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Friday, October 28, 2011

Is An Ice Age Coming?

US solar physicists announced in June 2011 that the Sun appears to be headed into a lengthy spell of low activity, which could mean that the Earth—far from facing a globalwarming problem—is actually headed into a mini Ice Age. The announcement came from scientists at the US National Solar Observatory (NSO) and the US Air Force Research Laboratory. Three different analyses of the Sun’s recent behavior all indicated that a period of unusually low solar activity may be about to begin

Fred Dardick reports, “We are in the midst of the convergence of three major solar, ocean, and atmospheric cycles all heading in the direction of global cooling. Last year the Southern Hemisphere experienced its coldest winter in 50 years and Europe just went through two particularly cold winters in a row, and the cooling trend has just begun. The likelihood of a repeat of the great frost of 1709 is growing every day. (2) This was the time of the Maunder Minimum (1645-1715) and for periods either side of it, many European rivers which are ice-free today—including the Thames—routinely froze over, allowing ice skating and even for armies to march across them in some cases

More recently other papers confirm that solar effects could bring on little ice ages. Sarah Ineson and her colleagues report that changes in the Sun’s emissions of ultraviolet radiation coincided with observed cold winters over southern Europe and Canada between 2008 and this year.

And Katja Matthes and colleagues report that simulations with a climate model using new observations of solar variability suggest a substantial influence of the Sun on the winter climate in the Northern Hemisphere.

Couple this with scientists saying an anticipated cold blast will be due to the return of a disruptive weather pattern called La Nina. Latest evidence shows La Nina, linked to extreme weather in America and with a knock-on effect on Britain, is in force and will gradually strengthen as the year ends. This climate phenomenon, characterized by unusually cold ocean temperatures in the Pacific, was linked to Britain’s icy winter last year—one of the coldest on record.

“However, the BBC when reporting on this story took great care to pay due respect toglobal warming orthodoxy with the statement, ‘The researchers’ emphasize there is no impact on global warming.’ Of course not- what can the sun possibly have to do with warming the planet?”
Canada Free Press

Huge Asteroid to Creep Near Earth on Nov. 8

In April 2010, this radar image of the near-Earth asteroid 2005 YU55 was taken by the Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico. On Nov. 8, 2011, this large space rock zips by Earth again and will be surveyed by radar, visual and infrared equipment.

Mark Nov. 8 on your calendar. A huge asteroid that could potentially threaten Earth in the far future will pass close by as astronomers around the world watch and measure.

This space rock is asteroid 2005 YU55, a veritable mini-world roughly 1,300 feet (400 meters) wide — nearly four football fields across — that will zoom by Earth inside the orbit of the moon.

At its closest approach, the asteroid will pass within 201,700 miles (325,000 kilometers) of Earth at 6:28 p.m. EDT (2228 GMT) on Nov. 8. The average distance between Earth and the moon is 240,000 miles (386,242 km).

Asteroid 2005 YU55 is set to become the object du jour for ground observers. An extensive campaign of radar, visual and infrared observations is being staged to survey this cosmic interloper.

Due to its size and proximity, YU55 was classified as a "Potentially Hazardous Asteroid" several years ago. Its upcoming flyby is another wake-up call — an express mail reminder that humanity resides on a sitting duck of a planet.

Asteroid 2005 YU55's pass by Earth will be closest to date by an object this large that we know about in advance. A smaller asteroid, called 2011 CQ1, actually came closer to Earth without hitting – a record-setting approach to within 3,400 miles (5,471 kilometers) — but it was not seen in advance.

The asteroid's near-Earth flyby is also the first since 1976 that astronomers have known about in advance for such a large object. The next known flyby with a big space rock will occur in 2028, NASA scientists said.

This still from a NASA animation by Jon Giorgini of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory shows the trajectory of asteroid 2005 YU55 as it passes between Earth and the moon on Nov. 8, 2011.

