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Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Tri-Faith Project to construct multi-million dollar interfaith complex in America's heartland

You are SHAME to the name of GOD, the only one GOD... Jehovah!!!

OMAHA, NE — The similarities between the three Abrahamic faiths of Judaism, Christianity and Islam are well known to those who study each religion, but many people practicing these faiths are not quite as aware.

The $35-million complex will include a temple, church and mosque and a large center connecting the three groups.
A new project that its creators call the first development of its kind in the world hopes to shed light on those similarities with the building of the new Tri-Faith Project, a large privately-funded development in Omaha on a former country club and golf course that spans 35 acres and will comprise three sites: Temple Israel, the Episcopal Diocese of Nebraska (including a church) and the American Institute of Islamic Studies and Culture (which includes a mosque), as well as the large central Tri-Faith Center connecting the three religious centers for common events and meetings.

The main building will use a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) structure and will house an auditorium and briefing room for conferences, lectures, symposiums and film screenings, coffee shops and gathering spaces, kitchen and dining facilities, space for traveling exhibits and more. Included on the site will be educational and social facilities to be used by all of the religious groups sharing the campus.

The founders of the Tri-Faith Project have been searching five years for the spot and are excited to bring the project to life; it will be a nearly $50 million project altogether for the four buildings.

The memorandum of understanding was signed in 2006 between the three groups to create the facilities while fundraising has continued. The hope is that the facility will open in the fall of 2013, although work on individual buildings could continue for another year or two.

"Our vision is to build bridges of respect, acceptance and trust, to challenge stereotypes, to learn from each other and to counter the influence of fear and misunderstanding," the project posted on its website as its mission statement.

Spokesman Vic Gutman said the cooperation between the three faith groups has been extraordinary.

"It's unique to the world where the representatives of the three Abrahamic faiths have intentionally built places of worship next to each other in one neighborhood," he said.

"Our hope is that this experience will not only help the members of the congregations learn from each other but that people throughout the world will learn from our experience as well."

The idea first came together when members of the temple decided to build a new building and the planners thought it would be a good idea to choose their neighbors, especially for sharing parking during holidays, which includes large crowds.

From there, the idea of collaboration grew and the idea came about through dialogue with the other organizations. Officials from the temple reached out to their counterparts at the Islamic center, which they had a longstanding relationship with already. The Episcopalian group soon joined and the project was officially born. Currently, the Jewish community has the most members in the area, but all three faiths will stand together as partners in the landmark project.

John Lehr, president of Temple Israel spoke about the initiative.

"How serendipitous it is that on the very ground where Omaha's Jews once congregated at the only Country Club that would have us, we are now poised to congregate again, but this time, in a peaceful and beautiful multi-faith neighborhood, linked together by bridges of dialogue and mutual understanding."

Dr. Syed M. Mohiuddin, president of the Islamic center, is also excited about the project.

"In a time when the world is engaged in building walls, this is a celebration of building bridges," he said. "As the Holy Qur'an reminds us of the common bond among us: 'We believe in what has been revealed to us and what has been revealed to you (Jews and Christians). Our God and your God is one and the same: and it is to him we submit."

Tim Anderson, Canon for Episcopal Tri-Faith Ministries, is also looking forward to the completion of the project.

"In our baptismal covenant in the Episcopal Church we make the following promises: to seek and serve Christ in all persons; to love our neighbors as ourselves; to strive for justice and peace among all people; and to respect the dignity of every human being. We will now have a unique opportunity to live out those promises with our new Jewish and Muslim neighbors."

The Arab American News

The True Federal Debt

Bruce Bartlett held senior policy roles in the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations and served on the staffs of Representatives Jack Kemp and Ron Paul. He is the author of the coming book “The Benefit and the Burden: Tax Reform – Why We Need It and What It Will Take.”

In our personal lives, we all understand that debts may take different forms. They aren’t limited only to credit cards or loans taken out from banks; they consist of various promises and financial obligations as well.

