Campaigners warn against rise of the ‘mega-farms’: Could massive pig, fish and dairy units harm the environment?
Cahal Milmo , Tom Levitt Sunday 12 May 2013
Farming in the British Isles is on the verge of a dramatic step towards industrialisation with the establishment of "mega-farms" for salmon, pigs and cows, which opponents claim put the environment and human health at risk. The Government signalled its backing yesterday for large-scale farms ahead of an announcement this week of a timetable for plans for a 25,000-capacity pig farm in Derbyshire. A decision on a planned 1,000-cow dairy unit in Wales is also imminent.
Pressure to meet growing demand for protein by radically increasing the size of farms has also spread to Ireland, where the authorities are backing plans to build one of the biggest salmon farms in the world in Galway Bay, doubling Irish salmon production at a stroke.
Farmers and officials insist the introduction of modern facilities offers a solution to Britain’s voracious appetite for cheap meat by increasing production while maintaining or improving animal welfare standards and without affecting the environment.
A spokeswoman for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said: "Increasing the efficiency of food production will help us meet rising demand for food. This can be done on any scale and in ways that actually deliver environmental benefits. Large-scale farms are required to meet the same environmental and animal welfare standards as all UK farms."
But campaigners claim approval of the schemes would cause a rush towards factory farms across the country, imperilling countryside and coastline in a dash for cheaper food. Lord Melchett, the Soil Association’s director of policy, said: "The solution is not to create huge-scale intensive operations that threaten our landscape, farming and rural communities. Large-scale industrial farms may be able to produce food a little more cheaply in the short term, mostly through reducing the number and cost of people employed. But we will end up paying a high price for what may be marginally cheaper food."
In the Derbyshire village of Foston, opponents claim plans for a vast indoor pig farm represent a dramatic leap towards techniques already employed in other parts of Europe and the US, where 100,000-capacity pig farms are common. A petition against the farm has collected more than 25,000 signatures including the actors Sir Roger Moore and Dominic West as well as the TV chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. Sir Roger has described large-scale farms as "concentration camps for animals". Opponents claim such farms will create enormous animal welfare problems where disease could spread quickly and the environment will struggle to cope with the slurry.
Midland Pig Producers, the company behind the Foston proposal, says it has worked exhaustively to ensure it meets all the concerns with state-of-the-art air scrubbing equipment to remove odour and an anaerobic digester to turn slurry into methane to power the farm. It claims it will also pioneer improved welfare conditions by using new "freedom farrowing crates" allowing sows and piglets greater movement. "We believe farms in the UK will have to get more efficient if the consumer’s demand for British meat at a reasonable price is to be met," the firm says.
The National Pig Association denies Foston represents the industrialisation of pig farming. It will, they argue, offer the chance of increasing UK pork production as well as establishing higher welfare standards than European or US competitors. "Big does not necessarily mean bad in pig farming. Foston will apply technology and techniques that ensure better animal welfare and environmental standards," a spokesman said.
In Wales, the Government is expected to receive an inspectors’ report at the end of May on whether a Powys dairy farmer can proceed with plans to build a 1,000-cow unit. Fraser Jones wants to triple the capacity of his farm near Welshpool. His opponents insist the scheme’s approval will open the way for similar farms across the UK. Carol Lever of the World Society for the Protection of Animals said: "The importance of this decision should not be underestimated. If we allow this industrial dairy to go ahead, it could potentially change farming and the countryside for ever." Mr Jones defends the plan, saying: "We have gone to great lengths to address people’s concerns. The cows, which would be inside for 250 days a year, would be continually monitored and the dairy would promote good animal welfare."
Similar arguments are being rehearsed about plans for offshore mega-farms. Environmentalists warn that BIM’s proposals to build a fish farm off Ireland’s Aran islands, capable of producing six million organic fish a year, risks playing havoc with the ecosystem by introducing a "huge quantity of biomass" into Atlantic waters. If approved, the scheme will be five times larger than any existing salmon farm off the British Isles.
Campaigners fear it will devastate wild salmon and trout stocks by introducing parasites and polluting waters with waste from the fish. Ken Whelan, professor of biology and environment at University College Dublin, described it as a "giant experiment". "The concern is it is moving very fast from a greenfield site to something bigger than Ireland’s current national production. If people are truly interested in being sustainable, you have do it on a staged basis to be certain of the impacts." BIM did not respond to requests for comment. Previously, it said its proposals amounted to safe, efficient and sustainable fish farming.
Scottish producers insisted yesterday there are no plans for similar deepwater offshore farms in Britain but The Independent on Sunday understands that at least one major international aquaculture company is undertaking site feasibility studies in Scotland. An industry source said: "There is a strong desire to explore the feasibility of offshore farms where scales of production could be increased. The Irish situation is being watched closely."
Too close for comfort
Residents in Foston, Derbyshire, fear their health will be at risk if plans by Midland Pig Producers (MPP) are approved. The "mega-farm" will exacerbate conditions for those who live in Foston, who say it is already home to a women’s prison, a Traveller site and an intensive poultry farm.
Sue Weston, 48, and her husband Steve, 50, believe their house, valued at nearly £500,000 six years ago and which overlooks the 70-acre MPP site, may now be impossible to sell. "It’s going to be practically in our living room. We had the estate agent back and asked him what would happen if it’s built. He said: ‘You might not get £200,000 for it. I dare say you will never sell it.’"
Their son Tom, 19, had open-heart surgery two years ago. Mrs Weston believes the farm will be a threat to his life. "I don’t feel that I can live here and put Tom’s health at risk. Infections could be fatal to him."
Audrey Connors and Michael Connors put their house up for sale, but did not get any viewings. Mrs Connors said: "We just gave up. Who wants to buy a house with that monstrosity in front of it?"
Statistics: Posted by yoda — Sun May 12, 2013 12:18 am
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Greens: Massive civil disobedience if Obama OKs Keystone pipeline
By Ben Wolfgang
The Washington Times
Monday, April 22, 2013
As the White House creeps toward a decision on the Keystone XL pipeline, some environmental groups used Monday — the 43rd annual Earth Day — to warn President Obama again that approval of the massive project would carry very real consequences.
“You’ll see … the biggest spread of peaceful civil disobedience in modern American history,” Becky Bond, political director of the liberal activist group Credo, told reporters.
The organization has been among the loudest opponents of the proposed pipeline, which would carry oil sands from Alberta, Canada, south through the U.S. heartland to refineries on the Gulf Coast. Credo, which helped organized a San Francisco rally earlier this month as Mr. Obama visited the city for a fundraiser, says it already has 60,000 activists willing to get themselves arrested if necessary.
But for critics and supporters of the project, Monday was bigger than just Earth Day. It also was the last day the State Department would accept public comments on its environmental impact study of the pipeline.
The department’s draft version of the study, released March 1, offered a largely favorable review of the pipeline and concluded that the Canadian project wouldn’t result in notably higher greenhouse gas emissions. The review also found that Keystone would not increase American dependence on crude oil, as many critics had claimed.
The environmental community immediately panned the report and began to flood the State Department with comments; more than 800,000 reportedly have been received, though officials at State wouldn’t give a more specific number Monday.
