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Monday, July 18, 2011

Iran tells Christian pastor: recant or face execution

WASHINGTON (BP)--Iranian pastor Yousef Nadarkhani faces execution unless he renounces his faith in Christ, a written verdict from the country's supreme court has confirmed.

Baptist Press reported July 8 that Christians in Iran were challenging news reports that Nadarkhani's death penalty had been annulled. The Christian Solidarity Worldwide human rights organization reported July 14 that the court's written verdict had been released, confirming that Nadarkhani faces execution unless he renounces his faith.

The original verdict on charges of apostasy was based on "fatwas" by Iran's most powerful religious leaders -- Ayatollahs Khomeini, Khamenei and Makarem Shirazi -- meaning the Supreme Court may have been reluctant to overturn the verdict for fear of inviting controversy, CSW advocacy director Andrew Johnston said in a press statement.

Following reports of the verdict, the U.S. State Department issued a statement expressing "dismay" over the situation, according to Fox News. Human rights advocates, however, say apostasy isn't even identified as a crime under Iranian law.

"From a human rights perspective, you can't criminalize someone's choice of religion, much less execute them for that," Hadi Ghaemi, executive director of the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, told Fox News.

Other religious groups also face persecution for their beliefs in Iran, the State Department pointed out. Seven Baha'i leaders have been sentenced to 20 years in prison for practicing their faith, and hundreds of members of Islam's Sufi sect have been flogged in public because of their beliefs. Iran has been fairly tolerant of the country's Armenian and Assyrian Christian groups, which date from the early days of Christianity, but Muslims who profess faith in Christ have been pressured.

Nadarkhani was arrested in October 2009 while attempting to register his church. His arrest is believed to have been due to his questioning of the Muslim monopoly on the religious instruction of children in Iran, according to news reports. He initially was charged with protesting; however, the charges against him were later changed to apostasy and evangelizing Muslims.

Johnston said Christian Solidarity Worldwide is urging "the Iranian regime to respect the stipulations of international treaties to which it is party, including the International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights, which guarantees freedom of religion and freedom to change one's religion or belief.... The international community must act urgently to press Iran to ensure ... that Pastor Nadarkhani in particular is acquitted of a charge that is not in fact recognized under Iranian civil law."

Baptist Press


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Heat Wave Continues Throughout Midwest as Temperatures Climb

As temperatures climbed into the 90s Sunday in Steele, N.D., a small window air conditioner in Paul and Betty Smokov's ranch home just couldn't keep up.

"It's 82 in the house," Betty Smokov said. "The heat is really oppressive and sticky."

That observation could be made anywhere in the central U.S. Heat advisories and warnings were in place in 17 states, from Texas to Michigan, as temperatures and humidity combined to make being outside uncomfortable for millions. One National Weather Service forecaster called the heat wave "unrelenting" and said sweaty residents shouldn't expect any relief soon: A so-called "heat dome" over the region isn't moving much.

"The trend is not our friend right now," said Daryl Williams, a forecaster in Norman.

In Oklahoma City, forecasters expected another day of 100-degree heat Sunday, which would be the 27th day this year the city has reached 100 or above. The city is on pace to break its record for such days -- 50 set in 1980 -- with triple-digit heat possible through September.

It's even worse in western Oklahoma, where temperatures at 110 or above have been common in recent weeks. In Enid, asphalt at a major intersection along U.S. Highway 412 buckled Saturday night from the intense heat.

Justin Tinder of Weatherford and his family visited the Oklahoma City Zoo on Sunday, arriving at 9 a.m.

"By noon, we were headed out," Tinder said. "It was too hot for us to stand much longer. We decided to check it in and go find some air conditioning."

In Chicago, city officials said a half-dozen cooling centers would remain open this week, as temperatures as high as 105 were forecast in Illinois.

Cooling centers also were open in Detroit to help residents who don't have air conditioning at home. Others were heading toward water for relief, including 65-year-old welder Marcellus Washington, who wore a floppy cloth fishing hat and sunglasses as he walked through a park on the Detroit River that marks the border with Canada.

"A day like this, you can't beat it," Washington said. "It's a heavenly day. It's God's weather."

