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Documentary: Smörgåsbord

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State of the Union: “Welcome to $MCD, May I Take Your Order”

“The place in which you live may be killing the American Dream, according to a new study by the National Bureau of Economic Research, suggesting that America may not be the land of opportunity.

Inequality is inhibiting the opportunity for upward mobility in the United States particularly in communities in the South.

On average, a 10 percentile increase in parent income is associated with a 3.4 percentile increase in a child’s income.

However, the probability that a child reaches the top 20 percent of the national income distribution from a family in the bottom 20 percent varies from 4.4 percent in Charlotte, N.C., to 12.9 percent in San Jose, Calif.

The researchers found that the mobility gap cannot be attributed to local tax and spending decisions, local school quality or local area colleges and tuition. Labor markets also didn’t matter.

Instead, the mobility gap is influenced on five pertinent factors:

1. Race. Less upward mobility happens to occur in densely black populations, the researchers note. It is a rich-poor issue rather than a black-white issue, as children of all races from areas with large black populations have less upward mobility.

2. Segregation…..”

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Of the Companies That Have Reported This Q, 59% Have Guided Lower

“While earnings reports have been strong for the fourth quarter, with about 70 percent of Standard & Poor’s 500 Index companies beating analysts’ estimates, the outlook going forward isn’t so hot.

A total of 59 percent of those companies have lowered their outlook for 2014, according to The Earnings Scout research firm.

“Fourth-quarter numbers are actually stellar,” Nick Raich, the firm’s CEO, told CNBC. “But that doesn’t matter. The fourth quarter was priced in six months ago. It’s all about the revisions to the first quarter and beyond.”

And it’s not that companies are simply trying to manipulate expectations for their earnings by lowballing their forecasts, Raich says.

“We saw improvement in underlying earnings expectations for the past two years,” he said. “We’re seeing a deterioration in those trends. The magnitude in downward revisions has worsened. That’s a big reason stocks are under pressure.”

The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index has slipped 3 percent so far this year.

As for the Federal Reserve, Raich doesn’t think it’s going to exit quantitative easing completely, because that would put the economic recovery at risk…..”

Full article

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Despite “Rosy” Numbers from the GDP Report, The Shit to Shinola is Quickly Turning Back to Mud

“While the government reported Thursday that economic growth totaled 3.2 percent annualized in the fourth quarter, there are signs of weakness under the surface.

The housing market is starting to show some cracks. New home sales dropped 7 percent to a 414,000 annualized rate in December amid rising interest rates and extremely cold weather in much of the country.

The National Association of Realtors reported Thursday that its pending home sales index, based on contracts signed, fell 8.7 percent last month, the biggest plummet since May 2010.

“Unusually disruptive weather across large stretches of the country in December forced people indoors and prevented some buyers from looking at homes or making offers,” NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun said in a statement, Reuters reports.

Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, says the housing sector may pose the biggest threat to his forecast of 3 percent GDP growth this year.

“We need to see more home sales, more housing construction,” he told Yahoo. “Housing is very interest-rate sensitive. If rates rise too far too fast, it short-circuits the housing recovery. Then we won’t get the economic growth I am anticipating.”

Recent employment data have been shaky, too. The economy added only 74,000 jobs in December. The labor force participation rate, which measures the proportion of people who are employed or looking for work, dipped to 62.8 percent last month, matching October’s 35-year low.

“The medium- to long-term concern is labor-force participation,” Vincent Reinhart, chief U.S. economist at Morgan Stanley, told Bloomberg. “Our population growth has slowed, fewer people want to work and productivity growth seems to have slowed.”

The Labor Department reported Thursday that initial jobless claims rose 19,000 to a seasonally adjusted 348,000, the highest level in more than a month. And claims for the previous week were revised up by 3,000.

Much of the economy’s strength in the third and fourth quarters last year (GDP grew 4.1 percent in the third quarter) stemmed from increasing inventories….}

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European Banks are About to Undergo a New Round of Stress Tests, Do You Feel Confident ?

“The European Banking Authority presented the outlines of this year’s stress test for the European Union’s biggest banks, but said it would be for national supervisory authorities to guarantee the reliability and credibility of the exercise.

Although the stress test is an EU-wide exercise, it will be most notable for its place in the European Central Bank’s preparations to take over responsibility for supervising the euro zone’s largest banks. The ECB is conducting an in-depth Asset Quality Review across the euro zone to check that banks have properly reported any weaknesses they may have on their balance sheet. It aims to start supervising in November this year, on the assumption that the stress test’s results will show in October how much capital banks still need to raise.

