table as it has been rapidly overtaken.
    Based on research by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, which measures economic and social well-being around the world, the ONS report said the UK’s downfall was primarily fuelled by the collapse in the ‘purchasing power’ of households.
    The ONS said: ‘Between 2005 and 2011, the price of goods and services in the UK has increased relative to other countries.
    ‘As a result, although household income in the UK has grown, when compared to other countries that income doesn’t stretch so far. This goes some way in explaining why the UK ranks relatively lower than it did in 2005.’
    It comes as a separate report, from the Halifax bank, warned that millions of families are ‘at full stretch financially’ and are being hit by a ‘squeeze’ forcing many to ‘cut back where they can’.
    Around one in two ‘admitted they would find it difficult to cope if their monthly outgoings increased by up to £99’.
    Others are even more hard-pressed, with their finances so finely balanced they would be tipped over the edge with just a £24 increase in monthly bills.
    Anthony Warrington, director of personal current accounts at Halifax, said: ‘Rising prices are putting disposable income under increasing pressure.
    Jobless: This table shows unemployment rates in the OECD states in 2011. The UK went from 12th place in 2005 to 21st in 2011
    Jobless: This table shows unemployment rates in the OECD states in 2011. The UK went from 12th place in 2005 to 21st in 2011
    Comparison: This table shows GDP per head in all the major economies. The UK is ranked 14th in the table of 30 states
    Comparison: This table shows GDP per head in all the major economies. The UK is ranked 14th in the table of 30 states
    ‘With essentials such as mortgages and rental payments, food and energy bills taking up the  largest chunk of household spending, it leaves some households with little room for manoeuvre.’
    Frances O’Grady, general secretary of the Trades Union Congress, said: ‘The combination of recession and austerity has taken its toll on household finances, with income levels in the UK falling behind many of its European neighbours.
    ‘Even before the recession, household spending in the UK was far more reliant on debt than in other advanced economies.
    ‘In order to address this as a country we need to obsess less about housing bubbles and focus instead on securing decent pay rises and creating better-paid jobs.’

    White House Admits It Knew Of IRS Scandal But Did Nothing

    Full Story - While successfully dodging questions about the 3 scandals the White House is caught up with spokesman Jay Carney admits the Obama administration knew about the IRS targeting activists but did nothing about it.
    Carney: W.H. ‘People Were Aware’ of IRS Targeting Conservatives, But Didn’t Do Anything About It
    “I’m sure people were aware of and knew some of the stories that had been reported about the complaints, but we were not aware of any activity or of any review conducted by the inspector general until several weeks ago,” Carney responded.
    Todd replied, “Should you have been made aware sooner? I don’t understand.”

    Michigan District Fires All Teachers, Closes Every School

    Summer break has started very early for kids in one Michigan school district.
    Buena Vista schools have been closed for five days already, and on Monday, the district's website stated that the school would be closed until further notice. For good reason, this decision has parents, and the community, up in arms.
    The problem in Buena Vista is that the school district, educating approximately 450 kids, is out of money. All the teachers have been laid off and a financial emergency has been declared. The district has suffered from declining enrollment, which, in turn, has led to a loss of $3 million in state funding since 2010.
    In an effort to keep schools open, teachers said they would work without pay. This is not possible under Michigan law so educators have been left in limbo. To make matters worse, the staff has also lost their health insurance.

    The Buena Vista School District website states that they consider it their "highest calling to be entrusted with the care and education of the community’s children."
    This sounds nice, but what about the students left hanging with unfinished class work? This lingering question has yet to be answered.
    In the midst of the chaos, parents have been trying to transfer their children to other districts. Given the school year is almost over, it's not the most opportune time for kids to switch schools. Some nearby districts are looking at every student on a case-by-case basis.
    The Buena Vista School District isn’t the only district in Michigan—or across the country—that is having financial trouble. The public school financial crisis looms in almost every state.
    Michigan’s Pontiac School District was nearly in the same position as Buena Vista. On Friday, it couldn’t make payroll. Over the weekend, however, the state accepted a hastened reworked deficit reduction plan created by the Pontiac school board.
    In Arkansas, two schools—the Helena-West Helena School District in the impoverished Delta region and Pulaski County School District in the Little Rock area—were told Monday that they would remain under state control due to lack of funds.
    In Philadelphia, Pennsylvania’s largest school district, high deficits have caused the district to request cash from the state. Without the money, the schools could be in jeopardy during the 2013-14 school year.
    “If these dollars don’t come to the district—and soon—we may face the real prospect of not seeing school doors open in any meaningful way this fall. If that sounds scary, it should,” Anthony Williams, a Pennsylvania state senator, wrote in a column for The Philadelphia Tribune. “No one I know wants Philadelphia to have the distinction of having the largest U.S. school district to declare bankruptcy.”
    In Pennsylvania, urban school districts like Harrisburg, Philadelphia, Reading, and York lost 10 times more in state aid than affluent school districts in recent years. About $860 million in school funding cuts will likely result in more distressed school districts.
    “In 2011, Gov. Tom Corbett slashed nearly $1 billion from Pennsylvania's public schools, creating a school funding crisis that is getting worse every year these unprecedented cuts are not restored,” the Pennsylvania State Education Association states on its website.
    Mike Crossey, president of the Pennsylvania State Education Association, has blamed ideological politics for the funding crisis.
    “If the governor was serious about addressing the school funding crisis he created two years ago, he would target sustainable funding to our students rather than use their education as leverage to promote his ideological agenda,” Crossey said in a February news release.
    Regardless of politics, in Michigan, state and local education officials met late Monday to try and figure out a plan for Buena Vista students. One possibility? Officials may try to use federal funds to run summer camps to help students make up missed class work.
    Regardless of what happens this summer, Buena Vista's website states that, at this time, it's impossible for them "to predict whether the District will be in a position to enroll students next year."
    One good piece of news: At least seniors will be able to graduate in June.

