The streets are so much darker now, since money for streetlights is rarely available to municipal governments. The national parks began closing down years ago. Some are already being subdivided and sold to the highest bidder. Reports on bridges crumbling or even collapsing are commonplace. The air in city after city hangs brown and heavy (and rates of childhood asthma and other lung diseases have shot up), because funding that would allow the enforcement of clean air standards by the Environmental Protection Agency is a distant memory. Public education has been cut to the bone, making good schools a luxury and, according to the Department of Education, two of every five students won’t graduate from high school.
An undersea gold rush could be coming soon with the rising cost of minerals and advancements in technology opening the seafloor to mining – environmental concerns not withstanding.
The potential for exploiting undersea reserves is higher than any time in history. Incentives for undersea mining are rising metal prices, the high profitability of mining companies, declining yields of land-based nickel, copper and cobalt sulphide deposits (over years of mining), as well as new advancements in the machinery that’s used to extract and process mineral rich rocks from the seabed.
India is still at significant risk of having its credit rating downgraded to junk status by Standard & Poor’s, despite the government’s efforts to secure an upgrade. S&P on Friday reiterated its negative outlook on India, with its rating sitting just one notch above “junk”.
“The negative outlook signals at least a one-in-three likelihood of a downgrade within the next 12 months,” S&P said. “High fiscal deficits and a heavy government debt burden remain the most significant constraints on our sovereign ratings on India.
Critics dismiss the “Secure Homeland” initiative as a political charade that risks degenerating into human rights abuses while having no lasting impact on crime. But to many residents, weary of being terrorized by armed gangs, seeing troops on the streets is a welcome projection of government power.
With some 15,000 killings a year, Venezuela’s homicide rate is the fifth highest in the world, according to U.N. statistics. The murder rate doubled during the 14-year-rule of the late President Hugo Chavez as cheap access to guns and an ineffective justice system fed a culture of violence in slums like Petare, parts of which have become no-go zones for outsiders, including police.
Foreign companies are getting ready to undertake the risky business of exploring for oil in war-torn Somalia, a quest that could trigger new conflict as the Western-backed government struggles to stop die-hard Islamist insurgents.
“The world’s leading oil companies are increasingly accepting that their quest for new reserves will take them into challenging new territory,” the Financial Times observed this week. “In regions such as the arctic, the problems are technical. Around the Horn of Africa, companies must calculate whether political and security risks will put too heavy a burden on their production costs.
The process that created Dolly the sheep in 1996 has now been proven successful in humans. Scientists have made an embryonic clone of a person, using DNA from that person’s skin cells. In the future, such a clone could be a source of stem cells, for super-personalized therapies made from people’s own DNA.
It’s unlikely that this clone could develop into a human, say the scientists, a team of biologists from the U.S. and Thailand. The team plans to publish a paper in the future detailing why not, Nature reported.
India continues to view Pakistan as the “real threat” even though it is adjusting its military strategy to include the possibility of a limited two-front war with both Pakistan and China, the first Blue Book on India published by a Chinese think tank said.
Pakistan is India’s main “real threat” to maintain a high degree of vigilance and preparedness, the summary of the Blue Book released by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, (CASS) said. The report says Indian military deployment on land is mainly fixated against Pakistan but in recent times, it is also being adjusted for both China and Pakistan.
Consider the significance of the Federal Reserve announcement last week of its plan to maintain a policy of cheap debt — continuing its “stimulus” plans that camouflage a stagnant economy by purchasing $85 billion a month of a variety of forms of debt. Troubling elements of such a policy include the fact that American taxpayers own a larger and larger share of all mortgage-backed securities thanks to the government takeover of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. Remember, these government service organizations were declared insolvent as recently as 2008 during the subprime housing crisis.
In spite of all obstacles, a major breakthrough is required to end the current nuclear deadlock in the region, where Israel is the only atomic power, though the Iranian nuclear programme continues to draw attention – and sanctions – in Western countries. Should such a breakthrough not happen, Egypt and Arab countries may withdraw from the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which they were pushed to join in 1995 in exchange of U.S. promises to free the Middle East from atomic warheads, Israeli nuclear arsenal included.
A leading member of a United Nations investigatory commission says there are “strong concrete suspicions but not yet incontrovertible proof” that Syrian rebels have used the nerve agent sarin.
Carla del Ponte, a former prosecutor for U.N. tribunals investigating war crimes in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, made the comment in an interview Sunday with a Swiss television channel, the BBC reported. She said the evidence emerged from interviews conducted by investigators with victims, physicians and others in neighboring countries.
“The year 2014 can be expected to usher in another major war involving the U.S.” The threat of war against the United States is making headlines and roiling investors’ nerves. While full-scale war is likely not imminent, it’s something worth considering in light of where we stand in the long-term War Cycle.
To answer this question we need first to realize where we are in the context of the 24-year cycle. This particular cycle, a subset of the Kress 120-year cycle, has been identified as the long-term “war cycle” among industrialized countries. The most recent 24-year cycle bottom occurred in October 1990. This ended a vicious bear market for the stock market.
Tension is rising on the Israel-Syria cease-fire line on the Golan Heights and Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu says he’s ready to launch military operation to prevent the weakening Damascus regime’s chemical and other advanced weapons falling into Islamist hands. “We see a deterioration of the general chain of command” in the Syrian-held sector of the Golan, said Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, an Israeli military spokesman. But the Israelis see the main threat to them as the jihadists acquiring the regime’s well-stocked arsenals of chemical weapons and advanced systems such as Russian-made Scud-B ballistic missiles, which can carry chemical warheads, and surface-to-air missiles that would challenge Israel’s long-held air supremacy in the region.
