Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Gina Rinehart Calls For Sterilization of The Poor

Gina-169-408x264Conservative billionaire Gina Rinehart called for the sterilization of the poor today, arguing that the only way to alleviate poverty is to stop the "underclasses" from multiplying.
In a video uploaded to her official YouTube account, the Australian mining heiress said that income inequality is caused by differences in intelligence, and eugenics is the only answer.
"Our nation faces a grave economic crisis as the combination of a strong Australian dollar and falling commodity prices sap our ability to compete globally," she explained. "The only logical solution to this crisis is to strengthen the quality of our most precious resource: human capital.
"I believe that any couple making less than $100,000 a year should be forcibly sterilized through a vasectomy or fallopian tubal ligation. Those earning more than $100,000 a year should be encouraged to have as many as 10 or 12 children.
"Only be eliminating waste and focusing on our brightest, most efficient workers can we hope to see off our rivals in the emerging world."
Inherit the Earth
Rinehart is the richest person in Australia and ranks as one of the wealthiest women in the world. Most of her fortune comes from a mining company she inherited from her father and later built into a leading exporter of iron ore.
Her fortune prospered during Australia's long commodity export boom, but is under threat as China's economy slows and iron ore prices tumble. Adding to her woes is the rising cost of production.
Late last year, Rinehart made a video arguing that Australians needed to accept lower wages because people in Africa were willing to work for $2 a day. But in today's video she seems to have realized that even that won't be enough.
"Paying Australians less is a part of the solution, but it can't be the whole fix. It's no use paying someone at all if they're too lazy, drunk, and stupid to properly operate our sophisticated mining equipment.
"So I'm willing to pay a decent wage, as long as I'm getting the son of a doctor and not the son of a failed bartender on welfare. The problem is that the underclasses seem to be outbreeding the intelligent folks, and I can't find a decent worker anywhere.
"That's where our government comes in. By stopping the poor from procreating, we can create a new class of intelligent, hard-working, well-paid Australians that will forge our economic future."
Rinehart recently ranked 16th on Forbes' list of the most powerful women in the world, ahead of Australian prime minister Julia Gillard. Her fortune is estimated at over $21 billion in U.S. dollars.

Starbucks managers go to court to try and get their hands in barista’s tip jars

  • Pitted low-level workers against assistant managers and the company
  • Dispute could have broad consequences for the state's hospitality workers
  • Starbucks managers have gone to court to try and get take a share of the cash left by customers in barista’s tip jars.
    At the international coffee chain only baristas and shift supervisors get a share of the tips, but salaried assistant managers are now seeking a share of the gratuities.
    The case, before New York's highest court, could have broad consequences for the state's hospitality workers and, ultimately, employees at the coffee chain's thousands of U.S. retail stores.
    Decision: Baristas at Starbucks have begun a legal battle against their managers and the company over who is entitled to the cash tips coffee customers leave
    Decision: Baristas at Starbucks have begun a legal battle against their managers and the company over who is entitled to the cash tips coffee customers leave
    A federal appeals court has asked the state Court of Appeals to interpret New York labor law and its definition of an employer's 'agent,' who is prohibited from tip sharing, in connection with two lawsuits against Starbucks.
    The federal court is seeking answers on two specific questions: What factors determine whether an employee is an agent of the company? Does state law permit an employer to exclude an otherwise eligible tip-earning employee from sharing in such a tip pool?
    On one side are hourly-wage baristas who serve customers and share tips weekly based on hours worked.
    On the other side are salaried assistant managers who want a share of the gratuities. In between are shift supervisors with limited management responsibilities who mainly serve customers, get paid hourly and also share tips.
    Hospitality industry groups say the state court decision will be felt far beyond Starbucks, immediately affecting 42,000 New York businesses statewide and a quarter-million hospitality industry workers in New York City alone.
    Changes: Hospitality industry groups say the state court decision will be felt far beyond Starbucks, immediately affecting 42,000 New York businesses statewide and a quarter-million hospitality industry workers in New York City alone
    Attorney Shannon Liss-Riordan, representing the baristas, said the shift supervisors should also be excluded from the tip jar since they make work assignments and have authority over baristas and therefore qualify as company agents.
    The supervisors also coordinate breaks and receive higher wages, she said.
    Attorney Adam Klein, representing the assistant managers, said they spend most of their time serving customers and deserve tips. They lack the authority to hire and fire staff and therefore should not be considered company agents under the law, he said.
    Company attorney Rex Heinke defended the existing tip-sharing policy, saying baristas and shift supervisors divide up the cash jar weekly because they essentially provide the same customer service while assistant store managers are excluded because they have a different role and 'real power' over the others, including scheduling and recommending hiring and firing.
    The employer's responsibility is to come up with 'a reasonable, fair system' for sharing pooled tips, and the company does have authority to exclude employees deemed eligible under state law, he said.
    'Why, if they're eligible, do you have the authority to say they can't get it?' Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman asked.
    'You can't take that tip money. You're kind of the trustee of that tip money. Why should you have that authority?'
    The practical reality, which the state labor department realized with its latest regulation, is that someone has to decide that allocation, Heinke said.
    There's nothing in the statute that gives the department that power, and it's left to the employer, he said.
    Seattle-based Starbucks has nearly 18,000 retail stores in 60 countries. In April, it reported $3.6 billion in quarterly revenues.
    Starbucks had 413 company-owned stores in New York at the end of its last fiscal year. Company spokesman Zack Hutson said the tip policy is applied consistently across the U.S., though not globally because laws differ in other countries, he said.
    One federal judge concluded shift supervisors lack the broad managerial authority to be classified company agents. Judge Laura Taylor Swain also said the law doesn't require companies to include all eligible employees in a tip pool, while acknowledging questions remained on the New York eligibility of assistant managers.

    IRS Scandal Letters: Other Offices Sent Requests To Target Tea Party Groups, NBC News Reports

    More evidence has emerged that the IRS' targeting of conservative groups extended beyond a few agents in a single city.
    Back on May 14, a 48-page report by the IRS inspector general identified a few lower-level staff members from the Cincinnati office, acting in an insubordinate fashion, as responsible for the tea party flap.
    Two weeks later, the scope of questions surrounding the case continues to expand beyond that one location. NBC News reported Thursday that letters show requests about conservative groups were made by other IRS offices.
    Lois Lerner, the woman who was in charge of the IRS unit reviewing applications for these conservative groups, was among the signees listed in the NBC report. According to an appendix of a Treasury inspector general report released earlier this month, Lerner was briefed in June 2011 about the matter. She was placed on paid administrative leave as of Thursday, the Washington Post reported.
    Upon being called to testify before the House Oversight and Government Reform committee, Lerner vowed that she did nothing wrong before invoking her Fifth Amendment right not to testify. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), who serves as chairman of the committee, said Congress is "obligated" to bring her back because she chose to make statements prior to acting on that right.
    Last Tuesday, ex-Cincinnati IRS official Bonnie Esrig expressed doubts to NBC News about the claim that low-level employees acted on their own. But regarding questions that partisan motivations were at play, Esrig doubted that charge -- and White House officials have also expressed that opinion.
    "The deputy secretary of the Treasury was made aware of just the fact that the investigation was beginning last year," senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer said two Sundays ago. "But no one in the White House was aware."

