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Fri Apr 27, 2012, 05:24 PM


Weekend Economists Examine Escape Artists and Con Men April 27-29, 2012

As suggested by live-saving DRDU, this weekend we focus upon Houdini and other escape artists--with one notable exception. I refuse to dig up Dick Cheney or any of that Administration. If it comes up in the news, okay. But I think 8 years was more than enough for any 10 lifetimes. And they escaped by cheating, IMO, not by any particular talent or cleverness.

So, what do we know about Harry Houdini?


Harry Houdini in 1899. Houdini in 1903 Houdini in 1922.



Harry Houdini (born Erik Weisz, later Ehrich Weiss or Harry Weiss; March 24, 1874 – October 31, 1926) was a Hungarian-born American stunt performer, noted for his sensational escape acts. He first attracted notice as Handcuff Harry, on a tour of Europe, where he would sensationally challenge different police-forces to try to keep him locked up. This revealed a talent for gimmickry and for audience involvement that would characterise all his work. Soon he was extending his repertoire to include chains, ropes slung from skyscrapers, straitjackets under water, and having to hold his breath inside a sealed milk-can.

In 1904, thousands watched as he tried to escape from a special handcuff commissioned by London's Daily Mirror, keeping them in suspense for an hour. Another stunt saw him buried alive and only just able to claw himself to the surface, emerging in a state of near-breakdown. While many suspected that these escapes were fabricated, it is ironic that Houdini was meanwhile presenting himself as the scourge of fake magicians and spiritualists. As President of the Society of American Magicians, he was keen to uphold professional standards and expose fraudulent artists who gave practitioners a bad name. He was also quick to sue anyone who pirated his own escape-stunts.

Houdini made a number of movies, but quit acting when it failed to bring in money. He was also a keen aviator, and aimed to become the first man to fly a plane in Australia, but according to the official definition of sustained flight, he was beaten to it by two others. Even the circumstances of his death were dramatic and mysterious. According to one version, a student in Montreal asked him if his stomach was hard enough to take any blow, to which he replied that it was, whereupon the student rained a series of blows on it before Houdini had had time to tense up. A few days later, he died of a ruptured appendix. But this may have been unconnected, as he had already been suffering appendicitis and refusing to seek medical attention.

Early life

Harry Houdini was born as Erik Weisz in Budapest, Hungary, on March 24, 1874. His parents were Rabbi Mayer Samuel Weisz (1829–1892), and Cecelia Weisz (née Steiner; 1841–1913). Houdini was one of seven children: Herman M. (1863–1885) who was actually Houdini's half-brother, by Rabbi Weisz's first marriage; Nathan J. (1870–1927); Gottfried William (1872–1925); Theodore "Theo" (1876–1945); Leopold D. (1879–1962); and Carrie Gladys (born 1882 – unknown year of death) who tragically was left almost completely blind after an accident in her childhood.

Weisz arrived in the United States on July 3, 1878, sailing on the SS Fresia with his mother (who was pregnant) and his four brothers. The family changed the Hungarian spelling of their German surname into Weiss (the German spelling) and Erik's name was changed to Ehrich. Friends called him "Ehrie" or "Harry".

They first lived in Appleton, Wisconsin, where his father served as Rabbi of the Zion Reform Jewish Congregation. From 1907 on, Houdini would claim in interviews to have been born in Appleton which was not true and on April 6, 1874, on the Gregorian calendar or 13 days difference from the Julian calendar (March 24, 1874) in Hungary at that time.

According to the 1880 census, the family lived on Appleton Street. On June 6, 1882, Rabbi Weiss became an American citizen. Losing his tenure at Zion in 1887, Rabbi Weiss moved with Ehrich to New York City. They lived in a boarding house on East 79th Street. They were joined by the rest of the family once Rabbi Weiss found permanent housing. As a child, Ehrich Weiss took several jobs, making his public début as a 9-year-old trapeze artist, calling himself "Ehrich, the Prince of the Air". He was also a champion cross country runner in his youth. Weiss became a professional magician and began calling himself "Harry Houdini" because he was heavily influenced by the French magician Jean Eugène Robert-Houdin, and his friend Jack Hayman told him, erroneously, that in French, adding an "i" to Houdin would mean "like Houdin", the great magician. In later life, Houdini would claim that the first part of his new name, Harry, was a homage to Harry Kellar, whom Houdini admired.

In 1918, he registered for selective service as Harry Handcuff Houdini.

Magic career

Houdini began his magic career in 1891. At the outset, he had little success. He performed in dime museums and sideshows, and even doubled as "The Wild Man" at a circus. Houdini focused initially on traditional card tricks. At one point, he billed himself as the "King of Cards". But he soon began experimenting with escape acts.

In 1893, while performing with his brother "Dash" (Theodore) at Coney Island as "The Brothers Houdini", Harry met a fellow performer Wilhelmina Beatrice (Bess) Rahner. Though Bess was initially courted by Dash, she and Houdini married in 1894, with Bess replacing Dash in the act, which became known as "The Houdinis." For the rest of Houdini's performing career, Bess would work as his stage assistant.

Houdini's big break came in 1899 when he met manager Martin Beck in rural Woodstock, Illinois. Impressed by Houdini's handcuffs act, Beck advised him to concentrate on escape acts and booked him on the Orpheum vaudeville circuit. Within months, he was performing at the top vaudeville houses in the country. In 1900, Beck arranged for Houdini to tour Europe. After some days of unsuccessful interviews in London, Houdini managed to interest Dundas Slater, then manager of the Alhambra Theatre. He gave a demonstration of escape from handcuffs at Scotland Yard, and succeeded in baffling the police so effectively that he was booked at the Alhambra for six months.

Houdini became widely known as "The Handcuff King." He toured England, Scotland, the Netherlands, Germany, France, and Russia. In each city, Houdini would challenge local police to restrain him with shackles and lock him in their jails. In many of these challenge escapes, Houdini would first be stripped nude and searched. In Moscow, Houdini escaped from a Siberian prison transport van. Houdini claimed that, had he been unable to free himself, he would have had to travel to Siberia, where the only key was kept. In Cologne, he sued a police officer, Werner Graff, who alleged that he made his escapes via bribery. Houdini won the case when he opened the judge's safe (he would later say the judge had forgotten to lock it). With his new-found wealth and success, Houdini purchased a dress said to have been made for Queen Victoria. He then arranged a grand reception where he presented his mother in the dress to all their relatives. Houdini said it was the happiest day of his life. In 1904, Houdini returned to the U.S. and purchased a house for $25,000, a brownstone at 278 W. 113th Street in Harlem, New York City.



From 1907 and throughout the 1910s, Houdini performed with great success in the United States. He would free himself from jails, handcuffs, chains, ropes, and straitjackets, often while hanging from a rope in plain sight of street audiences. Because of imitators, on January 25, 1908, Houdini put his "handcuff act" behind him and began escaping from a locked, water-filled milk can. The possibility of failure and death thrilled his audiences. Houdini also expanded repertoire with his escape challenge act, in which he invited the public to devise contraptions to hold him. These included nailed packing crates (sometimes lowered into water), riveted boilers, wet-sheets, mailbags, and even the belly of a whale that had washed ashore in Boston. Brewers challenged Houdini to escape from a barrel after they filled it with beer in Scranton, PA and other cities.

