Floods may boost world food prices for years

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Floods wipe out US crops

The Best Farmland in the U.S. Is Flooded; Most Americans Are Too Stupid to Panic
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LEVEES on the cresting Mississippi River held today as the worst US Midwest flooding in 15 years began to ebb, but multibillion-dollar crop losses may boost world food prices for years.

Water levels on the river receded for the second straight day as mostly clear weather gave saturated areas a chance to start draining. Forecasts for similar dry weather in coming days gave further encouragement.

The swollen river was expected to crest tomorrow in St Louis at 11.9 metres, 3.3 metres below the record set in 1993 and a level considered “manageable”, said US Army Corps of Engineers St Louis District spokesman Alan Dooley.

“The crest in the areas up the Mississippi River in the district has passed,” Dooley said. “The water is still up very high and it is up against levees.”

Read moreFloods may boost world food prices for years

Pentagon Fights EPA On Pollution Cleanup

The Defense Department, the nation’s biggest polluter, is resisting orders from the Environmental Protection Agency to clean up Fort Meade and two other military bases where the EPA says dumped chemicals pose “imminent and substantial” dangers to public health and the environment.

The Pentagon has also declined to sign agreements required by law that cover 12 other military sites on the Superfund list of the most polluted places in the country. The contracts would spell out a remediation plan, set schedules, and allow the EPA to oversee the work and assess penalties if milestones are missed.

The actions are part of a standoff between the Pentagon and environmental regulators that has been building during the Bush administration, leaving the EPA in a legal limbo as it addresses growing concerns about contaminants on military bases that are seeping into drinking water aquifers and soil.

Under executive branch policy, the EPA will not sue the Pentagon, as it would a private polluter. Although the law gives final say to EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson in cleanup disputes with other federal agencies, the Pentagon refuses to recognize that provision. Military officials wrote to the Justice Department last month to challenge EPA’s authority to issue the orders and asked the Office of Management and Budget to intervene.

Experts in environmental law said the Pentagon’s stand is unprecedented.

“This is stunning,” said Rena Steinzor, who helped write the Superfund laws as a congressional staffer and now teaches at the University of Maryland Law School and is president of the nonprofit Center for Progressive Reform. “The idea that they would refuse to sign a final order — that is the height of amazing nerve.”

Pentagon officials say they are voluntarily cleaning up the three sites named in the EPA’s “final orders” — Fort Meade in Maryland, Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida and McGuire Air Force Base in New Jersey.

Fort Meade borders residential areas in fast-growing Anne Arundel County; Tyndall and McGuire are in less-populated regions. At all three sites, the military has released toxic chemicals — some known to cause cancer and other serious health problems — into the soil and groundwater.

But the EPA has been dissatisfied with the extent and progress of the Pentagon’s voluntary efforts.

“Final orders” are the EPA’s most potent enforcement tool. If a polluter does not comply, the agency usually can go to court to force compliance and impose fines up to $28,000 a day for each violation.

Read morePentagon Fights EPA On Pollution Cleanup

IMF orders X-ray of the entire US financial system

IMAGINE the Reserve Bank of Australia, concerned that its friends in the city of Sydney (but perhaps Melbourne) who, having wallowed in wealth all their adult lives, were no longer gainfully employable and their wildly extravagant lifestyles were in danger, and, having the powers to intervene in the market, decided to do just that on their behalf.

Imagine them offering to enter the market and buy shares that would prop up the foolish gambles of the bankers, gambles they had encouraged them, until recently, to take by providing them with cheap money.

On top of that, they told this group they would provide hundreds of billions of dollars in credits to these same profiteers on the grounds they were so big and important to the economy they were indeed too big to fail.

Then, imagine, despite pouring untold taxpayers money into stocks and allowing their cronies access to vast sums, the system continued to fail. So they announced they would need greater power and with it more secrecy.

For its growing band of critics has, perhaps unwittingly and in the interest of public good, this has become the principal function of the US Federal Reserve.

If this was to happen in Australia the International Monetary Fund would be hammering at the door of the Reserve Bank. But Australia does not have a President’s Working Group on Financial Markets, commonly known as the Plunge Protection Team, that allows the US Government to prop up the markets by buying shares. But to imagine the IMF investigating the US financial system is unthinkable, or was. But, at the weekend, Der Spiegel reported that the IMF would conduct a full investigation into virtually every aspect of it.

Der Spiegel wrote that the IMF had “informed” Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke of plans that would have been unheard of in the past: a general examination of the US financial system. The IMF’s board of directors has ruled that a so-called Financial Sector Assessment Program is to be carried out in the US.

