Sunday, April 6, 2014

Buyer Beware: Do You Really Think Your Retirement Money Will Be There When You Need It?

The crash that shook the world in 2008 and wiped away some 40% of America’s wealth hasn’t stopped people from blindly investing their hard-earned money into new and improved Wall Street devised money-making schemes. Last year the total of U.S. retirement assets hit a record $20.8 Trillion and included investment vehicles like individual retirement accounts, government pension plans, and private-sector defined benefit plans.
A significant portion of that money has been invested into stock markets, much of it in the form of 401k retirement plans to which America’s workers send cash blindly on a monthly basis. What’s mind boggling about this is that the overwhelming majority of people who have a 401k account have absolutely no idea how much they are paying in exchange for the privilege of having their money “invested” for them by their financial manager.
In the following micro-documentary Future Money Trends investigates America’s 401k scheme, and how investors are being scammed from every angle and set up for total failure by their government.
Do you really think your retirement money will be there when you need it?

 (Watch at Youtube)
During the 1920′s boom just 3% of Americans owned stock…
After the law for 401k’s went into effect on January 1st, 1980 the participation from the American public soared… and so did the fees Wall Street collected…
By 2006, it peeked at 64%… Wall Street had truly found the perfect cash cow who was willing to buy blindly every single month without question.
Talk to anyone who has a 401K and they won’t be able to tell you the fees, the investments they are in, or how much they can expect to have when they are in their 60′s.
At best they will be able to recall that they checked the box ‘High Risk, High Return’ or ‘Conservative,’ you know, like holding Treasury Bonds… which is literally lending money to the most bankrupt institution on planet earth.
Buyer Beware.
In essence, as an investor you are “lending” your money to these institutions (including Wall Street and the U.S. government) via your 401k, but you have no idea of the terms of the lending agreement.
First, Wall Street collects their “fair share” of fees amounting to some $77 billion annually, essentially shaving that much money right off the top of your investments and stuffing it into their own pockets. They are wolves, with no other goal then to put as much money in their pockets as possible before the bottom falls out. The success of your investment is the furthest thing from their minds.
Second, and perhaps even more alarming, is that the government has started to move into the private retirement market, just like they did with health care. They’ve already begun pitching Americans on why they can manage your investment better than the private sector via MyIRA accounts, but they won’t stop there. With so much money in play, our bankrupt government will have no choice but to utilize the trillions of dollars held in these retirement accounts to fund their outrageous spending. What that means is that, in the future, you can fully expect your funds to be seized and redistributed to those ‘less fortunate.’
And if outright re-appropriation isn’t politically expedient, then they’ll simply tax your retirement gains so heavily that you’ll be left with nothing but lint in your pocket.
Share the wealth, remember?
We’re not suggesting you shouldn’t invest your money into healthy dividend earning companies, but insofar as 401k’s are concerned the investments are structured to take as much money out of your pocket as possible.
Buyer beware, because we’re talking about your long-term retirement – the money you’ll depend on to be there when you need it most.
Free Report: The Best Alternative to a 401K

Retail Tsunami: 16 Major Chains Closing More Stores

Woolworths store closing

(Daniel Jennings)  The economy appears to be in far worse shape than the major media outlets would have us believe.
In fact, if you want to see how bad the economy really is, simply visit your local shopping center. There you will find that headlines about a retail tsunami – as CNBC put it — are accurate.
Unfortunately, it could be just the tip of the iceberg. Recent news stories show that American retail is in a desperate situation and the entire economy is on very shaky ground.
Here are 16 companies that have closed stores or will close stores soon:
  • Office supply company Staples has announced plans to close 225 stores by 2015, which is about 15 percent of its chain. Staples already closed 40 stores last year. Industry analysts expect Staples’ main competitor, Office Depot, which bought OfficeMax last year, to announce its own round of store closings soon.
  • Radio Shack has announced plans to close 20 percent of its stores this year, which is as many as 1,100 stores. The company, which operates around 4,000 stores, reported that its sales fell by 19 percent last year.
  • Albertsons closed 26 stores in January and February according to Supermarket News. Analysts expect many more Albertsons could soon be shuttered because Albertsons owner hedge fund Cerberus Capital Management just bought Safeway Inc. Some Safeway stores could soon shut down as well.
  • Clothing retailer Abercrombie & Fitch is planning to close 220 stores by the end of 2015. The company is also planning to shut down an entire chain it owns, Gilly Hicks, which has 20 stores, 24/7 Wall Streetreported.
  • Barnes & Nobles is planning to shut down one third of its stores in the next year: about 218 stores. The chain has already closed its iconic flagship store in New York City.
  • J.C. Penney is closing about 33 stores and laying off about 2,000 employees.
  • The Record newspaper in New Jersey reported that Toys R Us has plans to close 100 stores.
  • The Sweetbay Supermarket chain will close all 17 of the stores it operates in the Tampa Bay area, The Herald Tribune newspaper reported. Many of the stores might open as Winn-Dixie Stores. Sweetbay closed 33 stores in Florida last year.
  • The entire Loehmann’s chain of discount clothing stores in the New York City area shut down. Loehmann’s once operated 39 stores, The New York Times reported, and was considered an institution by generations of New Yorkers.
  • Industry analyst John Kernan told CNN that he expects Sears Holdings, which owns both Sears and Kmart, to close another 500 stores this year. Sears has already shut down its flagship store in Chicago.
  • Quiznos has filed for bankruptcy, USA Today reported, and could close many of its 2,100 stores.
  • Sbarro which operates pizza and Italian restaurants in malls, is planning to close 155 locations in the United States and Canada. That means nearly 20 percent of Sbarro’s will close. The chain operates around 800 outlets.
  • Ruby Tuesday announced plans to close 30 restaurants in January after its sales fell by 7.8 percent. The chain currently operates around 775 steakhouses across the US.
  • An unknown number of Red Lobster stores will be sold. The chain is in such bad shape that the parent company, Darden Restaurants Inc., had to issue a press release stating that the chain would not close. Instead Darden is planning to spin Red Lobster off into another company and sell some of its stores.
  • Ralph’s, a subsidiary of Kroger, has announced plans to close 15 supermarkets in Southern California within 60 days.
  • Safeway closed 72 Dominick’s grocery stores in the Chicago area last year.
The Obama administration may tell Americans the economy is recovering, but the retail industry — and economic data — say something very different.

Moody’s downgrades Ukraine to ‘default imminent’

