Tuesday, September 30, 2008


The Mark Of The Devil - Western Finance / Western Medicine

In covering these two topics (western medicine and western finance), I've come to recognize many strong parallels between the two. This article explores the common threads of deception that characterize these two powerful institutions.

#1 They're both based on fraud and deception

Both Western Finance and Western Medicine are fundamentally based on fraud. The fraud of Western Finance is that you can create money from nothing and everybody can get rich by selling each other fictitious financial instruments that have no connection to reality. The fraud of Western Medicine is that everybody can get healthy by taking fictitious patented chemicals (pharmaceuticals) rather than addressing fundamental issues of nutrition, exercise and exposure to consumer chemicals.

Western Finance's fraud is committed by high-brow academics who contrive complicated derivative financial instruments that are then presented to the investment community as things of real value (which they are not). Western Medicine's fraud is committed by high-ego medical researchers who selectively massage clinical trial data to create fictitious "scientific" results that are then presented to the FDA as fact. The FDA then "approves" such drugs which are sold to the public as medicines that treat "disease" (which are also fictitious, by the way; being voted into existence by a panel of experts who benefit from such disease definitions).

Both the financial instruments and FDA-approved medications are fraudulent to begin with, and they offer nothing of real, lasting value to anyone. They're both sold simply for momentary profits, without any regard for the health or the wealth of the People.

#2 When problems arise, they both treat symptoms rather than solving the causes

The $700 billion financial bailout created in Washington is a classic example of Western Medicine's "treat the symptoms" mentality. Rather than address the root cause of the problem (the Fed's control over the money supply and the very structure of fractional-reserve banking), politicians seem satisfied to rig up a series of financial bandages that allow them to pretend the problem has been solved.

In Western Medicine, this "treat the symptoms" approach is the de facto treatment philosophy taught in medical school: Ignore the real cause, don't bother educating patients about diet or exercise, and simply prescribe pharmaceuticals to mask the problem for as long as possible.

In both cases, the patient inevitably gets sicker: The financial situation festers and grows like an unchecked cancer tumor, and while stop-gap measures can create the illusion of a healthy patient, these actions inevitably contribute to far greater crisis down the road, where the patient eventually crashes and dies.

The financial sickness now infecting banks, lenders and insurance companies across the globe is an unchecked pandemic of infectious debt. But rather than addressing the cause of the infections, the financial industry seems satisfied to refinance the disease carriers so they can rise up, coughing and sputtering as they pass along the disease to anyone within breathing distance.

#3 They both enrich powerful corporations while impoverishing the People

The key agenda of both the financial and health industries is to enrich wealthy corporations at the expense of the public. In Western Finance, this is being done by privatizing the financial gains while socializing the financial losses. In other words, all the profits go to the wealthy elite while all the losses are passed along to taxpayers (this is the fundamental point of the $700 billion bailout, of course).

In Western Medicine, virtually every regulatory policy in effect today is constructed to enrich corporations. The FDA's censorship of true health claims on nutritional supplements, the FTC's crackdown on anti-cancer herbal remedies, the DEA's raids on medical marijuana... these campaigns are all conducted solely to protect the profits of the pharmaceutical companies at the expense of public health.

Think about it: Monopoly pricing on pharmaceuticals sold in the USA is enforced by the FDA and FTC. Approvals of drugs based on outright fraudulent science is openly granted by the FDA. Raids against vitamin companies, supplement companies and natural product retailers are organized and conducted by both the FTC and FDA, two regulatory bodies that engage in outright extortion, threatening natural health companies with bankruptcy and criminal charges if they don't pay outrageous fines based on fabricated accusations of things like "linking to a scientific journal from your website" (which is now a crime in the U.S. if you sell nutritional products).

These are all the actions of governmental tyrants who act solely as Big Business street thugs, wiping out the competition to protect the profits of their (mob) bosses.

#4 They're both based on arrogance and the worship of money

Arrogance runs high in Western Medicine, where clever men at the top of the pharmaceutical companies think they've outsmarted mother nature by brainwashing consumers into thinking the human body is born with deficiencies of patented synthetic chemicals. This same arrogance is woven directly into the fabric of Wall Street, where greed-based financial players convince themselves they're so brilliant that the mere idea of how to make money is now recorded as a bankable asset on the balance sheets (that's the Enron style of accounting, which has now infected all of Wall Street).

The arrogance in both these industries is astounding. Neither Western Finance nor Western Medicine believes there is such a thing as a reality that shall ever hold them accountable. They don't believe in gold, or real food, or cause and effect. Things are things because they say they are, and nothing is subject to economic reality, scientific scrutiny or real-world common sense.

These two industries have been living in the Twilight Zone for so long, they've completely lost touch with reality. In fact, they no longer have any familiarity with reality. Doctors, for example, have no knowledge of nutrition or superfoods. They are nutritionally illiterate the day they graduate from medical school. Similarly, bankers are almost universally ignorant of the basic laws of economics. Few understand how fractional-reserve banking really works, nor do they grasp the correlations between increases in the money supply and inflation.Bankers and doctors, it could be accurately stated, have almost no knowledge about the very things over which they have been granted authority.

(For the record, yes I know there are many exceptions to this. Lots of well-educated bankers and doctors break out of the box of ignorance by learning, on their own, those things not taught to them in the land of academia.)

#5 They both seek instant profits at the expense of future generations

Western financial institutions are famous for their focus on the next fiscal quarter. If it doesn't create a profit in the next 90 days, it's not considered a worthwhile investment. This "instant profit" mentality inevitably leads to an abandonment of virtues like saving money or honoring future generations. Instead of leaving our children with equity, the United States of America (and its financial co-conspirators) have burdened future generations with an impossible debt burden.

Pharmaceutical companies think much the same way. Rather than uplifting the health of the nation with sound prenatal nutrition policies (and infant health programs based on disease prevention), it seeks to vaccinate and medicate every living being with a never-ending parade of high-profit pharmaceuticals... from birth to death. There is no attention paid to the environmental effects of flushing all those drugs down the drain (pharmaceuticals are now found in the drinking water of over 50 American cities), nor is there any attempt to actually prevent cancer (or other diseases) in any way whatsoever.

Instead, Western Medicine prefers to wait until people get sick so it can cash in on their disease. Similarly, Western Finance prefers to hide its problems, expanding its debt base until it gets too big to fail, at which point someone has to come along and bail it out.

Neither industry operates with any degree of accountability.

#6 Both are run by unindicted criminals

If I break into your house and steal your wallet, I would be considered a criminal. But when Congress breaks into your finances and steals your life savings, they consider themselves to be heroes!

Make no mistake: Both the Western Finance and Western Medical industries are run by unindicted criminals who steal, lie, and deceive their way to the greatest profits possible. Drug companies routinely bury studies they don't want you to see, and FDA leaders routinely stack their decision boards with "experts" who maintain direct financial ties to the companies selling the pharmaceuticals they're voting to approve.

Meanwhile, top bankers are shelling out hundreds of millions of dollars in favors to Washington politicians in order to avoid any reduction in their multi-million dollar salaries, even while the financial institutions they led are about to be bailed out by taxpayer money. What all this has in common is that the top CEOs, politicians and regulatory decision makers are unindicted criminals who are guilty of various crimes against the People: Theft, conspiracy, racketeering and much more.If these people were held up to the same laws applied to you and me, they'd all be arrested and spend their lives in prison (or worse).

#7 Both are doomed to collapse

The final parallel between Western Finance and Western Medicine? They're both doomed to collapse.That very idea was considered absolutely loony just 30 days ago. But I've stuck to this prediction for five years: Western medicine is doomed to collapse. And now, all of a sudden, more people are waking up and seeing their fictional world crumbling around them. The near-collapse of the global financial system, it seems, has rudely awakened a few people who were sleepwalking through life, intoxicated by visions of free riches, free pharmaceuticals and life in the land of zero accountability.

Reality, though, is a stubborn thing. You can daydream all you want, but the laws of economics cannot be violated any more so than the laws of human physiology. When there's a poison in the system (biologically or financially speaking), something must be done to eliminate the poison and bolster the health of the patient. Sadly, Washington remains in the business of denying the problem, which makes it all the more difficult to try to solve it.

