Dec 23


Vladimir Putin talks to Roman Abramovich, whose business interests are reported to have already received a £1.2bn bailout

They bought country houses, super-yachts and football clubs, but the era of the Russian oligarch may be drawing to a close.

Details of the financial bailout being offered by the Kremlin to Russia’s richest men have revealed that many could be stripped of power by next Christmas. The loans will last for one year only and will be collateralised against shares owned by the oligarchs.

Most are expected to struggle to repay the loans within a year, raising the possibility that the Kremlin is trying to engineer the renationalisation of the Russian economy.

The bailout could be a double-edged sword: it may save the oligarchs’ companies in the short-term but could reduce their power and wealth in the long run. According to Zina Psiola, a Russian fund manager at Clariden Leu in Zurich: “Some oligarchs will no longer be oligarchs. It’s extremely unlikely they’ll all be able to repay in a year.”

Figures such as Roman Abramovich, the owner of Chelsea Football Club, have seen the value of their companies collapse, forcing them to seek government aid or risk defaulting on loans to foreign banks. Evraz, a steel company part-owned by Mr Abramovich, has reportedly already received $1.8 billion (£1.2 billion) from the Kremlin.

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Dec 23

New Zealand’s economy has contracted for a third straight quarter as the combination of a weak housing market and a slowing global economy takes its toll.

The country’s gross domestic product contracted 0.4pc in the three months to the end of September and that follows a 0.2pc decline in the second quarter and a 0.3pc shrinkage in the first three months of the the year. The decline for the latest quarter was in line with economists’ expectations.

Like that of its larger neighbour Australia, New Zealand’s economy has enjoyed a booming housing market over the past decade. However, the bursting of the housing bubble has prompted New Zealanders to apply a sharp brake to their spending.

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Dec 23

Researchers have created the world’s thinnest sheet – a single atom thick – and used it to create the world’s smallest transistor, marking a breakthrough that could spark the development of super-fast computer chips.

This innovation will allow ultra small electronics to take over when the current silicon-based technology runs out of steam, according to Prof Andre Geim and Dr Kostya Novoselov from the University of Manchester.

They reveal details of transistors that are only one atom thick and fewer than 50 atoms wide in the journal, Nature Materials.

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Dec 23
$20 bills at the Bureau of Printing and Engraving in Washington: central banks are taking unprecedented action to increase the money supply by expanding their balance sheets

A quiet revolution in central banking is gathering speed, as the Federal Reserve ploughs ever deeper into the brave new world of unorthodox monetary policy and other central banks ponder how far they might have to follow.

The world’s central banks have already undergone dramatic changes since the start of the credit crisis more than a year ago. They have cut interest rates with unprecedented rapidity – in some cases to historic lows – and have increased bank reserves massively to meet heightened private sector demand for liquidity.

They have become de facto central counterparties in the money markets, and in some cases even direct lenders to companies. Moreover, by making liquidity available against collateral on terms far more favourable than those that prevail in the private markets, they have become in effect catastrophic risk insurers of last resort for whole classes of financial assets – taking on the risk that the crisis could become so bad that they cannot recoup their loans.

But the latest steps by the Federal Reserve – which cut interest rates virtually to zero last week and said it would create money to finance ever-larger credit operations – break new ground.

Related:
The Neo-Alchemy of the Federal Reserve by Ron Paul
Interview: Peter Schiff still grim on future

Already the Fed arguably has one companion, the Bank of Japan. The BoJ cut rates to nearly zero on Friday, stepped up its purchases of government bonds and said it would buy commercial paper.

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Dec 23

Her sinking with the loss of almost 1,200 lives caused such outrage that it propelled the U.S. into the First World War.

But now divers have revealed a dark secret about the cargo carried by the Lusitania on its final journey in May 1915.

Munitions they found in the hold suggest that the Germans had been right all along in claiming the ship was carrying war materials and was a legitimate military target.


Doomed: A contemporary view of the sinking of the Lusitania off Ireland in May 1915

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Dec 23

A man who was left completely blind by multiple strokes has been able to navigate an obstacle course using only his “sense” of where hazards lie.

The feat is an example of “blindsight”, the ability of some blind people to sense things that they cannot see.

Scientists already knew that the man, known only as TN, reacted to facial expressions that he could not see.

Brain scans showed that he could recognise expressions including fear, anger and joy in other people.

However, he is totally blind and normally walks using a stick to alert himself to objects in his path.

To test the extend of his blindsight, scientists constructed an obstacle course made up of boxes and chairs arranged in a random pattern.

