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Monday, June 13, 2011

Rare footage: 2011 Bilderbergers mountain walk

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New Zealand quake caught on tape

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Fukushima radiation 1000 times over normal outside no-go zone

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Israel Radio Reported Sunday that The United States gave Netanyahu an ultimatum on renewing negotiations with the Palestinians.

According to the ultimatum, Netanyahu has to decide within a month whether he agrees to accept US President Obama’s proposal and resume talks based on 1967 lines.

Washington is pressuring Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to accede to its proposal to resume Israeli-Palestinian peace talks on the basis of U.S. President Barack Obama’s May 19 speech.

An Israeli source who spoke recently with senior officials in Washington said the Americans were very frustrated with Netanyahu’s behavior, feeling that he was impeding America’s efforts to keep the Palestinians from unilaterally seeking UN recognition of a state in September.

Netanyahu’s personal envoy, Isaac Molho, spent last week in Washington, where the Americans presented their proposal for resuming talks on the basis of Obama’s speech. Specifically, Obama’s plan calls for negotiating over borders and security first, while deferring issues such as Jerusalem and the refugees until later. It also calls for the borders to be based on the 1967 lines, with mutually agreed land swaps.

The Americans told Molho that to block European initiatives such as France’s proposal for an international peace conference in Paris, they must have something concrete to offer, like Netanyahu‘s agreement to negotiate on the basis of Obama’s speech.

The U.S. proposal was also given to chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, who said the Palestinians would resume talks on this basis.

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SKorea: NKorea may have miniaturized nuke warhead

N. Korea, China break ground on economic zone

SEOUL, South Korea – North Korea may be able to load a nuclear warhead atop a missile, though South Korea has no substantive evidence the North has the technology to do it, Seoul's defense chief said Monday.

North Korea conducted two nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009 and is thought to have enough plutonium for at least a half-dozen weapons. But experts doubt whether the North has mastered the miniaturization technology to mount a nuclear warhead on a missile.

Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin told a parliamentary committee there is a "possibility" the North may have developed such a miniaturized nuclear warhead.

"I judge it's time for it to have succeeded in miniaturization," Kim said, according to a National Assembly-run webcast. "Considerable time has passed (since the two nuclear tests). Looking at other countries' cases, there is a possibility the North may have succeeded."

Kim, who was answering a lawmaker's question, said his belief is just an "assumption" and South Korea has not acquired any intelligence supporting it.

Kim also told lawmakers he believes the North's short-range missile launch two weeks ago was a test of a rocket with improved range and accuracy. "I think the North succeeded in that test," he said.

Earlier Monday, Kim's ministry submitted to the parliamentary committee a report saying North Korea has been conducting naval infiltration drills off its east and western coasts in recent days. "Chances for surprise attacks ... are increasing," Kim said, according to his office.

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Greek debt default would be catastrophe, says Papandreou

GREEK Prime Minister George Papandreou, buffeted by negative polls and continuing protests at economic austerity measures, says he will continue with policies aimed at drastically cutting the country's debt and says the alternative - a default - would be a catastrophe.

"We have taken a decision, that no Greeks should live through the consequences of a default, and to change the country radically so that it is no longer under anyone's supervision and can stand on its own feet," Mr Papandreou said in an interview with Sunday newspaper To Vima.

"Never in my life did I imagine that we would need to slash pensions in order for the state to continue to pay any pensions at all," he added. "We chose the least painful of two options: one (is) difficult, the other - defaulting - is catastrophic."

On Friday, the government unveiled an austerity program running through 2015, aiming to save around €28 billion ($38.42bn). The measures will slap a host of new taxes on austerity-weary Greeks - in spite of previous pledges to avoid more blanket tax increases.

Mr Papandreou faces continued protests and dwindling support in opinion polls. More than 10,000 gathered yesterday afternoon at Syntagma Square in central Athens, while a poll published overnight shows the ruling Socialists trailing the conservative opposition by 4 per cent.

A poll conducted monthly by research company Public Issue and published yesterday in newspaper Kathimerini shows the ruling socialists trailing opposition New Democracy 31 per cent to 27 per cent, while only 8 per cent of respondents say they are satisfied with the government, versus 92 per cent dissatisfied.