All comments will be reviewed before the department offers its official recommendation on whether Keystone is in the “national interest,” an opinion expected in the late summer or early fall.
“I know that we’re doing this in a rigorous, transparent and efficient manner, but I don’t have a specific date” for the release of the final recommendation, Patrick Ventrell, acting deputy spokesman at the State Department, told reporters Monday.
He also promised that the “full text of all comments” will be made available for public inspection “as expeditiously as possible.”
In addition to written comments, the department also has held Keystone town hall meetings, including a raucous forum in Omaha, Neb., last week. The state has become ground zero in the environmental fight to stop it, and Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman signed off on the project only after its route was changed in order to avoid sensitive aquifer areas in the state.
While environmental groups in Nebraska and across the nation remain vocal in their opposition, the administration has received many favorable comments as well.
“Keystone is critical to our national security and energy independence,” said Charles Drevna, president of American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers, in comments to the State Department. The trade association represents companies in the gasoline, diesel, home heating oil, chemical and other sectors.
Many other business and labor groups have echoed those sentiments, as has a growing bipartisan coalition on Capitol Hill.
Meanwhile, the White House also is coming under international pressure. Numerous officials from Canada have in recent months visited Washington and publicly called on Mr. Obama to green-light Keystone.
They’ve strongly hinted that, if Keystone isn’t built, Canada will seek to ship its vast energy reserves to China and other Asian nations.
Keystone supporters Monday were also touting a poll which found strong public support for the project on both sides of the border.
Some 70 percent of Americans and 60 percent of Canadians surveyed by the Canadian pollster Nik Nanos had a “positive or somewhat positive view” of the project, the firm said. Energy security outrated reducing greenhouse gases as a national priority among American respondents by a 2-to-1 margin, the pollster added.
On Monday, Canada’s environment minister, Peter Kent, joined with officials from Alberta to launch the “Joint Oil Sands Monitoring” project, an online clearinghouse with data on air and environmental quality, land use, and biodiversity, along with other information about what’s happening in the nation’s oil sands region.
“By openly reporting on our data and our progress, we are ensuring the rest of the world recognizes our commitment to responsible and sustainable resource development,” said Alberta Environment Minister Diana McQueen.
Statistics: Posted by yoda — Mon Apr 22, 2013 5:42 pm
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: Over $1 Billion Vaporized In a Few Hours
by Mac Slavo – SHTFPlan
Published : April 11th, 2013
Just a few months ago the total net worth of all Bitcoins, a popular encrypted digital currency, was worth about $140 million. The non-tangible exchange mechanism is used by people all over the world to purchase everything from traditional goods and services, to illicit trade that may include drugs and stolen credit card numbers. The coins became a go-to digital store of wealth around the world after the meltdown of the Cypriot financial system, and was pushed as a ‘safe’ way to preserve wealth out of view prying government eyes. All of the excitement surrounding Bitcoin has driven the price of a single unit to in excess of $250, giving the total Bitcoins in global circulation a market capitalization of over $2.5 Billion in just a few months time.
Earlier this morning, Mike Adams of Natural News penned a warning to investors and those seeking privacy and wealth protection by utilizing the digitally encrypted BitCoin currency unit:
Bitcoin has become a casino. It is almost a perfect reflection of the tulip bulb mania of 1637 in these two ways: 1) Most people buying bitcoins have no use for bitcoins (just like tulip bulbs), and 2) The rapid increase in bitcoin valuations cannot be substantiated in any way that reflects reality.
In other words, there is no fundamental reason why bitcoins should be 2000% more valuable today than four months ago. Nothing has changed other than the craze / mania of people buying in.
When bitcoins were in the sub-$20 range, I was not concerned about any of this. I actually encouraged people to buy bitcoins and support the bitcoin movement. But alarm bells went off in my mind when it skyrocketed past $150 and headed to $200+ virtually overnight. These are not the signs of rational markets. These are warning signs of bad things yet to occur. (Via Infowars)
A few hours after Adams’ dire warning was posted, the crash he warned about has become a reality.
This morning, without warning, and moments after Bitcoin achieved its all time highs, the currency collapsed over 50%, essentially vaporizing upwards of one billion dollars in value.
This is what panic selling looks like – in real time:
Bitcoin-Collapse(Chart Courtesy Bitcoinbullbear.com)
And given that there are no protective mechanisms for the alternative free market Bitcoin trade, the crash may not yet be over.
Will it stage an amazing recovery? Alas, for this particular bubble, there are no NYSE circuit breakers nor is there a Federal Reserve-mandated “plunge protection team.” And why should there be? The central banks hate all currency alternatives. Firehats: on, especially since the volume is still relatively lite. (Zero Hedge)
The momentum for Bitcoin has now turned to the downside, much like it did in previous crashes where the currency achieved new highs, and was promptly sold off by those who bought into the bubble early at rock-bottom prices.
While BitCoin may be a preferred method of keeping payments for services and products private through its crypto-mechanisms, it is still a non-tangible asset and it require brokers and the internet to function properly.
Touted as a safe haven store of wealth and a “gold standard of the internet age” by Forbes, tens of thousands of investors bought into the hype.
Today they are paying the price.
During times of financial and economic stability BitCoin may function just fine as a suitable mechanism of exchange. But these are not ordinary times. Interesting, yes. Stable, no. And thus, exchanging one’s assets and turning them into digital Bitcoins may not be the best choice of asset protection during periods of financial, economic and political turmoil and uncertainty.
Only physical assets – the kind we can hold in our hand – can truly be called safe havens.
Statistics: Posted by DIGGER DAN — Sat Apr 13, 2013 3:16 am
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ATF Seeks ‘Massive’ Database of Personal Info: ‘Assets, Relatives, Associates and More’
April 6, 2013
By Gregory Gwyn-Williams, Jr.
A recent solicitation from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) reveals that the agency is seeking a "massive" online database capable of pulling up individuals’ personal information, connections and associates.
On March 28, ATF posted the notice on FedBizOpps.gov, entitled "Investigative System." The solicitation was updated on April 5 with a few minor changes.
The document says that the system will be utilized by staff "to provide rapid searches on various entities for example; names, telephone numbers, utility data and reverse phone look-ups, as a means to assist with investigations, and background research on people, assets and businesses."
The system is described as a "massive online data repository system that contains a wide variety of data sources both historically and current that can be utilized in support of investigations and backgrounds."
The overview of the solicitation states:
Staff will utilize "a number of internal databases as well as external sources to provide timely and relevant information and intelligence products to law enforcement agencies at the federal, state and local levels."
The system "provides a means to rapidly check records across the country" and is "necessary in assisting investigators, agents and analyst to find people, their assets, relatives, associates and more."
The ATF says they will use this system to provide information to Intelligence Analysts, Special Agents, Inspectors, Financial Investigators and Law Enforcement.
The investigative system will allow ATF to "obtain exact matches from partial source data searches such as, incomplete social security numbers, address, VIN numbers, etc."
The system will also have the ability to "link structured and unstructured data to find connection points between two or more individuals."