Moody's Investors Service has downgraded Ukraine's government bond rating one notch from Caa2 to Caa3, citing the current political crisis and deepening economic instability as reasons for its negative outlook.
The Caa rating is a credit risk grading pertaining to investments that are both very poor quality and entail a high credit risk. The current downgrade drops Ukraine from Moody's "extremely speculative" rating to "default imminent with little prospect for recovery."
Moody’s said the downgrade was driven by three factors, which “exacerbate Ukraine's more longstanding economic and fiscal fragility.”
The first factor is Ukraine’s political crisis, citing the recent regime change in Kiev and subsequent events in Crimea. The agency went on to cite Ukraine’s stressed external liquidity position, which faces continued decline in foreign currency reserves, the withdrawal of Russian financial support and a spike in gas import prices. Moody’s further noted that this assessment accounts for the near-term liquidity relief recently hammered out with the IMF. Finally, due to a “sizable fiscal deficit,” the agency expects a significant contraction of GDP and a sharp currency depreciation as the debt to GDP (Gross Domestic Product) ratio hits between 55-60 percent by year’s end.
On Thursday, Gazprom CEO Aleksey Miller announced Ukraine would begin paying $485 per thousand cubic meters of natural gas starting from April. The price rise followed a cancelation of the Black Sea hosting deal. On Wednesday President Vladimir Putin signed a federal law ending Russia’s commitment to the Kharkov Agreement, as the Black Sea port of Sevastopol is now under jurisdiction of the Russian Federation. This follows another steep hike on April 1, when the price Ukraine paid for gas went up 44 percent to $385, after Kiev failed to meet its debt repayments.
Last December, Russia offered Ukraine’s Yanukovich-led government a $15 billion loan and a 33 percent discount on natural gas: a lifeline to help its faltering economy. Moscow went through with the purchase of a $3 billion Eurobond from Kiev, though Russia later froze both the gas deal and the credit- line, due to events on the ground.
On Friday, Ukraine said it had started emergency talks with European Union neighbors on the possibility of importing natural gas from the West.
Based on these factors, Moody's said the country was unlikely to see Ukraine’s sovereign debt rating improve in the near future, stating its outlook for the country was negative. Any improvement would only come if long-term political and economic improvements were forthcoming. In January, Ukraine also saw its sovereign rating fall by one notch.
After Ukraine reached a preliminary deal with international lenders to unlock $27 billion in assistance late last month, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) announced last week a $14-18 billion standby credit for the country.
However, in order to secure the IMF credit, the country of 46 million was forced to cancel fuel subsidies to private citizens and businesses, sparking a 50 percent hike in oil and natural gas bills.
Ukraine has also promised the IMF it will cut its budget deficit to 2.5 percent of GDP by 2016.
“The country is on the edge of economic and financial bankruptcy,” Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said in Kiev last week. “This package of laws is very unpopular, very difficult, very tough. Reforms that should have been done in the past 20 years.”
Yatsenyuk warned GDP could shrink by 3 percent in 2014, while inflation could hit up to 14 percent.

Calm Before the QE Storm

On his weekly podcast, Andy Hoffman discusses Japan’s sales tax increase, QE, China, the NFP report, the massive debt the U.S. has, unemployment numbers, excessive money printing by the Fed, Bitcoin, gold and silver.
This video was posted with permission from Andy Hoffman of 
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DISCLAIMER: The financial and political opinions expressed in this interview are those of the guest and not necessarily of “Finance and Liberty” or its staff.

Is It Imaginable That Governments Would Confiscate Your Bank Account?

In this video featuring resource investor Rick Rule and sound money specialist Mike Maloney, both men discuss the high probability scenario in which governments will confiscate our bank accounts (or parts of it).
An interesting quote by Rick Rule: ‘The idea that we have, that we are absolved of responsibility for our own financial future – in other words: if we’re stupid enough to put money in a bank, that has too poor of an equity slice, the bank goes upside down….we’re unsecured creditors of a moron, which makes us a double moron. We ought to be punished for that stupidity.”
The underlying message is clear: physical precious metals outside the banking system have the huge benefit of carrying no counterparty risk. That benefit will not be perceived by the majority of people, until it’s too late. A one-second event could prevent people from a metals holding. As the saying goes: you better be 3 years too early than 3 days too late (or 3 seconds for that matter).
The video is short but a must-watch.

Ron Paul: Wake Up! The Bank Is Empty! Full Interview

Alex breaks down the factors behind the latest mass shooting in Ft. Hood, including the fact that the shooter was prescribed anti-depressant drugs and that the shooting occurred in a gun-free zone. Alex also discusses the latest in geopolitics, with former congressman and presidential contender Ron Paul joining today’s show to explain how Congress’s $1 billion aid package to Ukraine will impoverish Ukrainian citizens at the expense of American taxpayers.

Central Banks Have a New Trick Up Their Sleeves… Will the Markets Buy It?

The global Central Banks are relying increasing on verbal intervention.
The reasoning here is very simple: actual monetary policy is proving to have marginal effects. In the US, every new wave of QE has had less and less impact on the stocks.
I mention stocks specifically because it is now obvious even to the most ignorant commentator that QE was designed to aid Wall Street and few others (see recent admissions by both former and current Fed officials that QE was a “backdoor Wall Street bailout” and “gift intended to boost wealth.”
These admissions are creating a secondary issue, namely that QE is proving to become increasingly toxic from a political perspective. Indeed, even the mainstream media has picked up this theme.
This is not to say that QE will suddenly be dropped entirely (note that the Fed is tapering its programs gradually, the act of tapering simply reducing the pace of asset purchases rather than ceasing them altogether).
However, the point remains, that if promises of QE can produce the desired effects (higher asset prices) without eliciting the same level of political consequences, why bother even launching it?
The EU seems to have learned this lesson better than the US. European Central Bank (ECB) President Mario Draghi managed to pull its entire financial system from the brink of collapse in 2012 simply by promising to do “whatever it takes.”
The European markets erupted higher and haven’t looked back. The fact that the ECB would face a tangled web of politics and legal issues to actually back this claim up was irrelevant, investors knew the ECB wanted to act and so poured into the markets.
Two years later, Europe’s economy remains excruciatingly weak. Bank lending is virtually non-existent and the human cost is becoming outright horrific (over 25% of Europeans are now living in poverty).
What does the ECB do? It cannot force EU banks to lend. And it cannot force EU consumers to take out loans (or trust bankers for that matter). So the ECB leaks that it has “modeled” a €1 trillion QE campaign.
After all, verbal intervention worked well before. Why wouldn’t it now? If the goal is to lower yields further and boost asset prices, it’s a lot easier (and less legally problematic) to simply hint at something than to actually do it.
You can see the Yellen Fed playing off of this as well. Yellen’s first FOMC meeting saw her not only proving more hawkish than Wall Street expected… she actually went so far as to even hint at raising interest rates in the future.
The markets balked and Yellen did an about face, stating within a few weeks that the economy would need “extraordinary commitment… for some time” and that she believes that “view is widely shared” by her fellow policy makers.
Again, if the promise of help and liquidity can have the intended impact, why bother even announcing a new program?
Look for this theme to increase going forward both in Europe and elsewhere. Central Bankers are aware that their monetary efforts are failing to produce the allegedly intended results. Moreover, they know that these efforts are becoming increasingly unpopular with citizens.
So Central Bankers will be increasingly relying on verbal intervention. At least until the next asset price collapse occurs.
On that note, if you’re seeking investment recommendations along with laser pinpointed investment research, you should check out our paid monthly newsletter Private Wealth Advisory.
Private Wealth Advisory is a monthly investment advisory that outlines the market action and shows you how to profit from what’s to come. On that note, we currently are sitting on over 17 winners in our Private Wealth Advisory portfolio, with gains as large as 18%, 21%, even 33%… all opened in the last year.
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Rick Santelli: The Fed Has No Encore After QE For 'Black Swan' Event

Fraud is the only path for US business

Watch the full Keiser Report Episode 584 on Saturday!In this episode of the Keiser Report, Max Keiser and Stacy Herbert discuss high frequency fraud, picking prices and then filling in the trades to get to that price. In the second half, is the second half of Max’s interview with Jim Rickards about his new book, The Death of Money. In this second half, they talk more about mutually assured financial destruction, the US dollar and the danger of insolvency.

US Threatens Russia Over Petrodollar-Busting Deal

Source: Zero Hedge

On the heels of Russia’s potential “holy grail” gas deal with China, the news of a Russia-Iran oil “barter” deal, it appears the US is starting to get very concerned about its almighty Petrodollar
We suspect these sanctions would have more teeth than some travel bans, but, as we noted previously, it is just as likely to be another epic geopolitical debacle resulting from what was originally intended to be a demonstration of strength and instead is rapidly turning out into a terminal confirmation of weakness.
As we explained earlier in the week,
Russia seems perfectly happy to telegraph that it is just as willing to use barter (and “heaven forbid” gold) and shortly other “regional” currencies, as it is to use the US Dollar, hardly the intended outcome of the western blocakde, which appears to have just backfired and further impacted the untouchable status of the Petrodollar.

