Friday, March 16, 2012
A top Israeli official congratulated a decision by the world's largest financial money transfer network to cut off Iranian banks targeted by EU sanctions from the system, saying that the move represented a "mortal blow" to the Iranian regime.
Earlier Thursday, the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) indicated that those financial institutions hit by EU measures would be removed from the network as of Saturday, March 17.
The move is an unprecedented measure that will effectively prevent Iranian institutions from electronically transferring global funds.
"The new European Council decision, as confirmed by the Belgian Treasury, prohibits companies such as SWIFT to continue to provide specialized financial messaging services to EU-sanctioned Iranian banks," the statement said, adding that "SWIFT is incorporated under Belgian law and has to comply with this decision as confirmed by its home country government."
In a response to the SWIFT statement, a top Israeli official lauded the planned measure, saying that it "represented a mortal blow to the Iranian regime."
An Israeli official indicated that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu raised the issue of disconnecting the Iranian banks from the SWIFT system during his recent conversations with U.S. President Barack Obama as well as with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
According to the official, Netanyahu told Obama that "we need SWIFT swiftly."
In response to SWIFT's Thursday announcement, the Prime Minister's Office released a statement later in the day, saying that "prime minister Netanyahu congratulated SWIFT for its decision to cut the Iranian banks from the system."
Speaking earlier Thursday, SWIFT CEO Lázaro Campos said that the EU decision to sanction Iranian banks forced "SWIFT to take action," adding, "Disconnecting banks is an extraordinary and unprecedented step for SWIFT. It is a direct result of international and multilateral action to intensify financial sanctions against Iran."
Following the announcement that Arabs are planning a Global March to Jerusalem, the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center(ITIC) has presented information that Iran is behind the initiative and openly supports it.
The Global March to Jerusalem is an initiative that aims at getting over one million Arabs and their supporters to attempt to infiltrate Israel’s borders on March 30th. A spokesman for the march said this week the initiative “demand[s] freedom for Palestine and its capital Jerusalem.”
ITIC recently revealed the exact plans for the march as they were laid out at a conference in Jordan.
Now, ITIC is presenting evidence in its possession which indicates that Iran openly and with its own propaganda supports the March 30 events and is also involved in organizational preparations for the marches. To that end, ITIC said in a report posted Wednesday, Iran employs proxies, including organizations and individuals.
The center quoted an item dated February 26, 2012 in the Fars News Agency, in which Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, was quoted as supporting the march to Jerusalem.
In the report, Khamenei said Iran should openly support movements and groups operating against Israel. Support for the marches to Jerusalem was presented as part of a new strategy designed to increase regional unity against Israel, based on the so-called “resistance axis” (i.e., Syria and the terrorist organizations) and opposition to the so-called "occupation" of Jerusalem.
In the same vein, a report in the Iranian ISNA agency, dated March 4, quoted Ghzanfar Asl Roknabadi, the Iranian ambassador to Lebanon, as saying he hoped all “Palestine” would shortly be liberated from its “Zionist occupiers” and that cries of “Allahu Akbar” would be heard throughout Rehavia, an elite neighborhood in west Jerusalem.
ITIC noted that a local committee was appointed, in Iran and other Arab countries, to make preparations for the marches. The committee, called The Board of the Global [March] to Jerusalem, is headed in Iran by Hossein Shaikhol-Eslam, who ITIC noted is likely directly connected to the Iranian regime.
The ITIC report also cites the Haganah website, which is run by American professionals specializing in the analysis of jihadist Internet sites. Haganah examined the Global March to Jerusalem website and found indications of Iranian involvement in the marches.
Haganah found three domains of march organizers sharing an IP address with Ahl al-Bayt, an Iranian institution directed by Khamenei's office and which spreads Shi'ite and Khomeini ideology around the globe. It is headed by Khojat el-Eslam Mohammed Hassan Akhtari, the former Iranian ambassador to Syria.
ITIC also cited an Iranian website, believed to be connected to the Iranian regime, which initiated a cartoon contest in support of the marches.
The cartoons are supposed to deal with the theme of the so-called "right of return" of the Arab refugees and with opposition to the so-called “occupation” of Jerusalem. Each of the three winning entries, ITIC noted, will receive a prize of $1000 and a trophy.