Not only was TN able to safely manoeuvre the course he did not bump into a single box or chair.

Professor Beatrice de Gelder, from the University of Tilburg in the Netherlands, who led the study, said: “This is absolutely the first study of this ability in humans.

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Dec 23

Afghan parents are selling their sons to wealthy women unable to have their own.

Afghan parents selling their sons to survive
Channel 4 footage shows eight-year-old Qassem saying goodbye to his family Photo: CHANNEL 4 NEWS

The trade in children is spurred by the battered country’s economy and the failure of foreign aid to reach beyond the coffers of central government in the capital Kabul.

While girls are are rarely traded, boys can fetch substantial sums – at least in the eyes of the poor couples who give up a child simply to allow the rest of the family to survive.

A cameraman working for Channel 4 News, Mehran Bozorgnia, witnessed the sale of an eight-year-old boy, Qassem, to Sadiqa, a wealthy woman from Kabul, outside the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif.

As the meeting began, the boy’s father, Nek Mohammed, knew he only had a final few moments with his son. Sadiqa was business-like. “Kiss your father and mother goodbye now – it is time,” she said, before handing over $1,500 (£1,000). Mr Mohammed began to weep.

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Dec 23

The recession in the UK economy in the three months to September was worse than previously thought, official data out on Tuesday showed, underlining the speed of the downturn.

Gross domestic product shrank by 0.6 per cent between the second and third quarters of this year – the worst performance since the end of 1990 – the Office of National Statistics reported.

That compares with an earlier estimate that the UK economy had contracted by 0.5 per cent in the quarter, and is worse than the consensus view of economists who had expected GDP to remain unrevised.

The pound, which has moved closer to parity with the euro in the last week, came under renewed pressure following the release of the revised figures.

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Dec 23


Rick Wagoner, chief executive officer of General Motors Corp., speaks at a news conference at the company’s headquarters in Detroit, Dec. 19, 2008. Photographer: Jeff Kowalsky/Bloomberg News

Dec. 23 (Bloomberg) — General Motors Corp. Chief Executive Officer Rick Wagoner said the biggest U.S. automaker got “what we asked for” with $9.4 billion in U.S. loans over the next 24 days. Investors bet that it’s not enough.

Related: Stocks in U.S. Fall on Concern Loans Won’t Save Car Industry: GM Declines

GM dropped as much as 18 percent today in New York trading to extend yesterday’s 22 percent plunge, while credit-default swaps on GM bonds rose 0.5 percentage point in a sign of increasing concern that the Bush administration’s bailout may end in a default.

The stock-price slide erased the 23 percent gain on Dec. 19, when Detroit-based GM received a federal aid package to help the automaker stay in business until March 31 while it crafts a plan to shut plants, shed brands and reduce debt.

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Dec 23

Dec. 23 (Bloomberg) — Sales of single-family houses in the U.S. dropped in November by the most in two decades and resale prices collapsed at a pace reminiscent of the Great Depression, dashing speculation the market was close to a bottom.

Purchases of both new and existing houses dropped 7.6 percent, the biggest decline since January 1989, to an annual rate of 4.43 million, government and industry figures showed today. A 13 percent drop in the median resale price was the most since records began in 1968 and was likely the largest since the 1930s, the National Association of Realtors said.

“Housing is still in a freefall,” said Nariman Behravesh, chief economist at IHS Global Insight in Lexington, Massachusetts.

The figures were worse than economists had forecast and signal that the battered housing market that led the economy into a recession may be taking another lurch down. Sliding property values mean more Americans will be under water on their mortgages, destroying household wealth and undermining consumers’ purchasing power.

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Dec 23


Police officers keep watch inside New York’s Grand Central Terminal on the day before Thanksgiving.

WASHINGTON – What would happen if terrorists attacked the United States at the start of Barack Obama’s presidency?

The Bush administration doesn’t want to wait to find out. It’s planning to test the incoming government’s readiness next month in a series of tabletop exercises involving top Bush and Obama officials.

Concerned about the first handoff of presidential power since Sept. 11, 2001, the White House also is preparing briefing books and office manuals designed to bring the incoming Obama administration up to speed in a hurry.

“This is the first wartime transition in 40 years, and it’s probably the first transition in a couple of centuries in which our homeland itself has been under threat,” says White House chief of staff Joshua Bolten, who’s supervising the effort. The goal is to “make sure that those who are coming in are as well prepared as they can be to deal with an actual threat here in this country.”

