Saturday, June 15, 2013

Web companies begin releasing surveillance information after U.S. deal

By Joseph Menn and Gerry Shih
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Facebook and Microsoft have struck agreements with the U.S. government to release limited information about the number of surveillance requests they receive, a modest victory for the companies as they struggle with the fallout from disclosures about a secret government data-collection program.
Facebook on Friday became the first to release aggregate numbers of requests, saying in a blog post that it received between 9,000 and 10,000 U.S. requests for user data in the second half of 2012, covering 18,000 to 19,000 of its users' accounts. Facebook has more than 1.1 billion users worldwide.
The majority of those requests are routine police inquiries, a person familiar with the company said, but under the terms of the deal with Justice Department, Facebook is precluded from saying how many were secret orders issued under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Until now, all information about requests under FISA, including their existence, were deemed secret.
Microsoft said it had received requests of all types for information on about 31,000 consumer accounts in the second half of 2012. In a "transparency report" Microsoft published earlier this year without including national security matters, it said it had received criminal requests involving 24,565 accounts for all of 2012.
If half of those requests came in the second part of the year, the intelligence requests constitute the bulk of government inquiries. Microsoft did not dispute that conclusion.
Google said late Friday that it was negotiating with the government and that the sticking point was whether it could only publish a combined figure for all requests. It said that would be "a step back for users," because it already breaks out criminal requests and National Security Letters, another type of intelligence inquiry.
Facebook, Google and Microsoft had all publicly urged the U.S. authorities to allow them to reveal the number and scope of the surveillance requests after documents leaked to the Washington Post and the Guardian suggested they had given the government "direct access" to their computers as part of a National Security Agency program called Prism.
The disclosures about Prism, and related revelations about broad-based collection of telephone records, have triggered widespread concern and congressional hearings about the scope and extent of the information-gathering.
The big Internet companies in particular have been torn by the need to obey U.S. laws that forbid virtually any discussion of foreign intelligence requests and the need to assuage customers.
"We hope this helps put into perspective the numbers involved and lays to rest some of the hyperbolic and false assertions in some recent press accounts about the frequency and scope of the data requests that we receive," Facebook wrote on its site.
Facebook said it would continue to press to divulge more information. The person familiar with the company said that it at least partially complied with U.S. legal requests 79 percent of the time, and that it usually turned over just the user's email address and Internet Protocol address and name, rather than the content of the person's postings or messages.
It is believed that FISA requests typically seek much more information. But it remains unclear how broad the FISA orders might be.
Several companies have said they had never been asked to turn over everything from an entire country, for example. However, the intelligence agencies could ask for all correspondence by an account holder, or even all correspondence from the users' contacts.
Among the other remaining questions are the nature of court-approved "minimization" procedures designed to limit use of information about U.S. residents. The NSA is prohibited from specifically targeting them.
"If they are receiving large amounts of data that they are not actually authorized to look at, the question then becomes what are the procedures by which they determine what they can look at?" said Kevin Bankston, an attorney at the Center for Democracy & Technology. "Do they simply store that forever in case later they are authorized to look at it?"
In addition, some legal experts say that recent U.S. laws allow for intelligence-gathering simply for the pursuit of foreign policy objectives, not just in hunting terrorists and spies.
Google, Facebook and Microsoft have already directly contradicted the Guardian and Washington Post reports about "direct access" to their servers.
Both newspapers have since backtracked, and it now appears that at least some of the companies allowed neither government-controlled equipment on their property nor direct searches without company employees vetting each inquiry.
Google has been the most forthright on the technology issue, saying that it provides information only on request via an old-school data-transfer protocol called FTP and that Google legal staff must approve each request.
Beyond that, it is now clear that many of the companies have objected, at times strenuously, to both individual requests and the broad sweep of the program. It remains unclear how successful they have been.
The initial reports about Prism included an internal NSA slide listing the dates that each of nine companies began allowing Prism data collection, starting with Microsoft in 2007 and Yahoo in 2008. The other companies include Apple, AOL and PalTalk as well as YouTube and Skype, which are owned by Google and Microsoft respectively.
Sources familiar with the conversations between the government and the Internet companies say there are frequent disagreements over how to handle specific requests.
Only one company, Yahoo, is known to have taken the highly unusual step of appealing an order from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. The company argued in 2008 that the order violated the Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable searches and seizures.
But U.S. District Judge Bruce Selya, who headed the FISA court's Court of Review, ruled the data collection program did not run afoul of the Bill of Rights.
Selya's ruling was published in redacted form, only the second time such a decision had ever been made public. A Justice Department spokesman said it was published at the court's behest, but the executive branch would have had to approve the waiving of secrecy rules.
Two days after that, according to the leaked NSA slides, Google joined the Prism data-collection effort.
"When Yahoo lost that case, it dissuaded everyone else from going to court," a person at another company told Reuters.
"A provider seeing that decision erases the doubt about whether a judge would approve this process," said a former lawyer for Yahoo.
Twitter, which has positioned itself as a hard-line defender of free speech and customer privacy, is still not participating in Prism. But people familiar with talks between the tech companies and the government said it will likely be forced to comply.
In Twitter's case, as in that of some other companies, the objections have ostensibly been about the technological difficulty in complying with orders and the format in which the information will be shared, people familiar with the situation say.
(Reporting by Joseph Menn and Gerry Shih in San Francisco. Additional reporting by Alexei Oreskovic. Editing by Jonathan Weber and Xavier Briand)