The report also noted that the Iranian English-language Press TV channel was also enlisted to promote a propaganda campaign for the marches.
On January 8, 2012, a video was posted on YouTube to promote the marches, produced by Press TV and featuring former British MP and pro-Hamas enthusiast George Galloway.
Finally, ITIC noted, another manifestation of Iranian participation in the propaganda campaign for the march was an open letter posted on the marches' website on March 5, purportedly written by Iranian Jews. The ITIC believes the letter was planted by the Iranian regime.
The letter’s heading was the Society of Iranian Jewry Supporting GMJ and it was purportedly signed by two Iranian Jews, one a Jewish member of the Majlis (the Iranian parliament) and the other a Jewish leader. In it, the Society of Iranian Jewry expressed support for what the letter called “a global demonstration in support of the liberation of Jerusalem from the Zionists.”
Israel national News
The world's largest electronic payment system says it will cut off Iranian banks blacklisted by the European Union, another step in the West's effort to further diminish Tehran's ability to finance its nuclear program.
The Belgium-based Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, or Swift, said it would comply with an EU order to disconnect designated Iranian financial companies from its messaging system on Saturday at 1600 UTC.
Thursday's move follows a decision by the European Council, which represents EU member states, to tighten asset freezes on entities associated with Iran's nuclear activities, which Western powers say aims to produce atomic weapons. Iran maintains its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.
Swift is a secure private network used by nearly every bank around the world to send payment messages that lead to the transfer of money across international borders. Its chief executive, Lazaro Campos, described the move as "extraordinary and unprecedented." There was no immediate reaction from the Iranian government or the banks involved.
Expelling the designated Iranian banks from Swift will shut down Tehran's major conduit for doing business with the rest of the world. The West hopes that will pressure Iran into curbing its nuclear program.
The U.S. Treasury Department welcomed the EU step and Swift's "prompt" response, saying it would further isolate Iran's financial institutions.
A senior Treasury official, David Cohen, said "today's action reinforces the isolation of designated Iranian banks from the international financial sector."
The U.S. has designated 23 Iranian banks, many of which are also targeted by the EU. But U.S. lawmakers pushing for tougher sanctions on Iran said Swift needs to eradicate all Iranian financial institutions from its network, not just those blacklisted by the West.
Nineteen banks and 25 affiliated institutions from Iran made a total of two million cross-border payments using Swift in 2010. They included banks the United States accuses of financing Iran's nuclear program or terrorism - Mellat, Post, Saderat and Sepah.
Swift facilitates not only large bank-to-bank transfers, but small ones as well. Many Iranians, including opponents of the current government, live abroad and send small amounts of money to their families in Iran on a regular basis. Such transfers would be blocked.
Thursday's step comes ahead of renewed talks on Iran's nuclear program expected next month between Tehran and six major powers.
More and more personal and household devices are connecting to the internet, from your television to your car navigation systems to your light switches. CIA Director David Petraeus cannot wait to spy on you through them.
Earlier this month, Petraeus mused about the emergence of an “Internet of Things” — that is, wired devices — at a summit for In-Q-Tel, the CIA’s venture capital firm. “‘Transformational’ is an overused word, but I do believe it properly applies to these technologies,” Petraeus enthused, “particularly to their effect on clandestine tradecraft.”
All those new online devices are a treasure trove of data if you’re a “person of interest” to the spy community. Once upon a time, spies had to place a bug in your chandelier to hear your conversation. With the rise of the “smart home,” you’d be sending tagged, geolocated data that a spy agency can intercept in real time when you use the lighting app on your phone to adjust your living room’s ambiance.
“Items of interest will be located, identified, monitored, and remotely controlled through technologies such as radio-frequency identification, sensor networks, tiny embedded servers, and energy harvesters — all connected to the next-generation internet using abundant, low-cost, and high-power computing,” Petraeus said, “the latter now going to cloud computing, in many areas greater and greater supercomputing, and, ultimately, heading to quantum computing.”
Petraeus allowed that these household spy devices “change our notions of secrecy” and prompt a rethink of “our notions of identity and secrecy.” All of which is true — if convenient for a CIA director.