    Cameron Says Calls For U.K. to Quit EU Now ‘Very Strange’

    U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron rebuked lawmakers in his Conservative Party who have already decided that Britain should withdraw from the European Union.
    Cameron said it was “very, very strange” for leading members of his party to say Britain should pull out of the 27-nation bloc before he has had a chance to change the terms of Britain’s relationship..
    “The idea of throwing in the towel before the negotiation’s started I think is a very, very strange opinion,” the prime minister told reporters on an airplane to Washington for talks with U.S. President Barack Obama. “What all Conservative Cabinet ministers agree is we should be spending the next period improving the European Union and improving our relations with the EU and putting that to the British public in a referendum.”
    Former Chancellor of the Exchequer Nigel Lawson and one-time Defense Secretary Michael Portillo have called for U.K. withdrawal, while Mayor of London Boris Johnson has said it would be a “shot in the arm” for British democracy. Yesterday, Education Secretary Michael Gove and Defense Secretary Philip Hammond both said they would vote to leave if asked today. Cameron has pledged a referendum on membership in 2017 if his party wins the 2015 general election.
    That commitment isn’t enough for about 60 Conservative Members of Parliament, who have put their names to a parliamentary amendment expressing “regret” that no provision paving the way for a U.K. exit was included for this legislative session in the Queen’s Speech. They are seeking legislation enshrining the commitment to a referendum in law.

    ‘Impossible Situation’

    “What they’re doing is putting the prime minister in an impossible situation,” Malcolm Rifkind, a Conservative lawmaker and former foreign secretary, told BBC Radio 4 today. “They will have split their own party, they will cast questions over the prime minister’s authority, and indirectly, unintentionally, they will be helping the Labour Party’s prospects at the next election. That is a pretty odd tactic.”
    Ed Miliband, the leader of the opposition Labour Party, mocked a suggestion that Cameron was “relaxed” about the vote in a speech on May 11. “He’s not lying on the sofa, relaxed,” he said. “He’s hiding behind the sofa, too scared to confront his own MPs.”
    If the amendment is selected for a vote by House of Commons Speaker John Bercow, it will come before the chamber by May 15.
    The prime minister reiterated today he is confident his government will be able to deliver reforms to the EU before the 2017 vote.

    Not Acceptable

    “There’s not going to be a referendum tomorrow, there is going to be a referendum before the end of 2017,” Cameron told broadcasters in Washington. “The problem with the status quo is I don’t think that the status quo in the EU is acceptable today. I want to change it, and having changed it I then want to ask the British people a very simple in/out question.”
    Gove and Hammond, in separate BBC interviews, both said their position on the EU was that the U.K. should leave unless the government can secure such changes. Bookmaker William Hill Plc said today it did not believe a referendum would be held before 2019.
    Cameron will meet with Obama at the White House today to encourage talks on a trade deal between the EU and U.S. as part of preparations for the Group of Eight summit the U.K. hosts next month.

    Trade Goal

    Cameron has made setting up talks on a free-trade agreement between the EU and U.S. a key goal of his three-day visit. The deal would be worth 10 billion pounds ($15 billion) a year to the U.K. economy, Cameron’s office said, citing research by the Centre for Economic Policy Research, demonstrating the benefits of Britain’s EU membership.
    Eliminating all tariffs on goods could save British exporters 1 billion pounds a year while an additional 9 billion pounds in benefits could come from reducing non-tariff barriers, the research cited by Cameron showed. The automotive industry could see a boost of 7 percent in total output, financial services growth of 1 percent and the chemicals sector 1.5 percent, it said.
    “When times are tough, some want to put the barriers up, to look inwards, and to protect themselves from the world,” Cameron wrote in an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal published today. “But Britain and America stand for a better way. We have a precious opportunity to transform the global economy -- not by less openness and less free trade, but by more,” he said. “And we must do everything possible to seize it.”

    Homeland Security seizes funds at main Bitcoin exchange issues court order against Mt Gox

    US Department of Homeland Security issues court order against Mt Gox

    Summary: Bitcoin exchange Mt Gox's Dwolla account has come under the scrutiny of the US Department of Homeland Security, with users now unable to use the payment network to transfer bitcoins.

    The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has issued a court order to payment network provider Dwolla to cease providing services to the company that sits between it and Bitcoin exchange Mt Gox.
    Dwolla sent emails to customers that have recently made transactions between it and Mt Gox, informing them that it was "unable to move money to and from Mutum Sigillum LLC's Dwolla account" due to orders it had received from DHS and the US District Court of Maryland. OkCupid co-founder Chris Coyne posted a photo of the email to Twitter this morning, and several forum users at have confirmed its legitimacy.

    It’s Official: Stocks Are in a Bubble

    by Phoenix Capital Research

    The markets are rallying because today is Tuesday. Stocks have rallied every Tuesday for the last 17 weeks and traders are now conditioned to play for this move. It’s also a POMO day (meaning the Fed is pumping the markets), which adds fuel to the fire for a stock rally.

    The market is beyond overstretched. We have not had a 5% correction in six months. Stocks have gone almost straight up for 89 days (we haven’t had a 3+day correction in that long).  This is an all time record. The last time stocks rallied without a 3+ day correction was in the buildup to the Crash of 1987.

    Check out the chart of Stocks vs. Copper.