Others who had to be outside in the heat took precautions. North Dakota National Guard Capt. Dan Murphy said several hundred soldiers deployed for flood-fighting efforts in the Dakotas were required to take mandatory rest breaks in the shade.

"It's hot in those vests and uniforms," Murphy said. "These are soldiers. They can't just strip down to T-shirts and shorts."

Officials at the Cornhusker State Games, an amateur sports festival in Nebraska, had crews bring extra water and ice for participants.

"It takes a physical toll on anyone out there," said the event's executive director, Dave Minarik.

Dwight Anderson, the owner of an Omaha, Neb., amusement park, had two tons of ice cubes dumped in the park's swimming pools Friday night to lower the water temperature from 88 degrees to 82. Anderson said he plans to dump more ice into the Fun Plex pools on Monday night or Tuesday morning.

The Schwan's USA Cup youth soccer tournament in Blaine, Minn., suspended play for a time Sunday because of heat indexes that soared to 110 degrees. Tournament spokesman Barclay Kruse said organizers wanted to avoid any heat-related health issues before they developed.

Police said heat may have played a role in the death of a 55-year-old man at a homeless camp in Springfield, Mo., on Saturday. Police found him in a small tent after others at the camp raised alarm. An autopsy is scheduled for Monday.

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/us/2011/07/17/heat-wave-continues-throughout-midwest-as-temperatures-climb/#ixzz1STCZXA6R

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Site of Lithuanian 'Holy Ark' Found

An Aron Kodesh (illustrative)

Restoration work in the old Jewish Quarter of Vilnius, Lithuania led to an emotional discovery last week – the finding of the site of the Aron Kodesh (Holy Ark) of the Great Synagogue of Vilnius, a five-story structure that sat at the heart of what was known in pre-Holocaust days, as “the Jerusalem of Lithuania.”

“We now have the precise spot where the holiest part of the synagogue stood,” said project head Emmanuel Zingeris, speaking to Lubavitch.com.

Lithuanian Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius visited the site Friday. “For us it is very important to bring back an authentic part of Lithuanian history which included the history of the Jewish community,” he said. The Great Synagogue “is a powerful symbol of both a great Jewish heritage, a great tragedy when the entire Jewish community was destroyed, and it is a very powerful symbol for the Jewishfuture”.
Lithuanians were willing participants in Nazi genocide of Jews, and began murdering and torturing Jews in the street months before the Nazis arrived, claiming that the Jews sided with the much-hated Russians in the war (understandable, if true, since the choice was between Russia and Nazi Germany). There are those who say that every step in LIthuania is a step on Jewish blood. The many forest pits containing tens of thousands of bodies of Jews are easily found, but the country did not prosecute any of its citizens for acts of genocide.

Arutz Sheva


7,500 earthquakes hit shattered New Zealand city

CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand (AP) — It's been 10 months since the first big earthquake struck New Zealand's second-largest city. It's been nearly five months since a far more devastating one killed 181 people and crippled the downtown. But it's been just a few hours since yet another aftershock startled Christchurch residents during the night.

"I stop breathing," said Sheridan Cattermole, a bartender and a mom. "I get pins and needles all over. I either freeze or run. I just want things to be back to what they were like this time last year. I had my vege garden, and my sunflowers."

Seismologists have recorded 7,500 earthquakes in Christchurch since September — an average of more than 20 a day. The rumblings are rattling the psyche of the still-battered city. They have left the land under thousands of homes unsafe to build on. Some people have left town entirely. Yet many have proven resilient, and some now see a reconstruction boom on the horizon.

Christchurch is the disaster that the world forgot. When the deadly quake toppled the iconic Cathedral spire and flattened buildings in this city of 390,000, people around the globe paid attention. But two weeks later, the massive earthquake and tsunami that killed more than 20,000 in Japan took center stage.

In New Zealand, the events in Christchurch continue to reverberate. In a country of 4 million, the cost of the quakes — estimated at more than $12 billion — amounts to eight percent of the country's annual economic output. Compare that to Hurricane Katrina, whose costs were less than 1 percent of U.S. gross domestic product. Christchurch will likely eclipse the Japan disaster in cost per person.