Many of these challenges were pre-arranged with local merchants in what is certainly one of the first uses of mass tie-in marketing. Rather than promote the idea that he was assisted by spirits, as did the Davenport Brothers and others, Houdini's advertisements showed him making his escapes via dematerializing, although Houdini himself never claimed to have supernatural powers.

In 1912, Houdini introduced perhaps his most famous act, the Chinese Water Torture Cell, in which he was suspended upside-down in a locked glass-and-steel cabinet full to overflowing with water. The act required that Houdini hold his breath for more than three minutes. Houdini performed the escape for the rest of his career. Despite two Hollywood movies depicting Houdini dying in the Torture Cell, the act had nothing to do with his death. Throughout his career, Houdini explained some of his tricks in books written for the magic brotherhood. In Handcuff Secrets (1909), he revealed how many locks and handcuffs could be opened with properly applied force, others with shoestring. Other times, he carried concealed lockpicks or keys, being able to regurgitate small keys at will. When tied down in ropes or straitjackets, he gained wiggle room by enlarging his shoulders and chest, moving his arms slightly away from his body, and then dislocating his shoulders.

His straitjacket escape was originally performed behind curtains, with him popping out free at the end. However, Houdini's brother, (who was also an escape artist, billing himself as Theodore Hardeen), discovered that audiences were more impressed when the curtains were eliminated so they could watch him struggle to get out. On more than one occasion, they both performed straitjacket escapes whilst dangling upside-down from the roof of a building for publicity.

For most of his career, Houdini was a headline act in vaudeville. For many years, he was the highest-paid performer in American vaudeville. One of Houdini's most notable non-escape stage illusions was performed at New York's Hippodrome Theater, when he vanished a full-grown elephant (with its trainer) from the stage, beneath which was a swimming pool. In 1923, Houdini became president of Martinka & Co., America's oldest magic company. The business is still in operation today.

http://www.martinka.com/martinka/ MARTINKA & CO INC, 85 Godwin Ave, Midland Park, NJ 07432.

He also served as President of the Society of American Magicians (aka S.A.M.) from 1917 until his death in 1926. Founded on May 10, 1902 in the back room of Martinka's magic shop in New York, the Society expanded under the leadership of Harry Houdini during his term as National President from 1917–1926. Houdini was magic's greatest visionary. He sought to create a large, unified national network of professional and amateur magicians. Wherever he traveled, Houdini would give a lengthy formal address to the local magic club, making speeches, and usually threw a banquet for the members at his own expense. He said "The Magicians Clubs as a rule are small: they are weak...but if we were amalgamated into one big body the society would be stronger, and it would mean making the small clubs powerful and worth while. "Members would find a welcome wherever they happened to be and, conversely, the safeguard of a city-to-city hotline to track exposers and other undesirables."

For most of 1916, while on his vaudeville tour, Houdini, at his own expense, had been recruiting local magic clubs to join the SAM in an effort to revitalize what he felt was a weak organization. Houdini persuaded groups in Buffalo, Detroit, Pittsburgh, and Kansas City join. As had happened in London, Houdini persuaded magicians to join. The Buffalo club joined as the first branch, (later assembly) of the Society. Chicago Assembly No. 3 was, as the name implies, the third regional club to be established by the S.A.M., whose assemblies now number in the hundreds. In 1917, he signed Assembly Number Three's charter into existence, and that charter and this club continue to provide Chicago magicians with a connection to each other and to their past. Houdini dined with, addressed, and got pledges from similar clubs in Detroit, Rochester, Pittsburgh, Kansas City, Cincinnati and elsewhere. This was the biggest movement ever in the history of magic. In places where no clubs existed, he rounded up individual magicians, introduced them to each other, and urged them into the fold.

By the end of 1916, magicians' clubs in San Francisco and other cities that Houdini had not visited were offering to become assemblies. He had created the richest and longest surviving organization of magicians in the world. It now embraces almost 6,000 dues paying members and almost 300 assemblies worldwide. In July, 1926, Houdini was elected for the ninth successive time President of the Society of American Magicians. Every other president has only served for one year. He also was President of the Magicians' Club of London.

In the final years of his life (1925/26), Houdini launched his own full-evening show, which he billed as "3 Shows in One: Magic, Escapes, and Fraud Mediums Exposed".



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Reply Weekend Economists Examine Escape Artists and Con Men April 27-29, 2012 (Original post)
Demeter Apr 2012 OP
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Response to Demeter (Original post)

Fri Apr 27, 2012, 05:34 PM



Bank of the Eastern Shore, Cambridge, Maryland was closed today by the Maryland Commissioner of Financial Regulation, which appointed Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) as receiver. To protect the depositors, the FDIC created the Deposit Insurance National Bank of Eastern Shore (DINB), which will remain open until May 25, 2012 to allow depositors access to their insured deposits and time to open accounts at other insured institutions. At the time of closing, the receiver immediately transferred to the DINB all insured deposits of Bank of the Eastern Shore, except for brokered deposits, certificates of deposits (CDs) and individual retirement accounts (IRAs). The receiver also transferred to the DINB all secured deposits by public entities.

The FDIC will mail checks directly to customers with CDs and IRAs. For the brokered deposit customers, the FDIC will pay the brokers directly for the amount of their insured funds. Customers with brokered deposits should contact their brokers directly for information concerning their money.

The main office and all branches of Bank of the Eastern Shore will reopen on Monday, April 30, 2012. The DINB will maintain Bank of the Eastern Shore's normal business hours thereafter, until May 25, 2012. Banking activities, such as writing checks and using ATM and debit cards, can continue normally for former customers of Bank of the Eastern Shore until May 14, 2012. Direct Deposit, however, will end on May 18, 2012. Bank of the Eastern Shore official checks will continue to clear and will be issued to customers closing accounts.

All insured depositors of Bank of the Eastern Shore are encouraged to transfer their insured funds to other banks during this transitional period. They may do so by asking their new bank to electronically transfer their deposits from the DINB or by writing checks for the amount in their accounts. For depositors who have not closed or transferred their accounts on or before May 25, 2012, the FDIC will mail checks to the address of record for the amount of the insured funds.

Under the FDI Act, the FDIC may create a deposit insurance national bank to ensure that depositors have continued access to their insured funds where no other bank has agreed to assume the insured deposits. This arrangement allows for uninterrupted direct deposits and automated payments from customers' accounts and allows them time to find another institution with which to do business.

As of December 31, 2011, Bank of the Eastern Shore had $166.7 million in total assets and $154.5 million in total deposits. At the time of closing, the amount of deposits exceeding the insurance limits were undetermined. Uninsured deposits were not transferred to the DINB. The amount of uninsured deposits will be determined once the FDIC obtains additional information from those customers....The FDIC as receiver will retain all the assets from Bank of the Eastern Shore for later disposition. Loan customers should continue to make their payments as usual.