Statistics: Posted by yoda — Sun Apr 07, 2013 12:57 am
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Massive hidden US gold sales by the Fed have kept the gold price down reveals Sprott study
Posted on 21 March 2013 with no comments from readers
New research from Sprott Asset Management has revealed that huge sales of gold by the Federal Reserve over the past two decades have kept the gold price below where it ought to be if market forces were setting the price. It’s a red letter day for gold price conspiracy theorists.
Sprott researchers looked back though US trade data and found that the US has been consistently exporting large amounts of gold, and that ‘the amount of gold the US has been exporting is above and beyond what the US should be capable of exporting…
‘In December 2012 the US exported over $4 billion worth of gold and imported around $1.5 billion worth of gold, representing a net export of $2.5 billion or almost 50 tonnes.’ Tracing the data back Sprott discovered a similar pattern of net gold exports going back 21 years.
It is Sprott’s view that the sale of this amount of gold explains why gold prices have not gone much higher given the higher levels of demand so evident in the global economy. In short the supply of gold to satisfy this demand has to be coming from somewhere or the price would be shooting up. The study points out…
‘India and China have emerged as strong buyers, consuming over half of the mine supply in recent years. Central banks have switched from being sellers of gold to being net buyers, with their gold purchases in 2012 increasing by 17 per cent to almost 535 tonnes. Exchange traded products around the world have continued to add to their gold hoards, as have institutions and private investors.
‘Furthermore, central banks, such as South Korea and Russia, have added to their bullion reserves early in 2013, which points to sustained strength in demand. These facts are important because, over the past decade, the annual supply of gold has stayed flat at approximately 4,000 tonnes.’
If the supply of gold was really static then the price ought to be much higher in the face of all this increased demand. Sprott thinks it has discovered the missing gold supply in these massive net sales from the US which can only have come from one source, the US Federal Reserve.
Why would the Fed be manipulating the gold price down like this? For one thing it helps to validate low inflation figures and keep interest rates down. For another it directs investment into productive assets and away from precious metals sat in vaults.
But after 21 years of selling, how much gold would the Fed have left? You cannot sell your gold indefinitely. The Sprott study hazards an estimate:
‘The inclusion of the private investor on the demand side would in fact skew the ‘gap’ of 4,500 tonnes higher to a figure that would lie somewhere between 4,500 tonnes and 11,200 tonnes, which represents the gross exports out of the US. The only US seller that would be capable of supplying such an astonishing amount of gold is the US Government, with a reported gold holding of 8,300 tonnes.’
On that reckoning then the US Federal Reserve has sold somewhere between half and all of its gold! And if the Fed really is close to the bottom then there will come a point when it can no longer keep the gold price down.
Indeed, the Fed will need higher gold prices then to rebalance its own balance sheet or it will go bankrupt. How far are we away from that day? Only the Fed knows that.
Statistics: Posted by yoda — Wed Mar 20, 2013 11:05 pm
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Greyerz – We Are Now Seeing Massive Shortages Of Silver
Today Egon von Greyerz told King World News he is now seeing massive shortages of silver. Greyerz went on to warn about a frightening series of global storms which are set to collide, which will create an enormous hurricane in 2013. He also spoke about gold and included a tremendous chart that all KWN readers will want to see.
Here is what Greyerz, who is founder of Matterhorn Asset Management in Switzerland, had this to say in this remarkable, exclusive interview: “Eric, I see storm clouds gathering everywhere. We have currency storms, economic, political, and geopolitical storms. But short-term we may see some optimism in the economy as global stock markets make their final top.”
“But that top in global stock markets is the final top before a major long-term collapse. Thereafter, I see these storm clouds developing into serious problems for the world. Every country is running a deficit and they all keep borrowing and printing incredible amounts of money.
Central bank balance sheets have exploded to extraordinarily dangerous levels in recent years….
“Governments continue to apply the only solution they know which is to print money in order to prevent their economies from completely collapsing. But money printing will not save any of these desperate countries.
I’ve included a chart for this interview(below), and this shows the growth in GDP over five years, compared to the balance sheet of the major central banks. As you can see there is virtually zero growth in GDP, but there is massive growth in the balance sheets of these central banks.
That growth in central bank balance sheets is of course money printing. So this graph clearly shows that all of this unbridled money printing has had no effect whatsoever. It will not have any effect in the future either, in terms of helping GDP. More and more money will continue to be printed and borrowed, but the economies of the developed will continue to be in shambles going forward.
I mentioned the political storm. Politicians around the world can’t seem to agree on virtually anything except money printing. US and European politicians are simply worried about the pressures in their own countries. The next countries to have problems in Europe will be France, and that will be followed by the UK and other European nations.
When it comes to geopolitical storms, we have seen problems in the Middle-East and North African countries. These conflicts are becoming more and more escalated. This could become extremely serious for the entire world. So we are now reaching a point in 2013, Eric, where all of these storms will be colliding and coming together to form a hurricane. The combination of these factors will be very detrimental for the world economy.
We are also seeing an increase in global hunger, as well as dwindling food supplies. It’s not only in the developing world that people are starving. In the United States now, 46 million people can’t get sufficient food. That’s a staggering 30% increase from 2011 to 2012. The same thing is happening in southern Europe. Also, in the UK, many families can no longer afford the food for their children. This is just the beginning, Eric. We have a major social disaster in the making here.”
Greyerz had this to say regarding gold: “These storm factors I’ve described will lead to the precious metals exploding over the next couple of years. The falling currencies, the deficits, the political and geopolitical problems will all fuel gold’s rise.
Up to this point the paper market has managed to hold the gold price down, but that time is now ending. The fundamental and technical picture is now in a perfect position for gold to surge. The real gold market is the physical gold market, and this is the only market that will count in the long-run. Not only will countries want to have possession of their physical gold, but investors will as well. Germany is just one example of this.
If you look at Switzerland, where about 70% of the world’s gold is refined, we are seeing incredibly strong demand. The refiners are seeing it, the Swiss banks are seeing it, and we are seeing it from our customers also. We are seeing major investors now buying physical gold, and in increasing amounts. We are also seeing gold moving out of the banking system and into companies like ours that vault gold outside of the banking system.
Interestingly, we have just seen a break-in in a German bank. The burglars dug a 45-meter long tunnel and emptied all of the safe deposit boxes. Of course the contents of these boxes is not insured, and banks take no responsibility for the contents in private boxes. This is yet another example of why gold must be stored outside of the banking system in safe vaults, and of course it must be insured.
The point I’m making, Eric, is we are seeing major increases in demand from people either buying or transferring gold to us. And this is happening before any major increase in the price of gold. Investors are sensing the dangers here and they are concerned. I expect to see a massive rush into gold as the price begins rising.”
Greyerz also warned of severe shortages in silver: “We are now seeing major shortages of silver. It’s much, much harder to get hold of silver than it is to get gold. As soon as people get silver inventory to sell, it’s gone straightaway.
I agree with John Embry who talked about silver going up hundreds of dollars. Silver will absolutely explode in price. Silver does have a much greater potential than gold, there’s no question about that. As an investment silver will be spectacular.