These might include commitments to pay for a daughter’s wedding or a child’s graduate school education, to provide the down payment on a sibling’s house or to care for aged parents. While these debts may not show up on anyone’s formal balance sheet, families are well aware of them, and failure to live up to them can be very costly indeed.

So, too, with the federal government. The national debt, which is the object of almost obsessive attention these days, is like a bank loan. It is an important part of national indebtedness, but only a small part. The vast bulk of the true debt is in the form of commitments to pay future benefits to retired federal employees, veterans, and Social Security and Medicare beneficiaries.

These commitments are generally invisible because the federal government operates on a cash basis. The federal budget is concerned only with income and outgo between two points in time — from Oct. 1 to Sept. 30, the fiscal year. Promises to pay benefits in the future generally show up in the budget only when those benefits are actually paid.

For many years, it was almost impossible even to find a list of the federal government’s financial commitments.

In 1949, the Hoover Commission recommended that the government move toward accrual accounting, which corporations are required to use, and book the full cost of programs on an annual basis. It wasn’t until 1966 that Congress required the Treasury Department to publish the data.

But it was available only as an obscure mimeographed document, difficult to obtain, called the Statement of Liabilities and Other Financial Commitments of the United States Government, known only to budget experts.

In 1977, the General Accounting Office and the Treasury published the first consolidated financial statement of the United States government. It was limited in scope, and insufficient data existed to calculate many of the government’s assets and liabilities, but it was an important start to providing a complete picture of federal indebtedness.

The successor to the consolidated financial statement is now called the Financial Report of the United States Government. The edition for the 2011 fiscal year was published on Dec. 23 by the Treasury’s Financial Management Service to no fanfare.

The Obama administration, like previous administrations, had little interest in telling the American people that their debt problem was vastly worse than they thought. It buried the report on a day when most reporters were preparing for the holidays and unlikely to pore through a 254-page document filled with long columns of numbers punctuated with footnotes and accounting jargon.

Predictably, the financial report was ignored. Even The New York Times took no notice of it.

According to the report, the federal debt — simply the cumulative value of all past budget deficits less surpluses — was $10.2 trillion on Sept. 30. But the government also owed $5.8 trillion to federal employees and veterans. Social Security’s unfunded liability — promised benefits over expected Social Security revenues — was $9.2 trillion over the next 75 years, or about 1 percent of the gross domestic product. Medicare’s unfunded liability was $24.6 trillion, or 3 percent of G.D.P.

Altogether, the Treasury reckons the government’s total indebtedness at $51.3 trillion – five times the size of the national debt. This would be an unbearable burden if it had to be paid by the current generation out of current resources, for it approximately equals the entire net worth of American households.

But national debts, of course, will also be paid by future generations out of future output. Those generations will also inherit most of the assets of the current generation, from which future commitments can be financed. For example, future generations will inherit the Treasury’s bonds as well as the responsibility for paying interest on them.

Even so, the Treasury projects that within a generation the federal debt will rise to 100 percent of G.D.P. as future commitments become part of annual spending over and above projected revenues.
                        Financial Report of the United States Government

Although it is commonly believed that our fiscal problem is purely one of spending, the financial report shows that this is not necessarily the case. The really rapid growth of future spending is not for programs but for interest on the debt.

In other words, it would not be nearly enough just to balance the budget. The federal government would have to begin running a surplus immediately and do so continuously for the next 75 years to prevent the debt/G.D.P. ratio from rising.

                         Financial Report of the United States Government

The critical point is that interest on the debt is not just another government program that can be cut. It can be reduced only by running a budget surplus, selling assets to reduce principal or reducing the interest paid on the debt.

With interest rates at historical lows and the vast bulk of the debt in the form of short-term securities that roll over rapidly, the figures in the chart above are probably conservative. It is not hard to envision a situation in which interest on the debt rises more quickly than spending can be cut — a problem many European nations are in today.

It’s essential that we strive to overcome budgetary myopia. Our debts are manageable, but only if we take a long-run perspective.

NY Times

Gun sales break records before Christmas

Guns were more likely than ever to land beneath Christmas trees in 2011, as the FBI reported record-breaking firearm sales in the days leading up to the holiday.