The only democracy Egypt has known in 5,000 years of recorded history lasted six years — from 1946, when the World War II British protectorate came to an end, until 1952 when Col. Gamal Abdel Nasser and his Free Officers movement dethroned and exiled King Farouk. Nasser’s coup was inspired by Egypt’s defeat in the first Arab-Israeli war of 1948. No more than 100 colonels, majors and captains were involved, including Anwar Sadat, who succeeded Nasser upon his death in 1970. Officially, Nasser and his Free Officers said they had taken over to wipe out corruption among their generals who, they charged, had led Egypt to its first defeat by Israel in 1948.
After decades in the shadow of the military, Myanmar’s ragtag police force has found itself thrust onto the security frontline – and under fire for failing to stop a wave of religious unrest. Under the former junta that ruled the country also known as Burma for almost half a century, any sign of unrest was quickly quelled by soldiers.
But since a new reformist government took power two years ago, the job of maintaining order has been largely left to police who lack basic equipment and only have about a year of training. “The police were never well-equipped,” said an officer with 20 years in the force who did not want to be named.
With unemployement at unprecedented levels in the EU, the risk of social unrest is rising, says the UN’s International Labour Organization. The ILO is warning politicians to abandon austerity and embrace job creation.
“When unemployment is as high as it is right now – as poverty and welfare protection become worse – then the danger of social unrest grows along with it,” says Miguel Angel Malo. Malo is a professor of economics in Salamanca, Spain – a country where youth unemployment is at 56 percent.
Inside Iraq, the forces of Sunni-Shia sectarian conflict had been unleashed by the U.S. invasion. That, in turn, was creating the conditions for a proxy war between the U.S. and Iran, similar to the growing proxy war between Israel and Iran inside Lebanon (where another destabilizing event, the U.S.-sanctioned Israeli invasion of 2006, followed in hand). None of this has ever ended. Today, in fact, that proxy war has simply found a fresh host, Syria, with multiple powers using “humanitarian aid” to push and shove their Sunni and Shia avatars around.
The Indian Ocean remains a tumultuous zone, where a lack of governance along its shores has spawned a series of security chasms offshore. This spillover effect has been most apparent off the Horn of Africa and the Gulf of Aden, where rampant piracy has prompted a continuous rotation of multinational naval taskforces. Meanwhile, an upsurge in Islamic extremism in countries such as Pakistan and Somalia has heightened regional anxiety over maritime terrorism and seaborne infiltration.
Attackers killed more than 50 Iraqi and Syrian soldiers in an ambush on Iraqi soil yesterday, stoking fears that the fighting in Syria could spill over the 600-kilometre border and provoke sectarian violence in Iraq.
A total of 48 Syrian soldiers and nine Iraqis died when their convoy of 32 vehicles was attacked by gunmen using homemade bombs, mortars and heavy artillery as they drove towards a border crossing with Syria in Iraq’s western Anbar province. The Syrian soldiers, who numbered 65 in total, had fled into Iraq on March 2, according to a security official in Anbar.
Chinese and Indian consumers are living well and eating well. And that could spark a global crisis. The consumer boom in China and India will touch off global inflation and could lead to food and water riots if investment, policy, and technology don’t keep pace.
Without smart, quick action by the private sector and government alike, surging Chinese and Indian demand for premium foods will lead to commodity volatility, runaway food prices, and worldwide water shortages as the “boomerang effect” brings the unexpected impact of Asian growth to U.S. shores. That’s the conclusion of research by The Boston Consulting Group (BCG). The main findings are presented in “The Boomerang Effect,” a Perspective that is being released today
The number of people out of work in Spain has risen to more than 5 million people for the first time. The government in Madrid said there was no quick fix, with the economy expected to contract further this year. Registered unemployment in Spain surpassed the five-million mark in February, the country’s Labor Ministry said Monday. It said joblessness now affected 5.04 million people, up some 59,000 from the levels recorded in January. The ministry said many companies across the southern European nation continued to lay off staff because of unfavorable business prospects.
Greece is facing a serious shortage of medicines amid claims that pharmaceutical multinationals have halted shipments to the country because of the economic crisis and concerns that the drugs will be exported by middlemen because prices are higher in other European countries.
Hundreds of drugs are in short supply and the situation is getting worse, according to the Greek drug regulator. The government has drawn up a list of more than 50 pharmaceutical companies it accuses of halting or planning to halt supplies because of low prices in the country.Chemists in Athens describe chaotic scenes with desperate customers going from pharmacy to pharmacy to look for prescription drugs that hospitals could no longer dispense.
China is now in the flashing-red zone. The first measure comes from the Bank of International Settlements, which found that if private debt as a share of GDP accelerates to a level 6% higher than its trend over the previous decade, the acceleration is an early warning of serious financial distress. In China, private debt as a share of GDP is now 12% above its previous trend, and above the peak levels seen before credit crises hit Japan in 1989, Korea in 1997, the U.S. in 2007 and Spain in 2008.
The admission by China’s Environment ministry came in a five-year plan on tackling pollution. “In recent years, toxic and hazardous chemical pollution has caused many environmental disasters, cutting off drinking water supplies, and even leading to severe health and social problems such as ‘cancer villages’” the document says. Environmentalists have long campaigned for the government to recognise and help the hundreds of cancer clusters caused by poisoned soil, water or air. In 2009, Deng Fei, an investigative journalist helped to plot some of the worst-hit villages on a Google map.
Will armies battle each other, as the cry for “blue gold” gets furious? Will “water wars” be as prevalent as conflict for the “black gold” of oil? Two documentary films have wetted public interest – Blue Gold: World Water Wars, and Last Call at the Oasis, and a dystopia novel – The Water Wars – warns of its imminence.