But the bottom line is we are having real problems getting silver because of these massive shortage. We are now seeing very lengthy delays in getting physical silver. You can still find gold, but silver is simply not around, and we expect the situation to get much worse. We are now to the point where we are going to begin to see a massive breakout in the price of silver.”
Statistics: Posted by DIGGER DAN — Sat Jan 19, 2013 12:41 am
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What would you do if all the lights went out and they never came back on? That is a question that the new NBC series “Revolution” asks, but most people have no idea that a similar thing could happen in real life at any moment. A single gigantic electromagnetic pulse over the central United States could potentially fry most of the electronics from coast to coast if it was powerful enough. This could occur in a couple of different ways. If a powerful nuclear weapon was exploded at a high enough altitude, it could produce an electromagnetic pulse powerful enough to knock out electronics all over the country. Alternatively, a massive solar storm could potentially cause a similar phenomenon to happen just about anywhere on the planet without much warning. Of course not all EMP events are created equal. An electromagnetic pulse can range from a minor inconvenience to a civilization-killing event. It just depends on how powerful it is. But in the worst case scenario, we could be facing a situation where our electrical grids have been fried, there is no heat for our homes, our computers don’t work, the Internet does not work, our cell phones do not work, there are no more banking records, nobody can use credit cards anymore, hospitals are unable to function, nobody can pump gas, and supermarkets cannot operate because there is no power and no refrigeration. Basically, we would witness the complete and total collapse of the economy. According to a government commission that looked into these things, approximately two-thirds of the U.S. population would die from starvation, disease and societal chaos within one year of a massive EMP attack. It would be a disaster unlike anything we have ever seen before in U.S. history.
Most Americans are totally clueless about what an EMP attack could do to this nation, but the threat is very real. There was even a congressional commission that studied the potential effects of an EMP attack on the United States for eight years…
The US Congress in 2000 established the Congressional Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Attack. In 2004, the committee produced a 70-page executive summary on the EMP threat, and it issued a final report on the matter in 2008. According to the report, “several potential adversaries have or can acquire the capability to attack the United States with a high-altitude nuclear weapon-generated electromagnetic pulse (EMP). A determined adversary can achieve an EMP attack capability without having a high level of sophistication.”
Dr. William Graham was the chairman of that commission, and he says that an EMP attack could knock the United States back into the 1800s in just a single moment…
An EMP attack “could not only take down power grids, which are fragile anyway in this country, and telecommunications networks, and financial networks, and traffic controls and many other things, but in addition, there is a very close interrelationship among those national infrastructure capabilities,” Graham says.
“So, for example, we need telecommunications to re-establish the power network, and we need the power network to keep telecommunications going for more than a few hours. And we need the financial network to continue to operate to maintain the economy, we need the transportation system, roads, street lights, control systems, to operate just to get people to the failed power, telecommunication and other systems,” he adds.
Life after an EMP attack “would probably be something that you might imagine life to be like around the late 1800s but with several times the population we had in those days, and without the ability of the country to support and sustain all those people,” Graham says. “They wouldn’t have power. Food supplies would be greatly taken out by the lack of transportation, telecommunication, power for refrigeration and so on.”
Unfortunately, very few of us are equipped to survive in such an environment. We have become incredibly dependent on technology, and most Americans would have no idea how to do something as simple as growing their own food. Most people would be in a very serious amount of trouble in a very short period of time.
An article by Mac Slavo detailed some of the things that we could expect in the aftermath of a massive electromagnetic pulse…
The first 24 – 48 hours after such an occurrence will lead to confusion among the general population as traditional news acquisition sources like television, radio and cell phone networks will be non-functional.
Within a matter of days, once people realize the power might not be coming back on and grocery store shelves start emptying, the entire system will begin to delve into chaos.
Within 30 days a mass die off will have begun as food supplies dwindle, looters and gangs turn to violent extremes, medicine can’t be restocked and water pump stations fail.
Are you prepared for such an event?
If not, why not?
And actually, high altitude nuclear explosions and solar storms are not the only things that could produce sizable EMP bursts.
For example, the U.S. military has developed “a directed electromagnetic pulse gun” that can take out all electronics within a limited area. This kind of weapon can be fired from a plane, a cruise missile or even a drone. The following is from a recent WND article…
A pre-programmed cruise missile not too different from a drone has been proven to be capable of blasting out an EMP-type microwave that was able to destroy personal computers and electrical systems inside a building over which it was flying.
The U.S. Air Force and its contractor Boeing have created the High-powered Microwave Advanced Missile Project, or CHAMP, which was just tested over a Utah desert.
Other nations such as Russia and China are busy developing similar weapons. The ability to instantly take out the electronics of the enemy would be a very powerful advantage.
Even North Korea has been working on this kind of technology. According to Newsmax, it is believed that they may have tested a “Super-EMP” weapon back in 2009…
North Korea’s last round of tests, conducted in May 2009, appear to have included a “super-EMP” weapon, capable of emitting enough gamma rays to disable the electric power grid across most of the lower 48 states
As this technology becomes more widespread, it will soon be accessible to just about everyone. You don’t actually need a nuclear weapon to set off a massive electromagnetic pulse. A non-nuclear pulse generator can do the same thing. If you set one off next to a power station you could potentially take out the electrical grid for an entire region.
Terrorist groups and lone wolf crazies could even use portable radio frequency weapons to do a tremendous amount of electromagnetic damage over a more limited area. The following is from a recent article by F. Michael Maloof…
Such an individual with a penchant for electronics can pull together components from a Radio Shack or electronic store – even order the components off of selected Internet websites – and fashion a radio frequency, or RF, weapon.
As microprocessors become smaller but more sophisticated, they are even more susceptible to an RF pulse. The high power microwave from an RF weapon produces a short, very high power pulse, said to be billions of watts in a nanosecond, or billionths of a second.
This so-called burst of electromagnetic waves in the gigahertz microwave frequency band can melt electrical circuitry and damage integrated circuits, causing them to fail.
Constructing a radio frequency weapon is not that difficult. In fact, you can find instructions for how to build them on the Internet.
People need to realize that we live in a world where technology is absolutely exploding and we are dealing with threats that previous generations never even dreamed of. As the world becomes increasingly unstable, it is inevitable that these kinds of weapons will be used.
It is only a matter of time.
What will life look like after an EMP weapon is used?
That is something to think about.
And we also need to keep watching the sun. It could produce a massive electromagnetic pulse at literally any moment. As I have written about previously, scientists tell us that it is only a matter of time before we are hit with a technology-crippling solar super storm.
Most people don’t even realize that the massive solar storm of 1859 fried telegraph machines all over Europe and North America. If such a storm hit us today, the damage would potentially be in the trillions of dollars. The following is from a recent New York Times article…
A powerful solar (or “geomagnetic”) storm has the potential to simultaneously damage multiple transformers in the electricity grid and perhaps even bring down large sections of it, affecting upwards of a hundred million people in the United States for many months, if not years.
These huge transformers are expensive and difficult to replace, and not many are stockpiled in the United States for an emergency. In the worst case, the impact would be devastating: An outage could cost a few trillion dollars, with full recovery taking years. Not only would parts of the grid be compromised, but telephone networks, undersea cables, satellites and railroads also would be affected.
