Obama to Seek New Assault Weapons Ban

Yes, we can … take away your guns!


Previous Ban Expired in 2004 During the Bush Administration


Wednesday Attorney General Eric Holder said that the Obama administration will seek to reinstitute the assault weapons ban which expired in 2004 during the Bush administration. (AP Photos/ABC News Graphic )

The Obama administration will seek to reinstate the assault weapons ban that expired in 2004 during the Bush administration, Attorney General Eric Holder said today.

“As President Obama indicated during the campaign, there are just a few gun-related changes that we would like to make, and among them would be to reinstitute the ban on the sale of assault weapons,” Holder told reporters.

CNN – Obama administration attacks the SECOND AMENDMENT:

Source: YouTube (Just take a look at Obama’s voting record. You will find a lot more information on YouTube and all over the internet.)

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California’s Newly Poor Push Social Services to Brink


The worst financial crisis in seven decades is forcing thousands of previously middle-income workers to seek social services, overwhelming local agencies, clinics and nonprofits. Photographer: Tony Avelar/Bloomberg News

Feb. 26 (Bloomberg) — In California’s Contra Costa County, 40,000 families are applying for just 350 affordable-housing vouchers. Church-operated pantries are running out of food. Crisis calls have more than doubled in the city of Antioch, where the Family Stress Center occupies the site of a former bank.

The worst financial crisis in seven decades is forcing thousands of previously middle-income workers to seek social services, overwhelming local agencies, clinics and nonprofits. Each month 16,000 people, including many who were making $60,000 to $100,000 annually just a few years ago, fill four county offices requesting financial, medical or food assistance.

“Unless we do things differently, not only will we continue to be on life support, but the power to the machine is going to die,” said county Supervisor Federal Glover, who represents Antioch and the cities of Pittsburg and Oakley about 50 miles (80 kilometers) east of San Francisco.

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Gold coin shortage as demand soars

The rush by retail investors into bullion coins is creating shortages as mints across the world struggle to meet the surge in demand, dealers and mint officials say.

The scarcity is lifting coin premiums to as much as 5 per cent above the spot gold price, a level reached briefly after the collapse of Lehman Brothers last September, when coin shortages also surfaced.

Spot gold in London on Wednesday traded at $972 an ounce, below last week’s peak of $1,004.5.

“There is demand for double or triple what the US mint is able to produce,” said Michael Kramer, president of MTB in New York, one of the four US gold dealers authorised to purchase bullion coins directly from the government’s mint.

The US Mint has sold 193,500 ounces of its popular American Eagle gold coin in the first seven weeks of this year, the same amount it shipped during the whole of 2007 and about the same as in the first six months of last year.

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Hungary on edge of bankruptcy

Hungary is teetering on the edge of bankruptcy with its citizens struggling to pay off mortages and personal loans taken out in foreign currency during one of the post-Communist era’s most exhuberant booms.


Hungary’s prime minister Ferenc Gyurcsany Photo: BLOOMBERG

The birthplace of the Rubik’s Cube has provided its government with a multi-sided financial crisis that defies any ingenious solution.

The forint currency has plummeted and unemployment has ballooned, creating a voracious debt trap that is sucking down banks backed by Western taxpayers, particularly those of Switzerland and Austria.

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Global News (02/26/09)

Report: Army tanks roll toward Bangladeshi capital (AP):
DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) — Bangladeshi tanks rolled into the capital Thursday, according to local media reports, hours after the prime minister warned mutinous border guards she would “do whatever is needed to end the violence.”

Bangladesh mutiny spreads, 50 feared dead (AFP):
DHAKA (AFP) — A mutiny by thousands of members of Bangladesh’s paramilitary border security force spread to areas outside the capital Dhaka Thursday, as officials reported nearly 50 army officers were feared killed.

