Dow falls below 8,000, S&P at 5-year low

NEW YORK – Wall Street hit levels not seen since 2003 on Wednesday, with the Dow Jones industrial average plunging below the 8,000 mark amid a dour economic outlook from the Federal Reserve and worries over the fate of Detroit’s three automakers.

A cascade of selling occurred in the final minutes of the session as investors yanked money out of the market. For many, the real fear is that the recession might be even more protracted if Capitol Hill is unable to bail out the troubled auto industry.

Investors also scoured economic data that included minutes from the last meeting of the Federal Reserve in which policymakers lowered projections for economic activity this year and next. Economic worries caused across-the-board selling, with financial stocks particularly hard hit.

The S&P 500, widely considered the broadest snapshot of corporate America, slipped 52.54 points, or 6.12 percent, to 806.58; and the Dow gave up 427.47 points, or 5.07 percent, to 7,997.28. Both closed at their lowest levels since March 2003, and are rapidly approaching the lows of the 2000 to 2002 bear market.

The financial crisis has already wiped out $6.69 trillion of value from the S&P 500 since its October 2007 high, and many fear more is to come. Stocks have traded with high volatility in the past few months, with the major indexes soaring only to plunge an hour later as the market searches for a bottom.

Read moreDow falls below 8,000, S&P at 5-year low

Statement From G-20 Summit: In English

The Editor of Expresso in Portugal wanted my take on the recent G-20 communique. Here is my “translation” of the official statement:

1. Now that the growth of debt and derivatives bubbles has stalled, we are committed to using governmental-central bank mechanisms to cover the positions of any of the large private financial institutions whose profits are at risk due to their management of these bubbles and who can use this opportunity to squeeze and acquire smaller rivals at low cost.

2. Our commitment to use derivatives and market interventions to shift investment from the real economy and commodities into a paper economy is firm. We will continue to use centralized governmental mechanisms to subsidize and manage this process.

3. All of the organizations and players who reaped a fortune engineering the debt and derivatives bubbles will be allowed to keep their winnings.

4. We will use this period of consolidation to further centralize the global financial system by enforcing greater centralization of the standards, practices and control of enforcement and regulatory bureaucracies. This increased governmental centralization will be presented as the “fix” for our “problems.”

5. We will continue the move toward one world government and one world currency.

Read moreStatement From G-20 Summit: In English

Why Gold Is Down, But You Can’t Get Your Hands on Any

At first glance, it appears as if the gold bugs, those bullish on gold, have been stepped on this year. Spot gold is down nearly 30% from its peak of $1033 an ounce set earlier in the year.

But a two tiered market has developed where speculators have been badly burned trading gold futures, while some investors holding actual physical gold have not only managed to keep their shirts, but have held on to gains for the year.

Dealers and analysts are calling it an “upside down” market where physical gold, including coins and bars, are in short supply and far more expensive than the price quoted on New York Mercantile Exchange’s COMEX division.

What’s sparking the demand for physical gold? You need to look no further than the financial landscape surrounding investors.

“I’ve never seen anything like this,” says Scott A. Travers, author of The Coin Collector’s Survival Manual. “1979 and 1980, the go-go years of Jimmy Carter, gas lines, inflation, interest rates at extraordinary levels had people rushing to tangibles. The frenzied pace for yellow metal today has exceeded those tumultuous levels.”

Read moreWhy Gold Is Down, But You Can’t Get Your Hands on Any

Israel sends tanks into Gaza

Jerusalem Israeli tanks entered the southern Gaza Strip yesterday, drawing mortar fire from Palestinian militants and undermining a tenuous truce. The tanks, backed by a bulldozer, drove 500 metres into the strip and levelled earth near Rafah, Gaza’s southeastern border crossing with Egypt.

Israel said that the operation was mounted to uncover explosives, while the Palestinians accused Israel of trying to increase violence. The latest fighting began two weeks ago and there is now a near-daily cycle of mortar attacks on southern Israeli towns and Israeli airstrikes in Gaza. At least 17 Palestinians have died, and several Israelis have been wounded.

