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Monday, September 19, 2011

Global Turmoil on Coast to Coast

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Netanyahu Will Represent ’4000 Year’ Jewish Rights at the UN

At the last weekly Cabinet meeting before his scheduled trip to meet with President Barak Obama and address the United Nations, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu characterized his General Assembly speech as “important … to represent both the State of Israel and the truth.”

He recalled the multiple offers to the Palestinian Authority to negotiate towards peace, while the PA remained “unwilling to come and negotiate”…re iterating that “peace will be achieved only through direct negotiations.”

“Their attempt to be accepted as a member of the UN will fail,” declared the PM, noting that the United States will veto the attempt in the Security Council, and noted that Israel was “coordinating our efforts with those of the US and with other important countries, in Europe and beyond.”

Netanyahu said “we are not foreigners in this country, that we have rights in this country that go ‘only’ 4,000 years.” He acknowledged the upheavals in the Middle East saying “we do not know what will happen from day to day and how things will go,” and stressed Israel’s continuing readiness to “return to the table in order to achieve peace and security both for us and our neighbors.”

In Geneva, announcement has been made of Israel’s enhanced status at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, where the Jewish State has gained Associate Membership, a preliminary step towards full membership. Israel has been an Observer at the CERN Council since 1991.

CERN Director General Rolf Heuer said “I am very pleased that CERN’s relationship with Israel is moving to a higher level.” The status change symbolizes the increasing recognition of the Israeli contributions, both scientific and technological to CERN over the years. “The Israeli scientific community is looking forward to the continuation of this joint venture,” said Eliezer Rabinovici, Professor and Director of the Institute for Advanced Study at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and Israel’s scientific observer to Council. He noted that “Israel has also supported Palestinian students at CERN, notably sending mixed Israeli-Palestinian contingents to CERN’s summer student program.”

China to Sell U.S. Debt ASAP

China will sell its U.S. government debt as soon as it can safely do so, top adviser to the Chinese central bank Li Daokui said at the World Economic Forum in Dalian.

“Once the U.S. treasury market stabilizes we can liquidate more of our holdings of treasuries,” Li said, according to an article by the Telegraph’s international business editor, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, published on September 15.

“To my knowledge, this is the first time that a top adviser to China’s central bank has uttered the word ‘liquidate,’” writes Evans-Pritchard.

China is believed to own $2.2 trillion of U.S. debt.

“The Chinese are clearly vexed with Washington, viewing the Fed’s QE [quantitative easing] as a stealth default on U.S. debt,” writes Evans-Pritchard. “Mr. Li came close to calling America a basket case, saying the picture is far worse than when Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher took over in the early 1980s.”

China is still keeping its renminbi artificially cheap, which means it must keep selling yuan. So it must keep buying foreign assets or debt. Li said China “would like to buy stakes in Boeing, Intel and Apple, and maybe we should invest in these types of companies in a proactive way.”

“It is bad for bonds—or will be,” writes Evans-Pritchard. “The money will go into strategic land purchases all over the world, until the backlash erupts in earnest. It will go into equities, until Capitol Hill has a heart attack. It will go anywhere but debt.”

And when the Chinese stop buying America’s debt, it will mean the end of cheap credit for the already cash-strapped U.S. government. •

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“Everyone, everywhere, is buying gold”

Gold, a safe haven just like the Swiss franc, is breaking records and should continue on its upwards spiral, expert Frédéric Panizzutti tells swissinfo.ch.

Panizzutti, vice president at Geneva-based gold trading group MKS Finance, says gold’s advantage is that it can be exchanged all over the world and against all currencies.

But some are convinced that the gold bubble will burst. What is true is that gold has been hovering above the $1,800 (SFr1,421) per ounce (around 31 grams) threshold in recent days, reaching a record $1,900 per ounce for a time on Tuesday – and price of the metal has risen by almost a third since the beginning of the year.

swissinfo.ch: Why has gold become a safe investment?