Interestingly, the collapse of Western Finance is inevitably linked to the collapse of Western Medicine. How so? Because Big Pharma is almost entirely dependent on the government to protect and feed itself. Without Big Government creating an artificial monopoly market where competing natural products are censored or outlawed, Big Pharma could not compete! Nobody would buy arthritis drugs if they knew cherry extracts or potent fish oils could solve the problem more safely and affordably. No one would buy high-profit cholesterol drugs if they learned the truth about red yeast rice, aged garlic or policosanol.

Big Pharma is entirely dependent on the government to prop up its business, and when the U.S. government goes operationally bankrupt (which is coming), Big Pharma may suddenly find itself competing in a free marketplace where it no longer has the tools of oppression, censorship and tyranny to bludgeon the competition into irrelevancy. When Big Government goes, Big Pharma will follow, and the collapse of Western Finance is thus a precursor to the collapse of Western Medicine.

Both institutions, of course, will attempt to claw their way back to power, even as they are crumbling. They won't go without a fight, and they may be able to put in place clever tactics that delay their demise by years. But in the end, no nation has a future when its finance -- and its medicine -- are based on fraud.

Think about that. It's a powerful realization. The U.S. simply cannot continue the way it's running today. With 50% of the population on pharmaceuticals, and children being drugged with Speed (ADHD drugs), and mandatory vaccines poisoning (and killing) young girls, there is no future unless something changes.

With junk foods and energy drinks intoxicating our youth, and dangerous chemicals running rampant through the personal care product industry, and foods being irradiated to destroy their nutritional content, there is no future.With banks stealing money from the working taxpayers, and $10 trillion national debt knocking on our door, and the government taking ownership of more than 50% of the national economy, there is no future!

The real world will be a shock to many.

The end of these systems is now in sight. They are crumbling under their own arrogance and stupidity, revealing a society based on self-righteous deception and global scandal. Everything we thought was real turns out to be fabricated: The money, the medicine, the economy, the law... it's all being revealed for what it is: A Matrix of enslavement, designed to keep the People believing they live in a free society, even as their health and wealth are stolen from them by the sinister few who wield political power.

Western Finance will fall, and Western Medicine will soon end its reign of terror over the people. We will live to see the end of the FDA as we know it; the end of the AMA, the cancer industry and the dominance of the drug companies. We may lose our savings and we may even lose our nation, but we will not lose the one thing that matters most in this cold, dark universe: Our sense of connection with life, nature and each other.

Because when all the fictions fall apart, and the facade of the American Empire crumbles like the twin towers on 9/11, when it's all said and done, we still have one thing we can count on: Mother Nature.

Nature will still be there. The trees, the gardens, the herbs... these things are real. The water, the oceans, the honeybees... these are the things that bring us real wealth.Wealth is not a collection of digits in a computer. It isn't a promise printed on green paper money. Real wealth is a garden that feeds you, a river that hydrates you, and a system of medicine that nourishes and supports you. Real wealth is a day with sunshine, a night under the stars and a life lived with purpose.

Real wealth is not fleeting, nor subject to cascading collapse. It is as real as the morning dew on a cabbage plant, or the sweet taste of fresh blueberry juice, or the buzz of ten thousand honeybees pollinating an orchard.

These are the things Western society has forgotten, and in that forgetfulness, it has suffered a dangerous, multi-generational amnesia ... a disease of delusion, if you will, that is about to collide head-on with reality.

The awakening will be rude. Some will embrace reality and thrive in the Next Society. Others will deny reality and suffer.

As we watch all of this unfold, I invite you to join me in the real world; to eat real food, to experience real (natural) medicine and to make real, lasting contributions to the future of life on Earth. As fictional constructs fall to the ground around us, we are all being granted front-row seats to one of the most amazing transformations in the history of life on Earth: We are about to watch one civilization end, and another civilization emerge from the ruin.We are, indeed, watching history unfold before our eyes. And you know what? We are all fortunate enough to participate in it! Don't miss this. Stay confident. Help those you can, and prepare yourself for the transition. The next few years are going to be the most interesting we'll see in our lifetimes.

Source - Natural News

Monday, September 29, 2008


Wachovia Fails; Citicorp Next?

Citigroup will acquire the banking operations of the Wachovia Corporation, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation said Monday morning, the latest bank to fall victim to the distressed mortgage market.

Citigroup will pay $1 a share, or about $2.2 billion, according to people briefed on the deal.

The F.D.I.C. said that the agency would absorb losses from Wachovia above $42 billion and that it would receive $12 billion in preferred stock and warrants from Citigroup in return for assuming that risk.

“Wachovia did not fail,” the F.D.I.C. said, “rather it is to be acquired by Citigroup Inc. on an open-bank basis with assistance from the F.D.I.C.”

Under the deal, Citigroup will acquire most of Wachovia’s assets and liabilities, including $400 billion in deposits and will assume senior and subordinated debt of Wachovia, the F.D.I.C. said. Wachovia Corporation will continue to own the retail brokerage firm AG Edwards and the money management arm Evergreen.

“There will be no interruption in services and bank customers should expect business as usual,” the F.D.I.C. chairman, Sheila C. Bair, said.

The move was necessary, the F.D.I.C. said, to avoid serious fallout on economic conditions and financial stability.

“This morning’s decision was made under extraordinary circumstances with significant consultation among the regulators and Treasury,” Ms. Bair said. “This action was necessary to maintain confidence in the banking industry given current financial market conditions.”

The sale would further concentrate Americans’ bank deposits in the hands of just three banks: Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase and Citigroup. Together, those three would be so large that they would dominate the industry, with unrivaled power to set prices for their loans and services. Given their size and reach, the institutions would probably come under greater scrutiny from federal regulators. Some small and midsize banks, already under pressure, might have little choice but to seek suitors.

Wachovia has been hurt badly by its 2006 purchase of Golden West Financial, a California lender specializing in so-called pay-option mortgages. The bank also faced mounting losses on loans made to home builders and commercial real estate developers, and its acquisition of A. G. Edwards, a retail brokerage firm, turned out to be problematic. In June, Wachovia’s board ousted G. Kennedy Thompson, the bank’s longtime chief executive.

The talks with Wachovia intensified on Sunday after a weekend of negotiations in Washington over a $700 billion rescue for the banking industry. Only days earlier, federal regulators seized and sold the nation’s largest savings and loan, Washington Mutual, in one of a series of important deals that have reshaped the financial landscape.

As the credit crisis has deepened, a consolidation in the financial industry that analysts have predicted for years seems to be playing out in a matter of weeks.

The impact will be felt on Main Street, Wall Street and in Washington. While the tie-ups may restore confidence in the industry, they also could leave a handful of big lenders to determine fees and interest rates on everything from home mortgages to credit cards to checking accounts.

Some small and midsize banks may be unable to compete with these behemoths.

Last week, Wachovia held discussions with Citigroup, Wells Fargo and Banco Santander of Spain, before the foreign bank’s interested cooled.

As lawmakers worked in Washington on the financial bailout this weekend, Wachovia executives huddled in the Seagram Building offices of Sullivan & Cromwell on Park Avenue.

Robert K. Steel, a former top lieutenant of Henry M. Paulson Jr. at both Goldman Sachs and then the Treasury Department, who took over as Wachovia’s chief executive in July, arrived in New York to handle the negotiations in person, along with David M. Carroll, the bank’s chief deal maker. At 8:15 am. on Saturday, Citigroup and Wells took their first peek at Wachovia’s books.

Regulators pressed the parties to move quickly. Senior officials at the Federal Reserve in Washington, and its branches in New York, Richmond and San Francisco held weekend discussions with all the banks involved. Top officials at the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and the Treasury were also in the loop.

Timothy F. Geithner, the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, personally reached out to executives involved in the process to assess the situation and spur it along.

Citigroup and Wells pressed regulators to seize Wachovia and let them buy its assets and deposits, as JPMorgan did with WaMu, or provide some sort of financial guarantee, as regulators did with JP Morgan’s acquisition of Bear Stearns, according to people briefed on and involved with the process.