FDA ignored debris in syringes (News & Observer):
Complaints of filth came in 2005; plant’s microbiologist was a teenage dropout

Israel blocks pasta shipment to Gaza, and tensions boil (McClatchy):
JERUSALEM — For more than seven weeks, the international aid group Mercy Corps has been trying to send 90 tons of macaroni to the isolated Gaza Strip as part of a global campaign to help the 1.4 million Palestinians there rebuild their lives after Israel’s recent devastating 22-day military operation.

Obama forecasts $1,750bn deficit (Financial Times):
President Barack Obama on Thursday unveiled the most expansive blueprint for federal government involvement in the US economy in more than a generation in a ten-year budget outline that showed this year’s deficit quadrupling to $1,750bn. (Yes, we can … burst the bond bubble, devaluate the dollar and default on our debt. Yes we can!)

Obama Seeks $1 Trillion Tax Increase in Budget Plan (Bloomberg):
Feb. 26 (Bloomberg) — President Barack Obama proposed almost $1 trillion in higher taxes over the next decade on the highest-earning Americans, Wall Street financiers, U.S.-based multinational corporations and oil companies. (There will be no ‘new decade’ for the U.S.)

Fannie to Draw $15.2 Billion From Treasury After Loss (Bloomberg):
Feb. 26 (Bloomberg) — Fannie Mae, the mortgage-finance company seized by regulators in September, asked the U.S. Treasury for $15.2 billion in capital and raised the possibility of requesting more aid after a sixth consecutive quarterly loss drove its net worth below zero. (Giant black holes for taxpayers’ money everywhere.)

US fund managers charged with fraud over multi-million dollar scams (Telegraph):
In the latest in a string of huge corporate fraud cases, James Nicholson, a New Jersey fund manager, was accused of cheating investors out of as much as $900 million since 2004. Prosecutors described it as “an egregious fraud of immense proportions”.

2 Money Managers Held in New Wall St. Fraud Case (New York Times):

For two decades, Paul Greenwood and Stephen Walsh looked like Wall Street wizards. Their supposed investment prowess lured hundreds of millions of dollars from public pension funds and universities and earned the two lavish trappings of success: stately homes, a stake in the New York Islanders and, for Mr. Greenwood, a horse farm that once belonged to Paul Newman.

Japan to intervene as Nikkei hits 20-year lows (Telegraph):
Japan’s government is looking at stock buying and other methods to support the share market, Finance Minister Kaoru Yosano said on Tuesday, as fears grow about the economic impact of a slide in stocks to two-decade lows.

Insurer RSA to axe 1200 jobs (AFP)

40000 jobs threatened as recession hits town halls (Times Online)

The light dims at General Electric (Independent):
Once the world’s largest company, GE’s disastrous exposure to the banking crisis is now a major threat to its future.

UK taxman takes 45pc of companies’ profits (Independent):
A report from the Hundred Group, the body that represents the finance directors of the UK’s top 120 to 150 companies, showed that their tax contributions rose from 34pc to 45pc of profits last year.

Mervyn King: ‘Impossible to say’ how much capital needed to shore up banking system (Telegraph):
Mr King said it would take “many months” to establish the scale of toxic assets held by banks, and the scale of problems would change depending on the international economic outlook.

US may break up AIG to keep it afloat: report (Reuters)

Health spending takes rising share of US economy (Reuters):
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Health spending will hit $2.5 trillion this year, devouring 17.6 percent of the economy, as the White House and Congress consider major changes to the healthcare system, U.S. government economists said on Tuesday. (The U.S. is about to collapse.)

Depression in the east points the way for the rest of the world (Guardian):
Anybody who doubts that the global economy is facing its most serious downturn since the 1930s should take a squint at the latest trade figures from Japan. Exports in January were 46% lower in January than they were a year ago – a phenomenal drop for a country that is so heavily dependent on sales of its industrial products overseas.

Pakistan faces new political crisis as Nawaz Sharif banned from office (Telegraph):
Pakistan has been plunged back into political crisis after its Supreme Court banned its former prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, from holding political office.