And nobody knows if the worst is over. Not even the experts.

When Kevin Furlong, a professor of geosciences at Penn State University, came to Christchurch on a sabbatical last year, he thought he would be studying earthquakes in the abstract — not living through them.

The quakes in the city have not followed the classic pattern, he said. Typically, a big quake hits and is followed by a series of ever-diminishing aftershocks.

In Christchurch, the initial Sept. 4 magnitude-7.0 quake didn't cause widespread destruction because it was centered 30 miles (50 kilometers) west of the city, but it helped trigger at least two distinct new quakes on different fault lines, each with their own pattern of aftershocks.

First came a deadly magnitude 6.1 quake on Feb. 22, which was centered almost directly under a residential area and flattened buildings that had withstood the earlier quake. Then a 6.0 magnitude quake struck on June 13. Though no one died, it was a psychological blow to people trying to rebuild.

Earthquakes are maddeningly difficult to predict, Furlong said. There's no way of knowing whether there's more to come, he said, though the odds improve with each day that passes without a major event.

New Zealand geologists estimated last week that there was a 23 percent chance another big quake would hit within a year, down from 30 percent last month.

"I've become much more attuned to what the public wants to know: 'When will it stop and why are we having them,'" Furlong said. "To be honest, it's really frustrating. You just can't answer those very appropriate first-order questions."

That uncertainty is no comfort to people like Cattermole. She and her husband Pete, a cabinetmaker, and their three young children remained in their home in the working class suburb of Bexley long after most neighbors had left.

As recently as late June, they were sleeping in the living room to escape the muck creeping through the walls and floor at the sunken rear of their home. Their ruined possessions lay in a heap in the front yard, awaiting an insurance assessment.

All around, buckled homes sat abandoned atop a sea of mud and sand. A makeshift blue water pipe snaked along the sidewalk. The few who remained announced their presence with cardboard signs like the Cattermoles': "3 Children & 2 Adults Still Here."

The problem: a phenomenon called liquefaction, when an earthquake forces underground water up through loose soil.

"It's the same physics as quicksand," Furlong said. "Whole acres turn into something of a liquid. Houses sink. Water and mud jet up through the surface. You get cracks, sand volcanoes, flooding."

He said that geologists are reassessing the importance of liquefaction after the devastating impact it has had on Christchurch.

Cattermole and her family endured long stretches without fresh water and, with the sewer system broken, used a portable toilet on the street or a chemical toilet inside. "There's so much stress around, you can just see it," she said.

They have since found a rental home and are moving out.

Their previous home was among more than 5,000 condemned by the New Zealand government last month because of liquefaction. Most are in the city's low-income eastern suburbs. Thousands more are likely to be condemned in what will force a major redesign of the suburbs.

The government has offered to pay homeowners for their losses, but many, Cattermole included, fear they will be priced out of new homes.

"There's a plentiful supply of Rolls Royce-priced sections, but they're not affordable for people on Toyota Corolla incomes," said Hugh Pavletich, a longtime Christchurch property developer and critic of the city's land-use policies. City officials say they're working hard to ensure there's plenty of affordable new land for displaced residents.

It's hard to gauge what long-term effect the quakes will have. School enrollment is down about 7 percent — an indication of families leaving — and the economy is fragile. Retail sales are down about 11 percent from pre-earthquake levels, and unemployment claims are up about 14 percent.

The center of the city remains off-limits behind chain-link fences and will stay that way for months, possibly years.

Demolition crews are planning to tear down about 1,000 hotels, office buildings and other unsafe structures. So far, they've taken down fewer than 150. City officials estimate it will take nine months just to demolish the 26-story Hotel Grand Chancellor, which has been teetering since February. When the city center reopens, fewer than half the buildings will remain.

The new downtown is likely to be much lower. Christchurch residents appear to have little appetite for high-rises these days. "The magic number I'm hearing is three stories," said Connal Townsend, chief executive of the Property Council of New Zealand, which represents commercial property owners.