Gun dealers requested more than 1.5 million background checks on buyers in December, the highest single-month figure since the stats began being kept — and one that topped the previous record, set in November 2011, CNN reported.

More than 100,000 background checks — a requirement for a gun sale — were ordered on December 23, making it the second all-time busiest day for gun buying. The first was set on Black Friday in 2011, when nearly 130,000 requests were made.

Nearly 500,000 of the background checks that were requested in December were ordered in the six days prior to Christmas.

Given that most would-be purchasers pass the background checks, the number of guns that were actually sold could be even higher, if customers bought more than one gun. Only 1.3% of customers are denied permission to buy a weapon, FBI spokesman Steve Fischer told CNN.

The increase in gun sales could be linked to Americans’ fears of shrinking police forces, according to a spokesman for the National Rifle Association.

“I think there’s an increased realization that when something bad occurs, it’s going to be them and the criminal,” the spokesman, Andrew Arulanandam, told CNN.

Arulanandam also attributed the spike in gun sales to an increased interest in sports that involve firearms, such as skeet shooting.

According to Caroline Brewer of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, the surge comes from repeat buyers, and doesn’t necessarily mean more people are buying guns, CNN reported.

“The research we’ve seen indicates fewer and fewer people are owning more and more guns,” Brewer said. “All the trends indicate the number of Americans who own guns has declined.

“It would appear because of fear-mongering by the NRA since Obama’s election that people are adding more guns to their arsenals out of fear Obama and the Democrats will take away their guns, which is absurd.”

Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/gun-sales-break-records-christmas-fbi-reports-gun-dealers-ordered-1-5m-background-checks-article-1.1000013#ixzz1iQ82tiYE

'Israel can cease to exist if Iran attacked'

“If this rhetoric spins out of control, if there are incidents in the Persian Gulf or the Strait of Hormuz that lead to wider hostilities, as night follows the day, this could spin not only into a regional war but even farther; and... of Israel, I fear, may cease to exist,” Ray McGovern told Press TV US Desk. 

Iran's First Vice President Mohammad-Reza Rahimi warned on December 27 that imposing sanctions against the country's energy sector will prompt Tehran to prevent oil cargoes from passing through the strategic Strait of Hormuz. 

“If they impose sanctions on Iran's oil, not even a drop of oil will be allowed through the Strait of Hormuz,” he warned. 

Iran's Navy Commander Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari also said on December 28 that Iran has complete command over the strategic waterway and that “closing the Strait of Hormuz is very easy for Iranian naval forces.” 

On December 28, the Bahrain-based US Fifth Fleet responded by saying it would not “tolerate” any disruption in the Strait of Hormuz. 

"[The fleet] maintains a robust presence in the region to deter or counter destabilizing activities," a spokesperson for the fleet said. 

The US, Israel, and some of their allies accuse Tehran of pursuing military objectives in its nuclear program and have used this pretext to push for the imposition of sanctions as well as to call for an attack on the country. 

Tehran , however, refutes such allegations as “baseless” and maintains that as a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and a member of the IAEA it has every right to develop and acquire nuclear technology for peaceful purposes. 

Iranian officials have also promised a crushing response to any military strike against the country, warning that any such measure could result in a war that would spread beyond the Middle East. 

Press TV

Persian Gulf tensions mount as U.S. engages Israel on Iran

WASHINGTON (JTA) -- The Obama administration is engaged in a full-court press to persuade Israel that Iran’s nuclear threat can be contained short of war.

The U.S. lobbying has received a mixed reception from Israel, where the Netanyahu government has not ruled out a unilateral strike on Iran.

Iran, meanwhile, is taking an aggressive stance in response to mounting sanctions.

Last week the Iranian naval chief, Adm. Habibollah Sayyari, threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz if Western sanctions intensified. The threat to close the strait -- the passageway for oil from the Persian Gulf states -- could presage a war, experts said.

“We may be further along the road to war than most people believe,” said Michael Adler, an Iran scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

Experts are divided as to the seriousness of the threat to cut off the strait and whether it will lead to war.