Iran says there will be no slowdown in its nuclear plan and urges US to ‘face reality’ (Guardian):
Uranium enriched to a low level is used as fuel in a reactor; further enrichment makes it suitable for nuclear weapons.
(Iran’s uranium is enriched at 3%, nuclear weapon grade uranium has to be enriched at 96%. This is almost never mentioned in the mass media and we should all ask ourselves why this is so.)

Meningitis vaccine for babies recalled over contamination fears (Times Online):
Novartis, which manufactures the vaccine in Italy, said it had discovered traces of Staphylococcus Aureus in the aluminium hydroxide solvent in which the vaccine is suspended (Vaccines contain a lot of “healthy” incredients: Aluminum , mercury, foreign proteins etc. that are destroying the brain when it is the most vulnerable. Babies do not have the blood-brain barrier yet, which would at least protect the brain to some extent. Besides using a mobile phone opens the blood-brain barrier even in adults.)

Japan’s boffins: Global warming isn’t man-made

Climate science is ‘ancient astrology’, claims report

Japanese scientists have made a dramatic break with the UN and Western-backed hypothesis of climate change in a new report from its Energy Commission.

Three of the five researchers disagree with the UN’s IPCC view that recent warming is primarily the consequence of man-made industrial emissions of greenhouse gases. Remarkably, the subtle and nuanced language typical in such reports has been set aside.

One of the five contributors compares computer climate modelling to ancient astrology. Others castigate the paucity of the US ground temperature data set used to support the hypothesis, and declare that the unambiguous warming trend from the mid-part of the 20th Century has ceased.

The report by Japan Society of Energy and Resources (JSER) is astonishing rebuke to international pressure, and a vote of confidence in Japan’s native marine and astronomical research. Publicly-funded science in the West uniformly backs the hypothesis that industrial influence is primarily responsible for climate change, although fissures have appeared recently. Only one of the five top Japanese scientists commissioned here concurs with the man-made global warming hypothesis.

JSER is the academic society representing scientists from the energy and resource fields, and acts as a government advisory panel. The report appeared last month but has received curiously little attention. So The Register commissioned a translation of the document – the first to appear in the West in any form. Below you’ll find some of the key findings – but first, a summary.

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Russia sees no concern over nuclear Iran

Still very important to see: Ron Paul on Iran and Energy June 26, 2008
(”Our own CIA says, that the Iranians have not been working on a nuclear weapon since 2003.”)


Russian Atomic Agency Chief Sergei Kiriyenko (centre right) and Iranian Vice President Gholamreza Aqazadeh (center left)

There is no room for Western concern over Russia’s nuclear cooperation with Iran, says the head of the Rosatom State Atomic Corporation.

Sergei Kiriyenko, in a joint Wednesday press conference with head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization (AEO) Gholam-Reza Aqazadeh in Bushehr, addressed Western opposition to Moscow’s nuclear cooperation with Tehran.

“Cooperation between Iran and Russia is based on international norms and conventions and it should be said that nothing is being done outside the non-proliferation framework,” explained the Russian nuclear official in response to a question by Press TV’s correspondent Gisoo Misha Ahmadi.

Related article:
Barak Says Israel will ‘Stop at Nothing’ to Deny Iran Nukes (Arutz Sheva)

Kiriyenko added that those who seek to make excuses to hinder the Iranian nuclear program should “lose all hope as they witness the level of progress at the Bushehr power plant.”

“Russia’s cooperation with Iran in building the Bushehr power plant is not subject to any political games,” he stressed.

The remarks came after Iran’s Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki, in an interview with RIA Novosti, suggested the West had launched a misinformation campaign against the Iranian nuclear program to force an end to Russia’s nuclear presence in Iran for competitive reasons.

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German CDS debt spreads hit record as economy crumbles

The cost of bankruptcy protection on German debt has reached an all-time high on spill-over from the financial crisis in Eastern Europe and mounting concerns about the stability of Germany’s banking system.


The state governments of Hamburg and Schleswig-Holstein agreed on 3bn (£2.7bn) cash rescue for Landesbank HSH Nordbank. Photo: Reuters

Credit default swaps measuring risk on five-year sovereign debt touched 90 basis points on Tuesday and looks poised to rise above French debt for the first time.