NASA Issues Image Of El Hierro Volcanic Eruption

On October 23, 2011, the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite captured this natural-color view of El Hierro and the North Atlantic Ocean surrounding it. A milky green plume in the water stretches 25-30 kilometers at its widest and perhaps 100 kilometers long, from a large mass near the coast to thin tendrils as it spread outs to the southwest. The plume is likely a mix of volcanic gases and a blend of crushed pumice and seafloor rock.

Tremors were reported for the past several months from seismic stations on El Hierro, particularly in the northwest of the island. Then on October 12, 2011, the strength of the tremors significantly decreased while foaming, rock-strewn plumes appeared in the sea to the south of the island. The underwater plume of volcanic debris has persisted for nearly two weeks and has been mixed and dispersed by ocean surface currents. The eruption is occurring in water that is tens to a few hundred meters deep.

Geologist and blogger Erik Klimetti offered this analysis: “It looks like the main fissure might be 2-3 kilometers in length and is close to on strike with the rift axis for the main El Hierro edifice. Ramon Ortiz, coordinator of a government scientific team, said that if/when the eruption reaches shallower water, we should expect to see the surface water start to steam, followed by explosions of steam and magma and finally the emergence of an island.”

Irish Weather

Pope to promote peace in talks with world religious leaders

VATICAN CITY – Pope Benedict XVI has invited 300 religious leaders to a meeting in Assisi in Italy to repudiate “violence in the name of God” amid growing tensions fuelled by fundamentalists across the world.

The day of interreligious council, which will be held on Thursday in St. Francis of Assisi’s birthplace, is intended to be a “journey of reflection, dialogue and prayer for peace and justice in the world,” the Vatican said.

Over 50 Islamic representatives are expected to attend the talks from several countries, including Saudi Arabia and Iran.

They will be joined by Rabbis, Hindus, Buddhists, Jains, Sikhs, a Zoroastrian, a Bahai and representatives of Taoism and Confucianism as well as of other traditional religions from Africa and America.

For the first time, four atheists will also attend the meeting, which is traditionally organised so as not to coincide with the Muslim day of prayer on Friday, the Jewish one on Saturday or the Christian one on Sunday.

However, the Imam from the Al-Azhar University in Cairo, a heavyweight authority on Sunnism, will not be coming, having fallen out with the pope after he urged Egypt to protect Christians from attacks by radical Islamists.

The meeting is being criticised by Catholic fundamentalists who are strongly against the idea of dialogue with other religions. French fundamentalist Regis de Cacqueray said 1,000 masses would be needed to be said in reparation.

The event marks the 25th anniversary of the first interreligious meeting in Assisi, organised by John Paul II in 1986 as a “day of prayer” inspired by the United Nation’s proclamation of an International Year of the Peace.

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the then prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, chose not to attend because of concerns shared by traditionalists that it risked mixing religions into a vague common belief.

While guests attending this year’s encounter — the third in Assisi — will in principle follow a “common course”, those who wish to pray will do so separately, according to their beliefs, the Holy See has said.

Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, who helped organise the first Assisi day in 1986, said John Paul II had been careful to avoid mixing beliefs, and Benedict XVI was no different.

“Interreligious dialogue has spread” over the last 25 years, and the pope sees it “as a common, irrevocable heritage of Christian sensibility,” he said.

The pope’s main aim is for participants to agree to “a common commitment to reject the instrumentalism of religion and the use of violence in the name of God,” said a Vatican insider.

Number two of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, Pier Luigi Celata, said the problems that particularly concern religions are immigration, cultural diversity, religious liberty and the defence of the family.

“These issues oblige faithful people from different religions to look for common solutions,” he said.

At the end of the day of talks, the main participants will renew their commitment to peace in the square in front of St. Francis’ Basilica.

A burning torch will be symbolically presented to the delegations in the hope that they will take the message back with them to their communities.

