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.
One of the most complex situations in the Middle East right now is the ongoing conflict in Syria between the government and opposition forces, in which at least an estimated 70,000 people have been killed.
Brahimi calls it a “quasi-Cold War” situation, with the United States supporting the opposition and Russia supporting the regime. Complicating the issue is the influence of regional powers such as Iran, Turkey, the Gulf States and the Arab League, as well as Israel’s military power in Israel.
Calling the continuing crisis an “absolute tragedy,” Brahimi holds many parties responsible for using tools of absolute war in order to gain power.
Surveillance State: Ecuador Implements “World’s First” Countrywide Facial- and Voice-Recognition System
Ecuador has installed a nationwide system that lets government officials ID “several million” people by their voices and faces, Slate reported. If an Ecuadorian agency taps a phone line, for example, it is now able to match the voices in a call with a database of “voiceprints” of known criminals, suspects and persons of interest. The voice system is 97 percent accurate, says the system’s maker, SpeechPro
Got some cash to spend? How about a piece of the Greek islands of Rhodes or Corfu? Or a royal palace, a marina, or even a consulate building?
As Greece is struggling to appease international lenders and live up to the conditions of its bailout, the debt-choked nation is speeding up the sale of state assets by expanding its privatization program. Greece’s state fund (Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund or HRADF) now has more than 70,000 state-owned properties on offer for investors and it aims to generate 19 billion euro ($24.5 billion) by 2015 via the sales.
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.
Lebanon may have more offshore natural gas deposits than Cyprus and Syria, based on a recent 3-D seismic survey, the CEO of Norway-based Spectrum Company said, according to albawaba.com.
“My humble opinion based on the data that I have is that there is greater potential [for natural gas] offshore Lebanon than offshore Cyprus and offshore Syria,” David Rowlands told The Daily Star.
He added that the Levantine basin offshore Lebanon was more perceptive than offshore Cyprus and Syria.
Bank of International Settlements: Gold Becomes a Tier 1 Asset Class for Banks, A Stabilizing Mechanism
In a surprise twist that only a few years ago would have been considered preposterous, the BCBS is entertaining whether gold should qualify as a full-fledged Tier 1 capital asset. Currently, the precious metal is relinquished to a Tier 3 status, deserving no more than a 50% weighting at that.
Here’s why that distinction is important and potentially astonishing.
Achieving Tier 1 status would credit gold with the recognition it’s been denied ever since Nixon closed the gold window on August 15, 1971.
he world community, including the United States, is at a crossroads about the right steps to forcefully prevent the further slaughter of civilians in Syria. There are many good reasons to intervene — to stop the death, detention and probable torture of any number of innocents; to support the democratic right of people to consent to rule by a freely elected government; and to avoid a repeat of the U.S. inaction that allowed Iran’s dictatorship to prevail in 2009.
There are just as many reasons not to intervene — the sovereignty of nations; the moral hazard of providing U.S. troops where our national interest does not dictate; and the uncertainty about those we would be helping take power. All the while, do-nothing diplomatic talks and easily ignored cease-fires continue to fail because the talking doesn’t change the facts on the ground.