Americans buying their own health insurance face an average 20 percent increase in premiums

Change we can believe in!

See also: Obama exempt from Obamacare (Washington Times)


Americans buying their own health insurance face an average 20 percent increase in premiums, driving some toward cheaper plans with fewer benefits, according to the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

An estimated 14 million U.S. individuals under age 65 purchase coverage themselves, rather than through an employer, according to a Kaiser report released today. About 77 percent of them got a premium increase, said the Menlo Park, California- based nonprofit, which surveyed 1,038 buyers of their own individual and family health insurance between March 19 and April 2.

What’s driving up costs and how much is a fair rate increase are issues of debate among regulators and insurers, said Drew Altman, Kaiser’s chief executive officer and president. “If you’re being hit with a 20 percent increase and inflation is negligible and your wages aren’t going up, that on its face is an unreasonable increase,” Altman said. “You will never convince a consumer that’s a reasonable increase when wages and inflation are flat.”

About 60 percent of policyholders paid the higher bills, while 16 percent switched to a less expensive plan, according to Kaiser. Of those who changed coverage, nearly half said their new policy offered fewer benefits.

Costs Increase

“Health insurance premiums are rising because medical costs continue to soar and because younger and healthier people are choosing to drop their insurance during a weak economy,” said Robert Zirkelbach, a spokesman for America’s Health Insurance Plans, an industry group based in Washington. “That’s driving up costs for everyone else.”

Read moreAmericans buying their own health insurance face an average 20 percent increase in premiums

US Supreme Court Lifts Ban On Monsanto’s GM Alfalfa

us_supreme_court_032

WASHINGTON, USA (AFP) – The Supreme Court lifted Monday a four-year ban on the sale in the United States of genetically modified alfalfa, which farmers fear contaminates others crops.

A district court judge in California in May 2007 blocked the US biotech giant Monsanto from selling alfalfa seeds that it had genetically modified to resist its Roundup weed killer.

Read moreUS Supreme Court Lifts Ban On Monsanto’s GM Alfalfa

Saudi Arabia: Gold Reserves Over Twice Previous Estimate

Surprise!


gold-bars

AP Business Writer= CAIRO (AP) — Saudi Arabia’s central bank holds more than twice the amount of gold previously estimated, a shift that analysts said reflected more of an accounting adjustment than an indication the oil rich nation was veering away from its conservative reserve policy.

A June report by the World Gold Council, an industry group that tracks gold bullion holdings by nations the world over, showed the Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency’s gold reserve figure climbed to 322.9 tons compared to 143 tons reported in March.

The council said its gold data was “modified from the first quarter 2008 as a result of the adjustment of the SAMA’s gold accounts.”

Analysts said the change either signaled an accounting revision or that the kingdom, which sits atop the world’s largest proven reserves of conventional crude oil, had stepped up buying gold in 2008 as the metal’s value took a frequent beating during the global economic meltdown.

The same financial downturn also pummeled the price of oil, Saudi Arabia’s chief export.

Gold prices have gained steadily this year, settling Friday at a record $1,258.30 an ounce.

At that level, SAMA’s total official holdings of the precious metal are worth about $14.33 billion, or roughly 3.5 percent of the country’s total $413 billion in foreign assets.

“The only reason (for the change) beside the accounting of a larger portion of gold as SAMA assets, was they could have bought more gold in 2008,” said John Sfakianakis, chief economist at the Riyadh-based Banque Saudi Fransi-Credit Agricole Group.

“I think it was purely a buying opportunity in 2008,” he said. “There isn’t a shift away from their conservative approach of managing their foreign assets — being liquid, low risk and very long-term based.”

But those increases, recorded in SAMA’s April Monthly Statistical Bulletin, fail to even remotely explain the more than doubling of its gold reserves, as reported by the World Gold Council.

Saudi figures show that gold holdings by the country climbed by 867 million riyals ($231.2 million) in 2008 from the previous year.

Read moreSaudi Arabia: Gold Reserves Over Twice Previous Estimate

Big Brother: One In Three UK Schools Now Fingerprinting Kids

the-students-will-be-scanned-using-new-biometric-technology
Crackdown: One in three secondary students will be forced to submit an electronic fingerprint in order to carry out basic administration at school

One in three secondary schools is forcing children to swipe their fingerprints just to register in class or take out library books, it emerged yesterday.

Figures diclosed under the Freedom of Information Act show how ‘Big Brother’ technology is becoming widespread in schools.

Thirty per cent of high schools are taking fingerprints simply to speed up basic administration such as borrowing books, registering in the mornings and buying canteen lunches.

It means tens of thousands of pupils have had their prints taken at school.

