Wednesday, January 11, 2012
Are you a descendant of the House of David? If you have ever wondered if blue blood flows through your veins, you might consider visiting the King David Private Museum and Research Center, which reopened on Monday in its new location in central Tel Aviv.
Better yet, run your name through the museum’s online database that curators vow will accurately tell you whether you are related to the monarch from the 10th century BCE (www.Davidicdynasty.org).
The museum, which was founded by Jewish-American philanthropist Susan Roth, is dedicated to telling the story of the ginger shepherd from Bethlehem who became the leader of the Jewish people.
“We want to show who King David was not only here – but also in America and other countries – and especially here because right now the younger generation consider themselves simply Israeli, not Jews,” Roth said in an interview after the museum’s rededication.
The small exhibition, which was previously housed in the Old City of Jerusalem, provides various depictions of the Hebrew king from throughout history including famous paintings and sculptures by the likes of Michelangelo and others. In addition, it displays a few archeological artifacts related to his life including ancient slingshots and pebbles, similar to the ones David is said to have used to slay the mighty Philistine giant Goliath.
“This museum is proof that we would are not a nation of 63 years as some would like us to believe, but in fact we are a nation [that is] 3,000 years old – and that we didn’t take this country from anybody,” said Roth. “In fact, it was taken from us several times.”
Don’t try to ascribe a political agenda to the museum, Roth said, sensing the next question, as you won’t find it.
She is, however, proud of her support of the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron and of Rachel’s Tomb near Bethlehem.
Roth said she influenced the government during the early ’90s under prime ministers Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres and funded protests to keep Rachel’s Tomb in Israeli hands.
“The government realized that they can’t give it away, and that’s how it was saved,” she said.
Roth, who claims to be a direct descent of David, is royalty in another sense. She is the daughter of Pesach and Lilian Burstein, and the twin sister of Mike Burstein.
Together, the family made up the Four Bursteins, the internationally famous Yiddish theater troupe. She is proud of her pedigree but said her interest in Judaism as a religious way of life and in Kabbala did not stem from her upbringing. Rather, it came much later, only as an adult.
“There was no religion connected to it,” she said. “My parents and my brother and I were actors. In a way it was the forerunner of what I’m doing now, since we were entertaining the survivors who needed to hear a Jewish word because they lost everything.”
But if you’re one for science you might not be impressed by the replicas, artifacts and other tchotchkes on display. The only non-biblical evidence that refers to the House of David is the Tel Dan Stele, a replica of which is shown at the entrance to the exhibition. And its authenticity is disputed by some scholars.
“There’s no doubt a historical King David existed, because the scribes of the Bible give us detailed accounts that fit in with other sources of the time,” noted archaeologist Israel Finkelstein said over the phone on Monday. “But the Bible itself is ambiguous in describing the kingdom in various ways and with various boundaries – one time it says [the kingdom] straddled Dan to Beersheba, and another time the Euphrates to Egypt.”
Finkelstein said David may have been a leader of great import in the history of the Kingdom of Judea but that archeological evidence directly related to him was extremely scarce. Furthermore, what does exist suggests he ruled over much less of the land than what was credited to him in the biblical narrative. Finkelstein suggested we think of David as a chieftain of a small but ambitious tribe rather than a mighty king lording over distant lands.
“A founder of a 10th-century BCE dynasty in the Judean Hills existed, but it doesn’t mean he had the power later attributed to him,” Finkelstein said.
For most believers, however, including Roth, the Holy Scriptures do not allow such a minimalist interpretation.
She is a staunch believer in David the Great. And if more people learned about him and even discovered that they were his direct descendants – which she believes can be scientifically proven – then the Jewish people would truly fulfill its destiny of being a light upon the nations.
“Come to the museum,” she implores the disbelievers.
“Come and you will see that David wasn’t a myth.”
Late last month, Iran put on display what it insisted was a captured American stealth drone. At the time, Tehran claimed it brought down the RQ-170 with a sophisticated electronic attack. Nonsense, says one Iranian engineer who claims to have inside knowledge of the drone-nab. The Islamic Republic used force fields and flying saucers to subdue and capture the unmanned aircraft.
Meet Mehran Tavakoli Keshe, who purports to be the father of the RQ-170 abduction. In a recent post to his eponymous foundation’s online forums, Keshe claims the Iranians used “advanced space technology” that he pioneered. “The craft has been air-picked-up and been put down on its belly through the use of field forces,” Keshe writes — by which he means force fields. It’s feeling a lot like Tinfoil Tuesday, our weekly round-up of the planet’s most insane conspiracy theories.
