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10 Signs That America Is On The Verge
Of A Horrible Municipal Debt Crisis
By Michael Snyder - EndOftheAmericanDream.com
Is America on the verge of a horrible municipal debt crisis? Unfortunately, the answer is yes. From coast to coast there are an increasing number of cities, towns and counties that are rapidly going broke. Financial analyst Meredith Whitney took a lot of heat when her prediction of a municipal bond crash in 2011 did not happen, but she was not fundamentally wrong in her analysis. A horrifying municipal debt crisis is starting to unfold right in front of our eyes. It just did not happen as soon as she thought that it would. When most Americans think of our "debt problem", they think of the federal government. But the truth is that we have hundreds and hundreds of smaller "debt problems" all across the country. In 2012, cities such as Stockton, California and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania have already defaulted and a whole bunch of other cities and towns are headed down the exact same path. Once we see the first major wave of municipal defaults, creditors will become much tighter with their money and that will cause even more municipalities to get into financial trouble. This crisis could start spinning out of control at any time.
Wilbur Ross: Treasury Bond Market is Bubble About to Pop
By Forrest Jones - MoneyNews.com
Yields are rising on 10-Year Treasury bonds, a sign the economy is set to grow and investors will ditch government debt in search of assets that perform better in times of rising growth and inflation rates, says noted investor Wilbur Ross.
Yields rise when bond prices fall.
"I rather be in equities than in 10-year Treasurys. The greatest bubble that's about to burst is the 10-year and longer Treasurys," he told CNBC.
"Because the idea that inflation is gone forever and for all time — and therefore these artificially low rates can last — is silly," Ross said.
Inflation – Before and After the Federal Reserve
By Tim Iacono - IaconoResearch.com
In a lecture yesterday, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke made the mistake of talking about inflation during his critique of the gold standard, going so far as to say that when the barbarous relic was used as the foundation of our monetary system "over the medium run, it sometimes caused periods of inflation and deflation" (see this item from earlier in the day for links and other specifics).
That struck me as a particularly odd way of addressing a subject that probably shouldn’t have been addressed at all and that prompted the creation of the chart shown below using data from … the Federal Reserve.
Ben Bernanke Tries To Convince America
That The Federal Reserve Is Good
And The Gold Standard Is Bad
By Michael Snyder - TheEconomicCollapseBlog.com
Ben Bernanke has decided that he needs to teach all of us why the Federal Reserve is good for America and about why the gold standard is bad. On Tuesday, Bernanke delivered the first of four planned lectures to a group of students at George Washington University. But that lecture was not just for the benefit of those students. Officials at the Fed have long planned for this lecture series to be an opportunity for Bernanke to "educate" the American people about the Federal Reserve. The classroom was absolutely packed with reporters and just about every major news organization is running a story about this first lecture. So the Federal Reserve is definitely getting the publicity that it was hoping for. You can see the slides from the presentation that Bernanke gave to the students right here. It is pretty obvious that one of the primary goals of this first lecture was to attack those that have been critical of the Fed over the past few years. In doing so, Bernanke "stretched" the truth on more than one occasion.
Actually, There Is A Gold Standard Today,
And It's Causing An Economic Catastrophe
By Joe Weisenthal - BusinessInsider.com
Thanks to Ben Bernanke's lecture today, the gold standard is back as a topic for debate.
While it's easy to talk about the endless crises under the gold standard days of the 1800s, the truth is that we don't have to go back that far at all.
Europe is a close analogue to a gold standard.
Bernanke Sees Threat to U.S. Growth From Higher Fuel Prices
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke told Congress that higher energy prices may weaken the U.S. economy by sapping consumer spending.
"Higher energy prices would probably slow growth, at least in the short run," Bernanke said today in response to questions from the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. Rising fuel prices "create at least short-term inflation pressures, and moreover, they act as a tax on household purchasing power and reduce consumption spending, and that also is a drag on the economy."
Expecting Growth... And Inflation?
by James Picerno - CapitalSpeculator.com
The recent pop in the 10-year Treasury Note's yield — up about 40 basis points this month to 2.4% -- has inspired cries that the end is near. One Wall Street analyst lamented that the recent pop in this rate was a sign of rising inflation expectations and that this was something to worry about... NOW! He also recognized that the market's repricing of Treasuries for higher yields also reflected a brightening economic outlook. But he couldn't see that the two trends are, in fact, connected these days because the new abnormal continues to rule.