Read moreIsrael sends tanks into Gaza

Al-Qaeda vows to hurt Obama’s US


A clip from al-Qaeda’s message

The second-in-command of Islamic militant network al-Qaeda has called on Muslims to harm “criminal” America.

In a message purportedly from Ayman al-Zawahiri, the al-Qaeda deputy accused US President-elect Barack Obama of betraying his Muslim roots.

He likened him to a “house slave” – who had chosen to align himself with the “enemies” of Islam.

Mr Obama has said stamping out al-Qaeda “once and for all” will be a top priority during his administration.

On Sunday, he said capturing or killing Osama Bin Laden was “critical” to US security.

He has also promised to bolster the US presence in Afghanistan – a policy that would fail, said the al-Qaeda deputy.

The US said the message did not signal any increased threat against America.

You were born to a Muslim father, but you chose to stand in the ranks of the enemies of the Muslims, and pray the prayer of the Jews
Al-Qaeda message

This is undoubtedly a message aimed at sustaining anti-American sentiment among Muslims in the face of Barack Obama’s election, says the BBC’s defence correspondent Rob Watson.

But it is a risky approach, our correspondent says.

Barack Obama is hugely popular world-wide and his colour and background make him a much tougher target to attack than President George W Bush in the eyes of a global audience, he says.

Read moreAl-Qaeda vows to hurt Obama’s US

Cheney and Gonzales indicted for organized crime

A grand jury in South Texas indicted U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney and former attorney General Alberto Gonzales on Tuesday for “organized criminal activity” related to alleged abuse of inmates in private prisons. The indictment has not been seen by a judge, who could dismiss it.


US Vice President Dick Cheney (L) and former US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales (R). According to November 18, 2008 media reports, US Vice President Dick Cheney and former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales have been indicted by a South Texas grand jury on charges relating to alleged abuse of prisoners in Willacy County’s federal detention centers. Picture: AFP

The grand jury in Willacy County, in the Rio Grande Valley near the U.S.-Mexico border, said Cheney is “profiteering from depriving human beings of their liberty,” according to a copy of the indictment obtained by Reuters.

The indictment cites a “money trail” of Cheney’s ownership in prison-related enterprises including the Vanguard Group, which owns an interest in private prisons in south Texas.

Former attorney general Gonzales used his position to “stop the investigations as to the wrong doings” into assaults in county prisons, the indictment said.

Cheney’s office declined comment. “We have not received any indictments. I can’t comment on something we have not received,” said Cheney’s spokeswoman Megan Mitchell.

The indictment, overseen by county District Attorney Juan Guerra, cites the case of Gregorio De La Rosa, who died on April 26, 2001, inside a private prison in Willacy County.

The grand jury wrote it made its decision “with great sadness,” but said they had no other choice but to indict Cheney and Gonzales “because we love our country.”

Texas is the home state of U.S. President George W. Bush.

Read moreCheney and Gonzales indicted for organized crime

Billionaire Merckle Said to Need as Much as EU1.1 Billion

Nov. 18 (Bloomberg) — Germany’s billionaire Merckle family, stung by losses on Volkswagen AG shares, needs as much as 1.1 billion euros ($1.4 billion) in financing to avert insolvency of its investment company, four people familiar with the situation said.

The family’s investment company VEM Vermoegensverwaltung GmbH may be forced to file for insolvency if a so-called standstill agreement that would freeze banks’ claims isn’t extended before today’s deadline, said the people, who declined to be identified because the talks are private. Merckle needs between 600 million euros and 1.1 billion euros, the people said.

Adolf Merckle, 74, whose estimated $9.2 billion fortune puts him 94th on Forbes’ list of the world’s richest people this year, needs financing after losing as much as 700 million euros on wrong-way bets on VW stock and the value of HeidelbergCement AG, which it owns, plunged, the people said. A failure of VEM could have repercussions for Merckle’s holdings, which span as many as 30 companies in the cement, machinery and pharmaceutical industries, said the people.