In actuality, history’s pages are already splashed with dozens of conflicts. In 2,450 B.C. the Sumerian cities of Lagash and Umma warred over Tigris-Euphrates water. More recently, Senegal and Mauritaniabattled in 1989 over grazing rights in the Senegal River Valley – hundreds were killed, 250,000 fled their homes. The Pacific Institute provides an excellent map and timeline of 225 water skirmishes.
On Tuesday, Japan’s defense ministry said it confirmed that the Chinese navy frigate aimed its weapons-targeting radar at the Japanese vessel. It also said a Japanese military helicopter was targeted with similar radar earlier last month.
Since late last year, China has regularly sent government ships to patrol the Japanese-administered islands, in what observers say is an effort to establish de facto control of the area. Both sides also have scrambled fighter jets to the islands, raising fears of an all-out military conflict.
Yemeni Nobel peace laureate Tawakkul Karman warned in an interview with AFP that her country’s transition process is on the brink of collapse and demanded ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh be banned from politics.
The activist, who was a leading figure during the youth uprising in Yemen in 2011, also claimed that President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi is unable to implement his plans to reshape Yemen’s security forces because he does not control the army.
Former Australian foreign minister Gareth Evans, writing for Project Syndicate, notes: “Japan is fuelling nationalist sentiment in China and South Korea, and making even more dangerous the already volatile territorial disputes in the East China Sea and the Sea of Japan.” Focusing on Tokyo’s role in the deteriorating strategic environment, he says: “Japan is again alienating its neighbours and driving its friends to despair over the issue of accepting responsibility for its wartime aggression and atrocities.”
Argentina has announced a two-month price freeze on supermarket products in an effort to stop spiraling inflation.
The price freeze applies to every product in all of the country’s largest supermarkets – a group including Walmart, Carrefour, Coto, Jumbo, Disco and other large chains. The companies’ trade group, representing 70 per cent of the Argentine supermarket sector, reached the accord with Commerce Secretary Guillermo Moreno, the government’s news agency Telam reported. The commerce ministry wants consumers to keep receipts and complain to a hotline about any price hikes they see before April 1.
Over the past 30 years, according to a new report by the Congressional Research Service (CRS), the federal prison population has jumped from 25,000 to 219,000 inmates, an increase of nearly 790 percent. Swollen by such figures, for years the United States has incarcerated far more people than any other country, today imprisoning some 716 people out of every 100,000. (Although CRS reports are not made public, a copy can be found here.)
“This is one of the major human rights problems within the United States, as many of the people caught up in the criminal justice system are low income, racial and ethnic minorities, often forgotten by society,” Maria McFarland, deputy director for the U.S. programme at Human Rights Watch, told IPS.
A report published by the Ministry of Defence (mod) said many western economies could stall and decline in the face of the growing economic strength of countries like China and India. Such a situation may spark long periods of recession and growing disaffection within the UK, according to the report looking at trends in south Asia until 2040. It added: “This could subsequently lead to increased incidents of internal unrest, a rise of nationalistic groups and a demand for protectionist economic and defence policies.
Egypt’s army chief warned Tuesday of the “the collapse of the state” if the political crisis roiling the nation for nearly a week continues.
The warning by Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, who is also defense minister, were the first comments by the powerful military since the country’s latest crisis began last week around the second anniversary of Egypt’s uprising. They came days after President Mohammed Morsi ordered the army to restore order in the Suez Canal cities of Port Said and Suez — two of three cities now under a 30-day state of emergency and night curfew.
Reports from inside the secretive famine-hit pariah state, North Korea, claim a man has been executed after murdering his two children for food. Shocking reports claim North Koreans are turning to cannibalism including details of one man who dug up his grandchild’s corpse to eat and another who boiled his child and ate the flesh.They claim a ‘hidden famine’ in the farming provinces of North and South Hwanghae has killed 10,000 people, and there are fears that cannibalism is spreading throughout the country.
A top-secret plant at Aldermaston that makes enriched uranium components for Britain’s nuclear warheads and fuel for the Royal Navy’s submarines has been shut down because corrosion has been discovered in its “structural steelwork”, the Guardian can reveal.
The closure has been endorsed by safety regulators who feared the building did not conform to the appropriate standards. The nuclear safety watchdog demands that such critical buildings are capable of withstanding “extreme weather and seismic events”, and the plant at Aldermaston failed this test. It has set a deadline of the end of the year for the problems to be fixed.
Street surveillance cameras in one of the world’s most dangerous cities have been turned off because the government of Honduras has not paid millions of pounds it owes. The operator which runs them in the capital Tegucigalpa is now threatening to suspend police radio services as well. Teachers have been demonstrating almost every day as they have not been paid in six months, while doctors complain about the shortage of essential medicines, gauze, needles and latex gloves.
Fretting that terrorists might one day unleash bioweapons in Indonesia, the National Intelligence Agency (BIN) says it will monitor the recent outbreak of a new strain of avian influenza in Indonesia.
BIN chief Lt. Gen. Marciano Norman said that the agency was on alert and would continue to monitor the spread of the new strain, identified as H5N1 clade 2.3.2, which has re-portedly been behind the deaths of tens of thousands of ducks in the nation.
The worst-case scenario is a world war between the West — NATO, U.S., EU with Japan-Taiwan-South Korea — and the East—the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) with Russia, China, Central Asia as members and India, Pakistan, Iran as observers. With four nuclear powers on each side, and West versus Islam as a major issue. In the centre is the explosive mix of a divided territory (Israel-Palestine) and Jerusalem, a capital divided by a wall.
Life in Egypt is about to get harder for ordinary people who will bear the brunt of inflation caused by a decline in the value of their currency. As elections approach, President Mohamed Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood may pay a political price. After a 3.2 percent slide in the Egyptian pound’s value against the dollar this week, some importers and shopkeepers say they are factoring in an even bigger decline and that the uncertainty will be reflected in steep price rises.