    Singapore and Indian Brokers Sold Out; Shanghai Gold Volumes Surge 55%

    by GoldCore

    Today’s AM fix was USD 1,384.50, EUR 1,074.01 and GBP 919.14 per ounce.
    Yesterday’s AM fix was USD 1,379.00, EUR 1,067.42 and GBP 913.43 per ounce.
    Gold fell $13.70 or 0.98% yesterday to $1,381.00/oz and silver finished down 1.59%.
    Gold edged higher today supported by strong physical demand internationally and especially in Asia.
    Demand in the physical market continued to hold prices near $1,400/oz as the recent drops in the spot market encourage buyers internationally to accumulate bullion.

    Cross Currency Table – (Bloomberg)

    The paper gold market remains volatile and is likely to get more volatile but this is not deterring physical buyers and premiums remain strong in most markets.
    Premiums in India and Hong Kong have fallen from the very high premiums of recent days but Singapore, Shanghai, Dubai, Turkey and western markets continue to see high premiums.
    Overnight the volume for the Shanghai Gold Exchange’s cash contract surged 55% to 15,641 kilograms from a two-week low of 10,094 kilograms on May 27.
    The Shanghai Futures Exchange announced yesterday that they will begin after-hours trading for gold and silver futures within one or two months.
    In Singapore, gold coins and bars are being sold at high premiums compared to the spot price as there is not enough supply in the market to meet the strong demand.
    Reuters quoted one broker who said that most of the bullion dealers in Singapore were sold out of bullion and that “everybody is buying and no one is selling.”
    In India, certain states have either seen coin stocks fall to very low levels and others have actually run out of gold coins.
    The drop in gold prices in April led to a surge in bargain hunting in India and globally which is continuing with prices below $1,400/oz.

    Gold Spot $/oz, Daily, 3 Year – (Bloomberg)

    In Hyderabad, a city of nearly 7 million people , gold and jewellery shops in the city have dwindling stocks of gold coins and bars. Some have completely run out of stock of the best-selling gold coins while others are having to ration their remaining stocks.
    The gold rush is expected to continue for some time, due to delays in jewellery and coin shops receiving supplies of coins from banks and bullion brokers.
    This is creating a delay in the entire supply chain.
    The U.S. Mint sales of gold coins were the highest in 3 years after demand surged on the recent price drop.
    Yesterday, the U.S. Mint resumed sales of their 1/10th ounce gold coin after the mint ran out of inventory last month and suspended sales amid record demand.
    In the U.S., there are difficulties in sourcing British Sovereigns (0.2345 oz), Chinese Pandas (1 oz) and Australian Kangaroos (1 oz) in volume.
    The Royal Mint (UK), The Perth Mint in Australia and other mints are seeing record levels of demand.
    This morning The World Gold Council confirmed the very strong demand being seen globally and especially in Asia.
    Asian gold demand from this April to June will reach a quarterly record as bullion buyers in China, India and the rest of the region take possession of supply freed up by selling from exchange-traded funds (ETFs), the WGC said.
    “Asian markets will see record quarterly totals of gold demand in the second quarter of 2013,” WGC Managing Director Marcus Grubb said in a report released this morning.
    Gold demand in India, the world’s largest buyer, is heading for a quarterly record after prices fell to a two-year low in April, The World Gold Council said.
    “Even if ETF outflows continue in the United States, it is quite likely that the gold previously held in ETFs will find a ready market among Indian, Chinese and Middle Eastern consumers who are taking a long-term view on the prospects for gold.”
    A long term view remains vital to protecting and growing wealth today.

    It remains prudent to ignore the poorly informed analysis of the speculators who have been responsible for much of the destruction of wealth in recent years.
    Few of them predicted this crisis and most do not understand the importance of diversification and the importance of gold as a safe haven asset. Nor do they know that gold remains nearly half its inflation adjusted high of $2,500/oz seen in 1980 (see chart) and the ramifications of that for the gold market in the coming months and years.
    Those who continue to focus on gold’s academically and historically proven safe haven qualities as an important diversification will again be rewarded in the coming months.

    “Vicious” Gold Moves “Insignificant” for Long-Run Focus as US Bond Yields Jump, Asian Shortages Spread

    London Gold Market Report
    from Adrian Ash, BullionVault
    Weds 29 May, 08:10 EST

    “Vicious” Gold Moves “Insignificant” for Long-Run Focus as US Bond Yields Jump, Asian Shortages Spread

    WHOLESALE PRICES for physical gold rose Wednesday morning in London, hitting almost $1395 per ounce to gain 0.5% for the week so far.

    Silver lagged gold, trading in line with last week’s finish at $22.42 per ounce, while world stock markets fell together with commodities and major government bond prices.

    The US Dollar eased 0.5% on the currency markets, capping the price to buy gold below €1075 and £924 per ounce for Eurozone and UK investors respectively.

    Tuesday’s expiry of US June gold futures contracts “made for some vicious price moves in both directions,” notes trading house Mitsui, pointing to the jump from $1375 to above $1400 as New York trade began.

    “But ultimately the yellow metal remained firmly penned within its recent range,” the note adds, and the action was “far less significant for those with a longer focus.”

    Yesterday also saw 10-year US Treasury yields jump as government bond prices fell, hitting a 14-month high above 2.2% and outpacing the latest Consumer Price Inflation reading by the widest margin since February 2011.

    Ten-year UK gilt yields rose today above 2.0% for the first time in two months. They still lag UK inflation by 0.4% per year, however.

    “We can see some Shanghai futures buying interest pushing the market higher,” Reuters quotes Peter Fung at Wing Fung dealers in Hong Kong, also noting the $25 premium to international spot prices for Chinese gold futures.

    “Singapore is still facing a shortage,” said a local dealer to the newswire overnight, adding that customers wanting to buy gold must now wait until July for delivery.

    Singapore premiums – over and above the international benchmark price, typically quoted for London delivery – have shot to a record $7 per ounce.

    Some retail dealers are charging four times as much, however, asking 2% over spot prices for gold kilobars in Singapore according to wire reports.

    “Premiums [in India] have dropped to $5-$7 an ounce this week,” the Wall Street Journal quotes Ketan Shroff, director at Penta Gold in Mumbai.

    That’s half the levels seen last week in India, the world’s heaviest gold-buying nation.

    After imposing new restrictions on consumer loans raised using gold trust funds and gold coins on Monday, the Reserve Bank of India said Tuesday that it won’t seek to stop consumers being able to buy gold coins from commercial banks.

    However, “Some more steps, if necessary, would have to be taken,” the finance minister P.Chidambaram said at the same conference yesterday in Pune, pointing again to the role of gold imports in India’s large trade deficit.

    “I appeal to the people of India to contain their passion for gold,” Chidambaram said.

    On the economic front meantime, both the Organization for Economic Co-Operation & Development and the International Monetary Fund today released new forecasts for 2013.

    Washington’s IMF trimmed its prediction for China’s GDP growth from 8.0% to 7.75%.

    The Paris-based OECD said the Eurozone – the world’s largest single-currency economy – will shrink by 0.6%.

    “Protracted weakness,” says the think tank, “could evolve into stagnation with negative implications for the global economy.”

    An economics book called Why We Should Leave the Euro has leapt to top the bestseller list in Portugal, which received a €78 billion bail-out from its Euro partners and the IMF in 2011.

    The European Commission in Brussels is expected today to allow 3 of the region’s 5 largest economies to overshoot their budget deficit targets.

    New data Wednesday morning showed the 330-million citizen Eurozone’s broad money supply growing 3.2% in April from a year earlier.