Finance Week Ahead: Focus on the Fed

Another volatile trading week has come to an end, with the major U.S. indices in the red overall and the Dow on Friday seeing its fourth straight day of triple-digit swings. Central bank concerns, from lack of further Bank of Japan action to continued worries over the timing of Fed tightening, led the way; Japan's Nikkei also saw some serious action, plunging to officially enter bear market territory on Thursday before recovering a bit on Friday, while the yen soared against the dollar.
"Central banks are powerless!" cried Yahoo! Finance Breakout's Jeff Macke this week as he and Matt Nesto discussed how the Japanese crash mocks central bank intervention. But the Fed will rule next week as well, as the two-day policy meeting gets under way on Tuesday. Be sure to join our Breakout! team for special live coverage on Wednesday, straight from Yahoo! studios in midtown Manhattan. One not-to-miss feature of this live event: Yahoo! Finance columnist Rick Newman will tell us how Fed Chief Ben Bernanke cost him thousands of dollars. Really. You'll have to tune in to get the details, beginning at 3:45 p.m. ET.
Next week we'll also have guest David Stockman, former budget director under President Ronald Reagan, back on The Daily Ticker, talking about the Fed, budget issues and the general "corruption of capitalism" in the U.S. To refresh your memory, the last time he was on, he told us all, "There are bubbles all over, hide in cash!"
Here's everything else you should look out for in the next week:
Monday, June 18
  • Stream of housing data kicks off with the housing market index at 10:00 a.m. ET
  • Other data: Empire state manufacturing survey, credit card default rates, Treasury international capital
  • G8 summit in Northern Ireland, hosted by UK PM David Cameron, to be attended by world leaders including Barak Obama, French President Francois Hollande, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Japanese PM Shinzo Abe
  • Paris Air Show begins, with Airbus vs. Boeing expected to dominate
  • Possible IPOs this week: Regado Biosciences, Aratana Therapeutics, Bluebird
Tuesday, June 19
  • The two-day FOMC meeting begins
  • More housing data with housing starts at 8:30 a.m. ET
  • Other data: Consumer inflation
  • Following the conclusion of the G8 summit, Obama will make an official visit to Germany to meet with Angela Merkel and President Joachim Gauck. German elections will be held in September and if Merkel remains chancellor, she will become Germany's second-longest-serving postwar chancellor following Helmut Kohl.
Wednesday, June 20
  • FOMC meeting announcement/forecasts in at 2:00 p.m. ET, Bernanke presser at 2:30 p.m. ET
  • Data: Weekly mortgage applications, oil inventories
  • Earnings: FedEx (FDX)
  • From Germany, Obama will deliver a speech at Bradenburg Gate in Berlin
  • There will be a National Press Club luncheon, at which AP President/CEO Gary Pruitt will discuss the seizure of AP phone records first reported in May
Thursday, June 21
  • More real estate data with existing home sales at 10:00 a.m. ET
  • Other data: Jobless claims, PMI manufacturing index, Philadelphia Fed survey, leading indicators, natural gas inventories, Fed balance sheet/money supply
  • Shareholder meeting: Best Buy (BBY)
Friday, June 22
  • Quadruple witching day: This is when the contracts for stock index futures, stock index options, stock options and single stock futures all expire. This happens four times a year, on the third Friday of March, June, September and December.

Australia embraces new gender guidelines

Australia has embraced a growing global trend towards acknowledging greater gender diversity with individuals now able to be referred to as "indeterminate, intersex or unspecified" on official documents rather than male or female.
Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus said new national guidelines, which come into force on July 1, will make it simpler for people to establish or change their sex or gender in personal records held by government departments and agencies.
"We recognise individuals may identify, and be recognised within the community, as a gender other than the gender they were assigned at birth or during infancy, or as an indeterminate gender," he said in a statement late Thursday.
"This should be recognised and reflected in their personal records held by departments and agencies."
The move comes after the Australian Human Rights Commission in 2009 recommended the government consider developing national guidelines concerning the collection of sex and gender information.
The new guidelines state that "where sex and/or gender information is collected and recorded in a personal record, individuals should be given the option to select M (male), F (female) or X (Indeterminate/Intersex/Unspecified)".
They state that sex reassignment surgery and/or hormone therapy are not pre-requisites for the recognition of a change of gender in Australian government records.
When someone requests the sex on their personal record be changed, Dreyfus said the government would accept a statement from their doctor or psychologist, a valid Australian passport (which have allowed X under sex for several years), or a state or territory birth certificate or other document which shows their preferred gender status.
"Transgender and intersex people in Australia face many issues trying to ensure the gender status on their personal records matches the gender they live and how they are recognised by the community," Dreyfus said.
"These guidelines will bring about a practical improvement in the everyday lives of transgender, intersex and gender diverse people."
The move comes just weeks after a New South Wales ruled that sex does not just mean male or female, which suggests terms like "sex not specified" could become more prevalent.
Organisation Intersex International Australia welcomed the new guidelines.
But it noted that many people who were intersex, either because they have the biological attributes of both sexes or lack some of the biological attributes considered necessary to be defined as one or the other, may still identify as male or female.
"What happened yesterday was a major leap forward because it helps to ensure there is consistency in how people are treated at the federal level," Morgan, a spokesperson for the organisation who did not want to use his surname, told AFP.
"We would rather not have to participate in these binary boxes if we don't want to. People should be able to choose something if they really want."
Australia's move is seen as part of a global trend towards greater acceptance of sex and gender diversity.
In 2011, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay described Australia as "in the vanguard of change" when it enabled its citizens to have their sex and gender identity properly recognised on their passports.
"Increasingly, states around the world are starting to recognise the need to reflect sex and gender diversity," Pillay said at the time, saying pioneering steps had been taken in recent years in Nepal, Portugal, Britain and Uruguay."
Earlier this week Nepal's Supreme Court ordered the government to alter passports so that transgenders no longer have to describe themselves as male or female.
The move comes more than six years after the court ordered the government to enact laws to guarantee the rights of transgender, gay, lesbian and bisexual people.

Tesco stops sourcing from a Bangladesh factory due to safety concerns

LONDON (Reuters) - Tesco, the world's No. 3 retailer, has stopped sourcing clothes from a factory in Bangladesh after discovering serious problems with the safety of a building, the company said on Saturday.
The move follows a survey the British-based supermarket chain conducted in the wake of the collapse of the Rana Plaza factory complex in Dhaka in April that killed 1,129 people.
"A structural survey of a site we source from in Bangladesh, owned by Liberty Fashions, has revealed serious problems with the safety of one of the buildings," Tesco said in a statement.
"We immediately made the owners aware of our findings, and tried to find an alternative to ceasing production of Tesco products on this site. We are disappointed that this was not possible...
"Our concerns about the structure of this building are so serious that we decided our only option was to stop taking clothes from this site with immediate effect."
Tesco, which has promised to conduct structural surveys of all the factories it sources from, said it had urged the owners of the site to stop all production and to evacuate the premises to ensure the safety of its workers.
It had also informed the relevant authorities, other customers of the site and the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BMGEA) of the survey results and its decision to stop sourcing from the site.
The retailer said it had stopped using 15 factories of concern in Bangladesh in the past 12 months.
Bangladesh has pledged to improve safety in the garment industry after the Rana Plaza collapse but has not pledged any new money to relocate dangerous buildings.
The collapse of Rana Plaza, a factory built on swampy ground outside Dhaka with several illegal floors, on April 24 ranks amongst the world's worst industrial accidents and has galvanized brands to look more closely at their suppliers.
Very low labor costs and, critics say, shortcuts on safety, makes the country of 160 million the cheapest place to make large quantities of clothing.
Companies are split over how to improve conditions. Big European names have signed an accord that would make them legally responsible for safety at Bangladesh factories. U.S. firms like Wal-Mart Stores Inc have broken ties with non-compliant factories.
(Reporting by Stephen Addison; Editing by Susan Fenton)

Can Superheroes Save the Hollywood Box Office?

Can Superman Beat Iron Man? Warner Bros. sure hopes so. The studio’s $225 million Superman reboot “Man of Steel" will open in 4,207 theaters this weekend and is expected to be the blockbuster of the summer.
The last time Superman hit theaters was in 2006 with "Superman Returns." Producers of "Man of Steel" are hoping their version of Superman will not only revive the sleepy comic book franchise but also become a bigger box office draw than "Iron Man 3" -- which has collected $1 billion in ticket sales worldwide.