A Washington analyst said that the U.S. government now has a one-in-five chance of defaulting on its debt, citing the acrimonious debate in Washington over resolving the fiscal cliff.
“The next fiscal cliff is going to be more toxic and could end with an almost unthinkable conclusion: a technical default on the U.S. debt,” wrote Chris Krueger, a senior political analyst at Guggenheim Partners’ Washington Research Group. “We are raising our odds of a debt default from 10% to 20%.
With the crisis in Syria seemingly never ending, the question of Russia’s influence in the world has resurfaced. The former Soviet state has been playing its hand in the Arab world with an eye to widening its influence.
While Syrian President Bashar al-Assad may be glad of the Slavic support, the history of Muslim/Russian relations inside the ex communist state shows he would be wise to be wary. The secret war in Chechnya, the largely Muslim area of Russia, has seen dissidents as far away as Istanbul and Dubai assassinated in recent years by the FSB.
The United Arab Emirates has arrested an “Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood cell” that trained local Islamists in how to overthrow Arab governments, a Sharjah-based newspaper reported on Tuesday, citing an unnamed source familiar with the investigation.
The oil-rich Gulf state – of which Sharjah is one part – has previously voiced strong distrust of the Islamist political movement which after long years of being banned took power in free elections in Egypt last year. The cell, of “more than 10 people”, had a defined organisational structure and was recruiting Egyptians in the UAE to join, al-Khaleej newspaper reported.
The effects on Jordan’s economy and on its royal family’s always-precarious grip on power could be serious, especially now, as protests unfurl in a country outraged by the government’s decision to chop fuel subsidies – a necessary action for it to secure $2 billion (1.5 billion euros) in loans from the International Monetary Fund.
“Even before Syria’s revolution, Jordan was facing some serious headwind – a political challenge to the monarchy, an economic strain on resources and a strain of the social fabric,” says Lara Setrakian, a Middle East analyst and founder of the news startup SyriaDeeply.org. “The ripple effects of Syria’s conflict have made all of those problems worse.”
In 2012, all five Central Asian republics managed to avoid major crises and political cataclysms.
As 2011 drew to a close, experts inside and outside the region predicted threats to regime security associated with the spread of the Arab Spring, the rise of Islamic radicalism and leadership change — particularly in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan where the incumbent presidents are well into their seventies. None of these fears materialised.
Properties were being offered for sale as if they were the holdings of politicians, rather than the resources of all Kosovo residents. The “Self Determination” representatives argued that Kosovo’s leaders aim to drive down the value of state assets so that they may be expropriated and sold: “Privatization is the name behind which these officials hide.” General Wesley Clark, chairman of Envidity, a Canadian firm interested in Kosovo’s coal mines and potential for synthetic fuel production, has also gone to Kosovo in search of financial advantage. But Albright’s involvement has given her the highest profile in the discussion of Kosovo’s economic future.
Glassy-eyed, rail-thin and filthy, hundreds of addicts emerged from doorways and alleys as dusk came to the once-grand Luz district in the heart of this city. After quick transactions with crack dealers, they scrambled for a little privacy to light up their pipes and inhale tiny, highly addictive rocks that go for about $5 each. The image was reminiscent of Washington or New York in the 1980s, when crack cocaine engulfed whole neighborhoods and sparked a dizzying cycle of violence.
Kyrgyzstan, whose economy heavily depends on a single gold mine’s production and funds sent home by migrant workers and lacks the energy reserves of some of its neighbors, is one of the poorest countries of the former Soviet Republics.
Apart from widespread poverty, another key problem in the country is drug trafficking and consumption. The country is situated on the so-called drug trafficking Northern Route, transporting drugs from Afghanistan to Russia and Europe. More than 20 percent of the trafficked drugs remain in Kyrgyzstan.
From Mexican drug cartels to rebels in Yemen, what are the risks to stability in 2013? A risk consultancy concludes that the main challenge will be the pace with which local events become global.
Control Risks has produced the RiskMap 2013 – which highlights the areas across the globe which are likely to experience volatility over the next 12 months, caused by a range of factors from political uncertainty to economic instability.
We are just north of the Amazon Basin, riding a boat on the Ikabaru River. The passengers are people who buy gold and diamonds. They stop at each of the illegal mines that appear as craters on the river’s edge. They carry small weighing scales that seem very accurate, magnifying loupes, burners to melt the gold and separate the mercury, and some large spoons to collect it. They are also carrying bags full of cash.
They led “a sophisticated operation of fraudulent lending and embezzlement through a loan book scheme” resulting in the loss of $935m funded mostly from customer’s deposits, the report said. It detailed for the first time how the funds were misappropriated. Tactics included unjustifiable disbursements, fake capital injections, salaries paid to non-existent employees, payment for fake assets and political contributions.
The tax-and-spend policies of France’s socialist government are threatening to wreck the euro zone’s attempts to emerge from crisis, according to a growing army of critics of Francois Hollande’s fledgling presidency. In the most damning verdict on French efforts to reduce national debt and tackle high labour costs, the German newspaper Bild ran a recent headline asking: “Is France the New Greece?”
German officials have echoed the tone of such attacks, expressing concern at Mr Hollande’s “superficial” measures to bring his country’s economy under control.
Detroit’s financial condition is rapidly deteriorating, and City Hall could run out of cash in December, an official told a state oversight board Monday. City program management director William Andrews made the assessment at a meeting of the Financial Advisory Board, a city-state panel overseeing Detroit’s finances under its fiscal stability agreement with the state.
Detroit’s cash-flow crisis is “more challenging than it’s ever been and more challenged than we reported last month,” Andrews said.