Read moreBig Brother: One In Three UK Schools Now Fingerprinting Kids

Report: US and Israeli warships cross Suez Canal toward Red Sea

See also:

US Begins Massive Military Build Up Around Iran, Sending Up To 4 New Carrier Groups In Region

US shipping hundreds of powerful bunker buster bombs for coming attack on Iran


Egypt opposition angered at government for allowing the fleet of more than 12 ships to cross Egyptian manned waterway, Al-Quds Al-Arabi reports.

us-warship

(Haaretz) — More than twelve United States Naval warships and at least one Israeli ship crossed the Suez Canal towards the Red Sea on Friday, British Arabic Language newspaper Al-Quds Al-Arabi reported Saturday.

According to the report, thousands of Egyptian soldiers were deployed along the Suez Canal guarding the ships’ passage, which included a U.S. aircraft carrier.

The Suez Canal is a strategic Egyptian waterway which connects between the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea.

According to eyewitnesses, the U.S. battleships were the largest to have crossed the Canal in many years, Al-Quds reported.

Read moreReport: US and Israeli warships cross Suez Canal toward Red Sea

US Buys Russian Choppers For Afghan Military

U.S. military criticized for purchase of Russian copters for Afghan air corps

russian-mi-17-transport-helicopter

(Washington Post) — The U.S. government is snapping up Russian-made helicopters to form the core of Afghanistan’s fledgling air force, a strategy that is drawing flak from members of Congress who want to force the Afghans to fly American choppers instead.

In a turnabout from the Cold War, when the CIA gave Stinger missiles to Afghan rebels to shoot down Soviet helicopters, the Pentagon has spent $648 million to buy or refurbish 31 Russian Mi-17 transport helicopters for the Afghan National Army Air Corps. The Defense Department is seeking to buy 10 more of the Mi-17s next year, and had planned to buy dozens more over the next decade.

The spectacle of using U.S. taxpayer dollars to buy Russian military products is proving a difficult sell in Congress. Some legislators say that the Pentagon never considered alternatives to the Mi-17, an aircraft it purchased for use in Iraq and Pakistan, and that a lack of competition has enabled Russian defense contractors to gouge on prices.

Read moreUS Buys Russian Choppers For Afghan Military

China pledges to ‘increase the renminbi’s exchange-rate flexibility’

Mike Krieger: This Is The Last Dance:

They refuse to allow the yuan to strengthen because they know that once they do that it will mark the real end of the dollar era. So instead they are spending like crazy on infrastructure ahead of them allowing the dollar to plunge.  Then the strong yuan will be employed to purchase all the commodities they need to utilize their infrastructure and the OECD gets priced out. To those that talk about yuan devaluation, you need to be specific.  Devaluation versus what?  Versus commodities generally along with other currencies?  I can buy that argument very easily.  Versus the dollar, highly doubtful.  Why? The latest data says China owns $877.5 billion in U.S. treasuries. All they have to do is start dumping and the dollar is finished as the Fed will be forced to print so many dollars it will make Mugabe blush.  People need to wake up.

(Mike Krieger, formerly a macro analyst at Bernstein, and currently running his own fund, KAM LP, summarizies the pretend reality we are all caught in now, knowing full well America is set on a crash course with reality at some point, yet sticking our collective heads in the sand, as the collapse will be some time in the “indefinite” future. In the meantime, banks will continue to boost US GDP by peddling “financial innovation” and restructuring advice to countries like Greece… and nothing else.)


China’s Stocks May Rally Tomorrow After Yuan Policy Move, CICC, SocGen Say

yuan-dollar

June 20 (Bloomberg) — China’s pledge to make the yuan more flexible may boost shares denominated in the currency when markets open tomorrow, China International Capital Corp. and Societe Generale SA said.

“If it leads to appreciation for the yuan, it’s good news for the market,” Hao Hong, global equity strategist for CICC in Beijing, said in a report today. “Investors will want to get into Chinese assets because they will be worth more. It will also deflect political criticism and help stem inflation.”

The People’s Bank of China said yesterday that it will “increase the renminbi’s exchange-rate flexibility” after the economy improved. Officials have kept the yuan, also known as the renminbi, at about 6.83 per dollar since July 2008, aiding the nation’s exporters and fueling tensions with trade partners.

Read moreChina pledges to ‘increase the renminbi’s exchange-rate flexibility’

President Dmitry Medvedev Calls For ‘New World Economic Order’

Medvedev Pushes Ruble Reserve Currency to Cut Dollar Dominance

russian-president-dmitry-medvedev
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev

June 19 (Bloomberg) — Russia wants the ruble to be one of the world’s reserve currencies as President Dmitry Medvedev renews his push to reduce the dollar’s dominance and make Moscow a global financial hub.