The ECB is due to announce more details regarding its work in the exercise next week.

As in previous years, the stress test will be designed to show whether banks can keep an adequate level of capital in the event of a sharp economic downturn and market shock.

The test will consist of two scenarios running through three years, 2014-2016: the baseline scenario will be drawn from the European Commission’s forecasts, while the adverse scenario will be designed by the European Systemic Risk Board, the EU’s “macroprudential” supervisor.

To “pass” the test, banks will have to show a ratio of 8% in core Tier 1 capital relative to their risk-adjusted assets in the baseline scenario, and 5.5% in the adverse scenario. The exercise will take as its definition of capital the EU’s latest Capital Requirements Directive, which came into force at the start of this year. That directive is the EU’s implementation of the globally agreed “Basel III” accords on banking capital and liquidity. One of its characteristics is that some capital instruments common to European banks are being phased out in a transitional period that runs through 2018. As such, banks will have to show in the test that they are migrating to newer, more recognized forms of capital at the desired speed.

The test will examine 124 banks across the EU, covering at least 50% of banking assets in each country. For banks operating in multiple countries, only the parent bank will be scrutinized.

If they desire, supervisors won’t only be able to add other banks in their jurisdictions to the list, but also to add completely different test metrics. The U.K.’s Prudential Regulatory Authority, for example, has said it is likely that it will also test banks on their leverage ratios, a measure of capital adequacy that doesn’t allow banks to adjust the value of their assets for riskiness. Leverage ratios have come into vogue in recent years due to suspicions that banks are using the benchmark risk-adjusted metrics to overstate their financial strength….”

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Global Markets Get Hammered While U.S. Futures Erase Yesterday’s Gains on EM Volatility and Poor Data Out of Europe

“To cap a rough week, markets have fallen into “risk-off” mode once again this morning.

S&P 500 futures are down 0.8%, and have already completely erased yesterday’s big rally. Asian exchanges were mostly closed and European indices are getting hammered across the board.

Emerging-market currencies like the Turkish lira and the South African rand are tumbling against the dollar, and the dollar is sliding against the euro and the yen.

Meanwhile, gold and Treasury futures are turning in a strong performance.

The charts below show moves in various markets. Across the top from left to right are S&P 500 futures, the dollar-yen exchange rate, and the euro-dollar exchange rate. Across the bottom are gold futures, 10-year U.S. Treasury futures, and the dollar-lira exchange rate.

Major economic data releases this morning included unemployment out of the eurozone, which remained unchanged at 12.0%, and eurozone consumer price inflation, which came in at 0.7% year over year in December, below consensus expectations for a 0.9% rise.

The big surprise, however, was a 2.5% drop in German retail sales from the previous month in December, which is being cited as one driver of bearish sentiment this morning….”

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The North American Union Picks Up Steam

“The plans of the last decade for a North American Union (NAU) led by Robert Pastor, director of the Center for North American Studies at American University (AU) in Washington D.C. have accelerated in recent months under different cover. Pastor died on January 8, but not without having done serious damage to American sovereignty. Through his work toward regionalization of Canada, Mexico, and the United States via NAFTA-style trade agreements, such as those repackaged as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), he helped set the stage for the “need” for those trade agreements now being fast-tracked by the Obama administration.

Analysts note that while statists who press for a regional, then a world, government owe much to Pastor’s leadership, it is an idea not likely to lose much momentum with his death. So, while the NAU may be dormant, integration of Canada, Mexico, and the United States forges ahead under a different name. In fact, Canada and Mexico, two of the three nations to have been integrated via the NAU, are now targeted as two of 12 nations to be included in the TPP. As The New American has noted, the Trans-Pacific Partnership has been designed to follow the EU example of relentless widening and deepening, constantly eroding national sovereignty, while building “transnational governance” that is not restrained by the checks and balances of national constitutions.

Secretary of State John Kerry said no less in a meeting between himself, Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird, and Mexican Foreign Secretary José Antonio Meade Kuribreña. A January 17, 2014 press release of the event announced the collaboration of the three leaders for the purpose of furthering integration of the three nations. “The second lesson that we can learn from the past couple of decades is that globalization isn’t slowing down any time soon.”

And, less than two weeks later, on January 29, 2014, Jerome Corsi wrote for World Net Daily, “Now, ahead of Tuesday’s State of the Union address, Secretary of State John Kerry presented evidence that a plan originating with the George W. Bush administration to evolve NAFTA into a European Union-style confederation in North America between the U.S., Mexico and Canada has been put into overdrive with the Obama administration’s effort to obtain ‘fast track authority’ to rush the Trans-Pacific Partnership through Congress with limited debate.”

When asked by a reporter if the United States intended to expand NAFTA, Kerry’s answer “suggested that with the expected ratification by Congress of the TPP, the Obama administration already considers the U.S., Mexico and Canada as part of a ‘post-NAFTA’ world.”

Kerry’s answer? “I think that stepping up, all of us, to the TPP, is a very critical component of sort of moving to the next tier, post-NAFTA. So I don’t think you have to open up NAFTA, per se, in order to achieve what we’re trying to achieve.”

Toward that end, leaders of the three nations will meet at the North American Leaders Summit on February 19 in Toluca, Mexico. It signals what Corsi calls the kick-off of the ‘post-NAFTA’ era. The meeting between President Obama, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper is almost a copy of one that took place a decade ago in 2005 in Waco, Texas. At the earlier meeting, President Bush, Mexican President Vicente Fox, and Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin met to establish the Security and Prosperity Partnership, fostered by Pastor. The Obama administration has since shut down the Security and Prosperity Partnership website, spp.gov., pledging to barrel full-speed ahead….”

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Slouching Towards Sirte

“Maximilian Forte’s book on the Libyan war, Slouching Towards Sirte: NATO’s War on Libya and Africa ( Baraka Books, 2012), is another powerful (and hence marginalized) study of the imperial powers in violent action, and with painful results, but supported by the UN, media, NGOs and a significant body of liberals and leftists who had persuaded themselves that this was a humanitarian enterprise. Forte shows compellingly that it wasn’t the least little bit humanitarian, either in the intent of its principals (the United States, France, and Great Britain) or in its results. As in the earlier cases of “humanitarian intervention” the Libyan program rested intellectually and ideologically on a set of supposedly justifying events and threats that were fabricated, selective, and/or otherwise misleading, but which were quickly institutionalized within the Western propaganda system. (For the deceptive model applied in the war on Yugoslavia, see Herman and Peterson, “The Dismantling of Yugoslavia,” Monthly Review, October 2007; for the propaganda model applied to Rwanda, see Herman, “Rwanda and the New Scramble for Africa,” Z Magazine, January 2014)

Slouching towards Sirte - Baraka - Max Forte low resThe key elements in the war-on-Libya model were the alleged acute threat that Gaddafi was about to massacre large numbers of civilians (in early 2011), his supposed use of mercenaries imported from the south (black Africans!) to do his dirty work, and his dictatorial rule. The first provided the core and urgent rationale for Security Council Resolution 1973 [R-1973], passed on March 17, 2011, which authorized member states “to take all necessary measures…to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack in the Libyan Arab Jamahirija, including Benghazi, while excluding a foreign occupation force in any form…” Its fraudulently benign and limited character was shown by this exclusion of an occupation force, as presumably any actions under this resolution would be limited to aircraft and missile operations “protecting civilians.” Its deep bias is shown by its attributing the threat to civilians solely to Libyan government forces, not to the rebels as well, who turned out to greatly surpass the government forces as civilian killers, and with a racist twist.

As Forte spells out in detail, the imperial powers violated R-1973 from day one and clearly never intended to abide by its words. That resolution called for the “immediate establishment of a cease-fire and a complete end to violence,” and “the need to intensify efforts to find a solution to the crisis” and to facilitate “a dialogue to lead to the political reforms necessary to find a peaceful and sustainable solution.” Both Gaddafi and the African Union called for a cease fire and dialogue, but the rebels and imperial powers were not interested, and the bombing to “protect civilians” began within two days of the war-sanctioning resolution, without the slightest move toward obtaining a cease fire or starting negotiations.

Forte also shows that it was clear from the start that the imperial-power-warriors were using civilian protection as a “figleaf” cover for their real objective—regime change and the removal of Gaddafi (with substantial evidence that his death was part of the program and carried out with U.S. participation). The war that followed was one in which the imperial powers worked in close collaboration with the rebel forces, serving as their air arm, but also providing them with arms, training and propaganda support. The imperial powers, and Dubai, also had hundreds of operatives on the ground in Libya, training the rebels and giving them intelligence and other support, hence violating R-1973’s prohibition of an occupation force “in any form.”

