Weekday NEWS to Comfort the Disturbed and Disturb the Comfortable.
Why Stealing a $1 Trillion Coin
Isn't Worth the Price of a Getaway Van
BY SARAH MITROFF - Wired.com
Set aside the national existential implications of minting a $1 trillion coin to pay America's obligations because Congress can't get it together to raise the debt ceiling. What if the world's most valuable piece of metal gets stolen before we can pay our nation's bills? Or what if presumptive Treasury Secretary Jack Lew gets thirsty on the way to stash the $1 trillion trinket in the Federal Reserve, and he deposits the wrong coin in the soda machine? The coin return never works.
We asked former director of the U.S. Mint, and the guy who helped draft the law that makes the trillion-dollar-coin possible, Philip Diehl, how this could all go down – from the actual minting of the $1 trillion platinum coin, to what could happen if a super-villain snatched the sucker. (He doesn't think Lew would mistakenly buy a soda with it.)
$1T Coin No Way to Restore Investor Faith
By Michael Casey, MarketWatch.com
By Michael Casey
NEW YORK (MarketWatch) — By now you have probably heard of the frenzied Twitter debate unleashed by the suggestion that the U.S. government deposit a freshly minted $1 trillion coin at the Federal Reserve as a ploy to sidestep its debt-ceiling standoff with Congress.
Well, let me add one more voice to it: These arguments are bad for the dollar — but not for the reasons that concern many of the idea's critics.
The True Significance of the $1 Trillion Coin
BY DETLEV S SCHLICHTER - FinancialSense.com
Under President Obama the debt of the United States government has grown by about 50%, and now stands at close to $16 trillion. Every year, the US government spends between $1.2 and $1.5 trillion more than it takes in. Every day that financial markets are open the US government has to borrow an additional $4 billion.
The pathetic fiscal cliff 'compromise' of last week has proved the most cynical students of the political elite correct in that there is not a snowball's chance in hell that Washington will ever get this under control.
Lew Would Complete Transformation
of Obama's Economic Team
By JACKIE CALMES - NYTimes.com
WASHINGTON — President Obama announced his choice of Jacob J. Lew to be the secretary of the Treasury on Thursday, saying that he has "worked and succeeded in some of the toughest jobs in Washington." The selection of Mr. Lew, the White House chief of staff and a former budget director, is a change that would complete the transformation of Mr. Obama's economic team from the big-name economists and financial firefighters hired four years ago to budget negotiators ready for the next fiscal fights in Congress.
Jack Lew nomination hits snag
as Republican vows 'aggressive' opposition
Senior senator Jeff Sessions has accused treasury secretary nominee of dishonesty as Obama confirms appointment choice
By Ewen MacAskill in Washington - Guardian.co.uk
The Obama administration's hopes that the US Senate would swiftly confirm Jack Lew as treasury secretary were dealt a blow on Thursday when a senior Republican accused the president's nominee of dishonesty.
In his formal nomination announcement, Barack Obama urged the Senate to confirm Lew quickly, describing him as a man capable of forging bipartisan, principled compromises.
Lew-for-Geithner Switch Ends Era of Tight Fed-Treasury Ties
By Rich Miller, Jeff Kearns & Ian Katz - Bloomberg.com
Timothy F. Geithner's replacement by Jack Lew as Treasury secretary will end a period of unusually strong ties between the department and the Federal Reserve. For the Fed, the result may be less insulation from critics, yet greater influence in financial market regulation.
Geithner worked closely with Fed Chairman Ben S. Bernanke in fighting the financial crisis and cleaning up its aftermath, first as head of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and then as Treasury secretary. Going through the "searing experience of the panic together" created a bond between the two that "you get from that kind of combat," Geithner said in a 2010 interview.
Why No Glass-Steagall II?
By Barry Eichengreen - Project-Syndicate.org
MANILA – Eighty years ago this month, Ferdinand Pecora, the cigar-chomping former assistant district attorney for New York City, was appointed chief counsel for the US Senate Committee on Banking and Currency. In subsequent months, the hearings of the Pecora Commission featured many sensational revelations about the practices that led to the 1930's financial crisis.
Treasurys fall after global data, good auction
U.S. sells $13 billion in 30-year bonds at lowest yield since May
By Deborah Levine, MarketWatch
SAN FRANCISCO (MarketWatch) — Treasury prices ended lower on Thursday, pushing yields up for the first day in four, resuming losses which followed Chinese data, bond auction in Spain and comments from the European Central Bank chief reduced investors' interest in U.S. debt.