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Fed prepares for last spurt of easy money flood

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The flood of Federal Reserve money that has supported Wall Street and the rest of the U.S. economy for 2-1/2 years will shrink to a trickle with the conclusion of the Fed’s bond purchases announced on Friday.

The Fed said it will buy US$50-billion of Treasuries, the final series of government bond purchases that marks the last phase of the US$600-billion program it launched in November 2010 to prevent another recession.

As a result, once the purchases are concluded on June 30, the financial sector will receive only a fraction of the roughly $100 billion a month in easy money it has been getting from the Fed.

The conclusion of the Fed’s bond-buying program, known as “Quantitative Easing 2,” does not mean the stimulus will come to a complete stop. The Fed will reinvest maturing securities, mainly mortgage-related debt, which analysts predict will run at $12 billion to $16 billion per month.

While still a lot of money, it is a huge step down from stimulus levels at the height of the buying campaign, dubbed by markets as QE2 because it was the second round of Fed asset-buying in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis.

A key aim of QE2 was to hold down long-term interest rates to stimulate investment in capital equipment and risky assets. It came almost eight months after the Fed’s first round of bond purchases, primarily in mortgage-related securities.

The initial bout of quantitative easing, worth $1.73 trillion, began in December 2008 and ended in March 2010. It was created to stabilize the housing sector, which was the epicenter of the financial turmoil and has yet to show signs of recovery.

The Treasury bond component of the first round of purchases totaled $300 billion, from March to October 2009.

The Fed’s buying assets has been controversial from the start. Critics say it is tantamount to printing money, and it has been credited with fueling a stock market rally but blamed for a surge in oil and food prices.

The end of QE2 has been well-flagged. The Fed said at the outset it would run until the end of June 2011.

Still, investors expect stocks, bonds, gold and the euro to fall after it ends, according to a Reuters poll of 64 analysts and fund managers last month.

Thomson Reuters 2011

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Russia expresses concern over U.S. warship Black Sea visit

The Russian Foreign Ministry

Russia's Foreign Ministry voiced concerns on Sunday over the entry of a U.S. guided missile cruiser into the Black Sea for naval exercises with Ukraine.

The Monterrey cruiser equipped with the AEGIS air defense system is taking part in the joint Ukrainian-U.S. naval exercises, Sea Breeze 2011.

"While leaving aside the unsettled issue of a possible European missile shield architecture, Russia would like to know, in compliance with the Russia-NATO Lisbon summit decisions, what 'aggravation' the U.S. command meant by moving the basic strike unit of the regional missile defense grouping being formed by NATO in the region, from the Mediterranean to the east," the ministry said in a statement.

According to the ministry's statement, Monterrey was sent to European waters as part of the U.S. administration's phased adaptive approach to building the European segment of the global missile shield. The program's first stage envisages the deployment of a group of U.S. warships in the Adriatic, Aegean and Mediterranean Seas to protect South Europe from possible missile strikes.

The U.S. says the warships can move to the Black Sea only in case of aggravation of the situation in the region.

"If this is an ordinary visit, then it is unclear why a warship with this type of armament was chosen to move to this quite sensitive region," the statement said.

The role of the U.S. warship's missiles in the Sea Breeze 2011 anti-piracy exercises is also unclear, the statement said.

Russia has said on many occasions that it will perceive the appearance of U.S. strategic infrastructure elements close to its borders as a threat to its security.

"We have to state that our concerns continue to be ignored and under the guise of talks on European missile shield cooperation, efforts are under way to build the missile shield configuration whose consequences are dangerous and about which we have numerously informed our U.S. and NATO partners," the statement said.


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US defence chief: Europe may no longer be worth defending

BRUSSELS / EUOBSERVER - Under pressure to cut its military spending, the US is losing patience with Europe's unwillingness to pay for its own defence, outgoing US defence minister Robert Gates said Friday (10 June) in an unusually 'blunt' speech in Brussels, casting doubt over the very survival of Nato.

On his last trip to Europe before retiring on 30 June, Gates - who has served as defence minister both in the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations - allowed himself "to speak bluntly" during a conference organised by the Security and Defence Agenda, a Brussels-based think tank.

Looking first at Afghanistan, he noted that the operation got bogged down in national caveats which hampered the range of actions European soldiers were allowed to do - a hint at Germany's restrictions on its troops to use lethal force, which meant that they could not be deployed in combat against the Taliban.

