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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

NYPD stocked with weapons to derail another terror attack

The NYPD has a variety of tools to prevent another terror attack, Mayor Bloomberg promised.

The NYPD's arsenal is stocked with other deadly goodies specifically designed to derail a terror attack, Mayor Bloomberg said Monday.

What kind? He's not saying.

"The New York City Police Department has lots of capabilities that you don't know about and won't know about," Bloomberg said.

But even that is no guarantee that New York is completely protected from another 9/11-type attack.

"There's not any one technology, not any one weapon," he said. "You are not likely to have the same kind of attack the next time."

Bloomberg was barraged with questions about NYPD's defense capabilities a day after the city's top cop told "60 Minutes" they have the means to blast a terror plane out of the sky.

"Do you mean to say that the NYPD has the means to take down an aircraft?" asked Scott Pelley.

"Yes, I prefer not to get into the details, but obviously this would be in a very extreme situation," Kelly answered.

"You have the equipment and the training?" the CBS interviewer asked.

"Yes," Kelly said.

The Daily News first reported the revamping of the NYPD's aviation fleet in 2005 - including a Bell 412 helicopter that could fly as high as 3,000 feet for stealth surveillance of the city.

The News also reported then that the city had Agusta 119s armed with .50-caliber semiautomatic rifles that could blast large moving objects like boats, planes or tractor-trailers from hundreds of yards away.

It was unclear last night just how much the city has advanced its capabilities since The News' 2005 report, but Kelly's confirmation came as no shock to City Councilman Peter Vallone, head of the Council's Public Safety Committee.

"I'm not surprised in the slightest," said Vallone (D-Queens). "One of the lessons we learned on 9/11 is we can't rely on the federal government. The FBI failed us. The CIA failed us."

Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/ny_local/2011/09/26/2011-09-26_nypd_stocked_with_weapons_to_derail_another_terror_attack__but_bloomy_wont_revea.html#ixzz1ZATu3xr5

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NASA To Make Announcement On Near-Earth Asteroids

NASA says it will hold a news conference at 1 p.m. EDT (6 p.m. GMT) on Thursday to reveal near-Earth asteroid findings and implications for future research. The briefing will take place at NASA Headquarters in Washington.
NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) mission, launched in December 2009, captured  millions of images of galaxies and objects in space. During the news conference, panelists will  discuss results from an enhancement of WISE called Near-Earth Object WISE (NEOWISE) that  hunted for asteroids.
The news conference panelists will include Lindley Johnson, Near-Earth Object program executive, NASA Headquarters, Washington; Amy Mainzer, NEOWISE principal investigator, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California; Tim Spahr, director, Minor Planet Center, Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, Cambridge, Massachusetts; and Lucy McFadden, scientist, NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland.
The conference takes place on the same week that a 13-metre-wide asteroid, named SE58, is scheduled to pass within 0.6 Lunar Distances of Planet Earth. SE58′s approach occurs on Tuesday 27 September 2011.
The NASA conference also coincides with an ESA (European Space Agency) seminar on Space Situational Awareness, which also be held on Thursday in Warsaw, Poland.  Participants will include senior managers, policy-makers and scientists from ESA, ESA Member States, the EU, European institutions and international partner organisations.
The Agency’s SSA Preparatory Programme was authorised at the November 2008 ESA Ministerial Council and formally launched on 1 January 2009. The objective of the SSA programme is to support Europe’s independent use of, and access to, space through the provision of timely and accurate information, data and services regarding the space environment, and particularly regarding hazards to infrastructure in orbit and on the ground. In general, these hazards stem from possible collisions between objects in orbit, harmful space weather and potential strikes by natural objects that cross Earth’s orbit.
It remains unclear at this point whether NASA or the ESA will reveal further information about a near-earth asteroid that is scheduled to pass between the moon and earth later this year.
The 1300-foot-wide  (400 metres) asteroid, which is more than one and a half times the length of a soccer pitch, will pass within 0.85 lunar distances of the Earth on November 8, 2011.
Discovered on December 28, 2005 by Robert McMillan of the Spacewatch Program near Tucson, Arizona, 2005 YU55 is believed to be a very dark, nearly spherical object.
According to NASA’s Near Earth Object Program: “Although classified as a potentially hazardous object, 2005 YU55 poses no threat of an Earth collision over at least the next 100 years. However, this will be the closest approach to date by an object this large that we know about in advance and an event of this type will not happen again until 2028 when asteroid (153814) 2001 WN5 will pass to within 0.6 lunar distances.”
Trajectory of Asteroid 2005 YU55 - November 8-9, 2011. Credit NASA
Trajectory of Asteroid 2005 YU55 - November 8-9, 2011. Credit NASA
While neither the European Space Agency (ESA) nor NASA has suggested that YU55 poses a threat to Earth, plans to develop a mission to counteract a potential asteroid collision in the future are already underway.
The ESA confirmed last month that it is planning to fire an ‘impactor’ satellite into a ‘test’ asteroid in 2015 to see if the object’s trajectory can be altered.  The Agency is conducting the test mission in light of the minimal threat posed by the 700-1100-foot-wide 99942 Apophis asteroid, which has a one in 250,000 chance of impacting Earth in 2036.

