Wednesday, April 4, 2012
Lt. Col. Oliver North says the administration will do everything it can to avoid an Israeli attack on a potentially nuclear Iran in order to keep President Barack Obama “out of trouble until November.” North also told Fox News’ Sean Hannity Monday the administration has a “naïve utopian hope” that Israel and the Palestinians can reach a peace accord, thereby ending the worldwide Islamist extremist threat.
“Sean, what is happening here is a full court press that is political and ideological because there is this naive utopian hope within the Obama administration that if they can simply bring about some kind of Palestinian-Israeli peace accord, all the problems of the Jihad being waged against us will go away — it won’t work,” North said.“That is the political part, Sean, because everything they are doing is designed to keep Barack Obama out of trouble until November — make sure that there’s no Israeli attack [on Iran] that can be launched until after November.
“What, of course, the Obama administration doesn’t understand is it doesn’t make any difference if it's Benjamin Netanyahu or Ehud Barack,” he said. “No Israeli prime minister can ever forget the words ‘Never Again.’ They must take whatever steps necessary to protect their country.”
North said that all American allies in danger of insurgencies or extremists should “be very afraid because this administration is going to do everything in the power to keep Barack Obama in office, after November and make sure — particularly Israel — cannot launch an attack on the Iranians.”
“That is all the information that’s come out in the last few weeks . . . all of it is being done to prevent Israel from launching an attack on Iran’s nuclear sites,” North said. “If the only goal is to have Barack Obama survive this presidential election, it makes political sense and the ideology of this blissful hope that some kind of Palestinian-Israeli peace accord is going to solve all of our problems — again, extraordinarily naive and utopian.”
Read more on Newsmax.com: Oliver North: Obama Will Risk Israel's Security to Win Re-election
The United States would not be safe from retaliation if Iran is attacked by Washington, the Iran newspaper quoted a senior Revolutionary Guards commander on Tuesday as saying.
“In the face of any attack, we will have a crushing response. In that case, we will not only act in the boundaries of the Middle East and the Persian Gulf, no place in America will be safe from our attacks,” Massoud Jazayeri was quoted as saying by the daily.
Iran would not strike any country first, he said.
Tehran is locked in a dispute with the West over its nuclear program.
Israel and the United States have threatened military action against Iran unless it abandons activities which the West suspects are intended to develop nuclear weapons.
Further talks between Iran and world powers are expected to take place this month in an attempt to reach a compromise.
The most recent talks failed in January 2011 after Iran refused to suspend its sensitive uranium enrichment work, as demanded by several U.N. resolutions.
REUTERS/IRIB Iranian TV
Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad watches from a control room as nuclear fuel rods are loaded into the Tehran Research Reactor in Tehran in February. Ahmadinejad insists the nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.
Tehran says its nuclear work is peaceful and it has the right to develop its program under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
“America, the Zionists and reactionary Arabs should pay attention that we will seriously confront them wherever the Islamic Republic’s interests are threatened,” Jazayeri said, according to Iran daily.
Iranian officials have warned that the Islamic Republic’s response to any military strike would be painful and has said it could close the oil shipping thoroughfare the Strait of Hormuz.
AFP PHOTO/GALI TIBBON
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a press conference marking the start of his fourth year in power on Tuesday in Jerusalem. "The Iranian government ... is having economic troubles but it has yet to move backward, even a millimeter, in its nuclear program," Netanyahu said Tuesday.
Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday that international sanctions were hurting Iran’s economy but not enough to persuade it to curb its nuclear ambitions even slightly.
“The Iranian government … is having economic troubles but it has yet to move backward, even a millimeter, in its nuclear program,” Netanyahu told a news conference he called to mark his right-wing government’s third anniversary in power.
“Will these difficulties bring the government in Tehran to stop its nuclear program? Time will tell. I cannot say to you that this will happen. I know there are difficulties, but there has yet to be a change.”
‘I hope we will be able to do this together with the leading players in the international community’
On Friday, U.S. President Barack Obama vowed to press ahead with tough sanctions on Tehran, saying there was sufficient oil supply in the world market to allow countries to cut Iranian imports.