Both Citigroup and Wells Fargo were deeply concerned about absorbing Wachovia’s giant loan portfolio, which is littered with bad mortgages, these people said. Bankers had little time to assess the risk.

Citigroup executives considered Wachovia a make-or-break deal for their consumer banking ambitions. With Wachovia, Citigroup would gain one of the pre-eminent retail bank operations after struggling to build one for years. It will also give Citigroup access to more stable customer deposits, allowing it to rely less heavily on outside investors for funds.

Source - New York Times


Europe Is Tanking

European governments stepped in to rescue Fortis, Bradford & Bingley Plc, and Hypo Real Estate Holding AG as tremors from the U.S. credit crisis reverberated around the world.

The U.K. Treasury seized Bradford & Bingley, Britain's biggest lender to landlords, while governments in Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg threw an 11.2 billion-euro ($16.3 billion) lifeline to Fortis. Germany guaranteed a loan to Hypo.

The interventions exposed how fallout from the crisis that drove Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. into bankruptcy and prompted a $700 billion U.S. bank-rescue package has gone global. It also added urgency to negotiations among European policy makers as to how they deal with banking collapses.

"The precarious global environment means the weakest links in Europe are now falling,'' said Mamoun Tazi, an analyst at MF Global Securities Ltd. in London. ``If banks continue not to lend to each other we'll see more failures.''

Shares of Dexia SA, a lender based in both Brussels and Paris, fell as much as 33 percent in Brussels trading after Le Figaro said the world's biggest lender to local governments may soon announce a plan to raise capital. Iceland agreed to buy 75 percent in Glitnir Bank hf, the island nation's third-largest bank by market value, for 600 million euros.

European equities and U.S. stock-index futures fell today. Euro-area economic confidence dropped this month to the lowest since the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks amid concern that the U.S. plan will fail to stem the crisis. The pound tumbled by the most against the dollar in 15 years and the euro slid.

ECB Auctions

The European Central Bank said today it will make additional funds available to banks through the end of the year in "special'' auctions to ease tensions in money markets. The cost of borrowing euros for three months soared to a record 5.24 percent today. The Libor-OIS spread, a gauge of cash availability among banks, widened to a record 219 basis points.

Tightening credit is casting a pall over the European economy with U.K. growth the weakest since the early 1990s and the 15-nation euro-area on the edge of its first recession. The risk is of a spiral in which the credit crisis and the economy begin to feed off each other, resulting in costlier borrowing and even weaker expansion.

"The extreme dislocations in European money markets are both a symptom and a source of serious stress in the financial sector, exacerbated by the rapidly deteriorating growth environment,'' said Marco Annunziata, chief economist at Unicredit MIB in London.
Fortis Rescue

To head off the collapse of its biggest bank, Belgium agreed to buy 49 percent of Fortis's Belgian banking unit for 4.7 billion euros, while the Netherlands will pay 4 billion euros for a similar stake in the Dutch business, the governments said in a statement late yesterday. Luxembourg will provide a 2.5 billion-euro loan convertible into 49 percent of Fortis's banking division in that country.

The talks to rescue Fortis involved European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet. Former Bank of England policy maker Willem Buiter said today on his blog that the rescue of Fortis showed "the ability of the euro-area fiscal authorities to coordinate on a bailout for a bank with not only strong cross-boundary operations, but indeed with a strong multi- national identity.''

Santander Purchase

Bradford & Bingley was saved as tighter credit made it impossible for it to operate. Deposits at the bank amounted to slightly more than half of its loans outstanding, forcing it to depend on frozen capital markets for support. Banco Santander, Spain's biggest lender, will pay 612 million pounds ($1.1 billion), including a transfer of 208 million pounds of capital, to buy its branches and deposits.

Hypo Real Estate, Germany's second-biggest commercial- property lender, received a 35 billion euro loan guarantee to fend of insolvency. The rescuers of the bank will pay the guarantee cash in two allotments of 14 billion euros and 21 billion euros, a government official said, speaking on terms of anonymity.

Roskilde Bank A/S, the lender bailed out by the Danish central bank because of mortgage writedowns, said today it sold its branches to Nordea Bank AB, Spar Nord Bank A/S and Arbejdernes Landsbank A/S.

Bush Package

Acting in the aftermath of Lehman's collapse and government rescues of American International Group Inc. and mortgage lenders Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, President George W. Bush and congressional leaders said yesterday that they reached agreement on a rescue package aimed at reviving moribund credit markets.

The U.S.'s woes have been transmitted abroad as investors focus on how much capital banks have on hand and as financial companies hoard cash for their own needs, shutting off funding for those whose access to money is limited.

Fortis dropped 35 percent last week in Brussels trading on concern the company would struggle to replenish capital depleted by the 24.2 billion-euro takeover of ABN Amro Holding NV units and credit writedowns.

"Markets thought that they were over-leveraged,'' Dutch central bank governor Nout Wellink said. "What's happening in the U.S. is having an impact on the rest of the world.''

The bailouts add to concern that Europe's patchwork of banking regulations will hinder coordinated response. While European Union officials are drafting legislation aimed at strengthening how large banks are monitored and what capital they must hold, governments have agreed only to knit supervisors closer together and pledged to cooperate in managing a crisis.

Rejecting Paulson Plan

Unwilling to commit taxpayer money up front, they have resisted calls to devise a plan for splitting the bill should a bailout become necessary. German Finance Minister Peer Steinbrueck and France's Christine Lagarde last week rejected a plea from U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson to follow the U.S. in erecting similar bailout mechanisms, arguing their banking systems aren't at risk of a systemic breakdown.

Still, of the $554.3 billion losses and writedowns recorded by banks since the start of 2007, 42 percent are accounted for by European institutions.

Daniel Gros, director of the Brussels-based Center for European Policy Studies, said in a report this month that the largest European banks have a leverage ratio -- which measures shareholders' equity to total assets -- of 35 compared with less than 20 for the biggest U.S. counterparts.

"Europe is under greater pressure to act now as it's still not ready for a major banking crisis and the worst fears of policy makers are coming true,'' said Nicolas Veron, an economist at Bruegel, a Brussels-based research organization.

Source - Bloomberg

Thursday, September 25, 2008


GM's Death Throes

The news coming out of Detroit is getting worse, and unlike in past years, there will be no full recovery. Analysts are betting that General Motors will be forced to take emergency financial measures this year that could hamper its competitiveness for a long time to come.

Here's why the damage is likely to be permanent: The sales slump is digging a far deeper hole than seemed possible just a few months ago. June is shaping up as a full-fledged disaster. Expectations are that U.S. sales of cars and trucks will run at an annual rate of 12.5 million, as compared with 16.3 million last year and 15.2 million for the first quarter of 2008. If you are keeping score at home, those are practically Depression levels. Citibank analyst Itay Michaeli expects that June sales for GM (GM, Fortune 500) and Ford (F, Fortune 500) will be down 28% and 27% respectively. Since truck sales alone are likely to fall much further than that, the impact on profitability will be even greater.

There's a cascading effect that comes from such a punishing decline. With the trade-in value of trucks and SUVs plummeting, the companies are left with huge write-offs on vehicles returning from lease. Meanwhile, repeat customers are being kept out of the market because they don't have enough equity in their old trucks to buy new ones.

As investors have sold off GM stock, they have pushed its market capitalization below $8.5 billion. That's only $1 billion more than Cerberus invested in Chrysler last year. If you valued GM on the terms Chrysler got last year, it implies that investors are getting GM's very profitable Asian and Latin American business for free.

With investor Kirk Kerkorian now holding a stake in the company, Ford at least has a committed investor on its side, which is effectively putting a floor under the price of its stock. There is nobody filling that role at GM

This stunning sales decline means that GM is continuing to burn cash at a fearsome rate - perhaps $1 billion a month by some estimates. Rod Lache of Deutsche Bank figures that GM will consume as much as $19 billion in cash over the next two years. Since it began the second quarter with $23.9 billion on hand and needs $10 billion to $15 billion to keep the lights turned on, that leaves a big hole.

