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Thursday, August 30, 2012

Massive Sacrifice of Iron Age Warriors Discovered

An archeological dig in the Danish bog Alken Enge has uncovered what appears to be a mysterious sacrifice of hundreds of soldiers dating back nearly 2,000 years. The giant 40-hectacre dig yielded fractured skulls and hacked human bones, along with spears, shields, and axes. The latest finds have fascinated researchers, who believe a dramatic, society-changing event caused the mass sacrifice of a large army at the site.

Researchers are still trying to determine the soldiers’ identities, places of origin, and the reason they were sacrificed.
Video at the link.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

More Bank Woes from Spain

The Daily Mail reports:
Spain's debt-ridden region of Catalonia will seek a rescue bailout of £4billion from a central government fund, it emerged today.

The northeastern region, which has Barcelona as its capital, became the third region after Valencia and Murcia to officially ask for aid.

Many of the 17 semi-autonomous regions are struggling with the recession, the country's second in three years, following a real estate crash in 2008 that has pushed the unemployment rate to near 25 per cent.

* * *
A rush by consumers and firms to withdraw their money from Spanish banks also intensified in July, with private sector deposits falling almost five per cent, to £1.2trillion at end-July from £1.26trillion a month earlier.

Some New Pictures from Curiosity


The latest images are the most detailed yet from the nuclear- powered 2,000lb Curiosity, which landed in the Gale Crater, south of Mars’s equator.

They show layers of rocks – similar to the red and grey tiers of the Grand Canyon in Arizona in the US – near the base of the three-mile-high Mount Sharp at the centre of the 96-mile-wide crater.

The colour of one of the images – taken by Curiosity’s 100mm telephoto camera, one of 17 on board – is enhanced to show the scene under the same lighting conditions here on Earth, which helps scientists to analyse the terrain.

Previous surveys of Mars have shown the layers contain clays and other minerals that usually form in the presence of water.

Although Mars is now a desert planet, millions of years ago its surface was carved by oceans, lakes and waterfalls.

The gravelly land in the foreground of the main picture is the landing area, named Bradbury Landing in tribute to the American science fiction writer, Ray Bradbury, who died in June.

The ground eventually rises up to the edge of a crater, behind which lies a field of darker dunes leading up to the bottom of Mount Sharp.
 Article and more photos here.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Less is More for Weight Loss Exercise

If you’re looking to shape up, researchers at the University of Copenhagen say 30 minutes of rigorous exercise can be as effective as an hour when it comes to shedding weight.

The team studied 60 heavy but healthy men between 20 and 40 years old who wanted to lose weight. Twenty-one were directed to get 30 minutes of aerobic exercise — running, cycling and rowing — daily. Twenty-one were told to get 60 minutes, and 18 were assigned to a control group that remained sedentary. The results showed that exercising for 30 minutes at a pace hard enough to break a sweat was sufficient to promote weight loss.

“I would have expected that more training would be better, perhaps not double as good,” Mads Rosenkilde, a doctoral student who participated in the study, said in an e-mail. “What surprised me the most was the larger than expected loss of “body calories” (exclusively fat mass) in the [moderate] group.”

The men who got active for 30 minutes daily burned 300 kcal per session and lost 3.6 kilograms in 13 weeks, while those who exercised for an hour a day burned 600 kcal and lost 2.7 kilos, according to the research, published in the American Journal of Physiology. The reduction in body mass was about 4 kilos for both groups, the paper notes.

“In fact we can see that exercising for a whole hour instead of a half does not provide any additional loss in either body weight or fat,” Rosenkilde said in a statement announcing the results. “The men who exercised the most lost too little relative to the energy they burned by running, biking or rowing. Thirty minutes of concentrated exercise give equally good results on the scale.”

Isaac Heads for New Orleans

The AP reports (h/t Drudge) that Isaac is headed for New Orleans. However, the storm will not be as severe as Katrina. 
The Gulf Coast region has been saturated thanks to a wet summer, and some officials have worried more rain could make it easy for trees and power lines to fall over in the wet ground. Too much water also could flood crops, and wind could topple plants such as corn and cotton.

"A large, slow-moving system is going to pose a lot of problems: winds, flooding, storm surge and even potentially down the road river flooding," said Richard Knabb, director of the National Hurricane Center in Miami. "That could happen for days after the event."

The storm's potential for destruction was not lost on Alabama farmer Bert Driskell, who raises peanuts, cotton, wheat, cattle and sod on several thousand acres near Grand Bay, in Mobile County.

"We don't need a lot of water this close to harvest," Driskell said.

However, Isaac could bring some relief to places farther inland where farmers have struggled with drought. It also may help replenish a Mississippi River that has at times been so low that barge traffic is halted so engineers can scrape the bottom to deepen it.

Forecasters predicted Isaac would intensify into a Category 2 hurricane, with winds of about 100 mph, by early Wednesday around the time it's expected to make landfall. The current forecast track has the storm aimed at New Orleans, but hurricane warnings extended across 280 miles from Morgan City, La., to the Florida-Alabama state line. It could become the first hurricane to hit the Gulf Coast since 2008.
 

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Niel Armstrong Has Passed Away

From io9:
Neil Alden Armstrong, spacecraft commander of NASA's Apollo 11 mission and the first person to walk on the Moon, has died at 82.

The former U.S. astronaut passed away while recovering from heart-bypass surgery, a procedure he underwent just weeks ago, according to a statement released by his family.

On March 16, 1966, Armstrong became one
[of] the first American civilians to orbit the Earth aboard NASA's Gemini VIII capsule, on his very first mission. Just three years later, on July 20, 1969, over half a billion people watched in awe as Armstrong stepped out of the Apollo spacecraft, down its ladder, and onto the surface of the Moon, where he uttered the most famous words in the history of space exploration: "That's one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind."
Another article from ABC News.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Info Wars: TSA Exceeding Its Mandate

As we have previously documented, airport security style checkpoints and inspection procedures are already in place at bus terminals, train stations, and are rapidly being expanded to the streets of America.

Agents have even been spotted roaming around at public events such as sports games and music concerts, and even at high school proms.

The TSA even moved beyond its own borders this summer as agents were dispatched to airports in London for the Olympic Games.

The TSA has also announced its intention to expand the VIPR program to include roadside inspections of commercial vehicles, setting up a network of internal checkpoints and rolling out security procedures already active in airports, bus terminals and subway stations to roads and highways across the United States.

These internal checkpoints, run by Homeland Security, the Department of Transportation, and the TSA, involve trucks being scanned with backscatter x-ray devices in the name of “safety” and “counter terrorism”.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

American Thinker--By Any Means Necessary

The Ulsterman Report's interview with the Military Insider is mentioned in this article, "Will Obama Keep Power 'By Any Means Necessary'?" at the American Thinker.

White House Insider Warns of Possible False Flag at GOP Convention (Updated)

Over at the Ulsterman Report, the White House Insider is warning of a possible false flag--i.e., arranged or engineered protest or disturbance--just prior to the GOP Convention, possibly involving V.P. Biden's trip to Tampa.