China’s political leaders put stability above all else. So it’s a remarkable sign of the times that they could be passing around well-thumbed copies of a book about the sudden, bloody outbreak of the French Revolution two-and-a-quarter centuries ago. Why would China’s modern rulers, preoccupied with the leadership handover under way in Beijing this week, be interested in Alexis de Tocqueville’s The Old Regime and the French Revolution?
Since the Communist Party seized power in 1949 in a violent revolution, its highest priority has been to guard against what it calls ”counter-revolution”.
To date, citizens of 18 states have petitioned the White House for consideration of a peaceful withdrawal from the United States. That’s right, thousands of Americans have already signed petitions at whitehouse.gov asking President Obama to allow them to peacefully secede from the union.
The states and their updated totals are: Louisiana, 10,296; Texas, 9196; Florida, 2392; Alabama, 2492; North Carolina, 2434; Kentucky, 1934; Mississippi, 1935; Indiana, 1951; North Dakota, 881; Montana, 1538; Colorado, 1805Oregon, 1594; New Jersey, 1492; New York, 1727; South Carolina, 117; Arkansas, 86; Georgia, 131; Missouri, 149.
Chemical weapons cannot be completely thrown out of the stockpiles of the world’s leading powers despite being banned, a top Russian official has said. According the head of Russia’s Radiation, Chemical, and Biological Defence Forces, this type of weaponry cannot be completely excluded from the arsenals of warfare. Some of these developments, especially in the area of genetic engineering, can hinder or neutralise the efforts to counter new agents, the Russian official warned.
Analysts say Daghestan has unquestionably deteriorated into the most unstable republic in the North Caucasus, a region wracked by conflict and insurgency. But why Daghestan? What are the factors that set the republic apart?
Like Ingushetia, Kabardino-Balkaria, and to a lesser extent Chechnya, Daghestan is a hotbed for the militant Islamist insurgency led by Doku Umarov that seeks to create a so-called pan-Caucasus Islamic caliphate.
San Bernardino has skipped more than $5.3 million in pension payments to CalPERS since filing for bankruptcy on Aug. 1. Last week CalPERS urged a federal bankruptcy court in Riverside to delay action on the city’s eligibility for bankruptcy.
Compton, reportedly considering bankruptcy last summer, made partial payments to CalPERS but still owes $2.7 million for pensions and health care. CalPERS asked a Sacramento superior court in September to order full payment with interest and penalties.
“When we talk about the so-called Middle Eastern Spring, we are seeing something that is very similar to what happened in the Soviet Union,” He continued: “You have to remember that aside from Egypt, all the Arab countries are artificial. They were created by two European gentlemen, Sykes and Picot, British and French, who divided up areas of influence on the ruins of the Ottoman Empire – irrespective of nationalities, tribes and other geopolitical considerations.”
The Arab Spring has brought the Muslim Brotherhood to power in Tunisia and Egypt, and may yet in Libya and Syria. Observers have speculated on how they will govern now that they finally lead governments where the practical problems of managing public affairs will confront them. But we need not speculate too much, since the Muslim Brotherhood has governed one country for 23 years: Sudan. Omar al-Bashir, president of Sudan, and Hasan al-Turabi are the leaders of Sudan’s Muslim Brotherhood.
It is almost impossible to raise the presidential rating in the PR ways, moreover, the Internet is becoming the main source of information, and the middle class is lost for the TV propaganda, the Centre of Strategic Studies reported. The experts expect disagreements in the key positions of the protesters and a new wave of making the movement stronger on a more developed political basis.
The economy shrank 18.4 percent in the past four years and the International Monetary Fund forecasts it will contract another 4 percent in 2013 as Greece struggles to reduce debt in exchange for its $300 billion rescue programs. That’s the biggest cumulative loss of output of a developed-country economy in at least three decades, coming within spitting distance of the 27 percent drop in the U.S. economy between 1929 and 1933, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis in Washington.
Blindsided by QE: Why Global Investors Can’t See Geopolitical Threats that May Drive Markets Sharply Lower
Global investors are in danger of being so blindsided by several rounds of Quantitative Easing (QE) by the FED, the ECB, and Bank of Japan that they cannot see the geopolitical threats which could unsettle financial markets — and wind up costing those who are on the wrong side of the market a great deal of money.
I’m talking about the proliferation of the European sovereign debt crisis, and the escalation of crises in the Middle East and between China and Japan.
Haik Babukhanyan, Chairman of the Constitutional Law Union (CLU), believes that the major cause of the political wrangling in Armenia lies in foreign policy.
At his meeting with journalists on Friday he stated that the forces dreaming of an “Orange Revolution” in Armenia are more active now, playing a somewhat different role, however.Armenia’s important geopolitical location is the reason for a serious struggle for establishing control over the country.
It was the developed world’s addiction to debt that got us into this mess. Now, however, the same countries are becoming addicted to quantitative easing. The US has launched QE3 to splash out another $40bn a month but Britain is already onto QE4.
The Bank of England has announced two £50bn tranches of printing money – technically, buying gilt-edged stock – during 2012, taking its QE programme to £375bn since 2009, meaning it owns more than half the UK government bonds in issue.
This historic region on the Mediterranean — a center of European industrial design and tourism — has special status as an autonomous district of Spain known as Catalonia.
And as financial problems mount for Spain, many here want to get a whole lot more autonomous.
Spain is entering its second recession in four years and some Catalans say they are getting little for the river of tax revenue they send to Madrid annually. The solution they say is an independent nation.
The worldwide currency debasement war has now entered a new and more deadly phase. Central banks have escalated the combat plan to bring about the world’s weakest currency for their individual countries. On the heels of the Federal Reserve and European Central Bank’s promises of unlimited counterfeiting forever, the Bank of Japan announced last week that it would expand its purchase of Japanese Government Bonds (and other assets including equities) by 10 trillion Yen. This brings the latest round of BOJ intervention to a total of 80 trillion Yen!