Forte shows that the factual base for Gaddafi’s alleged threat to civilians, his treatment of protesters in mid-February 2011, was more than dubious. The claimed striking at protesters by aerial attacks, and the Viagra-based rape surge, were straightforward disinformation, and the number killed was small—24 protesters in the three days, February 15-17, according to Human Rights Watch—fewer than the number of alleged “black mercenaries” executed by the rebels in Derna in mid-February (50), and fewer than the early protester deaths in Tunis or Egypt that elicited no Security Council effort to “protect civilians.” There were claims of several thousand killed in February 2011, but Forte shows that this also was disinformation supplied by the rebels and their allies, but swallowed by many Western officials, media and other gullibles. That the actual evidence would induce the urgent and massive response by the NATO powers is implausible, and the rush to arms demands a different rationale than protecting civilians in a small North African state. Forte provides it, compellingly—Obama and company were seizing the “window of opportunity” for regime change.

Forte demonstrates throughout his book that from the beginning of the regime-change-war the bombing powers were not confining themselves to protecting civilians, but were very often targeting civilians. He shows that, as in Pakistan, they used “double-tapping,” with lagged bombings that were sure civilian killers. They were also bombing military vehicles, troops and living quarters that were not attacking or threatening civilians. They also bombed ferociously anywhere their intelligence sources indicated that Gaddafi might be present. Forte also shows that the rebels were merciless in brutalizing and slaughtering people viewed as Gaddafi supporters, and in the substantial parts of the country where Gaddafi was supported, the rebels’ air-force (i.e., NATO) was regularly called upon to bomb, and it did so, ruthlessly.

Forte’s book title, Slouching Towards Sirte, and his front cover which shows devastated civilian apartment buildings in that city, focus attention on the essence of the NATO-rebel war. Sirte was Gaddafi’s headquarters, and its populace and army remnants resisted the rebel advance for months, so it was eventually bombed into submission with a large number of civilians killed and injured. Forte notes that when NATO finally caught up with Gaddafi and bombed and decimated the small entourage that was with him on the outskirts of Sirte, this was justified by NATO because this group could still “threaten civilians”! This was a town that had to be destroyed to save it—for the rebels, who Forte shows (citing Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and UN and other observers) executed substantial numbers of captured Gaddafi supporters. This was a major war crimes scene. The civilians in Sirte needed protection, from NATO and the rebels.

R-1973 explicitly mentions Benghazi as a massacre-threatened town, but Forte points out that no document or witness was ever turned up during or after the war that indicated any Gaddafi plan to attack Benghazi, let alone engage in a civilian slaughter. Furthermore, Forte notes that “the only massacre to have occurred anywhere near [Benghazi] was the massacre of innocent black African migrant workers and black Libyans falsely accused of being ‘mercenaries’….” The rebels and their air force smashed a stream of towns in Eastern Libya, killing and turning into refugees many thousands of civilians. The destruction of Sirte, similar to what R-1973 and the “international community” claimed to fear for Benghazi, and the lynching of Gaddafi, elicited no “grave concern” over “systematic violations of human rights,” or call for any Chapter 7 response from the Western establishment. So in this Kafkaesque world the rebels and NATO behaved just as the “international community” claimed Gaddafi would behave, and the civilian casualties that resulted from the rebel-NATO combination vastly exceeded anything done by Gaddafi’s forces, or any probable civilian deaths that would have resulted if NATO had stayed away.

This conclusion is strengthened by the fact that the rebels, from the beginning, pursued a race war. Forte stresses the importance in rebel actions of the hatred flowing from the rebels to Gaddafi forces and those deemed his supporters, which the rebels took to include anybody with a black skin. Many thousands of blacks were picked up by rebel forces, accused without the slightest proof of being mercenaries, and often executed. Among the many cases that Forte describes, in one a hospital was destroyed and dozens of its black patients were massacred. The largely black population of the sizable town of Tawargha was entirely expelled by the rebels. This racism pre-dates the 2011-2012 war, and resulted in part from Gaddafi’s policies reaching out to other African states, his relatively liberal treatment of black immigrants, and his inadequate counter-racist educational and economic-social policies that would alleviate distress at home. But Gaddafi was not a racist, whereas large numbers of the rebel forces (the “democratic opposition” in Western propaganda) were, and their successes, with NATO’s help, allowed them to perform as a lynch mob in many places (as Forte documents).

