Sunday, May 15, 2011
THOUGHT FOR THE DAY!"America is a nation desperate to believe they remain a just and moral people even as they carry out unjust and immoral wars upon other nations. Those (far too many) Americans who lack the courage to stand up to a government gone wrong are grasping at any symbol that allows them to pretend they remain decent human beings. They won't oppose the violence in Iraq, so they scream about violence on TV. They cannot face up to the reality of torture of innocent victims so they complain about "decency" in movies. They bash gays. They demand religious mythology replace science on the schools. They scream for the Ten Commandments to be displayed in the offices of government while blind to that government's violation of those same commandments. And, of course, they scream for Terri Schiavo to prove to the world (and themselves) that they really do care about every single human life, despite having sat in silence while hundreds of thousands of people were killed and the survivors showered with radioactive waste in wars started with lies and deceptions. If hypocrisy were an Olympic event, Americas would take home the gold, silver, AND bronze!" -- Michael Rivero
The elitists who run America from behind the scenes have serious problems in trying to keep a badly damaged financial and economic system afloat. Ironically, these same characters are the ones responsible for the system and the condition that it is in today. It is not only confined to the US, but it prevails in England, Europe and other countries as well. Central bankers are all in constant touch with each other to employ tactics that will extend the current system in the hope that something they are doing will turn into at least a temporary solution. The US maintains virtually zero interest rates and floods the economy with money and credit. The European Central Bank, the ECB, raises interest rates, but continues injecting money and credit into the system. In Europe the higher interest rates are supposed to offset the inflation caused by the increase in money and credit. On the short term it isn’t going to work. On the long term much higher rates will work, if the increase in money and credit is lowered or stopped. The unpalatable problem with that is this medicine will collapse their economies. All these parties should have purged the system in the early 1990s when they had the chance, or just three years ago, when they had another chance to do so. The result is the inflation we see today, 6% in Europe, 12% in Britain and 10% in the US. The path these bankers have laid out will lead to hyperinflation and ultimately to deflationary depression. The approaches employed by both the US and Europe won’t work and the elitists know they won’t work. Historically these conditions are nothing new. We have seen them over and over again. More often the solution is to have another war, which can take the blame for the monetary, fiscal and economic profligacy and at the same time relieve the world of copious useless eaters.
Bob Chapman is a frequent contributor to Global Research. Global Research Articles by Bob Chapman
By Dearbhail McDonald and Tim Healy
Thursday May 12 2011
BANKS are driving some borrowers who can not pay their debts to suicide, the Master of the High Court warned last night.
Ed Honohan, brother of Central Bank Governor Patrick Honohan, told the Irish Independent he decided to speak out against the banks and other creditors because he had dealt with several debt cases where the borrowers had subsequently taken their own lives.
He added that he also decided to speak out as many borrowers who can not repay their loans, such as mortgages, credit cards and personal loans, are being pursued by banks who have already written off the debts.
This was leading to "meaningless accountancy exercises" that were driving some people to suicide, he said.
In an extraordinary intervention on the deepening debt crisis, Mr Honohan strongly criticised banks and other creditors for pursuing "to the bitter end" debtors who cannot pay judgment mortgages.
Banks are still required to chase debts and maximise recovery from borrowers even if they have written them off in their books.
Mr Honohan, a barrister, said most of the debt cases arose due to circumstances beyond the control of borrowers -- because the economy shut down as a result of the banking collapse.
He criticised the banks as he called for the updating of legislation to protect people unable to pay debts and to introduce a level of "debt forgiveness".
He said there had been a surge not only in mortgage cases but also instances where banks had chased borrowers for personal loans and then sought for judgments to be registered against family homes.
"We can not wait for 18 months before the Government introduces new personal insolvency laws," Mr Honohan said. He was referring to the March 2012 deadline imposed by theEU/IMF for reform of our outdated debtor's laws.
Borrowers might think they are "outlaws in uncharted territory", he said, but stressed that even members of the "new debt set" have legal rights.
