UK: Parents banned from ferrying children to sports matches

Hundreds of thousands of parents will be banned from ferrying children to sports matches next year unless they have had criminal records checks, under new rules.

The clampdown is part of an escalation in child protection policies which will see 11 million adults vetted before they come into contact with children or vulnerable adults.

Under new regulations, parents who are asked by the organisers of a children’s sports team to take other children to sports fixtures like football or cricket matches will have to be vetted.

Read moreUK: Parents banned from ferrying children to sports matches

Ex-Dutch Prime Minister accuses Israel of terrorism


Ex-Dutch prime minister and Israel critic Andreas Van Agt (Cnaan Liphshiz)

The emotion in Andreas Van Agt’s voice as he lambastes Israel’s behavior seems puzzling for a man of his status. It is especially intriguing when one is reminded that this blue-eyed professed idealist is an astute statesman who presided as the Dutch prime minister for five years, until 1982.

“My involvement in the Middle East is certainly unusual,” Van Agt confessed in an interview with Haaretz at his home in Nijmegen, where he discussed Israel, the Palestinians, European foreign policy, the Holocaust and anti-Semitism.

Currently, Van Agt is writing a book about the Israeli-Arab conflict. In December he launched an info-site (www.driesvanagt.nl) about the subject, in which he accuses Israel of brutal treatment of the Palestinians, violating international law and implementing racist policies.

Among other illustrations, the site contains one snapshot of a graffiti slogan said to have been sprayed by Jewish settlers on a Hebron wall, reading: “Arabs to the gas chambers.”

Last year, Van Agt spoke as keynote speaker at a controversial solidarity rally with the Palestinian people in Rotterdam, where he lamented the Dutch boycott of Hamas, calling it wrong “and even stupid.” He has also been outspoken in accusing the Israel Defense Forces of acting like a terrorist organization.

“In my country, people are highly surprised by my demeanor. Some even say it should be ascribed to my advanced age; that I’m not fully in my right mind anymore,” the 77-year-old says with a snicker while sitting under the outdated portrait of the Queen, which hangs on the wall of his modern-style, taupe-colored den.

Read moreEx-Dutch Prime Minister accuses Israel of terrorism

McCain Would Give America’s 200 Largest Corporations $45 Billion In Tax Breaks

If you’re a CEO of one of America’s largest corporations and have enjoyed the Presidency of George W. Bush, a contribution to the McCain campaign is looking like a pretty good investment.

A new report from the Center For American Progress Action Fund finds that a key piece of John McCain’s tax plan — cutting the corporate tax rate from 35% to 25% — would cut taxes by almost $45 billion every year for America’s 200 largest corporations as identified by Fortune Magazine.

Eight companies — Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Exxon Mobil Corp., ConocoPhillips Co., Bank ƒƒof America Corp., AT&T, Berkshire Hathaway Inc., JPMorgan Chase & Co., and Microsoft Corp. — would each receive over $1 billion a year.

The following table shows the tax savings to America’s five largest firms. See a full list of all 200 companies and their savings under McCain here:

These giveaways are just one part of McCain’s doubling of the Bush tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy which would create the largest deficits in 25 years and drive the United States into the deepest deficits since World War II.

A recent analysis by the Public Campaign Action Fund found that John McCain’s campaign has received $5.6 million from the PACs and executives of the Fortune 200.

Over the past eight years, under George W. Bush, American workers have seen their wages stagnate as corporate profits have skyrocketed. John McCain’s misguided priorities show he’s more of the same: the same $45 billion in tax cuts for America’s 200 largest companies could be used to lift over 9 million Americans out of poverty.

Read moreMcCain Would Give America’s 200 Largest Corporations $45 Billion In Tax Breaks

Barclays warns of a financial storm as Federal Reserve’s credibility crumbles

Related article: Fortis Bank Predicts US Financial Market Meltdown Within Weeks


Strategists at Barclays accuse Ben Bernanke of a policy blunder

Barclays Capital has advised clients to batten down the hatches for a worldwide financial storm, warning that the US Federal Reserve has allowed the inflation genie out of the bottle and let its credibility fall “below zero.”

“We’re in a nasty environment,” said Tim Bond, the bank’s chief equity strategist. “There is an inflation shock under way. This is going to be very negative for financial assets. We are going into tortoise mood and are retreating into our shell. Investors will do well if they can preserve their wealth.”

Barclays Capital said in its closely-watched Global Outlook that US headline inflation would hit 5.5pc by August and the Fed will have to raise interest rates six times by the end of next year to prevent a wage-spiral. If it hesitates, the bond markets will take matters into their own hands. “This is the first test for central banks in 30 years and they have fluffed it. They have zero credibility, and the Fed is negative if that’s possible. It has lost all credibility,” said Mr Bond.

The grim verdict on Ben Bernanke’s Fed was underscored by the markets yesterday as the dollar fell against the euro following the bank’s dovish policy statement on Wednesday. Traders said the Fed seemed to be rowing back from rate rises. The effect was to propel oil to $138 a barrel, confirming its role as a sort of “anti-dollar” and as a market reproach to Washington’s easy-money policies.

The Fed’s stimulus is being transmitted to the 45-odd countries linked to the dollar around world. The result is surging commodity prices. Global inflation has jumped from 3.2 to 5pc over the last year. Mr Bond said the emerging world is now on the cusp of a serious crisis. “Inflation is out of control in Asia. Vietnam has already blown up. The policy response is to shoot the messenger, like the developed central banks in the late 1960s and 1970s,” he said.

“They will have to slam on the brakes. There is going to be a deep global recession over the next three years as policy-makers try to get inflation back in the box.”

Read moreBarclays warns of a financial storm as Federal Reserve’s credibility crumbles

Fortis Bank Predicts US Financial Market Meltdown Within Weeks

BRUSSELS / AMSTERDAM (DFT) – Fortis expects within the next few days to weeks to complete the collapse of the U.S. financial markets.

That explains the bank insurers interventions of the series Thursday at dealing with € 8 billion.