The racist character of the war was reflected in the frequent focus on “black mercenaries” allegedly imported and used by Gaddafi. This was reiterated time and again by the rebels and their supporters and propagandists. Forte shows that this claim was not merely inflated, it was a lie. There were no black mercenaries brought in by Gaddafi. But the claim of the threat posed by his alleged resort to “mercenaries” (read: black mercenaries) was repeated by officials (e.g., Susan Rice and Hillary Clinton) and the mainstream media, and found its way even into R-1973 (“Deploring the continuing use of mercenaries by the Libyan authorities”). The charge was reiterated often by the rebels in justifying their systematic abuse of blacks during the war.

Note that for a Western target there are “mercenaries” whereas for big time killers there are “contractors.” We may note also that while the word “genocide” was often used to describe Gaddafi’s threat to the rebels and their supporters, in fact, the only facet of this conflict in which a special ethnic group was targeted for mistreatment and removal, and on a large scale, was the rebel focus on, and treatment of, black people. This point has, of course, escaped Western commentators on human rights.

There is another important race element involved in the Libyan war and regime change. Gaddafi was a devoted supporter of the idea of African independence, unity and escape from Western domination. He was a central figure in the organization of the African Union, served as its chairman, and called repeatedly for a United States of Africa, and for African lending and judicial authorities that could free Africa from subservience to the IMF, World Bank and international justice. He also invested substantial sums in African institutions, including schools, hospitals, mosques and hotels. Forte shows that this Africanist thrust troubled U.S. and other Western authorities, often frustrated at Gaddafi’s frequent unwillingness to help Western investors as well as threatening Western plans to advance their military-political-economic position in Africa. Thus, regime change and Gaddafi removal dealt a major blow to African unity and breathed new life into AFRICOM and the West’s power in the scramble for control and access in this resource rich but fragmented and militarily weak area….”

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A most interesting turn of events leading to the removal of Qaddafi 

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On the Matter of Fukushima

“Why isn’t GE being held accountable?

We all know that the radiation from the stricken Fukushima plant has spread around the globe and is poisoning people worldwide. We all know that the West Coast of the United States is being polluted with radioactive debris and that the oceans, the beaches that border them, and even the air is becoming more polluted by radioactivity as time goes on.

You have to ask yourself why the government won’t admit this. It’s not like a disaster half a world away is their fault, is it?

Or is it? Could the United States government have done something to prevent the situation getting to this point?

Nothing in this article is a state secret, everything is in the public domain, but the information is so disseminated that it appears disconnected.

  • the US government knows only too well that the West Coast is polluted with radiation and that the situation is getting worse by the day.
  • the US government and General Electric knew that Fukushima was a disaster waiting to happen, and they did nothing to prevent it.
  • they also know that the many nuclear reactors in the United States are also prone to catastrophic meltdown, and they are doing nothing about it.
  • research by doctors and scientists is being suppressed, and research by private citizens is being written off purely because they have no scientific background.

 All the warnings were ignored

The narrative that leads us to the state we are in today starts in 1972.

Stephen Hanauer, an official at the atomic Energy Commission recommended that General Electric’s Mark 1 design be discontinued as it presented unacceptable safety risks.

The New York Times reported:

In 1972, Stephen H. Hanauer, then a safety official with the Atomic Energy Commission, recommended that the Mark 1 system be discontinued because it presented unacceptable safety risks. Among the concerns cited was the smaller containment design, which was more susceptible to explosion and rupture from a buildup in hydrogen — a situation that may have unfolded at the Fukushima Daiichi plant. Later that same year, Joseph Hendrie, who would later become chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, a successor agency to the atomic commission, said the idea of a ban on such systems was attractive. But the technology had been so widely accepted by the industry and regulatory officials, he said, that “reversal of this hallowed policy, particularly at this time, could well be the end of nuclear power.” (source)

Then, three years later in 1975, Dale Bridenbaugh and two colleagues were asked to review the GE Mark 1 Boiling Water Reactor (BWR). They were convinced that the reactor was inherently unsafe and so flawed in its design that it could catastrophically fail under certain circumstances. There were two main issues. First was the possible failure of the Mark 1 to deal with the huge pressures created if the unit lost cooling power. Secondly, the spent fuel ponds were situated 100 feet in the air near the top of the reactor.

They voiced their opinions, which were promptly pushed aside, and after realizing that they were not going to be allowed to make their opinions public all three resigned.

Over the years numerous other experts voiced concerns over the GE Mark 1 BWR. All have gone unheeded.

