Wednesday, December 18, 2013

‘I have OCD, ADD’: Jackie Chan

Jackie Chan says he has OCD and ADD. (Photo by MBS)Jackie Chan says he has OCD and ADD. (Photo by MBS)
Hong Kong actor-martial artist Jackie Chan has revealed that he has obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and attention deficit disorder (ADD), confirming what his son, Jaycee Chan, said in a Chinese show back in October.
During a Tuesday press conference ahead of the premiere of “Police Story 2013” in Singapore, Chan told reporters he has a lot of “problems”.
Chan said he’s always cleaning the table, and that things always have to be in place, neat and tidy for him.
The "CZ12" actor also said that his condition led to him putting a lot of pressure on his son.
For example, Chan said he is always arranging the shoes for Jaycee and picking on his son's bad habit of running around in white socks, which causes them to be dirty.
The superstar also revealed that over the years, he’s been struggling to relax.
“If I don’t film movies, I don’t know what to do. I live for movies, every day I think about different movies, stories and ideas,” said Chan.
He revealed plans to film several movies after the promotions for "Police Story 2013".
Chan said he could be filming "Karate Kid 2" and if he could come up with good ideas, a sequel for "CZ12".
Aside from filming, he also has several businesses on his plate such as a red wine and a watch business.
Chan also has plans to organise a peace-friendship concert in Beijing next year to celebrate his 60th birthday.
‘I’m scared that I’ll be wheelchair-bound for the rest of my life’
There have been media reports that Chan, who is known in the entertainment industry for performing all his film stunts himself, was considering using stunt doubles.
On that, the 59-year-old admitted to using stunt double for “Police Story 2013” – but they were for rather unexpected scenes, such as walking and driving scenes.
The martial arts star said that for this film, he didn’t use any stunt performers for any of the fighting scenes.
In fact, he said he’s been using stunt performers for a long time, but people don’t feel it as it’s for non-fighting scenes.
However, the famed stunt performer revealed a more vulnerable side during the press conference.
“I’m very scared that I’ll be wheelchair bound for the rest of my life," said Chan.
Recalling an accident during the filming of his highly successful action film "CZ12", Chan said that he felt “numb”, “paralysed”, and as though his back broke when he fell.
"I wonder, 'Am I so lucky every time?' I just have to be unlucky once, and that's it for me,” said Chan.
Thus, Chan said he has to be more careful and responsible to his family, fans and himself.
He added that nowadays, he'll ask someone else to try certain stunts before attempting them himself, so that he'll know what to look out for.
Separately, Chan said he could really empathise with his role in “Police Story 2013” as his actual personality is very similar to the character he plays – one that doesn’t really care about his family and is always working.
“It’s very difficult to have the best of both worlds,” said Chan, adding that he often tears up during filming.
He also said that what’s special about this installment of “Police Story” is that it focuses on plot and social issues, and it’s not all about fighting.
Chan said that he has matured and wants to let people know that he’s an actor, not just a martial arts actor.
“Police Story 2013” is the latest installment under the successful "Police Story" action-drama franchise.
The last installment was “New Police Story” in 2004.
The action film features Chan alongside Chinese actor Liu Ye and Chinese actress Jing Tian, and is directed by Ding Sheng, who previously collaborated with Chan in “Little Big Soldier”.
It opens in cinemas on 24 December.

