Corporate Media Gatekeepers Protect The Western 1% From Panama Leak

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Whoever leaked the Mossack Fonseca papers appears motivated by a genuine desire to expose the system that enables the ultra wealthy to hide their massive stashes, often corruptly obtained and all involved in tax avoidance. These Panamanian lawyers hide the wealth of a significant proportion of the 1%, and the massive leak of their documents ought to be a wonderful thing. Continue reading

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16 Facts About The Tremendous Financial Devastation That We Are Seeing All Over The World

Preparing for Economic Collapse

As we enter the second half of 2015, financial panic has gripped most of the globe.  Stock prices are crashing in China, in Europe and in the United States.  Greece is on the verge of a historic default, and now Puerto Rico and Ukraine are both threatening to default on their debts if they do not receive concessions from their creditors.  Not since the financial crisis of 2008 has so much financial chaos been unleashed all at once.  Could it be possible that the great financial crisis of 2015 has begun?  The following are 16 facts about the tremendous financial devastation that is happening all over the world right now…

Continue reading

Texas Pulls $1 Billion In Gold From NY Fed, Makes It “Non-Confiscatable”

Fort-Knox (Zero Hedge) The lack of faith in central bank trustworthiness is spreading. First Germany, then Holland, and Austria, and now – as we noted was possible previouslyTexas has enacted a Bill to repatriate $1 billion of gold from The NY Fed’s vaults to a newly established state gold bullion depository…”People have this image of Texas as big and powerful … so for a lot of people, this is exactly where they would want to go with their gold,” and the Bill includes a section to prevent forced seizure from the Federal Government. Continue reading

Silver Coin Collectors and Pawn Shops are Getting Duped: “Very High Quality Fakes”

 

With rising precious metals prices comes the age-old scam of counterfeits.

Fake gold coins and bars,  many originating from China, have been discovered at dealers all over the world, including some high profile banks. Some analysts have even suspected that central banks, which hold thousands of tons of gold, may have fallen prey to the scam.

With silver having recently achieved all times highs and currently trading at around $25 per ounce, counterfeiters see a potential boon for their bottom lines. Counterfeiting silver isn’t new, and numerous fake 100 ounce silver bars and U.S. Morgan dollars have been discovered to date. But now the scammers have turned their sights on the official one ounce bullion coin of the United States – the American Silver Eagle. In April, the US Mint sold in excess of four million silver eagles, highlighting the surging popularity of the coin.

With many more millions of ounces being traded on the open market at traditional coin shops, online retailers and popular auction web sites, unscrupulous counterfeiters can easily slip fake coins into the mix. They do so through online auction sites, where unsuspecting buyers think they’re getting the real thing. Those collectors may then end up visiting a broker in their local area who unknowingly purchases the bunk coins and resells them to other buyers. The process happens everyday and is responsible for perhaps tens of thousands of fake silver coins and bars now in circulation.

In Hamilton, Ontario, the problem is so widespread that they have dedicated a special task force to investigate the five hundred fake American Eagles discovered in the hands of dealers and private owners.

Buyer beware, because that 99.9% silver coin you think you may have in your possession may be nothing more than practically worthless silver plated brass:

Police are warning that fake U.S silver eagle dollar coins have been circulating in the city and have been sold to various establishments over the past few months.

“You wouldn’t be able to tell the difference (with) the naked eye. The coins are actually very high quality fakes,” Const. Mike La Combe said in a Hamilton Police YouTube video. “They are silver and nickel-plated, which gives them the look of an actual silver dollar. However, when you cut them open, you can clearly see on the inside, they are brass filled.”

The video shows some of the roughly 500 fakes that have been confiscated so far.

“They are worth practically nothing, just a couple cents each,” La Combe explained.

LaCombe is a pawn unit investigator and says the coins are being bought online, then sold at “golden” times for the seller when shops are busy or with little staff. During the rush, employees may not have the time to do all the proper authenticity checks, giving criminals the chance to sell fast without getting caught.

“Only buy them from reputable dealers, a place that is established, an expert who works there who knows the difference between real and fake. Don’t buy them off the internet. and don’t buy them from people from the public who aren’t considered experts because more than likely you’re going to get a fake,” added Le Combe.

Via: CBC Hamilton

 

With prices as high as they are, it is in the interest of every potential precious metals investor to take it upon themselves to have a working knowledge of the coins and bars in which they are investing. Here are some tips and strategies for ensuring you are getting the real thing:

  • Ring Test (video) – A silver coin or bar will have a distinct ring, as opposed to fakes which will have a thud when struck or dropped.
  • Weight (video) – Understand that a “Troy Ounce“, which is how we generally weigh precious metals, is different from the popular “Avoirdupois Ounce” used as a more traditional unit of measure in the United States. Just because a coin or bar says it weighs a certain amount doesn’t make it so. If you have a gram-based scale, bring it with you to the coin shop or Craigslist exchange. If you don’t have one, spend $30 and pick one up before you spend thousands on precious metals.
  • Nitric Acid Test (video) – You may not be able to test every coin or bar with nitric acid, as it requires a little bit of filing down to get under the “plate” but if you are buying in bulk, the seller may allow you to test a random piece of your choosing after you’ve performed a magnet, weight and ring test.
  • Coin Caliper – If a counterfeiter uses a metal other than silver, chances are that the coin dimensions will have to change – or the coin will weigh more or less than it is supposed to with the specific dimensions. Every minted coin has a specific diameter and thickness. A caliper, usually available for $15 – $50, will give you the ability to measure the specific inches/millimeters of a particular coin. Cross compare this information, along with the weight, to the mint’s coin specifications and if they match up, then the likelihood of a fake is extremely low – especially if it “rings true.”
  • Low ball pricing – If someone is trying to sell you a silver coin for significantly less than the market value, this should raise alarms. At current demand levels, there is always a buyer out there willing to pay full price, so why would a seller offer the coin for so much less? Probably because it is a fake!

Most importantly, you’ll want to avoid auction sites for silver and gold unless you trust the seller implicitly. The only easily recognizable coins  that have yet to be faked because of their small denominations and potential for long-term jail sentences are dollar denominated official US currency like pre-1965 silver quarters and Kennedy/Franklin half dollars. The amount of silver in these coins is fairly small, making them unprofitable for counterfeiters when compared to one troy ounce silver eagles or larger bullion bars. So, if you’re using an auction site to buy coins consider sticking to quarters and half dollars.

The other key consideration is doing business with reputable firms. While we can never be 100% sure, buying from a dealer who’s been in business for many years and has built a reputation for honesty will help reduce the chance of being scammed. Dealers who source their supplies directly from official mints and offer uncirculated coins or bars are as close to safe as you can get because there is no middle man.

If you’re planning on investing in precious metals do your research, understand what you’re buying, know the specific dimension & weight of the product you’re purchasing, and diversify your holdings to include bullion coins, bars, and even official legal tender like pre-1965 U.S. quarters.
Read more at http://investmentwatchblog.com/silver-coin-collectors-and-pawn-shops-are-getting-duped-very-high-quality-fakes/#4MUdvbJxCEva7G8Z.99

Lies, Damed Lies and Sadistics: The IMF’s Role As Bankster Enforcer

“We make or break human life every day of every year as probably no other force on earth has ever done in the past or will ever do again.”

The above rather dramatic quote comes courtesy of one Davison L Budhoo, a former International Monetary Fund economist who in 1988 broke ranks with the Fund, publishing a scathing 150-page resignation letter. In it he accused the organization of corruption, self-interest, and deceit.