A 2008 National Academy of Sciences study warned that “because of the interconnectedness of critical infrastructures in modern society,” the “collateral effects of a longer-term outage” would likely include “disruption of the transportation, communication, banking and finance systems, and government services; the breakdown of the distribution of potable water owing to pump failure; and the loss of perishable foods and medications because of lack of refrigeration.”
By the way, 2013 is the peak of the current solar cycle. So we are moving into a time period when conditions will be very favorable for solar storms.
Let us hope that we are never hit with a massive electromagnetic pulse that is strong enough to take out all of our electronics.
But if it did happen, and all the lights went out for good, what would you do?
Please feel free to share your thoughts by leaving a comment below…
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Black Hole Found, 17 Billion Times as Massive as Sun
You would probably not enjoy the galaxy NGC 1277. Never mind that it’s far — 220 million light-years away in the constellation Perseus. The problem is that at its center is a giant, giant black hole, 17 billion times as massive as our sun, so big that scientists calculate it makes up 59 percent of the mass of the galaxy’s disc.
Astrophysicists have long believed that there’s a black hole at the center of our Milky Way, but it probably accounts for something like 0.1 percent of the galaxy’s center. The one in NGC 1277, scientists report in today’s edition of the journal Nature, is the second largest they’ve ever observed, and it upends what they thought about how galaxies form.
Black holes, as you’ll recall, are objects in space so massive that their gravity consumes everything around them — stars, planets, matter, energy, even light. Earthly scientists can only observe their effect on the space around them, not see them directly. Be grateful we’re not close to one. They’re actually useful to astrophysicists in explaining the nice spiral shape of many galaxies — you need something massive in the middle for the stars to circle — but NGC 1277 is an extreme.
“This is a really oddball galaxy,” said Karl Gebhardt of the University of Texas at Austin, a member of the team that made the find. “It’s almost all black hole. This could be the first object in a new class of galaxy-black hole systems.” Gebhardt and colleagues at the McDonald Observatory have been calculating the mass of different black holes — no small task considering their powerful gravity.
The researchers put together an animation of how stars in that distant galaxy would behave, whipping around the center to avoid falling in.
What would you see if you lived on a habitable planet in that far-away galaxy and could look toward the center? Probably nothing that makes sense to human eyes. Black holes have such powerful gravity that they distort the space around them.
Here’s hoping your planet is in a nice, stable orbit around a star far from the action. If not, you might be drawn right into the black hole, destroyed so quickly that –
SHOWS: World News
Statistics: Posted by DIGGER DAN — Sun Dec 02, 2012 6:47 am
View full post on opinions.caduceusx.com
The victory by Barack Obama on election night has resulted in a huge wave of firings and layoffs all over America. A large number of businesses seem to have suddenly shifted into panic mode. The number of layoff announcements that we have seen in the last 48 hours has been absolutely shocking. So why is this happening? Well, the truth is that the federal government is absolutely suffocating small businesses all over America with rules, regulations and taxes. If you have never tried to run a small business, then you have no idea how oppressive this system actually is for people that are trying to run small businesses successfully. It has steadily gotten worse over the years no matter who has been in the White House and no matter who has controlled Congress. So we shouldn’t put 100% of the blame on Obama. Bush massively expanded government and made things harder on small business people too. But what many small business people were looking for on this election day was just a little bit of help. Many were desperately holding out hope that Obamacare would be repealed so that they would not have to get rid of some of their employees. Many were hoping to get a little bit of relief from the crippling regulations and taxes that are absolutely crushing them. But now that Barack Obama has been given another four years, they understand that there is no hope on the horizon and that things are only going to get worse. So they are making the hard decisions that they feel are necessary in order to survive in this economic environment.
And I certainly don’t blame them. You only want to have employees if you can make a profit on them. And in this environment it is getting harder than ever to make a profit on an employee. You see, the truth is that what you cost your employer goes far beyond your salary or your hourly wage. I think many of you would be absolutely shocked if you learned how much it actually costs your employer to employ you. And now thanks to Obamacare, that cost is going to go up even more.
Many businesses are not even feasible at all in this economic environment. Many small businesses had been holding out hope that somehow this election might turn things around and make it possible for them to keep going, but when Obama won it was kind of like the straw that broke the camel’s back.
You can’t do what the federal government and the state governments are doing to us and expect to have a thriving economy. They are choking the life out of us.
New businesses and small businesses are supposed to be at the heart of our economic system. Unfortunately, the environment that has been created is absolutely killing them. This is a recipe for disaster.
Now we can expect that number to get even worse and we can expect large numbers of small businesses to shrink in size or close their doors completely.
The following is a list of some of the post-election firings and layoffs that we have seen since Tuesday night…
A Utah coal company owned by a vocal critic of President Barack Obama has laid off 102 miners.
The layoffs at the West Ridge Mine are effective immediately, according to UtahAmerican Energy Inc., a subsidiary of Murray Energy Corp. They were announced in a short statement made public Thursday, two days after Obama won re-election.
The layoffs are necessary because of the president’s “war on coal,” the statement said. The slogan is one used frequently during the election by Murray Energy CEO Robert Murray, who was an ardent supporter of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
In its statement, UtahAmerican Energy blames the Obama administration for instituting policies that will close down “204 American coal-fired power plants by 2014″ and for drastically reducing the market for coal.
I work for the oldest and largest health insurer in the state of Ohio in the underwriting department. At 9 a.m.this morning, my department (about 50) were called into a meeting in the executive boardroom. We were informed that due to a provision in the healthcare ‘reform’ effective 2014 called guarantee issue, our services would no longer be needed, and we were offered severance So Obama got to keep his job, and we lost ours. It is maddening that some tyrant 400 miles away can have such a ruinous effect on peoples lives.
A Las Vegas business owner with 114 employees fired 22 workers today, apparently as a direct result of President Obama’s re-election.
“David” (he asked to remain anonymous for obvious reasons) told Host Kevin Wall on 100.5 KXNT that “elections have consequences” and that “at the end of the day, I need to survive.”
Here’s an excerpt from the interview. Click the audio tab below to hear even more from this compelling conversation:
“I’ve done my share of educating my employees. I never tell them which way to vote. I believe in the free system we have, I believe in the right to choose who they want to be president, but I did explain as a business owner that I have always put my employees first. I always made sure that when I went without a paycheck that [I] made sure they were paid. And I explained that I always put them first and unfortunately I’m at a point where I’m being forced to have to worry about me and my family now and a business that I built from just me to 114 employees.
#4 Posted below is a list of layoff headlines from the past few days that was posted on AmericanThinker.com…
Obama was “fired up” and so were the voters, and so now, the mass firings begin. Here’s a collection of today’s headlines. Please say a prayer for the families who will be suffering. Had Romney won, many of these companies would now be hiring.