Bonds briefly pared losses after the government auction of 30-year bonds garnered good demand from investors, in part thanks to the highest yield offered since May.
What A Record $220 Billion "Deposit" Injection
To Kick Start To The 2013 Market Looks Like
by Tyler Durden - ZeroHedge.com
When people talk about "cash in the bank", or "money on the sidelines", the conventional wisdom reverts to an image of inert capital, used by banks to fund loans (as has been the case under fractional reserve banking since time immemorial) sitting in a bank vault or numbered account either physically or electronically, and collecting interest, well, collecting interest in the Old Normal (not the New ZIRPy one, where instead of discussing why it is not collecting interest the progressive intelligentsia would rather debate such trolling idiocies as trillion dollar coins, quadrillion euro Swiss cheeses, and quintillion yen tuna). There is one problem, however, with this conventional wisdom: it is dead wrong.
Fed's Bullard Sees Difficulty Tying QE to Economic Levels
By Joshua Zumbrun - Bloomberg.com
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis President James Bullard said it may be difficult to tie the central bank's $85 billion monthly bond purchases to numerical levels of unemployment and inflation.
After settling a debate over how long to hold interest rates near zero, Fed officials are discussing when to halt their purchases of Treasuries and mortgage-backed securities. At its December meeting, the Federal Open Market Committee agreed to hold the target interest rate near zero so long as unemployment remains above 6.5 percent and inflation stays below 2.5 percent.
Washington Hands the Economy a Barbell
BY DAVID KOTOK - FinancialSense.com
Washington has handed an economy now struggling to get back on its feet a barbell instead of a helping hand—a tax barbell. With much hoopla and political posturing, the United States' political leadership raised the income taxation on the "rich," as the White House likes to call them. But without a word, the White House and the Congress also raised income taxation on the working poor and lower middle class. That is the effect of the payroll tax (2%) hike.
Jim Grant Exposes "The Bureau Of Money Materialization"
And A Submerging America
by Tyler Durden - ZeroHedge.com
Jim Grant spends exactly the correct amount of time (zero) discussing the "urban myth' of the trillion dollar coin in this brief interview on CNBC; instead deciding to try and strike up some intelligent understanding of the dire situation we face. By providing context for our massive 16 trillion dollar debt (360 million pounds of $100 bills), and explaining how exponential the idiocy has become, Grant brings us full circle as he explains to the money-honey that once upon a time our debt was backed by gold, and "there was only so much gold and so many dollars," thus limiting our exuberance, but "now we have neither the gold covering the dollar nor do we have interest rates constraining us [thanks to Bernanke et al.]; the only thing remaining to constrain us is some sort of civil discussion, a numerate discussion about the debt," which it appears the bespectacled and bow-tie-bound bond brain-box hopes is possible. "The debt has increased twice as fast as federal receipts," he warns, adding correctly that "theUnited States is truly submerging."
Central banks must switch off the printing presses
before it's too late
Only a year to go now. Ben Bernanke, chairman of the US Federal Reserve, has let it be known that he won't be seeking a third term once his present one expires in January 2014, and few can blame him.
By Jeremy Warner - Telegraph.co.uk
The last seven, crisis-ridden, years would already have completely finished off a lesser man. The poor chap must be exhausted.
It is perhaps still too early to be passing judgments on his reign, but on one level it certainly doesn't seem so bad, given the challenges faced. Bernanke has arguably done better than central bankers in Europe, Britain and Japan in terms of his crisis response. US GDP is back above pre-crisis levels, unlike the UK, and is continuing to grow at a reasonable, if quite modest, rate.
The Return of Mercantilism
By Dani Rodrik - Project-Syndicate.com
CAMBRIDGE – The history of economics is largely a struggle between two opposing schools of thought, "liberalism" and "mercantilism." Economic liberalism, with its emphasis on private entrepreneurship and free markets, is today's dominant doctrine. But its intellectual victory has blinded us to the great appeal – and frequent success – of mercantilist practices. In fact, mercantilism remains alive and well, and its continuing conflict with liberalism is likely to be a major force shaping the future of the global economy.