The spike follows a warning by Deutsche Bank that Germany’s economy will contract by 5pc this year as industrial exports collapse at the fastest pace since the Great Depression.

Norbert Walter, the bank’s chief economist, said there was a risk of an even deeper slump if the economy fails to stabilize by the summer. “A bigger contraction can’t be ruled out,” he said.

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Banks face new wave of losses on CDS contracts, analysts warn

Banks in Europe and the US face a new wave of losses linked to contracts issued to insure against companies going bust and defaulting on their loans, City analysts have warned.

After the billions lost over the US subprime market and leveraged loans, investment banks such as Morgan Stanley, Deutsche Bank, Barclays, UBS and RBS face losses on credit default swaps (CDS) – contracts that allow an investor to be repaid if a company loan or a bond defaults.

CDS contracts became a favourite tool of speculators, mostly hedge funds, which bought the contracts without having any link to the original lending. They bought the contract to trade or in the expectation the company would in fact default, meaning they could claim back the full value of a loan they never made.

The CDS market exploded to be worth as much as $50 TRILLION, many times the size of the underlying assets. Each loan could have thousands of protection contracts, even if there were only a few lenders. Hedge funds accounted for about 60% of CDS trading, according to ratings agency Fitch.

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Japanese carmakers slash production by up to 50%

Japan’s big three carmakers today reported a dramatic fall in production as the auto industry counts the cost of plummeting global demand.

Toyota, the world’s biggest carmaker, said global production dropped 39.1% in January from a year earlier to 487,984 vehicles. Honda reported a fall of 33.5% worldwide to 226,551 vehicles and Nissan 54% to 145,286.

The global economic crisis has ravaged demand in major markets, forcing Japan’s carmakers to slash production and lay off thousands of workers.

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The Credit Card Debt Crisis: The Next Economic Domino

Don’t forget another crisis, that will be much bigger than the subprime mortgage crisis:
Mass Retail Closings: About 220,000 stores may close this year
Interview with Gerald Celente: 2009 – The Worst Economic Collapse Ever (02/10/09)
Retailers may close 73,000 stores; Wave of store closings, bankruptcies and takeovers


Hot on the heels of the banking crisis, the employment crisis, and the mortgage/foreclosure crisis, the country is on the verge of experiencing a credit card crisis.

According to the Federal Reserve, the total outstanding credit card debt carried by Americans reached a record $951 billion in 2008 — a number that will only climb higher as more and more people reach for the plastic to make ends meet. What’s more, roughly a third of that is debt held by risky borrowers with low credit ratings.

Related article:
American Express paying card holders to close their accounts
(Reuters)

Credit card defaults are on the rise and are expected to hit 10 percent this year. This will obviously drive many banks closer to failing their stress tests — but it will have an even greater impact on the lives of people who find themselves sinking deeper and deeper into debt.

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Savers withdraw record amount from banks

Savers withdraw record amount from banks … and the reason is bla, bla, bla …

People live off of their savings, they know that the banking system might fail and so they buy gold, foreign currencies and have some cash at hand in case of a bank-holiday.
Some are even leaving the country.

Jim Rogers: Now it’s time to emigrate, says investment guru (Independent)


The British Bankers’ Association said that customers withdrew £2.3bn in January, the biggest drop since records began.

The BBA said personal deposits fell by £2.3bn as spending drained cash and savers sought alternative ways of getting a return on their cash. The previous high for falling deposits was £1.5bn in 1997.

David Dooks, BBA statistics director, said: “It is the biggest monthly fall in a decade. A fall in deposits in January reflects a tendency to draw on cash to pay off credit cards after Christmas, or to move into alternative financial products paying a higher return.”

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Global News (02/25/09)


Bailout Bank Blows Millions Partying in L.A. (TMZ):
Northern Trust, a Chicago-based bank, sponsored the Northern Trust Open at the Riviera Country Club in L.A. We’re told Northern Trust paid millions to sponsor the PGA event which ended Sunday, but what happened off the golf course is even more shocking. (!)