Saudi Arabia can't save us from high oil prices
Saudi Arabia promises to fill in the supply gap if the Iranian crisis escalates, but there's only one place that can help stave off high oil prices: Wall Street.
By Cyrus Sanati, contributor - Fortune.CNN.com
FORTUNE -- Saudi Arabia can't save the West from rising oil and gasoline prices -- only Wall Street can.
The Kingdom announced earlier this week that it was increasing crude production in a bid to shake off supply concerns involving a potential shut off of Iranian oil supplies. While Saudi Arabia does have a massive reserve base, it can't fight this latest run-up in prices on its own. It is already running close to its production limit and it's unclear it can bring enough supply online to fill an Iranian void. Furthermore, even if Saudi Arabia could somehow fill a hypothetical supply gap, it is unlikely it would really make much of a difference in a market where speculators on Wall Street continue to hold large bullish positions in crude and gasoline futures.
Oil Prices at $200 a Barrel? Some Think It's Coming
By: Kate Kelly - CNBC.com
Signs that crude futures may hit much higher levels are converging, say oil traders and analysts, some of whom predict that Brent crude could reach $200 a barrel within the next 12 months.
The biggest issue, they say, is that global crude supply remains uncommonly tight — a scenario that’s unlikely to be alleviated any time soon.
Even though Libya’s oil has largely returned online after the political disruptions that took it off the market last year, and Saudi Arabia is generating its highest output in three decades, the available crude is just barely meeting demand. The summer driving season in the U.S., which begins in April, could put further pressure on prices.
European crisis is not over, Bernanke says
Progress has been made, but more needs doing: Fed chief
By Greg Robb, MarketWatch
WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) — While financial stresses in Europe have lessened, more work needs to be done to fully resolve the region’s crisis, Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke said Wednesday.
"The position of the United States has generally been that Europe needs to really step up and do a lot more," Bernanke said. He and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner testified before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
Ben Bernanke tells EU to clean up banks
Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke has exhorted Europe’s leaders to take further action to beef up banks and help southern Europe claw its way back to health, warning that the world financial system is not yet on a sound footing.
By Ambrose Evans-Pritchard - Telegraph.co.uk
"More needs to be done. Full resolution of the crisis will require a further strengthening of the European banking system," he told Congress, calling for a "significant expansion of financial backstops, or 'firewalls', to guard against contagion in sovereign debt markets."
Strains in global financial markets "continue to pose significant downside risks", he said but stopped short of criticising EU bank stress tests for banks. However, his comments reflect strong doubts in Washington over Europe’s strategy.
Europe faces 'long, hard road' to recovery,
US treasury secretary says
Tim Geithner warns against draconian spending cuts and calls on better-off European countries to help their neighbours
Dominic Rushe in New York and agencies - Guardian.co.uk
"Economic growth is likely to be weak for some time. The path of fiscal consolidation should be gradual with a multiyear phase-in of reforms," Geithner said.
"If every time economic growth disappoints, governments are forced to cut spending or raise taxes immediately to make up for the impact of weaker growth on deficits, this would risk a self-reinforcing negative spiral of growth-killing austerity," he said.
Portugal: General Strike -
What happens when a people says Enough!
Pay attention, Serbia!
By Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey - Pravda.Ru
Portugal will have a general strike on March 22, fruit of the frustration felt by the huge majority, faced with a disastrous, inhumane and shameful economic and social management, following a line which dictates that withdrawing money from the economy will make it grow and will somehow create wealth... a policy conceived and followed by imbeciles.
The Portuguese fought for decades for their rights, winning victories that gave the worker a decent enough status - a timetable that in principle more or less respected the ethic that working hours should represent a third of the day (eight hours), fought for decades to guarantee safety in the workplace and to gain rights against dismissal by reactionary forces who used and abused people when convenient and afterwards dismissed them unceremoniously.
Spain Risks Default Now More Than Ever,
Citigroup's Buiter Says
Spain has never been so close to default and Greece, Ireland and Portugal may need further bailouts, Citigroup Inc. chief economist Willem Buiter said.
"Spain is the key country about which I’m most worried," Buiter, a former Bank of England policy maker, said in a radio interview today on "Bloomberg Surveillance" with Tom Keene and Ken Prewitt. "It’s really moved to the wrong side of the spectrum and is now at greater risk of sovereign restructuring than ever before."
Millions of workers lose pension battle with government
Unions representing millions of workers have lost their Court of Appeal battle against a Government decision to change the way public sector pension increases are calculated.
By Richard Evans - Telegraph.co.uk
Three appeal judges have unanimously refused to overturn a High Court 2-1 majority ruling last December which backed the Government's approach.
The case relates to Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith's decision to use the consumer price index (CPI) instead of the normally faster-rising retail price index (RPI) to measure price increases influencing pension upgrades.
The unions say the CPI route will see the value of pensions cut by up to 20pc over a normal retirement, costing every affected worker thousands of pounds.
Did Obama delay stimulus spending to aid his reelection?
Posted by Glenn Kessler - WashingtonPost.com
"Stimulus was supposed to be quick. In fact, they never intended to spend it and will not completely have effectively spent it until after the president’s re-elect. Always looking at how do you get the maximum hit when the president was up for re-elect." — Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, March 19, 2012
This is a pretty serious charge by a senior member of the House of Representatives, made on “Fox and Friends” earlier this week. The president’s opponents usually say the stimulus was a failure and a waste of money, not that money was purposely held back. We immediately thought he must have some damning evidence that his investigators had turned up.
In stress tests, Fed may have inflated grades for TARP banks
For two banks that have yet to repay government bailout funds, the Federal Reserve's stress test was easier than for rivals.
By Stephen Gandel, senior editor - Forbes.com
FORTUNE -- The Federal Reserve appears to have class favorites.
Analysts say two banks, Regions Financial (RF) and Zions Bancorp. (ZION), received better grades in last week's stress tests than they deserved. One possible reason: Regions and Zions have yet to repay the bailout money they got from the government's Troubled Asset Relief Program - money the government seems increasingly eager to get back. Collectively, the two banks owe $4.9 billion to the government - more than any of the other mostly small 361 banks still in the program - or about a third of the TARP funds still owed by banks. And that, analysts say, may have affected how the Fed graded the two banks.
How to avoid becoming Wall Street’s muppet
Make sure your money advisers aren’t double-agents
By Mitch Tuchman
PALO ALTO, Calif. (MarketWatch) — A former executive director of Goldman Sachs caused a stir earlier this month when he spurted that some of the firm’s higher-ups deride clients as “muppets” — Wall Street slang for rubes.
Is anyone really surprised? A recent Yankelovich survey found that four in 10 investors believe investment companies are unfair — joining the ranks of credit card companies, CEOs, the federal government and of course, lawyers.
The HFT Revolution:
6 Reasons Why High Speed Trading
Is Taking Over the Markets
BY CRIS SHERIDAN - FinancialSense.com
Whether it's applying the basic rules of calculus to map the dynamic topology of "financial space" or by simply cutting down human costs, the inexorable rise of HFT towards market-wide dominance is a revolutionary trend that is changing the way we think about investing and how to best deal with such a fast-growing phenomenon.
For a close follower of financial and technological trends, it's been interesting to watch the evolution of high frequency trading (HFT) from a small ripple propagating through the markets to a vast tsunami crashing upon exchanges around the world. Without a doubt, arising deep within the ocean by tectonic shifts in market structure, the accelerating pace of algorithmic trading has caught everyone by surprise.
What Goes Up Must Come Down
By Doug Kass - TheStreet.com
NEW YORK (Real Money Pro -- While the markets continue their resilient and consistent advance, some serious concerns (on the technical, economic, political and geopolitical fronts) are being thrust aside.
Sir Larry Kudlow often says that "profits are the mother's milk of stocks, and for that matter, business and the entire economy" -- and I agree. But, in a series of recent columns, I have suggested that corporate profit margins, the most mean-regressing economic series extant, are likely to contract -- and with it, S&P 500 earnings will likely fall short and disappoint relative to consensus forecasts.
Republican budget throws down election gauntlet
Blueprint draws contrast with Obama on taxes, Medicare
By Robert Schroeder, MarketWatch
WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) — House Republicans unveiled an election-year budget blueprint Tuesday that dramatically overhauls the U.S. tax code and aims for deep spending cuts, seeking to draw a sharp contrast with President Barack Obama.
The budget, introduced by Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, provides for just two individual tax brackets — 10% and 25% — cuts spending by about $5 trillion over 10 years relative to President Obama’s budget, and shifts Medicaid to states to save money. It also balances the budget by 2040 and reprises a controversial plan to transform Medicare.
The Predatory State of California, Part 2
Due process and rule of law have been replaced with "legalized" looting and harrassment by government in America.