ECB rules out stimulus despite record jobless and fiscal squeeze
The European Central Bank has dashed hopes of further stimulus to pull the eurozone out of recession and fight record unemployment, deeming the economy strong enough to heal itself.
By Ambrose Evans-Pritchard - Telegraph.co.uk
Mario Draghi, the ECB's president, said the financial landscape has been transformed, citing a sharp drop in bond yields across the EMU periphery, a stock market rally and recovery of bank deposits in Greece and Spain. Capital flight has begun to reverse.
He even spoke of "exuberance" creeping into pockets of the credit system, with leveraged buy-outs and private equity deals becoming frothy - the first warning by the ECB of an incipient bubble as the fresh cycle gathers momentum.
By The Numbers: 20 Facts
The Collapse Of Europe That Everyone Should Know
By Michael Snyder - TheEconomicCollapseBlog.com
The economic implosion of Europe is accelerating. Even while the mainstream media continues to proclaim that the financial crisis in Europe has been "averted", the economic statistics that are coming out of Europe just continue to get worse. Manufacturing activity in Europe has been contracting month after month, the unemployment rate in the eurozone has hit yet another brand new record high, and the official unemployment rates in both Greece and Spain are now much higher than the peak unemployment rate in the United States during the Great Depression of the 1930s. The economic situation in Europe is far worse than it was a year ago, and it is going to continue to get worse as austerity continues to take a huge toll on the economies of the eurozone. It would be hard to understate how bad things have gotten - particularly in southern Europe. The truth is that most of southern Europe is experiencing a full-blown economic depression right now. Sadly, most Americans are paying very little attention to what is going on across the Atlantic. But they should be watching, because this is what happens when nations accumulate too much debt. The United States has the biggest debt burden of all, and eventually what is happening over in Spain, France, Italy, Portugal and Greece is going to happen over here as well.
Forward to North American Union, for Europe's Sake
By Clive Crook - TheAtlantic.com
Opinion polls in Britain show rising anti-EU sentiment. Prime minister David Cameron is promising a speech later this month to lay out his thinking on a new treaty, with a referendum to follow. He thinks Britain should stay in the Union, but says exit is imaginable in certain circumstances.
China, ECB, Currencies, and Commodities
BY RYAN PUPLAVA CMT - FinancialSense.com
Today, we got the ECB meeting and the Chinese trade metrics – both of which were bullish catalysts for commodities. The effects of both announcements today were effective in bidding up the euro and supplying the market with U.S. dollars. Some of the other risk-on currencies were also helped by the currency action today, but to a lesser extent. The chart on the euro has developed into a late-stage bottom. Upon breaking out, the implications on the dollar and commodities would be rather bullish. Such a signal could finally confirm a new long-term downtrend in the dollar. Such a condition in the market is a far cry from the predicted collapse of the euro so many had predicted in 2012.
Iran hacking banks
Bank Hacking Was the Work of Iranians, Officials Say
By NICOLE PERLROTH and QUENTIN HARDY - NYTimes.com
SAN FRANCISCO — The attackers hit one American bank after the next. As in so many previous attacks, dozens of online banking sites slowed, hiccupped or ground to a halt before recovering several minutes later.
But there was something disturbingly different about the wave of online attacks on American banks in recent weeks. Security researchers say that instead of exploiting individual computers, the attackers engineered networks of computers in data centers, transforming the online equivalent of a few yapping Chihuahuas into a pack of fire-breathing Godzillas.
The latest foreclosure horror: the zombie title
By Michelle Conlin
COLUMBUS, Ohio | Thu Jan 10, 2013 1:58pm EST
(Reuters) - Joseph Keller doesn't expect he'll live to see the end of 2013. He blames the house at 190 Avondale Avenue.
Five years ago, Keller, 10 months behind on his mortgage payments, received notice of a foreclosure judgment from JP Morgan Chase. In a few weeks, the bank said, his three-story house with gray vinyl siding in Columbus, Ohio, would be put up for auction at a sheriff's sale.
The 58-year-old former social worker and his wife, Jennifer, packed up their home of 13 years and moved in with their daughter. Joseph thought he would never have anything to do with the house again. And for about a year, he didn't.
Then it started to stalk him.
Yes, Money Does Buy Happiness: 6 Lessons
from the Newest Research on Income and Well-Being
For a long time, we knew that there was a happiness plateau, a point where more money basically stopped buying greater satisfaction. Maybe we were wrong.
By Derek Thompson - TheAtlantic.com
Fittingly or ironically, the dismal science has a lot to say about happiness.
The classic economic story about money and well-being goes something like this. Money buys happiness, sure, but only up to a point. Once basic needs are taken care of, extra money has diminishing (or non-existent) returns. Perhaps richer people use their money to move to richer areas, where they no longer feel rich. Perhaps relative income -- how much you have compared to your friends -- is matters much more thanabsolute income -- how much money you have, period.
Economists call it the "Easterlin Paradox." You call it the "Keeping Up With the Jones' Principle."
American Express to Cut 5,400 Jobs
LOS ANGELES (AP) — American Express said Thursday that it will slash about 5,400 jobs, mainly in its travel business, as it seeks to cut costs and transform its operations as more of its customers shift to online portals for booking travel plans and other needs.
The job cuts will be partly offset by jobs that the company expects to add this year.
Jobless claims rise, but jobs market recovery intact
By Lucia Mutikani
WASHINGTON | Thu Jan 10, 2013 12:18pm EST
(Reuters) - The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits rose last week, the Labor Department said on Thursday, but details of the report suggested the jobs market continued to grow at a moderate pace.
Other data suggested the economy remained on a steady growth path, with sales at wholesalers rising by the most in more than 1-1/2 years in November, keeping inventories balanced.
What's ahead for Social Security in 2013
Reform and the coming debt-ceiling debate
By Andrea Coombes - MarketWatch.com
SAN FRANCISCO (MarketWatch)—If there's any good news for retirees and near-retirees in the coming debate over government spending and the U.S. debt ceiling, it's that lawmakers may bypass changes to the Social Security program.
That's a good thing because, while Social Security's future shortfall needs to be addressed at some point, the down-and-dirty political wrangling expected in the next couple of months may not be the best moment for levelheaded reform of the nation's retirement system—a system that provides an essential backstop for millions of retirees. (For example, the system provides the majority of income for 65% of elderly beneficiaries, and it keeps about 14 million elderly people out of poverty.)
Rep. Becerra to Obama, Democratic leaders:
Don't mess with Social Security
By Mike Lillis - TheHill.com
Breaking with the White House and other Democratic leaders, the head of the House Democratic Caucus suggested this week that he'll oppose any budget package that includes Social Security cuts.
Both President Obama and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) have signaled a willingness to support a move to index future Social Security updates to the so-called chained consumer price index (CPI), which would reduce projected benefits over the long term.
Boston flu outbreak prompts mayor
to declare public health emergency
Mayor Tom Menino urges residents to get vaccinated as city confronts 700 confirmed cases amid fears of nationwide danger
By Adam Gabbatt in New York - Guardian.co.uk
The city of Boston has declared a public health emergency as fears of a nationwide flu outbreak intensify.
Mayor Thomas Menino urged residents to get vaccinated against flu, as the city scrambled to deal with 700 confirmed cases so far – compared to just 70 cases during the whole of last year's flu season.
The move came as experts warned that the current flu strain is one of the worst in the past 10 years. Data Google's Flu Trends indicator, which has proved a reliable indicator of outbreaks, shows higher flu activity than at any point in the previous six years.
A Metaphor for Obama
By Robert J. Shiller - Project-Syndicate.org
NEW HAVEN – As US President Barack Obama begins his second term, he needs a simple way to express his vision and policies for the economy – a metaphor around which support for his policies might crystallize, thereby boosting his administration's political effectiveness. So, what makes a successful metaphor work?
The 2008 Obama campaign used the slogan "Change we can believe in." But "change" is not a metaphor for a new government: it does not stand for any policies. Nor does "Hope" or "Yes we can!"
From Russia, with love (and good advice)
PRAVDA: Americans never give up your guns
By Stanislav Mishin - Pravda.ru
These days, there are few things to admire about the socialist, bankrupt and culturally degenerating USA, but at least so far, one thing remains: the right to bear arms and use deadly force to defend one's self and possessions.
This will probably come as a total shock to most of my Western readers, but at one point, Russia was one of the most heavily armed societies on earth. This was, of course, when we were free under the Tsar. Weapons, from swords and spears to pistols, rifles and shotguns were everywhere, common items. People carried them concealed, they carried them holstered. Fighting knives were a prominent part of many traditional attires and those little tubes criss crossing on the costumes of Cossacks and various Caucasian peoples? Well those are bullet holders for rifles.
Biden's Gun Plan Draws NRA Ire
By COLLEEN MCCAIN NELSON And GARY FIELDS - WSJ.com
Vice President Joe Biden said Thursday he would recommend the White House push for broad measures to stem gun violence, citing growing support for tighter background checks on gun purchasers, restrictions on high-capacity clips and other moves.
But the National Rifle Association delivered a swift rebuke following a meeting with Mr. Biden, saying the administration was gearing up for an attack on gun ownership.
Biden Hints at Outlawing Unregulated 'Private' Gun Sales
Closing "the gun show loophole."
Vice President Joe Biden, in remarks today before a meeting on guns, suggested the Obama administration is seriously considering outlawing unregulated "private" gun sales:
Eric Holder: Gun Owners Should 'Cower' in Shame Like Smokers
By NB Staff - NewsBusters.org
The hot new video at MRCTV.org is 1995 footage of Attorney General Eric Holder, when he was the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia. In his remarks before the Woman's National Democratic Club, broadcast by CSPAN 2, Holder said people should be ashamed to own guns, just the way that cigarette smokes now "cower outside of buildings" to smoke.
NRA accuses White House of 'attack' on 2nd Amendment rights
By Justin Sink - TheHill.com
The National Rifle Association said Thursday it was "disappointed" by its meeting Thursday with Vice President Biden, accusing the Obama administration of using the time to "attack the Second Amendment."
The statement, issued shortly after the conclusion of the conference, deflated any prospect of an unlikely alliance between the White House and the gun lobby group as President Obama looks to push a set of new gun regulations in the coming month.
Biden draws NRA ire in drive against gun violence
By Steve Holland
WASHINGTON | Thu Jan 10, 2013 6:51pm EST
(Reuters) - Vice President Joe Biden butted heads with the powerful National Rifle Association on Thursday in his drive to reduce U.S. gun violence, drawing complaints from the lobby group that the White House is trying to limit constitutionally protected gun rights.
Biden sat down for about an hour and a half of talks with an NRA representative and officials from other gun owners' groups after telling reporters he is likely to recommend background checks for all gun buyers and a ban on high-capacity ammunition clips.
Video game lobby CEO set to meet with Biden on gun violence
By Jennifer Martinez - TheHill.com
Entertainment Software Association CEO Mike Gallagher and other video game industry representatives will meet with Vice President Biden on Friday as President Obama's gun violence task force prepares to release its policy recommendations next week.
The Entertainment Software Association represents video game companies in Washington and counts Electronic Arts and Microsoft as members. The video game industry has been criticized for producing first-person shooter games, such as "Call of Duty" and "Medal of Honor Gunfighter," and other violent content in the wake of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., last month.
NRA vows to fight Biden's gun control taskforce in Congress
Lobby group emerges from meeting with vice president to say White House has 'agenda to attack the second amendment'
By Adam Gabbatt in New York - Guardian.co.uk
The National Rifle Association, the strongest pro-gun lobby group in theUnited States, on Thursday set the stage for a bitter congressional battle over stricter gun controls, accusing vice president Joe Biden of having "an agenda to attack the second amendment".
Emerging from a meeting with Biden's gun control taskforce, representatives of the NRA said the vice president had been too eager to discuss laws clamping down on gun control, and less keen to talk about the non-legislative measures it prefers.
Can America Survive If Americans No Longer Agree
On A Core Set Of Shared Values?
By Michael Snyder - TheEconomicCollapseBlog.com
What does America stand for? That question is a lot more complicated than you might think. Our Founding Fathers established a Republic that was based on a set of shared values that were embodied in the text of the U.S. Constitution. But today, many of our politicians openly disregard the Constitution whenever they want and it has become fashionable to mock the U.S. Constitution. For example, the New York Times recently published a piece by Georgetown University Professor Louis Michael Seidman entitled "Let's Give Up On The Constitution" in which he publicly called the Constitution "archaic" and "downright evil". This is a man that has been teaching constitutional law to the next generation of lawyers at one of the top universities in the nation for nearly 40 years. Unfortunately, Seidman is not an aberration. The truth is that law schools all over America are absolutely packed with professors that teach that we should consider the U.S. Constitution a "living, breathing document" that must "evolve" as society evolves. They also teach that when we find something in the Constitution that does not work for us today that we should just ignore it. In fact, in his New York Times article Seidman insisted that "constitutional disobedience" is "as old as the Republic". But if we can just ignore the U.S. Constitution whenever we want, where does that leave us? Should we be able to ignore all laws when they are not convenient for us?