The sad fact is that the developed world’s central banks are in a desperate battle of one-upmanship.
For one, banks in these “periphery” countries now have to offer higher interest rates to entice depositors and get money. Some Greek banks now pay as much as 5 percent interest on their deposits. In turn, this means that Greek and Spanish banks have to charge higher interest rates on the money they lend. Businesses are paying more to borrow money. Those higher rates stifle economic activity and make it harder for countries like Spain and Italy to grow.
The International Monetary Fund has warned that such financial “fragmentation” could undermine the euro zone. The countries with the biggest debt problems — Greece, Portugal, Spain, Italy — are now having trouble revving up their economies because of the drain on their banks.
Retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice David H. Souter thinks the decline of civic education is putting the United States in danger.
During a question and answer session last week at University of New Hampshire School of Law, Souter described “pervasive civic ignorance” as one of the biggest problems in the United States. He warned that Americans’ ignorance about their own government could lead to a dictatorship.
In Europe, breaking up the banks was long seen as more of a subject for armchair economists than a real prospect. But in recent weeks, even corporate leaders like Nikolaus von Bomhard, head of the insurance giant Munich Re, and Klaus Engel, CEO of chemical manufacturer Evonik Industries, have conceded that they would like to see a separation between high-risk investment banking and other bank operations.
Despite numerous reforms in the financial sector, there is one problem regulators have yet to solve: Many banks are so big that no country can afford to allow them to fail. This is why the government bailed out a number of financial companies starting in 2008, a move that allowed major banks like Deutsche Bank to grow even larger.
A Congress-mandated report to assess the feasibility, practicality and affordability of a U.S. missile defense system and its efficiency in countering nuclear or conventional missile attacks from Iran or North Korea has found that the nation’s defense strategy suffers from major flaws.
In the report published on Tuesday, an expert committee of scientists and defense analysts from the nonpartisan National Research Council suggested that the nation should stop spending money on boost-phase defense systems and improve its focus on defense systems that intercept enemy missiles midcourse. Boost-phase defense systems are intended to shoot down enemy missiles immediately following their launch, while the rocket engine is still firing.
With less than a month to go before Venezuela’s presidential elections, the opposition said it was forced to keep its candidate, Henrique Capriles, from attending a rally Sunday because of fears that pro-government forces posed a threat.
Capriles’ campaign chief, Armando Briquet, said that an event planned for the La Pastora neighborhood, a longtime government stronghold that is part of greater Caracas, had to be called off amid reports that there were armed supporters of President Hugo Chávez who were bent on stopping the rally.
Even as Greece desperately tries to avoid defaulting on its debt, American companies are preparing for what was once unthinkable: that Greece will soon be forced to leave the euro zone.
Bank of America Merrill Lynch has looked into filling trucks with cash and sending them over the Greek border so clients can continue to pay local employees and suppliers in the event money is unavailable. Ford has configured its computer systems so they will be able to immediately handle a new Greek currency.
Spanish consumers are pulling their cash out of banks at record levels, according to figures released on Tuesday.
Private sector deposits fell by nearly 5 percent in July to €1.509, the Telegraph reported, citing European Central Bank data, as public confidence in the banking system reached all-time lows amid a worsening economic situation.
The news comes after bond markets continued to hammer the debt-ridden euro zone nations Spain and Italy last week.
On Friday, the interest rate on a 10-year loan to the Spanish government briefly topped 6 percent — a level that forced Greece into a default earlier this year, despite massive financial support from international sources — before settling back to 5.96 percent.
The air thickened with tear gas as police and paramilitary officers jogged into the Ishwardi Export Processing Zone firing rubber bullets and swinging cane poles. Panicked factory workers tried to flee. A seamstress crumpled to the ground, knocked unconscious by a shot in the head.
Dozens of people were bloodied and hospitalised. The officers were cracking down on protests at two garment factories inside this industrial area in western Bangladesh. But they were also protecting two ingredients of a manufacturing formula that has quietly made Bangladesh a leading apparel exporter to the US and Europe: cheap labour and foreign investment.
Both were at stake on that March morning. Workers earning as little as $50 a month, less than the cost of one of the knit sweaters they stitched for European stores, were furious over a cut in wages.
Belize is in danger of defaulting on its debt after it missed a $23m (£14.6m) bond payment due on Monday.
The government still has a 30-day grace period to pay the interest, but said it was unlikely to be able to do so.
Creditors accuse Belize of trying to force a Greek-style debt restructuring on holders of the $550m bond, which represents half its public debt.
The row has drawn attention to Caribbean countries’ growing debt burden amid falling tourism revenues.
The Fiscal Times (TFT): You’ve said we’re heading for financial “Armageddon.” Why that dire?
Jim Rogers (JR): The United States is the largest debtor nation in the history of the world. Our debts are skyrocketing every year and nobody’s doing anything about it. Every country in history that’s gotten into this situation has had a crisis or a semi-crisis, or both. In 2002 we had an economic slowdown, which was fairly serious, and then in 2007 and 2008 we had another one, which was worse because the debt was so, so, so much higher. The next time around the debt is going to be that much more catastrophic.
Hedge funds are quietly laying new bets on a potential spike in oil prices tied to the possibility of an Israeli attack on Iran, skewing the options market to a bullish bias for the first time in six months.
Signs that Israel is losing patience with efforts to curtail Iran’s nuclear program, as well as the intensifying conflict in Syria, are giving funds new reason to bet on crude despite a lack of evidence that fundamentals are improving. Activity is muted so far by the summer lull, but could pick up in September.
The renewed premium has been most apparent in futures markets, with benchmark ICE Brent crude gaining 10 percent over the past two weeks. At the same time, hedge funds boosted their bullish bets in U.S. oil markets a week ago to the highest since early May, regulatory data shows.