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Dec 23

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) – California’s chief financial officer warned Monday that the state would run out of money in about two months as hopes of a Christmas budget compromise melted into political finger-pointing by the end of the day.

Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger began the day on a cheerful note, suggesting that negotiations with Democratic leaders could lead to a budget deal as early as this week to help close the $42 billion shortfall that is projected through June 2010.

“Yesterday we sat there for hours and we worked through it step by step and we made some great progress,” the governor said during a morning news conference in Los Angeles. “So we feel like if we do that two more times like that, I think we can get there … before Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.”

The thaw didn’t last long, as legislative leaders later in the day criticized Schwarzenegger and indicated their work was done until the start of the new year.

The governor faulted lawmakers for “failing to take real action” in addressing the state’s budget deficit but said he will continue working with them on a solution that includes spending cuts, new revenue and an economic stimulus plan.

Assembly Speaker Karen Bass responded by suggesting the governor should sign an $18 billion package Democrats sent to him last week containing both cuts and tax increases.

“The single biggest roadblock to having construction on the 405 (freeway) move forward is Arnold Schwarzenegger,” said Bass, a Los Angeles Democrat.

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Dec 23


Tensions between the two neighbours has been high since last month’s attacks in Mumbai [GALLO/GETTY]

Pakistan’s media has reported that the country’s military is on high alert over a possible attack by India.

The reported move on Monday came as New Delhi said it had handed over to Islamabad a letter from the only surviving attacker from last month’s rampage in Mumbai, which left more than 170 people dead.

The letter said that all 10 attackers were from Pakistan, India’s foreign ministry said.

Kamal Hyder, Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Pakistan, said Pakistan’s media had attributed its reports to military sources, who were confirming that the navy, air force and army were on red alert.

“The Pakistani air force have been seen visibly in a number of locations flying close to the Pakistani-India border in what is being described as an aggressive patrolling mode, following reports that India is planning pre-emptive strikes against locations in Pakistan,” Hyder reported.

Hyder said that the chiefs of Pakistan’s three armed forces were holding what had been described as an emergency meeting at general headquarters in Rawalpindi.

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Dec 23

Compare a modern soccer and baseball stadium to the Colosseum. Nothing has really changed. The entire society is built around ‘Panem et circenses’ (‘Bread and Circuses’ or ‘Bread and Games’)…and religion.

The crowning achievements to entertain and program you are TV, radio, newspapers, magazines, cellphone towers, cell phones, subliminals, frequencies etc.

If an expert puts electrodes at certain places to your head and measures your brain waves – modified EEG using the Fourier-Transformation – this facts can be proven.

Not even a Faraday cage is safe because they are also using scalar waves that cannot be shielded.

In order to keep you frozen like a rabbit in front of a snake the elite uses to this day ‘Divide et impera’ (‘Divide and Rule’ or ‘Divide and Conquer’).


Gladiators are set to make a return to the ancient Colosseum in Rome for the first time in 2,000 years.

But it’s just for mock fights, organisers emphasised.

Council officials say the proposed plan would not be a ‘carnival’ but a very serious affair.


Maximus come alive: Russel Crowe in ‘Gladiator’

Umberto Broccoli, Rome’s archaeology councillor and TV presenter, said: ‘We need to bring museums alive and speak to the public. We will recreate the atmosphere as it was then.’

Mr Broccoli added: ‘We need to recreate the sights, smells and sounds that were there at the time on the streets.

‘This is the only way to create an atmosphere in a museum that will not be forgotten in a hurry.’

Rome has several modern day gladiator schools were ‘students’ can train as a real life Russell Crowe and pretend to be his hero character Maximus.

Whether Russell Crowe himself could be tempted to make an appearance remains to be seen.


Ready for action again: The Colosseum in Italy will see gladiator fights for the first time in 2,000 years

Mr Broccoli added that the proposal would not be tacky – although it had not yet been established whether the mock fights would take place on a purpose-built stage in the centre of the arena or outside.

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Dec 23

The BND is just a subunit of the CIA.



Der Präsident des Bundesnachrichtendienstes (BND), Ernst Uhrlau

In the latest twist in a scandal involving the presence of the German intelligence service or Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND) in the Balkan nation of Kosovo, the head of the BND has ordered whistleblower website Wikileaks to remove all BND-related files under threat of “immediate prosecution.”

Wikileaks has responded with a press release noting that the demands have no legal force outside Germany, so the order “must be assumed to be an attempt to engage Wikileaks via its German component — or does Mr. Uhrlau suggest it is now BND policy to kidnap foreign journalists and try them before German courts?”