Five of the six reactors at Fukushima were GE Mark 1 BWR. The first reactor, unit one, was commissioned in 1971, prior to the first concerns about the design being raised. The other reactors came on line in 1973, 1974, 1977, 1978 and 1979 respectively. Although all six reactors were the GE Mark 1 design only three were built and supplied by GE. Units 1, 2 and 6 were supplied by GE, 3 and 5 by Toshiba and unit 4 by Hitachi. (Now Hitachi-GE)

Why isn’t GE being held accountable?

Why wouldn’t GE be held accountable? Here’s one possibility: Jeffery Immelt is the head of GE. He is also the head of the United States Economic Advisory Board. He was invited to join the board personally by President Obama in 2009 and took over as head in 2011 when Paul Volcker stepped down in February 2011, just a month before the earthquake and tsunami that devastated Fukushima.

Paul Volcker was often seen as being at odds with the administration, and many of his ideas were not embraced by the government. The appointment of Immelt, a self-described Republican, was seen as a move to give Obama a leg up when dealing with the Republican majority in the House.

There have been calls from many organizations for GE to be held accountable for the design faults in the reactors that powered the Fukushima plant. The fact that they had been known for so long does seem to indicate that the company ignored and over-ruled advice from nuclear experts.

GE ran Fukushima alongside TEPCO, but it isn’t liable for the clean-up costs.

A year after the disaster, Tepco was taken over by the Japanese government because it couldn’t afford the costs to get the damaged reactors under control. By June of 2012, Tepco had received nearly 50 billion dollars from the government.

The six reactors were designed by the U.S. company General Electric (GE). GE supplied the actual reactors for units one, two and six, while two Japanese companies Toshiba provided units three and five, and Hitachi unit four. These companies as well as other suppliers are exempted from liability or costs under Japanese law.

Many of them, including GE, Toshiba and Hitachi, are actually making money on the disaster by being involved in the decontamination and decommissioning, according to a report by Greenpeace International.

“The nuclear industry and governments have designed a nuclear liability system that protects the industry, and forces people to pick up the bill for its mistakes and disasters,” says the report, “Fukushima Fallout.”

“If nuclear power is as safe as the industry always claims, then why do they insist on liability limits and exemptions?” asked Shawn-Patrick Stensil, a nuclear analyst with Greenpeace Canada.

Nuclear plant owner/operators in many countries have liability caps on how much they would be forced to pay in case of an accident. In Canada, this liability cap is only 75 million dollars. In the United Kingdom, it is 220 million dollars. In the U.S., each reactor owner puts around 100 million dollars into a no-fault insurance pool. This pool is worth about 10 billion dollars.

“Suppliers are indemnified even if they are negligent,” Stensil told IPS. (source)

GE will not have put anything into this ‘pot’ to cover Fukushima, as it is not in the United States. They have walked away, even though they knew their reactors have design faults.

Wait! There’s more!

It’s not that simple, though; and here’s where keeping quiet and denying what’s happening comes into its own.

So far I have not explained why Obama is keeping quiet about the radiation contamination. Well, that’s the easy part.

There are 23 nuclear plants in the United States that use the GE Mark 1 BWR.23.

There are 23 nuclear plants in the United States where the used fuel rods are suspended, in a pond, 100 feet above the ground. (source)

Any admission that radiation has spread across the Pacific Ocean and contaminated American soil is an admission that the technology was flawed, and that same flawed technology is being used in the United States. ….”

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GDP Comes in Slightly Better Than Expected

“Robust household spending and rising exports kept the U.S. economy on solid ground in the fourth quarter, but stagnant wages could chip away some of the momentum in early 2014.

Gross domestic product grew at a 3.2 percent annual rate, the Commerce Department said on Thursday, in line with expectations.

While that was a slowdown from the third-quarter’s brisk 4.1 percent pace, it was a far stronger performance than earlier anticipated and was welcome news in light of a 0.3 percentage point drag from October’s partial government shutdown and a much smaller contribution to growth from a restocking by businesses.

Earlier in the quarter many economists were anticipating a growth pace below 2 percent given that an inventory surge accounted for much of the increase in the July-September period.

Growth over the second half of the year come in at a 3.7 percent pace, up sharply from 1.8 percent in the first six months of the year. It was the biggest half-year increase since the second half of 2003.

Consumer spending was the main driver of fourth-quarter growth, but there was also help from other segments of the economy such as trade and business investment.

The advance fourth-quarter GDP was released a day after the Federal Reserve said “growth in economic activity picked up in recent quarters.”