Pakatan, analysts slam Barisan over unkept manifesto pledge on toll rates

In the GE13 campaign, the Barisan Nasional (BN) pledged to reduce intra-city toll rates in their manifesto but their political foes and analysts now say the ruling coalition has gone back on their word as 13 highways are to see higher rates next year.
The scheduled hike in toll rates come on the back of higher electricity tariffs across the country, and a proposed increase in assessment rates and public transport fares in the Klang Valley which is home to some three million Malaysians.
DAP Klang MP Charles Santiago (pic) said BN had "played games" with voters from the start, as they had known all along that toll rates would go up and subsidies would be cut, resulting in a higher cost of living.
"Malaysians were basically taken for a ride and cheated, the government chose to be dishonest to the people and now they are in a delegitimated situation," Santiago said of the promise to reduce toll over the next five years which was enthusiastically highlighted by BN candidates in Selangor and Kuala Lumpur during the election campaign.
His party colleague and Serdang MP Dr Ong Kian Ming felt that the proposed toll hike was also a way to punish urban voters for not supporting the ruling coalition.
Federal Territories Minister Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor, who is BN secretary-general, did not want to be drawn into a debate on the manifesto and the promise that intra-city toll rates would be reduced.
“No comment,” was his terse reply to The Malaysian Insider in Kuala Lumpur yesterday when asked about the issue.
Respected pollster, Merdeka Centre diretor Ibrahim Suffian, went a step further and said that there were other promises made during speeches by BN leaders which had not been fulfilled.
He said it was obvious that Putrajaya was prepared to face the dissatisfaction of the public over the impending toll hike proposed for 13 highways which straddled Kuala Lumpur and Selangor.
"Ultimately, the government needs to address the deficit and debt ceiling in the economy and so they are prepared to face the dissatisfaction of the public.
"The next general election is far away and they would be able to ease tensions later as it gets closer to the GE14," he told The Malaysian Insider.
Political analyst Khoo Kay Peng felt differently, saying a combination of factors, including subsidy removals and rise in electricity tariffs and the proposed toll hike, would result in BN having to face the brunt of voter dissatisfaction, beginning with the Sarawak state polls in 2016.
"In Sarawak, they also face electricity tariff hike of 17%, and at the same time, income has not gone up.
"This shows bad planning on the part of the government and will cause a high inflation rate because all the increases are coming at one go, with the GST being the icing on the cake," Khoo said.
DAP's Ong vowed that Pakatan Rakyat will make sure that the public does not forget BN's broken promises.
"Pakatan Rakyat will make sure people remember because the increase in the cost of living is going to burden the rakyat for a long time, given the electricity, transport and sugar price increases coming at the same time," he said, adding that when the GST is implemented in April 2015, cost of more goods and services will go up.
The government had reduced fuel subsidies in September, announced the removal of sugar subsidy under Budget 2014 and recently announced electricity tariff hike which will come into effect next month.
The announcements followed Fitch Ratings' downgrade of Malaysia's credit outlook in July.
Ong also said that the opposition knew all along that the promises made by BN before the May 5 polls were not going to be fulfilled.
"This (reduction in intra-city toll rate) is just one of them and we knew it from the start.
"And this is how the opposition managed to get the urban votes, by saying that we would do away with toll charges, but they promised to reduce it over five years," he pointed out.
PKR strategy director Rafizi Ramli agreed that toll rates could go down instead of up.
He explained that this could be done if the government re-negotiate the agreement with the toll concessionaires, which he claimed were related agencies.
He also said that the the huge increase in the volume of vehicles on highways had also boosted toll operators' profits.
Santiago, however, felt that Malaysians would forget BN's broken promises.
"When have Malaysians ever remembered?
"And the government is not stupid, they are doing it now so that in three years, when it gets close to the elections, they will make some more promises and people would have forgotten about this," he said.
Ibrahim agreed, adding that the broken promise on the toll rate would not dent BN's vote bank as there would be new voters who would believe the promises the government makes in the coming elections.
"In every general election, there is between 20% and 25% new voters who are not yet registered but will get on the roll in the next four years.
"They will not even know or remember these issues," noted  Ibrahim.
The proposed toll hike is expected to take place next year to comply with the agreement between the federal government and the highway concessionaires.
Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Abdul Wahid Omar had said that the hike was inevitable, as it is an express condition in the concession agreement between Putrajaya and highway concession companies.
He had said that the toll rate should have been revised in 2011, as stated in the concession agreement, but it was maintained and cost Putrajaya RM400 million to compensate the companies using taxpayers' money.
The proposed toll rate hike followed the announcements of a possible public transport fare increase, a 15% rise in electricity tariffs and higher assessment rates for Kuala Lumpur properties. – December 18, 2013.

Snow falls in Vietnam

Snow falls in Vietnam
Snow has fallen in Northern Vietnam for the first time in many years.
The snow caused a five-hour traffic jam as people drove into the mountainous provinces of Lao Cai and Ha Giang to see the wintry flurries.
The weather system responsible for the snow has also brought some unusual weather to other parts of the region.
This is normally the dry season, but torrential rain has been lashing Laos, Vietnam and southeast China.
Oudomxay in Laos reported 142mm of rain in a 24 hour period and Zhanjiang in China’s Guangdong province, reported 102mm. For Zhanjiang, this is three times the amount of rain that is expected in the entire month of December.
The torrential downpours have caused flooding in parts of the region, which has inundated people’s homes and made roads impassable.
Conditions across the region are expected to improve over the next few days. The rain will slowly edge eastwards and subside.

Najib’s approval rating takes a plunge, Merdeka Centre survey reveals

Najib’s approval rating takes a plunge, Merdeka Centre survey reveals

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak's approval rating has taken the lowest dip since assuming office in 2009, declining to 52% in December, from 62% in August, a Merdeka Centre survey has found.
Two months after replacing Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi as prime minister, Najib had a 65% approval rating.
The pollster said the survey was conducted between December 4 and 12, 2013, after the reduction of fuel subsidies in September 2013, and the tabling of the 2014 national budget during which the government announced the introduction of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) in 2015.
The survey also showed that Najib’s drop in popularity cuts across all races, with the most significant decline being among the Indians, with a drop from 76% to 57%.
Among the Chinese, the approval rate stands at 21%, after a 15 percentage point loss, while a seven percentage point drop, from 73% to 66%, was recorded among the Malays.

Merdeka Centre said in a statement that concerns over the economy, particularly rising costs and inflation, rose to its highest ever level, up to 67% of all respondents.
The survey found that 55% of Peninsular Malaysia voters said that they did not  quite understand how GST will affect them.
Additionally, 54% of respondents reported that they did not believe in statements by government leaders about the country’s economic situation.
The number of those expressing “happiness” with the government has also declined to 38%, compared to 50% in August 2013, showing a significant reduction in positive attitude from across major ethnic groups.

