Saturday, May 18, 2013

Is Armenia preparing for war?

Source: Groong
Armenian Defence Minister Seyran Ohanyan has said that the armed forces have begun a large-scale upgrade of their hardware. He said that the military will receive new military hardware and types of weapons, and the existing hardware will be upgraded: “We are regularly making renewals in the army. Now we plan more-large scale efforts in this direction. These projects will also be conducted within the framework of establishing joint ventures with Russia and Poland.”
What does the armament of the Armenian military and upgrade of their military hardware signify? A member of the Milli Maclis security and defence committee, MP Zahid Oruc, told Ekspress that Ohanyan’s statement may be linked to the domestic situation of the Sargsyan regime.
The MP also believes that there are also messages addressed to Azerbaijan here: “First, we have to consider that Armenia is actually Russia’s military plant. Under the guise of some upgrades there are plans to move to the southern flank various industrial facilities and to begin their immediate production. In itself this is completely in favour of Armenia because many weapons bought some time ago are getting obsolete or are used in Karabakh where the cease-fire is breached daily. However, dependence on Russia persists too. In this situation, undoubtedly, Seyran Ohanyan’s remarks show more precisely that they see Russia as their main partner in upgrading weapons. A more precise way to put it would be to say that Russia provides all of the weapons for the Armenian servicemen.”
The MP said that currently Armenia tends to build defence fortifications and therefore it attempts to mainly procure tanks and other hardware: “Meanwhile, intelligence reports too often say that Armenians no longer work on weapons with long reach. [Azerbaijani Defence Minister] Safar Abiyev had said that today Azerbaijan is capable of hitting any place in Armenia. This means that Azerbaijan does not want to wage the war in small border areas.”
Oruc also provided an interesting piece of information. Russia refuses to disclose the specifications of some weapons that it sold to Azerbaijan, he said. “Russia has sold weapons to Azerbaijan as well. By keeping many of their specifications a military secret it is damaging us. I openly state that Russians are not reliable partners. They keep to themselves secret informational control in many different areas and do not provide it to Azerbaijan. I cannot say to what extent they share it with Armenians,” the MP said. According to him, Azerbaijan must step up adequate measures and regard Ohanyan’s statement is not only an element in the information war, but also as an indication that Armenia, in a certain sense, is going through a process of armament. “Certainly, I do not hold the view that there must be a continuous arms race in the region. This is a trap, an international trap, a game engineered by weapons manufacturers. They wish to make us fight like Iran and Iraq and spend our oil dollars on weapons. Arming Armenia to a degree is part of Russia’s project to sell bigger batches of weapons to Azerbaijan. I believe that steps must be taken in cold blood and with full consideration of the real military security situation.”

‘Central banks looking at Bitcoin as real threat to dominance’

Governments and banking officials are watching Bitcoin in fear of losing their leading position to the virtual currency and the infrastructure building around it, Arwa Mahdawi, consultant, journalist and Bitcoin employee, told RT.
US Immigration and Customs Enforcement confirmed that there was
an “ongoing investigation” that followed the blocking of the
account of Dwolla, a business that allows users to convert U.S
dollars into BitCoin and back again.
According to the Department of Homeland Security in the US, the
peer-to-peer currency violates new laws that require online
transfer systems to identify its users.
“The shutdown of Mt.Gox is a little bit worrying, it looks as
if the US government wants to put a stranglehold on the kind of
business that’s popping up around Bitcoin, but, crucially, it
doesn’t affect much the currency itself. It’s just the exchanges
around it and the US exchanges. And by the nature of it, Bitcoin
being an international currency, shutting down an exchange like Mt.
Gox, even if it affects the liquidity of Bitcoin, can’t kill

What’s more, the idea of rivalry between Bitcoin and regular
currency is a relatively new phenomenon, as Mahdawi indicated.
“Central banks around the world are looking at the
development of Bitcoin with a lot of fear, and not just central
banks, but the traditional banking as a whole. If you think about
it, Bitcoin has been around since 2008, it’s been around for ages.
The regulators didn’t pay any attention to it whatsoever, they
dismissed it as sort of monopoly money.”

According to Mahdawi, just in the past few months, Bitcoin has
really gained legitimacy, we saw the huge spike in terms of its
value, we’re seeing investors pour money into Bitcoin.

“A couple of weeks ago, Union Square Ventures, a very
credible investment group, spent $5 million investing in Coinbase,
which is sort of a PayPal for Bitcoin. A lot of infrastructures are
building around Bitcoin, and that’s why the [Federal Reserve] is
looking at it as a real threat to its dominance,” she

The virtual currency leads to people re-assessing the value and
the meaning of money, Mahdawi stressed.
“The interesting thing about Bitcoin is that it’s made
everybody start to talk about what money is, and why money has any
value. If you think about it, since 1971, when the US came off the
gold standard, the dollar hasn’t been linked to gold, it hasn’t
been linked to anything. You have a piece of paper which says ‘In
God we trust’ on it, but it isn’t the government we trust. That
piece of paper is absolutely meaningless. You’re putting your trust
into banks and central authorities. Bitcoin is a whole new idea of
money when the money is basically regulated by network and by

Mahdawi believes that with people losing trust in governments,
the idea of something like Bitcoin is really gaining in popularity,
and people are beginning to realize that dollars are no more real
as a currency than something like Bitcoin and they are starting to
re-assess what the future of money is.

“Bitcoin isn’t going to wipe the dollar off the face of the
Earth in the next few years, but I think we’re going to see the
emergence of the alternative currencies in a world where traders
buy through the internet, in a borderless world with the internet,
so the idea of sovereign currency is starting to make less and less
she said.
Mahdawi suggests that Bitcoin could represent a new path in the
history of currencies.
“We’ve been in the recession now for several year, the
eurozone crisis…People are starting to realize that the government
isn’t the best people to put their money to, the government isn’t
necessarily going to protect their money for them. So something
like Bitcoin represents a call for alternative, [an idea] that you
might be better off putting your money in technology rather than in
the government. We’re seeing lots of governments beginning to
scratch their heads and think about ways they could regulate
Bitcoin, think about what things like Bitcoin means to them. Last
October, the European Central Bank produced a paper on virtual
currencies, and that was the first time that a public institution
had produced any kind of meaningful document that looked at virtual

The journalist notes that if you look at the bibliography of
that document “you will find that the European Central Bank is
looking at Wikipedia articles, at Mashable articles trying to find
out what on Earth the virtual currency means for them.”

“This week, in the UK, a lot of government officials and
people involved in financial regulation got together to start
thinking about what Bitcoin means for them. All over the world, the
governments are starting to take note and kind of wonder what the
future of money means, and how that’s going to affect their
Mahdawi added.

