Tropical Storm Agatha floods kill 150, cause gigantic sinkhole in Guatemala City

Giant sinkhole in Guatemala looks as if it goes to centre of the Earth (National Post):

giant-sinkhole-in-guatemala-looks-as-if-it-goes-to-centre-of-the-earth


giant-sinkhole-in-guatemala
Flooding and landslides from Tropical Storm Agatha have killed more than 150 people throughout Central America in the past few days, and apparently caused a giant Guatemala City sinkhole.
By Sara Miller Llana, Staff writer / June 1, 2010


Cartagena, Colombia — Villagers have been buried alive in Guatemala. Residents, caked in mud, have searched in the wreckage of their homes for loved ones. Aerial photos show entire swaths of the nation’s coffee crop under water. Then, there’s the giant Guatemala City sinkhole.

The Atlantic hurricane seasons opens today, preceded by the Pacific one just weeks earlier, but already seasonal weather – coupled with volcano eruptions and other freak accidents – has battered Central American nations.

More than 150 people have been killed, mostly due to flooding and landslides, after Tropical Storm Agatha, the first Pacific storm of the season, struck Guatemala Saturday, impacting El Salvador and Honduras as well. Thousands across the region are homeless.

Read moreTropical Storm Agatha floods kill 150, cause gigantic sinkhole in Guatemala City

New York: Children Lead Way in Record Homelessness

(AFP) — Kariana, aged three, has a lonely existence in the New York homeless shelter her parents moved into last year. Lonely, but not alone — there are nearly 16,000 children just like her.

Homelessness in New York has soared as a result of the damaged US economy and children make up almost half of that growing population.

Shivering outside the forbidding gates to a Brooklyn shelter, Kariana’s petite mother, Karen Diaz, said she’d been homeless since arriving three months ago from Puerto Rico with her husband Pedro, Kariana, and a second daughter, aged six.

“We thought we would be here just for 10 days and get some place better, but time flew by,” said Diaz, 24.

Guards would not allow a reporter inside the building, a former hospital now named the Auburn Family Shelter.

Diaz described a rough life of tasteless food, “disgusting, dirty” communal toilets, bunk beds in their family room, and “scary” fellow residents.

“There are no friends for the girls. There are a lot of sick people,” Diaz said, as Kariana fidgeted in the bitter cold. “We keep to ourselves.”

With unemployment running over 10 percent in New York, sky high house prices, and icy winter temperatures, the family is lucky to have a roof while Diaz’s husband searches for a security guard job.

Read moreNew York: Children Lead Way in Record Homelessness

Paul Craig Roberts: The Economy is a Lie, too

Ben Bernanke IS RIGHT, ‘the recession is over.’

It is now the ‘Greatest Depression’.


Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury during President Reagan’s first term. He was Associate Editor of the Wall Street Journal. He has held numerous academic appointments, including the William E. Simon Chair, Center for Strategic and International Studies, Georgetown University, and Senior Research Fellow, Hoover Institution, Stanford University.

paul-craig-roberts
Paul Craig Roberts

Americans cannot get any truth out of their government about anything, the economy included. Americans are being driven into the ground economically, with one million school children now homeless, while Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke announces that the recession is over.

economic crisis   The Economy is a Lie, too
Switzerland World Economic Forum Davos
At the urging of Larry Summers and Goldman Sachs’ CEO Henry Paulson, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Bush administration went along with removing restrictions on debt leverage.

The spin that masquerades as news is becoming more delusional. Consumer spending is 70% of the US economy. It is the driving force, and it has been shut down. Except for the super rich, there has been no growth in consumer incomes in the 21st century. Statistician John Williams of shadowstats.com reports that real household income has never recovered its pre-2001 peak.

The US economy has been kept going by substituting growth in consumer debt for growth in consumer income. Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan encouraged consumer debt with low interest rates. The low interest rates pushed up home prices, enabling Americans to refinance their homes and spend the equity. Credit cards were maxed out in expectations of rising real estate and equity values to pay the accumulated debt. The binge was halted when the real estate and equity bubbles burst.

As consumers no longer can expand their indebtedness and their incomes are not rising, there is no basis for a growing consumer economy. Indeed, statistics indicate that consumers are paying down debt in their efforts to survive financially. In an economy in which the consumer is the driving force, that is bad news.

The banks, now investment banks thanks to greed-driven deregulation that repealed the learned lessons of the past, were even more reckless than consumers and took speculative leverage to new heights. At the urging of Larry Summers and Goldman Sachs’ CEO Henry Paulson, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Bush administration went along with removing restrictions on debt leverage.