Read moreBillionaire Merckle Said to Need as Much as EU1.1 Billion

Pioneering Stem Cell Surgery Announced


Claudia Castillo, the patient in the ground-breaking operation. Photo: AP

PARIS — Physicians at four European universities have completed what they say is the first successful transplant of a human windpipe using a patient’s own stem cells to fashion an organ and prevent its rejection by her immune system, according to an article in the British medical journal The Lancet. One of the physicians said the surgery could herald a “new age in surgical care.”

The transplant operation was performed on the patient, Claudia Castillo, in June in Barcelona, Spain, to alleviate an acute shortage of breath caused by a failing airway following severe tuberculosis. It followed weeks of preparation carried out at the universities of Barcelona, Spain, Bristol, England and Padua and Milan in Italy.

Read morePioneering Stem Cell Surgery Announced

Pilots threaten to strike over ID cards


The Home Secretary Jacqui Smith insists the cards will improve security

The first wave of ID cards to be issued to British citizens has prompted airline pilots to threaten a strike rather than accept the documents.

Aviation workers have warned that proposals to make airport staff register for the cards from next year would do little to improve security. The British Airline Pilots Association (Balpa), which represents 10,000 of the 12,000 commercial pilots and flight engineers in Britain, said its members were being treated as “guinea pigs”. Jim McAuslan, Balpa’s general secretary, said the Government’s “early warning system should be flashing” over opposition to the plans.

The Home Office insists the scheme will help airport workers improve security and streamline pass applications when staff move jobs. Ministers will publish draft regulations on Friday to set up a trial requiring airside staff at Manchester airport and London City airport to sign up for an ID card before they can get security passes allowing them to work there. If the regulations are approved, the first ID cards will be issued at the two airports from autumn next year as part of an 18-month trial.

Under the proposals, airport workers will be the first British citizens to be given ID cards, which are due to be introduced for young people from 2010.

Read morePilots threaten to strike over ID cards

Soros-Funded Democratic Idea Factory Becomes Obama Policy Font


George Soros, chairman of Soros Fund Management LLC, testifies during a House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Nov. 13, 2008. Photographer: Brendan Smialowski/Bloomberg News

Nov. 18 (Bloomberg) — Three blocks from the White House, on the 10th floor of a sleek glass building, young workers pound at computers, with giant flat-screen TVs overhead. It has the look and feel of a high-tech startup.

In many ways it is. The product is ideas.

Thanks in part to funding from benefactors such as billionaire George Soros, the Center for American Progress has become in just five years an intellectual wellspring for Democratic policy proposals, including many that are shaping the agenda of the new Obama administration.

Read moreSoros-Funded Democratic Idea Factory Becomes Obama Policy Font

Ford Sells $540 Million of Mazda Stock to Ease Crunch

Nov. 18 (Bloomberg) — Ford Motor Co., reeling from plunging U.S. car sales and a sinking share price, will raise about $540 million selling part of its stake in Japanese affiliate Mazda Motor Corp. to ease cash concerns.

The automaker will sell 20 percent of Mazda tomorrow, reducing its holdings to 13 percent, according to a statement today. Hiroshima-based Mazda said separately that it will buy back up to a 6.9 percent stake for as much as 17.9 billion yen ($186 million). The rest of the shares will be purchased by unidentified “strategic business partners.”

Read moreFord Sells $540 Million of Mazda Stock to Ease Crunch

Independent to shed quarter of journalists

The Independent newspaper and its Sunday sister title will cut up to a quarter of their editorial staff in one of the most savage cuts to hit the UK newspaper industry in recent years, as management seeks £10m of savings the company said on Tuesday.

The UK operations of Sir Tony O’Reilly’s Independent News & Media (INM) will see a total of 90 employees made redundant by early 2009 out of a total of 424 staff in its London office. But the brunt of the cuts, about 60 jobs, will come from the 250 or so editorial staff.