Around the country, building owners are bracing for big insurance premium increases, particularly for older structures, Townsend said. Homeowners are also likely to see earthquake insurance rates climb significantly.

The Port of Christchurch in Lyttelton, which handles almost all the region's freight, has been unable to secure any earthquake insurance since June. The port's chief executive, Peter Davie, said he is essentially crossing his fingers, hoping that no more damaging quakes hit.

Even the Christchurch City Council has been unable to secure new earthquake insurance for much of its infrastructure.

Still, many are hoping that the billions of dollars flowing in from government and insurance payments will stoke a boom within a couple of years.

As the city looks to rebuild, Townsend said much will depend on the vision of city leaders: A bold reconstruction plan would inspire confidence and investment, while a second-rate one could scare away investors.

Attention is turning to Roger Sutton, a former energy executive who took a pay cut in June to become the first Christchurch earthquake czar, with broad planning powers.

Asked if he was worried whether new earthquakes could cause more damage, Sutton shook his head and said, "Hopefully, there's not much more to break."

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64 missile warheads stolen from Romanian train

BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) — Dozens of small rocket warheads were stolen from a train carrying military equipment from Romaniato Bulgaria, officials said Monday,

Authorities promised that the 64 warheads posed no danger to the public but offered varying explanations why.

The Romanian national police said there was no risk because they were not attached to rockets. Spokesman Florin Hulea declined to provide further details.

Two daily newspapers cited officials close to the investigation as saying that the warheads did not contain explosives. The papers,Evenimentul Zilei and Adevarul, did not identify their sources.

Bulgaria's Economy Ministry said the warheads belonged to 122mm (4.8-inch)-diameter Grad rockets, which are typically fired from vehicle-mounted multiple-rocket launchers.

Transport police in the central city of Brasov told the Mediafax news agency that the warheads were in four boxes in one of the cars on a train carrying equipment from a Romanian company that produces artillery shells and ground-to-ground and air-to-ground missiles.

Romanian officials also tried to portray the Saturday theft as accidental. Eugen Badalan, a member of the parliamentary defense committee, said the thieves "had no idea what they stole," and prosecutors said they were investigating whether the components were stolen by scrap metal thieves.

However, only one of the eight cars on the 27-car train was broken into.

Mediafax reported that railway workers noticed the seals on a carriage door were broken, and the door was not properly closed, when the train reached Giurgiu, a Danube port that borders Bulgaria.

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African nations urged to respond to drought crisis as UN begins airlifts

The African Union and its members have been criticised for failing to act as the UN begins flying in aid to southern Somalia, which is devastated by drought.

The UN is flying emergency supplies into southern Somalia
• Sudan and Kenya are only African countries that have responded to crisis
• Drought is the worst in 60 years in Horn of Africa

The United Nations has begun efforts to airlift supplies to refugee camps and areas in need of help during the worst drought in 60 years in the Horn of Africa, while pressure is mounting on major African countries to act.

The United Nations Children’s Fund has airlifted emergency nutritional supplies and water-related equipment to Baidoa in southern Somalia, the group said in a statement.

It is in the south of the country that 80% of Somalia’s malnourished children are located.

A series of emergency airlift flights also arrived in Kenya Sunday, bringing tent material for the Dadaab refugee camp at the Kenya-Somalia border where thousands of displaced Somalis have been arriving every day for weeks.

Refugee camps on the Somali border with Kenya and Ethiopia are suffering from “deplorable” conditions due to over-crowding a US official in the region confirmed.

He also expressed concern over the security situation regarding the al Qaeda proxy Al-Shabaab militant group, which recently lifted a ban on aid groups in the country due to the severity of the drought.

Some 10 million people are affected across Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Sudan, South Sudan and parts of Uganda, however, southern Somalia and northern Kenya are the worst-hit.
The United Nations has announced that the World Food Program has received around 60% of the US $500 million it has appealed for to provide help to the 10 million people at risk of starvation and associated diseases.

Arab Herald

Gold reaches record high as markets stressed by banks and eurozone worries

US stocks opened Gold tipped above $1,600 an ounce in Europe on Monday as investors spooked by the eurozone debt crisis and the threat of a US default piled into the metal as a safe haven from risk.