    Copper is great at predicting economic growth. Stocks are not. And the major divergences between the two tend to be resolved sharply (notice the sharp correction in Copper in late 2011).

    With that in mind, either Copper needs to ERUPT higher as the world economy comes roaring back… or stocks need to drop BIG TIME.

    Guess which one it will be? Do you think this might have something to do with why Bernanke is worried about potential for “sharp moves” in the markets?

    For more market insights and commentary visit us at

    Best Regards,

    Graham Summers

    Debt Sold by Bank Of America and Citigroup Would Be JUNK Without Government Guarantees

    Source: Washington's Blog

    Government Chooses Big Banks Over the Little Guy … Year After Year
    Bloomberg reports:
    Rescued From Junk
    In a March 27 report, Moody’s displays a bar chart of its credit ratings for the banks in blue. In green bars, it shows Goldman Sachs and Wells Fargo would be rated two grades lower if the taxpayer backstop didn’t exist. Moody’s boosted Morgan Stanley’s score by two grades for the same reason, even though it had downgraded that bank in June 2012.
    The scores for Bank of America, Citigroup and JPMorgan (JPM) are three grades lower in the green bars.
    Debt sold by the holding companies of Bank of America and Citigroup (C), the second- and third-biggest U.S. banks by assets, would fall to junk status without the implicit government guarantee, Moody’s Senior Vice President David Fanger says.
    Bloomberg is probably being too generous to the big banks, stating:
    All told, the financial advantages for the six biggest banks since the start of 2009 amounted to at least $102 billion, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
    But top banking analyst Chris Whalen estimates that the big banks receive a subsidy of $780 billion dollars every year.
    And everyone knows that virtually all of the giant banks’ profits come from various government subsidies.
    Indeed, the big banks have repeatedly gone bust due to stupid and risky bets … but the government keeps choosing the big banks over the little guy.

    Bank of Israel Unexpectedly Cuts Lending Rate

    Israel’s central bank unexpectedly cut its benchmark interest rate to a three-year low and announced a program to purchase foreign currency to limit gains in the shekel. Israeli stocks and bonds rose.
    The Bank of Israel, led by Governor Stanley Fischer, lowered the lending rate by a quarter of a percentage point to 1.5 percent, sending the shekel down the most since January. The bank said the steps were “in light of the continued appreciation of the shekel, taking into account the start of natural gas production from the Tamar gas field, interest rate reductions by many central banks --- notably the European Central Bank, the quantitative easing in major economies worldwide and the downward revision in global growth forecasts.”
    The bank started buying dollars in April for the first time in almost two years as the start of natural gas production off Israel’s coast and interest rates more than double the level of the U.S., U.K. and Japan lured inflows. Fischer said last month that rates higher than those in major economies are encouraging inflows of short-term investment, sparking speculation that he may lower borrowing costs.
    Central banks overseeing about a quarter of the world’s gross domestic product have cut interest rates this month, spanning the globe from the euro area and Australia to Kenya and Sri Lanka. Exports make up about 40 percent of Israel’s economy and are hurt by a stronger shekel, which has surged 8.9 percent in the past six months, making it the second-best performer after the Mexican peso among 31 major currencies tracked by Bloomberg.

    ‘More Impact’

    “We were expecting a rate cut at the next scheduled decision because of low inflation, the rate cuts being made abroad and the capital inflows due to the rate differential,” said Ayelet Nir, chief economist and strategist at Psagot Investment House Ltd. “Doing it as a surprise move gives it more impact, while the downside is it gives the appearance of acting under pressure.”
    The central bank move came a little more than a month before Fischer plans to step down. The 69-year-old governor, a former No. 2 at the International Monetary Fund, said he was leaving for personal reasons, mostly because his family is in the U.S. and he has achieved many of the goals he wanted to accomplish.

    ‘No Choice’

    Tal Zohar Avda, chief executive officer of the Forex Capital Markets LLC, said the rate cut was “one of the last things Fischer would have wanted to do, because he wanted to avoid reducing rates to avoid fueling the real estate market.”
    Given that the bank’s last interventions failed to achieve the goal of weakening the shekel, “he had no choice,” Avda said.
    The bank said today it will purchase about $2.1 billion by the end of the year, to help offset the effects of natural gas sales. It will revisit the plan when a natural gas “wealth fund” begins operation, which is due in 2018.
    “Natural gas production in Israel is causing an improvement in the current account, which is leading to appreciation pressures on the shekel,” the bank said in a statement. “This phenomenon, often referred to as ‘Dutch disease,’ is liable to negatively impact Israel’s economy.”
    More rate cuts may be necessary within the next four months depending on how the shekel performs, Tevfik Aksoy, chief economist for central and eastern Europe, the Middle East and Africa at Morgan Stanley in London, wrote in an e-mailed note to investors.

    ‘Testing Waters’

    “Essentially, the Bank of Israel will be testing the waters with regular purchases and, in case the appreciation pressures escalate again, it will actively pursue an intervention policy, in our view,” Aksoy said.
    The shekel weakened the most since January after the decision, falling 0.9 percent to 3.6027 per dollar at 5:18 p.m. in Tel Aviv. The benchmark TA-25 stock index closed up 1 percent to 1,204.66, its biggest gain since Feb. 20. The yield on the 4.25 percent government bonds due March 2023 fell three basis points to 3.51 percent.
    “This is a wrong move,” Gilad Alper, a senior analyst at Excellence Nessuah Brokerage Ltd., said today by phone. “It will blow more air into the real estate bubble, push toward excessive risk taking and hurt the purchasing power of Israelis by making imports more expensive.”
    The Bank of Israel monetary policy committee said in an April 7 statement that the rate of increase in home prices remained high in recent months, with no sign of a slowdown.