When the bubble burst, the extraordinary leverage threatened the financial system with collapse. The US Treasury and the Federal Reserve stepped forward with no one knows how many trillions of dollars to “save the financial system,” which, of course, meant to save the greed-driven financial institutions that had caused the economic crisis that dispossessed ordinary Americans of half of their life savings.

The consumer has been chastened, but not the banks. Refreshed with the TARP $700 billion and the Federal Reserve’s expanded balance sheet, banks are again behaving like hedge funds. Leveraged speculation is producing another bubble with the current stock market rally, which is not a sign of economic recovery but is the final savaging of Americans’ wealth by a few investment banks and their Washington friends. Goldman Sachs, rolling in profits, announced six figure bonuses to employees.

The rest of America is suffering terribly.

The unemployment rate, as reported, is a fiction and has been since the Clinton administration. The unemployment rate does not include jobless Americans who have been unemployed for more than a year and have given up on finding work. The reported 10% unemployment rate is understated by the millions of Americans who are suffering long-term unemployment and are no longer counted as unemployed. As each month passes, unemployed Americans drop off the unemployment role due to nothing except the passing of time.

The inflation rate, especially “core inflation,” is another fiction. “Core inflation” does not include food and energy, two of Americans’ biggest budget items. The Consumer Price Index (CPI) assumes, ever since the Boskin Commission during the Clinton administration, that if prices of items go up consumers substitute cheaper items. This is certainly the case, but this way of measuring inflation means that the CPI is no longer comparable to past years, because the basket of goods in the index is variable.

The Boskin Commission’s CPI, by lowering the measured rate of inflation, raises the real GDP growth rate. The result of the statistical manipulation is an understated inflation rate, thus eroding the real value of Social Security income, and an overstated growth rate. Statistical manipulation cloaks a declining standard of living.

In bygone days of American prosperity, American incomes rose with productivity. It was the real growth in American incomes that propelled the US economy.

In today’s America, the only incomes that rise are in the financial sector that risks the country’s future on excessive leverage and in the corporate world that substitutes foreign for American labor. Under the compensation rules and emphasis on shareholder earnings that hold sway in the US today, corporate executives maximize earnings and their compensation by minimizing the employment of Americans.

Try to find some acknowledgement of this in the “mainstream media,” or among economists, who suck up to the offshoring corporations for grants.

The worst part of the decline is yet to come. Bank failures and home foreclosures are yet to peak. The commercial real estate bust is yet to hit. The dollar crisis is building.

When it hits, interest rates will rise dramatically as the US struggles to finance its massive budget and trade deficits while the rest of the world tries to escape a depreciating dollar.

Since the spring of this year, the value of the US dollar has collapsed against every currency except those pegged to it. The Swiss franc has risen 14% against the dollar. Every hard currency from the Canadian dollar to the Euro and UK pound has risen at least 13 % against the US dollar since April 2009. The Japanese yen is not far behind, and the Brazilian real has risen 25% against the almighty US dollar. Even the Russian ruble has risen 13% against the US dollar.

What sort of recovery is it when the safest investment is to bet against the US dollar?

Read morePaul Craig Roberts: The Economy is a Lie, too

Paul Craig Roberts: Tent City America; The Expiring Economy

Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury during President Reagan’s first term. He was Associate Editor of the Wall Street Journal. He has held numerous academic appointments, including the William E. Simon Chair, Center for Strategic and International Studies, Georgetown University, and Senior Research Fellow, Hoover Institution, Stanford University.

paul-craig-roberts
Paul Craig Roberts

Tent cities springing up all over America are filling with the homeless unemployed from the worst economy since the 1930s. While Americans live in tents, the Obama government has embarked on a $1 billion crash program to build a mega-embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan, to rival the one the Bush government build in Baghdad, Iraq.

Hard times have now afflicted Americans for so long that even the extension of unemployment benefits from 6 months to 18 months for 24 high unemployment states, and to 46 – 72 weeks in other states, is beginning to run out. By Christmas 1.5 million Americans will have exhausted unemployment benefits while unemployment rolls continue to rise.

Amidst this worsening economic crisis, the House of Representatives just passed a $636 billion “defense” bill.

Who is the United States defending against? Americans have no enemies except those that the US government goes out of its way to create by bombing and invading countries that comprise no threat whatsoever to the US and by encircling others–Russia for example–with threatening military bases.