A glimpse into the future from Microsoft and (maybe) RIM

Predicting what the next generation of technology will look like is something on which multibillion-dollar companies are based.

That is, if their predictions are accurate.

In the first video embedded below, Microsoft Corp. provides its vision of the world five to 10 years from now. The world’s largest software company, continuing in its long-established tradition of crystal ball gazing, clearly foresees a future where intelligent systems bringing humanity all the information it needs anywhere, at any time, without the recipient ever being aware of the technologies involved.

In the second and third videos — rumoured to be commissioned by Research In Motion Ltd. — the fortune-telling is focused on mobile devices. The videos were posted by the gadget blog PocketNow on Thursday, which claims they were commissioned by RIM and then posted to an online portfolio site before being marked private.

We reached out to RIM to verify the authenticity of the videos, but so far have not heard back from the company.

The videos showcase full touchscreen handheld devices capable of interacting with what seems to be virtually everything they might encounter in nature, similar to the Microsoft notion of technology fading into the background of daily life while at the same time permeating everything.

Financial Post

Video of nYPD brutality at occupy Oakland

We need discipline and more integration, says Barroso

European Commission President José Manuel Barroso hailed the eurozone debt deal on Thursday but said its implementation is still needed to rescue debt-hit Greece. In an exclusive interview with FRANCE 24-RFI on Thursday, Barroso called on member states and financial institutions to follow through on measures to write off 50% of Greek loans, as was agreed at a crisis summit earlier in the day.

At the end of grueling eight-hour-long negotiations in Brussels that continued overnight into Thursday, eurozone leaders struck a deal with private banks and insurers to write off half of Greece’s bond debt. Under the deal, the private sector agreed to voluntarily accept a nominal 50% cut in its bond investments to slice off €100 billion from Greece’s overwhelming €350-billion debt pile, cutting its debts to 120% of GDP by 2020, from 160% now.

“A lot was done, the results were rather impressive, better than expected frankly, but we have to concentrate on the implementation of the measures,” Barroso said.

The EU commissioner added that handing a lifeline to Greece was only a part of the deal. “The recapitalization of banks, measures to enhance the stability and growth perspectives, reinforcing governance in the eurozone – all those points were covered,” Barroso argued.

Getting back to growth

In return for the banks’ write-off, EU leaders agreed to re-inject public cash into the region’s banking sectors. The European Banking Authority has estimated that €106 billion were needed by banks. However, the International Monetary Fund has suggested more money was needed.

Under the latest negotiations, eurozone countries and the International Monetary Fund will also provide an additional €100 billion in rescue loans as a second bailout package for Greece. The country’s troubled economy is heading into a fourth year of recession, with unemployment at 16.5% and taxpayers struggling to cope with a barrage of new taxes on property, purchases and their shrinking incomes.

Barroso said providing new public investment was also key to Greece’s recovery. “At the same time I am speaking about fiscal consolidation and debt reduction, I’m insisting to have measures for growth,” he told FRANCE 24 on Thursday. “Without growth we will not be able to overcome the current situation.

Eurozone leaders also agreed to boost their debt rescue fund, the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF), to €1 trillion in order to provide risk insurance on new bonds issued by fragile governments in a bid to reassure investors and encourage them to continue to invest in them.

European countries also decided to appeal to emerging countries to help resolve their debt woes. A second fund, linked to the EFSF, will be created to attract private and public investors, including the likes of China and Russia. The investment vehicle might also be routed via the IMF.

‘Integrating’ economic policy

Barroso also said that the EU Commission would get serious about punishing member states that did not abide by economic agreements and commitments. “It is important to have a system of sanctions to be credible, but not only that. We need discipline, but also convergence and more integration.”

France 24

Europe's rescue euphoria threatened as Portugal enters 'Grecian vortex'

Monetary contraction in Portugal has intensified at an alarming pace and is mimicking the pattern seen in Greece before its economy spiralled out of control, raising concerns that the EU summit deal may soon washed over by fast-moving events.

Data released by the European Central Bank show that real M1 deposits in Portugal have fallen at an annualised rate of 21pc over the past six months, buckling violently in September.

"Portugal appears to have entered a Grecian vortex and monetary trends have deteriorated sharply in Spain, with a decline of 8.4pc," said Simon Ward, from Henderson Global Investors. Mr Ward said the ECB must cut interest rates "immediately" and launch a full-scale blitz of quantitative easing of up to 10pc of eurozone GDP.

The M1 data - cash and current accounts - is watched by experts as a leading indicator for the economy six months to a year ahead. It has been an accurate warning signal for each stage of the crisis since 2007.

A mix of fiscal austerity and monetary tightening by the ECB earlier this year appear to have tipped the Iberian region into a downward slide. "The trends are less awful in Ireland and Italy, suggesting that both are rescuable if the ECB acts aggressively," said Mr Ward.

A shrinking money supply is dangerous for countries with a high debt stock. Portugal’s public and private debt will reach 360pc of GDP by next year, far higher than in Greece.

Premier Pedro Passos Coelho has been praised by EU leaders for sticking to austerity pledges under Portugal’s EU-IMF rescue, but the policy is pushing the country deeper into slump and playing havoc with debt dynamics.

The EU deal was not designed to deal with such a threat. The working assumption is that Greece alone is the essential problem, and that other troubles are under control or caused by jittery markets.

Officials hope that debt relief through private sector haircuts of 50pc will be enough for Greece claw its way back to viability, and that spillover effects can be contained by bank recapitalizations, raising core Tier 1 ratios to 9pc with €106bn of fresh capital.

A boost in the €440bn bail-out fund (EFSF) to €1 trillion or more - by opaque means - will supposedly create a "firewall" to rebuild market confidence and stop contagion to the rest of Club Med.

This rescue machinery may prove to be a Maginot Line if -- as many economists think -- the danger comes from within Portugal, Spain, and Italy. Like Greece, these countries have lost 30pc in labour competitiveness against Germany since the mid-1990s. That is the root of the EMU crisis. A toxic mix of fiscal tightening, higher debt costs, and now the threat of a eurozone recession risks tipping them over the edge.

The hairshirt summit ignored this dimension of the crisis. Italy was ordered to cut further, balancing its budget by 2013. The mantra was "rigorous surveillance" of budgets and "discipline". There will be laws to enforce "balanced budgets", and EU officials will have extra powers to vet economic policy.

This marks a step-change in the level of EU intrusion. Greece will be subject to a "monitoring capacity on the ground", implying a vice-regal EU presence calling the shots in Athens.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the goal is to create a "stability union", not a fiscal union. There will be no joint bond issuance, no shared budgets, no debt pooling, and fiscal transfers. The elevation of EU commissioner Olli Rehn to post of economic tsar does not change this.

Germany has dictated the agenda, vetoing calls to mobilize the ECB’s full firepower to halt the crisis. The Bundestag even ordered Mrs Merkel to insist on ECB withdrawal from existing bond purchases.

Jean-Luc Mélenchon, leader of the French leftist Front, said Europe is now marching to Germany’s drum and "headed for disaster", a view gaining ground across Europe’s Left.

Albert Edwards from Société Générale said the ECB will have to act, over a German veto if necessary. "The increasingly frenzied attempts of eurozone governments to persuade financial markets that they can draw a line under this crisis will ultimately fail."

The Telegraph

Debt committee's failure would trigger deep cuts

The congressional debt committee has less than a month left to propose at least $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction.

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- The automatic cuts looming over the congressional debt committee would take a big bite out of discretionary spending, a top government budget expert said Wednesday.

And those reductions would be felt across the economy -- potentially affecting infrastructure projects, higher education, basic research, and state and local governments, Congressional Budget Office Director Douglas Elmendorf explained to members of the so-called super committee.

That panel must propose at least $1.2 trillion in debt reduction over a decade. If it fails to do so, the budget law passed by Congress in August would require across-the-board cuts to certain parts of the federal budget.

As a result, by 2021, defense spending would be slashed to a level 16% lower than it would be if it simply kept pace with inflation, and nondefense discretionary spending would be 15% lower, Elmendorf said.

The focus of Elmendorf's testimony was discretionary spending, which constitutes less than half of the federal budget and is already subject to other spending curbs under the Budget Control Act passed this summer.
Project Compromise: Time for Congress to do right

"Lawmakers have already taken significant steps to constrain discretionary spending," he said.

The prospect that discretionary spending would grow far below inflation understates how some programs would be affected.

For example, Elmendorf said, spending on veterans' health care and Pell grants for higher education has been growing faster than inflation.


Peter Schiff...occupy wall street

Nightmare scenario: U.S. deflation risks rising

WASHINGTON – Risks are rising that a moribund job market and potentially steep drop in inflation could push the United States into a downward spiral of falling wages and prices.

That nightmare scenario of deflation might seem remote considering a recent rebound in growth, and the U.S. Federal Reserve would almost certainly try to head it off, probably well before prices started to fall.

But some investors and economists say the risk is real.

Inflation is expected to more than halve over the next year as a spike in prices for goods like oil and grains unwinds. Unemployment, meanwhile, will likely hold at nearly double its pre-recession level well into next year, keeping incomes under pressure.

If forecasts are correct, that could present a dangerous combination the Fed might not allow to brew for very long.

“You run the models and that all points to deflation,” said Joshua Dennerlein, an economist at Bank of America Merrill Lynch in New York. “Without some kind of monetary policy help you would definitely get deflation.”

Already, many forecasts for price increases are lower than they were a year ago when the Fed announced it would pump US$600-billion into the banking system to boost growth and counter fears of deflation, which were growing at the time.

The inflation rate, which hit a three-year high of 3.9% in September, could fall to 1.3% by October 2012, according to a measure of expectations calculated by the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland.

That would leave the rate below the U.S. central bank’s 1.7% to 2% comfort zone.

With this year’s inflation surge as a backdrop, the Fed is not expected to make any move at its policy meeting on Tuesday and Wednesday.

But looking to mid-2012, when the central bank’s current stimulus program known as “Operation Twist” is due to expire, a high jobless rate and slowing inflation could look worrisome, especially if inflation expectations decline further.

“That would provide more of a foundation for action both to try to reduce the probability of slipping into deflation and to try to provide some more support for economic growth,” said Randall Kroszner, an economist at the University of Chicago who served on the Fed’s board until 2009.

When Mr. Kroszner was a policymaker, deflation fears were perhaps their highest since the Great Depression, the last time U.S. prices and incomes sank in a vicious, self-feeding cycle.

To counter inflation, central banks can always raise interest rates. But the Fed’s normal tool kit for countering falling prices is limited since it has already cut short-term borrowing costs nearly to zero.

The key would be to find a way to ensure a deflationary psychology does not take hold. If consumers and businesses put off purchases because they could be cheaper down the road, that could undercut the economy and push prices down further.

While growth likely accelerated to around a 2.5% annual pace in the third quarter, nearly double the second-quarter rate, several Fed officials have continued to talk about steps they could take to spur a stronger recovery.

Some of the third quarter’s relative strength reflects a one-time bounceback from shocks caused by a spike in oil prices and an earthquake in Japan that disrupted manufacturing.

And dark clouds remain. Economists say a worsening of Europe’s debt crisis could easily send the United States back into recession, further increasing deflation risks.

Already, nearly one fifth of Americans believe their family incomes will fall during the next six months, the highest level of wage pessimism since October 2009, according to data released on Tuesday by the Conference Board.

