Monday, December 26, 2011
The head of the International Monetary Fund said the world economy was in danger and urged Europeans to speak with one voice on a debt crisis that has rattled the global financial system.
In Nigeria last week, IMF Christine Lagarde said the IMF's 4 percent growth forecast for the world economy in 2012 could be revised downward, but gave no new figure.
"The world economy is in a dangerous situation," she told France's Journal du Dimanche in an interview published on Sunday.
The debt crisis, which continues into 2012 after a European Union summit on December 9 only temporarily calmed markets, "is a crisis of confidence in public debt and in the solidity of the financial system," she said.
European leaders drafted a new treaty for deeper economic integration in the euro zone, but it is not certain that the accord will stem the debt crisis, which began in Greece in 2009, and now threatens France and even economic powerhouse Germany.
"The December 9 summit wasn't detailed enough on financial terms and too complicated on fundamental principles," said Lagarde.
"It would be useful for Europeans to speak with a single voice and announce a simple and detailed timetable," she said. "Investors are waiting for it. Grand principles don't impress."
Part of the problem, she said, has been national calls for protectionism, making it "difficult to put in place international coalition strategies against it."
Lagarde added: "National parliaments grumble at using public money or the guarantee of their state to support other countries. Protectionism is in the debate, and everyone for themselves is winning ground."
She did not specify which countries she was referring to.
Emerging countries, which had been growth engines for the world economy before the crisis, have also been affected, said Lagarde, citing China, Brazil and Russia.
"These countries, which were the engines, will suffer from instability factors," she told the newspaper. (Source/Reuters)
Philipp Bagus, Assistant professor of Economics at Madrid's Universidad Rey Juan Carlos and author of The Tragedy of the Euro, and Alasdair Macleod of the GoldMoney Foundation talk about the eurozone facing the problem that is characterised in the "tragedy of the commons" analogy. Bagus explains this phenomenon by way of an example of overfished and over-exploited oceans due to a lack of property rights on oceans. In Europe, governments run larger deficits than their "competitors" in order to externalise the costs to all users of the currency. Knowing these incentives, the Stability and Growth Pact was put in place as per the early 1990s Maastricht Treaty, capping budget deficits at 3% of GDP and the debt to GDP level at 60%. However there was no enforcement of these rules which is why there have already been more than 80 infringements to this stability pact without any repercussions.
They talk about possible solutions to the euro crisis. Bagus points out that there are basically three different ways to go about it. Firstly, governments could make drastic cuts in public spending and privatise public assets in order to balance their budgets. However, there will be -- and is -- strong political resistance to such proposals. Secondly, the eurozone could disintegrate, driven by a reluctance of German citizens to pay for other countries' expenditures. And lastly, central banks and governments could decide to print their way out of the crisis, leading to high inflation.
Bagus says that as long as the incentive for running deficits exists there won't be an increase in countries' savings rates. Macleod points out that there is great institutional resistance to breaking up the euro. Bagus explains that the official opinion towards the euro is positive in Germany; however the sentiment on the streets looks quiet different. But as long as there is no political party devoted to this issue this mood is not likely to gain traction at least as long as inflation remains moderate.
Amid the ongoing expansion of the money supply and persistent deficits, Bagus can't see the dollar gaining in value over the medium to long term. He also says that ECB policies are a lot more pragmatic than the ones undertaken by the US Federal Reserve. Talking about sound money, Bagus explains different ways to go about its introduction. One way would be to back all the money in existence by gold, adjusting the price of gold accordingly. Another would be to take away legal tender laws and have competing currencies. However this would require the governments to impose dramatic reforms, which is partly why they will oppose such measures. Source
The servers of global intelligence firm Strategic Forecasting have been hacked into, allegedly by the Anonymous group. Some Anonymous members claim responsibility, while the group’s press release denies it.
More than 200 GB of Strafor’s internal data were allegedly lifted from its servers before its network was shut down. Strafor’s web server was offline for some 40 minutes, during which the company sent notifications of the security breach to its clients.
"We have reason to believe that the names of our corporate subscribers have been posted on other web sites," Strafor’s statement said. "We are diligently investigating the extent to which subscriber information may have been obtained."
While some alleged members of Anonymous claim to have released a cache of information containing private correspondences and credit card data obtained in the breach, a press release from the group says the hack was not its work.
