Author Archives: CRONKITE

The Velocity of Money Appears to be Dropping Like a Stone

“Sometimes pictures are far more effective in communicating an important point. They are extremely effective in undermining respect and confidence, when in the cartoon format. A sequence of graphics struck the cognitive circuits recently. Long explanations will not serve well. The US Federal Reserve has been printing money since 2011 to cover USGovt debt securities in a frenetic manner. They have lost control. They call it stimulus, when it is actually the opposite. It does assist the speculators with nearly zero cost money to borrow, but one must be a club member to win loan grants.

The Quantitative Easing programs are deceptive. When the program was initially announced, the Jackass claimed it would be part of an endless sequence. With QE1 and QE2 and Operation Twist and QE3, following the failed trial balloon called Taper Talk, it is quite clear to anyone with an active brain stem and absent rose colored glasses that the USFed is caught in a trap called QE to Infinity. It is not stimulative. Instead, the uncontrollable bond monetization causes capital destruction. It causes economic degradation. It causes lost jobs and vanished income. It is a gigantic wet blanket to smother and destroy the USEconomy slowly, amidst unending propaganda. QE is the device that will result in Systemic Failure, which is already flashing signals of its arrival.

MONEY VELOCITY FALLING RAPIDLY

Money Velocity continues to fall rapidly in both the USEconomy and that of Canada, reaching 50-year lows in the Untied States. The indication is failure in monetary policy, as hyper inflation has killed capital on an extensive basis. The capital destruction is in its fourth year, probably having reached critical mass. Compared and contrasted with fast rising money supply, the systemic failure is obvious to conclude. The exception is to morons, Wall Street junkies, Big Bank criminal elite, and USGovt hacks. The fast decline in Money Velocity means that it is not moving in the body economic. The reason is simple. The blood system is contaminated with the USDollar, a toxic currency with no backing in a hard asset. The new money is toxic currency under phenomenal debasement by its own steward, the USFed itself. They redouble their harmful policy instead of abandoning it.

The Money Velocity picture is not pretty. The declining rate has broken lows set 50 years ago. Technically, the velocity of money is the frequency at which one unit of currency is used to purchase domestically produced goods and services within a given time period, like an inventory cycle time. In other words, it is the number of times one dollar is spent to buy goods and services per unit of time. If the velocity of money is increasing, then more transactions are occurring between individuals in an economy. The result would be that growth (as measured in GDP) should be rising. With falling velocity of money, then fewer transactions are occurring and a recession is indicated. Such is the present case in astonishing rapid deterioration. Consumers and business are holding firm their money rather than investing it, as they see poor prospects. New capital formation is not occurring inside the USEconomy, or pitifully little. Debts are being dissolved, usually in default. It should be noted that the velocity of money has also been falling in the EU and Japan. The entire global economy is in recession, the pathogenesis shared.

DESTRUCTION OF CAPITAL

The claim that the QE bond monetization is stimulus is pure propaganda, and could not be further from the truth. The claim disguises the nature of the hidden Wall Street bailout, which is to cover their worthless mortgage bonds, and to cover all manner of derivatives, in addition to the obvious coverage of USTreasury Bond sales. Nobody wants the USGovt bonds anymore, except for Belgium operating as hidey hole on behalf of the Euro Central Bank, and for Japan operating as the usual lackey servant. The claim of stimulus is 180 degrees wrong. The bond monetization is pure unsterilized monetary inflation, free money shoved into the system without offset. To be sure, Bernanke had a machine to produce money at no cost, except that like with acid it ruins capital. The result is pure inflation, and extreme motivation for the entire world to take on hedge positions with energy, metals, farmland, and more in order to protect themselves from the ruin of money. The effect is felt as a rising cost structure, felt across the world, and thus shrinking profit margins for the entire global business sector.