If Washington can’t stop this deal, it could serve as a signal to other countries that the United States won’t risk major diplomatic disputes at the expense of the sanctions regime,”
And here is Voice of Russia, “Russia prepares to attack the Petrodollar:
The US dollar’s position as the base currency for global energy trading gives the US a number of unfair advantages. It seems that Moscow is ready to take those advantages away.
The existence of “petrodollars” is one of the pillars of America’s economic might because it creates a significant external demand for American currency, allowing the US to accumulate enormous debts without defaulting. If a Japanese buyer want to buy a barrel of Saudi oil, he has to pay in dollars even if no American oil company ever touches the said barrel. Dollar has held a dominant position in global trading for such a long time that even Gazprom’s natural gas contracts for Europe are priced and paid for in US dollars. Until recently, a significant part of EU-China trade had been priced in dollars.
Lately, China has led the BRICS efforts to dislodge the dollar from its position as the main global currency, but the “sanctions war” between Washington and Moscow gave an impetus to the long-awaited scheme to launch the petroruble and switch all Russian energy exports away from the US currency .
The main supporters of this plan are Sergey Glaziev, the economic aide of the Russian President and Igor Sechin, the CEO of Rosneft, the biggest Russian oil company and a close ally of Vladimir Putin. Both have been very vocal in their quest to replace the dollar with the Russian ruble. Now, several top Russian officials are pushing the plan forward.
First, it was the Minister of Economy, Alexei Ulyukaev who told Russia 24 news channel that the Russian energy companies must should ditch the dollar. “ They must be braver in signing contracts in rubles and the currencies of partner-countries, ” he said.
Then, on March 2, Andrei Kostin, the CEO of state-owned VTB bank, told the press that Gazprom, Rosneft and Rosoboronexport, state company specialized in weapon exports, can start trading in rubles. “ I’ve spoken to Gazprom, to Rosneft and Rosoboronexport management and they don’t mind switching their exports to rubles. They only need a mechanism to do that ”, Kostin told the attendees of the annual Russian Bank Association meeting.
Judging by the statement made at the same meeting by Valentina Matviyenko, the speaker of Russia’s upper house of parliament, it is safe to assume that no resources will be spared to create such a mechanism. “ Some ‘hot headed’ decision-makers have already forgotten that the global economic crisis of 2008 – which is still taking its toll on the world – started with a collapse of certain credit institutions in the US, Great Britain and other countries. This is why we believe that any hostile financial actions are a double-edged sword and even the slightest error will send the boomerang back to the aborigines,” she said.
It seems that Moscow has decided who will be in charge of the “boomerang”. Igor Sechin, the CEO of Rosneft, has been nominated to chair the board of directors of Saint-Petersburg Commodity Exchange, a specialized commodity exchange. In October 2013, speaking at the World Energy Congress in Korea, Sechin called for a “global mechanism to trade natural gas” and went on suggesting that “ it was advisable to create an international exchange for the participating countries, where transactions could be registered with the use of regional currencies “. Now, one of the most influential leaders of the global energy trading community has the perfect instrument to make this plan a reality. A Russian commodity exchange where reference prices for Russian oil and natural gas will be set in rubles instead of dollars will be a strong blow to the petrodollar.
Rosneft has recently signed a series of big contracts for oil exports to China and is close to signing a “jumbo deal” with Indian companies. In both deals, there are no US dollars involved. Reuters reports, that Russia is close to entering a goods-for-oil swap transaction with Iran that will give Rosneft around 500,000 barrels of Iranian oil per day to sell in the global market. The White House and the russophobes in the Senate are livid and are trying to block the transaction because it opens up some very serious and nasty scenarios for the petrodollar. If Sechin decides to sell this Iranian oil for rubles, through a Russian exchange, such move will boost the chances of the “petroruble” and will hurt the petrodollar.
It can be said that the US sanctions have opened a Pandora’s box of troubles for the American currency. The Russian retaliation will surely be unpleasant for Washington, but what happens if other oil producers and consumers decide to follow the example set by Russia? During the last month, China opened two centers to process yuan-denominated trade flows, one in London and one in Frankfurt. Are the Chinese preparing a similar move against the greenback? We’ll soon find out.
Finally, those curious what may happen next, only not to Iran but to Russia, are encouraged to read “From Petrodollar To Petrogold: The US Is Now Trying To Cut Off Iran’s Access To Gold.”

How Europe is incubating an even bigger debt crisis by letting deflation take root

Source: Ambrose Evans-Pritchard

The European Central Bank has let it happen. Inflation has been running at an annual rate of minus 1.5% in the eurozone over the past five months, adjusted for austerity taxes.
Funding costs for eurozone countries haven’t been this cheap in years, but an economist Desjardins is cautioning the party might not last. Read on
Prices have been falling at a rate of 5.6% in Italy, 4.7% in Spain, 4% in Portugal and 2% in Holland since September. The rise of the euro against the dollar, yen, yuan and real, accounts for some of this. The eurozone’s trade-weighted index has risen 6% in a year.
But that is the direct consequence of the ECB’s own monetary policy. Frankfurt could force down the euro at any time by switching gears. It has chosen not to do so, hoping that a few dovish words spoken without conviction will turn the global tide.
It is hard to judge at what point deflation becomes embedded in the system. Factory gate prices have been slipping since mid-2012. The pace quickened to minus 1.7% in February, the steepest decline since the Lehman crisis. But this time it is not the one-off effect of a financial crash. It is chronic and insidious.
Prof Luis Garicano from the London School of Economics said the economic models used to predict inflation seem to be breaking down. “They need to take very serious action,” he said.
Bank of America says its “inflation surprise” index keeps ratcheting lower as one shock after another hits, while its gauge of “deflation vulnerability” has been flashing red for most EMU countries. The effect is deeply corrosive, even if the region never reaches technical deflation.


Baltic Dry Drops 9th Day In A Row; Worst Q1 In Over 10 Years

For a few weeks there, as the Baltic Dry Index rose, talking-heads were ignominous in their praise of the shipping index as a leading indicator of an awesome future ahead for the world economy. The last 9 days have smashed that 'hope' to smithereens (and yet the talking-heads have gone awkwardly silent, having moved on to some other bias-confirming meme). The Baltic Dry is down 25% in the last 2 weeks, back near post-crisis lows, and has just suffered the worst start to a year in over a decade. But apart from that, seems global trade is all-good and about to take off any minute now...

The worst start to a year in over a decade...

As Baltic Dry has fallen 9 days in a row, down 25%, and is back near post-crisis lows...

It seems the demand for shipping dry bulk is not strong...