“We are ready at the last minute. It goes in the United States much worse than thought, “said Fortis chairman Maurice Lippens, who maintains that CEO Votron to live. Fortis expects bankruptcies of 6000 U.S. banks that now lack coverage. “But Citigroup, General Motors, there begins a complete meltdown in the U.S..”

Fortis took yesterday € 1.5 billion with a share issue. At the end of last year was the Belgian-Dutch group € 13 billion of new shares for the takeover of ABN Amro, for which it paid € 24 billion. Lippens bases its concern on interviews with bankers. “Two months ago we knew not so bad that it is in America. And it will be much worse. We have a thick mattress needed for the next eighteen months to come when we can bring to ABN Amro. ”

Two weeks ago reported the U.S. investment bank and adviser to Fortis Merrill Lynch certainly € 6.2 billion in additional capital was needed. The VEB yesterday demanded clarification of Fortis: CEO Jean-Paul Votron stopped in late april Fortis maintains that after the purchase of ABN Amro does not need on the capital market. In one year € 30 billion in market capitalization destroyed. After Votron last confession kelderde the share price by 19.4%, although yesterday climbed by 4.4% to € 10.65.

The massive unrest around the bank insurers, especially with our neighbours in Belgium as a bomb broken. While the fuss arose in the Netherlands to the limited financial world, it is with our neighbours the call of the day. Not only is the bank dominates the streetscape, but by the mokerslag for the Belgian volksaandeel are also hundreds of thousands of small investors hit hard.

All Belgian newspapers opened yesterday with real rampenkoppen, where the free fall of the bank insurers was wide coverage. ‘Fortis crashes, “” Rampdag for Fortis’ and’ Fortis loses 5.3 billion, “opened three leading newspapers.

Read moreFortis Bank Predicts US Financial Market Meltdown Within Weeks

US Congress approves Israel aid increase

(The economy is falling apart, the former middle class is living in their cars, the U.S. are broke but….

The US Congress has approved a 170 million dollar increase in security assistance to Israel as part of its new 10-year, 30 billion dollar defense aid commitment to the Jewish state.

The money for Israel was part of a larger supplemental spending bill that included 162 billion dollars for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The legislation gained final approval in a 92-6 Senate vote late Thursday.

America’s pro-Israel lobby, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, welcomed the congressional action, saying it would increase US aid to Israel to 2.55 billion dollars in fiscal year 2009, up from 2.38 billion dollars this year.

“The US commitment to maintaining Israel’s qualitative military edge is the cornerstone of American policy in the region,” AIPAC said in a statement Friday.

…and this is how Israel will spend the money:

Israel flexes muscles with Iran attack drill

Israel launches ‘Iran Command’ for war

A human rights crime in Gaza By Jimmy Carter

Israeli siege leads to soaring anemia in Gaza newborns

Israel Causes UN Food Aid Relief For Gaza to Halt

U.N. chief condemns Israel after Gaza clash

…What should be done? Michael Scheuer, Former Head of the CIA Bin Laden Unit:

ISRAEL is NOT WORTH A SINGLE AMERICAN LIFE OR DOLLAR

The Infinite Unknown)

“This year’s package holds heightened significance for US security interests, as the US and Israel face new challenges from Iran’s drive to acquire nuclear weapons as well as the growing influence of radical anti-western forces to Israel’s south in Gaza and to the north in Lebanon.”

The package was unveiled by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on July 30 as part of a new military pact with US allies in the Middle East in a bid to “counter the negative influences” of militant groups Al-Qaeda and Hezbollah as well as arch enemies Iran and Syria.

The aid includes a 20 billion dollar weapons package for Saudi Arabia, a 13 billion dollar package for Egypt, and reportedly arms deals worth at least 20 billion dollars for other Gulf states.

The military aid to Israel reflected an increase in value of more than 25 percent, Israel Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has said, describing the package as a considerable improvement and very important element for national security.

Read moreUS Congress approves Israel aid increase

George Carlin, Diet Coke With Aspartame & Cardiac Death

Related articles and videos:
Interview with Dr. Russell Blaylock on devastating health effects of MSG, aspartame and excitotoxins
Chemical Additives – Are They Slowly Killing Our Children?
Supermarket Bans Aspartame From Own-Label Products
The World According to Monsanto – A documentary that Americans won’t ever see.
Fluoride, Aspartame and Agenda 21
____________________________________________________________________________________________

By Dr. Betty Martini, D.Hum.
June 27, 08

George Carlin was known as a great stand up comic. Carlin hosted the first broadcast of “Saturday Night Live” in October 1975. He starred as a cabdriver in his own sitcom, “The George Carlin Show” which ran from 1993 to 1995. Carlin had a very bad habit, he was addicted to Diet Coke with aspartame. He suffered several heart attacks, one at Dodger Stadium during a baseball game. He died of heart failure on Sunday, June 22nd.

Related article: North Shore Music Theatre recalls ‘gracious’ Carlin

In a nutshell aspartame (NutraSweet/Equal/E951/Canderel, etc.) triggers an irregular heart rhythm, interacts with cardiac medication, virtually all medication for that matter because of damage to the mitochondria or life of the cell, damages the cardiac conduction system and causes sudden death.

Related article: ASPARTAME INTERACTS WITH ALL DRUGS, VACCINES AND TOXINS

On 2/5/08 the New York Times published an article on a new study: “Symptoms: Metabolic Syndrome Is Tied to Diet Soda” Wrote Nicholas Bakalar, “Researchers have found a correlation between drinking diet soda and metabolic syndrome – the collection of risk factors for cardiovascular disease”… “This is interesting,” said Lyn M. Steffen, an associate professor of Epidemiology at the University of Minnesota and co-author of the paper” .. Further she said, “Why is it happening? Is it some kind of chemical in the diet soda, or something about the behavior of diet soda drinkers?” I called Dr. Steffen and let her know what aspartame does to the heart and sent her this paper by Dr. H. J. Roberts, and others, which explains in detail:

ASPARTAME INDUCED ARRHYTHMIAS AND SUDDEN DEATH

By H. J. Roberts, MD, FACP, FCCP
(c)2004 by H. J. Roberts, M.D.