Read moreIndependent to shed quarter of journalists

Financial Crisis Tab Already In The Trillions

Given the speed at which the federal government is throwing money at the financial crisis, the average taxpayer, never mind member of Congress, might not be faulted for losing track.

CNBC, however, has been paying very close attention and keeping a running tally of actual spending as well as the commitments involved.

Try $4.28 trillion dollars. That’s $4,284,500,000,000 and more than what was spent on WW II, if adjusted for inflation, based on our computations from a variety of estimates and sources*.

Read moreFinancial Crisis Tab Already In The Trillions

Half of primary-care doctors in survey would leave medicine

Experts say if many physicians stop practicing, it could be devastating to the health care industry.
Experts say if many physicians stop practicing, it could be devastating to the health care industry.

(CNN) — Nearly half the respondents in a survey of U.S. primary care physicians said that they would seriously consider getting out of the medical business within the next three years if they had an alternative.

The survey, released this week by the Physicians’ Foundation, which promotes better doctor-patient relationships, sought to find the reasons for an identified exodus among family doctors and internists, widely known as the backbone of the health industry.

A U.S. shortage of 35,000 to 40,000 primary care physicians by 2025 was predicted at last week’s American Medical Association annual meeting.

In the survey, the foundation sent questionnaires to more than 270,000 primary care doctors and more than 50,000 specialists nationwide.

Of the 12,000 respondents, 49 percent said they’d consider leaving medicine. Many said they are overwhelmed with their practices, not because they have too many patients, but because there’s too much red tape generated from insurance companies and government agencies.

Read moreHalf of primary-care doctors in survey would leave medicine

Identities sold online for £80

Complete identities are being sold online for just £80, internet experts have discovered.


The stolen personal data include credit card details, plus the cardholder’s name, address, passport and driving licence numbers.

Once stolen, the average identity yields online fraudsters around £15,000, researchers found.

Individual pieces of stolen data are available for as little as £5.

A study for Get Safe Online Week found one in five people use the same password for all their internet logins, leaving them wide open to hacking.

Half those surveyed did not update their anti-virus software often enough.

And nearly a quarter did not have any protection against spyware.

Read moreIdentities sold online for £80

Paulson, Democrats Clash on Bailout for Homeowners

‘But, but, but … that money was only for my friends on Wall Street and not for the people.’
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Henry Paulson, U.S. treasury secretary, left, and Ben S. Bernanke, chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve, right, listen during a hearing of the House Financial Services Committee in Washington, on Nov. 18, 2008. Photographer: Jim Lo Scalzo/Bloomberg News

Nov. 18 (Bloomberg) — Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson rejected using the government’s financial-rescue program as a “panacea” for economic difficulties, clashing with lawmakers who want the funds to help beleaguered homeowners.

“The rescue package was not intended to be an economic stimulus or an economic recovery package,” Paulson said in testimony to the House Financial Services Committee in Washington. The Troubled Asset Relief Program was designed to stabilize financial markets and the flow of credit and “is not a panacea for all our economic difficulties.”

Representative Barney Frank, who heads the House panel, cut off Paulson during the question-and-answer session, saying “the bill couldn’t have been clearer” in also being aimed at reducing foreclosures. Paulson told lawmakers he has no plans to use the second half of the $700 billion program, indicating it will be up to the incoming Obama administration to resolve the matter.

“We don’t have a lot of time and I don’t usually do this,” Frank said in interrupting Paulson during an exchange on how to deploy TARP cash. “I read sections of the bill that says — write it down — give them assistance,” Frank, a Massachusetts Democrat, told the Treasury chief.

Read morePaulson, Democrats Clash on Bailout for Homeowners

Clinton to accept offer of secretary of state job

Change we can ‘believe’ in … like in the virgin birth!
_________________________________________________________________________


Jonathan Freedland on the pros and cons of Hillary Clinton becoming US secretary of state

Hillary Clinton plans to accept the job of secretary of state offered by Barack Obama, who is reaching out to former rivals to build a broad coalition administration, the Guardian has learned.