Troops’ revolt rocks Bangladesh capital (Guardian):
Soldiers in the Bangladesh capital, Dhaka, have revolted against senior officers apparently over rations and pay, with television reports claiming the troops killed a major general.

FBI raids University of Florida nuclear power institute (Orlando Sentinel):
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Federal investigators are alleging that a University of Florida professor and three other members of his family fraudulently received millions of dollars from NASA and then allegedly funneled money to their personal bank accounts, court documents show.

Big Brother spy planes that track the Taliban may soon hover over your home (Daily Mail):
Britain already has more CCTV cameras than the rest of Europe put together.

Anti-terror fight ‘will need privacy sacrifice’ (Independent):
Citizens will have to sacrifice their right to privacy in the fight against terrorism, a former senior security official warned today. Sir David Omand, the Cabinet Office’s former security and intelligence co-ordinator, said in future the security services would need access to a wide range of personal data, including phone records, emails and travel information.
(The real enemy here is the New World Order and Big Brother.)

Zimbabwe’s vice-president foiled in 3600kg gold deal (Times Online):
The Vice-President of Zimbabwe has been accused of trying to sell millions of dollars in gold nuggets and diamonds in defiance of international sanctions.

Gold investors make 120pc return in four months (Telegraph):
Private investors who have bought exchange traded funds that track the performance of gold miners have more than doubled their money since October last year.

Exxon drags its feet for 20 years to avoid paying damages to struggling Alaskans, while making record profits (BuzzFlash)

Anti-Putin oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky transferred to Moscow to face new charges (Telegraph):
Khodorkovsky, Russia’s richest man until his arrest in 2003, will go on trial next month after being accused of fresh counts of embezzlement and theft. Human rights activists and defence lawyers said the new charges were a politically-motivated concoction to keep the tycoon behind bars.

Obama to Seek $75.5 Billion More for Wars in 2009 (Bloomberg):
(MORE!)

Wall Street sinks as Obama warns of oversight (Reuters):
The Dow is down 9.1 percent for the month and 17.2 percent year-to-date. “As we came close to the bell we got the curveball: our president came on TV,” he said.

San Francisco Chronicle may shut down (Reuters):
NEW YORK/SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – San Francisco may lose its main newspaper, the San Francisco Chronicle, as owner Hearst Corp cuts a “significant” number of jobs and decides whether to shut or sell the money-losing daily.

Miliband faces high court battle in UK over Gaza rights (Guardian):
Lawyers for Palestinian families claim foreign secretary’s failure to ban arms sales to Israel flouted international law

Russian economy hit by 8.8% decline (Financial Times)

Russia’s 2009 budget deficit to be 8% of GDP – economics minister (RIA Novosti)

RUSSIA: Problems Rise With Falling Oil Prices (IPS):
MOSCOW, Feb 24 (IPS) – The Russian economy is plunging into a crisis as oil prices fall and the government digs deep into its reserve fund.

A look at economic developments around the world (IHT)

European banking bail-outs threaten common market, finance baron warns (Guardian):
European government efforts to shore up their national banking systems could end up as a “dismal failure” by backfiring on the “real” economy and aggravating and prolonging the current crisis.

UK recession deepens as manufacturing wilts (Times Online)

Corporate Bonds Are Next ‘Bubble,’ RBS’s Janjuah Says (Bloomberg)

NYSE in talks to relax its $1 minimum rule (Financial Times):
NYSE Euronext is in talks with US regulators about relaxing its requirement that companies listed on the New York Stock Exchange maintain a share price of more than $1 to protect itself from a possible wave of delistings.