A recent extensive review of sudden death in young athletes (1) made no mention of aspartame as a primary cause or suspected contributory factor, especially when demonstrable pathology was absent. This issue has assumed great public health importance because “diet” products containing this chemical are being consumed by over two-thirds of the population – especially weight-conscious persons.

I have repeatedly reported the serious cardiovascular, ‘neuropsychiatric, metabolic and other adverse effects of aspartame products. (2-4) Among the first 1200 aspartame reactors in my data base, 193 (16%) had symptomatic arrhythmia’s, 85 (7%) atypical chest pain, and 64 (5%) recent or aggravated hypertension.

One hypertensive patient developed complete heart block within hours after consuming his first diet cola.

Another had undergone unsuccessful radio frequency ablations in the heart before awareness of having aspartame disease.

Pheochromocytoma was suspected in several aspartame reactors.

The issue of sudden death related to aspartame and its breakdown products has been raised a number of times, particularly among previously well individuals using such products… including pilots and drivers , (3,4,6) and athletes. I have detailed the release of norepinephrine, epinephrine, dopamine and free methanol by aspartame; a host of pertinent-related pathophysiologic conditions, (e.g., cumulative formaldehyde adducts derived from aspartame in tissue proteins and nucleic aids; excessive insulin release); direct oropharyngeal absorption from gum, “breath fresheners” and other products; and the increasing problem of aspartame addiction. (4-7)

The likelihood of pulmonary hypertension induced by the vasoconstrictive effects of aspartame products also has been considered. (5) It is relevant that unexplained dyspnea was experienced by 110 aspartame reactors, usually with prompt improvement after abstinence. Moreover, primary pulmonary hypertension was found at autopsy in a 27 year old female aspartame reactor.

The lack of familiarity of most physicians and medical examiners with the foregoing considerations can have serious legal consequences. A case in point is that of a young woman (also a Sunday School teacher) who has been sentenced to serve 50 years in a Virginia prison for allegedly poisoning her husband with methyl alcohol. Elevated methanol blood concentrations were found postmortem in this body builder/basketball player who drank ten diet drinks and other aspartame products daily. She remains incarcerated despite affidavits indicating that 10% of aspartame becomes free methyl alcohol after consumption.

The need for clinicians and corporate-neutral investigators to evaluate the contributory role of aspartame in cardiopulmonary disorders and sudden death, and drug interactions with aspartame, is underscored by the frequency of persons dying unexpectedly being categorized as “death due to causes yet to be determined.” One interested resident of Orange county (California) found 192 persons listed in this category between July 11 and November 15, 2003 according to the Orange county Register.

References:

* Maron BJ, Sudden death in young athletes, N Engl J Med 2003;349:1064-1075
* Roberts HJ, Reactions to aspartame containing products: 551 cases, J Appl Nutr l988;40:86-94
* Roberts HJ, Aspartame (NutraSweet): Is It Safe? Philadelphia, The Charles Press, 1989.
* Roberts HJ, Aspartame Disease: An Ignored Epidemic. West Palm Beach, Sunshine Sentinel Press, 2001
* Roberts HJ, Aspartame-induced dyspnea and pulmonary hypertension, Townsend Letter for Doctors & Patients 2003; 237 (January): 64-65
* Roberts HJ, Ignored Health Hazards for Pilots and Drivers. West Palm Beach, Sunshine Sentinel Press, 1998.
* Roberts HJ, Aspartame (NutraSweet) addiction, Townsend Letter for Doctors & Patients, 2900; 198 (January): 52-57

H. J. Roberts, MD, FACP, FCCP
Palm Beach Institute for Medical Research
P. O. Box 17799
West Palm Beach, Florida 33416 USA

_________________________________________________

You will note that Dr. Roberts wrote this paper because so many young athletes are dropping dead. Some may remember athlete Steve Bechler’s death in West Palm Beach. Tim Sullivan said in the San Diego Union Tribune in Feb, 2003, that whether Steve Bechler’s passing (23 year old Baltimore Oriole pitcher) should prompt baseball to ban ephedra-based products is a more complicated matter, one that raises questions of civil rights and individual responsibilities, and about the gap between medical opinion and governmental regulations. But while Steve Bechler’s death was blamed on ephedra this no doubt was another Diet Coke with aspartame death. At the time of his death, H. J. Roberts, M.D. who also lives in West Palm Beach immediately called the Broward County medical examiner, Dr. Joshua Perper, and asked him how many diet drinks was Bechler drinking. Dr. Perper didn’t even know why he asked. The Idaho Observer wrote the story, Aspartame Poisoning Cover for Ephedra. It was finally disclosed Steve Belcher had a weight problem, he would go without eating for a couple of days and then drink diet pop with aspartame all day. He had a family history of heart problems and aspartame destroys the heart. After researching the issue it’s obvious that Steve Bechler did not die because he was using ephedra, it was just another aspartame death! Even Dr. Perper could only conclude that ephedrine “probably contributed” to his death but this doctor was not knowledgeable of aspartame’s effect on the heart nor did he know that Steve Belcher was using it.

Obviously ephedra could interact with aspartame but then virtually all drugs interact with aspartame. But the FDA used this aspartame death to remove another supplement. Are they going to take all the drugs off the market because they interact with aspartame? Shouldn’t they ban aspartame instead? John W. Olney, M.D., was asked by the Ephedra Education Council to review some of the FDA cases. Go to (http://www.ephedrafacts.com) for the full report. The adverse event reports Dr. Olney examined include those reviewed for FDA by Doctors Ricaute and Stoll. Dr. Olney says out of 28 cases, there is not a single case that the expert reviewers rated as having a highly probable causal association with ingestion of Ephedra. Didn’t bother FDA at all, they could cover up another aspartame death and grab another supplement to please Big Pharma.

