25 Nov 2011

Return of Debtors Prison: Collection Agencies Now Want Deadbeats Arrested

As if life wasn't already tense enough for Americans who can't pay their debts, collection agencies are now taking advantage of archaic state laws to have some debtors arrested and sent to jail.
More than one-third of US states allow debtors to be arrested and jailed, says Jessica Silver-Greenberg in the Wall Street Journal.
Judges typically grant arrest warrants when the debtors have failed to show up for court dates or failed to make court-ordered payments.
Of course, the reason debtors have failed to make court-ordered payments is often the same reason they didn't pay their debts in the first place: They don't have any money.
In September, a 53 year-old woman named Vivian Joy was stopped for a broken tail-light in Champaign, Illinois. And then, because the cops discovered that she still hadn't paid $2,200 to a collection agency, she was cuffed and carted off to jail.
Joy's excuse?
She doesn't have any money.
Jailing debtors for not paying their debts is apparently especially popular in Illinois.
(This practice, needless to say, is preposterous. If people can't pay their debts and have no prospect of being able to pay their debts, they should declare bankruptcy. And the debts should be written off. Companies don't go to jail when they default. Neither should people.) Source

A New Cold War - Nuke carrier leads US strike force into Syria waters

It's thought the U.S. has redeployed its newest aircraft carrier from the Persian Gulf to the Syrian coast. Washington is also urging American citizens to leave Syria immediately. Patrick Henningsen, a political analyst from America's 'Infowar.com' online magazine, says we are seeing initial steps of a repeat of what we saw in Libya. Source

Asia pollution blamed for halt in warming: study

Smoke belching from Asia's rapidly growing economies is largely responsible for a halt in global warming in the decade after 1998 because of sulphur's cooling effect, even though greenhouse gas emissions soared, a U.S. study said on MondayThe paper raised the prospect of more rapid, pent-up climate change when emerging economies eventually crack down on pollution.

World temperatures did not rise from 1998 to 2008, while manmade emissions of carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuel grew by nearly a third, various data show. The researchers from Boston and Harvard Universities and Finland's University of Turku said pollution, and specifically sulphur emissions, from coal-fueled growth in Asia was responsible for the cooling effect. Sulphur allows water drops or aerosols to form, creating hazy clouds which reflect sunlight back into space.

"Anthropogenic activities that warm and cool the planet largely cancel after 1998, which allows natural variables to play a more significant role," the paper said. Natural cooling effects included a declining solar cycle after 2002, meaning the sun's output fell. The study said that the halt in warming had fueled doubts about anthropogenic climate change, where scientists say manmade greenhouse gas emissions are heating the Earth.

"It has been unclear why global surface temperatures did not rise between 1998 and 2008," said the study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States.

A peak in temperatures in 1998 coincided with a strong El Nino weather event, a natural shift which brings warm waters to the surface of the Pacific Ocean every few years. Subsequent years have still included nine of the top 10 hottest years on record, while the U.N. World Meteorological Organization said 2010 was tied for the record. A U.N. panel of climate scientists said in 2007 that it was 90 percent certain that humankind was causing global warming.


Sulphur aerosols may remain in the atmosphere for several years, meaning their cooling effect will gradually abate once smokestack industries clean up. The study echoed a similar explanation for reduced warming between the 1940s and 1970s, blamed on sulphur emissions before Western economies cleaned up largely to combat acid rain.

"The post 1970 period of warming, which constitutes a significant portion of the increase in global surface temperature since the mid 20th century, is driven by efforts to reduce air pollution," it said.