Adler said that a direct confrontation between the U.S. and Iran may be inevitable, and that the two countries are headed down that road in “slow motion.”

“Don’t underestimate what the Americans have been saying,” he said, referring to the longstanding U.S. line that all options for dealing with Iran are on the table.

Stephen Rademaker, a former top nuclear arms negotiator in the administration of President George W. Bush, said the blowback Iran would suffer for shutting down the strait suggests that Sayyari was bluffing.

“It would be extremely difficult for them to close the strait for more than a brief period of time,” said Rademaker, now a principal at the Podesta Group, a lobbying shop and think tank. “The U.S. Navy knows how to keep waterways open.”

The resultant war also would give the U.S. a pretext to attack suspected Iranian nuclear sites, he said.

Anthony Cordesman, a former senior U.S. defense intelligence analyst who is now at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, wrote that the real threat was not the shutting of the strait -- itself an act of war -- but of “much lower level attacks which could sharply raise the risk to Gulf shipping.”

Edwin Black, a historian who has written extensively on the Gulf and oil supplies, said the effects of any action in the vicinity of the strait would be far reaching.

“Any conflict in the Persian Gulf would not be limited to the waterways,” Black said. “All they have to do is lob a few medium-range missiles at Abqaiq,” a processing plant in Saudi Arabia “or at Ras Tanura,” a terminal on the coast, “or on the strait,” where shipping lanes are just two miles wide, “and they can take out 70 percent of Saudi exports.”

Iran also is flexing its military muscles. Last Friday, Iran announced that it would fire long-range missiles during a weekend naval drill in the Gulf.

The aggressive posture from Iran comes in the wake of the Obama administration’s increased determination to cut off Iran’s economy as a means of shutting down its nuclear program -- and its strenuous efforts to convince Israel’s government that is serious about doing so.

At the most recent U.S.-Israel strategic dialogue on Dec. 1, the U.S. side, led by Deputy Secretary of State William Burns, laid out a detailed plan to accumulate international sanctions against Iran over the next few months. The Americans said their efforts could force Iran to back down from progressing on its suspected nuclear weapons plan or even precipitate regime change.

The plan involves two tracks: aggressive diplomacy engaging states that buy Iranian oil to stop doing so along with lining up other nations -- Saudi Arabia, Libya and Iraq were named -- to compensate for the estimated 2 million barrels a day that Iran’s isolation would cost the world’s oil markets.

The plan targets, among others, Iran’s Central Bank and its energy sector, and is aimed at squeezing the economy of Iran full force by March, when the International Atomic Energy Agency board next meets and when a new report on Iran’s nuclear weapons capacity is expected to be more damning than ever. Such reports in the past have triggered intensified international sanctions.

The Israelis at the meeting, led by Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon, seemed persuaded that the plan had a strong chance of rolling back Iran's nuclear plans, according to officials who attended. They agreed with American caveats that sanctions must not be rushed.

“The worst thing would be to impose sanctions too soon, and then to have the price of oil go up and Iran profits,” one Israeli at the meeting was quoted as saying.

That reaction would have been a political and diplomatic triumph for the Obama administration -- Israeli officials effectively were embracing a more moderate line than Congress, which in the following days passed a law calling for sanctions on the Central Bank to kick in almost immediately.

Except it didn’t apparently “take” in Jerusalem -- Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu continued to press for a more immediate ratcheting-up of pressure on Iran, in part by hinting that Israel might take action alone.

Likening himself to Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, who declared statehood against the counsel of some allies, Netanyahu said in a speech -- just days after the strategic dialogue -- that he would “make the right decision at the right moment,” whatever allies counseled.

That was seen as a rebuke to Leon Panetta, the U.S. defense secretary, who a week earlier had warned that striking Iran could envelop the region in a conflagration.

In subsequent weeks, the Obama administration took steps to reassure Israel that the option of a U.S. military strike was still very much on the table. Panetta said in an interview on CBS that for both Israel and the United States, an Iranian nuclear weapon was a “red line.”