Best hope is recovery in 2010, Ben Bernanke tells US Congress (Guardian):
(Best ‘hope‘? … at worst there will be a total collapse in 2009, at best best in 2010.
“We ‘believe‘ the effect of the troubles in the subprime sector on the broader housing market will likely be limited”
– Ben Bernanke, May 2007 – Hope = Believe = Don’t Know)

Bernanke says recession to linger (Reuters)

Bank of America fights to hide bonus payouts (Times Online)

– Pacific Brands: Shock as 1800 jobs vaporise (Daily Telegraph):
THE maker of iconic clothing brands including Bonds and King Gee will slash more than 1,800 jobs after the company announced it no longer has a future manufacturing in Australia.

Tomkins cuts 2,500 more jobs (Financial Times):
Tomkins, the car parts maker that also supplies industrial belts and building products, is to shed a further 2,500 jobs and close 15 plants.

US house prices fall back to 2003 levels (Times Online)

Diebold ‘offices’ listed in yellow pages are mostly Wal-Marts (Raw Story):
Across the country, curious bloggers are calling up their local Diebold offices, and no one is answering. However, when calls were made to all of these offices, only one picked up the phone. And when the addresses of offices listed under Diebold in the White Pages were visited, the addresses turned out to belong to either a Wal-Mart, a Sam’s Club, or no building at all. In the end, 16 of the 18 Diebold offices in Utah listed in the White Pages were false listings.

Man charged with sending terrorist material by email (Daily Mail)

Five US soldiers, two Iraqi translators killed in Iraq (Monsters and Critics)

Depleted Uranium Hazard Awareness – US Army Training Video:
STILL TODAY the vast majority of servicemen and women in the U.S. military, and likely in the armed forces of other countries which are developing or have obtained depleted uranium munitions, are unaware of the use and dangers of depleted uranium munitions, or of the protective clothing and procedures which can minimize or prevent serious short-term exposures.

Excessive PlayStation gaming causes new skin condition (Telegraph)

Long hours put workers at risk of dementia, according to research into damage to brain (Telegraph):
Millions of workers are being put at greater risk of dementia by Britain’s long working hours culture, research has found.
Extreme tiredness and stress could be as bad for the brain as smoking, according to the study.

Worse than my darkest nightmare (Guardian):
I hope you will understand that after everything I have been through, I am neither physically nor mentally capable of facing the media on the moment of my arrival back to Britain. Please forgive me if I make a simple statement through my lawyer. I hope to be able to do better in days to come, when I am on the road to recovery.

Bank Of America Heiress Blasts Bank Leaders As Idiots


A sign is seen outside of a Bank of America branch office in San Francisco.

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS 5) – The granddaughter of the man who founded Bank of America in San Francisco in the early 1900s called the bank’s current condition “totally repulsive” and blasted the bank’s management for being “idiots.”

Related article: Bank of America fights to hide bonus payouts (Times Online)

The harsh criticism from Virginia Hammerness, the heiress to A.P. Giannini’s family fortune and a significant stockholder in the bank he launched, came during an interview Monday with CBS 5.

She reflected on how her grandfather founded B of A as the Bank of Italy in San Francisco’s North Beach neighborhood in 1904 as a reaction to the fact that the big eastern banks wouldn’t lend to middle class immigrants like Italians.

Hammerness was outspoken about what has happened to the bank that is her family’s legacy, saying she had little doubt that Giannini was “rolling over in his grave.”

She added that her father, who succeeded her grandfather as bank president and “gave his life for the bank,” would have had a similar reaction upon seeing today’s decline of the institution.

“I think its totally repulsive,” Hammerness said when asked what she thinks of Bank of America now. “What idiots, what kind of idiots are running that bank?”

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Russian admirals suspected of weapons smuggling

Russian military prosecutors have launched an investigation into a group of naval officers and businessmen suspected of stealing and smuggling weapons to sell to China.

Russia’s chief military prosecutor has been reported by the Interfax news agency as saying the investigation would focus on a group suspected of smuggling 30 anti-submarine missiles and 200 aerials bombs to the central Asian republic of Tajikistan.

It is suspected the weapons were to be sold to China for $US18 million.

A source has told Interfax that high-ranking naval officers, including vice-admirals and rear-admirals, could be involved.