In his own remarks, Netanyahu shed no new light on how Israel might deal with what he has said is Iran’s intention to build atomic weapons that could threaten the existence of the Jewish state.
Both Israel, widely believed to be the Middle East’s only nuclear power, and its main ally, the United States, have held out the prospect of military action against Iran if sanctions do not work. Iran has said it is enriching uranium for peaceful purposes.
Returning to a familiar theme in Israel’s discourse on Iran, Netanyahu contrasted the helplessness of Jews during the Nazi Holocaust to the military strength and diplomatic influence of the Jewish state founded after World War Two.
“The Jewish people did not have these capabilities seventy, eighty ears ago. We did not have these tools. Today these tools exist, and it is our duty to use them in order to thwart the nefarious intentions of our enemies,” he said, without referring directly to Iran.
A rash of public comments two months ago by Israeli officials suggesting time was running out for Israel to mount any effective military strike against Iranian nuclear facilities, some of which have been moved underground, stoked international concern.
But more recently, Israel has cautiously welcomed the planned resumption later this month of big-power nuclear talks with Iran.
“I will do all I can to fend off this danger,” Netanyahu said in reference to Iran’s nuclear program, “I hope we will be able to do this together with the leading players in the international community, it is a great danger to them, but first and foremost it is a danger to us.”
In our busy days, it is all too easy to fall into the trap of hearing (and believing) the latest headline and its associated spin. For some reason, three minute videos can quickly and easily remove these 'spins' without the need for a PhD. In today's 3:06 un-spin, thebroken-window-fallacy is addressed as the seen versus unseen impact of the idiocy of a broken-window's (or war, or destroying homes, or...) positive impact on an economy is explained in cartoon style. The sad fact is that this fallacy remains at the core of mainstream policy-making and as the video notes, the government's 'creation' of jobs via public works programs (or any number of stimulus-driven enterprises) it does so at the expense of the tax-payer via higher taxes or inflation and that 'spending' which would have otherwise gone to new fridges or iPads is removed and this does nothing to significantly improve aggregate demand (should there be such an amorphous thing) and in fact (as we recently noted here and here) leaves us more and more dependent on the state for corporate profit margins leaving any organic growth a dim and distant memory.
The United States and Japan on Tuesday made a fresh warning to North Korea to drop plans for a missile launch, with barely a week to go before the communist state’s threatened plans.
“Any kind of missile launch of any kind is of great concern and would be a violation, in our view, of U.N. Security Council resolutions,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters.
U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Japanese Defense Minister Naoki Tanaka discussed North Korea’s plans in a telephone call and “affirmed the importance” of their two nations’ alliance in defending Japan.
Tanaka and Panetta “reiterated their view that such a missile launch would directly violate North Korea’s international obligations,” a Pentagon statement said.
North Korea has said that it will launch a “satellite” between April 12 and 16 as it holds “unprecedented” celebrations to mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of the regime’s founder Kim Il-Sung.
The communist state announced the plans despite agreeing on Feb 29 to freeze its nuclear and missile programs as part of a deal under which the United States would deliver badly needed food aid.
Spain is setting records this year and none of them is making Spanish budget and finance officials smile.
The country’s unemployment rate has reached a new record and the government revealed Tuesday that its national debt will soar to a level not seen since 1990. The ratio of debt to gross domestic product will reach 79.8 per cent this year, up from 68.5 per cent in 2011, because of rising sovereign borrowing costs, the cost of the bank rescue fund, transfers to ailing regional governments and the contribution to the fresh Greek bailout.
While Spain’s new debt-to-GDP ratio is not outrageously high by euro zone standards – Italy’s is 120 per cent and Greece’s is 160 per cent – the rate of increase has been much faster than expected. Only a few weeks ago, some economists, including those at the International Monetary Fund, were predicting that Spain’s debt load would not reach 80 per cent of GDP until 2016 (the euro zone average is 90 per cent).
