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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Pensions deficits reach new high, says PPF

The finances of the UK's final-salary pension schemes took a dramatic turn for the worse last month, figures show.

The Pension Protection Fund (PPF) said pension deficits reached a new high point in May, of £312bn.

The collective deficit of the 6,432 defined-benefit schemes in the private sector jumped by £95bn that month, it said.

This means that these schemes have only 77% of the assets they currently need to pay their pensioners.

In the past year the value of scheme assets has risen, from £989bn to £1,031bn.

But at the same time, the finances of many schemes have deteriorated sharply, because of a one-third rise in the estimated cost of paying for pensions, to £1,343bn.

The PPF explained that this was due to a further deterioration in the yield, or return, on government bonds.

"Over the month, 15-year gilt yields fell by 0.55 percentage points, which resulted in liabilities increasing by 7.6%," the PPF said.

"Over the year to May 2012, 15-year gilt yields were down by 1.73 percentage points."Volatile measure Continue reading the main story
The National Association of Pension Funds (NAPF) continued to blame the Bank of England's policy of quantitative easing for much of the recent ballooning of deficits.

The valuation of pension scheme liabilities - their obligation to pay current and future pensioners - involves an assumption that the returns they earn for their members will be in line with the return on government bonds, even if the assets are more widely invested in shares, property and cash.

The policy has been explicitly aimed at driving up the price of government bonds, which in turn depresses the returns they provide to investors, such as pension funds.

"Quantitative easing and international investors seeking a safe harbour from the euro storm have contributed to a sharp drop in gilt yields," said Joanne Segars, chief executive of the NAPF.

"Pension fund assets are actually higher than 12 months ago, but liabilities have risen disproportionately.

"This is a volatile monthly index and it is important to remember that pension funds work over a long timeframe that helps absorb the effects of market swings."

Only 929 of the 6,432 schemes monitored by the PPF are currently thought to be in surplus.

A year ago the collective deficit of all schemes was only £25bn.

"For many employers, low gilt yields will have cancelled out the impact of big cash contributions and strong investment returns over the past three years, and they will be back to square one or worse," said Mark Duke, a senior consultant at actuaries Towers Watson.

"In some cases, if employers cannot afford to divert a lot more cash into the fund, trustees could have to accept that it will take significantly longer to pay off the deficit."


Brussels plans EU-wide banking union from 2013

From the Crisis the New World Order

A single regulator to oversee banks across all 27 European Union states could be in place as early as 2013 according to the European Commission.

A controversial new bank bailout fund financed by a tax on financial institutions is also planned.

The proposal includes an EU-wide deposit guarantee scheme to protect savers in the event of a bank collapse.

The UK has said it would not sign up to a full banking union, suggesting it should only be for eurozone members.

The BBC understands a timetable for the plan will be agreed at a European Council Meeting on 28 and 29 June in Brussels.2013 start

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso supports rapid implementation of the plan with initial provisions, such as common bank supervision, being introduced as early as January 2013.

But, a commission spokesman was keen to point out that "talks between Mr Barroso and the other presidents [of the European Council, Eurogroup and European Central Bank] were in the early stages".

He added that some elements of banking union could be achieved quite quickly without changes to existing EU treaties whilst others would be more complicated and take longer.

However, the vice-president of the Bundesbank warned that "comprehensive changes to EU treaties" would be needed.

Sabine Lautenschlaeger added that banking union should go hand-in-hand with fiscal union to ensure governments do not undermine EU financial stability by breaking budget spending rules.UK reluctance

The commission favours banking union for all 27 EU members including the UK which is home to many of Europe's biggest banks.

The BBC's Paul Mason says: "I understand that the ECB backs the plan."

But the UK government has indicated its reluctance to sign up to closer EU ties.

It prefers a body that only covers banks in the 17-member eurozone.

However it would support a strengthened single market in financial services for all 27 EU states.

The UK could not be forced to sign up, it can opt out, our Brussels correspondent Matthew Price said.

"But if a significant number of countries press ahead without the UK on another major European issue, Britain could be left on the sidelines," he said.Taxpayers v shareholders

Governments in the UK, Belgium and other EU states have been criticised for spending large sums of taxpayers money to rescue banks from insolvency.

Many claim bank shareholders reaped the gains during profitable years whilst taxpayers have been left to cover the losses from the financial crisis.

Mr Barroso's plan would create a bank rescue fund from levies on financial institutions across the EU, effectively reducing company profits and shareholder dividends.

This would also remove the possibility of one set of taxpayers, for example, in Germany, having to bail out savers in another country such as Spain.


The Gap Theory - Chuck Missler

100 Items that disappear first in a disaster

This list was first assembled by Joseph Almond prior to Y2K and it is still valid to consider these as "extremely desirable items" in the event of nearly any disaster.

1. Generators
(Good ones cost dearly. Gas storage, risky. Noisy...target of thieves; maintenance, etc.)

2. Water Filters/Purifiers

3. Portable Toilets (Increasing in price every two months.)

4. Seasoned Firewood
(About $250 per cord; wood takes 6 - 12 mos. to become dried, for home uses.)

5. Lamp Oil, Wicks, Lamps
(First choice: Buy CLEAR oil. If scarce, stockpile ANY!)

6. Coleman Fuel
(URGENT $2.69-$3.99/gal. Impossible to stockpile too much.)

7. Guns, Ammunition, Pepper Spray, Knives, Clubs, Bats and Slingshots

8. Hand-Can openers and hand egg beaters, whisks (Life savers!)

9. Honey/Syrups/white, brown sugars

10. Rice - Beans - Wheat
(White rice is now $12.95 - 50# bag. Sam's Club, stock depleted often.)

11. Vegetable oil (for cooking)
(Without it food burns/must be boiled, etc.)

12. Charcoal and Lighter fluid (Will become scarce suddenly.)

13. Water containers
(Urgent Item to obtain. Any size. Small: HARD CLEAR PLASTIC ONLY)

14. Mini Heater head (Propane) (Without this item, propane won't heat a room.)

15. Grain Grinder (Non-electric)

16. Propane Cylinders

17. Michael Hyatt's Y2K Survival Guide
(BEST single y2k handbook for sound advice/tips.)

18. Mantles: Aladdin, Coleman, etc.
(Without this item, longer-term lighting is difficult.)

19. Baby Supplies: Diapers/formula/ointments/aspirin, etc

20. Washboards, Mop Bucket w/wringer (for Laundry)

21. Cook stoves (Propane, Coleman and Kerosene)

22. Vitamins (Critical, due to Y2K-forced daily canned food diets.)

23. Propane Cylinder Handle-Holder
(Urgent: Small canister use is dangerous without this item.)

24. Feminine Hygiene/Haircare/Skin products

25. Thermal underwear (Tops and bottoms)

26. Bow saws, axes and hatchets and Wedges (also, honing oil)

27. Aluminum foil (Reg. and Heavy Duty)
(Great Cooking and Barter item)

28. Gasoline containers (Plastic or Metal)

29. Garbage bags (Impossible to have too many.)

30. Toilet Paper, Kleenex, paper towels

31. Milk - Powdered and Condensed (Shake liquid every 3 to 4 months.)

32. Garden seeds (Non-hybrid) (A MUST)

33. Clothespins/line/hangers (A MUST)

34. Coleman's Pump Repair Kit: 1(800) 835-3278

35. Tuna Fish (in oil)

36. Fire extinguishers (or.. large box of Baking soda in every room...)

37. First aid kits

38. Batteries (all sizes...buy furthest-out for Expiration Dates)

39. Garlic, spices and vinegar, baking supplies

40. BIG DOGS (and plenty of dog food)

41. Flour, yeast and salt

42. Matches ("Strike Anywhere" preferred. Boxed, wooden matches will go first.)

43. Writing paper/pads/pencils/solar calculators

44. Insulated ice chests (good for keeping items from freezing in Wintertime)

45. Work boots, belts, Levis and durable shirts

46. Flashlights/Light Sticks and torches, "No.76 Dietz" Lanterns

47. Journals, Diaries and Scrapbooks
(Jot down ideas, feelings, experiences: Historic times!)

48. Garbage cans Plastic
(great for storage, water, transporting - if with wheels)

49. Men's Hygiene: Shampoo, Toothbrush/paste, Mouthwash/floss, nail clippers, etc

50. Cast iron cookware (sturdy, efficient)

51. Fishing supplies/tools

52. Mosquito coils/repellent sprays/creams

53. Duct tape

54. Tarps/stakes/twine/nails/rope/spikes

55. Candles

56. Laundry detergent (Liquid)

57. Backpacks and Duffle bags

58. Garden tools and supplies

59. Scissors, fabrics and sewing supplies

60. Canned Fruits, Veggies, Soups, stews, etc.

61. Bleach (plain, NOT scented: 4 to 6% sodium hypochlorite)

62. Canning supplies (Jars/lids/wax)

63. Knives and Sharpening tools: files, stones, steel

64. Bicycles...Tires/tubes/pumps/chains, etc.

65. Sleeping bags and blankets/pillows/mats

66. Carbon Monoxide Alarm (battery powered)

67. Board Games Cards, Dice

68. D-Con Rat poison, MOUSE PRUFE II, Roach Killer

69. Mousetraps, Ant traps and cockroach magnets

70. Paper plates/cups/utensils (stock up, folks...)

71. Baby Wipes, oils, waterless and Anti-bacterial soap
(saves a lot of water)

72. Rain gear, rubberized boots, etc.

73. Shaving supplies
(razors and creams, talc, after shave)

74. Hand pumps and siphons
(for water and for fuels)

75. Soy sauce, vinegar, bouillons/gravy/soup base

76. Reading glasses

77. Chocolate/Cocoa/Tang/Punch (water enhancers)

78. "Survival-in-a-Can"

79. Woolen clothing, scarves/ear-muffs/mittens

80. Boy Scout Handbook – 12th Edition
(also, Leader's Catalog)

81. Roll-on Window Insulation Kit (MANCO)

82. Graham crackers, saltines, pretzels, Trail mix/Jerky

83. Popcorn, Peanut Butter, Nuts

84. Socks, Underwear, T-shirts, etc. (extras)

85. Lumber (all types)

86. Wagons and carts (for transport to and from open Flea markets)

87. Cots and Inflatable Mattresses (for extra guests)

88. Gloves: Work/warming/gardening, etc.

89. Lantern Hangers

90. Screen Patches, glue, nails, screws, nuts and bolts

91. Teas

92. Coffee

93. Cigarettes

94. Wine/Liquors (for bribes, medicinal, etc.)

95. Paraffin wax

96. Glue, nails, nuts, bolts, screws, etc.

97. Chewing gum/candies

98. Atomizers (for cooling/bathing)

99. Hats and cotton neckerchiefs

100. Goats/chickens

From Dare to Prepare

Millennium Ark

Record breaking solar flare described

A NASA space telescope detected the highest-energy light ever measured in an eruption on the sun during a powerful solar blast, the space agency has reported.

The powerful solar flare, observed March 7 by the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope, produced such an outpouring of gamma rays -- a form of light with even greater energy than X-rays -- that the sun briefly became the brightest object in the gamma-ray sky, NASA said Monday.

"For most of Fermi's four years in orbit, its LAT saw the sun as a faint, steady gamma-ray source thanks to the impacts of high-speed particles called cosmic rays," Nicola Omodei, an astrophysicist at Stanford University, said. "Now we're beginning to see what the sun itself can do."

The March flare produced high-energy gamma rays for about 20 hours, two and a half times longer than any event on record, researchers said.

Solar eruptions are increasing as the sun moves toward the peak of its roughly 11-year-long activity cycle, expected in mid-2013, they said.

Read more: http://www.upi.com/Science_News/2012/06/11/Record-breaking-solar-flare-described/UPI-59621339453757/#ixzz1xadKyoZW

Chip based human organs to revolutionize drug development

Researchers at Harvard's Wyss Institute are developing microchips comprising the cells and functionality of human organs. These organs-on-a-chip represent an advance that could prove revolutionary for pharmaceutical companies who spend billions of dollars testing new drugs in controversial - and often ineffective - animal trials. Reuters

Fitch cuts 18 Spanish banks after sovereign downgrade

(Reuters) - Fitch Ratings on Tuesday downgraded 18 Spanish banks less than a week after the agency cut the country's sovereign debt rating, underscoring the potential for lenders' assets to deteriorate further.

Fitch, which already cut Santander and BBVA on Monday, cut the ratings for CaixaBank, Bankia, Banco Popular Espanol and others.

"In particular, Spain is expected to remain in recession through the remainder of this year and 2013 compared to the previous expectation that the economy would benefit from a mild recovery in 2013," Fitch said in a statement.

"The institutions affected by today's rating actions are purely domestic banks. Thus, their revenue generation capacity, risk profile, funding access and cost of funding are highly sensitive to the evolution of Spain's economy and its housing market."

Last week Fitch slashed Spain's rating by three notches to BBB.

Moody's Investors Service rates Spain A3, and Standard and Poor's rates the country BBB-plus. Those ratings, as well as that of Fitch, carry a negative outlook.

Euro zone finance ministers agreed on Saturday to lend Spain up to 100 billion euros to shore up its teetering banks. Madrid said it would specify precisely how much it needs once independent audits report in just over a week.

Spain's banks have been beset by bad debts since a property bubble burst.

The Spanish government has already spent 15 billion euros bailing out small regional savings banks that lent recklessly to property developers. Spain's biggest failed bank, Bankia (BKIA.MC), will cost 23.5 billion euros to rescue, and its shareholders have been wiped out.


Iran designing nuclear submarine

Iran has begun to design its first nuclear submarine, the Islamic Republic's semiofficial news agency Fars reported on Tuesday.

The Fars report quotes deputy navy chief in charge of technical affairs, Rear Admiral Abbas Zamini, as saying that Iran has begun "initial stages" of designing the nuclear-powered craft.

Zamini added that Iran has developed "peaceful nuclear technology" and has both the capability and the right to build a submarine.

Iran and the West are odds over Tehran's nuclear program. The United States suspects it is aimed at developing weapons technology, a charge Iran denies.

Iran's 'Younus' (Photo: Reuters)

Iran has domestically built several small submarines over the past years. It has recently overhauled one of the three non-nuclear Russian Kilo-class submarines it bought in 1990s.

The Fars report further added that Tehran's plan will express its "high capabilities in designing and manufacturing different types of submarines."

Further commenting on the Iranian Navy's plan to manufacture super heavy nuclear-powered submarines, Zamini said: "Right now, we are at the initial phases of manufacturing atomic submarines… Iran has made astonishing progress in developing and acquiring civilian nuclear technology for various power-generation, agricultural and medical purposes."

In 2011, Iran launched a Tareq-class submarine, "Younus," which sailed alongside Tehran's 14th fleet of into the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden.

Ynet News

Unrest feared in Detroit

As the clock ticks down on Detroit’s long-coming financial meltdown, some residents wonder if the Motor City is poised on the edge of an explosive summer of unrest.

Last week, members of the Detroit City Council said they would let play out a legal challenge to an agreement with the state over revenue-sharing - even as the city is set to run out of money by Friday.

Detroit has filed a lawsuit against the state of Michigan seeking funds it says are due the city. The state disagrees and has warned Detroit that the perpetually cash-strapped city will lose $80 million in state revenue-sharing funds if it doesn’t drop the lawsuit, which is slated to be heard Wednesday in Ingham County Circuit Court.

Without that cash infusion from the state, Detroit faces bankruptcy and a possible state takeover, warns Mayor Dave Bing, who has called for the lawsuit to be withdrawn.

The latest drama has some in Detroit saying it’s time to let the state take over.

“The consent agreement isn’t working, and won’t work, because the city officials … won’t or don’t have what it takes,” said an editorial in the Detroit News, which also described Mr. Bing as “impotent.”

Stephen Henderson, the editorial page editor at the Detroit Free Press, chided city leaders in a column: “Swallow your pride - or choke on it.”

On the News’ website, reader Todd Sperl wrote: “My concern here is that we are only a few hot summer days away from civil unrest. Then the council will be on TV calling for the governor to do something.”

For months, Republican Gov. Rick Snyder has proceeded gently, aware of Detroit’s pride. He offered the city wide latitude to solve its own problems, working with Mr. Bing to develop the current consent agreement in hopes of avoiding the use of the state’s controversial emergency financial manager law, which gives the state the power to take over cities drowning in red ink.

Mr. Bing, the former basketball legend and successful businessman elected after the scandal-plagued term of former mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, has long had a fractious relationship with the City Council, but has worked diligently to maintain local control.

But with unions refusing more concessions, the city is staggering under more than $7 billion in legacy costs and underfunded pension liabilities. Debt eats up so much of the budget, the city is struggling to keep up with basic services - including keeping streetlights on.

There’s plenty of blame to go around, economists say. For every year since 2002, the city has run a general fund deficit. For every one of those years, it has also had a deficit reduction plan that it has failed to implement, says Bettie Buss, a senior research associate at the nonprofit Citizens Research Council of Michigan.

“You’ve got a city government that was constructed for and a public infrastructure that was designed for a city of two million,” Ms. Buss said, noting that Detroit’s population has declined 61 percent since 1950, with 25 percent of that drop since 2010.

“City leaders have not been able to shrink that government as fast as the tax base has shrunk,” she said.

The Washington Times

The U.S. Economy By The Numbers

Why is the economy going to collapse?  Have you ever been asked that question?  If so, what did you say?  Sometimes it is difficult to communicate dozens of complicated economic and financial concepts in a package that the average person on the street can easily digest.  It can be very frustrating to know that something is true but not be able to explain it clearly to someone else.  

Hopefully many of you out there will find the list below useful.  It is a list of 70 numbers that show why we are headed for a national economic nightmare.  So why does the title of the article single out Barack Obama?  Well, it is because right now he is the biggest cheerleader for the economy.  He is attempting to convince all of us that everything is just fine and that the economy is heading in a positive direction.  Well, the truth is that everything is not fine and things are about to get a whole lot worse.  Certainly others should share in the blame as well.  
Congress has been steering the economy in the wrong direction for decades, the "too big to fail" banks have turned Wall Street into a pyramid of risk, leverage and debt, and the Federal Reserve has more power over the financial system than anyone else does.  Our economy has been in decline for quite a while now, and soon we are going to smash directly into an economic brick wall.  Unfortunately, a lot of Americans are in denial about this.  A lot of people out there doubt that an economic collapse is coming.  Well, if you know someone that believes that the U.S. economy is going to be "just fine", just show them the list below.
The following are 70 facts that Barack Obama does not want you to see....
$3.59 - When Barack Obama entered the White House, the average price of a gallon of gasoline was $1.85.  Today, it is $3.59.
22 - It is hard to believe, but today the poverty rate for children living in the United States is a whopping 22 percent.
23 - According to U.S. Representative Betty Sutton, an average of 23 manufacturing facilitiespermanently shut down in the United States every single day during 2010.
30 - Back in 2007, about 10 percent of all unemployed Americans had been out of work for 52 weeks or longer.  Today, that number is above 30 percent.
32 - The amount of money that the federal government gives directly to Americans has increasedby 32 percent since Barack Obama entered the White House.
35 - U.S. housing prices are now down a total of 35 percent from the peak of the housing bubble.
40 - The official U.S. unemployment rate has been above 8 percent for 40 months in a row.
42 - According to one survey, 42 percent of all American workers are currently living paycheck to paycheck.
48 - Shockingly, at this point 48 percent of all Americans are either considered to be "low income" or are living in poverty.
49 - Today, an astounding 49.1 percent of all Americans live in a home where at least one person receives benefits from the government.
53 - Last year, an astounding 53 percent of all U.S. college graduates under the age of 25 were either unemployed or underemployed.
60 - According to a recent Gallup poll, only 60 percent of all Americans say that they have enough money to live comfortably.
61 - At this point the Federal Reserve is essentially monetizing much of the U.S. national debt.  For example, the Federal Reserve bought up approximately 61 percent of all government debt issued by the U.S. Treasury Department during 2011.
63 - One recent survey found that 63 percent of all Americans believe that the U.S. economic model is broken.
71 - Today, 71 percent of all small business owners believe that the U.S. economy is still in a recession.
80 - Americans buy 80 percent of the pain pills sold on the entire globe each year.
81 - Credit card debt among Americans in the 25 to 34 year old age bracket has risen by 81 percent since 1989.
85 - 85 percent of all artificial Christmas trees are made in China.
86 - According to one survey, 86 percent of Americans workers in their sixties say that they will continue working past their 65th birthday.
90 - In the United States today, the wealthiest one percent of all Americans have a greater net worth than the bottom 90 percent combined.
93 - The United States now ranks 93rd in the world in income inequality.
95 - The middle class continues to shrink - 95 percent of the jobs lost during the last recession were middle class jobs.
107 - Each year, the average American must work 107 days just to make enough money to pay local, state and federal taxes.
350 - The average CEO now makes approximately 350 times as much as the average American worker makes.
400 - According to Forbes, the 400 wealthiest Americans have more wealth than the bottom 150 million Americans combined.
$500 - In some areas of Detroit, Michigan you can buy a three bedroom home for just $500.
627 - In 2010, China produced 627 million metric tons of steel.  The United States only produced 80 million metric tons of steel.
877 - 20,000 workers recently applied for just 877 jobs at a Hyundai plant in Montgomery, Alabama.
900 - Auto parts exports from China to the United States have increased by more than 900 percent since the year 2000.
$1580 - When Barack Obama first took office, an ounce of gold was going for about $850.  Today an ounce of gold costs more than $1580 an ounce.
1700 - Consumer debt in America has risen by a whopping 1700% since 1971.
2016 - It is being projected that the Chinese economy will be larger than the U.S. economy by the year 2016.
$4155 - The average American household spent a staggering $4,155 on gasoline during 2011.
$4300 - The amount by which real median household income has declined since Barack Obama entered the White House.
$6000 - If you can believe it, the median price of a home in Detroit is now just $6000.
$10,000 - According to the Employee Benefit Research Institute, 46 percent of all American workers have less than $10,000 saved for retirement, and 29 percent of all American workers have less than $1,000 saved for retirement.
49,000 - In 2011, our trade deficit with China was more than 49,000 times larger than it was back in 1985.
50,000 - The United States has lost an average of approximately 50,000 manufacturing jobsa month since China joined the World Trade Organization in 2001.
56,000 - The United States has lost more than 56,000 manufacturing facilities since 2001.
$85,000 - According to the New York Times, a Jeep Grand Cherokee that costs $27,490 in the United States costs about $85,000 in China thanks to all the tariffs.
$175,587 - The Obama administration spent $175,587 to find out if cocaine causes Japanese quail to engage in sexually risky behavior.
$328,404 - Over the next 75 years, Medicare is facing unfunded liabilities of more than 38 trillion dollars.  That comes to $328,404 for each and every household in the United States.
$361,330 - This is what the average banker in New York City made in 2010.
440,00 - If the federal government began right at this moment to repay the U.S. national debt at a rate of one dollar per second, it would take over 440,000 years to totally pay it off.
500,000 - According to the Economic Policy Institute, America is losing half a million jobs to China every single year.
2,000,000 - Family farms are being systematically wiped out of existence in the United States.  According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the number of farms in the United States has fallen from about 6.8 million in 1935 to only about 2 million today.
$2,000,000 - At this point, the U.S. national debt is rising by more than 2 million dollarsevery single minute.
2,600,000 - In 2010, 2.6 million more Americans fell into poverty.  That was the largest increase that we have seen since the U.S. government began keeping statistics on this back in 1959.
5,400,000 - When Barack Obama first took office there were 2.7 million long-term unemployed Americans.  Today there are twice as many.
16,000,000 - It is being projected that Obamacare will add 16 million more Americans to the Medicaid rolls.
$20,000,000 - The amount of money the U.S. government was spending to create a version of Sesame Street for children in Pakistan.
25,000,000 - Today, approximately 25 million American adults are living with their parents.
40,000,000 - According to Professor Alan Blinder of Princeton University, 40 million more U.S. jobs could be sent offshore over the next two decades if current trends continue.
46,405,204 - The number of Americans currently on food stamps.  When Barack Obama first entered the White House there were only 32 million Americans on food stamps.
88,000,000 - Today there are more than 88 million working age Americans that are not employed and that are not looking for employment.  That is an all-time record high.
100,000,000 - Overall, there are more than 100 million working age Americans that do not currently have jobs.
$150,000,000 - This is approximately the amount of money that the Obama administration and the U.S. Congress are stealing from future generations of Americans every single hour.
$2,000,000,000 - The amount of money that JP Morgan has admitted that it will lose from derivatives trades gone bad.  Many analysts are convinced that the real number will actually end up being much higher.
$147,000,000,000 - In the U.S., medical costs related to obesity are estimated to be approximately 147 billion dollars a year.
295,500,000,000 - Our trade deficit with China in 2011 was $295.5 billion.  That was the largest trade deficit that one country has had with another country in the history of the planet.
$359,100,000,000 - During the first quarter of 2012, U.S. public debt rose by 359.1 billion dollars.  U.S. GDP only rose by 142.4 billion dollars.
$454,000,000,000 - During fiscal 2011, the U.S. government spent over 454 billion dollarsjust on interest on the national debt.
$1,000,000,000,000 - The total amount of student loan debt in the United States recently surpassed the one trillion dollar mark.
$1,170,000,000,000 - China now holds approximately 1.17 trillion dollars of U.S. government debt.  Yet the U.S. government continues to send them millions of dollars in foreign aid every year.
$1,600,000,000,000 - The amount that has been added to the U.S. national debt since the Republicans took control of the U.S. House of Representatives.  This is more than the first 97 Congresses added to the national debt combined.
$5,000,000,000,000 - The U.S. national debt has risen by more than 5 trillion dollars since the day that Barack Obama first took office.  In a little more than 3 years Obama has added more to the national debt than the first 41 presidents combined.
$5,000,000,000,000 - What the real U.S. budget deficit in 2011 would have been if the federal government had used generally accepted accounting principles.
$11,440,000,000,000 - The total amount of consumer debt in the United States.
$15,734,596,578,458.59 - The U.S. national debt as of June 7, 2012.
$200,000,000,000,000 - Today, the 9 largest banks in the United States have a total of more than 200 trillion dollars of exposure to derivatives.  When the derivatives marketcompletely collapses there won't be enough money in the entire world to fix it.
Economic Collapse

Google says it has sent planes over cities while Apple has spy in the sky technology

London: US tech giants Google and Apple are in the race to come up with aerial maps so detailed and precise that they can practically catch you with your pants down, even in your own backyard.

Google says it has already sent planes over cities while Apple has acquired a firm using spy-in-the-sky technology that has been already tested on at least 20 locations, including London.

Apple's cameras are understood to be so powerful they could potentially see into homes through skylights and windows. The technology is similar to that used by intelligence agencies in identifying terrorist targets in Afghanistan, the Daily Mail reports.

Google will use its spy planes to help create 3D maps with much more detail than its satellite-derived Google Earth images. Nick Pickles, director of Big Brother Watch, warned that privacy risked being sacrificed in a commercial 'race to the bottom.'

"The next generation of maps is taking us over the garden fence," he warned. "You won't be able to sunbathe in your garden without worrying about an Apple or Google plane buzzing overhead, taking pictures."

He said householders should be asked for their consent before images of their homes go online. Apple is expected to unveil its new mapping applications for its iPhone and other devices Monday - along with privacy safeguards. Its 3D maps will reportedly show for the first time the sides of tall buildings, such as the Big Ben clock tower.

Google expects by the end of the year to have 3D coverage of towns and cities with a combined population of 300 million. It has not revealed any locations so far.

Current 3D mapping technology relies on aerial images taken at a much lower resolution than the technology Apple is thought to be using. This means that when users 'zoom in', details tend to be lost because of the poor image quality.

Google ran into trouble when it emerged that its Street View cars, which gathered ground-level panoramic photographs for Google Maps, had also harvested personal data from household wifi networks.

Apple's spy planes are believed to be equipped with technology developed by the military to guide missile strikes. Each plane is equipped with multiple cameras taking high-resolution photographs of buildings and landmarks from every possible angle, which are then compiled to make three-dimensional images.

The military-grade images are taken at a height of around 1,600 ft, meaning people below are very unlikely to realise they are being photographed. The cameras can be installed on planes, helicopters or even unmanned drones, although there are safety restrictions about the use of the latter in Britain.


Gerald Celente: Global Currency

Iran Reiterates Rejection of Foreign Interference in Syria's Affairs

TEHRAN, (SANA) – Iran reiterated its rejection of all forms of foreign interference in the Syrian internal affairs, stressing that the crisis in Syria should settled by the Syrians only.

Spokesman of the Iranian Foreign Ministry, Ramin Mehmanparast, on Tuesday stressed that Syria is implementing reforms, adding that the plan of the UN envoy Kofi Annan should be supported by all countries.

He highlighted that Iran supports all efforts exerted with the aim of restoring security and stability to Syria as a way to start dialogue between the government and the opposition.

As for the Iranian nuclear file, Mehmanparast stressed Tehran's readiness to hold negotiations with the 5+1 group, considering that the success of discussion depends on the group's constructive cooperation with Iran.

Iranian Defense Minister Calls for Preventing Foreign Interference in Syria's Internal Affairs

Iranian Defense Minister, Brigadier General Ahmad Vahidi, called on Tuesday for preventing foreign interference in Syria's internal affairs and supporting reforms.

Vahidi added in a statement that some sides are seeking to bring about chaos and unrest in Syria; however, reforms are still taking place.

He said, "I believe that all sides, particularly the Syrian people, should back reforms in their country," adding that the western countries should not interfere in Syria's internal affairs.

He pointed out that Iran does not interfere in the internal affairs of Syria.

SANA Syria

Eurozone discussed capital controls if Greece exits euro...get ready

(Reuters) - European finance officials have discussed limiting the size of withdrawals from ATM machines, imposing border checks and introducing euro zone capital controls as a worst-case scenario should Athens decide to leave the euro.

EU officials have told Reuters the ideas are part of a range of contingency plans. They emphasised that the discussions were merely about being prepared for any eventuality rather than planning for something they expect to happen - no one Reuters has spoken to expects Greece to leave the single currency area.

But with increased political uncertainty in Greece following the inconclusive election on May 6 and ahead of a second election on June 17, there is now an increased need to have contingencies in place, the EU sources said.

The discussions have taken place in conference calls over the past six weeks, as concerns have grown that a radical-left coalition, SYRIZA, may win the second election, increasing the risk that Greece could renege on its EU/IMF bailout and therefore move closer to abandoning the currency.

No decisions have been taken on the calls, but members of the Eurogroup Working Group, which consists of euro zone deputy finance ministers and heads of treasury departments, have discussed the options in some detail, the sources said.

Belgium's finance minister, Steve Vanackere, said at the end of May that it was a function of each euro zone state to be prepared for problems. These discussions have been in that vein, with the specific aim of limiting a bank run or capital flight.

As well as limiting cash withdrawals and imposing capital controls, they have discussed the possibility of suspending the Schengen agreement, which allows for visa-free travel among 26 countries, including most of the European Union.

"Contingency planning is underway for a scenario under which Greece leaves," one of the sources, who has been involved in the conference calls, said. "Limited cash withdrawals from ATMs and limited movement of capital have been considered and analysed."

Another source confirmed the discussions, including that the suspension of Schengen was among the options raised.

"These are not political discussions, these are discussions among finance experts who need to be prepared for any eventuality," the second source said. "It is sensible planning, that is all, planning for the worst-case scenario."

The first official said it was still being examined whether there was a legal basis for such extreme measures.

"The Bank of Greece is not aware of any such plans," a central bank spokesman in Athens told Reuters when asked about the sources' comments.

The vast majority of Greeks - some surveys have indicated 75 to 80 percent - like the euro and want to retain the currency, something Greek politicians are aware of and which may dissuade them from pushing the country too close to the brink.

However, SYRIZA is expected to win or come a strong second on June 17. Alexis Tsipras, the party's 37-year-old leader, has said he plans to tear up or heavily renegotiate the 130-billion-euro bailout agreed with the European Union and International Monetary Fund. The EU and IMF have said they are not prepared to renegotiate.

If those differences cannot be resolved, the threat of the country leaving or being forced out of the euro will remain, and hence the need for contingencies to be in place.

Switzerland said last month it was considering introducing capital controls if the euro falls apart.

In a conference call on May 21, the Eurogroup Working Group told euro zone member states that they should each have a plan in place if Greece were to leave the currency.

Belgium's Vanackere said two days after that call that it was a basic function of each euro zone member state to be prepared for any eventuality.

"All the contingency plans (for Greece) come back to the same thing: to be responsible as a government is to foresee even what you hope to avoid," he told reporters.

"We must insist on efforts to avoid an exit scenario but that doesn't mean we are not preparing for eventualities."


‘Unusual’ activity by North Korea MIG jets

Pyongyang has shown an unusual amount of military activity recently, dispatching additional aircraft to frontline airfields and ordering a flight near the DMZ, according to a government official.

"North Korea has deployed a bunch of Sukhoi and MiG jet fighters to some frontline military airfields, such as those in Taetan, and Nuchon-ri, South Hwanghae," the official told the JoongAng Ilbo yesterday. "They are dramatically bulking up the military drills of those aircraft."

He did not estimate how many combat jets Pyongyang has sent to frontline areas.
The airfields in Taetan and Nuchon-ri are located 40 to 50 kilometers (24 to 31 miles) from the border with Korea, and it would take three to five minutes for a jet to get to Seoul and the Gyeonggi region.

Sources said a Sukhoi S-25 ground attack jet flew close to the Northern Limit Line, 20 to 50 kilometers from the military border, last Tuesday. The regime's new leader, Kim Jong-un, reportedly has increased the duration of air force military exercises.

"Recently, North Korea's general staff of the army checked artillery deployed in South Hwanghae," the official said. "The North's moves near the frontline regions are apparently unusual."

Amid heightened tensions on the Korean Peninsula, Pyongyang is ratcheting up its anti-Seoul propaganda through China-based social networking services.

The JoongAng Ilbo found yesterday that the North Korean regime created five accounts at Weibo, a micro-blogging service in China with an estimated 250 million followers, to denounce the South Korean government and press.

Posting South Korean media reports that condemn North Korean politics or human rights abuses in Chinese, Pyongyang's Weibo accounts say: "They are spitting those f**king, wicked words¡"or "They are saying those nasty words from the f**king dirty mouth."

The Pyongyang Broadcasting Station, a state-owned radio station, also warned yesterday of an attack on the local press or broadcasting stations in the South: "We are waiting to order [the military] to set fire to not only the Chosun Ilbo, the JoongAng Ilbo and the Dong-A Ilbo, but also to KBS, CBS, MBC, and SBS."

Korea Joongang Daily