Last week, plans for Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, to visit Israel in January were leaked to Israeli media; his visit likely will coincide with the largest-ever joint U.S.-Israel anti-missile exercise.

The actions have yet to sway Netanyahu into fully cooperating, according to a report in Newsweek. Netanyahu will not agree to give the United States advance warning of a strike, the report said, citing three U.S. officials.

Netanyahu’s posture is a function of Israel perceiving Iran as an existential threat, Rademaker said.

“We've seen this threat from Israel in the past,” he said. “A lot of people discount it and say it's to motivate the U.S. and other countries to do more. That may be true in part, but Israel does see it as an existential threat, and should they conclude that the only way to prevent that existential threat from coming to being is by using force -- well, we have examples from 1981 and 2007.”


Pressure rises on Europe as bond sales loom

European leaders return to work this week seeking to buy time for the Spanish and Italian governments to wrest control over their debt and rescue the single currency from fragmentation in its 10th anniversary year.

Some 157 billion euros ($200 billion) in debt will mature in the 17-member euro area in the first three months of 2012, according to UBS.

By the end of that period, leaders have pledged to draft a stricter rulebook for controlling government spending. German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy will meet in Berlin January 9 to work out details.

“The road to overcoming this won’t be without setbacks, but at the end of this path Europe will emerge stronger from the crisis than before,” Ms Merkel said in a New Year’s speech broadcast December 31. Ms Merkel, whose first official public appointment is on January 5, reiterated that her government will do “everything” to bring the euro out of the slump.

Ten years after euro bank notes replaced national currencies on January 1, 2002, the euro has for the first time recorded two consecutive annual losses against the US dollar while plunging to a record low against the yen and the Australian dollar.

That raises the pressure on euro leaders as they struggle to hold the monetary union together in the face of credit downgrades, European Union splits and a looming recession that might compound rising debt.

The latest crack in Europe’s crisis-fighting plans appeared on December 30, when Spain’s new government said 2011’s budget deficit would reach 8 per cent of output, 2 percentage points more than the previous government had projected and more than the 6.9 per cent expected by economists surveyed by Bloomberg. Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy responded by unveiling a new package of spending cuts and tax increases.

Still, the key to the euro’s survival may lie with Italy, the group’s third-largest economy and the second most-indebted after Greece. The government in Rome must repay 53 billion euros in debt in the first quarter, about a third of the euro area’s total amount for the period, after Prime Minister Mario Monti passed an emergency budget package aimed at curtailing borrowing costs.

Italy’s 10-year yield ended 2011 near the 7 per cent mark that led Greece, Ireland and Portugal to seek bailouts. Spain’s equivalent yield finished the year just above 5 per cent. Italian 10-year yields dropped 13 basis points to 6.97 per cent overnight, while Spanish yields were little changed at 5.10 per cent.

“If the Italian yields start to rise, you could quickly turn a manageable situation into an insolvent one,” Michael Spence, a professor of economics at New York University and a Nobel laureate, said on Bloomberg Television December 28. “Italy needs time and Europe needs to help buy them some of the time.”

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble echoed that strategy, telling the Bild newspaper yesterday that European rescue funds can only “buy time” before indebted states take “the necessary measures to win back confidence.”

Mr Sarkozy said that the French government will turn from budget fighting to economic growth and unemployment in 2012, which will be “the year of all risks and of all possibilities,” he said December 31 in his fifth New Year’s address, the last before he faces a re-election contest in May. Mr Sarkozy will meet with Italy’s Monti in Paris on January 6.

In his New Year’s message to Greek citizens, Prime Minister Lucas Papademos said his nation will confront a “difficult” 2012 and said that the “next three months will be particularly crucial.”

Mr Papademos, appointed on November 11 as head of a government backed by three of the five parliamentary parties, is trying to secure loans under a 130 billion-euro bailout for Greece agreed to in October by EU leaders before elections are held. Measures include negotiating a debt swap with private creditors that will cut 100 billion euros off Greece’s burden.

As Europe’s leaders tinker at a new budget framework and craft the so-called firewall that will prop up ailing states, Bundesbank President Jens Weidmann said that the European Central Bank won’t “step into the breach for fiscal policy.”