Not that the Fund, then headed by Frenchman Michel Camdessus, was particularly fazed by the allegations. In those days there was no Internet, so the story didn’t exactly go “viral”; in fact, it barely got a mention in the mainstream or financial press. As such, following a spattering of articles in a few specialist newspapers and magazines, Buddhoo’s accusations were quickly forgotten.

The IMF breathed a sigh of relief, brushed off its Brook Brothers jacket and continued about its business. No inquiry or investigation was launched, no changes were made to the Fund’s operational policies and no heads rolled.

Such aversion to change has become a defining characteristic of the Fund. The result is that while the global economy may have changed beyond all recognition in the last 35 years, with countries like China, India and Brazil rising to the fore, the IMF’s role within it seems to have remained locked in time. The only difference of note (apart from the fact that, in the ballsy, perma-tanned Christine Lagarde, it has its first ever female managing director) is that instead of preying primarily on the world’s poorest, weakest and most defenseless nations — many of which have since become big creditors — the IMF, now a protagonist in Europe’s dreaded Troika, has its sights set on much bigger trophies.

The chicken, it seems, has finally come home to roost. Now it is Europe’s turn to feel the sharp taste of the Fund’s medicine. Slowly but surely the hapless inhabitants of struggling eurozone countries such as Greece, Portugal and Ireland are beginning to realize what many Africans, Asians, Latin Americans and Eastern Europeans learnt through bitter painful experience in the seventies, eighties and nineties — namely that when the IMF, armed with its balance sheets and a calculator, comes calling, you’d better hope you’re out.

For the IMF is, in plain speaking terms, the global banksters’ number one enforcer — a role it has executed (pun intended) with fervor and aplomb ever since the Bretton Woods agreement (though it wasn’t until Nixon’s launch of the floating exchange regime in 1971 that the organization began forcefully dictating economic policy to supposedly sovereign nations).

The Fund is essentially to the big global banks and corporations what Luca Brasi was to Vito Corleone or, to cite a real-world example, what Francesco Raffaele Nitto was to Al Capone. But rather than use real violence, or even the threat of violence, the IMF’s henchmen have far subtler means at their disposal, as John Perkins, the author of the best-selling book Confessions of An Economic Hitman, explains:

One of my jobs as an economic hit man was to identify countries that had resources like oil and arrange huge loans for those countries from the World Bank and sister organizations. But the money would never go to the actual country; instead it would go to our own corporations to build infrastructure projects in that country like power plants and industrial parks; things that would benefit a few very wealthy families.

So then the people of the country would be left holding this huge debt that they couldn’t repay… That’s when the IMF comes in [saying] ‘We’ll help you restructure your loan, but in order to do that you have to meet certain conditionalities. You have to sell your oil or whatever the coveted resource is at a cheap price, to the oil companies without restrictions.’ Or they would suggest the country sell electric utilities, water and sewage, maybe even its schools and jails to private multi-national corporations.

According to Perkins, it was only when a national leader took a rare principled stand, refusing to sell off all of their country’s resources to international conglomerates at bargain basement prices, that the real goons, or what Perkins calls “the Jackals,” would be sent in, as is alleged to have happened in the highly suspicious deaths, in the early eighties, of Panama’s leader Omar Efraín Torrijos Herrera and Jaime Roldos, the democratically elected president of Ecuador.

 

http://www.testosteronepit.com/home/2013/4/20/lies-damned-lies-sadistics-the-imfs-role-as-bankster-enforce.html

ALL US WHOLESALERS SOLD OUT OF ALL PHYSICAL SILVER!!!

 

*UPDATE: ALL US WHOLESALE SUPPLIERS ARE NOW SOLD OUT OF EVERY OUNCE OF PHYSICAL SILVER & HAVE SUSPENDED ALL SALES!  SDBullion.com has closed due to lack of ANY AVAILABLE SILVER!

Two of the largest wholesale suppliers in the US, including Amark and CNT, who is the supplier of gold blanks to the US Mint for Gold Eagles, and is a registered COMEX depository, HAVE JUST SOLD OUT OF ALL PHYSICAL SILVER!!!
AND……IT’S GONE!!!!!

In the face of an EPIC TSUNAMI of gold and silver sales today as the cartel hammered the price of silver down over 12%, and off $6 from Friday’s open, we have just been informed at SDBullion upon trying to place a large inventory order that BOTH AMARK & CNT ARE SOLD OUT OF EVERY LAST OUNCE OF PHYSICAL SILVER!!!

Apparently the fact that one of the largest wholesale suppliers in the US is SOLD OUT, while simultaneously the 2nd largest silver mine in the US is offline perhaps permanently is of absolutely no consequence to the paper dumping cartel bullion banks.

Bullion bank silver shorts are most likely covering in mass RIGHT NOW, and we’ll soon have the data to make the case.  Many have speculated that the bullion banks are going to switch to a net long position. There couldn’t be a better time to do just that given that at $22/oz, pretty much all existing shorts taken out before this week will be in the money.

 

http://silverdoctors.com/cnt-sold-out-of-all-physical-silver/

Why Are Central Banks Buying Gold?

Anyone who wants to get to the truth behind the inflationary threats to their wealth should ignore everything the Central Banks say about inflation and look instead at their actions.

Worldwide gold demand in 2012 was another record high of $236.4 billion in the World Gold Council’s latest report. This was up 6% in value terms in the fourth quarter to $66.2 billion, the highest fourth quarter on record. Global gold demand in the fourth quarter of 2012 was up 4% to 1,195.9 tonnes.

Central bank buying for 2012 rose by 17% over 2011 to some 534.6 tonnes. As far as central bank gold buying, this was the highest level since 1964. Central bank purchases stood at 145 tonnes in the fourth quarter. That is up 9% from the fourth quarter of 2011, and the eighth consecutive quarter in which central banks were net purchasers of gol

http://247wallst.com/2013/02/14/central-banks-buy-the-most-gold-since-1964/#ixzz2LMLOfBPK

Note… Central Banks, while talking down money printing and denying the presence of inflation, bought more Gold in 2012 that any year dating back to 1964. Indeed, However, since becoming net buyers of Gold in 2010, the Central Banks have been increasing their Gold purchases rapidly.

In 2010, Governments worldwide bought 77 tonnes of Gold. In 2011 it was 457 tonnes. And last year it was a whopping 535 tonnes. All told, they’ve accumulated  1,000 tonnes of Gold since 2Q09. At today’s price of $1600 per ounce, this stash is valued at over $56 billion.

The key issue here is not the amount ($56 billion in Gold purchases is nothing compared to the over $10 trillion in new money Central banks have printed since 2007), but the trend: Central Banks were net sellers of Gold for decades until 2010.

Other major investors are looking to get their hands on Gold… not the promise of Gold, but the actual metal.

Germany has the second largest Gold reserves in the world behind the US. Since the early ’80s, it has stored the majority of these reserves with the NY Fed (45% vs. 13% in London, 11% in Paris and the remaining 31% in Frankfurt).

With that in mind, everyone needs to be aware that last Monday Germany’s Bundesbank announced it will be moving a major portion of its reserves from the US and all of its reserves from France back to Frankfurt.

Nearly half of Germany’s gold reserves are held in a vault at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York — billions of dollars worth of postwar geopolitical history squirreled away for safe keeping below the streets of Lower Manhattan.

Now the German central bank wants to make a big withdrawal — 300 tons in all.