Leading members of the Group of 20 nations are prepared to trigger an emergency meeting to address soaring grain prices caused by the worst U.S. drought in more than half a century and poor crops from the Black Sea bread basket.
France, the United States and G20 president Mexico will hold a conference call at the end of August to consider whether an emergency international meeting is required, aiming to avoid a repetition of the food price spike that triggered riots in poorer countries in 2008.
Yet even as the third grain surge in four years stirs new fears about food supply and inflation, many say the world’s powers are no better prepared to rein in runaway prices.
Banks, companies and investors are preparing themselves for a collapse of the euro. Cross-border bank lending is falling, asset managers are shunning Europe and money is flowing into German real estate and bonds. The euro remains stable against the dollar because America has debt problems too. But unlike the euro, the dollar’s structure isn’t in doubt.
Otmar Issing is looks a bit tired. The former chief economist at the European Central Bank (ECB) is sitting on a barstool in a room adjoining the Frankfurt Stock Exchange. He resembles a father whose troubled teenager has fallen in with the wrong crowd. Issing is just about to explain again all the things that have gone wrong with the euro, and why the current, as yet unsuccessful efforts to save the European common currency are cause for grave concern.
The European economy is deteriorating and leaders across the continent are being booted from office in favor of a new generation of politicians. Rising tensions in the Middle East and uncertainty over leadership changes in emerging markets worldwide are adding to investor concerns.
Tina Fordham, Senior Global Political Analyst at Citi, is out with her mid-year outlook, presenting all of the bank’s views on all of the biggest political risks emanating from the world’s key hotspots over the remainder of this year and into 2013.
The attack on Sunday evening – which Egypt and Israel blamed on Islamist militants from the Hamas-run Gaza Strip and Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula – was one of the bloodiest in years and the deadliest against Egyptian troops who have become targets of militants in the desert along the Egypt-Israel border.
It also raised new fears in Israel about the Egyptian government’s ability to reassert control over the lawless Sinai.
Syrian rebels are forming a special unit to secure the country’s chemical weapons, a rebel leader said in an interview published Saturday in Britain’s Daily Telegraph newspaper.
“We have a group just to deal with chemical weapons. They are already trained to secure sites,” said General Adnan Silou, the most senior member of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime to have defected and joined the Free Syrian Army, DPA reported.
According to the newspaper, analysts believe Syria has the world’s largest stocks of chemical weapons, consisting principally of sarin, mustard gas and cyanide.
People’s Republic of California Does It Again: City of Compton may declare bankruptcy by September: officials
The City of Compton, a city of 93,000 people located on the outskirts of Los Angeles, must decide by September 1 whether to seek bankruptcy, according to its two most senior financial officials.
Such a move would see it join a growing number of deficit-hobbled California cities that have used the filing to restructure onerous debt loads.
It is an almost inconceivable political resurrection, but the man widely held responsible for some of the worst human rights abuses of the last years of the Indonesian dictatorship of President Suharto is the front-runner to win the presidency himself.
Maj. Gen. Prabowo Subianto, the son-in-law Suharto, has in the 14 years since the collapse of the old regime refashioned himself beyond belief.
From the personification of all that was vile and violent in the final decade of the Suharto regime
Ever since the protests started against Bashar al Assad’s regime, the Gulf countries have adopted a tough posture by criticizing and condemning the reactions of the Syrian government and squarely putting the blame upon it for the unfolding situation.
The Gulf monarchies, which suppressed protests in their own countries and were against any kind of regime change in their own region, have accused the Assad regime of killings and violating human rights and have been questioning the regime’s legitimacy to continue its rule. With the protests against the Assad regime turning increasingly violent and the Syrian regime’s strong military response, the political dynamics in the region have become more intricate.
Shell companies registered in Britain are among firms involved in the export of armaments which are fuelling the ongoing conflict in South Sudan, Amnesty International warned yesterday.
The charity said that T-72 battle tanks used in attacks by the Sudanese armed forces, the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), had been “clandestinely delivered from Ukraine to South Sudan in 2009, involved transfers via Kenya and Uganda and included shipping companies from Germany and Ukraine and UK and Isle of Man-registered shell companies.”
Countries such as Spain and Italy have been burdened with sky-high borrowing costs – levels seen as unsustainable for governments in the long term.
Rogers argues that the deal does not improve the solvency of indebted nations such as Spain. Spain’s central government budget deficit has soared to 3.41 percent of GDP in the first five months of 2012, above the EU limit of 3 percent.
He adds that the governments need to stop coming to the rescue of failing banks, even if it results in “financial Armageddon.”
The government failed to make use of detailed U.S. maps showing how radiation spread shortly after the Fukushima nuclear crisis began, sources familiar with the matter revealed Monday.
The sources said the maps were neither publicized nor used to evacuate residents living near the poorly protected Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, which was racked by meltdowns and explosions after a massive earthquake and tsunami struck the area on March 11, 2011.
The military planning includes a scenario for a no-fly zone as well as protecting chemical and biological sites. Officials say all the scenarios would be difficult to enact and involve large numbers of U.S. troops and extended operations.
The planning, officials insist, is being done protectively and there have been no orders for any action from the White House.
The U.S. Navy is maintaining a presence of three surface combatants and a submarine in the eastern Mediterranean to conduct electronic surveillance and reconnaissance on the Syrian regime, a senior Pentagon official said. The official emphasized that the U.S. routinely maintains this type of naval presence in the eastern Mediterranean, but acknowledged the current focus is on Syria.
De la Rúa had declared a ‘state of siege’ after thousands marched throughout Argentina banging pots and pans – in what is now termed the cacerolazo.
