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Thursday, December 6, 2012

Central bank gold purchases to top 500 tons this year in a new record

Gold buying by the global central banks will hit a new high this year of more than 500 tons up from 465 tons in 2011, according to data compiled by the World Gold Council. Only yesterday the Bank of Korea announced that its gold reserves rose by 14 metric tons, a 20 per cent jump in total holdings to 84 tons.

Central bank gold buying has become a pillar of the gold market today. Only a few years ago the central banks were net sellers of gold under a long-standing inter-bank agreement. But lately they have been among the biggest buyers to protect against weaker currencies and the potential for faster inflation.

Gold standard
In truth this is a gradual return to a de facto gold standard with gold assuming a bigger and bigger role in the currency system again. That is after all the main function of the central banks, and to preserve the value of money in troubled markets they are turning back to gold.

It is more than a little ironic that the central banks themselves are arguably the biggest cause of this instability. If they were not printing money like a house on fire then the danger of devaluation and inflation would not be present.

Still the banks are great jugglers of finance and do whatever they can to avert the worst side-effects of their own rotten medicine. Individual investors and financial institutions could do a lot worse than follow their example and hoard precious metals as a hedge against currency devaluation and inflation.

This has worked very well for the past five years, with gold prices doubling against little upside to most asset classes in that period. Indeed, gold was only outperformed by silver and a couple of agricultural commodities in that timeframe.

However, throughout the whole of the past decade while gold has been on its upward trajectory there have been many doubters. They are still around today with their outrageous claims that the gold bull market is somehow over and that nobody has really noticed.

Money printing anyone?
Where is the end to the money printing? What about QE3 to infinity or at least until the end of 2015? The European Central Bank’s commitment to buy bonds? The Bank of England’s bigger-than-anybody’s QE program? The Bank of Japan’s legendary money printing? Or the People’s Bank of China’s regular multi-billion dollar injectioins into its own stumbling economy?

And what of the rising output of global gold mines? Can they keep up? Actually they are struggling to maintain production levels with major labour problems in South Africa and very few new discoveries.

So what happens if the global central banks and the investors of the world want to buy more gold next year? The price will go up. Where will the gold come from for the upcoming Chinese exchange traded fund for the world’s most populous nation?

Bloomberg data from yesterday shows global ETF gold holdings at an all-time high of 2,627 tons, equivalent to the fourth-biggest hoard in the world, exceeded by only the US, Germany and the IMF, according to World Gold Council data. How much gold will the Chinese ETF require next year?
Gold Seek

The New Age Rapture

US Army in bed with mercenaries

West using WMD fears as pretext for intervention

BEIRUT - Western powers are whipping up fears of a fateful move to the use of chemical weapons in Syria's civil war as a "pretext for intervention", President Bashar Assad's deputy foreign minister said on Thursday.

He spoke as Germany's cabinet approved stationing Patriotanti-missile batteries on Turkey's border with Syria, a step requiring deployment of NATO troops that Syria fears could permit imposition of a no-fly zone over its territory.

"Syria stresses again, for the tenth, the hundredth time, that if we had such weapons, they would not be used against its people. We would not commit suicide," Faisal Maqdad said.

US President Barack Obama and other NATO leaders have warned that using chemical weapons would cross a red line and "there would be consequences". Assad would probably lose vital diplomatic support from Russia and China that has blocked military intervention in the 20-month-old uprising that has claimed more than 40,000 lives.

Maqdad said Western reports that the Syrian military was preparing chemical weapons for use against rebel forces trying to close in on the capital Damascus were simply "theater".

"In fact, we fear a conspiracy ... by the United States and some European states, which might have supplied such weapons to terrorist organizations in Syria, in order to claim later that Syria is the one that used these weapons," he said on Lebanon's Al Manar television, the voice of Hezbollah.

"We fear there is a conspiracy to provide a pretext for any subsequent interventions in Syria by these countries that are increasing pressure on Syria."

Exactly what Syria's army has done with suspected chemical weapons to prompt a surge of Western warnings is not clear. Reports citing Western intelligence and defense sources are vague and inconsistent.

The perceived threat may be discussed in Dublin on Thursday when Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton meet international Syria mediator Lakhdar Brahimi to try to put a UN peace process for Syria back on track.

The talks come ahead of a meeting of the Western-backed "Friends of Syria" group in Marrakech next week which is expected to boost support for rebels fighting to overthrow Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Brahimi wants world powers to issue a UN Security Council resolution calling for a transitional administration.

In addition to the possible use of chemical bombs by "an increasingly desperate" Assad, Clinton said Washington was concerned about the government losing control of such weapons to extreme Islamist armed groups among the rebel forces.

The United States is considering blacklisting one group suspected of ties to al-Qaida. US officials confirmed that Jabhat al-Nusra, an influential rebel group accused of indiscriminate tactics that has advocated an Islamic state in Syria, was under review for blacklisting.

An explosion in front of the Damascus headquarters of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent killed at least one person on Thursday, Syrian state television said.

It blamed "terrorists from al-Qaida" -- a term often employed to refer to rebel forces.

Meanwhile, activists said the army pummeled several eastern suburbs of Damascus, where the rebels are dominant, with artillery and mortar fire. The suburbs have also been cut off from the city's water and electricity for weeks, rebels say, accusing the government of collective punishment.

Assad responded to past warnings about chemical weapons by taking steps to secure them, according to Israel's vice prime minister Moshe Yaalon.

"There is speculation that the chemical arsenal will fall into the hostile and irresponsible hands of the likes of al-Qaida or other terrorist groups. In the past, clear messages were relayed to Assad on a number of occasions, and in response Assad in fact gathered up the weaponry and separated the materials," Yaalon said on Wednesday.

Rebels say they have surrounded an air base 4 km (2-1/2 mikes) from the center of Damascus, a fresh sign the battle is closing in on the Syrian capital.

Maqdad, in his interview on Thursday, argued that reports of such advances were untrue: "What is sad is that foreign countries believe these repeated rumours." But residents inside the capital say that the sound of shelling on the outskirts has become a constant backdrop and many fear the fight will soon come to Damascus.

The Western military alliance's decision to send US, German and Dutch Patriot missile batteries to help defend the Turkish border would bring European and US troops to Syria's frontier for the first time in the 20-month-old civil war.

The actual deployment could take several weeks.

"Some countries now are now supplying Turkey with missiles for which there is no excuse. Syria is not going to attack the Turkish people," Maqdad said.

But a veteran Turkish commentator, Cengiz Candar of the Radikal newspaper, said Ankara fears Syria's 500 short-range ballistic missiles could fall into the wrong hands.

The government is "of the view that Syria was not expected to use them against Turkey, but that there was a risk of these weapons falling into the hands of 'uncontrolled forces' when the regime collapses", he wrote.

Jerusalem Post

Syria loads chemical weapons into bombs; military awaits Assad's order

The Syrian military is prepared to use chemical weapons against its own people and is awaiting final orders from President Bashar Assad, U.S. officials told NBC News on Wednesday.

The military has loaded the precursor chemicals for sarin, a deadly nerve gas, into aerial bombs that could be dropped onto the Syrian people from dozens of fighter-bombers, the officials said.

As recently as Tuesday, officials had said there was as yet no evidence that the process of mixing the "precursor" chemicals had begun. But Wednesday, they said their worst fears had been confirmed: The nerve agents were locked and loaded inside the bombs.

Sarin is an extraordinarily lethal agent. Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's forces killed 5,000 Kurds with a single sarin attack on Halabja in 1988.

U.S. officials stressed that as of now, the sarin bombs hadn't been loaded onto planes and that Assad hadn't issued a final order to use them. But if he does, one of the officials said, "there's little the outside world can do to stop it."

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton reiterated U.S. warnings to Assad not to use chemical weapons, saying he would be crossing "a red line" if he did so.

Speaking Wednesday at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Clinton said the Syrian government was on the brink of collapse, raising the prospect that "an increasingly desperate Assad regime" might turn to chemical weapons or that the banned weapons could fall into other hands.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, speaking Wednesday at NATO headquarters in Brussels, said the fall of Syrian President Bashar Assad's government was "inevitable."

"Ultimately, what we should be thinking about is a political transition in Syria and one that should start as soon as possible," Clinton said. "We believe their fall is inevitable. It is just a question of how many people have to die before that occurs."

Aides told NBC News that Clinton was expected next week to officially recognize the main opposition movement, the National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, with which she is scheduled to meet in Morocco. Britain, France, Turkey and some key Arab leaders have already recognized the opposition.

Fighting intensified Wednesday in the 21-month civil war, which has left 40,000 people dead. The U.N. withdrew its personnel from Damascus, saying conditions were too dangerous.

The government said this week that it wouldn't use chemical weapons on its own people after President Barack Obama warned that doing so would be "totally unacceptable."

But U.S. officials said this week that the government had ordered its Chemical Weapons Corps to "be prepared," which Washington interpreted as a directive to begin bringing together the components needed to weaponize Syria's chemical stockpiles.

U.S. officials had long believed that the Syrian government was stockpiling the banned chemical weapons before it acknowledged possessing them this summer.

NBC News reported in July that U.S. intelligence agencies believed that in addition to sarin, Syria had access to tabun, a chemical nerve agent, as well as traditional chemical weapons like mustard gas and hydrogen cyanide.

Officials told NBC News at the time that the Syrian government was moving the outlawed weapons around the country, leaving foreign intelligence agencies unsure where they might end up.

Syria is one of only seven nations that hasn't ratified the 1992 Chemical Weapons Convention, the arms control agreement that outlaws the production, stockpiling and use of such weapons.

Bombshells filled with chemicals can be carried by Syrian Air Force fighter-bombers, in particular Sukhoi-22/20, MiG-23 and Sukhoi-24 aircraft. In addition, some reports indicate that unguided short-range Frog-7 artillery rockets may be capable of carrying chemical payloads.

In terms of longer-range delivery systems, Syria has a few dozen SS-21 ballistic missiles with a maximum range of 72 miles; 200 Scud-Bs, with a maximum range of 180 miles; and 60 to 120 Scud-Cs, with a maximum range of 300 miles, all of which are mobile and are capable of carrying chemical weapons, according U.S. intelligence officials.

World News

Israel preparing to test new generation of Arrow anti-missile system

The new generation of Israel's anti-missile Arrow system will be tested "soon", a defense ministry official said on Tuesday. The system, he stated, would be able to tackle long-range unconventional Iranian missiles.

Iran is estimated to possess hundreds of long-range Shahab 3 missiles.


Scouts consider removing 'God' from promise

The UK Scouts Association has launched a public consultation on whether an alternative non-religious pledge should be introduced for atheists, reports Christian Concern for our Nation.

The existing Scout Promise reads: "On my honour, I promise that I will do my best, to do my duty to God and to the Queen, to help other people and to keep the Scout Law."

But the National Secular Society wrote to the Scouts in March to say that atheist children and potential leaders were being excluded because of the reference to God.

The Scouting movement is 105 years old but numbers of children joining are on the increase. Membership is up from 444,936 in 2005 to 525,364 this year. There are a further 35,000 young people on waiting lists.

Despite the popularity of the movement as it is, UK Scout Chief Commissioner Wayne Bulpitt suggested it needed to “evolve”.

"We are a values-based movement and exploring faith and religion will remain a key element of the Scouting programme. That will not change.

"However, throughout our 105-year history, we have continued to evolve so that we remain relevant to communities across the UK.

"We do that by regularly seeking the views of our members and we will use the information gathered by the consultation to help shape the future of Scouting for the coming years."

Christian outlook
“The Scout Promise and Law are the fruits of a Christian outlook. Values like serving others, being loyal and being part of a worldwide family are clearly taught in the Bible. Revising the promise simply dilutes the ethos of the movement and makes it less distinctive.

“It’s surprising that the Scout movement is considering removing God from its promise at a time when so many children are keen to join. It is clearly an inclusive movement if so many children from different backgrounds are joining up.

“Including a duty to God helps children consider where values come from and why we should do certain things and not others; it provides a basis for belief and behaviour”.

Girlguiding UK, which was set up two years after the Scouts, has also announced its intention to consult the public on a similar change.


USS Eisenhower aircraft carrier arrives off Syrian shore

The USS Eisenhower Strike Group transited the Suez Canal from the Persian Gulf Saturday, Dec. 1, sailing up to the Syrian coast Tuesday in a heavy storm, with 8 fighter bomber squadrons of Air Wing Seven on its decks and 8,000 sailors, airmen and Marines.
The USS Eisenhower group joins the USS Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group which carries 2,500 Marines.

Facing Syria now are 10,000 US fighting men, 70 fighter-bombers and at least 17 warships, including the three Iwo Jima amphibious craft, a guided missile cruiser and 10 destroyers and frigates.
Four of these vessels are armed with Aegis missile interceptors.
This mighty US armada brings immense pressure to bear on the beleaguered Assad regime after it survied an almost two-year buffeting by an armed uprising. Its presence indicates that the United States now stands ready for direct military intervention in the Syrian conflict when the weather permits.
Left behind in the Persian Gulf is just one US aircraft carrier, the USS Stennis and its strike group.

Welcoming NATO’s decision Tuesday, Dec. 4, to deploy Patriot missile batteries in Turkey, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said Wednesday: “The protection from NATO will be three dimensional; one is the short-range Patriots, the second is the middle-range Terminal High Altitude Air Defense [THAD] system and the last is the AEGIS system, which counters missiles that can reach outside the atmosphere.”
DEBKAfile’s military sources: While the Patriot is land-based and will be deployed on the Turkish-Syrian border, the THAD and the Aegis have just reached the Syrian coast aboard the USS Eisenhower strike group.
“With this integrated system,” said Davutoglu, Turkey will have maximum protection.”

He added: “The Syrian regime has 700 missiles,” and their location, storage method and holders are no secret to Ankara. This was the first time Ankara had made threats to destroy Syrian missiles, including any carrying chemical warheads.

Debka File

Abbas: New Israeli settlements 'red line'

An Israeli-Palestinian showdown over plans for new Jewish settlements around Jerusalem escalated on Wednesday.

Israel pushed the most contentious of the projects further along in the planning pipeline, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said he would seek UN Security Council help to block the construction.

Israel is moving ahead despite mounting international condemnation of its settlement plans, some of them activated last week in retaliation for the UN General Assembly's acceptance of a state of Palestine as a nonmember observer.

Israel has built dozens of settlements for half a million Israelis since its 1967 capture of the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem – the lands the UN now says make up the state of Palestine.

A redline? E1 area (Photo: Reuters)

The Palestinians are particularly concerned about plans for more than 7,500 apartments and hundreds of hotel rooms in two future settlements, known as E1 and Givat Hamatos, on the eastern and southern edges of Jerusalem.

Critics say the settlements would cut off traditionally Arab east Jerusalem from its West Bank hinterland and destroy hopes for a viable Palestinian state alongside Israel, with Jerusalem as a shared capital.

Israel had frozen E1 plans under pressure from successive US administrations, but it revived them last week after UN recognition of Palestine. Actual construction may still be years away.

Israel's announcement of the planned construction met harsh international criticism. The US said it was "shocked" by the move, and Israeli ambassadors in Egypt, France, the UK, Italy, Australia, Brazil, Ireland and Finland were summoned by the respective capitals for clarification on Tuesday.

The European Union summoned Israel's ambassador Wednesday to discuss the bloc's concerns over Israeli plans.

Next step? UN Security Council (Photo:AP)

"The Israeli ambassador has been invited by the Executive Secretary General of the EEAS (European External Action Service) to meet to set out the depth of our concerns," a spokesperson for the EU said.

The EU reaction to the expansion plans would be influenced by "the extent to which Israeli moves represent a strategic threat to the possibility of a contiguous and viable state of Palestine with Jerusalem as a shared capital", she added.

'PA will use all means to block move'

Abbas said Wednesday that he is determined to block the settlement building near Jerusalem with all legal and diplomatic means: "The settlement plans that Israel announced, especially E1, are a red line," Abbas told reporters, adding that "this must not happen."

The Palestinian representative to the UN has contacted the UN chief, Ban Ki-moon, and the head of the Security Council to sound out the possibilities for a council resolution against settlements, Abbas said.

Abbas aide Saeb Erekat said that if the US wants to avoid Security Council action, it should pressure Israel to abort its construction plans for the Jerusalem area.

"If the US can stop the Israelis without the Security Council, they should do it," he said. "They (the Americans) cannot stop us and use the veto against people trying to save the peace process."

If the settlements are built, "the idea of peace, the idea of a two-state solution, will disappear," he said.

Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said the Palestinians should resume talks with Israel, instead of turning to the UN "Here is where it's at, not in New York," Palmor said. "If they have something to say, let them say it to us, directly."

Israeli-Palestinian talks have been frozen for the past four years, with Palestinians saying they cannot go back to the table as long as Israel keeps building on occupied land. Israel argues there should be no conditions.


Earthquake shakes eastern Iran; 5 killed, several injured

TEHRAN, Iran — A moderate earthquake shook eastern Iran Wednesday, killing five people and injuring several others, Iranian TV reported.

State TV said the 5.5-magnitude quake hit South Khorasan province in eastern Iran near the border with Afghanistan at 20:38 local time (17:08 GMT) Wednesday.

The broadcast quoted Javad Heravi, who represents the region in the Iranian parliament, as saying that the quake caused damage to rural buildings and cut power lines and telephone communication.

The semiofficial Fars news agency said the quake caused panic and prompted residents in the provincial capital, Birjand, to flee their homes.

The TV said the epicenter of the quake was outside Zohan, a village 110 kilometers (65 miles) north of Birjand.

The broadcast said rescue teams were dispatched to the area. It said 12 villages were affected by the quake.

Even moderate quakes have killed thousands of people in the past in the Iranian countryside, where houses are often built of mud bricks.

Some 26,000 people were killed by a 6.6-magnitude quake that flattened the historic southeastern city of Bam in the same region in 2003.

The Washington Post