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Auroras to be Visible as Solar Storm Slams into Earth

A massive solar flare that erupted on the Sun over the weekend have crossed the solar system and hit the Earth's magnetic field at approximately 8:15 a.m. EDT (12:15 UT) on Sept. 26, according to NASA.

The flares, which are backed by a small radiation storm and a spectacular coronal mass ejection (CME), has kicked off moderate (G2) geomagnetic storms for low latitudes, but high latitudes are seeing severe (G4) levels of activity, according to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Skywatchers in northern Europe are already seeing some aurora activity and it may persist long enough for viewers in North America.

The sun has unleashed a series of solar flares over the last weekend. All the flares erupted from the same sunspot, No. 1302. It started on Saturday morning when an X1.9-category flare erupted at 5:40 a.m. EDT.

The active region has unleashed M8.6 and M7.4 flares on Sept. 24 and an M8.8 flare early on Sept. 25. But the good news is none of them have been squarely Earth-directed, but this could change as the sunspot turns toward our planet in the days ahead.

International Business Times

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The Federal Reserve Plans To Identify “Key Bloggers” And Monitor Billions Of Conversations About The Fed On Facebook, Twitter, Forums And Blogs

The Federal Reserve wants to know what you are saying about it.  In fact, the Federal Reservehas announced plans to identify "key bloggers" and to monitor "billions of conversations" about the Fed on Facebook, Twitter, forums and blogs.  This is yet another sign that the alternative media is having a dramatic impact.  As first reported on Zero Hedge, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York has issued a "Request for Proposal" to suppliers who may be interested in participating in the development of a "Sentiment Analysis And Social Media Monitoring Solution".  In other words, the Federal Reserve wants to develop a highly sophisticated system that will gather everything that you and I say about the Federal Reserve on the Internet and that will analyze what our feelings about the Fed are.  Obviously, any "positive" feelings about the Fed would not be a problem.  What they really want to do is to gather information on everyone that views the Federal Reserve negatively.  It is unclear how they plan to use this information once they have it, but considering how many alternative media sources have been shut down lately, this is obviously a very troubling sign.

You can read this "Request for Proposal" right here.  Posted below are some of the key quotes from the document (in bold) with some of my own commentary in between the quotes....
"The intent is to establish a fair and equitable partnership with a market leader who will who gather data from various social media outlets and news sources and provide applicable reporting to FRBNY. This Request for Proposal ("RFP") was created in an effort to support FRBNY's Social Media Listening Platforms initiative."
A system like this is not cheap.  Apparently the Federal Reserve Bank of New York believes that gathering all of this information is very important.  In recent years, criticism of the Federal Reserve has become very intense, and most of this criticism has been coming from the Internet.  It has gotten to the point where the Federal Reserve Bank of New York has decided that it had better listen to what is being said and find out who is saying it.
"Social media listening platforms are solutions that gather data from various social media outlets and news sources.  They monitor billions of conversations and generate text analytics based on predefined criteria.  They can also determine the sentiment of a speaker or writer with respect to some topic or document."
The Federal Reserve Bank of New York intends to listen in on "billions of conversations" and to actually determine the "sentiment" of those that are participating in those conversations.
Of course it will be those conversations that are "negative" about the Federal Reserve that will be setting off the alarm bells.
"Identify and reach out to key bloggers and influencers"
Uh oh.  So they plan to "identify" key bloggers and influencers?
What exactly do they plan to do once they "identify" them?
"The solution must be able to gather data from the primary social media platforms –Facebook, Twitter, Blogs, Forums and YouTube."
Hopefully you understand this already, but nothing posted on the Internet is ever anonymous.  Everything on the Internet is gathered by a vast host of organizations and is used for a wide variety of purposes.  Data mining has become a billion dollar industry, and it is only going to keep growing.
You may think that you are "anonymous" when you criticize organizations like the Fed, but the truth is that if you are loud enough they will see it and they will make a record of it.
"The solution must provide real-time monitoring of relevant conversations.  It should provide sentiment analysis (positive, negative or neutral) around key conversational topics."
Why do they need to perform "sentiment analysis"?
If someone is identified as being overly "negative" about the Fed, what will they do about it?
"The solution should provide an alerting mechanism that automatically sends out reports or notifications based a predefined trigger."
This sounds very much like the kind of "keyword" intelligence gathering systems that are currently in use by major governments around the globe.
Very, very creepy stuff.
Are you disturbed yet?
For those of us that write about the Federal Reserve a lot, this is very sobering news.
I wonder what the Fed will think about the following articles that I have posted on this site....
What is their "Social Media Monitoring Solution" going to think about those articles?
Unfortunately, this is all part of a very disturbing trend.
Recently, a very creepy website known as "Attack Watch" was launched to gather information on those saying "negative" things about Barack Obama.
Suddenly, everyone seems obsessed with what you and I are saying.
This just shows how the power of the alternative media is growing.
Not only that, but it seems as though the government also wants to gather as much information on all of us as possible.
For example, a new rule is being proposed by the Department of Health and Human Services that would force health insurance companies to submit detailed health care information about all of their customers to the federal government.
Every single day our privacy is being stripped away a little bit more.
But now it is often not just enough for them to know what we are doing and saying.  Instead, the "authorities" are increasingly stepping in to silence important voices.
One of the most recent examples of this was when Activistpost was taken down by Google.  We are still awaiting word on why this was done.
Sadly, the silencing of Activistpost is far from an isolated incident.
Hordes of YouTube accounts have been shut down for their political viewpoints.
Quite a few very prominent alternative media websites have been censored or attacked because of what they stand for.
So why is this happening?  Well, it turns out that the power of the alternative media is growing.  According to a new survey by the Pew Research Center for The People & The Press, 43 percent of Americans say that they get their news on national and international issues from the Internet.  Back in 1999, that figure was sitting at just 6 percent.
The American people are sick and tired of getting "canned news", and they are increasingly turning to the Internet in a search for the truth.
As I have written about previously, the mainstream media in this country is overwhelmingly dominated by just 6 very powerful corporations....
Today, ownership of the news media has been concentrated in the hands of just six incredibly powerful media corporations.  These corporate behemoths control most of what we watch, hear and read every single day.  They own television networks, cable channels, movie studios, newspapers, magazines, publishing houses, music labels and even many of our favorite websites. Sadly, most Americans don't even stop to think about who is feeding them the endless hours of news and entertainment that they constantly ingest.  Most Americans don't really seem to care about who owns the media.  But they should.  The truth is that each of us is deeply influenced by the messages that are constantly being pounded into our heads by the mainstream media.  The average American watches 153 hours of television a month.  In fact, most Americans begin to feel physically uncomfortable if they go too long without watching or listening to something.  Sadly, most Americans have become absolutely addicted to news and entertainment and the ownership of all that news and entertainment that we crave is being concentrated in fewer and fewer hands each year.
The "news" that we get from various mainstream sources seems to always be so similar.  It is as if nearly all mainstream news organizations are reading from the same script.  The American people know that they are not getting the whole truth and they have been increasingly looking to alternative sources.
The monopoly over the news that the mainstream media once possessed has been broken.  The alternative media is now creating some huge problems for organizations that were once very closely protected by the mainstream media.
The American people are starting to wake up and they are starting to get very upset about a lot of the corruption that has been going on in our society.
But it turns out that the "authorities" don't like it too much when Americans try to actually exercise free speech in America today.  For example, you can see recent video of female protesters in New York City being penned in by police and then brutally maced right here.
Are you sickened by that?
You should be.
What the "authorities" want is for us to shut up, sit in our homes and act as if nothing wrong is happening.
Meanwhile, they seem determined to watch us more closely than ever.
So are you going to be afraid to talk negatively about the Federal Reserve now that you know that they are going to be watching what you say on the Internet?