At the same time, consumer expectations for long-term inflation, as measured by a Thomson-Reuters/University of Michigan survey, fell this month to the lowest level since the Fed was readying a US$600-billion bond-buying plan a year ago.

Growth in wages has slowed markedly since the recession and they could eventually start falling if the unemployment rate remains high, said Paul Ashworth, and economist at Capital Economics in Toronto. A Reuters poll of economists expects the jobless rate to edge down to just 9% in the second quarter of 2012 from 9.1% now.

Some analysts think the Fed’s extraordinary actions to help the economy — it has already pumped US$2.3-trillion into the banking system — make it nearly impossible for a sustained deflation to take hold.

While much of that money has not seeped into the wider economy because of weak demand and tighter lending standards, eventually it will, greasing the gears of growth and fueling inflation, said Richard Burdekin, an economist at Claremont McKenna College in Claremont, California.

“There is a legitimate concern about deflation,” he said. “But to have a deflation when you have the sort of money growth we’re seeing would be unprecedented.”

Yet investors who believe most ardently that deflation is coming see evidence in the declines in the values of a number of asset classes. U.S. housing prices have fallen about a third since their pre-recession peak, while the Standard & Poor’s stock index is down about a fifth. The Reuters-Jefferies CRB commodities index has also dropped about a third since its 2008 peak, and nearly 15 percent since April of this year.

“When you have deflation in all these other areas, it’s kind of difficult to see how goods and services are going to resist the trend,” said Gary Shilling, who formerly worked on the staff of the San Francisco Fed and as an economist at several Wall Street firms.
Financial Post

Collapse of euro could pose threat to peace, says Angela Merkel

Merkel wins rescue fund vote after raising spectre of war

As European leaders struggled to reach a deal over a bail-out package, Mrs Merkel said “the world is watching” and that “if the euro collapses, then Europe collapses”.

Silvio Berlusconi, the Italian prime minister, was said to have offered to resign in January in exchange for the support of his coalition partners in raising the Italian retirement age.

A subsequent debate over the issue in the Italian Parliament descended into a fist fight.

On what was billed as a “make or break” summit for the eurozone, leaders from across the continent descended on Brussels for all-night talks. It was the second summit in the past week, and the 14th in the past 21 months.

Before the day had even begun, finance ministers cancelled a planned meeting which was due to discuss the technical detail of a bail-out for the single currency.

A spokesman for the European Commission said that only a “political deal” was on the table, despite the financial markets expecting a detailed agreement containing a breakdown of exactly how the crisis would be tackled.

International investors are expecting a bail-out worth more than one trillion euros although the EC said that the final “figure” would not be drawn up for several weeks.

By mid-afternoon, talks between the EU and major banks had been suspended after those who had lent money to Greece were asked to write off about half of the loans they had made to the beleaguered country.

Last night Alistair Darling, the former Labour chancellor, said it was essential that banks accepted substantial losses on their Greek debts to avoid triggering another global credit crisis.

“It’s quite clear the banks are certainly going to take a write-down or a 'haircut’ as they say in the jargon, which is why they will need to be recapitalised, but it could be that some governments are going to be in it as well,” he said.

“Whatever the whys and wherefores of that, though, if they don’t sort it, if they just Lehmans-like let it collapse into a heap of rubble then stand back and watch what happens, well, look what did happen three years ago. They can’t afford to do that this time.”

Mrs Merkel said European leaders could not allow the single currency to fail as “the world is watching”.

“Nobody should believe that another half century of peace in Europe is a given — it’s not,” Mrs Merkel said. “So I say again: if the euro collapses, Europe collapses. That can’t happen.”

Although German politicians formally backed Mrs Merkel’s call for an increased European bail-out fund, the German government is refusing to allow the European Central Bank (ECB) to lend money directly to countries in the single currency.

This threatened to undermine a deal which involved enough “firepower” to tackle the crisis.

The British Government, although not directly involved in the euro deal, is thought to favour a greater role for the ECB.
The Telegraph