According to Wikileaks, “The threats, made by BND President Ernst Uhrlau, were triggered by the Wikileaks publication of an article by Tom Burghardt, a US journalist, on the BND’s bungled Kosovo operation, together with a classified BND dossier on senior Kosovo figures from 2005 — both of which were specifically named by Mr. Uhrlau.”

The Kosovo scandal began on November 19, when three Germans were arrested in Kosovo’s capital of Pristina on suspicion of throwing explosives at the European Union office. The men, who said they were not behind the incident but were merely observing the crime scene, were identied by the German paper Spiegel as BND agents.

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Dec 22

Cabinet minister issues stark warning of carnage for private and public sectors as employers delay huge redundancies until the new year.

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Britain faces an unemployment “bloodbath” in the new year with many tens of thousands of jobs axed in the public and private sectors, according to a cabinet minister. Senior government figures are braced for a dramatic lengthening in dole queues in the first quarter of 2009, as employers delay announcing redundancies until after Christmas.

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Dec 22

UK house prices will not recover their 2007 peak for at least a decade, Legal & General Investment Management (LGIM) has warned.

In what ranks as the gloomiest forecast for the UK property market to date, LGIM economist Tim Drayson has predicted that house prices will “fall another 10pc-15pc next year followed by four to five years of stagnation as incomes catch up with house prices”.

“It will be at least 10 years before we see prices return to their 2007 peak levels,” he said. LGIM, part of the insurance giant Legal & General, has been remarkably accurate with other economic predictions in the past year.

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Dec 22

Japan has suffered its sharpest fall in exports on record as even previously robust markets hunker down against the shockwaves of the global financial crisis.

Related articles:
Plunge in Exports Reverberates Across Asia
Toyota Expects Its First Loss in 70 Years

The slump in demand for the output of the powerful – and economically pivotal – Japanese export sector comes amid gloomy prognostications about the prospects for the world’s second largest economy.

Japan’s cabinet office yesterday cut its forecast for the third month in a row, declaring that the recession-mired economy was “worsening” in the face of the trade slowdown, falling corporate profits, rising unemployment and weak private consumption. “The economy is likely to continue worsening for the time being,” the office said.

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Dec 22

Mass wedding in Riyadh
Grooms take part in a mass wedding ceremony in Riyadh in June. Governor of Riyadh Prince Salman and a local group organized a mass wedding for about 1600 couples to help people unable to afford expensive ceremonies

A Saudi court has rejected a plea to divorce an eight-year-old girl married off by her father to a man who is 58, saying the case should wait until the girl reaches puberty.

The divorce plea was filed in August by the girl’s divorced mother with a court at Unayzah, 135 miles north of Riyadh just after the marriage contract was signed by the father and the groom.

Lawyer Abdullar Jtili said:”The judge has dismissed the plea, filed by the mother, because she does not have the right to file such a case, and ordered that the plea should be filed by the girl herself when she reaches puberty.”

“She doesn’t know yet that she has been married,” Jtili said then of the girl who was about to begin her fourth year at primary school.

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Dec 22

Where’d the bailout money go? $350 billion later, banks won’t say how they’re spending it.


Elizabeth Warren, who chairs an oversight committee set up by Congress to oversee the bailout, is interviewed by the Associated Press in Washington, Thursday, Dec. 18, 2008. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

WASHINGTON (AP) — It’s something any bank would demand to know before handing out a loan: Where’s the money going?

But after receiving billions in aid from U.S. taxpayers, the nation’s largest banks say they can’t track exactly how they’re spending the money or they simply refuse to discuss it.

“We’ve lent some of it. We’ve not lent some of it. We’ve not given any accounting of, ‘Here’s how we’re doing it,'” said Thomas Kelly, a spokesman for JPMorgan Chase, which received $25 billion in emergency bailout money. “We have not disclosed that to the public. We’re declining to.”

The Associated Press contacted 21 banks that received at least $1 billion in government money and asked four questions: How much has been spent? What was it spent on? How much is being held in savings, and what’s the plan for the rest?

None of the banks provided specific answers.

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Dec 22

The Japanese prime minister awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1974 for his opposition to atomic weapons secretly pleaded with Washington to use nuclear missiles against China in the event of a conflict breaking out in the region, it has emerged.

Documents declassified by the government in Japan have disclosed that Prime Minister Eisaku Sato asked the US to retaliate immediately with nuclear weapons in the event of war. Mr Sato made the plea during talks with then US Secretary of Defence Robert McNamara in Washington in January 1965.