Blockbusters have earned $11 billion in profits so far this year, according to Lynda Obst, a long-time Hollywood movie producer and author of the new book, Sleepless in Hollywood: Tales from the New Abnormal in the Movie Business.
Hollywood no longer makes movies says Obst, who produced "Sleepless in Seattle," "Contact" and "How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days."
“We make franchises, sequels, reboots…movies that are basically an enterprise for future movies. We don’t make them because they’re good, we make them because they’re a business proposition that can be doubled, tripled or quadruped into six or seven future movies,” she tells The Daily Ticker.
Since 1995, 10 of the top 19 grossing movies have been franchise films. Six starred superheroes.

Obst says Hollywood no longer wants to appeal to Americans, with the focus instead on international sales. ‘That’s where the big profits are coming from," she says.
And Hollywood needs them -- especially because of new competition from streaming video and on-demand movies. Obst says new technology and the resulting DVD crash wiped out half of the profits in Tinseltown.
Movie moguls have decided to rely on markets where the profits are steady such as overseas destinations like China.
China is currently the No. 2 market for movies and is on track to be No. 1 by 2020, Obst says. Theaters are closing in the U.S. as new picture houses are popping up all over China, especially Imax and 3-D theaters.

“That means that the product we’re going to make is going to be 3-D and Imax movies. That’s what the world wants from us,” says Obst.
Ticket sales in the U.S and Canada rose 6% in 2012 while sales in China gained 36%. The number of movies released in the U.S. in 2012 fell 9% to 128 while the number released globally rose more than 10% to 677.
What does award-winning producer Linda Obst hope that Hollywood will do to remedy this situation? Watch the video above to find out!
Tell Us What You Think!

Explosion at Louisiana chemical plant kills 1, injures 73

A Medevac helicopter lands at a triage center set up on highway LA 3115 near the Williams Olefins chemical plant, after an explosion and fire there, in Geismar 

 Deadly explosion at Louisiana chemical plant. (AP photo)
By Jonathan Bachman
GEISMAR, Louisiana (Reuters) - An explosion and fire killed one person and injured 73 at the Williams Olefins chemical plant in Geismar, Louisiana, on Thursday, unsettling an industrial town where authorities ordered people to remain indoors for hours to avoid the billowing smoke.
The blast at 8:37 a.m. (0937 ET) sent a huge fireball and column of smoke into the air. The plant along the Mississippi River, about 60 miles from New Orleans, is one of 12 chemical plants along a 10-mile (16-km) stretch of the river.
The fire, fueled by the petrochemical propylene, burned for more than three hours, though government monitors had yet to detect dangerous levels of emissions, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal told a news conference near the scene.
"Once the investigations are done, once there's a responsible party, they will absolutely be held responsible," Jindal said.
Louisiana State Police said the victim was Zachary C. Green, 29, of Hammond, but gave no further information on him.
Some 300 workers from the plant were evacuated and all the employees were accounted for, among them 10 who stayed behind in a safe room inside the plant, Jindal said.
Emergency responders took 73 people to hospital, Jindal said, including at least five who were being treated at Baton Rouge General Hospital's burn center, said Dr. Floyd Roberts, a physician there.
Plant operations were shut, and the company's own emergency response crews were assisting at the scene, parent group Williams Cos said in a statement.
Authorities ordered people within a 2-mile (3-km) radius to remain in their homes, in part because of the smoke, said Lester Kenyon, a spokesman for Ascension Parish.
That "shelter in place" order was later lifted for residents but remained in effect for four other plants in the area that scaled down their operations, Jindal said.
"It's a sad day in Geismar, and particularly for the Williams Olefins work family, and frankly for the petrochem community in this area," Ascension Parish Sheriff Jeffrey Wiley said. "It's an industry that practices safety every second of every day, but regrettably, things do happen."
The same plant had an accident in 2009 when about 60 pounds (27 kg) of a flammable mixture was released, resulting in a fire that caused property damage but no injuries, according to the Right-to-Know Network, citing data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's risk management database.
The plant produces approximately 1.3 billion pounds (590 million kg) of ethylene and 90 million pounds (40 million kg) of polymer grade propylene per year, which are used to make plastics, according to the Williams website.
Only propylene was burning, officials said.
Williams operates the plant and holds an 83 percent stake in it, the company said.
Shares of Williams Cos fell as much as 4.3 percent on Thursday and ended the trading day down 1 percent.
With massive equipment operating under intense pressure and high heat, the petrochemical industry is particularly prone to occasional fires and explosions, most of which are quickly brought under control with limited injury or damage.
Southern Louisiana is home to a large share of the country's petrochemical facilities and has seen at least two other blasts in the past two years.
An explosion at Geismar's Westlake Chemicals vinyl plant sent a cloud of toxic vinyl chloride and hydrochloric acid over the town in March of 2012, and in June 2011 there was an explosion at a Multi-Chem Group plant in New Iberia, about 50 miles from Geismar. Neither blast caused injuries.
Pressure on the industry to improve safety has increased since a 2005 blast at a BP refinery in Texas City, Texas, killed 15 people and injured 170 in one of the worst such industrial accidents in decades.
An explosion at a fertilizer plant in West, Texas, that killed 14 people in April has also sharpened attention on handling of volatile chemicals.
(Reporting by Karen Brooks, Francesca Trianni, Kathy Finn, Jonathan Leff, Michael Pell and Robert Gibbons; Writing by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Jackie Frank, Bernard Orr)

David Morgan: gold is not just a commodity. It is money.

Episode 132: Félix Moreno talks to David Morgan, publisher of The Morgan Report and the proprietor of ( They discuss the bond bubble and the coming collapse of fiat money, the difference between “paper gold” and physical precious metals, fractional reserve in gold markets, the price of gold and silver and why gold is not just another commodity, but rather a monetary metal. They also talk about central bank gold reserves — particularly those of Germany and China.

Just the Scent of Money Is Corrupting: Study

It’s often said that money corrupts. But a new study says that just the thought of getting some hard cash will do the trick.
The report by University of Utah and Harvard researchers found that individuals who could gain monetarily through unethical behavior were more likely to demonstrate that behavior than those who weren’t offered a financial gain.
“Were were interested in why good people would do bad behavior,” said Kristin Smith-Crowe, a management professor and co-author of the study released last month.
“We certainly found that the love of money is corrupting and just the mere exposure to it makes people do bad things,” Smith-Crowe said.
Using 324 undergraduate students from the university, Smith-Crowe and her colleagues conducted four separate “games” in two different groups. One group was told of a financial reward for the behavior, the other was told there was no financial reward for doing the same behavior.
In one game, students were presented with a series of scenarios in which an unethical act was committed. They were asked how likely they would be to engage in the same unethical acts for money. (The other group was asked the same question without the monetary reward.)
In another, they played a “deception game,” in which a group could earn more money by lying rather than telling the truth. (No reward to the second group for lying.)
The third game presented the students with a scenario in which they could choose to hire a candidate who promises to share insider information on a competitor if hired. (No insider information on the decision to hire someone for the second group.)
In the final trial, students engaged in a performance task in which they could earn more money by being dishonest rather than being honest. (No reward to the second group for being dishonest.)
The study found that participants who were merely exposed to the concept of a monetary gain were more likely to demonstrate unethical intentions, decisions, and behavior than the students in the separate controlled condition— without the possibility of a financial reward.