This, Der Spiegel wrote, “is nothing less than an X-ray of the entire US financial system”, adding that “no Fed chief in US history has been forced to submit to the kind of humiliation that Ben Bernanke is facing”.

The fact that the IMF is knocking on the very doors of its parents and waving legal papers about who lost the house, the car and the kids will, if the past is anything to go by, be buried in the US by pom-pom waving on CNBC telling all what a great time it is to buy.

But the news that the US Fed has now lost its last vestige of credibility did not end with the German report.

The Telegraph from London weighed in, following the Royal Bank of Scotland’s statement last week (also lost on the US public) that it was time to head for the crags, and reported Barclays Capital’s closely watched Global Outlook analysis that said US headline inflation would hit 5.5% by August and the Fed would have to raise interest rates six times by the end of next year to prevent a wage spiral.

If the Fed 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,” the report found. “They have zero credibility, and the Fed is negative if that’s possible. It has lost all credibility.”

Der Spiegel reports that the IMF is threatening to seriously study the accounts of America, something President George Bush is determined to prevent at least while he is in the White House, informing the IMF that it can begin its investigation but cannot complete it until he leaves office.

Read moreIMF orders X-ray of the entire US financial system

Jim Rogers: Avoid The Dollar At All Costs

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June 30 (Bloomberg) — Jim Rogers, who in April 2006 correctly predicted oil would reach $100 a barrel and gold $1,000 an ounce, said investors should steer clear of the dollar as the U.S. economy slows and favor commodities this year.

The dollar has slipped 7.7 percent against the euro and 5.9 percent versus the yen in 2008 as the Federal Reserve cut interest rates to stave off a U.S. recession. Oil prices have doubled in the past 12 months, while gold is up 44 percent.

Avoid the dollar “at all costs,” Rogers, chairman of Rogers Holdings, said in a speech in Shanghai today. “The best investments in 2008 are commodities and natural resources. Agricultural prices have much higher to go over the next decade. We have a shortage of everything, including seeds.”

Oil and metal prices in New York have surged as a slumping U.S. currency made them cheaper for non-dollar investors to buy as a hedge against inflation in a slowing global economy. The dollar has stabilized in recent weeks, with currency volatility falling by the most since 1999 this quarter.

The comments from Rogers, 65, come two days after he told investors at a conference in Nanjing not to “give up” on Chinese shares, which have made China the world’s second worst performers this year. Rogers, who first started buying Chinese stocks in 1999, said he hadn’t sold any of his holdings.

Commodity Bull

Read moreJim Rogers: Avoid The Dollar At All Costs

Bush Fulfills His Grandfather’s Dream

It’s remarkably common for a grandson to take up his grandfather’s major project. This occurred to me when I read recently of Thor Heyerdahl’s grandson taking up his mission to cross the Pacific on a raft.

But what really struck me was the BBC story aired on July 23rd, 2007, documenting President George W. Bush’s grandfather’s involvement in a 1933 plot to overthrow the U.S. government and install a fascist dictatorship.

I knew the story, but had not considered the possibility that the grandson was trying to accomplish what his grandfather had failed to achieve.

Prescott Sheldon Bush (1895 to 1972) attended Yale University and joined the secret society known as Skull and Bones. Prescott is widely reported to have stolen the skull of Native American leader Geronimo. As far as I know, this has not actually been confirmed. In fact, Prescott seems to have had a habit of making things up. He sent letters home from World War I claiming he’d received medals for heroism. After the letters were printed in newspapers, he had to retract his claims.

If this does not yet sound like the life of a George W. Bush ancestor, try this on for size: Prescott Bush’s early business efforts tended to fail. He married the daughter of a very rich man named George Herbert Walker (the guy with the compound at Kennebunkport, Maine, that now belongs to the Bush family, and the origin of Dubya’s middle initial). Walker installed Prescott Bush as an executive in Thyssen and Flick. From then on, Prescott’s business dealings went better, and he entered politics.

Now, the name Thyssen comes from a German named Fritz Thyssen, major financial backer of the rise of Adolph Hitler. Thyssen was referred to in the New York Herald-Tribune as “Hitler’s Angel.” During the 1930s and early 1940s, and even as late as 1951, Prescott Bush was involved in business dealings with Thyssen, and was inevitably aware of both Thyssen’s political activities and the fact that the companies involved were financially benefiting the nation of Germany. In addition, the companies Prescott Bush profited from included one engaged in mining operations in Poland using slave labor from Auschwitz. Two former slave laborers have sued the U.S. government and the heirs of Prescott Bush for $40 billion.