As businesses realize the lost profitability, they shut down and retire their capital. They turn idle their factor machinery, their design workstations, their office computers, their transportation vehicles, their company buildings and offices. The destruction of capital is the ugliest dirty secret behind the official New Normal of central bank monetary policy. They are killing the system, so as to avoid liquidating the big banks. By refusing to take the proper capitalism path in liquidating failed corporate structures, they have instead chosen to kill capital, force income engines to the sidelines, generate capital formation in other nations (like the East & Asia), and destroy the USEconomy. The US and West has forgotten capitalism and embraced socialism with a fascist twist.

RAMPANT MONETARY GROWTH

Contrast the declining Money Velocity with fast rising Money Supply growth (presented in March). The conclusion is both galloping economic recession and systemic failure, hardly a reward. Yet it continues without interruption, only the promise of interruption. The systemic failure and breakdown is upon us, the evidence stacking up, the message no longer escapable. The two charts back to back make the point convincingly. New money is wrecking the financial structures and economic systems by destroying capital. The USFed balance sheet is well over $3 trillion, and continues to grow. The new money is going largely in a hidden Wall Street bailout of their bonds and derivatives. The USFed is a grand liar, as their QE volume is growing, not tapering. They are using proxies and back doors, in addition to airborne dirigibles like the Interest Rate Swap contract. Like with the Hindenburg, the floating monsters will explode someday. The growth in money supply is frightening and alarming, evidence of the wrecked capital and wrecked system. Many have called the Jackass a lunatic and alarmist, but they seem incapable to explain the fast rise in monetary base, yet fast decline in money velocity. Monetary policy is a failure. The fiat paper money is toxic. The big banks are insolvent. The global franchise system of central banks should be shut down, except they control the governments, control the finance ministries, control the central banks, control the regulators, and control the militaries.

LOST CRITICAL MASS IN INDUSTRY

It is very confusing that money velocity is falling fast, yet central banks are creating new money very rapidly. Imagine a Ferrari or Lamborghini race car spinning its gears, burning its engine out, running out of oil, making no movement. It aint working, started by Alan Greenspan, amplified by Benjamin Bernanke, and to be continued by Janet Yellen. They are stuck with failed monetary policy, and cannot alter the destructive course. The Jackass has maintained that a critical error was committed by granting China the Most Favored Nation status for trade. It was actually a fatal error. The industrial investment is taking place in Asia, led by China. Wall Street and the USGovt leadership at the time, under President Clinton and Robert Rubin, betrayed the nation. They leased gold from the Chinese, in order to perpetuate the fiat paper USDollar regime. They deployed the lunatic Rubin Doctrine, to wreck next year for a few more tomorrows. In doing so, the Chinese benefited from $23 billion in foreign direct investment in the space of a mere two to three years. But the blowback was fatal. The USEconomy lost its industrial critical mass, and has inadequate traction from monetary policy in accommodation. It still has some industry, but not enough. The ultra-low interest rate makes borrowing costs low, but grotesquely inadequate new capital formation has taken place in the USEconomy. It is being done in Asia. Worse, the new industrial parks are springing up across the US landscape, operated by Chinese industrial masters. The QE is not stimulating the USEconomy because 1) the US lacks critical mass industrially, 2) the regulator burden and corporate tax burden and ObamaCare burden are too great, and 3) the nation is too busy with court cases against the big banks and waging war against fabricated enemies. This is Game Over !!!

As David Chapman points out, “It all seems counter-intuitive that the velocity of money should be falling even as the ECB, the Fed, the BOJ, and the Bank of Canada have been maintaining low interest rates for years in order to encourage borrowing and keep the cost of money low. The central banks have also pumped billions of dollars into the economy through QE and other stimulative measures. The result has been an explosion in the monetary base, a sharp rise in M1 but lower growth for M2 and sluggish M3. The economies are weighed down with debt, banks are reluctant to lend, consumers and corporations are unwilling to borrow. The money instead has been used for speculation, primarily going into risk assets such as the stock market. Corporations instead of investing in new plants and investment are sitting on cash hoards or buying back their own shares. Both are non-productive.”

CANADA DITTO ON FAILURE….”

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Harold James of Princeton Believes Sanctions Against Russia Will Lead to a Banking Crisis and War

“Financial sanctions against Russia could lead to a banking crisis in the West and even a military war, warns Harold James, a professor of history and international affairs at Princeton University.