The U.S. has yet to confirm that the drone Iran claims to have is actually the stealthy “Beast of Kandahar,” and the yellow model that Iran has peddled out looks like it’s made out of fondant, like a drone-shaped cake constructed for an episode of Food Network Challenge. Keshe claims that the drone looks as smooth and clean as it does in Iran’s propaganda photos because his force fields intercepted the RQ-170, like a tractor beam would, and deposited it gently to Iranian soil. As summarized by Pure Energy Systems News, Keshe’s technology, part of an “Iranian [flying] saucer program,” harnesses “a fusion reaction that manipulates dark matter, regular matter, and antimatter.”
“We have no comment on this individual’s claims,” George Little, the Pentagon’s chief spokesman, tells Danger Room, “but tell him the Secretary would like his lightsaber back.”
Keshe himself suggests that Iran’s advanced space program has yielded flying saucers and used them to down the drone. “The Iran spaceship program has the capability of jamming and blocking any incoming radar,” he writes, “as we have explained month ago on this forum, and now we see the practical use of the technology.”
Ironies abound. Iran allegedly has alien technology, but can’t seem to put together a decent nuclear bomb. And the Beast of Kandahar — well, it’s got an alien connection, too. In a sense. As you can learn from this fascinating documentary, flying-wing technology of the sort displayed by the RQ-170 was first developed by the, um, Nazis. (You can see a mock-up of a Nazi proto-stealth fighter here.) After the war, the U.S. imported Nazi weapons scientists — like the missile specialist Werner von Braun — under a program called Operation Paperclip. Among them were flying-wing gurus the Horton Brothers. One theory holds that the subsequent American UFO sightings were actually people seeing U.S. flights of the Hortons’ unfamiliar bat-shaped aircraft.
In other words, the RQ-170 may have been born from flying saucers — sort of — and flying saucers may have brought it low.
Not to be That Guy and burst Keshe’s bubble, but Danger Room explained last month that Iran could have captured the drone by spoofing the RQ-170′s GPS-based navigational backup systems. No force fields or saucers necessary.
Keshe isn’t interested in any of that. Even though his saucers and tractor beams allegedly captured the RQ-170, majorly cheesing off Washington, Keshe hopes his space tech will bring about a new era of international peace — and intergalactic exploration.
Palm secure is a technology that's actually been around for a few years now in Japan, and in a number of business applications ranging from health care to banking, but not seen so much in consumer electronics in the U.S. It uses a biometric authentication system that reads your palm vein pattern. Fujitsu reps here at CES tell me it works only on veins with an active blood flow, so put away your "Mission: Impossible" 3D printers and molds--this tech requires the real thing.
The palm-scanning technology has already been seen built in to mice and full-size keyboards, but Fujitsu says the tech has now shrunk to the point where it can easily be integrated into laptops and other devices.
Laptops with PalmSecure are now available in Japan, and the company is currently "looking at" North America. I won't hold my breath, although if I did, it would make my veins even easier to read.
Read more: http://www.cnet.com/8301-33372_1-57356263/palmsecure-turns-your-blood-flow-into-key-for-your-laptop/#ixzz1j9vv7qdQ
Israel Aerospace Industries has won the $1.1 billion prize in competition for supplying weapons systems to an unidentified Asian country.
Israel previously has exported to India, China, Singapore and South Korea. The sale over a period of four years will boost Israel Aerospace’s revenues, which were $3.15 billion for all of 2010.
Although the purchasing country was not announced, South Korea has been offering trade incentives if Israel buys 25-30 supersonic trainer jets to replace Skyhawks, which date back to the period of the Vietnam War.
Israel's Defense Ministry Director Udi Shani flew to South Korea this week for talks about the $1 billion trainer jet purchase that Korean Aerospace Industries and Italy’s Alenia Aermacchi want to sell to Israel.
Italy has offered deals with Israel Aerospace if the Defense Ministry chooses it as the supplier, but Korea has matched and upped the offer. Korea also has threatened that if Israel were to buy the trainer jets from Italy, it would cancel further purchases.
Seoul has shown interest in buying Israel’s Iron Dome system, designed to intercept short-term missiles, unmanned aerial systems and anti-tank missiles.
WASHINGTON – Pakistan’s military leadership appears to be leaning on China for support as it nears the breaking point with the United States military over the recent accidental killing of 24 Pakistani troops on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, says a report from Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin.
It also appears to be breaking away from its own civilian leadership under President Asif Ali Zardari, who is considered weak by the military. Indeed, the army has been reasserting its power and influence over the civilian government.
Pakistani Prime Minister Yusaf Raza Gilani appears to be the only one standing up to the army, claiming that there appears to be a conspiracy to topple the government and that the army needs “to be answerable to the parliament” and “cannot be a state within a state.”