This article originally appeared on : RT

Public Banking Conference: June 2-4, 2013 – Trillions in taxpayer surpluses

Public Banking Institute is having our 2013 conference in San Rafael (Northern California) on June 2, 3, 4 to publicly present solutions in banking and money worth tens of trillions of dollars to Americans.
You literally have nothing more valuable to attend to (registration info here, including for only Sunday evening; Monday evening is free).
Among public banking’s available benefits:
Trillions in taxpayer surpluses are returned: California’s Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) shows ~$100 billion in surplus taxpayer accounts that dwarf the $16 billion budget deficit. California also has ~$500 billion in claimed “investments” for pension costs. But the state received only $1 billion net from $500 billion “invested” (one-fifth of one percent) while Wall Street investors received over $2 billion in fees. The entire state has ~14,000 different government entities with CAFR taxpayer surplus totals conservatively data-sampled at the game-changing sum of $8 trillion ($650,000 surplus assets per California household).
The idea of a state budget deficit in light of this sum is tragic-comic!
Importantly and related to CAFR trillions hidden in plain sight, remember that McKinsey’s former Chief Economist James Henry documents from similar public documents that $21 to $32 trillion are held in off-shore tax havens. These assets were transferred there by the same “masters” who tell the 99% that there somehow is no money to fund infrastructure: we must accept overcrowded schools, crumbling roads, and watch vulnerable human beings suffer and die from poverty.
Of course, when we have useful work to be done, available resources and labor, and are told by the same “masters” that what is missing to connect them is green paper, this becomes a helpful public lesson in critical thinking and civic competence. Please remember also that because infrastructure investment returns more economic output than the cost of investment, the results are full employment, the best infrastructure we can imagine, and falling prices.
So, while it would be helpful to reclaim these trillions, we don’t need them when we create public money and credit at our command. We would only need to reclaim them from those who acquired these trillions through criminal fraud. And I recommend Truth & Reconciliation for those criminals among our 1%.
In context of the above bullet points:
  • Florida economist and Governor candidate Farid Khavari documents that 2% mortgages, 6% credit cards, and 3-4% commercial and vehicle loans would replace all state taxes. A floating interest rate could also cover state budget deficits.
  • Monetary reform creates debt-free money to directly pay for public goods and services. Because infrastructure returns more economic benefits than costs, we have astounding triple benefits: government could become employer of last resort for infrastructure investment (creating full employment), falling prices because economic output increases more than infrastructure investment cost, and the best infrastructure we can imagine. Creating debt-free money is certainly another tool to end state budget deficits (documentation here, here, here).
  • Being on a roll for Truth also frees other money: unlawful US wars can end, poverty can end that also increases productivity, and trillions of more dollars returned in the broader economy from other areas of parasitic oligarchic behaviors “covered” from public understanding by corporate media.
Each of the bullet-point topics will have its own article to explain in detail within the context of public banking, along with an open letter to economics teachers/professors, and a final call to the public for their action. Those links will be added at my hub articles at Washington’s Blog and as I complete them.

84 Percent of NYC Fast Food Workers Report Wage Theft in a New Survey

New York City fast food workers rally at a one-day strike on April 4, 2013. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
An update, with comment from the New York Attorney General’s office, appears below.
At an 11 am press conference outside a Brooklyn KFC restaurant, fast food workers and activists will release a new report alleging rampant wage theft in their industry, one of the fastest-growing in the United States. The report includes results from an Anzalone Liszt Grove research survey of 500 of the city’s fast food workers, in which 84 percent reported that their employer had committed some form of wage theft over the previous year.
Today’s press conference follows strikes by fast food workers in five major cities within six weeks, all demanding raises to $15 an hour and the chance to form unions without intimidation. The report, “New York’s Hidden Crime Wave: Wage Theft and NYC’s Fast Food Workers,” is being published by Fast Food Forward, the campaign behind the strikes in New York. It lands on the same day as a New York Times article reporting that New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman “is investigating whether the owners of several fast-food restaurants and a fast-food parent corporation have cheated their workers out of wages, according to a person familiar with the cases.”
Reached by e-mail, a spokesperson for the National Restaurant Association told The Nation, “We fully support compliance with all state and federal wage and employment laws.” The attorney general’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
“Wage theft” is a term popularized by activists and advocates over the past decade to describe a wide range of ways in which companies fail to pay employees the wages they’re legally owed. The Fast Food Forward report identifies several types of violations as prevalent in the city’s fast food industry: employees working, without pay, before or after their shift; employees working overtime without being paid time-and-a-half; employees working during their breaks or not receiving breaks; and delivery employees not being reimbursed for expenses like gasoline or safety equipment.
The report quotes McDonald’s worker Elizabeth Rene, who says she loses up to $75 a month because she isn’t paid for the time she spends counting the register before and after her shift: “I feel cheated and used and like I’m not appreciated for my hard work.”A 2008 study by the National Employment Law Project estimated that the average low-wage worker loses 15 percent of his or her annual income to wage theft.
Asked about wage theft allegations, a Domino’s spokesperson told The New York Times’s Julie Turkewitz, “If anybody is paying below minimum wage or using the tipped wage credit, that would probably be independent franchisees in our system. And I can’t really speak to that.” The authors of today’s report reject such arguments. “Because the corporations design, maintain, monitor and profit from the fast food delivery system,” they write, “they should be the focus of regulatory and political action to eradicate wage theft up and down the fast food chain.”
As I’ve reported, recent years have seen a rise in labor activism around wage theft, often backed by unions or “alt-labor” groups organizing non-union workers in the workplace and in local politics. In 2010, New York passed a statewide anti–wage theft law that the Progressive States Network described as the strongest in the country. In January, the Chicago City Council unanimously passed an ordinance that threatens offending companies with the loss of their business licenses. In other cases, forcing unwanted legal, political or media scrutiny on alleged wage theft by a company has proven a potent weapon in labor groups’ “comprehensive campaigns” to force concessions from management. The release of today’s report could represent an additional front in campaigns by Fast Food Forward, and parallel groups elsewhere, to transform jobs that are increasingly representative of work in the modern United States.
Update (12:15 pm Thursday): The New York Attorney General’s office has confirmed to The Nation that it issued subpoenas to a fast food parent corporation, and is investigating several New York State franchisees (the AG’s office declined to name the corporation). Schneiderman’s office is exploring potential legal violations including sub-minimum wage pay, unpaid work, false payroll records, overtime without time-and-a-half pay, work expenses that weren’t fully reimbursed and paychecks that bounced.
In an e-mailed statement, Schneiderman spokesperson Damien LaVera called the Fast Food Forward report’s findings “deeply troubling,” and said they “shed light on potentially broad labor violations by the fast food industry.” “We take the allegations seriously,” said LaVera, “which is why our office is investigating fast food franchisees. New Yorkers expect companies doing business in our state to follow laws set up to protect working families.” LaVera urged workers who have experienced wage theft by fast food companies to contact the attorney general’s office.
Across the country, domestic workers are left unprotected from labor law. Read what you can do to help.

BREAKING: U.S. to reach debt limit Saturday!!! Lew asks Congress for debt increase, says it’s ‘not open to debate’

The U.S. will reach its debt limit on Saturday, Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew told congressional leaders in a letter on Friday, but said the U.S. is taking extraordinary measures to keep paying bills. Lew said those measures, including previously announced suspension of sales of state and local Treasury securities, won’t be exhausted until “after Labor Day.”
Lew asks Congress for debt increase, says it’s ‘not open to debate’
Treasury Secretary Jack Lew on Friday urged congressional leaders to raise the debt limit and insisted that the White House is not going to negotiate over the increase because lawmakers have “no choice.”
“We will not negotiate over the debt limit,” Lew wrote. “The creditworthiness of the United States is non-negotiable. The question of whether the country must pay obligations it has already incurred is not open to debate.”
Lew said that while President Obama is willing to discuss plans to reduce the nation’s deficit with Congress, those talks must be kept separate from any effort to raise the nation’s debt cap.