The Shocking Amount of Wealth and Power Held by 0.001% of the World Population

The level of inequality around the world is truly staggering.
Many now know the rhetoric of the 1% very well: the imagery of a small elite owning most of the wealth while the 99% take the table scraps. 
In 2006,  a UN report revealed that the world’s richest 1% own 40% of the world’s wealth, with those in the financial and internet sectors comprising the “super rich.” More than a third of the world’s super-rich live in the U.S., with roughly 27% in Japan, 6% in the U.K., and 5% in France. The world’s richest 10% accounted for roughly 85% of the planet's total assets, while the bottom half of the population – more than 3 billion people – owned less than 1% of the world’s wealth.
Looking specifically at the United States, the top 1% own more than 36% of the national wealth and more than the combined wealth of the bottom 95%. Almost all of the wealth gains over the previous decade went to the top 1%. In the mid-1970s, the top 1% earned 8% of all national income; this number rose to 21% by 2010. At the highest sliver at the top, the 400 wealthiest individuals in America have more wealth than the bottom 150 million.
A 2005 report from Citigroup coined the term “plutonomy” to describe countries “where economic growth is powered by and largely consumed by the wealthy few.” The report specifically identified the U.K., Canada, Australia and the United States as four plutonomies. Published three years before the onset of the financial crisis in 2008, the Citigroup report stated: “Asset booms, a rising profit share and favorable treatment by market-friendly governments have allowed the rich to prosper and become a greater share of the economy in the plutonomy countries.”
"The rich," said the report, "are in great shape, financially.”
In early 2013, Oxfam reported that the fortunes made by the world’s 100 richest people over the course of 2012 – roughly $240 billion – would be enough to lift the world’s poorest people out of poverty four times over. In  the Oxfam report, "The Cost of Inequality: How Wealth and Income Extremes Hurt Us All," the international charity noted that in the past 20 years, the richest 1% had increased their incomes by 60%. Barbara Stocking, an Oxfam executive, noted that this type of extreme wealth is “economically inefficient, politically corrosive, socially divisive and environmentally destructive...We can no longer pretend that the creation of wealth for a few will inevitably benefit the many – too often the reverse is true.”
The report added: “In the UK, inequality is rapidly returning to levels not seen since the time of Charles Dickens. In China the top 10% now take home nearly 60% of the income. Chinese inequality levels are now similar to those in South Africa, which is now the most unequal country on Earth and significantly more unequal than at the end of apartheid.” In the United States, the share of national income going to the top 1% has doubled from 10 to 20% since 1980, and for the top 0.01% in the United States, “the share of national income is above levels last seen in the 1920s.”
Previously, in July of 2012, James Henry, a former chief economist at McKinsey, a major global consultancy, published a major report on tax havens for the Tax Justice Network which compiled data from the Bank for International Settlements (BIS), the IMF and other private sector entities to reveal that the world’s super-rich have hidden between $21 and $32 trillion offshore to avoid taxation.
Henry stated: “This offshore economy is large enough to have a major impact on estimates of inequality of wealth and income; on estimates of national income and debt ratios; and – most importantly – to have very significant negative impacts on the domestic tax bases of ‘source’ countries.” John Christensen of the Tax Justice Network  further commented that “Inequality is much, much worse than official statistics show, but politicians are still relying on trickle-down to transfer wealth to poorer people... This new data shows the exact opposite has happened: for three decades extraordinary wealth has been cascading into the offshore accounts of a tiny number of super-rich.”


Gold Buying Panic In China: 10,000 People Wait In Line For Their Chance to Own Precious Metals (Stunning Pictures)

One day in the near future Americans will finally realize that their money is being devalued at a rapid pace. For the time being the price increases are somewhat muted by official announcements of inflation being under control at around 2% and purported economic recovery on the horizon. The Federal Reserve and the US government are doing everything in their power to maintain a perception of stability.
But what happens when all the machinations are proven to be fruitless during the next stock market crash and currency crisis?
That’s when people panic. That’s when they start mass selling assets that hold no true value, and shift their capital to physical goods that store and preserve wealth.
In China, where the central government has manipulated the currency, economic and financial markets for decades, the people have seen it all before. And they aren’t taking any chances.
While the paper price of gold and silver may have dropped nearly 25% this year, it’s clear that demand in the real world is soaring.
If you want to know what it’s going to look like in front of precious metals dealers when confidence in our government’s ability to manage this crisis is finally lost for good, then look no further than the streets of China.
The following pictures, taken in Jinan in the last 48 hours, depict some 10,000 Chinese citizens lining  up to buy physical gold, providing all the evidence you need for the argument that gold is, in fact, money.
These are absolutely stunning.
Panic Buying In China (Photo 1)
China gold buying (Photo 2)
China gold buying (Photo 4)
China Gold Buying (Photo 5)
China Gold Buying (Photo 6)
China Gold Buying (Photo 7)
Images from Caixin via Zero Hedge
The pictures are reminiscent of Americans lining up around the block during the gold buying sprees of the 1980′s in an attempt to get their hands on physical gold and silver.
Just as is the case with food, guns, ammunition, Xboxes, and iPhones, when widespread demand strikes it’s nearly impossible to get your hands on the goods you need at a fair price.
Get yours now, before the panicked masses realize what has happened.

Please Spread The Word And Share This Post

Mac Slavo
Read by 435 people
Date: June 14th, 2013

Copyright Information: Copyright SHTFplan and Mac Slavo. This content may be freely reproduced in full or in part in digital form with full attribution to the author and a link to Please contact us for permission to reproduce this content in other media formats.

This article originally appeared on: SHTF Plan

Doomsday Poll: There’s An 87% of Chance The Stock Market Will Tank Worse Than It Did In 2008

Doomsday poll says crash coming
New crash coming? When? Before year-end?
In “Stocks for the Long Run,” economist Jeremy Siegel researched all the “big market moves” between 1801 and 2001. Bottom line: 75% of the time, there is no rationale for “big moves.” No one can predict them. Maybe technicians and traders can pick short-term moves the next second. Maybe tomorrow. But the long-term “big market moves?” No way.
So why predict an “87%” chance of another meltdown in 2013? Because in the real world of statistical probabilities, historical facts and expert opinions danger signals are flashing wild. In mid-2008 we summarized the predictions of 20 experts over several years. Predicted a meltdown in a few years — markets crashed two months later. Fast.
In retrospect, it was inevitable, thanks in part to the hype, arrogance and incompetence of Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson who failed to prepare America.
The warnings are again accelerating. And so is the happy talk from Wall Street casino insiders, about rallies, housing recoveries, perpetual cheap money. Don’t listen. The next crash will happen by year-end.
Yes, there’s a 13% chance the next Fed chairman will keep printing cheap money into 2014. But on New Years Eve our aging bull will be 4½ years old, well past Bill O’Neill’s “average” 3.75 years for putting this bull out to pasture.
So unless you’re shorting, all bets on Wall Street casinos for 2014 are megarisk, like 2008. Like a Stephen King horror film, you feel it coming. Could happen anytime, even tomorrow, says Siegel’s research, or the unpredictable logic in Nassim Taleb’s “Black Swan.”

