As first-time buyers vanish, the lights go out across Britain

House price inflation scared them away. Now prices are falling but they’re still not coming back – undermining the market and putting estate agents and builders out of business. Richard Northedge reports

Like a giant pyramid scheme, the housing market relies on first-time buyers to enable those already on the bottom rung of the ladder to sell their starter homes and climb higher. New blood is needed for the additional funds that will keep the market buoyant.

Yet this vital source of investment has all but dried up. The number of first-timers this year could be the lowest on record. In 1999, almost 600,000 people bought their first property, but then soaring prices started to make homes unaffordable and that number dropped steadily. Last year it stood at 358,000 – its lowest level since 1991.

However, with prices now falling, potential first-timers are still not taking the plunge even though properties are cheaper. On current trends, they will buy barely more than 200,000 homes this year. Indeed, the total could fall below the 198,000 sales recorded in 1974 and be the lowest since records began.

Read moreAs first-time buyers vanish, the lights go out across Britain

Nation’s Spies: Climate Change Could Spark War

Environmental groups have been warning for years that tense parts of the world could get even worse with the advent of global climate change, and even spark whole new conflicts. Now, the nation’s spies are saying pretty much the same thing.

The U.S. intelligence community has finished up its classified assessment of how our changing weather patterns could contribute to “political instability around the world, the collapse of governments and the creation of terrorist safe havens,” Inside Defense reports. Congress was briefed on the report last week. And on Wednesday, leading spies — including National Intelligence Council chairman Dr. Thomas Fingar and Energy Department intelligence chief Rolf Mowatt-Larsen — will testify on the Hill about the 58-page document, “The National Security Implications of Global Climate Change Through 2030.”

In addition to examining how weather could add stress to governments with a weak grip on power … the authors mulled a spectrum of second- and third-order consequences for Washington policymakers to consider — including indirect security concerns like impacts on economies, energy, social unrest and migration.

Foreign-policy concerns were also weighed, including how flooding, rising water levels or drought might create humanitarian crises. Also examined was how extreme weather events could challenge the response capabilities of governments around the world.

“Climate change is a threat multiplier in the world’s most unstable regions,” a source familiar with the document tells Danger Room. “It’s like a match to the tinder.” Just think about the fights over water already under way in the Middle East and Africa, or the tensions exacerbated by the hurricanes and tsunamis in Asia.

The document was originally supposed to be unclassified. But then the policy recommendations — and warnings about trouble spots — got more and more detailed.

Richard Engel, deputy national intelligence officer for science and technology … said in a little-noticed speech last month at the University of Delaware that if the findings of the assessment were made public, “It would frustrate the execution of U.S. foreign policy.”

“We wanted to get down to something that might be actionable for the policy community,” Engel, a former Air Force major general and test pilot, said. “So we had to be very specific.”

“Generally, the Earth’s climate is changing, it has always been changing, so that’s not anything but a blinding flash of the obvious,” Engel added. “We really want to understand extreme weather events because they are very important as they potentially put at risk the infrastructure.”

The assessment is stamped “confidential,” the lowest level of classification. And our source says that Fingar & Co. is promising that nearly all of the document will come out in Wednesday’s hearing, before a joint session of the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming and the Intelligence Community Management Subcommittee. Also testifying are former British Foreign Minister Margaret Beckett, retired Admiral Paul Gaffney and the Army War College’s Kent Hughes Butts, all of whom have previously raised alarms about climate change’s strategic impact. Lee Lane, with the American Enterprise Institute, has been pushing the issue of “geoengineering” in response to global warming. And Marlo Lewis, with the Competitive Enterprise Institute, calls the whole thing a “myth.”

Lewis’ presence before the panel may be a bit of a sop for the Republicans on the Intelligence Committee, many of whom opposed the idea of using the nation’s spies to investigate these issues at all.

But the nation’s military leadership, at least, is paying closer attention. “Climate change and other projected trends will compound already difficult conditions in many developing countries. These trends will increase the likelihood of humanitarian crises, the potential for epidemic diseases, and regionally destabilizing population migrations,” the Army says in its 2008 posture statement.

“We are [f]acing challenges from multiple sources: a new, more malignant form of terrorism inspired by jihadist extremism, ethnic strife, disease, poverty, climate change, failed and failing states, resurgent powers, and so on,” Defense Secretary Robert Gates told an audience at American University in April.

Read moreNation’s Spies: Climate Change Could Spark War

U.S. Military Demands Bonus Money Back from Soldiers with Arms, Legs Blown Off

(NaturalNews) In some cases, the U.S. military has been denying wounded soldiers the full amount of their enlistment bonuses, under the rationale that the soldiers are unable to fulfill the full term of their service contract.