The army, Gilani said, “must follow the constitution.”
According to B. Raman of the South Asia Analysis Group and other regional experts, Beijing’s reception of Pakistani Chief of the Army Staff Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani has been positive, reinforcing the army’s role in strategic matters.
It is Kayani’s third visit to Beijing to meet with top Chinese leadership, indicating further support for the army’s growing influence in Pakistan. China also has indicated publicly that it backs the Pakistani army’s role in strengthening the “strategic cooperative partnership” between the two countries.
The partnership has been solidified by the two countries’ mutual concern about India.
As G2Bulletin recently pointed out, Beijing and New Delhi increasingly have serious border disputes while India seeks to extend its own strategic outreach into the South China Sea by partnering with such countries as Vietnam and the Philippines to mine energy resources in waters that China claims as its own.
In turn, Pakistan has offered China strategic basing facilities that give Beijing the ability to project its own navy into the Indian Ocean, to the consternation of New Delhi.
Pakistan’s intent is to get Beijing to recognize its major interest in Afghanistan, while China wants Pakistan to continue backing its claims over Taiwan and Tibet. While Beijing hasn’t publicly criticized India, the U.S. or the civilian Pakistani leadership, it is apparent by the support for Kayani that “the Pakistan army is the driving force of the all-weather strategic relationship between the two countries.”
The euro is a dying currency. On Thursday, the EUR/USD fell below 1.28 for the first time since September 2010. In fact, as I write this the EUR/USD is sitting at 1.2791. Back in July, the EUR/USD was over 1.45. But this is just the beginning. The euro is going to go a lot lower. At this point, there are several major European nations that are on the verge of default, the European financial system is overflowing with debt and toxic assets, and most major European banks are leveraged about as badly as Lehman Brothers was when it collapsed. Most Americans simply do not grasp the gravity of what is happening. Just because the Dow is sitting above 12000 and a few U.S. economic numbers have improved slightly does not mean that everything is going to be okay. As I wrote about recently, the EU has a bigger economy than we do and they have a bigger banking system than we do. U.S. banks are massively exposed to European sovereign debt and European banking debt. When the financial system of Europe collapses and the euro falls apart it is going to rock the entire planet. So you better look out below - the euro is coming down and it is coming down hard. After the euro implodes, nothing is every going to be the same again.
So how far are we going to see the euro decline?
Julian Jessop of Capital Economics expects the euro to fall much further....
The relative strength of the recent economic data from the US is supporting the dollar more generally, and we expect this divergence to persist as the euro-zone slides into a deep and prolonged recession. Above all, doubts about the very survival of the euro itself are likely to remain a drag on the currency. We therefore continue to expect the euro to fall to around $1.10 by the end of the year.
Others are even more pessimistic.
As I have written about previously, the head of global bond portfolio management at PIMCO believes that the euro is going to go even lower than that....
"Parity with the dollar next year is not out of the question"
Can you imagine that?
1 dollar = 1 euro?
Don't think that it can't happen.
But the decline of the euro is just part of the story. The truth is that Europe is on the verge of a financial collapse that could end up dwarfing the financial crisis of 2008.
Sadly, most Americans have no idea what has been going on in Europe the past few days....
-The stock of the biggest bank in Italy, UniCredit, is absolutely collapsing. Shares of UniCredit fell 14 percent on Wednesday and 17 percent on Thursday.
-Shares of another major Italian bank, Intesa Sanpaolo, fell 7.3 percent on Thursday.
-Shares of three major French banks all fell by at least 5 percent on Thursday.
-Even shares of German banks are falling like a rock. Shares of Commerzbank fell 4.5 percent on Thursday and shares of Deutsche Bank fell 5.6 percent on Thursday.
-The yield on 5 years Italian bonds is back over 6 percent and the yield on 10 year Italian bonds is back over 7 percent. Analysts all over Europe insist that that the Italian debt situation is not sustainable if rates stay this high.
-Italy's youth unemployment rate has hit the highest level ever.
This is mind blowing news.
But what is the top headline on USA Today right now?
"Employers Impose Bans On Smokers"
These are some of the other top headlines on USA Today right now....
"Automakers Rush To Offer Apps In Your Car"
"Bargain Season At Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, Wendy's"
"Does Your Dog Understand You? Study Says Maybe"
Is that what passes as news in this country?
A financial meltdown of historic proportions is happening in Europe and you cannot even find anything about it on the front page of USA Today.
All of us need to snap out of our television-induced comas and start waking up.
Things are about to get really bad for the global financial system.