Update (Aug. 23): CNN: "Agencies warn of possible anarchists activity at convention":
Law enforcement officials are concerned about possible violence by anarchist extremists at the upcoming Republican and Democratic national conventions, according to an intelligence bulletin prepared by the FBI and Department of Homeland Security.

The bulletin, which was obtained by CNN, says that anarchists could try to use improvised explosive devices.

It also says that, as of March, the FBI had intelligence indicating individuals from New York "planned to travel to Tampa and attempt to close" all of the Tampa Bay-area bridges during the Republican National Convention next week.

According to the document, the FBI's information as of March showed that anarchist extremists proposed "engaging in potentially destructive criminal activities against critical infrastructure outside the security perimeter throughout the Tampa Bay region because they expected access to the main RNC venue to be tightly controlled."

Update (Aug. 25): I guess I should have noted why I consider the Anarchists to be an arm of the Obama campaign: In 2008, the AFL-CIO coordinated the Anarchists:
University of Minnesota staff were key coordinators of the recent violent protests at the Republican National Convention (RNC). The university employees are also members of the local clerical union of the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees. The AFSCME is part of the AFL-CIO union.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Evidence of Chinese Economic Problems

Because of the press of work and other commitments, I am taking a short hiatus from blogging--probably one to two weeks. However, I wanted to share a few interesting articles on China that I've come across the past several days.

The first is from the Diplomat, entitled "Superpower Denied?" The gist of the article is that China has systemic problems that, if not corrected, will result in the last several representing the apex of Chinese power (at least in the next several decades). The author writes:
... Has China's rise peaked?

If one were to pose this question a few years ago, he would probably be laughed out of the room. The conventional wisdom then was that China's rise was certain to continue. But today, this question is very much on everyone's mind.

What has changed?

Almost everything.

If one has to take a position, it may be reasonable to argue that the Beijing Olympics in 2008 symbolically marked the peaking of Chinese power. Everything began to go downhill afterwards. Caught up in the global economic crisis, the Chinese economy has never fully recovered its momentum. To be sure, Beijing's stimulus package of 2008-2009, fueled by deficit spending and a proliferation of credit, managed to avoid a recession and produce one more year of double-digit growth in 2010. For awhile, Beijing's ability to keep its economic growth high was lauded around the world as a sign of its strong leadership and resilience. Little did we know that China paid a huge price for a misguided and wasteful stimulus program. The bulk of its stimulus package, roughly $1.5 trillion (with two-thirds in the form of loans from state-owned banks), was squandered on fixed-asset investments, such as infrastructure, factories, and commercial real estate. As a result, many of these projects are not economically viable and will saddle the banking system with a mountain of non-performing loans. The real estate bubble has maintained its froth. The macroeconomic imbalance between investment and household consumption has barely improved. Today, Chinese economic policy-makers are hamstrung in trying to revive economic growth. The combination of local government indebtedness, massive bad loans hidden in the banking system, anemic external demand, and diminishing returns from investments has made it all but impossible for Beijing to use the same old economic playbook to fire up the economy.
Short-term difficulties are not the least of Beijing's worries. In the coming decade, many of the favorable structural factors that have helped power China's double-digit growth in the past two decades are going to disappear. Topping the list is the demographics. The proportion of the Chinese population of working age peaked in 2011 and has started decreasing in 2012, according to a RAND study. At the same time, the share of the elderly in the population is beginning to rise rapidly.
The latter issue is the birth-dearth conundrum faced by many developed (and developing countries)--that they will become old before they become rich--due to costs for caring for the elderly while, at the same time, the number of workers supporting them declines. (The situation is, of course, aggravated when you have high unemployment rates, such as Spain and Greece, where more than half of young adults are unemployed; meaning that the number of workers supporting "pensioners" is less than it otherwise could be).

Anyway, the article goes on to summarize other problems facing China, including severe environmental degradation (having failed to realize the simple truth that you should not defecate where you sleep), the extreme legal and political bias favoring state-owned enterprises over private businesses, increasing resistance to its growing power by neighboring countries (although I suspect that China's "Vietnam" will be in Africa, Latin America or the old standby, Afghanistan), and increased political agitation within China.

On a related note is the article "You'll Never Be Chinese" at Prospect Magazine. The author, who lived in China in the 1980's as a student, and since 1996 as a businessman, relates:
When I returned to China in 1996, to begin the life and career I had long dreamed about, I found the familiar air of optimism, but there was a subtle difference: a distinct whiff of commerce in place of community. The excitement was more like the eager anticipation I felt once I had signed a deal (I began my China career as a metals trader), sure that I was going to bank a profit, rather than the thrill that something truly big was about to happen.

A deal had been struck. Deng had promised the Chinese people material wealth they hadn’t known for centuries on the condition that they never again asked for political change. The Party said: “Trust us and everything will be all right.”

Twenty years later, everything is not all right.
* * *

Modern day mainland Chinese society is focused on one object: money and the acquisition thereof. The politically correct term in China is “economic benefit.” The country and its people, on average, are far wealthier than they were 25 years ago. Traditional family culture, thanks to 60 years of self-serving socialism followed by another 30 of the “one child policy,” has become a “me” culture. Except where there is economic benefit to be had, communities do not act together, and when they do it is only to ensure equal financial compensation for the pollution, or the government-sponsored illegal land grab, or the poisoned children. Social status, so important in Chinese culture and more so thanks to those 60 years of communism, is defined by the display of wealth. Cars, apartments, personal jewellery, clothing, pets: all must be new and shiny, and carry a famous foreign brand name. In the small rural village where we live I am not asked about my health or that of my family, I am asked how much money our small business is making, how much our car cost, our dog.

The trouble with money of course, and showing off how much you have, is that you upset the people who have very little. Hence the Party’s campaign to promote a “harmonious society,” its vast spending on urban and rural beautification projects, and reliance on the sale of “land rights” more than personal taxes.

Once you’ve purchased the necessary baubles, you’ll want to invest the rest somewhere safe, preferably with a decent return—all the more important because one day you will have to pay your own medical bills and pension, besides overseas school and college fees. But there is nowhere to put it except into property or under the mattress. The stock markets are rigged, the banks operate in a way that is non-commercial, and the yuan is still strictly non-convertible. While the privileged, powerful and well-connected transfer their wealth overseas via legally questionable channels, the remainder can only buy yet more apartments or thicker mattresses. The result is the biggest property bubble in history, which when it pops will sound like a thousand firework accidents.

In brief, Chinese property prices have rocketed; owning a home has become unaffordable for the young urban workers; and vast residential developments continue to be built across the country whose units are primarily sold as investments, not homes. If you own a property you are more than likely to own at least three. Many of our friends do. If you don’t own a property, you are stuck.

When the bubble pops, or in the remote chance that it deflates gradually, the wealth the Party gave the people will deflate too. The promise will have been broken. And there’ll still be the medical bills, pensions and school fees. The people will want their money back, or a say in their future, which amounts to a political voice. If they are denied, they will cease to be harmonious.