BY CHARLES HUGH SMITH - FinancialSense.com
Yesterday's entry Welcome to the Predatory State of California--Even If You Don't Live There generated dozens of emails recounting similar stories of "we don't need no stinkin' due process" looting and "fishing expeditions" by California and other state/local governments.
Let's begin with correspondent (and Arizona resident since 2001) R.T.'s experience of his account being looted without prior notice or due process by the state of California to the tune of $1,343. R.T. finally reached an employee of the State Franchise Tax Board and received an explanation.
On unemployment, is Bernanke aggressive enough?
By Zachary A. Goldfarb - WashingtonPost.com
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke has left his mark on economic history not once but twice, using almost every weapon in his arsenal to quell the financial panic of 2008 and then to lift the U.S. economy out of the recession that followed.
But now, in the latest and perhaps final chapter of his public life, that legacy could be recast if he misjudges the nation’s slow-going economic recovery. A debate is raging over whether Bernanke should become more aggressive about reducing joblessness or continue a more restrained approach.
Postal Service: We need more junk mail
By Jennifer Liberto @CNNMoney
WASHINGTON (CNNMoney) -- The U.S. Postal Service wants small businesses to send more direct mail, a.k.a. junk mail, to help the beleaguered agency expand its revenue stream by hundreds of millions of dollars.
In a campaign called "Every Door Direct Mail," the Postal Service is touting a year-old online tool to help small businesses micro-target direct mail. The Web tool allows firms to tap customers by neighborhood or zip code without names or addresses.
The housing bubble has many lessons to teach us. I have written on the subject for five years now in hopes that people can learn from the successes and failures of those impacted by the housing bubble. Someone recently posted a link in the thoughtful remarks to a website devoted to those who are underwater. It’s a chance for people to share their stories. As you might imagine, this is a giant pity party and a support group for housing bubble losers. Below is a selection of stories as well as some others I have collected over the years.
Personal stories from America Underwater
February Existing Home Sales Fall 0.9 Percent
By Tim Iacono - IaconoResearch.com
The National Association of Realtors reported that sales of existing homes fell to a seasonally adjusted, annual rate of 4.59 million units in February, down from an upwardly revised annual rate of 4.63 million units in January (originally reported as 4.57 million).
While not too much should be made of any housing data at this time of year due to the sharp fall-off in sales during the winter that seasonal adjustments attempt to compensate for (particularly during this winter of record warm weather and odd seasonal adjustments stemming from the late-2008/early-2009 financial crisis), home sales are off to their fastest start since 2007, now up 8.8 percent from a year ago.
The Small Chance the Supreme Court
Will Overturn the Health Care Act
If the Court rules against the individual mandate, it will upset a balance of power that has been in place since the New Deal.
By Jack M. Balkin - TheAtlantic.com
When a reporter asked Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi in October 2009 whether the proposed health care bill was constitutional, she replied, "Are you serious?" Her press spokesman quickly piled on: "That is not a serious question."
At the time she spoke, Pelosi had every right to be incredulous. If the Supreme Court upholds the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act this spring, there will be nothing remarkable about it. That is because the act is based on notions of national power that have been firmly settled since the New Deal. What would be remarkable is a decision striking down the act's individual mandate to purchase health insurance. And what would be truly revolutionary is a decision striking down the act's extension of Medicaid to increase coverage for the poor. That would throw into doubt the way that modern federal government works with states and it would jeopardize many popular social programs.
Feeding The Homeless BANNED
In Major Cities All Over America
By Michael Snyder - TheEconomicCollapseBlog.com
What would you do if you came across someone on the street that had not had anything to eat for several days? Would you give that person some food? Well, the next time you get that impulse you might want to check if it is still legal to feed the homeless where you live. Sadly, feeding the homeless has been banned in major cities all over America. Other cities that have not banned it outright have put so many requirements on those that want to feed the homeless (acquiring expensive permits, taking food preparation courses, etc.) that feeding the homeless has become "out of reach" for most average people. Some cities are doing these things because they are concerned about the "health risks" of the food being distributed by ordinary "do-gooders". Other cities are passing these laws because they do not want homeless people congregating in city centers where they know that they will be fed. But at a time when poverty and government dependence are soaring to unprecedented levels, is it really a good idea to ban people from helping those that are hurting?
The Federalist Solution
By Jonah Goldberg - PatriotPost.us
.... Federalism -- the process whereby you push most political questions to the lowest democratic level possible -- has been ripe on the right for years now. It even had a champion in Texas Gov. Rick Perry, and Ron Paul still carries that torch.