On Wednesday, the Bundesbank said that it would begin moving some of the reserves, the second-largest stock in the world after that of the United States. The goal is to house more than 50 percent of German gold in Bundesbank vaults in Frankfurt by 2020, up from a little less than a third today, the bank said…

The new policy will include the complete withdrawal of 374 tons of German gold stored at the Banque de France in Paris, about 11 percent of the total. Bundesbank officials were quick to note that the decision was not a reflection of French trustworthiness. Rather, because France and Germany now share the euro, there is no need for reserves as insurance against currency crises.

 

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/17/business/global/german-central-bank-to-repatriate-gold-reserves.html

This announcement came with the usual political statements that the decision had nothing to do with a lack of trust between the Bundesbank and the US Fed or Bank of France, but the message is obvious: Germany sees the writing on the wall and is moving to secure its Gold reserves.

The same goes for Texas:

Texas Republican State Representative Giovanni Capriglione authored the bill demanding state owned gold bars be returned to the Lone Star State. The legislation to pull $1 billion in gold reserves from a Federal Reserve vault in New York is supported by Governor Rick Perry.

The financial crisis in Cyprus which prompted a run on the bank and ultimately a closure of the financial institutions reportedly bolstered support for the Texas gold bar return bill. State Representative Capriglione had this to say about why he penned the bill:

“For us to have our own gold, a lot of the runs on the bank and those types of things, they happen because people are worried that there’s nothing there to back it up.”

Governor Perry stated that if Texas owns the gold, then no one else should be able to determine if the state can reclaim possession of the bars of precious metal. Representative Capriglione also noted that Texas is not interested in implementing its own gold standard. According to the Republican’s statements about the gold bars bill, he simply wants to bolster the state’s fiscally secure reputation. The Texas public servant also feels that such a solid financial persona would be beneficial in case an international of national fiscal crisis occurred.

The legislation notes the state does not merely want gold certificates from the Federal Reserve, they want the actual gold bars to store inside a planned Texas Bullion Depository. Moving $1 billion in gold bars from New York to Texas would be a huge task, one some are calling impractical. State Representative Capriglione suggested selling the gold currently housed inside the New York vault and then repurchasing the same amount in Texas.

http://www.inquisitr.com/600185/texas-wants-gold-stored-at-federal-reserve-returned-to-lone-star-state/#XHeg60ztpexhAROW.99

Investors forget that the single most important role played by Central Banks is to maintain confidence in the system. For that reason they will NEVER admit inflation is a problem. But if inflation isn’t a problem, WHY ARE CENTRAL BANKS LOADING UP ON GOLD?

Watch what they do, not what they say.

 

 

To learn more about Private Wealth Advisory…

 

Best Regards,

Graham Summers
Read more at http://investmentwatchblog.com/why-are-central-banks-buying-gold/#AD11VJB1LRmRodrl.99

Yuan reaches record high against the US dollar

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The yuan reached a record high yesterday as the central bank fixed its midpoint against the US dollar at the strongest level ever.

That sparked anticipation of further appreciation this year and stoked inflationary pressure on the mainland and Hong Kong.

The People’s Bank of China set the midpoint at 6.2506 yuan per US dollar – up from the fixing of 6.2578 on Thursday – ahead of a visit by US Secretary of State John Kerry to Asia. The yuan jumped to 79.775 Hong Kong dollars per 100 yuan, just near the record of 79.729 on Wednesday.

China often allows the yuan to appreciate faster before visits by officials from Western countries, who usually push for exchange rate liberalisation.

However, the yuan is set to strengthen this year. Inflows of capital are expected to generate higher demand for the yuan than last year as the mainland economy recovers, economists said.

“In 2013 we’ll see greater risks of capital inflows to China, rather than two-way movements in the yuan exchange rate or capital outflows as last year,” said Chang Jian, an economist at Barclays Capital. Barclays expects the yuan to strengthen 2 per cent against the greenback this year, after considering China’s intention to protect exporters in the still shaky economic recovery.

The yuan rate in the spot market touched 6.1903 per dollar yesterday, the highest since 1994. The yuan spot rate has risen 0.6 per cent so far this year, after hitting highs in the past couple of weeks.

Economists at Standard Chartered forecast the spot rate for yuan would reach 6.18 by the end of June and 6.10 by the end of this year. They said China was unlikely to follow Japan in depreciating its currency, as Japanese exporters are not its major competitors.

Nathan Chow, a DBS Bank economist, expects the strengthening of the yuan to continue to put pressure on inflation in Hong Kong because the city’s currency is pegged to the US dollar.

“The inflationary pressure caused by the yuan appreciation is inevitable, as Hong Kong imports a variety of goods, such as food and medical supplies, from the mainland,” Chow said.

A 1 per cent rise in the yuan would result in a 0.05 percentage point increase in Hong Kong’s consumer inflation, the Monetary Authority says.

 

 

http://www.scmp.com/news/article/1213468/yuan-reaches-record-high-against-us-dollar

Kyle Bass: “I’d Much Rather Own Gold Than Paper”

We’ve moved to an ideology of unlimited printing.

“I’m perplexed as to why gold is as low as it is.  The largest central banks in the world have all moved to an unlimited printed ideology.  If monetary policy is the only game in town, then we’re all in for a world of trouble.”

 

 

 

http://dailybail.com/home/kyle-bass-id-much-rather-own-gold-than-paper.html

DIMON ADMITS: Breaking The Law ‘Is A Problem At JP Morgan

 

Following the rules is not easy for Jamie.

Dimon warns more sanctions are coming for JPMorgan.

Jamie Dimon warns that JPMorgan, which is under regulatory orders to tighten internal controls, will face more sanctions in the coming months.  Dimon comments on the London Whale, criminal investigations into activities at the bank, illegal foreclosures, money laundering and the threat of cyber attack.

 

Here’s why Jamie is warning shareholders:

NYT: JPMorgan Faces Multiple Criminal Investigations

 

 

http://dailybail.com/home/dimon-admits-breaking-the-law-is-a-problem-at-jpm.html

6 Ways Obama’s Budget Is Worse Than Everyone Thinks

Fiscal Policy: Short of its accounting gimmicks, the president’s budget isn’t a “balanced” plan to get the debt crisis under control. It’s a monument to fiscal irresponsibility.

With much fanfare and a lot of media hype, President Obama unveiled his latest budget plan — two months late. An IBD review of Obama’s budget finds that, among other things, it:

• Boosts spending and deficits over the next two years. Obama’s own budget numbers show that he wants to hike spending over the next two years by $247 billion compared with the “baseline,” which even after his proposed new tax hikes would mean $157 billion in additional red ink.

Obama claims he’ll get tough on spending and deficits later, but every budget expert knows boosting spending today only makes it harder to cut later.

• Vastly exaggerates spending cuts. The press has widely reported that Obama’s budget would cut spending a total of $1.2 trillion over the next decade. But Obama’s own budget shows that he actually cuts spending a mere $186 billion. (The relevant tables can be found at http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/omb/budget/fy2014/assets/tables.pdf on Pages 187-190.)

Obama inflates his claimed savings by first canceling the automatic sequester spending cuts he previously signed into law, then reclaiming them as new savings, and by adding in cuts in interest payments on the debt.

• Relies almost entirely on tax hikes. Obama’s budget shows his plan would increase revenues by $1.14 trillion over the next decade. That means his budget proposes $6 in new taxes for every $1 in spending cuts.

• Cuts the deficit less than claimed. “My budget will reduce our deficits by nearly another $2 trillion,” Obama said Wednesday. But his budget shows total deficit reduction over the next decade would be just $1.4 trillion. Plus, deficits start rising again after 2018.