To fill it, GM could follow the Chrysler example and start selling off its non-earning assets like land, empty plants, and even underperforming brands like Hummer and Saab. Or it could follow the example of Ford and borrow against its unencumbered assets like trademarks and real estate. Anybody want to make a guess as to how large a mortgage GM could get on its headquarters in downtown Detroit?

Whatever GM does, it is likely to be expensive. Borrowing $10 billion at around 10% interest would cost it $1 billion a year. Analyst Himanshu Patel of JP Morgan lopped $1.20 per share off his estimate for 2010 earnings to account for the interest payments.

It is also likely to leave GM weaker for the long haul. In order to attract financing, analyst Lache figures that GM will need to develop a comprehensive restructuring plan that would include cutting more overhead and further consolidating its brands.

That will accelerate GM's shrinkage. In May, GM sold only 268,892 vehicles in the U.S., leaving it just a smidgen ahead of Toyota (TM), which sold 257,404. June could see Toyota beating GM out for the title of the number one auto company in the U.S.

In GM history, 1992 is generally considered the worst year of modern times, with multiple plant closings, huge losses and the shunting aside of CEO Robert Stempel. Now it looks like 2008 will have that beat.

As GM continues to slide downhill, there is going to be plenty of finger pointing to identify who is to blame. There is plenty to go around. Some comes from just plain bad decision-making, like the Fiat deal, the Delphi spinoff and the Saab acquisition. But a lot stems from the poor running of the day-to-day automotive business. Every time that gasoline prices have spiked, GM has gotten burned, and its Japanese competitors have out-maneuvered it at every turn: first into small cars, then to crossover vehicles, and now with hybrids and other fuel-saving technologies.

Business historians and plain old second guessers will have a field day.

Source - Fortune

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


Afghanistan Situation "Grim"

A secret US intelligence report which says the political and military situation in Afghanistan is "grim" will be withheld from the public until after the election, a new report says.

Intelligence officials are finishing up the National Intelligence Estimate on Aghanistan, according to ABC's Brian Ross, "but there are 'no plans to declassify' any of it before the election," an official said.

Keeping the intelligence report under wraps would likely help Sen. John McCain (R-AZ). McCain has focused on what he sees as the success of the Iraq "surge," in which the US added troops to lessen violence. Attention to problems in Afghanistan would put the spotlight on President Bush's failures, which might rub off on the Republican presidential nominee.

"According to people who have been briefed, the NIE will paint a 'grim' picture of the situation in Afghanistan, seven years after the US invaded in an effort to dismantle the al Qaeda network and its Taliban protectors," Ross writes.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen told Congress last week the US is struggling to retain control.

"I'm not convinced we're winning it in Afghanistan," he said, adding, "we're running out of time."

"Absent a broader international and interagency approach to the problems there, it is my professional opinion that no amount of troops in no amount of time can ever achieve all the objectives we seek in Afghanistan," he said.

This aligns with the opinions of commanders on the ground. According to a report in Tuesday's Wall Street Journal, the US military expects the Taliban to launch a "winter offensive," which would mean a spike in violence in an area that has, at least for the recent past, been more quiet.

"I do think there will be an increase in violence by the enemy in order to maintain a general sense of insecurity," Brig. Gen. Mark Milley, deputy commander of the U.S. forces in eastern Afghanistan, told the paper. "The winter fighting season this year will be more violent than in previous years."

A spokesperson for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, Vanee Vines, told Ross "it is not the [National Intelligence Director]'s policy to publicly comment on national intelligence products that may or may not be in production."

National Intelligence Director Mike McConnell has said that he doesn't believe intelligence estimates should be made public, though several have recently been released, including one that detailed the US intelligence community's position on Iran's nuclear program.

The National Intelligence Estimate reflects the consensus view of 17 government agencies.

Source - Raw Story

Long Winter

The End Of China

Merrill Lynch has raised its forecasts for contract prices of coal for power plants and steel mills in 2008, predicting that prices will jump by as much as 200 percent, after recent supply disruptions resulted in a severe global shortage.

Contract prices for coking coal, used to make steel, are expected to reach a record high of $300 a tonne, a three-fold rise from an agreed price of $98 last year, amid a "supply apocalypse" following recent weather-related supply disruptions in Australia, Merrill Lynch said in a research note on Friday.

Japanese utilities, such as Chubu Electric Power Co, may need to pay miners in Australia $135 a tonne for coal contracts in fiscal 2008 beginning April, up 143 percent from last year's agreed $55.65, Merrill Lynch said.

Merrill Lynch had previously forecast 2008 thermal coal prices at $80 tonne.

"There is now an obvious scramble for supply with industry sources confirming that Asian steel mills are begging for tonnes at close to any cost," Merrill Lynch said in a report led by Vicky Binns.

"Under current market conditions, spot prices reflect the 'hysteria' of the supply shortage and therefore spot appears a reasonable guide for contract settlement."

Merrill Lynch estimated that recent flooding in Australia's Queensland state to have removed about 15 million tonnes of coking coal from the export market. As for thermal coal, Merrill Lynch said recent supply disruptions from Australia, China and South Africa, combined with powerful Asian demand, would result in supply deficit of a 60 million tonnes for thermal coal this year.

"Thermal coal's already very tight seaborne trade has been devastated by two, simultaneous supply-side shocks in the last 4-8 weeks: widespread destructive winter storms in China prompting a ban on exports and South Africa's power shortages," Merrill Lynch said.

The thermal coal market is expected to be under-supplied for the next three years as key export countries struggle to expand their port facilities, Merrill Lynch said.

Brokerage Goldman Sachs JB Were said in a client note on Wednesday that prices for coking coal and thermal coal were expected to reach $200 a tonne and $130 a tonne, respectively.

Australia is the world's largest exporter of coking coal.

Extreme weather in coal-rich Queensland state in the past two months have prompted six producers, including BHP Billiton Ltd, Rio Tinto Ltd and Xstrata Plc to declare force majeure on shipments.

Source - Reuters [March, 2008]

Monday, September 22, 2008

Para Agua

Secondary Markets Must Die; Globalization Must Die

Those of us who seek to intervene in policy debates in favor of economic justice and environmentally sustainability are regularly assured by the world's power brokers that they are fully committed to these goals so long as economic growth and the expansion of free trade are not compromised by governmental restraints on the market. So sacred have growth and free trade become in our modern culture that only rarely do we find the courage to ask why they should be given precedence over the needs of people and nature. Indeed, why should we consider accelerating growth and trade to be of any importance at all except to the extent that they serve people and nature?

When the proponents of growth, market deregulation, and free trade tout their benefits, it is well to bear in mind what some of the most outspoken of these proponents really have in mind. Take this account from a recent issue of Forbes magazine.

As disillusion with socialism and other forms of statist economics spreads, private, personal initiative is being released to seek its destiny. Wealth, naturally, follows. The two big openings for free enterprise in this decade have come in Latin America and the Far East. Not surprisingly, the biggest clusters of new billionaires on our list have risen from the ferment of these two regions. Eleven new Mexican billionaires in two years, seven more ethnic Chinese.

Taking a slightly more populist view, Business Week presented its own special report titled "A Millionaire a Minute," providing this breathless account of what the free market has accomplished in Asia.

Wealth.. . . Now East Asia is generating its own wealth on a speed and scale that probably is without historical precedent. The number of non-Japanese Asian multimillionaires is expected to double to 800,000 by 1996. . . . East Asia will surpass Japan in purchasing power within a decade. . . . There are new markets for everything from Mercedes Benz cars to Motorola mobile phones to Fidelity mutual funds. . . . To find the nearest precedent, you need to rewind U.S. history 100 years to the days before strong unions, securities watchdogs and antitrust laws.

Neither article made more than passing reference to the 675 million Asians who continue to live in absolute deprivation. So there we have it. In the eyes of two leading business journals, economic success is about creating millionaires and billionaires by denying workers the right to organize independent unions and giving free reign to securities fraud and the extraction of monopoly profits.

Most everyone is aware that we live in an unequal world. Few realize, however, just how extreme the inequality has become or how fast the gap between the poor and the super rich is growing. Forbes tells us the world now has 358 billionaires. Their combined net worth exceeds the combined net worth of the world's poorest 2½ billion people. This is but one manifestation of the extreme economic and social distortions created by the globalized free market economy idealized by business publications such as Forbes and Business Week.

Evidence is mounting that economic growth and free trade are not leading us toward economic justice and environmental sustainability. To the contrary, they are taking us in the direction of increasing economic injustice and environmental unsustainability. The debates over jobs versus the environment miss a basic point. Assuring everyone the means to meet their basic needs and achieving a sustainable balance with the environment are mutually supportive goals. Indeed, there are powerful theoretical arguments why, in a resource scarce world, neither is possible without the other. There is, however, an irreconcilable conflict between the goal of creating economically just and environmentally sustainable societies and embracing sustained economic growth, unregulated markets, and free trade as the organizing principles of public policy. The resulting policies are well suited to producing more millionaires and billionaires. They are ill suited to achieving justice and sustainability.


The world's most powerful instrument of governance is not a government. Nor is it a global corporation. Rather it is a global financial system that is running dangerously out of control.

Each day half a million to a million people--primarily Western Europeans, North Americans, and Japanese--arise as dawn reaches their part of the world, turn on their computers, and leave the real world of people, things, and nature to immerse themselves in playing the world's most lucrative computer game: the money game. As their computers come on line, they enter a world of cyberspace constructed of numbers that represent money and complex rules by which those numbers can be converted into a seemingly infinite variety of financial instruments, each with its own distinctive risks and reproductive qualities. Through their interactions, the players engage in competitive transactions aimed at acquiring for their own accounts the money that other players hold.

Players can also pyramid the amount of money in play by borrowing from one another and bidding up prices. Indeed, the money game players have been so successful in creating play money that for every $1 now circulating in the productive world economy of real goods and services, it is estimated that there is $20 to $50 circulating in the world of pure finance--"investment" funds completely delinked from the creation of real value. In the international currency markets alone, some $800 billion to $1 trillion changes hands each day--unrelated to productive investment or trade in actual goods and services.

Not only is the money game challenging and fun, the play money it generates can be exchanged for real money to buy things from people who work in the real world--lots of things. Unfortunately for the rest of us, though it is played like a game and the transactions involve nothing more than moving numbers from one electronic account to another through a global web of computers, the money game has enormous real consequences. Take the recent Mexican peso crisis as an example.

Mexico became touted as an economic miracle by attracting $70 billion in foreign money over five years with high interest bonds and a super heated stock market. As little as 10 percent of this money went into real investment. Most of it financed consumer imports, capital flight, and debt service payments. It also helped to create 24 Mexican billionaires. The bubble burst in December of 1994 as the hot money flowed out. Mexico's stock market and the value of the peso plummeted. The resulting Mexican austerity measures and a shifting terms of trade between Mexico and the United States resulted in massive job losses on both sides of the border. U.S. president Clinton put together a $50 billion bailout package at taxpayer expense to assure that the Wall Street firms that held Mexican bonds would be repaid. The new link between the dollar and the peso made currency speculators nervous and the value of the dollar fell sharply against the yen. Not a penny of the bailout money went to the 750,000 Mexicans who would be put out of work by government imposed austerity measures or the million Americans expected to lose their jobs to NAFTA by the end of 1995.

These are real world consequences of an out of control financial system in which reckless young traders backed by the massive financial assets of leading private financial institutions send billions of dollars sloshing around the world in a high stacks gambling frenzy with an almost complete absence of oversight.

  • At Kidder Peabody, a major U.S. investment house, a lone trader reported $1.7 trillion in phony trades over a period of 2½ years before his superiors noticed anything amiss. During this period he claimed he had earned the firm $350 million in profits, for which he was rewarded with an $11 million bonus. Only later was it found that he had in fact lost the company $85 million on the few trades he had actually made.
  • In one month a 28 year old trader at Barings bank lost $1.3 billion on bad derivatives bets and forced a venerated 233 year old bank into bankruptcy.

The global financial system is wildly out of control and no one is tending the store.


In a deregulated global market economy global corporations are accountable to only one master, a rogue global financial system with one incessant demand--keep your stock price as high as possible by maximizing short-term returns. One way to do that is to shift as much of the cost of the corporation's operations as possible onto the community. The pressures involved make it almost impossible to manage a corporation in the larger community interest. Indeed, any publicly traded corporation that attempts to manage its assets responsibly will almost certainly be bought out by a corporate raider.

Take the case of Pacific Lumber Company. It pioneered the development of sustainable logging practices on its substantial holdings of ancient redwood timber stands, provided generous benefits to its employees, fully funded its pension fund, and maintained a no lay-offs policy during downturns in the timber market. This made it a good citizen in the local community. It also made it a prime takeover target.

Corporate raider Charles Hurwitz gained control in a hostile takeover. He immediately doubled the cutting rate of the company's holding of thousand-year-old trees, reaming a mile and a half corridor into the middle of the forest that he jeeringly named "Our wildlife-biologist study trail." He then drained $55 million from the company's $93 million pension fund and invested the remaining $38 million in annuities of the Executive Life Insurance Company, which had financed the junk bonds used to make the purchase--and subsequently failed. Turning reality on its head, corporate raiders refer to this process of pirating a firm's assets as "adding value."

Once upon a time local communities looked to corporations not only as sources of jobs, but as well of tax revenues to help cover the costs of essential local infrastructure and public services. For example, in 1957, corporations in the United States provided 45 percent of local property tax revenues. By 1987 their share had dropped to about 16 percent.

Indeed, local governments are now forced by the dynamics of global competition not only to give most large corporations tax breaks, but as well to directly subsidize their operations with public funds.

The state of South Carolina in the United States has been warmly praised by the business press for its successful competitive bid for a new BMW auto plant. The company was attracted in part by cheap, nonunion labor and tax concessions. In addition, when BMW said it favored a 1,000 acre tract on which a large number of middle class homes were already located, the state spent $36.6 million to buy the 140 properties and leased the site back to the company at a $1 a year. The state also picked up the costs of recruiting, screening, and training workers for the new plant, and raised an additional $2.8 million from private sources to send newly hired engineers for training in Germany. The total cost to the South Carolina taxpayers for these and other subsidies to attract BMW will amount to $130 million over thirty years.

This is what global competition is really about--local communities and workers competing against one another to absorb ever more of the production costs of the world's most powerful and profitable corporations.

Another tactic for externalizing costs is through "downsizing"--a process by which the U.S. Fortune 500 companies reduced their total employment by 4.4 million jobs between 1980 and 1993--a period during which their sales increased by 1.4 times, assets increased by 2.3 times, and CEO compensation increased by 6.1 times. Some observers claim that downsizing means the largest corporations are losing out to smaller, more agile and competitive enterprises. The claim has as much substance as the claim by tobacco company executives that cigarettes are not addictive.

While the giants are shedding people, they are not shedding control over money, markets, or technology. The world's 200 largest industrial corporations, which employ only one third of one percent of the world's population, control 25 percent of the world's economic output. The top 300 transnationals, excluding financial institutions, own some 25 percent of the world's productive assets. Of the world's 100 largest economies, 51 are now corporations--not including banking and financial institutions. The combined assets of the world's 50 largest commercial banks and diversified financial companies amount to nearly 60 percent of The Economist's estimate of a $20 trillion global stock of productive capital.

Concentration of control over markets is proceeding apace. The Economist reports that in the consumer durables, automotive, airline, aerospace, electronic components, electrical and electronics, and steel industries the top five firms control more than 50 percent of the global market, placing them clearly in the category of monopolistic industries. In the oil, personal computers and media industries the top five firms control more than 40 percent of sales, which indicates strong monopolistic tendencies.

Downsizing is really about consolidating the firm's monopoly control of markets, technology, and money in a small, well-paid headquarters staff. Everything else is contracted out to smaller firms that are forced into intensive competition for the firm's business. The contractors--commonly located in low wage countries--compete by hiring workers at substandard wages under often appalling working conditions.