We Have Blown The Largest Bubble In The History Of Mankind

Mac Slavo
May 17th, 2013

Were you to look at official government statistics that calculate our rate of price inflation for food, energy, clothing, and other consumer goods, you’d think that prices were as stable today as they were under the gold standard.
According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the CPI (Consumer Price Index) inflation rate remains well below the Federal Reserve’s 2.5% threshold. Insofar as the government is concerned America’s core inflation rate is just 1.7%, a testament to the economic prowess of our central bank and Chairman Ben Bernanke.
And because there is no significant price rise being realized in consumer goods based on the government’s calculations, the millions of Americans dependent on disbursements like social security, disability assistance and nutritional food support will see no adjustments to their monthly stipend. And why would they? Prices aren’t rising!
Or are they?
According to Peter Schiff, who is well known for his dire economic warnings leading up to the crash of 2008, the government is involved in a wide array of manipulations and fuzzy-math in an effort to convince us that the price increases we’ve seen in stores, restaurants and gas stations over the last decade are merely a figment of our imagination.
“What we get from the government when it comes to inflation is not information, it’s propaganda. “
Citing anecdotal evidence because of a complete lack of transparency from the Fed, BLS and government as a whole, Schiff points to the “Big Mac Index,” which has tracked the price of a McDonald’s Big Mac at restaurant chains across the world for decades.
Because McDonald’s caters to tens of millions of customers yearly and offers food at a fairly low cost compared to others in the food service industry, it is a fairly insightful gauge of consumer activity.
According to the Big Mac Index, and contrary to the government’s claims of stable prices, since 2003 when the Federal Reserve really began cranking hundreds of billions of dollars into an already troubled financial system, the price of inflation is more than double what is being claimed.
The Big Mac has gone up by over 6% per year, yet the government claims CPI is only 2.5% per year. So something’s wrong. Either something’s changed at McDonald’s, or something has changed in the way we report inflation. And I trust a hamburger more than I trust the U.S. government.
That price [of the hamburger] went up in line with the CPI for sixteen years, and then in 2002 they started to diverge.
What’s the explanation?
Look at the chart below, and you’ll see that the divergence started taking place when the Federal Reserve started expanding our monetary base after the 2002 crash (with the largest spikes occurring after the 2008 crisis) and when the U.S. government turned to tripling our national debt.


Switzerland’s cherished banking secrecy is under threat. In the ongoing battle against tax evasion, EU finance ministers have agreed to put pressure on the non-member nation to share its banking data with the Union. Investor Jim Rogers told RT that instead of trying to crack tax havens, EU leaders should address the real problems – like their own unchecked spending habits.

Jim Rogers Discusses At What Price You Should Start Buying Gold

Jim Rogers Discusses At What Price You Should Start Buying Gold

Global Slump, Continued Stagnation of US Economy. Sharp Increase in Jobless Benefit Claims

A string of negative economic figures released this week point to continuing stagnation in the US in the midst of a worsening slump internationally. The US Labor Department reported Thursday that new claims for unemployment benefits jumped by the highest amount in six months. The same day, the retail giant Walmart said its sales tumbled unexpectedly in the first quarter of the year.
Signs of growing economic and social distress in the US coincide with an accelerating downturn in Europe and slowing growth in China. On Wednesday, the European Union’s statistics agency said that the economy of the euro area contracted for the sixth consecutive quarter, after having posted record unemployment rates earlier in the month.
The number of people in the US who filed new claims for unemployment benefits grew by 32,000, hitting 360,000 in the week ending May 11—significantly higher than economists had predicted.
US industrial production fell last month, registering its sharpest decline in eight months, according to figures released Wednesday by the Federal Reserve. American factories, mines and utilities reduced their output by 0.5 percent in April, compared to a predicted drop of 0.2 percent.
On Thursday, the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia said its economic index for the Mid-Atlantic region fell dramatically in May, to minus 5.2 from plus 1.3 in April, indicating an economic contraction.
Walmart announced that sales at its US stores fell by 1.4 percent in the first quarter, and visits to its stores fell by 1.8 percent. The drop in sales by the retailer, which sells primarily to working class people, reflects the impact of falling wages and continuing mass unemployment.
The negative figures prompted commentators to predict a slowdown in US growth in the second quarter of the year comparable to the last three months of 2012, when the economy slowed to a crawl. “Second-quarter growth is going to be slower than the first quarter,” Julia Coronado, an economist for BNP Paribas, told Bloomberg News.
The US economy added 138,000 jobs in March and 165,000 in April, barely enough to keep up with population growth.
The negative figures for the United States came the same week that Eurostat, the European Union’s statistics service, reported the euro area economy contracted by 0.2 percent in the first quarter, worse than the 0.1 percent contraction economists had expected. This made the current contraction the longest since the euro was introduced in 1999, longer even than the contraction in 2008-2009.
Earlier this month, Eurostat said that unemployment in the euro zone hit another record in March, climbing for the 23rd consecutive month. The official unemployment rate in the euro area hit 12.1 percent, up 1.1 percentage points from a year earlier.
Last week, Greece’s statistics service said the country’s youth unemployment rate reached a staggering 64.2 percent, up from 54.1 percent in March 2012.
Led by the Federal Reserve, central banks throughout the world have sought to stave off the effects of the global slump through massive infusions of cash into the world financial system. This has served to inflate stock values and corporate profits even as the ruling class intensified its assault on jobs, wages and social services, driving the world economy deeper into slump.
There are indications, however, that the effectiveness of these vast and unprecedented money-printing operations in staving off deflation is reaching its limit. The Labor Department said Thursday that consumer prices in the United States fell by 0.4 percent in May, the sharpest fall since late 2008. This marked the second consecutive month of falling prices, after a 0.2 percent decline in April.
Over the past twelve months, prices have grown by only 1.1 percent, about half the target rate set by the Federal Reserve. “Further falls in US core inflation in the coming months may make some Fed officials concerned about very low inflation, or even deflation,” Paul Dales, an economist with Capital Economics, told Reuters.
Nearly five years after the financial crash of September 2008, there is no recovery in sight. Depression-like conditions in the real economy combined with an unsustainable stock market bubble demonstrate that the crisis is not a temporary downturn that will pass and give way to pre-crisis conditions. Rather, it is a breakdown of the world capitalist system, with no prospect within the framework of that system of relief for the broad masses of working people.
No government anywhere in the world, whether of the official “left” or right, has any policies to offer to address mass unemployment, falling living standards and growing poverty. On the contrary, they all pursue the bankers’ agenda of deeper and more brutal cuts.
Following this week’s report that France had officially fallen into recession for the first time since 2008, the country’s Socialist Party president, François Hollande, reaffirmed his commitment to austerity policies, saying, “We have engaged in reforms [to address] competitiveness and we will continue.”
In the United States, the Defense Department announced Wednesday that it would begin unpaid furloughs for hundreds of thousands of its civilian employees as part of the imposition of $85 billion in “sequester” budget cuts this fiscal year. And the Obama administration is preparing a sweeping attack on Social Security and Medicare, proposing to cut a combined total of more than $500 billion from the two programs over ten years and implement structural changes that will slash benefits for millions of retirees.
In Detroit, once the symbol of the industrial might of American capitalism, the governor of Michigan has imposed a bankers’ dictatorship in the form of an emergency manager, who this week announced a plan to slash city workers’ wages and pensions, sell off assets such as the water and sewerage department, and shut down services to whole sections of the city.
The worsening economic crisis and the predatory response of the ruling class will give rise to vast social struggles. Already the impact of the crisis and the transparent role of governments as agents of the financial elite are producing far-reaching changes in mass consciousness.
Millions all over the world are losing confidence in the capitalist system and coming to the conclusion that radical change is needed. But for the emerging struggles to succeed, they must be guided by a conscious understanding of the nature of the system and the need for an independent and revolutionary struggle by the working class for power. Society must be reorganized on a socialist basis to satisfy social needs, not private profit. The critical issue is the building of a revolutionary leadership in the working class.

