Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Libyan devils we don’t know

The Libyan devils we dont know, editors choiceAfter Friday’s euphoria reality begins to set in.

MPs are getting their first chance to debate Britain’s involvement in Libya this afternoon and already there is concern being expressed about the strength of the coalition against Gaddafi and what the ‘end game’ of our involvement will be.

What is clear from listening to MPs in the debate is that while almost all broadly support idea of intervention – that support is shallow and could disappear quickly if events on the ground (or the air) start going wrong.

It is worth asking what the reaction of MPs and the public will be if an airstrike goes wrong and a significant number of civilians die at the hands of the coalition rather than Gaddafi.

Even within the Government there is private concern that while ministers and officials have “thought about” the consequences of military action in Libya they have not “thought it through”. Events of the ground have simply not allowed the time for such considered debate.

One organization illustrates this point neatly. The Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) is a group of radical Islamists aligned with al-Qaeda who are based in and around Bengazi and form part of the internal opposition to the Gaddafi regime. They tried to assassinate him in 2005 and their members have been involved in the eastern uprising.

LIFG is a proscribed terrorist group as in the UK – after it emerged that they were big suppliers of suicide bombers in Iraq.

Now we’re on the same side.

Cameron may say there is no decent future for Libya with Gaddafi still in power – but it is far from clear there is a decent future for Libya if he is removed. Or a future that the West would want.

Libya: the West and al-Qaeda on the same side

Source: The Telegraph

Statements of support for Libya's revolution by al-Qaeda and leading Islamists have led to fears that military action by the West might be playing into the hands of its ideological enemies.
Libya: the West and al-Qaeda on the same side
A Libyan rebel grimaces on the frontline near Sultan, south of Benghazi Photo: AP

6:48PM GMT 18 Mar 2011

WikiLeaks cables, independent analysts and reporters have all identified supporters of Islamist causes among the opposition to Col Gaddafi's regime, particularly in the towns of Benghazi and Dernah.

An al-Qaeda leader of Libyan origin, Abu Yahya al-Libi, released a statement backing the insurrection a week ago, while Yusuf Qaradawi, the Qatar-based, Muslim Brotherhood-linked theologian issued a fatwa authorising Col Gaddafi's military entourage to assassinate him.

But they also agree that the leading roles in the revolution are played by a similar cross-section of society as that in Egypt next door – liberals, nationalists, those with personal experience of regime brutality and Islamists who subscribe to democratic principles.

The WikiLeaks cables, initially revealed by The Daily Telegraph and dating from 2008, identified Dernah in particular as a breeding ground for fighters in a number of causes, including Afghanistan and Iraq.

"The unemployed, disfranchised young men of eastern Libya have nothing to lose and are therefore willing to sacrifice themselves for something greater than themselves by engaging in extremism in the name of religion," the cables quoted a Dernah businessman as saying.

Col Gaddafi has pinpointed the rebels in Dernah as being led by an al-Qaeda cell that has declared the town an Islamic emirate. The regime also casts blame on hundreds of members of the Libyan Islamist Fighting Group released since the group renounced violence two years ago.

Although said by the regime to be affiliated to al-Qaeda, most LIFG members have focused only on promoting sharia law in Libya, rejecting a worldwide "jihad".

The man running Dernah's defences, Abdelkarim al-Hasadi, was arrested by US forces in Afghanistan in 2002, but says he does not support a Taliban-like state.

The rebels' political leadership there says it is secular.

The same goes for the wider leadership, whose membership claims to espouse largely liberal ideals.

In any future negotiations – should it come to dialogue or even victory – rebel spokesmen are likely to be politicians who were until recently senior figures in the regime itself.

The head of the opposition National Council, Mustafa Abdul Jalil was Col Gaddafi's justice minister until he defected at the start of the uprising.

That may not be as bad as it sounds – he was a law professor appointed to improve Libya's human rights record by Saif al-Islam Gaddafi when the colonel's son was leading Libya's westernisation drive, and had already clashed with longer-standing regime insiders.

The military chief, though, is Abdul Fattah Younis al-Obeidi, a former leader of Col Gaddafi's special forces who was his public security, or interior, minister until he went over to the rebels.

He has described Col Gaddafi as "not completely sane", and worked with the SAS during the now curtailed thaw in British-Libyan relations. But it is still ironic that the West is taking sides in a battle between the leader of a much hated regime and his former effective deputy.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Bernanke Says Federal Reserve Won't Reveal Details on Loans

By Steve Matthews and Craig Torres

Nov. 18 (Bloomberg) -- Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke said the central bank won't disclose details of the $2 trillion in emergency loans of taxpayer funds because doing so would stigmatize banks needing the money.

``Some have asked us to reveal the names of the banks that are borrowing, how much they are borrowing, what collateral they are posting,'' Bernanke said today to the House Financial Services Committee. ``We think that's counterproductive.''

Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson said in September they would comply with congressional demands for transparency in a $700 billion bank rescue plan. Two months later, as the Fed lends far more than that in separate lending programs that don't require lawmakers' approval, Bernanke said too much disclosure would harm the borrowers.

Bloomberg News has requested details of the Fed lending under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act and filed a federal lawsuit Nov. 7 seeking to force disclosure.

The Fed made the loans under terms of 11 programs, eight of them created in the past 15 months, in the midst of the biggest financial crisis since the Great Depression.

``First, the success of this depends on banks being willing to come and borrow when they need short-term cash,'' Bernanke said in response to questioning from Representative Spencer Bachus of Alabama, the committee's senior Republican.

``There is a concern that if the name is put in the newspaper that such-and-such bank came to the Fed to borrow overnight for a perfectly good reason, that others might begin to worry is this bank creditworthy and that might create a stigma, a problem, and might cause banks to be unwilling to borrow, and that would be counterproductive.''

`Very Safe' Loans

Bernanke said the central bank would not lose money on its lending, which is backed by assets.

``We take collateral, we haircut it, it is a short-term loan, it is very safe, we have never lost a penny in these various lending programs,'' he said.

Before Sept. 14, the Fed accepted mostly top-rated government and asset-backed securities as collateral. After that date, the central bank widened standards to accept other kinds of securities, some with lower ratings. The Fed collects interest on all its loans.

At a Sept. 23 Senate Banking Committee hearing in Washington, Paulson called for transparency in the purchase of distressed assets.

``We need oversight,'' Paulson told lawmakers. ``We need protection. We need transparency. I want it. We all want it.''

At a joint House-Senate hearing the next day, Bernanke also stressed the importance of openness in the program. ``Transparency is a big issue,'' he said.

The Bloomberg lawsuit argues that the collateral lists ``are central to understanding and assessing the government's response to the most cataclysmic financial crisis in America since the Great Depression.''

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

30 reasons for Great Depression 2 by 2011

New-New Deal, bailouts, trillions in debt, antitax mindset spell disaster

By Paul B. Farrell, MarketWatch
Last update: 7:19 p.m. EST Nov. 17, 2008

ARROYO GRANDE, Calif. (MarketWatch) -- By 2011? No recovery? No new bull? "Hey Paul, why do you keep talking about a bigger crash coming by 2011?" Readers ask that often. So here's a sequel to my predictions of 2000 and 2004, with a look three years ahead:

First. Dot-com crash

We pinpointed the dot-com crash at its peak, in a March 20, 2000 column: "Next crash? Sorry, you won't see it coming." Bulls-eye: The dot-com bubble popped. The economy went into a 30-month recession. The stock market lost $8 trillion. And today, over eight years later, the market is still roughly 40% below its 2000 peak. See previous Paul B. Farrell.

Factor in inflation and the average stock has lost well over 50% of its value. Stocks have proven to be a very big loser, a bad investment for Americans, thanks to Wall Street's selfish greed, plus the complicity and naiveté of politicians, press and public.

