Friday, January 20, 2012
Tensions between the U.S. and Iran are at a high point, as the Islamic Republic threatens to close off a vital waterway and two U.S. aircraft carrier battle groups sit in the seas off the Iranian coast. But across the Persian Gulf, the U.S. has a previously unacknowledged weapon in reserve: a new special operations team.
Danger Room has confirmed with the U.S. Special Operations Command that a new elite commando team is operating in the region. The primary, day-to-day mission of the team, known as Joint Special Operations Task Force-Gulf Cooperation Council, is to mentor military units belonging to the U.S.’ oil-rich Arab allies, who collectively are known as the Gulf Cooperation Council. Those Arab states consider Iran to be their primary foreign threat.
The task force provides “highly trained personnel that excel in uncertain environments,” Maj. Rob Bockholt, a spokesman for special-operations forces in the Mideast, tells Danger Room, and “seeks to confront irregular threats.” The U.S. military has not previously acknowledged the existence of the team, known as JSOTF-GCC for short.
The unit began its existence in mid-2009 — around the time that the Iranian leadership rejectedPresident Obama’s offer of a new diplomatic dialogue and underwent a serious internal challenge to its legitimacy from Green Movement protesters. But whatever the task force does about Iran — or might do in the future — is a sensitive subject with the military.
“It would be inappropriate to discuss operational plans regarding any particular nation,” Bockholt says about Iran.
There is no direct evidence that JSOTF-GCC has been involved in offensive action against Iran. It is unlikely, for instance, that JSOTF-GCC killed Iranian nuclear scientist Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan last week, an assassination the U.S. has firmly denied any role in and for which the Israelis, reports Eli Lake of Newsweek, are all but openly taking credit.
Some special-operations veterans — who did not wish to be identified or quoted — downplayed the significance of the new task force, expecting it to primarily advise Gulf nations on how to train their own forces, and speculated that its actual role against Iran was indirect at most. Col. Tim Nye, the chief spokesman for the U.S. Special Operations Command, says the task force is responsible “for coordinating all SOF [Special Operations Forces] engagements and training with Gulf Cooperation Council nations.”
The special operations forces of those nations have shown a notable improvement over the past year. Qatari commandos quietly traveled to Libya ahead of Moammar Gadhafi’s downfall to prepare Libyan rebels for the successful capture of Tripoli. The United Arab Emirates, another close U.S. ally, has also made its elite forces a priority, even hiring Blackwater’s founder to bolster their training.
Not many details are available about the task force. It’s built around Naval Special Warfare Unit Three, one of the elite Navy SEAL teams. But the “Joint” in the task force’s name signals that it draws from the special-operations forces in the Army, Air Force and Marines as well. Its commander is a Navy captain or equivalent in a different service.
Officials would not identify missions of the task force, its leadership or its headquarters, citing the safety of the personnel involved and the success of those missions.
Sometime in the NOT too distant future there will be western countries that will begin to require their citizens to have tracking implants put somewhere into their bodies. The leaps and bounds of miniaturized electronic technology is probably almost ready for full introduction on a countrywide scale. Microchips are already now routinely implanted into pets and can be scanned by handheld devices.
Even if the technology existed to implant everyone right now, citizens would initially offer colossal resistance to their government. Conjured up would be the mark of the beast and a mass religious backlash against the government. How will human implanting ever get started then? It will probably end up being approved by the majority of the people themselves. WHAT?!
Yes, many extremely controversial measures are agreed to, or gone along with, by most of the people and passed into law by their politicians. Some laws and regulations are shoveled down people’s throats during times of upheaval and often for the sake of “security”. Implanting people though can be presented in unscrupulous ways that make it appear to most everyone that their lives will be made easier, more convenient, and safer.
Those in charge of your government will present all sorts of positive upbeat reasons why micro chipping everyone will aid in everyone’s life and they will give all sorts of excuses for the national security and safety for all.
- Our country is economically broke and needs a streamlined new monetary system in which all transactions are controlled by a central government financial institution. This will be the ONLY way to conduct business since traditional money is abolished.
- Government could offer an option to its citizens that those who are implanted will get a tax break, and those that don’t will get a 300% increase on their taxes.