Economic Collapse

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Nigel Farage: Wake up to the misery you're inflicting on millions!

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Nervous Breakdown? 21 Signs That Something Big Is About To Happen In The Financial World

Will global financial markets reach a breaking point during the month of October?  Right now there are all kinds of signs that the financial world is about to experience a nervous breakdown.  Massive amounts of investor money is being pulled out of the stock market and mammoth bets are being made against the S&P 500 in October.  The European debt crisis continues to grow even worse and weird financial moves are being made all over the globe.  Does all of this unusual activity indicate that something big is about to happen?  Let's hope not.  But historically, the biggest stock market crashes have tended to happen in the fall.  So are we on the verge of a "Black October"?
The following are 21 signs that something big is about to happen in the financial world and that global financial markets are on the verge of a nervous breakdown....
#1 We are seeing an amazing number of bets against the S&P 500 right now.  According to CNN, the number of bets against the S&P 500 rose to the highest level in a year last month.  But that was nothing compared to what we are seeing for October.  The number of bets against the S&P 500 for the month of October is absolutely astounding.  Somebody is going to make a monstrous amount of money if there is a stock market crash next month.
#2 Investors are pulling a huge amount of money out of stocks right now.  Do they know something that we don't?  The following is from a report in the Financial Post....
Investors have pulled more money from U.S. equity funds since the end of April than in the five months after the collapse of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., adding to the $2.1 trillion rout in American stocks.
About $75 billion was withdrawn from funds that focus on shares during the past four months, according to data compiled by Bloomberg from the Investment Company Institute, a Washington-based trade group, and EPFR Global, a research firm in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Outflows totaled $72.8 billion from October 2008 through February 2009, following Lehman’s bankruptcy, the data show.
#3 Siemens has pulled more than half a billion euros out of two major French banks and has moved that money to the European Central Bank.  Do they know something or are they just getting nervous?
#4 On Monday, Standard & Poor's cut Italy's credit rating from A+ to A.
#5 The European Central Bank is purchasing even more Italian and Spanish bonds in an attempt to cool down the burgeoning financial crisis in Europe.
#6 The Federal Reserve, the European Central Bank, the Bank of England, the Bank of Japan and the Swiss National Bank have announced that they are going to make available an "unlimited" amount of money to European commercial banks in October, November and December.
#7 So far this year, the largest bank in Italy has lost over half of its valueand the second largest bank in Italy is down 44 percent.
#8 Angela Merkel's coalition is getting embarrassed in local elections in Germany.  A recent poll found that an astounding 82 percent of all Germans believe that her government is doing a bad job of handling the crisis in Greece.  Right now, public opinion in Germany is very negative toward the bailouts, and that is really bad news for Greece.
#9 Greece is experiencing a full-blown economic collapse at this point.  Just consider the following statistics from a recent editorial in the Guardian....
Consider first the scale of the crisis. After contracting in 2009 and 2010, GDP fell by a further 7.3% in the second quarter of 2011. Unemployment is approaching 900,000 and is projected to exceed 1.2 million, in a population of 11 million. These are figures reminiscent of the Great Depression of the 1930s.
#10 In 2009, Greece had a debt to GDP ratio of about 115%.  Today, Greece has a debt to GDP ratio of about 160%.  All of the austerity that has been imposed upon them has done nothing to solve their long-term problems.
#11 The yield on 1 year Greek bonds is now over 129 percent.  A year ago the yield on those bonds was under 10 percent.
#12 Greek Deputy Finance Minister Filippos Sachinidis says that Greece only has enough cash to continue operating until next month.
#13 Italy now has a debt to GDP ratio of about 120% and their economy is far, far larger than the economy of Greece.
#14 The yield on 2 year Portuguese bonds is now over 17 percent.  A year ago the yield on those bonds was about 4 percent.
#15 China seems to be concerned about the stability of European banks.  The following is from a recent Reuters report....
A big market-making state bank in China's onshore foreign exchange market has stopped foreign exchange forwards and swaps trading with several European banks due to the unfolding debt crisis in Europe, two sources told Reuters on Tuesday.
#16 European central banks are now buying more gold than they are selling.  This is the first time that has happened in more than 20 years.
#17 The chief economist at the IMF says that the global economy has entered a "dangerous new phase".
#18 Israel has dumped 46 percent of its U.S. Treasuries and Russia has dumped 95 percent of its U.S. Treasuries.  Do they know something that we don't?
#19 World financial markets are expecting that the Federal Reserve will announce a new bond-buying plan this week that will be designed to push long-term interest rates lower.
#20 If some wealthy investors believe that the Obama tax plan has a chance of getting through Congress, they may start dumping stocks before the end of this year in order to avoid getting taxed at a much higher rate in 2012.
#21 According to a study that was recently released by Merrill Lynch, the U.S. economy has an 80% chance of going into another recession.
When financial markets get really jumpy like this, all it takes is one really big spark to set the dominoes in motion.
Hopefully nothing really big will happen in October.
Hopefully global financial markets will not experience a nervous breakdown.
But right now things look a little bit more like 2008 every single day.
None of the problems that caused the financial crisis of 2008 have been fixed, and the world financial system is more vulnerable today than it ever has been since the end of World War II.
As I wrote about yesterday, the U.S. economy has never really recoveredfrom the last financial crisis.
If we see another major financial crash in the coming months, the consequences would be absolutely devastating.
We have been softened up and we are ready for the knockout blow.
Let's just hope that the financial world can keep it together.