• Creates a new entitlement without a reliable means to pay for it. Obama claims he can finance a new $76 billion “preschool for all” program by raising tobacco taxes again. But after an initial spike, tobacco tax revenues will start trending downward year after year as more people quit smoking, while the costs of this new program will keep climbing.

The last time Obama hiked tobacco taxes — to pay for an expansion of Medicaid — revenues came in $2.2 billion less than expected.

• Boosts taxes on the middle class. Obama proposes to change the government’s “consumer price index” in a way that will lower the official inflation rate. He’s selling it as a way to cut Social Security annual “cost of living” adjustments, which are based on the CPI.

But because his “chained CPI” would also apply to annual tax bracket adjustments, it will end up hiking taxes by $124 billion — mainly on the middle class — over the next decade through bracket creep, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

In his remarks Wednesday after releasing his 65-day-overdue budget, Obama claimed: “The numbers work. There’s not a lot of smoke and mirrors in here.”

Fact is, if it weren’t for smoke and mirrors, Obama would have no budget plan at all.
http://news.investors.com/ibd-editorials/041013-651427-obama-budget-is-worse-than-everyone-thinks.htm#ixzz2QArnmQTg

Big Banks Attempt Secret Coup Against Cheap Loans

Too Big Banks Try End Run to Kill Growing Public Banking Movement

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is an international treaty negotiated in secret – hidden even from congressmen who oversee such treaties – which threatens to destroy national sovereignty.

Public banks – such as the Bank of North Dakota – can provide low-cost loans to Main Street, when Wall Street insists on high interest rates … or won’t even extend credit.

More and more states are considering launching their own public banks.

A 2011 study from Demos – a non-partisan public policy organization – in conjunction with the Center for State Innovation, analyzed the potential for “partnership banks” across the country, including numerous states already considering such legislation.   The study found:

Across the country, states are considering proposals to move general revenue deposits out of the Wall Street banks that dominate the banking business today, and use them to capitalize a new local public structure with a mission to grow the local economy. A “Main Street Partnership Bank” would be modeled on the nearly 100-year-old public Bank of North Dakota (BND). This public policy innovation—also known as a Public Bank or State Bank—could contribute to the health of local community banks, state budgets and small business job growth in an era of rapid banking concentration, budget deficits and disinvestment on Main Street.

Partnership Banks can raise revenue for states without raising taxes, and increase loans to small businesses precisely when Wall Street banks have cut back on lending and raised public borrowing costs. A Partnership Bank would act as a “banker’s bank” to in-state community banks and provide the state government with both banking services at fair terms and an annual multi-million dollar dividend.

If modeled on the successful Bank of North Dakota, Partnership Banks in other states would:

  • Create new jobs and spur economic growth. Partnership Banks are participation lenders, meaning they partner—never compete—with local banks to drive lending through local banks to small businesses. If Washington State had a fully-operational Partnership Bank capitalized at $100 million during the Great Recession, it would have supported $2.6 billion in new lending and helped to create 8,212 new small business jobs. A proposed Oregon bank could help community banks expand lending by $1.3 billion and help small business create 5,391 new Oregon jobs in its first three to five years. All of this would be accom- plished at a profit, which Partnership Banks should share with the state.
  • Generate new revenues for states directly, through annual bank dividend payments, and indirectly by creating jobs and spurring local economic growth…
  • Lower debt costs for local governments. Like the Bank of North Dakota, Partnership Banks can get access to low-cost funds from the regional Federal Home Loan Banks. The banks can pass savings on to local governments when they buy debt for infrastructure investments. The banks can also provide Letters of Credit for tax-exempt bonds at lower interest rates.
  • Strengthen local banks even out credit cycles, and preserve real competition in local credit markets. There have been no bank failures in North Dakota during the financial crisis. BND’s charter is clear that its goal is to “be helpful to and to assist in the development of [North Dakota banks]… and not, in any manner, to destroy or to be harmful to existing financial institutions.” By purchasing local bank stock, partnering with them on large loans and providing other sup- port, Partnership Banks would strengthen small banks in an era when federal policy encourages bank consolidation.
  • Build up small businesses. Surveys by the Main Street Alliance in Oregon and Washington show at least 75 percent support among small business owners. In markets increasingly dominated by large corporations and the banks that fund them, Partnership Banks would increase lending capabilities at the smaller banks that provide the majority of small business loans in America.

These various proposals would “move general revenue deposits out of the Wall Street banks that dominate the banking business today, and use them to capitalize a new local public structure with a mission to grow the local economy.”

This would obviously cut into the big banks’ profits.  Indeed, the big banks have engaged in mafia-style big-rigging fraud against local governments (see thisthis and this), scalped local governments by manipulating interest rates, and engaged in all sorts of other shenanigans to fleece governments, businesses and citizens.

And the big banks are using dirty tricks to try to kill the growing public banking movement, so as to protect their racket.

Les Leopold writes:

Clearly, from Wall Street’s perspective, the North Dakota bank must go, and all other state efforts to replicate it must be thwarted. Wall Street’s stealth weapon may be lodged within the latest corporate trade agreement called the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which currently is being negotiated in secret. We already know that Wall Street is seeking to remove all tariff restrictions that prevent the U.S. financial services industry from doing business in countries like Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam. The biggest banks also want the treaty to eliminate “non-tariff” barriers including regulations that create “unfair” competition with state-owned financial enterprises.

Depending on the final language, it is possible that the activities of the Bank of North Dakota could be ruled illegal because “foreign bankers could claim the BND stops them from lending to commercial banks throughout the state” ….  How perfect for Wall Street: a foreign bank can be used as a shill to knock out the BND.

Truthout explains:

Legislators around the world are being kept in the dark about what they’re voting on until the deal [on TPP] is hammered out; it’s expected to be completed this year. When it’s finished, if the experience of Congress here is any indication, legislators will be feeling extraordinary pressure from corporate lobbyists and their heads of state to accept the deal without a fuss. [Indeed, lawmakers often vote on legislation without ever reading it.]

***

Publicly owned enterprises, for example, are being targeted by negotiators. One such entity in the United States that has been the subject of considerable interest in recent years is the Bank of North Dakota (BND) – the only fully publicly owned financial institution in the country. The BND, which is only allowed to lend wholesale, was a stabilizing force that helped keep the already energy-rich state insulated from the shock of the financial crisis (Alaska, for example, didn’t fare as well). It has also brought a small fortune to the state’s treasury – $340 million in net tax gain between 1997 and 2009. Legislators in at least 13 different states have proposed studying or emulating the North Dakota model – state-owned development of central-bank style institutions guaranteed by tax revenue. But if the TPP is passed, that option might not be available. [Barbara Weisel, the top American government  negotiator for TPP] said that State Owned Enterprises (SOE) are routinely “competing directly with private enterprises, and often in a way that is considered unfair.”

Some of the advantages that can be conferred on State Owned Enterprises are things like preferential financing,” Weisel said. “Those are things that wouldn’t be provided to private companies – preferential provision of goods and services provided by a government.”

She said that “State Owned Enterprises – which in some cases can comprise a significant percentage of an economy – can be used to undermine what we’re otherwise trying to gain from this free trade agreement.”

A spokesperson for the BND declined to comment on whether or not this outlook was perceived by the bank to be an institutional threat. But, depending on the report’s language, foreign bankers could claim that the BND stops them from lending to commercial banks throughout the state.