Merdeka Centre also released data from previously unreleased opinion surveys conducted in June 2013 and August 2013.
The latest survey, which coincided with the recent Umno general assembly, polled 1,005 registered voters comprising 60% Malays, 31% Chinese and 9% Indians through telephone interviews in the preferred language of the respondents.
They were selected randomly, representing Malaysians of different races and genders.
The June 2013 survey had 1006 respondents while 1008 were polled for the August 2013 survey. - December 18, 2013.

Malaysia heading in ‘wrong direction’, survey shows

Malaysia heading in ‘wrong direction’, survey shows

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 18 — Nearly half of Malaysians surveyed felt that the country is moving in the wrong direction after fractious elections in May, the latest study by independent pollster Merdeka Center released today showed.
In addition, its public opinion survey this month showed that over half of the 1,005 respondents did not trust Putrajaya’s claim about the country’s economic performance following a series of price hikes.
The survey showed that 13 per cent of respondents felt strongly that Malaysia is heading in the wrong direction, bringing the total of those swaying towards the wrong direction to 49 per cent.
They edged out the 9 per cent of respondents who felt strongly that Malaysia is heading in the right direction instead, which made up the 41 per cent who swayed towards the right direction.
A total of 30 per cent from those who felt Malaysia is going the wrong way cited a series of price hikes, inflation or rising cost of living as the reason, with an additional 15 per cent blaming unfavourable economic condition in general.
In contrast, the numbers of those who felt that Malaysia is on the right path stayed high at 54 per cent between June and July, just after the May polls.
Since then, the numbers had taken a tumble following Putrajaya’s decision to cut fuel subsidies leading to a price hike at the pumps for the widely used RON95 grade of petrol; the announcement of a Goods and Services Tax (GST); and a revision to the electricity tariff rate that will take effect from January.
The survey noted that over half of respondents, or 54 per cent, said they did not believe statements made by government leaders about the state of the economy, with 21 per cent strongly disbelieving them.
In contrast, 35 per cent said they trusted Putrajaya’s word on the country’s economic performance.
Putrajaya’s economic policies over the past few months appear to have also played a major role, resulting in 39 per cent of Malaysians polled saying they are dissatisfied with the government.
However, an additional 8 per cent said that they were angry with Putrajaya.
The number of Malaysians happy with the government has also taken a beating with only 38 per cent of respondents saying so compared to 50 per cent polled in August.
Malaysia embarked on a series of subsidy cuts in September, starting with raising the pump price of RON95 petrol and diesel by RM0.20/L starting September 3, to RM2.10 and RM2.00 per litre respectively.
Postponed prior to Election 2013, the so-called subsidy rationalisation programmed was resumed after ratings firm Fitch slashed Malaysia’s sovereign debt outlook from “Stable” to “Negative” in July.
In Budget 2014, Putrajaya finally confirmed the 2015 rollout of the GST and said it would stop subsidising sugar by the current 34 sen per kg, in a move that may cause cascading price hikes.
Starting next year, the electricity tariff in the peninsula will also increase by 14.9 per cent or 4.99 sen to 38.53 sen for every kilowatt per hour (kWh), and 5 sen for Sabah and Labuan.
The series of painful measures to trim Malaysia’s chronic budget deficit has hit Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s popularity hard, with the Merdeka Center survey showing his approval sliding to a new low of 52 per cent in December.