More Americans Committing Suicide than During the Great Depression

Higher Numbers of Americans Take Their Lives than During the Depths of the Great Depression

Suicide rates are tied to the economy.
The Boston Globe reported in 2011:
A new report issued today by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds that the overall suicide rate rises and falls with the state of the economy — dating all the way back to the Great Depression.
The report, published in the American Journal of Public Health, found that suicide rates increased in times of economic crisis: the Great Depression (1929-1933), the end of the New Deal (1937-1938), the Oil Crisis (1973-1975), and the Double-Dip Recession (1980-1982). Those rates tended to fall during strong economic times — with fast growth and low unemployment — like right after World War II and during the 1990s.
During the depths of the Great Depression, suicide rates in America significantly increased. As the Globe notes:
The largest increase in the US suicide rate occurred during the Great Depression surging from 18 in 100,000 up to 22 in 100,000
We’ve previously pointed out that suicide rates have skyrocketed recently:
The number of deaths by suicide has also surpassed car crashes, and many connect the increase in suicides to the downturn in the economy. Around 35,000 Americans kill themselves each year (and more American soldiers die by suicide than combat; the number of veterans committing suicide is astronomical and under-reported). So you’re 2,059 times more likely to kill yourself than die at the hand of a terrorist.
NBC News reported in March:
Suicide rates are up alarmingly among middle-aged Americans, according to the latest federal government statistics.
They show a 28 percent rise in suicide rates for people aged 35 to 64 between 1999 and 2010.
RT reports:
In a letter to The Lancet medical journal, scientists from Britain, Hong Kong and United States said an analysis of data from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicated that while suicide rates increased slowly between 1999 and 2007, the rate of increase more than quadrupled from 2008 to 2010, Reuters reported.
Earlier this month, NY Daily News wrote:
The Great Recession may have been at the root of a great depression that caused suicides to soar among middle-aged Americans, a government report speculates.
The annual suicide rate for adults ages 35 to 64 spiked in the past decade, according to a study from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
And a shaky economy that nose-dived into the worst financial crisis since the Depression may be the biggest reason why.
The CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report said the annual suicide rate jumped 28.4% from 1999-2010.
It was the biggest increase of any age group, said the CDC, citing “the recent economic downturn” as one of the “possible contributing factors” for the increase.
“Historically, suicide rates tend to correlate with business cycles, with higher rates observed during times of economic hardship,” the report said.
David Stuckler (a senior research leader in sociology at Oxford), and Sanjay Basu (an assistant professor of medicine and an epidemiologist in the Prevention Research Center at Stanford), write in the New York Times:
The correlation between unemployment and suicide has been observed since the 19th century.
(And see these articles by the Wall Street Journal and the Los Angeles Times.   This is obviously true world-wide.  For example, last year the New York Times reported:
The economic downturn that has shaken Europe for the last three years has also swept away the foundations of once-sturdy lives, leading to an alarming spike in suicide rates. Especially in the most fragile nations like Greece, Ireland and Italy, small-business owners and entrepreneurs are increasingly taking their own lives in a phenomenon some European newspapers have started calling “suicide by economic crisis.”
In Greece, the suicide rate among men increased more than 24 percent from 2007 to 2009, government statistics show. In Ireland during the same period, suicides among men rose more than 16 percent. In Italy, suicides motivated by economic difficulties have increased 52 percent, to 187 in 2010 — the most recent year for which statistics were available — from 123 in 2005.)
Indeed, more Americans are killing themselves today than during the Great Depression. Specifically, there were were 123 million Americans in 1930.  The maximum suicide rate during the depths of the Great Depression was 22 out of 100,000  Americans.  That means that up to  27,060 Americans killed themselves each year.
In contrast, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control reports that 38,364 Americans committed suicide in 2010. In other words, 2010 suicides were approximately 142% of suicides during the depths of the Great Depression. (The suicide rate is lower today than during the Great Depression, but – given that there are more Americans – there are more suicides each year.)
The head of my local county’s mental health services confirmed to me today that there are now more suicides now than during the Great Depression.

The Root Causes: Unemployment and Foreclosure

Why do more people kill themselves during severe downturns?  It’s not just a downturn in the business cycle in some general sense.  It’s more specific than that.
Unemployment and foreclosure are the largest triggers in increased suicide risk.
David Stuckler and Sanjay Basu write:
People looking for work are about twice as likely to end their lives as those who have jobs.
Unemployment is a leading cause of depression, anxiety, alcoholism and suicidal thinking.
ABC News points out:
“Joblessness is a risk factor for suicide,” said Nadine Kaslow, professor of psychology in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Emory University in Atlanta. “The stress is just overwhelming. … People are freaked out.”
Bloomberg reports:
“The suicide rate started accelerating in 2008, 2009 and 2010 — someone might still be working, but their house is underwater, or they’re working but they’re working part-time,” Eric Caine, the director of the CDC’s Injury Control Research Center for Suicide Prevention, said by telephone. “These things ripple into families. There’s an economic stress.”
NY Daily News writes:
“Most people who commit suicide tend to suffer from major depression, and this vulnerability tends to be brought forth by very stressful situations like losing one’s home or job,” [Dr. Dan Iosifescu, director of mood and anxiety disorders program at Mount Sinai Hospita] said.
NBC News reports:
The American Association for Suicidology says economic recessions don’t normally affect suicide rates.
“Although US suicide rates did increase slightly during the years of the Great Depression, reaching a peak rate of 17.4/100,000 in 1933, subsequent US recessions have not been found to lead to increased national rates of suicide in the period of or immediately following each recession,” the group says.
The latest numbers suggest suicide rates for middle-aged Americans now surpass the peak during the Depression. And there’s another possible explanation.
“There is a clear and direct relationship between rates of unemployment and suicide,” the suicidology group says in its statement.
“The peak rate of suicide in 1933 occurred one year after the total US unemployment rate reached 25 percent of the labor force. Similar findings have been documented internationally. At the individual level, unemployed individuals have between two and four times the suicide rate of those employed.”
The group also raises concern about the home foreclosure rate.
Indeed, it is likely that more people have lost their jobs during this “Great Recession” than during the Great Depression … especially when you look at the masses of people who have given up altogether and dropped out of the work force.
And it is possible that more people have lost their homes through foreclosure than during the Great Depression as well.
No wonder there are so many suicides …
Postscript:  If you suffer from depression, this may help.
This article originally appeared on : Global Research