Citigroup’s Johnston [Rick Johnston is a a senior vice president and director for international government affairs at Citigroup], in response to another question from the audience, said that corporations weren’t exactly enamored of competition with publicly owned enterprises – and that they are prodding TPP delegates into doing something about it.

“The companies that are running up against the problem and the challenges of the state-owned enterprises, they obviously feel strongly enough about it that the problem is being addressed within the negotiations,” he said.

***

There can be no guarantee, until the draft is finally released, that the TPP will protect entities like the BND, especially when considering, as critics have contended, that the deal’s boosters are pushing an agreement that more firmly entrenches capital flow as a form of trade.

“When you hear the word ‘trade‘ in today’s business world, it doesn’t just mean goods moving across borders,” Johnston said. “It doesn’t even mean just services moving across borders. It also means investment. And that’s something where the TPP is really gonna make a big difference.”

Trade, according to Black’s Law dictionary, is defined as “Traffic; commerceexchangeof goods for other goods, or for money.” Yet this trade pact could usher in a rash of reforms, with minimal oversight and virtually no public hearings, treating investment rules as a trade issue, even though they haven’t traditionally been dealt with as such.

A lobbyist’s world-view on this issue is instructive.  As Michael Wendell told the Congressional Subcommittee on Trade:

SOEs [state-owned enterprises], by definition, are interested in promoting the interests of their home country, and are all too often guided by state interests, rather than commercial interests.

Why does this matter? Let’s consider a Chinese SOE. Chinese SOEs benefit enormously from below-market-rate financing by state-owned banks at rates well below what American companies pay. Many of these loans may not have to be repaid at all. How does a commercial entity here in the U.S. compete with the U.S.-based operations of an SOE that sets up shop here?

***

There are many ways that disciplines on SOEs can be developed as part of the TPP talks. The best approach would be to ensure that all transactions are based on commercial considerations.

Basing all transactions on “commercial considerations” may sound okay initially.  But that would – in essence – mean that the interests of the banks in making high-interest rate loans are more important than the interests of the people in obtaining cheap loans.

Moreover, America as a nation is arguably paying trillions of dollars to the big banks in unnecessary interest costs which public banks would render moot. See this and this.

And  remember, the Founding Fathers’ vision of prosperity was largely based around public banking.

However we decide to treat foreign state-owned enterprises, banks owned by the American people will help to create prosperity for we the people and our small businesses.

Indeed, both conservative and liberal economists point out that the big banks are already state-sponsored institutions … so the government should create a little competition through public banking.

State-owned public banks – like North Dakota has – would take the power away from the big banks, andgive it back to the people … as the Founding Fathers intended.

Don’t trust the federal government? That’s fine … we’re not talking about state – not federal – banks. Don’t trust your state?  Then support a county-level bank.

Postscript:  Obama is a shill for TPP.  So is Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, who told the Senate:

As Deputy Secretary of the State Department, I actively promoted the United States’ entry into the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations.

Bitcoin crashes, losing nearly half of its value in six hours

(arstechnica.com) On Wednesday afternoon, the Bitcoin bubble appears to have burst. As of this writing, its current value is around $160—down from a high of $260. (It fell as low as $130 today.) There is no obvious explanation for why the digital currency has fallen so far and so fast, although the market correcting after such a huge rise might be a good explanation.

Some redditors have taken solace in a comment thread entitled “Hold Spartans.”

“This is just the market venting some pressure after these huge gains,” wrote anotherblog. “To be honest I’m glad it’s happening now. If it recovers, it will demonstrate resilience in the market and give confidence to future buyers and current holders that they don’t need to panic sell, reduce the chances of a crash in the future.”

Coincidentally, the plunge came several hours after a reddit user by the name of “Bitcoinbillionaire” suddenly, spontaneously decided to give away around $12,000 (more than 63 BTC) worth of the digital currency. Bitcoinbillionaire rewarded 13 seemingly random redditors, then stopped the whirlwind spree after about eight hours. At the moment, no evidence links the currency’s plunge with this random reddit charity.

Bitcoinbillionaire took advantage of reddit’s Bitcointip mechanism, which allows users to send each other small amounts of cash (usually less than $5). The mysterious benefactor appears to have given away 20 BTC (now worth slightly less than $4,000) as his or her first gift to one Karelb. This gift happened under a comment titled: “I wish for the price to crash.” That comment now seems prophetic.

A look at the account transferring all this money shows that two hours before the giveaways began, Bitcoinbillionaire received 50 BTC (about $9,500) from another account without an IP address.

Business Insider reported that Bitcoinbillionaire has left hints that he or she was an “early adopter”and had forgotten he or she even had any bitcoins. Not much is known beyond that, as Bitcoinbillionaire vanished as suddenly as he or she appeared.

“You’ve made me change my mind about this whole thing,” Bitcoinbillionaire wrote. “I’m done.”

Don’t feel bad if you missed the action. Business Insider also notes that this pot of cash is now being “paid forward.”

Federal Reserve goofs and releases minutes early

Oops. The Federal Reserve accidentally emailed the minutes from its March meeting to about 100 people a day early.

While no major news was expected to come from the minutes, they are nevertheless a key document that can move markets from time to time. Wall Street players often dig deep into the minutes for hints about when the central bank may pull back on its bond-buying policy or raise interest rates.

For that reason, the minutes are usually highly protected by the central bank and their release is supposed to be executed carefully.

A Fed spokesman told CNNMoney the mistake was “entirely accidental,” and it was a “human error,” not a technological one. The roughly 100 individuals on the list mostly included Congressional employees and employees of trade organizations. They received the minutes shortly after 2 p.m. on Tuesday.

After discovering the error this morning, the Federal Reserve decided to release the minutes to the broader public at 9 a.m. Wednesday.

At this point, it’s not clear whether any trading took placed based on the early release, but the Federal Reserve Board’s Inspector General will conduct an initial investigation of the error.

“We will be working with market regulators, the SEC and CFTC to insure they have the information they need to evaluate the incident,” a Fed spokesman said.

What the minutes said

The minutes contained very little new information about Fed policy. The main takeaway is most Fed members think the central bank should continue buying $85 billion a month in assets a month, at least through midyear.

But some members argued in favor of tapering down the purchases gradually while others didn’t see a need to decrease the purchases until the third quarter. Two said some purchases would probably continue into 2014.

The Federal Reserve’s current policy includes buying $45 billion in Treasuries and $40 billion in mortgage-backed securities each month. The main intent is to lower long-term interest rates. But this program, known as quantitative easing, is cited by some as a main reason the Dow and S&P 500 are now at record highs.

The central bank has also kept short-term interest rates near zero since 2008, with an aim to boost economic activity.

The Fed has said it plans to keep that rate near zero until the unemployment rate falls below 6.5% or inflation exceeds 2.5% a year. Most Fed officials don’t expect that to happen until 2015.

Related: When will the Federal Reserve be led by a woman?

The minutes capture general themes from the Fed’s internal policy meetings, the last of which took place March 19-20. When Fed officials met at that point, it looked like the job market was gaining momentum.

Data released since then, however, has shown that job growth slowed in March.

Many economists still expect the Fed to start gradually decreasing its asset purchases later this year and end them completely in early 2014. But if the March jobs report marks the start to a weaker trend in hiring, that timetable could change.

Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke said in March that he will be watching for signs of a “spring slump” in hiring, and other Fed officials have reiterated that sentiment since then. Speaking Wednesday morning on CNBC, Atlanta Fed President Dennis Lockhart said he wants to get beyond a mid-year “swoon.”