Financial war could hurt the West’s highly complex and interconnected financial system much more than it would hurt Russia’s relatively isolated financial market, James writes in an article for Project Syndicate.

Just look at how Lehman Brothers’ bankruptcy sparked the 2008 U.S. financial crisis to see how banking integration creates vulnerability. And Lehman was small compared with the Austrian, French and German banks that are extremely exposed to Russia, points out James, a specialist in German economic history and globalization.

“Given this, a Russian asset freeze could be catastrophic for European — indeed, global — financial markets.”

With that in mind, Russian President Vladimir Putin believes the West can’t possibly be serious about financial war, James writes. Putin hopes to destabilize Ukraine while simultaneously exploiting European financial vulnerabilities.

“Indeed, Putin sometimes likes to frame it as a contest pitting him against the power of financial markets.”

Based on past experience, financial war could presage real war, he cautions. That’s what happened before World War I.

Prompted by a dispute over control of Morocco in 1911, France organized a massive withdrawal of investments from Germany. But Germany was ready for the attack, he says.

“Indeed, German bankers proudly noted that the crisis of confidence hit the Paris market much harder than markets in Berlin or Hamburg.”

Recognizing the importance of financial warfare….”

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Putin Say Russia Will Respond to NATO’s Incursion

“It didn’t take long for Putin to respond to the latest news from the west that NATO was about to boost its military presence in proximity to Russia. Specifically he said that Putin does not see a reason to fear NATO which was to be expected. But the even more predictable punchline: Russia must respond when NATO moves closer to country’s border, President Vladimir Putin says during annual televised call-in show.

The Russian president made his views clear during a nationally televised question-and-answer session in Moscow on Thursday, ahead of the Geneva two-day meeting during which the Ukraine problam is (again) supposed to get a diplomatic solution (it won’t). During the Q&A Putin also accused the Kiev government of committing “a serious crime” by sending in troops to quell unrest in Ukraine’s east, as a clash overnight left three pro-Russian protesters dead and 13 wounded. And just to make sure there is a solid enough soundbite, the former KGB spy accused the authorities in Kiev of plunging the country into an “abyss”.

“Instead of realizing that there is something wrong with the Ukrainian government and attempting dialogue, they made more threats of force … This is another very grave crime by Kiev’s current leaders,” Putin said in a televised question-and-answer session with the Russian public that has become an annual event.

 

“I hope that they are able to realize what a pit, what an abyss the current authorities are in and dragging the country into,” said Putin, who dismissed as “rubbish” accusations that Russian agents were acting in east Ukraine.

Among his other comments, Putin said that the East and South Ukraine were parts of the Russian empire until becoming part of Ukraine under the USSR, with a heavy hint that either the East and South would soon be part of Russia, or that the second coming of the USSR is in the cards, both of which should make the Ukraine government quite nervous.

Perhaps in an attempt to diffuse the tension, he noted he had been authorized by Russia’s parliament in early March to use force in Ukraine if necessary, “but I really hope that I do not have to exercise this right, and that through political and diplomatic means we will be able to solve the most acute problems in Ukraine today.” As the WSJ reports, Putin said Ukraine’s military effort showed the new government in Kiev was making no effort to respond to the demands of those in the heavily ethnic-Russian region.

In short: absolutely no de-escalation from the Russian.

Some of the other things he said:

  • Russia will give Ukraine month to start paying for gas before demanding advance payment for supplies. However, Russia kep the gas price set at $485/kcm, knowing quite well Ukraine can’t afford it.
    • Ukraine payments for gas stopped after new govt in Kiev took power, Putin says
    • Moving Ukraine to prepayments may lead to disruptions in transit to Europe, Putin says….”

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Head of EU Intelligence Determines There is No Russian Military Presence in the Ukraine

“There is no large Russian military presence in East Ukraine, head of EU intelligence, Commodore Georgij Alafuzoff, has said. The spy chief has dismissed multiple accusations from the West alleging Russian involvement in the unrest in the region.

