March 6, 2012
By Tony Cartalucci
The corporate media has recently portrayed a narrative where we see the West apparently warning Israel against a unilateral attack on Iran. It appears that Israel is intent on “going it alone” despite the wishes of its “more rational” Western sponsors. Recently, the Wall Street Journal reported in their article, “U.S., Israel Pull Closer on Iran,” that, “Israeli officials, meanwhile, said that President Barack Obama’s public and private acknowledgment of the Jewish state’s sovereign right to defend itself was a crucial gain as the two countries seek to deter Tehran,” in regards to Iran’s alleged nuclear program.
To the average reader, it would seem that both the US and Israel agree that Iran is an imminent threat against which Israel and the United States simply have differing views on how to counter. In reality, this is a premeditated, deceitful act, already clearly articulated since 2009 in a signed document, on how both nations plan on duping the world into accepting an unnecessary war.
March 6, 2012
It has been one of the listed ingredients of Coke and Pepsi for as long as most people can remember but, if the Center for Science in the Public Interest, or CSPI, has its way, caramel color will no longer be used to make colas.
Citing studies that link several types of cancer to a chemical in caramel coloring, the head of the CSPI told 9 News that jeopardizing people’s health simply to give colas their familiar brown hue is just not acceptable.
March 6, 2012
By Jean Chatszky
You may not have known it, but last week was America Saves Week, an effort coordinated by the Consumer Federation of America’s America Saves campaign and the America Savings Education Council designed to shine a light on the importance of saving money.
They’ve got their work cut out for them: Seven out of 10 Americans aren’t saving enough, according to the Employee Benefits Research Institute. But it’s not just today’s workers who aren’t socking away enough for retirement. New research from financial education site Doughmain.com shows that our kids aren’t getting the message to save, either.
And here’s the rub. It’s not that we parents don’t understand that it’s our responsibility to teach our children to save — 81% of Doughmain’s survey respondents said as much. We’re just not doing it.
“It’s kind of like the plumber having the leaky pipe. Sometimes we don’t do what we say we’re going to do,” says Doughmain founder Ken Damato.
March 6, 2012
The Associated Press
By Jim Kuhnhenn
President Barack Obama is aiming mortgage relief at members of the military as well as homeowners with government-insured loans, the administration’s latest efforts to address a persistent housing crisis.
In his first full news conference of the year Tuesday, Obama was to announce plans to let borrowers with mortgages insured by the Federal Housing Administration refinance at lower rates, saving the average homeowner more than $1,000 a year. Obama also was detailing an agreement with major lenders to compensate service members and veterans who were wrongfully foreclosed upon or denied lower interest rates.
The efforts Obama is announcing do not require congressional approval and are limited in comparison with the vast expansion of government assistance to homeowners that he asked Congress to approve last month. That $5 billion to $10 billion plan would make it easier for more borrowers with burdensome mortgages to refinance their loans.
Obama is holding the news conference in the midst of a modestly improving economy. But international challenges as well as a stubbornly depressed housing market remain threats to the current recovery and to his presidency.
Obama has not held a full news conference since November. The White House scheduled this one on the same day as the 10-state Super Tuesday Republican presidential nominating contests. While aides insisted the timing was coincidental, it follows a pattern of Obama seeking the limelight when the attention is on the GOP.
March 6, 2012
By Ben Steverman
Most people buy art because they love to look at it, but there’s always the hope that the payoff will go beyond aesthetics. The prices of photographer Cindy Sherman’s works have risen 11-fold in 15 years, according to Artnet, while Gerhard Richter’s paintings are 37 times more expensive. Damien Hirst’s works are up 22-fold, while works by Jean-Michel Basquiat and Andy Warhol have both risen 19-fold.
Investing in the right artist, however, can be a crapshoot, and owning artwork can involve substantial hassles. Many collectors must worry about insurance premiums, art dealers, thieves, taxes and most of all, the fickleness of the art world.
Dorit Straus knows all about these complications from three decades working with collectors at the Chubb Group of Insurance Companies, where she is now the insurer’s worldwide fine art manager. Bloomberg.com’s Ben Steverman spoke with Straus, an archaeologist by training, about the challenges of owning art. Edited excerpts of their interview follow.
Q: Is art an asset class like stocks and bonds?
A: There is some merit to that line of thought. A lot of people have a large portion of their assets in their art collections and they may not know it. It’s certainly important for financial planners to discuss this issue.
There are lots of downsides to art as investment. There are costs of maintaining art. The physical condition of your stock or fund doesn’t matter, but you have to make sure your work of art is in pristine condition, particularly in today’s economy.
My advice to most people: Art is not a commodity. It’s an aesthetic object. If it turns out that you have made money on your initial investment, that’s great, but the most important thing is your appreciation of the art. I know that’s kind of corny.
March 6, 2012
By Alexis Leondis
BlackRock Inc. (BLK)’s Laurence D. Fink said savers need to become more aggressive investors as returns on bank accounts and Treasuries shrink and people grow older.
The traditional mix of putting 60 percent of assets in stocks and 40 percent in bonds is inadequate in a “new world” characterized by an aging population, a reduction in borrowing and risk-taking by individuals and governments, and a greater role of emerging economies.
“I’ve personally said many times I would be 100 percent in equities,” Fink, 59, said in a speech today to the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. “Most investors need a more diversified portfolio, but virtually every investor has to find ways to achieve a better return than they’ll get in cash or government bonds for the foreseeable future.”