Frédéric Panizzutti: All the securities that you can buy today – bonds, shares, currencies – have a credit risk. Gold is one of the only monetary securities which doesn’t have a debtor-creditor relation. The only risk is a price and fluctuation one.

Furthermore, gold can be exchanged pretty much all over the world quite easily and it can be exchanged against all types of currencies. This is what fundamentally makes it a safe investment.

swissinfo.ch: Gold is breaking records over price. Would you say there is a bubble?

F.P.: The issue today is not whether gold is worth its value or not. It is worth its value because people are buying it at that price. The fundamental problem is the lack of low-risk investments on the world markets.

The currencies – the dollar, euro and the stock markets are the problems. Bonds can also become a problem with the current and future lowering of credit ratings. Governments and individuals are therefore interested in gold to reduce risk and to diversify. They are not buying gold for gold’s sake, but because there isn’t anything else.

swissinfo.ch: What makes up the demand for gold?

F.P.: One can divide purchases into the groups: jewellery, speculation and savings, which can be either a security or a safe investment. The largest part is clearly safe investment, which in turn is largely make up of physical gold [coins, bullion].

This is the only way of avoiding credit risk. If you buy institutional gold [as, for example, an exchange-traded fund, futures or shares in a gold company] you will always have a risk.

swissinfo.ch: Who is buying gold?

F.P.: Everyone – and that’s what’s really changed over the past years in the market. Ten years ago, the dealers in gold were specialists, jewellers, traders and certain investors. Today gold has become much more popular. Everyone, everywhere, is buying gold.

swissinfo.ch: Where and how do you buy it?

F.P.: For physical gold the situation varies from one country to another. Big consumers like India, the Middle East or Asia are well organised and gaining access to gold is very easy. There are gold sellers at every street corner, who buy and sell.

In Europe it used to be more difficult to access physical gold. But the big demand these past three years has led to more sales outlets and to gold becoming more accessible, with little specialist stalls but also more and more banks selling physical gold at their counters. The system has adapted to demand.

swissinfo.ch: Since when has gold been undergoing this boom?

F.P.: At the end of the 1980s and in the 1990s the trend was to sell gold and certain central banks were liquidating their gold. The criteria for selling were mostly storage costs, lack of performance, financial stability and the view that gold was no longer a necessary reserve.

But the market panicked after the September 11, 2001 attacks and this issued in a change. People went back to gold and central banks slowly stopped selling it. The successive crises, including this last one, have reinforced this feeling that gold is a risk insurance against bear markets.

Added to this is the fact that today, as their balance sheets show, central banks are also buying gold… Many central banks have a large part of their reserves in dollars [currency, bonds, shares]. One of the easiest ways of reducing a small part of this dependency it to buy gold and sell dollars. There are other currencies, but the choice of currencies in which most of the market can have confidence is rather limited.

Swiss Info

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Holy Land clerics bless Palestinian UN bid

Priests in the Holy Land used their sermons on Sunday to give their blessing to the Palestinians' bid for United Nations membership.

The retired Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Michel Sabbah, the first Palestinian to hold the post since the Crusades, was to preach in the Roman Catholic church in the northern West Bank city of Nablus.

A joint statement by Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican and Lutheran priests pledged their "support for the diplomatic efforts being deployed to win international recognition for the State of Palestine... on the June 1967 borders with Jerusalem as our capital." The priests went further than their bishops, who in a statement this week confined themselves to a call for intensified prayer and diplomatic efforts ahead of the Palestinian membership request, to be sent to the UN Security Council on Friday.

"Palestinians and Israelis should exercise restraint, whatever the outcome of the vote at the United Nations," the bishops said.

"We call upon decision-makers and people of good will to do their utmost to achieve the long-awaited justice, peace and reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians." Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu look set for a UN showdown next week, with Abbas planning to push for membership for a Palestinian state and Netanyahu arguing against it.

