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Thu, 30 Nov 2023
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German 'Wise Men' push for wealth seizure to fund EMU bail-outs

© Photo: AFP PHOTO/YIANNIS KOURTOGLOUYiannis Kourtoglou/AFP/Getty Images
Prof Bofinger told Spiegel Magazine that it was a mistake to target deposit holders in banks, the formula used in the EU-IMF Troika bail-out for Cyprus where those with savings above €100,000 at Laiki and Bank of Cyprus face huge losses
Professors Lars Feld and Peter Bofinger said states in trouble must pay more for their own salvation, arguing that there is enough wealth in homes and private assets across the Mediterranean to cover bail-out costs. "The rich must give up part of their wealth over the next ten years," said Prof Bofinger.

The two economist are members of Germany's Council of Economic Experts or "Five Wise Men", a body that advises the Chancellor on major issues. There is no formal plan to launch a wealth tax but the council is often used to fly kites for new policies.

Prof Bofinger told Spiegel Magazine that it was a mistake to target deposit holders in banks, the formula used in the EU-IMF Troika bail-out for Cyprus where those with savings above €100,000 at Laiki and Bank of Cyprus face huge losses. "The canny rich in southern Europe just shift their money to banks in Northern Europe to escape seizure," he said.

Prof Feld said a new survey by the European Central Bank had revealed that people in the crisis countries are richer than the Germans themselves. "This shows that Germany has been right to take a tough line of euro rescue loans," he said.

The ECB study found that the "median" wealth of is €267,000 in Cyprus, compared to just €51,000 in Germany where home ownership rate is just 44pc and large numbers of people have almost no assets.


Will EU wipe out the value of big Euro notes? A case is being built

tear notes
© unknown
Bin €500 notes to spread debt burden ... The €500 note is one of the many mysteries surrounding the birth of the euro. For whom, exactly, was the equivalent of $600 or £400 designed? No other significant currency is available in a form that allows £1m-worth to be comfortably carried in a briefcase and which is effectively non-negotiable in everyday use. - Financial Times

Dominant Social Theme: Only criminals use cash.

Free-Market Analysis: Here's an innovative idea ... let's print a lot of money and then declare it worthless. This seems like a Western trend these days. At least the "worthless" part.

Turns out that certain Cyprus bank accounts were worthless, or at least not worth as much as the owners thought they were. In fact, the "owners" got a lesson regarding ownership. Just because your name is on something ... like a bank account ... doesn't mean it's yours.

And now we are seeing the same sort of message being delivered in terms of currency. Turns out even when you HAVE the currency, you may not be able to take advantage of its liquidity. Here's more from the article excerpted above:

The Spanish used to dub the notes "Bin Ladens", because everybody knew they existed but nobody had ever seen one. Now Bank of America Merrill Lynch's Athanasios Vamvakidis has proposed a rather scary way to use them to solve - or at least dramatically reduce - the euro-crisis. The €500 notes in issue add up to about €290bn, one-third of the face value of all euros in circulation. The European Central Bank estimates that two-thirds of those €500 notes are used as a store of value (rather than as a medium of exchange).


"Boston Marathon as dry-run disaster" 2008

boston marathan
© AP
Runners cover themselves with foil blankets as they receive medical attention in the medical tent after running in the Boston Marathon on April 16, 2007.
Today thousands of runners and hundreds of thousands of spectators are unwittingly taking part in a planned disaster. Yet, they are not just safe from harm (except for the variety brought on by running 26.2 miles), they also are participants in an event that will make the citizens of Greater Boston safer in case of a natural catastrophe or terrorist attack.

Primary responsibility for the health and well-being of both runners and spectators in Boston rests with Boston Emergency Medical Service (BEMS), along with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and Emergency Management Agency. According to BEMS chief Richard Serino, his department considers events like the marathon and the Fourth of July celebration as "planned disasters" - safe, controlled environments that present "an opportunity to test some things you would never want to test in a real disaster."

Although the principal goal during such events remains the safety of everyone involved, organizers have realized that these annual gatherings of hundreds of thousands of people present the perfect opportunity to evaluate new technologies, exercise disaster plans, and build vital relationships between public safety agencies and the private sector.

For example, a tracking system that utilizes barcodes and hand scanners to log a patient's condition and location has been tested during past races. During a real disaster, this technology could provide authorities quick access to the location and condition of casualties, information that currently takes hours, if not days, for friends and families of the injured to ascertain.

Eye 1

Big Brother: CISPA online snooping bill, stripped of privacy protections, heads for House vote

house of representatives
© Brendan Smialowski / Getty Images / AFP
A controversial cybersecurity bill is one step closer to being added to the law books following a closed-door meeting between members of Congress on Wednesday.

Privacy advocates are up in arms after the House Intelligence committee overwhelmingly approved an updated draft of the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, or CISPA, Wednesday afternoon by a vote of 18-to-2. Now if the bill makes it all the way to the desk of US President Barack Obama, Americans will likely be subjected to having the personal information they provide to online businesses shared with the government's top-secret spy agencies.


Boston runners were warned: Squamish man

Heiliger, 'stunned' by explosions, was back at hotel when marathon blasts occurred

Runners getting set to take part in the Boston Marathon were warned beforehand that they were going to die, said a Squamish resident who took part in the race.

Three people were killed and more than 140 were injured when two bombs exploded near the finish line of the famed 42.2-kilometre running event on Monday (April 15).

Mike Heiliger, 59, said a woman holding several bags was telling runners who were picking up their pre-race packages in downtown Boston on Saturday (April 13) that they were going to die if they participated in the event.