Zero Hedge -by Matthias Chang Esq,
As alert Zero Hedge readers are aware, this week the EURO Politburo is busy debating the dodgy subject of deposit “bail-ins.”
The following article very succinctly explains this odious mode of fractal fractional reserve end-game chicanery.  
The author encourages all of you to share it with others.
I challenge anyone to prove me wrong that confiscation of bank deposits is legalized daylight robbery
Bank depositors in the UK and USA may think that their bank deposits would not be confiscated as they are insured and no government would dare embark on such a drastic action to bail out insolvent banks.
Before I explain why confiscation of bank deposits in the UK and US is a certainty and absolutely legal, I need all readers of this article to do the following:
Ask your local police, sheriffs, lawyers, judges the following questions:
1) If I place my money with a lawyer as a stake-holder and he uses the money without my consent, has the lawyer committed a crime?
2) If I store a bushel of wheat or cotton in a warehouse and the owner of the warehouse sold my wheat/cotton without my consent or authority, has the warehouse owner committed a crime?
3) If I place monies with my broker (stock or commodity) and the broker uses my monies for other purposes and or contrary to my instructions, has the broker committed a crime?
I am confident that the answer to the above questions is a Yes!
However, for the purposes of this article, I would like to first highlight the situation of the deposit / storage of wheat with a warehouse owner in relation to the deposit of money / storage with a banker.
First, you will notice that all wheat is the same i.e. the wheat in one bushel is no different from the wheat in another bushel. Likewise with cotton, it is indistinguishable. The deposit of a bushel of wheat with the warehouse owner in law constitutes a bailment. Ownership of the bushel of wheat remains with you and there is no transfer of ownership at all to the warehouse owner.
And as stated above, if the owner sells the bushel of wheat without your consent or authority, he has committed a crime as well as having committed a civil wrong (a tort) of conversion – converting your property to his own use and he can be sued.
Let me use another analogy. If a cashier in a supermarket removes $100 from the till on Friday to have a frolic on Saturday, he has committed theft, even though he may replace the $100 on Monday without the knowledge of the owner / manager of the supermarket. The $100 the cashier stole on Friday is also indistinguishable from the $100 he put back in the till on Monday. In both situations – the wheat in the warehouse and the $100 dollar bill in the till, which have been unlawfully misappropriated would constitute a crime.
Keep this principle and issue at the back of your mind.
Now we shall proceed with the money that you have deposited with your banker.
I am sure that most of you have little or no knowledge about banking, specifically fractional reserve banking.
Since you were a little kid, your parents have encouraged you to save some money to instil in you the good habit of money management.
And when you grew up and got married, you in turn instilled the same discipline in your children. Your faith in the integrity of the bank is almost absolute. Your money in the bank would earn an interest income.
And when you want your money back, all you needed to do is to withdraw the money together with the accumulated interest. Never for a moment did you think that you had transferred ownership of your money to the bank. Your belief was grounded in like manner as the owner of the bushel of wheat stored in the warehouse.
However, this belief is and has always been a lie. You were led to believe this lie because of savvy advertisements by the banks and government assurances that your money is safe and is protected by deposit insurance.
But, the insurance does not cover all the monies that you have deposited in the bank, but to a limited amount e.g. $250,000 in the US by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), Germany €100,000, UK £85,000 etc.
But, unlike the owner of the bushel of wheat who has deposited the wheat with the warehouse owner, your ownership of the monies that you have deposited with the bank is transferred to the bank and all you have is the right to demand its repayment. And, if the bank fails to repay your monies (e.g. $100), your only remedy is to sue the bank and if the bank is insolvent you get nothing.
You may recover some of your money if your deposit is covered by an insurance scheme as referred to earlier but in a fixed amount. But, there is a catch here. Most insurance schemes whether backed by the government or not do not have sufficient monies to cover all the deposits in the banking system.
So, in the worst case scenario – a systemic collapse, there is no way for you to get your money back.
In fact, and as illustrated in the Cyprus banking fiasco, the authorities went to the extent of confiscating your deposits to pay the banks’ creditors. When that happened, ordinary citizens and financial analysts cried out that such confiscation was daylight robbery. But, is it?
Surprise, surprise!
It will come as a shock to all of you to know that such daylight robbery is perfectly legal and this has been so for hundreds of years.
Let me explain.
The reason is that unlike the owner of the bushel of wheat whose ownership of the wheat WAS NEVER TRANSFERRED to the warehouse owner when the same was deposited, the moment you deposited your money with the bank, the ownership is transferred to the bank.
Your status is that of A CREDITOR TO THE BANK and the BANK IS IN LAW A DEBTOR to you. You are deemed to have “lent” your money to the bank for the bank to apply to its banking business (even to gamble in the biggest casino in the world – the global derivatives casino).
You have become a creditor, AN UNSECURED CREDITOR. Therefore, by law, in the insolvency of a bank, you as an unsecured creditor stand last in the queue of creditors to be paid out of any funds and or assets which the bank has to pay its creditors. The secured creditors are always first in line to be paid. It is only after secured creditors have been paid and there are still some funds left (usually, not much, more often zilch!) that unsecured creditors are paid and the sums pro-rated among all the unsecured creditors.
This is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
The law has been in existence for hundreds of years and was established in England by the House of Lords in the case Foley v Hill in 1848.
When a customer deposits money with his banker, the relationship that arises is one of creditor and debtor, with the banker liable to repay the money deposited when demanded by the customer. Once money has been paid to the banker, it belongs to the banker and he is free to use the money for his own purpose.
I will now quote the relevant portion of the judgment of #3b4d81;”>the House of Lords handed down by Lord Cottenham, the Lord Chancellor. He stated thus:
Money when paid into a bank, ceases altogether to be the money of the principal… it is then the money of the banker, who is bound to return an equivalent by paying a similar sum to that deposited with him when he is asked for it.
The money paid into the banker’s, is money known by the principal to be placed there for the purpose of being under the control of the banker; it is then the banker’s money; he is known to deal with it as his own; he makes what profit of it he can, which profit he retains himself,…
The money placed in the custody of the banker is, to all intent and purposes, the money of the banker, to do with it as he pleases; he is guilty of no breach of trust in employing it; he is not answerable TO THE PRINCIPAL IF HE PUTS IT INTO JEOPARDY, IF HE ENGAGES IN A HAZARDOUS SPECULATION; he is not bound to keep it or deal with it as the property of the principal, but he is of course answerable for the amount, because he has contracted, having received that money, to repay to the principal, when demanded, a sum equivalent to that paid into his hands.” (quoted in UK Law Essays,  #3b4d81;”>Relationship Between A Banker And Customer,That Of A Creditor/Debtor, emphasis added,)
Holding that the relationship between a banker and his customer was one of debtor and creditor and not one of trusteeship, #3b4d81;”>Lord Brougham said:
“This trade of a banker is to receive money, and use it as if it were his own, he becoming debtor to the person who has lent or deposited with him the money to use as his own, and for which money he is accountable as a debtor. I cannot at all confound the situation of a banker with that of a trustee, and conclude that the banker is a debtor with a fiduciary character.”
In plain simple English – bankers cannot be prosecuted for breach of trust, because it owes no fiduciary duty to the depositor / customer, as he is deemed to be using his own money to speculate etc. There is absolutely no criminal liability.
The trillion dollar question is, Why has no one in the Justice Department or other government agencies mentioned this legal principle?
The reason why no one dare speak this legal truth is because there would be a run on the banks when all the Joe Six-Packs wise up to the fact that their deposits with the bankers CONSTITUTE IN LAW A LOAN TO THE BANK and the bank can do whatever it likes even to indulge in hazardous speculation such as gambling in the global derivative casino.
The Joe Six-Packs always consider the bank the creditor even when he deposits money in the bank. No depositor ever considers himself as the creditor!
Yes, Eric Holder, the US Attorney-General is right when he said that bankers cannot be prosecuted for the losses suffered by the bank. This is because a banker cannot be prosecuted for losing his “own money” as stated by the House of Lords. This is because when money is deposited with the bank, that money belongs to the banker.
The reason that if a banker is prosecuted it would collapse the entire banking system is a big lie.
The US Attorney-General could not and would not state the legal principle because it would cause a run on the banks when people discover that their monies are not safe with bankers as they can in law use the monies deposited as their own even to speculate.
What is worrisome is that your right to be repaid arises only when you demand payment.
Obviously, when you demand payment, the bank must pay you. But, if you demand payment after the bank has collapsed and is insolvent, it is too late. Your entitlement to be repaid is that of a lonely unsecured creditor and only if there are funds left after liquidation to be paid out to all the unsecured creditors and the remaining funds to be pro-rated. You would be lucky to get ten cents on the dollar.
So, when the Bank of England, the FED and the BIS issued the guidelines which became the template for the Cyprus “bail-in” (which was endorsed by the G-20 Cannes Summit in 2011), it was merely a circuitous way of stating the legal position without arousing the wrath of the people, as they well knew that if the truth was out, there would be a revolution and blood on the streets. It is therefore not surprising that the global central bankers came out with this nonsensical advisory:
“The objective of an effective resolution regime is to make feasible the resolution of financial institutions without severe systemic disruption and without exposing taxpayers to losses, while protecting vital economic functions through mechanisms which make it possible for shareholders and unsecured and uninsured creditors to absorb losses in a manner that respects the hierarchy of claims in liquidation.”(quoted in #3b4d81;”> #3b4d81;”>FSB Consultative Document: Effective Resolution of Systemically …)
This is the kind of complex technical jargon used by bankers to confuse the people, especially depositors and to cover up what I have stated in plain and simple English in the foregoing paragraphs.
The key words of the BIS guideline are:
“without severe systemic disruptions” (i.e. bank runs),
“while protecting vital economic functions” (i.e. protecting vested interests – bankers),
“unsecured creditors” (i.e. your monies, you are the dummy),
“respects the hierarchy of claims in liquidation” (i.e. you are last in the queue to be paid, after all secured creditors have been paid).
This means all depositors are losers!
Please read this article carefully and spread it far and wide.
You will be doing a favour to all your fellow country men and women and more importantly, your family and relatives.