Teco Coal officials announce layoffs
Momentive Inc plans temporary layoffs for 150
Wilkes-Barre officials to announce mandatory layoffs
600 layoffs at Groupon
More layoffs announced at Aniston Weapons Incinerator
Murray Energy confirms 150 layoffs at 3 subsidiaries
130 laid off in Minnesota dairy plant closure
Stanford brake plant to lay off 75
Turbocare, Oce to lay off more than 220 workers
ATI plans to lay off 172 workers in North Richland Hills
SpaceX claims its first victims as Rocketdyne lays off 100
Providence Journal lays off 23 full-time employees
CVPH lays off 17
New Energy lays off 40 employees
102 Utah miners laid off because of ‘war on coal’, company says
US Cellular drops Chicago, cuts 640 jobs
Career Education to cut 900 jobs, close 23 campuses
Vestas to cut 3,000 more jobs
First Energy to cut 400 jobs by 2016
Mine owner blames Obama for layoffs (54 fired last night)
Canceled program costs 115 jobs at Ohio air base
AMD trims Austin workforce – 400 jobs slashed
100 workers lose jobs as Caterpillar closes plant in Minnesota
Exide to lay off 150 workers
TE Connectivity to close Guilford plant, lay off 620
More Layoffs for Major Wind Company (3,000 jobs cut)
Cigna to lay off 1,300 workers worldwide
Ameridose to lay off hundreds of workers
#5 According to the Blaze, the following major corporations have all announced layoffs in just the past two days…
You can get the rest of the details right here.
#6 The following is a list of companies that will be laying off workers just because of Obamacare that was compiled by FreedomWorks…
Dana Holding Corp.
As recently as a week ago, a global auto parts manufacturing company in Ohio known as Dana Holding Corp., warned their employees of potential layoffs, citing “$24 million over the next six years in additional U.S. health care expenses”. After laying off several white collar staffers, company insiders have hinted at more to come. The company will have to cover the additional $24 million cost somehow, which will likely equate to numerous cuts in their current workforce of 25,500 worldwide.
One of the biggest medical device manufacturers in the world, Stryker will close their facility in Orchard Park, New York, eliminating 96 jobs in December. Worse, they plan on countering the medical device tax in Obamacare by slashing 5% of their global workforce – an estimated 1,170 positions.
In October of 2009, Boston Scientific CEO Ray Elliott, warned that proposed taxes in the health care reform bill could “lead to significant job losses” for his company. Nearly two years later, Elliott announced that the company would be cutting anywhere between 1,200 and 1,400 jobs, while simultaneously shifting investments and workers overseas – to China.
In March of 2010, medical device maker Medtronic warned that Obamacare taxes could result in a reduction of precisely 1,000 jobs. That plan became reality when the company cut 500 positions over the summer, with another 500 set for the end of 2013.
A short list of other companies facing future layoffs at the hands of Obamacare:
- Smith & Nephew – 770 layoffs
- Abbott Labs – 700 layoffs
- Covidien – 595 layoffs
- Kinetic Concepts – 427 layoffs
- St. Jude Medical – 300 layoffs
- Hill Rom – 200 layoffs
A lot of other businesses are going to reduce the number of employees they have or reduce the average work week in order to avoid the Obamacare insurance coverage mandate that will soon be implemented.
This is how CNSNews.com describes the choice that many employers will be facing…
That section, known as the employer mandate, requires any business with 50 or more full-time employees to provide at least the minimum level of government-defined health coverage to those employees. In other words, a business must provide insurance if it has 50 or more employees working an average of just 30 hours per week, which is 10 hours per week fewer than the traditional 40-hour work week.
Thus, by cutting employees’ hours to ensure they average less than the 30 per week, employers could potentially avoid the cost of providing the minimum insurance levels mandated by Obamacare.
So if your company trims the number of workers to just under 50 or starts going to “29 hour work weeks”, then you will know who to blame.
All of this is complete and utter insanity. We are committing national economic suicide.
But perhaps we deserve this. After all, Americans willingly chose their leaders on election day. It is getting harder and harder to deny that our politicians are truly a reflection of who we are as a nation.
The American people chose this path, and now we get to see where it leads us.
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Country Club Sopranos
American banks are on a massive crime spree. Obama and Romney hope you won’t notice.
By Pete Kotz Thursday, Nov 1 2012
You wouldn’t know it by watching the news or reading the paper, but America’s banks are on the largest crime spree the country has ever known. Let’s go to the highlight reel, shall we?
Longtime prosecutor and Notre Dame law professor G. Robert Blakey: "The real theft was on Wall Street… All of the people who ran the scams have their big houses and their airplanes and they’re laughing."
"Retired criminal" Sam Antar, who now trains the IRS and FBI how to bust corporate looters: “It’s almost like stealing a billion dollars with a pencil is not as bad. You have a lesser chance of going to jail than if you mug somebody on the streets of New York.”
Sam AntarMitt RomneyJamie DimonOrganized CrimeNew York Crime
In July, Wells Fargo paid a $175 million settlement after the feds caught its brokers systematically pushing minority customers into mortgages with higher rates and fees, even though they posed the same credit risks as whites.
One study found that Wells Fargo charged Hispanics $2,000 more in what the Justice Department called a "racial surtax." The bank docked blacks nearly $3,000 extra for their own improper pigmentation.
But despite a colossal civil-rights fraud perpetrated against 30,000 customers, the settlement amounted to just .011 percent of the San Francisco bank’s annual income. It was like forcing a $30,000-a-year working stiff to pay a $240 fine.
Across the country, in Minneapolis, U.S. Bank also swindled its customers, though at least it let whites in on the action. Instead of logging debit-card purchases in the order they were made, the bank rearranged them from highest amount to lowest, the better to artificially stick customers with overdraft fees.
U.S. Bank paid $55 million to settle a class-action suit in July. It was the thirteenth major bank caught running this scam.
Yet these titans of finance were pikers compared to American Express. It promised $300 to anyone who signed up for its Blue Sky card, then decided it would be way better to just stiff them. The company was also caught charging illegal late fees and discriminating against older applicants. The penalty for its sins: $112 million in fines and refunds.
These were just the opening salvos of the assault. Bank of America was caught illegally foreclosing on the homes of active-duty soldiers. Visa and MasterCard were charged with fixing the prices they charged merchants to process credit-card payments. Morgan Stanley colluded to drive up New York electricity prices. And in the most depraved case of all, Morgan Stanley was even sued for allegedly swindling Irish nuns in an investment deal.
If they’d been common robbers, the bankers surely would have faced indictments. After all, their scams have run for years, their breadth and coordination breathtaking.
But not a single boss went to jail. Some firms settled for just a fraction of what they’d stolen. Most have never admitted wrongdoing. And in the ethics-optional land known as Wall Street, many saw their stock prices rise.
America’s country club set has forged its own replica of the Mafia — only bigger, broader and capable of unleashing far more damage on the U.S. economy.
"Unquestionably, that’s true," says Notre Dame law professor G. Robert Blakey, whose career prosecuting organized crime runs all the way back to the Kennedy administration. "I was looking at stuff on Mulberry Street, and the real theft was on Wall Street…All of the people who ran the scams have their big houses and their airplanes, and they’re laughing — they got away with it."
The crime wave is a ready-made campaign issue: Gucci villains plundering the middle class. But you haven’t heard a peep out of Barack Obama or Mitt Romney. Both have records they’d prefer you didn’t notice.