- All medical treatments to be tied to personal ID implant chips, providing instant access to alleviate any mistakes and speed up life saving treatments.
- You will be told that crime will disappear as law enforcement knows exactly where everyone is at all times, even the chance of terrorism is reduced to near zero.
- ONLY law abiding citizens will be able to possess firearms as the implants will automatically know if someone has a gun that shouldn’t because all firearms also have ID implants in them.
- Homeless people will finally have legitimate ID and no longer be a hazard to the public.
- Rescuers know exactly where to go to save you based on the tracking location of your implant.
- The government will say that there will be no more waiting in lines at airports or other means of transportation because of time consuming screening.
- Free and unrestricted travel to all other countries participating in ID implants, no passports needed.
- Check-out at any store, no waiting in line, automatic deduction from your account.
- They will preach that regular ID cards can be stolen, altered, and manipulated, but when you have the ID inside of you, there is no chance of fraud.
- They will promise that you will not lose any of your civil rights.
- They will sprinkle “sweet” thoughts like no one will be strangers to each other any longer, we will all be one big family.
- Total cashless purchases, and they will try to sell you the thought that food and other items will be cheaper.
- Now parents will never have to worry about missing children.
- Total elimination of calculating your income taxes, every source of income and expenses are totally kept track of for you.
- The implant procedure is safe and easy, and you won’t even know it is there it is so tiny.
- They will make sure that they tell everyone that religious freedoms will never be affected, and highly recognized leaders of each denomination will be there to reassure their fellow worshipers.
- We the government can better serve you quicker.
- There is no threat if you are a good honest person with nothing to hide criminally.
- If it doesn’t work we will abandon it right away.
- It is your DUTY as a citizen to do what is necessary to help and support your country by having a simple and harmless ID system put into your body.
Moder Survival Blog
PASADENA, Calif., Jan. 18 (UPI) -- The La Nina weather event, dubbed "the diva of drought," is peaking and increasing the odds the southwestern and southern United States will be dry, NASA says.
The space agency said sea surface height data from its Jason-1 and -2 satellites show the milder repeat of last year's strong La Nina has recently intensified.
This is the second consecutive year the satellites have measured lower-than-normal sea surface heights in the equatorial Pacific and unusually high sea surface heights in the western Pacific, a NASA release said Wednesday.
The height of the sea surface in a given area is an indicator of ocean temperature and other factors that influence climate, it said.
"Conditions are ripe for a stormy, wet winter in the Pacific Northwest and a dry, relatively rainless winter in Southern California, the Southwest and the southern tier of the United States," climatologist Bill Patzert of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., said.
"This La Nina could deepen the drought in the already parched Southwest and could also worsen conditions that have fueled recent deadly wildfires," he said.
Read more: http://www.upi.com/Science_News/2012/01/18/La-Nina-said-bringing-US-drought/UPI-41491326936807/#ixzz1jv36ts5m
The U.S. Department of State said it was seeking explanations from Moscow over a ship that probably headed from Russia with a cargo of weapons to Syria.
The cargo ship MV Chariot, flying the St. Vincent and Grenadines flag, was en route from St. Petersburg to the Syrian port of Latakia when it was briefly held and inspected in the Cypriot port of Larnaka on suspicion that it carried weapons.
“We have, as you know, asked for clarification from the Russian Federation. This was a subject of discussion with the Embassy. It was also raised by Deputy Secretary Burns when he was in Moscow,” Department of State Spokesperson Victoria Nuland said.
“Our understanding is that the Russian side continues to look into who was responsible and what happened precisely,” she went on.
The spokeswoman said the U.S. is unable to confirm at the moment that the ship carried weapons and breached the existing sanctions on Syria, imposed after months of deadly unrest against the rule of President Bashar al-Assad.
“We have not been able to independently verify it. We have the reports from the Cypriots who saw some of the cargo, but we don’t - we haven’t been able to independently verify,” Nuland said.
Cypriot media said the ship was carrying from 35 to 60 tons of ammunition and explosives meant for the Syrian Defense Ministry. The Greek Cypriot Foreign Ministry said in a statement customs officers boarded the ship for a document check and tried to examine the cargo, but could not open four containers it was stored in because of “confined space.”