In an interview with Finnish national news broadcaster, Yle, Alafuzoff said the Russian military had nothing to do with the seizing of government buildings in eastern Ukraine.

“In my opinion, it’s mostly people who live in the region who are not satisfied with the current state of affairs,” said Alafuzoff, referring to the situation in East Ukraine. He went on to say that the people are worried for the welfare of those who speak Russian as their first language in the region.

Alafuzoff echoed the words of the Russian government which has categorically denied interfering in the ongoing unrest. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in a press conference on Monday that Moscow is not interested in destabilizing Ukraine and wants the country to remain united.

Anti-Kiev activists in the southeast of Ukraine have seized local government buildings as a mark of protest against the coup-appointed Ukrainian government. In response to the unrest, Ukraine’s interim President Aleksandr Turchinov announced the beginning of an “anti-terrorist” operation in eastern Ukraine.

On Tuesday, military hardware and troops began to mass on the outskirts of the eastern city of Slavyansk. Sightings of groups of military vehicles have been reported in the neighboring Kharkov and Lugansk regions, where pro-Russian and anti-Kiev sentiment is high.

Moscow has condemned Kiev’s operation as “anti-constitutional” and “criminal” and indicative of the government’s unwillingness to open dialogue with the regions…..”

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Former U.S. Diplomat Wants to Send U.S. Ground Troops to Ukraine

“A former U.S. diplomat and member of the Council on Foreign Relations, James Jeffrey, is calling for U.S. ground troops to be injected into the brewing civil war in Ukraine. Jeffery is a visiting fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a beltway think tank controlled by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and associated with the neocon wing of the Republican Party.

“The best way to send Putin a tough message and possibly deflect a Russian campaign against more vulnerable NATO states is to back up our commitment to the sanctity of NATO territory with ground troops, the only military deployment that can make such commitments unequivocal,”Jeffrey writes for The Washington Post, an establishment newspaper often used by neocons to push pro-war propaganda and the concept of American exceptionalism, the philosophical basis for imperialism and warmongering.

Jeffrey believes a relatively small number of U.S. ground troops deployed to Eastern European nations would result in a generalized mustering of troops in those countries. This would likely result in heightened tension and the possibility of confrontation with Russia.

Few in Congress have suggested sending troops into Ukraine. Arizona Senator John McCain and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, however, have suggested supporting the coup government by sending weapons.

“We call on President Obama, together with our NATO allies, to immediately fulfill the Ukrainian government’s request for military assistance,” the neocon duo stated on March 28. “This assistance should include small arms, ammunition, and defensive weapons, such as anti-armor and anti-aircraft systems – as well as critical non-lethal support, such as protective equipment, medical supplies, spare parts, and intelligence sharing.”

In addition to providing arms to the unelected junta, McCain and Graham said the Crimean referendum “must be a wake-up call to NATO…..”

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State of the Union: We Want Your Money

“The Internal Revenue Service is considering taxing the perks that many companies, especially those in the technology sector, are providing for employees.

That includes free shuttle service to and from work, meals, yoga and gym classes, Fox News Channel reports. Some tech companies go all out on the meals, with fancy cafeterias and top chefs.

Companies view the perks as necessary to attract and retain workers. They also say providing workers with food saves the employees’ time, allowing them to be more productive.

But the IRS is assessing whether the perks should be classified as fringe benefits, which would subject them to tax, according to Fox.

It reports that if the IRS does make the perks taxable, companies will compensate by increasing workers’ pay….”

 

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Yale’s Robert Shiller Sees ‘Signs of Softening’ in Housing

“The housing market is slowing down after torrid gains through much of last year, says Nobel laureate economist Robert Shiller of Yale University.

Indeed, the S&P/Case-Shiller home price index for 20 cities (named after him) rose 13.2 percent in the year through January, That’s the smallest gain since August, and it’s down from 13.4 percent in the year through December.

Meanwhile, investors such as Blackstone have been curtailing their purchases of houses. Originally these investors were likely attracted by the upward momentum in the housing market since spring 2012 — momentum that was much stronger than in the stock market, Shiller tells CNBC…..”