Second. Subprime meltdown

We reported on warnings of another crash coming as early as 2004, wrote a sequel, also titled "Next crash? Sorry, you won't see it coming." Yes, we were early, but in good company. We wrote many more warning columns. Few listened.

Subsequent events, notably former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan's admission of his failures in congressional testimony, prove that if he and other Reaganomic ideologues weren't so myopic and intransigent about proving their free-market deregulation theories, they could have acted earlier and prevented today's colossal mess. Instead, their ideology kept the bubble blowing, delayed the pop, making matters worse.

So once again, as history proves over and over, ideology trumps common sense, reality and the facts. Greed drives ideologues to blow bubbles. They pop. Crashes happen. The public is collateral damage.

Third. Megabubble cycles

We also detailed the broader, accelerating macroeconomic sweep of cycles last summer in columns like "20 reasons new megabubble pops in 2011." We summarized a long list of major warnings from financial periodicals -- Forbes, Fortune, the Wall Street Journal, Economist -- and from the voices of Warren Buffett, Bill Gross, a sitting Fed governor and a former Commerce secretary. Multiple warnings "hiding in plain sight," beginning with a Fed governor warning Greenspan in 2000 about subprime risk.

But the big shocker came from the new Treasury secretary two years before the meltdown: Bloomberg News reports that shortly after leaving Wall Street as Goldman Sachs' CEO, Henry Paulson was at Camp David warning the president and his staff of "over-the-counter derivatives as an example of financial innovation that could, under certain circumstances, blow up in Wall Street's face and affect the whole economy."

Yes, they knew. And still both Paulson, a Wall Street insider, and Greenspan's successor, Ben Bernanke, a Princeton scholar of the Great Depression, stayed trapped in denial and kept happy-talking the public for months after the meltdown began in mid-2007. Get it? While they could have put the brakes on this meltdown years ago, our leaders were prisoners of their distorted, inflexible views of conservative Reaganomics ideology.

As a result, once again the "best and the brightest" failed America and now they and their buddies in Washington and Corporate America are setting up the Crash of 2011.

Now it's time for my 2008 update, a look into the future where things will get far worse during the next presidential term. And given human behavior, especially in the deep recesses of Wall Street's "greed is good" DNA, it seems inevitable that no matter how well-intentioned the new president may be Wall Street and Washington's 41,000 special-interest lobbyists will drive America into the Great Depression 2.

30 'leading edge' indicators of the coming Great Depression 2

Every day there is more breaking news, proof Wall Street's greed is already back to "business as usual" and in denial, grabbing more and more from the new "Bailouts-R-Us" bonanza of free taxpayer cash and credits, like two-year-olds in a toy store at Christmas -- anything to boost earnings, profits and stock prices, and keep those bonuses and salaries flowing, anything to blow a new bubble.

Scan these 30 "leading indicators." Each problem has one or more possible solutions, but lacks unified political support. Time's running out. We're already at the edge. Add up the trillions in debt: Any collective solution will only compound our problems, because the cumulative debt will overwhelm us, make matters worse:
  1. America's credit rating may soon be downgraded below AAA
  2. Fed refusal to disclose $2 trillion loans, now the new "shadow banking system"
  3. Congress has no oversight of $700 billion, and Paulson's Wall Street Trojan Horse
  4. King Henry Paulson flip-flops on plan to buy toxic bank assets, confusing markets
  5. Goldman, Morgan lost tens of billions, but planning over $13 billion in bonuses this year
  6. AIG bails big banks out of $150 billion in credit swaps, protects shareholders before taxpayers
  7. American Express joins Goldman, Morgan as bank holding firms, looking for Fed money
  8. Treasury sneaks corporate tax credits into bailout giveaway, shifts costs to states
  9. State revenues down, taxes and debt up; hiring, spending, borrowing add even more debt
  10. State, municipal, corporate pensions lost hundreds of billions on derivative swaps
  11. Hedge funds: 610 in 1990, almost 10,000 now. Returns down 15%, liquidations up
  12. Consumer debt way up, now at $2.5 trillion; next area for credit meltdowns
  13. Fed also plans to provide billions to $3.6 trillion money-market fund industry
  14. Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae are bleeding cash, want to tap taxpayer dollars
  15. Washington manipulating data: War not $600 billion but estimates actually $3 trillion
  16. Hidden costs of $700 billion bailout are likely $5 trillion; plus $1 trillion Street write-offs
  17. Commodities down, resource exporters and currencies dropping, triggering a global meltdown
  18. Big three automakers near bankruptcy; unions, workers, retirees will suffer
  19. Corporate bond market, both junk and top-rated, slumps more than 25%
  20. Retailers bankrupt: Circuit City, Sharper Image, Mervyns; mall sales in free fall
  21. Unemployment heading toward 8% plus; more 1930's photos of soup lines
  22. Government policy is dictated by 42,000 myopic, highly paid, greedy lobbyists
  23. China's sees GDP growth drop, crates $586 billion stimulus; deflation is now global, hitting even Dubai
  24. Despite global recession, U.S. trade deficit continues, now at $650 billion
  25. The 800-pound gorillas: Social Security, Medicare with $60 trillion in unfunded liabilities
  26. Now 46 million uninsured as medical, drug costs explode
  27. New-New Deal: U.S. planning billions for infrastructure, adding to unsustainable debt
  28. Outgoing leaders handicapping new administration with huge liabilities
  29. The "antitaxes" message is a new bubble, a new version of the American
    dream offering a free lunch, no sacrifices, exposing us to more false promises
Will the next meltdown, the third of the 21st Century, trigger a second Great Depression? Or will the 2007-08 crisis simply morph into a painful extension of today's mess to 2011 and beyond, with no new bull market, no economic recovery as our new president hopes?

Perhaps some of the first 29 problems may be solved separately, but collectively, after building on a failed ideology, they spell disaster. So listen closely to "leading indicator" No. 30:

At a recent Reuters Global Finance Summit former Goldman Sachs chairman John Whitehead was interviewed. He was also Ronald Reagan's Deputy Secretary of State and a former chairman of the N.Y. Fed. He says America's problems will take years and will burn trillions.

He sees "nothing but large increases in the deficit ... I think it would be worse than the depression. ... Before I go to sleep at night, I wonder if tomorrow is the day Moody's and S&P will announce a downgrade of U.S. government bonds." It'll get worse because "the public is not prepared to increase taxes. Both parties were for reducing taxes, reducing income to government, and both parties favored a number of new programs, all very costly and all done by the government."

Reuters concludes: "Whitehead said he is speaking out on this topic because he is concerned no lawmakers are against these new spending programs and none will stand up and call for higher taxes. 'I just want to get people thinking about this, and to realize this is a road to disaster,' said Whitehead. 'I've always been a positive person and optimistic, but I don't see a solution here.'"

We see the Great Depression 2. Why? Wall Street's self-interested greed. They are their own worst enemy ... and America's too. End of Story

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The first barons of banking

Abu Dhabi Media Company FZLLC. http://www.thenational.ae/

Nobleman: Baron David de Rothschild, the head of the Rothschild bank. The Rothschilds have helped the British government since financing Wellington's army to fight the French in 1815. Galen Clarke / The National

Among the captains of industry, spin doctors and financial advisers accompanying British prime minister Gordon Brown on his fund-raising visit to the Gulf this week, one name was surprisingly absent. This may have had something to do with the fact that the tour kicked off in Saudi Arabia. But by the time the group reached Qatar, Baron David de Rothschild was there, too, and he was also in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

Although his office denies that he was part of the official party, it is probably no coincidence that he happened to be in the same part of the world at the right time. That is how the Rothschilds have worked for centuries: quietly, without fuss, behind the scenes.

“We have had 250 years or so of family involvement in the finance business,” says Baron Rothschild. “We provide advice on both sides of the balance sheet, and we do it globally.”

