Tuesday, December 27, 2011
Speculation as to an alleged Israeli strike in Sudan dominated Sudanese press reports in the past week. The Al-Rakoba newspaper claimed that two Israeli Apache helicopters landed in an island off the Sudan coast where a radar station is located. According to the report, IDF soldiers roamed the island freely and the helicopters managed to return safely without being intercepted by the Sudanese Armed Forces.
The report further mentioned that the military forces arrived at the scene only after a report exposing the alleged attack was published. It said that local police, army and security forces could not agree on who was to handle the incident.
It was further reported that the Sudanese government kept silent on the issue. Unlike the initial report at the Al-Intibaha newspaper, Al-Rakoba claims that the alleged Israeli attack took place in late November. The Egyptian air force reportedly scanned the area in a number of sorties. Israel, it should be noted, never confirmed it had attacked in Sudan.
A commentator at the Sudanese Online website tried to shed some light on the mysterious strike. He claimed that the Sudanese Armed Forces asked Egypt to inform them whether its radars detect an Israeli invasion of Sudan's airspace or any Israeli submarine presence in the Red Sea. The commentator said that despite the army's denial, President Omar al-Bashir arrived at the scene via a helicopter. He remarked that Sudan could not protect its own soldiers.
After the president's visit, Sudan's intelligence chief General Mohammad Atta reportedly warned Bashir against visiting the area again, fearing he would be kidnapped or assassinated by Israel.
Iran has capability to disrupt any military plots the U.S. may seek to implement against it, Defense Minister Brigadier General Ahmad Vahidi said on Monday.
Iran has the requisite technology and equipment, including unmanned aerial vehicles, to “counter electronic and covert warfare,” Vahidi was quoted by Press TV as saying.
On December 4, Iran brought down a U.S. RQ-170 Sentinel stealth reconnaissance drone that had crossed into Iran’s airspace from neighboring Afghanistan.
Vahidi blasted the United States for breaching “all international regulations and violating the rights of Iran and Afghanistan.”
He also lashed out at the UN for failing to condemn the violation of Iran's airspace by an American spy drone.
You can debase currency, and history is replete with governments that have debased their own currency and ruined their own currency for hundreds of - well for thousands of years it has been going on. You can do that and everything is okay for a while, but eventually you have inflation, you have high interest rates, you have currency turmoil, you have people no longer trusting each other to invest with each other, and then you have the end of the system, and we have chaos, and it starts over again. - in BBC
Jim Rogers is an author, financial commentator and successful international investor. He has been frequently featured in Time, The New York Times, Barron’s, Forbes, Fortune, The Wall Street Journal, The Financial Times and is a regular guest on Bloomberg and CNBC.
The Treasury is working on contingency plans for the disintegration of the single currency that include capital controls.
The preparations are being made only for a worst-case scenario and would run alongside similar limited capital controls across Europe, imposed to reduce the economic fall-out of a break-up and to ease the transition to new currencies.
Officials fear that if one member state left the euro, investors in both that country and other vulnerable eurozone nations would transfer their funds to safe havens abroad. Capital flight from weak euro nations to the UK would drive up sterling, dealing a devastating blow to the Government’s plans to rebalance the economy towards exports.
Earlier this year, Switzerland was forced to peg its currency to the euro to protect the economy after a massive appreciation in the Swiss franc due to spiralling fears over Europe.
The plans emerged as Spain’s new finance minister Luis de Guindos warned the country’s economy was set for negative growth in the last quarter.
Speaking yesterday he warned the next two months “are not going to be easy”.
Britain’s response to a euro meltdown would reflect measures taken by Argentina when it dropped the dollar peg in 2002 and by Czechoslovakia after the country broke in two in 1993, according to sources. Faced with a massive capital inflow, the Czech Republic temporarily imposed taxes on foreign inflows to banks and capped the amount of overseas credit domestic banks could use.
In addition to the risk of an appreciating currency, dealing with potential UK corporate exposures to the euro poses a considerable challenge for the Treasury.
Britain’s top four banks have about £170bn of exposure to the troubled periphery of Greece, Ireland, Italy, Portugal and Spain through loans to companies, households, rival banks and holdings of sovereign debt. For Barclays and Royal Bank of Scotland, the loans equate to more than their entire equity capital buffer.
Under European Union rules, capital controls can only be used in an emergency to impose “quantitative restrictions” on inflows, which would require agreement of the majority of EU members. Controls can only be put in place for six months, at which point an application would have to be made to renew them.
Capital controls form just one part of a broader response to a euro break-up, however. Borders are expected to be closed and the Foreign Office is preparing to evacuate thousands of British expatriates and holidaymakers from stricken countries.
The Ministry of Defence has been consulted about organising a mass evacuation if Britons are trapped in countries which close their borders, prevent bank withdrawals and ground flights.
Treasury officials would not comment on the specifics of any plans but said the Government always had contingency plans that cover a full range of eventualities.
A break up of the euro would have a devastating impact on the UK. HSBC economists have warned that it could trigger a global depression and forecasters at the Centre for Economic & Business Research reckon it would knock about a percentage point off UK growth – plunging the country into a full-blown recession in 2012.
The scale of economic problems alongside the existing debt burden would leave the Government with little in its armoury to combat the collapse, making capital controls one of the few viable options.
There is a glimmer of good news for the global economy with upbeat figures expected today from the US. Reports from America suggested US consumer confidence figures out today could rise to a five month high as house prices stabilise.
Luis de Guindos dampened already gloomy expectations for the economy as the new conservative government got to work on its programme of tough spending cuts.
"This quarter the Spanish economy will surely see a downturn and we will return to negative growth," he told a news conference.