New York's U.S. Bankruptcy Court Rules MERS's Business Model Is Illegal

United States Bankruptcy Judge Robert Grossman has ruled that MERS's business practices are unlawful. He explicitly acknowledged that this ruling sets a precedent that has far-reaching implications for half of the mortgages in this country. MERS is dead. The banks are in big trouble. And all foreclosures should be stopped immediately while the legislative branch comes up with a solution.
For some weeks I have been arguing that MERS is perpetrating foreclosure fraud all across the nation. Its business model makes it impossible to legally foreclose on any mortgaged property registered within its system -- which includes half of the outstanding mortgages in the US. MERS was a fraud from day one, whose purpose was to evade property recording fees and to subvert five centuries of property law. Its chickens have come home to roost.
Wall Street wanted to transform America's housing sector into the world's biggest casino and needed to undermine property rights to make it easier to run the scam. The payoffs were bigger for lenders who could induce homeowners to take mortgages they could not possibly afford. The mortgages were packaged into securities sold-on to patsy investors who were defrauded by the "reps and warranties" falsely certifying the securities as backed by top grade loans. In fact the securities were not backed by mortgages, and in any case the mortgages were sure to go bad. Given that homeowners would default, the Wall Street banks that serviced the mortgages needed a foreclosure steamroller to quickly and cheaply throw families out of the homes so that they could be resold to serve as purported collateral for yet more gambling bets. MERS -- the industry's creation -- stepped up to the plate to facilitate the fraud. The judge has ruled that its practices are illegal. MERS and the banks lose; investors and homeowners win.
Here's MERS's business model in brief. Real estate property sales and mortgages are supposed to be recorded in local recording offices, with fees paid. With the rise of securitization, each mortgage might be sold a dozen times before it came to rest as the collateral behind a mortgage backed security (MBS), and each of those sales would need to be recorded. MERS was created to bypass public recording; it would be listed in the county records as the "mortgagee of record" and the "nominee" of the holder of mortgage. Members of MERS could then transfer the mortgage from one to another without all the trouble of changing the local records, simply by (voluntarily) recording transactions on MERS's registry.
A mortgage has two parts, the "note" and the "security" (not to be confused with the MBS) or "deed of trust" that is usually just called the "mortgage". The idea behind MERS was that the "note" would be transferred from seller to purchaser, but the "mortgage" would be held by MERS. In fact, MERS recommended that the "note" be held by the mortgage servicer to facilitate foreclosures, but in practice it seems that the notes were often lost or destroyed (which is why all those Burger King Kids were hired to Robo-sign "lost note affidavits").
At each transfer, the note and mortgage are supposed to be "assigned" to the new owner; MERS claimed that because it was the "mortgagee of record" and the "nominee" of both parties to every transaction, there was no need to assign the "mortgage" until foreclosure. And it argued that since the old adage is that the "mortgage follows the note" and that both parties intended to assign the notes (even if they did not get around to doing it), then the Bankruptcy Court should rule that the assignments did take place in some sort of "virtual reality" so that there is a clear chain of title that allows the servicers to foreclose.
The Judge rejected every aspect of MERS's argument. The Court rejected the claim that MERS could be both holder of the mortgage as well as nominee of the "true" owner. It also found that "mortgagee of record" is a vague term that does not give one legal standing as mortgagee. Hence, at best, MERS is only a nominee. It rejected MERS's claim that as nominee it can assign notes or mortgages -- a nominee has limited rights and those most certainly do not include the right to transfer ownership unless there is specific written instruction to do so. In scarcely veiled anger, the Judge wrote:
"According to MERS, the principal/agent relationship among itself and its members is created by the MERS rules of membership and terms and conditions, as well as the Mortgage itself. However, none of the documents expressly creates an agency relationship or even mentions the word "agency." MERS would have this Court cobble together the documents and draw inferences from the words contained in those documents."
Judge Grossman rejected MERS's arguments, saying that mere membership in MERS does not provide "agency" rights to MERS, and agreeing with the Supreme Court of Kansas that ruled "The parties appear to have defined the word [nominee] in much the same way that the blind men of Indian legend described an elephant -- their description depended on which part they were touching at any given time."
He went on to disparage MERS's claim that since in legal theory the "mortgage follows the note", the Court should overlook the fact that MERS separated them. He stopped just short of saying that by separating them, MERS has irretrievably destroyed the clear chain of title, although he hinted that a future ruling could come to that conclusion:
"MERS argues that notes and mortgages processed through the MERS System are never "separated" because beneficial ownership of the notes and mortgages are always held by the same entity. The Court will not address that issue in this Decision, but leaves open the issue as to whether mortgages processed through the MERS system are properly perfected and valid liens. See Carpenter v. Longan, 83 U.S. at 274 (finding that an assignment of the mortgage without the note is a nullity); Landmark Nat'l Bank v. Kesler, 216 P.3d 158, 166-67 (Kan. 2009) ("[I]n the event that a mortgage loan somehow separates interests of the note and the deed of trust, with the deed of trust lying with some independent entity, the mortgage may become unenforceable")."
That would mean not only the end of MERS, but also the end of the banks holding unenforceable mortgages because they were not, and cannot be, "perfected". MERS and the banks screwed up big time, and there is no "do over" -- there is no valid lien on the property, so owners have got their homes free and clear.
There have been numerous court rulings against MERS -- including decisions made by state supreme courts. What is significant about the US Bankruptcy Court of New York's ruling is that the judge specifically set out to examine the legality of MERS's business model. As the judge argued in the decision, "The Court believes this analysis is necessary for the precedential effect it will have on other cases pending before this Court". In the scathing opinion, Judge Grossman variously labeled MERS's positions as "stunningly inconsistent" with the facts, "absurd, at best", and "not supported by the law". The ruling is a complete repudiation of every argument MERS has made about the legality of its procedures.
What is particularly ironic is that MERS actually forced the judge to undertake the examination of its business model. The case before the judge involved a foreclosed homeowner who had already lost in state court. The homeowner then approached the US Bankruptcy Court to argue that the foreclosing bank did not have legal standing because of MERS's business practices. However, by the "Rooker-Feldman" doctrine (or res judicata), the US Bankruptcy Court is prohibited from "looking behind" the state court's decision to determine the issue of legal standing. Hence, Judge Grossman ruled in the bank's favor on that particular issue.
Yet, MERS's high priced lawyers wanted to push the issue and asked for the Judge to rule in favor of MERS's practices, too. So while MERS won the little battle over one foreclosed home, it lost the war against the nation's homeowners. The Judge ruled against MERS on every single issue of importance. And it was MERS's stupid arrogance that brought it down.
As I predicted two weeks ago, MERS would be dead within weeks. Judge Grossman has driven the final stake through its black heart. The half of America's homeowners whose mortgages are registered at MERS have been handed a "get out of jail free" card. Wall Street has no right to foreclose on their property. The tide has turned. It won't be easy, but homeowners in those states with judicial foreclosures now have Judge Grossman on their side. Those in the other states (just over half) will have a tougher time because they can lose their home before they ever get to court. But the law is still on their side -- foreclosure by members of MERS is theft -- so class action lawsuits may be the way to go.
MERS is dead, but can the banks survive? There are two separate issues. First, there are the "reps and warranties" given by the mortgage securitizers (Wall Street investment banks) to the investors (pension funds, GSEs, PIMCO, and so on). We now know that a quarter to a third of the mortgages bundled to serve as backing for the securities did not meet stated quality. Worse, we also know that the banks knew this -- they hired third parties to undertake "due diligence" to check quality. This was not done to protect the investors, rather, the purpose was to strengthen the bargaining position of the securitizers, who were able to reduce the prices paid for the mortgages. Now, the investors are suing the banks for restitution--forcing them to cover the losses and buy-back the bad mortgages at original price. To add insult to injury, even the NYFed is suing them. That is a lot like having your parents sue you for their inadequate parental oversight of your behavior.
The second issue is that the mortgages backing the securities were supposed to be placed in Trusts (affiliates of the securitizing banks), with the Trustee certifying not only that the mortgages met the reps and warranties but also that the documents were up to snuff and safely locked away. We know they were not. As mentioned above, MERS told the servicers to hold the notes, and many or most of them were destroyed or lost. Further, the notes were separated from the mortgages -- making them null and void. In any case, they are not at the Trusts. This means the MBSs are not backed by mortgages, meaning the MBSs are unsecured debt. MERS's business model ensures that. So, again, the banks must take back the fraudulent securities -- paying off the investors.
What can Wall Street do? Well, I suppose the "help wanted" signs are already up at MERS and Wall Street banks: "Needed: Burger King Kids to Robo-sign forged quasi-professional-looking docs". The problem is that even with tens of thousands of Robo-Kids, Wall Street will not be able to pull off a vast criminal conspiracy on the necessary scale. Think about it: 60 million mortgages, each sold ten times, means 600 million transactions and assignments that have to be forged. MERS's documentation was notoriously sloppy, relying on voluntary recording by members. The Robo-Kids would have to go back through a decade of records to manufacture a paper trail that would convince now-skeptical judges that there is a clear chain of title from the first recording in the public record through to the foreclosure. It ain't going to happen.
The only other hope is that Wall Street can call in its campaign contribution chips and get Congress to retroactively legalize fraud. That is what they do in those dictatorships that protestors are now bringing down in the Middle East. Is Washington willing to take that risk, just to please its Wall Street benefactors?
The court document is available here. It is terrific reading.
This post originally appeared at Benzinga.