    Report by emergency manager says Detroit's finances are crumbling, future is bleak

    • Detroit Finances_Cala.jpg
      FILE - In this Oct. 24, 2012 file photo, a pedestrian walks in Greektown in downtown Detroit. A state-appointed review team Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2013 determined Detroit is in a financial emergency, paving the way for Republican Gov. Rick Snyder to appoint an emergency manager who would need to come up with a new plan to get the city out of its fiscal crisis. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio, File) (AP2013)

    Detroit is broke and faces a bleak future given the precarious financial path it's on, according to a new report out by the city's state-appointed emergency manager.
    The report was released late Sunday by bankruptcy attorney Kevyn Orr and is his first on Detroit's finances since officially taking the job in March.
    Under state law, the report was due within 45 days of Michigan's newest emergency manager law taking effect. Orr's spokesman Bill Nowling had warned last week that the report was an early look at Detroit's fiscal condition and would not be glowing.
    The summation is the latest blow to the city which came under state oversight in March when Gov. Rick Snyder selected Orr to handle Detroit's finances. Then, the city estimated its budget deficit to be about $327 million. Detroit also has struggled over the past year with cash flow, relying on bond money held by the state to pay some of its bills.
    But Orr reports that Detroit's net cash position was negative $162 million as of April 26 and that the projected budget deficit is expected to reach $386 million in less than two months.
    He also warns that the city's financial health might change as more data is collected and analyzed.
    "What is clear, however, is that continuing along the current path is an ill-advised and unacceptable course of action if the city is to be put on the path to a sustainable future."
    Detroit is the largest city in the country under state control and the city's wallet is now Orr's to command. He dictates how Detroit spends its money, something that had been the responsibility of first-term Mayor Dave Bing and the nine-member City Council.
    In a statement Monday morning, Bing said his office plans a "comprehensive evaluation" of the report over the next day.
    "A comprehensive review of the emergency manager's financial and operating plan has yet to be conducted," Bing said. "However, my initial review is that the assessment by Mr. Orr of the city's financial condition is consistent with my administration's findings."
    The city's problems preceded Bing, a former steel supply company owner and professional basketball Hall-of-Famer.
    "This has been a moving target. The historical numbers that have been reported were unreliable," bankruptcy expert Doug Bernstein said. "Certainly, nobody was going to expect the numbers were to be better than were reported."
    Orr described the city's operations as "dysfunctional and wasteful after years of budgetary restrictions, mismanagement, crippling operational practices and, in some cases, indifference or corruption."
    "Outdated policies, work practices, procedures and systems must be improved consistent with best practices of 21st century government," he said in the report. "A well run city will promote cost savings and better customer service and will encourage private investment and a return of residents."
    The report also looked at attempts officials have made to fix problems.
    "Recently, tens of millions of dollars of pension funding and other payments have been deferred to manage a severe liquidity crisis at the City," Orr wrote in the report. "Even with these deferrals, the City has operated at a significant and increasing deficit. It is expected that the City will end this fiscal year with approximately $125 million in accumulated deferred obligations and a precariously low cash position."
    The city also owes more than $400 million in outstanding obligations, including $124 million used to provide funds for public improvement projects.
    Orr's report identifies areas of concern and those needing immediate attention.
    It's highly likely he will seek concessions from the city's labor unions. At least five unions representing police and firefighters are seeking arbitration in collective bargaining with the city.
    Detroit lacks, but is developing a "comprehensive labor strategy for managing" its relationships with its unions, according to Orr.
    The emergency manager law gives Orr the authority to "reject, modify or terminate" collective bargaining agreements and concessions will be sought, he wrote in the report.
    "This power will be exercised, if necessary or desirable, with the knowledge and understanding that many city employees already have absorbed wage and benefit reductions," he wrote.
    When taking the job, Orr said he hoped to avoid a municipal bankruptcy filing, but didn't rule one out if Detroit can't reach agreements with its many creditors and bond holders.
    "If he already hasn't, he should continue negotiating for savings necessary in collective bargain," said Bernstein, a managing partner of the Banking, Bankruptcy and Creditors' Rights Practice Group for the Michigan-based Plunkett Cooney law firm. "He has to negotiate reductions with bond holders and get as many concessions as he can. It's an across-the-board savings.
    "If he can't get everything completed by consent, then there is no option but bankruptcy. It should be a last resort. It should be used sparingly. It is an option. When all else fails, that's the last tool in the tool box."
    The report also notes the instability in leadership atop the city's police department. Detroit has had five different police chiefs over the past five years with varying plans on how to best handle the city's high crime rate.
    "As a result, (the department's) efficiency, effectiveness and employee morale are extremely low," Orr wrote. "Based on recent reviews ... and input from the Michigan State Police and other law enforcement agencies, it is clear that improvements in DPD's operations and performance could be achieved through the strategic redeployment of resources, civilianization of administrative functions, other labor efficiencies and revenue enhancements."
    The department also could benefit from more and better technology, equipment, police cars and personnel.

    City of Detroit is financially 'insolvent'

    detroit vacant building One of an estimated 78,000 vacant buildings in Detroit. Years of financial decline have left the city government insolvent, according to a report released Monday.
    NEW YORK (CNNMoney)

    The Detroit city government is weeks away from running out of the cash it needs to operate, according to an initial report from the emergency manager overseeing its finances.