The spot price reached an all-time high of $1,603.40 at 12.50pm in London, as Italian and Spanish ten year bond yields also ticked-up back towards levels that forced Greece, Ireland and Portugal to ask for help.

Italian and Spanish 10-year bond yields climbed above 6pc, edging closer to the 7pc mark that prompted its smaller euro partners to seek bailouts.

“If we reach 7pc on Spain and Italy, we are probably approaching very quickly the point of no return,” Nicola Marinelli, a London-based fund manager at Glendevon King Asset Management, told Bloomberg.

Scepticism over the latest round of bank 'stress tests' and uncertainty amid a deepening eurozone debt crisis also saw european markets fall, as banking heavyweight Royal Bank of Scotland shed nearly 4pc in early morning deals.

City analysts and investors said on Friday that the criteria used in the latest report released by the European Banking Authority (EBA) on Friday were overly optimistic, and omitted the possible impact of a Greek default on the eurozone

The FTSE 100 index of leading shares opened down 0.76pc, as banking stocks led the Footsie fallers.

RBS, which has €1.15bn of exposure to Greece, shed 3.85pc to 33.7p, while Barclays fell nearly 3pc to 217.15p and Lloyds shed 2.53pc to 43.5p.

In Europe, Deutsche Bank AG, Germany’s biggest lender, slid 3pc to €36.08 and Italy’s UniCredit SpA lost 2.7pc to €1.17.

Italian markets were hardest hit, shedding almost 2pc in early morning deals, while the benchmark indices in Germany and France each fell 1.2pc.
The banking woes came as Spanish and Italian bond yields rose and the euro slid to a record versus the Swiss franc on concern European leaders will fail to agree on measures to contain the region’s debt crisis at a 'special summit' on Thursday.

The Telegraph


Stock markets fall on fears over Europe's debt crisis

EUR:USD intraday chart

The euro and stock markets fell, and borrowing costs of indebted countries rose, as worries over debt crises in the eurozone and US mounted.

A financial healthcheck on 90 European banks, published last Friday, failed to ease nervous markets.

The euro touched a record low against the Swiss franc, and bond yields in Spain and Italy hit new highs.

Financial shares fell sharply, with Royal Bank of Scotland and Societe Generale down about 5%.

The FTSE 100 and Germany's Dax were down 1%, while France's Cac 40 shed 1.7%.

Wall Street opened lower, with the Dow Jones, S&P 500 and Nasdaq indexes about 1% down.

Meanwhile, the price of gold topped $1,600 an ounce for the first time as investors put money into the haven commodity. The spot gold price hit $1,600.40, before pulling back slightly to $1,598.76.

On Friday, eight European banks failed a stress test on their finances, while another 16 were said to be near the danger zone.

The European Banking Authority published the results of the tests after European stock markets had closed.

The results of the stress tests failed to ease markets' worries because they did not take into account the impact of any country defaulting.

"On the face of it, the tests highlight that the European banking sector is in better health than expected, although crucially investor concern will remain over the credibility of the tests given that the tests did not include an assessment of the impact of sovereign defaults," said Lee Hardman, an analyst at the Bank of Tokyo.'Pull together'
Eurozone leaders are due to attend a summit on Thursday to try to put together a second bail-out package for debt-laden Greece.Continue reading the main story

On Sunday German Chancellor Angela Merkel described the summit as "urgently necessary" and warned that she would not attend unless a deal was assured.

She wants clear commitments from private investors, such as banks, that they would contribute to the bail-out, expected to be worth about 115bn euros ($160bn; £100bn).

This puts her at odds with the European Central Bank (ECB), however. If bondholders were to bear some of the burden of helping debt-ridden countries, this could be seen by the bank and credit ratings agencies as a sort of default.

ECB President Jean-Claude Trichet repeated on Monday that it would not accept Greek bonds as collateral for loans if the country defaults on its debts.

"If a country defaults, we will no longer be able to accept its defaulted government bonds as normal eligible collateral," he told the Financial Times Deutschland.

That could worsen the crisis facing Greece and its banks, cutting off a vital source of funding.