"Despite the pressures that we face, Palestine goes to the UN on the 23rd of this month to seek admission as a full member," Abbas told Egyptian television on Wednesday.

Daily News

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Deadly earthquake rocks India, Tibet and Nepal

The epicentre of the earthquake was in India's mountainous Sikkim state, where at least 18 people were killed.
Rain and landslides are hindering search and rescue operations there and officials in Sikkim fear that the toll could rise further.
Several earthquakes hit the region this year, but none caused major damage.
At least five people were killed in Nepal, police there say, and at least seven died in Tibet, China's official Xinhua news agency reported. At least six other people were killed in other Indian states.
Officials in all regions say the death toll is likely to rise as rescuers reach the remote mountainous areas struck by the quake.
Power cuts
The quake struck the mountainous north-eastern Indian state of Sikkim at 18:10 (12:40 GMT) on Sunday, according to the US Geological Survey, and was followed by two strong aftershocks.
Telephone lines were knocked out across the state, while power cuts plunged Gangtok, the capital, into darkness just seconds after the quake hit.
Hundreds of people there spent the night on the streets after buildings developed cracks, reports say.
Tremors were felt in the north-eastern Indian states of Assam, Meghalaya, and Tripura. They were also felt in regions of India: West Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chandigarh and Delhi. Bangladesh and Bhutan also felt the quake.
One person was killed during a stampede as people panicked in a town in the eastern state of Bihar, and other deaths were reported near Darjeeling, in West Bengal.
Landslides have blocked the two main highways linking Sikkim with the rest of the country making it difficult for the rescue workers to reach the area, reports say.
Buildings evacuated
Just over the border in Tibet's Yadong County, just 40km (miles) from Sikkim, the earthquake caused hundreds of landslides disrupting traffic, telecommunications, power and water supplies.
A woman, center who was injured in a building collapse that followed an earthquake is brought for treatment at a hospital in Siliguri, India, Sunday, Sept. 18, 2011Dozens of people were injured due to building collapses and falling debris
Chinese authorities said relief supplies were on the way to the area.
In Kathmandu, 270km (170 miles) west of the quake's epicentre, buildings were evacuated and traffic came to a standstill.
Three people died when a wall of the British Embassy collapsed. Those dead included a motorcyclist and his eight-year-old child who were struck as they rode past, police said.
Two others died in Dharan in Sunsari district, including a five-year-old child, according to the the Himalayan Times newspaper.
Lawmakers in parliament hurried out of the building shouting when the quake struck in the middle of a debate on the budget, witnesses said.

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Europe hits back after US debt jibe

The European Central Bank defended the eurozone's handling of its public finances Saturday, saying the bloc was better off than global rivals, a day after the US lectured Europe on its debt record.

"Taken as a whole, it is probably better than other major advanced economies," ECB chief Jean-Claude Trichet said at the close of talks in Poland among European Union finance ministers marred on Friday by a spat with guest US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner.

As unions prepared a mass protest against European austerity measures, Trichet described the eurozone's medium-term prospects as "quite encouraging compared with other major advanced economies" and also tipped a combined year-end, annual deficit level of 4.5 percent of GDP.

Hosts Poland, the current EU chair, took the decision to invite Mr Geithner to the talks on Friday, in a sign of spiralling global concerns - and EU ministers said the American was there to pass on lessons from stateside.

"Governments and central banks need to take out the catastrophic risk to markets," Geithner said on the sidelines of the talks, although Washington later denied he was writing "prescriptions" for Europe.

Mr Geithner and German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble clashed sharply on Friday over the way forward.

Mr Geithner urged eurozone leaders to bolster a €440bn rescue fund for troubled member states, but saw that demand instantly rebuffed by Germany.

Berlin instead demanded Washington drop its opposition to a global financial transactions tax - "emphatically" resisted by Mr Geithner, according to Austria's Maria Fekter.

Both Mr Schaeuble and Belgian Finance Minister Didier Reynders had highlighted the United States as carrying the world's heaviest debt burden going into the discussions.