The Russian Foreign Ministry said the ship carried a “dangerous cargo,” but did not elaborate. According to the documents, the cargo sender was the Russian state arms trader Rosoboronexport.
The vessel was allowed to leave the port in about an hour, after the ship crew announced it would change its destination and not go to Syria. Turkish media said a day later that the ship docked in the Syrian port of Tartus.
A spokesperson at the Department of State denied information that the crash of the Phobos-Grunt probe to the Martian moon Phobos could have been caused by a powerful electromagnetic emission from a U.S. radar.
“We have seen speculation in the Russian media that foreign interference might have contributed to the failures of several recent Russian space missions,” Department of State spokesperson Jamie Mannina said. “We do not believe there is truth to these reports.”
He said U.S. specialists had responded to a request from the Russian federal space agency Roscosmos and had assisted Russia in its efforts to establish contact with the stranded spacecraft.
“Although recovery attempts by several nations ultimately proved unsuccessful, the United States cooperated with Russia and other nations to monitor the final orbits and uncontrolled re-entry of the Phobos-Grunt spacecraft into the Earth's atmosphere,” he said.
Roscosmos head Vladimir Popovkin said earlier this week that a Russian government commission looking into the crash considers errors during production and test works and engineering flaws as the main cause of its failure, adding that the U.S. radar is viewed “only as one of the causes.”
Nevertheless, Roscosmos is expected to hold tests to see whether the probe was affected by U.S. radars, which may involve NASA specialists.
Phobos-Grunt, Russia's most ambitious planetary mission in decades, was launched on November 9 but it was lost due to a propulsion failure and fell back to Earth on Sunday.
According to NASA, Russia has failed in all 17 of its attempts to study the Red Planet close-up since 1960. The most recent failure before November 2011 occurred in 1996, when Russia lost its Mars-96 orbiter during launch.
As the days of Syrian President Bashar Assad increasingly look numbered, concerns are mounting that the regime’s vast stockpile of chemical weapons might fall into the hands of terrorists by accident or by plan.
No one knows the size and quality of the arsenal of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) that the Assad regime has accumulated over the years. Its nuclear aspirations probably ended with a mysterious 2007 attack on a suspected nuclear facility, and experts are divided on whether Syria has biological weapons.
But they are nearly certain that Damascus operates a comprehensive chemical weapons program that encompasses production and delivery capabilities.
Major-General Amir Eshel, the head of the Israeli military's planning division, was the latest official to express concern about what will happen to Syria’s WMD. He told reporters in Jerusalem this week it was only a matter of time before some of the arsenal makes it was out of government-secured facilities.
“We are talking about huge stockpiles,” he said. “That's a major concern because I don't know who is going to own those the day after. Up till now, what has been transferred to Hezbollah? What will be transferred to Hezbollah? What will be divided between those factions inside Syria?”
The Wall Street Journal reported in late August that a joint US-Israeli surveillanceoperation has been monitoring Syria’s chemical weapons stockpiles. Washington reportedly has contingency plans if there are signs that the regime is preparing to use chemical weapons or pass them on to organizations such as Hezbollah.
Assad is not the first despot in distress to arouse concern about chemicals weapons. As Libyan strongman Muammar Gaddafi’s regime was unraveling in the face of civil war last summer, the US and other powers worked to ensure that the country’s WMD didn’t fall into the wrong hands.
That program so far has gone well, with the global monitoring body, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), due to report on Friday on it’s the cleanup in Libya to date. “We’ve had very good cooperation,” Michael Luhan, OPCW’s spokesman, told The Media Line about Libya’s transitional government.
But Syria’s chemical weapons horde is believed to be many times bigger and more sophisticated. How big and how sophisticated is anyone’s guess because Damascus never agreed to any international oversight.
“Syria has never signed the Chemical Weapons Convention and has been indifferent over the years to our consistent overtures to open a discussion on the issue,” Luhan said. “We’re monitoring events in Syria closely … and hope whatever situation subsequently develops from the turmoil will create more favorable circumstances for joining the convention.”
The Monterey Institute’s James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies (CNS believes that Syria has probably acquired the ability to develop and produce chemical weapons agents including mustard gas and sarin, and possibly the VX nerve agent.
Syria also possesses the means of aiming those lethal substances to targets.
