Friday, March 15, 2013

Today's links

1--Middle East in turmoil 10 years after Iraq invasion that officials said would bring peace, MCclatchy

2---Government Transparency Hits Record Low, zero hedge

3--Congress to vote on Monsanto Protection Act, RT-

“The provision would strip federal courts of the authority to halt the sale and planting of an illegal, potentially hazardous GE crop while the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) assesses those potential hazards,” explains a letter to the House that has been signed by dozens of food businesses and retailers, as well as interest groups and agencies representing family farmers. “Further, it would compel USDA to allow continued planting of that same crop upon request, even if in the course of its assessment the Department finds that it poses previously unrecognized risks

4---NATO's unwinnable war in Afghanistan, RT

NATO troops in Afghanistan have unsuccessfully tried to impose a foreign ideology in a war unwinnable by military means, the UK military has said. The planned 2014 pullout is expected to leave Kabul unable to survive the Taliban onslaught.

The Afghan mission of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), now in its 12th year, closely resembles the failed Soviet occupation of the country, a damning British internal report argued. The document was prepared in November last year by a British Ministry of Defense think tank and obtained by the Independent newspaper under the Freedom of Information Act.

“The highest-level parallel is that both campaigns were conceived with the aim of imposing an ideology foreign to the Afghan people: The Soviets hoped to establish a Communist state while NATO wished to build a democracy,” the document said.“Equally striking is that both abandoned their central aim once they realized that the war was unwinnable in military terms and that support of the population was essential.”

Both occupying forces found it difficult to deal with insurgencies they overwhelmed militarily, the report said: “The military parallels are equally striking; the 40th Army was unable decisively to defeat the mujahedin while facing no existential threat itself, a situation that precisely echoes the predicament of ISAF. Neither campaign established control over the country’s borders and the insurgents’ safe havens; both were unable to protect the rural population...

Both interventions have been portrayed as foreign invasions attempting to support a corrupt and unpopular central government against a local insurgent movement which has popular support, strong religious motivation and safe havens abroad,” it said.“In addition, the country will again be left with a severely damaged and very weak economic base, heavily dependent upon external aid

5---The Collapse of the Housing Bubble Was Great News for Young People, CEPR

The NYT had an interesting piece on new research from the Urban Institute showing that young people are faring very poorly in the economy. In presenting the list of problems facing young workers it included the collapse of the housing bubble.

In fact this was great news for young people in terms of their ability to buy homes. (The impact on the economy was of course devastating.) Since the overwhelming majority of young workers were not homeowners prior to the collapse of the bubble, the drop in prices means that they can buy a home for close to 30 percent less than what they would have paid 6 or 7 years ago. This is effectively a transfer of tens of thousands of dollars from older generations to the young. This is very good news for them.

6---Consumer prices post largest increase in nearly four years, Reuters

Consumer prices recorded their largest increase in nearly four years in February as the cost of gasoline surged, but there was little sign of a broad pickup in inflation to trouble the Federal Reserve.

7---Economy still not growing Trimtabs

Whatever estimate for inflation you want to use, nominal growth of just over 2 percent translates into an economy that is not growing in real terms. Anybody surprised by that? You should be if you watch the stock market and listen to those who are fully invested “talking their book” that higher stock prices mean that the U.S. economy is recovering.

By the way, “talking their book” is an old Wall Street term for those touting whatever they own, regardless of the truth.

As I have been saying all year, the reality is that stocks have neared all time highs for just two reasons. The first and most important is that the Federal Reserve has been consistently debasing the currency by creating $4 billion of new money via computer keystrokes each and every day and some of that money has been increasing the demand for equities.

The second reason why stocks are so high is that companies have accumulated a huge cash hoard earning nothing sitting on balance sheets. That’s why companies are using some of that cash to shrink the number of shares outstanding.

So we have more money chasing fewer shares. The end result is that stock prices go up. So what if the U.S. economy is not growing?