The policy came to light after Jordan Fox, who was injured by a roadside bomb in Iraq and sent home three months early, received a letter asking him to repay $2,800 of his signing bonus. Fox had been hospitalized for several months, and still has an injured back and a blind right eye.

“I was just completely shocked,” Fox said. “I couldn’t believe I’d gotten a bill in the mail from the Army.”

Upon signing up for military service, troops may receive up to $30,000 in signing bonuses. These bonuses are contingent upon fulfilling a specified term of service.

But according to CBS affiliate KDKA in Pittsburgh, the military has asked “thousands” of injured troops to return part of their bonuses.

In response to the KDKA report, a military spokesperson replied that the bill sent to Fox was a mistake.

“If you are ill or were injured while on duty, the Army will not ask you to repay any portion of your recruitment bonus,” said Brig. Gen. Mike Tucker.

But the military has refused to comment on charges that thousands of soldiers have received letters similar to Fox’s. In addition, the military has only specified that wounded soldiers will not be asked to repay any of their bonuses — it has not promised to pay full bonuses to injured soldiers in cases where the bonus was not paid up front.

“I am disappointed that the policy does not go further by stating that wounded soldiers will also receive the remaining balance of future bonus payments,” said Rep. Jason Altmire of Pennsylvania. “It is preposterous for our government to have a policy that says that a soldier who has sustained serious injuries in the field of battle has not fulfilled his or her service obligation.”

Sunday, June 22, 2008
by: David Gutierrez

Source: Natural News

Floods wipe out US crops

The crest of the swollen Mississippi River moved downstream yesterday as volunteers manned sandbagged levees and coped with the costs of the Midwest’s worst flooding in 15 years. “At times like these you don’t know whether to cry or laugh. But here in the Midwest we tend to favour the latter,” said Charlotte Hoerr, who, with her husband Brent, farms land not far from the river in this small Missouri town.

The river overcame more than two dozen levees last week, submerging small towns and vast stretches of prime farmland as the nation’s most vital waterway absorbed the run-off of torrential rains that put many Iowa towns under water. The Midwest flooding and storms are expected to push US and world food prices higher. Up to five million acres of newly planted crops have been lost at the heart of the world’s top grain and food exporter. Prices for corn, cattle and pigs all set records this week owing to the floods, as a world economy already hit by inflation from rising energy prices absorbed the blow.

Related articles:
The U.S. Has No Remaining Grain Reserves
Nine meals from anarchy – how Britain is facing a very real food crisis
Time to Stockpile Food?
Food Riots are Coming to the U.S.
UN alert: One-fourth of world’s wheat at risk from new fungus
THE FOUR HORSEMEN APPROACH – FAMINE IS IN THE AIR

(Wake up: “World Situation” & Prepare yourself: “Solution” – The Infinite Unknown)

Read moreFloods wipe out US crops

The Coming Catastrophe?

Global Research Editor’s note

We bring to the attention of our readers David DeBatto’s scenario as to what might occur if one of the several contingency plans to attack Iran, with the participation of Israel and NATO, were to be carried out. While one may disagree with certain elements of detail of the author’s text, the thrust of this analysis must be taken seriously.

___________________________________________________________________________________________

By David DeBatto

David DeBatto is a former U.S. Army Counterintelligence Special Agent, Iraqi war veteran and co-author the “CI” series from Warner Books and the upcoming “Counter to Intelligence” from Praeger Security International.

The finishing touches on several contingency plans for attacking Iran

“Israel has said a strike on Iran will be “unavoidable” if the Islamic regime continues to press ahead with alleged plans for building an atom-bomb.” (London Daily Telegraph, 6/11/2008)

“Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany joined President Bush on Wednesday in calling for further sanctions against Iran if it does not suspend its uranium enrichment program.” Mr. Bush stressed again that “all options are on the table,” which would include military force. (New York Times, 6/11/2008)

We are fast approaching the final six months of the Bush administration. The quagmire in Iraq is in its sixth painful year with no real end in sight and the forgotten war in Afghanistan is well into its seventh year. The “dead enders” and other armed factions are still alive and well in Iraq and the Taliban in Afghanistan again controls most of that country. Gas prices have now reached an average of $4.00 a gallon nationally and several analysts predict the price will rise to $5.00-$6.00 dollars per gallon at the pump by Labor Day. This, despite assurances by some major supporters of the decision to invade Iraq that the Iraq war “will pay for itself” (Paul Wolfowitz) or that we will see “$20.00 per barrel” oil prices if we invade Iraq (Rupert Murdoch).

One thing the Pentagon routinely does (and does very well) is conduct war games. Top brass there are constantly developing strategies for conducting any number of theoretical missions based on real or perceived threats to our national security or vital interests. This was also done prior to the invasion of Iraq, but the Bush administration chose not to listen to the dire warnings about that mission given to him by Pentagon leaders, or for that matter, by his own senior intelligence officials. Nevertheless, war gaming is in full swing again right now with the bullseye just to the right of our current mess – Iran.