China had conducted a successful atomic weapons test three months previously and there was concern in Tokyo that a relatively minor incident in the region might lead to a full-scale military exchange between two nations that still harboured hostility dating back to World War II.

Mr Sato was prime minister from 1964 to 1972, making him Japan’s longest-serving leader, and is best remembered for his opposition to nuclear weapons in a country that still bore the scars of the atomic attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

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Dec 22

Barack Obama’s chief of staff pushed the Governor of Illinois to appoint one of the President-elect’s closest friends to his vacant Senate seat, it has emerged.

Rahm Emanuel had conversations about the Senate seat with Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich
Rahm Emanuel had conversations about the Senate seat with Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich Photo: AP

The leaked details of an internal transition team review of contacts with Gov Rod Blagojevich, who is accused of – but denies – trying to “sell” the seat, will open Mr Obama up to accusations of hypocrisy and cronyism because he had indicated he would not intervene in filling the vacancy.

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Dec 22

Almost six in 10 soldiers drink so much they could be considered alcoholics, according to a Ministry of Defence report.

The document analysing the drinking and drug-taking habits of Army recruits found that 58 per cent were “considered possibly dependent on alcohol” and drinking at levels considered a health hazard.

Soldiers blame the drinking culture on the Army, which they say encourages regular binges and drinking to excess.

The report found that more than six in 10 soldiers had six or more drinks in any one session, with one in five admitting they were unable to stop drinking once they started.

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Dec 22

Another $700bn that have to be financed and paid back.  So in a way that package is only a promise of a tax increase in the future. Obama is really giving you a ‘credit’ that you and/or your children have to pay back in the future.

Jim Rogers: If Obamanomics happens it’s all over


  • $700bn rescue package to avert mass job losses
  • Green power grid among proposed programmes

Barack Obama’s administration in waiting signalled yesterday that it was preparing the biggest economic stimulus in US history to avert mass unemployment in a stuttering economy that could face the toughest recession in half a century.

In a programme tinged with environmentally friendly initiatives, the US president-elect has set a new target of creating or safeguarding 3m jobs, up from a previous aim of 2.5m, by unleashing an avalanche of government spending and offering widespread tax rebates.

The Obama camp indicated that the package would be worth between $675bn and $775bn, easily eclipsing other packages unveiled in China, Japan and Britain. The cash will include programmes to transmit wind and solar energy across America and to put millions of medical records into digital format.

Obama’s vice-president elect, Joe Biden, yesterday said the stimulus was the “single most important thing” facing the new administration and warned that action was needed to prevent the economy from “absolutely tanking”.

“The economy is in much worse shape than we thought it was in,” Biden told ABC television. “We’ve got to begin to stem this bleeding, stop the loss of jobs and create new jobs.”

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Dec 22

  • Study marks 20 years since Mendes murder
  • Environmentalists divided over activist’s legacy

Twenty years after the killing of Chico Mendes, one of the world’s most prominent rainforest defenders, hundreds of human rights and environmental activists still face the threat of assassination in Brazil, a new study claims.

The report, compiled by Brazil’s Catholic Land Commission (CPT) and due to be released in full early next year, reveals that at least 260 people, among them a Catholic bishop, live under the threat of murder because of their fight against a coalition of loggers, farmers and cattle ranchers.

The list names Frei Henri des Rosiers, a French priest based in the Amazon town of Xinguara, as a particular target. Police are investigating claims he has a £14,000 price on his head because of his fight against slave labour. Also named are Maria José Dias da Costa, a union leader in the remote town of Rondon do Pará, and an Austrian bishop, Dom Erwin Krautler, who has been under 24-hour police guard for two years because of his battle against developers and child prostitution in his Amazonian diocese.

In February this year, Francisco da Silva, a 51-year-old leader of the landless movement in the Amazon, was killed with a single shot to the head. He had been named in a previous CPT report about rural leaders receiving death threats.

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Dec 22

Investors in bank debt are threatening to boycott lenders that follow Deutsche Bank in breaking an unwritten rule and failing to exercise a call option on subordinated debt.

In a co-ordinated action, angry bond investors are writing to bank treasurers and investor relations heads telling them that any failure to exercise a call option will be considered a breach of trust that could cause all the issuer’s debt to be shunned.