8---Uptick in foreclosures, CNBC

In California, foreclosures slowed dramatically last year due to a new law designed to protect homeowners, the California Homeowner Bill of Rights, and due to the $25 billion National Mortgage Settlement with mortgage servicers over so-called "robo-signing" foreclosure paperwork fraud. In February, new foreclosure starts jumped 41 percent, the first gain since July of 2012.
While the percentage jump is large, in a twist, some argue the foreclosure delays still persist and are hurting the recovery.
"While policy makers state that the purpose of government intervention is to help homeowners by delaying foreclosures, instead they have created an artificial shortage in bank-owned inventory (REO). The combination of the decline in REO inventory and lack of motivated sellers has left the California real estate market with an acute lack of inventory, which is putting upward pressure on prices," say analysts at ForeclosureRadar.
While price gains help recovery, if they happen too fast, they price would-be buyers and investors out of the market, which slows sales again. Price recovery has many believing that housing is suddenly not just back on its feet again, but surging ahead—much of the price recovery is based on lack of inventory of homes for sale, which in turn is due to foreclosure delays, which as we now see, can turn very quickly

9--Bankistan Vanquishes America, Big Picture

10--The crimes of the big banks, washington's blog
You Won’t Believe What They’ve Done …
Here are just some of the improprieties by big banks:
  • Engaging in mafia-style big-rigging fraud against local governments.
11---Detroit becomes first US city in new Banktatorship, wsws

Exhibiting the ruthlessness that is a hallmark of American capitalism, the ruling class, in the pursuit of its program of social counterrevolution, is dispensing with the trappings of democracy and imposing a bankers’ dictatorship over the city.

12--US sequester cuts target jobs, vital social services, wsws

While Medicaid, Social Security, welfare and food stamps are exempt from the sequester, cuts to other vital social programs benefiting working people and the poor will be devastating. Federal agencies and programs supported by them will be forced to lay off and furlough workers and cut back on the services they provide.

The White House has estimated that 750,000 workers will lose their jobs as a result of the sequester, although other projections range anywhere from 250,000 jobs lost, up to as many as 2 million. Economic forecasters predict that it will shave 0.6 percentage points from gross domestic product for the year, contributing not only to job cuts, but also to reduced consumption and a slowdown in job creation....

Low-income families will see deep cuts to programs that provide nutrition, housing and other needs. As many as 775,000 women, infants and children could be cut off from WIC, the supplemental nutrition program that provides food and baby formula for at-risk families.

The Meals On Wheels Association of America, an umbrella group of about 5
,000 local organizations that distributes about a million hot meals a day, estimates that the mandated cuts will result in 19 million fewer meals being delivered. For many housebound individuals, the majority of them elderly, Meals On Wheels provides their major source of nutrition as well as one of their only points of contact with others in the community.

The Health Resources and Service Administration (HRSA) disbursed $7 billion to the states in 2011 to pay for maternal and children’s health programs. HRSA’s budget will see a $365 million reduction due to sequestration, cutting funds for screening newborns for genetic conditions, immunizing children, tobacco cessation programs for pregnant women, and other services.

Mental Health Block Grants distributed by the federal government through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration will lose $168 million. Joel Miller of the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors told Pew Charitable Trusts that “373 adults with serious mental health issues and children with serious behavioral and emotional illnesses” could lose critical services.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will see a $303 million reduction in funding. CDC funds comprise about 40 percent of state public health budgets. The cutbacks will hamper efforts to detect and fight new infectious diseases, while reducing the ability to screen for diseases such as HIV/AIDS.

A $1.5 billion cut to the National Institute of Health’s budget will contribute to slowing or shutting down research centers across the country, as well as cutting jobs at these institutions.
Funding to the Indian Health Service will be reduced by $198 million due to the automatic cuts, leading to a potential decrease of 3,000 in-patient admissions and 804,000 outpatient visits at tribal hospitals and clinics.

13---New Pope Tied to Argentina’s Dirty War, global research

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