Mass Incarceration and Capitalism

With no public acknowledgement of the irony the U.S., the ‘land of the free,’ has both the highest incarceration rate in the world and the largest overall prison population. The dominant public perception appears to rest at the local level: the state has the right to prohibit socially destructive acts; people commit socially destructive acts and they are put in prison. Left largely unconsidered is the nature of the democratic capitalist state that claims this right to incarcerate. American history places it squarely in the service of economic interests. The country was founded on genocide and slavery. Western political theory frames these as ‘political’ acts. Genocide against the indigenous population was / is framed as military conflict. Slavery in theory ‘ended’ with the Civil War. But both of these also had profound economic impacts. Much as the enclosure ‘movement’ in Britain produced a ‘criminal’ class of peasants ‘freed’ from formerly collective lands, the American genocide against the indigenous population resulted in imposition of European ‘property’ relations where ‘property’ had never before been conceived. As far back as the philosopher Aristotle slavery was framed as the right of conquerors over the conquered whereas the labor expropriated from slaves in America supported a self-perpetuating plutocracy that today finds the descendents of slaves overwhelmingly populating U.S. prisons and the descendents of slave ‘owners’ as a class immune from prosecution for its own socially destructive acts and in position to profit from the system of mass incarceration.
Likewise, the history of race ‘relations’ in the U.S. doesn’t reduce to singular explanations. But it does tie broadly to Western imperial history, to British, European and American strategies of colonization, subjugation and economic expropriation begun in the seventeenth century that by degree continue today. The kidnapped Africans forced into slavery in the U.S. were used to feed a global system of capitalist trade and they served as human ‘currency’ as chattel property. The self-serving storyline that capitalism ‘replaced’ slavery with ‘free’ economic participation ignores the role expropriated slave labor played in capitalist trade and capital accumulation and it requires an anti-historical notion of ‘free’ economic participation that ignores the strategies of economic coercion that followed the nominal end of slavery. Designated three-fifths a person in the U.S. Constitution to accrue political power to slave ‘owners,’ slaves accrued political power to the institution of slavery as system of labor expropriation as well. A century or more of theoretical argumentation on both left and right notwithstanding, slavery was a capitalist institution that fed nascent global capitalist trade. And its residual in post Civil War strategies of racial repression, suppression and economic exploitation relate by degree to current capitalist imperialism in other former colonies. The racist, classist prison system in the U.S. is fact and reified metaphor for this ‘internal’ history and for the breadth and reach of the capitalist imperial relations behind the concentrated fortunes today so in evidence in the West.
Readers here likely know some or all of this history but most Westerners appear to have little to no knowledge of it. To most the question back is: how can a system of public safety, ‘crime’ suppression, be a strategy of social repression? Part of the disconnect lies within the very idea of crime as it is socially circumscribed through the anti-historical precepts of capitalist democracy. If ‘the West’ is capitalist and democratic then all social acts are ‘freely’ undertaken. Social history and material need are irrelevant because ‘we’ all have the same opportunity to react to existing circumstance in the present. Readers may see the outline of the ‘opportunity society’ of right-wing fantasy here. Within this frame the fact that per capita rates of incarceration in U.S. states are between five and ten times higher for the descendents of slaves than for the descendents of slave ‘owners’ must indicate innate qualitative differences, as must the relations of income and wealth distribution to this same residual of history. But if ‘crime’ were defined as the willful causing of social harm to others how could these overlaps of history: slavery, social repression, economic expropriation, and incarceration, not be crimes? As Angela Davis, Michelle Alexander, Kahlil Gibran Muhammad and other great historians of social tragedy before them have noted, the Western narrative of ‘crime’ ties closely in history to strategies of economic expropriation and social repression against nominally ‘freed’ slaves and their descendents following the end of the Civil War. And it ties as well to British social theories of ‘crime’ used to explain the sudden appearance of a large peasant class dispossessed by the enclosure of formerly collective lands.
But this history of race in America is particular as well. It can’t be reduced to Marxian notions of class alone because the social persistence / insistence of race is more than just economic. And to reduce the history of race ‘relations’ to economics within the circular precepts of capitalist democracy is to misrepresent systematic repression as missed ‘opportunities,’ as the otherwise included who only coincidentally share relation with ‘external’ imperial subjects in social outcomes but who nevertheless join the ‘us’ when it comes to paying taxes and fighting and dying in imperial wars. While specific social technologies like race-based drug laws enforced using race-based policing are the mechanism that ‘explains’ the current massively disproportionate incarceration rate for blacks, browns and indigenous peoples, drug laws were used for a century prior in strategies of targeted social repression. The near instantaneous conversion of the U.S. penal population from white to black following the Civil War restored the economic relations of coerced expropriation outside of explicit chattel title. ‘Convict leasing’ was the conversion mechanism that tied ‘the law’ as tool of social repression to the economic expropriation that fed post-war capitalist relations. Capital ‘formation’ in the West included the aggregation of the expropriated labor of slaves, the exploited ‘resources’ that accrued from genocide against the indigenous population and from the place of these in the global system of capitalist trade. Race doesn’t reduce to class but it does find broad analog in Western imperial relations.
The prior history of drug laws used as tools of targeted social repression ties the wholesale revival of the practice around 1980 to a fundamental shift in political economy begun in the 1970s and brought to full fruition with the election of Ronald Reagan. Mr. Reagan used racial division as a political tactic with his ‘Southern strategy.’ But as was made evident in the ascendance of high capitalist political economy following his election, revival of the social mechanisms of economic expropriation was the ultimate goal of ‘winning’ politically. The bi-partisan looting of the Savings and Loans and epic of pirate capitalism through ‘investment’ banking in the 1980s were the most visible strategies of this renewed ‘internal’ economic expropriation. As it was reconstituted in penal practice the ‘tough on crime’ public stance was clearly intended to use ‘the law’ for social repression— it is hardly a coincidence that the massive increase in incarceration rates for blacks, Latinos, indigenous populations and poor whites occurred as the ‘culture’ of absolute impunity for the connected wealthy assumed its place in the social order. For looting the S&Ls (Savings & Loans) a thousand ‘white collar’ criminals went to prison. For misrepresentations and fraudulent accounting in the ‘dot-com’ boom and bust a few analysts were driven from the industry. And for the industrial-scale looting of the housing boom and bust and related economic and financial catastrophes the culpable malefactors on Wall Street were given trillions of dollars of public money and saw their ‘businesses’ fully restored—by a liberal, black Democrat President. Meanwhile, from 1980 forward, the incarceration rate in the U.S. increased seven-fold and was overwhelmingly populated by the descendants of slaves, the remaining indigenous population and Latino refugees from American imperial ‘adventures.’
The ‘commonsense’ character of fighting ‘crime’ seeks its legitimacy in the everyday facts of socially destructive behavior. Rape, murder and pillage are socially destructive acts. Their ‘legitimate’ use as state tactics in the expression of state power requires overlooking the imperial-economic context in which they are used. The U.S. murdered three-and-one half million Vietnamese (Robert McNamara’s count) in the Vietnam War, almost entirely in the years after the war was known to be a lost ‘cause’ by American political ‘leadership.’ Over a million Iraqis were killed to ‘liberate’ Iraq’s oil for Western oil companies. The military culture of rape ties to both military and imperial history across millennia. The apparent inability to successfully prosecute rape in the U.S. military illustrates both the role of the military in social repression and the use of targeted violence as a tactic of empire. And ‘theft’ simply restates the imperial role imposed property relations have on current economic distribution. The ‘free’ land that was ‘America’ required genocide against the indigenous population to make it ‘free.’ Economic taking through the use of social asymmetries is the basis for the preponderance of capitalist ‘wealth.’ The careful circumscription of ‘crime’ as the socially destructive behavior of poor, black, brown and indigenous people finds its reciprocal in the absolute impunity and immunity from prosecution the rich and connected have for their socially destructive behavior. Without public expression of irony the investment bank Goldman Sachs is today partnering with non-profit agencies to reduce ‘crime’ committed by poor youth of color when it could to better effect open its own books to prosecutors and have some fair portion of its employees arrested and prosecuted for their own socially destructive behavior.
This same premise of capitalist democracy that frames all acts as ‘freely’ undertaken has Central and South American peasants whose indigenous economies were destroyed through engineered displacement / replacement by American industrial agriculture ‘freely’ migrating to the U.S. to labor as a ‘special’ class of labor that subsidizes American food prices and industrial farm ‘profits.’ Chinese laborers who manufacture products for export to the West for Foxconn live fifteen to a room, share one bathroom to three rooms (45 persons) and routinely work fifteen hour days for subsistence wages. Unicor employs fifteen percent of the Federal prison population in the U.S. to manufacture goods for the Federal government for pennies an hour. And in the much larger state prison system prisoners manufacture goods for multi-national corporations like Wal-Mart, IBM and Microsoft for the same pennies an hour. While this is hardly news to those paying attention, the implication is that most of the good citizens of Philadelphia, Detroit, Oakland, East St. Louis etc, have political and economic interests more closely aligned with the poor citizens of Venezuela, Bangladesh, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Vietnam, etc, than with the Western capitalists—bankers, industrialists and for-profit militarists, who are their nominal fellow ‘citizens.’ Philadelphia, reportedly the poorest large city in the U.S., was a dumping ground for slaves when they became too old to work and it was a major stop on the underground railroad that moved fleeing slaves from the South. Today it resembles post-War Iraq in the sense that the strategies imposed by empire— privatization of public functions, expropriation of city resources by connected insiders and race-based laws and policing that feed a conspicuously racist system of mass incarceration, are used against a population of nominal ‘citizens.’ The incarcerated can have their children taken from them through forced adoptions and are forced to pay for part of their incarceration with money their incarceration assures they don’t have. When tied to the ‘external’ relations of capitalist imperialism what is illustrated is that exploitation and expropriation are by degree, not type.
Framed differently, the distribution of income and wealth, and with it social power, ties to strategies of social legitimation and repression reconstituted in the institutions of global capitalism. The incarcerated ‘deserve’ to be exploited because of their ‘criminal’ behavior. ‘Illegal’ immigrants ‘deserve’ to be exploited because they ‘are in this country illegally.’ And the rich deserve their wealth because ‘equals’ freely undertake all acts in capitalist democracy and wealth is therefore ‘proof’ of economic contribution. The historical relation of actual outcomes to imperial ‘place’ finds wholly unrelated ‘explanation’ through backward induction, through taking factual distribution and running it through the precepts of capitalist democracy to develop theoretical explanations against all knowledge and history. Theories of social, cultural and genetic ‘difference’ are developed to relate the Western concept / precept of ‘freedom’ to factual outcomes that otherwise tie miraculously, inexplicably, with correlation = 1, to imperial history. Conspicuously racist blather like difference in quantum of ‘intelligence’ put forward by Murray and Herrnstein in ‘The Bell Curve’ tie to ‘legitimate’ capitalist (Western) economics and progressive ‘scientific’ analyses / explanations of ‘criminal’ behavior as imperialist apologetics put into service to legitimate capitalist social relations. Progressive ‘science’ is reconstituted in judicial and police practice through tight circumscription of the types (and targets) of crimes the police concern themselves with. No crimes were committed in the last decade by Wall Street because within the frame of capitalist democracy concentrated wealth is self-legitimating and in institutional practice because the definitions of ‘crimes’ function as tools of social repression. George W. Bush launched an illegal war as defined by international treaties to which the U.S. is signatory and caused the deaths of a million or more Iraqis but will never serve a day in prison while black or brown youth caught with a bag of weed might spend years in prison. So, does America want to ‘have a conversation’ about crime?
To be clear, and to pre-empt undue liberal-progressive hand wringing on the matter, this isn’t an issue of ‘fairness,’ the quasi-theocratic Western conceit of ‘balance’ in social outcomes, because such never has been and never will be the case. Conversely, with slavery and genocide being the preponderance of U.S. history and current circumstance the continued exploitation and repression of the descendants of those on the wrong side of this history, when precisely will ‘fairness’ come into being? And more specifically, how would it be retroactively applied to those who lived and died on the wrong side of the imperial divide? Mass incarceration is social struggle for the living in the present. Its ties to slavery and Western imperialism past and present requires a base state and ongoing political economy of social justice before discussion of ‘solutions’ to socially destructive behavior are more than neo-imperialist blather. Sure communities of color deserve to be protected from violence. But racist policing and mass incarceration are tools of violence, not protection from it. Where is discussion of protection from the violence of economic exploitation, immiseration, political and economic exclusion and from external strategies of social legitimation that pose these outcomes as ‘self-inflicted?’ When tied to the contrived conceit of ‘equal opportunity’ the revival of mechanisms of social repression has communities blaming their own members for outcomes directly related to imperial history. Slaves weren’t responsible for the conditions of their enslavement. The conditions were externally imposed. The big lie in the U.S. is that ‘freedom’ from economic exploitation and social repression was ever granted to slaves and their descendants. Is it an accident that mass incarceration began just as the Civil Rights movement was bearing fruit for its participants? Race in America is a special class. But it shares history and social outcomes with several centuries of capitalist imperialism in South and Central America, Asia, the Middle East, India and China, etc.
With over two million people in federal, state and local prisons and another five million whose lives are tied to the U.S. penal system a social emergency has been created. The preponderance of those affected share relation through Western imperial history and its residual embedded in current social relations. Slavery was at its core an economic institution, a system for forcing people to labor for others. The near instantaneous creation of a system of ‘freely’ coerced labor through convict leasing places the law, the social mechanisms of its enforcement and incarceration as ways of continuing the economic expropriation of slavery outside of explicit chattel relations. To add insult to injury, by claiming an end to slavery while maintaining the mechanisms of social repression and economic expropriation the onus for claims of social legitimacy was shifted to the repressed and exploited. This finds its contemporary expression in long immiserated communities being blamed for their own immiseration, in long excluded communities being blamed for their exclusion and in long repressed communities being blamed for their own repression. The question of whether or not prison labor is a reconstitution of slavery leaves aside the global strategies of economic coercion and expropriation that are related by degree. The claim of capitalist democracy that all labor is freely undertaken (and compensated according to its economic contribution) is a fundamental premise of capitalism. Explicit and implicit strategies of coercion put a lie to this base conceit. The effect, again, is that working class and poor Americans have political and economic interests more clearly aligned with the people of Venezuela, Nicaragua, Bangladesh and Vietnam than they do with the American political establishment. The late President of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, understood these broader relations as did the Black Panther Party when it formed international coalitions. If there is any hope for ending mass incarceration it is likely to be found in these broader coalitions.
Rob Urie is an artist and political economist. His book Zen Economics will be published by CounterPunch / AK Press this Spring.