While it may have dropped a program to arm short-range missiles with chemical warheads following a 2007 accident, Syria has long-range Scud-B and Scud-C ballistic missiles capable of being fitted with chemical warheads. It may also stockpile artillery shells and rockets filled with chemicals.
“There’s a huge difference between the two arsenals,” Leonard Spector, director of CNS’s Washington DC office, told The Media Line.
“The Libyan arsenal had been under inspection so it scale was well known. We did find some additional weapons but by and large it was understood,” he said. “The Syrian capability not only includes World War I-type chemical agents like mustard gas that are semi-liquid, but they have the advanced nerve agents developed more recently.”
John Hart, head of the chemical and biological security, said that of the suspected Syrian chemicals stockpile VX and sarin are potentially the most lethal, but creating large-scale threat would require obtaining large amounts of the toxins.
“The only weapons on the chemical side that might cause large numbers of deaths are organo-phosphorus nerve agents,” he said. “Hundreds of tons of chemical weapons agents are generally required for operations against military forces in the field.”
Syria’s biological capabilities, if they exist at all, are shrouded in more mystery. American experts have said Syria can produce anthrax and botulism toxins, but a Swedish Defense Agency report in 2004 found no evidence of a program, according to the CNS.
If Syria was on its way to developing nuclear weapons – a charge it has vehemently denied – an aerial attack on its facility at Dair Alzour, which was suspected of housing an unfinished atomic reactor, likely put an end to them. Israel is believed to have been behind the September 2007 raid, but it has never claimed responsibility.
Some analysts fear Assad might opt to transfer some of the arsenal to his allies Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shiite movement that fields a huge militia and has fought Israel, most recently in 2006. Others see a risk that the Assad regime might use chemicals weapons against its own people.
Even after battling opposition forces for 10 months Assad has so far not lost effective control of any part of the country. But chaos could enable rebels, foreign militant groups or arms dealers to raid the chemical weapons depots.
Michelle Dover, a researcher writing in World Politics Review last month, noted that the cities of Homs, Hamah and Latakia are both major centers of unrest and suspected of hosting important chemical-weapon production facilities. Aleppo, which has also witnessed major protests, is believed to be a center for missile production and storage. A suspected chemical weapons production site in Al-Safirah is nearby, she said.
“We believe they have munitions that are filled and ready to be used, like artillery shells and possibly aerial bombs,” said Spector of CNS. “There is a danger of some of these being taken during a conflict. Rebels will not be able to use missiles or bombs, but they could use artillery shells. And they could find a way to transport a bomb by truck.”
A top Palestinian Authority religious leader claimed in a sermon at a major Fatah event that Muslims are obligated to kill the Jews.
The Mufti Muhammad Hussein presented the murder of Jews by Muslims as a religious Islamic goal while celebrating the 47th anniversary of the Palestinian Authority’s Fatah faction.
An appointee of Palestinian Authority Chairman and Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas, the Mufti made the claim at an official Fatah event marking the founding of the largest faction in the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), also led by Abbas, as well.
Citing what he said was the Hadith (the Islamic tradition attributed to Muslim prophet Muhammad), the Mufti claimed “The Hour [of Resurrection] will not come until you fight the Jews. The Jew will hide behind stone or trees. Then the stones or trees will call: ‘O Muslim, servant of Allah (G-d), there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him.’ ”
Although a video of the speech was previously available on YouTube, it has been removed because it violated the site’s Terms of Service for violence.
A poll sponsored by the Israel Project found that 73 percent of Palestinian Arabs “believe” this Hadith, according to the findings of a July 2011 study by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner.
The moderator who introduced the Mufti also reiterated another “Islamic belief” — that the Jews are descendants of apes and pigs,” according to a broadcast on PA TV translated by the media watchdog agency Palestinian Media Watch (PMW).
“Our war with the descendants of the apes and pigs (ie: the Jews) is a war of religion and faith,” the moderator said.
The Mufti added to the moderator’s statement,saying that Islam’s goal is to kill the Jews.The same cleric preached in a sermon at Jerusalem’s Al Aqsa Mosque in 2010 that the Jews are “enemies of Allah.”