Economic Collapse

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Deflation fears are back

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- Suddenly, investors and some economists are worried about deflation once again.

Deflation, a broad drop in prices, was not on the radar most of this year, as increases in the price of essentials such as oil, food and cotton left U.S consumers struggling with the highest inflation rate in three years.

But there are now concerns that a looming slowdown in the global economy could cut into demand so much that falling prices will be the bigger danger than rising prices.

Prices of copper, oil and other commodities have been plunging on worries of reduced demand for those basic raw materials. Gold, traditionally a safe haven in volatile markets, suffered its largest single day price decline since 1980 on Friday.

The difference in yields on Treasuries and the inflation-adjusted bonds known as TIPS also has narrowed sharply in the past two months. On July 1, the spread pointed to a 2.3% inflation rate over the next year, a level above the Federal Reserve's target for acceptable inflation. Now, the expectation is for less than 1% inflation over the next year.

That suggests that the drop in bond yields to record lows last week wasn't just because of Federal Reserve's so-called "Operation Twist" or a flight to quality on Europe fears. It may also be due to a change in investors' inflation expectations.

Deflation is always a major fear of economists, because once prices start to fall, they can enter a downward spiral that causes the economy to slam into reverse. The Great Depression and Japan's so-called "Lost Decade" are two times when deflation took hold firmly.

Businesses that can no longer charge a price that covers the cost of their goods or services cut back, which leads to widespread job cuts. And consumers tend to hold back on purchases because they anticipate even lower prices to come.

"Once the deflation genie is out of the bottle, once the psychology takes hold, you're screwed," said Barry Ritholtz, CEO of Fusion IQ. "It's much more difficult to fix than inflation."

While it's clear that deflation hasn't started yet, some experts worry that the weakening economy is at risk of falling into a downward spiral.

Ritholtz puts the chance of deflation taking hold in the next year at 50-50. Others don't put the risk anywhere near that high, but they say there's a greater chance of deflation than there was only a month or two ago.