The relentlessly higher unemployment rate is almost certainly the byproduct of falling economic activity as national and regional governments cut back on spending and hike taxes to plug gaping budget deficits.
In March, a record 4.75 million Spaniards were unemployed, taking the jobless rate to 23.6 per cent, the highest in the 17-country euro zone. The youth unemployment rate is just above 50 per cent, also the zone’s highest. Both figures are greater than those of Greece, whose economy is in tatters after two bailouts and a sovereign default.
“Spain is in a critical situation,” Spanish budget minister Cristobal Montoro said Tuesday.
His warning came during a presentation in parliament of Madrid’s budget plan for 2012. Mr. Montoro said the country plans to raise €186.1-billion of gross debt this year, which translates into a net debt increase of €36.8-billion. Spain’s debt costs have been rising. For most of last year, its bond yields were well below Italy’s. Now the situation has reversed. Italy’s bond yields are fallen to about 5 per cent. Spain’s are at about 5.5 per cent, and rising.
Spain’s climbing debt and jobless rates, combined with its weak banking system and the overhang from an out-of-control construction spree that came to a sudden halt in 2008, leaving tens of thousands of apartments without owners or tenants, are reminders that the euro zone debt crisis is far from over. Spain, the zone’s fourth-largest economy, is back in recession and some economists and politicians fear it will require a bailout from the so-called troika – the European Commission, the IMF and the European CentralBank.
In late March, Citigroup chief economist Willem Buiter said in a research note, “Spain looks likely to enter some form of troika program this year, as a condition for further European Central Bank support for the Spanish sovereign and/or Spanish banks.”
Mr. Buiter, who is a former member of the Bank of England’s monetary policy committee, said Spain may lack the financial strength to recapitalize the domestic banks, which are still hurting from the housing collapse. Fresh data shows that toxic loans – bank loans that are at serious risk of default – have gone from 1 per cent of outstanding loans in 2008 to 7.6 per cent today. The value of potentially dud loans is €136-billion, equivalent to 13 per cent of Spanish GDP.
Even though Spain risks deepening its recession by doubling up on its austerity programs, it has been under enormous pressure from the European Union and bond investors to trim its deficit. On Friday, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy unveiled Spain’s toughest budget since 1975.
Mr. Rajoy unveiled another €27-billion in spending cut and tax increases, aimed at reducing the deficit to 5.3 per cent of GDP this year from 8.5 per cent in 2011. The cuts include a 17-per-cent spending reduction by all ministries. Foreign Affairs Minister Jose Manual Garcia Margallo called it “a war budget in absolutely extraordinary circumstances.”
Mr. Rajoy had hoped to broker a peace agreement with the EU, one that would have seen Madrid back off slightly on its deficit target. But he lost the battle and the old target of 5.3 per cent was reinstated. He feared that savage spending cuts and tax increases would increase public sector job losses, boosting the unemployment rate.
Spanish consumers are losing spending power rapidly. The austerity programs will see their regulated electricity charges rise 7 per cent. Various estimates say the Spanish economy will shrink between 1 per cent and 3 per cent this year. Among the EU countries, only Greece and Portugal will suffer worse downturns.
The Globe and mail
The Justice Department has cut off negotiations with Sheriff Joe Arpaio and officials with the Maricopa County, Ariz., Sheriff’s Office in its effort to install an independent monitor to rein in the unconstitutional tactics used by officers there.
Arpaio, who calls himself “America’s Toughest Sheriff,” defied the Justice Department suggestion that it could sue the county and the sheriff’s office to force the issue.
“I am the constitutionally and legitimately elected Sheriff and I absolutely refuse to surrender my responsibility to the federal government,” he said in a letter the Justice Department today. “And so to the Obama administration, who is attempting to strong arm me into submission only for its political gain, I say, ‘This will not happen, not on my watch!’”
In December, the Justice Department released findings in its investigation of Arpaio’s office, noting there were significant civil rights violations, including the use of excessive force, and other systemic problems.
The Justice Department said in a letter to Arpaio’s attorney today that despite the sheriff’s office acknowledging the need for an independent judicial monitor to oversee reforms, “MCSO has now walked back from its agreement.”
“DOJ considers the oversight of an independent monitor to be an absolute necessity for meaningful and sustainable reform of MCSO,” Roy Austin, the Civil Rights Division’s deputy assistant attorney general, wrote to Arpaio’s attorney.
“It was disappointing, to say the least, for you to contact us 24 hours before our negotiations were scheduled to continue and raise for the first time, a precondition that you understood would result in the cancellation of negotiations,” he wrote.
“We believe that you are wasting time and not negotiating in good faith,” he wrote. “Your tactics have required DOJ to squander valuable time and resources. The violations of the Constitution and federal law identified in our December 15 letter have not been meaningfully addressed and continue to negatively impact the lives of all Maricopa County residents.”
According to the letter, representatives from the MCSO also canceled a meeting at the last minute on Feb. 27 and took more than two weeks to reschedule the meeting with the Justice Department.
In recent weeks, the sheriff’s office has apparently been claiming it needs additional information from the Justice Department in order to reach a settlement.
In the initial Dec. 15, 2011, findings letter, Thomas Perez, the assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division, to Bill Montgomery, the county attorney for Maricopa County.
“MCSO engages in a pattern or practice of unconstitutional policing. Specifically, we find that MCSO, through the actions of its deputies, supervisory staff, and command staff engages in racial profiling of Latinos; unlawfully stops, detains and arrests Latinos; and unlawfully retaliates against individuals who complain about or criticize MCSO’s policies.”
The Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division has been investigating Arpaio’s office since June 2008. There is also an ongoing criminal investigation into officials at the sheriff’s office.
In the letter sent today, the Justice Department said it is moving closer to suing the county and sheriff’s office in federal court, in an effort to implement the federal monitor.
“Your decision to raise this again now only serves to delay settlement discussions and to drive us closer to pursuing judicial remedies,” the letter said. “MCSO’s refusal to engage in good faith negotiations requires us to prepare for civil action.”
The sheriff’s office said in response that appointing an outside monitor “usurps the powers and duties of an elected sheriff and transfers them to a person or group of persons selected by the federal government … nullifying the authority of the elected Sheriff and eviscerating the will of the citizens of Maricopa County.”
Speaking in the US capital, Lagarde said the 187-nation International Monetary Fund (IMF) needed more firepower to tackle financial crises raging around the globe, arguing it was in the US interest to pitch in and help Europe.
"Americans might ask themselves: why should what happens in the rest of the world concern us? Don't we have our own problems?" she said, according to prepared remarks.
"The answer is simple: In today's world, we cannot afford the luxury of staying in our own mental backyards."
"If the European economy falters, the American recovery and American jobs would be in jeopardy. So America has a large stake in how Europe fare - and how the world fares."
Legarde's comments came 64 years to the day after president Harry Truman signed the Marshall Plan, an unprecedented loan to rebuild post-war Europe.
But her comments will be anathema to politicians in Washington, as the country hurtles toward elections this November.
US officials, including Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, have for months trod a thin line between supporting the IMF's efforts to bolster its resources and actually kicking in some more cash.
Washington has yet to ratify 2010 reforms which would see it send $63bn more to the IMF's coffers, under a new quota agreement.
With the US itself mired in high levels of debt, increasing IMF funding or shipping tens of billions of dollars abroad to help Europe could be tantamount to political suicide.
Unperturbed, Legarde said Europe's recent efforts to shore up its own financial "firewall" must prompt the rest of the world to pitch in.
"The Europeans have moved first with their firewall, the time has come to increase our firepower.
"The ratio of Fund quotas to world GDP is significantly lower today than in the past. Sixty years ago, it was as much as three, four times higher. We've a lot of ground to make up."
Lagarde has asked members to give her $500bn in extra funds to fight financial crises, including for possible future eurozone bailouts.