It’s no secret that the U.S. is currently putting the finishing touches on several contingency plans for attacking Iranian nuclear and military facilities. With our ground forces stretched to the breaking point in Iraq and Afghanistan, none of the most likely scenarios involve a ground invasion. Not that this administration wouldn’t prefer to march into the seat of Shiite Islam behind a solid, moving line of M1 Abrams tanks and proclaim the country for democracy. The fact is that even the President knows we can’t pull that off any more so he and the neo-cons will have to settle for Shock and Awe Lite.

If we invade Iran this year it will be done using hundreds of sorties by carrier based aircraft already stationed in the Persian Gulf and from land based aircraft located in Iraq and Qatar. They will strike the known nuclear facilities located in and around Tehran and the rest of the country as well as bases containing major units of the Iranian military, anti-aircraft installations and units of the Revolutionary Guard (a separate and potent Iranian para-military organization).

Will this military action stop Iran’s efforts to develop nuclear weapons? Probably not. It will probably not even destroy all of their nuclear research facilities, the most sensitive of which are known to be underground, protected by tons of earth and reinforced concrete and steel designed to survive almost all attacks using conventional munitions. The Iranian military and Revolutionary Guard will most likely survive as well, although they will suffer significant casualties and major bases and command centers will undoubtedly be destroyed. However, since Iran has both a functioning Air Force, Navy (including submarines) and modern anti-aircraft capabilities, U.S. fighter-bombers will suffer casualties as well. This will not be a “Cake Walk” as with the U.S. led invasion of Iraq in 2003 when the Iraqi Army simply melted away and the Iraqi Air Force never even launched a single aircraft.

Not even close.

If the United States attacks Iran either this summer or this fall, the American people had better be prepared for a shock that may perhaps be even greater to the national psyche (and economy) than 9/11. First of all, there will be significant U.S. casualties in the initial invasion. American jets will be shot down and the American pilots who are not killed will be taken prisoner – including female pilots. Iranian Yakhonts 26, Sunburn 22 and Exocet missiles will seek out and strike U.S. naval battle groups bottled up in the narrow waters of the Persian Gulf with very deadly results. American sailors will be killed and U.S. ships will be badly damaged and perhaps sunk. We may even witness the first attack on an American Aircraft carrier since World War II.

That’s just the opening act.

Israel (who had thus far stayed out of the fray by letting the U.S. military do the heavy lifting) is attacked by Hezbollah in a coordinated and large scale effort. Widespread and grisly casualties effectively paralyze the nation, a notion once thought impossible. Iran’s newest ally in the region, Syria, then unleashes a barrage of over 200 Scud B, C and D missiles at Israel, each armed with VX gas. Since all of Israel is within range of these Russian built weapons, Haifa, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and virtually all major civilian centers and several military bases are struck, often with a result of massive casualties.

The Israeli Air Force orders all three squadrons of their F-16I Sufa fighter/bombers into the air with orders to bomb Tehran and as many military and nuclear bases as they can before they are either shot down or run out of fuel. It is a one way trip for some of these pilots. Their ancient homeland lies in ruins. Many have family that is already dead or dying. They do not wait for permission from Washington, DC or U.S. regional military commanders. The Israeli aircraft are carrying the majority of their country’s nuclear arsenal under their wings.

Just after the first waves of U.S. bombers cross into Iranian airspace, the Iranian Navy, using shore based missiles and small, fast attack craft sinks several oil tankers in the Straits of Hormuz, sealing off the Persian Gulf and all its oil from the rest of the world. They then mine the area, making it difficult and even deadly for American minesweepers to clear the straits. Whatever is left of the Iranian Navy and Air Force harasses our Navy as it attempts minesweeping operations. More U.S casualties.

The day after the invasion Wall Street (and to a lesser extent, Tokyo, London and Frankfurt) acts as it always does in an international crisis – irrational speculative and spot buying reaches fever pitch and sends the cost of oil skyrocketing. In the immediate aftermath of the U.S. invasion of Iran, the price of oil goes to $200.00 – $300.00 dollars a barrel on the open market. If the war is not resolved in a few weeks, that price could rise even higher.  This will send the price of gasoline at the pump in this country to $8.00-$10.00 per gallon immediately and subsequently to even higher unthinkable levels.

If that happens, this country shuts down. Most Americans are not be able to afford gas to go to work. Truckers pull their big rigs to the side of the road and simply walk away. Food, medicine and other critical products are not be brought to stores. Gas and electricity (what is left of the short supply) are too expensive for most people to afford. Children, the sick and elderly die from lack of air-conditioned homes and hospitals in the summer. Children, the sick and elderly die in the winter for lack of heat. There are food riots across the country. A barter system takes the place of currency and credit as the economy dissolves and banks close or limit withdrawals. Civil unrest builds.