The Rothschilds have been helping the British government – and many others – out of a financial hole ever since they financed Wellington’s army and thus victory against the French at Waterloo in 1815. According to a long-standing legend, the Rothschild family owed the first millions of their fortune to Nathan Rothschild’s successful speculation about the effect of the outcome of the battle on the price of British bonds. By the 19th century, they ran a financial institution with the power and influence of a combined Merrill Lynch, JP Morgan, Morgan Stanley and perhaps even Goldman Sachs and the Bank of China today.

In the 1820s, the Rothschilds supplied enough money to the Bank of England to avert a liquidity crisis. There is not one institution that can save the system in the same way today; not even the US Federal Reserve. However, even though the Rothschilds may have lost some of that power – just as other financial institutions on that list have been emasculated in the last few months – the Rothschild dynasty has lost none of its lustre or influence. So it was no surprise to meet Baron Rothschild at the Dubai International Financial Centre. Rothschild’s opened in Dubai in 2006 with ambitious plans to build an advisory business to complement its European operations. What took so long?

The answer, as many things connected with Rothschilds, has a lot to do with history. When Baron Rothschild began his career, he joined his father’s firm in Paris. In 1982 President Francois Mitterrand nationalised all the banks, leaving him without a bank. With just US$1 million (Dh3.67m) in capital, and five employees, he built up the business, before merging the French operations with the rest of the family’s business in the 1990s.

Gradually the firm has started expanding throughout the world, including the Gulf. “There is no debate that Rothschild is a Jewish family, but we are proud to be in this region. However, it takes time to develop a global footprint,” he says.

An urbane man in his mid-60s, he says there is no single reason why the Rothschilds have been able to keep their financial business together, but offers a couple of suggestions for their longevity. “For a family business to survive, every generation needs a leader,” he says. “Then somebody has to keep the peace. Building a global firm before globalisation meant a mindset of sharing risk and responsibility. If you look at the DNA of our family, that is perhaps an element that runs through our history. Finally, don’t be complacent about giving the family jobs.”

He stresses that the Rothschild ascent has not been linear – at times, as he did in Paris, they have had to rebuild. While he was restarting their business in France, his cousin Sir Evelyn was building a British franchise. When Sir Evelyn retired, the decision was taken to merge the businesses. They are now strong in Europe, Asia especially China, India, as well as Brazil. They also get involved in bankruptcy restructurings in the US, a franchise that will no doubt see a lot more activity in the months ahead.

Does he expect governments to play a larger role in financial markets in future? “There is a huge difference in the Soviet-style mentality that occurred in Paris in 1982, and the extraordinary achievements that politicians, led by Gordon Brown and Nicolas Sarkozy, have made to save the global banking system from systemic collapse,” he says. “They moved to protect the world from billions of unemployment. In five to 10 years those banking stakes will be sold – and sold at a profit.”

Baron Rothschild shares most people’s view that there is a new world order. In his opinion, banks will deleverage and there will be a new form of global governance. “But you have to be careful of caricatures: we don’t want to go from ultra liberalism to protectionism.”

So how did the Rothschilds manage to emerge relatively unscathed from the financial meltdown? “You could say that we may have more insights than others, or you may look at the structure of our business,” he says. “As a family business, we want to limit risk. There is a natural pride in being a trusted adviser.”

It is that role as trusted adviser to both governments and companies that Rothschilds is hoping to build on in the region. “In today’s world we have a strong offering of debt and equity,” he says. “They are two arms of the same body looking for money.”

The firm has entrusted the growth of its financing advisory business in the Middle East to Paul Reynolds, a veteran of many complex corporate finance deals. “Our principal business franchise is large and mid-size companies,” says Mr Reynolds. “I have already been working in this region for two years and we offer a pretty unique proposition.

“We work in a purely advisory capacity. We don’t lend or underwrite, because that creates conflicts. We are sensitive to banking relationships. But we look to ensure financial flexibility for our clients.”

He was unwilling to discuss specific deals or clients, but says that he offers them “trusted, impartial financing advice any time day or night”. Baron Rothschilds tends to do more deals than their competitors, mainly because they are prepared to take on smaller mandates. “It’s not transactions were are interested in, it’s relationships. We are looking for good businesses and good people,” says Mr Reynolds. “Our ambition is for every company here to have a debt adviser.”

Baron Rothschild is reluctant to comment on his nephew Nat Rothschild’s public outburst against George Osborne, the British shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer. Nat Rothschild castigated Mr Osborne for revealing certain confidences gleaned during a holiday in the summer in Corfu.

In what the British press are calling “Yachtgate”, the tale involved Russia’s richest man, Oleg Deripaska, Lord Mandelson, a controversial British politician who has just returned to government, Mr Osborne and a Rothschild. Classic tabloid fodder, but one senses that Baron Rothschild frowns on such publicity. “If you are an adviser, that imposes a certain style and culture,” he says. “You should never forget that clients want to hear more about themselves than their bankers. It demands an element of being sober.”

Even when not at work, Baron Rothschild’s tastes are sober. He lives between Paris and London, is a keen family man – he has one son who is joining the business next September and three daughters – an enthusiastic golfer, and enjoys the “odd concert”. He is also involved in various charity activities, including funding research into brain disease and bone marrow disorders.

It is part of Rothschild lore that its founder sent his sons throughout Europe to set up their own interlinked offices. So where would Baron Rothschild send his children today?

“I would send one to Asia, one to Europe and one to the United States,” he said. “And if I had more children, I would send one to the UAE.”

Monday, November 10, 2008

UK's Brown: Now is the time to build global society

07:03 PM EST

LONDON (Reuters) - The international financial crisis has given world leaders a unique opportunity to create a truly global society, Britain's Prime Minister Gordon Brown will say in a keynote foreign policy speech on Monday.

In his annual speech at the Lord Mayor's Banquet, Brown -- who has spearheaded calls for the reform of international financial institutions -- will say Britain, the United States and Europe are key to forging a new world order.

"The alliance between Britain and the U.S. -- and more broadly between Europe and the U.S. -- can and must provide leadership, not in order to make the rules ourselves, but to lead the global effort to build a stronger and more just international order," an excerpt from the speech says.

Brown and other leaders meet in Washington next weekend to discuss longer term solutions for dealing with economic issues following a series of coordinated moves on interest rates and to recapitalize banks in the wake of the financial crisis.

"Uniquely in this global age, it is now in our power to come together so that 2008 is remembered not just for the failure of a financial crash that engulfed the world but for the resilience and optimism with which we faced the storm, endured it and prevailed," Brown will say in his speech on Monday evening.

"...And if we learn from our experience of turning unity of purpose into unity of action, we can together seize this moment of change in our world to create a truly global society."

According to a summary of the speech released by his office, Brown will set out five great challenges the world faces.

These are: terrorism and extremism and the need to reassert faith in democracy; the global economy; climate change; conflict and mechanisms for rebuilding states after conflict; and meeting goals on tackling poverty and disease.

Brown will also identify five stages for tackling the economy, starting with recapitalizing banks so they can resume lending to families and businesses, and better international co-ordination of fiscal and monetary policy.

He also wants immediate action to stop the spread of the financial crisis to middle-income countries, with a new facility for the International Monetary Fund, and agreement on a global trade deal, as well as reform of the global financial system.

"My message is that we must be: internationalist not protectionist; interventionist not neutral; progressive not reactive; and forward looking not frozen by events. We can seize the moment and in doing so build a truly global society."

(Reporting by Jodie Ginsberg; Editing by Janet Lawrence)

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Russia welcomes Barack Obama with deployment of nuclear-capable missiles

The Kremlin gave Barack Obama a glacial welcome to the world stage when Dmitry Medvedev, the Russian president, ordered the deployment of nuclear-capable missiles on Nato's borders for the first time since the Cold War.