The cost to the FDIC's Deposit Insurance Fund is estimated to be $41.8 million. Bank of the Eastern Shore is the 18th FDIC-insured institution to fail in the nation this year, and the first in Maryland. The last FDIC-insured institution closed in the state was K Bank, Randallstown, on November 5, 2010.

HarVest Bank of Maryland, Gaithersburg, Maryland, was closed today by the Maryland Commissioner of Financial Regulation, which appointed the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) as receiver. To protect the depositors, the FDIC entered into a purchase and assumption agreement with Sonabank, McLean, Virginia, to assume all of the deposits of HarVest Bank of Maryland. The four branches of HarVest Bank of Maryland will reopen during normal business hours as branches of Sonabank...As of December 31, 2011, HarVest Bank of Maryland had approximately $164.3 million in total assets and $145.5 million in total deposits. In addition to assuming all of the deposits of the failed bank, Sonabank agreed to purchase essentially all of the assets...

The FDIC estimates that the cost to the Deposit Insurance Fund (DIF) will be $17.2 million. Compared to other alternatives, Sonabank's acquisition was the least costly resolution for the FDIC's DIF. HarVest Bank of Maryland is the 19th FDIC-insured institution to fail in the nation this year, and the second in Maryland. The last FDIC-insured institution closed in the state was Bank of the Eastern Shore, Cambridge, earlier today.

Inter Savings Bank, fsb D/B/A InterBank, fsb, Maple Grove, Minnesota
, was closed today by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), which appointed the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) as receiver. To protect the depositors, the FDIC entered into a purchase and assumption agreement with Great Southern Bank, Reeds Spring, Missouri, to assume all of the deposits of InterBank, fsb.

The four branches of InterBank, fsb will reopen on Monday as branches of Great Southern Bank...As of December 31, 2011, InterBank, fsb had approximately $481.6 million in total assets and $473.0 million in total deposits. In addition to assuming all of the deposits of the failed bank, Great Southern Bank agreed to purchase essentially all of the assets.

The FDIC and Great Southern Bank entered into a loss-share transaction on $413.0 million of InterBank, fsb's assets...The FDIC estimates that the cost to the Deposit Insurance Fund (DIF) will be $117.5 million. Compared to other alternatives, Great Southern Bank's acquisition was the least costly resolution for the FDIC's DIF. InterBank, fsb is the 20th FDIC-insured institution to fail in the nation this year, and the third in Minnesota. The last FDIC-insured institution closed in the state was Home Savings of America, Little Falls, on February 24, 2012.

Plantation Federal Bank, Pawleys Island, South Carolina
, was closed today by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), which appointed the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) as receiver. To protect the depositors, the FDIC entered into a purchase and assumption agreement with First Federal Bank (formerly known as First Federal Savings and Loan Association of Charleston), Charleston, South Carolina, to assume all of the deposits of Plantation Federal Bank.

The six branches of Plantation Federal Bank will reopen on Monday as branches of First Federal Bank, including the three branches operating under the name of First Savers Bank...As of December 31, 2011, Plantation Federal Bank had approximately $486.4 million in total assets and $440.5 million in total deposits. In addition to assuming all of the deposits of the failed bank, First Federal Bank agreed to purchase essentially all of the assets.

The FDIC and First Federal Bank entered into a loss-share transaction on $221.7 million of Plantation Federal Bank's assets. The FDIC estimates that the cost to the Deposit Insurance Fund (DIF) will be $76.0 million. Compared to other alternatives, First Federal Bank's acquisition was the least costly resolution for the FDIC's DIF. Plantation Federal Bank is the 21st FDIC-insured institution to fail in the nation this year, and the first in South Carolina. The last FDIC-insured institution closed in the state was BankMeridian, N.A., Columbia, on July 29, 2011.

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Response to Demeter (Reply #1)

Sat Apr 28, 2012, 06:37 AM



Palm Desert National Bank, Palm Desert, California, was closed today by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), which appointed the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) as receiver. To protect the depositors, the FDIC entered into a purchase and assumption agreement with Pacific Premier Bank, Costa Mesa, to assume all of the deposits of Palm Desert National Bank.

The sole branch of Palm Desert National Bank will reopen on Monday as a branch of Pacific Premier Bank...As of December 31, 2011, Palm Desert National Bank had approximately $125.8 million in total assets and $122.8 million in total deposits. In addition to assuming all of the deposits of the failed bank, Pacific Premier Bank agreed to purchase essentially all of the assets...The FDIC estimates that the cost to the Deposit Insurance Fund (DIF) will be $20.1 million. Compared to other alternatives, Pacific Premier Bank's acquisition was the least costly resolution for the FDIC's DIF. Palm Desert National Bank is the 22nd FDIC-insured institution to fail in the nation this year, and the first in California. The last FDIC-insured institution closed in the state was Citizens Bank of Northern California, Nevada City, on September 23, 2011.

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Response to Demeter (Reply #16)

Sat Apr 28, 2012, 06:38 AM



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Response to Demeter (Original post)

Fri Apr 27, 2012, 05:38 PM

2. Death of a Fairy Tale By PAUL KRUGMAN



This was the month the confidence fairy died.

For the past two years most policy makers in Europe and many politicians and pundits in America have been in thrall to a destructive economic doctrine. According to this doctrine, governments should respond to a severely depressed economy not the way the textbooks say they should — by spending more to offset falling private demand — but with fiscal austerity, slashing spending in an effort to balance their budgets.

Critics warned from the beginning that austerity in the face of depression would only make that depression worse. But the “austerians” insisted that the reverse would happen. Why? Confidence! “Confidence-inspiring policies will foster and not hamper economic recovery,” declared Jean-Claude Trichet, the former president of the European Central Bank — a claim echoed by Republicans in Congress here. Or as I put it way back when, the idea was that the confidence fairy would come in and reward policy makers for their fiscal virtue. The good news is that many influential people are finally admitting that the confidence fairy was a myth. The bad news is that despite this admission there seems to be little prospect of a near-term course change either in Europe or here in America, where we never fully embraced the doctrine, but have, nonetheless, had de facto austerity in the form of huge spending and employment cuts at the state and local level.

So, about that doctrine: appeals to the wonders of confidence are something Herbert Hoover would have found completely familiar — and faith in the confidence fairy has worked out about as well for modern Europe as it did for Hoover’s America. All around Europe’s periphery, from Spain to Latvia, austerity policies have produced Depression-level slumps and Depression-level unemployment; the confidence fairy is nowhere to be seen, not even in Britain, whose turn to austerity two years ago was greeted with loud hosannas by policy elites on both sides of the Atlantic. None of this should come as news, since the failure of austerity policies to deliver as promised has long been obvious. Yet European leaders spent years in denial, insisting that their policies would start working any day now, and celebrating supposed triumphs on the flimsiest of evidence. Notably, the long-suffering (literally) Irish have been hailed as a success story not once but twice, in early 2010 and again in the fall of 2011. Each time the supposed success turned out to be a mirage; three years into its austerity program, Ireland has yet to show any sign of real recovery from a slump that has driven the unemployment rate to almost 15 percent.