Dr. H. J. Roberts said in his position paper on aspartame and cardiac symptoms (www.dorway.com ) under atypical chest pain: “More than 50 aspartame reactors experienced unexplained pain in the chest. Many others have atypical pain elsewhere in the body. A number underwent stress tests and coronary angioplasty for suspected coronary heart disease’ they proved normal in the majority.”

Ephedra is off the market and the sudden cardiac deaths of athletes continue to this day, as well as others in the population including children. Russell Blaylock, M.D., wrote this Athlete Alert on the subject:

ATHLETE ALERT:
RENOWNED NEUROSURGEON IDENTIFIES
ASPARTAME & MSG IN SUDDEN CARDIAC DEATH


Contributed By Dr. Betty Martini, D.Hum
Mission Possible International
BettyM19@mindspring.com

Neurosurgeon Russell Blaylock, M.D. explains the relationship between sudden cardiac death, especially in athletes, and excitotoxic damage produced by food additives and artificial sweeteners.

(PRWEB) April 14, 2005 — Dr. Russell Blaylock, an author and neurosurgeon, explains the relationship between sudden cardiac death, especially in athletes, and excitotoxic damage caused by food additives and artificial sweeteners. — By Russell L. Blaylock, M.D.

Over 460,000 people annually die of a disorder called sudden cardiac death, according to CDC statistics. This condition strikes otherwise healthy people who have experienced no obvious symptoms of heart disease prior to their abrupt deaths.

An alarming number young athletes are included in these deaths, in high schools and colleges as well as among professional athletes. While in some of these individuals cardiologists found evidence of coronary disease and scars from earlier silent heart attacks, there is one mechanism that’s getting no attention at all: the excitotoxin damage caused by food additives and the artificial sweetener aspartame. This is despite growing evidence that the excitotoxic mechanism plays a major role in cardiac disease.

Previously, it was thought that excitotoxic food additives, such as monosodium glutamate and aspartic acid in aspartame, cause their damage in the cardiovascular centers in the brain stem and/or by over-stimulating sympathetic centers in the hypothalamus of the brain. Both mechanisms have resulted in sudden cardiac death in experimental animals.

Read moreGeorge Carlin, Diet Coke With Aspartame & Cardiac Death

Welcome Home, Soldier: Now Shut Up


There are two kinds of courage in war – physical courage and moral courage. Physical courage is very common on the battlefield. Men and women on both sides risk their lives, place their own bodies in harm’s way. Moral courage, however, is quite rare.

According to Chris Hedges, the brilliant New York Times war correspondent who survived wars in Latin America, Africa, the Middle East and the Balkans, “I rarely saw moral courage. Moral courage is harder. It requires the bearer to walk away from the warm embrace of comradeship and denounce the myth of war as a fraud, to name it as an enterprise of death and immorality, to condemn himself, and those around him, as killers. It requires the bearer to become an outcast. There are times when taking a moral stance, perhaps the highest form of patriotism, means facing down the community, even the nation.”

More and more U.S. soldiers and Marines, at great cost to their own careers and reputations, are speaking publicly about U.S. atrocities in Iraq, even about the cowardice of their own commanders, who send youth into atrocity-producing situations only to hide from the consequences of their own orders.

In 2007, two brilliant war memoirs – ROAD FROM AR RAMADI by Staff Sergeant Camilo Mejia, and THE SUTRAS OF ABU GHRAIB by Army Reservist Aidan Delgado – appeared in print. In March 2008, at the Winter Soldier investigation just outside Washington D.C., hard-core U.S. Iraqi veterans, some shaking at the podium, some in tears, unburdened their souls.

Jon Michael Turner described the horrific incident in which, on April 28, 2008, he shot an Iraqi boy in front of his father. His commanding officer congratulated him for “the kill.” To a stunned audience, Turner presented a photo of the boy’s skull, and said: “I am sorry for the hate and destruction I have inflicted on innocent people.”

The Winter Soldier investigation was followed by the publication of COLLATERAL DAMAGE: AMERICA’S WAR AGAINST IRAQI CIVILIANS, by Chris Hedges and Laila Al-Arian. Based on hundreds of hours of taped interviews with Iraqi combat veterans, this pioneering work on the catastrophe in Iraq includes the largest number of eyewitness accounts from U.S. military personnel on record.

The Courage to Resist

We cannot understand the psychological and moral significance of military resistance unless we recognize the social forces that stifle conscience and human individuality in military life. Gwen Dyer, historian of war, writes that ordinarily, “Men will kill under compulsion. Men will do almost anything if they know it is expected of them and they are under strong social pressure to comply.” “Only exceptional people resist atrocity,” writes psychiatrist Robert Lifton.

How much easier it is to surrender to the will of superiors, to merge into the anonymity of the group. It takes uncommon courage to resist military powers of intimidation, peer pressure, and the atmosphere of racism and hate that drives all imperial wars.

Silencing the Witnesses to War

Read moreWelcome Home, Soldier: Now Shut Up

Petraeus Promoted to Mideast Chief

(So now everything is ready to attack Iran – The Infinite Unknown)

(WASHINGTON) – The Senate Armed Services Committee voted Thursday to promote Gen. David Petraeus to become the top commander in the Middle East.

Senators on the panel also agreed by voice vote that Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno should receive a fourth star and replace Petraeus as chief commander in Iraq.

The committee action paves the way for a favorable vote on the nominations by the Senate.

Last year, Petraeus helped to tame growing opposition to the Iraq war in Congress by providing measured assessments of progress and warning that an exodus of U.S. troops would result in chaos. In the meantime, he advocated a buildup of some 30,000 troops in Baghdad and other hotspots, which eventually proved vital in tamping down violence.

Read morePetraeus Promoted to Mideast Chief

Iraqi military unable to hold Mosul

MOSUL, Iraq, June 26 (UPI) — Iraqi security forces are unable to maintain order following operations targeting al-Qaida fighters in the northern city of Mosul, officials said Thursday.

U.S. and Iraqi authorities view Mosul, the provincial capital of Ninawa, as one of the last remaining al-Qaida strongholds in Iraq. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki ordered a military crackdown in the northern city in May.