    Private-sector loans, however, contracted by 0.9%.

    Adrian Ash

    Gold has its biggest fall in 30 years

    A technician prepares one kilogram gold bars of 995.0 purity to pack for delivery at the Emirates Gold company in Dubai. (File photo)
    A technician prepares one kilogram gold bars of 995.0 purity to pack for delivery at the Emirates Gold company in Dubai. (File photo)
    Tue Apr 16, 2013 12:37AM
    Gold had more than doubled since the start of the 2008 global economic crisis and it price rose 30 percent in 2010 and 25 percent in 2009. In August 2011, gold price jumped its all-time high of $1913.
    Global gold prices have plunged more than nine percent in a single day, its biggest one-day decline since 1983.

    On Monday, the price of gold dropped $140.30 to $1,361.10 an ounce, The Associated Press reported.

    The precious metal has plunged $200 an ounce, or about 13 percent, during the last two trading days, its lowest level in over two years.

    Last week, Goldman Sachs, an American multinational investment banking firm, in a research report predicted that gold prices would fall.

    Goldman Sachs said, “The decline in prices since last fall and our updated forecast suggests that the turn in the gold price cycle is likely already underway. As a result, although our US economic forecasts point to modest near-term upside to gold prices, we believe that a sharp recovery in prices to our previous price forecast is unlikely.”

    “In fact, we suspect that if indeed our forecast for further declines in gold prices proves correct, the fall in prices could end up being faster and larger than we expect,” it added.

    Gold had more than doubled since the start of the 2008 global economic crisis and it price rose 30 percent in 2010 and 25 percent in 2009. In August 2011, gold price jumped its all-time high of $1913.


    The World’s Richest 8% Earn Half of All Planetary Income

    The lead research economist at the World Bank, Branko Milanovic, will be reporting soon, in the journal Global Policy, the first calculation of global income-inequality, and he has found that the top 8% of global earners are drawing 50% of all of this planet’s income. He notes: “Global inequality is much greater than inequality within any individual country,” because the stark inequality between countries adds to the inequality within any one of them, and because most people live in extremely poor countries, largely the nations within three thousand miles of the Equator, where it’s already too hot, even without the global warming that scientists say will heat the world much more from now on.
    For example, the World Bank’s list of “GDP per capita (current US$)” shows that in 2011 this annual-income figure ranged from $231 in Democratic Republic of Congo at the Equator, to $171,465 in Monaco within Europe. The second-poorest and second-richest countries respectively were $271 in Burundi at the Equator, and $114,232 in Luxembourg within Europe. For comparisons, the U.S. was $48,112, and China was $5,445. Those few examples indicate how widely per-capita income ranges between nations, and how more heat means more poverty.
    Wealth-inequality is always far higher than income-inequality, and therefore a reasonable estimate of personal wealth throughout the world would probably be somewhere on the order of the wealthiest 1% of people owning roughly half of all personal assets. These individuals might be considered the current aristocracy, insofar as their economic clout is about equal to that of all of the remaining 99% of the world’s population.
    Milanovich says: “Among the global top 1 per cent, we find the richest 12 per cent of Americans, … and between 3 and 6 per cent of the richest Britons, Japanese, Germans and French. It is a ‘club’ that is still overwhelmingly composed of the ‘old rich’,” who pass on to their children (tax-free in the many countries that have no estate-taxes) the fortunes that they have accumulated, and who help set them up in businesses of their own – often after having sent them first to the most prestigious universities (many in the United States), where those children meet and make friends of others who are similarly situated as themselves.
    For example, on 22 April 2004, The New York Times headlined “As Wealthy Fill Top Colleges, Concerns Grow Over Fairness,” and reported that 55% of freshman students at the nation’s 250 most selective colleges and universities came from parents in the top 25% of this nation’s income. Only 12% of students had parents in the bottom 25% of income. Even at an elite public, state, college, the University of Michigan, “more members of this year’s freshman class … have parents making at least $200,000 a year [then America's top 2%] than have parents making less than the national median of about $53,000 [America's bottom 50%].’”
    Most of the redistribution that favors more than just the top 1% has occurred in the “developing” countries, such as China. However, a larger proportion of the world’s population live in nations of Central and South America, Africa, etc., where today’s leading families tend overwhelmingly to be the same as in the previous generation. They, too, near the Equator, are members of the “club,” but there are fewer of them.
    Milanovic finds that globally, “The top 1 per cent has seen its real income rise by more than 60 per cent over those two decades [1988-2008],” while “the poorest 5 per cent” have received incomes which “have remained the same” – the desperately poor are simply remaining desperately poor. Maybe there’s too much heat where they live.
    This article originally appeared on: AlterNet

    Digital currency exchange accused of biggest money laundering scheme ever

    The United States government has shut down a digital currency website and jailed its executives for allegedly operating the largest money laundering scheme ever, considered by some to be “PayPal for criminals.”
    Costa Rica-based Liberty Reserve has been seized by authorities
    in the US following the unsealing of a federal grand jury
    indictment Tuesday that charged the website and its
    administrators with conspiracy to commit money laundering and
    conspiracy to operate an unlicensed money transmitting business
    by providing a means of channeling a currency without registering
    in the US. Law enforcement agencies in 17 countries assisted with
    the investigation.
    In the complaint, Manhattan Attorney Preet Bharara said Liberty
    Reserve was structured “as a criminal business venture, one
    designed to help criminals conduct illegal transactions and
    launder the proceeds of their crimes
    Its existence was based on a criminal business model,”
    Bharara added at a Tuesday press conference.
    Since 2006, Liberty Reserve has served as a portal for Internet
    customers to make anonymous financial transitions on the Web, but
    investigators say that service thrived on and encouraged illegal
    activity. Under the guise of a currency transferring site,
    authorities allege the executives of Liberty Reserve laundered
    billions of dollars and “facilitated global criminal
    This was really PayPal for criminals,” a senior law
    enforcement official told the New York Times, equating Liberty
    Reserve as “a shadow banking system for criminal conduct” that
    was “able to facilitate all sorts of criminal conduct that would
    not otherwise happen
    Liberty Reserve allowed users to pay for goods and services using
    a digital currency that could not be traced back to a consumer
    such as with a credit card by allowing customers to create
    accounts using only a name, email address and date of birthday.
    Because the company did not verify the identity of its users,
    accounts could be created in any name. In exchange, the company
    took one percent for each transaction and for an additional 75
    cents offered to hide a user’s account number.
    This, allege investigators, allowed Liberty Reserve to become in
    a matter of just a few years the international “financial
    ” for identity theft, credit-card fraud, hacking, child
    pornography and narcotics trafficking.
    The defendants deliberately attracted and maintained a
    customer base of criminals by making financial activity on
    Liberty Reserve anonymous and untraceable
    ,” the indictment
    An estimate one million users around the world have used the site
    for 51 million illicit transactions at a rate of more than 12
    million transactions each year, authorities claim.
    Liberty Reserve’s website went offline last Thursday and its main
    homepage was replaced with a Department of Justice notice that
    the United States Global Illicit Financial Team, a previously
    unknown association compromised of the US Secret Service, the
    Treasury and the Department of Homeland Security, had seized the
    Liberty Reserve’s virtual currency has become a preferred
    method of payment on websites dedicated to the promotion and
    facilitation of illicit web-based activity, including identity
    fraud, credit-card theft, online scams and dissemination of
    computer malware
    ,” the Treasury said in the statement that
    Arthur Budovsky, Liberty Reserve’s founder, was arrested Friday
    in Spain on suspicion of money laundering. Four days later the
    indictment was unsealed and Bharara then made his remarks about
    the investigation.
    Budovsky had previously operated a similar exchange site,
    GoldAge, but had that operation shut down in 2006 after being
    charged by American officials with operating an illegal financial
    services business. He then fled to Costa Rica while serving
    probation for his felony conviction, renounced his US citizenship
    and registered Liberty Reserve. When word of an investigation
    surfaced in 2011, Budovsky told authorities he shut-down
    Costa Rican operations. According to the indictment, though, the
    company actually continued to function and funds were cycled
    through a number of shell companies across the globe.
    Security researcher Brian Krebs wrote on his blog Tuesday that
    the indictment has the potential to cause a “major
    ” in the cybercrime economy. The charges against
    Liberty Reserve come just days after Mt. Gox, the biggest name in
    the Bitcoin cryptocurrency, had its assets seized by the federal
    government. The US Department of Homeland Security intervened in
    Mt. Gox’s operations after a federal judge signed a warrant for
    the website on May 14 on suspicion of it being an unlicensed
    money transfer business, also because they failed to register in
    the US. Liberty Reserve did not use Bitcoin in its transactions,
    instead relying on its own digital currency, the LR.
    Authorities add Liberty Reserve co-founder, Vladimir Kats, was
    arrested in Brooklyn, New York as part of the complaint. At least
    three others have been arrested at this time, including one other
    man in Brooklyn and another in Costa Rica.
    This article originally appeared on: RT