However, something has changed in the past few weeks. Several events — the collapse of the Dutch government over proposed austerity measures, the strong showing of the vaguely anti-austerity François Hollande in the first round of France’s presidential election, and an economic report showing that Britain is doing worse in the current slump than it did in the 1930s — seem to have finally broken through the wall of denial. Suddenly, everyone is admitting that austerity isn’t working. The question now is what they’re going to do about it. And the answer, I fear, is: not much. For one thing, while the austerians seem to have given up on hope, they haven’t given up on fear — that is, on the claim that if we don’t slash spending, even in a depressed economy, we’ll turn into Greece, with sky-high borrowing costs....Now, claims that only austerity can pacify bond markets have proved every bit as wrong as claims that the confidence fairy will bring prosperity. Almost three years have passed since The Wall Street Journal breathlessly warned that the attack of the bond vigilantes on U.S. debt had begun; not only have borrowing costs remained low, they’ve actually fallen by half. Japan has faced dire warnings about its debt for more than a decade; as of this week, it could borrow long term at an interest rate of less than 1 percent. And serious analysts now argue that fiscal austerity in a depressed economy is probably self-defeating: by shrinking the economy and hurting long-term revenue, austerity probably makes the debt outlook worse rather than better...So we’re now living in a world of zombie economic policies — policies that should have been killed by the evidence that all of their premises are wrong, but which keep shambling along nonetheless. And it’s anyone’s guess when this reign of error will end.

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Response to Demeter (Reply #2)

Fri Apr 27, 2012, 05:48 PM

7. Monti hits at eurozone austerity push


Italian PM says the policies are shrinking Europe’s economy and, without new growth measures, could deepen a double-dip recession


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Response to Demeter (Original post)

Fri Apr 27, 2012, 05:45 PM

4. Key US states face slow job growth


Job growth in the 14 states pivotal to the presidential election has advanced at a slower pace than in the rest of the US over the past year



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Response to Demeter (Original post)

Fri Apr 27, 2012, 05:46 PM

5. Obama courts the ‘angry white men’


Election campaign has targeted every group, but the White House’s pitch for blue-collar Republican base has distinct echoes of a class-warfare thesis



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Response to Demeter (Original post)

Fri Apr 27, 2012, 05:47 PM

6. S&P downgrades Spain to triple B plus


The rating agency also expects the country’s economy to contract by 1.5 per cent in real terms during 2012 and by 0.5 per cent in 2013


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Response to Demeter (Original post)

Fri Apr 27, 2012, 05:50 PM

8. BoJ expands asset purchase programme


The Bank of Japan announced further easing measures on Friday, as economic data suggested slowing growth and persistent deflationary forces in the world’s third-largest economy.

The BoJ increased the scale of its key asset-purchasing programme by Y5tn ($61.7bn) to Y70tn, while adjusting the terms to allow it to buy more government debt, and with longer maturities. It also kept interest rates at between zero and 0.1 per cent.



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Response to Demeter (Reply #8)

Fri Apr 27, 2012, 06:02 PM

9. FUKUSHIMA: The ‘Japanese Chernobyl’ - A Year Later and Politics Still ‘Trump’ Safety



”All the samples would be considered nuclear waste if found here in the US.”-- Arnie Gundersen on soil samples taken recently from parks, playgrounds and rooftop gardens throughout Tokyo.

The Japanese Prime Minister Declares Nuclear Plant Safe:

Last week, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda declared that nuclear units 3 & 4 at the Ohi Nuclear Plant were safe for operation. Prime Minister Noda based this declaration on ‘stress tests’, which were nothing more than computer simulations. The computer simulations merely estimate any given reactor’s ability to withstand large earthquakes and/or tsunamis, allegedly like last year’s Fukushima disaster. No other studies, expert testimony or other considerations were mentioned. Unfortunately, for Japan—and the world—Noda couldn’t be more wrong. Several weeks ago, noted nuclear expert Arnie Gundersen visited Tokyo for the express purpose of collecting soil samples. The results were damning. To quote Gundersen:

”… I was in Tokyo and when I was in Tokyo, I took some samples. Now, I did not look for the highest radiation spot. I just went around with five plastic bags and when I found an area, I just scooped up some dirt and put it in a bag. One of those samples was from a crack in the sidewalk. Another one of those samples was from a children's playground that had been previously decontaminated. Another sample had come from some moss on the side of the road. Another sample came from the roof of an office building that I was at. And the last sample was right across the street from the main judicial center in downtown Tokyo. I brought those samples back, declared them through Customs, and sent them to the lab. And the lab determined that ALL of them would be qualified as radioactive waste here in the United States and would have to be shipped to Texas to be disposed of.”

And yet Japanese Prime Minister Noda is fervently lobbying to restart nuclear reactors, fearing power losses in the hot summer. It is reported that without the restart of the Ohi nuclear plant and some unnamed others, the plant operator—Kansai Electric—would only generate some 80% of previous electric output.

Reports Leaking Citing 14 Reactors in Similar Condition as Fukushima:

In the meantime, various reports are leaking out of Japan including a video on Asahi TV which shows mutated plants in Tokyo, and a report on ENE News citing a former Fukushima Daiichi Reactor Operator claiming that they routinely falsified data and rewrote operations reports. Ironically, sources as conservative as Bloomberg News have cited similar safety concerns. A piece by Jason Clenfield which ran on March 22, 2011, detailed how engineer Mitsuhiko Tanaka helped cover-up a ‘manufacturing defect’ in Fukushima Daiichi No. 4 reactor while employed by Hitachi Ltd. in 1974. Tanaka has dubbed Reactor #4 as a ‘time bomb,’ and has pleaded with government officials repeatedly only to be pushed aside and ignored. Yuichi Izumisawa, a Hitachi spokesman explained how the company conferred with Tanaka back in 1988, concluding no further safety concern existed. Izumisawa was recently quoted stating that...”We have not revised our view since then.” ...Tokyo Electric Power Co. Spokesman Naoki Tsunoda declined to comment. Tokyo Electric or TEPCO owns the plant and is the same vendor tapped to build new nuclear plants in the U.S. currently planned by the Obama administration.