The police are unable to contain the violence and are themselves victims of the same crisis as the rest of the population. Civilian rule dissolves and Martial Law is declared under provisions approved under the Patriot Act. Regular U.S. Army and Marine troops patrol the streets. The federal government apparatus is moved to an unknown but secure location. The United States descends into chaos and becomes a third world country. Its time as the lone superpower is over.

It doesn’t get any worse than this.

Then the first Israeli bomber drops its nuclear payload on Tehran.

Source: Global Research

Democrats Have Legalized Bush’s Crimes

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi claims that a key positive feature of the new wiretap “compromise” is that the bill reaffirms that the President must follow the law, even though the same bill virtually assures that no one will be held accountable for George W. Bush’s violation of the earlier spying law.

In other words, in the guise of rejecting Bush’s theories of an all-powerful presidency that is above the law, the Democratic leadership cleared the way for the President and his collaborators to evade punishment for defying the law.

So, why should anyone assume that the new legislative edict demanding that the President obey the law will get any more respect than the old one, which established the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 as the “exclusive” means for authorizing electronic spying?

It wasn’t that Bush and his team didn’t understand the old law’s language; they simply believed they could violate the law without consequence, under the radical theory that at a time of war – even one as vaguely defined as the “war on terror” – the President’s powers trump all laws as well as the constitutional rights of citizens.

Essentially, Bush was betting that even if his warrantless wiretap program was disclosed – as it was in December 2005 – that he could trust his Republican congressional allies to protect him and could count on most Democrats not to have the guts to challenge him.

Read moreDemocrats Have Legalized Bush’s Crimes

The Gold Confiscation Of April 5, 1933

From: President of the United States Franklin Delano Roosevelt
To: The United States Congress
Dated: 5 April, 1933
Presidential Executive Order 6102

Forbidding the Hoarding of Gold Coin, Gold Bullion and Gold Certificates By virtue of the authority vested in me by Section 5(b) of the Act of October 6, 1917, as amended by Section 2 of the Act of March 9, 1933, entitled

An Act to provide relief in the existing national emergency in banking, and for other purposes~’,

in which amendatory Act Congress declared that a serious emergency exists,

I, Franklin D. Roosevelt, President of the United States of America, do declare that said national emergency still continues to exist and pursuant to said section to do hereby prohibit the hoarding gold coin, gold bullion, and gold certificates within the continental United States by individuals, partnerships, associations and corporations and hereby prescribe the following regulations for carrying out the purposes of the order:

Section 1. For the purpose of this regulation, the term ‘hoarding” means the withdrawal and withholding of gold coin, gold bullion, and gold certificates from the recognized and customary channels of trade. The term “person” means any individual, partnership, association or corporation.

Section 2. All persons are hereby required to deliver on or before May 1, 1933, to a Federal Reserve bank or a branch or agency thereof or to any member bank of the Federal Reserve System all gold coin, gold bullion, and gold certificates now owned by them or coming into their ownership on or before April 28, 1933, except the following:

Read moreThe Gold Confiscation Of April 5, 1933

Government Is Sued Over Seizure of Liberty Dollars

The federal government’s attempt to stop a group of gold-standard activists from minting an alternative to the greenback is about to face its first legal test.

A dozen people around the country filed suit in U.S. District Court in Idaho this week demanding the return of all the copper, silver, gold, and platinum coins – more than seven tons of metal in all – that the FBI and Secret Service seized in November during raids of a mint in Idaho and a strip mall storefront in Indiana.

The Justice Department had decided that the coins, many of which bear the familiar symbol of Lady Liberty and the phrase “TRUST IN GOD,” were being illegally marketed as government-sanctioned currency, according to the sworn affidavit of an FBI agent.

The creator of the coins, Bernard von NotHaus, who lives in Miami, claims that the federal government is trying to shut down production of his liberty dollars, as the coins are called, because of the competition they pose to the greenback. In recent years, his precious metal coins have outperformed the dollar, whose value has plunged in relation to gold.

The raids in November were the result of a two-year undercover investigation of Mr. Von NotHaus and how he sold liberty dollars. The Justice Department has not followed up with any criminal charges against Mr. Von NotHaus or the regional distributors of his coins.

In the suit filed in Idaho, the various plaintiffs say the federal government has no right to continue holding onto their coins any longer.

While it is common for agents to warehouse property seized during criminal investigations, such as firearms or surveillance equipment, the plaintiffs say coins of precious metal should be off-limits.

The coins “do not constitute contraband or other property subject to seizure,” the legal papers state, adding that the seizures violated the Fourth Amendment rights of the plaintiffs.

Read moreGovernment Is Sued Over Seizure of Liberty Dollars