United With Israel
The world economy will lose momentum in 2012 but it will keep moving in the right direction, according to Reuters polls of around 600 economists who said crisis-hit Europe would drag on global growth.
Asian economies will again power the expansion of the world economy this year, but with relatively subdued performances. The United States, meanwhile, should continue to contribute modest growth that will easily outpace its recession-hit European peers.
Brazil will be one of the few big economies that will pick up steam this year, outshining slower Latin American stablemates Mexico and Argentina.
A Reuters poll that covers all of the top 20 developed and emerging economies, as well as some others in Asia, suggests global economic growth will slow to around 3.3 percent this year from an estimated 3.7 percent in 2011.
That is more optimistic than the latest forecast from the World Bank, which predicted world GDP would rise only 2.5 percent this year.
Although the euro zone's sovereign debt crisis represents a huge risk to the world's economic health, there have at least been promising signs of life from the United States.
"We're fairly optimistic on the U.S., and we're in the soft-landing rather than the hard-landing camp for China," said Investec economist Victoria Cadman, whose forecast for global growth in the high-three percent range is slightly more optimistic than the consensus.
"(That's) notwithstanding the huge risks that the euro crisis poses if a more disorderly fallout results."
China will again top the economic growth charts this year with growth of 8.4 percent, although that is only a little over the 8 percent mark economists deem necessary to create enough jobs to satisfy the country's fast-growing population.
India's economy will not be far behind, expanding 7.0 percent in the 2012 fiscal year, although that would still be its worst showing in two years thanks to tight monetary policy and political deadlock.
Brazil's fervent domestic demand and credit growth should propel the economy to growth of around 3.3 percent in 2012, and 4.5 percent in 2013.
This year looks certain to be difficult for the rich developed economies. The world's largest, the United States, should grow around 2.2 percent in 2012.
While fairly modest by historical standards and compared to its emerging peers, that would be vastly better than the 0.3 percent contraction expected for the euro zone economy.
The immediate risk to Europe's economy would be a disorderly sovereign debt default from Greece that would hammer the European financial system. Athens is bargaining with its private creditors on a bond swap deal needed before it can repay 14.5 billion euros ($18.5 billion) of bonds falling due in March.
"The seeming inability of euro zone policymakers to get on top of the region's sovereign debt crisis is threatening to exact a toll on economic growth well beyond its peripheral economies," said Mark Cliffe, chief economist of ING Group.
Germany will probably be the only major economy in Europe to rise above stagnation this year, although not by much — economists expect its economy to expand by 0.5 percent in 2012.
Even Japan, mired in deflation and struggling to overcome the economic shock of the earthquake and tsunami last March, will easily outstrip European economies with growth of around 1.8 percent in its fiscal year 2012-13.
That is the lowest forecast since the aftermath of last year's natural disasters, however, underscoring how over-optimistic some commentators were in expecting reconstruction to fuel a rapid expansion.
Backed by a mining boom, Australia's resource rich economy should lead the developed world in terms of growth, with a hearty 3.4 percent expansion this year.
"The mining investment boom is largely 'baked in' and is expected to contribute two-thirds of GDP growth in 2012," said Paul Bloxham, chief economist at HSBC Bank Australia.
Fitch expects its ratings review of six euro zone states will result in downgrades of one to two notches in most of those countries, senior director Ed Parker said at a Fitch conference in Madrid on Thursday.
Fitch put Belgium, Spain, Slovenia, Italy, Ireland and Cyprus on negative watch late last year on Dec 16.
Fitch told the euro zone at the time that it thought a comprehensive solution to the bloc's debt crisis is was beyond reach.
Rating agency peer Standard & Poor's cut ratings on a swathe of euro zone states earlier this month.
As for Spain, Parker said the review would take into account the new government's recent actions to cut costs and implement reforms, but said "there are continuing problems with the public finances and bank assets and the labor market is dysfunctional."
Parker said the review would be concluded by the end of January.
It would equate to defaults by 41 of the 676 speculative grade European companies rated by S&P, and would compare with a 4.8pc default rate in 2011.
The agency said the companies most at risk would be those with the greatest exposure to the most troubled eurozone countries, while those with a focus elsewhere would fare better.