Sulphur emissions are linked to coal consumption which in China grew more than 100 percent in the decade to 2008, or nearly three times the rate of the previous 10 years, according to data from the energy firm BP. Source

Cops bust open face of Black Friday grandpa

Black Friday turned into Red Friday for Jerald Newman, 54, who was out on Thanksgiving evening shopping with his grandson. Consumers prepped themselves for long lines in retail shops, but Newman didn’t think he’d have to brave for a police assault. Newman was shopping at a Wal-Mart store in Buckeye, Arizona late Thursday night along with thousands of other Americans who congregate to celebrate consumerism in a post-holiday bargain hunting binge called Black Friday. Newman says he became overwhelmed by the crowds at the Wal-Mart he was shopping at, so he attempted to lift his grandkid into the air to avoid a mob of violent shoppers. To free his hands, Newman says he placed a video game into his waistband and tried to launch the youngster out of the crowd. Police suspected the man of shoplifting, however, and took him down. Hard.
Cell phone cameras began rolling shortly after a police officer swept the legs of Newman, dropping the man to the ground, where he promptly hit the concrete floor of the shopping center face-first. As he laid motionless and silent, cops mounted the man while a pool of blood began to spill out into the store. Source

Venezuela Gets First Shipment Of Physical Gold Today

Venezuela Gets First Shipment Of Physical Gold Today

Tyler Durden's picture

Back in August, the news that Venezuela ruler Hugo Chavez had decided to repatriate his gold from London vaults made headlines and was one of the key catalysts sending gold to its all time highs north of $1900/oz. Since then the story died down with no updates. Until today: Bloomberg has reported that Venezuela will receive the first shipment of gold reserves being repatriated from U.S., Canadian and European banks today. "Chavez, speaking on state television, said that the bars will be escorted to vaults in Venezuela s central bank by the military after arriving by air to the South American country. The gold that was over there in England will soon be arriving,  said Chavez.  The opposition says that I'll put the gold in the presidential palace or give it away to Cuba or something. This gold is going back to where it should have never left -- to the Central Bank of Venezuela. Chavez, a former paratrooper and self-professed socialist, in August ordered the central bank to repatriate $11 billion of gold as a safeguard against volatility in financial markets." Will Chavez demonstrate phenomenal foresight having collected his gold just months ahead of Europe falling into the abyss of a toxic debt spiral or were his worries unfounded? It remains to be seen. However, he will probably sleep sounder knowing that his gold is no longer in the vaults of the LBMA, HSBC, or several hundred feet under the New York Fed. That is, of course, if the "presidential palace or Cuba or something" ends up having real 999 gold, and not just several blocks of Tungsten with a pretty plating on top.

MF Global - No Indictment For Corzine - Trends In The News

UK Banks Brace for Eurozone Break-Up; Eurogeddon and the Death of a Currency

There are several good articles in The Telegraph today. Let's take a close look at two of them.

The Death of a Currency 

Jeremy Warner writes Death Of A Currency As Eurogeddon Approaches
The market is starting to bet on what was previously a minority view - a complete collapse, or break-up, of the euro. Up until the past few days, it has remained just about possible to go along with the idea that ultimately Germany would bow to pressure and do whatever might be required to save the single currency.
The prevailing view was that the German Chancellor didn't really mean what she was saying, or was only saying it to placate German voters. When finally she came to peer over the precipice, she would retreat from her hard line position and compromise. Self interest alone would force Germany to act.

But there comes a point in every crisis where the consensus suddenly shatters. That's what has just occurred, and with good reason. In recent days, it has become plain as a pike staff that the lady's not for turning.

All of a sudden, the pound is the European default asset of choice.

What we are witnessing is awesome stuff – the death throes of a currency. And not just any old currency either, but what when it was launched was confidently expected to take its place alongside the dollar as one of the world's major reserve currencies. That promise today looks to be in ruins.
Contingency planning is in progress throughout Europe. From the UK Treasury on Whitehall to the architectural monstrosity of the Bundesbank in Frankfurt, everyone is desperately trying to figure out precisely how bad the consequences might be.

What they are preparing for is the biggest mass default in history. There's no orderly way of doing this. European finance and trade is too far integrated to allow for an easy unwinding of contracts. It's going to be anarchy.

UK Banks Brace for Eurozone Break-Up
Garry White quotes Andrew Bailey, a top UK regulator who says "UK Banks Must Brace Themselves For Euro Break-Up"

Andrew Bailey, deputy head of the Prudential Business Unit at the Financial Services Authority (FSA), noted that British banks are not heavily exposed to the eurozone, but said they must prepare for some countries to exit the single currency – or a complete break up.