Russian president Dimitry Medvedev - Russia welcomes Barack Obama with deployment of nuclear-capable missiles
Mr Medvedev said he was ordering the deployment in retaliation to a missile defence shield that the United States wants to build in central Europe Photo: AP

In what appeared to be a deliberate attempt to rattle the president-elect, Mr Medvedev said that short-range Iskander surface-to-surface missiles would be stationed in Russia's baltic exclave of Kaliningrad, which borders EU states Poland and Lithuania.

Delivering his most aggressively anti-American speech yet, Mr Medvedev said he was ordering the deployment in retaliation to a missile defence shield that the United States wants to build in central Europe by 2011.

In comments likely to unnerve the Obama camp, the Russian leader even hinted that he was prepared to use the missiles to destroy the shield, which is to be erected in Poland and the Czech Republic.

"I have approved a new configuration for the military forces of our country," Mr Medvedev said in his first ever annual address to the two houses of the Russian parliament. "To neutralise – if necessary – the anti-missile system, an Iskander missile system will be deployed in the Kaliningrad region."

Although the Iskander is normally equipped with conventional warheads, it can be modified to carry a nuclear payload.

Russia has been threatening to move Iskander missiles to Kalinigrad since April last year, but until now no specific order had been given.

Mr Medvedev's speech had been postponed twice and commentators in Moscow say it is no accident that the Kremlin decided it should be delivered on the day the United States presidential election results were announced.

They suggested that Russia was deliberately attempting to test Mr Obama's mettle. Some analysts say that Kremlin hardliners are worried that the Democrat could seek to restore the notion of the United States as a "soft power" prepared to seek international consensus in its foreign policy.

For Kremlin hawks, such a policy could undermine their attempts to project the US as a threat to Russian sovereignty, thus undermining the justification for the authoritarian policies of Vladimir Putin, the country's powerful prime minister.

For much of his speech, President Medvedev, who was shoehorned into office by Mr Putin, sounded as abrasive as his predecessor at his most vituperative.

Seeking to cast Washington as the architect of the global financial crisis, he lashed out at the "erroneous, egotistical and sometimes even dangerous decisions of some members of the global community" – the traditional euphemism for the United States.

He also blamed the United States for August's war in the Caucasus, which saw Russia invade Georgia and destroy much of its infrastructure after the escalation of a conflict in a Moscow-backed breakaway region of the country.

The US, Mr Medvedev said, pursued a foreign policy that was "selfish, cannot stand criticism and prefers unilateral decisions." "The conflict in the Caucasus was used as a pretext for sending Nato warships to the Black Sea and then for foisting America's anti-missile systems on Europe," he told legislators.

The US sent naval vessels to the Black Sea after the August conflict ended to deliver humanitarian aid to Georgia. The ships have since left the area.

Breaking with tradition, Mr Medvedev failed to congratulate senator Obama on his victory. But he did urge the president-elect to take steps to improve US-Russia relations, which he said were badly damaged.

Ordinary Russians were sneering about the entire election, which was characterized in the frequently chauvinistic popular media as a contest between a senile grandfather and a black man of dubious credentials and intellect. American voters were portrayed as "popcorn and hamburger eating idiots" by one newspaper.

Several tabloids incorrectly reported that the main message of Mr Obama's final campaign speech was a call on young African Americans not to let their underpants show above the waistline of the jeans.

Many also questioned the US belief in democracy, claiming that it had plunged the world into turmoil.

"Russia does not need this Western operetta show," the Tvoi Dyen tabloid wrote. "We realised back in 1612, there is so much more important than difference of opinion."

Great expectations: Barack Obama and the world

Last Updated: Wednesday, November 5, 2008 | 12:32 AM ET

Barack Obama in Germany in July 2008: 'The walls must come down'Barack Obama in Germany in July 2008: 'The walls must come down' (Markus Schreiber/Associated Press)

Americans selected Barack Obama as their new president because 85 per cent of them told pollsters they didn't like the direction the country was heading. His first and vast challenge will be to try to change that direction.

Obama was also the world's choice by a wide margin. But my swing through several European capitals this autumn told me that, deep down, non-Americans didn't really believe he would in the end be America's choice.

The fact that he was — that America did, in the quiet of the polling booth, decisively select the candidate of colour — has offered the U.S. that rare second chance to redefine itself to the world.

It has been said that there are only two global superpowers today: the U.S. and world opinion. In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, the two became largely aligned in empathy until George W. Bush squandered that asset.

Today, they are aligned again, this time in admiration.

Many Europeans I spoke with didn't believe Obama would be elected because "it couldn't happen here," in the UK or France or Spain, they said. The Chinese public were said to be both fascinated and envious of his campaign, Geoff York reported in the Globe and Mail.

Well, today's election is going to give a huge adrenaline shot to repressed democrats and human rights defenders the world over in ways that the Bush "freedom agenda" couldn't, simply because of the force of the Obama example.

The new president inherits daunting domestic and foreign challenges but also an enormous fund of good will on almost every continent. For the short term, anyway, he is going to seem like the "world's president."

What is likely to change?

Obviously, the first to go will be George W. Bush and almost everything he stands for. Was this decent man as bad a president as people think? His Texan style didn't travel well, but the record? Darn near as bad.

I blame Vice-President Dick Cheney for much of this: the stealth and manipulation, the adversarial fixation on strengthening executive prerogative and stifling Congress as well as the laws of the land; the obsession to get Saddam Hussein and the blithe disregard of facts. But all that is past history now.

Turning the page, consider as gone the belief that military force alone can produce pleasing political outcomes. Or that U.S.-style unilateralism is a winning option.

Republican John McCain retained an "almost religious belief" in American exceptionalism and the merits of using military force to protect U.S. interests and values, Nicholas Lemann wrote in the New Yorker.

Obama won't have to declaim that America is exceptional. His very election shows that it is.

But gone will be the "with us or against us" bombast of the past so many years. Obama is more than a unifier. He is a cross-cultural figure.

Cultural anthropologists, whose stock is rising as U.S. agencies and military realize they don't really understand other peoples very well, should be thrilled.

An includer

Gone, too, should be that instinctive, pre-judging hostility to other countries such as Iran.

Obama's administration will undoubtedly support a community of democracies and of democrats but is unlikely to see these grouping as a made-in-America venture, one more coalition to line up against a growing list of adversaries, as McCain had seemed wont to do.

On the diplomatic circuit, every indication is that Obama is not a "great-power relationship" sort of leader either.

He is, by most accounts, a consensus seeker and while he will likely reach out to individual partners on a one-on-one, confidence-sharing basis, his preferred arenas will be multilateral — and large.

Forget about the G8. The preferred forums are likely to be the G15 or even the G20 because he is a big tent kind of guy.

Keeping a big stick

Economic recovery will be an uphill climb but with a more deeply Democratic Congress, an Obama administration can likely produce a quick stimulation package that, coupled this time with a sense of a fresh start, may have some real impact on a fretful American psychology.

Should that happen, it would only underpin Obama's leadership clout in the world.

But don't expect a president Obama to lighten up much on homeland security, or at least not until Americans tell him the cost of doing cross-border business is too high. (So, Canadians, grow up and renew your passports early. Service has improved at least.)

Also unlikely to change will be the core U.S. military budget, though some expensive programs like the provocative anti-missile defence system may get the chop.

As a liberal, Obama can't risk reducing U.S. military power or being seen to let America's guard down. Indeed, he has demonstrated a willingness to use force if necessary to go after the sanctuaries of really bad guys with or without local permission.

Would he have authorized last week's raid on a Syrian arms export depot? Probably. But he might actually have tried talking first to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The golden rule

North Korea won't change its spots overnight, nor will Iran knuckle under on the nuclear file. Nor will Iraq's Sunnis and Shias learn to love each other, or Israelis and Palestinians settle their scores, or the Taliban decide to celebrate Karzai-style democracy just because of Barack Obama.

So U.S. forces will likely be staying for a while in Iraq, though increasingly in the background.

In fact, there may well be spoiler-type pushback from upstaged brittle leaders like Russia's Vladimir Putin — unless Obama finds a way to get to them first, which he very well might.