IMF assesses risks to U.S. economy as ’tilted to the downside’
May PPI Jumps Due To Rise In Gasoline, Electricity, Eggs And Imitation Cheese Production Prices
BOND FUND CARNAGE: Investors Stage An Exodus From Emerging Markets As Equities Suffer Collateral Damage

Outflows from emerging markets assetsBofA Merrill Lynch Global Investment Strategy, EPFR Global

Below is a complete breakdown of this week’s fund flows, via BAML:
Flows by Asset Class
Bonds: $14.5bn outflows (second largest on record for second straight week)
Equities: $8.5bn outflows (largest in 9 months) ($4.6bn via ETFs)
Commodities: $0.4bn outflows (18 straight weeks = longest on record)
Flows by Fixed Income Sector
$6.5 outflows from HY bond funds (2nd largest ever)
$2.5 outflows from EM debt (2nd largest ever)
$1.5bn outflows from govt/tsy funds
$1.7bn outflows from munis (largest in 2013)
51 straight weeks into floating-rate debt ($1.5bn)

Read more:

Bail-Ins, Bonds Bursting and Hyperinflation… Three MEGAS
David Rosenberg Has 10 ‘Nagging Concerns’ About The Global Economy

1. China can’t announce another massive stimulus because it would add to “an unprecedented credit bubble.”

1. China can't announce another massive stimulus because it would add to "an unprecedented credit bubble."
Gluskin Sheff

2. ECB chief Mario Draghi isn’t stimulating the economy like he once was.

2. ECB chief Mario Draghi isn't stimulating the economy like he once was.
Gluskin Sheff

Read more:

100% Chance Of Stock Market Crash Coming Near Future

MONCKTON: Dollar Is TOAST…”Crash That Is COMING Will Be ORDERS OF MAGNITUDE Worse Than 2008″….Prepare For YEARS Without Food
Obama has done it. He has brought America down. It only took him just over four years. The Republicans could have stopped him. They didn’t…
If you thought the crash of 2008 was bad, think again. The crash that is coming –I cannot put a date on it, but it is not far away now – will be orders of magnitude worse.
So, what should you do to protect yourself and your family? First, get rid of every dollar you have. Dollars are now all but worthless. When the crash comes, they will have no value at all.
In hard times, most financial instruments – currencies, stocks, bonds – are not worth the paper they are printed on. Get rid of them now. Buy silver coins. They will quintuple in price once the crash sets in, and they are small enough to be fungible when the dollar dies.

Buy land, some of it well-wooded, some of it arable, some of it grassland. You will need the timber to power your steam tractor. Gasoline will be a costly rarity. And make sure you can defend yourselves. Starving mobs are no respecters of persons. Do what the Mormons do: Get three months’ supply of imperishable foodstuffs and hide them in the basement.

Absurd though this advice may now seem, there is a real danger that the crash will sudden. If so – perhaps for several months, and even for years – the fabric of civilization, including the food-supply chain, will fail.
It is not my custom to write in millenarian or apocalyptic terms. But the very best that can be said for your current administration is that it simply has no idea what damage it is doing. It is printing money in the vain hope of buying itself time. Yet every fake dollar that comes off the printing-presses makes the problem worse and the solution harder.
At worst, what is now happening to your nation may be deliberate. In that event, your current “president” will go down as history’s greatest villain. In any event, he will go down as history’s greatest incompetent.
Do not believe none of this can happen. Psychiatrists study what they call “normalcy bias.” People expect that everything will carry on and that America is too big to fail. She is not. She has failed. You will pay a heavy price for her failure, unless you act now to defend yourselves against what your government, with the culpable, silent acquiescence of the GOP, is doing to destroy your nation.
Finally, pray. God bless America. It has been nice knowing you. Only when you are gone will the world realize how much it misses you, and – paradoxically – how much it owes you.

Slump in wages over last five years is 'unprecedented' as workers have paid to hang on to their jobs, says think-tank