The Fed on Wednesday announced another reduction to its monthly bond purchases and appeared to shrug off a surprise sharp slowdown in job growth in December.

Consumer spending rose at a 3.3 percent rate, the strongest since the fourth quarter of 2010. Consumer spending, which accounts for more than two-thirds of U.S. economic activity, advanced at a 2 percent pace in the third quarter….”

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Stephen Roach: Keep the Champagne on Ice

“Financial markets and their cheering section are trumpeting the U.S. economic recovery, but it may be a false dawn in America, according to Stephen Roach, a Yale University economist and former Morgan Stanley Asia chairman.

Roach said the good news is that GDP appeared to grow in the back half of 2013, the official jobless rate is down and the Federal Reserve feels confident enough to taper back on its mountain of monetary stimulus.

“But my advice is to keep the champagne on ice,” he said in an opinion piece for Project Syndicate. “Two quarters of strengthening GDP hardly indicates a breakout from anemic recovery. The same thing has happened twice since the end of the Great Recession in mid-2009. . . . In both cases, the uptick proved to be short-lived.”

Roach suspects most of the “growth” the nation has experienced is derived from inventory re-stocking by companies rather than actual sales. In reality, he said, the nation is caught in the vice of a continuing “balance-sheet recession” among consumer households.

“In the past, when discretionary spending on items such as motor vehicles, furniture, appliances and travel was deferred, a surge of ‘pent-up demand’ quickly followed.

“Not this time. The record plunge in consumer demand during the Great Recession has been followed by persistently subpar consumption growth.”

Roach compared the American consumer to Japan’s corporate “zombies” — companies that have been rendered essentially lifeless by balance-sheet problems for years on end, but which are still in business….”

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Household Spending and Exports are Expected to Keep GDP Afloat

“(Reuters) – Robust household spending and rising exports likely kept the U.S. economy on solid ground in the fourth quarter, but stagnant wages could chip away some of the momentum in early 2014.

Gross domestic product probably grew at a 3.2 percent annual rate, according to a Reuters poll of economists.

While that would be a slowdown from the third-quarter’s brisk 4.1 percent pace, it would be a far stronger performance than earlier anticipated, and welcome news in light of the drag from October’s partial government shutdown and a likely much smaller contribution to growth from a restocking by businesses.

“It looks like the economy was firing on a lot of cylinders in the fourth quarter,” said John Ryding, chief economist at RDQ Economics in New York….”

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Wall Street Finds a New Windfall in the Housing Market

“Wall Street’s latest trillion-dollar idea involves slicing and dicing debt tied to single-family homes and selling the bonds to investors around the world.

That might sound a lot like the activities that at one point set off a global financial crisis. But there is a twist this time. Investment bankers and lawyers are now lining up to finance investors, from big private equity firms to plumbers and dentists moonlighting as landlords, who are buying up foreclosed houses and renting them out.

The latest company to test this emerging frontier in securitization is American Homes 4 Rent. The company talked to prospective investors at a conference in Las Vegas last week about selling securities tied to $500 million of debt, according to people briefed on the matter.

American Homes 4 Rent, which went public in August, has tapped JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs and Wells Fargo as its bankers for a debt deal that is expected to be sold by the end of the first quarter, these people said.

While this securitization market is still in its infancy, a recent Wall Street estimate put potential financing opportunities for the single-family rental industry as high as $1.5 trillion. Already some members of Congress and economists are worried about another credit bubble….”

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California Cities and Others to Oust $JPM From Being a Designated Municipal Depository

” “Epic in scale, unprecedented in world history. That is how William K. Black, professor of law and economics and former bank fraud investigator, describes the frauds in which JPMorgan Chase (JPM) has now been implicated. They involve more than a dozen felonies, including bid-rigging on municipal bond debt; colluding to rig interest rates on hundreds of trillions of dollars in mortgages, derivatives and other contracts; exposing investors to excessive risk; failing to disclose known risks, including those in the Bernie Madoff scandal; and engaging in multiple forms of mortgage fraud.


So why, asks Chicago Alderwoman Leslie Hairston, are we still doing business with them? She plans to introduce a city council ordinance deleting JPM from the city’s list of designated municipal depositories. As quoted in the January 14th Chicago Sun-Times:


The bank has violated the city code by making admissions of dishonesty and deceit in the way they dealt with their investors in the mortgage securities and Bernie Madoff Ponzi scandals. . . . We use this code against city contractors and all the small companies, why wouldn’t we use this against one of the largest banks in the world?