Everybody who knows him passes the same message: that he reaches out to consult before he moves and follows the golden rule. He listens to and tries to understand others, which is why he is likely to drop the childish and dangerous practice of not talking with adversaries.

If one of Putin's main grievances is that Russia isn't taken seriously anymore by the U.S., then Obama ought to show that is not the case. Political leaders are human and attention counts.

That goes double for domestic politicians. I expect to see a return to the sort of attention former presidents like Lyndon Johnson, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton lavished on members of Congress.

I expect to see the U.S. recommit to the goal of effective multilateralism in world affairs, where the rule is diplomacy first and military action only as a very last resort.

I expect to see the United Nations regain its rightful place in U.S. esteem. Obama has been explicit about the need to build an international consensus on the big challenges that individual governments cannot handle on their own, including counterterrorism, nuclear proliferation, and climate change and oil dependence.

I anticipate he will resubmit to Congress for ratification such multilateral initiatives as joining the International Criminal Court and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, despised by neo-conservative unilateralists. Indeed, I expect a major emphasis on negotiated nuclear disarmament, including that of America itself.

And Canada?

If you go to the Obama website and his campaign speeches, you won't find much about Canada — indeed, you won't find anything.

That may hurt those Canadians with the narrow soul of a deputy minister, but it's good news. We are not a U.S. problem!

But is Obama a problem for Canada? Wasn't he said to want to renegotiate NAFTA, the free trade agreement, to, implicitly, get a better deal for American workers?

That was probably campaign cover because some rust-belt Americans don't think NAFTA works for their country. But the recent global downturn turns the heat up on that file.

If there are issues to renegotiate, then let's be adults and think big about sharing a continent, and get down to it. That is the best way to get on the U.S. agenda.

With Obama in the White House, Stephen Harper's Conservative government may feel challenged by having, in Washington, a non-divisive social reformer and listener (hear that, 24 Sussex?) who believes in multilateralism, a once Canadian trait that we may have to relearn.

Will Obama press Canada to keep combat forces in Afghanistan past 2011? His first calls to add brigades there will likely be to others. Later, he'll listen to why we finally want to stand down and should probably respect the disproportionate contribution Canadians have made.

There will, however, be a problem on climate change, especially if there is no real effort to mitigate the environmental impact of developing the oilsands or to develop technologies that are not part of the carbon problem.

There may well be some sourpuss Canadian pundits who will disparage Obama's victory and put him down as a lightweight liberal floating on an ephemeral sea of rhetoric. Pay them no mind.

The rest of us should just celebrate the fact that our neighbour and closest friend has chosen the kind of leader that Canadians can instantly recognize because he operates in what used to be a very Canadian way of seeing and dealing with the world.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Lies and Audiotape: Morgan Chase Exec Brags Bailout Is for Takeovers, Restructuring, Not Lending

Executive Intelligence Review

Oct. 26, 2008 (EIRNS)—In an internal bank conference call last week, a JP Morgan Chase executive, unaware that his conversation would be heard and published by a reporter, confirmed exactly what Lyndon LaRouche has said about the Hank Paulson bail-out: It has nothing remotely to do with extending lending to the U.S. economy, but is concerned with the Mussolini-like corporatist restructuring of the U.S. banking system, turning over the "smaller banks" to the totally bankrupt big banks, so that they can digest the smaller banks' assets, and survive perhaps a few more weeks.

New York Times reporter Joe Nocera obtained the call-in phone number on which the Oct. 17 Morgan Chase conference call took place, only 4 days after JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon had agreed to take $25 billion in a U.S. government capital injection. In an article in the Oct. 25 Times, entitled "So When Will Banks Give Loans?" Nocera quoted the unnamed JP Morgan Chase executive who gave the conference call, as follows:

"Twenty-five billion dollars is obviously going to help the folks who are struggling more than Chase," he began. "What we do think it will help us do, is perhaps be a little bit more active on the acquisition side, or opportunistic side, for some banks who are still struggling. And I would not assume that we are done on the acquisition side, just because of the Washington Mutual and Bear Stearns mergers. I think there are going to be some great opportunities for us to grow in this environment, and I think we have an opportunity to use that $25 billion in that way. And obviously depending on whether recession turns into depression or what happens in the future, you know, we have that as a backstop." [emphasis added]

Later during the call, the executive showed what a fig-leaf is Paulson's claim that the capital injection part of the bail-out plan would start up lending to the economy. The executive explained "loan dollars are down significantly." He added, "We would think that loan volume will continue to go down as we continue to tighten credit to fully reflect the high cost of pricing on the loan side."

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Uses for $700 billion bailout money ever shifting

Associated Press

October 29, 2008

First, the $700 billion rescue for the economy was about buying devalued mortgage-backed securities from tottering banks to unclog frozen credit markets.

Then it was about using $250 billion of it to buy stakes in banks. The idea was that banks would use the money to start making loans again.

But reports surfaced that bankers might instead use the money to buy other banks, pay dividends, give employees a raise and executives a bonus, or just sit on it. Insurance companies now want a piece; maybe automakers, too, even though Congress has approved $25 billion in low-interest loans for them.

Three weeks after becoming law, and with the first dollar of the $700 billion yet to go out, officials are just beginning to talk about helping a few strapped homeowners keep the foreclosure wolf from the door.

As the crisis worsens, the government’s reaction keeps changing. Lawmakers in both parties are starting to gripe that the bailout is turning out to be far different from what the Bush administration sold to Congress.

In buying equity stakes in banks, the Treasury has “deviated significantly from its original course,” says Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby, the top Republican on the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee. “We need to examine closely the reason for this change,” said Shelby, who opposed the bailout.

The centerpiece of the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act is the “troubled asset relief program,” or TARP for short. Critics note that tarps are used to cover things up. The money was to be devoted to buying “toxic” mortgage-backed securities whose value has fallen in lockstep with home prices.

Read article

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Treasury Blacks Out Key Parts of Private Bailout Contracts

Remember how Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson promised full transparency in spending the $700 billion bailout money? And remember how bailout opponents predicted that the failure to mandate such transparency would allow all sorts of Halliburton-style shenanigans? From the looks of the first private contracts issued by the Treasury Department, it looks like the bailout opponents were correct.

As flagged by BailoutSleuth.com, Paulson is blacking out the sections of government contracts that spell out how much private firms will be paid for their services in administering taxpayer money. Here's a page from the compensation part of a contract with Bank of New York, which has been hired to do some of the bookkeeping (because, of course, the Bush administration is happy to privatize that function):

And here's a page from the compensation part of a Treasury contract with law firm Simpson Thatcher Bartlett - a firm being hired to provide "legal advice" to the government:

Think these are doctored images? Check them out yourself on Treasury's website - the first contract is here (blacked out section on page 25 of the PDF) and the second contract is here (blacked out section on page 5 of the PDF).

So, just to review - within just a few weeks of the bailout passing, our government is blacking out the parts of public contracts that explain how much taxpayer cash private contractors are going to be paid. Perhaps this is what Paulson meant when he promised transparency - by posting these blacked out contracts on the Treasury website, the government is being transparent about exactly where it is being secretive. But I don't think that definition of transparency really flies, do you?

Of course, I wish I was surprised about this - but one of the major reasons I was opposed to this bailout from the beginning was because (as I and others repeatedly wrote) there is no real transparency at all. Now we know what "no transparency at all" really means.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Joe Biden: Promises / Guarantees "International crisis, a generated crisis"

http://blogs.suntimes.com/sweet/2008/10/joe_biden_seattle_fund_raiser.html Chicago Suntimes

Lynn Sweet on October 21, 2008 2:59 PM Comments (0)

WASHINGTON--John McCain is going after Joe Biden on Tuesday for remarks Biden made Sunday at a Seattle fund-raiser about how Barack Obama, 47, will be tested by "the world" to see if he is tough enough. This off message message from Biden came during a long discussion about Obama. Click for the pool report with the entire transcript.