"Yes it's better to organise something on financial transactions on the worldwide level, but it's impossible," Reynders said in Wroclaw on Saturday.

"We will do that within the European Union, and maybe also if it's impossible for the entire EU in the eurozone," he added.

Europeans have sought to implement either a tax on profits or turnover from the financial sector since governments were forced to bail out banks caught up in the 2008 credit crunch that started in the United States.

But Polish Finance Minister Jacek Rostowski said a preliminary debate on Friday "raised a lot of emotions" and outlined "considerable divisions."

The Telegraph

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Steve´s Crowley with Celente

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Financial crisis is the economic equivalent of war

Nick Clegg on Saturday claimed Ken Clarke as one of their own, but the equalities minister said:
QuoteNeither is it acceptable for our law-makers, no matter how-well intentioned, to talk about rape in a way that seems both casual and callous.
More placing of clear blue water between the Lib Dems and their coalition partners, perhaps.
13.42 Tom Rayner, politics producer for Sky News, is listening to Tim Farron talk about A-lists and all-female short lists for new MPs. The straight-talking party president admits:
QuoteProblem is, we don't have any safe seats
13.25 Paddy Ashdown warns of the euro crisis: "A terrifying and very dangerous jolt is about to happen. It's going to be very turbulent." And Vince Cable tells the Guardian's fringe event: "The whole existence of Europe is in jeopardy."
13.17 Employers' group the CBI is not wholly impressed by Vince Cable's views on executive pay - they say introducing ratios is "overly simplistic" in a global market and the business secretary is kicking a "political football". Director General John Cridland says:
QuoteIt is crucial that executive pay is squarely linked to performance, and there are cases where this link needs to be clearer. People should be rewarded for good work, and payment for failure is unacceptable, but it must be recognised that the jobs market for senior company executives is one where talent competes globally. We need shareholders to be more involved with the companies they invest in, and they should hold the board to account when it’s necessary. However, it is not the role of shareholders to micro-manage companies day-to-day. We welcome this consultation, but executive pay must not become a political football, and overly simplistic measures like ratios will not address the problem.
And Miles Templeman, of the bosses' think tank the Institute of Directors, says:
QuoteIt is important that ministers do not politicise a subject that is best approached in a cool, dispassionate way. The Business Secretary should be using all his keynote speeches to promote the competitiveness of British business, rather than dwelling for political reasons on executive pay.
13.13 Nick Clegg is talking to Sky News.
"Nobody is comfortable that there is going to be a stand off," Clegg says of the Dale Farm evictions.
He is asked about the stabbing of an alleged burglar - he says he doesn't know the facts and it's a matter for the police and courts, adding the law states homeowners have a right to self-defence.
High society: yesterday Lib Dems voted for the legalisation of drugs for personal use
We are losing the war on drugs, he says of the new Lib Dem policy tolegalise drugs. "Let's be led by the evidence," he says. "We'd be crazy not look at new ways [of keeping young people off drugs]."
"I'm 44 years old. I've got bags of energy... I certainly will be fighting the next election," he says of mutterings about him quitting after this term.
He's got quite a dry-sounding throat - better rest up before that Wednesday night key note.
12.54 The web reaction seems to be: Cable knows the economy is on the ropes - but where were his plans for growth?
Louise Armistead, the Telegraph's chief business reporter in Birmingham, tweeted:
TwitterVince speech v thin on plans for growth; he was here more as crowd pleaser than policy maker....
Vince gets standing ovation but clearly not one of his most rousing speeches. Corp/city took brunt of rhetoric
Last yr bankers were spivs and gamblers, this year... Flashers?? #vince
Chuka Umunna, shadow minister for small business managed to demand 'growth' three times in 140 characters:
TwitterBIS is supposed to be the department for growth - under this government it is the department for no growth. Where was Cable's plan for growth?
Paul Waugh, editor of Politics Home, said:
TwitterCable says its "Grey Skies" ahead rather than "sunny uplands". Not quite Cameroonian sunshine winning the day.
Cameron Penny, who works for Cicero Global investment fund, said there will be no manufacturing without those Wicked Bankers:
TwitterCable: "cars not casinos" so no bank financing or FX hedges for Jaguar Land Rover then...car plants grow on trees? #ldconf #cable
And BBC Producer Paul Twinn was not heartened by promises of flagging living standards
TwitterWell that was light and fluffy, Vince. Thanks. Cheered me right up. Probably time to hit the gin.
12.46 Instant reaction: Vince Cable's speech was strikingly, overwhelmingly gloomy about Britain's short-term financial prospects. These final lines capture the mood:
QuoteLet me say in conclusion that when my staff saw my draft of this speech they said; we can see the grey skies where are the sunny uplands? I am sorry, I can only tell it as I see it. People aren’t thinking about 10 years ahead when they are worrying about how to survive the next 10 days to payday.
12.20 Vince Cable is up. Read his speech in full here:
He starts on the crisis. A dire warning: "We now face a crisis that is the economic equivalent of war," he says.
"The financial crisis is still with us. We can see that recovery has stalled in the US and the position in the Eurozone is dire."
"Many of our problems are home-grown. Gordon Brown regularly advised the rest of the world to follow his British model of growth. But the model was flawed." He says: "I regret this year is that we did not secure tighter control on bank pay and bonuses." He hails the new Jaguar Land Rover plant to be opened in Britain, saying: "That’s what I mean by a business recovery, cars not casinos."
On the cuts, he says they were left with a "dangerous, unsustainable budget deficit, and says: "Cutting it is a thankless and unpopular task, but unavoidable if our country and party are to be taken seriously."
"Financial discipline is not ideological; it is a necessary precondition for effective government... the progressive agenda of centre left parties cannot be delivered by bankrupt Governments."
He says others treat government like Father Christmas, dropping economic presents down the chimney if they hand out tax cuts. He says thinking tax cuts will draw back non-dom billionaires is a "childish fantasy."
On banks, he calls for Vickers to be implemented. "At present, banks are offered a one way bet. If they gamble and win; they fill up the bonus pool. But when they lose, the taxpayer pays."
"Rogue" banks are "exposing taxpayers to the risk of exploding financial weapons of mass destruction," he says. In a bizarre analogy using trousers, he says there has been "feast or famine" in bank lending - he calls for steady lending growth to small businesses.
On stimulus, he says he wants to cut "red tape which is suffocating growing companies" but in a jibe at ideas credited to Steve Hilton, Cameron's advisor, he says: "What I will not do though is provide cover for ideological descendents of those who sent children up chimneys. Panic in financial markets won’t be stopped by scrapping maternity rights."
Biggest problem is lack of demand he says, in a rallying cry to the Keynesians. Government can act - he cites the 'Green Deal', land auctions for social housing, infrastructure building, broadband and house building as options.
Living standards are being squeezed by inflation and Britain has been left poorer by the crash. "The public will only accept continuing austerity if it is seen to be fair."
"Yet there is currently a great sense of grievance that workers and pensioners are paying the penalty for a crisis they did not create. I want a real sense of solidarity," he says.
"People aren’t thinking about 10 years ahead when they are worrying about how to survive the next 10 days to payday. The truth is that there are difficult times ahead, that Britain’s post war pattern of ever rising living standards has been broken by the financial collapse."
On the mansion tax: He says the "wealthy must pay their share". He says land and property values have been artificially inflated in the last boom. He says mansion owners are saying the same tax as people who live in semis, saying of critics of the policy: "You wonder what part of the solar system they live in."
On CEO pay, he says: "Surely pay should be transparent; not hidden from shareholders, and the public. I want to call time on pay outs for failure. It is hard to explain why shareholders can vote to cut top pay but the managers can ignore the vote."
He concludes: "In the Coalition Agreement we promised to put fairness at the heart of all we do as we rebuild our broken economy from the rubble. Liberal Democrats know that you can’t do one without the other."
