Greenspan tells Gulf to drop dollar

Alan Greenspan, the former chairman of the US central bank, or Fed, has said that inflation rates in Gulf states, which are reaching near record levels, would fall “significantly” if oil producers dropped their US dollar pegs.

Speaking at an investment conference on Monday in Jedda, Saudi Arabia, he said the pegs restrict the region’s ability to control inflation by forcing them to duplicate US monetary policy at a time when the Fed is cutting rates to ward off an economic downturn.

Debate is rife in the Gulf on how to tackle inflation.

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Greenspan, right, says inflation rates in Gulf states will fall if they drop their US dollar pegs [AFP]

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The Bush Bust of ’08: “It’s All Downhill From Here, Folks”

On January 14, 2008 the FDIC web site began posting the rules for reimbursing depositors in the event of a bank failure. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) is required to “determine the total insured amount for each depositor….as of the day of the failure” and return their money as quickly as possible. The agency is “modernizing its current business processes and procedures for determining deposit insurance coverage in the event of a failure of one of the largest insured depository institutions.” The implication is clear, the FDIC has begun the “death watch” on the many banks which are currently drowning in their own red ink. The problem for the FDIC is that it has never supervised a bank failure which exceeded 175,000 accounts. So the impending financial tsunami is likely to be a crash-course in crisis management. Today some of the larger banks have more than 50 million depositors, which will make the FDIC’s job nearly impossible. Good luck. – Mike Whitney

Read moreThe Bush Bust of ’08: “It’s All Downhill From Here, Folks”

Former Presidents Urge Americans to Prepare for Emergencies

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
Contact: 202-282-8010
Ellyn Fisher, Ad Council, 212-984-1964
May 23, 2006

Former Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton are urging Americans to take steps to better prepare themselves, their families and businesses for emergencies. The former presidents recorded two thirty-second public service advertisements (PSAs) from New Orleans for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Ready Campaign. Ready is a national public service advertising campaign, produced by The Advertising Council that is designed to educate and empower Americans to prepare for and respond to emergencies. Slack Barshinger worked pro bono to develop the PSAs, which will begin airing nationally on May 22.

“We are honored to have former Presidents Bush and Clinton help us raise awareness about the important steps individuals and businesses should take to prepare for all types of emergencies,” said Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff. “We hope these ads will encourage all Americans to get an emergency supply kit, make a family emergency plan and be informed about the potential threats that could occur in their hometowns.”

Read moreFormer Presidents Urge Americans to Prepare for Emergencies

Rove: Iraq Redeployment Would Cause Oil Prices To Skyrocket To $200 A Barrel

This morning on Fox News Sunday, former White House adviser Karl Rove claimed that redeployment from Iraq would cause oil prices to shoot to $200 a barrel:

If we were to give up Iraq with the third largest oil reserves in the world to the control of an Al Qaida regime or to the control of Iran, don’t you think $200 a barrel oil would have a cost to the American economy?

 

Occupying Iraq has hardly helped oil prices stay low. Last week, oil prices reached a record high of over $102 a barrel. On March 19, 2003 — the day the Iraq war commenced — oil was trading at $36 a barrel. A look at the rise in oil prices:

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None of this should have come as a surprise to the Bush administration; before the war, economists were widely predicting a prolonged presence in Iraq would lead to a rise in oil prices. As Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz recently noted in Vanity Fair, “The soaring price of oil is clearly related to the Iraq war. The issue is not whether to blame the war for this but simply how much to blame it.”

Rove is also out of step with the American people, a majority of whom believes that the Iraq war is tied to the current economic downturn. A recent AP poll found that 68 percent of Americans say that redeploying from Iraq would help the economy.

Digg It!

Transcript:

WALLACE: All right. But Obama has found a clever way to link the war in Iraq to our domestic problems with the economy here at home. Let’s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: We are spending $12 billion per month. That is money that we could be spending here in the United States, rebuilding our infrastructure, building schools, sending kids to university.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: If he’s able to define Iraq in terms of where do you spend that $12 billion, on the battlefield over there or on infrastructure and social programs here, doesn’t Obama win?

ROVE: Well, Obama — it’s a good argument for Obama, but I’m wondering where it goes, because it really is a very neo-isolationist argument. It basically says, you know, We should not be involved in the world because of the consequences to the budget here at home.

Well, we were not involved in the world before 9/11, and look what happened. Look at the cost to the American economy after a terrorist attack on the homeland. We lost a million jobs in 90 days after 9/11.