Britons have seen their wages fall by more than ever previously recorded in the current downturn, according to a think-tank report.
The crisis is having an 'unprecedented' impact on workers who have managed to keep their jobs, with one third of workers who stayed put suffering a cut or freeze in their wages in cash terms in 2010-11, says the Institute for Fiscal Studies.
Unemployment has remained lower than in previous periods of hardship, but competition for jobs is considered to be a factor behind wage stagnation.The number of people out of work fell by 5,000 to 2.51million in the three months to April, official figures out today show.
Job trends: Falling pay may provide some of the explanation for the so-called productivity puzzle which has seen output fall in UK companies while employment has held up
Job trends: Falling pay may provide some of the explanation for the so-called productivity puzzle which has seen output fall in UK companies while employment has held up
Jobseeker allowance claimants dropped by 8,600 last month to 1.5million - the seventh fall in a row and the lowest level in two years. However, the jobless rate held steady at 7.8 per cent.
The IFS report - which declares 'this time really is different' - reveals that once inflation is taken into account, real pay has fallen by more since the recession began in 2008 than in any comparable five-year period.
This may provide some of the explanation for the so-called productivity puzzle which has seen output fall in UK companies while employment has held up, IFS experts suggested.
The research found that many UK companies, particularly smaller businesses, have cut wages rather than lay off staff. Workers have been willing to accept pay reductions because of the fierce competition for those jobs which are available.
Competition for jobs has in part been driven by the fact that lone parents and older workers have not withdrawn from the labour market to the extent they did in previous downturns, possibly because welfare reforms make it more difficult for them to do so, the report found.
Fewer workers are unionised than in the past and those who are not protected by collective wage agreements are more likely to have seen their pay cut or frozen.
Number crunching: Jobless rate held steady at 7.8% in latest employment figures
Number crunching: Jobless rate held steady at 7.8% in latest employment figures
Claire Crawford, managing editor of IFS journal Fiscal Studies, says: 'The falls in nominal wages that workers have experienced during this recession are unprecedented, and seem to provide at least a partial explanation for why unemployment has risen less, and productivity has fallen more, than might otherwise have been expected.
'To the extent that it is better for individuals to stay in work, albeit with lower wages, than to become unemployed, the long-term consequences of this recession in terms of labour market performance may be less severe than following the high unemployment recessions of the 1980s and 1990s.'
The research found that the period since 2008 has seen 'the longest and deepest loss of output in a century' but that the downturn is different from previous slumps.
Productivity levels have fallen 'to an unprecedented degree' but employment has held up far better than in previous recessions and inequality has declined, in sharp contrast to experiences in the 1980s.
Smaller firms, which have tended to respond to the tighter economic conditions by cutting wages, have seen productivity fall by an average 7 per cent while firms with more than 250 employees, which were more likely to lay off staff, have seen no change in productivity.
Younger generations have been hit much harder by the downturn than older workers and consumers, the report found.
Wage squeeze: Average earnings are growing at a lower rate than inflation
Wage squeeze: Average earnings are growing at a lower rate than inflation
Today's jobs figures released by the Office for National Statistics showed a record 29.7million people were in work after a rise of 24,000 in recent months.
Just over a million people over the age of 65 are in work, the highest since records began in 1971. Almost one in 10 people in the age group are working - 615,000 men and 388,000 women.
Other data disclosed that public sector employment has fallen by 22,000 to just under 5.7million. the lowest figure since 2001.
Local government employment is 26,000 lower than the end of last year at fewer than 2.5million. Employment in private firms has increased by 46,000 to 24million.
The fall in unemployment in the quarter to April was entirely due to men finding work, while the number of women out of a job rose by 7,000 to 1.09million.
Long-term unemployment has also increased, with those looking for work for longer than a year up by 11,000 to almost 900,000.
Youth unemployment - counting those aged between 16 and 24 - has fallen by 43,000 to 950,000.
Total pay increased by 1.3 per cent in the year to April, compared to the previous month's revised figure of 0.6 per cent. Average total pay, including bonuses, is now £484 a week, falling to £447 without bonuses.
Aging workforce: One million people aged over 65 are still in work
Aging workforce: One million people aged over 65 are still in work
Employment minister Mark Hoban said: 'It's a credit to the growth of British businesses up and down the country that we now have a record number of people employed in the private sector.
'Our priority is getting people back into work and today's figures show we have more people in work than ever before, more women in work than ever before, and more hours worked in the economy than ever before.
'With the number of people in work increasing, and unemployment down, these are welcome figures. The fact that youth unemployment is also down is a positive sign.
'But we are not complacent - through schemes like the Work Programme and the Youth Contract we will continue to help people find the jobs they need so they can realise their aspiration of looking after themselves and their families and help the country compete in the global race."
Peter Searle, chief executive of recruitment firm Adecco, said: 'Britain still faces unacceptable levels of youth unemployment and urgent action is required to get young people into work.
'Greater commitment is required from businesses to create relevant work experience opportunities, and employers need to be more engaged in education. This will ensure that young people gain the employability skills so desperately needed.
'We have done little as a nation to tackle the issue, and unless there is a structured collaboration between employers, education and the Government, we risk a lost generation of jobseekers who are excluded, possibly permanently, from employment.'
Claimant count: Numbers claiming Jobseekers' Allowance has fallen
Claimant count: Numbers claiming Jobseekers' Allowance has fallen
TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said: 'Today's figures show that any economic green shoots are confined to the stock market and the pay of top bosses.
'While there is a record number of people in work - due to a rising population and people working past state pension age - the chances of actually being in work has fallen in the last three months.
'Decent pay rises seem confined to top bosses, whose pay is now rising 10 times as fast as ordinary workers'. We need far stronger economic growth to boost our jobs market and for top bosses to stop hogging limited business gains for themselves.'
Research released by the TUC yesterday showed the nation's paypacket has shrunk £52billion over the past five years as job losses and wage cuts undermine workers' earning power.
Salary cuts have hit all parts of the country, but the North West suffered the most between 2007 and last year - it saw a fall of over 10 per cent - followed by the South West, West Midlands and Scotland, said the TUC report.
Average earnings: Downward trend over past 12 years
Average earnings: Downward trend over past 12 years

Central Banks’ Bubble Bursting, Sending Markets Down Worldwide

Central Banks’ Bubble Bursting, Sending Markets Down WorldwideThe New American – by Bob Adelmann
When the Japanese stock market lost more than six percent of its value on Wednesday in a massive sell-off, pundits jumped on the move to try to explain what happened, and what it all means. Evan Lucas, a market strategist at IG Markets, wrote:
The storm clouds are building: the Dow has just suffered its first three-day losing streak for the year, the Chicago VIX [fear] index has climbed further; Europe is sliding off its highs; China is slowing down faster than expected, and the BOJ [Bank of Japan] is holding [off] on additional stimulus action.  
Hans Goetti, chief investment officer at Finaport, explained why:
We’ve been living in an environment where economically speaking, bad news was good news because bad news meant more monetary stimulus. The rally that we have had over the past one-and-a-half years has been mainly driven by central banks and now the punch bowl is about to be taken away.
Two analogies are often used to describe the actions of the Federal Reserve in the United States as well as other central banks around the world: the punch bowl, and the drug addict. Each is helpful in explaining the addictive nature of easy money (or alcohol or drugs) and the inevitable withdrawal that takes place when the stimulus is removed.
According to Austrian school business cycle theory these declines in markets are the inevitable consequences of an expanding money supply, sold as the answer to fighting a recession. Low interest rates, Keynesians believe, help to stimulate borrowing and investment which works to reverse the economic downtrend and get things moving again. There are numerous flaws in this theory, including not knowing just how much new money needs to be printed, or when to stop. The problem is simple: Central bankers don’t know the answer to either question and as a result are unprepared for the consequences, or even to recognize them while they are occurring.
What’s being reported are those consequences. On Wednesday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) rose by more than 100 points early in the day, reversed course and dropped 260 points, ending the day down 126 points, capping its first three-day losing streak in 2013. Similar losses were recorded by the S&P 500 Index and the Nasdaq, while the “fear index” (the CBOE Volatility Index) spiked over 18 (five points above where it usually trades).
In the last 30 days the Dow has lost 500 points while the S&P 500 has broken through support levels, and put-call ratios (another measure of risk of a sell-off) have been rising. Market breadth (stocks rising in price compared to those falling) has gone negative as well. International bond fund investors are redeeming shares at a rate not seen since the start of the Great Recession.
It’s happening because there are whispers that the punch bowl might be taken away, perhaps sooner than later. Since November 2008, when the Fed introduced its plan to fight the Great Recession with plans to expand the money supply by $600 billion, it has continually added new money to the economy until the total now exceeds $3 trillion. But that fades in comparison to the expansion by central banks world-wide, estimated at more than $12 trillion since 2007.
This was aided and abetted in Japan by the program called “Abenomics,” a gigantic Keynesian program of new money creation named for its primary instigator, Shinzo Abe, the current prime minister of Japan. This huge expansion of the money supply initially served to weaken the Japanese yen sufficiently to make Japan temporarily more competitive in world markets. This in turn drove the moribund Nikkei 225 to highs not seen in decades, topping out in May at 15,943. On Thursday the Nikkei 225 index closed at 12,445, a decline of 22 percent, well into bear market territory. The FTSE (London’s equivalent of Wall Street’s S&P 500 Index) topped out at 6,876 in May, and ended the day at 6,304, a decline of more than eight percent, while shares of the Brazilian Total Return Index topped out at 34,664 in May and ended the day at just 28,655, a decline of 17 percent in less than a month.
The dominoes continue to fall, according to John Nyaradi, writing in the Wall Street Journal’s Marketwatch:
Domino #1: Apple Computer was the first domino to fall as it reached an all-time high of more than $700/share in September 2012, only to fall to an interim low of $390 in April 2013. Recently, the stock has enjoyed a tepid rally but still remains firmly locked in bear market territory, down more than 35% from its September high. Viewed as a bellwether of the tech sector and a prominent player in the S&P 500, Apple was the first domino to fall.
Domino #2: In a long-term bull market until October 2012, gold has been variously viewed as the “barbarous relic,” the only “true” currency and the ultimate “safe haven” against both currency collapse and runaway inflation….
Recently, however, the luster is off the precious metal, and gold has been a falling domino, to say the least. Peaking at $1800/oz in October 2012, gold has fallen to interim lows of $1362/oz in April 2013, a stunning six-month decline of 24%.
Domino #3: Another “safe haven” and the ultimate “no risk” investment, United States Treasury bonds are starting to wobble and could become the third domino to fall. The value of 30-year Treasury bonds has plummeted 8.9 percent between May 1 and June 7 alone, and this has more than troubling ramifications for important things like the real estate market, corporate profits, interest on the national debt and the future of U.S. equity prices.
This is a colossal domino, and its fall would be a major game changer across the entire spectrum of global financial assets.
Domino #4: The real estate sector has been the one really bright spot in our ongoing mediocre economic recovery, but now even it seems at the cliff’s edge and ready to take a tumble. The iShares Dow Jones U.S. Real Estate ETF fell 9.3 percent between May 21 and June 7.
Whether Wall Street becomes Domino #5 (or #6 after Japan) will likely become clear over the next weeks and months. It’s not being helped any by Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke who just announced that he won’t be attending the annual Jackson Hole Conference in August, due to a “personal scheduling conflict.” This is the first time a Fed chairman has missed this confab in 25 years.
Regardless, the pins are lined up for a major correction, a reflection of central banking’s determined move to flood the world economy with digital currency without regard for those nasty unforeseen consequences that are now surfacing. It may be that Bernanke is doing his disappearing act just in time.