At this point so much confidence has been lost in the euro that even the Council on Foreign Relations is admitting that the euro is a failure....
The euro should now be recognized as an experiment that failed. This failure, which has come after just over a dozen years since the euro was introduced, in 1999, was not an accident or the result of bureaucratic mismanagement but rather the inevitable consequence of imposing a single currency on a very heterogeneous group of countries. The adverse economic consequences of the euro include the sovereign debt crises in several European countries, the fragile condition of major European banks, high levels of unemployment across the eurozone, and the large trade deficits that now plague most eurozone countries.
If even the CFR is throwing in the towel, that should tell you something about what is about to happen to the euro.
There is a very real possibility that we could see the euro break up at some point during the next couple of years.
It now seems that a report produced a while back by Credit Suisse's Fixed Income Research unit was right on target....
"We seem to have entered the last days of the euro as we currently know it. That doesn’t make a break-up very likely, but it does mean some extraordinary things will almost certainly need to happen – probably by mid-January – to prevent the progressive closure of all the euro zone sovereign bond markets, potentially accompanied by escalating runs on even the strongest banks."
The European debt crisis just continues to get worse and worse. None of the solutions that European leaders have tried have worked. We are rapidly approaching the meltdown phase of this crisis.
As I have written about previously, it doesn't take a genius to figure out what is happening in Europe. The equation is simple....
Brutal austerity + toxic levels of government debt + rising bond yields + a lack of confidence in the financial system + banks that are massively overleveraged + a massive credit crunch = A financial implosion of historic proportions
Unfortunately, what is happening right now in Europe is eventually going to happen in the United States as well.
As I wrote about yesterday, U.S. debt is a ticking time bomb that is going to devastate the entire global economy at some point. Nobody knows when the implosion will happen, but everyone knows that it is inevitable.
When Europe falls apart financially, that is going to make our own financial system much less stable. What is happening in Europe could turn our "limited recovery" into a "major recession" almost overnight.
So keep your eye on the euro.
If the euro keeps going down, that is going to be really bad news for the global economy.
Unfortunately, the truth is that the decline of the euro is just getting started.
Hold on to your hats.
The euro continues to drop like a rock. Right now it is at 1.2721.
The Economic collapse
MOSCOW — Some of the recent failures of Russian satellites may have been the result of sabotage by foreign forces, the country's space chief said.
Roscosmos chief Vladimir Popovkin stopped short of accusing any country of disabling Russian satellites, but in an interview published Tuesday in the daily Izvestia he said some Russian craft had suffered "unexplained" malfunctions while flying beyond the reach of his country's tracking facilities.
Popovkin said he didn't want to proportion blame, but modern technology makes spacecraft vulnerable to foreign influence.
"I wouldn't like to accuse anyone, but today there exist powerful means allowing to influence spacecraft, and their use can't be excluded," he said.
Popovkin added that in 2013 Russia will launch three new communications satellites that would be able to retransmit signals from other spacecraft as they fly over another hemisphere.
Roscosmos spokesman Alexei Kuznetsov refused to elaborate on Popovkin's statement, which marked the first time a senior Russian government official has claimed foreign sabotage has been used to disable one of the country's satellites.
Popovkin made the comment when asked about the failure of the unmanned Phobos-Ground probe, which was to explore one of the Mars twin moons, Phobos, but became stranded while orbiting Earth after its Nov. 9 launch.
Engineers in Russia and the European Space Agency have failed to propel its toward its target, and the spacecraft is expected to fall to Earth around Jan. 15.
Popovkin said that experts so far had failed to determine why the probe's engines failed to fire, but admitted that the program had suffered from funding shortages that led to some "risky technological solutions."
The $170-million craft was supposed to collect soil samples on Phobos and fly them back to Earth in one of the most challenging unmanned interplanetary missions ever. It was Russia's first foray beyond the Earth orbit since a botched 1996 robotic mission to Mars, which failed when the probe crashed shortly after the launch due to an engine failure.
Scientists had hoped that studies of Phobos' surface could help solve the mystery of its origin and shed more light on the genesis of the solar system. Some believe the crater-dented moon is an asteroid captured by Mars' gravity, while others think it's a piece of debris from when Mars collided with another celestial object.
The failed mission was the latest in a series of recent Russian launch failures that have raised concerns about the condition of the country's space industries and raised heat on Popovkin. Space officials have blamed the failures on obsolete equipment and an aging workforce.
Read more: http://www.ctv.ca/CTVNews/TopStories/20120110/satellites-sabotaged-120110/#ixzz1j9wRXQJk
The Italian mafia in 2010 made the lion's share of its 140 billion euros in sales by exploiting small-to-medium-sized businesses through usury, extortion and even robbery, according to a report by Confesercenti, a business association representing 270,000 small-to-medium Italian businesses.