    Chart Of The Day: Crushed US Consumer + All Time High New Home Prices = Record Housing Bubble

    We must have discovered a new bug in excel, because when we took median new home prices (which a week ago hit an all time high) which we then divided by the average American's purchasing power expressed through real disposable income per capita, we got this chart...

    ... which is impossible, as it would imply that not only are homes the most unaffordable they have ever been, but that the cheap credit propping up the housing market is bigger than it has ever been in history.

    Stock at Spain's Bankia tumbles after new shares issued

    Small shareholders protest against Bankia outside of Spain
    Small shareholders protest against Bankia outside of Spain's Congress in Madrid on 
    May 28, 2013.
    Tue May 28, 2013 5:35PM

    ADICAE, a campaign group representing the small stakeholders, said 200,000 customers at the bank were cheated into converting their savings into shares and that the savers risked losing 75 percent of their investment if they sold their stake."
    Stocks in Spain’s finance group Bankia have tumbled after new shares hit the market, causing small stakeholders to protest over the losses.

    Bankia issued on Tuesday 11.5 billion euros (USD 14.8 billion) in fresh shares on the Madrid stock exchange as a part of its restructuring after the bank was nationalized last year.

    The new shares were issued to replace high-risk investments held by existing Bankia stakeholders.

    The savers were promised that the new shares would be traded at 1.35 euros. However, they were down to 0.55 euros (USD 0.70) during Tuesday’s trading.

    The move angered the small stakeholders, most of whom planned selling their shares on Tuesday in an attempt to recover part of their money.

    ADICAE, a campaign group representing the small stakeholders, said 200,000 customers at the bank were cheated into converting their savings into shares and that the savers risked losing 75 percent of their investment if they sold their stake.

    Some analysts say the stocks could remain under pressure, with little hope of a quick recovery amid tough business conditions.

    On the same day, between 200 and 300 people, who had bought the shares, staged a protest outside the Congress to voice their frustration while facing new losses.

    The Spanish government bailed out the bank in 2012 and it has also received 18 billion euros from European funds to rebuild its capital.

    Bankia was created in 2010 from the merger of seven troubled savings banks after its property sector crashed in 2008.


    Obamacare Forcing Employers To Cut Back Healthcare Plans

    Why The Next War With China Could Go Very Badly For The United States

    by Michael
    Chinese Military
    Most Americans assume that the U.S. military is so vastly superior to everyone else that no other nation would ever dream of fighting a full-scale war against us.  Unfortunately, that assumption is dead wrong.  In recent years, the once mammoth technological gap between the U.S. military and the Chinese military has been closing at a frightening pace.  China has been accomplishing this by brazenly stealing our technology and hacking into our computer systems.  The Pentagon and the Obama administration know all about this, but they don’t do anything about it.  Perhaps the fact that China owns about a trillion dollars of our national debt has something to do with that.  In any event, today China has the largest military in the world and the second largest military budget in the world.  They have stolen plans for our most advanced jets, helicopters, ships and missile systems.  It is estimated that stealing our technology has saved China about 25 years of research and development.  In addition, China is rapidly developing a new generation of strategic weapons that could potentially enable it to actually win a future war against the United States.  At one time such a notion would have been unthinkable, but as you will see below, the next war with China could go very badly for the United States.
    The Washington Post is reporting on a confidential report that was prepared for the Pentagon, and what this report says about the extent of Chinese cyber espionage is absolutely startling.  Will China know ALL of our secrets at some point?  The following is a brief excerpt from the Washington Post articleabout the theft of our military technology by China.  It turns out that Chinese hackers have gotten their hands on plans for almost all of the new cutting edge weapons systems that we have been developing…
    Some of the weapons form the backbone of the Pentagon’s regional missile defense for Asia, Europe and the Persian Gulf. The designs included those for the advanced Patriot missile system, known as PAC-3; an Army system for shooting down ballistic missiles, known as the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD; and the Navy’s Aegis ballistic-missile defense system.
    Also identified in the report are vital combat aircraft and ships, including the F/A-18 fighter jet, the V-22 Osprey, the Black Hawk helicopter and the Navy’s new Littoral Combat Ship, which is designed to patrol waters close to shore.
    Also on the list is the most expensive weapons system ever built — the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, which is on track to cost about $1.4 trillion.
    One military expert that the Washington Post showed the report to was absolutely stunned…
    “That’s staggering,” said Mark Stokes, executive director of the Project 2049 Institute, a think tank that focuses on Asia security issues. “These are all very critical weapons systems, critical to our national security. When I hear this in totality, it’s breathtaking.”
    The experts said the cybertheft creates three major problems. First, access to advanced U.S. designs gives China an immediate operational edge that could be exploited in a conflict. Second, it accelerates China’s acquisition of advanced military technology and saves billions in development costs. And third, the U.S. designs can be used to benefit China’s own defense industry. There are long-standing suspicions that China’s theft of designs for the F-35 fighter allowed Beijing to develop its version much faster.
    But it isn’t just hackers that the U.S. military needs to be concerned about.
    The truth is that the Chinese are stealing secrets from us any way that they can.
    For example, the Chinese use attractive young women to seduce our defense contractors.  In fact, as the Washington Times recently reported, one 59-year-old American man was recently charged with passing very sensitive secrets to a 27-year-old Chinese “honeypot” that he was seeing…
    A U.S. defense contractor who works in intelligence at the military’s Pacific Command in Hawaii has been charged with passing classified national security information to a 27-year-old Chinese woman he was dating.
    Benjamin Pierce Bishop, 59, is accused of sending the woman an email in May with information on Pacom’s war plans, nuclear weapons and U.S. relations with international partners, according to the complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Honolulu and unsealed Monday.
    The complaint goes on to allege that Mr. Bishop told the woman over the telephone in September about the deployment of U.S. nuclear weapons and about the ability of the U.S. to detect other nations’ short- and medium-range ballistic missiles.
    Another way that China is gaining a strategic advantage over the U.S. is by getting the U.S. military to become increasingly dependent upon them.  According to Forbes, now the U.S. military is even leasing a Chinese satellite for communications purposes…
    American dependence on China grows by the day. The latestnews is that the United States has been reduced to leasing a Chinese satellite to handle communications with U.S. military bases in Africa. Surprising, isn’t it? The nation that launched the world’s first communications satellite (I remember it well – it was called Telstar) has so lost its manufacturing mojo that it has to rely on its most formidable military adversary to provide the hardware for some of its most sensitive communications. This at a time when underlying unemployment rates among U.S. manufacturing workers remain at near-depression levels.
    Isn’t that crazy?