“Only three, five years ago it seemed like a fantasy” to create a new reserve currency, Medvedev said yesterday in a speech in St. Petersburg, Russia. “Now we are seriously discussing it.”

Medvedev, who has repeatedly called for a supranational currency to match the dollar, said discussions with China are continuing on broadening the global options. Russia sold U.S. Treasuries for a fifth consecutive month in April, the U.S. Treasury Department said June 15. The world may need as many as six reserve currencies, Medvedev said.

“It’s something that’s obviously needed,” he said at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum. “Developing a financial center in Moscow will considerably help to strengthen the ruble’s position as one of the reserve currencies.”

Medvedev’s comments underline Russia’s ambition to reassert its global power following the financial crisis. Gross domestic product shrank 7.9 percent last year, the worst contraction since the fall of communism in 1991, after the credit crunch sent commodity prices plunging.

If a country wants to alter the world economic order, including the number of reserve currencies, it must become an international financial center, Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer said in an interview yesterday.

‘Don’t Emerge by Fiat’

“For a currency to be a reserve currency, you have to have capital markets in which you can sell it and buy it very easily,” Fischer said. “New reserve currencies don’t emerge by fiat. They emerge as countries change.”

Medvedev said he envisages a new economic hierarchy allowing emerging-market giants such as Russia and China to drive the global agenda as the world emerges from the first global recession since the 1930s.

“We really live at a unique time, and we should use it to build a modern, prosperous and strong Russia, a Russia that will be a co-founder of the new world economic order,” he said.

Read morePresident Dmitry Medvedev Calls For ‘New World Economic Order’

North Korea lifts restrictions on private markets as last resort in food crisis

north-korea-lifts-restrictions-on-private-markets-as-last-resort-in-food-crisis
North Koreans work on a farm near the Yalu River. A dire food shortage has led the government to lift all restrictions on private markets. (Reuters)

SEOUL — Bowing to reality, the North Korean government has lifted all restrictions on private markets — a last-resort option for a leadership desperate to prevent its people from starving.

In recent weeks, according to North Korea observers and defector groups with sources in the country, Kim Jong Il’s government admitted its inability to solve the current food shortage and encouraged its people to rely on private markets for the purchase of goods. Though the policy reversal will not alter daily patterns — North Koreans have depended on such markets for more than 15 years — the latest order from Pyongyang abandons a key pillar of a central, planned economy.

With November’s currency revaluation, Kim wiped out his citizens’ personal savings and struck a blow against the private food distribution system sustaining his country. The latest policy switch, though, stands as an acknowledgment that the currency move was a failure and that only capitalist-style trading can prevent widespread famine.

Read moreNorth Korea lifts restrictions on private markets as last resort in food crisis

UN Report Warns: Food Prices To Rise By Up To 40% Over Next Decade

I expect food prices to rise over 100% in the not too distant future.


Growing demand from emerging markets and for biofuel production will send prices soaring, according to the OECD and the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation

somalia-protest-over-high-food-prices
Somalis protest over high food prices during the spike of 2008. (Getty Images)

Food prices are set to rise as much as 40% over the coming decade amid growing demand from emerging markets and for biofuel production, according to a United Nations report today which warns of rising hunger and food insecurity.

Farm commodity prices have fallen from their record peaks of two years ago but are set to pick up again and are unlikely to drop back to their average levels of the past decade, according to the annual joint report from Paris-based thinktank the OECD and the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

The forecasts are for wheat and coarse grain prices over the next 10 years to be between 15% and 40% higher in real terms, once adjusted for inflation, than their average levels during the 1997-2006 period, the decade before the price spike of 2007-08. Real prices for vegetable oils are expected to be more than 40% higher and dairy prices are projected to be between 16-45% higher. But rises in livestock prices are expected to be less marked, although world demand for meat is climbing faster than for other farm commodities on the back of rising wealth for some sections of the population in emerging economies.

Although the report sees production increasing to meet demand, it warns that recent price spikes and the economic crisis have contributed to a rise in hunger and food insecurity. About 1 billion people are now estimated to be undernourished, it said.

Fairtrade campaigners said the predictions of sharply rising prices provided a “stark warning” to international policymakers.

“Investment to encourage the 1 billion people whose livelihoods rely on smallholder agriculture is vital. Not only will this increase yields but will go a long way to increase prosperity in poverty stricken regions,” said Barbara Crowther, director of communications at the Fairtrade Foundation.

“At the same time, the promise of increased agriculture commodity prices could spark a new surge in land grabbing by sovereign wealth funds and other powerful investors which risks marginalising further rural communities who must be included in solutions to secure and maintain food supplies.”

Read moreUN Report Warns: Food Prices To Rise By Up To 40% Over Next Decade