Obama’s advisers have begun looking into Bill Clinton’s foundation, which distributes millions of dollars to Africa to help with development, to ensure there is no conflict of interest. But Democrats believe the vetting will be straightforward.

Clinton would be well placed to become the country’s dominant voice in foreign affairs, replacing Condoleezza Rice. Since being elected senator for New York, she has specialised in foreign affairs and defence. Although she supported the war in Iraq, she and Obama basically agree on a withdrawal of American troops.

Clinton, who still harbours hopes of a future presidential run, had to weigh up whether she would be better placed by staying in the Senate, which offers a platform for life, or making the more uncertain career move to the state department.

Read moreClinton to accept offer of secretary of state job

Florida pension fund loses a quarter its value

Fla. pension fund loses a quarter of its value but officials say no need to panic

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Florida’s public employee pension plan has lost more than a quarter of its peak value, but Gov. Charlie Crist and other officials Monday said the fund is built for the long haul and there’s no need to panic.

They said Florida has fared no worse than most big investors — a bit better than some major Wall Street indicators — due to slumps in the stock market, real estate and other segments of the national and world economies.

The fund, which covers state and local government employees including teachers, lost $37.9 billion — 27 percent — over 13 months through Oct. 31, said Dennis MacKee, spokesman for the State Board of Administration. That dropped its value to $100.5 billion.

Read moreFlorida pension fund loses a quarter its value

Cancer Drugs Make Tumors Grow

(NaturalNews) Drugs like Avastin that are used to treat some cancers are supposed to work by blocking a vessel growth-promoting protein called vascular endothelial growth factor, or VEGF. With VEGF held in check, researchers have assumed tumors wouldn’t generate blood vessels and that should keep malignancies from growing. In a sense, the cancerous growths would be “starved”. But new research just published in the journal Nature shows this isn’t true. Instead of weakening blood vessels so they won’t “feed” malignant tumors, these cancer treatments, known as anti-angiogenesis drugs, actually normalize and strengthen blood vessels — and that means they can spur tumors to grow larger.

Read moreCancer Drugs Make Tumors Grow

Pirates hijack oil supertanker carrying oil worth $100m


The Saudi-owned crude oil supertanker “Sirius Star” is seen in Rotterdam on October 17, 2008. REUTERS/Adri Schouten

DUBAI (Reuters) – Somali pirates have captured a fully laden Saudi supertanker far off east Africa, seizing the biggest vessel ever hijacked with a cargo of oil worth over $100 million in an attack that pushed world crude prices higher.

The U.S. Fifth Fleet said the Sirius Star was being taken to the pirate haven of Eyl, in northern Somalia, on Monday.

The hijacking of the Saudi Aramco-owned vessel on Sunday is certain to add to pressure for concerted international action to tackle the growing threat posed by pirates from anarchic Somalia to one of the world’s busiest shipping routes.

“This is unprecedented. It’s the largest ship that we’ve seen pirated,” said Lt Nathan Christensen, a spokesman for the Fifth Fleet. “It’s three times the size of an aircraft carrier.”

Read morePirates hijack oil supertanker carrying oil worth $100m

Gold rush

The mainland is seriously considering a plan to diversify more of its massive foreign-exchange reserves into gold, a person familiar with the situation told The Standard.

Beijing is considering changing its asset allocations during the financial tsunami in order to build up gold reserves “in a big way,” the source said.

China’s fears about the long-term viability of parking most of its reserves in US government bonds were triggered by Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson’s US$700 billion (HK$5.46 trillion) bailout plan, which may make the US budget deficit balloon to well over US$1 trillion this fiscal year.

The US government will fund the bailout by printing new money or issuing huge amounts of new debt, either of which will put severe pressure on the value of the greenback and on government bond yields.