Minority Report in real time…
U.S. Cities Relying on Precog Software to Predict Murder
BY KIM ZETTER - Wired.com
Who needs the freaky precogs of Minority Report to predict if someone's likely to commit murder when you have an algorithm that can do it for you?
New crime-prediction software used in Maryland and Pennsylvania, and soon to be rolled out in the nation's capital too, promises to reduce the homicide rate by predicting which prison parolees are likely to commit murder and therefore receive more stringent supervision.
Citing privacy, critics target drones buzzing over USA
Just another tool in the homeland security toolbox, or do domestic drones encroach on citizens' liberties?
Judy Keen, USA TODAY
Backlash against the domestic use of drones is building.
Congress and at least 10 state legislatures could consider bills this year that would limit the use of the camera-equipped, unmanned aircraft in the USA.
Elio Motors' ultra fuel efficient 84 mpg 3-wheeler
by Susmita Baral - GreenerIdeal.com
Elio Motors has purchased a former General Motors assembly plant near Shreveport, Louisiana. Elio—which produces fuel efficient three wheeled cars that can go at 84 mpg on a highway—will begin production at this new facility in mid-2014 and is speculated to hire 1,500 employees by 2015.
For those unaware, the Elio retails for a mere $6,800 and features three airbags, power windows and air conditioning, two seats, a central driving position, front wheel drive, 60 mpg average, and a three-year 36,000-mile warranty. What's more, a preliminary test gives the vehicle a 5-star safety rating.
Maker of high-mileage 3-wheel vehicles buys former GM plant
By Ben Klayman
DETROIT | Thu Jan 3, 2013 2:39pm EST
(Reuters) - Elio Motors has agreed to purchase a former General Motors Co (GM.N) assembly plant near Shreveport, Louisiana and will use it to build three-wheeled vehicles that it says will get more than 80 miles on a gallon of gasoline, the company said on Thursday.
Terms of the sale were not disclosed in a joint press release from Elio and Racer Trust, which owns properties GM disposed of in its bankruptcy. The deal is expected to close in the spring.
Obama Faces a Tough Task
to Put a Million EVs on the Road by 2015
By Futurity - OilPrice.com
The Obama administration's goal of putting a million plug-in electric vehicles on the roads by 2015 may be a tough sell, say researchers.
But, the new study does find that consumers are more receptive to buying electric cars in some cities, including San Jose/San Francisco, Chicago, and Boston.
Researchers surveyed more than 2,300 adult drivers in 21 large US cities in the fall of 2011. They found that the perceived drawbacks of electric vehicles outweigh the advantages for most consumers.
Google's Eric Schmidt says
North Korea must open up to internet as visit ends
Search company boss says delegation told Pyongyang regime that future prosperity hinges on allowing greater freedoms
By Justin McCurry in Tokyo
and Jonathan Kaiman in Beijing - Guardian.co.uk
Google's executive chairman, Eric Schmidt, has warned North Koreathat it risks continued isolation and economic decline unless it quickly loosens its grip on access to the internet.
Speaking in Beijing at the end of a four-day visit to North Korea with Bill Richardson, the former governor of New Mexico, Schmidt said the regime would fall even further behind the rest of the world unless it widened access to the internet and mobile phones among its 24 million people.
Keeper of the Kill Lists
by RAY McGOVERN - CounterPunch.org
As Washington's pundit class sees it, Defense Secretary-designee Chuck Hagel deserves a tough grilling over his hesitancy to go to war with Iran and his controversial detection of a pro-Israel lobby operating in the U.S. capital, but prospective CIA Director John Brennan should get only a few polite queries about his role helping to create and sustain Dick Cheney's "dark side."
During the upcoming confirmation hearings of these two nominees for President Barack Obama's national security team, we all may get a revealing look into the upside-down world of Washington's moral and geopolitical priorities, where too much skepticism about rushing to war is disqualifying and complicity in war crimes is okay, maybe even expected.