The fatal flaw in reactor #4:

According to Tanaka, the reactor pressure vessel had warped walls which caused the vessel to sag, resulting in a height and weight differentiation of more than 34 millimeters. During the last step in a manufacturing process at the Babcock-Hitachi foundry in Kure City, a deadly mistake was made. Braces which had to be placed inside the reactor pressure vessel during a blast furnace firing were absent. It’s unclear whether the braces collapsed or were forgotten entirely. The omission of these braces produced a reactor pressure vessel with warped walls...While politicians may mock or belittle the importance of ’34 millimeters’---that miniscule difference is a vital safety concern. 34 millimeters can mean the difference between an intact reactor or-- a chain reaction bomb. Nuclear regulations mandated that the vessel be scrapped. Had the warped reactor walls been discovered; the replacement cost of the vessel would have bankrupted the company. Tanaka claimed that his boss ...”asked him to reshape the vessel so that no one would know it had ever been damaged.” Tanaka further claimed that workers at the plant covered the damaged vessel with a sheet. It is noted that the same ‘protective covering’ of a white sheet is still employed at Fukushima in 2012...Tanaka’s fix involved using pumpjacks to ‘pop out’ the warped areas on the walls. The company was happy because the end result looked like nothing had ever been damaged or compromised. There is no record of stress tests to determine ongoing viability of these compromised vessel walls on its own structural integrity, yet this same reactor pressure vessel is the sole defense protecting Fukushima’s No. 4 reactor. ‘Luckily’ reactor #4 was shut for maintenance on March 11th, 2011—the day the earthquake and subsequent tsunami hit. Tanaka claims, "I could be the father of a Japanese Chernobyl.”


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Response to Demeter (Original post)

Fri Apr 27, 2012, 06:06 PM

10. Halfway Through the Lost Decade By Robert Scheer



Does anyone care that the economy is floundering and that we are not getting out of this crisis anytime soon? Housing values are in the cellar, the Fed foresees unemployment remaining unacceptably high for the next three years, and national economic growth is predicted to be, at best, anemic. Even the substantial rise of stock averages during recent years has been based in large part on the ability of companies such as Apple to outsource jobs and sales to booming markets led by China—while America’s graduating students face mountainous debt and what is shaping up as a decade without opportunity.

These are the inescapable conclusions to be drawn from a gloomy report released Wednesday by the Federal Reserve. In that document, the Fed revises downward its growth projection for the next two years and predicts, in the words of a New York Times article about the report, that “unemployment will remain a massive and persistent problem for years to come.” The housing failure that is the root cause of this economic emergency continues unabated because there is no political will in either party to aid beleaguered homeowners.

Beneath all the pundit blather about the election lies the fact that most deeply affects the voters’ well-being: Home prices are at a decade low, and in cities like Atlanta and Las Vegas they are as dismal as they have been since the Case-Shiller indices started tracking housing prices in the early 1990s. Without resurgence in housing value, consumer confidence will remain moribund and a woefully weak labor market will persist. Every time housing seems to be rebounding, the banks and the feds unload more of their toxic mortgages and prices edge lower. The only thing preventing a complete collapse, one that would plunge us into deep recession or worse, is the Fed’s extremely low interest rate, which Wednesday’s report reiterated will remain at near zero until late 2014. If the Fed rate were to rise, driving up all of the adjustable rate mortgages out there, we would be in a full-blown depression.

All of this terrible news should spell disaster for Barack Obama’s re-election chances, since it is a direct consequence of his continuing the George W. Bush strategy of bailing out the bankers while ignoring the plight of the homeowners they swindled. But Obama will probably survive because his Republican presidential rival, Mitt Romney, is far worse on this subject....The appalling thing is that this enormous mess did not have to happen. It is a man-made disaster, the result of capricious Wall Street bankers who have no regard for the national interest. Perhaps that is to be expected, but what is shocking is the inability of leading politicians of either party to mount a challenge to the unfettered greed that has come to dominate our political process. In the end, the perpetrators of this calamity have been rewarded, and their patsies, the ordinary folks who are supposed to matter in a democracy, have been cast overboard.

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Response to Demeter (Original post)

Fri Apr 27, 2012, 06:10 PM

11. Is There Room for Accountability in a Society Plagued by Everyday Corruption?



In the absence of justice, what is sovereignty but organized robbery?
~ Saint Augustine, circa 410 AD

For a free society to function in any capacity there has to be a set of rules that are applied equally to everyone. Our society has chosen not to hold those responsible for the financial meltdown accountable. CBS aired a spectacular interview with Anton Valukas, the investigator appointed by the federal bankruptcy court to determine what caused the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy. Two years ago, he submitted a 2,200 page report stating that there was enough evidence for a prosecutor to bring a case against top Lehman officials and the Ernst & Young accounting firm for misleading investors. So, with this evidence why haven’t there been any prosecutions? It might be prudent to review a few anecdotal observations:

  • 2004 election cycle, Lehman Brothers invested $2,338,036 in campaign contributions and in 2008, $2,188,126
  • Lobbying investment by Lehman Brothers peaked at $920,000 in the year 2006
  • Revolving door of personnel from SEC and Federal Reserve to Lehman Brothers and vice versa. As an example, we can follow the career of Kim Wallace, who worked as a senior analyst on the Senate Budget Committee from 1986 to 1989, an aide to Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell from 1989 to 1994, and then as chief political analyst at Lehman Brothers from 1994 to 2008.
  • 2008 election cycle, Ernst & Young invested $2,272,781 in campaign contributions
  • Lobbying investments by Ernst & Young consistently between $2 million and $2.5 million a year
  • Number of documented revolving door employees at 48

    As the story is told, the SEC and the Federal Reserve may have compromised prosecutions against Lehman Brothers and Ernst & Young by their own participation in the cover-up. If the government does not feel it can win a case brought against those at Lehman or Ernst & Young because of government regulators, then by all means pursue prosecution against the regulators who worked in-house at Lehman Brothers and all of their superiors at the SEC and the Federal Reserve. Even if the regulators assigned in-house were in over their heads, they had the responsibility to report their confusion to superiors and their superiors had the responsibility to oversee their subordinates. Otherwise, what is the point of even having taxpayer-funded regulatory agencies?

    By no means is the scope of this injustice limited to Lehman Brothers and Ernst & Young. In fact, the horror of this crisis lies in the pervasiveness of the criminal collusion throughout the industry and the government. Across the board we bear witness to the lack of significant prosecutions. This blatant example of selective application of the judicial system forces even the most optimistic citizen to recognize that we now live in a society of the few unaccountable insiders and the many to which justice applies. Of course this didn’t happen overnight, but this state of our union has reached a tipping point now. For example, the Savings and Loan scandal of the 1980s did at least result in an application of the law to put over 800 white collar criminals in prison. Obviously in the 1980s there were also wrongdoers who went unpunished for their crimes....in just a few decades we can certainly detect a significant increase in the protection of the colluding politically-connected and economically-elite from the justice system. At this point it is difficult to imagine a scenario under which a group of persons within this class would be held accountable by the law....
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    Response to Demeter (Original post)

    Fri Apr 27, 2012, 06:14 PM




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    Response to Demeter (Reply #12)

    Fri Apr 27, 2012, 09:13 PM

    13. Excellent topic!

    Thanks for all your efforts to keep us busy every weekend!

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    Response to Demeter (Original post)

    Sat Apr 28, 2012, 04:38 AM

    14. Musical Interlude

    Heart. Magic Man:

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    Response to hamerfan (Reply #14)

    Sat Apr 28, 2012, 06:46 AM

    19. Nice piece of music....who is she?


    I'm such an old fogey (not that I was ever much for popular music)

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    Response to Demeter (Reply #19)

    Sat Apr 28, 2012, 06:59 PM

    60. Heart, the band.

    Lead singer is Ann Wilson, The female guitarist (on acoustic) is Nancy Wilson, her sister.