Mr Trichet called on governments to speak with one voice, saying they could overcome the debt crisis if they worked together.

He said: "It is a question of will and determination. The countries of Europe have always demonstrated that they pull together when the challenges are very high."

A spokesman for Chancellor Merkel said on Monday that she was confident a deal could be done later in the week.

"The government is working on all levels with all its strength on preparing for Thursday a good result, a decent result, a result that sends out a strong and clear signal to the markets," her spokesman, Steffen Seibert said.


10 Banks Own 77 Percent Of All U.S. Banking Assets

Back during the financial crisis of 2008, the American people were told that the largest banks in the United States were "too big to fail" and that was why it was necessary for the federal government to step in and bail them out.  The idea was that if several of our biggest banks collapsed at the same time the financial system would not be strong enough to keep things going and economic activity all across America would simply come to a standstill.  Congress was told that if the "too big to fail" banks did not receive bailouts that there would be chaos in the streets and this country would plunge into another Great Depression.  Since that time, however, essentially no efforts have been made to decentralize the U.S. banking system.  Instead, the "too big to fail" banks just keep getting larger and larger and larger.  Back in 2002, the top 10 banks controlled 55 percent of all U.S. banking assets.  Today, the top 10 banks control 77 percent of all U.S. banking assets.  Unfortunately, these giant banks are also colossal mountains of risk, debt and leverage.  They are incredibly unstable and they could start coming apart again at any time.  None of the major problems that caused the crash of 2008 have been fixed.  In fact, the U.S. banking system is more centralized and more vulnerable today than it ever has been before.
It really is difficult for ordinary Americans to get a handle on just how large these financial institutions are.  For example, the "big six" U.S. banks (Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Bank of America, and Wells Fargo) now possess assets equivalent to approximately 60 percent of America's gross national product.
These huge banks are giant financial vacuum cleaners.  Over the past couple of decades we have witnessed a financial consolidation in this country that is absolutely unprecedented.
This trend accelerated during the recent financial crisis.  While the big boys were receiving massive bailouts, the hundreds of small banks that were failing were either allowed to collapse or they were told that they should find a big bank that was willing to buy them.
As a group, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America and Wells Fargo held approximately 22 percent of all banking deposits in FDIC-insured institutions back in 2000.
By the middle of 2009 that figure was up to 39 percent.
That is not just a trend - that is a landslide.
Sadly, smaller banks continue to fail in large numbers and the big banks just keep growing and getting more power.
Today, there are more than 1,000 U.S. banks that are on the "unofficial list" of problem banking institutions.
In the absence of fundamental changes, the consolidation of the banking industry is going to continue.
Meanwhile, the "too big to fail" banks are flush with cash and they are getting serious about expanding.  The Federal Reserve has been extremely good to the big boys and they are eager to grow.
Citigroup has been hiring dozens of investment bankers, dialing up advertising and drawing up plans to add several hundred branches worldwide, including more than 200 in major cities across the United States.
Hopefully the big banks will start lending again.  The whole idea behind the bailouts and all of the "quantitative easing" that the Federal Reserve did was to get money into the hands of the big banks so that they would lend it out to ordinary Americans and get the economy rolling again.
Well, a funny thing happened.  The big banks just sat on a lot of that money.
In particular, what they did was they deposited much of it at the Fed and drew interest on it.
Since 2008, excess reserves parked at the Fed have grown by nearly 1.7 trillion dollars.  Just check out the chart posted below....
The American people were promised that TARP and all of the other bailouts would enable the big banks to lend out lots of money which would help get the economy going for ordinary Americans again.
Well, it turns out that in 2009 (the first full year after Congress passed the bailout legislation) U.S. banks posted their sharpest decline in lending since 1942.
Lending has never fully recovered since the crash of 2008.  The big financial institutions like Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and JPMorgan Chase have been able to get all the cash that they need, but they have not passed that generosity along to ordinary Americans.
In fact, the biggest U.S. banks have actually reduced small business lending by about 50 percent since the crash of 2008.
That doesn't sound like what we were promised.