Read moreIraqi military unable to hold Mosul

This Recession, It’s Just Beginning


Vincent Quinones works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange Wednesday after the Federal Reserve issued a mixed assessment of the economy. Yesterday, the Dow Jones industrial average closed down 358 points. (By Andrew Harrer — Bloomberg News)

So much for that second-half rebound.

Truth be told, that was always more of a wish than a serious forecast, happy talk from the Fed and Wall Street desperate to get things back to normal.

It ain’t gonna happen. Not this summer. Not this fall. Not even next winter.

This thing’s going down, fast and hard. Corporate bankruptcies, bond defaults, bank failures, hedge fund meltdowns and 6 percent unemployment. We’re caught in one of those vicious, downward spirals that, once it gets going, is very hard to pull out of.

Only this will be a different kind of recession — a recession with an overlay of inflation. That combo puts the Federal Reserve in a Catch-22 — whatever it does to solve one problem only makes the other worse. Emerging from a two-day meeting this week, Fed officials signaled that further recession-fighting rate cuts are unlikely and that their next move will be to raise rates to contain inflationary expectations.

Since last June, we’ve seen a fairly consistent pattern to the economic mood swings. Every three months or so, there’s a round of bad news about housing, followed by warnings of more bank write-offs and then a string of disappointing corporate earnings reports. Eventually, things stabilize and there are hints that the worst may be behind us. Stocks regain some of their lost ground, bonds fall and then — bam — the whole cycle starts again.

It was only in November that the Dow had recovered from the panicked summer sell-off and hit a record, just above 14,000. By March, it had fallen below 12,000. By May, it climbed above 13,000. Now it’s heading for a new floor at 11,000. Officially, that’s bear market territory. We’ll be lucky if that’s the floor.

In explaining why that second-half rebound never occurred, the Fed and the Treasury and the Wall Street machers will say that nobody could have foreseen $140 a barrel oil. As excuses go, blaming it on an oil shock is a hardy perennial. That’s what Jimmy Carter and Fed Chairman Arthur Burns did in the late ’70s, and what George H.W. Bush and Alan Greenspan did in the early ’90s. Don’t believe it.

Truth is, there are always price or supply shocks of one sort or another. The real problem is that the underlying fundamentals had gotten badly out of whack, making the economy susceptible to a shock. The only way to make things better is to get those fundamentals back in balance. In this case, that means bringing what we consume in line with what we produce, letting the dollar fall to its natural level, wringing the excess capacity out of industries that overexpanded during the credit bubble and allowing real estate prices to fall in line with incomes.

The last hope for a second-half rebound began to fade earlier this month when Lehman Brothers reported that it wasn’t as immune to the credit-market downturn as it had led everyone to believe. Lehman scrambled to restore confidence by firing two top executives and raising billions in additional capital, but even that wasn’t enough to quiet speculation that it could be the next Bear Stearns.

Since then, there has been a steady drumbeat of worrisome news from nearly every sector of the economy.

American Express and Discover warn that customers are falling further behind on their debts. UPS and Federal Express report a noticeable slowdown in shipments, while fuel costs are soaring. According to the Case-Shiller index, home prices in the top 20 markets fell 15 percent in April from the year before, and Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac report that mortgage delinquency rates doubled over the same period — and that’s for conventional home loans, not subprime. United Airlines accelerates the race to cut costs and capacity by laying off 950 pilots — 15 percent of its total — as a number of airlines retire planes and hint that they may delay delivery or cancel orders of new jets from Boeing and Airbus. Goldman Sachs, which has already had to withdraw its rosy forecast for stocks, now admits it was also too optimistic about junk bond defaults, and analysts warn that Citigroup and Merrill Lynch will also be forced to take additional big write-downs on their mortgage portfolios.

Read moreThis Recession, It’s Just Beginning

ATF raids Blackwater armory, seizes automatic weapons

Federal agents raided a Blackwater armory Tuesday and seized 34 automatic rifles that the company purchased and stored on behalf of a local law enforcement agency, the Associated Press reports.

Anne Tyrrell, a Blackwater spokeswoman, tells AP that ATF agents searched the Moyock, N.C., facility. The raid came after reports on a deal in which the company paid for weapons that were registered in the name of the Camden County, N.C., Sheriff’s Office.

“The 2005 agreements gives the sheriff’s office unlimited access to the weapons, including 17 Romanian AK-47s and 17 Bushmasters,” the wire service says. “But [Sheriff Tony] Perry said his department has only used the AK-47s in shooting practice at Blackwater and that none of his 19 deputies are qualified to use them.”

Federal law prohibits private companies or individuals from purchasing automatic weapons.

Read moreATF raids Blackwater armory, seizes automatic weapons

Barack Obama calls Iran a ‘threat’

Fri, 27 Jun 2008 09:32:07

US presidential hopeful, Barack Obama

US Presidential hopeful Barack Obama calls the Islamic Republic of Iran a ‘threat’ during a word association game in a TV interview.

In an interview on Fox Business channel Thursday, Obama played a word association game, responding in rapid-fire to words thrown at him by the program anchor.

When given the word ‘Iran’ Obama responded by saying ‘threat’. The Illinois Senator also described Republican Presidential hopeful John McCain as ‘honorable’.

Earlier this month, Obama called Iran a threat when addressing the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).

“The danger from Iran is grave, it is real, and my goal will be to eliminate this threat,” he told his audience at the gathering.

Obama also stressed that he would always keep the military option against Iran on the table to defend US security and its ally, Israel.

The presumptive Democratic nominee has said he would do everything in his power to go against Iran if it does not stop threatening Israel and continues uranium enrichment.

Read moreBarack Obama calls Iran a ‘threat’

Ex-weapons inspector says Iran not pursuing nukes, but U.S. will attack before ‘09

Jun 27, 2008

In 2002, Scott Ritter, the former chief United Nations weapons inspector In Iraq, publicly accused the Bush administration of lying to Congress and the public about assertions that Iraq was hiding a chemical and biological weapons arsenal.