Mr Honohan said it was a criminal offence to demand repayment so frequently that it would cause alarm, distress or humiliation; to tell a debtor they are guilty of a criminal offence or to pretend to be officially authorised by law to enforce payment.
Several of the tragic deaths that had crossed his desk had been reported in the media, he said.
His court is a central hub for debt actions that go to law.
The Free Legal Advice Centres (FLAC) said that some borrowers had taken their own lives as a result of stress caused by being chased for their debts.
Paul Joyce, FLAC's senior policy researcher on consumer credit law, said that many borrowers did not realise that their homes could potentially be at risk if creditors converted judgments obtained on foot of consumer loans by registering them against their property.
Last night the Irish Bankers' Federation (IBF), which represents mainstream domestic and international banks operating in Ireland, said that it fully supported calls for reform of Ireland's outdated personal insolvency laws.
"Just stay calm," Josef Daum thinks. "Remember your heart." His wife has already cast a worried glance around the corner. Ever since his heart attack last September, Daum has had to be a little more careful. But that's easier said than done -- especially in his position as the mayor of the northern Bavarian town of Nordhalben.Just take the figures: 85 out of the town's 820 houses are empty. The town had 3,000 inhabitants not too long ago, but now there are only 1,900. When elderly citizens have passed away, there has been no one there to replace them.
"Nobody lives there anymore either," Daum says, pointing to a mint-green single-family house. The industrial bakery moved to the east, he explains, and the area in front of the former garden furniture factory is full of dandelions. The Edeka grocery store closed its doors for good last year, and no trains have passed through the town since 1994.
And don't get Daum started on money issues. Most state contributions to municipalities depend on their population figures. But since people are moving away from Nordhalben, it has had to borrow €3.5 million ($5 million) just to make ends meet. "We're now taking out loans just to pay off our other loans." Daum says. "If we were a company, we'd be a classic case of insolvency."
To make matters worse for Daum, even his daughter has moved away now, to Munich, because that's where the jobs are.
'A Declaration of War on the Provinces'
Nordhalben is a municipality in its death throes even though it is located in the relatively wealthy state of Bavaria. Indeed, Bavaria is the most self-confident of Germany's 16 federal states, enjoying the greatest purchasing power, the highest economic growth and the lowest unemployment rate. Just recently, owing to federal rules that require richer states to give some of their proceeds to poorer ones, the Bavarian government even had to hand over €3.5 million.
But despite this prosperity, parts of Bavaria are doing very poorly. According to analysts at Switzerland's Prognos institute, Bavaria is already the state "with the greatest disparities between individual regions." While some are chic, others are "problematic." While home prices are skyrocketing in Munich, there's a mass exodus from the rural areas of northeastern Bavaria.
Politicians can do little to counteract the trend. Erwin Huber, the former head of the Christian Social Union (CSU), the Bavarian sister party of Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU), praises his people's "pride in their own identity." Konrad Kobler, a CSU parliamentarian in Passau, rails against the threatening "liquidation of Lower Bavaria." And the business-friendly Free Democratic Party (FDP) fears "a declaration of war on provincial areas."
The 'Special' and the Empty
Horst Seehofer, Bavaria's governor, has appointed a "Future Council" to look into the problem -- and its suggestions have been causing uproar in several areas for weeks. For example, the council has suggested expanding what it calls "potent cities" into national centers of excellence. It has called for cash injections into these "clusters" and less for outlying areas.
Indeed, the council says that "business as usual" is no longer an option. "Special regions" -- that is, those experiencing financial hardship -- should start "orienting" themselves toward alliances with other nearby regions. According to this vision, Upper Franconia should work together with Saxony, Passau with Austria, and Würzburg with Frankfurt. The "special regions" have got the message -- and, not surprisingly, they feel abandoned.