    And a recent Senate report discovered that many of our most advanced weapons systems are absolutely riddled with counterfeit Chinese parts…
    A recent Senate report, titled Inquiry Into Counterfeit Electronic Parts In The Department Of Defense Supply Chain, “uncovered overwhelming evidence of large numbers of counterfeit parts making their way into critical defense systems.”
    The investigation found 1,800 cases of counterfeit electronic parts involving over one million suspect parts in 2009-10 alone, thereby exposing “a defense supply chain that relies on hundreds of unveiled independent distributors to supply electronic parts for some of our most sensitive systems.”
    The report concluded, among other things, that China is the “dominant source” of counterfeit products that enter the DoD supply chain, that the Chinese government does little to stop it and that the DoD doesn’t know the “scope and impact” of these parts on critical defense systems.
    Who in the world would be stupid enough to allow one of their greatest strategic enemies to supply large numbers of parts for key weapons systems?
    Apparently we are that stupid.
    Things are particularly bad when it comes to semiconductors
    Senator John McCain commented: “We can’t tolerate the risk of a ballistic missile interceptor failing to hit its target, a helicopter pilot unable to fire his missiles, or any other mission failure because of a counterfeit part.” Calling the issue “a ticking time bomb,” Brian Toohey, president of the Semiconductor Industry Association, commented: “The catastrophic failure risk inherently found in counterfeit semiconductors places our citizens and military personnel in unreasonable peril.”
    It would be bad enough if we just had to worry about counterfeit parts failing.  But what if China has a way to shut some of those parts down in the event of a conflict?  What if some of those parts contain “Trojan Horse” computer chips or malware?
    That may sound crazy, but unfortunately Trojan Horse chips can be extremely difficult to detect.  The following is from a recent Forbes article
    As the Defense Science Board pointed out, Trojan Horse circuitry is almost impossible to detect even with the most rigorous analysis. This is particularly so if a saboteur can accomplish matching subversions in both software and relevant hardware.
    And as I mentioned above, China is rapidly developing a vast array of new strategic weapons which may enable it to actually win the next war with the United States.
    For example, China has been developing a new generation of inter-continental and submarine-launched nuclear missiles.
    The submarine-launched missiles are of particular concern…
    The Ju Lang-2 intercontinental missile is the second generation of Chinese submarine-launched ballistic missiles.
    It’s a closely held secret, and details are sketchy. If it lives up to what public military intelligence says it is, it’s a huge get for China, especially with their new sub fleet.
    The missile is believed to have a range of 8,000 km, and can carry conventional or nuclear warheads.
    Do you remember a few years ago when a Chinese sub fired a missile from just off the west coast of the United States?
    We didn’t know that the sub was there.  If that missile had been fired at Los Angeles it would have been destroyed long before we could have ever responded.
    And don’t think that a first strike by either China or Russia is inconceivable.  As I have written about previously, the U.S. strategic nuclear arsenal has already been reduced by about 95 percent, and Obama seems absolutely determined to whittle it down even more.  In fact, there has been talk that the Obama administration ultimately wants to reduce our arsenal down to just 300 warheads.  If Russia or China knows exactly where those warheads are, it would be very easy to take them out in less than 10 minutes with a submarine-based first strike.
    And China has also reportedly been developing very sophisticated EMP weapons.  The following is from a WND report…
    In 2011, it was first revealed that China was developing EMP weapons to be used against U.S. aircraft carriers in any future conflict, especially over Taiwan, according to a 2005 National Ground Intelligence Center study.
    That center study said the Chinese were developing a family, or “assassin’s mace” of EMP and high-powered microwave, or HPM, weapons to be used by a technologically inferior force such as China’s, against U.S. military forces.
    The once secret but now declassified study pointed out that the Chinese could detonate an EMP weapon some 30 to 40 kilometers over Taiwan or – by inference – a U.S. carrier strike group – and destroy the electronics capability on which U.S. network-centric strategy depends.
    But an EMP weapon does not have to be a high-altitude weapon that affects a large area.  Smaller scale EMP weapons could take out a wave of fighter jets or a carrier fleet.
    In a future conflict with China, we could see U.S. planes falling out of the sky or great naval vessels sitting dead in the water after being hit with EMP blasts.
    But isn’t China our friend?
    That is what most Americans and most American politicians seem to believe.  They seem to think that China is our “buddy” and “trading partner” and that we will never have a military conflict with China.
    But that is NOT how the Chinese see things.
    The Chinese regard the United States as their greatest strategic threat and as an enemy that needs to be vanquished.
    That is why they are constantly spying on us, hacking into our computers and stealing our technology.
    That is why they are feverishly building up their military and preparing for a future war with America.
    So what do you think?
    Do you believe that war with China is in our future?
    If so, do you think that we will win?
    Please feel free to post a comment with your thoughts below…

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

    By Michael
    The Bank For International Settlements - Photo by Yago Veith
    A new set of regulations that most people have never even heard of that was developed by an immensely powerful central banking organization that most people do not even know exists is going to have a dramatic affect on the global financial system over the next several years.  The new set of regulations is known as “Basel III”, and it was developed by the Bank for International Settlements.  The Bank for International Settlements has been called “the central bank for central banks”, and it is headquartered in Basel, Switzerland.  58 major central banks (including the Federal Reserve) belong to the Bank for International Settlements, and the decisions made in Basel often have more of an impact on the direction of the global economy than anything the president of the United States or the U.S. Congress are doing.  All you have to do is to look back at the last financial crisis to see an example of this.  Basel II and Basel 2.5 played a major role in precipitating the subprime mortgage meltdown.  Now a new set of regulations known as “Basel III” are being rolled out.  The implementation of these new regulations is beginning this year, and they will be completely phased in by 2019.  These new regulations dramatically increase capital requirements and significantly restrict the use of leverage.  Those certainly sound like good goals, the problem is that the entire global financial system is based on credit at this point, and these new regulations are going to substantially reduce the flow of credit.  The only way that the giant debt bubble that we are all living in can continue to persist is if it continues to expand.  By restricting the flow of credit, these new regulations threaten to burst the debt bubble and bring down the entire global economy.
    Not that the current global financial system is sustainable by any means.  Anyone with half a brain can see that the global financial system is a pyramid scheme that is destined to collapse.  But Basel III may cause it to collapse faster than it might otherwise have.
    So precisely what is Basel III?  The following is a definition from the official website of the Bank for International Settlements…
    “Basel III” is a comprehensive set of reform measures, developed by the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision, to strengthen the regulation, supervision and risk management of the banking sector. These measures aim to:
    • improve the banking sector’s ability to absorb shocks arising from financial and economic stress, whatever the source
    • improve risk management and governance
    • strengthen banks’ transparency and disclosures.
    All of that looks good at first glance.  But when you start looking into the details you start realizing what it is going to mean for the global financial system.  Banks are going to be required to have higher reserve ratios and use less leverage.  Banks are going to have to be more careful with their money, which is a good thing, but it is also going to mean that credit will not flow as freely.  Unfortunately, the only way for a debt bubble to survive is if it keeps expanding.  Anything that restricts the flow of easy money threatens to bring a debt bubble to an end.
    These new regulations are going to be phased in between 2013 and 2019.  You can see a chart which shows the implementation schedule for the Basel III regulations right here.
    So why is bringing the debt bubble to an end a bad thing?
    Well, because it will cause the false prosperity that we have been enjoying to disappear, and that will be an exceedingly painful adjustment.
    Sadly, most people have no idea what is happening.  Most people have never even heard of “Basel III” or “the Bank for International Settlements”.  Most people just assume that the people they voted into office know what they are doing and have everything under control.
    Unfortunately, that is not the case at all.  The truth is that an unelected, unaccountable body of central bankers is making decisions which deeply affect us all, and there is not much that we can do about it.