“I think we need a few more months of really solid data and solid evidence that the recovery is moving ahead,” he said.

The Fed’s next meeting is a two-day meeting that concludes on May 1.

SENATOR: “Banks Still Owe Us For The Bailouts!”

(Daily Bail) “Hank Paulson is the world’s greatest salesman.  We gave $700 billion to Wall Street and nobody cares.”

Outstanding new interview.  Inhofe beats on Henry Paulson.

Luke Rudkowski of We Are Change interviews Senator James Inhofe about his opposition to TARP and martial law threats he received from Henry Paulson.

Not stopping TARP was my biggest failure.

“Think about how big it was — $700 billion given to an unelected bureaucrat, with no accountability, to do anything he wanted with it.  Can this happen?  It did.”

The Anger Phase Of Humanity Is Coming

It Will Not End Well: Europe’s Economic Crisis Is Now Worse Than The Great Depression While The European Union Is Splits Into Two, And Europe Suffered Three Disasters In Just The Last Month!

 

Stunning: Europe’s Economic Crisis Is Now Worse Than The Great Depression [CHART]

From Paul Krugman: The trajectory of Europe’s real GDP per capita today vs. its real GDP per capita back during The Great Depression. No commentary necessary.

 

032913krugman4 blog480

Paul Krugman

 

 

Europe Suffered Three Disasters In Just The Last Month

Europe should be really happy that March is over. It was a disastrous month.

 

There were three main stories; all of them bad.

Italy can’t form a government. Italy’s parliamentary election took place at the end of February, and it was immediately clear that no single party won enough seats in both houses of Parliament to be able to form a government. Center-left candidate Pier Luigi Bersani had the best shot of establishing a coalition, but he was unable to come to any deals with Berlusconi’s party, and he was unable to pick away any support from Beppe Grillo’s Five-Star party, and bring them over to his side.

That all came to a head at the end of this past week. The ball has now been thrown into the court of Italian President Napolitano (a separate position than PM, who serves a seven-year term, and whose job it is to facilitate the establishment of a government). Another election this year looks very likely.

Since the February election, there have been polls in Italy showing strength for Berlusconi and Beppe Grillo, so if there were another election there’s a good shot that the winner would be someone who doesn’t have the same inclination to play nice with the rest of the Eurozone.

Cyprus. This was a fiasco on so many levels.

Run for the Hills‘ Now, I’m Doing It: Jim Rogers – CNBC

The EU/IMF raiding bank accounts in Cyprus to bail out the country’s financial system sets a dangerous precedent and investors should “run for the hills” said investor Jim Rogers, chairman of Rogers Holdings, on “Squawk on the Street”Thursday.

Rogers said that with Cyprus, politicians are saying that this is a special case and urging people not to worry, but that is exactly why investors should be concerned.

“What more do you need to know? Please, you better hurry, you better run for the hills. I’m doing it anyway,” Rogers said. “I want to make sure that I don’t get trapped. Think of all the poor souls that just thought they had a simple bank account. Now they find out that they are making a ‘contribution’ to the stability of Cyprus. The gall of these politicians.”

 

 

 

The Euro Is Destroying Europe By Ripping It In Two

A key part of Lucke’s argument is that the euro must be sacrificed to save the greater European project (the European Union), as the status quo is tearing apart the continent.

 

 

This line from Lucke is critical:

We think that the euro currently splits the European Union into two parts – a segment of an economically unsuccessful southern part, and a more northern, or more central, European part, which currently seems to benefit from the misery of the southern European countries, because all of the capital flows back from southern Europe to Germany, and the Netherlands, and other stable countries, where it helps us to do cheap investment, but which is at the expense of those southern European countries, and which certainly is the cause for envious sentiment and angry sentiment in the southern European countries, so that the political tensions within the European Union actually rise.

 

 

Spain’s Banking Crisis

Recall that Bankia is the large Spanish bank that was partially nationalized’ in 2012, and that received 18 billion euros in new equity funds at the end of 2012. At that time Bankia shares fell by 25% to 41 euro cents (41/100 of one euro). At that same time Bankia said it expected to report a 19 billion euro loss for 2012. See my January 3 commentary titled Spain: Bankia and its parent! where I said “My assumption with respect to Bankia and other large Spanish banks is that ‘we have yet to hear the worst of it”.

On Monday, following a ‘forced revaluation’ by Regulators to 1 euro cent (1/100th of one euro) announced after the financial markets closed on March 22, Bankia shares closed at just under 15 euro cents (15/100 of one euro), down over 40% on the day. That ‘forced revaluation’ is said to have been a ‘condition’ of Bankia receiving a further capital injection of 10.7 billion euros from European rescue funds in circumstances where in February Bankia reported a 19.2 billion euro loss (as had been expected) for 2012. Standard & Poor’s is reported as having lowered Bankia’s rating by one notch to BB-.

In February Bankia reported that it expected a quick return to profitability following a ‘clean-up’ of its balance sheet.

Bankia strikes me as needing to be on every trader and investors radar screen going forward, given its size and what I think has to be its possible impact (positive or negative) on Spain, the eurozone, and perhaps the banks and banking systems of both Spain and other countries – the latter pursuant to possible contagion issues.

In other Spanish bank news, yesterday afternoon Banco CEISS, BMN and Caja 3, three comparatively small Spanish banks reported 2.5 billion euros, 3.7 billion euros, and 1.0 billion euros losses respectively for their latest fiscal years. These losses were all driven by previously unrecognized real estate exposure losses, or in the case of BMN writedowns on property holdings.

 

The Cyprus Debacle Proves The Eurozone Is Dangerous And Must End

The punishment regime imposed on Cyprus is a trick against everybody involved in this squalid saga, against the Cypriot people and the German people, against savers and creditors. All are being deceived.

It is not a bail-out. There is no debt relief for the state of Cyprus. The Diktat will push the island’s debt ratio to 120pc in short order, with a high risk of an economic death spiral, a la Grecque.

Capital controls have shattered the monetary unity of EMU. A Cypriot euro is no longer a core euro. We wait to hear the first stories of shops across Europe refusing to accept euro notes issued by Cyprus, with a G in the serial number.

The curbs are draconian. There will be a forced rollover of debt. Cheques may not be cashed. Basic cross-border trade is severely curtailed. Credit card use abroad will be limited to €5,000 (£4,200) a month. “We wonder how such capital controls could eventually be lifted with no obvious cure of the underlying problem,” said Credit Suisse….

 

5 of 10 Top Economies in the World Drop the Dollar

Activist Post

The U.S Dollar is quickly losing its status as the world reserve currency. Five of the top ten economies in the world, plus a few others, no longer use the dollar as an intermediary currency for trade. This trend poses a huge risk to the dollar and the United States along with it.

ZeroHedge points out today that Australia, the world’s 12th-ranked economy, has now joined a growing list of nations that have agreed to bypass the dollar in bilateral trade with China. China, ranked 2nd behind the U.S., also has similar agreements with Japan (3rd), Brazil (6th), India (9th), and Russia (10th).

Although unilateral agreements have been in place for some time between China and the countries listed above, last week the BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India & China) agreed to set up a development bank to compete with the IMF, indicating it’s gearing up to compete in a post-dollar world.

Additionally, Brazil, who agreed in principle to drop the dollar with bilateral trade with China some time ago, just made it official with $30 billion in annual currency swaps which will facilitate around 50% of all trade between them.