    The report from Kevyn Orr, the bankruptcy attorney appointed by the state in March, lays out a bleak financial position for the city.
    "The city has effectively exhausted its ability to borrow," he writes in the report, adding that the city "is clearly insolvent." To avoid running out of cash before the end of its fiscal year on June 30, it must "defer payments on its current obligations," including more than $100 million in pension payments that are due.
    "No one should underestimate the severity of the financial crisis," Orr said in a statement. "The path Detroit has followed for more than 40 years is unsustainable and only a complete restructuring of the city's finances and operations will allow Detroit to regain its footing."
    Related: Detroit, in financial trouble, gets emergency manager
    He said this report was a baseline from which to develop that restructuring plan. It does not use the term "bankruptcy," but Orr hasn't ruled that out.
    Detroit is struggling under at least $15 billion in debt, due to years of borrowing to pay its bills as tax revenues plummeted. The population of the city has fallen by nearly 30% since 2012, and there are currently over 100,000 vacant lots and buildings. Together, this has meant a drastic drop in revenue from both income and property taxes.
    Detroit is struggling to come up with annual debt payments of about $246 million, which eat up almost 20% of the its general fund budget. Orr says the city needs relief from the money it owes, suggesting that investors holding its debt could end up taking haircuts.
    Related: 11 cities where workers are disappearing
    But investors won't be the only ones hit by Orr's efforts to restructure the city's finances. He is considering changes in healthcare coverage for government employees and retirees, as well as in its pension plans. He's also looking at further changes in pay rates and staffing, on top of the layoffs and 10% pay cut that have already been implemented.
    The city's unemployment rate has fallen in recent years with a rebound in the auto industry, but at 18.3% it is still nearly triple where it stood at in 2000 and more than double the national rate. To top of page

    Benghazi, IRS: Son of Watergate?

    Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, discusses the ongoing hearings into the attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.
    In his defense of President Obama, Press Secretary Jay Carney is beginning to sound a lot like Ronald Zeigler, Richard Nixon's spokesman. Carney only has to use the word "inoperative," as Ziegler did when incriminating evidence surfaced that proved his previous statements untrue.

    Following what appears to be a cover-up in the Benghazi attack, the Washington Post has obtained documents from an audit conducted by the IRS's inspector general that indicate the agency targeted for special scrutiny conservative groups with "tea party" and "patriot" in their names, as well as "nonprofit groups that criticized the government and sought to educate Americans about the U.S. Constitution."

    IRS official Lois Lerner described the targeting efforts as "absolutely inappropriate," but said IRS actions were not driven by partisanship. How, then, would she explain why no groups with "progressive" in their titles were similarly targeted? Carney labeled Lerner an "appointee from the previous administration." In other words: Bush's mistake, not Obama's.

    The Post's editorial board writes, "A bedrock principle of U.S. democracy is that the coercive powers of government are never used for partisan purpose." The board called for a full accounting. I doubt we'll get it. Take Benghazi.

    ABC News first reported that the now famous Benghazi "talking points" used by U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice on five Sunday morning news shows were revised 12 times, deleting references to "the al-Qaida-affiliated group Ansar al-Sharia (and) CIA warnings about terrorist threats in Benghazi in the months preceding the attack."

    Carney said Ambassador Rice's initial claim -- that the attack grew out of protests over a video that insulted Islam -- was based on what was known to U.S. intelligence at the time. But as last week's testimony by three whistleblowers before the House Oversight Committee revealed, much more was known at the time.

    Contributing to cover-up suspicions is the administration's continued stonewalling when asked to provide information on Benghazi. CNN sources acknowledge that "An email discussion about talking points the Obama administration used to describe the deadly attack on the U.S. compound in Benghazi, Libya, show the White House and State Department were more involved than they first said..." The American people deserve the full story.

    The latest, but probably not the last shocker, is a report in The Daily Caller about CBS News Correspondent Sharyl Attkisson, who has "steadily covered the Obama administration's handling of the Benghazi terrorist attack in Libya," reportedly frustrating CBS News executives who claim her unrelenting coverage is "bordering on advocacy" on the issue. Now, according to Politico, Attkisson can't get some of her stories about Benghazi on the air. Oh, did I fail to mention that CBS News President David Rhodes is the brother of Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes? Coincidental? Attkisson is reportedly in talks to leave the network. Is it because she chooses to behave like a real journalist instead of a cheerleader for Obama?

    On Friday, Carney held a "secret briefing" on Benghazi for a select number of White House reporters, raising the ire of reporters not in the room. Is this what the Obama administration calls transparency?

    Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) has asked Speaker John Boehner to name a select committee to investigate the Benghazi attack with full subpoena powers that could place witnesses under oath. Boehner should. Meanwhile, House Oversight Subcommittee Chairman Charles Boustany (R-LA) has demanded the IRS turn over by Wednesday all communications containing the words "conservative," "patriot" or "tea party." And the IRS should.

    Democrats now accuse Republicans of partisanship, claiming their motive is to damage Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential prospects. If she has nothing to hide, transparency should enhance, not harm, her chances. We've learned more about Benghazi since her appearance before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in January and she should be asked to account for it.

    In 1972, Republican partisans initially accused Democrats of wanting to destroy President Nixon, but most were forced to acknowledge his culpability in Watergate once the facts became known. One of the Articles of Impeachment of Nixon concerned his misuse of the IRS to undermine political enemies.

    Journalists should stop protecting President Obama and Hillary Clinton and do their jobs, like Sharyl Attkisson. Congressional Republicans should press for all the facts. That's their job.