"I was downtown on Saturday and you know, you see these people on the street and think it's just some nutbar," he told The Chief from his Boston hotel on Monday. "It was a little creepy because you can identify who the runners are and I heard her say to this runner two feet away from me that, 'If you run tomorrow you're going to die.'"

At the time, Heiliger said he thought about telling the woman that the race was Monday, but decided not to correct her.

Star of David

FBI arrests Israeli billionaire's agent over bribery cover-up claim in battle over $10 billion iron ore mountain

Frenchman is accused destroying evidence of how an Israeli billionaire gained control of a mountain rich in iron ore in Guinea

A battle over one of the world's richest mineral deposits has taken a dramatic turn after the FBI announced the arrest of a representative of the billionaire businessman who had acquired it in deal that raised eyebrows, even within the buccaneering world of African mining.

The arrest follows years of bitter claim and counter-claim over Simandou, a mountain in the remote interior of the impoverished west African country of Guinea that is so laden with iron ore that its exploitation rights are valued at around $10bn.

Beny Steinmetz, one of the world's wealthiest men, acquired the rights to extract half the ore at Simandou by pledging to invest just $165m to develop a mine at the mountain. Shortly afterwards, he sold half of his stake for £2.5bn. It was hailed as the most stunning private mining deal for decades: the world's finest untapped iron ore deposit, one worth billions of dollars, had been snapped up for a song.

After the wind of democratic change swept through Guinea, however - and after the US justice department decided to mount an investigation into circumstances in which the glittering prize at Simandou changed hands - that deal was appearing to look distinctly less attractive.

On Sunday evening, Frederic Cilins, an agent for Steinmetz's company, was arrested in Jacksonville, Florida, after federal agents had covertly recorded a series of meetings. The recording shows, it is alleged, that Cilins plotted the destruction of documents which it is claimed could have shown the Simandou exploitation rights were acquired after millions of dollars were paid in bribes to Guinea government officials.

Snakes in Suits

Westboro Baptist Church to picket Boston funerals, blames 'fag marriage' for bombings

© Flickr/John Lemieux
The anti-LGBT Westboro Baptist Church has blamed Monday's bombing of the Boston Marathon on same sex marriage and has promised to protest at the funerals of the victims.

In a press release posted to Twitter, Westboro thanked God for the attack and announced its plan to "picket the funeral of those killed."

"The federal government is classifying the bombs as a terrorist attack, but say it's unclear if it's of a domestic or foreign nature," the release said. "Here's a hint - GOD SENT THE BOMBS! How many more terrifying ways will you have the LORD injure and kill your fellow countrymen because you insist on nation-dooming filthy fag marriage?!"

By Tuesday morning, a "We the People" petition on the White House website had over 4,000 signatures from people asking that the church be banned from demonstrating at victims' funerals.

Eye 2

Fox News contributor Erik Rush calls for all Muslims to be killed for Boston marathon explosions

There were two explosions today at the Boston Marathon. So far, there are reportedly three people dead and more than 100 people injured.

It is not known who, or what, caused the explosions, but Fox News contributor Erik Rush suggested on Twitter that people from Saudi Arabia were likely responsible and tweeted "kill them all" in response to a tweet about Muslims.

First, Rush tweeted: "Everybody do the National Security Ankle Grab! Let's bring more Saudis in without screening them! C'mon! #bostonmarathon."


California in statewide emergency alert to conserve energy after PG&E substation vandalized


This is the substation that was vandalized. April 16, 2013
About 10,000 gallons of oil began leaking Tuesday morning from a transformer at a San Jose PG&E substation, which authorities said was vandalized, possibly damaged by gunfire.

The damage prompted the California Independent Service Operator to issue a "Flex Alert" Tuesday at 10:30 a.m. for Silicon Valley because of the heavy damage at the substation on Metcalf Road.

The agency asked everyone in Northern California, but especially in Silicon Valley, to conserve energy as crews are working to fix the substation's damaged equipment. Power is being rerouted as the work is being done.

Santa Clara County Sheriff's Det. Kurtis Stenderup said it's too early to tell if the gunshots reported at 1:46 a.m. near Monterey and Blanchard roads were related to the leakage.


The Boston bombing produces familiar and revealing reactions

© Stringer/REUTERS
Runners continue to run towards the finish line of the Boston marathon as an explosion erupts near the finish line of the race
As usual, the limits of selective empathy, the rush to blame Muslims, and the exploitation of fear all instantly emerge

There's not much to say about Monday's Boston Marathon attack because there is virtually no known evidence regarding who did it or why. There are, however, several points to be made about some of the widespread reactions to this incident. Much of that reaction is all-too-familiar and quite revealing in important ways:

(1) The widespread compassion for yesterday's victims and the intense anger over the attacks was obviously authentic and thus good to witness. But it was really hard not to find oneself wishing that just a fraction of that compassion and anger be devoted to attacks that the US perpetrates rather than suffers. These are exactly the kinds of horrific, civilian-slaughtering attacks that the US has been bringing to countries in the Muslim world over and over and over again for the last decade, with very little attention paid. My Guardian colleague Gary Younge put this best on Twitter this morning:

Juan Cole this morning makes a similar point about violence elsewhere. Indeed, just yesterday in Iraq, at least 42 people were killed and more than 250 injured by a series of car bombs, the enduring result of the US invasion and destruction of that country. Somehow the deep compassion and anger felt in the US when it is attacked never translates to understanding the effects of our own aggression against others.

One particularly illustrative example I happened to see yesterday was a re-tweet from Washington Examiner columnist David Freddoso, proclaiming:
Idea of secondary bombs designed to kill the first responders is just sick. How does anyone become that evil?"