Related article: Others may follow Deutsche on bond calls-Moody’s

Deutsche stunned the debt market last week by choosing not to redeem €1bn (£932m) of subordinated lower tier 2 bonds because to do so was cheaper than refinancing. But though the move saved Germany’s biggest bank up to €150m, it caused fury among buyers of the debt who worked on the assumption that bonds would always be redeemed at their first call date.

The letter, seen by The Independent, said a bank’s decision not to call debt would be taken to mean “the institution is in such difficulty that it is an impossibility to call the instrument or the institution feels that it is in such a strong position that it can afford to alienate itself from the support of a wide portion of the fixed-income institutional investor community”.

Bank of China, a major buyer of bank debt, has gone further in its communication with issuers. The giant Chinese lender’s Hong Kong operation has told banks that “any non-call by a given institution will result in that institution’s debt (not just lower tier 2 but senior and tier 1 as well) being ineligible for future investment consideration”.

Bank of China added that Deutsche Bank had also been removed from consideration as a counterparty for any credit derivative transaction in future.

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Dec 22

Remember?!
Fortis Bank Predicts US Financial Market Meltdown Within Weeks
(28 Jun 08)


Source: Bye bye dollar, bye bye Treasuries…

Deflation? “Sure!” Just wait and see.
The Neo-Alchemy of the Federal Reserve by Ron Paul
Interview: Peter Schiff still grim on future
Interview with Peter Schiff (12/13/08)

This is ‘the worst financial crisis‘ because every institution is doing its best to make it worse.



Bank of Spain governor Miguel Fernandez Ordonez

MADRID (AFP) – The governor of the Bank of Spain on Sunday issued a bleak assessment of the economic crisis, warning that the world faced a “total” financial meltdown unseen since the Great Depression.

“The lack of confidence is total,” Miguel Angel Fernandez Ordonez said in an interview with Spain’s El Pais daily.

“The inter-bank (lending) market is not functioning and this is generating vicious cycles: consumers are not consuming, businessmen are not taking on workers, investors are not investing and the banks are not lending.

“There is an almost total paralysis from which no-one is escaping,” he said, adding that any recovery — pencilled in by optimists for the end of 2009 and the start of 2010 — could be delayed if confidence is not restored.

Ordonez recognised that falling oil prices and lower taxes could kick-start a faster-than-anticipated recovery, but warned that a deepening cycle of falling consumer demand, rising unemployment and an ongoing lending squeeze could not be ruled out.

“This is the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression” of 1929, he added.

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Dec 22

(NaturalNews) Rising food, fertilizer and fuel costs have led to a boom in Japan’s food recycling industry, with formerly reluctant farmers turning to recycled animal feed in droves.

Japan imports approximately 75 percent of all its animal feed, including more corn for that function than any other country. But high prices of fuel, corn and soy meal have pushed the costs of traditional feed so high that recycled feed can now be purchased for half the price. At the same time, government legislation has encouraged the development of a recycling industry and has started imposing recycling requirements on companies that throw out more than 100 metric tons of food per year.

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Dec 21


Admiral Mike Mullen — the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff

KABUL (AFP) – The United States plans to send between 20,000 and 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan by next summer, the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, said here Saturday.

General David McKiernan, the US commander in Afghanistan, has asked for more than 20,000 extra US soldiers to counter a rise in insurgent violence, seven years after US forces first invaded the country to oust the Taliban from power.

But the potential deployment of 30,000 extra troops discussed by Mullen — the highest-ranking US military officer — would nearly double the US military presence in Afghanistan, which currently stands at 31,000.

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Dec 21

With such people in top positions around the world … prepare for the worst.
Thanks to their debt and inflation creating policies they have assured that “The whole society is going to suffer.” (IMF boss Dominique Strauss-Kahn).
They are creating the worst depression ever.



‘The whole society is going to suffer,’ warns IMF boss Dominique Strauss-Kahn

Billions more will have to be pumped into the economy to avoid it spiralling into an even ‘darker’ recession, the head of the International Monetary Fund has warned.

Britain and other leading economies will need to double their economic bailout packages during 2009, which is shaping up to be a ‘really bad year’, according to Dominique Strauss-Kahn.

‘I’m specially concerned by the fact that our forecast, already very dark . . . will be even darker if not enough fiscal stimulus is implemented,’ Mr Strauss-Kahn told BBC Radio 4.

The IMF, which oversees the world’s economic system, is urging governments around the world to splurge a staggering £80trillion in a co-ordinated war against recession.

That would represent around 2 per cent of global annual economic output.

But Chancellor Alistair Darling’s stimulus package accounts for just 1 per cent of Britain’s national income.