A graduate of Cornell University and a former investment advisor, Bob is a regular contributor to The New American magazine and blogs frequently at, primarily on economics and politics. He can be reached

Guest Post: Is Obama Starting A War With Syria Just A Distraction From All The Scandals?

Well, isn't that convenient?  At the moment when the Obama administration is feeling more heat then ever before, it starts another war.  Suddenly everyone in the mainstream media is talking all about Syria and not about the IRS scandal, Benghazi, NSA snooping or any of the other political scandals that have popped up in recent weeks. As if on cue, Obama made headlines all over the globe on Thursday by claiming that the Syrian government has used chemical weapons against the rebels "multiple times", and that the U.S. was now ready to do more to assist the rebels. As far as the Obama administration is concerned, there is no such thing as a coincidence.  The timing of this announcement regarding Syria was not an accident.

Document: Major resources needed for Obama Africa trip

Washington Post – by Carol D. Leonnig and David Nakamura

Update: The White House has cancelled the safari for this trip.
When President Obama makes his first extended trip to sub-Saharan Africa this month, the federal agencies charged with keeping him safe won’t be taking any chances.
Hundreds of U.S. Secret Service agents will be dispatched to secure facilities in Senegal, South Africa and Tanzania. A Navy aircraft carrier or amphibious ship, with a fully staffed medical trauma center, will be stationed offshore in case of an emergency.
Military cargo planes will airlift in 56 support vehicles, including 14 limousines and three trucks loaded with sheets of bullet­proof glass to cover the windows of the hotels where the first family will stay. Fighter jets will fly in shifts, giving 24-hour coverage over the president’s airspace, so they can intervene quickly if an errant plane gets too close.The elaborate security provisions — which will cost the government tens of millions of dollars — are outlined in a confidential internal planning document obtained by The Washington Post. While the preparations appear to be in line with similar travels in the past, the document offers an unusual glimpse into the colossal efforts to protect the U.S. commander in chief on trips abroad.Any journey by the president, such as one scheduled next week for Northern Ireland and Germany, is an immense and costly logistical challenge. But the trip to Africa is complicated by a confluence of factors that could make it one of the most expensive of Obama’s tenure, according to people familiar with the planning.The first family is making back-to-back stops from June 26 to July 3 in three countries where U.S. officials are providing nearly all the resources, rather than depending heavily on local police forces, military authorities or hospitals for assistance. The president and first lady had also planned to take a Tanzanian safari as part of the trip, which would have required the president’s special counterassault team to carry sniper rifles with high-caliber rounds that could neutralize cheetahs, lions or other animals if they became a threat, according to the planning document.
But officials said Thursday that the safari had been canceled in favor of a trip to Robben Island off the coast of Cape Town, South Africa, where Nelson Mandela was held as a political prisoner.
When The Post first asked White House officials about the safari last week, they said no final decision had been made. A White House official said Thursday that the cancellation was not related to The Post’s inquiries.
“We do not have a limitless supply of assets to support presidential missions, and we prioritized a visit to Robben Island over a two-hour safari in Tanzania,” said spokesman Josh Earnest. “Unfortunately, we couldn’t do both.”
Internal administration documents circulated in April show that the Obama family was scheduled to go to both Robben Island and the safari park, according to a person familiar with the plans.
Former presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush also made trips to multiple African nations involving similarly laborious preparations. Bush went in 2003 and 2008, bringing his wife on both occasions. Bush’s two daughters went along on the first trip, which included a safari at a game preserve on the Botswana-South Africa border.
“Even in the most developed places of Western Europe, the level of support you need for mass movements by the president is really extraordinary,” said Steve Atkiss, who coordinated travel as special assistant for operations to Bush. “As you go farther afield, to less-developed places, certainly it’s more of a logistical challenge.”White House and Secret Service officials declined to discuss the details of the security operations, and administration aides cautioned that the president’s itinerary is not finalized.
Obama’s overseas travels come as government agencies, including the Secret Service, are wrestling with mandatory, across-the-board spending cuts. The service has had to slice $84 million from its budget this year, and this spring the agency canceled public White House tours to save $74,000 a week in overtime costs.Many details about foreign presidential trips are classified for national security reasons, and there is little public information about overall costs. A report from the Government Accountability Office found that Clinton’s 1998 trip to six African nations cost
the U.S. government at least $42.7 million. Most of that was incurred by the military, which made 98 airlift missions to transport personnel and vehicles, and set up temporary medical evacuation units in five countries.That figure did not include costs borne by the Secret Service, which were considered classified.Obama’s trip could cost the federal government $60 million to $100 million based on the costs of similar African trips in recent years, according to one person familiar with the journey, who was not authorized to speak for attribution. The Secret Service planning document, which was provided to The Post by a person who is concerned about the amount of resources necessary for the trip, does not specify costs.“The infrastructure that accompanies the president’s travels is beyond our control,” said Ben Rhodes, Obama’s deputy national security adviser for strategic communications. “The security requirements are not White House-driven, they are Secret Service-driven.” Current and former government security officials involved in presidential trips said White House staff also help determine what’s required, because they plan the visits and parameters. The Secret Service and military respond to that itinerary by providing what their agencies consider the required security.
White House officials said the trip was long overdue, marking Obama’s first visit as president to sub-Saharan Africa aside from a 22-hour stopover in Ghana in 2009. The emerging democracies on the itinerary are crucial partners in regional security conflicts, Rhodes said.
Obama will hold bilateral meetings with each country’s leader and seek to forge stronger economic ties at a time when China is investing heavily in Africa. He also will highlight global health programs, including HIV/AIDS prevention.
The first lady, who toured South Africa and Botswana without the president in 2011, will headline some events on her own during the week. The stops will add to the logistical challenges, because she will require her own security detail and vehicles, the planning document shows.
Secret Service spokesman Ed Donovan declined to discuss details of the journey. “We always provide the appropriate level of protection to create a secure environment,” he said.According to the Secret Service document, Obama will spend a night in Dakar, Senegal, two nights in Johannesburg, a night in Cape Town and one night in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.
Among the 56 vehicles for the trip are parade limousines for the president and first lady, a specialized communications vehicle for secure telephone and video connections, a truck that jams radio frequencies around the presidential motorcade, a fully loaded ambulance that can handle biological or chemical contaminants and a truck for X-ray equipment.The Secret Service transports such vehicles, along with bulletproof glass, on most trips, including those inside the United States, White House officials said. But with quick stops in three countries, the agency will need three sets of each, because there is not enough time to transfer the equipment, according to the planning document.One hundred agents are needed as “post-standers” — to man security checkpoints and borders around the president — in each of the first three cities he visits. Sixty-five are needed to meet up with Obama in Dar es Salaam. Before the safari in Mikumi National Park was canceled this week, an additional 35 post-standers had been slated to protect the Obamas and their two daughters there, according to the document.In addition, 80 to 100 additional agents will be flown in to work rotating shifts, with round-the-clock coverage, for Obama’s and his family’s security details, counterassault teams and logistics coordinators.The planning document does not provide a total number of how many individual agents will be involved in the trip; some will work in more than one location. Officials said the Secret Service does not want the president traveling anywhere without a top-rated trauma center nearby. The White House medical unit makes decisions about which foreign hospitals meet its standards when it makes advance visits to the locations for planned trips, officials said.
In much of the developing world, the U.S. Navy provides a “floating hospital” on an aircraft carrier or amphibious ship nearby, officials said.
“This is what you need to support the American presidency,” Atkiss said of the requirements, “regardless of who the president is.”