"We cannot be, and are not, complacent on this front," Mr Bailey said. "As you would expect, as supervisors we are very keen to see the banks plan for any disorderly consequence of the euro area crisis.

"Good risk management means planning for unlikely but severe scenarios and this means that we must not ignore the prospect of a disorderly departure of some countries from the eurozone.

"I offer no view on whether it will happen, but it must be within the realm of contingency planning," he added. Failure to plan for the exit of a country from the euro would be "unsound risk management", Mr Bailey said.

Last week, Japanese bank Nomura said a euro break-up is a "very real risk" and advised bond holders to check whether they are likely to be repaid in other, reinstated European currencies if the euro crumbles.

Disorderly Death
Read that last paragraph above closely. The death of the Euro could be very disorderly. 

It would be far better for Germany and other states against ECB printing to leave rather than suffer the consequences of a breakup fueled by Greece, Spain, and Portugal leaving.
If France wants to print (Sarkozy is committed to the Euro and to printing), then France can stay in. Will Sarkozy survive the next French election?

The next election may be moot. Things are unraveling far faster than I expected. The market is going to force some major action in days, not months.

"Plan C" Germany Exits the Euro
Several times recently I have linked to a discussion by Michael Pettis and Hans-Olaf Henkel (the former head of the Federation of German Industries), regarding "Plan C" a Eurozone breakup with Germany leaving instead of Greece, Spain, and Portugal leaving. 

It is well worth another look. Please see Eurozone Breakup Logistics (Never Believe Anything Until It's Officially Denied) for a lengthy discussion.
Interestingly, Hans-Olaf Henkel was an early supporter of the euro but now says "I now consider my engagement to be the biggest professional mistake I ever made."

Steen Jakobsen is still sticking with his European "bank holiday" idea detailed in Perfect Storm The Most Likely Scenario; Is Europe Set To Declare A Chapter 11 In Early 2012? 

If by some miracle the can is to be kicked farther down the road, it better happen soon. Promises to agree to agree will not work. Time is up.
Mike "Mish" Shedlock http://globaleconomicanalysis.blogspot.com

Banned neuro-toxic nerve gas 'poisons' Tahrir

A banned chemical agent has reportedly been used by the Egyptian military as the brutal crackdown against tens of thousands of protesters has clouded prospects of a democratic transfer in the country.
After almost a week of protests against the ruling military junta left some 41 people dead, several sources claim scores have died from gas asphyxiation, while thousands more have received medical treatment after possibly being exposed to an agent known as CR gas.
Rashes, epileptic-type convulsions, temporary blindness and coughing up blood are among the symptoms being reported by Egyptian protesters who have fallen victim to a potentially lethal form of neuro-toxic nerve gas reportedly being deployed by security forces. ''It is some kind of neuro-toxic nerve gas,” doctor Mohamed Aden told , who usually works at the Cairo University hospitals, told the Australian daily, The Age. ''We are seeing people whose upper respiratory tract is in convulsion – we have to give them diazepam to relax the muscles to allow them to begin to breathe again.''CR gas, which is up to 10 times more powerful than tear gas which is commonly used today, is no longer used by the United States due to its carcinogenic properties.  The US military has categorized it as a combat-class chemical agent.   

CR gas was used in the townships during anti-apartheid protests in South Africa in the 1980s, and Irish Republicans also claimed British security forces had used it against Republican detainees.   
After a truce between the Egyptian military and demonstrators ushered in a nervous calm across the deeply shaken city on Thursday, the army which was once lauded for its role in toppling the regime of Hosni Mubarak is now widely believed to have turned against the Egyptian people.
Reacting to the increasingly militarized response of the security forces, former IAEA official and Egyptian presidential hopeful Mohammed El Baradei wrote via twitter “Tear gas with nerve agent & live ammunition being used against civilians in Tahrir. A massacre is taking place.”