Ukraine’s Economy Would Have Collapsed Without Russian Aid – IMF Chief

Christine Lagarde

MOSCOW, April 3 (RIA Novosti) - Ukraine's ailing economy would have collapsed without Russia's financial help, the head of the International Monetary Fund said Wednesday.
IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde said that the Eastern European country's economy had hit a wall last year and was heading for disaster when Russian bailout money averted a catastrophe.
"Without the support that they were getting from this lifeline that Russia had extended a few months ago, they were heading nowhere," Lagarde said in an interview broadcast on the US PBS channel.
Russia made a crucial decision to invest a hefty $15 billion in Ukrainian eurobonds late last year, disbursing the first tranche of $3 billion in December. Moscow and Kiev also agreed to steeply cut gas prices for Ukraine in an effort to boost the country's ailing economy.
But the cash injections and discounts were frozen following a coup amid violent protests in February that led to far-right parties gaining key positions in the new government.
The IMF chief confessed that Ukraine had been cut off from international financial markets. She stressed that IMF money comes at a price, meaning Ukraine was expected to do what it had to do to reform its economy, including making some hard choices.
"It's an economy that needed reforms, that needed profound transformation of its fiscal policy, of its monetary policy, and of its policies on energy," Lagarde said.
The Washington-based fund said last week it had signed a binding accord with Ukraine, under which Kiev was to receive $14 to $18 billion in standby credit in exchange for painful economic reforms. Ukraine expects to get a total of $27 billion in the next two years.