By speaking out publicly, Ritter emerged as one of the most prominent whistleblowers since Daniel Ellsberg leaked the Pentagon Papers to The New York Times in the early 1970s.

Ritter’s criticisms about the Bush administration’s flawed prewar Iraq intelligence have been borne out by numerous investigations and reports, including one recently published by the Senate Armed Services Committee that found President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, and other senior administration officials knowingly lied about the threat Iraq posed to the United States.

Now Ritter, who was a Marine Corps intelligence officer for 12 years, is speaking out about what he sees as history repeating itself regarding U.S. policy toward Iran and the inevitability of a U.S.-led attack on the country, which he believes will happen prior to a new president being sworn into office in January 2009.

“We’re going to see some military activity before the new administration is sworn in.” Ritter said. But he added that “Iran is not a threat to the United States and Iran is not pursuing a nuclear weapons program. That’s documented.” Ritter teamed up with the Los Angeles-based U.S. Tour of Duty’s Real Intelligence, a nonprofit organization that represents former intelligence officials who openly discuss domestic and foreign policy issues. Ritter went on the road nearly a year ago to promote his recently published book, Waging Peace: The Art of War for the Antiwar Movement. But over the past several months, issues related to Iran have dominated his discussions.

In a wide-ranging interview with The Public Record, Ritter said he has been keeping close tabs on the issue for years and continues to approach the issue as if he were still employed as an intelligence officer. He explained why he believes the U.S. is gearing up toward launching a military strike in Iran and how the media has misrepresented a recent report by the International Atomic Energy Association (IAEA) regarding Iran’s continued enrichment of uranium.

AIPAC

He said one of the reasons he believes Democratic lawmakers have been reluctant to address the issue is the powerful Israeli lobby, such as the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). AIPAC has been pressuring the Bush administration to be even tougher on Iran. The lobby is largely responsible for drafting a resolution calling for stricter inspections and harsher economic sanctions against the country, which is expected to be voted on by the House next week.

Read moreEx-weapons inspector says Iran not pursuing nukes, but U.S. will attack before ‘09

Jailed and Tortured Fighting for Free Speech


A re-enactment of torture in Canberra similar to that experienced by The Epoch Times journalists. (The Epoch Times)

Somewhere in the world, the warm fire crackles as giggling children, adorn their Christmas tree with the colourful lights that William Huang made in jail. A United States living room is coloured with the ornamental flowers he put together, glitter sticking to the sweat on his body, bursting calluses on his hands. Others, somewhere in Europe, chat and munch on the pistachio nuts that he pried open with pliers, or clambered over to use the open toilet, in the bedroom-sized production room that was home to over 20 prisoners.

Surely greater things awaited William when he graduated from China’s prestigious Tsinghua University in July 1999, than slaving seven days a week, for more than 16 hours per day, producing cheap Chinese goods in a Chinese “re-education through labour” center. At least he can choose his destiny now, living and studying in the United States. But memories of electric batons, brainwashing sessions and sleep deprivation don’t easily fade. Nor do the memories of his colleagues who are still in jail.

William Huang, whose Chinese name is Huang Kui, came to America in March this year, with fresh memories of what had happened to the first group of The Epoch Times workers in China, who suddenly disappeared on December 16, 2000. He and around ten others, mostly Falun Gong practitioners, had rented a flat in Zhuhai city, in Guangdong province, which became the underground office for the fledgling online publication. There were people in other cities helping as well, pitching in with time, or money, or both. His job was researching and writing international news articles, while others focussed on weighty domestic issues, especially the state’s full-scale persecution of the Falun Gong meditation practice.

He has no idea how the police found them, but one day without warning more than ten policemen burst in, arresting everyone and seizing all equipment. 48 hours of sleep deprivation and interrogation followed. He and the others were charged with “subverting the political power of the state” because they had published articles exposing the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) human rights crimes.

William was moved to the 2nd detention centre in Zhuhai whilst awaiting sentence, and he was interrogated almost every day for half a year, sometimes until 2am. He was then put to work, laboring at least 16 hours each day making ornamental flowers, Christmas lights, pearl decorations, and prying open pistachio nuts. At first they used pork oil for part of the flower-making process, but the guards soon ordered them to stop, as it would attract bugs that would damage the goods while in transit to the United States. He remembers the cold November days of 2001, when large, painful cracks formed on his hands.

After three months he had still not been sentenced. Lacking any formal appeal mechanism, he refused to eat. After five days without food or water, the guards chained him to a cross made of wooden planks. They pried his teeth open with metal pliers, pinched his nose, held his throat open with chopsticks and threw lumps of rice porridge into his stomach.

Tiger bench torture

From time to time he caught glances of other The Epoch Times workers in prison, and he once had a chance to talk to Zhang Yuhui, who was chief editor when the arrests took place, and who is still in jail. Zhang told him that he had spent 7 days and 7 nights on the “Tiger Bench” torture implement, for refusing to inform on others. While Zhang did not elaborate, this method is known to involve forcing a person to sit with legs extended on a long, thin bench, with ropes tying the knees to the bench. Objects are then forced under the legs to bend the knees the wrong way, causing extreme agony. Zhang had also spent three days tied on a cross, in a contorted position.

Read moreJailed and Tortured Fighting for Free Speech

City Pension Funds Lose Billions

Taxpayers Could Be On the Hook

New York City officials are bracing for increased pressure on the budget as the city’s pension funds are reeling from the credit crisis and posting billions of dollars in losses. In the nine months leading up to March 31, the city’s five pension funds lost a total of nearly $5 billion, or 4.4%, according to data from the city comptroller’s office. This is a far cry from projections published as recently as last month, when budget planners assumed the pension system would post no losses.

If those losses are not recovered by the end of the fiscal year, which ends Monday, the city will have to pay out several billion dollars through 2015, with the first payment of $190 million set for 2010.

The government will have to make up the shortfall from the poor performance of the pension funds at a time when it is already suffering from tax revenue losses due to a souring economy.