    (Readers may e-mail Cal Thomas at

    DOW JONES HITS NEW ALL-TIME HIGH AT 15180!! Nasdaq-100 Breaks 3000, First Time Since 2000!! The Risk Premium Has Never Been Higher!! Investors Borrow Cash From Portfolios at Record Pace!!

    DOW HIT 15180!!!
    Nasdaq-100 Breaks 3000, First Time Since 2000
    As Stocks Rally, Market Flooded With New Shares
    New offerings jumped to $13.6 billion last week, the highest of the year and more than five times the previous week’s $2.5 billion, according to market research firm TrimTabs.
    Total float in the market—or the amount of shares available for purchase—has increased 1.4 percent this year, even though corporate buying has approached five-year highs.
    Last time the equity risk premium was this high? Just before Lehman failed

    As a reminder, the equity risk premium is “expected future return of stocks minus the risk-free rate over some investment horizon.” It is this record high risk premium that leads the two to agree with Wall Street and to forecast that stocks have nothing but upside for half a decade more. Of course, what they try to not highlight is that the previous near all time high equity risk premium was seen in the days just before the Lehman collapse, when the same poll and the same models, would have predicted smooth sailing for a long, long time, instead of the 60% modest correction that transpired in the coming months, and which would have led to the end of the Western financial model as we know it if not for the same NY Fed injecting a little over $10 trillion into risk on short notice. But don’t worry, there is an economist “explanation” for this particular fly in the ointment: “It is difficult to argue that we’re living in rosy times, but we are surely in better shape now than then.
    zerohedge‏@zerohedge4 min
    USDJPY joins the frenzy: 102
    Investors Borrow Cash From Portfolios at Record Pace
    Emboldened by soaring stock prices and record-low borrowing costs, stock investors are taking out loans against their portfolios at the fastest pace since before the Great Recession hit.
    So-called margin debt hit $379.5 billion in March, the highest level since July 2007 when such debt hit an all-time record of $381.4 billion, according to the most recent data available compiled by the New York Stock Exchange.
    David Tepper Is Crazy Bullish And Says Short Sellers Better Have A Shovel To Dig Out Of Their Graves
    Funds managers, investment advisers and business writers always stay in bullish mode, no matter what happen! They are in the business to lure investors. When the market is really bullish they are right. When the market is pulling back, they are informed investors the market is finished with correction or at the bottom already. So, they get nothing to loose, even though it is morally wrong as poor business practice.

    GOLDMAN: College-Educated Americans Are More Unemployed Than You Think

    It's no secret that the unemployment rate for those with college degrees is much lower than the rate for those without.  And the fluctuations in the their respective unemployment rates have been very similar for as long as we can remember.
    However, comparing the unemployment rates alone ignores some significant deterioration in the dynamics of the college-educated population.
    Goldman Sachs economist Jan Hatzius examines this in a brief note to clients.
    First, here's a look at the unemployment rates for college grads and those who didn't make it out of high school.  No surprises here:
    Goldman Sachs

    One worrying trend in the labor market has been the drop in the labor force participation rate.  Intuitively, one might think that the labor force participation rate would fall more for the those with less education due to lack of skills (i.e. the skills mismatch issue).
    However, this assumption is just wrong.
    "As shown in Exhibit 2, the labor force participation rates of college graduates have actually fallen by more than those of workers without a high school education," wrote Hatzius.
    Check it out:
    Goldman Sachs
    This is where things get interesting.
    "[T]he faster job growth among college graduates is entirely due to faster growth in the size of the college-educated population; the employment/population ratio among college graduates has in fact fallen sharply," wrote Hatzius.
    In other words, America's colleges are cranking graduates so quickly that even though increasing numbers of them drop out of the labor force, the unemployment rate has effectively fluctuated right in line with the unemployment rate of those with less than high school degrees.
    Considering all this, the most appropriate way to compare the two demographics is to compare employment rates relative to populations, which allows us to bypass the labor force participation rate issue.
    That leads us to this damning chart from Hatzius:
    Goldman Sachs
    Here's Hatzius again to hammer it in:
    [T]he employment/population ratio has fallen just as sharply among college graduates as among high school dropouts since 2007; in other words, the growth in the absolute number of employed college graduates has been nowhere near enough to offset the increase in the size of the college-educated population.
    It just goes to show there's more to the store than the headline numbers.
    "At first glance, [the unemployment rates] might suggest the US labor market problem is primarily due to mismatch between the supply and demand for different skill and education levels," he said. "But a second glance tells a different story."

    Secret Rulers Of The World – The Bilderberg Group (Full Version)

    Bilderberg takes its name from the hotel in Holland, where the first meeting took place in May 1954. That pioneering meeting grew out of the concern expressed by leading citizens on both sides of the Atlantic that Western Europe and North America were not working together as closely as they should on common problems of critical importance. It was felt that regular, off-the-record discussions would help create a better understanding of the complex forces and major trends affecting Western nations in the difficult post-war period.
    The Cold War has now ended. But in practically all respects there are more, not fewer, common problems – from trade to jobs, from monetary policy to investment, from ecological challenges to the task of promoting international security. It is hard to think of any major issue in either Europe or North America whose unilateral solution would not have repercussions for the other.
    Thus the concept of a European-American forum has not been overtaken by time. The dialogue between these two regions is still – even increasingly – critical.