    This unelected, unaccountable body of central bankers played a major role in bringing about the last financial crisis.  The following is a brief excerpt from a recent article posted on Before It’s News
    If you have any questions about the power of these Basel Banking Regulations you can also see the effects that Basel II and 2.5, mark to market accounting, had on the Housing Markets in the United States of America in 2008. There were many causes for that housing bubble, then housing crisis, but Basel II and 2.5 was most assuredly the pin that popped the housing bubble that led to the financial crisis of 2008-09.
    But do most people know about this?
    Of course not.  Most people want to blame the Republicans or the Democrats or Bush or Obama, and they have no idea about the financial strings that are being pulled at the highest levels.
    It is so important that we get people educated about how the global financial system actually works.  The following is a summary of how the Bank for International Settlements works from one of my previous articles entitled “Who Controls The Money? An Unelected, Unaccountable Central Bank Of The World Secretly Does“…
    An immensely powerful international organization that most people have never even heard of secretly controls the money supply of the entire globe.  It is called the Bank for International Settlements, and it is the central bank of central banks.  It is located in Basel, Switzerland, but it also has branches in Hong Kong and Mexico City.  It is essentially an unelected, unaccountable central bank of the world that has complete immunity from taxation and from national laws.  Even Wikipedia admits that “it is not accountable to any single national government.“  The Bank for International Settlements was used to launder money for the Nazis during World War II, but these days the main purpose of the BIS is to guide and direct the centrally-planned global financial system.  Today, 58 global central banks belong to the BIS, and it has far more power over how the U.S. economy (or any other economy for that matter) will perform over the course of the next year than any politician does.  Every two months, the central bankers of the world gather in Basel for another “Global Economy Meeting”.  During those meetings, decisions are made which affect every man, woman and child on the planet, and yet none of us have any say in what goes on.  The Bank for International Settlements is an organization that was founded by the global elite and it operates for the benefit of the global elite, and it is intended to be one of the key cornerstones of the emerging one world economic system.
    Even though most people have never even heard of the BIS, the truth is that the global elite have had big plans for it for a very long time.  Inanother article I included a quote from a book that Georgetown University history professor Carroll Quigley wrote many years ago entitled “Tragedy & Hope”…

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

    Gold and Silver Sell-Off a Nonevent-Rick Rule

    Rick Rule, Chairman and founder of Sprott USA, says Cyprus is a stunning example of why people should store some wealth in precious metals. Rule contends, “If you were a Cypriot citizen and you had stored your wealth in gold and silver as opposed to having your money on deposit in a Cypriot bank, the Cypriot banking crisis, for you, would be interesting but not relevant.” If there is war in Korea, Rule predicts, “If a nuke goes off on the Korean Peninsula, the first move in precious metals would be down. . . . The second move would be higher. I also believe precious metals would hold their value over time UNLIKE most other asset classes.” Join Greg Hunter as he goes One-on-One with precious metals expert Rick Rule.

    Keiser Report: Debt Crack Banker Babies

    Keiser Report: Debt Crack Banker Babies

    Former Michigan Supreme Court Justice Diane Hathaway gets year in prison for bank fraud

    Diane hathaway.JPGFormer Michigan Supreme Court Justice Diane Marie Hathaway, center, in an October 25, 2012 MLive file photo. 
    ANN ARBOR, MI -- U.S. District Judge John Corbett O'Meara sentenced former Michigan Supreme Court Justice Diane Hathaway to one year and one day in prison followed by two years of supervised release for bank fraud Tuesday.
    Hathaway pleaded guilty in January to hiding assets in order to convince ING Bank to agree to the short sale of her Grosse Pointe Park home, which allowed her to shed some $600,000 in underwater mortgage debt.
    O'Meara appeared pained as he handed out the sentence, issuing it after a long pause and after extended praise of the arguments presented by both the defense and prosecution.
    "This is hard," he said. "We're talking about a defendant that has accomplished a great deal in her lifetime and has done well and who I hope will be able to accomplish more... after all this is over."
    Hathaway addressed the court in a shaky voice before O'Meara named the sentence, saying she has been ashamed, humiliated and disgraced over the crime.
    "I stand before you a broken person," she said. "...I take full responsibility for my actions."
    Hathaway was also ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $90,000, estimated to be the amount ING Bank lost in the scheme.
    Her lawyer Steven Fishman in trying to convince O'Meara not to order prison time said Hathaway intended to pay the entire amount today.
    "You'll be done with this and you'll be out being a valuable and successful citizen of this country very soon," O'Meara said.

    This 1 Chart Should Shame The U.S. Into Solving Its Hunger Crisis

    Only in America.
    The U.S. is one of the wealthiest countries in the world, and yet nearly one-quarter of the nation’s residents recently said they had trouble putting food on the table over the past year, according to a survey from the Pew Research Center. That's a unique position among wealthy countries, and more in line with countries like Indonesia and Greece, the latter of which is currently battling rampant unemployment.
    By contrast, only about 10 percent of people in countries like Canada and Germany said they had trouble putting food on the table in the last 12 months.
    (Scroll down to see a chart of the survey's findings from Pew)
    Income inequality has become a familiar part of American life over the last half-century. The bottom 90 percent of Americans saw their incomes grow by just $59 between 1966 and 2011, according to an analysis from Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist David Cay Johnston. Over that same period same period, the average income for the top 10 percent of Americans rose by $116,071 on average.
    Such slow income growth has helped drive up food insecurity. Indeed, there were 46.2 million Americans living below the poverty line last year, the most in half a century, according to the Census Bureau. And the situation could get worse before it gets better. A House panel voted for cuts in the food stamp program as part of a farm subsidy bill earlier this month, which could put more Americans at risk of hunger.
    Only three developed nations -- Chile, Mexico and Turkey -- have higher levels of income inequality than the U.S., according to a report from earlier this year by GlobalPost, an international news service.
    If you look at the Pew Research Center's chart, you'll see that the U.S. has a bigger hunger problem than many other less-wealthy countries:

    pew chart

    US farm bill proposals include huge cuts to food assistance

    On May 15, the House Agricultural Committee passed its 2013 farm bill called the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013. The bill includes almost $21 billion in cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) program over the next ten years. Close to two million low-income people will be cut off altogether from the food assistance program formerly known as food stamps. An estimated $39.7 billion would be cut from the entire farm bill. Over half of those cuts come from SNAP. This will mean a loss of an average of $25 of monthly SNAP benefits for a family of four.
    The SNAP program, upon which 48 million people depended last year for their survival, half of them children, is the principal remaining assistance offered to the poorest in America.