Hollywood Suffering? Why Are Their Execs Making More Than Pretty Much Everyone Else?

from the cost-cutting dept

We keep hearing the MPAA and others talk about how much Hollywood is suffering from piracy and how they can't fund new movies and how they're having to lay people off. And then there's this, suggesting something else may be going on:
Consider: the top 20 companies in the United States ranked by market capitalization include no media companies. But according to figures assembled for The New York Times by Equilar, which compiles data on executive compensation, media companies employ seven of the top 20 highest paid chief executives.

The names are familiar and the numbers are large: Leslie Moonves of CBS ($60,253,647), David M. Zaslav of Discovery Communications ($49,932,867), Robert A. Iger of Walt Disney ($37,103,208), Philippe P. Dauman of Viacom ($33,396,104), Jeffrey L. Bewkes of Time Warner ($25,670,263), Brian L. Roberts of Comcast ($25,087,379), and Rupert Murdoch of News Corporation ($22,418,292).
Basically, the study showed that media companies might not be as big as companies in other industries, but they pay their execs way more. Basically, the top execs in the media business make much more than comparable execs in other industries, even if the companies those execs work for are doing much better:
The data indicates that average pay of the 10 highest paid chief executives for media companies was about $30 million, more than the captains of technology or finance and other industries, who average $6 million to $14 million less.
A few years ago, a friend who worked in the movie industry told me that the industry changed completely when the top executives started thinking that they were the stars. Suddenly, the focus shifted from making good entertainment to making sure they were the highest paid people around, and making sure that everyone knew it. I thought it was just a random comment at the time, but the data suggests that there's at least something to the idea that media execs have way outsized salaries.

Either way, though, it does seem somewhat ridiculous to see any of the folks on the list above complaining that their business is in trouble when they're pulling down salaries like that.

Taxation is theft -- so why do Americans put up with it?

  • IRS Tax Audits.jpg
    (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)
With a tax code that exceeds 72,000 pages in length and consumes more than six billion person hours per year to determine taxpayers’ taxable income, with an IRS that has become a feared law unto itself, and with a government that continues to extract more wealth from every taxpaying American every year, is it any wonder that April 15th is a day of dread in America?
Social Security taxes and income taxes have dogged us all since their institution during the last century, and few politicians have been willing to address these ploys for what they are: theft.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry caused a firestorm among big-government types during the Republican presidential primaries last year when he called Social Security a Ponzi scheme. He was right. It’s been a scam from its inception, and it’s still a scam today.
The Constitution doesn’t permit the feds to steal your money. But steal, the feds do.
When Social Security was established in 1935, it was intended to provide minimal financial assistance to those too old to work. It was also intended to cause voters to become dependent on Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Democrats. FDR copied the idea from a system established in Italy by Mussolini. The plan was to have certain workers and their employers make small contributions to a fund that would be held in trust for the workers by the government. At the time, the average life expectancy of Americans was 61 years of age, but Social Security didn’t kick in until age 65. Thus, the system was geared to take money from the average American worker that he would never see returned.
Over time, life expectancy grew and surpassed 65, the so-called "trust fund" was raided and spent, and the system was paying out more money than it was taking in -- just like a Ponzi scheme. FDR called Social Security an insurance policy. In reality, it has become forced savings. However, the custodian of the funds -- Congress -- has stolen the savings and spent it. And the value of the savings has been diminished by inflation.
Today, the best one can hope to receive from Social Security is dollars with the buying power of 75 cents for every dollar contributed. That makes Social Security worse than a Ponzi scheme.You can get out of a Ponzi investment. You can’t get out of Social Security. Who would stay with a bank that returned only 75 percent of one’s savings?
The Constitution doesn’t permit the feds to steal your money. But steal, the feds do.
At one of last year’s Republican presidential debates, a young man asked the moderator to pose the following question to the candidates: “If I earn a dollar, how much of it am I entitled to keep?” The question was passed to one of the candidates, who punted, and then the moderator changed the topic. Only Congressman Ron Paul gave a serious post-debate answer to the young man’s question: "All of it.”
Every official foundational government document -- from the Declaration of Independence to the U.S. Constitution to the oaths that everyone who works for the government takes -- indicates that the government exists to work for us. The Declaration even proclaims that the government receives all of its powers from the consent of the governed. If you believe all this, as I do, then just as we don’t have the power to take our neighbor’s property and distribute it against his will, we lack the ability to give that power to the government. Stated differently, just as you lack the moral and legal ability to take my property, you cannot authorize the government to do so.
Here’s an example you’ve heard before. You’re sitting at home at night, and there’s a knock at the door. You open the door, and a guy with a gun pointed at you says: “Give me your money. I want to give it away to the less fortunate.” You think he’s dangerous and crazy, so you call the police. Then you find out he is the police, there to collect your taxes.
The framers of the Constitution understood this. For 150 years, the federal government was run by user fees and sales of government land and assessments to the states for services rendered. It rejected the Hamiltonian view that the feds could take whatever they wanted, and it followed the Jeffersonian first principle that the only moral commercial exchanges are those that are fully voluntary.
This worked well until the progressives took over the government in the first decade of the 20th century. They persuaded enough Americans to cause their state legislatures to ratify the Sixteenth Amendment, which was designed to tax the rich and redistribute wealth. They promised the American public that the income tax would never exceed 3 percent of income and would only apply to the top 3 percent of earners. How wrong -- or deceptive -- they were.
Yet, the imposition of a federal income tax is more than just taking from those who work and earn and giving to those who don’t. And it is more than just a spigot to fill the federal trough. At its base, it is a terrifying presumption. It presumes that we don’t really own our property. It accepts the Marxist notion that the state owns all the property and the state permits us to keep and use whatever it needs us to have so we won’t riot in the streets. And then it steals and uses whatever it can politically get away with. Do you believe this?
There are only three ways to acquire wealth in a free society. The inheritance model occurs when someone gives you wealth. The economic model occurs when you trade a skill, a talent, an asset, knowledge, sweat, energy or creativity to a willing buyer. And the mafia model occurs when a guy with a gun says: “Give me your money or else.”
Which model does the government use? Why do we put up with this?

Petrodollar To Petrogold: US Is Now Trying To Cut Off Iran's Access To Gold

Source: Zero Hedge 
The US is moving to broaden its 'blockade' efforts of Iran to the movement of pure gold into the Islamic Republic. The US-led embargo of Iranian crude succeeded in slowing the flow of petrodollars into the nation but as Foreign Affairs committee chairman Edward Cohen remarked, there is "no question that there is gold going from Turkey to Iran." While the official line from US elite such as Bernanke remains that 'gold is not money' it appears that increasingly other nations would disagree, as Cohen admitted, "in large measure what we're seeing is private Iranian citizens buying gold as a protection against the falling value of Iran's currency." It would seem somewhat self-evident that the US is admitting, by attempting to embargo this gold flow, that outside the US, the Dollar is becoming increasingly irrelevant (see China's gold demand); and that for many countries the petrodollar no longer exists, having been replaced by 'Petrogold'.
Via Trend,
With Iran's currency already hit hard by European and Asian participation in the U.S.-led embargo of Iranian crude, Mr. Cohen asserted that his staff is broadening its efforts to include blocking the movement of pure gold into the Islamic republic.
"I can assure you that we are looking very, very carefully at any evidence that anyone outside Iran is selling gold to Iran," he said.
The remark came after Rep. Edward R. Royce, California Republican and the Foreign Affairs Committee's chairman, asked whether the administration was aware of recent reports indicating an uptick in the flow of gold into Iran.
"With its currency now in free fall, the Iranians desperately need gold," said Mr. Royce, who noted that a U.S. law authorizing the Obama administration to sanction anyone selling gold to citizens inside Iran does not take effect until July 1.
With existing U.S. law only allowing sanctions on the sale of gold directly to the Iranian government, Mr. Cohen told lawmakers the administration is keeping a close eye on the situation.
While Mr. Cohen acknowledged that U.S. authorities have "no question that there is gold going from Turkey to Iran," he said that "in large measure what we're seeing is private Iranian citizens buying gold as a protection to the falling value" of Iran's currency, the rial.