Lynn: here's that pool report -- notice that this comment is setting up his description of why Obama is the guy to deal with tough times:

Subject: Biden Seattle fundraiser pool report (#2 of 2) Pool report Seattle, WA fundraiser (#2 of 2) Sunday, October 19, 2008

For his second Seattle fundraiser of the evening, Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., spoke in a smaller ballroom at the downtown Sheraton Hotel, following the introduction of Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash..

The estimated total haul for Biden's fundraisers in the Emerald City this evening: a cool million bucks.

"I'm losing my voice, which would make everybody in the Senate very happy," said Biden at the outset of money-pitch part deux.

But despite his cold, the senator pressed on, speaking for about 15 minutes.
"You should have told me about your prowess," he told the Obama supporters about their fundraising skills.

"I just wasted a whole year hanging out waiting for something to happen," he joked about his own failed presidential bid.

Biden then implored the audience of organizers to help re-elect Gov. Chris Gregoire.
"It is almost as important that you re-elect the governor as it is that you elect the next president," he said.

But back to the Obama/Biden campaign...

"One of the things we're trying to do in this race is not just change the agenda, but we're trying to change the chessboard here. We're trying to change the way politicians have played, the divisive politics."

"Clinton was such an incredibly talented, incredibly talented president and politician, he was able to run upstream," Biden noted. "The truth of the matter was that if you noticed, even in those days, it was not a direct confrontation of the agenda. What we had to do was a little jujitsu."
"That was what drove the Republicans crazy - he took their playbook and he turned it on them."
As he has in the past, Biden described how the nation is at "an inflection point", one of "maybe five times in American history since the founding".

"The next four years are going to determine what it looks like 25 years from now because we either get this right internationally or we're in trouble," he said, citing the Korean peninsula and Pakistan as potential hot-spots.

He then talked about the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

"It's where al Qaeda lives. It's there. It's real. We focus so much on the bad policy on Iraq, we sometimes seem to think that somehow there isn't a real problem. Our CIA has pointed out that bin Laden is alive and well, Iraq, excuse me, in the mountains between Pakistan and Afghanistan. He's getting (inaudible) and support from those tribal areas. You have, folks, the Taliban is coming back. We're on the verge of finding ourselves in a position to see the regression occurring in Pakistan.

Biden emphasized the importance of injecting economic assistance to build hospitals, roads, and schools.

The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations committee warned that unless people there have "a reason to look to Islamabad instead of looking to the tribally-controlled areas, then in fact we got no hope, folks."

"Bin Laden is alive and well," he cautioned. "Our own agencies have pointed out that we have created more terrorists than we have dissuaded and destroyed as a consequence of shredding the constitution, keeping Guantanamo open."

"We talk about Iran getting a nuclear weapon and threatening Israel and us. Let me tell ya something, Pakistan already is bristling with nuclear weapons, all of which can hit Israel right now, all of which can strike the Mediterranean and well into the Indian Ocean."

Biden recalled when his helicopter came down in a snowstorm at 10,500 feet in the middle of the mountains along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

"You literally can see what these kids are up against, our kids in that region. The place is crawling with al Qaeda. And it's real."

"My generic point is you can't win it militarily," he said. "You gotta go beyond that."
He showered praise on Cantwell for her work in foreign affairs before referencing an article by the "most enlightened conservative columnist in America", David Brooks.

"David Brooks wrote a piece basically endorsing Barack Obama last week in the New York Times. You should get it. And I think it best summarizes why Barack is the right guy at the right moment for this job, that he understands, like Maria does, he looks at this from a very different perspective. This is the 21st century. We do not have the military capacity, nor have we ever, quite frankly, in the last 20 years, to dictate outcomes. It's so much more important than that. It's so much more complicated than that. And Barack gets it."

So why was Biden saying this to the crowd of supporters? He'll tell ya why...

"We're gonna find ourselves in real trouble when we get elected. This is gonna be really hard. This is gonna be really, really, really hard. We're gonna have the largest systemic deficit in modern - not modern - in the history of the world. Literally. Literally. We're gonna find ourselves inheriting a debt, yearly debt this year, that may approach three-quarters of a trillion dollars. You hear me? We left this guy with a $232 billion surplus. At a minimum when we take office - God willing - we're gonna have a $450 billion deficit. And the way the economy is tanking the way it is now it may be as high as $750 billion."

"28 states are in serious trouble and they're about to contribute to the economic downward spiral because what are they doing? Cutting services, laying people off as they lose their tax base. So there are going to be a lot of tough decisions Barack's gonna have to make, a lot of tough decisions, including on foreign policy."

"And here's the point I want to make. Mark my words. Mark my words. It will not be six months before the world tests Barack Obama like they did John Kennedy. The world is looking. We're about to elect a brilliant 47-year old senator president of the United States of America.
Remember I said it standing here if you don't remember anything else I said. Watch, we're gonna have an international crisis, a generated crisis, to test the mettle of this guy. And he's gonna have to make some really tough - I don't know what the decision's gonna be, but I promise you it will occur. As a student of history and having served with seven presidents, I guarantee you it's gonna happen. I can give you at least four or five scenarios from where it might originate. And he's gonna need help. And the kind of help he's gonna need is, he's gonna need you, not financially to help him, we're gonna need you to use your influence, your influence within the community, to stand with him. Because it's not gonna be apparent initially, it's not gonna be apparent that we're right. Because all these decisions, all these decisions, once they're made if they work, then they weren't viewed as a crisis. If they don't work, it's viewed as you didn't make the right decision, a little bit like how we hesitated so long dealing with Bosnia and dealing with Kosovo, and consequently 200,000 people lost their lives that maybe didn't have to lose lives. It's how we made a mistake in Iraq. We made a mistake in Somalia. So there's gonna be some tough decisions. They may emanate from the Middle East. They may emanate from the sub-continent. They may emanate from Russia's newly-emboldened position because they're floating in a sea of oil."

After again touting Cantwell's judgment, Biden told the crowd to "gird your loins."

"Only thing I'm asking you is, you know, gird your loins. We're gonna win with your help, God willing, we're gonna win, but this is not gonna be an easy ride. This president, the next president, is gonna be left with the most significant task. It's like cleaning the Aegean stables, man. This is more than just, this is more than - think about it, literally, think about it - this is more than just a capital crisis, this is more than just markets, this is a systemic problem we have with this economy."

As he did last week in Missouri, Biden then touted Obama's team of economic advisers.
"I have great respect and have had great respect for a long time for Barack Obama, but I've never, I never thought that I'd have the kind of respect I have after watching him assemble probably the finest economic team that's been put together in the history of this country, Democrats and Republicans. You should see him orchestrate these meetings we have with 18 of the best minds in the world, from both parties. There's no doubt about who's charge, Gov. There's no doubt. There's no doubt about how incisive his questions are. What he asks of this group is stunning in terms of there responses. They kind of go, 'whoa, whoa!' This guy has an ability to move to the quick of things like anybody I've ever served with, at least this up close. So I think we're gonna put our hands, take this ship (inaudible) in the right hands. I think we got this ticket right. I think we got it in the right balance here."

After a round of applause, Biden continued.

"I've forgotten more about foreign policy than most of my colleagues know, so I'm not being falsely humble with you. I think I can be value added, but this guy has it. This guy has it. But he's gonna need your help. Because I promise you, you all are gonna be sitting here a year from now going 'oh my God, why are they there in the polls, why is the polling so down, why is this thing so tough? We're gonna have to make some incredibly tough decisions in the first two years. So I'm asking you now, I'm asking you now, be prepared to stick with us. Remember the faith you had at this point because you're going to have to reinforce us."