12.18 Delegates have just voted for further work to develop proposals by which shares in state-owned banks in RBS and Lloyds will be distributed, "In order to empower the public and give them something back in return for bailing out the two banks."
11.52 Vince Cable is up in half an hour. His speech has been heavily trailed and he's expected to take aim at executive pay, saying the city must end "payouts for failure".
In contrast to Tim Farron yesterday - who said a split was "inevitable" in three or four years, he has ruled out a 'coalition divorce', saying he was "positively committed" to the government and his colleagues are "most definitely not talking about coalition divorce". He told the BBC:
QuoteWe are committed to the coalition government. We have a massive task to do to turn the economy around. It has to be done in an environment of fairness, which is where this issue of reward for failure comes in, but nobody is talking about divorce. We have to stick with the financial discipline – it is actually fundamental.
11.41 Daniel Knowles on the comment desk takes aim at the Liberal Democrat policy on press regulation and a clause calling for jail terms for journalists who handle private data - which could include expenses claims or bank account statements.
 It seem to imply that any stories published based on information obtained illegally could lead to journalists going to jail. Would the Guardian, for example, have published its famous story exposing Jonathan Aitken, based on information taken from the minister's bins, if it thought that its journalists might be imprisoned as a result?
11.34 City reporter Donna Bowater has been talking to Vince Cableahead of his mid-day speech. He hails the announcement by Jaguar Land Rover to build a new £335m plant in the Midlands.
 Business Secretary Vince Cable has described today's announcement that Jaguar will built a new engine plant in Wolverhampton as a "sign of confidence" in the UK. He said Jaguar owner Tata could have built the new facility anywhere from India to elsewhere in Europe.
He said: "One of the attractions of the West Midlands is this is the heartland of the motor industry. There's a tradition of skilled labour, which is absolutely crucial to their business and I think they are showing confidence in the fact that we've put the boat out for them, we've shown them that we want to work with them. They've concluded this was the best place to be."
11.30 Do Lib Dems break banks? More from our man in Birmingham,James Kirkup.
 Fear stalks the Lib Dem conference. Well, sort of. Economically-literate Lib Dems are aware that the rest of the world is more interested in the prospect of eurozone financial armageddon than Dr Evan Harris' thoughts about media regulation. They painfully recall that during the 2007 Lib Dem conference, a bank called Northern Rock ran into trouble. Then during the 2008 Lib Dem conference, a bank called Lehman Bros had a few problems. Fingers crossed that the yellow curse does not strike again and tip the global financial system into a new crisis before Nick Clegg gets to make his big speech on Wednesday...
11.08 A conference attendee has been in touch. "Is it not rather strange that with unemployment climbing and growth at a near-standstill the employment minister didn't talk about jobs?" he says.
11.01 Blogger and troublemaker Harry Cole drops the live blog a line. He's not impressed with the Lib Dem riots motion - particularly the line which says wrongdoing is found "at the top and bottom of the socio-economic scale."
QuoteSome classic Lib-Demmery here showing just how out of touch they can be at times from the reality based community. Yes rich people commit crimes too, but comparing the sight of businesses being torched and thousands of people rampaging through our cities to the the activities of the financial sector, which pays for our public services, is pretty petty. We know that the LibDems want to strangle the rich, we get it, but cheap points like this won't help them sell that message to ordinary voters.
10.43 Ed Davey, the employment and post minister, is up.
He's doing a warm up act for his boss: "Vince was right on the crash, right on the banks, and right on Rupert Murdoch."
On post offices
He says Labour closed more post offices than Major and Thatcher, and says the days of closure programmes in the post office "are over". He says they will become the "front office" for government and is encouraging local councils and banks to use them.
He proposes the Post Office becomes a mutual, rather than a nationalised business.
He says "sub-post offices" will be merged with the main desk of the business.