"We have to make it clear where our legal, but also our real limits, are,” Mr Weidmann, who is a council member of the Frankfurt-based ECB, told Tagesspiegel newspaper yesterday.

Fiscal and monetary efforts could be hampered by a shrinking economy in the euro area, which would crimp tax revenues and fuel unemployment. The economy of the 17-nation area will shrink by about 0.7 per cent this year, said Howard Archer, an economist at IHS Global Insight in London.

“We expect eurozone recession to occur in late-2011 and the first half of 2012 in the face of the ongoing eurozone sovereign debt crisis,” Mr Archer wrote in a December 30 note to clients. “It is vital that eurozone policy makers get a real grip on matters quickly.”

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/business/markets/pressure-rises-on-europe-as-bond-sales-loom-20120103-1piwf.html#ixzz1iPccJ2Fk

Ambrose Evans-Pritchard: 2012 could be the year Germany lets the euro die

There will be no Chinese credit explosion this time, no real help from post-bubble India or over-stretched Brazil.

It will be a global downturn on all fronts, aborting what remains of recovery even before industrial output in the OECD bloc has regained its pre-Lehman peak.

The second wave will hit with youth unemployment already at 45pc in Greece and 49pc in Spain; and with the US labour participation rate already at depression levels of 64pc.

We will hear more about Italy's Red Brigades, Greece's Sect of Revolutionaries, and America's militia groups, and how democracies respond. Proto-fascism in Hungary is our warning.

China's surgical soft-landing will slip control, like Fed tightening in 1929 and 2007, or Japan's squeeze in 1990. Once construction has run amok, bears will have their way.

Since the purpose of New Year predictions is to stick one's neck out, let me hazard that China will devalue the yuan in 2012. It will export yet more spare capacity into a deflationary world, until the West retaliates and starts to turn its back on globalisation. Capital outflows will accelerate. The idea that China can rescue anybody will seem quaint.

The strong yen has already pushed Japan back into deflation, and fresh recession. Public debt has reached one quadrillion yen, as noted acidly by Tokyo's R&I rating agency when it stripped Japan of its AAA rating last month. That is $12.8 trillion, or Italy plus Spain times four.

There is a graveyard full of Gaijin commentators who wrote off Japan too soon. Will the dam break this year at last, with tax covering less than half of spending, public debt at 237pc of GDP, ever fewer workers, and a state pension fund now selling government bonds? Perhaps. As R&I warns, Europe's woes have brought sovereign debt into very sharp focus.

America will look resilient for a few months. The payroll tax deal has averted a fiscal shock, but that is all. Money growth (M3) has sputtered out, and velocity is falling.

Politics on Capitol Hill will restrain Ben Bernanke from launching QE3 until the Tea Party can see the eye-whites of deflation. Six-month PCE inflation was 2.9pc in August, 2.4pc in September, 1.6pc in October, and 1.2pc in November. Not there yet. Prepare for a Wall Street squall first.

Whether the scare of early 2012 turns seriously ugly depends on the nerve of policy-makers. Shock absorbers are worn thin, but not exhausted.

Central banks have the means to prevent a 1930s outcome, even with rates at zero, if willing to deploy Fisher-Friedman monetary stimulus with conviction, buying assets from non-banks and targeting nominal GDP growth of 5pc. But policy defeatism is in the air, and Austro-liquidationists are winning the popular debate.

The second leg of our Kondratieff Winter comes at an awful moment for Euroland, just as the North-South split turns deadly.

The European Central Bank has guaranteed trouble by letting M3 money contract. Fiscal tightening into the downward slide will make matters worse. A credit crunch as banks shrink loan books by €1 trillion to meet capital ratios will do the rest. All policy levers are set on deep recession, and deep recession is what Europe will get.

Monetary union is too damaged to parry these blows. The ECB's Mario Draghi will cut interest rates to 0.5pc by February, just to keep pace with passive tightening. Half-hearted purchases of Italian and Spanish bonds will drift on, doing more harm than good. By reducing existing bond-holders to junior status, the ECB will ensure a slow exodus. Draghi knows this. His hands are tied.