If we were to give up Iraq with the third largest oil reserves in the world to the control of an Al Qaida regime or to the control of Iran, don’t you think $200 a barrel oil would have a cost to the American economy?

So you know, it’s a cute thing in a primary. I’m not certain over an 8-month general election that you can make the argument that we ought to take a look at every foreign policy commitment in the United States and measure it on the basis of the number of dollars that we’ve got there.

I happened to be in Los Angeles on Monday, and somebody had heard Obama say this to me, and they were Democrat, and at dinner they said,

I’m worried about that, because does that mean he’s going to be looking at our support, for example, for the state of Israel and looking at it in terms of what could we be doing at home with those dollars?

And it was a nice line, but I’m not certain how durable a line it necessarily is.

Source: thinkprogress.org

US Launches Airstrike in Somalia

MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) — The U.S. launched an airstrike Monday on a Somali town held by Islamic extremists to go after a group of terrorist suspects, U.S. defense officials said.

Three missiles hit Dobley, a town four miles from the Kenyan border, destroying a home and seriously injured eight people, police and witnesses said. The remnants of an Islamic force that had once ruled much of southern Somalia took over Dobley last week.

“It was a deliberate, precise strike against a known terrorist and his associates,” one U.S. military official said in Washington, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to comment on the record.

Read moreUS Launches Airstrike in Somalia

World stocks tumble on US recession fears

LONDON (AFP) – European equities dived on Monday after heavy falls earlier in Asia as markets were gripped by growing concern that the US economy was slipping into recession, dealers said.

Stock markets in Europe and the United States had sunk late last week following signs that the fallout from the US credit crisis was far from over.

In late morning European trade on Monday, Frankfurt, London and Paris stock markets chalked up fresh losses of about 1.5 percent.

Asian stocks plunged earlier Monday with Tokyo ending down almost 4.5 percent, Hong Kong tumbled 3.07 percent and Seoul gave up 2.3 percent. Singapore and Sydney both shed about 3.0 percent.

“Not a great start to the week with the UK following falls in the US Friday and Asia today,” said Mike Lenhoff, strategist at brokerage Brewin Dolphin.

“What matters most to investors is what is happening in the US. Investors view the US as in recession or going into recession which is not good news for corporate earnings and the market.”

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Pizza and beer now cost an arm and a leg

If you’re looking for a sure sign the U.S. economy is headed in the wrong direction, all you need to do is look at the skyrocketing price of “recession-proof” foods: pizza, hot dogs, bagels and beer.For many Americans, the credit crunch and the mortgage mess have left their pocketbooks – and their cupboards – bare. These same consumers, many living paycheck to paycheck, have relied on these cheaper foods to keep their expenditures down. Not anymore.

In the past few months, the news has gone from bad to worse:

* Pizza makers have seen their cheese costs soar this year from $1.30 a pound to $1.76 a pound. Even worse, the flour used to make the dough has gone from $3-$7 dollars a bushel to $25 a bushel in less than a year.
* Beer makers have been forced to raise their prices because of the skyrocketing price of hops – one of the principle ingredients. The price of hops has gone from about $4 a pound in September to $40 a pound. The price of barley, beer’s other main ingredient, has nearly doubled.
* Bagel shops have struggled to hold the line on prices and keep their customers. The exploding wheat prices have made the $1 bagel a fact of life in big cities such as New York. Donuts are averaging $1.50. And many shop owners fear a wheat shortage will drive prices even higher.
* Even the lowly hot dog is getting more expensive. Gray’s Papaya, a New York hot dog institution, will be jacking up the price for its $3.50 “Recession Special” – two hot dogs and a 14-ounce drink. Nicholas Gray, owner of the frankfurter chain, has yet to set the price increase, but he indicated it is coming soon.

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Overall, retail food prices rose 4 percent last year – the biggest jump in 17 years. The USDA officials predicted another 3 percent to 4 percent increase this year and continuing price hikes, faster than the pace of inflation going into 2010. And the price pinch has hit the lower-income shoppers hardest.

Why is this happening? Call it the perfect storm of inflationary pressures.

Bob Goldin, executive vice president of Technomic Inc., a food industry consulting firm, described the cost increases as a “disaster scenario,” with no real end in sight and limited ability for most to pass on the bulk of the costs to consumers.

Surging energy costs have driven up the price of transporting goods from farm to storefront. The national average for a gallon of gas jumped to $3.164, creeping closer to last May’s record of $3.227, according to AAA and the Oil Price Information Service. Diesel prices jumped 1.5 cents to a new record national average of $3.642 a gallon.