On employment law

Mothers and fathers should be able to choose how they divide their paternity and maternity leave, he says.
The Lib Dems ended forced retirement at 65, he says.

Jobs laws "stop job creation" he says. Employment tribunals as they stand only benefit lawyers, so he wants a focus on conciliation rather than confrontation.
He says big supermarkets are ripping off farmers - and are demanding payments to put products on a shelf. He says he will create a supermarket adjudicator with a "tough new code of practice" to "stamp out bad behaviour." He is working on a Consumer Bill of Rights - but is also holding a "bonfire of red tape."
He ends: "Go back to your constituencies and campaign on our record in government."

Read his full speech here: Liberal Democrats Party Conference 2011: speech by Ed Davey
10.40 The motion condemning tough prison sentences and kicking looters out their council houses passes almost without objection.
10.35 Deputy editor Benedict Brogan blogsNo 10 is desperate to spike Vince Cable
 What's striking about the executive pay proposal, which has been in gestation in Mr Cable department for some time, is how hard Downing Street tried to stop it. I gather it was the subject of intense conversations between David Cameron and Nick Clegg as part of the pre-conference ritual of announcement haggling. Team Dave think the idea stinks and wanted desperately to spike it. Don't expect the Treasury to let it through without a fight. They surmise that Mr Clegg would have opposed it, but needed to let Mr Cable keep some of his toys.
10.30 James Kirkup sends this dispatch on how the Telegraph's run down of the most influencial Lib Dems is gripping delegates.
 The Daily Telegraph's Top 50 Most Influential Lib Dems is starting to appear. As ever, Lib Dems profess indifference, while secretly obsessing over their place on the list relative to close colleagues. Even Nick Clegg is a follower, asking last night if he was still No 1 on the list. Told that it was close race between him and arch-rebel and self-publicist Evan Harris, Mr Clegg shuddered and pleaded: "Don't even joke."
10.10 The conference is now voting on a motion responding to the riots.
The motion says:
• "Sentencing is a matter for the courts" - not politicians.
• there is a "lack of respect for the law" amongst rich people too.
• censoring social networking is unjustified - and nor is using curfews and "over-using" dispersal orders against rioters justified.
• the "large number of lengthy custodial sentences" and councils who evict rioters are to be condemend.
• cuts to careers advice services are in part to blame for rioting.
Brian Paddick, London Mayoral candidate and former riot cop in the 1980s riots, is scathing of some lines in motion. It's untrue that there are too few trained officers, as the motion claims, he says.
09.50 The motion on phone hacking is carried unanimously. Lots of pledges of admiration to a "free press" and "investigative journalism." condemnation of Rupert Murdoch and the (already ) illegal practice of phone hacking.
But there was no debate on this line in the motion:
Introduce custodial sentences, commensurate with the seriousness of the offence, for breaching section 55 of the Data Protection Act (unlawful obtaining of data).
... which could cover sins such as getting hold of ex-directory phone numbers, or some would try to argue, expenses claims. It would be a radical and wide-ranging change in the laws restricting journalists - and not merely the tabloids.
09.45 Former MP, libel reform campaigner and Hacked Off campaign worker Dr Evan Harris is up.
In libel cases there should be a stronger public interest defence for publishers who get things wrong but who behaved responsibly, in the public interest and who apologised quickly, he says.
But he defends rulings on privacy such as that from Justice Eady onMax Mosley. He pays tribute to the bravery of the Dowler family in meeting Murdoch and the party leaders.
09.39 Lawyers for the victims Mark Lewis is up. He accuses "the press" of "atrocities".
"People ask me at conference if I'll be going to the News International party. The News International party was the party of government for 30 years," he says, citing the 1992 'The Sun Wot Won It' headline.
But he adds state control of the media is as 'Murdocracy'. He attacks the cuts to legal aid funding and reforms to no-win no-fee arrangements as preventing people from challenging corporations.
09.30 Delegates now debating phone hacking - but it's really about press reform at large. They say Britain's libel regime is "internationally reviled" and Rupert Murdoch has too much power.