"We believe that companies that sell goods and services globally should be better insulated from the turbulence engulfing the eurozone, irrespective of industry-specific cycles that usually prevail over credit developments, because they'll be able to rely on continued relatively strong growth in emerging markets and other commodity-producing countries," said Paul Watters, head of corporate research at S&P's Ratings Services.
"Nonetheless, country risks will likely weigh on the credit fortunes of more domestic-oriented European companies, especially those with significant exposure to economies that are hardest hit by the sovereign debt crisis," he said.
The default rates projected by the rating agency for 2012 are still well below the peak level of 14.7pc in Europe in the third quarter of 2009.
S&P said that if the eurozone situation panned out worse than it was currently forecasting, with a deeper or more protracted recession and a deteriorating financing environment, the default rate could rise to 8.4pc or higher.
S&P is forecasting a mild recession in the eurozone in the first half of the year with a 40pc chance of a deeper recession materialising. It said that growth in the region is likely to reach just 0.4pc this year, with monetary policy likely to remain "unconventional and highly stimulative" until 2013 at least.
"We believe the default rate over the past two years was artificially depressed by the accommodating behaviour of senior lenders more interested in minimising book losses while at the same time capitalising on amendment fees and higher spreads, but there are signs that the phoney war of forbearance may finally be coming to an end," Mr Watters said.
"The policy of temporary relief by senior lenders for borrowers in distress is reaching its limits, given the proximity to principal maturity dates in 2013-2014 and the pressure on banks to improve the quality of assets on their balance sheets."
The warning signs are all around us. All we have to do is open up our eyes and look at them. Almost every single day there are more prominent voices in the financial world telling us that a massive economic crisis is coming and that we need to prepare for the worst. On Wednesday, it was the World Bank itself that issued a very chilling warning. In an absolutely startling report, the World Bank revised GDP growth estimates for 2012 downward very sharply, warned that Europe could be on the verge of a devastating financial crisis, and declared that the rest of the world better "prepare for the worst." You would expect to hear this kind of thing on The Economic Collapse Blog, but this is not the kind of language that you would normally expect to hear from the stuffed suits at the World Bank. Obviously things have gotten bad enough that nobody is even really trying to deny it anymore. Andrew Burns, the lead author of the report, said that if the sovereign debt crisis gets even worse we could be looking at an economic crisis that could be even worse than the last one: "An escalation of the crisis would spare no-one. Developed- and developing-country growth rates could fall by as much or more than in 2008/09." Burns also stated that the "importance of contingency planning cannot be stressed enough." In other words, Burns is saying that it is time to prepare for the worst. So are you ready?
But of course it isn't just the World Bank that is warning about these things. The chorus of voices that is warning about the next great financial crisis just seems to grow by the day.
Some of these voices were profiled in a Bloomberg article the other day entitled "Apocalypse How? Dire ’12 Forecasts". The following is just a sampling of quotes from that article....
-John Mauldin, president of Millennium Wave Advisors: "We've got a cancer. That cancer is debt"
-Mark Spitznagel of Universa Investments: "Too much malinvestment has been kept alive, and history shows an inevitable wipeout, which started in 2000."
-Michael Panzner of Financial Armageddon: "The fundamental outlook is even worse now than it was a few weeks ago, given (the lack of positive) developments in Europe and growing evidence that the economies of major countries around the world are deteriorating fast."
If you have time, you should go check out the rest of that article. It really is fascinating.
When this crisis is over, all sorts of people are going to be running around claiming that they predicted it. But it does not take a genius to see what is coming. All you have to do is open up your eyes and look at the flashing red warning signs.
So what should we all be looking for next?
March 20th is a key date to keep your eye on. That is the day when Greece will either makes its 14.5 billion euro bond payment or it will default.
Greece does not have a prayer of making that payment without help. If Greece can convince the EU and the IMF to release the next scheduled bailout payment and if Greece can reach a satisfactory deal with private bondholders, then the coming Greek default might be "orderly". But if something goes wrong, the coming Greek default might be quite "disorderly".
At this point, almost everyone in the financial world is anticipating a Greek default of one form or another....
-Edward Parker, the managing director for Fitch's sovereign and supranational group in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, recently declared that a Greek default is inevitable....
"It is going to happen. Greece is insolvent so it will default."