“In itself, it’s manageable,” the research director for the Citizens Budget Commission, Charles Brecher, said of the pension fund losses. “The fact that it’s going to be combined with revenue shortfalls means that we’ve got serious problems.”

The Teachers’ Retirement System of the City of New York, which has lost 5.06% of its value in the nine months ending March 31, has been the worst performer so far this year. The New York City Employees’ Retirement System, which lost 3.98% in the same period, performed the best. Other pension funds include the New York City Police Pension Fund, the New York City Fire Department Pension Fund, and the Board of Education Retirement System of the City of New York. Numbers for the state pension system are not yet available, a spokesman for the state comptroller said.

Read moreCity Pension Funds Lose Billions

Credit crunch forcing US middle classes to live in their cars

Homeless people living in cars and motorhomes across the US are being joined by a new breed: the middle class.

As mortgage foreclosures continue to rise, growing numbers of middle-class professionals are losing their homes and downsizing from four bedrooms to four wheels.

With numbers rising, New Beginnings, a homeless agency in Santa Barbara, California, has launched a safe parking scheme, whose aim is to provide a refuge of sorts for those who have nowhere to go other than their vehicle.

Guy Trevor lost his job as an interior designer when the sector contracted thanks to the foreclosure crisis. With his furniture sold and his belongings in storage, he now lives in his car, spending the nights in one of the 12 gated car parks in Santa Barbara run by New Beginnings.

“I see myself as a casualty of a perfect storm,” he said. “The people sleeping at the [car parks] are … just like me. They come from normal, everyday homes. I think a lot of people in this country don’t realise that they, too, are a couple of pay cheques away from destitution.”

In normally affluent Santa Barbara there were 150 foreclosures last month, with a total of 800 for the year ending in May, according to the county assessor’s office, which assesses property for tax purposes.

Each month, an auction of foreclosed properties is held on the steps of the Santa Barbara courthouse.

“The way the economy is going, it’s amazing the people who are becoming homeless. It’s hit the middle class,” Nancy Kapp, of New Beginnings, told CNN.

Another of Kapp’s clients, Barbara Harvey, 67, also lost her job and subsequently her home thanks to the foreclosure crisis. As with Trevor, her job as a loans processor was connected to the housing market.

Harvey now lives with her three dogs in her car, parking at night in a women-only car park run by the agency. “I didn’t think this would happen to me,” she said. “It’s just something that I don’t think that people think is going to happen to them.”

Read moreCredit crunch forcing US middle classes to live in their cars

America’s Aviation System About To Collapse

Industry officials and analysts urge Washington to act to avert a collapse.

New York – America’s aviation system could be at risk of collapsing by the beginning of next year.

That warning from aviation experts has prompted some industry leaders to call for re-regulation, something considered almost heresy until now. Others are urging Washington to do more to rein in the oil speculators pushing up fuel costs.

But there is agreement among airline officials and analysts that Washington and the two presidential candidates need to recognize the severity of the crisis and take some action now to avert an economically crippling collapse in the near future.

“Unless something is done to move toward some kind of fix, we’re going to see every one of our major airlines in bankruptcy,” says Robert Crandall, former chairman of American Airlines. “If that isn’t enough of a crisis to alert everybody, then I don’t know what it will take.”

As a result of the spike upward in oil prices, almost every major airline is now losing millions of dollars each quarter.

Unless the price of oil comes down, most are expected to run out of cash by the end of this year or the beginning of next. In a bid to stave off bankruptcy, they’re already retrenching. They plan to lay off an estimated 25,000 employees, park hundreds of planes, and cut the number of flights they offer.

In addition, a recent study by the Business Travel Coalition, which represents corporate travel managers, estimates that 100 regional and 50 major airports nationwide will lose some of or all their air service by the end of the year.

“I’ve been trying to turn on the emergency sirens to raise awareness in Washington and back home,” says Kevin Mitchell, chairman of the Business Travel Coalition in Radnor, Pa. “And I think people are finally beginning to [wake up].”

Airline officials visit Washington

Representatives of the major carriers were in Congress this week, urging action to discourage speculation in the oil markets. Some analysts blame that speculation for the almost doubling of the price of jet fuel in the past year.

Read moreAmerica’s Aviation System About To Collapse

The Economy Has Hit The Wall: Oil above $ 140, Consumer Confidence Falls, Retail Sales Slump

June 27 (Bloomberg) — European confidence dropped more than economists forecast this month and retail sales plunged, signaling that economic growth is continuing to cool even as the European Central Bank prepares to lift interest rates to a seven-year high to tackle inflation.

An index measuring sentiment in the euro area fell to 94.9, the lowest since May 2005, from 97.6 the previous month, the European Commission in Brussels said today. Separate reports showed European retail sales plummeted, while inflation accelerated in Germany and Spain.

Stocks fell in Europe today as oil climbed to a record above $140 a barrel and Carrefour SA, Europe’s biggest retailer, scaled back its earnings forecast. With soaring food and energy prices boosting inflation, ECB President Jean-Claude Trichet has said the bank may raise the benchmark rate next week by a quarter point to 4.25 percent.

``The economy has hit the wall,” said Ken Wattret, senior economist at BNP Paribas SA in London. ECB officials “run the risk of tipping the euro area into a recession” as the inflation outlook increases the risk that the central bank “may need to go beyond one rate rise.”

Confidence among the manufacturing, construction and retail industries across the 15 nations that share the euro declined this month, as did consumer sentiment, according to today’s commission report.

The Bloomberg retail index, based on a survey of more than 1,000 executives compiled by Markit Economics, fell to 44 this month from 53.1 in May. A reading below 50 indicates contraction. Europe’s manufacturing and services industries also contracted this month.

Export Growth

The euro has increased 17 percent against the dollar in the last 12 months, threatening export growth, and was at $1.5770 today. The Dow Jones Stoxx 600 index fell 1.3 percent to 284.67 as of 11:29 a.m. in Brussels.