Meanwhile, what of the ethnic minorities and the factory workers, the people on whom it is more convenient for the government to dispense overwhelming force rather than largesse? If an outburst of ethnic or labour discontent coincides with the collapse of the property market, and you throw in a scandal like the melamine tainted milk of 2008, or a fatal train crash that shows up massive, high level corruption, as in Wenzhou in 2011, and suddenly the harmonious society is likely to become a chorus of discontent.

How will the Party deal with that? How will it lead?
How indeed.

Finally, this article from Yahoo! Finance which notes:
Just a few years after Chinese companies lined up to sell shares on Wall Street, a growing number are reversing course and pulling out of U.S. exchanges.

This week, Focus Media Holding Ltd., announced its chairman and private equity firms want to buy back its U.S.-traded shares and take the Shanghai-based advertising company private. The deal would value Focus Media at $3.5 billion, according to financial information firm Dealogic.

Smaller companies also are withdrawing from U.S. exchanges. In a sign of official encouragement, a Chinese business magazine said a state bank has provided $1 billion in loans to help companies with listings abroad move them to domestic exchanges.

The withdrawals follow accusations of improper accounting by some companies and a deadlock between Beijing and Washington over whether U.S. regulators can oversee their China-based auditors.

Some Chinese companies say they are pulling out of U.S. markets because a low share price fails to reflect the strength of their business. Withdrawing also eliminates the cost of complying with American financial reporting rules.
At first blush, this article could be interpreted as a slam against the U.S. economy--that it is not strong enough to support Chinese companies. But this is not the issue. It is the financial reporting rules.


Despite what the MSM would have you believe, the U.S. actually requires a higher level of financial transparency for the benefit of investors than most any other country in the world. Thus, publicly traded companies must not only comply with SEC regulations on necessary disclosures (as well as rules prohibiting insider trading), but must also produce financial statements that comply with GAAP (generally accepted accounting principles) and comply with the rules of the whichever exchange on which their stock is traded.

I suppose that "costs" of compliance may be a factor, but I suspect strongly that the real reason is that the Chinese companies don't want the transparency.  The question is: Why don't they want the transparency? It could be a culture of corruption in the management of the companies. It could also be that they don't want to release details of bad debts and investments, or declining revenue, or other financial ills that would otherwise have to be disclosed. The fact that the Chinese government is helping bail them out makes the latter more plausible.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Ancient Severed Hands Found In Egypt

The finds, made in the Nile Delta northeast of Cairo, date back about 3,600 years to a time when the Hyksos, a people believed to be originally from northern Canaan, controlled part of Egypt and made their capital at Avaris a location known today as Tell el-Daba. At the time the hands were buried, the palace was being used by one of the Hyksos rulers, King Khayan.

The right hand

The hands appear to be the first physical evidence of a practice attested to in ancient Egyptian writing and art, in which a soldier would present the cut-off right hand of an enemy in exchange for gold, Bietak explains in the most recent edition of the periodical Egyptian Archaeology.

"Our evidence is the earliest evidence and the only physical evidence at all," Bietak said. "Each pit represents a ceremony." Cutting off the right hand, specifically, not only would have made counting victims easier, it would have served the symbolic purpose of taking away an enemy's strength. "You deprive him of his power eternally," Bietak explained.

It's not known whose hands they were; they could have been Egyptians or people the Hyksos were fighting in the Levant.

The Perseid Meteor Shower Peaks This Weekend

Space.com has some information on this weekend's show, plus how to view the shower via a NASA website. The article states:
Experts predict this year's Perseid meteor shower will be an impressive sky show, with a waning crescent moon expected to interfere only slightly with the night sky display. During the meteor shower's peak this weekend (late Saturday night and into early Sunday morning), many fireballs may also visible in the night sky, NASA officials said.

"We expect to see meteor rates as high as a hundred per hour," Cooke said in a statement. "The Perseids always put on a good show."

Good Governance?

Der Spiegal is beginning a series looking at what it considers to be the best government in the world. I'm assuming that there will be a bias toward socialistic governments, but we'll see.

More Green on Blue Attacks in Afghanistan

Three U.S. Marines have been shot dead by an Afghan worker on a military base in southern Afghanistan, in a deadly 24 hours during which six American soldiers were killed in rogue attacks.

The shooting took place on Friday night in the Garmsir district of Helmand province, where three U.S. special forces soldiers were killed by an Afghan policeman and his comrades earlier in the day.

In the earlier incident, an Afghan police commander opened fire on the U.S. service members after inviting them to a Ramadan breakfast to discuss security.
* * * 
The three Marines were shot by a base employee who turned a gun on them, in the third rogue attack in four days. Foreign military sources said the man had not been wearing a uniform and it was unclear how he got hold of the weapon.

The gunman had been detained and a joint Afghan-NATO investigation team was reviewing security and looking into the reason for the attack.

The three men killed early Friday morning were all Marine Corps special operations forces and appeared to have been killed in a planned attack by rogue Afghan forces. NATO calls such incidents green on blue attacks.

The NATO force says there have been 26 such attacks on foreign troops since January in which 34 people have been killed. Last year, there were 21 attacks in which 35 people were killed.

But a coalition spokesman said the killings by the Afghan worker would not be included in that tally as it did not involve a member of the Afghan security forces.

Green on blue shootings, in which Afghan police or soldiers turn their guns on their Western colleagues, have seriously eroded trust between the allies as NATO combat soldiers prepare to hand over to Afghan forces by 2014, after which most foreign forces will leave the country.

Last year, a U.S. Army team led by a behavioral scientist produced a 70-page survey that revealed both Afghan and American soldiers hold disturbingly negative perceptions of the other.

According to the survey, many Afghan security personnel found U.S. troops 'extremely arrogant, bullying and unwilling to listen to their advice' and sometimes lacking concern about Afghans' safety in combat. They accused the Americans of ignoring female privacy and using denigrating names for Afghans.

American troops, in turn, often accused Afghan troops and police of 'pervasive illicit drug use, massive thievery, personal instability, dishonesty, no integrity,' the survey, which has been downplayed by U.S. military officials, said.
(Full story here).

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Another Mass Shooting!!!

At least 19 people have been killed after gunmen opened fire on worshippers in an evangelical Christian church in central Nigeria.

"The attack was from unknown gunmen at the Deeper Life Church," said Lt. Col. Gabriel Olorunyomi, head of the military's Joint Task Force (JTF) in Kogi state,

"They were doing their normal Monday evening service. When we went there we discovered the church had been attacked. Instantly we saw 15 people dead, including the pastor."

The military has since learned that an additional four people had died from their injuries.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility. The JTF commander said an investigation had been launched and that it was premature to speculate as to the culprits.

Islamist extremist group Boko Haram has claimed scores of attacks on churches in northern and central Nigeria in recent months as part of an insurgency that has killed hundreds.
(Full story here). Maybe Nigeria needs more gun control laws. After all, it has worked so well in Chicago, New York, Washington D.C., California, Mexico...

