Google considers to shut down business operations in China

“These attacks and the surveillance they have uncovered–combined with the attempts over the past year to further limit free speech on the web–have led us to conclude that we should review the feasibility of our business operations in China. We have decided we are no longer willing to continue censoring our results on Google.cn, and so over the next few weeks we will be discussing with the Chinese government the basis on which we could operate an unfiltered search engine within the law, if at all. We recognize that this may well mean having to shut down Google.cn, and potentially our offices in China.”


A new approach to China

Google

Like many other well-known organizations, we face cyber attacks of varying degrees on a regular basis. In mid-December, we detected a highly sophisticated and targeted attack on our corporate infrastructure originating from China that resulted in the theft of intellectual property from Google. However, it soon became clear that what at first appeared to be solely a security incident–albeit a significant one–was something quite different.

First, this attack was not just on Google. As part of our investigation we have discovered that at least twenty other large companies from a wide range of businesses–including the Internet, finance, technology, media and chemical sectors–have been similarly targeted. We are currently in the process of notifying those companies, and we are also working with the relevant U.S. authorities.

Second, we have evidence to suggest that a primary goal of the attackers was accessing the Gmail accounts of Chinese human rights activists. Based on our investigation to date we believe their attack did not achieve that objective. Only two Gmail accounts appear to have been accessed, and that activity was limited to account information (such as the date the account was created) and subject line, rather than the content of emails themselves.

Third, as part of this investigation but independent of the attack on Google, we have discovered that the accounts of dozens of U.S.-, China- and Europe-based Gmail users who are advocates of human rights in China appear to have been routinely accessed by third parties. These accounts have not been accessed through any security breach at Google, but most likely via phishing scams or malware placed on the users’ computers.

Read moreGoogle considers to shut down business operations in China

Venezuela Currency Devaluation: Government Inspectors And Soldiers Shut Shops Accused Of Profiteering

US Sellers Suffer Venezuela Hit (Wall Street Journal)


venezuela-soldiers-shut-shops-accused-of-profiteering State television was on hand to show the alleged rises in prices

Government inspectors backed by soldiers have shut more than 70 shops in Venezuela accused of trying to cash in on last week’s currency devaluation.

Soldiers have been on the streets to check prices as people queue to buy imports, fearing prices could rise.

Devaluing the bolivar by at least 17% will aid competition and cut reliance on imports, President Hugo Chavez says.

On Sunday he warned that businesses engaging in what he called speculation would be shut down or taken over.

As soon as trading started again after the president’s comments a series of supermarkets and other businesses across Venezuela were taken over by government tax inspectors.

State-run news agency ABN said food, car parts and other businesses were temporarily closed “for changing the price of products and for speculation”.

The National Guard stepped in at three superstores belonging to the Exito supermarket chain.

State television showed the alleged rises in prices on everything from plasma television screens to packets of cereal.

The bolivar’s official exchange rate, which is set by government decree, had been held steady at 2.45 to the US dollar since the last devaluation in March 2005.

hugo-chavez-said-the-devaluation-would-limit-unnecessary-imports Chavez said the devaluation would limit unnecessary imports

But on Friday, President Chavez announced that it would now have two rates – 2.60 to dollar for “priority” imports, and 4.30 to the dollar for other items considered non-essential – a 50% devaluation.

The BBC’s Will Grant, in Venezuela, says that since the devaluation was announced long queues have formed outside outlets selling electronic goods and technology.

Customers fear that significant price rises are on their way.

Venezuela already has the highest rate of inflation in Latin America – currently at about 25%.

President Chavez says that these measures will rein it in but many economic analysts predict that it will only get worse in the short term.

Oscar Meza, director of a Venezuelan economic think tank, Cendas, predicted the move would push annual inflation above 33%.

‘Irresponsible policy’

“It’s impossible for prices not to be adjusted,” he told the Associated Press. “If they aren’t adjusted, they’ll disappear.”

President Chavez dismissed the criticism on Sunday on his weekly television and radio programme, Alo Presidente, saying there was “no reason for anybody to be raising prices”.

Read moreVenezuela Currency Devaluation: Government Inspectors And Soldiers Shut Shops Accused Of Profiteering

Arizona State Treasurer: Checks Will Bounce Amid Budget Crisis

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Arizona State Capitol

PHOENIX — Arizona state legislators go back to work Monday in an attempt to battle a nearly $1.5 billion dollar deficit.

“The February school payment we can’t make, February payroll there’s no money there,” said State Treasurer, Dean Martin.

Martin said unless the capitol buildings are sold before the end of the month, there will be no more money meaning, “If they continue to issue checks without having money from the sale of the buildings, I have to bounce them.”

That’s because Martin said spending has increased double digits during the first two years of the recession, while revenues were dropping at the same rate.