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Dec 21

Banks that are getting taxpayer bailouts awarded their top executives nearly $1.6 billion in salaries, bonuses, and other benefits last year, an Associated Press analysis reveals.

The rewards came even at banks where poor results last year foretold the economic crisis that sent them to Washington for a government rescue. Some trimmed their executive compensation due to lagging bank performance, but still forked over multimillion-dollar executive pay packages.

Benefits included cash bonuses, stock options, personal use of company jets and chauffeurs, home security, country club memberships and professional money management, the AP review of federal securities documents found.

The total amount given to nearly 600 executives would cover bailout costs for many of the 116 banks that have so far accepted tax dollars to boost their bottom lines.

Rep. Barney Frank, chairman of the House Financial Services committee and a long-standing critic of executive largesse, said the bonuses tallied by the AP review amount to a bribe “to get them to do the jobs for which they are well paid in the first place.

“Most of us sign on to do jobs and we do them best we can,” said Frank, a Massachusetts Democrat. “We’re told that some of the most highly paid people in executive positions are different. They need extra money to be motivated!”

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Dec 21

The government has been accused of trampling on individual liberties by proposing wide-ranging new powers for bailiffs to break into homes and to use “reasonable force” against householders who try to protect their valuables.

Under the regulations, bailiffs for private firms would for the first time be given permission to restrain or pin down householders. They would also be able to force their way into homes to seize property to pay off debts, such as unpaid credit card bills and loans.

The government, which wants to crack down on people who evade debts, says the new powers would be overseen by a robust industry watchdog. However, the laws are being criticised as the latest erosion of the rights of the householder in his own home.

“These laws strip away tried and tested protections that make a person’s home his castle, and which have stood for centuries,” said Paul Nicolson, chairman of the Zacchaeus 2000 Trust, a London-based welfare charity. “They could clearly lead to violent confrontations and undermine fundamental liberties.”

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Dec 21

THE Irish government is in talks to bail out its three biggest banks, in a move that would see it take a stake of up to 80% in Anglo Irish Bank, which was last week rocked by a scandal over secret loans to its former chairman.

A total of up to €7 billion (£6.5 billion) will be injected into the three biggest banks, most of it through the government buying new preference shares in the institutions.

Bank of Ireland and Allied Irish Bank, the country’s two largest banks, will get €2 billion each from the government, with shareholders able to invest another €1 billion in each. Anglo will receive €1 billion from the state.

Shareholders in Anglo have already been hard hit. The bank’s shares have lost 98% of their value in the past year, falling sharply last week with revelations that the chairman, Sean Fitzpatrick, had failed to disclose €87m of loans he had received from the bank.

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Dec 21

The Fed is destroying the dollar and the economy. This mess will be far worse than the Great Depression.

The Neo-Alchemy of the Federal Reserve by Ron Paul
Ron Paul: “We are in the midst of nationalization”

Jim Rogers: If Obamanomics happens it’s all over
Jim Rogers: “America is out of control”
Jim Rogers: The Larger US Banks Are Bankrupt, Totally Bankrupt
Interview with Peter Schiff (12/13/08)
Interview: Peter Schiff still grim on future
Peter Schiff Was Right 2006 – 2007 (2nd Edition)
Peter Schiff: Low Rates, Big Problems
Peter Schiff: The Economic Crisis Is Only Just Beginning (Nov. 24, 2008)
Federal Reserve Refuses to Disclose Recipients of $2 Trillion


Hedge funds will be allowed to borrow from the Federal Reserve for the first time under a landmark $200bn programme intended to support consumer credit.

The Fed said on Friday it would offer low-cost three-year funding to any US company investing in securitised consumer loans under the Term Asset-backed Securities Loan Facility (TALF).

This includes hedge funds, which have never been able to borrow from the US central bank before, although the Fed may not permit hedge funds to use offshore vehicles to conduct the transactions.

The asset-backed securities to be funded under the programme are pools of credit card receivables, automobile loans and student loans.

The idea is to increase the supply of these loans and reduce borrowing rates by ensuring that the companies that make the loans can sell them on to investors who have guaranteed access to low-cost funding from the Fed.

The TALF is a key plank of the unorthodox strategy set out by the Fed last week as it cut interest rates virtually to zero. Washington insiders expect the programme will be dramatically expanded next year with further capital support from Treasury once the Obama administration takes office.

A senior official in the outgoing Bush administration told the Financial Times it could also be broadened to include new commercial and residential mortgage-backed securities.