The social unrest triggered further political turmoil: four presidents held office in 10 days after De la Rúa’s resignation. Following an emergency session at Congress, Eduardo Duhalde was sworn in on January 2, 2002, providing some stability.
This was the fallout from the collapse of Argentine economy, which led the South American nation to default on $100bn (£64bn) of debt – the biggest sovereign default in history until Greece’s partial restructuring three months ago.
We can now add Olga Kryshtanovskaya to the list of leading experts who are convinced that Russia is headed toward a very serious and potentially destabilizing crisis.
One of Russia’s most renowned sociologists, Kryshtanovskaya has spent the past two decades studying the country’s elite — and the signs now, she says, are deeply troubling.
“In my view, the country is in a revolutionary situation. Dangerous processes are accelerating that could lead to a destabilizing situation,” Kryshtanovskaya said in an interview this week on Dozhd TV.
Spain’s bailout was a failure – an abject flop that was supposed to buy the country credibility, but instead bought only four hours of peace before investors continued to panic.
And perhaps Americans should start panicking too. It seems at least plausible now that the euro zone’s leaders will bumble their way into the worst-case scenario, where a destitute Spain or Italy finally chooses to leave the currency union, leading to its inevitable breakup. The economic carnage could easily drag our fragile economy down too.
National flags from around the world flutter in the bright sunshine by a city gate made of shipping containers painted in the Libyan national colours. A uniformed militiaman examines my passport, then waves me through with a smile. Welcome to the Republic of Misrata.
Libya’s third largest city, recipient of a six-month pummelling during last year’s revolution against the regime of Muammar Gaddafi, has transformed itself into what is an independent state in all but name. Libya is due to hold national elections in 10 days, but these look like they may be delayed as any sense of post-Gaddafi national unity dissipated long ago.
A buildup of military forces around the Arctic amid growing excitement about its oil wealth has the ability to undermine stability in the region, a research paper has warned.
According to the report – called Climate Change and International Security: the Arctic as a Bellwether – the military buildup is neither advisable nor a sensible peacekeeping measure, as it is increasingly designed for combat rather than policing.
It adds: “States such as Norway and Russia are building new naval units designed to engage in high-intensity conflicts. While this capability may be understood as prudent, the ability of rivals to intimidate or subdue with sophisticated weapons systems could, if collegiality falters, undermine diplomacy and stability in the region.”
Taking into account that the European Union is currently beset with chaos due to uncontrolled euro monitoring, Latvia’s accession to the eurozone is at the worst possible moment, while the Bank of Latvia acts as if the country’s is already part of the euro area, former politician and project consultant Indulis Emsis (Greens/Farmers) pointed out in an interview with Nozare.lv.
Latvia prepares to join the eurozone at the worst possible moment. Euro advantages are beginning to fade, while euro shortcomings are manifesting themselves. If the crisis had not taken over several countries in southern Europe, the answer would be positive.
A German shipyard has already built three submarines for Israel, and three more are planned. Now SPIEGEL has learned that Israel is arming the submarines with nuclear-tipped cruise missiles. The German government has known about Israel’s nuclear weapons program for decades, despite its official denials.
Germany is helping Israel to develop its military nuclear capabilities, SPIEGEL has learned. According to extensive research carried out by the magazine, Israel is equipping submarines that were built in the northern German city of Kiel and largely paid for by the German government with nuclear-tipped cruise missiles.
The West may be forced to seize Bashar al-Assad’s weapons of mass destruction including toxic gas stockpiles, according to the Daily Telegraph newspaper Thursday.
International troops could be forced to intervene in Syria if the collapse of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime were to leave the stockpiles of his chemical weapons vulnerable to terrorists, western diplomatic sources have told the paper.
Like Israel, Syria has not signed the Chemical Weapons Convention of 1997, nor is it a member of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, which verifies stockpiles of these weapons.
An escalation in the long-running dispute between Britain and Spain over ownership of Gibraltar shows “disturbing” Falklands-style tendencies, one of the Rock’s MEPs has warned.
After a stand-off between Gibraltese and Spanish police patrol boats over fishing rights, Conservative Julie Girling warned: “What we don’t want in Gibraltar is a situation like the Falklands: there seem to be disturbing parallels in attempts to damage the livelihoods of Gibraltar’s fishermen.
“The Spanish are not being reasonable in their actions.”
U.S. Special Forces have been parachuting into North Korea to spy on Pyongyang’s extensive network of underground military facilities. That surprising disclosure, by a top U.S. commando officer, is a reminder of America’s continuing involvement in the “cold war” on the Korean peninsula – and of North Korea’s extensive preparations for the conflict turning hot.
In the decades since the end of the Korean War, Pyongyang has constructed thousands of tunnels, Army Brig. Gen. Neil Tolley, commander of U.S. Special Operations Forces in South Korea, said at a conference in Florida last week.
Policymakers and firms across Europe are making preparations to cope with a break-up of the single currency as the president of the Swiss central bank became the latest senior figure to admit to contingency plans for a “collapse” of the eurozone.
“We must be prepared just in case the currency union collapses, although I don’t expect that to happen,” said Swiss National Bank boss Thomas Jordan.
Mr Jordan added that his objective if it did come to the worst would be to prevent funds flooding into the safe haven of the Swiss franc, which could damage his country’s export sector.
Switzerland is considering capital controls to fight a sharp rise in the Swiss franc in the event of a eurozone collapse.
Capital controls — tools that directly influence the inflow of capital into Switzerland — are a radical measure that the Alpine nation has not employed since the 1970s.
The risk of a potential Greek exit from the euro has increased in recent weeks as the political crisis in Athens has intensified, heightening worries about possible effects on other heavily indebted eurozone nations. This is strengthening the Swiss franc, traditionally considered a refuge in times of economic and political turbulence.