Besides those agreements with China, some of these nations have made other similar agreements with each other. India and Japan began swapping $15 billion in each other’s currency in 2011 to handle their bilateral trade. And the sanctions against Iran haven’t stopped them from trading oil with China, Russia, and India in anything but the dollar.

Here’s how the current reign of the US dollar compares to previous world reserve currency:

Source

It appears that the dollar is certainly nearing the end of its reign, which could lead to severe economic hardship for the United States.

Dave Hodges writes:

The United States’ good economic fortune is due solely to the fact that world must use the dollar, the Petrodollar if you will, in order to make their nation’s individual oil purchases; this provides the only source of backing for the U.S. dollar that the Federal Reserve requires in order to somewhat sustain our back-breaking debt that the banker-occupied United States government has passed along to the American taxpayer in the form of bailouts.

And Marin Katusa of Casey Research writes:

If the US dollar loses its position as the global reserve currency, the consequences for America are dire. A major portion of the dollar’s valuation stems from its lock on the oil industry – if that monopoly fades, so too will the value of the dollar. Such a major transition in global fiat currency relationships will bode well for some currencies and not so well for others, and the outcomes will be challenging to predict. But there is one outcome that we foresee with certainty: Gold will rise. Uncertainty around paper money always bodes well for gold, and these are uncertain days indeed.

America’s imperialism, combined with its ultra-fiat status of unending debt creation, appears to have created a final downward spiral that has caused many of the top economies to abandon a sinking ship. It might not be too much longer before the rest follow suit. Now might be a great time to consider diversifying into other currencies, and even digital currencies, to mitigate growing losses in the U.S. dollar.

Do not use Safety Deposit Boxes

(dinarvets.com) U.S DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY HAS TOLD BANKS – IN WRITING – IT MAY INSPECT SAFE DEPOSIT BOXES WITHOUT WARRANT AND SEIZE ANY GOLD, SILVER, GUNS OR OTHER VALUABLES IT FINDS INSIDE THOSE BOXES!

According to in-house memos now circulating, the DHS has issued orders to banks across America which announce to them that “under the Patriot Act” the DHS has the absolute right to seize, without any warrant whatsoever, any and all customer bank accounts, to make “periodic and unannounced” visits to any bank to open and inspect the contents of “selected safe deposit boxes.”

Further, the DHS “shall, at the discretion of the agent supervising the search, remove, photograph or seize as evidence” any of the following items “bar gold, gold coins, firearms of any kind unless manufactured prior to 1878, documents such as passports or foreign bank account records, pornography or any material that, in the opinion of the agent, shall be deemed of to be of a contraband nature.”

DHS memos also state that banks are informed that any bank employee, on any level, that releases “improper” “classified DHS Security information” to any member of the public, to include the customers whose boxes have been clandestinely opened and inspected and “any other party, to include members of the media” and further “that the posting of any such information on the internet will be grounds for the immediate termination of the said employee or employees and their prosecution under the Patriot Act.” Safety deposit box holders and depositors are not given advanced notice when failed banks shut their doors.

If people have their emergency money in a safe deposit box or an account in a bank that closes, they will not be allowed into the bank to get it out. They can knock on the door and beg to get in but the sheriff’s department or whoever is handling the closure will simply say “no” because they are just following orders.

Deposit box and account holders are not warned of the hazards of banking when they sign up. It is not until they need to get their cash or valuables out in a hurry that they find themselves in trouble.

Rules governing access to safe deposit boxes and money held in accounts are written into the charter of each bank. The charter is the statement of policy under which the bank is allowed by the government to do business. These rules are subject to change at any time by faceless bureaucrats who are answerable to no one. They can be changed without notice, without the agreement of the people, and against their will. People can complain but no one will care because this is small potatoes compared to the complaints that will be voiced when the executive order that governs national emergencies is enforced.

That order allows the suspension of habeas corpus and all rights guaranteed under the Bill of Rights.

A look at the fine print of the contract signed when a safety deposit box is opened reveals that in essence the signer has given to the bank whatever property he has put into that deposit box. When times are good people will be allowed open access to their safe deposit box and the property that is in it. This also applies to their bank accounts.

But when times get really bad, many may find that the funds they have placed on deposit and the property they thought was secured in the safe deposit box now belong to the bank, not to them. Although this was probably not explained to them when they signed their signature card, this is what they were agreeing to.

During the Great Depression in the early 1930’s people thought that many banks were going to fail. They were afraid they would lose their money so they went in mass to take it out, in what is known as a run on the banks. The government closed the banks to protect them from angry depositors who wanted their money back. Throughout history, governments have acted to protect the interests of banks and the wealthy people who own them, not the interests of depositors or box holders.

In a time of emergency, people will have no recourse if access to their safe deposit box and bank accounts is denied. If they are keeping money in a bank that would be needed in an emergency or in a time when credit is no longer free flowing, they may not be able to get it out of the bank. The emergency may occur at night or on a weekend or holiday when the bank is closed.

The solution is to take emergency cash or valuables out of the safe deposit box or bank account and secure them somewhere else, like in a home safe. An even better idea may be to close the safe deposit box account completely, letting someone else entertain the illusion of safety.

Americans have learned a few things since the Great Depression. They now have the FDIC to liquidate any failed banks.

The FDIC promises to set up a series of dates and times when safe deposit box renters can access their boxes by appointment to remove their property and surrender their keys. The FDIC also promises to mail bank customers an announcement of the dates for such events and include a question and answer page that addresses safe deposit box access.

The people have the FDIC to give them back the money they had on deposit that they were unable to get out of any failed bank that carries FDIC insurance. Sheila Bair, head of the FDIC, promises that depositor`s money will be available in 24 hours or less. But people should remember that the FDIC is just another bureaucracy, and it`s probably best not to rely on a bureaucracy in an emergency.

THE SAME HOLDS TRUE FOR STORAGE FACILITIES

DON’T PUT ANYTHING VALUABLE AND/OR NON-REPLACEABLE IN ANY BANK OR STORAGE FACILITY

 

Note: We’ve been asked to site sources for this article but we did not write it, the source in which it came from is at the top. Also see this,  http://investmentwatchblog.com/u-s-department-of-homeland-security-has-told-banks-in-writing-it-may-inspect-safe-deposit-boxes-without-warrant-and-sieze-any-gold-silver-guns-or-other-valuables-it-finds-inside-those-boxes/

Iranian Oops: US may have broken own sanctions by buying Tehran’s oil

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(RT) -There is a high probability that US sanctions against Iran have been violated by its own army. Part of the $1.55 billion in fuel the US bought from Turkmenistan for the Afghan army in the last five years may have originated in Iran.

A report by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) suggested that “despite actions taken by DOD to prevent the purchase of Iranian fuel with US funds, risks remain that US economic sanctions could [have been] violated” from 2007 to 2012.

Most of the fuel for domestic Afghan consumption comes from neighboring Iran. Because of the US sanctions on Tehran restricting the trade of Iranian oil and petroleum products, the ISAF has been required to abide by the regulations and buy petrol from eight Afghan-owned companies that deliver petroleum from Turkmenistan, which borders both Iran and Afghanistan.

The SIGAR report also acknowledged there are no plausible oversight mechanisms to make sure Iranian petroleum products are not included in future fuel purchases.

Turkmenistan is a major regional oil producer, which also trades for petroleum products made in Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Russia and Iran. Petrol vendors in Turkmenistan use flexible supply schemes, meaning that fuel of various origins could potentially be blended together.