    Your donations go directly to financing, improving, and expanding the web site.
    The farm bill is the generic name for the large bundle of legislation that governs the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) and food and fiber production and distribution in the US. Because the scope of the USDA is wide-ranging, covering farming, agriculture, forestry and food, it is hotly debated by big business, and many powerful interests invest millions to lobby for favorable provisions.
    Over the past 50 years farm bills have been re-argued, reconfigured and renamed approximately every five years. The last farm bill, called the Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008, expired September 30, 2012 without a new farm bill being negotiated through Congress. A nine-month extension was cobbled together in January 2013, leaving mostly intact the farm subsidies, while cutting $110 million from SNAP education programs and programs promoting local food production and organic farm practices.
    The farm bill covers a vast array of programs: farm subsidies, income protection insurance for farm owners, research and development in agriculture, rejuvenation and conservation of fragile and significant country and wetlands, support for local and regional food production and distribution, research into organic food production, and trials of healthy school lunch and snack programs.
    Both houses of the US Congress are working on farm bills in an effort to pass legislation in the next few months that will make the biggest cuts to welfare since Bill Clinton’s 1996, “end of welfare as we know it” legislation that dismantled Aid to Families with Dependant Children.
    With record numbers of people on food stamps due to the economic crisis, the discussion between the Republicans and Democrats is purely on the level of how much will be cut. The fact that tens of millions of Americans routinely go hungry is simply not an issue. The Senate Agriculture Committee chair Debbie Stabenow (D-Michigan) offers the “kinder-gentler” position of a $400 million annual cut from food stamps, but the final vote will not take place until next week. Welfare recipients are vilified in the media and by politicians as dependent, fraudsters, lazy and from minority backgrounds, spending taxpayers’ money on sugary carbonated beverages and other junk food on the one hand or exotic gourmet food on the other. By some bizarre reasoning, food stamps become the cause of obesity. These accusations are then used to demand cuts that will deprive people of their only source of sustenance; rather than address the underlying causes of unemployment, under-employment and low wages as well as the growing incidence of food deserts—neighborhoods that only have markets selling junk food and fast food outlets.
    The truth is that the majority of households receiving SNAP benefits have a worker in the home. The largest single group receiving it is white. African Americans and Hispanics are the second and third largest groups. “Households typically include a child, an elderly person or a disabled person, and a gross income of $744 a month,” according to
    The use of food stamps occurs all across the US, but there are areas of higher concentration. Washington DC is one of the highest with 23 percent of the population on food stamps last year. About 1,000 active members of the US military also rely on food stamps.
    Since 2008 there has been exponential growth in the need for SNAP—over 15 million people were added in one year. Even so, the social safety net in the US is meager, to say the least. A family of 3 must have less than $23,800 per year to qualify for a $4.50 per day benefit.
    Either version of the farm bill cuts will be achieved by many more hundreds of thousands going hungry—half of them children. And it is not only the Republican right that claim food stamps are too expensive and the US must take food from its poorest citizens. In fiscal year 2012, the US allocated $74.6 billion to SNAP to reduce the suffering of the most oppressed Americans. The US military spent that amount every 9 days or so through 2012.
    Along with the cuts, provisions are proposed that will monitor what people are buying with food stamps and where—in the name of fighting obesity and fraud. These proposals have proponents from diverse groups from the far right to anti-hunger campaigners. The issues are complex. SNAP is distributed by plastic card similar to a credit card. It can only be used in stores which can process this card. This means that the big retailers like Walmart get a huge benefit from food stamps while farmers markets get none.
    Information on where food stamps are spent and what is purchased with them will only be used to make further spending cuts or other attacks on the working class. US farm subsidy programs originated from the Great Depression and FDR’s New Deal to aid struggling farmers through tough times, whether made tough by over-production and low prices or by dust bowl weather conditions. In 1933 the federal government bought excess grain from struggling farmers and distributed it to charities to feed the hungry—a pragmatic solution to a crisis of over-production of agricultural commodities. This is why welfare and farm subsidies are historically linked in legislation. Because they are in the same bill and SNAP is by far the largest component, some sense of proportionality is claimed in the present debate to make it necessary to cut food stamps, pitting nutrition against production. In the House bill nearly half the proposed cuts come from nutrition.
    Over the course of the 2008 farm bill, $314 billion went to SNAP, that is over 70 percent of the whole $412 billion, five-year expenditure. $60 billion went to farm subsidies and insurance schemes. $22 billion on conservation programs and the rest, $15 billion, was divided among many other programs, agricultural research, rural infrastructure and economic development, specialty crop development (i.e., vegetables, fruits, nuts—whatever is not one of the commodity grains covered by farm subsidies), overseas food aid, WTO obligations, forestry, livestock, dairy, organic food production, the school lunch and snack programs, to name a few.
    The second largest component, the farm subsidy and income protection insurance scheme, is also the target of cuts in this farm bill. Many struggling farmers survive because of the farm subsidy and insurance programs; however, not surprisingly, the vast majority of farm support goes to the big end of town.
    The urban areas of Manhattan, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas, Washington DC and San Francisco are where the USDA pays the majority of the farm subsidy and insurance, i.e., not to farmers but to the owners of large agricultural operations.
    Five commodity crops: corn, wheat, soybean, rice and cotton receive about 75 percent of the benefits of farm subsidies. (Tobacco got almost $200 million in 2011.) Vegetables, fruit and nuts are called “specialty” crops and do not get subsidized. This is the principal mechanism by which 62 percent of US farmers get no USDA support (they may get insurance and apply for disaster relief) and the richest 10 percent of farm owners get 74 percent of the subsidies.
    According to The Environmental Working Group, “The top 20 percent of subsidy recipients collected almost 80 percent of all insurance funding. By contrast, the bottom 80 percent of premium subsidy recipients [389,494 operations], collected, on average, about $5,000.”
    Direct payment subsidy to farmers, about $5 billion a year, is cut out of both House and Senate farm bills, although the House version phases it out over some years for the cotton growers. New insurance schemes are being proposed in both bills that will give back much of what is lost in direct payments, especially for corn, soybean, rice and peanut farmers.
    $600 million a year is the proposed cut to vital conservation programs that moderate the effects of agricultural sources of water pollution, protect top soil from erosion (avoiding another dust bowl) and preserve endangered flora and fauna by protecting their habitat.
    Whatever the eventual outcome of the farm bill in 2013, one can have every confidence that the interests of big business will be well taken care of, while the most vulnerable in society will be made to suffer even more loss. There has been some fanfare around adding a food for needy kids program, but shamefully, funding for the new program comes by reducing by 10 percent per person other SNAP benefits.

    Washington launches four different investigations into IRS scandal

    Capitol Hill aides spent their Memorial Day weekend scanning hundreds of pages of documents related to the IRS scandal in order to prepare their bosses for what will inevitably be a frantic month of June involving multiple simultaneous investigations into government wrongdoing. By the time lawmakers return to session next week, at least four different investigations will be underway.

    As The Daily Caller has reported, at least five different IRS offices including Cincinnati, Ohio; Baltimore, Maryland; Chicago, Illinois and El Monte and Laguna Niguel, California improperly targeted conservative nonprofit groups for extra scrutiny between 2010 and 2012.