These "too big to fail" banks have been able to borrow gigantic amounts of money from the Fed for next to nothing and yet they still refuse to let credit flow to local communities.  Instead, the big banks have found other purposes for all of the super cheap money that they have been getting from the Fed as Ellen Brown recently explained....
It can be very profitable indeed for the big Wall Street banks, but the purpose of the near-zero interest rates was supposed to be to get banks to lend again. Instead, they are, indeed, paying “outrageous bonuses to their top executives;” using the money to engage in the same sort of unregulated speculation that nearly brought down the economy in 2008; buying up smaller banks; or investing this virtually interest-free money in risk-free government bonds, on which taxpayers are paying 2.5 percent interest (more for longer-term securities).
What makes things even worse is that these big banks often pay next to nothing in taxes.
For example, between 2008 and 2010, Wells Fargo made a total profit of 49.37 billion dollars.
Over that same time period, their tax bill was negative 681 million dollars.
Do you understand what that means?  Over that 3 year time period, Wells Fargo actually got 681 million dollars back from the U.S. government.
Isn't that just peachy?
Meanwhile, the big financial giants have not learned their lessons and they continue to do business pretty much as they did it prior to 2008.
The big banks continue to roll up massive amounts of risk, debt and leverage.
Today, Wall Street has become one giant financial casino.  More money is made on Wall Street by making side bets (commonly referred to as "derivatives") than on the investments themselves.
If the bets pay off for the big financial institutions, mind blowing profits can be made.  But if the bets go against the big financial institutions (as we saw in 2008), firms can collapse almost overnight.
In fact, it was derivatives that almost brought down AIG.  The biggest insurance company in the world almost folded in 2008 because of a whole bunch of really bad bets.
The danger from derivatives is so great that Warren Buffet once called them"financial weapons of mass destruction".  It has been estimated that the notional value of the worldwide derivatives market is somewhere in the neighborhood of a quadrillion dollars.
The largest banks have tens of trillions of dollars of exposure to derivatives.  When the next great financial collapse happens, derivatives will almost certainly be at the center of it once again.  These side bets do not create anything real for the economy - they just make and lose huge amounts of money.  We never know when the next great derivatives crisis will strike.  Derivatives are essentially like a "sword of Damocles" that perpetually hangs over the U.S. financial system.
When I start talking about derivatives I get a lot of people in the financial community mad at me.  On Wall Street today you can bet on just about anything you can imagine.  Almost everyone in the financial world has gotten so used to making wild bets that they couldn't even imagine a world without them.  If anyone even tried to put significant limits on futures, options and swaps it would cause Wall Street to throw a hissy fit.
But someday the dominoes are going to start to fall and the house of cards is going to come crashing down.  It is an open secret that our financial system is fundamentally unsound.  Even a lot of people working on Wall Street will admit that.  It is just that people are so busy making such big piles of money that nobody wants the party to stop.
It is only a matter of time until some of these big banks get into a huge amount of trouble again.  When that happens, we might really find out whether they are "too big to fail" or whether we could get along just fine without them.

The Economic Collapse

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Bob Chapman: Next stop QE3 with 50% inflation

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Marc Faber : The US Will Default By Inflation

Marc Faber : "I don't think the US will default in terms of not paying the interest on its debt. They will though default via a falling dollar as Bernake begins printing more money," - in CNBC
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Webster Tarple: U.S On The Brink Of Defult

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Israel plans to strike Iran in September

Israel may mount a strike against Iran in the fall, longtime CIA officer Robert Baer, who spent 21 years in the Middle East, told a Los Angeles radio station Saturday.

Baer ventured such a move will drag the United States into another major war and endangering US military and civilian personnel throughout the Middle East and beyond.

Baer spoke on the provocative KPFK Los Angeles show Background Briefing, hosted by Ian Masters.

Baer didn't name sources for his prediction of an Israeli attack, but the few he did cite are all Israeli security figures who have publically warned that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was adamant to strike Iran, such as former Mossad Chief Meir Dagan.

Baer said that "There is almost near certainty that Netanyahu is planning an attack (on Iran)… and it will probably be in September before the vote on a Palestinian state. And he's also hoping to draw the United States into the conflict," he explained.



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