While most Americans fuel their cars with gasoline, most of the products they buy are transported by trucks, trains and ships that burn diesel. While gas prices are unlikely to rise as high as $4 a gallon, diesel may well pass that psychologically important level this spring, boosting prices of virtually every consumer product, said Tom Kloza, publisher and chief oil analyst at the Oil Price Information Service in Wall, New Jersey.

“It’s everything that gets shipped,” Kloza said of diesel fuel’s impact on the economy. “That is the one that is much scarier.”

Another reason for the sharp hike in food prices is the increasing demand for ethanol, which has driven up the price of corn – and at the same time created a shortage of wheat as farmers shift their crop to the more lucrative corn.

“There are several reasons [for higher food prices], but at the core is corn, the largest and most important of agricultural commodities,” said Bill Lapp, president of Advanced Economic Solutions.

Which brings us back to the price of flour – and the pricier pizza. Jimmy Ferrell, owner of the four Fat Jimmy’s pizza restaurants in Louisville, Ky., said the price of flour has forced him to pass the cost onto his customers. “You have to raise (prices) a couple times a year just to keep up,” he said.

Ferrell thinks the rising flour prices have hurt small operators more than national chains.

“The national chains have a lot more pull and they can negotiate prices. I don’t think we have the same buying power that a Papa John’s or a Domino’s obviously has.”

Food industry consultant Goldin doesn’t see a light at the end of the tunnel. “There are no simple solutions,” he said. “The trend will be to reduce product costs, and some of that may very well affect quality.”

So, how can budget-conscious consumers stretch their dollar? There is one – albeit artery-clogging – alternative.

Fast food companies, looking for a way to attract budget-conscious customers, are increasingly offering more food for less money. The “dollar-menu” option is growing at chains such as McDonald’s, Burger King and Quiznos.

That’s good news for diners like Boston resident Shekia Scott. While lunching with friends at a Burger King, Scott said higher prices for food and gas were hurting her budget. But, she added, “the dollar menu’s been a help.”

So there you have it. Your best option for cheap eats is a gut-busting McDonald’s double cheeseburger for a buck. Makes you want to cry in your beer … if you can afford it.

The Associated Press and CNBC contributed to this report. By Al Olson

MSNBC updated 11:18 p.m. ET Feb. 29, 2008

Source: MSNBC

Famed geneticist creating life form that turns CO2 to fuel

A scientist who mapped his genome and the genetic diversity of the oceans said Thursday he is creating a life form that feeds on climate-ruining carbon dioxide to produce fuel.

Geneticist Craig Venter disclosed his potentially world-changing “fourth-generation fuel” project at an elite Technology, Entertainment and Design conference in Monterey, California.

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This undated handout photo shows Dr. J. Craig Venter on his research sail boat, the Sorcerer II off the coast of San Diego, California. Venter, the scientist who mapped his genome and the genetic diversity of the oceans, said Thursday he is creating a life form that feeds on climate-ruining carbon dioxide to produce fuel.

Read moreFamed geneticist creating life form that turns CO2 to fuel

Russia and China rethink arms deals

Bejing: For almost two decades, it was close to the perfect match of buyer and seller.

Denied weapons and defense technology from the West, China was almost totally reliant on Russia for the hardware it needed to jump-start an ambitious military buildup. And while the Russian economy teetered in the aftermath of the Soviet Union’s collapse, huge orders from China helped keep a once-mighty defense industry afloat.

But powerful new forces, including a fear in Moscow of renewed rivalry with its neighbor and a desire in Beijing to become more self-reliant, have led both sides to re-evaluate this trade.

After orders peaked at more than $2 billion a year early in this decade, Chinese arms deals with Russia shrank to almost nothing in 2006, and no major new contracts are in the pipeline, according to Russian, Chinese and U.S. defense experts.

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AP: 13,000 abuse claims in juvie centers

 

COLUMBIA, Miss. – The Columbia Training School – pleasant on the outside, austere on the inside – has been home to 37 of the most troubled young women in Mississippi.
If some of those girls and their advocates are to be believed, it is also a cruel and frightening place.

The school has been sued twice in the past four years. One suit brought by the U.S. Justice Department, which the state settled in 2005, claimed detainees were thrown naked in to cells and forced to eat their own vomit. The second one, brought by eight girls last year, said they were subjected to “horrendous physical and sexual abuse.” Several of the detainees said they were shackled for 12 hours a day.

Read moreAP: 13,000 abuse claims in juvie centers