For example, the popular Nike athletic shoes that sell for US$73 to $135 around the world are produced by 75,000 workers employed by independent contractors in low income countries. A substantial portion of these workers are in Indonesia--mostly women and girls housed in company barracks, paid as little as 15 cents an hour, and required to work mandatory overtime. Unions are forbidden and strikes are broken up by the military. In 1992, Michael Jordan reportedly received $20 million from the Nike corporation to promote the sale of its shoes, more than the total compensation paid to the Indonesian women who made them.

An unregulated global market is shifting the financial rewards away from those who do productive work to those who control money and are successful at convincing people to buy what they do not need and often cannot afford. This goes to the heart of growing income disparities around the world.

The world's most powerful corporations are also active in shaping public policy in ways that virtually forces us into a pattern of overconsumption that yields large profits to themselves at the expense of our quality of living. Evidence is mounting that to make our societies sustainable we will have to restructure our systems of production and consumption to largely eliminate:

  • Dependence on personal automobiles;
  • Long distance movement of goods and people;
  • The use of chemicals in agriculture; and
  • The generation of garbage that we cannot immediately recycle.

In each instance, we have an opportunity to substantially increase the quality of our living while reducing our burden on the environment. Why aren't we doing it? Who wants to give over their living spaces to automobiles, take long business trips, eat contaminated foods, or live in a garbage dump?

One important reason we live this way is because it is profitable for politically powerful corporations. For example, the steel, automobile, construction, and oil companies have a major stake in policies that make survival without an automobile nearly impossible in most of our towns and cities. Chemical and agribusiness companies have had a similar stake in maintaining chemical and energy intensive agriculture systems that provide us with foods of dubious nutritional value laced with toxic poisons. Other industries benefit from encouraging our use of excessively packaged low durability products. So long as these corporate interests are allowed to dominate public policy processes, change is unlikely. Global civil society is mobilizing to reclaim the power that these interests have co-opted.

Source - ICH


Toxic Fluoride

In many parts of the world the drinking water supply is fluoridated in an attempt to reduce dental cavities in children. Is this state of affairs justified? Is it safe?

Most people are unaware of the dangers of ingesting fluoride. Most dentists, physicians and scientists are unaware of the dangers of fluoride and water fluoridation. According to a 1988 article in the prestigious Chemical and Engineering News, scientific voices of opposition to fluoridation have been suppressed, since 1950 when the U.S. Public Health Service first endorsed fluoridation. Power tactics including threats, ridicule and frank censorship aimed at scientists and clinicians knowledgeable about fluoridation have prevented the truth about fluoride to be disseminated to the science world as well as to the public. Whenever a public agency is charged with objectively evaluating the safety of a procedure while at the same time endorsing and recommending it, a serious conflict of interest is set up. This is exactly the position of the U.S. Public Health Service for the past 44 years.

Facts About Flouride

So, what are some of the facts about fluoride? According to the handbook, Clinical Toxicology of Commercial Products, fluoride is more poisonous than lead and just slightly less poisonous than arsenic. It is a cumulative poison that accumulates in bone over the years. According to the Physicians Desk Reference, "in hypersensitive individuals, fluorides occasionally cause skin eruptions such as atopic dermatitis, eczema, or urticaria. Gastric distress, headache, and weakness have also been reported. These hypersensitive reactions usually disappear promptly after discontinuation of the fluoride."

From 1990 to 1992, the Journal of the American Medical Association published three separate articles linking increased hip fracture rates to fluoride in the water. In the March 22, 1990 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, Mayo Clinic researchers reported that fluoride treatment of osteoporosis increased hip fracture rate and bone fragility.

A study by Procter and Gamble showed that as little as half the amount of fluoride used to fluoridate public water supplies resulted in a sizable and significant increase in genetic damage. Epidemiologic research in the mid-1970's by the late Dr. Dean Burk, head of the cytochemistry division of the National Cancer Institute, indicated that 10,000 or more fluoridation-linked cancer deaths occur yearly in the United States. In 1989, the ability of fluoride to transform normal cells into cancer cells was confirmed by Argonne National Laboratories. Results released in 1989 of studies carried out at the prestigious Batelle Research Institute showed that fluoride was linked to a rare form of liver cancer in mice, oral tumors and cancers in rats, and bone cancer in male rats. Since 1991, the New Jersey Department of Health found that the incidence of osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer, was far higher in young men exposed to fluoridated water as compared to those who were not.

In addition to the well documented toxic effects of fluoride, fluoride even at dosages of 1 part per million, found in artificially fluoridated water, can inhibit enzyme systems, damage the immune system, contribute to calcification of soft tissues, worsen arthritis and, of course, cause dental fluorosis in children. These are unsightly white, yellow or brown spots that are found in teeth exposed to fluoride during childhood. In 1993, the Subcommittee on Health Effects of Ingested Fluoride of the National Research Council admitted that 8% to 51% and sometimes up to 80% of the children living in fluoridated areas have dental fluorosis. Malnourished people, particularly children, usually targeted for fluoridation, are at greater risks to experience fluoride's harmful effects.

Surprisingly, the most recent studies do not even show that water fluoridation is effective in reducing tooth decay. In the largest U.S. study of fluoridation and tooth decay, United States Public Health Service dental records of over 39,000 school children, ages 5-17, from 84 areas around the United States showed that the number of decayed, missing, and filled teeth per child was virtually the same in fluoridated and non-fluoridated areas. Dr. John Colquhoun, former Chief Dental Officer of the Department of Health for Auckland, New Zealand, investigated tooth decay statistics from about 60,000 12 to 13 year old children and showed that fluoridation had no significant effect on tooth decay rate.

Given all of this scientific information, what is behind this push for universal fluoridation? Prior to 1945, fluoride was properly regarded as an environmental pollutant. It was responsible for many lawsuits against industries, such as the aluminum industry and the phosphate fertilizer industry, whose waste products contain large quantities of fluoride. This fluoride destroyed crops and animals, leading to the lawsuits. The limited public view was that fluoride was an environmental pollutant that needed to be reduced or eliminated from the environment.

As a result of clever public relations campaigns, fluoride was transformed from an environmental pollutant to an essential nutrient necessary for producing healthy teeth. The science was poor, but the P.R. campaign was great. Being against fluoride was like being against motherhood or apple pie. Industries not only made millions from selling this environmental pollutant to water companies and toothpaste companies, but more importantly, it saved billions of dollars that would be required to clean up this environmental pollutant.

So, what can you do to protect yourself from fluoride? First, avoid fluoridated water. Much of the metropolitan area, including New York City water is artificially fluoridated. Boiling water removes chlorine, but concentrates fluoride. Water filters do not remove fluoride, unless there is a reverse osmosis component. Children should avoid fluoridated vitamins and fluoride treatments at the dentist. Everyone should avoid fluoridated toothpaste. The concentration of fluoride in water is 1 ppm, in toothpaste 1,000 ppm and in fluoride dental rinses 10,000 ppm. Work on your legislators to get fluoride out of the water supplies.

Source - Health World Online

Sunday, September 21, 2008


Resolution Trust - Mother Of All Scams

In what is both the single most socialist move ever made by the US government, and the biggest robbery of US taxpayer since the creation of the union, the Fed and the Treasury have quickly realized who pays the government and acted quickly to ensure the survival of all the crooks on Wall Street. If anyone was at all confused about the puppet and master relationship between big business and DC, this shocking slight of hand should leave no doubt whatsoever who’s in control.

As my good friends at the Housing Timebomb pointed out, the last time this amazing scam was pulled off was during the savings and loans crisis, and the RTC cost the taxpayer $124.6 billion, or roughly $400 for every person living in the US of A. But this meltdown makes the S&L blip look like the boom era, since we’re already over $10 trillion in the hole, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

What in holy hell is an RTC?