America’s wars are contrived affairs to serve the money laundering machine: from the taxpayers and money borrowed from foreign creditors to the armaments industry to the political contributions that ensure $636 billion “defense” bills.

President George W. Bush gave us wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that are entirely based on lies and misrepresentations. But Obama has done Bush one better. Obama has started a war in Pakistan with no explanation whatsoever.

If the armaments industry and the neoconservative brownshirts have their way, the US will also be at war with Iran, Russia, Sudan and North Korea.

Meanwhile, America continues to be overrun, as it has been for decades, not by armed foreign enemies but by illegal immigrants across America’s porous and undefended borders.

It is more proof of the Orwellian time in which we live that $636 billion appropriated for wars of aggression is called a “defense bill.”

Read morePaul Craig Roberts: Tent City America; The Expiring Economy

Homelessness rising as economy slides


A homeless man smokes a cigarette on Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood in this January 27, 2006 file photo. Homelessness and demand for emergency food are rising in the United States as the economy founders, a report said on Friday, and homeless advocates cautioned many cities were not equipped for the increase. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

BOSTON (Reuters) – Homelessness and demand for emergency food are rising in the United States as the economy founders, a report said on Friday, and homeless advocates cautioned many cities were not equipped for the increase.

A survey by the U.S. Conference of Mayors showed that 19 of 25 cities saw an increase in homelessness in the 12 months to October, while four reported a drop and two cities lacked enough data for conclusive results.

On average, the cities in the survey saw a 12 percent rise in homelessness, the report said. Although the results do not cover all U.S. cities, homeless advocates said they were in line with anecdotal evidence nationwide.

Homeless advocates say families are flooding homeless shelters across the United States in numbers not seen for years, camping out in motels or staying with friends and relatives following foreclosures on tens of thousands of homes during the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.

Read moreHomelessness rising as economy slides

Family homelessness rising in the United States


A man sweeps the area outside his tent with a broken broom at “tent city”, a terminus for the homeless in Ontario, a suburb outside Los Angeles, California December 19, 2007. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President-elect Barack Obama has vowed to help middle-class U.S. homeowners facing foreclosure, but he has said little about how he will help low-income families made homeless by a worsening economy.

Obama has spoken broadly about boosting affordable housing and restoring public housing subsidies. But with economists forecasting a deep recession in 2009, he may find it hard to find the money to fulfill those promises soon.

At the same time, advocacy groups and the country’s czar for combating homelessness say immediate action is needed to halt the foreclosures of tens of thousands of homes and rehouse thousands of families amid the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

“President-elect Obama understands the economy will only get back on track if we end the foreclosure crisis. And he realizes that part of ending the crisis is both preventing and ending homelessness for families losing their homes,” said Jeremy Rosen of the National Policy and Advocacy Council on Homelessness.

Read moreFamily homelessness rising in the United States

Homeless numbers are alarming


Thomas Malinowski, 48, who lived on New York’s streets for 13 years, sits on his cot in the “Safe Haven” shelter in Manhattan on January 21, 2007.

FORECLOSURES INCREASING

A surge in families seeking housing aid or shelter has followed rising home foreclosures nationwide.

Foreclosures Jan.-Aug.

2006: 801,354

2007: 1,341,295

2008: 2,049,782

Source: RealtyTrac

More families with children are becoming homeless as they face mounting economic pressures, including mortgage foreclosures, according to a USA TODAY survey of a dozen of the largest cities in the nation.

Local authorities say the number of families seeking help has risen in Atlanta, Boston, Denver, Minneapolis, New York, Phoenix, Portland, Seattle and Washington.

“Everywhere I go, I hear there is an increase” in the need for housing aid, especially for families, says Philip Mangano, executive director of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, which coordinates federal programs. He says the main causes are job losses and foreclosures.

Other factors have been higher food and fuel prices hitting families with “no cushion,” says Nan Roman of the National Alliance to End Homelessness.

Read moreHomeless numbers are alarming

Economic chaos creates surge in homelessness

CAMBRIDGE, Massachusetts (AP) — The number of homeless families in Massachusetts has surged — a spike that has overwhelmed the state’s shelter capacity and forced it to again place homeless families in motels.


The number of homeless families living in Massachusetts motels skyrocketed in September 2008.

Driving the increase is the sour economy, rising energy costs, escalating unemployment and shortage of affordable housing. For the first time, the state is tracking how many families are winding up homeless due to foreclosures.

“You’re seeing a perfect storm,” said Robyn Frost, executive director of the Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless.

Read moreEconomic chaos creates surge in homelessness