The CIA has a lot of legal restrictions against spying on American citizens. But collecting ambient geolocation data from devices is a grayer area, especially after the 2008 carve-outs to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Hardware manufacturers, it turns out, store a trove of geolocation data; and some legislators have grown alarmed at how easy it is for the government to track you through your phone or PlayStation.
That’s not the only data exploit intriguing Petraeus. He’s interested in creating new online identities for his undercover spies — and sweeping away the “digital footprints” of agents who suddenly need to vanish.
“Proud parents document the arrival and growth of their future CIA officer in all forms of social media that the world can access for decades to come,” Petraeus observed. “Moreover, we have to figure out how to create the digital footprint for new identities for some officers.”
It’s hard to argue with that. Online cache is not a spy’s friend. But Petraeus has an inadvertent pal in Facebook.
LONDON/HAMBURG - Vessels carrying at least 360,000 tonnes of grain are lined up to unload in Iran, Reuters shipping data showed on Thursday, a sign that Tehran is succeeding in stockpiling food to blunt the impact of tougher Western sanctions.
Iran has been shopping for wheat at a frantic pace, ordering a large part of its expected yearly requirement in a little over one month and paying a premium in non-dollar currencies to work around toughened Western sanctions and avoid social unrest.
Food shipments are not targeted under western sanctions aimed at Iran's disputed nuclear program, but financial measures have frozen Iranian firms out of much of the global banking system.
Since the new year, some vessels had turned away from Iran without unloading after Iranian buyers were hit by a trade finance squeeze, but Thursday's data appears to show that shipments are now arriving successfully.
In an effort to blunt the impact of the sanctions, Iran has even begun buying wheat from its enemy - the United States.
The sanctions make it difficult to obtain letters of credit or conduct international transfers of funds through banks.
So instead, Iran has embarked on an ambitious buying spree, purchasing around 2 million tonnes of wheat since February at a premium to international market prices in currencies including Japanese yen and Russian roubles.
"There is no doubt in my mind it is geopolitical hedging. They are trying to get as much (wheat) as they can in the country to blunt the effect of any further escalation in international sanctions," Rabobank commodities analyst Nick Higgins said.
"I think they hit the market hard and early and that from their perspective limited the chances that anyone could react to such large purchases," he added.
AIS ship tracking data on Reuters showed 10 dry bulk vessels on Thursday were anchored outside Bandar Imam Khomeini, one of Iran's largest grain terminals.
At least six of the vessels were larger ships known as panamaxes, which can carry around 60,000 tonnes of grains.
A further panamax vessel, which had been anchored at the port this week, was now heading to India and was likely to have discharged a cargo already, AIS data showed. A smaller bulker vessel was also heading away from Iran to Singapore after being anchored near the terminal this week.
Employment down by 0.2 pct in euro zone in Q4 vs Q3 2011
* Euro zone hourly labour costs rise 2.8 pct in Q4 2011 vs Q4 2010
* Economists see rising unemployment
BRUSSELS, March 15 (Reuters) - The number of people in work in the euro zone fell again in the last three months of 2011 while hourly labour costs rose, highlighting Europe's difficulty in driving a U.S.-like recovery in jobs.
Employment in the 17 nations sharing the euro fell 0.2 percent in the fourth quarter compared to the third, the European Union's statistics office Eurostat said on Thursday.
The size of the working population shrank by the same margin in the third quarter from the second, as the devastating economic impact of the euro zone's sovereign debt crisis began to bite, sucking away business confidence and credit for growth.
The worst of the crisis now appears to be behind the euro zone and investors have been reassured by the European Central Bank's 1 trillion euro stimulus to banks, as well as EU leaders' commitment to budget austerity with a new euro zone fiscal pact.
But as the bloc heads into recession this year, households are suffering from government spending cuts, wage freezes and rising unemployment as the euro zone tries to bring down debt.
Any recovery in the latter part of 2012 is unlikely to be felt much by Europeans, a contrast with the United States, where non-farm payrolls notched their third straight month of gains above 200,000 in February, heralding a stronger recovery from the global impact of the debt crisis.