But at a fraught meeting of finance ministers and central bank chiefs in Mexico City in February, Group of 20 economies said they would only boost IMF funding if the eurozone first put its hand in its pocket.
After a month of wrangling and some German resistance, on Friday the eurozone clinched a deal it claimed was worth more than $1 trillion, putting the ball back in the IMF's court.
Trying to seal the deal, Legarde echoed a point frequently made by Geithner: that the IMF offers a solid bet.
"The IMF is a good investment for all our members, including the US. Your money is not drawn upon until needed. Your money earns interest. Your money is used prudently - our programs always carry rigorous conditions to ensure their effectiveness.
"No member country has ever lost money by contributing to IMF resources - and I assure you that will not change on my watch."
(ABC NEWS) JERUSALEM – Two reports today about Iran’s nuclear program and the possibility of an Israeli military strike have analysts in Israel accusing the Obama administration leaking information to pressure Israel not to bomb Iran and for Iran to reach a compromise in upcoming nuclear talks.
The first report in Foreign Policy quotes anonymous American officials saying that Israel has been given access to airbases by Iran’s northern neighbor Azerbaijan from which Israel could launch air strikes or at least drones and search and rescue aircraft.
The second report from Bloomberg, based on a leaked congressional report, said that Iran’s nuclear facilities are so dispersed that it is “unclear what the ultimate effect of a strike would be…” A strike could delay Iran as little as six months, a former official told the researchers.
Read more: http://nation.foxnews.com/president-obama/2012/04/02/israelis-obama-leaked-intel-prevent-us-attacking-iran#ixzz1r1XGIuAv
Runaway government debts have triggered uncontrolled money printing that in turn will lead to inflation that will decimate portfolios, according to the latest forecast from "Dr. Doom" Marc Faber.
Investors, particularly those in the "well-to-do" category, could lose about half their total wealth in the next few years as the consequences pile up from global government debt problems, Faber, the author of the Gloom Boom & Doom Report, said on CNBC.
Efforts to stem the debt problems have seen the Federal Reserve expand its balance sheet to nearly USD 3 trillion and other central banks implement aggressive liquidity programs as well, which Faber sees producing devastating inflation as well as other consequences.
"Somewhere down the line we will have a massive wealth destruction that usually happens either through very high inflation or through social unrest or through war or credit market collapse," he said. "Maybe all of it will happen, but at different times."
Noted for his pessimistic forecasts and gold advocacy, Faber nonetheless lately has been telling investors that stocks are a good choice as central bank policies pump up asset prices.
He reiterated both his commitment to stocks and gold, but said investors also can find value in other hard assets, particularly in distressed properties in the US South.
"In Georgia, in Arizona, in Florida their property values will not collapse much more and will stabilize, so I think to own some land and some property, not necessarily in the financial centers but in the secondary cities, these are desirable investments relatively speaking," Faber said.
As for stocks, Faber said Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke's policies will be friendly toward equity investors, at least for now.
The stock market is in the middle of an aggressive bull run that has seen the major indexes rise more than 25 percent from their October lows.
"I think that people should own some gold and I think that people should own some equities, because before the collapse will happen, with Mr. Bernanke at the Fed, they're going to print money and print and print and print," he said. "So what you can get is a bad economy with rising equity prices."
North Korea is building a missile that is even bigger than the long-range missile it is preparing to launch this month, sources claimed Monday. South Korean and U.S. officials believe the North will unveil the missile at a military parade on April 15, nation founder Kim Il-sung's centenary, or on April 25, which marks the founding day of the North's Army.
A government source here said U.S. reconnaissance satellites recently spotted a 40-m missile at a research and development facility in Pyongyang that is larger than the existing Taepodong-2 missile. "It remains uncertain whether this missile is functional or is just a life-sized mock-up," the official added.
The rocket North Korea is preparing to launch soon is apparently 32 m long, the same as the Taepodong-2 that was launched in April 2009 with a maximum range of 6,700 km. The new missile is believed to be larger and equipped with a bigger booster that gives it a maximum range of more than 10,000 km, making it capable of reaching the continental U.S.