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    Response to Demeter (Original post)

    Sat Apr 28, 2012, 04:49 AM

    15. Video Interlude

    Magic, 1978:

    I remember seeing this when it came out. Scared me good! Much like the economy today....

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    Response to hamerfan (Reply #15)

    Sat Apr 28, 2012, 06:48 AM

    20. I never saw that one


    I was out of the country...don't think I can take the excitement....

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    Response to hamerfan (Reply #15)

    Sat Apr 28, 2012, 09:33 AM

    27. That looks scary, I don't recall that movie at all

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    Response to Demeter (Original post)

    Sat Apr 28, 2012, 06:43 AM

    18. wakey - wakey -- eggs and bac-ey

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    Response to xchrom (Reply #18)

    Sat Apr 28, 2012, 06:49 AM

    21. You read my mind...or stomach


    I'm going to make a real breakfast this morning, with bacon. It may shock the Kid into silence for a few minutes.

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    Response to Demeter (Reply #21)

    Sat Apr 28, 2012, 07:02 AM

    22. good for you -- it's not something i do often

    but i love it when i do!

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    Response to Demeter (Reply #21)

    Sat Apr 28, 2012, 08:08 AM

    26. Ah, Life Looks Better After Breakfast


    Last edited Sat Apr 28, 2012, 10:45 AM - Edit history (1)

    Cloudy and in the 40's today...

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    Response to xchrom (Reply #18)

    Sat Apr 28, 2012, 10:51 AM

    28. I felt like going out for breakfast this morning.

    We took a little run to the local I-Hop.

    I got an omelet that was way to big for me to eat in a day, so the dawgs had breakfast too.

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    Response to Demeter (Original post)

    Sat Apr 28, 2012, 07:04 AM

    23. Shareholder Rage at Bank Pay Reaches Tipping Point


    Bank investors’ anger at bank pay is boiling over. Less than two weeks after a third of Citigroup shareholders threw the company’s remuneration report back in its face, shareholders at Barclays and Credit Suisse have done exactly the same. Reforms that now flow from what is a genuine “shareholder spring” could be far reaching.

    Barclays only has itself to blame for its embarrassing protest vote. Chief Executive Bob Diamond described 2011 returns as “unacceptable”, but then proceeded to be granted 80 percent of his maximum 3.4 million pound bonus. It prompted one irate shareholder at the bank’s annual general meeting in London on April 27 to sum it up thus: Barclays, he said, was a cow milked for its officers and staff.

    Yes, Barclays did extend a belated olive branch to investors just prior to the meeting, offering to withhold half of Diamond’s bonus if returns did not exceed the cost of equity. That prevented an even worse result. But Barclays clearly did not give enough ground. Taken with the fact that the same anger surfaced at Credit Suisse - if anything seen as an innovator on remuneration - investors seem to have simply come to the conclusion that executive pay is too high.

    If so, it could mark the start of a new regime, one in which bank bosses are held to account by those best placed for the task - shareholders. At Barclays’ AGM, chairman Marcus Agius trotted out the familiar line that banks need to pay the market rate. But with investors clearly willing to flex their muscles, boardroom concern about angry shareholders could act as a more powerful counterveiling force.

    Yet even as shareholders ensure that they, rather than employees, get a fairer share of the available returns, bankers’ pay may continue to attract attention. It might be different if banks could be allowed to collapse by devising proper resolution regimes, and economies were not likely to be driven into recessions as a result. As things stand, governments and taxpayers must still pick up the tab when banks go bust, and customers suffer because bank oligopolies are not subject to genuine competition. Governments, taxpayers and customers may want their pound of flesh too.

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    Response to Demeter (Original post)

    Sat Apr 28, 2012, 07:18 AM

    24. The 2% Catastrophe: How One Number Explains the Miserable Economy


    The Federal Reserve balance sheet contains roughly $2.5 trillion worth of Treasuries, Fannie Mae bonds and mortgage-backed securities. But there is one asset the Fed considers invaluable. Credibility.

    Most people think the central bank's job is manipulating interest rates, but the Fed is really in the business of making and keeping promises about the economy. Lately the Fed is obsessed with a narrow construction of credibility that is holding back the entire country.

    The Fed has fetishized two-percent inflation.


    The Fed makes a very simple promise: It promises to keep inflation at a certain level every year. That level has changed over the past 30 years, but it's currently around 2% a year. If the economy is running too hot, the Fed raises interest rates. If it's running cold, it lowers rates.

    For 30 years, this worked spectacularly. Recessions were rare and shallow. Inflation was low. Then 2008 happened. Even zero interest rates weren't enough to revive the collapsing economy. That's still mostly true now. In fact, our disappointing recovery is in large part the result of a central bank target that no longer serves the economy.

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    Response to Demeter (Original post)

    Sat Apr 28, 2012, 07:44 AM

    25. “We’re getting absolutely killed in social media..." (ALEC)

    Well now this is rich, as one says. The Masters of the Universe have their knickers is a twist over the hoi-polloi's reaction to seeing their con exposed:


    Published on Friday, April 27, 2012 by Dissent
    ALEC Retreats, the Right Wing Freaks
    by Mark Engler

    Customers should be able to know if companies that they are supporting with their purchases are busy spending money on groups that undermine environmental regulations, attack workers’ rights, promote “Stand Your Ground” gun laws, advance discriminatory “Voter ID” laws, and otherwise bolster the right-wing legislative vanguard. And if these consumers don’t like this behavior, they should be at liberty to take their business elsewhere.

    That proposition seems to fall pretty safely within a free market, vote-with-your-dollars paradigm. In fact, watchdogs who are providing consumers with full information about misbehaving corporations should be seen—again, within a free-market framework—as providing a valuable service, since informed consumers are supposed to be an important part of efficiently functioning capitalism.

    But no. If you ask right-wing talking heads, campaigners who dare to suggest that consumers express displeasure with corporations are waging a war on “open thinking and discussion of legislation.”

    ... The Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) recently reported on ALEC Director of External Relations Caitlyn Korb appealing to a Heritage Foundation “Bloggers Briefing.” According to the CMD, Korb begged

    conservative bloggers for help while prepping “a very aggressive campaign to really spread the word about what we actually do.”

    (italics in original; bold emphasis added)

    ... well, er, no, ALEC, it's not what you actually do that you want out there in the clean sunshine - that, in fact, is exactly what you are objecting to, since in daylight your misdirection, your magic "look here not there" tactics are shown up for exactly what they are and the blood dripping from your vampire fangs is plain for all to see.

    I refuse to compare these ghouls even with the repulsive things that crawl out from under rocks - every living thing on this earth has its place and its use (excepting perhaps us - we're the aberration of which ALEC is the penultimate exemplar ) every yucky slime mold, parasite, slug, creepy-crawly thing excepting your sort, which are nothing but giant ravening maws trying to eat the world, giving nothing, loving nothing, spewing useless filth. Fly back into whatever hell you swarmed out of, you foulness.