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Leaked Documents Show Canada is Planning to Invade Syria

“The pro-Israeli government of Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper is making diplomatic and military preparations for military intervention in Syria, leaked documents show.

Canada’s National Defense has drawn up at least five scenarios for the country’s military mission in Syria, according to documents obtained by the Ottawa Citizen.

In one scenario, Canada recognizes “a legitimate armed opposition group” fighting to overthrow the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

To justify a war on Syria, the National Defense alludes to “the rapidly deteriorating conditions in Syria, its impact on neighboring countries and … the importance of Middle East stability.”

Daniel Blouin, spokesman for the National Defense, has described such plans as “routine to significant international events.”

Separate documents reveal that Canada has been training alternatives to Assad’s government…..”

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Get Your QEG On Yo!

“In a world of problems and solutions, few ideas spur both immediate hope and skepticism as the idea of free energy, and, on the brink of ecological disaster, nothing may be of greater importance to the human race.

The story of Nikola Tesla is a remarkable reminder of how our economic, political and media systems create our reality, because it shows how human ingenuity can be co-opted, shut-down, taken-over and hushed by powerful people with financial interests at stake. Fortunately, the legacy of Tesla lives on and people are now more interested than ever in his theories about cosmic energy and his patents for energy systems that could offer promise for liberating earth from dependence on fossil fuels.

Could it be that his vision has finally come to fruition and has been made available to the public, some 100 years after his patent for a fuel-less electricity generator?

“This new power for the driving of the world’s machinery will be derived from the energy which operates the universe, the cosmic energy, whose central source for the earth is the sun and which is everywhere present in unlimited quantities.” -Nikola Tesla

In March of 2014, a small group of independent engineers and developers released to the public open-source plans for a continuously running fuel-less electricity generator based on a patent by Nikola Tesla, and re-designed by inventor James Robitaille. Calling it the Quantum Energy Generator, or QEG, the portable device is supposedly capable of producing enough electricity to power a modern home, and is about the size and weight of a home gas generator.

“The Quantum Electric Generator system (QEG) is an adaptation of one of Nikola Tesla’s many patented electrical generator / dynamo / alternator designs. The particular patent referenced is No. 511,916, titled simply “Electric Generator”, and dated January 2, 1894 (see back of this manual). The adaptation is a conversion from a linear system, to a rotary system.

The QEG prototype is scaled to produce electrical power in the range of 10-15 kW (kilowatts) continuously, and can be set up to provide either 120 Volt or 230-240 Volt single phase output. We are also planning future designs to provide 3-phase power.” [Fix The World]

Developed by an organization known as the ‘Fix the World Council,’ and promoted by the lively Hopegirl, the prototype for the QEG was recently crowd-funded by over 600 independent contributors, and the plans for the QEG have been made available to the public for download here:

Download Plans for the Quantum Energy Generator here..…”

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Higher Prison Populations Does Not Necessarily Lead to Less Crime or Safer Neighborhoods, Go Figure

“The predatory corporate prison enterprise aims to privatize profits and socialize losses. This combination has led to a situation where correctional facilities have only one incentive: ensure that new bodies arrive as fast as possible, and keep them in a state of indentured servitude for as long as possible.

As you’ll see in the infographic below, the bodies are indeed arriving quickly to fill the coffers of those who are reaping massive profit from caging as much of the public as they can get away with. Thirty-seven states have signed onto this system which promotes a dangerous mutually beneficial relationship between government and corporations. A closer look reveals that it is definitely not beneficial for ordinary citizens and the communities which house these prisons.

America already holds 25% of the world’s prison population, with the number of these prisoners held in private prisons rising 20-fold in the last decade. As the economy declines, there are new opportunities presented by reintroducing debtors prisons, formally abolished in the early 1800s.

Perhaps more troubling is the heightened criminalization of children for behavior which previously was considered merely a nuisance, not something worthy of handcuffs and the big house. The trend is clearly toward making nearly every activity a potential prison-worthy crime….”