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Japan Exports Plummet 45.7%, Deficit Widens to Record


A worker checks on a China Shipping Container Lines Co. container as it unloaded at a port in Tokyo, Nov. 20, 2008. Photographer: Tomohiro Ohsumi/Bloomberg News

Feb. 25 (Bloomberg) — Japan’s exports plunged 45.7 percent in January from a year earlier, resulting in a record trade deficit, as recessions in the U.S. and Europe smothered demand for the country’s cars and electronics.

The shortfall widened to 952.6 billion yen ($9.9 billion), the biggest since 1980, the earliest year for which there is comparable data, the Finance Ministry said today in Tokyo. The drop in shipments abroad eclipsed a record 35 percent decline set the previous month.

Exports to the U.S. tumbled an unprecedented 52.9 percent from a year earlier, and shipments to Asia and Europe also posted the largest-ever declines as the global recession deepened. The collapse is likely to force Japanese companies to keep firing workers and closing factories, worsening an economy that shrank the most in 34 years last quarter.

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Interview With Former Knesset Leader: ‘We Are Such an Angry People’

In a SPIEGEL interview, former Knesset president Avraham Burg discusses the right-wing surge in elections, the “monopoly of the Holocaust” on Israelis’ everyday lives and opportunities missed by the Palestinians and Israel.

Avraham Burg on the election of the right-wing parties and Likud Party leader Benjamin Netanyahu's imminent return as prime minister: "The Israeli society has been kidnapped by the settler movement."
Avraham Burg on the election of the right-wing parties and Likud Party leader Benjamin Netanyahu’s imminent return as prime minister: “The Israeli society has been kidnapped by the settler movement.” (AP)

SPIEGEL: Mr. Burg, a majority of Israelis voted for right-wing parties, and now Benjamin Netanyahu is prime-minister designate. As someone who supports the Israeli left, are you feeling a bit lonely these days?

Burg: I feel I am losing my political, ideological and spiritual home. My political home today, the Meretz party, shrank to only three seats in the Knesset. As an Israeli I feel lost because so many of my fellow countrymen are in love with war — as the solution for everything. But the most existential loss is spiritual: For me, being a Jew is being a universalist, a humanist. I can’t understand any Jew who votes right-wing. I can’t understand how a Jew can speak a language of xenophobia. And yet so many of them just did.

SPIEGEL: You’re referring primarily to the ultranationalist Avigdor Lieberman, whose Israel Beytenu Party became the third-strongest in Israel’s parliament.

Burg: If you had told me 20 years ago that a day would come when this racist ideology would be represented with 15 seats in the Knesset, I would have said that was impossible. Now it’s as if the crossing of this red line were natural. Lieberman doesn’t talk about the West Bank and the borders of 1967. He brings us back to 1948, when tens of thousands of Palestinians were expelled from their homes. Now Lieberman wants the remaining Israeli-Arabs to leave the Jewish state.

SPIEGEL: How could an election result like this have happened?

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How to Lose 55 Percent: Invest in TARP

TARP investments are certainly “troubled.” And Washington, it turns out, isn’t the best short-term investor.

The government’s investments in the nation’s ailing banks, made through the newly coined Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP, have taken a huge hit since the program started making capital injections last October. Thanks to last week’s stock market sell-off, the government is now sitting on a paper loss of at least 55 percent, or $107.7 billion, on the $195.5 billion invested under the TARP program.

That amounts to a $768 paper loss for every taxpaying household, according to the Ethisphere Institute, a think tank focused on business ethics. And these figures do not include the losses from Monday’s sharp drop on Wall Street.

The Ethisphere Institute has created the Ethisphere TARP Index to track the return on the government’s investments under the capital purchase portion of TARP.

Some of the biggest losers last week were Citigroup, Bank of America, Wells Fargo and JPMorgan Chase, which collectively have cost taxpayers $70.6 billion in paper losses so far. Excluding the investments in those four banks, the TARP fund has still lost 38.6 percent, or $37 billion, through last Friday, Ethisphere reports.

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