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    Response to Demeter (Original post)

    Sat Apr 28, 2012, 10:55 AM

    29. When Half a Million Americans Died and Nobody Noticed By Alexander Cockburn



    ...In September 2004, Merck, one of America's largest pharmaceutical companies, issued a sudden recall of Vioxx, its anti-pain medication widely used to treat arthritis-related ailments. There was a fair amount of news coverage after the recall, but it was pretty slim considering the alleged 55,000 death toll. A big class-action lawsuit dragged its way through the courts for years, eventually being settled for $4.85 billion in 2007. Senior FDA officials apologized for their lack of effective oversight and promised to do better in the future. The Vioxx scandal began to sink into the vast marsh of semi-forgotten international pharmaceutical scandals. The year after Vioxx was pulled from the market, The New York Times and other media outlets ran minor news items, usually down column, noting that American death rates had undergone a striking and completely unexpected decline.

    Typical was the headline on a short article that ran in the April 19, 2006, edition of USA Today: "USA Records Largest Drop in Annual Deaths in at Least 60 Years." During that one year, American deaths fell by 50,000 despite the growth in both the size and the age of the nation's population. Government health experts were quoted as being greatly "surprised" and "scratching (their) heads" over this strange anomaly, which was led by a sharp drop in fatal heart attacks....
    "We find the largest rise in American mortality rates occurred in 1999, the year Vioxx was introduced, while the largest drop occurred in 2004, the year it was withdrawn," says Unz. "Vioxx was almost entirely marketed to the elderly, and these substantial changes in the national death-rate were completely concentrated within the 65-plus population. The FDA studies had proven that use of Vioxx led to deaths from cardiovascular diseases such as heart attacks and strokes, and these were exactly the factors driving the changes in national mortality rates. Patterns of cause and effect cannot easily be proven," Unz continues. "But if we hypothesize a direct connection between the recall of a class of very popular drugs proven to cause fatal heart attacks and other deadly illnesses with an immediate drop in the national rate of fatal heart attacks and other deadly illnesses, then the statistical implications are quite serious."

    Unz makes the point that the users of Vioxx were almost all elderly, and it was not possible to determine whether a particular victim's heart attack had been caused by Vioxx or other factors. But he concludes: "Perhaps 500,000 or more premature American deaths may have resulted from Vioxx (emphasis added), a figure substantially larger than the 3,468 deaths of named individuals acknowledged by Merck during the settlement of its lawsuit. And almost no one among our political or media elites seems to know or care about this possibility."

    I remarked to Unz that it seemed truly incredible that a greater than expected death rate of this dimension should scarcely have caused a ripple. "I'm just as astonished," he said. "One might conjecture that the mainstream media and the government officials were all bribed or intimidated by Merck's lawyers, lobbyists and advertising budget into averting their eyes or holding their tongues. But from 2004 onwards, huge numbers of America's toughest trial lawyers were suing Merck for billions based on Vioxx casualties — didn't they notice the dramatic drop in the national death rate?


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    Response to Demeter (Original post)

    Sat Apr 28, 2012, 10:56 AM

    30. Harry Houdini: An Escape Artist- National History Day



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    Response to Demeter (Reply #30)

    Sat Apr 28, 2012, 11:03 AM

    31. Notable escapes


    Mirror handcuff challenge

    In 1904, the London Daily Mirror newspaper challenged Houdini to escape from a special handcuff that it claimed had taken Nathaniel Hart, a locksmith from Birmingham, five years to make. Houdini accepted the challenge for March 17 during a matinée performance at London's Hippodrome theater. It was reported that 4000 people and more than 100 journalists turned out for the much-hyped event. The escape attempt dragged on for over an hour, during which Houdini emerged from his "ghost house" (a small screen used to conceal the method of his escape) several times. On one occasion, he asked if the cuff could be removed so he could take off his coat. The Mirror representative, Frank Parker, refused, saying Houdini could gain an advantage if he saw how the cuff was unlocked. Houdini promptly took out a pen-knife and, holding the knife in his teeth, used it to cut his coat from his body. Some 56 minutes later, Houdini's wife appeared on stage and gave him a kiss. It is believed that in her mouth was the key to unlock the special handcuff. Houdini then went back behind the curtain. After an hour and ten minutes, Houdini emerged free. As he was paraded on the shoulders of the cheering crowd, he broke down and wept. Houdini later said it was the most difficult escape of his career.

    After Houdini's death, his friend, Martin Beck was quoted in Will Goldstone's book, Sensational Tales of Mystery Men, in which he said that Houdini was bested that day and had appealed to his wife, Bess, for help. Goldstone goes on to claim that Bess begged the key from the Mirror representative, then slipped it to Houdini in a glass of water. However, it was stated in the book "The Secret Life of Houdini" that the key required to open the specially designed Mirror handcuffs was 6" long, and thus could not have been smuggled to Houdini in a glass of water. Goldstone offered no proof of his account, and many modern biographers have found evidence (notably in the custom design of the handcuff itself) that the Mirror challenge was prearranged by Houdini, and that his long struggle to escape was pure showmanship. In support of this, it has been reported that the sterling silver replica of the Mirror cuffs presented to Houdini in honor of his escape was actually made the year before the escape actually took place.

    This was recently covered in depth on the Travel Channel's "Mysteries At The Museum" in an interview with Houdini expert, magician and escape artist Dorothy Dietrich of Scranton's Houdini Museum.

    A full-sized replica of the Mirror Handcuffs, as well as a replica of the Bramah style key for it, is on display to the public at the Houdini Museum in Scranton, PA. This is the only public display of this style cuff anywhere.

    Milk Can Escape

    In 1901, Houdini introduced his own original act, the Milk Can Escape. In this act, Houdini would be handcuffed and sealed inside an over-sized milk can filled with water and make his escape behind a curtain. As part of the effect, Houdini would invite members of the audience to hold their breath along with him while he was inside the can. Advertised with dramatic posters that proclaimed "Failure Means A Drowning Death", the escape proved to be a sensation. Houdini soon modified the escape to include the milk can being locked inside a wooden chest, being chained or padlocked, and even inside another milk can. Houdini only performed the milk can escape as a regular part of his act for four years, but it remains one of the acts most associated with the escape artist. Houdini's brother, Theodore Hardeen, continued to perform the milk can (and the wooden chest variation) into the 1940s.

    The American Museum of Magic has the “Milk Can” and "Overboard Box" used by Harry Houdini.

    Chinese Water Torture Cell

    In 1912, the vast number of imitators prompted Houdini to replace his Milk Can act with the Chinese Water Torture Cell. In this escape, Houdini's feet would be locked in stocks, and he would be lowered upside down into a tank filled with water. The mahogany and metal cell featured a glass front, through which audiences could clearly see Houdini. The stocks would be locked to the top of the cell, and a curtain would conceal his escape. In the earliest version of the Torture Cell, a metal cage was lowered into the cell, and Houdini was enclosed inside that. While making the escape more difficult (the cage prevented Houdini from turning), the cage bars also offered protection should the front glass break. The original cell was built in England, where Houdini first performed the escape for an audience of one person as part of a one-act play he called "Houdini Upside Down". This was so he could copyright the effect and have grounds to sue imitators (which he did). While the escape was advertised as "The Chinese Water Torture Cell" or "The Water Torture Cell", Houdini always referred to it as "the Upside Down" or "USD". The first public performance of the USD was at the Circus Busch in Berlin, on September 21, 1912. Houdini continued to perform the escape until his death in 1926.