Bank America Mortgage Racket: We Were Told To Lie

Not that we needed any further evidence of the racketeering enterprises run within the mortgage operations on Wall Street, but with the recently delivered testimony of Simone Gordon, a senior collection officer within Bank of America’s mortgage ‘racket’ . . . we got it.
I first questioned whether the activities within the mortgage servicing enterprises on Wall Street rose to the level of racketeering in early 2011 after having becoming aware of Wall Street’s practice of robo-signing mortgage documents in order to engage in the fraudulent conveyance of countless mortgages.
Many individuals responded to my initial commentary and subsequent articles with incriminating details as to how they were being abused by the large banks supposedly charged with helping them modify their mortgages. In truth, the mortgage modification process under the guise of the Home Affordability Modification Program (HAMP) was in fact more often a charade, albeit a painful one at that.
Former Washington insiders Sheila Bair (past chair of the FDIC) and Neil Barofsky (Special Inspector General of the TARP) wrote extensively in their  respective books about the complicit nature of the US Treasury under Tim Geithner in not holding the banks accountable in this process. Let’s not be so discreet. Tim was in bed with his Wall Street cronies, but it was all too many American homeowners who were really getting screwed.
In recent testimony shared in the U.S. District Court in Massachusetts, Simone Gordon pulls back the blanket on the ongoing Wall Street – Washington incestuous, crony, corruptible engagement. I recommend you wear a pair of high boots and/or waders and bring multiple barf bags as you experience the cesspool laid out by Gordon:
Beginning in 2009, I regularly spoke to people who had received HAMP Trial Period Plans, made their trial payments, and who were calling to inquire about the status of their expected permanent loan modification.
Using the Bank of America computer systems I saw that hundreds of customers had made their required trial payments, sent the documents requested of them, but had not received permanent modifications.  I also saw records showing that BoA employees had told people that documents had not been received when, in fact, the computer system showed that BoA had received the documents.
This was consistent with the instructions my colleagues and I were given.
We were told to lie to customers and claim that BoA had not received documents it had requested, and that it had not received trial payments (when in fact it had). (LD’s highlight)
Why was it that they were told to lie?
My colleagues and I were supervised by “Team Leaders”  who were, in turn, supervised by “Site Leaders.” Site leaders regularly told us that the more we delayed the HAMP modification process, the more fees Bank of America would collect.
For added measure, in what can only be compared to a scene from a foreign sweatshop in a faraway land, Gordon lays out that:
Employees who were caught not carrying out the delay strategies that Bank of America instructed were subject to discipline including termination. Employees who were caught admitting that Bank of America had received financial documents or that the borrower was actually entitled to a permanent loan modification were disciplined and often terminated without warning.
Can you spell R-A-C-K-E-T?
For those who would like to read and review the entire 5-page testimony, I welcome sharing:
There you go, folks. Uncle Sam (aka President Obama and team) lays out a program supposedly to help homeowners modify their mortgage and stay in their homes and the Wall Street banks, in this case Bank of America, out and out lie to American citizens so as to maximize their own profit at their expense.
So I ask, where’s the justice? A token fine of a few billion dollars and pennies on the dollar to a smattering of our fellow citizens? Please.
Why isn’t Brian Moynihan summarily fired? Where are the major media outlets on this story?
The price we really pay as a nation is the continued erosion of any sense of integrity in the system along with a total decimation of trust and confidence in Wall Street and Washington at large.
I welcome comments, feedback, constructive criticisms. I would especially like to hear from people directly impacted.
I thank the reader who brought this story to my attention.
Navigate accordingly.
Larry Doyle
For those reading this via a syndicated outlet please visit my blog and comment on this piece of ‘sense on cents.
Please subscribe to all my work via e-mail, an RSS feed, on Twitter or Facebook.
I have no business interest with any entity referenced in this commentary. The opinions expressed are my own. I am a proponent of real transparency within our markets so that investor confidence and investor protection can be achieved.
This entry was posted on Friday, June 14th, 2013 at 9:02 AM and is filed under Bank of America, General, HAMP, Mortgage Crisis, Mortgages, Wall Street, Wall Street Washington Incest. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.