By Clement Daly and Naomi Spencer
14 May 2011
As floodwaters swell past record levels in the Mississippi River and its tributaries, the US Army Corps of Engineers is preparing to throw open a floodway north of Baton Rouge. The opening of the Morganza Floodway, planned for as soon as this weekend, will impact 25,000 mainly poor rural residents and flood three million acres of prime Louisiana farmland.
The action is a bid to prevent catastrophic flooding of the capital Baton Rouge and the state’s largest city, New Orleans. Some levees, particularly in New Orleans, are at risk of collapsing if the water pressure is not relieved upriver. The city’s levees are designed to withstand a 20-foot crest, but the force of the water may undermine the earthen barriers at their base, causing the levees to slide into the river. Entire parishes in the below-sea-level city, especially those devastated by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, would again be submerged.
Thousands of residents in Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, and Mississippi have been flooded, including low-lying neighborhoods in Memphis and entire small towns further south. (See, “Mississippi towns submerged in floodwaters.”)
While the Army Corps has repeatedly asserted that the flood management system is sound, disaster response has been chaotic and borne primarily by state and local agencies. Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal has dispatched a regiment of the state’s National Guard to hastily construct a f lood barrier at the confluence of the Atchafalaya and Mississippi rivers. The regiment has been ordered to work around the clock. Impoverished municipalities in the Delta region have struggled to sandbag against newly developed sand boils, or seepages at the bases of levees, along the Yazoo River.
The historic flooding in the Mississippi watershed casts a spotlight on the crumbling and patchwork state of America’s physical infrastructure. An aged and unsound levee system is the only defense against disaster for hundreds of thousands of people.
The Army Corps of Engineers has reported that nine percent of the levees it maintains are expected to fail in a flood event.
In a recent report on the state of US infrastructure, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) found that “there is no definitive record of how many levees there are in the US, nor is there an assessment of the current conditions and performance of those levees.” Grading the nation’s levee system a “D-,” or on the brink of total failure, the ASCE warned that “43 percent of the US population lives in counties with levees.”
The federal government does not oversee all of the levees, and there is no assessment of the many privately-maintained floodwalls along the Mississippi. Similarly, the Army Corps regulates only one-tenth of the county’s dams, many of which are considered at high risk of collapse by the ASCE.
In addition to the flood management system, the country’s roads, bridges, water and sewage systems are all increasingly dilapidated and under-funded. Overall, the ASCE report gave US physical infrastructure a grade of D.
American roads were given a D-. The ASCE graded US bridges at a C, concluding that “more than 26 percent, or one in four of the nation’s bridges, are either structurally deficient or functionally obsolete.”
The resources required to address the nation’s burgeoning inventory of deteriorating bridges have far outstripped the stagnant levels of funding made available. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) estimated in 2009, the last time such an estimate was made, that it would require $70.9 billion to address the nation’s deteriorating bridges. Congress appropriated only $5.2 billion that year to the Federal Highway Bridge Program, which is tasked with repairing and replacing deficient bridges throughout the country.
Five states have more than one in five of their bridges in need of significant maintenance. Pennsylvania ranked worst with 26.5 percent of its bridges considered structurally deficient. The situation is only expected to worsen as a greater proportion of the federal bridge inventory exceeds the typical expected 50-year lifespan. At present the average lifespan of an American bridge is 42 years. As of last year, nearly one in three of the nation’s bridges was over 50 years old.
The sheer recklessness of the neglect of infrastructure is evident in the fact that every day, an average of 282,672,680 vehicles pass over one of the nation’s 69,223 deficient bridges.
Last week marked the bicentennial of the National Road—the first federally funded road in the US. The National Road linked Cumberland, Maryland, across the Appalachian Mountains into the heartland of Illinois, ending initially at the city of Vandalia, the state capitol at the time. Conceived of as a means of unifying the young and expanding country, the National Road was established through congressional legislation in 1806 and signed by President Thomas Jefferson.