The Bundesbank will wage guerrilla war against money printing through the pages of Die Welt and Handelsblatt, paralyzing the ECB's Council until Angela Merkel orders Jens Weidmann to desist.

By then it will be too late, deliberately so. Contraction will play havoc with budgets in Italy, Spain, Portugal, and France. Austerity alone will seem a Sisyphean task. Club Med leaders will not be able to command popular assent for such 1930s scorched-earth strategies.

Politics will fracture further, splintering to the hard Left and Right. The Front National's Marie Le Pen's will beat Maréchal Sarkozy into the French run-off invoking 'terroir' and the ancient franc. Escalating levels of coercion will be needed to uphold the Project, with EU commissars eating alone in the administered territories of Greece and Italy.

Far from protecting credit ratings, Europe's self-defeating policies will bring a blizzard of downgrades. France's AAA will go, obviously. So will Austria's as banking woes deepen in Hungary, Ukraine, and Croatia. Vigilantes will take a closer look at Holland's household debt, off the charts at 270pc of disposable income.

The shrinking AAA core will leave Germany propping up the EFSF bail-out fund, until the weight of contingent liabilities endangers Germany itself. That will concentrate minds.

France's President Hollande will "triangulate", playing the pan-Latin card to discomfit Berlin and force a policy change. Portugal's Troika sacrifices will prove as futile as Greek efforts before. Lisbon's second bail-out will come just as Greece graduates from riots to insurrection, and Italy's Silvio Berlusconi will try to snatch power again by whipping up fury against Tedeschi. Bundestag patience will snap at such disorder everywhere.

Germany will not be able to fudge EMU any longer. It must either immolate itself, accepting a debt union and internal inflation to save a currency it never wanted and doesn't love; or opt instead to uphold fiscal sovereignty and the essence of its own democracy, and let the Project die.

The shrewd, equivocating, ice-cold Chancellor will quietly oust arch-europhile Wolfgang Schauble and let the Project die, always pretending otherwise.

Just an idle hunch. Guten Rutsch.

The Telegraph

40,000 New laws to take effect

About 40,000 state laws taking effect at the start of the new year will change rules about getting abortions in New Hampshire, learning about gays and lesbians in California, getting jobs in Alabama and even driving golf carts in Georgia.

Several federal rules change with the new year, too, including a Social Security increase amounting to $450 a year for the average recipients and stiff fines up to $2,700 per offense for truckers and bus drivers caught using hand-held cellphones while driving.

NBC News, the National Conference of State Legislatures, The Associated Press, and other organizations tracked the changes and offered their views on the highlights.

Many laws reflect the nation's concerns over immigration, the cost of government and the best way to protect and benefit young people, including regulations on sports concussions.

Eight states will raise the minimum wage, NBC News reported. They include Arizona, Oregon, Washington, Montana, Colorado, Ohio, Vermont and Florida, NBC News said. San Francisco will become the first city to raise its minimum wage above $10 per hour. The new $10.24 minimum is nearly $3 above the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, set in 2009.

Jan. 1 is the effective date in many states for laws passed during this year's legislative sessions. In others, laws take effect July 1, or 90 days after passage.

Worker verification
Alabama, with the country's toughest immigration law, will require all employers who do business with any government entity to use a federal system known as E-Verify to check that all new employees are in the country legally.

Georgia is putting a similar law into effect requiring any business with 500 or more employees to use E-Verify to check the employment eligibility of new hires. The requirement is being phased in, with all employers with more than 10 employees to be included by July 2013.

Supporters said they wanted to deter illegal immigrants from coming to Georgia by making it tougher for them to work. Critics said that changes to immigration law should come at the federal level and that portions of the law already in effect are already hurting Georgia.

"It is destroying Georgia's economy and it is destroying the fabric of our social network in South Georgia," Paul Bridges, mayor of the onion-farming town of Uvalda, said in November. He is part of a lawsuit challenging the new law.