"Make no mistake, the next two months are not going to be easy, neither from a growth nor a jobs point of view," he said at a ceremony for his top ministry staff taking office.
The fourth-quarter outlook "is logically going to determine the (economic) profile we will enter in the coming year, which is going to be a relatively slowed-down profile."
The Spanish quoted him later telling reporters that gross domestic product would contract by 0.2 to 0.3 percent in the current quarter. Spain's official growth figure for the third quarter was zero.
Various economists have forecast negative growth in the current quarter and the first three months of 2012. A recession is commonly defined as two quarters of contraction in a row.
Spain only emerged at the start of 2010 from an 18-month recession, triggered the global financial crisis and a property bubble collapse, which destroyed millions of jobs and left banks with mountains of bad loans.
The collapse forced a major restructuring of the financial sector and tough spending cuts which the new government has vowed to deepen in order to create jobs and reassure the financial markets that lend to Spain.
The new right-leaning government of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has set a tight timetable for reforms to fix the slumping economy and reduce the public deficit.
Its top priority is to cut its unemployment rate, which is the highest in the industrial world at 21.5 percent.
Rajoy has said he will slash Spain's deficit by €16.5 billion (£13.8bn) in 2012 through sweeping cuts, with only pensions escaping the knife, as well as cleaning up banks and reforming the labour market.
Earthquake experts were surprised by the violence of the newest tremors beneath Christchurch, with reports showing ground acceleration far greater than expected for magnitude 5 and 6 quakes.
Four quakes of magnitude 5 or greater hit yesterday, the largest one a magnitude 6 which occurred 10km north of Lyttelton, and only 6km deep in Christchurch's hard basaltic rock.
The faultline of the largest quake was estimated to be 7km to 8km long, and its rupture caused the earth to slip about a metre.
University of Canterbury geologist Mark Quigley said the magnitude 5.8 earthquake generated ground accelerations of 1g in New Brighton, on the eastern side of Christchurch.
This meant the buildings in eastern suburbs were thrown up and dropped with the same acceleration a stone would have if dropped from a person's hand.
More significantly, the threshold for liquefaction occurring was around 0.17g to 0.2g.
"So the largest quake was five times the ground acceleration required for liquefaction," said Dr Quigley.
"Even though the first earthquake seemed slightly smaller, at a 5.8, the proximity to the eastern suburbs but also something about the way the fault ruptured generated extremely high ground accelerations."
The tremors were an expected part of the aftershock sequence that has been rumbling under Canterbury since the Darfield quake on September 4 last year.
A statistical analysis published by GNS Science on December 15 showed there was a 50 per cent chance of a tremor between 5.5 and 5.9 occurring in the next year.
Dr Quigley: "It's not surprising. As much as we want to move on, with faults like these ones that are locked up for five, ten thousand years ... three months without a major earthquake is the blink of an eye in geological terms."
GNS Science seismologist Ken Gledhill said it was not a classic aftershock sequence because the earth was taking slightly longer than expected to shake out the largest quakes. After a magnitude 6 quake a region can expect around 10 magnitude 5 aftershocks.
"The thing about the deeper rock around Christchurch is that it's quite firm, even though you've got the river gravels on top. So when you break it, it breaks quite violently. And when it has been locked for so long, it takes a bit longer to get rid of all its stress," said Dr Gledhill.
He warned that tremors would continue during the weekend before tapering off next week.
There have been 31 earthquakes of magnitude 5 and above since September 4 last year.
* 1.58pm, magnitude 5.8, 20km northeast of Lyttelton, 8km deep
* 2.06pm, magnitude 5.3, 20km east of Christchurch, 10km deep
* 3.18pm, magnitude 6.0, 10km north of Lyttelton, 6km deep
* 4.50pm, magnitude 5.0, 20km northeast of Lyttelton, 10km deep
A new study published in the peer-reviewed journal International Journal of Health Services alleges that 14,000 people have already died in the United States due to Fukushima.
Specifically, the authors of the study claim:
An estimated 14,000 excess deaths in the United States are linked to the radioactive fallout from the disaster at the Fukushima nuclear reactors in Japan, according to a major new article in the December 2011 edition of the International Journal of Health Services. This is the first peer-reviewed study published in a medical journal documenting the health hazards of Fukushima.
[The authors] note that their estimate of 14,000 excess U.S. deaths in the 14 weeks after the Fukushima meltdowns is comparable to the 16,500 excess deaths in the 17 weeks after the Chernobyl meltdown in 1986. The rise in reported deaths after Fukushima was largest among U.S. infants under age one. The 2010-2011 increase for infant deaths in the spring was 1.8 percent, compared to a decrease of 8.37 percent in the preceding 14 weeks.
The authors seem – at first glance – to have pretty solid credentials. Janette Sherman, M.D. worked for the Atomic Energy Commission (forerunner of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission) at the University of California in Berkeley, and for the U.S. Navy Radiation Defense Laboratory in San Francisco. She served on the EPA’s advisory board for 6 years, and has been an advisor to the National Cancer Institute on breast cancer. Dr. Sherman specializes in internal medicine and toxicology with an emphasis on chemicals and nuclear radiation.
Joseph J. Mangano is a public health administrator and researcher who has studied the connection between low-dose radiation exposure and subsequent risk of diseases such as cancer and damage to newborns. He has published numerous articles and letters in medical and other journals in addition to books, including Low Level Radiation and Immune System Disorders: An Atomic Era Legacy.
Sherman also claims that a study in British Columbia of infants under 1 year of age allegedly corroborates the increased deaths due to Fukushima: