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Wed, 08 Dec 2021
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Slash and Burn capitalism: Big Business Stock Buyback Plan - Guess Who's Winning?

This has gotta be a joke. According to a new report by the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), personal consumption expenditures (PCE) increased by $69-billion (7-percent), while personal income rose by only $38-billion (3-percent) in February. So consumers are back to their old ways again -- spending more than they earn?

Er, not exactly. The truth is, consumer spending is slowing down because food and energy are taking a bigger chunk out of the old paycheck. After factoring in inflation, personal consumption is up just 3-percent while real income fell to 1-percent. So, inflation makes the numbers look a lot different.

The reason all this matters, is because consumption is 70-percent of GDP, so if the consumer is on the ropes and getting pummeled by stagnant wages and inflation at the same time, then you can bet the economy is headed for the dumpster. Of course, a good portion of the blame for this mess goes to Ben Bernanke, whose miracle QE2 elixir has kept the stock market bubbly while commodities and food prices have skyrocketed. That's the real source of the problem -- an uneven policy that rewards the investment class while leaving the worker-bees (you and me) fending off soaring prices.

Bernanke says we shouldn't worry about the higher prices because core inflation is still low (roughly 1%). That's easy to say for a guy who's never filled his gas tank in his life, but for everyone else inflation is a killer that forces them to cut their spending or shed more debt, neither of which is easy to do.

Brick Wall

American Hypocrisy at it's Best: Obama Receives Transparency Award at Secret Meeting

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© Unknown
Senate bill sponsors Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and Barack Obama (D-Ill discussing the Coburn–Obama Transparency Act, 2006
On Monday President Obama received an award for transparency, which ironically was given to him during a closed, unannounced meeting. Bestowed upon the President from a group of transparency advocates, the ceremony took place in secret, even though - as of two weeks ago - it was supposed to be open to the press.

According to Politico, the meeting was "inexplicably postponed" and rescheduled without notice for Monday "without disclosing the meeting on [the President's] public schedule or letting photographers or print reporters into the room."

Those present at the ceremony, which took place in the Oval Office, included Gary Bass of OMB Watch, Tom Blanton of the National Security Archive, Danielle Brian of the Project on Government Oversight, Lucy Dalgish of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, and Patrice McDermott of OpenTheGovernment.org.

Gary Bass commented:
Our understanding going into the meeting was that it would have a pool photographer and a print reporter, and it turned out to be a private meeting." He adds, "He was so on point, so on target in the conversation with us, it is baffling why he would not want that message to be more broadly heard by reporters and the public interest community and the public generally.

Dollar

While the Rich Get Richer, the Rest of Us Pay More for Less at the Supermarket

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© rightardia.blogspot.com
The New York Times reports that food companies are embarked on a "stealth" strategy to hike prices by significantly shrinking packages without changing the price. For example, canned vegetables are down to thirteen from sixteen ounces (one shopper observed that she found an eleven ounce can of corn recently). Sugar is now sometimes sold in four pound bags instead of five.

This is nothing new - food companies have repeatedly responded to weak economies and rising commodity prices in this way - although this is perhaps the first time that some companies are greenwashing their shrinkage. Proctor & Gamble, for one, is trumpeting its new smaller packages (priced about the same as the old, of course) as "'Future Friendly' products, which it promotes as using at least 15 percent less energy, water or packaging than the standard ones."

And don't forget the health claims! Fewer crackers in a package means fewer calories - you may pay more per cracker, but it's better for you!

MIB

Former MI6 chief on Mossad's ruthless and cunning ways: 'U.K. didn't always feel safe sharing intelligence with Israel'

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© Cate Gillon/Getty Images
Sir Richard Dearlove
Speaking at conference marking 60 years of U.K.-Israel ties, former MI6 chief says he has no doubt Israeli intelligence 'plays by a different set of rules' than those observed in London.

British intelligence wasn't always forthcoming with sharing information with its Israeli counterpart, former MI6 director Sir Richard Dearlove said in a conference Wednesday, adding that he felt Israeli intelligence played by a different set of rules than the U.K. agency.

Dearlove, the British spy chief from 1999 to 2004, said in a conference marking 60 years of British-Israeli diplomatic relations that he had "no doubt that Israel plays by a different set of rules than the rules that we observe in the UK."

MIB

Libyan FM defects to Britain, collaborated with US since the 1980s

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Moussa Koussa, long-time agent of the Axis of Evil
Defected Libyan Foreign Minister Moussa Koussa has reportedly been in contact with American authorities over counterterrorism issues.

The former senior official developed a close working relationship with Washington when he was the head of Libya's intelligence service a few years ago, former CIA official Vince Cannistraro told the prominent US radio broadcaster NPR.