Public works projects of the 20th Century transformed the US into a modern, mass society by connecting far-flung cities, electrifying rural regions, and mitigating the dangers of the environment. Half a century ago, the government undertook “the greatest public works project in history”—the Interstate System, declared by President Eisenhower to be “essential to the national interest.”
In however limited a form, the ruling class of this earlier period viewed infrastructure as essential for economic development. The ruling elite of today shares no such commitment. On the contrary, in the midst of mass unemployment and tattered social conditions, the Obama administration has explicitly refused to undertake any public works program to mitigate the crisis. Instead, the political establishment has starved the country’s infrastructure, like every other social resource including education, health care, libraries and cultural institutions.
The attack finds its expression in the refusal to upgrade life-saving levees around New Orleans, the drive to “right-size” industrial cities such as Detroit, and many other aspects of social conditions affecting the day-to-day lives of millions of people.
A recent report in Minneapolis/St. Paul Star Tribune entitled “Making a rural comeback: The old gravel road,” for example, details the growing practice of tearing up paved roads in rural America, especially the Midwest, for lack of resources to maintain them. In Michigan, 100 miles have already been converted back to gravel, while South Dakota has torn up 120 miles. The practice is spreading throughout the Midwest, including Iowa, North Dakota, and Minnesota, where communities have seen 40-year-old roadways ripped out.
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The Defence Secretary Liam Fox says he agrees with the head of the Armed Forces that Nato needs to intensify its campaign in Libya.
General Sir David Richards told the Sunday Telegraph direct attacks should be launched against the infrastructure propping up Colonel Gaddafi's regime.
He said it was necessary to prevent the Libyan dictator remaining in power.
But the UN's under-secretary general for humanitarian relief called for a temporary cessation of hostilities.
Baroness Amos, the UN's under-secretary for humanitarian relief, said there was an urgent need for an end to the conflict and she was concerned that "any upscaling" in the fighting would have a significant impact on innocent civilians.
Speaking to Radio 4's The World This Weekend, she said: "Of course there is a military imperative. Of course there is a political aspect to it. But there are others who are working on those aspects. My job is to make sure that we all remember that it is the innocent people who are suffering and that we need a political solution as quickly as we can."
The UK and other countries have been bombing Libya under a UN resolution authorising force to protect civilians.
The Security Council resolution authorises "all necessary measures" to protect civilians under threat of attack - short of an occupying force.
The views of Gen Richards, Chief of the Defence Staff, are said to be supported by other senior Nato officers.
They argue increasing the range of targets from direct threats such as tanks and command sites would be legitimate, but would require the backing of member states.'Within rules'
Col Gaddafi's removal is not a specified military objective of the action.
But in the interview with the Telegraph, Gen Richards said it would be "within the rules" should he be killed in a strike on a command and control centre.
He said the "vice is closing on Gaddafi but we need to increase the pressure further through more intense military action".
He said: "The military campaign to date has been a significant success for Nato and our Arab allies. But we need to do more.
"If we do not up the ante now there is a risk that the conflict could result in Gaddafi clinging to power.
"At present, Nato is not attacking infrastructure targets in Libya. But if we want to increase the pressure on Gaddafi's regime then we need to give serious consideration to increasing the range of targets we can hit."
Gen Richards added there had been "hardly any civilian casualties as a result of the extreme care Nato has taken in the selection of bombing targets".
SEATTLE, May 12, 2011 -- Boeing [NYSE: BA] will begin maintenance and upgrade activities this week in Seattle for the Sea-based X-band Radar (SBX), which arrived in port on May 10, passing through Puget Sound and Elliott Bay.
SBX is an oceangoing radar that identifies, tracks, and assesses the flight characteristics of ballistic missile threats. It provides an advanced capability to the United States' overall ballistic missile defense system.
The U.S. Missile Defense Agency awarded Boeing a $27.1 million sole-source contract in April for the shipyard maintenance efforts, which are scheduled to be completed in August. Boeing has been the prime contractor for the SBX since 2003 and is responsible for all development, integration, testing and operations for the vessel platform and radar.
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