The United States holds 8,133.5 tonnes of gold reserves valued at US$188.23 billion. China holds gold reserves of just 600 tonnes, worth only US$13.89 billion.

Beijing’s reserves could easily go up to 3,000 to 4,000 tonnes, Tanrich Futures senior vice president Colleen Chow Yin-shan said.

Read moreGold rush

Manchester being ‘bullied’ by Government into accepting road tolls

I call that blackmail.
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If Manchester votes for road pricing, there will be more cash for other cities

The Government is threatening to withhold £1.5 billion of public funding for public transport in Manchester unless the city agrees to become a guinea pig for pay-as-you-drive road pricing.

Geoff Hoon, the Transport Secretary, said funding for new tram lines, extra buses and trains would be cancelled unless a majority of Greater Manchester’s 1.8 million population voted “yes” in next month’s road pricing referendum.

Mr Hoon’s comments, in an interview with The Times, angered opponents of Manchester’s proposed charging scheme. They accused the Government of trying to bully the city into voting for a tax on commuting by car.

Read moreManchester being ‘bullied’ by Government into accepting road tolls

Game beware: it’s the return of the poacher

As times get harder in Britain’s cities, armed gangs are heading for the countryside – and stealing deer, salmon and rabbits to feed a burgeoning black market in food. Andy McSmith reports


Masked poachers caught in the act, hunting rabbits on private land

Once, the poacher was a man with big pockets in his raincoat sneaking on to an aristocrat’s land to steal game for his family pot. Now he is likely to be part of a gang from town, in it for hard cash, rampaging through the countryside with guns, crossbows or snares.

Police in rural areas across Britain are reporting a dramatic increase in poaching, as the rise in food prices and the reality of recession increases the temptation to deal in stolen venison, salmon, or rarer meat and fish.

Organised and sometimes armed gangs of poachers are accused of behaving dangerously, intimidating residents, causing damage to crops or to gates and fences. Squads have also been out in the countryside “lamping”, poachers using lights to transfix animals.

Read moreGame beware: it’s the return of the poacher

UK: Most adults think children ‘are feral and a danger to society’

Children are the most excellent mirror of a society!
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Alexandra Frean, Education Editor

Comment: Martin Narey, Chief Executive of Barnardo’s

Public intolerance of young people has reached such levels that more than half of all adults think that British children are beginning to behave like animals, a poll has found.

The poll, commissioned by the children’s charity Barnardo’s, found that 49 per cent of adults regard children as increasingly dangerous both to each other and to their elders, while 43 per cent feel that “something has to be done” to protect society from children and young people.

More than a third of people agree that “it feels like the streets are infested with children”.

The YouGov poll of 2,000 adults suggests that the great strides made towards children’s rights and child welfare through the Government’s Every Child Matters agenda, in which the interests of the child are supposedly put at the heart of all policy, have had little impact on public consciousness.

Read moreUK: Most adults think children ‘are feral and a danger to society’

50,000 estate agents face axe in next nine months


Experts have warned that up to 50,000 estate agents may lose their jobs in the next year

As many as 50,000 estate agents could lose their jobs by next Autumn because of the worsening economic crisis, experts today warned.

Economists said the collapse in the housing markets meant the true figure would be double previous predictions of 15,000 job losses, with some experts forecasting at least 50,000 out of work by next year.

The panic has led to some businesses making desperate attempts to secure their survival, with one estate agent even converting part of his office into a cafe to generate extra income.

Ben Read, managing economist at the Centre for Economics and Business Research, said the toll of job losses would be shocking.

He told the Evening Standard: ‘It will definitely be worse. The housing market has dropped significantly more since May and the outlook for the next nine months is pretty ropey.

‘Because of the worsening situation in the economy you could easily expect that figure of 15,000 to go up by 50 per cent. The true figure could even be as much as 50,000.

‘Most estate agents have let go significant numbers of staff and are working on skeleton staff. I’m sure it will surprise everyone how bad it is.’

Read more50,000 estate agents face axe in next nine months