Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The 134 Billion Dollar Suitcase

Suitcase With $134 Billion Puts Dollar on Edge
Two Japanese men are detained in Italy after allegedly attempting to take $134 billion worth of U.S. bonds over the border into Switzerland. Details are maddeningly sketchy, so naturally the global rumor mill is kicking into high gear. Are these would-be smugglers agents of Kim Jong Il stashing North Korea’s cash in a Swiss vault? Bagmen for Nigerian Internet scammers? Was the money meant for terrorists looking to buy nuclear warheads? Is Japan dumping its dollars secretly? Are the bonds real or counterfeit? The implications of the securities being legitimate would be bigger than investors may realize. At a minimum, it would suggest that the U.S. risks losing control over its monetary supply on a massive scale.

Ancient Lake On Mars

University of Colorado Team
A University of Colorado at Boulder research team has discovered the first definitive evidence of shorelines on Mars, an indication of a deep, ancient lake there and a finding with implications for the discovery of past life on the Red Planet. Estimated to be more than 3 billion years old, the lake appears to have covered as much as 80 square miles and was up to 1,500 feet deep -- roughly the equivalent of Lake Champlain bordering the United States and Canada, said CU-Boulder Research Associate Gaetano Di Achille, who led the study. The shoreline evidence, found along a broad delta, included a series of alternating ridges and troughs thought to be surviving remnants of beach deposits."This is the first unambiguous evidence of shorelines on the surface of Mars," said Di Achille. "The identification of the shorelines and accompanying geological evidence allows us to calculate the size and volume of the lake, which appears to have formed about 3.4 billion years ago."

Medvedev Calls For New Reserve Currencies

Medvedev Calls For New Reserve Currencies
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev says the world needs new reserve currencies. Medvedev told a regional summit Tuesday that the creation of new reserve currencies in addition to the dollar is needed to stabilize global finances. Medvedev has made the proposal before. It reflects both the Kremlin's push for greater international clout and a concern shared by other countries that soaring U.S. budget deficits could spur inflation and weaken the dollar. Airing it at a summit meeting underlined the challenge to U.S. clout. Medvedev spoke at a summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which includes China and four Central Asian nations.

U.S. Credit Card Defaults Rise

U.S. Credit Card Defaults Rise
U.S. credit card defaults rose to record highs in May, with a steep deterioration of Bank of America Corp's lending portfolio, in another sign that consumers remain under severe stress. Delinquency rates -- an indicator of future credit losses -- fell across the industry, but analysts said the decline was due to a seasonal trend, as consumers used tax refunds to pay back debts, and they expect delinquencies to go up again in coming months.

California Budget Crisis

Budget Crisis Forces Deep Cuts
California's historic budget crisis threatens to devastate a public education system that was once considered a national model but now ranks near the bottom in school funding and academic achievement. Deep budget cuts are forcing California school districts to lay off thousands of teachers, expand class sizes, close schools, eliminate bus service, cancel summer school programs, and possibly shorten the academic year. Without a strong economic recovery, which few experts predict, the reduced school funding could last for years, shortchanging millions of students, driving away residents and businesses, and darkening California's economic future.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Audit The Fed

Sponsored By More Than Half Of House

The effort to increase the transparency of the Federal Reserve's operations has picked up surprising momentum over the last month, and has now surged past the 218 votes needed for passage in the House of Representatives. The bill boasts 222 cosponsors, with more and more rank-and-file members of Congress steadily signing on to a bill introduced in February by Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) to expand the authority of the Government Accountability Office to audit the Fed. On Tuesday, Rep. John Boehner of Ohio, the Republican Leader, signed on. On Thursday, Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina, one of the chamber's most conservative members, joined Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, perhaps the Senate's most liberal member, in cosponsoring a companion bill.

The World’s Resources by Country

California Nears Financial "Meltdown"

California Nears Financial "Meltdown"

California's government risks a financial "meltdown" within 50 days in light of its weakening May revenues unless Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and lawmakers quickly plug a $24.3 billion budget gap, the state's controller said on Wednesday. Underscoring the severity of California's cash crisis, Controller John Chiang, who has previously warned the state's government risks running out of cash without a budget deal, said revenues in May fell by $1.14 billon, or 17.7 percent, from a year earlier.

China Airs Fears on US debt

China Airs Fears on US debt

Senior Chinese leaders have privately voiced fear over the soaring US budget deficit and are increasingly looking to diversify from the dollar, a Republican congressman said. "We heard across the board -- in private -- substantial, continuing and rising concern," Representative Mark Kirk said after a trip to China that included talks with government officials and central bank chief Zhou Xiaochuan. "It's clear that China would like to diversify from its dollar investments," the lawmaker said at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think-tank.

China Mandatory Software On All Computers

China Defends Screening Software

China has defended the use of new screening software that has to be installed on all computers. Foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang said the software would filter out pornographic or violent material. Critics have complained that it could also be used to stop Chinese internet users searching for politically sensitive information. But Mr Qin, speaking at a regular press briefing, said China promoted the healthy development of the internet. All computers sold in China - even those that are imported - will have to be pre-installed with the "Green Dam Youth Escort" software.

National Debt By Country

Student Debt By State

Canadians Own 11.7% Of GM

Canada, Ontario Commit $10.5B
Saying it was judged to be too risky not to participate in the restructuring of General Motors, the governments of Canada and Ontario will contribute about $10.5 billion in financial aid to the automaker.The federal government will contribute $7 billion, while $3.5 billion will come from Ontario. In exchange for their commitment, Canada and Ontario will get an 11.7 per cent stake in the equity of the restructured GM. Canada will also appoint one independent director to the board of directors of GM.The company will not file for creditor protection in Canada.

US Debt

Leap In U.S. Debt Hits Taxpayers

Taxpayers are on the hook for an extra $55,000 a household to cover rising federal commitments made just in the past year for retirement benefits, the national debt and other government promises, a USA TODAY analysis shows. The 12% rise in red ink in 2008 stems from an explosion of federal borrowing during the recession, plus an aging population driving up the costs of Medicare and Social Security. That's the biggest leap in the long-term burden on taxpayers since a Medicare prescription drug benefit was added in 2003