Big Banks Get Break in Rules to Limit Risks

The commodity agency's chief, Gary Gensler, wanted stricter rules but accepted a compromise.Peter W. Stevenson for The New York TimesThe commodity agency’s chief, Gary Gensler, wanted stricter rules but accepted a compromise.
9:33 p.m. | Updated
Under pressure from Wall Street lobbyists, federal regulators have agreed to soften a rule intended to rein in the banking industry’s domination of a risky market.
The changes to the rule, which will be announced on Thursday, could effectively empower a few big banks to continue controlling the derivatives market, a main culprit in the financial crisis.
The $700 trillion market for derivatives — contracts that derive their value from an underlying asset like a bond or an interest rate — allow companies to either speculate in the markets or protect against risk.
It is a lucrative business that, until now, has operated in the shadows of Wall Street rather than in the light of public exchanges. Just five banks hold more than 90 percent of all derivatives contracts.
Yet allowing such a large and important market to operate as a private club came under fire in 2008. Derivatives contracts pushed the insurance giant American International Group to the brink of collapse before it was rescued by the government.
In the aftermath of the crisis, regulators initially planned to force asset managers like Vanguard and Pimco to contact at least five banks when seeking a price for a derivatives contract, a requirement intended to bolster competition among the banks. Now, according to officials briefed on the matter, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission has agreed to lower the standard to two banks.
About 15 months from now, the officials said, the standard will automatically rise to three banks. And under the trading commission’s new rule, wide swaths of derivatives trading must shift from privately negotiated deals to regulated trading platforms that resemble exchanges.
But critics worry that the banks gained enough flexibility under the plan that it hews too closely to the “precrisis status.”
“The rule is really on the edge of returning to the old, opaque way of doing business,” said Marcus Stanley, the policy director of Americans for Financial Reform, a group that supports new rules for Wall Street.
Making such decisions on regulatory standards is a product of the Dodd-Frank Act of 2010, which mandated that federal agencies write hundreds of new rules for Wall Street. Most of that effort is now complete at the trading commission. But across several other agencies, nearly two-thirds of the rules are unfinished, including some major measures like the Volcker Rule, which seeks to prevent banks from trading with their own money.
The deal over derivatives was forged from wrangling at the five-person commission, which was sharply divided. Gary Gensler, the agency’s Democratic chairman, championed the stricter proposal. But he met opposition from the Republican members on the commission, as well as Mark Wetjen, a Democratic commissioner who has sided with Wall Street on other rules.
Mr. Wetjen argued that five banks was an arbitrary requirement, according to the officials briefed on the matter. In advocating the two-bank plan, he also noted that the agency would not prevent companies from seeking additional price quotes. Other regulators have proposed weaker standards.
Mr. Gensler, eager to rein in derivatives trading but lacking an elusive third vote, accepted the deal. By his reckoning, the compromise was better than no rule at all.
In an interview on Wednesday, Mr. Gensler said that, even with the compromise, the rule will still push private derivatives trading onto regulated trading platforms, much like stock trading. He also argued that the agency plans to adopt two other rules on Thursday that will subject large swaths of trades to regulatory scrutiny.
“No longer will this be a closed, dark market,” Mr. Gensler said. “I think what we’re planning to do tomorrow fulfills the Congressional mandate and the president’s commitment.”
Yet the deal comes at an awkward time for the agency. Mr. Gensler, who was embraced by consumer advocates but scorned by some on Wall Street, is expected to leave the agency later this year now that his term has technically ended.
In preliminary talks about filling the spot, the White House is expected to consider Mr. Wetjen, a former aide to the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid. The administration, according to people briefed on the matter, is also looking at an outsider as a potential successor: Amanda Renteria, a former Goldman Sachs employee and Senate aide.
The prospect of someone other than Mr. Gensler completing the rules provided some momentum for the compromise, officials say. The officials also noted that Mr. Gensler had set a June 30 deadline for completing the plan.
The White House declined to comment. Mr. Gensler, who has not said whether he will seek a second term at the agency, declined to discuss his plans on Wednesday.
While the regulator defended the derivatives rule, consumer advocates say the agency gave up too much ground. To some, the compromise illustrated the financial industry’s continued influence in Washington.
“The banks have all these ways to reverse the rules behind the scenes,” Mr. Stanley said.
Bart Chilton of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.Hiroko Masuike/The New York TimesBart Chilton of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.
The compromise also alarmed Bart Chilton, a Democratic member of the agency who has called for greater competition in the derivatives market. Still, Mr. Chilton signaled a willingness to vote for the rule.
“At the end of the day, we need a rule and that may mean some have to hold their noses,” he said.
The push for competition follows concerns that a handful of select banks — JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Bank of America, Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs — control the market for derivatives contracts.
That grip, regulators and advocacy groups say, empowers those banks to overcharge some asset managers and companies that buy derivatives. It also raises concerns about the safety of the banks, some of which nearly toppled in 2008.
“It’s important to remember that the Wall Street oligopoly brought us the financial crisis,” said Dennis Kelleher, a former Senate aide that now runs Better Markets, an advocacy group critical of Wall Street.
With that history in mind, Congress inserted into Dodd-Frank a provision that forces derivatives trading onto regulated trading platforms. The platforms, known as swap execution facilities, were expected to open a window into the secretive world of derivatives trading. But Congress left it to Mr. Gensler’s agency to explain how they would actually work.
There was a time when Mr. Gensler envisioned the strictest rule possible. In 2010, he pushed a plan that could, in essence, make all bids for derivatives contracts public. Facing complaints, the agency instead proposed a plan that would require at least five banks to quote a price for derivatives passing through a swap execution facility.
But even that plan prompted a full-court press from Wall Street lobbyists. Banks and other groups that opposed the plan held more than 80 meetings with agency officials over the last three years, an analysis of meeting records shows. Goldman Sachs attended 19 meetings; the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association, Wall Street’s main lobbying group, was there for 11.
The banks also benefited from some unlikely allies, including large asset managers that buy derivatives contracts. While money managers may seem like natural supporters of Mr. Gensler’s plan — and some in fact are — the industry’s largest players already receive significant discounts from select banks, providing them an incentive to oppose Mr. Gensler’s plan.
The companies cautioned that, because Mr. Gensler’s plan would involve a broader universe of banks, it could cause leaks of private trading positions. The plan, the companies said, would not necessarily benefit the asset managers.
“If someone told me I needed to shop five different places for a pair of jeans, I don’t see how that would help me,” said Gabriel D. Rosenberg, a lawyer at Davis Polk, which represents Sifma and the banks.
The banks and asset managers also warned that many derivatives contracts are traded too infrequently to even generate attention from five banks.
Some regulators dispute that point. They point to the industry’s own data, which shows that 85 percent of derivatives trading in a recent 10-day span occurred in four products that are arguably quite liquid. (Each traded more than 500 times.)
As such, according to officials briefed on the matter, Mr. Chilton proposed a plan to require quotes to be submitted to at least five banks for the most liquid contracts. Under his plan, contracts that were less liquid could still be subject to at least two.
Mr. Wetjen, who saw the effort as too complicated, continued to favor the two-bank plan. While the requirement jumps to three banks in about 15 months, the agency might also have to produce a study that could undermine that broader standard.
In an interview, Mr. Wetjen explained that he was seeking to grant more flexibility to the markets. “If flexibility means it’s more beneficial to the banks, so be it,” he said. “But it also means it’s more flexible to all market participants and the marketplace as a whole.”
Some consumer advocates have raised broader concerns about Mr. Wetjen, who once advocated a wider than expected exemption to part of a derivatives rule. They also complained that Mr. Wetjen has split with Mr. Gensler on aspects of a plan to apply Dodd-Frank to banks trading overseas. He has, however, voted with Mr. Gensler on every rule, unlike the other commissioners.
Mr. Wetjen also noted that his actions often upset the banks. On only a few issues, he happened to agree with them.
“I’m not driven by who wages the argument,” he said. “It’s about what policy makes sense.”
A version of this article appeared in print on 05/16/2013, on page A1 of the NewYork edition with the headline: Big Banks Get Break in Rules Limiting Risks.