Some 40 people have also been treated for ruptured eyes after being shot with rubber bullets. With such reports of widespread brutality increasingly galvanizing protesters, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces has promised to hasten the end of military rule, with a full transition to civilian government promised by June 2012. However, with parliamentary elections scheduled to proceed on Monday, the military’s decision on Friday to appoint septuagenarian Kamal Ganzourito to lead a national salvation government has the city once again bracing for chaos on “Martyr’s Friday.” Source RT

Mystery Gas Used Against Protesters in Tahrir Square
Made in the USA
Warning GraphicDead Bodies in Zenhom Morgue
The Egyptian military has been using a banned chemical agent to deal with hundreds of thousands of protesters, according to several news sources.
Dozens of Egyptians have died and more than thousands have succumbed to a lethal gas military forces have been using during the past three days in clashes in and around Cairo’s Tahrir 

Occupy Plans Zombie Christmas Shop Shock

It ain’t called Black Friday for nothing: every day after Thanksgiving, the leftovers haven’t gone cold yet, but crowds are already charging to start the year’s biggest event – Christmas shopping. But this year, Occupy Wall Street could change that.
From Chicago to Seattle, Occupy Xmas is calling on fellow-protesters to gather outside major shopping venues and protest consumerism, which takes on elements of religious fanaticism this time of year.
From marching on Wal-Mart Stores Inc. supercenters, to organizing sit-ins at malls and cutting up credit cards, activists are trying to remind people what the holiday is really about – and what it should NOT be.
Consumer overconsumption has gotten us into this mess and the economic crisis to begin with. The work we’re trying to do is to get people to care about the country, to get us focused on how we can redirect our resources,” Chicago Tribute quotes spokeswoman for OWS, Dana Balitki.
To warn of the dangers of obsessive buying, protesters in Idaho are planning on dressing up as… what else? zombies.
In Chicago, Christmas carols will take on socio-political undertones, as protesters sing about the evils of consumer society – and offer a solution, all that to music.
Occupy Xmas is not just about shredding your credit cards, however.
Nor is it about buying no presents whatsoever – after all, many have kids and loved ones, who hope to get a little special something this year under their Christmas tree, many admit on the Occupy Seattle internet forum.
Some of the ideas to battle buying frenzy this year include exchanging items at special booths, buying only locally-produced goods, and making something with one’s own hands.
The full list of suggestions can be seen on the Occupy Xmas website.
But the media aren’t picking up the “it’s about caring, not about the gifts” attitude of Occupy Xmas movement.
CBS Seattle already led the news story under the headline “Occupy Seattle Protests Could Interfere With Tree Lighting Ceremony,” implying that Occupy’s emphasis on caring rather than cash may put a damper on holiday revelers.
Boycotting the post-Thanksgiving shopping jitter is nothing new. The Adbusters group, who have been battling conspicuous consumption long before OWS got its kick-start, established Buy Nothing Day 20 years ago. Ironically, the 20th anniversary just happens to fall in the midst of the Occupy Wall Street move, prompting hopes that this time, many more people will buy much less. Source

Greg Palast: Creating a Progressive America

UK "Abolition of credit creation by private banks" e-petition

Abolition of credit creation 

by private banks

Responsible department: Her Majesty's Treasury
To remove the power of credit creation from private banks and place it in the hands of either the Treasury or the Crown so that all credit for public spending shall be issued debt-free, and if necessary for Britain to withdraw from the Treaty of Maastricht with particular reference to Article 104(1) and its prohibition of debt-free government credit creation.

GB readers – make this go viral!

Syria & Libya NGOs Weapons Parallels TNC Leadership all Abroad + Lizzie Phelan Update

Moeen has visited Libya many times and works with charity organisations. He chronicles some of their dirty deeds.
TNC Leadership cannot remain in Tripoli, because of BelHaj's Alqaeda, and they're not even safe in Benghazi - So they are to be found in Malta or Turkey!
There will be a major battle in Tripoli in the next few weeks. And that is why there is a news blackout.
Additional: Will Zintan rebels go Green? - Lizzie Phelan

Rebel Arts: Occupy Seek Studio Space

Art has always flourished on the fertile ground of protest and revolution so it’s perhaps no surprise that Occupy Wall Street art and culture activists are looking to get their own permanent art space.
Artists form one of the largest groups within the movement and have been behind most of Occupy Wall Street’s creative posters, puppets and related artwork. They now want to find a multi-functional space for studio work, concerts, performances, exhibitions, film screenings, art classes for children and much more, the Art Newspaper reports.
Art produced and inspired by the protesters and their ideas has already featured in several exhibitions held in public galleries. However as the powers that be are constantly suppressing the movement, finding a haven from harassment is a logical move.
The group’s expectations are also quite high and they have not yet found a suitable option. 