Martin said the biggest issue is what he calls welfare healthcare.

“Ten years ago AHCCCS was only a $200 million dollar agency, today it’s over $2 billion,” he said.

Read moreArizona State Treasurer: Checks Will Bounce Amid Budget Crisis

TSA lies exposed: Full-body scanners do save and transmit images, secret documents reveal

tsa

(NaturalNews) The TSA has been lying to the American people about full-body scanners. The agency has insisted that these “digital strip search” machines are incapable of saving, storing or transmitting the images they take. This, we are told, makes it okay for people to be digitally strip-searched.

But secret documents uncovered by the Electronic Privacy Information Center (www.EPIC.org) have revealed that these machines do indeed posses precisely such capabilities. According to TSA specification requirement documents that have been uncovered by the EPIC, all full-body scanners purchased by the TSA must have the ability to both save and transmit the scanned images of air passengers.

The documents were obtained by EPIC through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit. They have also been shared with CNN, which has viewed the documents and published a story about what they reveal.

These documents contradict the claims of the TSA, which include the statement that “the system has no way to save, transmit or print the image.”

TSA misleads the public

The TSA’s own “imaging technology” page (http://www.tsa.gov/approach/tech/im…) claims, “This state-of-the-art technology cannot store, print, transmit or save the image. In fact, all machines are delivered to airports with these functions disabled.”

That in itself is an interesting statement because by stating those functions are “disabled,” it also admits that the machines inherently have these functions. And just because the machines are delivered with the functions disabled doesn’t mean those functions can’t be re-enabled at the flick of a switch.

In other words, these machines are designed and constructed with the ability to save, store and transmit the images.

“I don’t think the TSA has been forthcoming with the American public about the true capability of these devices,” said the Executive Director of EPIC, Marc Rotenberg in a CNN interview. “They’ve done a bunch of very slick promotions where they show people — including journalists — going through the devices. And then they reassure people, based on the images that have been produced, that there’s not any privacy concerns. But if you look at the actual technical specifications and you read the vendor contracts, you come to understand that these machines are capable of doing far more than the TSA has let on.” (http://edition.cnn.com/2010/TRAVEL/…)

In other words, the TSA is telling the public and the press one thing, but the machines they’re buying are capable of something far more insidious, these documents reveal. Is the TSA intentionally lying to the public in order to mislead people over the real capabilities of these machines?

If these full-body scanners can save, store and transmit images, then it’s only a matter of time before some rogue TSA employee finds a way to copy off the images or display them on the screen so that they can take snapshots with their own portable cameras.

Read moreTSA lies exposed: Full-body scanners do save and transmit images, secret documents reveal

Survivor, America: ‘It’s Only Going to Get Worse,’ Gerald Celente Says

“It’s only going to get worse,” is the sobering forecast of Gerald Celente, director of the Trends Research Institute.

As discussed in a prior segment, Celente believes the “bailout bubble” is going to burst and the U.S. economy will slip back into recession, if not worse, in 2010.

Like all forecasters, Celente isn’t always right but he has predicted a number of major events, as detailed here.

So if Celente is right about 2010, what will that mean for the average American? Celente says we’re going back to basics, making do with less and adopting the following mantra: “Waste not, want not. Use it up wear it out. Make it due, due without.”

On his Website, Celente offers the following predictions, further discussed in the accompanying video:

Read moreSurvivor, America: ‘It’s Only Going to Get Worse,’ Gerald Celente Says

US slides deeper into depression as Wall Street revels

December was the worst month for US unemployment since the Great Recession began.

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History repeating itself? President Obama has been accused by some economists of making the same mistakes policymakers in the US made in the Great Depression, which followed the Wall Street crash of 1929, pictured Photo: AP

The labour force contracted by 661,000. This did not show up in the headline jobless rate because so many Americans dropped out of the system. The broad U6 category of unemployment rose to 17.3pc. That is the one that matters.

Wall Street rallied. Bulls hope that weak jobs data will postpone monetary tightening: a silver lining in every catastrophe, or perhaps a further exhibit of market infantilism.

The home foreclosure guillotine usually drops a year or so after people lose their job, and exhaust their savings. The local sheriff will escort them out of the door, often with some sympathy — just like the police in 1932, mostly Irish Catholics who tithed 1pc of their pay for soup kitchens.

Realtytrac says defaults and repossessions have been running at over 300,000 a month since February. One million American families lost their homes in the fourth quarter. Moody’s Economy.com expects another 2.4m homes to go this year. Taken together, this looks awfully like Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath.

Judges are finding ways to block evictions. One magistrate in Minnesota halted a case calling the creditor “harsh, repugnant, shocking and repulsive”. We are not far from a de facto moratorium in some areas.