"With Germany likely to be one of the few exceptions, we forecast unemployment rates will rise across the euro zone in 2012, reaching 18.2 million at the turn of the year," Ernst & Young said in a new report on the bloc's economy.
Unemployment in the euro zone rose to 10.7 percent, or some 17 million people, in January, a new record high.
Economists say Americans are benefiting from an increase in hiring because companies were more aggressive in cutting back during the 2008-2009 global financial crisis. European companies were reluctant to let staff go during that time and now have less need for new workers in the weak economic environment.
In southern Europe in particular, unemployment is reaching critical levels, with a quarter of Spain's working population jobless and one in two young Spaniards out of a job.
In Italy, job creation rates went into reverse in the final quarter of last year from the third, Eurostat said.
The depressed economic output in Spain, Greece and Portugal showed little signs improvement and job rates contracted for the fourth straight quarter, both on a monthly and an annual basis.
"Companies are under serious pressure to keep their labour forces as tight as possible to contain their costs in the face of current weakened demand," said Howard Archer, chief European economist at IHS Global Insight.
The price of oil, driven up by almost a fifth this year by tensions between the West and Iran over its nuclear programme, is also making life harder for companies to keep costs lower and leaving little room for expanding staff.
In the euro zone, hourly labour costs rose by 2.8 percent in the fourth quarter compared to the same period a year ago, climbing 3.3 percent in industry, Eurostat said, in a sign of Europe's struggle to increase productivity and competitiveness.
The euro zone, with the exception of Germany, has given itself generous pay rises over the past decade during the strong economic growth that followed the introduction of the euro, and that is costing it its competitive edge.
The cost of labour has increased since 2001 by about 12 percent in the EU as a whole and by almost 18 percent in the euro zone, Eurostat data showed.
Are you better off today than you were four years ago? If not, then you are just like most other Americans. According to a CBS News/New York Times pollthat was released a few days ago, 80 percent of Americans say that their financial situation is not "better today" than it was four years ago. But if you turn on the television and listen to what the "pundits" are saying, you would be tempted to think that we were in the midst of a robust economic recovery. You would be tempted to think that the U.S. economy is in great shape and that we are heading for a really bright future. But the fact that the stock market is soaring does not mean much to most Americans. In fact, most Americans couldn't care less that the Dow is well above 13,000 and that the NASDAQ is above 3,000. What most Americans care about is having a job and being able to provide for their families. If you haven't paid the mortgage in three months or if you don't have enough money to take your daughter to go see the doctor it really is not going to matter to you how well the boys and girls over on Wall Street are doing. Right now most American families are doing worse than they were doing four years ago, and no amount of media hype is going to change that fact.
Yes, the stock market is doing really well for the moment, but the truth is that more than 50 percent of all stocks and bonds are owned by just 1 percent of the U.S. population.
Good for them. It looks like the trillions of dollars that the Federal Reservepoured into the big Wall Street banks is really paying off nicely for the financial community.
Meanwhile, much of the rest of the country is deeply suffering.
It was recently reported that 1.5 million American families live on less than two dollars a day (before counting government benefits).
That is horrifying.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the percentage of Americans living in "extreme poverty" is now sitting at an all-time high.
All across this country poverty is exploding. Food banks are experiencing more demand than ever before and those offering free healthcare are absolutely swamped.
And every single measure of government dependence has gone way up since Barack Obama entered the White House.
For example, since Barack Obama became president the number of Americans on food stamps has gone up by 45 percent.
Just think about that.
At this point the federal government is helping to feed an all-time record 46.5 million Americans every month.
Oh yeah, times are good.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 49 percent of all Americans live in a home that receives direct monetary benefits from the federal government.
That is much higher than it has been historically.
For example, back in 1983 less than a third of all Americans lived in a home that received direct monetary benefits from the federal government.
The big problem is that there are simply not enough jobs for everyone.
Listening to the media, you would be tempted to think that the U.S. economy is now pumping out huge numbers of good jobs.
But that is simply not the case.
Right now there are 5.6 million fewer jobs than there were when the last recession began back in late 2007.
So where are the millions of jobs you promised us Obama?
The federal government is trying to convince us that the unemployment rate is going down, but that is not really true.