 

Full infograph and article

Russia Tests a Multi Warhead ICBM for Shits and Giggles

“Russia’s military carried out a flight test of a new multi-warhead intercontinental ballistic missile on Monday amid growing tensions with the United States over the crisis in Ukraine.

The SS-27 Mod 2 road-mobile ICBM was launched around 2:40 a.m. EST from Russia’s Plesetsk launch facility, located about 500 miles north of Moscow.

“The main purpose of the launch is to validate the reliability of a batch of this class of missiles made at the Votkinsk Plant,” Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Yegorov told state-run Interfax-AVN.

An unspecified number of simulated nuclear warheads landed at an impact range on the Kura test range on the Kamchatka Peninsula, in the Russian Far East, Yegorov said. The distance is around 3,500 miles.

The SS-27 Mod 2 is Russia’s newest ICBM and has been touted by Russian officials as designed specifically to defeat U.S. missile defenses.

Mark B. Schneider, a missile specialist with National Institute for Public Policy, said there is evidence indicating the Russians have violated the START arms treaty by developing the SS-27 Mod 2 with multiple warheads.

“The original missile that Russia called the Topol M Variant 2 and we call the SS-27 was a single warhead missile,” Schneider told the Free Beacon. “START prohibits increasing the declared number of warheads.”

The missile test launch followed an incident Saturday when a Russian Su-24 jet conducted a dozen low-altitude passes over a U.S. warship in the Black Sea. The Pentagon called the maneuver “provocative.”

“The aircraft did not respond to multiple queries and warnings from USS Donald Cook, and the event ended without incident after approximately 90 minutes,” Army Col. Steven Warren said.

“The Donald Cook is more than capable of defending itself against two Su-24s,” the colonel said.

Warren said the aircraft appeared to be authorized to make the low passes. “We’ve seen the Russians conduct themselves unprofessionally and in violation of international norms in Ukraine for several months, and these continued acts of provocation and unprofessionalism do nothing to de-escalate the situation in Ukraine, which we called on the Russians to do,” he said.

The warship has been in the Black Sea in a show-of-strength deployment. It is currently making a port visit to Constanta, Romania.

The Russian ICBM, which Moscow calls the RS-24 Yars missile, will replace older Topol mobile ICBMs.

The United States currently has no comparable road-mobile ICBM. The mobility makes the missiles very difficult to detect and target…..”

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Ukraine Says Military Operation in East Has Begun, Russia Expects Civil War to Breakout

“A Ukrainian military operation to wrest control of cities in the east from pro-Russian militants has begun, Ukraine’s acting president said Tuesday, as Russia’s foreign minister warned use of force could derail international talks on the crisis.

Oleksandr Turchynov said that a phased “antiterrorist” operation began in the early morning hours in the northern Donetsk region, where the majority of the cities commandeered by pro-Russian forces are located. But there were no immediate reports of specific action and it was not clear how big the effort was.

“Overnight, an antiterrorist operation began in the north of Donetsk. But it will be phased, responsible and balanced. The purpose of the actions, I stress once again, is to protect the citizens of Ukraine,” he told Ukraine’s parliament, according to Interfax.

The swelling unrest is posing a major challenge to the new authorities in Kiev. The country’s military is ill-equipped to face off with pro-Russian forces who have barricaded themselves inside buildings in city centers in the east, once the key base of support for ousted President Viktor Yanukovych. A major operation to roust them could be bloody.

In Slovyansk, which emerged as a key city in the recent wave of unrest, there was no sign of the Ukrainian military and the mood remained calm, although many shops were closed. A man guarding a barricade outside the city’s main police station, which was seized on Sunday, said the protesters were prepared for any assault…..”

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Core Inflation Rises

“Inflation unexpectedly accelerated in March due to increased costs of food and shelter, according to just-released data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Both the headline consumer price index and the “core” price index (which excludes food and energy prices) advanced 0.2% in March from the previous month, ahead of consensus estimates for a 0.1% rise in both series, matching February’s pace.