This is how it ended between 1932 and 1934, when half the US states declared moratoria or “Farm Holidays”. Such flexibility innoculated America’s democracy against the appeal of Red Unions and Coughlin Fascists. The home siezures are occurring despite frantic efforts by the Obama administration to delay the process.

Read moreUS slides deeper into depression as Wall Street revels

Top US intelligence officer: ‘Afghan Insurgency Can Sustain Itself Indefinitely’ and ‘Time Is Running Out’

time-is-running-out-afghan-insurgency-can-sustain-itself-indefinitely

The Taliban not only has the “momentum” after the most successful year in its campaign against the United States and the Kabul government. “The Afghan insurgency can sustain itself indefinitely,” according to a briefing from Major General Michael Flynn, the top U.S. intelligence officer in the country. “The Taliban retains [the] required partnerships to sustain support, fuel legitimacy and bolster capacity.”

And if that isn’t enough, Flynn also warns that “time is running out” for the American-led International Security Assistance Force. “Regional instability is rapidly increasing and getting worse,” the report says.

Since General Stanley McChrystal took over as top commander in Afghanistan, there have been a series of dark appraisals about the state of the war. In August, McChrystal warned of an “urgent need for a significant change to our strategy and the way that we think and operate.” A report recently obtained by NBC News said Afghanistan’s security forces won’t be ready to fight the Taliban for years – if ever. Earlier this week, Flynn issued a white paper complaining that “eight years into the war in Afghanistan, the U.S. intelligence community is only marginally relevant to the overall strategy.”

But Flynn’s December 23rd presentation on the “State of the Insurgency : Trends, Intentions and Objectives” may be the gloomiest public assessment of the war yet. The “loosely organized” Taliban is “growing more cohesive” and “increasingly effective.” The insurgents now have their own “governors” installed in 33 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces. And the “strength and ability of [that] shadow governance increasing,” according to the presentation. The Taliban’s “organizational capabilities and operational reach are qualitatively and geographically expanding.”

Improvised bomb “events” have nearly tripled since 2007 – 7228 this year, compared to 2718 two years ago. The bombs have grown bigger – the majority are now 25 pounds or more. “80 to 90 percent” of them are made with homemade fertilizer, rather than military ordnance. That makes it much harder to track and block the distribution of the bomb-making material. Add to that steady supply of cash, thanks to the drug trade and the corrupt Kabul government, and a glut of weapons and ammunition,” and it becomes clear why, in Flynn’s words, “the insurgency is confident…  looking toward post-ISAF Afghanistan.”

Read moreTop US intelligence officer: ‘Afghan Insurgency Can Sustain Itself Indefinitely’ and ‘Time Is Running Out’

PIMCO’S Bill Gross: ‘Let’s Get Fisical’ (… or why the US will not make it.)

On Thursday I had posted Bloomberg’s summary on the monthly investment outlook by PIMCO’s Bill Gross:

PIMCO’s Bill Gross warns on risks of US deficit: ‘Our government doesn’t work anymore, or perhaps more accurately, when it does, it works for special interests and not the American people.’

But that summary missed a lot of important points.

Here is just one excerpt as a starter:

“Here’s the problem that the U.S. Fed’s “exit” poses in simple English: Our fiscal 2009 deficit totaled nearly 12% of GDP and required over $1.5 trillion of new debt to finance it. The Chinese bought a little ($100 billion) of that, other sovereign wealth funds bought some more, but as shown in Chart 2, foreign investors as a group bought only 20% of the total – perhaps $300 billion or so. The balance over the past 12 months was substantially purchased by the Federal Reserve. …”

If that doesn’t bother you, then I do not know what will. The Federal Reserve is creating money out of thin air like there is no tomorrow and the bad news is that that is exactly what the elite that controls the US government and the Federal Reserve has planned for America:

In the next two years (or just a little more than that) we will see hyperinflation in the US, people in America will become desperately poor and the Greatest Depression will turn the US into a Third World country.

(In 2009 Bill Gross was named the world’s 32nd most powerful man by Forbes.)

Now here is the full article by Bill Gross, ‘The King of Bonds’ (Must-Read!):


Let’s Get Fisical

bill-gross-1

Quixotic journeys often make for great literature, but by definition are rarely productive. I am, after all, referring to windmills here – not their 21st century creation, but their 17th century chasing. Futility, not productivity, was the ultimate fate of Cervantes’ man from La Mancha. So it is with hesitation, although quixotic obsession, that I plunge headlong into a discussion of American politics, healthcare legislation, resultant budget deficits and – finally – their potential effect on financial markets. There will be windmills aplenty in the next few pages and not much good can come of these opinions or my tilting in their direction. Still, I mount my steed, lance in hand, and ride forward.