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Dec 21

(12-20) 22:32 PST SAN FRANCISCO — A band of demonstrators, many wearing black masks, stormed a bustling San Francisco mall Saturday evening, upending garbage cans and foliage and damaging crystal merchandise at one kiosk.

An estimated 50 to 75 people were involved in the disruption at Westfield San Francisco Centre, police said.

“It felt like random, vague anarchy,” said Sam Cantrell, who sells sunglasses at a kiosk near the escalators on the street level where the protesters gathered.

“Everyone’s yelling,” he said. “Some people started running up the escalator the wrong way. People were grabbing their babies and running away in fear.”

The disruption began around 6:30 p.m. as holiday shoppers crowded the mall on the last Saturday before Christmas.

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Dec 21

On their History Rewrite Tour, Bush and Cheney insist the pre-war intelligence about Iraq’s WMD’s was bad and they were innocent dupes.

Of course we all know the truth from the Downing Street Memos and dozens of other sources, which is that “the intelligence and facts were fixed” around the policy of invasion. And here’s one more damning piece of evidence, courtesy of Roads to Iraq. (The Aljazeera link is in Arabic – someone needs to translate it.)

In an interview with Aljazeera today, former Chief of the UN weapons inspectors in Iraq told the TV that he and the Head of the IAEA “Mohamed Al-Baradei” were subjected to direct threats from Dick Cheney before the war.

Blix said that Cheney threatened to defame both men’s reputations if they didn’t came with the “required” answers.

It’s the same story from everyone else – Bush and Cheney demanded pro-war lies under one threat or another – being defamed, getting fired, and even outing covert CIA operatives. The Bush Administration was nothing more than a mafia operation.

But here’s the good part:

Blix also added that he is ready to be a witness on the United States’ false allegations before an International tribunal.

You go, Hans!

Submitted by Bob Fertik on December 21, 2008

Source: Democrats.com

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Dec 21

UN fears irreversible damage is being done in Gaza as new statistics reveal the level of deprivation

Impoverished Palestinians on the Gaza Strip are being forced to scavenge for food on rubbish dumps to survive as Israel’s economic blockade risks causing irreversible damage, according to international observers.

Figures released last week by the UN Relief and Works Agency reveal that the economic blockade imposed by Israel on Gaza in July last year has had a devastating impact on the local population. Large numbers of Palestinians are unable to afford the high prices of food being smuggled through the Hamas-controlled tunnels to the Strip from Egypt and last week were confronted with the suspension of UN food and cash distribution as a result of the siege.

The figures collected by the UN agency show that 51.8% – an “unprecedentedly high” number of Gaza’s 1.5 million population – are now living below the poverty line. The agency announced last week that it had been forced to stop distributing food rations to the 750,000 people in need and had also suspended cash distributions to 94,000 of the most disadvantaged who were unable to afford the high prices being asked for smuggled food.

“Things have been getting worse and worse,” said Chris Gunness of the agency yesterday. “It is the first time we have been seeing people picking through the rubbish like this looking for things to eat. Things are particularly bad in Gaza City where the population is most dense.

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Dec 21


December 21, 2008

Source: YouTube

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Dec 20


Originally published on Sunday, December 21, 2008

Source: Seattle Post-Intellibencer

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Dec 20

Riot police clash with demonstrators during riots outside the Athens Polytechnic December 20, 2008. Greek demonstrators threw petrol bombs at finance ministry offices and torched two cars in central Athens on Saturday as anti-government protests entered a third week since police shot dead a teenager.Reuters
Riot police clash with demonstrators during riots outside the Athens Polytechnic December 20, 2008. Greek demonstrators threw petrol bombs at finance ministry offices and torched two cars in central …

ATHENS, Dec 20 (Reuters) – Hundreds of Greek youths fought running battles with police in Athens late on Saturday as anti-government protests entered a third week since police shot dead a teenager.

Students threw stones and petrol bombs at riot police outside university buildings late into the night after a vigil to mark the Dec. 6 killing of 15-year-old Alexandros Grigoropoulos turned violent.

Police blocked surrounding roads and fired teargas at the youths, who sheltered in the university campus which police are banned from entering. A group of anxious mothers waited outside to escort their children from the building.

“There are more than 600 students and they’re running in and out of the university, throwing rocks and Molotov cocktails,” said a police official, who asked not to be named. No injuries were reported.

Across the country, hundreds of schools and several university campuses remain occupied by students. In the northern city of Thessaloniki, demonstrators briefly occupied a radio station and a cinema.

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