By comparison, Rome-based Eni, one of Europe's top multinational oil exploration companies, in 2010 registered around 99 billion euros in sales.
"The state is working on it, but there needs to be a change with the institutions," said Confesercenti president Marco Venturi. "No bidding, hiring or investments in the shadow of crime."
The report says the economic crisis has been a fruitful time for organised criminals to exploit businesses who are looking for funds at a time when bank loans have dried up. Out of desperation they turn to mobsters who provide loans at crippling interest rates.
Strapped for cash and unable to continue making interest payments to criminals, prompted 1,800 businesses in 2010 to shut down, "erasing tens-of-thousands of jobs," according to the report.
Merchants are the most exposed to loan sharking with "around 200,000 victims suffering 1,300 crimes a day. Practically 50 per hour and almost one per minute," according to the report.
"Our goal is to retake territory occupied by the mafia," said Confesercenti's Venturi.
The Obama administration, in conjunction with federal regulators and led by the overseer of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, is very close to announcing a pilot program to sell government-owned foreclosures in bulk to investors as rentals, according to administration officials.
There currently are about a quarter of a million foreclosed properties on the books of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), and millions more are coming.
The foreclosure processing delays of last year created a mammoth backlog of properties yet to be processed, which are just now being re-started. One of the initiatives of this program is for the federal government to be in the position to mitigate and manage any new wave of foreclosures, sources say.
Late-stage delinquencies still in the pipeline number close to two million, according to a new report from Lender Processing Services. Foreclosure starts outnumber foreclosure sales by two to one and "the trend toward fewer loans becoming delinquent, which dominated 2010 and the first quarter of 2011, appears to have halted," according to LPS.
Knowing this all too well, the Treasury Department, Federal Reserve, HUD, FDIC, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, with their conservator, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) at the helm, are engaged in a collaborative effort to face this new wave of foreclosures head on and figure out a way to keep these properties from sitting on the books of the government and sitting empty in the nation's neighborhoods.
As the Federal Reserve alluded to in its white paper on housing last week, "A government-facilitated REO-to-rental program has the potential to help the housing market and improve loss recoveries on reo portfolios." REO's (Real Estate Owned) are bank-owned properties, or, in this case, properties owned by the government-sponsored enterprises and the FHA. Three Fed governors pushed for similar plans in speeches last week, as well.
A pilot sales program will be starting in the very near future, according to administration officials. They are working on what the market potential is, what pricing would be, how government can partner with private investors, and who has the operational experience to manage so many properties.
"I think there is a fair amount of money in the wings waiting to buy, investors doing cash raises to buy properties on a large scale," says Laurie Goodman of Amherst Securities. "But that means they have to build out a rental organization; it means they build out a management company, because if you're accumulating a hundred homes in Dallas that's very different than running a multifamily building."
A number of institutional investors have shown appetite and interest in bulk REO deals, according to officials, but the plan has to incorporate ways to help facilitate financing. That has been one of the biggest roadblocks to deals already in the works between hedge funds and the major banks. Sources close to these private bank negotiations say there is plenty of cash to buy properties, but building out a management structure for the rentals is pricey, and some investors are finding the math doesn't add up to make it worth their while.
War games. Threats to close a key oil passageway and block a U.S. aircraft carrier from returning to the Persian Gulf. An American sentenced to death in Tehran, accused of spying. And now a breakthrough in Iran's nuclear program.
The developments portend what officials see as a momentous year ahead in the standoff between Iran and the West, as Iranian leaders appear to grow bolder despite a new round of international sanctions which, by most accounts, is taking a toll.
"There won't be taking an eye off the ball," Adm. Jonathan Greenert, chief of naval operations at the Defense Department told reporters on Tuesday. Greenert spoke after the second rescue in less than a week of Iranians in trouble in Gulf waters. "If you ask me what keeps me awake at night, it is the Strait of Hormuz and the business that is going on in the Arabian Gulf."
U.S. lawmakers and other officials say western nations, which already have been putting the screws to the regime in Tehran, must take additional steps in order to persuade the country not to go down the nuclear weapons path.
In a letter to the European Union released Tuesday, a group of bipartisan senators described 2012 as a "turning point in the confrontation between Iran and the international community." They urged the organization to impose an oil embargo on Iran and follow the U.S. lead by sanctioning Iran's Central Bank.
"We believe that both (steps) are absolutely necessary if we are to prevent the Iranian regime from acquiring nuclear weapons and thereby foreclose either a regional war or a cascade of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East," reads the letter signed by Sens. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn.; Mark Kirk, R-Ill.; Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., and five others.