“These Programs Were Never About Terrorism: They’re About Economic Spying, Social Control, and Diplomatic Manipulation. They’re About Power”

Snowden Gives the Big Picture

Edward Snowden wrote yesterday about mass surveillance by the NSA:
These programs were never about terrorism: they’re about economic spying, social control, and diplomatic manipulation. They’re about power.
He’s right.

These Programs Were Never About Terrorism

The NSA started mass spying on Americans before 9/11 … and various excuses have been used over the years.
The NSA was already spying on American Senators and prominent Americans who spoke out against the Vietnam War more than 40 years ago.
The NSA has also been conducting industrial espionage for many decades. 
There is no evidence that mass surveillance has prevented a single terrorist attack. And see thisconfirming opinion by a federal judge. On the contrary, top counter-terror experts say that mass spyingactually hurts U.S. counter-terror efforts (more here and here).
If NSA spying were really focused on terrorism, our allies and companies wouldn’t be fighting back so hard against it.

Economic Spying

That has nothing to do with terrorism. Indeed, a confidential government memo admits that the spying didn’t help prevent terrorism:
The memo acknowledges that eavesdropping on the numbers had produced “little reportable intelligence”.
The NSA is also spying on the biggest financial payments systems such as VISA and Swift.
In a slide leaked by Edward Snowden, “economic” was one of the main justifications for spying.
The top U.S. spy’s justification for such financial spying is:
“We collect this information for many important reasons: for one, it could provide the United States and our allies early warning of international financial crises which could negatively impact the global economy. It also could provide insight into other countries’ economic policy or behavior which could affect global markets.”
(Top financial experts say that the NSA and other intelligence agencies are also using the information toprofit from this inside information. And the NSA wants to ramp up its spying on Wall Street … to “protect” it.)

Diplomatic Manipulation

Spying on allies such as the United Nations, European Union, the European Parliament, the G20 summit, the Vatican and the Pope, and at least 35 world leaders is obviously at least partially aimed at gaining advantage in diplomatic negotiations.
Indeed, the United States Trade Representative is one of the “customers” of NSA data.