Good question. Here to explain exactly how this awesomely-constructed scam works is sparrowshead with his mad clip art skillz:

  1. So all the banks and big companies that lost money can take all their CDOs, CDSs, subprime stuff and every other shitty investment that backfired, and stuff them into a big trash can euphemistally called a Resolution Trust Corporation. This has two huge advantages - it legally protects them from debt repayment problems and other subtle bankruptcy problems, and it shores up their balance sheets and immediately enables their share price to skyrocket now the debt has gone bye-bye.
  2. Immediately, previously-insolvent investment banks can now go and borrow money and act like this whole business was just a meaningless, forgetful night of snorting coke from a hooker’s ass.
  3. Now the RTC has to be supported by Uncle Sam, who basically has to put the infrastructure budget for - well - pretty much everything on hold and start printing money 24/7.
  4. The great American taxpayer gets left by massive T-bill repayments together with a multi-trillion debt that will take generations to pay off, and the people in investment banks can start buying Ferraris, golf courses and private jets.

Now if I could use an RTC, I’d be happy.

Just to emphasize how glorious this scheme really is, think about it as if an RTC existed for your family. Here’s how it would work for mine:

  1. I dump all my credit card debt, mortgages, car loans, college loans and every other damned rope around my neck and stick it in the RTC.
  2. I go and get new credit cards and start all over again.
  3. My neighbors figure out how to pay off the RTC while I can’t decide on the trim for my new Mercedes.

Moral Hazard

You’ll hear the following phrase repeatedly over the next few weeks from politicians, the Fed, the Treasury and every other scumbag out there: “We had no choice“. Bailout Bernanke has hit the motherload with this one, creating the largest taxpayer liability in the history of the planet. A few years ago, when we worried about our tiny national debt and how it affected the future economic health of the US, nobody would have even conceived of such an unethical, impracticable, socialist, dumb and downright criminal idea, that made that national debt look like an average-sized bar tab.

The frauds involved with the biggest economic con in history have gotten away with it. They have escaped the bankruptcy they created by pumping trillions onto subprime borrowers who were too stupid to realize what they doing, and who trusted lenders whose only motivation was to get them more in debt. The government has simply written a check to these guys to cover their losses so they can start all over again.

Did you vote for this? Were you asked your opinion? Who the fuck hired Bernanke? Who knows, but you were just given the biggest bill you’re ever likely to see in your lifetime. And did I mention that a substantial amount of that money is going to foreign investors who lost money on the subprime scam? Economically, the USA will never recover from this.

Source - Subprime Showtime


Toxic Shampoo

Both Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES) and its close relative Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) are commonly used in many soaps, shampoos, detergents, toothpastes and other products that we expect to "foam up". Both chemicals are very effective foaming agents, chemically known as surfactants.

Unfortunately, both sodium laureth sulfate and its cousin are also very dangerous, highly irritating chemicals. Far from giving "healthy shining hair" and "beautiful skin", soaps and shampoos containing sodium laureth sulfate can lead to direct damage to the hair follicle, skin damage, permanent eye damage in children and even liver toxicity.

Although sodium laureth sulfate is somewhat less irritating than SLS, it cannot be metabolised by the liver and its effects are therefore much longer-lasting. This not only means it stays in the body tissues for longer, but much more precious energy is used getting rid of it.

A report published in the Journal of The American College of Toxicology in 1983 showed that concentrations of SLS as low as 0.5% could cause irritation and concentrations of 10-30% caused skin corrosion and severe irritation. National Institutes of Health "Household Products Directory" of chemical ingredients lists over 80 products that contain SLS and SLES. Some soaps have concentrations of up to 30%, which the ACT report called "highly irritating and dangerous".

Shampoos are among the most frequently reported products to the FDA. Reports include eye irritation, scalp irritation, tangled hair, swelling of the hands, face and arms and split and fuzzy hair. This is highly characteristic of sodium laureth sulfate and almost definitely directly related to its use.

Both SLS and SLES are known to have many effects that can potentially be detrimental to health. Among the possible dangers are the following

* Skin irritation / skin corrosion
* Hormone Imbalance
* Eye irritation / eye deformities in children
* Protein Denaturing
* Carcenogenicity (potential to cause cancer)

The AJT report staes that "Other studies have indicated that Sodium Lauryl Sulfate enters and maintains residual levels in the heart, the liver, the lungs and the brain from skin contact. This poses question of it being a serious potential health threat to its use in shampoos, cleansers, and tooth pastes."

Skin Irritation

SLS is used routinely in clinical studies. This may suggest a level of comfort, however, the way in which it is used is disturbing. Despite being the number one active ingredient in virtually all soaps, shampoos and cleansers, the sole purpose of using SLS in clinical studies is to cause skin irritation that can then be used to identify the properties of other chemicals!

Amazing isn't it? For years, we have been applying known irritants to our skin on a daily basis. To quote the ACT report "The abbreviated symbol for Sodium Lauryl Sulfate is used around the world in clinical studies as a skin irritant. SLS is the universal standard, by which a measured percentage is evaluated to promote a given level of irritation and reaction. By this SLS standard level of irritation, it is then possible to evaluate the healing or modifying characteristics of any ingredient or formula used on the SLS irritated skin."

Most worryingly, irritation has been shown to occur at concentrations of 0.5%, which is 1/60th the concentration found in some hand soaps. Caveat emptor!

Hormone Imbalance

In the last 100 years or so, many new health problems have come to light. These include PMS / PMT, the so-called "menopausal symptoms" which never used to exist, and more recently a massive drop in male fertility which threatens our continued existence in many western countries. SLS is most likely a major contributor to all of these problems due to its oestrogen mimicking activity.

Oestrogen is a hormone found quite normally in both men and women. Like all other hormones, it's circulating levels are rigidly controlled by the glands of the body due to the potent effect of its presence on virtually all cells. Not only does SLS irritate the skin, it is also absorbed through the skin (high levels of skin penetration may occur at even low concentration). Once in the body, the SLS molecule attaches to oestrogen receptors, mimicking the effects of the hormone in various body systems.

The result is hormonal chaos. The body can no longer control it's own oestrogen levels (or at least, what it sees as it's own oestrogen levels - it can't tell the difference between endogenous oestrogen and SLS) and therefore loses control of many normal endocrine (hormonal) functions.

In men, whose oestrogen levels are normally extremely low, this massive increase causes breast enlargement, reduction of male hormone levels and a massive drop in both sperm count and sperm motility (ability of the sperm to fertilise an ovum). Gender confusion may also be related to SLS levels, either in the male himself or in his mother during pregancy.

In women, the reproductive system, which is totally controlled by oestrogen and progesterone, goes haywire. Rapidly shifting oestrogen levels and their effect on progesterone levels mean that the body is totally confused, leading to menstrual problems, menopausal symptoms and potentially infertility. Because this subject is so important, we have devoted a whole section of this site to womens health.

Eye Irritation / eye deformities in children

Have you ever got shampoo in your eyes? Yes, so have I - not pleasant is it? However, the potential effects of SLS on the eye are much more worrying. In animal studies, 10% SLS caused acute corneal damage. However, it is not just direct eye contact that is the problem. According to the American College of Toxicology, "tests show permanent eye damage in young animals from skin contact in non-eye areas".

In other words, because SLS is absorbed through the skin, it can cause PERMANENT eye damage WITHOUT ever directly coming into contact with your eyes. As a result, you would expect that childrens products would be SLS-free. Unfortunately not, most childrens shampoos contain just as much SLS as those for adults.

Thankfully, alternatives DO exist, though you would be hard-pressed to find them in your local chemist or supermarket.

Protein Denaturing

Our cells are made from protein. The development of those cells is strictly regulated by the reproductive processes that are continually at work removing damaged and old cells and replacing them with healthy new ones. Virtually every cell in the body is replaced at least every 7 years.

SLS exerts its effects on proteins by forming a chemical bridge between the fat-soluble and water-soluble parts of the protein moecule. This disrupts the hydrophobic forces needed to maintain the protein structure and the molecule collapses, rendering it useless. This effect is usually irriversible.

The result of this is two-fold. Firstly, existing proteins are damaged, leading to an increase in the amount of healing required by the body. Secondly, new proteins can be damaged and cells disrupted while they are under construction. It is exactly this type of activity that can lead to the early stages of skin cancer.

In the skin, this process can be so severe, that skin layers may separate and inflame due to its (SLS's) protein denaturing properties.