The situation leaves Sam Antar with a sense of longing. He’s a former chief financial officer convicted of securities, mail and wire fraud.
"My biggest mistake in life was that I committed my crimes in the 1980s," he says. "If I committed them today, I wouldn’t even get house arrest. I’d just hire a good lawyer and pay a fine and I’d be free."
The prom queen visits Washington
Capitol Hill’s approach to organized crime — at least the yacht-club variety — was on display in June, when JP Morgan Chase chief executive officer Jamie Dimon was summoned to appear before the Senate Banking Committee.
Four years earlier, American taxpayers shoveled him a $25 billion bailout package. But Dimon had since refashioned himself as the sweetheart of Wall Street, the heroic captain who’d weathered the storm. Obama called him "one of the smartest bankers we’ve got."
On this day, that compliment appeared based on a very low bar. A Morgan trader known as the "London Whale" had just gambled away a stunning $6 billion by making bad bets on the credit markets. His behavior reflected the same strain of incompetence that detonated the economy in 2008.
The senators had presumably summoned Dimon to extract a pound of flesh. Instead, the exact opposite happened.
They stumbled over themselves with softball questions and blubbering supplication.
Typical of the biting line of inquiry was Tennessee Republican Bob Corker: "You’re obviously renowned — rightfully so, I think — for being one of the best CEOs in the country," he told Dimon.
So much for protecting the economy.
By the time the hearing was over, Dimon may have needed a post-coital shower.
Conveniently unmentioned at the hearing — or covered in the press — was that JP Morgan was in the midst of a criminal bender that would make the Genovese crime family envious.
It began the year before, when Dimon’s bank paid a $27 million settlement for systematically screwing 6,000 active-duty soldiers. JP Morgan was caught overcharging on interest rates and illegally foreclosing on the soldiers’ homes. (The bank did not respond to interview requests.)
Last fall, JP Morgan was nabbed again, this time for violating international sanctions and anti-terrorism laws. The Treasury Department cited the bank for engaging in illegal and "egregious" transactions with Iran and Cuba over a five-year period. But instead of being indicted for treason, JP Morgan paid an $88 million settlement to make the problem go away.
In February, the bank was caught gouging customers on overdraft fees. Some were charged hundreds of dollars for being just a few bucks overdrawn. Yet cash — a $110 million settlement, to be exact — again made the accusations disappear.
Longtime prosecutor and Notre Dame law professor G. Robert Blakey: "The real theft was on Wall Street… All of the people who ran the scams have their big houses and their airplanes and they’re laughing."
The crime spree didn’t end until August, when JP Morgan paid another $100 million to settle another class-action suit. This time it was dinged for enticing customers to transfer balances at other banks to its own credit cards. In return, they would only have to pay 2 percent of the debt each month. But the bank quietly raised that minimum to 5 percent — the better to generate late fees.
In a span of 18 months, JP Morgan was involved in three major fraud cases — while moonlighting in money laundering and treason. But not a single executive faced criminal charges. And since the bank posted $25.9 billion in revenue during its most recent quarter, the collective settlements amounted to docking it less than two days’ wages.
The bankers behaved like mafiosi. The feds handed out parking tickets.
"It’s just about dollars," says Mitchell Crusto, a law professor at Loyola University in New Orleans. "If no one’s serving time and no one’s personally liable, I gotta do that all over again."
Lapdogs guarding the gate
Kid-glove treatment for wayward bankers first became fashionable under George W. Bush. In the Orwellian world of conservative economics, he viewed fraud and racketeering statutes as little more than burdensome regulation — at least when it came to the executive crowd. Crimes against consumers were just a lucrative new profit center.
Obama was supposed to change that; he was anti-business, after all, a modern-day Karl Marx with better access to a barber. But this reputation was born of the prattling of Republicans and their televised subsidiary, Fox News. The evidence screams otherwise.
To be fair, the president did push through the Dodd-Frank Act, which includes too-big-to-fail legislation and other measures that hinder banks’ ability to set depth charges across the economy. Obama also created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, whose mission was to return America to the same safeguards that existed under Reagan and the first Bush.
But when he appointed Eric Holder attorney general, it was like making John Dillinger’s lawyer head of the FBI bank-robbery unit.
Holder, a former Wall Street defense attorney, would ramp up big-dollar settlements. But criminal charges quietly sputtered to a trickle.
Justice Department spokeswoman Dena Iverson disagrees with this interpretation.
"We understand there is desire by the public to put company officials behind bars who may be with firms that have committed fraud against the government," she says in a written statement. "We follow the facts and the evidence, and whenever and wherever we uncover evidence of criminal wrongdoing, we will not hesitate to bring prosecutions."
Iverson offers a list of people who have been convicted for insider trading, Ponzi schemes and mortgage fraud. But they’re mostly the smaller fish of finance, people who’ve never slept in the Lincoln bedroom or golfed with John Boehner. Conspicuously absent are racketeering indictments or repeat-offender charges against the likes of Bank of America or JP Morgan.
In a sense, Holder has granted the industry its own version of juvenile court. No matter how pervasive the crime, no matter how many thousands of victims, the major players can be assured of walking away with little more than a fine, released to the custody of their parents.
"When it comes to Wall Street, Eric Holder couldn’t prosecute a ham sandwich that sold itself as kosher," says Sam Antar. "The Obama administration’s record has been abysmal."
He should know. As the chief financial officer of a retail electronics chain in the 1980s, Antar pleaded guilty to multiple charges of fraud and conspiracy. He now describes himself as a "retired criminal" with a safer career: teaching FBI and IRS agents how to catch people just like him.
"It’s kind of like Wall Street has a different set of rules than other industries," Antar says. "It’s almost like stealing a billion dollars with a pencil is not as bad. You have a lesser chance of going to jail than if you mug somebody on the streets of New York."
And if Mitt Romney’s elected, he’ll make Bush and Obama look like disciples of Eliot Ness.
Romney has vowed to rescind even Obama’s most modest gains, including too-big-to-fail laws. After all, he’s never had an aversion to snuggling up with corruption.
Take the case of Drexel Burnham Lambert, the grandest criminal empire in modern Wall Street history. In the 1980s, its CEO Michael Milken was being investigated in a massive insider-trading and stock-manipulation case. But Romney, then head of Bain Capital, refused to stop doing business with Drexel, claiming its chieftain had yet to be convicted.
Before Drexel collapsed and Milken was sent to prison, Romney made $175 million with the company.
Former Bain executive Marc Wolpow best expresses the nominee’s business principles: "Mitt, I think, spent his life balanced between fear and greed," he told the Boston Globe.
Bank of America, the nation’s largest crime family
So bad has the leniency become that the feds are allowing bankers to keep much of what they steal. Ask Morgan Stanley.
In August, it settled with the Justice Department over its role in fixing New York City’s electricity rates. The bank played middleman in a deal between two energy providers, KeySpan and Astoria Generating, which then colluded to withhold electricity from the market, artificially driving up prices and costing consumers an estimated $300 million.
Morgan Stanley was paid $21 million for arranging the scheme. But the ever-generous Holder let the bank settle for $4.8 million.