The Rise of Israel's Far-Right
A different Israel after January 22
The elections will almost certainly yield a leadership that firmly rejects Palestinian statehood and adamantly champions settlement expansion — not so much because the electorate is swinging heavily to the right, but because the right has already swung heavily to the far right
By David Horovitz - TimesOfIsrael.com
You may wish to celebrate. You may be plunged into despair. But signs are the country to which you will wake up on January 23 will be a different Israel.
Sixty-five years after those who spoke for the local Arabs rejected a Jewish state, this will likely be an Israel that has voted to reject a Palestinian state — prompted by a combination of the Palestinians' intransigence, doubletalk, hostility and terrorism, and of Israeli Jews' security fears, historic connection and sense of religious obligation.
Jordanian PM: If we were to let in Palestinians from Syria, Israel would try to send more of them our way Hashemite kingdom, which holds general elections in two weeks, has closed its borders to 'brethren' fleeing Assad, fearing major influx
By ELHANAN MILLER - TimesOfIsrael.com
Jordan will not allow Palestinian refugees fleeing Syria to enter the kingdom, for fear that doing so would encourage Israel to deport Palestinians to Jordan, Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour said on Thursday.
"There are those who want to absolve Israel once again of its responsibility for banishing Palestinians from their homes," Ensour said in an extensive interview with the London-based Arab daily al-Hayat. "Jordan is not the place to solve Israel's problems. Jordan has taken a sovereign and explicit decision not to allow Palestinians carrying Syrian [travel] documents to enter Jordan."
Top U.S. General Says Stopping
a Syrian Chemical Attack Is 'Almost Unachievable'
BY SPENCER ACKERMAN AND NOAH SHACHTMAN - Wired.com
If Syrian dictator Bashar Assad decides to use his chemical weapons, there won't be a thing the U.S. military can do to stop him, America's top military officer conceded on Thursday. Nor will the U.S. step into a "hostile" atmosphere, with or without Assad, to keep those chemicals under control.
It's been a month since U.S. intelligence learned that Assad's forces were mixing some of their precursor chemicals for sarin gas, as Danger Room first reported. The Syrian military even loaded aerial bombs with the deadly agent. Assad hasn't used the weapons — yet. Should he change his mind, there's little chance the U.S. would know it before it's too late to stop the first chemical attack in the Mideast in over 20 years.
Afghan MPs warn against total pullout of US troops
Disaster and civil war will follow if all US forces leave after 2014, leaders warn, as Obama and Karzai prepare to hold talks
Staff and agencies - Guardian.co.uk
Afghan politicians have reacted with alarm to a White House announcement that it is considering a complete withdrawal of US troops after 2014, warning that disaster and civil war would follow.
The Obama administration has said it is considering the so-called "zero option" of a complete pullout despite earlier recommendations from the top military commander in Afghanistan to keep soldiers there to help the government.
U.S., Afghanistan have reached "last chapter"
in war aim: Panetta
(Reuters) - U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told visiting Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Thursday that the two countries had reached the "last chapter" in their effort to establish a sovereignAfghanistan that can provide for its own security.
After a formal welcoming ceremony at the Pentagon, Panetta told Karzai that 2013 would mark an important turning point in the war, with Afghan forces due to begin taking the lead role in providing security across the country while coalition troops offered support and training.
Turkey Overtakes Norway as the Largest Oil Producer in Europe
By Joao Peixe - OilPrice.com
Turkey has passed Norway as the largest producer of oil in Europe. According to Bloomberg it fielded 26 drilling rigs at the end of 2012, and the Turkish Energy Ministry says that number has already increased to 34 rigs. Spending on oil and natural gas exploration last year was at $610 million, compared with $42 million a decade earlier.
This rush to find new sources of hydro carbon is fuelled by the rapidly expanding economy. Turkey's economy is growing at 3.5% a year, around twice as fast as most advanced economies, and second only to China.
Iran's Real Threat to the West
By Claude Salhani - OilPrice.com
Since the Islamic revolution in Iran in 1979 much has been said about the threat the mullahs who control the country pose to international oil markets.
A large portion of the world's oil transits through the strategic Straits of Hormuz a narrow body of water separating Iran from Oman. At its narrowest point Hormuz measures less than thirty miles. The oil is carried aboard giant super tankers, easy targets of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard specially created naval unit. Equipped with small, rapid and highly manoeuvrable vessels, heavy machine guns and missiles, the Guards, who have been training for years on how to attack these tankers could quite easily block the Straits and paralyze the flow of international oil supplies.
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