Simon Hughes is up. We must stand up for a free press and good investigative journalism - but we need a responsible press too.
He is calling on the government to block the Met's Official Secrets Act probe into the Guardian newspaper.
He says it's not about footballers - people living on the estates of his Southwark constituency were also at risk of targetting. Hughes says criminality went beyond News International and others must be held to account.
He says it is "obvious" more senior people were involved than the two prosecuted.
"The activities of the press at the moment are clearly indefensible," he says, adding there must be "robust action."
09.20 Over the weekend Nick Clegg vowed any attempt to cut the 50p tax rate would be met with the introduction of a mansion tax. But Ian Cowie, our Head of Personal Finance, says that plan is now doomed -because £1m+ houses are now the "norm" in 41 towns.
 No fewer than 47pc of the homes currently on the market in Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire, are offered for sale at £1m or more, according to Britain’s biggest online property website PrimeLocation, which represents estate agents Savills, Knight Frank and Hamptons International among others.
Its analysis of just under 1m properties across Britain found there are now 41 towns which have a higher proportion of £1m house prices than London. Virginia Water, Surrey, was second most property prosperous with 44pc of homes priced at £1m or more but Much Hadham and Radlett in Hertfordshire were not far behind with a third or more of all their house prices exceeding £1m.
Taxing times: Clegg threatens to whack a tax on £1m+ homes
09.15 In the Telegraph today broadcaster Iain Dale today unveils hisTop 50 most influencial Lib Dems.
 If the opinion polls prove accurate - the last three showed the Liberal Democrats on 10% - this might be the last time we can find enough elected Liberal Democrats to form a viable top 50. The stark reality they face, and the internal debate that is now raging, is reflected in the top ten. There is the whiff of succession planning in the air. As one MP put it, the year has been “about the rise of the left”.
09.00 Coming up in Birmingham today:
• 09.30Emergency debate on phone hacking. Delegates are proposing newspapers are subject to large fines if they breach the PCC code of conduct, banning people they don't think "proper" from owning newspapers, and jailing journalists who breach the Data Protection Act by "unlawfully obtaining data" - such as getting hold of ex-directory phone numbers. There's a confusing line on "supporting the existing law on privacy". Interesting stuff, given phone hacking is already very much illegal under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000. The motion says:
Quotea free press is at the core of a liberal and democratic society, plays a crucial role in holding public figures and institutions to account, and is vital to healthy national debate.
Well see how many delegates will echo those fine words from the floor.
• 10.30 Speech by Ed Davey, the employment minister.
Read an advanced copy of the text here: Liberal Democrats Party Conference 2011: speech by Ed Davey
• 12.20 Speech by Vince Cable, business secretary.
James Kirkup has the preview:
 Employees could get a say on pay awards for executives at their companies under plans being promoted by the Liberal Democrats.
Mr Cable will today publish a government "discussion document" looking at possible changes to company laws and regulations. He will outline new rules requiring companies to disclose more information about their directors' compensation packages.
In the discussion paper, Mr Cable says that the "disconnect" between pay and long–term performance suggests "something dysfunctional about the market in executive pay or a failure in corporate governance arrangements".
• 14.30 Motion on tacking violence against women, brought by Home Affairs select committee chair Tom Brake MP. It looks at issues including domestic violence, child prostitution and female circumcision.
• 15.15 Nick Clegg is taking a Town Hall-style Q&A session. Was Tim Farron's morale booster enough to convince the faithful to stand by their leader? We'll find out.
• 16.00 Motion on the Digital Economy, brought by Julian Huppert. The Digital Economy Act was pretty controversial with many activists and Huppert is demanding they "protect the essential freedom of the internet", looking at issues of data ownership and net neutrality. More on this later.

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