It marked a stunning new low in federal prosecutions, akin to forcing a bank robber to return just $2,500 after stealing $10,000. With no jail time, of course.
Morgan Stanley offers little defense for its actions. "We will decline comment," says spokeswoman Mary Claire Delaney. But New York state senator Michael Gianaris will happily fill that silence.
"It’s a good business deal for Morgan Stanley," he says. "They could break the law and get away with almost $17 million in profits for it, so why not do it again? If they get caught — and that’s a big if — they still get 70 percent of the profits."
Peter Vallone Jr., a Queens councilman and former prosecutor, has never seen such tender handling of criminals. "It didn’t deter a company this big, because it sort of amounts to their lunch budget," he says. "And most of all, it didn’t return the money to the people it was stolen from. I was a prosecutor for six years, and I’ve never seen someone being fined less than they made."
Unfortunately, it’s been happening for years.
Take the widespread scheme of reordering debit-card purchases to push customers into overdrafts. When it began, Bush’s attorneys general, John Ashcroft and Alberto Gonzales, refused to prosecute. Private lawyers stepped into the breach with class-action suits.
California attorney Barry Himmelstein was among them. He noticed how bankers had become so entitled, they began to complain that getting caught chopped into their profit margins.
"We got that argument from Wells Fargo," he says. "It’s a ridiculous argument. The fact that you can’t make millions of dollars by screwing your customers is not an excuse to keep screwing them."
But even in class-action cases, the banks were getting off light. Himmelstein objected to one settlement involving Bank of America, which was also involved in the overdraft scam. By his calculations, the Charlotte company had ripped off its customers to the tune of $4.5 billion.
Yet the settlement allowed Bank of America to repay just 10 percent of its ill-gotten gains. The average victim was eligible for a $27 refund — less than the cost of a single overdraft.
Four years ago, American taxpayers kept Bank of America afloat with a $45 billion bailout. It repaid them by becoming a veritable crime family. Let’s return to the highlight reel:
• Last year, BofA paid a $20 million settlement for illegally foreclosing on soldiers’ homes over a three-year period. (Bank spokesman Larry Grayson declined comment for this story.)
• But it wasn’t until this summer that the bank achieved frequent-guest status in American courtrooms. In June, it was fined for overbilling 95,000 customers over an eight-year period. Total revenue: $32 million. Total fine: $2.8 million.
• A month later, it paid $20 million more to settle a class-action suit. This time it was caught deceiving customers — or simply enrolling them without their knowledge — in worthless credit-card protection programs.
• In August, BofA paid another $738 million in a price-fixing case with Visa and MasterCard. It was accused of conspiring to keep merchant credit-card fees artificially high.
• The bank returned to court again in September, this time paying $2.4 billion for deceiving investors over its purchase of Merrill Lynch.
In less than two years, Bank of America had chalked up six major fraud cases. But there was no talk of three strikes. No indictments for racketeering. Not one executive charged with a crime.
Triage for cowards
The time to break balls was four years ago, believes Ed Mierzwinski of the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, a nationwide federation of consumer advocates. The banking industry was on the verge of collapse. American taxpayers showed up with a $125 billion life preserver.
Yet government officials were so worried about imminent carnage, they forgot to ask a simple favor in return: You have to stop ripping us off.
"We could have brought them to heel," says Mierzwinski. "The bailout was done so fast that they didn’t put in clauses for better behavior."
Bankers, quite naturally, kept doing what they’d always done. This presented one of those only-in-government ironies: While the taxpayers had plenty of money to bail them out, we found our pockets empty when it came time to throw them in prison.
Mierzwinski empathizes with the Justice Department. Banks can field armies of lawyers, who are more than happy to stall and obfuscate as long as the meter’s ticking. The feds cannot, so they retreat to triage, agreeing to settlements that present a mirage of victory.
Former New York governor Eliot Spitzer understands their predicament — somewhat. As his state’s attorney general, Spitzer was the last major politician to launch a sustained assault on financial crime. He, too, believes that Wall Street has become analogous to the Mafia.
"Look, you organize things in a cartel structure very similar to what the Mob did," says Spitzer. "I think it’s also the continuity of the fraud and the pervasiveness."
Yet Spitzer, now host of Viewpoint on Current TV, knows firsthand how difficult it is to drill a multi-billion-dollar crime family. Just like Mafia dons, CEOs are insulated from direct involvement — or may not even be aware of the schemes. Moreover, it’s often harder to bring cases that simply pick off henchmen.
"Juries don’t like holding mid-level people accountable when the top people are getting off," says Spitzer.
Notre Dame law professor G. Robert Blakey doesn’t buy the excuses.
Blakey may be America’s most storied organized-crime lawyer. He’s a former federal prosecutor and author of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act — better known as RICO — the cudgel used to pound the Mafia and corrupt labor unions. It allows prosecutors to charge entire organizations for a continuing pattern of criminality — exactly what the banks are doing.
Back in the 1980s, Rudy Giuliani used the law to take down Romney’s pal Michael Milken. Yet prosecutors have been reticent to use it against corporations ever since.
"I am livid that nobody has thought about it," says Blakey. "I am livid that there are all these civil settlements."
He notes that the feds have a long history of taking on seemingly invincible foes, from Standard Oil to Big Tobacco: "What’s changed that they could get these convictions and we can’t now?"
After all, Blakey argues, corporate criminals are easier to slay. When you subpoena their records, they’ll actually produce them. When Blakey was prosecuting the Teamsters, their books would suddenly go up in flames.
Blakey sees bankers at the bottom of the organized-crime gene pool — their schemes simple and obvious.
"They designed a fraud cookie cutter, and all of these guys have been running comparable scams," he says. "The variation between scam to scam is minor, and none of them are particular imaginative."
But the problem isn’t Attorney General Holder, the professor asserts; it’s the battery of lawyers beneath him. Prosecutors prize their win-loss records like starting pitchers. For them, it’s much better to win a weak settlement than potentially lose a real fight.
In other words, if justice were a bar brawl, the feds would seek out the little guy on crutches.
The rampage continues
In May, SunTrust was caught working the same mortgage scam as Wells Fargo. It charged more than 20,000 black and Hispanic customers higher interest rates and fees than white clients with the same credit profiles. Price to make the problem go away: $21 million.
A month later, ING paid a $619 million settlement for violating international sanctions and anti-terrorist laws. It spent a decade providing "state sponsors of terror and other sanctioned entities with access to the U.S. financial system," Assistant Attorney General Lisa Monaco said at the time.
In July, Capital One was caught luring customers into buying credit-card protection "they didn’t understand, didn’t want or in some cases couldn’t even use," said the feds. The company paid $210 million in fines and refunds.
In September, Discover was nabbed running the same scam on 3.5 million customers. The company spent $214 million to make its sins vanish.
For those of you scoring at home: Four major crimes against America. Millions of victims. Zero executives jailed.
"If there are no consequences," asks Sam Antar, "what incentive do I have to not be a criminal?"
Statistics: Posted by yoda — Mon Nov 05, 2012 1:37 pm
View full post on opinions.caduceusx.com