A similar move has been recommended for the City of Los Angeles by L.A. City Councilman Gil Cedillo. But in a January 19th editorial titled “There’s No Profit in L A. Bashing JPMorgan Chase,” the L.A. Times editorial board warned against pulling the city’s money out of JPM and other mega-banks – even though the city attorney is suing them for allegedly causing an epidemic of foreclosures in minority neighborhoods.

 “L.A. relies on these banks,” says The Times, “for long-term financing to build bridges and restore lakes, and for short-term financing to pay the bills.” The editorial noted that a similar proposal brought in the fall of 2011 by then-Councilman Richard Alarcon, backed by Occupy L.A., was abandoned because it would have resulted in termination fees and higher interest payments by the city.

It seems we must bow to our oppressors because we have no viable alternative – or do we? What if there is an alternative that would not only save the city money but would be a safer place to deposit its funds than in Wall Street banks?

There is a place where they don’t bow. Where they don’t park their assets on Wall Street and play the mega-bank game, and haven’t for almost 100 years. Where they escaped the 2008 banking crisis and have no government debt, the lowest foreclosure rate in the country, the lowest default rate on credit card debt, and the lowest unemployment rate. They also have the only publicly-owned bank…..”

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Former World Bank Chief Economist: The Dollar Must Be Replaced With a Global Currency

“In the past we have discussed at length the inevitable demise of the USD as the world’s reserve currency noting that nothing lasts forever.However, when former World Bank chief economist Justin Yifu Lin warns that “the dominance of the greenback is the root cause of global financial and economic crises,” we suspect the world will begin to listen (especially the Chinese. Lin, now – notably – an adviser to the Chinese government, concludes that internationalizing the Chinese currency is not the answer (preferring a basket approach) but ominously concludes, “the solution to this is to replace the national currency with a global currency,” as it will create more stable global financial system.


The infamous chart that shows nothing lasts forever…

Nothing lasts forever… (especially in light of China’s earlier comments [21])


Via China Daily,

The World Bank’s former chief economist wants to replace the US dollar with a single global super-currency, saying it will create a more stable global financial system.

“The dominance of the greenback is the root cause of global financial and economic crises,” Justin Yifu Lin told Bruegel, a Brussels-based policy-research think tank. “The solution to this is to replace the national currency with a global currency.”


Lin, now a professor at Peking University and a leading adviser to the Chinese government, said expanding the basket of major reserve currencies — the dollar, the euro, the Japanese yen and pound sterling — will not address the consequences of a financial crisis. Internationalizing the Chinese currency is not the answer, either, he said…..”

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The Fed Leaves Rates Unchanged and Further Curbs Bond Buying to $65 Billion a Month

“The Federal Reserve will trim its monthly bond buying by $10 billion to $65 billion, sticking to its plan for a gradual withdrawal from departing Chairman Ben S. Bernanke’s unprecedented easing policy.

“Labor market indicators were mixed but on balance showed further improvement,” theFederal Open Market Committee said today in a statement following a two-day meeting in Washington that was the last for Bernanke, who will be succeeded by Vice Chairman Janet Yellen on Feb. 1. “The unemployment rate declined but remains elevated.”

Policy makers pressed on with a reduction in the purchases intended to speed a recovery from the worst recession since the Great Depression, even after payroll growth slowed in December and amid a rout in emerging-market currencies. Some officials have expressed concern that the Fed’s record $4.1 trillion balance sheet could help create asset-price bubbles.

The Fed left unchanged its statement that it will probably hold its target interest rate near zero “well past the time” that unemployment falls below 6.5 percent, “especially if projected inflation” remains below the committee’s longer-run goal of 2 percent.

The Fed repeated the inflation “persistently below its 2 percent objective could pose risks to economic performance and it is monitoring inflation developments carefully for evidence that inflation will move back toward its objective over the medium term.”

The central bank’s preferred gauge of consumer prices climbed 0.9 percent in the year through November and hasn’t exceeded the Fed’s goal since March 2012.

Bonds, MBS

Bond purchases will be divided between $35 billion in Treasuries and $3o billion in mortgage debt beginning in February, the Fed said. It repeated that purchases are not “on a preset course.”

It was the first meeting with no dissent since June 2011, showing Fed officials coalescing around the central bank’s tapering strategy as Yellen, 67, prepares to take over the chairmanship from Bernanke…..”

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