Noting that he's a practicing Irish-Catholic, the Delaware lawmaker said, "Let's not be, for those of a different faith remember St. Peter denied Christ thrice, you know? We don't need anybody denying us, this is gonna be tough. There are gonna be a lot of you who want to go 'whoa, wait a minute, yo, whoa, whoa, I don't know about that decision.' Because if you think the decision is sound when they're made, which I believe you will when they're made, they're not likely to be as popular as they are sound. Because if they're popular, they're probably not sound."

While the crowd laughed, Biden noticed your pooler in the back of the room pounding away at his keyboard.

"I probably shouldn't have said all this because it dawned on me that the press is here," the senator said.

"All kidding aside, these guys have left us in a God-awful place. We have the ability to straighten it out. It's gonna take a little bit of time, so I ask you to stay with us. Stay with us."
And with that, he handed the mic back to Cantwell.

Matthew Jaffe
ABC News
Washington, DC

U.S. suicide rate is up

It's climbed steadily since 1999. The most alarming increase is among middle-age adults: nearly 16%.
October 21, 2008
LA Times

After falling for more than a decade, the U.S. suicide rate has climbed steadily since 1999, driven by an alarming increase among middle-age adults, researchers said Monday.

A new six-year analysis in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that the U.S. suicide rate rose to 11 per 100,000 people in 2005, from 10.5 per 100,000 in 1999, an increase of just under 5%.

The report found that virtually all of the increase was attributable to a nearly 16% jump in suicides among people ages 40 to 64, a group not commonly seen as high-risk. The rate for that age group rose to 15.6 per 100,000 in 2005, from 13.5 per 100,000 in 1999.

Susan P. Baker, an epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health and an author of the study, said she was baffled by the findings. Sociological studies have found that middle age is generally a time of relative security and emotional well-being, she said.

"We really don't know what is causing this," said Dr. Paula Clayton, research director of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, who was not involved in the study. "All we have is speculation."

One possibility, she said, is that the increase in suicides might be tied to a concurrent increase in abuse of prescription pain pills, such as OxyContin. Studies have shown that people who abuse drugs are at greater risk for suicide, she noted.

Another possible explanation, she said, was the drop in hormone replacement therapy after it was linked to health risks in 2002. Women who gave up the drugs or decided not to take them might have been more susceptible to depression and potentially suicide, she said.

Dr. Ian Cook, an associate professor of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences at UCLA's David Geffen School of Medicine, who was not involved in the study, said stresses of modern life, particularly worries in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, might have a role.

Untreated depression is the leading cause of suicide, he said.

"The bottom line is while we can't infer a lot of things about what is causing the trend, I think it cries out for better depression screening and treatment," he said.

Suicide rates declined 18% from 1986 to 1999, helped in part by a focus on prevention among teenagers and the elderly.

In the current study, researchers found little or no change in the suicide rates for three other age groups: 10 to 19, 20 to 29, and over 65.

Suicides for whites ages 40 to 64 rose 17% from 1999 to 2005, researchers said. For middle-age white men, the rate rose 16% to 26.9 per 100,000 in 2005, from 23.1 per 100,000 in 1999. For white women in that age group, the rate rose 19% to 8.2 per 100,000 from 6.9 per 100,000.

The suicide rate among middle-age African Americans rose 7% from 1999 to 2005, but it was not enough to drive up the overall suicide rate among blacks.

For black men ages 40 to 64, the rate rose 5% to 10.4 per 100,000 from 9.9 per 100,000, and for black women in that age group, the rate rose 14% to 2.5 per 100,000 from 2.2 per 100,000.

Baker said she had no idea why the increases among whites were higher.

Gellene is a Times staff writer.


Suicide Predominant in White, Middle-Aged Americans

By Anna Boyd
15:36, October 21st 2008 eFluxMedia

While anti-suicide campaigns have focused on teens and young adults because they are thought to be at high risk, a study in the online edition of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine concludes that middle-aged white men and women register the highest rate of suicide in the United States. Whites age 40 to 64 have “recently emerged as a new high-risk group for suicide,” the study says.

The study by Susan Baker, MPH, of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, and her colleagues, was based on data from 1999 to 2005. Suicide claimed 32,637 lives in 2005, a rate of 11 per 100,000 people. Overall, the suicide rate increased by 0.7 percent per year during that period, but it rose 2.7 percent annually among middle-aged white men and 3.9 percent among middle-aged white women.

"The results underscore a change in the epidemiology of suicide, with middle-aged whites emerging as a new high-risk group. Historically, suicide-prevention programs have focused on groups considered to be at highest risk -- teens and young adults of both genders as well as elderly white men. This research tells us we need to refocus our resources to develop prevention programs for men and women in their middle years,” Baker said in a statement.

On the other hand, suicide in blacks decreased significantly and remained stable among Asian and Native Americans.

The study also shows that rates of suicide by hanging or suffocation increased by 6.3 percent among men and 2.3 percent among women. Overall, the study found that hanging/suffocation accounted for 22 percent of all suicides by 2005, surpassing poisoning at 18 percent. Previous studies have showed that guns were the most common method of suicide. Other methods included prescription drugs, poisons, and firearms.

The researchers could not find a specific reason behind this increase in suicidal rates. Dr. Paula Clayton, research director of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention said it might be associated with an increase in abuse of prescription pain pills, known to cause depression and expose people to suicidal thoughts. Another possible explanation was the drop in hormone replacement therapy after it was linked to health risks in 2002. Women who interrupted the drugs were more susceptible to depression and potentially suicide. However more study needs to be done in order to fully understand reasons behind this situation, Dr. Clayton, who was not involved in the study, said.

The bad news is that the suicidal rate could increase even more given the current economic situation in the US, the researchers warned.

© 2007 - 2008 - eFluxMedia

Monday, October 20, 2008

EU Leaders Call for Global Currency

By Kurt Nimmo
Oct 18, 2008, 08:27 Axis of Logic

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Editor's Note: In September, 1990, as George Herbert Walker Bush spoke to a joint session of Congress about his plans for the first illegal US invasion of Iraq. It was during this speech that he made public the "fifth objective" of the illuminati during that period in his speech entitled, "Toward a New World Order". Their planned demolition of the economy this year has laid the groundwork for the empire's new global currency.

- Les Blough, Editor

"Certainly, the elite cooked up an appropriate global crisis, now they will engage in a full court press to establish a global currency and eventually a global government."

Saturday, Oct 18, 2008 - If we are to believe the Washington Post, French president and current EU leader Nicolas Sarkozy has pledged to save us from nameless “freewheeling bankers and traders” who get the blame for the current economic crisis.

Sarkozy, Gordon Brown, and EU honcho José Manuel Barroso are talking up an international summit to discuss an “urgent overhaul of the world’s financial architecture,” that is to say a new Bretton Woods to establish a brand spanking new international economic order. Sarkozy has managed to grab George Bush’s ear and he will travel to Washington on Saturday to lay the groundwork for a conference.

In 1944, 44 allied nations met at a resort in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, to fiddle with monetary standards, fix exchange rates, and create the IMF and World Bank. “Launching a remake of this old model — particularly in such a short time, with so many new participants — would represent a daunting challenge at any time, but particularly during the twilight of the Bush presidency and the crisis that is still jolting banks and stock markets around the world,” reports the Post.

Sarkozy and the EU leaders would have us believe this new Bretton Woods will call for “globally coordinated regulation of the financial industry, elimination of tax havens and a compensation system in which traders are not rewarded for dangerous risk-taking,” among other things.

It was the demise of Bretton Woods in 1971, insists European Central Bank president Jean- Claude Trichet, that led to the abandonment of regulation and subsequent market turmoil. “The explosion of the first Bretton Woods in a way could be interpreted as a rejection of discipline,” said Trichet, reports Bloomberg.

Gordon Brown, the former Chancellor of the Exchequer, wants to fix that turmoil with a new spate of regulations aimed at international finance. On October 13 in London, Brown said “we must devise new rules for a world of global capital flows” just as the founders of Bretton Woods “devised rules for a world of limited capital flows.”