MH370 Live Report: Malaysia to appoint an independent "Investigator-in-Charge"

The Bluefin 21, the Artemis autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV), is hoisted back on board the Australian Defence …

DAY 29 (5 April 2014)

Summary of Press Conference led by Hishamuddin Hussein
- Malaysia will continue leading the SAR effort and will also appoint an independent ‘Investigator In Charge’ to lead an investigation team, as per ICAO provisions.
- The investigation team comprises an airworthiness group, an operations group, and a medical and human factors group.
- The investigation team will include accredited countries. Australia has accepted the position. China, US, UK and France will be invited, along with other countries.

- 3 ministerial level committees have been formed – Next-of-kin committee headed by the Dep Minister of Foreign Affairs, Technicalities committee headed by the Dep Minister of Transport, and Asset Deployment committee headed by the Dep Minister of Defense.

- ASEAN Defense Ministers released a joint statement, declaring their solidarity over the SAR efforts for MH370 and pledging greater cooperation in disaster management.
- Bristish nuclear submarine, HMS Tireless, has been deployed in the search area.

Read the full press statement HERE.

During Q&A time:

- Hishamuddin revealed that the PM’s statement that the flight “ended” in the Indian Ocean should not be construed as “crashed without survivors” to respect the wishes of the families of MH370 passengers are clinging on to hope for a miraclulous survival.

- Hishamuddin says that no one on the passenger manifest has been cleared from investigations, and everyone is still being probed under the police’s for areas of focus

- To a question about who actually spoke the last message and why the pilots’ families were not allowed to identify the voices in the transmission, Hishamuddin replied that the audio recording was still being investigated.
DAY 28 (4 April 2014)

[2.10pm]: The search for flight MH370 in remote seas off Australia headed underwater on Friday, with a U.S. Navy high tech 'black box' locator deployed for the first time as the battery life of the cockpit data recorder dwindles. Story here.
DAY 27 (3 April 2014)
[12:06pm]: Malaysian PM Najib Razak and Australian PM Tony Abbott held a press conference in Australia this afternoon. Below are the highlights:
- Abbott says the search is the most difficult in human history, taking place in an extraordinarily remote area considering sea conditions.
- Search team is working on the basis of just small pieces of information and putting the jigsaw pieces together.
- Abbott also asks families of MH370 passengers to be patient, and adds "We can’t be certain of the success, but we are certain that we will expand the search in whatever we can humanly do".
- Najib met with crew and commanders of the search effort and they shared the difficulties of distance, weather and sea conditions.
- 10 aircraft and 9 ships are out searching at this very moment.
- Malaysia and Australia is in the process of drawing up a comprehensive agreement on the search.
Full address by Najib here.
[9.40am]: Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak has been told Australia is doing everything it can to hunt flight MH370, but the task is one of the 'most complicated' searches in history. Story here.
DAY 26 (2 April 2014)

No press conference was held today. Highlights from today's press update:
- Prime Minister Najib Razak is due to visit Pearce Air Force base to meet with personnel involved in the multinational search operation for MH370 and will be briefed on the latest developments regarding the search. Najib will also hold a bilateral meeting with Australian PM Tony Abbot.
-  A briefing session was held for the Chinese relatives of those on board MH370 at a hotel in Putrajaya. Moderated by the Prime Minister’s Special Envoy to China, Ong Ka Ting, the session was telecast 'live' to the Chinese familes who are currently in Beijing.
- Acting Transport Minister Hishamuddin Hussein had a telephone call with the British Secretary of State for Defence, Phillip Hammond who confirmed that Britain is sending HMS Tireless, a Trafalgar-class nuclear submarine with sonar capabilities to help in the multinational search operation for MH370.

[3.30pm]: A Bernama report citing Malaysian Inspector-General Khalid Abu Bakar said the police have 'cleared' all passengers of hijacking, sabotage, psychological and personal problems. Cops are still however, investigating the cabin crew including the pilot and co-pilot. Story here.
- After 3½ weeks of investigations into the missing jet, Malaysian police have recorded more than 170 statements in probe into MH370, CNN reported, citing a report in the Wall Street Journal. Get details here.
- Acting Transport Minister Hishamuddin Hussein said through Twitter that the government was mulling legal action against the misreporting by the media, and that the attorney-general has been instructed to begin compiling details before determining the next course of action. Full story here.
8.45am]: The search for the missing MH370 was boosted by the arrival of a Britain's submarine HMS Tireless in the Indian Ocean ahead of a visit to Australia by Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak. British Royal Navy sub, HMS Echo is due to arrive on Friday. Story here.

The multinational hunt of MH370 has also attracted a benevolent Peter Jackson who was reported to have been called in to assist the search. The New Zealand Herald reported that the Oscar-winning movie director had personally approved the use of his Gulfstream G650 in the search.
DAY  25 (1 April 2014)
[6:10pm]: The full transcript between MH370 and local air traffic controllers was released to the public, after being held back due to investigations. Story here.
Insurers will likely have to pay out up to RM1.5 billion following the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370. Story here.
[8.45am]: Malaysia's civil aviation department said late Monday the last words spoken by one of pilots of missing Flight MH370 were "Good night Malaysian three seven zero", and not the more casual "All right, good night" originally reported. Get story here.
- The multiple objects sighted at sea by an Australian P-3 Orion have been identified as fishing buoys, nets and other ocean flotsam. Story here.
DAY 24 (31 March 2014)
[6.15pm]: Highlights from today's press update:
- PM Najib Razak will travel to Perth on Wednesday to see the operation first hand. Indonesia has allowed 94 sorties - by aircraft from nine different countries - to fly in their airspace to get through to search area.
- Area of search is 254,000 sq km.  US towed pinger locator due to arrive in search area on April 3.
- Objects retrieved on Saturday were examined, found not to be related to MH370. Details.
- International experts, including those from China will brief a group of relatives who have arrived from Beijing. The session will be shown live to families in Beijing. Read here.
- Defence minister Hishammuddin Hussein dismissed claims that Najib had announced a plane crash, calling it ‘erroneous’.
- MAS CEO Ahmad Jauhari Yahya says MAS has announced the background and experience of both pilots, but will fully cooperate with investigators on matters involving them
- Ahmad Jauhari says MAS has not been informed of a lawsuit by families: ‘We need to know what the lawsuit is before we respond.”
- Details in a Daily Mail report were not released by the police, Hishamuddin confirmed.
- Appointment of Chew Mei Fun is to ‘try and understand with the Chinese authorities on what needs to be done to assist them in this difficult time. “It’s a difficult time for all of us and it does not only apply to Chinese nationals but 13 other nationalities.”
Full statement here.
[3.42pm]: The search area for flight MH370 needs to be reduced for the black box pinger detector to do its job, said a US navy officer in charge of the sophisticated equipment. Read in full.
[10.30am]:  All evidence points to flight MH370 being lost in the remote Indian Ocean, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said today, backing his Malaysian counterpart's view that the plane crashed.  Read here.
[8.20am]: Good weather and a search zone closer to land had helped the Australian P-3 Orion crew captained by Flight Lieutenant Russell Adams to spot the objects yesterday,  Sydney Morning Herald (SMH) reported. Get story here.

- Senior US lawmakers said on a TV interview that investigators had found no evidence thus far pointing to terrorism in the disappearance of flight MH370 three weeks ago, and that it was critical to find the plane to understand what happened on board.

DAY 23 (30 March 2014)

Experts say that the cost of hunting MH370 may hit RM130 million, and even RM650 million annually if the search stretches on for years. Full details HERE.