The main advantage of federalism is more fundamental than the so-called "laboratories of democracy" idea. Federalism is simply the best political system ever conceived of for maximizing human happiness. A one-size-fits-all policy imposed at the national level has the potential to make very large numbers of citizens unhappy, even if it was arrived at democratically. In a pure democracy, I always say, 51 percent of the people can vote to pee in the cornflakes of 49 percent of the people.
Tennessee bill protects teachers
who challenge evolution and climate change
State legislature gives legal protection
to teachers who do not believe in the science
and want to debate alternate explanations
By Suzanne Goldenberg - Guardian.co.uk
The state legislature of Tennessee has given legal cover to public school teachers to challenge the science of evolution and climate change, in a move that looks set to deepen a debate about politicisation of the classroom.
The bill passed in the Tennessee Senate this week provides legal protection to teachers who personally do not believe in evolution or the human causes of climate change, and instead want to teach the "scientific strengths and weaknesses of existing scientific theories".
It’s All About Control
By Greg Hunter’s USAWatchdog.com
Ever since the original Patriot Act was passed by Congress in 2001, American civil liberties have steadily shrunk and government control has steadily grown. In a financial crisis, your bank or brokerage can severely restrict the amount of money you can withdraw from your accounts. The government can now assassinate so-called terrorists anywhere in the world, including on U.S. soil. Think Anwar al-Awlaki, the American-born radical Muslim cleric who was assassinated by a U.S. drone strike in September.
It can also indefinitely detain suspected terrorists without charge or due process, all thanks to the National Defense Authorization Act recently signed into law by the President. The government can shut down a website anywhere in the world without due process, just ask Megaupload owner Kim Dotcom from New Zealand. (Yes, that’s his real name.)
Concealed Carry Reciprocity - What's a Federalist to Do?
By Gregory K. Taggart - PatriotPost.us
Passed by the House as H.R. 822 and pending in the Senate as S. 2188 "The National Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act", is legislation which would require each state that issues pistol carry licenses to recognize those issued by other states. The debate over this issue has created a strange situation -- committed leftists who believe that Congress can mandate that the several states serve broccoli in school lunches, and who have no problem with federal bureaucrats controlling intrastate toilet design are suddenly "state's rights" purists. They now utter sound bite phrases such as "... you can't make the states recognize gun rights if they don't want to…" Allied with these folks are some real defenders of liberty, who believe that Federal compulsion of the states for any purpose is wrong.
A Safer Society With Guns
By Jeff Jacoby - PatriotPost.us
The Colorado Supreme Court put some noses out of joint when it ruled unanimously this month that the University of Colorado's campus gun ban violated a 2003 state law that entitles residents with permits to carry concealed weapons.
One of those noses belonged to Abraham Nowels, a University of Colorado student who wrote to the Denver Post: "We're in the middle of midterms right now, and I can't think of anything I'd rather be focusing on than which of my fellow over-stressed, binge-drinking peers is carrying a concealed weapon into class with me." The Post agreed, pleading in an editorial for "legislators with enough gumption" to change the state's concealed-carry law and "give colleges the power they need to keep students safe."
Facebook's 'dark side':
study finds link to socially aggressive narcissism
Psychology paper finds Facebook and other social media offer platform for obsessions with self-image and shallow friendships
By Damien Pearse - Guardian.co.uk
Researchers have established a direct link between the number of friends you have on Facebook and the degree to which you are a "socially disruptive" narcissist, confirming the conclusions of many social media sceptics.
People who score highly on the Narcissistic Personality Inventory questionnaire had more friends on Facebook, tagged themselves more often and updated their newsfeeds more regularly.
Job seekers getting asked for Facebook passwords
By Manuel Valdes and Shannon McFarland - WashingtonTimes.com
SEATTLE (AP) — When Justin Bassettinterviewed for a new job, he expected the usual questions about experience and references. So he was astonished when the interviewer asked for something else: his Facebook username and password.
Bassett, a New York City statistician, had just finished answering a few character questions when the interviewer turned to her computer to search for his Facebook page. But she couldn’t see his private profile. She turned back and asked him to hand over his login information.
Zuckerberg Doesn't Want Facebook to Go Public
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg failed to show up Monday to an analyst meeting intended to make it easier for investors to buy the social network's stock. And he probably won't be around in the future either.
by Michael del Castillo - Portfolio.com
Mark Zuckerberg has once again demonstrated just how much he doesn’t want Facebook to go public. On Monday, the social-networking wunderkind was a no-show at a meeting with analysts and bankers who will play a role in sharing Facebook with the world.