Social Control

History shows that mass spying is always focused on crushing dissent… not on keeping us safe.
High-level American government officials have warned for 40 years that mass surveillance would lead to tyranny.   They’ve warned that the government is using information gained through mass surveillance in order to go after anyone they take a dislike to.
A lieutenant colonel for the Stasi East German’s – based upon his experience – agrees. And German Chancellor Angela Merkel – who grew up in Stasi Germany – says the NSA is exactly the same.  Indeed, top American constitutional experts say that the Obama and Bush administration are not only worse than Nixon … but worse than the Stasi East Germans. They also say that NSA spying is exactly the type of oppression that the Founding Fathers launched the Revolutionary War to stop. And see this.
The NSA tracks users’ porn … to discredit them … just like J. Edgar Hoover did in the bad old days of the FBI.  The NSA shares this information with a host of other agencies, such as the Departments of Justice and Commerce and the Drug Enforcement Administration.
(Indeed – as previously reported – all of the information gained by the NSA through spying is shared with federal, state and local agencies, and they are using that information to prosecute petty crimes such as drugs and taxes. The agencies are instructed to intentionally “launder” the information gained through spying, i.e. to pretend that they got the information in a more legitimate way … and to hide that from defense attorneys and judges.)
TechDirt points out:
It’s important to note here that the “targets” in this case are not US persons, and they all do appear to dislike the US, and some appear to have advocated for jihad against the US. However, as the report notes, most of them are not terrorists or even connected to any terrorist organization. They’re just activists and advocates who have spoken out criticizing the US. In one case, a guy was targeted for claiming that “the U.S. brought the 9/11 attacks upon itself” — an argument that plenty of respectable people have made.The lack of any terrorist connection is actually, stunningly, used againstthese individuals, as one NSA document notes that since they don’t communicate with terrorists it’s worse because it suggests “that the target audience includes individuals who do not yet hold extremist views but who are susceptible to the extremist message.”

He says the NSA started spying on President Obama when he was a candidate for Senate:

Another very high-level NSA whistleblower – the head of the NSA’s global intelligence gathering operation – says that the NSA targeted CIA chief Petraeus.And the main whistleblower on the NSA’s spying 40 years ago thinks that the NSA may be blackmailing its overseers in D.C.And see this.The proof is in the pudding: 2 former presidents, a vice president and a judge all warn that NSA spying is tyrannical.

A Quick Guide to What’s Fake: Everything That’s Officially Sanctioned

Neofeudal financialization and unproductive State/corporate vested interests have bled the middle class dry, yet we accept the officially sanctioned narratives. Why?
Let’s cut to the chase and generalize “what’s fake”: everything that is officially sanctioned: narratives, policies, statistics, you name it–all fake– massaged, packaged, gamed or manipulated to serve the interests of the ruling Elites.
Anything that might introduce a shadow of skepticism or doubt about the sustainability, fairness and transparency of the status quo (i.e. anything authentic and genuine) is recast or repackaged into a fake that can be substituted for the authentic when everyone’s gaze is distracted by the latest fad/media sensation/scandal.
ObamaCare: fake, a simulacrum of insurance and healthcare.
The National Security State: fake, a cover for global Empire.
The Patriot Act: Orwellian cover for state-corporate fascism.
Student loans: parasitic, exploitive loan-sharking enforced by the Central State for often worthless “higher education.”
And so on.
Yesterday I explored the peculiar dynamic that motivates us to accept forgeries, fakes and illusions as authentic: What’s Real? What’s Fake?. If the fake enables our fantasy (of free money, of owning an authentic canvas by a famous artist, that rising wealth inequality is just a side-effect of freewheeling capitalism, etc. etc. etc.), then we want to believe it so badly that we overlook all the evidence of chicanery, forgery, illusion and fakery.
Consider our willingness to accept the conventional narrative about why the Great American Middle Class has been in decline since 1973: rising energy costs, globalization, and the declining purchasing power of the U.S. dollar.
While these trends have certainly undermined middle-class wealth and income, there are five other more politically combustible dynamics at work:
1. The divergence of State/corporate vested interests and the interests of the middle class
2. The emergence of financialization as the key driver of profits and political power
3. The neofeudal “colonization” of the “home market” by ascendant financial Elites
4. The increasing burden of indirect “taxes” as productive enterprises and people involuntarily subsidize unproductive, parasitic, corrupt, but politically dominant vested interests
5. The emergence of crony capitalism as the lowest-risk, highest-profit business model in the U.S. economy
The non-fake narratives are considerably different from the status quo ones. Please consider two: The Neofeudal Colonization of Home Markets and the Happy Marriage of the Parasitic Central State and Crony Capitalist Cartels.
The Neofeudal Colonization of Home Markets
The use of credit to garner outsized profits and political power is well-established in Neoliberal Capitalism.  In what we might call the Neoliberal Colonial Model (NCM) of financialization, credit-poor developing world economies are suddenly offered unlimited credit at very low or even negative interest rates. It is “an offer that’s too good to refuse” and the resultant explosion of private credit feeds what appears to be a “virtuous cycle” of rampant consumption and rapidly rising assets such as equities, land and housing.
Essential to the appeal of this colonialist model is the broad-based access to credit: everyone and his sister can suddenly afford to speculate in housing, stocks, commodities, etc., and to live a consumption-based lifestyle that was once the exclusive preserve of the upper class and State Elites (in developing nations, this is often the same group of people).
In the 19th century colonialist model, the immensely profitable consumables being marketed by global cartels were sugar (rum), tea, coffee, and tobacco—all highly addictive, and all complementary:   tea goes with sugar, and so on.  (For more, please refer to Sidney Mintz’s landmark study, Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History).
In the Neoliberal Colonial Model, the addictive substance is credit and the speculative consumerist fever it fosters.
In the financialization model, the opportunities to exploit “home markets” were even better than those found abroad, for the simple reason that the U.S. government itself stood ready to guarantee there would be no messy expropriations of capital or repudiation of debt by local authorities who decided to throw off the yokes of credit colonization.
In the U.S. “home market,” the government guaranteed lenders would not lose money, even when they loaned to marginal borrowers who could never qualify for a mortgage under any prudent risk management system.  This was the ultimate purpose of Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae, and now the FHA, which is currently guaranteeing the next wave of mortgages that are entering default.
In my analysis, the Status Quo of “private profits, public losses” and the incentivization of gargantuan household debt amounts to a modern financialized version of feudalism, in which the middle class now toils as debt-serfs.  Their debt cannot be repudiated (see student loans), their stagnating disposable income is largely devoted to debt service, and their assets have evaporated as the phantom wealth created by serial credit bubbles vanishes as soon as the asset/credit bubble du jour bursts.
The Status Quo: A Happy Marriage of the Parasitic Central State and Crony Capitalist Cartels
In broad brush, financialization enabled the explosive rise of politically dominant cartels (crony capitalism) that reap profits from graft, legalized fraud, embezzlement, collusion, price-fixing, misrepresentation of risk, shadow systems of governance and the use of phantom assets as collateral.  This systemic allocation of resources and the national income to serve their interests also serves the interests of the protected fiefdoms of the State that enable and protect the parasitic sectors of the economy.
The productive, efficient private sectors of the economy are in effect subsidizing the most inefficient, unproductive parts of the economy.  Productivity has been siphoned off to financialized corporate profits, politically powerful cartels, and bloated State fiefdoms.  The current attempts to “restart growth” via the same old financialization tricks of more debt, more leverage and more speculative excess backstopped by a captured Central State are failing.
Neofeudal financialization and unproductive State/corporate vested interests have bled the middle class dry.
Yet we accept the officially sanctioned narratives as authentic and meaningful. Why?Perhaps the truth is simply too painful to accept, so we will reject it until we have no other alternative.
Of related interest:

Revealed: Norway widely spies on Russia for NSA – new Snowden leak

Poor Ukrainians Rally For Russia

At a rival protest in Kiev this weekend, impoverished workers from eastern Ukraine turned out to show their support for the government and stronger ties with Moscow even as the pro-EU crowd grew ever more jubilant.
They were poor. Their clothes looked cheap and worn, their faces tired; their feelings were hurt. A group of workers and miners from Kirovsk, an industrial town in eastern Ukraine, were among thousands of protesters walking on Sunday morning towards the anti-Euro rally in Kiev’s Mariinsky park, to demonstrate their support for Ukraine’s president, Victor Yanukovych, and for friendship with Russia. Two parts of Ukraine spoke out in Kiev’s squares this weekend; both had the right to be heard.
To most of the pro-government protesters, residents of the eastern and southern parts of Ukraine, Kiev’s divorce with Moscow would mean unemployment, more poverty and hunger. For the past month, they had felt heartbroken watching “the other Ukraine” on the news, as hundreds of thousands of pro-EU protesters declared that “Ukraine would not be a province of the Russian empire any longer.” The Maidan camp with all its E.U. flags, where U.S. Senator John McCain addressed the crowd this weekend, and where Ukrainian nationalist songs ring out, is “an ideologically hostile place, aiming to cause a schism of Ukraine,” said Aleksander Lukyanenko, an unemployed man and member of the Party of Regions, which led the anti-EU factions.
But just as Lukyanenko and his friends were about to step into the crowded park, a young hipster handed them a flier. It was a copy of a letter from the Maidan, distributed by the opposition to participants in the pro-government rally. “The Maidan does not stand for NATO, the USA or Europe,” the flier said. “We stand here so that a pension would be big enough to live a dignified life. We stand here, so that hospitals would have enough medicine. We stand here to have justice in our state, where bureaucrats would not steal but work for people.” The flier encouraged the Maidan’s rivals to join the other protest, if they wanted, clarifying that it stood for bigger values than just free visas to Europe. “Maidan tse lubov”—the Maidan is love, opposition activists said.