Just hours after arriving, some 50 relatives of MH370's Chinese passengers held a protest at Subang Jaya Holiday Villa. Full story HERE.

American forensic investigators confirm that nothing incriminating was found in Capt. Zaharie's flight simulators. Full story HERE.

Security protocols will be revamped at nation's entry points and a new system implemented, says Zahid. Read the full story HERE.

The South China Morning Post reports that a 'frustrated' China is considering launching 50 satellites to form a global surveillance network, following the disappearance of MH370. Full story HERE.

Australia has appointed its ex-defence forces chief to lead in the search for MH370. Full story HERE.

With Hishamuddin being front man in the world's media coverage of MH370, he has now suddenly become a household name worldwide. How is this boosting his political career? Find out HERE.

A US naval officer says the search for MH370 could take years. Details HERE.

MAS needs confirmation that MH370 has indeed crashed in the Indian Ocean before flying the passengers' families to Perth. Story HERE.

DAY 22

Acting Transport Minister Hishamuddin Hussein has assured families of passengers on board the missing plane that Putrajaya will not stop its search and rescue operations to find survivors, no matter the odds. Full story here.

Meanwhile, Hishamuddin also revealed that no debris spotted in an area off the west coast of Australia has been recovered. Read more here.

The Interpol has hit back at the Malaysian government, saying that Malaysia's decision to not consult the database before allowing travellers to enter the country "cannot be defended by falsely blaming technology or Interpol". More on this here.

Fresh objects of "multiple colours" were spotted by planes searching for the missing Malaysian passenger jet in a new area of the southern Indian Ocean, once again raising hopes of unravelling the three-week old mystery. Click here for more on this.

DAY 21
(Highlights from the Press Conference today)

- The major news for today is that the search area has been refined to an area approximately 1,680 kilometres west of Perth, after taking into account new data and satellite sightings of possible debris.

- The area was determined based on 'complex calculations' and analysis of the plane’s possible flight path and capabilities by Boeing’s experts.
- On China’s demands for Malaysia to release all information, and calls to set up a Chinese investigation, Hishamuddin reiterates that all data and information that Malaysia received has been consistently shared with Chinese authorities.
- With time running out on the black box battery, Malaysia reiterates its commitment to find the aircraft, and is looking into deep sea salvage in the case where the black box has not been found before its battery runs out.

Read the full statement HERE
Other news of note today:

Singapore defends Malaysia's efforts on missing plane

Chinese MH370 relatives not confident of Malaysia, demand Beijing probe

Chinese travel agencies ban sales of Malaysia Airlines tickets

As MH370 lawsuit brews in US, Malaysian families say too soon

MH370 beacon locator battery set to run out in 10 days, as search area shifts 1,100km

MH370 search area shifted on ‘new, credible lead’, says Australia

Questions now over Subang ATC response when MH370 went missing

Families of some Chinese passengers on missing plane get insurance payouts

DAY 20:
No press conference was held today. Here are highlights from a press statement issued by the Transport Ministry:

- Malaysia will send a team comprising representatives from the DCA, MAS, the navy and air force to Perth to work with the Australian Rescue Co-ordination Centre.

- PM Najib Razak met with China's foreign affairs vice minister Zhang Yesui. Minister Hishammuddin Hussein briefed him of the findings that led to the conclusion that the plane ended in the southern Indian ocean. Zhang later met with the relatives of Chinese passengers on board MH370.

- High level Malaysian team met with families in Beijing for the fourth time yesterday. Relatives were told of search operation and technical details. Another meeting is currently underway. Malaysia has requested the Chinese government to 'engage and clarify the actual situation to the affected families and the Chinese public'.

Full statement here.
AFP reports that a Thai satellite has spotted 300 floating objects with each up to 15 metres in size. Thailand's The Nation reports that the objects were seen about 200km away from the search area in the Indian Ocean. Details.

[1.23pm]: The search for MH370 takes another hit as severe icing, turbulence and near zero visibility force authorities to call off the search today. Read in full.

[11:35am]: Thunderstorms and gale winds are threatening to disrupt the search for the 122 objects spotted in the southern Indian Ocean, as military and civillian planes rush to search the 78,000 square kilometer area. Story here.
Oceanographers are playing a key role with their understanding of ocean dynamics in determining where exactly did Malaysia Airlines MH370 crash in the southern Indian Ocean. Story here.
Also, math wizards - the same people who found Air France Flight 447 - are standing ready to help in the search for MH370, working independently using all available public data. Story here.
[8.40am]: Aircraft and ships scouring the southern Indian Ocean for wreckage of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 were racing to beat bad weather today and reach an area where new satellite images showed what could be a debris field. The latest satellite leads by  France-based Airbus Defence & Space showed 122 objects - between one and 23 metres in length - that could possibly be debris from the Boeing 777. Read more.

- The United States has dispatched its Pinger Locator - the undersea navy drone and  high-tech black box detector to boost search efforts. When it arrives, on April 5, the heavy duty machine will be fitted to an Australian Defence vessel, says Reuters. Story here.
- Elsewhere in the Malaysian Parliament, Home Minister Zahid Hamid made listed the chronological account of how two Iranian men ended up on the flight MH370 using stolen passports. The revelation was the first ever made since MH370 news broke on March 8. Find out what happened here.

DAY 19:
Highlights from today's press conference:
- New satellite images have spotted 122 objects - between one and 23 metres in length - in a 400 sq kilometre debris field. Some appear to be bright which could indicate that they were solid material.
- Australia has divided search area into east and west, 12 planes will search both areas
- On Malaysia’s image getting hit by international media, Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said attention would fall on Malaysia as there have been no debris linked to MH370 yet. He said Malaysia has done an ‘admirable job’ coordinating 26 countries during the events of the past 17 days. “I think history will judge us well”.
- On engagement with families in China, Hishammuddin said MAS has done everything to support the next of kin and will continue to engage with them, saying Malaysians and people of other nationalities have lost their loved ones as well.
- On the fire that broke out in a Malindo Air plane, Malindo Airlines chief executive Chandran Ramamurthy explains: At 7,000 ft, the aircraft captain realised the fire detection system triggered and immediately diverted the plane to Subang Airport. In 10 minutes, the plane was successfully diverted.
Full statement here, with 3 satellite images.

*Malaysia Airlines will hold its own press conference tomorrow.

The Malaysian military initially assumed that a jet detected on its radar on March 8 was ordered to turn back by the air traffic controllers, deputy defence minister Abdul Rahim Bakri told Parliament. Read it here.
Tony Abbot says Australia owes it 'to an anxious world to do everything we can' to solve the riddle surrounding flight MH370. Full story.
British tabloid Daily Mail quoted an industry expert as saying that the plane had spent 23 minutes at up to 45,000 feet – way above its maximum altitude – and rendered everyone unconscious from the lack of oxygen. Read it.
Investigators are now poring over satellite data to find out whether MH370 was deliberately flown to the Indian Ocean, or was it a result of autopilot control. Story here.

Countries are growing suspicious of China's motives in the MH370 search, that China may be using the tragedy to spy on them. There has been a pushback against China's participation. Story here.

Families of MH370 passengers are believed to have hired a leading global law firm to sue the MH370 plane manufacturer, The Boeing Co, and 'one other company'. Story here.
The hunt for wreckage of flight MH370 resumes after the weather gradually improves, with China's polar supply ship Xue Long and and Korean planes joining the search covering a vast stretch of the Indian Ocean, off western Australia. Gale force winds, rain and choppy waves prevented any sorties being flown yesterday but 12 aircraft to be on air today. Story here.
- In another development, The Sydney Morning Herald reports that the recovery of MH370 and its black box is going to be a Herculean task as geologists believe the debris from the aircraft could be lying above a giant undersea chain of volcanoes whose complex terrain has barely been charted. Read here.