What? Nigeria already has very strict gun control laws? In Nigeria, civilians are not allowed to possess machine-guns, military rifles and handguns; private possession of fully automatic weapons is prohibited; private possession of semi-automatic "assault weapons" is prohibited; private possession of handguns (pistols and revolvers) is prohibited. Hmmm. Maybe if they had some method of microtagging bullets....

Pirate Ship Found Off Tonga?

It must be the boy in me, but I still love reading about pirate treasure...
Divers in Tonga have discovered the wreck of a vessel said to be a historic pirate ship containing a legendary hoard of sunken treasure.
The wreck is thought to be of the Port-au-Prince sunk by local islanders after its pirate crew had filled the ship’s hold with gold and treasures looted from British vessels.
* * *
... the Port au Prince, a French built vessel, arrived in the Ha’apai island group on November 9 1806 laden with spoils including silver and gold ore. After being attacked by islanders all but four of the crew were massacred, including the ship’s captain, and the ship was burned to the waterline.

However, chief Ulukalala took William Mariner, a young deck-hand on the privateer, to live with him and his people for four years after the massacre.

Mariner took the name Toki Ukamea, meaning Iron Axe and on returning to England, he wrote a detailed account of his experiences which then became one of the main sources for historians studying pre-Christian Tonga.

Over the years dozens of people have clamed to find the wreck only to have their hopes dashed.
(Full story here).

Conflicting Claims Over the South China Sea

I've blogged before about the increasing tensions between China and other nations (most recently, the Philippines) over the South China Sea. The Economist has a nice overview of the issues. Notable points:
Tensions in the sea have mounted this year, especially between China and the Philippines on the one hand, and between China and the Vietnam on the other. Although there has not been a serious armed clash in the sea since 1988, and none is likely now, there are worries that in the current climate some low-level confrontation might escalate by accident.  

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The Barbarization of Mexico

Small Wars Journal has an article, written in 2011, that discusses the increasing barbarization of Mexico. (The article is a PDF that you can download here). The authors make the following observation:
Perhaps the most prominent element of Mexico’s narcoviolence is the increasing tempo of atrocity. Daily media reports recount beheadings, dismemberments, persons hung from bridges, the discovery of mass graves (narcofosas), grenade attacks, drive-by shootings, rape and
femicide, running gun battles in the streets, assassinations of police, mayors, and journalists. Refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) are increasingly a factor in the conflict. While illegal immigration to the US as a whole has declined, a quiet exodus of affluent Mexicans across the border is emerging. Meanwhile, one in three murder victims go unidentified and few cases reach prosecution, highlighting a state of impunity.
In one recent example of atrocity, a casino in Monterrey—Casino Royale—was the scene of a deadly assault on Thursday 25 August 2011. Initially pegged as a grenade attack, it was in fact an arson attack where a group of at least eight assailants (believed to be linked to Los Zetas) poured gasoline inside the casino before setting it on fire, trapping dozens of people inside and killing 52 people. The brutality of the attack shocked Mexico and led to the government to characterize it as an act of terrorism. In a nationally televised speech, an angry President Felipe Calderón declared three days of mourning on Friday and labeled the attack—the worst against civilians in the nation's recent history—an act of “terrorism.” In Calderón’s words, "We are not
confronting common criminals... We are facing true terrorists who have gone beyond all limits."
 
It is easy to lose sight of the violence’s human toll in the debate over insurgency tactics, flurry of statistics, and high-profile events like the casino attack. One of the most saddening cultural artifacts of the drug war is a video of a Mexican schoolteacher keeping her students close to the ground while gunfire rages outside. She leads them in song to try to keep them calm while simultaneously keeping their heads down from stray gunfire. Such daily descriptions of horror belie assertions that Mexico’s ongoing conflict with drug cartels is mere criminality.
Just as an example, here is a recent article posted at Borderland Beat about increased violence and collapse of the rule of law in the Tarahumara Mountains:

At the municipality, the local area's government center, the inhabitants have turned their homes into "tanquetas" (light armored vehicles) and live with the uncertainty that at any moment and at any hour, they will see armed men, with or without hoods, come to fight with each other or with the townspeople.

On weekends, teachers, medical personnel and residents leave the town, because the violence gets worse on those days.

"When we return, we find out there have been murders, abductions (levantamientos), kidnappings. Ransom demands are made in millions of pesos, generally 5 million pesos. People work hard to get the money together, it's very common for them to work the gum opium (la goma); they sell it and resell it and get the money," explains one of the town's school teachers.

People get together early in the day and behind closed doors to celebrate birthdays. "There's so much fear, that you lock the door, and if somebody knocks you don't open the door or ask who it is until you hear the voice of whoever is knocking. Or, if they come to visit, they have to call ahead by phone to warn you. Schools are always locked up, kids only go out for recess, and they don't leave until their parents come (for them). Only a few are allowed to leave by themselves because they live close by," he emphasizes.

According to the teacher, more than half of the students in one of the grade schools are orphaned of either a mother or father. In fact, there are class groups in which out of 23 students, 18 are orphans, since women are also murdered because they're the partners of men involved with criminal groups, he points out.
Read the whole thing.

Bad News from the Consumer Sector

Sometimes in the midst of all the economic news we here, it is easy to forget the importance of the consumer "sector". Even when the MSM reports on consumers, it is "consumer confidence" that is focused on, and not whether consumers actually have the disposable income to make consumer purchases.

I came across a couple articles a few days ago at Business Insider on the related topic of where consumer spending is going. First is this one on "The Fate of the U.S. Economy Depends on Two Things":
As always, you should read New Deal Democrat's take on the latest weekly high-frequency economic data.

The gist is that things are mixed: Employment data is okay. Housing data is good. Consumer data is bad.

In fact, you can see from this chart that retail spending is threatening to roll over in a way that we haven't seen yet since the last recession. It's not decisive, and the year-over-year growth is still positive, but it is worrisome.
The author suggests looking at two factors to determine where consumers are going to go: energy prices and personal income. I can already tell you where it is going because energy prices are guaranteed to rise, and personal income (for those still with jobs) is largely stagnant.

On to the second article, titled "The American Consumer Rebellion is Gaining Speed":
Despite the Fed’s insistence that inflation is “contained,” or its periodic fear-mongering about deflation, consumers have been hit with rising costs. Tuition has been ballooning—up 21% in California in 2011 alone! Student loan balances exceed $1 trillion. Some parents who are still paying for their own student loans are now watching their kids piling them up too [read.... Next: Bankruptcy for a whole Generation].

Healthcare expenses have seen a meteoric rise. And so have many other items that cut deep into the average budget.

Inflation is a special tax. It’s not that horrid if it’s small, if higher yields compensate investors and savers for it, and if higher wages compensate workers for it. But that hasn’t been the case. The Fed’s Zero Interest Rate Policy has seen to it that entire classes of investors and savers get their clocks cleaned; and wages haven’t kept up with inflation since the wage peak of 2000—with the very logical but brutal goal of bringing wages in line with those in China.