As for troop withdrawal, with the Netherlands suddenly pulling out after a government was forced to resign last year over the Afghan war, Gates said: "We cannot afford to have some troop-contributing nations to pull out their forces on their own timeline in a way that undermines the mission and increases risks to other allies. The way ahead in Afghanistan is 'in together, out together'."

Nato's flagship mission in Afghanistan has also "exposed significant shortcomings" in the military alliance - both concerning capabilities and "political will."

"Despite more than 2 million troops in uniform – not counting the US military – Nato has struggled, at times desperately, to sustain a deployment of 25,000 to 40,000 troops, not just in boots on the ground, but in crucial support assets such as helicopters, transport aircraft, maintenance, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, and much more," Gates said.

When it comes to the more recent mission in Libya, similar shortcomings made it "painfully clear" that they can undermine the success of a campaign that has broad political support, no troops on the ground and is "a mission in Europe's neighbourhood deemed to be in Europe's vital interest."
"While every alliance member voted for the Libya mission, less than half have participated at all, and fewer than a third have been willing to participate in the strike mission. Frankly, many of those allies sitting on the sidelines do so not because they do not want to participate, but simply because they can't. The military capabilities simply aren't there."

Powerful earthquakes have again rocked Canterbury on Monday, causing injury and damage.

Monday's quakes have caused more buildings to collapse.

Two people are in Christchurch Hospital with serious injuries, while another 44 were treated at the emergency department and discharged, a spokesperson for the Canterbury District Health Board said.

Power has been cut to thousands of households and some are without water, roads and bridges have been damaged, and there is flooding and more liquefaction.

The strongest quake, measuring 6.0 at 2.20pm, was felt widely in the region and occurred 10km southeast of Christchurch at a depth of 9km.

The tremors began at 7.37am and continued throughout the day, including a short, sharp 5.5-magnitude jolt at 1pm, which was felt in other parts of the South Island from Hokitika to Dunedin.

Canterbury has been hit by strong earthquakes since 4 September last year when a magnitude 7 quake occurred, followed by the 6.3 quake on 22 February which killed 181 people and caused severe damage to central Christchurch.

Some buildings already damaged in the February quake and due for demolition collapsed on Monday.

Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority demolition manager Warwick Isaacs estimates that up to 50 city centre buildings were damaged or have collapsed.

Christchurch Cathedral suffered further damage, while the tower of the historic Timeball Station in Lyttelton has collapsed.

The quake caused extensive damage in the hill suburbs of Sumner and Redcliffs, bringing down large boulders and forcing people to leave their homes.

An extra 140 police remain in Christchurch from throughout the country following the February quake and will patrol the city and provide information to welfare services.

Police have warned people not to try and take advantage of the quakes to commit crime in the central city, as judges are taking these matters very seriously.

The Fire Service has stood down Urban Search and Rescue Teams but expected a number of callouts for assistance with liquefaction, flooding, burst pipes and possible gas leaks.

Schools and early childhood centres have been strongly advised by the Ministry of Education to stay closed on Tuesday.

Christchurch mayor Bob Parker concedes the latest tremors may be enough for more residents to join those who have already relocated to other cities in New Zealand and Australia.

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America Should Have Been Downgraded Years Ago.

They should have been downgraded years ago. The rating agencies have gotten it wrong for 10-15 years now. America is bankrupt. What are they talking about? - in Economic Times

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UN report: Iran accelerating development of long-range missiles

iran missile - AP - April 18 2011

Monitors sent to various countries uncover and document unauthorized activity by Iranian officials.

A report by a panel of experts convened by the United Nations reveals that over the past year Iran has stepped up the pace of its efforts to develop long-range missiles.

The report by the panel, which was convened a year ago after the UN Security Council imposed stiffer sanctions against Iran in an effort to halt the Iranian nuclear program, has not been officially released. In a campaign led by the United States, the United Nations has shown concern over Iran's development of medium- and long-range missiles in addition to the nuclear program itself. Iran's efforts to develop missiles have therefore been monitored along with Iranian weapons-smuggling operations.
In developing its findings, the UN panel of experts relied on information provided by member nations of the Security Council as well as monitors sent to various countries where unauthorized Iranian activity has been uncovered, plus additional input from outside experts.