    The IRS’ shenanigans, chronicled in a damning report by Treasury Inspector General J. Russell George, started when a “team of [IRS] specialists” came together in April 2010 to process the tax-exempt nonprofit status of conservative groups that might be “potential political operations” (page 13 of the IG report). The IRS added “additional specialists” to this effort in December 2011.

    The IRS also launched audits of existing conservative nonprofit groups including the Virginia-based Leadership Institute, demanding to see training materials and personal information about the organization’s 2008 college interns.

    So for those of you keeping score at home (this reporter is still waiting for Ken Starr to send in his bracket picks) The Daily Caller presents a list of some of our favorite investigations into potential IRS wrongdoing. Which one will come up with the “Alexander Butterfield” quote?

    1. The House Ways and Means Committee – Oversight Subcommittee

    As head of the House Ways and Means Oversight Subcommittee, Republican Louisiana Rep. Charles Boustany has conducted the toughest probe into the IRS scandal so far. Boustany managed to acquire “all communications containing the word ‘tea party,’ ‘patriot,’ or ‘conservative,’” from recently-resigned IRS acting director Steven T. Miller. He also got the names of everyone involved with the improper targeting.

    Republican Ways and Means chairman Rep. Dave Camp of Michigan also raised awareness of the issue by reaching out to the public, asking Americans to write in with their own stories of IRS harassment.

    “Your story is critical to moving the investigation forward,” according to a form created on the Ways and Means’ Committee’s website asking for users’ stories, which also includes a two-year timeline of the scandal beginning in August 2010.

    Boustany was in prime position to jump on the IRS scandal. Back in September, long before the current scandal, his subcommittee grilled Steven T. Miller with concerns about the IRS’ implementation of Obamacare.

    2. The House Oversight Committee

    Respected Republican Oversight chairman Rep. Darrell Issa of California recently smacked down Republican South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham’s call for the appointment of a special prosecutor into the IRS scandal, declaring, “When I can’t do my job because I lack the authority or cooperation, I’ll seek additional remedies.”

    Issa has been competitive about investigating the IRS scandal. He has said that he is working on the IRS scandal full-time, and he refuses to dismiss the possibility of Treasury Department or even White House involvement.

    As the scandal works its way up from the Steven T. Millers of the world, watch for Issa to take the investigative lead.

    3. Senate Finance Committee

    Democratic Senate Finance Committee chairman Max Baucus is leading that committee’s investigation into the improper targeting. Baucus called the IRS’ conduct “intolerable” and “a clear breach of the public’s trust” and demanded a full investigation, and in so doing he has become the most visible leader of the investigation to the mainstream media.

    Unfortunately, Baucus has substantial baggage. As The Daily Caller reported, Baucus sent a letter to then-IRS commissioner Donald Shulman in September 2010 urging the IRS to scrutinize the tax-exempt status of nonprofit conservative groups like Americans For Job Security.

    4. The IRS!

    New IRS commissioner Danny Werfel has pledged to conduct a full investigation into the IRS scandal “to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

    Werfel, who was described as the Obama administration’s “point man” on sequestration prior to taking over the IRS job, is of no relation to former University of Florida quarterback Danny Wuerffel

    GOP Congressman Stephen Fincher On A Mission From God-Starve The Poor While Personally Pocketing Millions In Farm Subsidies

    Forbes” – Tennessee GOP Congressman Stephen Fincher, swept into office in the Tea Party wave of 2010, is on a mission from God.
    Armed with an array of proverbs and quotes from the Holy Bible, Congressman Fincher is pressing his fight to dramatically curtail the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)—better known to most Americans as food stamps—relied upon by 47 million Americans for some or all of their daily sustenance.
    Because the Bible tells him so.
    Appearing this past weekend at a gathering at a Memphis Holiday Inn, Fincher explained his position on food stamps by stating, “The role of citizens, of Christians, of humanity is to take care of each other, but not for Washington to steal from those in the country and give to others in the country.”
    The Congressman’s remarks come on the heels of his taking the biblical route when responding to Representative Juan Vargas’ (D-Calif.) somewhat different take on the teachings of Jesus. During a recent House Agriculture Committee debate over the Farm Bill (which contains the food stamp budget), Vargas, citing the Book of Matthew, noted, “[Jesus] says how you treat the least among us, the least of our brothers, that’s how you treat him.”
    Vargas also noted that Jesus directly mentions the importance of feeding the hungry.
    Not to be outdone by a Godless Democrat, Congressman Fincher responded with his own Bible quote taken from the Book of Thessalonians—“The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.”
    Nicely played, Congressman.
    While the biblical back-and-forth is interesting, I wonder if Congressman Fincher would be good enough to refer me to the part of the Bible revealing to us how providing adequate food stamp assistance to those in need violates the teachings of Christianity but venerates accepting government hand-outs in the guise of farm subsidies?
    Maybe the Congressman can instruct heathens such as I on how pocketing huge sums of taxpayer money in the guise of farm subsidies is a righteous act, while accepting government subsidies to feed one’s family is an act of—to use Fincher’s own words—stealing from those in the country to give to others in the country?
    I don’t ask these questions of Congressman Fincher indiscriminately. I ask them because of Fincher’s unique qualification to provide us with the appropriate proverb intended to instruct.
    You see, Representative Fincher happens to be the second largest recipient of farm subsidies in the United States Congress—which might explain why Mr. Fincher would like to decimate the food stamp budget in order to do the Lord’s work when “supporting a proposal to expand crop insurance by $9 billion over the next 10 years.”
    How much money are the taxpayers forking over to Congressman Fincher via farm subsidies?
    While Fincher may only come in second amongst his congressional peers when it comes to pocketing huge sums of taxpayer money, he has the distinction of being one of the largest recipients of subsidies in the history of the great State of Tennessee.
    USDA data collected in EWG’s (Environmental Working Group) 2013 farm subsidy database update — going live tomorrow –shows that Fincher collected a staggering $3.48 million in “our” money from 1999 to 2012. In 2012 alone, the congressman was cut a government check for a $70,000 direct payment. Direct payments are issued automatically, regardless of need, and go predominantly to the largest, most profitable farm operations in the country.
    Fincher’s $70,000 farm subsidy haul in 2012 dwarfs the average 2012 SNAP benefit in Tennessee of $1,586.40, and it is nearly double of Tennessee’s median household income. After voting to cut SNAP by more than $20 billion, Fincher joined his colleagues to support a proposal to expand crop insurance subsidies by $9 billion over the next 10 years.”
    EWG additionally points out that while food stamp benefits are restricted to families below specified income levels, there are no such limits on crop insurance subsidies. While SNAP benefits are restricted to families whose income is below specified limits, crop insurance subsidies have no such limitations. As a result, there are farmers in this country who receive a check each and every year for more than $1 million government subsidies while some 10,000 earn more than $100,00 courtesy of the taxpayers.
    Not bad.
    But I’m sure that Congressman Fincher would gladly offer up the appropriate homily to support the lining his own pockets with taxpayer money while spitting fire and brimstone in the direction of those Americans (earning less than $30,000 a year) getting a little help from the taxpayer when it comes to feeding their families.
    After all, it’s in the Bible…right Congressman FIncher?
    Tennessee GOP Congressman Stephen Fincher, swept into office in the Tea Party wave of 2010, is on a mission from God.

    Rick Ungar