But for a welcome change, disposable income adjusted for inflation, reported earlier this week, actually rose 0.3% in June from May. So spending should have gone up as well. It didn’t. The inexplicable American consumer spent less in June than in May. And April. The decline was focused on goods, the lowest since January.

And instead of buying goods with the additional money they’d earned, they saved! What temerity! It wasn’t a one-month fluke. The savings rate reached 4.4%, after a fairly consistent uptrend from the November low of 3.2%. An unusual and courageous act of rebellion in face of the punishment the Fed inflicts on savers.
The article goes on to note that sales of new cars is on a downward trend. Sales of GM and Ford have fallen, and the burst of sales for Toyota and Honda is largely due to pent up demand (because of supply chain problems caused by the earthquake in Japan last year, and flooding in Thailand) which is largely spent.

The most disturbing point of the article, however, is that the Commerce Department is towing the party line rather than exhibiting any independent thought.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

British Explorer Closes in on Lost Treasure



Pirates. Sailing ships. Marooned on a mysterious island. Over $200 million in gold buried somewhere on the island. It makes for a great story. From Business Insider:
Shaun Whitehead is leading an archaeological expedition to Cocos Island, the supposed hiding place of the “Treasure of Lima” – one of the world’s most fabled missing treasures.

The haul – said to be worth £160 million – was stolen by a British trader, Captain William Thompson, in 1820 after he was entrusted to transport it from Peru to Mexico.

He is said to have been stashed his plunder on the Pacific island, from where it has never been recovered.

An original inventory showed 113 gold religious statues, one a life-size Virgin Mary, 200 chests of jewels, 273 swords with jewelled hilts, 1,000 diamonds, solid gold crowns, 150 chalices and hundreds of gold and silver bars.

The site, credited by some as the inspiration for Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island, is uninhabited and around 350 miles off the coast of Costa Rica, of which it is a part.

* * *

Mr Whitehead, who has previously led a project to explore uncharted shafts inside the Great Pyramid of Giza, said: “Given the amount of treasure, it would have been too heavy to carry far from sea level and stories suggest the use of caves. We can also rule out where others have looked, dug up and detected – like on the beaches.

“If it is there, it will be in a natural cave which was hidden by one of the many landslides that occur on the island.

"It is not a case of following a map and “X” marking the spot. It is about using a bit of logic to establish the likelihood of some areas where it could be.”

The team’s research will concentrate on the areas around three of the island’s four bays, which have been most used by visitors.

The team plan to use a small, unmanned helicopter, fitted with specialist cameras, to fly above the nine mile square island, which will enable them to make a computer-generated 3D map of the landscape.

They will then use a snakelike robot that can be dragged across the parts of island and, using ground penetrating radar, detect voids and cavities up to a depth of around 60ft. This data will be added to the 3D map to identify any likely concealed caves.

After this, a team will use a specialist “keyhole” drill, which can reach more than 100ft, to dig down into the cave. A probe camera can be sent down through the 1in diameter.

The 10-day expedition will also involve extensive archaeological, geological and ecological research and Mr Whitehead is at pains to stress they are not simply going there on a treasure hunt.

* * *

The treasure could be worth at least £160 million. If any of it is found, the team plans to pass it on to the Costa Rican authorities, which would be expected to pay a fee for its salvage.

The treasure had been amassed by the Spanish authorities in Lima, in what is now Peru, but facing a revolt, the city’s viceroy, José de la Serna, entrusted the riches to Captain Thompson for transport to Mexico, also a Spanish colony, and it was transferred to his ship, the Mary Dear.

After leaving the port of Callao, near Lima, Thompson and his crew killed the Viceroy’s six men and sailed to Cocos, where they buried the treasure.

Shortly afterwards, they were apprehended by a Spanish warship. All of the crew – bar Thompson and his first mate – were executed for piracy.

The two said they would show the Spaniards where they had hidden the treasure in return for their lives, but after landing on Cocos, they escaped into the forest.

They are said to have been picked up by a passing ship a year later, but without the treasure.

Best Wishes for the Landing of the Curiosity Rover Tonight

The landing is supposed to be at 10:31 PDT.

Second Half of the White House Insider Interview

The Ulsterman Report has the second half of the recent interview with the White House Insider:
WHI: As long as it takes to get it done right son. You don’t know how…how difficult this kinda thing can be. This administration…these people around Obama – they got no fear on this stuff. Cold blooded. During the Clinton years…hell…things were done. Yeah…things that leave me wondering…we all got blood on our hands. Some more than others. How’d I put that to you before – you don’t ever wanna do the things I’ve done?

But these Obama people…they are different. A whole other level. Never seen anything like it. There’s stuff I won’t ever tell you. Never. You don’t want that kinda knowledge son. You throw out a question like how many people been killed under Eric Holder? Sh-t…you don’t even know what you’r askin’. You got no f-cking idea how far these people will go to keep pushin’ this agenda of theirs. Everything I told you was coming – now it’s here. The dismantling of the American system. The drones, the race riots, the promises to other countries…the open borders, the destruction of our domestic energy productions, the Obama government at war with the Catholic Church…the massive inflation that is just perched above us waiting to fall down on all our heads…so much sh-t they got ready to fire at us. That second term…that’s their moment. Obamacare, the deficit…cities going under…military cutbacks…I can’t keep track of it all it’s going on so damn fast now. This election coming up – people better know…they ain’t messing around now. This is the real f-cking deal right here. Right now.
Read the whole thing.

The War on Christianity

The American Spectator has an article on the anti-Christian bias of the Obama Administration. 
Get out of the military, get out of major cities -- this is the voice of Obama's commissars from San Francisco to Boston in his war on the religious. He is building a secularist and socialist animal farm in which no higher power exists than the will of the new Napoleons.

Socialism and secularism overlap in Obama's political philosophy. He can see that religion is the natural rival of the state, an obstacle that must be destroyed or coopted if he is to succeed in his central planning. For the key to central planning is coerced universal participation. No one can be allowed to leave the animal farm. This is why, even though it makes little political sense, he will not expand the religious exemption beyond purely sectarian organizations. If he were to concede that the right to religious freedom trumps his invented right to "reproductive services," his animal farm would stall and collapse.

Even Americans who don't support organized religion should see that it serves as an important buffer to the overweening state, and that the extinction of freedom for those groups will one day imperil their own. When government replaces God, its pitilessness affects everyone.

On August 1, all employers, whether they realize it or not, became cogs in Obama's socialist and secularist machine. If they refuse to subsidize the sex lives of their employees, Obama can now bankrupt them through punitive fines. The fine is up to $100 per employee, per day, according to an estimate by the Congressional Research Service. The official position of Obama's Justice Department in defense of this fiat is that businessmen lose their religious liberty the moment they decide to open their doors to the public. Their money and their consciences belong to the government.
Read the whole thing.