And, according to what one Facebook executive told the Wall Street Journal, we can expect a whole lot more of Zuckerberg not being around and not playing a "hands-on role" in what, it's becoming more apparent, is essentially a forced public offering.
Lawmakers fear Verizon Wireless deal
with cable firms will limit consumers' choices
By Cecilia Kang - WashingtonPost.com
Lawmakers on Wednesday picked apart a controversial deal between Verizon Wireless and the largest cable companies, questioning whether it will impede competition and lead to fewer choices for Internet users.
In a hearing by the Senate Judiciary subcommittee on antitrust, competition policy and consumer rights, lawmakers pressed the firms on a joint marketing plan that critics fear would lead to the demise of FiOS, Verizon Communications’ television and Internet service, which competes with the cable companies.
'Everything Is Automated':
How Web Start-Ups Attack the Offline Economy
The founder of a new used-car app explains how a wave of new online companies are using big data to make the economy more efficient and productive
By DWIGHT CROW, Carsabi.com - TheAtlantic.com
It's no secret that most information is now internet accessible, including scientific facts, movie schedules, even the shape of personal networks. The degree to which the offline has online representation may have reached a tipping point, however, and a wave of startups are reacting to take advantage of it.
Foreign Policy Forgotten
By Christopher Hill - Project-Syndicate.org
DENVER – For many foreign audiences, the United States’ primary elections for the 2012 presidential vote – which will, alas, continue to rage into the summer – must be a frightening display of what Americans and their leaders do not know about foreign policy. Debate after debate reveals the fact that none of the candidates seeking to challenge President Barack Obama is particularly interested in the details of any of America’s relationships around the globe, not to mention the crises that dot the international landscape, especially those that do not involve US troops.
* * * * *
Beijing coup rumors
By Bill Gertz - The Washington Times
U.S. intelligence agencies monitoring China’s Internet say that from March 14 to Wednesday bloggers circulated alarming reports of tanks entering Beijing and shots being fired in the city as part of what is said to have been a high-level political battle among party leaders - and even a possible military coup.
The Internet discussions included photos posted online of tanks and other military vehicles moving around Beijing.
The reports followed the ouster last week of senior Politburo member and Chongqing Party Secretary Bo Xilai, who was linked to corruption, but who is said to remain close to China’s increasingly nationalistic military.
Russia and China join UN security council
to end Syrian bloodshed
All 15 council members unite to throw weight behind Kofi Annan's peace plan in rare show of global unity
Reuters - Guardian.co.uk
The UN security council, including Russia and China, on Wednesday threw its weight behind efforts by Kofi Annan to end the bloody conflict inSyria, providing a rare moment of global unity in the face of the year-long crisis.
In a statement approved by all 15 members, the council threatened Syria with unspecified "further steps" if it failed to comply with Annan's peace plan, which calls for a ceasefire and demands swift access for aid agencies.
Who Is Responsible for The Israeli-Palestinian Impasse?
By Robert Wright - TheAtlantic.com
I'll never forget the advice my mother gave me after I graduated from college and was embarking on a career in journalism: "Eat your vegetables, remember to floss, and never, ever, get in the middle of a fight betweenAndrew Sullivan and Jeffrey Goldberg." She paused and looked at me knowingly and added, "Especially if the fight involves Peter Beinart's controversial book The Crisis of Zionism." My mother was nothing if not prescient.
So I'm not going to get in the middle of the fight. I'm going to stand on the sidelines and try to clear up one point that I think Goldberg fails to understand.
Swift blows to Iran and nuclear talks
By Kaveh L Afrasiabi - Atimes.com
NEW YORK - Swift, the Belgian-based financial clearing house, delivered a major blow to Iran's international trade by announcing on Saturday that it would cut financial services to Iranian banks. For Iran's oil economy, this was shocking in its simplicity: it means that Iran will find it even more difficult to receive money for its major oil transactions.
While it will take a few months to tabulate the net effect of Swift's decision, rationalized by the European sanctions on Iran, it is fairly certain that the timing was critical, coming prior to multilateral nuclear talks between Iran and the so-called "5 +1" nations (ie, the UN Security Council's Permanent Five plus Germany). This and the White House's warning of a shrinking "window of opportunity for diplomacy," are meant to have the sledge-hammer effect of jolting Iran into submission at the negotiation table, although the exact date and venue for talks has yet to be announced.
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