In response to a draft of SIGAR report, the US Embassy in Kabul stated that “it is possible that if blending is taking place in Turkmenistan it could contain some Iranian fuel,” but refused to admit that fuel imported from Russia could also be blended with Iranian fuel prior to its import into Afghanistan.

All fuel imports carry a ‘verified Fuel Passport’ from the refinery, which provides information on the origin, quantity, quality, and specifications of the fuel,” the embassy explained.

“Suppliers are unlikely to blend Iranian fuel, or any other product, with other sourced fuel because of the potential that blending could cause product deviation from specification standards and potentially cause a rejection of the entire shipment,” the embassy said.

In 2012, the Pentagon reportedly spent over $800 million on imports from Turkmenistan, most likely for fuel purchases.

Iran escaping sanctions

Western sanctions have taken their toll on Iran: Tehran was formerly OPEC’s second-largest oil producer, exporting 2.2 million barrels of oil daily. The sanctions more than halved that figure, to 890,000 barrels of oil exported a day by September 2012.

The Iranian economy has lost billions of dollars in revenue, plunging to decades-low figures. The value of the national currency, the rial, has taken a kamikaze dive; the Iranian leadership, including incendiary President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, was forced to publicly admit the sanctions were having an effect.

But Tehran has quickly recovered from the US-EU sanctions imposed on its oil trade. By the end of last year, Iranian crude oil exports rose again to 1.4 million barrels per day. Most of the Iranian oil is sold to Asian countries such as China, India and Japan, where demand for energy is growing. The expansion of Iran’s tanker fleet also helped the Islamic Republic circumvent the sanctions.

The US believes that the most common trick Iran uses to dodge sanctions is ship-to-ship transfers (STS), in which large tankers leaving Iran’s ports offload Iranian oil to smaller vessels. Then, the Iranian oil is blended with that of another country to disguise it. After that, new shipping documents are issued, giving the blended oil shipment a new identity, Reuters reported.

The US has scrambled to enact countermeasures on the news that its sanctions are being skirted. Reuters reported on Thursday that the US State Department is planning to target companies that deliberately disguise Iranian oil shipments to evade Western sanctions.

Also, an unnamed US official said that the US authorities are “increasingly aware of this STS issue,” and that companies involved in covert deals for Iranian oil will be punished. Sanctions violators could be prohibited from trading with the US companies, for example.

Attention shoppers: Another credit card fee is here

(NBC News) They agreed to change the rules and allow the surcharge as part of the settlement of an antitrust suit brought by retailers.

The surcharge is supposed to equal the actual cost of processing the credit card transaction, which is typically 1.5 to 3 percent. Under the agreement, the fee is capped at 4 percent. The surcharge can vary based on the type of card. For example, it could be higher for a rewards card or premier card.

Merchants still cannot add a surcharge to debit card transactions.

The big question is: Will any stores do this? Should you worry about paying a credit card surcharge?

“We have discussed the settlement with many, many merchants, and not a single merchant we have spoken to plans to surcharge,” Craig Sherman, spokesman for the National Retail Federation (NRF), said in a statement. The NRF was not involved in the class action lawsuit.

Image:NBC News contacted some of the country’s largest retailers. Wal-Mart, Target, Sears and Home Depot said they have no plans to add a credit card surcharge.

Credit card surcharges are banned by law in 10 states: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, New York, Oklahoma and Texas.

Visa and MasterCard have rules that require retailers to handle credit cards the same way in all of their stores across the country. That means a chain with stores in any of the 10 states where a surcharge is banned would not be able to have a surcharge at any of its stores.

The National Retail Federation points out that under terms of the settlement, a merchant who adds a surcharge to purchases on a Visa or MasterCard would have to do the same with American Express cards. But AMEX prohibits surcharge fees. So a merchant who accepts American Express as well as Visa/MasterCard would not be able to surcharge any of those cards.

“The bottom line is that very few retailers would be able to surcharge under the settlement, and that the vast majority don’t want to surcharge even if they could,” the NRF’s Sherman said.

Ed Mierzwinski, Director of Consumer Programs at U.S. PIRG agrees.

“In the brick-and-mortar world, no one who does any sort of volume business is going to want to surcharge because it will drive their customer crazy and slow down transactions,” Mierzwinski said.

In fact, most consumer advocates believe that except for some small retailers, a credit card surcharge is a non-issue in the short-term.

But Edgar Dworsky, founder of ConsumerWorld.org, worries that over time surcharges will gain traction.

”It’s predictable what’s going to happen,” he said. “We’re at the top of the hill and we’re going to start going down that slippery slope.”

Dworsky points out that stores factor in the cost of processing credit cards when they price their merchandise. Charging for that again, he said, would be double-dipping, unless stores rolled back their prices – which no one expects them to do.

Dworsky points to Australia, where surcharging credit card use began in 2003. At first, few merchants charged the fee.  His research shows that approximately one-third of the sellers there – including some hotels, supermarkets, department stores and utilities – now charge extra to use a credit card.

What about disclosures?
The advocacy group Consumer Action has published a booklet on credit card checkout fees. It warns shoppers to be on the lookout for these fees and advises them to express their dissatisfaction.“Customers shouldn’t stand for it,” said Ruth Susswein Consumer Action’s deputy director of national priorities. “Our advice is to tell them you don’t like the fee and this makes you want to take your business elsewhere.”

The new rules from Visa and MasterCard require retailers who apply a credit card surcharge to post a notice at the store’s entrance. The exact percentage of the surcharge does not need to be disclosed until the point of sale. The customer receipt must list the amount of the surcharge.

Online stores with a surcharge will not be required to have a notice on the home page. They only need to alert shoppers about this when they reach the page where credit cards are first mentioned. In most cases, that means the final step of checkout when the purchase is being completed.

Not the end of this story
The settlement that allows merchants to impose a surcharge is only preliminary. The court has yet to issue its final ruling in this case. That’s expected later this year.

Once that happens, various retailers and business groups plan to challenge the settlement. That could drag into late 2014.

For now, the possibility that the settlement could be modified will probably keep most businesses of any size from instituting credit card fees.

“We’re not convinced this is going to be an issue,” Consumer Action’s Susswein told me. “They may never do it, but as individual consumers we need to be aware.”

US banks shaken by biggest deposit withdrawals since 9/11

(RT) US Federal Reserve is reporting a major deposit withdrawal from the nation’s bank accounts. The financial system hasn’t seen such a massive fund outflow since 9/11 attacks.

Joe Raedle / Getty Images / AFP The first week of January 2013 has seen $114 billion withdrawn from 25 of the US’ biggest banks, pushing deposits down to $5.37 trillion, according to the US Fed. Financial analysts suggest it could be down to the Transaction Account Guarantee insurance program coming to an end on December 31 last year and clients moving their money that is no longer insured by the government.

The program was introduced in the wake of the 2008 crisis in order to support the banking system. It provided insurance for around $1.5 trillion in non-interest-bearing accounts with a limit of $250,000. It was aimed at medium and small banks as the creators of the program believed bigger banks would cope with the crisis themselves.

So the current “fast pace” of withdrawal comes as a surprise to financial analysts because the deposits are slipping away from those banks which supposedly were safe. Experts expected savers in small and medium banks would turn to bigger players come December 31.

There are a number of reasons behind this unpredicted fund outflow. Some experts believe it has to do with the beginning of the year when the money is randomly needed here and there. Others have concluded the funds are getting down to business and being invested.

Another set of data from the US Federal Reserve shows some deposits may have moved within the banking system from one type of account to another.