How Many People Have Lost Their Homes? US Home Foreclosures are Comparable to the Great Depression

The San Francisco Chronicle notes that it is difficult to keep track of foreclosure rates now … let alone during the Great Depression:
Foreclosure rates of the late 2000s are often compared with those of the Great Depression, which took place through the first half of the 1930s. However, there were no public or private agencies keeping track of foreclosure rates at that time. Indeed, the government still does not keep an official statistic on the number of homes in foreclosure or repossessed by banks and lenders.
But the Chronicle provides estimates of foreclosures during the 1930s:
A 2008 article by David C. Wheelock, an economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, cited annual reports issued by the Federal Home Loan Bank Board during the 1930s. These reports reveal that the foreclosure rate exceeded 1 percent from 1931 until 1935. At the worst point in the Depression-era economic crisis, in 1933, about 1,000 home loans were being placed in foreclosure by banks every day.
How does that compare to the last 5 years?
RealtyTrac notes (via North Carolina State University) that:
From January 2007 to December 2011 there were more than four million completed foreclosures and more than 8.2 million foreclosure starts ….
CoreLogic reported a year ago:
Approximately 1.4 million homes, or 3.4 percent of all homes with a mortgage, were in the national foreclosure inventory as of May 2012 compared to 1.5 million, or 3.5 percent, in May 2011 and 1.4 million, or 3.4 percent, in April 2012. The foreclosure inventory is the share of all mortgaged homes in some stage of the foreclosure process.
Given that there are currently around 316 million Americans – more than twice the number during the Great Depression – such high foreclosure rates mean that there may well be as many people suffering foreclosure than during the Great Depression … or more.
And NBC News reported this month:
Already some 5 million homes have been lost to foreclosure; estimates of future foreclosures range widely. [Moody's Analytics chief economist Mark Zandi], who has followed the mortgage mess since the housing market began to crack in 2006, figures foreclosures will strike another three million homes in the next three or four years.
For more comparisons of the Great Depression and today, see:
This article originally appeared on : Global Research

Petrol sharks pile on agony for drivers: After price-fixing raid on BP and Shell, damning report reveals traders are driving up costs for motorists

  • AA revealed traders caused three steep rises this year alone
  • It amounted to a £5 increase in filling up a family saloon
  • Few of the traders' names, including Glencore, Cargill, Gunvor and Trafigura, are known to consumers, but have profound effect on motorists in Britain

The AA revealed that traders have caused three steep rises in the cost of petrol this year alone
The AA revealed that traders have caused three steep rises in the cost of petrol this year alone
Speculators and ‘shady middle men’ are driving up petrol prices, a damning report reveals today.
As the scandal of alleged price-fixing by major oil companies deepens, the AA reveals how traders are hitting fuel prices – causing three steep rises this year alone and increasing the cost of filling up a family saloon by £5.
Few of the traders’ names – including Glencore, Cargill, Gunvor and Trafigura – are known to consumers outside the oil industry, but their effect on Britain’s 33million motorists and the wider economy is profound.
They buy huge quantities of petroleum on the open market and store it until the price goes high enough to make them a handsome profit, at which point they sell.
Industry experts say motorists have been fleeced by an average of at least £2,000 each and probably much more over the past decade because of the alleged price-fixing now under investigation. But watchdogs should also ‘shine a bright light’ on the activities of speculators chasing ‘inflated short-term profit’, says the AA.
The row comes after European Commission investigators raided the London offices of oil companies Shell and BP on Tuesday as part of a price-fixing investigation.
The AA says a major international report highlights how the oil markets in Europe had been hijacked by middle-men whose actions increasingly determine the price paid at the pumps.
The respected International Energy Agency says: ‘Increased European reliance on trading houses and third-party suppliers may also leave a growing share of European supply in the hands of market participants with a different set of incentives than those of refiners.’
Tory MP Robert Halfon, who has called for an investigation into alleged cartels and market manipulation in the oil market for the past three years, said there must be a full inquiry.
Traders such as Cargill buy huge quantities of petroleum and store it until the price soars and then sells
Traders such as Cargill buy huge quantities of petroleum and store it until the price soars and then sells
Traders, like Glencore, are not known to consumers but have a profound effect Britain's 33million motorists
Traders, like Glencore, are not known to consumers but have a profound effect Britain's 33million motorists
The Daily Mail has chronicled the scandal over several years – highlighting in November 2009 how tankers full of oil were parked off the UK coast waiting until the price went up.
Now, says the AA, the middle men, or ‘third party suppliers’, have their own tanks to keep the fuel in storage until the price goes up, making the trade ‘less visible’.
AA spokesman Luke Bosdet said consumers needed to be assured that the ‘middle men’ were playing fair by the rules – but there was no way of knowing.
He added: ‘The EU and competition watchdogs should shine a bright light on the spivs, shady middle men and speculators driving up prices by operating in the shadows of oil giants like BP and Shell.
‘They are just the tip of the iceberg. There are a lot of companies operating in these markets of whom most British consumers have simply never heard.
UK petrol consumption fell to a record low this year and the AA said the 'warning signs couldn't be clearer'
UK petrol consumption fell to a record low this year and the AA said the 'warning signs couldn't be clearer'
'They include Glencore, Cargill, Gunvor, and Trafigura.
'Their trades in unleaded, diesel and oil are reported daily in the markets. Their activities have a huge impact on the prices paid at the pumps. But who are they?
'What exactly do they do and how do they do it? Consumers have a right to know.’
AA head of public affairs Paul Watters added: ‘The latest swing in petrol prices is the third 8p to 10p-a-litre “price shock” in 12 months, adding up to £5 to the cost of filling a typical fuel tank – from £66 to £71.
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‘It is clear that, if petrol and diesel wholesale price movements were transparent, families and businesses would have ten to 14 days’ notice of the next price shock – and hopefully the reason for it.’
UK petrol consumption fell to a record low this year, with 69 per cent of AA members cutting back on car use or spending. ‘The warning signs couldn’t be any clearer,’ the association said.
The AA’s own fuel price report said: ‘These investigations are a significant development, perhaps a turning point, in getting to the bottom of what drives the price of fuel on UK forecourts.’
Trafigura’s initial response to calls was ‘no comment’, but when given the full outline of the report, a spokesman said he would seek further clarification. Cargill and Glencore did not want to comment.
  • The Serious Fraud Office last night confirmed it was the ‘appropriate authority to investigate allegations of price-fixing’ and would make a decision on a full investigation in due course. It follows calls from Mr Halfon for UK authorities to begin their own probe. He said: ‘We can’t depend on Europe to sort out allegations of oil fraud.’