Until the United States entered World War II it was legal for Americans to do business with Germany, but in late 1942 Prescott Bush’s businesses interests were seized under the Trading with the Enemy Act. Among those businesses involved was the Hamburg America Lines, for which Prescott Bush served as a manager. A Congressional committee, in a report called the McCormack-Dickstein Report, found that Hamburg America Lines had offered free passage to Germany for journalists willing to write favorably about the Nazis, and had brought Nazi sympathizers to America. (Is this starting to remind anyone of our current president’s relationship to the freedom of the press?)

The McCormack-Dickstein Committee was established to investigate a homegrown American fascist plot hatched in 1933. Here’s how the BBC promoted its recent story:

“Document uncovers details of a planned coup in the USA in 1933 by right-wing American businessmen. The coup was aimed at toppling President Franklin D Roosevelt with the help of half-a-million war veterans. The plotters, who were alleged to involve some of the most famous families in America, (owners of Heinz, Birds Eye, Goodtea, Maxwell Hse & George Bush´s Grandfather, Prescott) believed that their country should adopt the policies of Hitler and Mussolini to beat the great depression. Mike Thomson investigates why so little is known about this biggest ever peacetime threat to American democracy.”

Read moreBush Fulfills His Grandfather’s Dream

Iran ready to strike at Israel’s nuclear heart

Iran has moved ballistic missiles into launch positions, with Israel’s Dimona nuclear plant among the possible targets, defence sources said last week.

The movement of Shahab-3B missiles, which have an estimated range of more than 1,250 miles, followed a large-scale exercise earlier this month in which the Israeli air force flew en masse over the Mediterranean in an apparent rehearsal for a threatened attack on Iran’s nuclear installations. Israel believes Iran’s nuclear programme is aimed at acquiring nuclear weapons.

The sources said Iran was preparing to retaliate for any onslaught by firing missiles at Dimona, where Israel’s own nuclear weapons are believed to be made.

Major-General Mohammad Jafari, the commander of the Revolutionary Guard, told a Tehran daily: “This country [Israel] is completely within the range of the Islamic Republic’s missiles. Our missile power and capability are such that the Zionist regime – despite all its abilities – cannot confront it.”

Read moreIran ready to strike at Israel’s nuclear heart

U.S. escalating covert operations against Iran: report

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. congressional leaders agreed late last year to President George W. Bush’s funding request for a major escalation of covert operations against Iran aimed at destabilizing its leadership, according to a report in The New Yorker magazine published online on Sunday.

The article by reporter Seymour Hersh, from the magazine’s July 7 and 14 issue, centers on a highly classified Presidential Finding signed by Bush which by U.S. law must be made known to Democratic and Republican House and Senate leaders and ranking members of the intelligence committees.

“The Finding was focused on undermining Iran’s nuclear ambitions and trying to undermine the government through regime change,” the article cited a person familiar with its contents as saying, and involved “working with opposition groups and passing money.”

Hersh has written previously about possible administration plans to go to war to stop Tehran from obtaining nuclear weapons, including an April 2006 article in the New Yorker that suggested regime change in Iran, whether by diplomatic or military means, was Bush’s ultimate goal.

Funding for the covert escalation, for which Bush requested up to $400 million, was approved by congressional leaders, according to the article, citing current and former military, intelligence and congressional sources.

Clandestine operations against Iran are not new. U.S. Special Operations Forces have been conducting crossborder operations from southern Iraq since last year, the article said.

These have included seizing members of Al Quds, the commando arm of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, and taking them to Iraq for interrogation, and the pursuit of “high-value targets” in Bush’s war on terrorism, who may be captured or killed, according to the article.

Read moreU.S. escalating covert operations against Iran: report

Top US commander briefed on IDF’s four-front strategy in potential Iran war context

Top US commander Adm. Michael Mullen sees for himself
Top US commander Adm. Michael Mullen sees for himself

The visiting Chairman of the US Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Michael Mullen, carried out a guided tour of Israel’s borders with Syria, Lebanon and the Gaza Strip over the weekend. It was led by the IDF chief of staff Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi and OCs Northern and Southern Commands, Maj. Gens. Eisenkott and Galant.

He was briefed on IDF tactics in a war on all these potential flashpoints in the context of a comprehensive conflict with Iran and then held long conversations with defense minister Ehud Barak and Ashkenazi.

DEBKAfile‘s military sources report that it is very unusual for the top American commander to carry out a close, on-the-spot study of Israel’s potential war fronts. It was prompted on the one hand by skepticism in parts of the US high command of Israel’s ability to simultaneously strike Iran’s nuclear installations and fight off attacks from three borders while, at the same time, Adm. Mullen showed he was open to persuasion that the IDF’s prospective tactics and war plans were workable.