The year-over-year change in the core index rose to 1.7% from 1.6%, while the year-over-year change in the headline index was boosted to 1.5% from 1.1%.

housing-inflation
Economists expected the former to hold steady at 1.6% and the latter to rise to 1.4%, due to a drop in energy prices in March 2013……”

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Another Chemical Attack in Syria Took Place Without So Much as a Notice

“Both sides in Syria’s bloody civil war said Saturday that a rural village fell victim to a poison gas attack, an assault that reportedly injured scores of people amid an ongoing international effort to rid the country of chemical weapons.

What exactly happened Friday in Kfar Zeita, a rebel-held village in Hama province some 125 miles north of Damascus, remains unclear and likely won’t be known for some time. It took United Nations weapons inspectors months to say it was likely some chemical weapons attacks happened last year, including an August attack that killed hundreds and nearly sparked Western airstrikes against President Bashar Assad’s forces.

But online videos posted by rebel activists from Kfar Zeita echoed earlier images that sparked a world outcry, showing pale-faced men, women and children gasping for breath at a field hospital. They suggest an affliction by some kind of poison — and yet another clouded incident where both sides blame each other in a conflict that activists say has killed more than 150,000 people with no end in sight.

The main Western-backed opposition group, the Syrian National Coalition, said the poison gas attack hurt dozens of people, though it did not identify the gas used.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an activist group that relies on a network of on-the-ground volunteers, said the gas attack happened during air raids that left heavy smoke over the area. It reported that people suffered from suffocation and breathing problems after the attack, but gave no further details.

State-run Syrian television blamed members of the al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front rebel group for the attack, saying they used chlorine gas to kill two people and injure more than 100. It did not say how it confirmed chlorine was used.

Chlorine, one of the most commonly manufactured chemicals in the U.S., is used to purify drinking water. But as a gas, it can be deadly, with the German army using it in warfare in World War I. The Geneva Protocol of 1925, which Syria signed, banned its use in battle.

The TV report also claimed the Nusra Front is preparing for another chemical attack against the Wadi Deif area in the northern province of Idlib, as well as another area in Hama. The government station did not explain how it knew the Nusra Front’s plans.

Activists in the village could not be reached Saturday.

An activist from Hama who is currently in Turkey and is in contact with residents told The Associated Press that the attack occurred around sunset Friday. The man, who goes with the name Amir al-Basha, said the air raids on the rebel-held village came as nearby areas including Morek and Khan Sheikhoun have witnessed intense clashes between troops and opposition fighters.

An amateur video posted online by opposition activists showed a hospital room in Kfar Zeita that was packed with men and children, some of whom breathing through oxygen masks. On one bed, the video showed six children, some appearing to have difficulty breathing while others cried.
The video appeared genuine and corresponded to other AP reporting of the attack.

Chemical weapons have been used before in Syria’s 3-year-old conflict. In August, a chemical attack near the capital, Damascus, killed hundreds of people. The U.S. and its allies blamed the Syrian government for that attack, which nearly sparked Western airstrikes before a negotiated diplomatic settlement saw Assad’s government agree to give up its chemical weapons. Damascus denied the charges and blamed rebels of staging the incident.

Before the August attack, there have been several incidents of toxic gases being used. Britain, France and the U.S. have spoken about chemical weapons use in the central city of Homs, Damascus and elsewhere.

A U.N. weapons inspectors’ report released in December identified four locations where chemical weapons likely had been used in 2013: Khan al Assal outside Aleppo, Jobar in Damascus’ eastern suburbs, Saraqueb near Idlib in the northwest and Ashrafiah Sahnaya in the Damascus countryside. In two cases, inspectors reportedly found “signatures of sarin,” a nerve agent.

The Syrian National Coalition called on the U.N. to conduct a “quick investigation into the developments related to the use of poisonous gas against civilians in Syria.” The coalition also claimed that another chemical weapons attack Friday struck the Damascus suburb of Harasta, though state media did not report on it.

In Washington, the State Department said Friday that the U.S. had no information to corroborate the latest claims of a gas attack. Spokeswoman Jen Psaki said she would not speculate on any U.S. response if the reports were found to be accurate…..”

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