The Libor Scandal

The Libor and Euribor (Euro Interbank Offered Rate) are used worldwide as the benchmark rates for financial transactions worth hundreds of trillions of euros. When a savings bank issues a loan to a business at a variable interest rate, the loan agreement is based on the Euribor. "In many cases, the Euribor is even the key guideline for the structuring of call money," says Falko Fecht, a professor at the Frankfurt School of Finance, referring to overnight and other such short-term loans. In Spain, in particular, tens of thousands of construction loans are based on the Euribor, while millions of mortgage loans in the United States are pegged to the Libor rate.
What happened?
They [the banking cartel] wanted to influence the giant market for interest rate and foreign currency derivatives in their favor. The volume of outstanding transactions in this area amounted to €567 trillion at the end of 2011 alone. Changes of as little as 0.01 percentage points can translate into hundreds of millions in profit or loss for some banks. This makes the lax approach to the calculation of rates taken for years by banks and regulators alike seem all the more astonishing.
According to the article, in the middle of the 2000's, traders began to conspire to fix the Libor:
Moryoussef traded in interest rate derivatives during his time at Barclays. He and his fellow traders knew exactly how much money they stood to lose or gain if the Libor or Euribor changed by only a fraction of a percentage point in one direction or the other.

And they apparently did everything they could to eliminate happenstance. Moryoussef communicated by phone or email with colleagues inside and outside the bank almost daily to steer interest rates in the right direction. To do so, they sent inquiries to the people who were responsible for inputting the Libor rates: the money market traders.

In the glitzy world of investment banking, money market traders were at the bottom of the pecking order before the financial crisis. They were not involved in major deals, and they could only dream of the kinds of bonuses stock and bond traders received. "They were always at the bottom of the food chain," says a former investment banker.

It was a conspiratorial group of underdogs who worked for various banks and met at least once a month for a beer or a mojito in New York, London or Frankfurt. By the middle of the last decade, when there seemed to be a surplus of money at the banks, they all had the same problem: They were derided or, worse yet, ignored by their colleagues in the trading rooms of major banks.

But what if it were possible to know where interest rates were headed at the end of the day, or even in the next hour? What if a few traders could manipulate the ups and downs of interest rates?

By 2005 at the latest, the traders would seem to have begun realizing just how much power they had were they able to collaborate within their small group. There was no need for formal contracts between large institutions, merely agreements among friends. A pointer here, a few traders meeting for lunch there, and soon the group had formed a global cartel that, according to investigators, reached from Japan to Europe to Canada.

* * *

While the traders were initially out to increase their bonuses, the manipulation took on a different dimension during the crisis. When the first banks began to wobble in 2007, it became more difficult for many financial companies to borrow money -- a problem that would normally be reflected in higher Libor rates.

Now even top managers at Barclays, alarmed by media reports, were instructing the Libor men to input lower rates. In October 2008, the manipulation became a question of survival for Barclays. On Oct. 29, a concerned Paul Tucker, now the deputy governor of the Bank of England, contacted Barclays CEO Diamond. Tucker wanted to know why the bank was consistently inputting such high interest rates into the daily Libor report.

Diamond told a parliamentary committee that Tucker had seemed to imply that lower interest rates be reported for the Libor, which Tucker staunchly denies. Diamond, for his part, prepared a transcript of the telephone conversation he had had with Tucker on that day, in which he had mentioned political pressure. After that, his chief operating officer spoke with the money market traders. The underdogs were suddenly being heard on the executive board, and had become the bank's potential saviors.

Barclays wasn't the only bank that was having trouble gaining access to money in the fall of 2008. UBS, Citigroup and the Royal Bank of Scotland, now prime suspects in addition to Barclays, had to be bailed out by their respective governments. Germany's WestLB, which was involved in the Libor calculation at the time, was also seen as a problem case, although this wasn't reflected in the Libor rates it was reporting.
Read the whole thing.

Mass Slayings

Of course you have already probably heard of the shooting at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin. Details are sketchy at this point, but law enforcement apparently is treating this as a terrorist incident. Although the media hasn't blamed the Tea Party (yet!), they are still plugging away at the PC reporting, insinuating that the Sikhs were targeted because people mistake them for Muslims.

However, coming on the heels of the Aurora shooting, the authors of the article cited above opine:
Another shooting massacre will only increase calls for tighter gun control legislation to make it more difficult to for people to buy firearms and place restrictions on assault rifles and high-capacity magazines.
This, even though there is no report that the shooter used an "assault rifle" (or any kind of rifle, for that matter) or "high-capacity magazines," whatever those are. However, the shooter was probably put down by the same type of rifle that the articles' authors decry.

But why would the liberal media say something like this? Well, because the Aurora shooting didn't impact American opinion on gun control. In fact, it may have spurred increased demand for firearms and concealed carry permits. Frankly, a cynic might think it was awfully convenient that a second mass shooting occurred just after polls showed that the Aurora shooting was ineffective in promoting more gun control.

However, the point of this post is not the gun control issue, but that mass slayings have always been with us. From Slate:
The shooting spree that killed 12 people in an Aurora, Colo., movie theater on Friday has sparked a public debate about the availability of automatic weapons. Gun control advocates argue that mass murder is exceedingly difficult without them. One source told the Washington Post, “It’s kind of hard to be a pseudo-commando with a musket in the 18th century.” How did people commit mass murder before the advent of automatic weapons?

Often with fire. Revolutionary War veteran Barnett Davenport is widely considered the first mass murderer in U.S. history. On the evening of Feb. 3, 1780, Davenport burst into the bedroom of his employer, Caleb Mallory, and began to bludgeon Mallory and his wife with a club. When the club broke in two, Davenport beat the couple to death with Mallory’s gun. If Davenport had stopped there, he would be remembered as just an ordinary killer; most criminologists define mass murder as the killing of at least three people in a single incident. After beating the Mallorys to death, however, Davenport burned the house down, killing their three grandchildren.

Hundreds of other mass murderers have perpetrated their crimes without automatic firearms. Frenchman Pierre Riviere killed his mother, sister, and brother with a bill hook in 1835. In 1932, Julian Marcelino, a Filipino immigrant of relatively small stature, managed to kill six and wound 15 on a Seattle street using only a pair of blades. In 1915, Monroe Phillips shot seven dead and wounded 32 with a shotgun in Georgia.

Guns aren’t even the most lethal mass murder weapon. According to data compiled by Grant Duwe of the Minnesota Department of Corrections, guns killed an average of 4.92 victims per mass murder in the United States during the 20th century, just edging out knives, blunt objects, and bare hands, which killed 4.52 people per incident. Fire killed 6.82 people per mass murder, while explosives far outpaced the other options at 20.82. Of the 25 deadliest mass murders in the 20th century, only 52 percent involved guns.