Question: What has become of the American nation? Conceived with the vision of liberty and justice for all, we have descended in the clutches of corporate and other special interests to a second world state defined by K Street instead of Independence Square. Our government doesn’t work anymore, or perhaps more accurately, when it does, it works for special interests and not the American people. Washington consistently stoops to legislate 10,000-page perversions of healthcare, regulatory reform, defense, and budgetary mandates overflowing with earmarks that serve a monied minority as opposed to an all-too-silent majority. You don’t have to be Don Quixote to believe that legislators – and Presidents – often do not work for the benefit of their constituents: A recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll reported that over 65% of Americans trust their government to do the right thing “only some of the time” and a stunning 19% said “never.” What most politicians apparently are working for is to perpetuate their power – first via district gerrymandering, and then second by around-the-clock campaigning financed by special interest groups. If, by chance, they’re ever voted out of office, they have a home just down the street – at K Street – with six-figure incomes as a starting wage.

What amazes me most of all is that politicians can be bought so cheaply. Public records show that combined labor, insurance, big pharma and related corporate interests spent just under $500 million last year on healthcare lobbying (not much of which went to politicians) for what is likely to be a $50-100 billion annual return. The fact is that American citizens have never been as divorced from their representatives – and if that description fits the Democratic Congress now in control – then it applies to Republicans as well – past and present. So you watch Fox, or is it MSNBC? O’Reilly or Olbermann? It doesn’t matter. You’re just being conned into rooting for a team that basically runs the same plays called by lookalike coaches on different sidelines. A “ballot box” pox on all their houses – Senators, Representatives and Presidents alike. There has been no change, there will be no change, until we the American people decide to publicly finance all national and local elections and ban the writing of even a $1 check for our favorite candidates. Undemocratic? Hardly. Get on the internet, use Facebook, YouTube, or Twitter to campaign for your choice. That’s the new democracy. When special interests, even singular citizens write a check, it represents a perversion of democracy not the exercise of the First Amendment. Any chance that any of this will happen? Not one ghost of a chance. Forward Don Quixote, the windmills are in sight.

Distressed as I am about the state of American democracy, a rational money manager cannot afford to get mad or “just get even” when it comes to investing clients’ money. Still, like pilots politely advertise at the end of most flights, “We know you have a choice of airlines and we thank you for flying ‘United’.” Global investment managers likewise have a choice of sovereign credits and risk assets where stable inflation and fiscal conservatism are available. If 2008 was the year of financial crisis and 2009 the year of healing via monetary and fiscal stimulus packages, then 2010 appears likely to be the year of “exit strategies,” during which investors should consider economic fundamentals and asset markets that will soon be priced in a world less dominated by the government sector. If, in 2009, PIMCO recommended shaking hands with the government, we now ponder “which” government, and caution that the days of carefree check writing leading to debt issuance without limit or interest rate consequences may be numbered for all countries.

Read morePIMCO’S Bill Gross: ‘Let’s Get Fisical’ (… or why the US will not make it.)

H&M and Wal-Mart Destroy and Trash New, Unsold Clothes

h&m-and-wal-mart-destroy-and-dump-unneeded-clothes
Cynthia Magnus holds up unworn, destroyed clothing she found in the garbage. Photo by Suzanne DeChillo/New York Times

This week the New York Times reported a disheartening story about two of the largest retail chains. You see, instead of taking unsold items to sample sales or donating them to people in need, H&M and Wal-Mart have been throwing them out in giant trash bags. And in the case that someone may stumble on these bags and try to keep or re-sell the items, these companies have gone ahead and slashed up garments, cut off the sleeves of coats, and sliced holes in shoes so they are unwearable.

This unsettling discovery was made by graduate student Cynthia Magnus outside the back entrance of H&M on 35th street in New York City. Just a few doors down, she also found hundreds of Wal-Mart tagged items with holes made in them that were dumped by a contractor. On December 7, she spotted 20 bags of clothing outside of H&M including, “gloves with the fingers cut off, warm socks, cute patent leather Mary Jane school shoes, maybe for fourth graders, with the instep cut up with a scissor, men’s jackets, slashed across the body and the arms. The puffy fiber fill was coming out in big white cotton balls.”

The New York Times points out that one-third of the city’s population is poor, which makes this behavior not only wasteful and sad, but downright irresponsible. Wal-Mart spokeswoman, Melissa Hill, acted surprised that these items were found, claiming they typically donate all unworn merchandise to charity. When reporters went around the corner from H&M to a collections drop-off for charity organization New York Cares, spokesperson Colleen Farrell said, “We’d be glad to take unworn coats, and companies often send them to us.”

Read moreH&M and Wal-Mart Destroy and Trash New, Unsold Clothes