Military circles in Washington, commenting on the large-scale air maneuver Israel carried out with Greece earlier in June, have opined that 100 warplanes are not enough for the Israel Air Force to destroy all of Iran’s secret nuclear sites; more than 1,000 would be needed. Israel military tacticians in contact with US commanders have countered that, while Iran’s secret nuclear locations are scattered and buried deep, still, every chain has weak links and is therefore vulnerable.

The tough threats issued by Iranian Revolutionary Guards commander Mohamed Ali Jafari on Saturday, June 28, were prompted by the Adm. Mullen’s Israeli border tour, word of which was flashed to Tehran by Syrian-Iranian observation posts inside Syrian and Lebanese borders.

(The Sunday Times added that Iran moved its ballistic Shihab-3 missiles into launch positions, with Israel’s Dimona nuclear plant among its possible targets.)

Saturday, DEBKAfile reported:

The IRGC chief, Mohammad Ali Jafari issued Tehran’s toughest and most explicit threats yet in response to recent reports of Israeli preparations to strike Iran’s nuclear installations.

Hinting at an American attack, he said: “If there is a confrontation between us and the enemy from outside the region , definitely the scope will reach the oil issue.”

After this action (of imposing controls on the Gulf waterway), the oil price will rise very considerably,” he said.

Read moreTop US commander briefed on IDF’s four-front strategy in potential Iran war context

The Dow-Crash, The Dollar, Gold, and WAR!

The June 2008 Dow Crash
and the coming first strike attack on Iran
herald the end of dollar hegemony.

BREAK-DOW!

They say that pictures speak a thousand words, so let’s start this with a picture:

Today, the Dow crashed through its eight-year support level at 11,750. There isn’t much below now to keep it from dropping all the way back down to the 7,500-range. What that will do to American investor psychology and worse, consumer confidence, and therefore spending, and therefore the economy, is only too apparent.

The gold-attack on Monday obviously didn’t take. Gold recovered the following day and powered up by $26 the very next day to close in NY at $911. On Friday, gold confirmed its breakout, which means there will be little holding it back – just like there is now very little that’s holding the Dow up.

Unsurprisingly, the US war machinery is in full swing at this time. Troop and military asset movements into the Iranian theater are nearly complete, the Israelis have flown their practice-attack of 100-plus fighter jets over the Mediterranean, and Congress has again prostrated itself before its banking-guild rulers who want total government (and therefore banking) of all economic activity.

Congress did this by passing the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 to give retroactive immunity to telcoms spying for the government, and by proposing a resolution (the already infamous H. Con. Res. 362) by which Congress demands that Bush completely blockade Iran in order to force it to stop enriching uranium. This, naturally, is a perfect setup for unleashing the long-planned bombing campaign on Iran. Congressmen know that Iran will not accede to these international demands.

End result: We will probably get another war because of all this, just like we got one back in 2002-03 when the Dow plunged into the chasm this recently broken support level has bridged for these past eight years (see chart above).

The problem is that this time, it is a bipartisan gang of US war mongers in our Congress who all appear hell-bent on forcing Bush to attack Iran with a preemptive strike, possibly even an unprovoked nuclear first strike – something that human history so far has not had to deal with.

It is also something that will cause the US to forfeit any legitimate claims of world leadership for the remainder of that history.

The War Currency

Wars are rarely fought over national security issues, as political leaders often claim. At rock bottom, they are mostly fought over economic issues.

Iraq and Iran (if Congress and the administration get their way) are the only two countries the US has ever attacked preemptively. They are also the only two oil-producing countries that ever went off the petrodollar. The alleged nuclear ambitions of a terrorist-sponsoring country cannot be the real reason for the planned attack – because terrorist-sponsor North Korea was not only allowed to develop nuclear weapons unmolested, it was even allowed to test-launch a potentially nuclear-tipped ICBM at the US without any military repercussions whatsoever.

There goes the “national security” rationalization for this planned attack.

This fact exposes the attacks for what they really are. tools of US monetary policy. The dollar has no real value internationally, save for the fact that the now militarily enforced necessity for countries to buy dollars in order to buy oil creates artificial demand.

The euro’s existence threatens all of this, now. Oil countries have a dollar-alternative in the euro, and so does the rest of the world. The euro is designed to not be quite as inflationary as the dollar is and has been. This is done by virtue of the ECB’s exclusive mandate of “price stability”, another word for inflation fighting.

Yet Another War Currency

Read moreThe Dow-Crash, The Dollar, Gold, and WAR!