“We now have global financial markets but what we do not have is anything other than national and regional regulation and supervision,” Brown lamented from Brussels.

All of this is nonsense. It should be obvious by now the bankers engineered the current crisis in order to consolidate their hold on the global economy and all the talk about rogue traders, tax havens, and over-compensated executives is merely that — talk, or more specifically a sales pitch, a slick parlor trick devised to fool the commoners.

Glossed over in all the corporate media coverage is the global elite demand that a global currency be established. “Europe wants to present a blueprint for a new worldwide currency system,” reports the AFP in the video here.

“Another subject in tomorrow’s world is that of the great currencies,” Reuters reported Sarkozy musing on October 16. “How many should there be? What should the agreement between these great currencies be? Should we organize a discussion?”

Any discussion would be purely academic, as the ruling elite long ago decided to force a global currency down our throats. In fact, a global currency is at the very core of their plan to dominate the world. Control money and you control the destiny of states, you eliminate national sovereignty. “The control of money and credit strikes at the very heart of national sovereignty,” A.W. Clausen, president of Bank of America once observed.

As Georgetown professor and CFR historian Carroll Quigley noted, the goal of the banking families and their minions consists of “nothing less than to create a world system of financial control in private hands able to dominate the political system of each country and the economy of the world as a whole… controlled in a feudalist fashion by the central banks of the world acting in concert, by secret agreements arrived at in frequent private meetings and conferences.”

It remains to be seen if the EU will realize its “solution” to the world economic crisis. In 2007, Robert Mundell, “the father of the euro,” noted that “international monetary reform usually becomes possible only in response to a felt need and the threat of a global crisis.”

Certainly, the elite cooked up an appropriate global crisis, now they will engage in a full court press to establish a global currency and eventually a global government.


Bretton Woods II: Will a New Financial-World Order Solve the Economic Crisis?

Posted on date: Oct 20, 2008
On October 13, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown called for a new-world financial order. “We must create a new international financial architecture for the global age,” Brown said. “We must have a new Bretton Woods.”

Brown’s statement echoed the sentiments of French and EU president Nicolas Sarkozy, who on September 26 said, “We must rethink the financial system from scratch, as at Bretton Woods.”

So is a new “Bretton Woods” a good idea? Before we can answer that question, we need to take a look at the original Bretton Woods System, which was the world’s first fully negotiated international monetary order. What inspired global leaders to create it, and what ultimately led to its demise?

The Monetary Role of Gold

By 1900, most Western European nations had evolved from centrally planned monarchies to pseudo-capitalist republics. This resulted in the heyday of the International Gold Standard, in which market economies of the West engaged in relatively free trade, facilitated by the ultimate global currency of gold.

Gold, according to Austrian economist Carl Menger, emerged as money millennia ago. In fact, gold’s monetary nature predates the existence of the nation-state. It is “real money” in the sense that no one has to be forced to accept it: they do so willingly. And thus, gold presents a problem for nation-state governments—they can’t manipulate it as easily as paper money.

True, nation-states dating back to the Roman Empire and before have attempted to make money a state institution through the implementation of “monetary policy.” The chief tactics of these ancient states were coin clipping and debasement (mixing cheap alloys in with gold) and forcing people under “legal tender” laws to accept devalued coins at full face value. These monetary tricks ultimately led to the ruination of numerous empires throughout history, with the Romans being neither the first nor the last.

The End of the International Gold Standard

Fast-forwarding 150 decades or so, the nation-states of the early 20th century were in a similar bind: they couldn’t finance the wars they wanted to fight under the strictness of a gold standard. “War,” after all, as Randolph Bourne said, “is the health of the state,” as it lends itself to an intense concentration of government power. But early twentieth-century bureaucrats found it difficult or impossible to fund wars through taxation without inspiring domestic revolts. The other option—printing money—wasn’t feasible under a gold standard, since each paper note had to be backed by real gold. So what were war-makers to do?

What aggressive governments did do, time and time again, was temporarily suspend the convertibility of notes. Typically under a gold standard, individuals could trade in a fixed number of dollars (or pounds or francs, etc.) for an ounce of gold. To make war, governments would simply print up extra notes and all money unconvertible for the duration of the conflict—and then devalue their currencies after the war. European nations did this countless times, and the U.S. suspended convertibility during the Civil War, World War I and World War II. But then the Allied nations of that final conflict had a better idea: why not do away with the International Gold Standard once and for all and inflate without limit?

The Creature from Bretton Woods, NH

Unfortunately for them, nation-states had not yet developed the means of social control necessary to impose fiat currencies on the world. So instead, global leaders did the next best thing—they abandoned the too-restrictive International Gold Standard in favor of a new monetary order: the Bretton Woods System.

For three weeks in July of 1944, 730 delegates from all 44 World War II Allies met in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, as part of the UN’s Monetary and Financial Conference. By the time they were done, they had created the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD). These entities—created by “democratic nations” with no democratic approval—would be the enforcers of the new world-financial order.

Ostensibly, the IMF and IBRD were supposed to facilitate “free trade.” In truth, just like modern “free trade” agreements, the IMF and IBRD inhibited and indeed prohibited truly free trade and, instead, created rules to promote government-managed and controlled trade.

Regardless, if we can believe the architects of the post-war order, Bretton Woods was intended to end the protectionist currency manipulation that occurred under the International Gold Standard. Under the gold standard, a country with a trade deficit could simply revalue its currency relative to gold, thereby encouraging exports and discouraging imports. But under Bretton Woods, all member nations had to “peg” their currencies to a weight of gold, plus or minus 1 percent.

The Death of Bretton Woods I

The U.S. dollar, however, had a different role under Bretton Woods: it would take the place of gold and serve as the world’s reserve currency. Only the U.S. dollar could be converted to gold (at $35 an ounce), and only foreign central banks could do the converting. Following Frank D. Roosevelt’s draconian Gold Confiscation Act of 1933, private ownership of gold was banned in the U.S. and remained illegal into the 1970s.

When Bretton Woods was set up, the U.S. held about 60% of world gold reserves. However, beginning with the New Deal, the ever-expanding federal government had quite an appetite and, like empires of old, preferred to fund its growth via monetary trickery instead of taxation. Thus, the government’s central bank—the always eager-to-inflate Federal Reserve—created far more dollars than there were ounces of gold backing them.

This led to an old-fashioned bank run. Foreign governments were smart enough to know there wasn’t enough gold to back all of the dollars in circulation, so they raced to redeem their dollars while they still could. By 1970, the U.S. held just 16% of world gold reserves.

Clearly, the system was unsustainable, so on August 15, 1971, President Nixon “closed the gold window” and reneged on America’s promise to redeem paper dollars in gold, severing the U.S. dollar’s 179-year tie to gold and converting the greenback into a full-fledged fiat currency.

The Birth of Bretton Woods II?

It’s said that the nations that came together for Bretton Woods I all shared a belief in “capitalism.” Austrian economists would scoff at this notion. One of the primary architects of the Bretton Woods System and the notorious IMF was John Maynard Keynes, a Fabian socialist and advocate for central planning in a “mixed economy.” Keynes attended Bretton Woods on behalf of the UK and argued for a world central bank issuing fiat notes known as “bancos.” The U.S., then a creditor nation, resisted. Now, of course, the United States—the world’s biggest and most broke debtor—would have no such leverage.

World leaders are meeting next month to talk about the possibility of setting up a new Bretton Woods System. If these leaders share a common belief, you can be sure it isn’t in capitalism, and you can bet all the fiat money in the world that gold will not play a role in Bretton Woods II. A much more likely scenario is that John Maynard Keynes will finally get his wish, 64 years later, and we’ll have a world central bank and the beginnings of true global government. Everything else Keynes advocated has failed so miraculously and led to so much misery, one can only imagine how bad life under the “banco” might be.

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