Quite apart from it's potential to cause pre-cancerous conditions by denaturing proteins, the oestrogen mimicking effects of SLS also offers massive potential to cause cancer. It is known that many cancers, not least breast and ovarian cancer are directly related to oestrogen levels, in fact some cancer cells actually secrete their own oestrogen, which contributes to the growth of the tumour.

Clearly, by disrupting normal oestrogen levels AND by causing similar effects at a cellular level as endogenous oestrogen, SLS exhibits MASSIVE potential to both cause and worsen cancerous states. The incidence of breast cancer has increased several-fold in the last 50 years, both in women and in men. Currently, according to the American Cancer Society, men account for approximately 1% of all breast cancer cases. This subject is discussed in more detail in our womens health section.

There is also a third way by which SLS can potentially cause cancer. Carcinogenic nitrates can form in the manufacturing of Sodium Lauryl Sulfate or by its inter-reaction with other nitrogen bearing ingredients within a formulation utilizing this ingredient (many shampoos contain nitrate compounds). A single shampooing can produce more cancer-causing nitrates in the body than eating a pound of bacon, which is VERY high in nitrates!

Whether it is by these means or not, SLS in a known mutagen - it is capable of damaging the genetic material found every cell in your body. As mutagenicity has been strongly linked to cancer, this is a major concern.

Source - Natural Health Information Centre

Friday, September 19, 2008


Switzerland - Epicenter Of Global Corruption

While Swiss citizens still like to believe that their country's foreign reputation is made of chocolate, cheese and the Red Cross, Switzerland is actually best-known as a safe haven for the ill- gotten wealth of elites around the world. The Shah of Iran, Ferdinand Marcos, "Baby Doc" Duvalier, Sese Seko Mobutu and Nicolae Ceaucescu are just a few of the global villains who have hidden their assets in Swiss bank accounts and have cast a dubious light on the mountain republic.

International scrutiny of Switzerland's banking practices is increasing. In 1990, for example, Philippine activists formed a "Swisswatch" group to protest the Swiss courts' uncooperative handling of the Marcos deposits. To the dismay of Swiss authorities and business circles, the activists picketed the Swiss embassy in Manila for weeks and brought the issue to the attention of the international media.

Now, urging their nation to shed its association with the fortunes of deposed dictators, a network of Swiss citizens is pushing for banking law reform to eliminate incentives to relocate flight capital in Switzerland.

Capital flight

"Are Swiss bank accounts only for the very wealthy?" asks an advertisement placed by a Hong Kong-based money analyst in South, a now-defunct magazine once widely read by Third World elites. The answer reads: "Not at all. But they may be one of the reasons why the very wealthy got that way - and stay that way. ... If you're after financial privacy, a Swiss bank account is the world's greatest bargain."

Switzerland today does more foreign private banking than any country in the world - not in per capita, but in absolute, terms. Private banking is the most important service which Switzerland offers to global elites, and arguably its biggest contribution to the impoverishment of the Third World. Given the secretive nature of the business, it is not possible to definitively state the amount of Third World flight capital residing in Swiss bank accounts. Data compiled by the McKinsey consulting firm on the role of the Swiss financial center, however, suggest that private Third World deposits in Swiss bank accounts total roughly 250 to 300 billion Swiss francs. (At present, 1.3 SFr. equals U.S. $1.00.) The Berne Declaration, a non-governmental organization, estimates the inflow of capital flight at 47 million Swiss francs per day.

According to the Economist magazine, "International private banking and tax evasion border on the synonymous." In other words, wealthy private citizens who bring their fortunes to Switzerland will usually not declare these assets to tax authorities. Furthermore, since many countries in the Third World do not allow free export of capital, Third World private deposits are often exported illegally - through private messengers or through illicit business practices such as the underinvoicing of exports or the overinvoicing of imports.

Tax evasion and illegal export of capital are the two most common practices which constitute capital flight. Assuming that the McKinsey studies are correct, approximately one out of every three flight capital dollars from the Third World is handled by Swiss banks. Credit Suisse banker Hans Mast, meanwhile, estimates the Swiss share of worldwide flight capital at 8 to 10 percent.

Banking on reputation

"The police should fulfill their mandate and confiscate unlawfully collected money twice a day," says Hans J. Baer, a well-known Zurich private banker. But let there be no misunderstanding: Baer is referring not to unlawful bank deposits, but to beggars in downtown Zurich. "The beggars and the drug addicts in the middle of the city are a gigantic competitive disadvantage. Our clients notice that Zurich has become less secure and dirtier than any other banking city," he says.

The concerned banker has a point. Heroin addicts in downtown Zurich mar Switzerland's image of financial security which is preferred by wealthy foreign clients. Depositors are attracted to the Swiss financial center because of its social stability, banking know-how, location and legal foundations.

Switzerland's political and social stability is unmatched anywhere in the world. The country is ruled by a coalition government in which all four major national parties, including the Social Democrats, are represented. Since 1959, there has not been a single shift in the party composition of the government. A neutral country, Switzerland has also succeeded in keeping all foreign wars, including both World Wars I and II, outside its borders for almost 200 years. And social unrest is almost unknown. Since the 1930s, business has negotiated agreements with Swiss trade unions that have prevented most strikes. So Swiss banks are probably still the safest place on earth for ill-gotten, or untaxed, dollars.

Swiss banks also benefit from a reputation - built up over more than 200 years - for unique expertise in private banking. Certain banking families in Geneva have personally handled the fortunes of their client families for many generations. Their discretion and security is probably unequaled worldwide.

And these bankers know the business of investing private deposits. Foreign clients walking into a Swiss bank can speak English or Spanish without any problems. Swiss bankers' expertise is complemented by Switzerland's technical infrastructure, ranging from airports to telex communications, which usually run efficiently. And Switzerland's location in the center of Europe allows typcial foreign clients to visit their Swiss bank once a year, on the way to skiing vacations in St. Moritz or Zermatt. This is a comparative advantage with which Luxembourg and other financial centers cannot compete.

Keeping secrets

A legal system which places a premium on banking secrecy is yet another attraction to depositors looking to hide their money. Swiss banking secrecy laws are not stricter than those of their competitors in Austria or Luxemburg - for example, Swiss bankers are required to know their clients, and their Austrian competitors are not. But Switzerland's secrecy rules are more than sufficient to satisfy depositors seeking to conceal their accounts. A few legal clauses play a crucial role in protecting the Swiss banks' interest in the capital flight business:

1. Strong sanctions. Violations of Swiss banking secrecy are punished more severely in Switzerland than in other countries. In practice, however, such violations almost never occur.

2. Aiding and abetting. There are no legal provisions in Switzerland on the handling of flight capital. Instead, a "gentlemen's agreement" monitored by the Federal Banking Commission prohibits banks from actively aiding and abetting capital flight. A Swiss banker is not allowed, for example, to organize a messenger service for private fortunes from, say, Lagos or Manila to Geneva. But the gentlemen's agreement does not prohibit so-called passive aiding and abetting of capital flight. In practice, Swiss bankers are legally allowed to accept foreign deposits even if they know that appropriate taxes have not been paid on them and that they have been exported illegally. As long as the active part in the deal is played by a Hong Kong analyst, by a dubious foundation in offshore Liechtenstein or by a Swiss lawyer, the Swiss banks are not held legally accountable.

3. International legal cooperation. Saudi arms dealer Adnan Kashoggi was brought to trial in New York in 1990 after being arrested in Switzerland and extradited to the United States. Switzerland maintains a good international reputation in relation to extraditions, but a very mediocre one in the case of financial derelicts. In fact, a state judge in Geneva who was supposed to deliver bank documents on Kashoggi's illegal business practices to the New York court simply refused to do so for over seven months. "I would like to send some troops to Geneva to confiscate these documents, but unfortunately I can't," Pierre Schmid, director of the Swiss office of international legal assistance, told Multinational Monitor.

In cases of fraud and corruption, Swiss authorities are slow to accomodate international legal proceedings. Swiss banks and the Marcos family, for example, have been able to block the release of the infamous Marcos deposits to the Philippines for more than six years now. Switzerland does not lend international legal assistance at all in cases of normal capital flight - Swiss law explicitly excludes tax evasion and illegal export of capital from such assistance.

Source - Multinational Monitor