There are some great precedents here in New York of art spaces emerging from protest. We're trying to learn about those, and reach out to the folks who helped establish them for inspiration and guidance,”
 Paul McLean, a member of the arts and culture committee, told the Art Newspaper.
The Arts and Culture committee of the New York City General Assembly, the name given to the New York branch of Occupy, is planning on using shared office space on Wall Street with other Occupy groups.
Another offer has come from the Hyperallergic arts blog, which has put forward the option of borrowing space in its Brooklyn offices. Source

How dangerous is pepper spray?

Studies suggest the use of pepper spray on peaceful protesters, such as the UC Davis students, is likely to make them more violent

The controversy of the policing of student protests at University of California, Davis, has highlighted one of the more sinister trends in recent protests: the liberal or even enthusiastic use of weapons like pepper spray to force protestors to bend to the will of the police, even in the absence of any obvious violence or threat.

I was stunned and appalled by the UC Davis Police spraying protestors, and struck by how many brave, curious people recorded the events. I took the four clearest videos and synchronized them. Citizen journalism FTW. Sources below.
briocloud, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K8Uj1cV97XQ
jamiehall1615, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wuWEx6Cfn-I
OperationLeakS, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BjnR7xET7Uo
asucd, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6AdDLhPwpp4
The fog of protest can all-too-easily obscure the truth of what happens, but in the era of Twitter and YouTube we can see a protester's-eye view of the action for perhaps the first time in history. What we're seeing does not show the police in a good light.
The term "pepper spray" is grossly misleading. It conjures up images of chopping onions, or going to the bathroom after handling chillies without properly washing your hands first.
For some Republican Congressmen it may suggest a healthy portion of vegetables packed into a convenient dispenser, like a sort of gaseous pizza.
In reality, calling the weapon used against UC Davis students pepper spray is like saying that Goldfinger threatened James Bond's crotch with a laser pointer. Deborah Blum has written a great article about this over at Scientific American (worth reading in full), in which she points out that at roughly 5.3m Scoville units – around a thousand times more potent than Jalepeno peppers – the spray carried by law enforcement officers is a "potent blast of chemistry."
In history it has been used as a form of torture, and many would argue that its use in recent times carries similar intentions – not a way to preserve peace, but a means to break up peaceful protests .

So how safe is pepper spray, and is it being used appropriately? Like all supposedly non-lethal weapons, pepper spray has risks, and in some cases it can lead to fatalities, as even the Department of Justice admits(pdf). Reliably assessing that risk turns out to be quite difficult, though.

Of course we know that any use of pepper spray can involve pain, discomfort, temporary blindness and respiratory issues, but statistics from the field seem to be thin on the ground. At UC Davis 11 students were treated by paramedics while two were hospitalized.

How many of those sprayed away from a friendly campus receive comparable treatment, and who is counting them?

Deaths involving the police can result from a complex combination of causes. By 1995 the ACLU in Southern California had identified 26 deaths connected with pepper spray use in 30 months (pdf).

A more recent North Carolina study cited by the DoJ looked at 63 deaths in custody (pdf), and suggested two may be partly attributable to the weapon. In both of those cases the victims were asthmatic, as were some of the more seriously affected students at UC Davis.

Capsaicin, the active ingredient in these sprays, is known to cause distress to the lungs and airways. Clearly, certain groups will be at much greater risk from its use, but again there seems to have been no real effort to quantify this risk.

Of course, risks have to be weighed against benefits, and risks can be reduced with good training and tactics. It's here that perhaps the biggest failings have occurred, as research from street trials in the Netherlands backs up (here and here.