    Japanese mayor: Wartime sex slaves were necessary

    TOKYO (AP) — An outspoken nationalist mayor said the Japanese military's forced prostitution of Asian women before and during World War II was necessary to "maintain discipline" in the ranks and provide rest for soldiers who risked their lives in battle.
    The comments made Monday are already raising ire in neighboring countries that bore the brunt of Japan's wartime aggression and have long complained that Japan has failed to fully atone for wartime atrocities.
    Toru Hashimoto, the young, brash mayor of Osaka who is co-leader of an emerging conservative political party, also said that U.S. troops currently based in southern Japan should patronize the local sex industry more to help reduce rapes and other assaults.
    Hashimoto told reporters on Monday that there wasn't clear evidence that the Japanese military had coerced women to become what are euphemistically called "comfort women" before and during World War II.
    "To maintain discipline in the military, it must have been necessary at that time," Hashimoto said. "For soldiers who risked their lives in circumstances where bullets are flying around like rain and wind, if you want them to get some rest, a comfort women system was necessary. That's clear to anyone."
    Historians say up to 200,000 women, mainly from the Korean Peninsula and China, were forced to provide sex for Japanese soldiers in military brothels.
    China's Foreign Ministry criticized the mayor's comments and saw them as further evidence of a rightward drift in Japanese politics under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
    "We are appalled and indignant about the Japanese politician's comments boldly challenging humanity and historical justice," Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said at a daily media briefing. "The way they treat the past will determine the way Japan walks toward the future. On what choice Japan will make, the Asian neighbors and the international community will wait and see."
    Asked about a photo of Abe posing in a fighter jet with the number 731 — the number of a notorious, secret Japanese unit that performed chemical and biological experiments on Chinese in World War II — Hong again urged Japan not to whitewash history so as to improve relations with countries that suffered under Japanese occupation.
    "There is a mountain of definitive iron-hard evidence for the crimes they committed in the Second World War. We hope Japan will face and contemplate their history of aggression and treat it correctly," Hong said.
    Abe posed, thumbs up, in the aircraft during a weekend visit to northeastern Japan.
    South Korea's Foreign Ministry expressed disappointment over what it called a senior Japanese official's serious lack of historical understanding and respect for women's rights. It asked Japan's leaders to reflect on their country's imperial past, including grave human rights violations, and correct anachronistic historical views.
    Hashimoto said he recently visited Okinawa in southern Japan and told the U.S. commander there "to make better use of the sex industry."
    "He froze, and then with a wry smile said that is off-limits for the U.S. military," he said.
    "I told him that there are problems because of such formalities," Hashimoto said, explaining that he was not referring to illegal prostitution but to places operating within the law. "If you don't make use of those places you cannot properly control the sexual energy of those tough guys."
    Calls to the after-hours number for U.S. Forces in Japan were not answered.
    Hashimoto's comments came amid continuing criticism of Abe's earlier pledges to revise Japan's past apologies for wartime atrocities. Before he took office in December, Abe had advocated revising a 1993 statement by then Prime Minister Yohei Kono acknowledging and expressing remorse for the suffering caused to the sexual slaves of Japanese troops.
    Abe has acknowledged "comfort women" existed but has denied they were coerced into prostitution, citing a lack of official evidence.
    Recently, top officials in Abe's government have appeared to backpedal on suggestions the government might revise those apologies, apparently hoping to ease tensions with South Korea and China and address U.S. concerns about Abe's nationalist agenda.
    Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga repeated the previous government position and said those women went through unbearable pain.
    "The stance of the Japanese government on the comfort women issue is well known. They have suffered unspeakably painful experiences. The Abe Cabinet has the same sentiments as past Cabinets," he said.
    Education Minister Hakubun Shimomura said Hashimoto's remark was unhelpful given the criticism Japan faces from neighboring countries and the U.S. over its interpretation of history.
    "A series of remarks related to our interpretation of (wartime) history have been already misunderstood. In that sense, Mr. Hashimoto's remark came at a bad time," Shimomura told reporters. "I wonder if there is any positive meaning to intentionally make such remarks at this particular moment."
    Hashimoto, 43, is co-head of the newly formed Japan Restoration Party with former Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara, who is a strident nationalist.
    Sakihito Ozawa, the party's parliamentary affairs chairman, said he believed Hashimoto's remarks reflected his personal views, but he expressed concerns about possible repercussions.
    "We should ask his real intentions and stop this at some point," he said.
    Associated Press writers Elaine Kurtenbach, Miki Toda and Mari Yamaguchi in Tokyo, Sam Kim in Seoul and Zhao Liang in Beijing contributed to this report.

    European Union Likely to ‘Bail In’ Large Depositors

    by GoldCore

    Today’s AM fix was USD 1,436.50, EUR 1,103.47 and GBP 938.15 per ounce.
    Yesterday’s AM fix was USD 1,429.75, EUR 1,102.52 and GBP 931.19 per ounce.

    Cross Currency Table – (Bloomberg)

    Gold fell $11.90 or -0.82% yesterday to $1,431.40/oz and silver finished -0.8%.
    The European Union will today meet to discuss and move forward the proposal to ‘bail-in’ depositors with savings of over €100,000 as part of future bank wind-downs.  It now looks likely that the EU is going to take unprecedented steps to sequester monies from its citizens in the event of future bank failures.
    Only three months ago a €10 billion bailout was announced by the European Commission (EC), European Central Bank (ECB) and International Monetary Fund (IMF) in return for Cyprus agreeing to close its second largest bank, the Cyprus Popular Bank and in the process levying all uninsured deposits and up to 40% of uninsured deposits in the Bank of Cyprus. All insured deposits of €100,000 or less were not included as part of what we now know to be a ‘bail in.’
    As it is the Irish that currently hold the EU presidency, this key legislation is being proposed and presented by Ireland’s finance minister, Michael Noonan. Walking a tightrope, Noonan and his team have to negotiate the significant differences that exist between member states. Some states have not ruled out the possibility that insured deposits would also be included in the ‘bail-in,’ a proposition rendered senseless considering that all deposits under €100,000 are insured.
    A key development prior to today’s  EU finance ministers meeting is that uninsured deposits of over €100,000 would be ‘bailed in’ in a bank that is resolved – the successful restructuring of an institution which ensures the continuity of its essential functions, preserves financial stability and restores the viability of all or part of that institution. Where the resolution is unsuccessful and the bank is wound down, then it is proposed that depositors would rank higher than other creditors.