DAY 18:
Highlights from this evening’s press conference:

- Search operations in northern corridor and area near Indonesia called off. Current search area is 469,407 sq nautical miles from the initial 2.24 million sq nautical miles.
- MAS will take the lead in communicating with families.
-The aircraft wreckage, if found, may be brought to Australian soil for further investigation.
- Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said new analysis was convincing enough for the UK’s AAIB to brief PM Najib Razak that the plane’s last position was in the southern Indian ocean. The message was then conveyed to the families and announced to the public.
- IGP says investigation will continue on the four areas: sabotage, hijacking and psychological and personal problems.
- The US Navy’s Towed Pinger Locator - which can detect the aircraft’s black box - is en route to Perth.
- High level team from Malaysia will leave to Beijing today. Lack of details yesterday caused speculations that Malaysia was not revealing information. Team to address all questions from family members.
- Malaysian air force is conducting its own inquiry into the incident and Transport Ministry is looking at members to form its own inquiry board.
Read the full statement.
 Angry relatives of Chinese passengers scuffled with security personnel outside the Malaysian embassy in Beijing, demanding answers. Full story.

Highlights from the press conference by Malaysia Airlines:
- Motivation last night was to deliver the ‘tragic news’ to the families before the world heard it. Message was conveyed to the families ‘wherever humanly possible’ and SMS was used as a last resort. Airline wanted to make sure the news came from them and not the media. Full story.
- MAS chief executive Ahmad Jauhari Yahya says Australian authorities would give visas to families who wish to go to Australia only when ‘evidence has been established’. MAS will then make arrangements to fly them to the site. Read.
- MAS will continue to support nearly 1000 family members and have trained an additional 40 caregivers to attend to their needs.
- Additional payment will be made to families on top of the US$5,000 that was given in initial financial assistance.
- MAS chairman Md Nor Yusof denied claims that it had ‘isolated’ family members, saying they were given places that would allow them comfort, privacy and access to caregivers. “We do not know why, we do not know how this terrible tragedy happened but as the MAS family, we are all praying for the passengers and crew of MH370.”
- On whether MAS had sent high ranking representatives to meet with families, Md Nor said: “That has been done all the time. We just do not display our names when we go”.
- To a question on whether MAS CEO Ahmad Jauhari Yahya would resign, he replied: "It is a personal decision." Read.
Full statement here.
 Prime Minister Najib Razak addressed the Parliament called on members of the government and the Opposition not to politicise the issue of the missing plane.
" This is the time to show our solidarity with the families of those onboard. I plead to the government and the Opposition that in a crisis like this we have to show our sympathy to all parties involved. We have to show our maturity, love for the country and sensitivity to the families who are going through a difficult time. The government will do everything that we have to do with a full sense of duty."

- The announcement was made last night to dispel the perception that Malaysia was withholding information.
- Suggestions to mourn the loss of the crew and passengers include flying the national flag at half-mast, but Najib said it should be done only after wreckage is found.
- Australian PM Tony Abbot informed Najib this morning that cooperation from Australia will continue until traces of the aircraft is found. Although the conditions in the southern Indian ocean are challenging, Malaysia will continue search operations as a commitment to the families of all those onboard MH370.
Bad weather and rough seas forced the suspension of the search for any wreckage of a missing Malaysian jetliner. Full story.
The  United States is sending an undersea Navy drone capable of exploring waters nearly 15,000 feet deep to potentially help search for any sunken wreckage of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, the Pentagon said. Story here.
Strong gale force winds of up to 80 kilometres per hour halts air and sea search for MH370, Australia Maritime Safety Authority said. Search operations will resume tomorrow. Full story here.

The why and how about MH370 ended up in the remote rough seas will only be known once investigators get to 'fish' the black box of the Malaysian jet that is registered as 9M-MRO. Read what the experts say here.
DAY 17:
French investigators today said it was too soon to consider launching undersea searches for the remains of MH370. Full story here.
Malaysia Airlines vowed that the ongoing search for the plane and an intensive investigation into its fate "will continue, as we seek answers to the questions which remain". Full story here.
"God loves you more daddy....God loves them more."The daughter of MH370 Chief Steward Andrew Nari tweeted the above, as the Prime Minister announced the sad news minutes ago. Full story here.

Relatives of the passengers on MH370 have been called to an emergency meeting with the company and charter flights are being arranged for Australia, Sky News reported. Full story here.
The Prime Minister, Najib Razak has confirmed that MAS flight MH370 ended in the Southern Indian Ocean, according to new data from INMARSAT and AAIB.
- Based on new analysis, INMARSAT and AAIB also concluded that MH370 flew along the Southern Corridor. The last position was in the middle of the Indian Ocean, west of Perth.
- No further details were furnished during the press conference, and another press conference will be called tomorrow with further details.
Full statement here.
Malaysia Airlines has also released a statement:
On behalf of all of us at Malaysia Airlines and all Malaysians, our prayers go out to all the loved ones of the 226 passengers and of our 13 friends and colleagues at this enormously painful time.
Full statement here.
This is the text alert Malaysia Airlines sent to the families of the MH370 passengers before PM Najib's official announcement today:
What we know as of Day 17, Monday, 24 March 2014:
Search operations:
1. PM Najib Razak announced that INMARSAT and AAIB confirms that MH370 ended in the southern Indian Ocean.
Two objects - one circular and another rectangular- were seen by Australian counterparts.
Chinese aircrew have spotted "suspicious objects" in the southern Indian Ocean.
The US Navy is sending a black box locator to the search area in the southern Indian Ocean.
2. Pallet and belts were spotted in the Indian Ocean.
3. Chinese satellites have spotted objects floating in the southern search area.
4. Two objects possibly related to MH370 have been spotted on Australian satellite imagery. Largest object sighted is 24 metres.
On-going investigations:
1. Transcripts of the communication between MH370 and air control is “ not accurate”.
2. Communications satellites picked up faint electronic pulses ("pings") from MH370 for hours after it went missing.
3. Police are investigating the matter from four angles: hijacking, sabotage, psychological problems, and personal problems among passengers and crew.
4. The PM said that the plane movement was consistent with "deliberate action" by someone on the plane.
5. Flight simulator:
- Data log was deleted from the pilot’s flight simulator on Feb 3, forensic work is being done to retrieve data.
- A flight simulator was taken from the home of MH370's pilot and is being examined by the police.
6. Pilots:
Police have questioned more than 100 people including families of both pilot and co-pilot.
- No red flags in pilot and co-pilot backgrounds
- Last words from cockpit - ‘Alright, good night’ believed to be said by the co-pilot at 1.19am.
- MAS: The pilot and co-pilot did not ask to fly together, ands flew as assigned by the roster.
- The flight was piloted by Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah, 53, with total flying hours of 18,365 hours.
- First officer, Fariq Ab.Hamid, 27, has a total flying hours of 2,763 hours.
7. Plane:
- No additional waypoint on MH370’s flight plan. Normal route to Beijing.
- Plane was carrying three to four tonnes of mangosteen and 200kg of Li-Ion batteries, packaged according to guidelines.
- The B777-200 aircraft that operated MH207 had undergone maintenance 12 days before the flight. There were no issues.
- The aircraft was carrying 7.5 hours of fuel at the time of its disappearance (2.40am, March 8).
About the passengers:
1. Malaysia Airlines has retired the missing jetliner's flight code as a sign of respect to the 239 passengers and crew.
5. MH370 Full passenger list here .
Editors's note: The public may contact +603 7884 1234. Next-of-kin may head to the Support Facility Building at KLIA's South Support Zone. For directions, call 03 8787 1269.