On Wednesday, Koussa resigned as Libya's foreign minister and defected to Britain as troops loyal to ruler Muammar Gaddafi and opposition forces clashed in the North African country.

The CIA official was stationed in Italy in the late 1980s when Koussa was leading Libya's intelligence service.

Pistol

Ivory Coast: Bloodbath Fear as Gbagbo Forces Prepare for Last Stand

Pro-Gbagbo militiamen
© Getty Images
Pro-Gbagbo militiamen patrol in the empty streets of Abidjan
Fears were mounting of major atrocities in Ivory Coast last night as forces loyal to the Laurent Gbagbo prepared for a last stand in Abidjan.

After days of increasingly virulent anti-colonialist rhetoric from the state-controlled broadcasters, France deployed its troops to rescue French nationals from attack by young and violent supporters of Mr Gbagbo.

The news that the 1,000 strong French force had intervened underlined fears that the four-month crisis in the world's leading cocoa producer, sparked by the sitting president Mr Gbagbo's refusal to accept his defeat in landmark elections, had entered its critical phase.

Troops under the command of president-elect Allasane Ouattara were said to be "at the gates" of Abidjan, Ivory Coast's commercial capital, which has descended into chaotic violence in recent days. Supporters of the presidential rivals have carved up the city into warring neighbourhoods with armed militia controlling the streets. Witnesses spoke of people being pulled from cars and burnt alive and residents complained of being marooned in their homes by the fighting.

Attention

Libya's Gadhafi Defiant After 2 Allies Resign

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© Chris Helgren/Reuters
Scottish prosecutors say they've asked Britain's Foreign office to speak with Moussa Koussa about the Lockerbie bombing.
Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi has issued a defiant statement after two high-profile departures from his regime, and is calling on leaders of countries attacking his forces to resign.

The Libyan news agency said Thursday Gadhafi accused Western leaders of being "affected by power madness" and wanting to create another war between Muslims and Christians.

The Libyan government earlier confirmed the resignation of Foreign Minister Moussa Koussa, who had defected a day earlier. Ali Abdessalam Treki, a former foreign minister and UN General Assembly president, also announced his resignation on Thursday.

Libya said that Koussa had resigned due to health problems, and was not a sign the embattled regime is cracking at the highest levels. Koussa flew to England from Tunisia on Wednesday and the British government said he had resigned.

Koussa, a trusted Gadhafi adviser who has been blamed for some of Libya's brutality and credited for some of its diplomatic successes, has been privy to all the inner workings of the regime. His departure could open the door for some hard intelligence, though Britain refused to offer him immunity from prosecution.

Eye 2

Israel may build artificial island off Gaza Strip coast

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© Getty Images
Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu Israel's prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu is said to approve of the £6.2bn proposals.
Environmentalists says plans, which also include hotels and a marina, are 'complete madness' and warn public to be sceptical

Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu Israel's prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu is said to approve of the £6.2bn proposals.

Israel is considering plans to build an artificial island off the coast of the Gaza Strip to house a sea and airport, and encourage tourism in the area.

Yisrael Katz, the Israeli minister for transport, said the plan had been under consideration for many months and had been encouraged by Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister. He said it would also relieve Israel of the obligation to be the transit point for goods into the enclave.

The Gaza Strip has no sea port and its airport was destroyed. The area is the sixth most crowded place in the world. Since 2007, Israel, which controls the majority of Gaza's borders has only allowed limited kinds of goods into Gaza and allowed very few exports out. Gazans have got round restrictions by smuggling goods from Egypt through tunnels.

Katz said he expected the island would be under international control for at least 100 years to ensure Israel's security. "We have built models and there are many entrepreneurs who are interested and prepared to invest billions and make money," he told Israel Army Radio

Star of David

The United States of Israel?

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Sarah Palin is just the latest GOP politician to visit to Israel after a string of possible Presidential hopefuls to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land in the past few months. Why is establishing your credentials in Tel Aviv before running for US president as vital as stumping in New Hampshire?


Bizarro Earth

BP Admits Loss of 13,000 Oil Spill Claimants' Details

BP has admitted to losing a laptop that contained the details of thousands of people who had made claims following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill incident.

The firm said that the laptop, which was password-protected, was lost during "business-related travel" and had contained personal information of about 13,000 people.

The personal details included names, addresses, phone numbers, dates of birth and social security numbers, all of which were stored in a spreadsheet, according to BP.

The company added that the loss of the laptop had been immediately reported to the police and its own security teams, but stressed that there was no evidence that it had been accessed or compromised.