The key is to look at the percentage of working age Americans that actually have jobs. During the last recession that percentage fell dramatically as you can see from the chart below. After every other recession since World War II the employment to population ratio has always bounced back. But it has nothappened this time. Instead, the employment to population ratio has remained between 58 and 59 percent since the end of 2009....
We have not had a jobs recovery. Hopefully we will have one before the next recession hits, but we are running out of time for that.
Tonight there are millions upon millions of hard working Americans that are staring at their television screens and wondering why they can't find good jobs. The pretty people on television are telling them that the employment situation is getting much better but they can't find work no matter how hard they try. It is a cruel joke on them.
When Barack Obama entered the White House, the number of "long-term unemployed workers" in the United States was approximately 2.6 million. Today, that number is sitting at 5.6 million.
Thanks for the improvement Obama.
Meanwhile, the average duration of unemployment continues to hover near a record high. Just look at the chart posted below. Does this look like a "jobs recovery" to you?....
But of course Obama and those that support him want to make things sound like they are getting better. They want people to run out and vote for him again in November.
If things are going well for you right now, be thankful, and also remember the millions upon millions of Americans out there that are deeply hurting in this economy.
If you gathered together all of the workers that are "officially" unemployed in the United States at this point into one nation, they would constitute the 68th largest country in the entire world. It would be a nation larger than Greece or Portugal.
That is a lot of people.
Obama promised us that the Wall Street bailouts would make everything better. He promised us that if we poured gigantic mountains of money into Wall Street that it would end up helping "Main Street".
Well, the last time I looked Goldman Sachs was doing just fine.
So where is the help for Main Street?
In the United States today, the wealthiest one percent of all Americans have a greater net worth than the bottom 90 percent combined.
How much wealthier do they have to get before they start creating more jobs for the rest of us?
Obama (like most of our politicians) is a complete fraud when it comes to the economy. He is all saddle and no horse. He talks a good game but he doesn't have any game.
As Wall Street has recovered, the rest of the country has actually been in decline. Median household income in the United States is down 7.8 percentsince December 2007 after adjusting for inflation. Millions of American families are reaching the breaking point and millions of other families have already reached it.
Incomes have been declining but the cost of living has not.
For example, health insurance costs have risen by 23 percent since Barack Obama became president.
Has your paycheck increased by 23 percent?
The average price of a gallon of gasoline in the United States has increased by more than 90 percent since Barack Obama became president.
Has your paycheck increased by 90 percent?
Millions of American families have lost their homes while Obama has been president and millions more will soon lose their homes. At this point there aremore than 6 million mortgages in the United States that are overdue.
It is a horrible, horrible feeling to know that you can't pay your mortgage and that you will soon lose your home and your family will be put out on the street.
None of us would ever want to end up in that situation.
And the housing market sure has not shown any signs of recovery under Barack Obama.
In January, U.S. home prices were the lowest that they have been in more than a decade.
Weren't home prices and home sales supposed to be turning around by now?
Under Barack Obama, new home sales in the United States set a brand new all-time record low in 2009, they set a brand new all-time record low again in 2010, and they set a brand new all-time record low once again during 2011.
That trend is not going in the right direction.
Of course Barack Obama is not solely responsible for the performance of the U.S. economy. Congress should share part of the blame as well, and the Federal Reserve is more responsible for our economic performance than anyone else is.
But one area where Barack Obama has had a huge impact is in the area ofgovernment spending.
While Barack Obama has been president, the U.S. national debt has risen from 10.6 trillion to 15.5 trillion.
During the first three years of the Obama administration, the U.S. government has accumulated more debt than it did between 1776 and 1995.
So is Obama planning a change of course?
Of course not.
At this point, our national debt is increasing by about 150 million dollarsevery single hour.
So should we be thanking Obama for stealing 150 million dollars from our children and our grandchildren every hour?
Should we be thanking Obama for ruining our future?
I think not.
But you know what?
According to the CBS News/New York Times poll mentioned above, about half of America would actually vote for Obama if the next presidential election was held today.
That alone is a clear sign that this country is in a massive amount of trouble.
The truth is that the leaders we elect are an accurate reflection of who we are as a country.
And when you look at the collection of misfits in Washington D.C. right now, that does not say a lot about the character of this nation.