"It's nowhere the magnitude of risk we were facing in 2009 or early 2010," said Kevin Giddis, managing director of fixed income at Morgan Keegan. "But it all rides on Europe. If Greece's sovereign debt problems become an all-out contagion, then deflation is on. You'll see plunging global growth along with most commodity prices."

Scott Sumner, professor of economics at Bentley University, said that while lower prices might sound attractive to consumers, it can hurt them more than it helps them by weakening the overall economy.

"Nobody likes higher gas prices, but higher prices for things produced here would lead to more output, more jobs," he said. "We can't keep the economy constantly depressed because we're afraid that stronger growth would mean higher oil prices." 

Goldman Sachs Draws Up Deeper Cuts

The headquarters of Goldman Sachs. The bank is bracing for what could be one of its worst quarters since it went public.

Goldman Sachs, bracing for what could be one of its worst quarters since it went public 12 years ago, is preparing to expand its cost-cutting initiative by hundreds of millions of dollars, a move that could lead to additional job losses at the Wall Street bank.

This summer, Goldman said that it would wring out $1.2 billion in costs from its operations by mid-2012 and cut roughly 1,000 jobs, about 3 percent of its work force. But as the market turmoil has weighed on trading and other businesses in recent weeks, senior executives have been debating even deeper reductions, according to people briefed on the matter who were not authorized to speak publicly.

With the company’s third quarter closing on Friday, Goldman has been revising its plans, potentially raising the cuts by as much as $250 million, to $1.45 billion. Based on its 2010 spending, such reductions would amount to 5 percent of the firm’s expenses.

Along with the possibility of additional layoffs, the firm is expected to reduce employee pay, much of which is handed out later in the year. It is also sharpening its focus on noncompensation expenses, like real estate and travel, according to one of the executives with knowledge of the discussions.

The executive warned that no final decision had been made on size of the cuts, and that the numbers could change quickly if the market improved or weakened. The financial firm may address the matter when it releases its earnings on Oct. 18, he added.

Goldman’s move underscores the broader problems on Wall Street. Financial firms have been under pressure for months, amid the European debt crisis and an economic slowdown in the United States, and a raft of regulatory changes is expected to crimp future profits. But the financial situation has deteriorated in recent weeks, as the market rout has ravaged revenue across Wall Street.

With the stock market slumping, analysts are quickly revising their estimates for third quarter earnings, which the banks are set to report in mid-October. Analysts are tempering their predictions for JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, Citigroup,Bank of America and others. Goldman is now expected to earn $1.35 a share in the third quarter, less than half what the firm earned in the same period of 2010, according to consensus estimates from Thomson Reuters. A month ago, analysts predicted the bank would make $2.65 a share.

The financial picture could be even more bleak, as analysts at both Barclays Capital and Bank of America Merrill Lynch have predicted a loss for Goldman. The company has reported a quarterly loss only once since going public in 1999; it lost $2.12 billion in the fourth quarter of 2008, months after Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy.

“This is an extremely challenging environment, and I am sure every bank will be taking another hard look at expenses after the recent market downturn,” said Glenn Schorr, an analyst at Nomura, the Japanese bank.

In anticipation of a slowdown, banks began trimming their budgets earlier this year and took aim at the biggest expense: compensation. Bank of America, which continues to have losses from the mortgage crisis, has had some of the most severe cuts. It has announced that it would eliminate 30,000 jobs, nearly 10 percent of its total work force, over the next few years. Over all, the bank is looking to cut $5 billion in annual expenses.

JPMorgan Chase is in the midst of a five-year, $1.3 billion cost-cutting plan that will eliminate roughly 3,000 jobs. Morgan Stanley cut some low-producing brokers in its wealth management division, and Credit Suisse laid off administrative assistants in its investment banking unit last week as part of a larger reduction of 2,000 employees.

Wall Street executives are also preparing their staffs for smaller year-end bonuses, although the change is not yet reflected in the expenses. During the first six months of the year Citigroup, JPMorgan, Goldman, Morgan Stanley and Bank of America set aside $65.69 billion to cover compensation and benefits, up 8 percent from a year ago, according to data provided by Nomura. But financial firms tend to wait until the fourth quarter to make the call on the annual payouts.