The comments by Fink, chief executive officer of the world’s largest asset management firm with $3.5 trillion in assets, mark an effort by BlackRock to articulate an overarching view of markets and how retail and institutional investors should respond. Unlike Bill Gross’s Pacific Investment Management Co., where investment decisions have been guided by the firm’s “new normal” philosophy coined three years ago to describe a world of below average economic growth, each of BlackRock’s units has the freedom to articulate its own investment outlook.
March 6, 2012
By Madison Ruppert
China has announced that they will be increasing their funding for the military by 11.2 percent in 2012 on top of the 12.7 percent increase in 2011.
This move seems to be quite obviously intended to act as a counterweight to the American military’s shift to focus on the Asia-Pacific region announced by President of the United States Barack Obama last year.
As I have repeatedly pointed out, this policy shift does not involve just the United States, but indeed is actually a global expansion of the U.S.-NATO military machine involving complex multilateral ties.
This would bring the total official spending on the People’s Liberation Army to 670.3 billion yuan, or around $110 billion, for this year, according to Reuters.
This announcement is China’s first military budget since Obama announced the new policy and when tensions are quite high in the South China Sea dispute. I have noted the antagonistic approach taken by the United States in this dispute multiple times now, and it only makes sense that China would seek to arm themselves more heavily.
I have posited that America might actually be trying to goad China in the dispute as they have ignored all of China’s reasonable requests. China has asked countries without a direct interest in the dispute to stop meddling, which is exactly what the United States is doing, but of course that has been ignored.
Numerous countries have maritime disputes with China and the United States has clearly chosen sides in the dispute, even arming some of the nations involved along with carrying out joint military exercises.
March 6, 2012
By Paul Farhi
Rush Limbaugh offered more contrition Monday for his comments about a Georgetown law student, but the conservative radio talk-show host continued to lose advertisers as a result of outrage over his characterization of the woman as a “slut” and a “prostitute.”
“Those two words were inappropriate and uncalled for,” Limbaugh said at the start of his show on Monday, referring to Sandra Fluke, a student who had spoken out in behalf of insurance coverage for contraception. “They distracted from the point I was actually trying to make and again I sincerely apologize to Ms. Fluke for using those two words.”
The apology reinforced a statement Limbaugh posted on his Web site Saturday in which he said that his “choice of words was not the best” and that he was attempting to be humorous in his attack on Fluke on two programs last week.
Many thought Limbaugh’s initial apology was inadequate, and their outrage helped compel advertisers to pull their commercials from Limbaugh’s program.
March 6, 2012
By David Swanson
“Oh this is nice. Thanks for being such an outstanding American, Holder. You’re doing great work.” –KTRN
Attorney General Eric Holder on Monday explained why it’s legal to murder people — not to execute prisoners convicted of capital crimes, not to shoot someone in self-defense, not to fight on a battlefield in a war that is somehow legalized, but to target and kill an individual sitting on his sofa, with no charges, no arrest, no trial, no approval from a court, no approval from a legislature, no approval from we the people, and in fact no sharing of information with any institutions that are not the president. Holder’s speech approached his topic in a round about manner:
Since this country’s earliest days, the American people have risen to this challenge – and all that it demands. But, as we have seen – and as President John F. Kennedy may have described best – ‘In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger.’
Holder quotes that and then immediately rejects it, claiming that our generation too should act as if it is in such a moment, even if it isn’t, a moment that Holder’s position suggests may last forever:
Half a century has passed since those words were spoken, but our nation today confronts grave national security threats that demand our constant attention and steadfast commitment. It is clear that, once again, we have reached an ‘hour of danger.’
We are a nation at war. And, in this war, we face a nimble and determined enemy that cannot be underestimated.
So, if I were to estimate that Al Qaeda barely exists and is no serious threat to the Homeland formerly known as the United States, I would not be underestimating it? If I were to point out that no member of that horrifying outfit has been killed in Afghanistan this year, that fact would not contribute to an unacceptable underestimation? What fun it is to fight the most glorious of wars in the hour of maximum danger against an enemy so pitiful that it literally cannot be underestimated.
March 6, 2012
By Brandon Turbeville
According to a list compiled by independent blog, American Kabuki, at least 122 banking directors, CEOs, and board members of both national and international stature have resigned since September of last year. The blog recently posted a list of all 122 of these individuals with links to the announcements and reports of their resignation.
The fact that banks have been reshuffling their personnel is, of course, nothing new. However, 122 resignations does seem like a large number, particularly when one realizes that many of these resignations are coming from relatively large institutions.
As a result, there has been much speculation and concern on the part of many observers as to what these shifts actually mean.
While it should be mentioned that the list contains resignations from some institutions that are relatively small in terms of international finance, one might also do well to remember that banks, insurance companies, corporations, and governments are often tied together by a seemingly infinite number of spiderweb connections that only become visible as certain parts of the financial relationships are unearthed.
To be clear, this writer is not suggesting that every single bank included in this list is part of a criminal conspiracy, cover-up, or act of misconduct. In fact, I am not suggesting that any of them are. However, when it comes to some institutions such as the World Bank or the Bank of England, the history of treachery is obvious and should be kept in mind as you draw your own conclusions.
In fact, it is the resignations taking place amidst these larger institutions that should be a cause for greater concern in the first place.
Indeed, the number of resignations taking place amongst large institutions such as CitiBank, Lloyds Banking Group, UBS, Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, and JP Morgan alone should be enough to turn some heads.
But there is also an alarming number of central banks included on this list as well. Perhaps the most surprising is the fact that Phillip Hildebrand, the head of Switzerland’s central bank, recently handed in his resignation. Not only that, but there have been resignations coming from several other central banks including Argentina, Kuwait, Nicaraqua, and Kenya.