The U.S. mass murder rate does not seem to rise or fall with the availability of automatic weapons. It reached its highest level in 1929, when fully automatic firearms were expensive and mostly limited to soldiers and organized criminals. The rate dipped in the mid-1930s, staying relatively low before surging again in the 1970s through 1990s. Some criminologists attribute the late-century spike to the potential for instant notoriety: Beginning with Charles Whitman’s 1966 shooting spree from atop a University of Texas tower, mass murderers became household names. Others point out that the mass murder rate fairly closely tracks the overall homicide rate. In the 2000s, for example, both the mass murder and the homicide rates dropped to their lowest levels since the 1960s.

A mass murderer’s weapon of choice depends somewhat on his victims. Attacks with guns, fire, knives, and bare hands are far more likely to be directed against family and acquaintances than total strangers, while mass murderers prefer to use explosives against people they don’t know. Also of note: Those who use firearms in a killing spree turn the gun on themselves 34 percent of the time, while only 9 percent of mass-murdering arsonists take their own lives.
But while we ponder the recent shootings, we should also remember the hundreds of people dead because of the Obama administration's illegal transfer of weapons to Mexican drug cartels in order to "prove" that Mexican drug cartels got their weapons from U.S. gun stores. (In fact, they get their weapons from the Mexican military and other military sources). And while we are on the subject of Mexico, notwithstanding gun control laws that are the envy of any liberal in the United States, mass shootings and mayhem abound.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Australia Refuses to Base U.S. Carrier

Australia has risked a diplomatic bust-up with its closest ally America after rejecting a plan to base a U.S. nuclear aircraft carrier near Perth, the capital of Western Australia.

Defence Minister Stephen Smith ruled out the proposal yesterday, saying Australia does not want to host U.S. bases.

The plan, put forward in a Pentagon-commissioned report by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, suggested repositioning U.S. forces in the region by relocating an aircraft carrier from the U.S. East Coast.

Mr Smith said that while negotiations were underway to increase U.S. navy access to Australia's Indian Ocean base, HMAS Stirling, it would never become a U.S. military base.

'We have made it crystal clear from the first moment - we don't have United States military bases in Australia. We don't see the need for that,' Mr Smith told Australian Broadcasting Corp. television.
And why wouldn't they want the jobs that a new or expanded naval base would bring?
China - Australia's most important trade partner - has blasted the closer bilateral military ties as a return the Cold War divisions that risk the peace and security of the region.

Hugh White, head of Australian National University's Strategic and Defense Studies Center, noted that American combat troops had not been based in Australia since World War II and said that was unlikely to change in the future.

He said Chinese objections were the major reason why Australia was unlikely to ever allow U.S. bases on its soil.

'The government was surprised that China reacted as negatively as it has to the decision to have Marines rotate deployments through Darwin, and I think they'll be very careful not to risk further displeasure from China by doing anything that suggests they're supporting a U.S. military buildup in Asia,' Mr White said.

Obama's War on Coal

When campaigning for the 2008 presidential race, Obama promised to bankrupt anyone who wanted to operate a coal fired power plant. EPA officials have admitted that the administrations efforts will destroy jobs in West Virginia and Pennsylvania (i.e., coal country). So how is that plan going? I came across this article, which described the forced closure of the OhioAmerican coal mine:
Regulatory actions by President Barack Obama and his appointees and followers were cited as the entire reason. “Mr. Obama has already destroyed 83,000 megawatts of coal-fired electricity generation in America,” said Mr. Michael T. W. Carey, Vice President of Government Affairs for Murray Energy. …

“At its peak, OhioAmerican employed 239 local people in high-paying, well- benefited jobs,” said Mr. Stanley T. Piasecki, General Manager and Superintendent. “University studies show that our Mines can create up to eleven (11) secondary jobs in our communities, for store clerks, teachers, etc., to serve our direct employees. Thus, if one uses the eleven (11) to one (1) multiplier, the Obama Administration has destroyed 2,868 jobs in eastern Ohio with this forced Mine closure,” stated Mr. Piasecki.

“This is a sad day for all of us, and particularly Mr. Robert E. Murray, the Founder of OhioAmerican,” said Mr. Piasecki. “He is so distraught that he came to the Mine and personally announced the layoffs to each of the employees,” he added.

“Mr. Murray created OhioAmerican, and our production began in May, 2007,” said Mr. Piasecki. The Mine was intended to last for at least ten (10) years. Now we have been forced by our own Country’s President and his followers and supporters to permanently close the operation,” added Mr. Piasecki.

“There will be additional layoffs, not only at Murray Energy, but also throughout the United States coal industry due to Mr. Obama’s ‘War on Coal’ and the destruction that it has caused to so many jobs and families in the Ohio Valley area and elsewhere,” said Mr. Murray. “Both Mr. Obama and Vice President Joe Biden stated that there would be ‘no coal in America’ prior to their elections,” said Mr. Piasecki. “They are making good on their intentions while they destroy so many lives and family livelihoods in this area for no benefit whatsoever,” he concluded.
Obama doesn't care about anyone that can't afford to attend one of his expensive fund-raisers, and certainly not blue collar workers. Whether he intends it or not, his only contribution to the world is to create chaos. From the uncertainty as to economic policy, his war on coal and oil, the way he handled the U.S. withdraw from Iraq and his handling of Afghanistan, to his support of the Muslim Brotherhood, forcing ObamaCare on the country, and divisive race baiting, all he does is create hate and chaos.

Culture Matters

A few weeks ago, in responding to a comment to my post on the coming civil war in Afghanistan, I wrote, in part:
I disagree with the premise asserted by Jared Diamond in his book, "Guns, Germs and Steel," which bases the success of certain cultures on geographic advantages. I can see why he would arrive at that conclusion by comparing New Guinea to Europe as a whole, but it doesn't explain why those areas that produced successful civilizations thousands of years ago, such as Egypt and Iran, are less vibrant and successful now; or why resource poor countries like Israel, Japan and England, or poorly positioned countries like Sweden and Finland, have been successful. I believe that, instead, there are certain cultural, social, and legal traits that make certain nations successful, or fail, or both. These can be gained or lost over time.
So, it was with interest that I read this post at Powerline Blog:
Whatever one believes about Israel and the Palestinians, the general proposition that culture strongly influences economic performance should not be controversial. Romney likes to cite The Wealth and Poverty of Nations by former Harvard professor David Landes, which makes that case. The work of economist Mancur Olson also supports Romney’s view.

Reaching further back, Romney could have cited Max Weber’s The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism and R. H.Tawney’s Religion and the Rise of Capitalism (though heaven help him if he had).

Perhaps the best statement by a politician in support of Romney’s general point came in (or around) 1850 during a Senate debate on the extension of slavery into U.S. territories in the West. John C. Calhoun had delivered a speech in which he complained about the unequal economic development between the North and the South, citing among other things his standard beef about certain tariffs.

Thomas Hart Benton responded with a brilliant address in which he explained that the existence of slavery, which Calhoun wanted to extend, was one of the reasons the South was lagging economically.