“The third quarter was rough and revenue is sure to be down, so compensation levels will follow,” said Mr. Schorr.

As Wall Street looks to drive down costs in a bid to protect profits, no expense has been overlooked. Goldman Sachs recently downsized the drinking cups in its New York headquarters to 10 ounces from 12 ounces, saving thousands of dollars. It has also gone mostly cashless in the cafeteria and other areas, eliminating the need to pay armored truck companies to haul away the money.

Barclays, which has said it plans to cut 3,000 jobs this year, recently issued a memo reminding employees that work-issued cellphones are to be used “for valid business purposes only.” In addition to closing two-thirds of its 63 data centers, Bank of America did not host an annual field day for its municipal bond department, a country club affair in New Jersey that in past years included sport stations outfitted with beer kegs.

Even foliage is not safe from the chopping block. James P. Gorman, the chief executive of Morgan Stanley, faced questions about plants at a town hall meeting this summer. An employee told Mr. Gorman that he had noticed decidedly less greenery around the office.

“Every dollar we don’t spent is a dollar available for the bottom line,” Mr. Gorman responded.

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Germany at war over eurozone bail-out

Germany at war over eurozone bailout

Confirmation of the talks, however, sparked outrage in Germany, where opposition politicians threatened to derail the plans by voting against a key amendment to the bail-out fund this Thursday.

The head of Germany's constitutional court also piled on the pressure by warning the government not to circumvent the law "by the back door".

Despite the wrangling in Germany, markets across Europe staggered back to life on hopes that the crisis could be contained and the recovery restored.

In the UK, the FTSE 100 rose 0.4pc to 5,089.37 after £78bn was wiped off shares last week. In France, the CAC 40 rose 1.75pc, and Germany's DAX recovered almost 4pc.

Policymakers in Europe are working on a three-pronged plan to ringfence the euro crisis around Greece.

Under the proposal, banks across the continent would be recapitalised with tens of billions of euros, the €440bn European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) would be "leveraged up" through the European Central Bank (ECB) to provide €2 trillion of firepower, and Greece would be subjected to a managed default on 50pc of its debt but stay in the euro.

Officials hope the move would restore confidence in Spain and Italy and calm nervous bond markets.

The developments follow mounting international pressure on Europe's leaders to fix their problems. President Barack Obama said last night that Europe's debt crisis "is scaring the world".

On Monday, EU economic affairs commissioner Olli Rehn, confirmed that the euro bloc is "thinking about giving the EFSF greater leverage, to give it greater strength".

German ministers also hinted at plans to leverage the EFSF, but stressed the fund itself would not be increased.

Chancellor Angela Merkel said the euro needed a firewall around Greece to stop the attacks on other European states.

Finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble insisted the EFSF needed to be more "efficient", adding: "We are giving it the tools so it can work if necessary. Then we will use it effectively but we do not have the intention of boosting its volume."

Leveraging up the EFSF through the ECB, though, would not be without risk. Germany and France could both lose their AAA credit rating, a top official at Standard & Poor's warned.

David Beers, head of S&P's sovereign rating group, said: "There is some recognition in the eurozone that there is no cheap, risk-free leveraging options for the EFSF any more."

On Thursday, the German parliament is expected to vote through reforms to the EFSF agreed on July 21 to make it more flexible. However, the latest revelations have redoubled opposition efforts.

Social Democrat Carsten Schneider said the government should come clean on its "real intentions" and that "the parliament and public are having the wool pulled over their eyes".

His fears appeared to be confirmed by Fran├žois Baroin, France's finance minister, who said last week that the reforms would allow the EFSF to conduct joint operations with the ECB.

Heaping more pressure on Chancellor Merkel, Andreas Vosskuhle, president of the German constitutional court, warned against further transfer of powers to Brussels. "If anyone wants to go beyond these boundaries, which may be politically justified, then Germany needs a new constitution. For that to occur, there must be a referendum," he said.

Separately, Spain today called a snap election for November 20. The government is seeking a mandate to push through unpopular reforms, with both parties committed to cuts. Greece also denied talk of an orderly default.
The Telegraph

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