As you might expect, the Dutch studies that pepper spray helped to subdue aggressive suspects, but when it was used against those who were already peaceful – like the students at UC Davis – it made them aggressive. If the Dutch findings are right, police officers wading into a peaceful protest and spraying people are more likely to cause violence than to stop it; use of pepper spray in these kinds of situations isn't just excessive and unfair, but also stupid.

“Listen, guys. I’m just gonna sit here until we can work this system out so it benefits everybody, not just the fat catsAAAUUAUAUAUAGAGAGGAGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHHH

And while the benefits of sprays in the right situations were clear, controlling officers once they had these weapons proved to be difficult. Across the forces studied, some 6% to 15% of uses of pepper spray were against suspects that posed no threat to either officers or civilians. Often suspects were sprayed from too close a distance or for too long.

Worryingly, an "unknown number" of officers took to carrying their sprays while off duty. Research into pepper sprays has tended to focus on their health effects, but perhaps it should also look at its impact on the psychology of the officers carrying them.

It would clearly be preferable if the police didn't have to carry pepper spray, but there are doubtless times when its use is appropriate. The issue here isn't whether the police should ever use pepper spray; it's why they chose to use it in this instance, at a peaceful campus protest.

It's understandable that police responding to a protest want to be ready for any eventuality – if you want peace, prepare for war – but it seems the officers didn't just turn up at UC Davis prepared for a fight, they came looking for one. That made them dangerous with or without pepper spray. Source

Man-made super-flu could kill half humanity

A virus with the potential to kill up to half the world’s population has been made in a lab. Now academics and bioterrorism experts are arguing over whether to publish the recipe, and whether the research should have been done in the first place.
The virus is an H5N1 bird flu strain which was genetically altered to become much more contagious. It was created byRon Fouchier of the Erasmus Medical Centre in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, who first presented his work to the public at an influenza conference in Malta in September.
Fouchier said the strain circulates in animals, particularly birds, but rarely affects humans. 
In the ten or so years since bird flu first emerged in Asia, fewer than 600 cases have been reported in humans. But the H5N1 strain is particularly vicious, killing roughly half of patients diagnosed with it. What stops it from becoming a major threat to public health is that it does not readily transmit from human to human. Or at least it didn’t – until now.
Researchers in Fouchier’s team used ferrets – test animals which closely mimic the human response to influenza – and transmitted H5N1 from one to another to make it more adaptable to new hosts. After 10 generations, the virus had mutated to become airborne, which means ferrets became ill from merely being near other diseased animals.
A genetic study showed that the new, dangerous strain had only five mutations compared to the original one, and all of them were earlier seen in the natural environment – just not all at once. Fouchier’s strain is as contagious as the human seasonal flu, which kills tens of thousands of people each year, but is likely to cause many more fatalities if released.

"I can't think of another pathogenic organism that is as scary as this one,"
 Paul Keim, a microbial geneticist who has worked on anthrax for many years, told Science Insider. "I don't think anthrax is scary at all compared to this."
Now Keim, who chairs the US National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB), and other members of the body, have a very difficult decision to make. Fouchier wants his study to be published. So does virologist Yoshihiro Kawaoka, who led similar research in collaboration with the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and the University of Tokyo, and reached comparable results. And it is up to NSABB to give them the green light.
Many academics and biosecurity experts are naturally cautious about releasing information which could provide any bioterrorist with a ready recipe to hold the world to ransom. Some argue that such work should never have been done in the first place and call for international monitoring of potentially harmful research.
"It's just a bad idea for scientists to turn a lethal virus into a lethal and highly contagious virus. And it's a second bad idea for them to publish how they did it so others can copy it," believes Dr. Thomas Inglesby, a bioterrorism expert and director of the Center for Biosecurity of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.
However the very same data, if made available to the scientific community, could potentially allow humanity to prepare for an H5N1 pandemic, which Fouchier’s study has shown to be far more probable than was previously believed. Clamping down on freedom of information in the scientific domain may in the end leave us defenseless against the flu, should it arise naturally.
NSABB plans to issue a public statement soon, says Keim, and is likely to issue additional recommendations about this type of research. "We'll have a lot to say," he says. Source