The provocations and hostility expected this weekend between tens of thousands of protesters from the “Eastern camp” and “Western camp” did not happen. One thing the ruling Party of Regions achieved by bringing over demonstrators to Kiev was to show to the international observers covering Kiev’s protests how hopelessly poor their supporters were. Lines of hungry people waited to have a plate of buckwheat mixed with pieces of canned meat and a cup of hot tea at the pro-presidential rally. There was no sign of Cossacks in traditional clothes cooking giant balls of tasty soups, no stands with volunteers serving vegetables or slices of traditional smoked pork fat—all that festive atmosphere stayed at the Maidan. Neither were there scientists or academics reading free lectures on economy or political science, nor even any volunteer medical centers.
Red Cross volunteers provided free medicine to both pro-Western and pro-Eastern camps in Kiev this weekend. “I advised some especially sick-looking visitors from eastern Ukraine to quietly walk away from here to the Maidan and have some oranges, have a plate of healthy borsch,” said Sergei Gromada, a Red Cross volunteer working in the “Eastern camp.”
On Saturday night, the contrast between the two camps grew especially significant. At 8:30 p.m. more than 100,000 people were packed into the Maidan, rocking and rolling at a live concert by one on Ukraine’s most popular bands, Okean Elza. Young people rapped in Ukranian, and Okean Elza sang its famous “Get Up!” song it had performed during the Orange Revolution. One block away, in the European Square, the site of pro-president rally earlier that day, only a few policemen and their dogs milled about.
The historical events taking place on the Maidan in the past month played a serious role in the lives of thousands of Ukrainians, including the musicians of Okean Elza. At a dinner before their concert on Saturday night, the band members shared with The Daily Beast the reasons why they decided to perform on the revolutionary square. Earlier that day, the band welcomed protesters of the pro-presidential rally to their concert on the Maidan.
Their friend and former administrator, Yuriy Bolotov, was arrested last month at a peaceful protest outside the presidential administration and kept in jail for 10 days. “Our civil position is more important than anything; we once again perform together, after years of contradictions inside the band,” said Yuri Khustochk, a band member. The bands members stood in a circle hugging each other. “I am overwhelmed with feelings tonight,” the band’s leader, Vyacheslav Vakarchuk, said minutes before coming on stage to sing for love between all Ukrainians, East and West.

Gold To Rally Year End As Traders Close Some Of Record Short Positions

Today’s AM fix was USD 1,237.25, EUR 898.71 and GBP 759.42 per ounce.
Yesterday’s AM fix was USD 1,229.50, EUR 892.62 and GBP 754.57 per ounce.
Gold rose $3.10 or 0.25% yesterday, closing at $1,240.70/oz. Silver climbed $0.26 or 1.32% closing at $19.96/oz. Platinum fell $3.24, or 0.2%, to $1,358.25/oz and palladium rose $0.25 or 0%, to $715.90/oz.
Gold in U.S. Dollars, 30 Days – (Bloomberg)
Gold is marginally lower today after two days of gains as the Fed’s two day policy meeting begins. More positive than expected U.S. data and continuing SPDR outflows may have led to weakness.
Gold’s gains in recent days are likely partly due to a short covering rally. Nervous traders may be closing some of their record short positions ahead of a Federal Reserve policy decision on whether to begin tapering its equity and bond friendly debt monetisation measures.
Most economists believe the Fed will not begin tapering till March of next year, which could be prompt traders to further cover their short positions.
Short positions are at multi year highs and if the Fed does not taper tomorrow we will likely see a large short covering rally going into the New Year as shorts close out positions and balance books at year end.
Bearish bets by hedge funds and money managers in U.S. gold futures and options are close to a 7-1/2 year high, according to data from the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC).
SPDR Gold Trust, the world’s largest gold ETF, said its holdings fell 8.70 tonnes to 818.90 tonnes on Monday – its biggest outflow since Oct 21.
Holdings are at their lowest since January 2009 after more than 450 tonnes of outflows this year caused by traders and more speculative investors channelling money towards riskier assets such as equities and bonds which are at record highs in many countries.
Importantly, and little reported on is the fact that the ETF flows have been matched and greatly surpassed by physical gold in China and imports from Hong Kong into China alone.
Gold has lost 25% of its value this year after 12 years of gains. There are credible allegations that the market was subject to price manipulation with banks manipulating prices lower through massive concentrated selling at times of low liquidity. Allegations that Chinese entities may be manipulating paper gold prices lower in order to buy physical gold on the cheap are gaining credence.
Whatever, the reasons for gold’s price fall it is a healthy development as it has led to the speculative hot money and weak hands being washed out of the market. Gold is on a much more sustainable footing now and is very much in strong hands now, which bodes well for gold in 2014 and 2015.

The NSA and Its Partners Are Getting Hit In Their Ability to Hire and Keep Personnel … and in their Pocketbooks

Economic Forces Fighting Back Against Mass Surveillance

It’s not only judgespresidents and congress members who are slamming the NSA.
It’s not only foreign leaders – or Internet standards institutions – who are distancing themselves from the U.S. due to mass surveillance.
The NSA and it’s partners are also getting hit where it hurts … in their ability to hire and keep personnel, and in the pocketbook:
Applications to work at the NSA are down by more than one third, and retention rates have also declined. This is a serious problem for an agency that, until now, has thrived because of an esprit de corps within the organization. Traditionally, when analysts joined the NSA, they joined for life. This is changing, and not for the better from the NSA’s perspective.
  • Mathematicians are calling for a boycott of the NSA (the NSA is the largest employer of mathematicians on the planet)
  • An IBM shareholder group – the Louisiana Sheriffs’ Pension & Relief Fund – has sued IBM for cooperating with the NSA … since that cooperation has destroyed IBM’s sales to China (as we noted in July, the failure of tech companies to disclose their participation in mass surveillance violates fair disclosure requirements … that is, the requirement to disclose “materially adverse information”  which could hurt a company’s value)
  • ATT and Verizon shareholders are exerting tremendous pressure to disclose the amount of information they’re sharing with the NSA
An out-of-control NSA and spying complex is close to dealing a mortal blow to the America economy.
Can economic forces rein it in before it drags the civilian economy into another depression?