    Gold in Euros, Year to Date – (Bloomberg)

    Nothing is guaranteed. Only on 4th April, Mario Draghi, President of the ECB, in an ECB press conference, when asked about the Cypriot bail-in as a template for future cases replied, “let me stress that Cyprus is not a template! I have not had chance to talk to the President of the Eurogroup, but I am absolutely sure that he has been misunderstood. After all, the bail-out of the Dutch bank SNS REAAL, which involved the bail-in of only shareholders and junior debtors to the tune of €4 billion, had been agreed only a few days earlier. And that is no template either.”

    Gold in U.S. Dollars, Year to Date – (Bloomberg)

    One thing appears to be guaranteed. Large savers appear to be deemed fair game when it comes to mitigating for the losses in the event of a bank failure(s.) This will prove to be decisive and while the European Commission meets to discuss and review the new banking legislation; Europeans with deposits of over €100,000 will consider their alternatives.
    GoldCore has long advocated that depositors hold a portion of their assets in precious metals. Our investment rationale for holding gold is as a portfolio diversifier, a hedge against inflation, a safe haven asset, and a hedge against currency risk. We can now add deposit confiscation to that list.

    Obamacare: Unaffordable for Many; Broken Promises Are Numerous

    A month ago Senator Max Baucus, a Democrat from Montana, projected that he envisioned the implementation of the President’s new health care program, aka Obamacare, as being “a train wreck.”
    Well, in reviewing a report released yesterday by the US House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce, we gain a greater appreciation for just how expensive this train wreck might be.
    I hope readers are not already feeling ill at ease this morning because after reading this report I can assure you that you will get sick. Let’s navigate and look more deeply at The Looming Premium Rate Shock: >>>>>>>
    Affordability. It was a central premise – and promise – of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) when the law was debated in Congress throughout 2009 and signed into law on March 23, 2010. In his remarks that day, President Barack Obama stated: “This legislation will also lower costs for families and businesses . . . .” Over three years later, the White House continues to state that the PPACA will lower costs.
    Then how do the wizards working at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue explain this.
    On March 14, 2013 the committee sent letters to 17 of the nation’s largest health insurance companies requesting analyses of the effect of PPACA’s (i.e. Obamacare) policies, mandates, taxes, and fees on premiums.
    The materials submitted by the health insurance companies show that the PPACA will increase premiums significantly for most Americans. One company stated: “…consumers in about 90% of all states would likely face significant premium increases.” Another insurer wrote that they “expect significant increases in premiums for a large percentage of our membership depending on their current health plan product and their specific circumstances.”
    How large might the increases be for those purchasing individual coverage?  (caution: get your barf bag ready!!)
    The total average change due to the PPACA for new business in the individual market will be a 96 percent increase in premiums. Existing customers can expect an average increase of 73 percent.
    Note that these are only the average expected changes because of the PPACA. As is shown above, new business in the individual market could see a premium increase of 413 percent when new requirements on age rating and required benefits are taken into account.
    In dollars, this is a large hit to every American’s pocketbook. The average yearly cost for a new customer in the individual market grows from $1,896 to $3,708 — a $1,812 cost increase.
    Another insurer provided materials showing that the average increase would be much higher for a young, healthy male. As the chart suggests, the PPACA could lead to a 180 percent premium increase.
    What about for small employers, those being companies with fewer than 50 employees?
     . . .  purchasers of small group plans can expect premium increases of up to 50 percent. The insurer that produced this chart estimated that a plurality, 35 percent of  the small group market, can expect premium increases over 30 percent. An additional percent of small group purchasers can expect increases ranging from 20 percent to 30 percent.
    And for large employers?
    Most of the insurers contacted by the committee had not conducted an analysis on the PPACA’s effects on the large group market. One insurer that did, however, estimated a premium increase for the large group market at 20 percent to 25 percent. Another insurer provided the following chart showing estimated premium increases in the large group market ranging from 15 percent to 20 percent.
    As if these increases were not enough to make you sick, the committee also informs us that new taxes and fees,
    . . . could increase premiums from 2.3 percent to 2.5 percent in 2014 in the individual, small, and large group markets. This tax could increase premiums an additional 3 percent to 4 percent in future years. Other insurers, by grouping the fees and taxes together, found premium increases ranging from 4 percent to 8 percent.
    What does the committee conclude?
    The internal documents provided by the insurance industry confirm many of the concerns voiced over PPACA: despite promises that the law will lower costs, the PPACA will in fact cause the premiums of many Americans to spike substantially.
    The broken promises are numerous, and the data reveals that many Americans, from recent college graduates to older adults, will not be able to afford the law’s higher costs.
    One of the nation’s leading insurance companies that insures millions of Americans predicts premiums will nearly double for individuals getting a new plan, those keeping their insurance will see an average increase of 73 percent, and some individuals could see increases of as much as 413 percent.
    These figures forecast looming financial hardships when the law takes effect on January 1, 2014.
    Why is it that our economy cannot seem to gain any momentum? A variety of reasons but the grinding of the brakes related to Obamacare should not be underestimated.
    Navigate accordingly.
    Larry Doyle