Southerners didn’t like hearing this, any more than Palestinians appreciated Romney’s remarks. But Benton was right, and the South did not truly begin to “rise again” economically until its culture, especially as it related to race, began dramatically to change about 120 years after Benton spoke.
Here, here.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Time Running Out On Iran

At the same time President Ahmadinejad of Iran is calling (yet again) for the annihilation of Israel, the Guardian reports:
Time is running out for the international community to halt Iran's nuclear programme by peaceful means, the Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, told US defence secretary Leon Panetta in Jerusalem on Wednesday.

Sanctions, diplomacy and declarations of a willingness to take military action as a last resort had not yet convinced the Iranians to stop their programme, he said. "However forceful our statements, they have not convinced Iran that we are serious about stopping them. Right now the Iranian regime believes that the international community does not have the will to stop its nuclear programme."

Netanyahu said earlier that although sanctions were hurting the Iranian economy, such measures had "yet to move its nuclear programme even a millimetre backwards".
While Obama focuses on Syria, secretly authorizing the CIA to arm future terrorists (i.e., the Syrian rebels), the clock is ticking down to when Israel will have no choice but to unilaterally attack Iran. From the New York Times:

On Wednesday, Mr. Panetta used some of his sharpest language on Iran, as if to assure the Israelis that the Obama administration could be equally tough.

“This is not about containment,” Mr. Panetta told reporters at the start of his meeting with Mr. Peres. “This is about making very clear that they are never going to be able to get an atomic weapon.”

In Israel, there remains feverish speculation that Mr. Netanyahu will act in September or early October. Besides the prime minister’s fear that Israel’s window of opportunity will close soon, analysts cite several reasons for the potential timing: Israel does not like to fight wars in winter. Mr. Netanyahu feels that he will have less leverage if President Obama is re-elected, and that if Mr. Romney were to win, the new president would be unlikely to want to take on a big military action early in his term.

“If I were an Iranian, I would be very fearful of the next 12 weeks,” said Efraim Halevy, a former chief of Israel’s intelligence agency and national security adviser.

Others made light of the constant visits from the United States. “The visitors are actually baby sitters to make sure the unpredictable kids do not misbehave,” said Efraim Inbar, the director of the Begin-Sadat Institute for Strategic Studies.
The Israelis have to know that they cannot depend on the Obama Administration for support or protection. They also realize that Romney is more likely to support and protect Israel. I suspect that they will hold off until they have a better feeling as to who will win the election. But if it looks like Obama will win (or does win), Israel will likely not have any option but to make a unilateral strike against Iran.

It's A Depression

Al Lewis at Market Watch observes that what has been called a "jobless recover" is actually a depression.
The precise definition of a depression, of course, remains as debatable as anything else in the field of economics. By some definitions, it is a long-term slump in economic activity, often characterized by unusually high unemployment, a banking crisis, a sovereign-debt crisis, surprising bankruptcies and other horrible symptoms we can find in the headlines almost every day.

It is easy to avoid seeing all of these events as constituting a depression if you somehow have kept your livelihood intact all this time. But it’s important to remember that not everyone has to stand in a bread line during a depression.

Nearly one out of seven Americans receives food stamps, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That’s more than 44 million people. If they all stood in a line and someone photographed them using black-and-white film, they easily could be mistaken for people from the 1930s. Instead, they go to a grocery store and spend their credits like money. There isn’t even a social stigma to make them stand out as any more glum or destitute than anybody else.

Last week, the Associated Press reported that America’s poverty rate likely has hit levels not seen since the 1960s. Surveying several economists and academicians, the wire service predicted the official poverty rate would come in as high as 15.7% when the Census Bureau releases it in September. That would wipe out all the gains of President Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The Ulsterman Report has a New Interview with the Whitehouse Insider

(Link here)

"97% of the World to be Destroyed Tomorrow"

James Dilingpole writes at the Telegraph:
No, not really. It's just my little joke, based on pretending to take people like the BBC's resident climate activists David Shukman, Richard Black and Roger Harrabin seriously.

I'll tell you what doesn't amuse me, though. Here I am in Wales, on my holidays, enjoying the semi-sun, and suddenly I get emails from and Tweets from sensible people on my side of the argument saying: "Help! Help! The BBC has gone mad for this story about the NASA satellite showing that 97 per cent of Greenland has melted and apparently it's 'unprecedented'. What do we do?"

Sigh. The right thing to do on occasions like this, I find, is to head straight for Watts Up With That? Unlike, say, the BBC, or the Guardian, or the Independent or most of the rest of the MSM, WUWT's posts are grounded in actual science and real world data.

And, yep, WUWT makes two very simple points.

1. 97 per cent of Greenland hasn't melted. (If it had we'd be underwater by now)
I’m sure our readers don’t really need to have it pointed out that the melting event did not melt 97% of Greenland’s ice sheet, but rather occurred over 97% of the surface area of the ice sheet and that the melting event has ended. We will undoubtedly be treated to that 97% statistic for a long time to come.
2. "Unprecedented" is not a strictly accurate adjective to describe something that has happened before.
I had to laugh at the title of their press release, where they cite “Unprecedented Greenland Ice Sheet Surface Melt”, then contradict themselves when the main researcher goes on to say “melting events of this type occur about once every 150 years on average. With the last one happening in 1889“. Do these guys even read their own press releases? Climatologist Pat Michaels concurs saying: “Apparently NASA should start distributing dictionaries to the authors of its press releases.”
Quite. But the broader point to be made is this: don't believe what the BBC (or NASA or the Royal Society or the Guardian or the Independent or the National Academy of Sciences or the Prince of Wales or Al Gore or any US TV broadcaster that isn't Fox) tells you about global warming, the environment, climate change, polar bears, sustainability, ocean acidification, glacier melt or Greenland, EVER.

If it's still not clear to you why, then you must read this book.

But if you haven't the time to read Watermelons (or its US version Watermelons: The Green Movement's True Colors or its Australian version Killing The Earth To Save It), then here is the very simple explanation:

Catastrophic Man Made Global Warming is a hoax. There is no real-world evidence whatsoever to suggest that the modest warming of around 0.8 degrees C which the planet has experienced since 1850 is in any way dangerous or unprecedented. Even the suggestion that it is mostly man-made is at best moot, at worst long since falsified by real world data and superseded by more plausible theories

So next time you hear the BBC (or similar) spouting some unutterable crap about some amazingly shocking new event/piece of research/paper showing that the glaciers or Greenland are melting faster than before, that polar bears or coral reefs are becoming more endangered, or that there's anything remotely worrying about the possibility that the planet has warmed by 1.5 degrees C since the Industrial Revolution, don't just take it with a huge pinch of salt. Treat it with about as much respect as you would a report from North Korea radio telling you that this year's bumper grain harvest has been more gloriously plentiful than ever before and that workers are now at severe risk of expiring due to an excess of nourishment, plenitude and joy.
Not only is it a hoax, but it is a dangerous and deadly fraud. Carbon taxes and carbon trading, relying on alternate (and unreliable energy sources), raising fuel prices, and so on, is just another example of a special interest group trying to seize power and money (through taxes and duties) at the risk of your health and well-being.