-Moritz Kraemer, the head of S&P's European sovereign ratings unit, made the following statement on Bloomberg Television on Monday:
"Greece will default very shortly. Whether there will be a solution at the end of the current rocky negotiations I cannot say."
-Richard McGuire, a strategist at Dutch bank Rabobank, was recently quoted by CNBC as saying the following....
"People often ask if Greece is going to default which ... is a misnomer because Greece is (already) defaulting"
-Diane Swonk, the chief economist at Mesirow Financial in Chicago, says that the default by Greece will probably be an "orderly" one but that the situationcould change at any moment....
"It appears at the moment that the market is accepting a Greek default as inevitable, and it will be an orderly default. But that can change on a dime."
But whether there is a default or not, the reality is that Greece is already experiencing a full-blown economic depression. In Greece, 20 percent of all retail stores have already shut down. The unemployment rate for those under the age of 24 is now at 39 percent. Large numbers of Greeks are trying to get themselves and their money out of the country while they still can.
Pessimism regarding Greece is at an all-time high. Michael Fuchs, the deputy leader of Angela Merkel's political party, recently made the following statement....
"I don't think that Greece, in its current condition, can be saved."
But of course Greece is not the only declining economy in Europe by a long shot.
Italy has a much larger economy, and if Italy totally collapses it will be an absolute nightmare for the entire globe.
Right now, the Bank of Italy is forecasting a significant recession for the Italian economy in 2012. The following is from a statement that Bank of Italy has just released....
"The uncertainty that surrounds the medium-term perspectives of the Italian economy ... are extraordinarily high and are directly linked to the evolution of the eurozone debt crisis"
Italy's youth unemployment rate has hit the highest level ever, and nearly all sectors of the Italian economy are showing signs of slowing down.
Plus there is the looming problem of Italian debt. As I wrote about yesterday, when you add the maturing debt that the Italian government must roll over in 2012 to their projected budget deficit, it comes to 23.1 percent of Italy's GDP.
Originally it was hoped that the economic problems in Europe could be contained to just a few countries. But now it has become clear that is just not going to happen.
Trends forecaster Gerald Celente recently explained to ABC Australia that much of Europe is already essentially experiencing an economic depression....
"If you live in Greece, you’re in a depression; if you live in Spain, you’re in a depression; if you live in Portugal or Ireland, you’re in a depression,” Celente said. “If you live in Lithuania, you’re running to the bank to get your money out of the bank as the bank runs go on. It’s a depression. Hungary, there’s a depression, and much of Eastern Europe, Romania, Bulgaria. And there are a lot of depressions going on [already]."
The troubling news out of Europe just seems to keep coming in waves. Here are some more recent examples....
-Manufacturing activity in the euro zone has fallen for five months in a row.
-Germany's economy actually contracted during the 4th quarter of 2011.
-It is being reported that the Spanish economy contracted during the 4th quarter of 2011.
-Bad loans in Spain recently hit a 17-year high and the unemployment rate is at a 15-year high.
So will all of this economic trouble eventually spread to the United States?
Of course it will.
The global economy is more interconnected today than ever. Back in 2008 the financial crisis that started on Wall Street ended up devastating economies all over the planet. The same thing will happen during this next great financial crisis.
Only this time the U.S. is in a much weaker position. The U.S. debt problem has gotten much worse since the last crisis.
During 2008, our national debt crossed the 10 trillion dollar mark. Less than 4 years later, we have crossed the 15 trillion dollar mark.
So what are we going to do the next time large numbers of banks fail and unemployment skyrockets?
Where are we going to get the money to bail out all of those banks and to take care of all of those newly unemployed people?
Some people say that socialism is the answer, but the truth is that we are already a socialist welfare state. If you can believe it, nearly half of all Americans live in a household that receives some form of financial benefits from the U.S. government.
During the next great crisis, the number of people that are dependent on the government will go even higher.
If you don't want to end up dependent on the government, you should heed the warning signs and you should use this time to prepare for the hard times that are coming.
When even the World Bank tells us to hope for the best but to prepare for the worst, you know that it is late in the game.
Unfortunately, the vast majority of people out there only believe what they want to believe. They don't want to believe that a great economic crisis is coming, and so when it does happen they are going to be absolutely blindsided by it.