Separate figures today showed France’s economy expanded less than initially estimated in the first quarter as household spending, the driving force of growth, stagnated. U.K. first- quarter growth was revised lower today.

ECB council member Miguel Angel Fernandez Ordonez said today a July rate increase is not a certainty.

“Nothing is inevitable in life,” Ordonez told reporters in Rome today. “What we said was that the increase is not certain, but possible.”

Still, the ECB remains focused on consumer-price growth, according to ECB Executive Board member Juergen Stark. He said yesterday the bank sees its primary aim as being to “firmly anchor inflation expectations.”

16-Year High

Euro-area inflation reached a 16-year high of 3.7 percent in May. In Spain, inflation accelerated to 5.1 percent this month, the fastest on record, according to data today. Inflation in four German states also accelerated this month.

Oil prices have doubled in a year and Libyan National Oil Corp. Chairman Shokri Ghanem said yesterday that $150 a barrel may be “around the corner.”

Companies expect to raise prices more than previously anticipated to recover soaring costs, the commission report showed. A gauge of companies’ selling-price expectations rose to 18 in June from 16 in May, which compares with an average reading of 6 over the last 18 years. Consumers also expect prices to rise more sharply than they did last month.

The “worrying combination” of falling confidence and rising price expectations, “will add to fears of stagflation in the euro zone,” said Martin van Vliet, an economist at ING Group in Amsterdam.

`Remain Elevated’

“Inflation is likely to remain elevated for a longer period than we initially expected,” EU Monetary Affairs Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said in London today. It “should only begin to show a significant deceleration around the end of this year, although further possible rises in the price of oil and agricultural products cannot be ruled out.”

Read moreThe Economy Has Hit The Wall: Oil above $ 140, Consumer Confidence Falls, Retail Sales Slump

U.S. Stocks Tumble, Sending Dow to Worst June Since Depression

June 26 (Bloomberg) — U.S. stocks tumbled, sending the Dow Jones Industrial Average to its worst June since the Great Depression, as record oil prices, credit-market writedowns and a slowing economy threatened to extend a yearlong profit slump.

General Motors Corp., the largest U.S. automaker, plunged the most in three years as Goldman Sachs Group Inc. advised selling the stock and crude rose by $5 a barrel. Citigroup Inc. led the KBW Bank Index to an almost 10-year low as Goldman said the lender may report an $8.9 billion second-quarter charge and cut its dividend. Research In Motion Ltd., maker of the BlackBerry, posted its biggest drop since 2001 on concern competition with Apple Inc.‘s iPhone is reducing earnings.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index plunged 38.82, or 2.9 percent, to 1,283.15, its biggest drop in three weeks. The Dow decreased 358.41, or 3 percent, to 11,453.42, its lowest since September 2006. The Nasdaq Composite Index sank 79.89, or 3.3 percent, to 2,321.37, its worst loss since January. Almost nine stocks fell for each that rose on the New York Stock Exchange.

Read moreU.S. Stocks Tumble, Sending Dow to Worst June Since Depression

Oil Surges Above $140 to Record as Libya Warns of Output Cut

June 26 (Bloomberg) — Crude oil jumped above $140 a barrel to a record as Libya threatened to cut output, OPEC’s president said prices may reach $170 by the summer and the dollar weakened.

Libya may curb output because of a U.S. law that allows terror victims to seize assets of foreign governments as compensation. OPEC President Chakib Khelil said oil may surge on a European interest rate rise, France 24 reported. Oil, gold and copper climbed today as the dollar dropped because the Federal Reserve gave no signal of higher interest rates yesterday.

“The Libyan comments are helping send us higher,” said Brad Samples, commodity analyst for Summit Energy Inc. in Louisville, Kentucky. “The Libyans are responsible for only about 2 percent of production, but with supplies tight every missing barrel will have an impact.”

Crude oil for August delivery rose $5.09, or 3.8 percent, to $139.64 a barrel at 2:59 p.m. on the New York Mercantile Exchange, a record settlement price. Futures touched $140.39 today, surpassing the previous intraday record of $139.89 reached on June 16.

Read moreOil Surges Above $140 to Record as Libya Warns of Output Cut

Is Britain on the slippery slope to dictatorship?

The democracy-loving British public would never put up with dictatorship – or would they?

An 82-year-old former bomber pilot I met in the street the other day said: “Supermen. Ha! If Hitler had come over here we would have given him a proper kick up the jackside.” As Michael White suggests, British people are fond of the myth that they won’t tolerate dictatorships, despite the fact that there were many fascist sympathisers in Britain in the 1930s.

Yes, we do live in a relatively free and secular country – just ask any young Afghani woman studying at a college here for her opinion. But there is also evidence around us that the British government is engaging in repression. And not just in Iraq or Afghanistan, but here in Britain. Perhaps those of us who have lived for a time under dictatorships can spot some of the warning signs:

  • Inconvenient elections are avoided in the name of getting on with the job.
  • Leaders of the opposition are character-assassinated by the state media.
  • Institutions like the legislature begin to lose their independence and traditional role.
  • Citizens are increasingly afraid to speak openly on certain issues.
  • Citizens are observed and monitored on cameras and the government can tap into their conversations at will.
  • Governments can snatch anyone from their homes or off the street and detain them without trial on charges of treason or terrorism.
  • Ethnic and religious minorities are persecuted and are made into scapegoats.
  • The state increasingly intervenes in family and community life in an attempt to control citizens’ behaviour.
  • The focus of discussion moves away from the issues and into a narrative of political rivalries and gossip spreads.
  • Governments use bread and circuses to shut people up and distract attention away from their increasing political impotence.
  • Public spaces for demonstrations are closed down and restricted.
  • Large and ridiculous monuments are built to impress the citizens.
  • Individuals have to carry ID with them at all times and the government holds large amounts of information on every citizen.

How does the British government rate on the dictatorship scale? How close are we to Zimbabwe under Zanu? How far away are we from, say, Norway?

Read moreIs Britain on the slippery slope to dictatorship?