Tennessee will also require businesses to ensure employees are legally authorized to work in the U.S. but exempts employers with five or fewer workers and allows them to keep a copy of the new hire's driver's license instead of using E-Verify.

A South Carolina law would allow officials to yank the operating licenses of businesses that don't check new hires' legal status through E-verify. A federal judge last week blocked parts of the law that would have required police to check the immigration status of criminal suspects or people stopped for traffic violations they think might be in the country illegally, and that would have made it a crime for illegal immigrants to transport or house themselves.

California is also addressing illegal immigration. The California Dream Act expands eligibility for private scholarships to students brought to the country illegally when they were infants.

The second part of the Dream Act, expanding eligibility for financial aid, will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2013. Additional legislation authorizes any student, including one without lawful immigration status, to serve in any capacity in student government.

Protecting the young
In Colorado, coaches will be required to bench players as young as 11 when they're believed to have suffered a head injury. The young athletes will also need medical clearance to return to play.

The law also requires coaches in public and private schools and even volunteer Little League and Pop Warner football coaches to take free annual online training to recognize the symptoms of a concussion. At least a dozen other states have enacted similar laws with the support of the National Football League.

People 18 and under in Illinois will have to wear seat belts while riding in taxis for school-related purposes, and Illinois school boards can suspend or expel students who make explicit threats on websites against other students or school employees.

Florida will take control of lunch and other school food programs from the federal government, allowing the state to put more Florida-grown fresh fruit and vegetables on school menus. Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam says the change will help children eat healthier.

A California law will add gays and lesbians and people with disabilities to the list of social and ethnic groups whose contributions must be taught in history lessons in public schools. The law also bans teaching materials that reflect poorly on gays or particular religions.


Foreign Central Banks Cut Treasury Holdings by Record

Holdings of U.S. Treasurys by foreign central banks has fallen by a record amount over the past four weeks according to the latest Federal Reserve data.

The net $69 billion drop in Treasury holdings registered at the Fed by foreign official institutions comes as benchmark yields ended 2011 near record low levels and when the U.S. central bank is conducting Operation Twist, its $400 billion program to sell shorter-lived Treasury bonds and buy those with longer maturities.

The decline in foreign holdings of Treasurys in recent weeks has not resulted in higher yields and lower prices because other investors have sought the safety of US debt.

“Given where the 10-year Treasury is ending the year, it’s difficult to say the flows are a bearish move,” said Ian Lyngen, strategist at CRT Capital.

The yield on 10-year notes was set to end 2011 below 1.90 percent on Friday and the Barclays Capital index of long-dated Treasurys has rallied nearly 30 percent this year, its best annual performance since 1995.

“While other buyers have willingly taken up the torch up to this point, it seems clear that this [foreign official flows] source of demand has waned since Operation Twist took yields to these levels and this investor base has little interest in sub-2 percent 10-year yields,” said John Briggs, strategist at RBS Securities.

The drop in foreign holdings would be far more pronounced had Japan not intervened to buy dollars and sell yen during August and October. The proceeds of dollar purchases, seen in the vicinity of $100 billion in October, went mainly into the Treasury market.

“If not for the bulge of purchases at the end of October due to Japanese intervention it’s fair to say we would have seen consistent falls in holdings of Treasurys for most if not all of the second half of the year,” said Mr. Briggs.

The previous record four week drop for custody holdings at the Fed was a $56 billion decline in September, when the 10-year yield dropped to 1.67 percent, its lowest level since 1945.

With September and December marking the final months of the third and fourth quarters respectively, the sales by foreign central banks may be nascent evidence of a new trend.

“Once upon a time, foreign official institutions were more likely to boost the amount of Treasury debt held at the Fed on the eve of major reporting dates,” said Lou Crandall, economist at Wrightson Icap. “Whether due to underlying investment patterns or to changes in custodial arrangements, foreign holdings of Treasurys at the Fed are now more likely to shrink than expand at the end of the quarter.”

Late on Friday the New York Fed announced that the central bank plans to purchase approximately $45 billion and sell approximately $44 billion in Treasury securities under Operation Twist over the month of January.