“Stratfor is an open-source intelligence agency, publishing daily reports on data collected from the open Internet. Hackers claiming to be Anonymous have distorted this truth in order to further their hidden agenda, and some Anons have taken the bait,” the Anonymous statement reads, also insisting that it does not attack media sources. “As a media source, Stratfor's work is protected by the freedom of press, a principle which Anonymous values greatly,” the press release stated.
One of the alleged hackers tweeted that the goal of the operation was to use the financial data to steal money and give it away as Christmas donations. "Over 90,000 Credit cards from LEA, journalists, the intelligence community and whitehats have been leaked and used for over a million dollars in donations," the tweet said.
A number of large corporations and government agencies rank among Strategic Forecasting's clients. The firm provides strategic intelligence on global business and economic, security and geopolitical affairs.
Anonymous posted a link to what is believed to be a complete list of Stratfor’s clients. The United States Air Force, Goldman Sachs, and financial broker MF Global were all included on the list.
Stratfor's website was down on Sunday, with a banner telling visitors it was "currently undergoing maintenance." Source
The Private Global Power Elite embedded in major governments is dead set on imposing World Government on us sooner rather than later. Let’s look at 12 mega-processes – veritable “Triggers” – that we infer they are using to achieve their goals.
All roads lead to World Government. This should come as no surprise. London’s Financial Times openly articulated this view in an article by their chief foreign affairs commentator, Gideon Rachman, published on 8 December 2009, whose title said it all: “And Now for a World Government.” These goals are echoed by the Trilateral Commission, CFR and Bilderberg insiders – even by the Vatican.
Macro-managing planet Earth is no easy matter. It requires strategic and tactical planning by a vast think-tank network allied to major elite universities whereby armies of academics, operators, lobbyists, media players and government officers interface, all abundantly financed by the global corporate and banking superstructure.
They do this holistically, knowing that they operate on different stages moving at very different speeds:
- Financial Triggers move at lightning speed thanks to electronic information technology that can make or break markets, currencies and entire countries in just hours or days;
- Economic Triggers move slower: manufacturing cars, aircraft, food, clothes, building plants and houses takes months;
- Political Triggers tied to the “democratic system” put politicians in power for several years;
- Cultural Triggers require entire generations to implement; this is where PsyWar has reached unprecedented “heights”. Read the full story/source
- By Adrian Salbuchi, a political analyst, author, speaker and radio/TV commentator in Argentina. www.asalbuchi.com.ar
True, they’re doing it from behind the ropeline, in front of friendly crowds at industry conferences and country clubs, meaning they don’t have to look the rest of America in the eye when they call us all imbeciles and complain that they shouldn’t have to apologize for being so successful.
But while they haven’t yet deigned to talk to protesting America face to face, they are willing to scribble out some complaints on notes and send them downstairs on silver trays. Courtesy of a remarkable story by Max Abelson at Bloomberg, we now get to hear some of those choice comments.
Home Depot co-founder Bernard Marcus, for instance, is not worried about OWS:
“Who gives a crap about some imbecile?” Marcus said. “Are you kidding me?”
Former New York gurbernatorial candidate Tom Golisano, the billionaire owner of the billing firm Paychex, offered his wisdom while his half-his-age tennis champion girlfriend hung on his arm:
“If I hear a politician use the term ‘paying your fair share’ one more time, I’m going to vomit,” said Golisano, who turned 70 last month, celebrating the birthday with girlfriend Monica Seles, the former tennis star who won nine Grand Slam singles titles.
Then there’s Leon Cooperman, the former chief of Goldman Sachs’s money-management unit, who said he was urged to speak out by his fellow golfers. His message was a version of Wall Street’s increasingly popular If-you-people-want-a-job, then-you’ll-shut-the-fuck-up rhetorical line:
Cooperman, 68, said in an interview that he can’t walk through the dining room of St. Andrews Country Club in Boca Raton, Florida, without being thanked for speaking up. At least four people expressed their gratitude on Dec. 5 while he was eating an egg-white omelet, he said.“You’ll get more out of me,” the billionaire said, “if you treat me with respect.”
Finally, there is this from Blackstone CEO Steven Schwartzman:
Asked if he were willing to pay more taxes in a Nov. 30 interview with Bloomberg Television, Blackstone Group LP CEO Stephen Schwarzman spoke about lower-income U.S. families who pay no income tax.“You have to have skin in the game,” said Schwarzman, 64. “I’m not saying how much people should do. But we should all be part of the system.”
There are obviously a great many things that one could say about this remarkable collection of quotes. One could even, if one wanted, simply savor them alone, without commentary, like lumps of fresh caviar, or raw oysters. Full story/source
Hackers with the loose-knit movement "Anonymous" have claimed to have stolen a raft of emails and credit card data from US-based security think tank Stratfor, promising it was just the start of a weeklong, Christmas-inspired assault on a long list of targets.
One alleged hacker said the goal was to use the credit data to steal a million dollars – including, apparently, from individuals' accounts – and give the money away as Christmas donations. Images posted online claimed to show the receipts.
A Twitter account tied to Anonymous posted a link to what they said was Stratfor's tightly-guarded, confidential client list. Among those on the list: The US Army, the US Air Force and the Miami Police Department.
The rest of the list, which the hacking movement said was a small slice of its 200 gigabytes worth of plunder, included banks, law enforcement agencies, defence contractors and technology firms such as Apple and Microsoft.
"Not so private and secret anymore?" the group taunted in a message on the microblogging site.
Austin, Texas-based Stratfor provides political, economic and military analysis to help clients reduce risk, according to a description on its YouTube page. It charges subscribers for its reports and analysis, delivered through the web, emails and videos.
Lt Col John Dorrian, public affairs officer for the Air Force, said that "for obvious reasons" the Air Force doesn't discuss specific vulnerabilities, threats or responses to them.
"The Air Force will continue to monitor the situation and, as always, take appropriate action as necessary to protect Air Force networks and information," he said in an email.
Miami Police Department spokesman Sgt Freddie Cruz junior said that he could not confirm that the agency was a client of Stratfor, and he said he had not received any information about any security breach involving the police department.
Anonymous said it was able to get the credit details in part because Stratfor didn't bother encrypting them – an easy-to-avoid blunder which, if true, would be a major embarrassment for any security-related company.
Hours after publishing what it claimed was Stratfor's client list, Anonymous tweeted a link to encrypted files online. It said the files contained 4,000 credit cards, passwords and home addresses belonging to individuals on the think tank's private client list.
It also linked to images online that it suggested were receipts for charitable donations made by the group manipulating the credit card data it stole.
"Thank you! Defense Intelligence Agency," read the text above one image that appeared to show a transaction summary indicating that an agency employee's information was used to donate $250 to a non-profit.
One receipt – to the American Red Cross – had Allen Barr's name on it.
Barr, of Austin, Texas, recently retired from the Texas Department of Banking and said he discovered last Friday that a total of $700 had been spent from his account. Barr, who has spent more than a decade dealing with cybercrime at banks, said five transactions were made in total.
"It was all charities, the Red Cross, CARE, Save the Children. So when the credit card company called my wife she wasn't sure whether I was just donating," said Barr, who wasn't aware until a reporter with the AP called that his information had been compromised when Stratfor's computers were hacked.
"It made me feel terrible. It made my wife feel terrible. We had to close the account."
Stratfor said in an email to members that it had suspended its servers and email after learning that its website had been hacked.
"We have reason to believe that the names of our corporate subscribers have been posted on other web sites," said the email, passed on to The Associated Press by subscribers. "We are diligently investigating the extent to which subscriber information may have been obtained."
The email, signed by Stratfor Chief Executive George Friedman, said the company is "working closely with law enforcement to identify who is behind the breach."
"Stratfor's relationship with its members and, in particular, the confidentiality of their subscriber information, are very important to Stratfor and me," Mr Friedman wrote.
Repeated calls to Stratfor went unanswered and an answering machine thanked callers for contacting the "No 1 source for global intelligence." Stratfor's website was down, with a banner saying "site is currently undergoing maintenance."
Wishing everyone a "Merry LulzXMas" – a nod to its spin-off hacking group Lulz Security – Anonymous also posted a link on Twitter to a site containing the email, phone number and credit number of a US Homeland Security employee.
The employee, Cody Sultenfuss, said he had no warning before his details were posted.
"They took money I did not have," he told The Associated Press in a series of emails, which did not specify the amount taken. "I think why me? I am not rich."
One member of the hacking group, who uses the handle AnonymousAbu on Twitter, claimed that more than 90,000 credit cards from law enforcement, the intelligence community and journalists – "corporate/exec accounts of people like Fox" news – had been hacked and used to "steal a million dollars" and make donations.
It was impossible to verify where credit card details were used. Fox News was not on the excerpted list of Stratfor members posted online, but other media organisations including MSNBC and Al Jazeera English appeared in the file.
Anonymous warned it has "enough targets lined up to extend the fun fun fun of LulzXmas through the entire next week."
The group has previously claimed responsibility for attacks on companies such as Visa, MasterCard and PayPal, as well as others in the music industry and the Church of Scientology.
So basically, if you’ve had a stressful day and don’t have a credit card, you're done for. This suggestion, and many others, has been sent out to hotels across the United States as part of the DHS’ ongoing “See something, Say something” program. It even includes an 84-page manual, grandly titled, “Protective Measures Guide for the US Lodging Industry” – which points out that asking for privacy, among other things, is a red flag.
And that’s really what this boils down to: a war on privacy. A potential terrorist, argue the US security agencies, is much easier to track if he uses a credit card. Credit card use provides Big Brother instant access to the buyer's contact information, purchase history – and, if need be, the ability to cut off his financial supply in an instant. But the implementation of this idea is a rather grim prospect: instead of using an existing system to aid their efforts, agencies like the DHS and the FBI are effectively taking away the freedom of choice guaranteed in a supposedly free country.
Don’t want to live on credit? Potential terrorist. Nervous? Potential terrorist. Don’t want to be disturbed? Potential terrorist. And it gets worse. In an FBI pamphlet distributed to military surplus stores, people who “make bulk purchases of items including weatherproofed ammunition or match containers, meals ready to eat or night vision devices including flashlights” should be reported. Because all those things are “potential indicators of terrorist activities.”
FBI Handout Lists Purchase of Preparedness Items as “Potential Indicators of Terrorist Activities” (image from www.oathkeepers.org)
Of course, people who, say, want to go camping, can make do without any of the aforementioned items. They can just take their credit cards, march right into the woods and make do that way. Or better yet, take the card, leave the woods and check into a hotel – smiling all the way, never locking the door and burning the “do not disturb” sign immediately upon arrival.
The helpful Bureau booklet also mentions “purchasing bipods or tripods for rifles” as dangerous. Not the rifles themselves – what’s a lethal weapon between friends, right? No, in a country where almost anyone anywhere can buy firearms, people only worry when you buy a tripod for it.
And the absurdity doesn’t end there. The agencies are going out of their way to instill fear into whoever they can, convincing them to report anything they deem suspicious. Of course, that includes sending a text message discreetly if you’re in public. An unsuspicious, law-abiding citizen would obviously have to read his private messages or broadcast his phone calls out loud to be considered above-board. If he's whispering into his handset, however, the DHS is relying on its “citizen spies” to pounce and denounce the poor guy.
Right-wing political tendencies can also land you in trouble. Vice President Joe Biden recently likened Tea Party supporters to terrorists. But go too far left – and you’re right back where you started, with the whole might of the American security system breathing down your neck. If you align yourself with the 99% of the Occupy movement, you’re not above suspicion either. Stories of undercover officers infiltrating various ‘Occupy’ camps across the country have been rife, CIA involvement has been hinted at – and the US’ biggest ally, the United Kingdom, has officially equated the protesters to terrorists.
Add to this:
- Being a veteran. Not that America has that many veterans, of course, having been recent history's most peace-loving, non-invading, unbiased country.
- Owning a gun. Of course, not only is it legal to own a gun, most people in the country know full well how to use one.
- Owning precious metals. Because the dollar is worth so much nowadays, the government thinks there's something kooky about people wanting to invest in something other than US Treasury paper.
And then, of course, there are SOPA and PIPA. They might sound like a couple of cute cartoon names, but the two bills – the Stop Online Piracy and Protect IP Acts – have caused huge concern in the States. Internet giants such as Google, Yahoo, and Twitter likened the act to Chinese-style censorship. There’s also the infamous NDAA – or National Defense Authorization Act, which basically allows indefinite detention of terror suspects, including American citizens. And if you look at what makes a potential suspect, you can pretty much expect to be waterboarded every time you answer your phone. Or buy too much food. Or a flashlight. The irony of all this, of course, is that while the various agencies spin their citizen-spy web, they’re overlooking the obvious. What they’re doing is in conflict with the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights. But hey, undermining a country’s founding document is nowhere near as bad as paying cash, right? Source