In New York, state senators on Monday passed legislation already approved by the state Assembly to prohibit state and local governments from doing business with companies that have more than $20 million in ties to Iran's energy sector.
"The Senate's swift action shows how important it is that we stand together to condemn tyrannical governments like Iran which sponsor terrorism, have attempted to acquire nuclear weapons and threaten U.S. allies like Israel, as Iran has repeatedly done," Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos said on the Senate floor.
The move, which mirrors actions by Florida and California, comes after state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli announced $86 billion of the nearly $150 billion state pension fund has been divested from companies involved in Iran and Sudan.
The array of actions and latest warnings -- particularly on the Republican presidential campaign trail -- highlight the West's effort to make tough choices on Iran, within a quickly narrowing window.
The latest alarm bell came Monday when the United Nations' nuclear agency confirmed that Iran had started to enrich uranium at its underground Fordo site. The level of enrichment being pursued is said to be 20 percent, far more than the 3.5 percent-level material being produced at Iran's central enrichment site.
The State Department described the development as very bad news.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in a statement Tuesday that the enrichment activity "demonstrates the Iranian regime's blatant disregard for its responsibilities."
She called on Iran to stop enriching uranium and return to international talks on its nuclear program, adding that the circumstances surrounding the Fordo site are "especially troubling."
"There is no plausible justification for this production. Such enrichment brings Iran a significant step closer to having the capability to produce weapons-grade highly enriched uranium," she said.
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland also said a day earlier that, "When you enrich to 20 percent, there is no possible reason for that if you're talking about a peaceful program."
John Bolton, former U.S. ambassador the United Nations under the Bush administration, said that if there is a strike, Israel is the most likely candidate to carry it out. But he said Israel risks a "nuclear response" in the event the country waits too long to launch one.
"Every day that goes by means that the military option gets less and less likely," Bolton told Fox News.
Reflecting the views of the senators who wrote to the European Union, Bolton said a nuclear Iran would trigger a nuclear race in the volatile Middle East among Iran's powerful neighbors.
"I think it's a very dangerous period. I think Iran is drawing close to the point where it will have a nuclear weapons capability," Bolton said.
On Tuesday, White House spokesman Jay Carney said the U.S. is consulting with countries like India and China on ways to keep the pressure up -- after both nations committed to stronger partnerships with Iran's oil sector.
In the meantime, Carney said, "We have effectively isolated Iran to a degree that has never before been the case. And the impact of the sanctions and the efforts that we've implemented is profound.
He added that while the military option isn't off the table, the U.S. is focused on "diplomatic, economic and other non-military actions that we can take to bring about the results that we and many, many countries around the world -- our international partners and allies -- are demanding."
Israel has not betrayed its plans, though the country's military chief of staff Benny Gantz said Tuesday that 2012 "will be a critical year" on the Iranian nuclear front, according to The Jerusalem Post.
The Institute for National Security Studies, an Israeli think tank, also claimed that Israel could still attack Iran even after an Iranian nuclear test.
"The Israeli military option is likely to be a significant lever," the group said in a report on a simulation it conducted regarding the possible responses to such a test.
The United States has not publicly signaled a shift away from the international sanctions route. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, speaking Sunday on CBS' "Face the Nation," said that while no option is off the table, the "responsible" path is "to keep putting diplomatic and economic pressure on them," so they don't pursue a nuclear weapon. He said it's important for the international community, "including Israel," to work together.
Panetta, who said last month that Iran could develop a weapon in 2012, claimed Sunday that Iran is not currently trying to develop one.
"But we know that they're trying to develop a nuclear capability. And that's what concerns us," he said. "And our red line to Iran is do not develop a nuclear weapon. That's a red line for us."
Panetta said "they're going to get stopped" if they pursue a weapon.
Other U.S. lawmakers have pressed the Obama administration to do more. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said in a statement Monday that she is "deeply troubled by the sense of complacency that seems to describe the administration's view of Iran as undecided about whether to pursue nuclear weapons."
She said an Iran with "nuclear breakout capability" should be treated like an Iran with a nuclear weapon, and noted that Iran is making inroads into Latin America to directly threaten U.S. security.
Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said in a statement to FoxNews.com that "it seems apparent that Iran is seeking a nuclear weapon in the face of international condemnation and sanctions."
"While we may not yet be at risk of nuclear retaliation from Iran, the longer we wait to act, the harder it would be to destroy an Iranian nuclear arms program while keeping civilian casualties and environmental damage to a minimum," King said.
Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2012/01/10/iran-west-approaching-turning-point-in-2012-officials-warn/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+foxnews%2Fpolitics+%28Internal+-+Politics+-+Text%29&utm_content=Google+Reader#ixzz1j9pP35mt
Europe is "playing with fire" and its future is in doubt if it doesn't "get serious," the boss of the Italian car giant Fiat has warned, as ratings agency Fitch put Italy on notice of a credit downgrade.
Sergio Marchionne, chief of Fiat and Chrysler, said the European debt crisis was likely to flatten his business for the next two years. Speaking at the Detroit motor show, Marchionne said he was looking at adding a new partner to his car alliance as Europe's debt woes drag down Fiat's business.
Marchionne said: "We are playing with fire. One of the things we need to realise is that the world is fundamentally interconnected. We have ended up being accountable to a lot of people who financed our public debt.
"Europe is being called to task to solve a number of issues. If we don't acquire the confidence of the financial markets, the future of Europe is doubtful."
His strongly worded warning to Europe's politicians came as Fitch said Italy could see its A+ rating cut by the end of the month, despite new prime minister Mario Monti's insistence that his latest austerity measures would bring the country's finances under control.
David Riley, Fitch's head of global sovereign ratings, speaking in London, said Italy was on the "frontline" of the mounting eurozone debt crisis. "The future of the euro will be decided at the gates of Rome," he said.
Italy has seen its borrowing costs rise to eye-watering levels as confidence in the future of the single currency has been rocked. Yields on 10-year Italian bonds, which determine the interest rate Rome has to pay to borrow, stood at 7.14%. A rate of 7% is widely viewed as unsustainable and was the point at which Portugal, Greece and the Irish Republic were forced to seek a bailout.
Fitch's warning came as Europe's leaders began a punishing schedule of meetings in the run-up to a crucial summit at the end of this month.
After Greece's warning last week that it will be forced to drop out of the single currency unless it receives the €130bn second bailout it was promised in October, German chancellor Angela Merkel and Christine Lagarde, the managing director of the International Monetary Fund, held talks in Berlin.
Lagarde will be in Paris on Wednesday to meet French president Nicolas Sarkozy, amid reports that the IMF is losing patience with Athens. The Greek government is being urged to crack down on tax avoidance, sell off state assets and implement a series of economic reforms before it can receive the new rescue loan.
Also on the agenda for eurozone leaders is the new "fiscal compact", to tighten the rules on tax and spending for euro members, and how to boost the euro bailout fund, the European Financial Stability Facility.
Fresh evidence of the scale of the continuing crisis in Greece also emerged, with news that bank deposits in the recession-hit state declined by 2% in November alone. During the first eleven months of 2011, nervous Greek consumers and businesses withdrew €36.7bn from the country's shaky banking sector, 17.5% of the total cash on account.
The IMF is also due to pronounce on Ireland's progress on tackling its deficit. Enda Kenny, the Irish prime minister, expressed confidence that the "troika" of the European Central Bank, the European commission and the IMF would give the republic a positive report after their officials' 10-day fact-finding mission to Dublin.
The taoiseach and the Irish government played down comments from Citigroup's chief economist, Willem Buiter, that Ireland might need another international bailout by the end of the year. The European commission said that talk of a second round of international aid to Ireland was "not helpful".
Responding to Buiter's remarks, Amadeu Altafaj, spokesman for Olli Rehn, the EU economic commissioner, said that Ireland had made strong progress in export growth, banking sector reform, structural reform and in its general fiscal position. "It is not particularly useful to open a public debate on a successor programme when the first programme is delivering," he said.
The talks in Berlin and Paris were lent fresh urgency by news that struggling banks deposited a record €481.9bn in the European Central Bank's overnight facility on Monday.
These deposits receive a rock bottom interest rate of 0.25%, so the sharp rise suggests banks are increasingly anxious about lending among themselves, and instead are parking their cash in Frankfurt.
Meanwhile Britain's status as a relatively safe haven amid the turmoil on the continent was underlined as investors snapped up £700m-worth of inflation-linked government bonds, driving the real yield below zero for only the second time.
Back in Detroit, where American carmakers are banking on a revival in the world's largest economy, Marchionne predicted that Fiat could lose 500,000 vehicle sales annually as a result of the European debt crisis. "We need to get serious, really serious," he said.
Fiat is planning to merge with Chrysler by 2014. Under Marchionne the US car firm has bounced back from bankruptcy. Chrysler sales soared 26.2% last year and were up 37.1% in December. The US firm expects to report a profit of about $600m for 2011 and Marchionne has forecast Chrysler will make $3bn in operating profit in 2012.
The company recently announced it would add 1,100 jobs to the Detroit plant that makes the Grand Cherokee and Dodge Durango.
LONDON – Hedge funds are taking on the powerful International Monetary Fund over its plan to slash Greece’s towering debt burden as time runs out on the talks that could sway the future of Europe’s single currency.
The funds have built up such a powerful positions in Greek bonds that they could derail Europe’s tactic of getting banks and other bondholders to share the burden of reducing the country’s debt on a voluntary basis.
Bondholders need to give up some 100-billion euros (US$130-billion) of their investment in the planned bond swap, drawn up in October, but many hedge funds plan to stay out of it.
They either prefer letting the country go under, which would trigger the credit insurance they have bought, or hope to get paid out in full if enough others sign up. That puts them in direct conflict with the IMF, which wants to force Greece’s cost of financing down to an affordable level.
“The play is purely ‘they’ll be forced to pay me.’ Greece will want to avoid a wider default. so if it managed to restructure 80% of the deal and pay the rest that’s still better,” said Gabriel Sterne at securities firm Exotix.
Without a deal, the IMF, the European Union and the European Central Bank — the so-called troika of official lenders — will not pay out a second bail-out package Greece needs to survive.
EU Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn said on Tuesday that negotiators were “about to finalize shortly.” But time is running out.
Without the money, the country is likely to default around March 20, when a 14.5 billion euro bond falls due. A deal needs to come well before that, because the paperwork alone takes at least six weeks.
On Monday German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy, the eurozone’s two leading powers, insisted private-sector bondholders must share in reducing Greece’s debt burden.
But the hedge funds are resisting, unlike European banks holding Greek bonds, who have been pressured to agree by politicians.
There are other barriers too.
Banks represented by the Institute of International Finance (IIF) agreed last year to write off the notional value of their Greek bondholdings by 50%, a deal designed to reduce Greece’s debt ratio to 120% of its Gross Domestic Product by 2020.
But they have been unable to agree on the fine print of the refinancing – the coupon, maturity and the credit guarantees. These will determine the bonds’ Net Present Value (NPV), and thereby the actual hit the banks need to take.
There are 206-billion euros of Greek government bonds in private sector hands — banks, institutional investors, and hedge funds — and it is likely that hedge funds have been building up their positions in the past months.
They have been snapping up chunks of Greece’s next big maturing bond, the March 20, for around 40 US cents on the euro. Yields on the bond began to rise sharply in September and it was priced at 41-45.5 US cents in the euro on Tuesday.
The bet is that other creditors will sign up to a voluntary deal, and that Greece will pay out in full the hedge funds who do not to avoid a default and trigger pay-out of Credit Default Swaps, a form of credit protection.
“Time is on your side, since investors, until now, have received full repayment on Greek debt obligations,” said Kristian Flyvholm at asset manager Jyske Invest.
Sterne, whose firm Exotix specializes in illiquid bond investing and counts hedge funds among its clients, said the bet had already worked for some funds. Greece paid out smaller issues maturing in December and January.
But it is a dangerous strategy.
Europe is increasingly likely to force investors to take a cut on their Greek bondholdings if they do not voluntarily sign up to the deal, Reuters reported in November.
Also, Greece could change its laws, which for the largest part do not contain the so-called Collective Action Clauses (CAC) that force dissenting minorities into line when new conditions are imposed on outstanding bonds.
It is unclear how large hedge fund holdings of Greek debt are. About 20 to 25% of Greece’s creditors were unidentified, and half of these could be hedge funds, one source close to the creditors told Reuters.
Whatever the scale of the hedge fund threat, the proportion of creditors seen likely to sign up for their haircut has slipped. The hopes are now 60% can be convinced by the end of the month, the same source said, far less than the 90% take-up the IIF was targeting in June.
At that low a level, it is unclear whether the troika of international lenders will consider the uptake big enough to warrant a pay-out of the second bail-out package.
IIF Managing Director Charles Dallara is due in Athens later this week for troika negotiations, and technical staff from the IMF are expected in the Greek capital from January 16.
The IMF itself seemed to throw doubt on the debt swap in an internal memo cited by German magazine Der Spiegel on Saturday.
According to the report, the IMF believes Greece will still be sinking under the burden of its debts even after a deal is struck, and that further measures may need to be taken if the country is to avoid default. Markets fear this could lead to reopening the October agreement.
In a leaked paper in October, the IMF already acknowledged that its the assumptions may need to be reassessed. That would mean lower interest rate payments by Greece, and an even more bitter hit for the banks.
The NPV loss for creditors could be near 65-70% and the coupon around 4.5%, bankers have indicated. Reuters reported in November Greece wanted a 75% NPV cut, a far higher number than the low 60s the banks had in mind.