    Suspended straitjacket escape

    One of Houdini's most popular publicity stunts was to have himself strapped into a regulation straitjacket and suspended by his ankles from a tall building or crane. Houdini would then make his escape in full view of the assembled crowd. In many cases, Houdini would draw thousands of onlookers who would choke the street and bring city traffic to a halt. Houdini would sometimes ensure press coverage by performing the escape from the office building of a local newspaper. In New York City, Houdini performed the suspended straitjacket escape from a crane being used to build the New York subway. After flinging his body in the air, he escaped from the straitjacket. Starting from when he was hoisted up in the air by the crane, to when the straitjacket was completely off, it took him two minutes and thirty-seven seconds. There is film footage of Houdini performing the escape in the Library of Congress. After being battered against a building in high winds during one escape, Houdini performed the escape with a visible safety wire on his ankle so that he could be pulled away from the building if necessary. The idea for the upside-down escape was given to Houdini by a young boy named Randolph Osborne Douglas (March 31, 1895 – Dec 5, 1956), when the two met at a performance at Sheffield's Empire Theatre.

    Overboard box escape

    Another one of Houdini's most famous publicity stunts was to escape from a nailed and roped packing crate after it had been lowered into water. Houdini first performed the escape in New York's East River on July 7, 1912. Police forbade him from using one of the piers, so Houdini hired a tugboat and invited press on board. Houdini was locked in handcuffs and leg-irons, then nailed into the crate which was roped and weighed down with two hundred pounds of lead. The crate was then lowered into the water. Houdini escaped in fifty-seven seconds. The crate was pulled to the surface and found to still be intact with the manacles inside. Houdini would perform this escape many times, and even performed a version on stage, first at Hamerstein's Roof Garden (where a 5,500-gallon tank was specially built), and later at the New York Hippodrome.

    Buried Alive stunt

    Houdini performed at least three variations on a "Buried Alive" stunt/escape during his career. The first was near Santa Ana, California in 1915, and it almost cost Houdini his life. Houdini was buried, without a casket, in a pit of earth six feet deep. He became exhausted and panicky trying to dig his way to the surface and called for help. When his hand finally broke the surface, he fell unconscious and had to be pulled from the grave by his assistants. Houdini wrote in his diary that the escape was "very dangerous" and that "the weight of the earth is killing."

    Houdini's second variation on Buried Alive was an endurance test designed to expose mystical Egyptian performer Rahman Bey, who claimed to use supernatural powers to remain in a sealed casket for an hour. Houdini bettered Bey on August 5, 1926, by remaining in a sealed casket, or coffin, submerged in the swimming pool of New York's Hotel Shelton for one hour and a half. Houdini claimed he did not use any trickery or supernatural powers to accomplish this feat, just controlled breathing. He repeated the feat at the YMCA in Worcester Massachusetts on September 28, 1926, this time remaining sealed for one hour and eleven minutes.

    Houdini's final Buried Alive was an elaborate stage escape that was to feature in his full evening show. The stunt would see Houdini escape after being strapped in a strait-jacket, sealed in a casket, and then buried in a large tank filled with sand. While there are posters advertising the escape (playing off the Bey challenge they boasted "Egyptian Fakirs Outdone!", it is unclear whether Houdini ever performed Buried Alive on stage. The stunt was to be the feature escape of his 1927 season, but Houdini died on October 31, 1926. The bronze casket Houdini created for Buried Alive was used to transport Houdini's body from Detroit back to New York following his death on Halloween.

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    Response to Demeter (Original post)

    Sat Apr 28, 2012, 11:08 AM

    32. GOP’s Death Wish: Why They Can’t Stop Pissing Off Hispanics, Women, and Young People By Robert Reich



    What are the three demographic groups whose electoral impact is growing fastest? Hispanics, women, and young people. Who are Republicans pissing off the most? Latinos, women, and young people.

    It’s almost as if the GOP can’t help itself.

    Start with Hispanic voters, whose electoral heft keeps growing as they comprise an ever-larger portion of the electorate. Hispanics now favor President Obama over Romney by more than two to one, according to a recent Pew poll. The movement of Hispanics into the Democratic camp has been going on for decades. What are Republicans doing to woo them back? Replicating California Republican Governor Pete Wilson’s disastrous support almost twenty years ago for Proposition 187 – which would have screened out undocumented immigrants from public schools, health care, and other social services, and required law-enforcement officials to report any “suspected” illegals. (Wilson, you may remember, lost that year’s election, and California’s Republican Party has never recovered.) The Arizona law now before the Supreme Court – sponsored by Republicans in the state and copied by Republican legislators and governors in several others – would authorize police to stop anyone looking Hispanic and demand proof of citizenship. It’s nativism disguised as law enforcement.

    Romney is trying to distance himself from that law, but it’s not working. That may be because he dubbed it a “model law” during February’s Republican primary debate in Arizona, and because its author (former state senator Russell Pearce, who was ousted in a special election last November largely by angry Hispanic voters) says he’s working closely with Romney advisers. Hispanics are also reacting to Romney’s attack just a few months ago on GOP rival Texas Governor Rick Perry for supporting in-state tuition at the University of Texas for children of undocumented immigrants. And to Romney’s advocacy of what he calls “self-deportation” – making life so difficult for undocumented immigrants and their families that they choose to leave. As if all this weren’t enough, the GOP has been pushing voter ID laws all over America, whose obvious aim is to intimidate Hispanic voters so they won’t come to the polls. But they may have the opposite effect – emboldening the vast majority of ethnic Hispanics, who are American citizens, to vote in even greater numbers and lend even more support to Obama and other Democrats.

    Or consider women – whose political and economic impact in America continues to grow (women are fast becoming better educated than men and the major breadwinners in American homes). The political gender gap is huge. According to recent polls, women prefer Obama to Romney by over 20 percent. So what is the GOP doing to woo women back? Attacking them. Last February, House Republicans voted to cut off funding to Planned Parenthood. Last May, they unanimously passed the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act,” banning the District of Columbia from funding abortions for low-income women. (The original version removed all exceptions – rape, incest, and endangerment to a mother’s life – except “forcible” rape.) Earlier this year Republican legislators in Virginia, Pennsylvania, Idaho, and Alabama pushed bills requiring women seeking abortions to undergo invasive vaginal ultrasound tests (Pennsylvania Republicans even wanted proof such had viewed the images). Republican legislators in Georgia and Arizona passed bills banning most abortions after twenty weeks of pregnancy. The Georgia bill would also require that any abortion after 20 weeks be done in a way to bring the fetus out alive. Republican legislators in Texas have voted to eliminate funding for any women’s healthcare clinic with an affiliation to an abortion provider – even if the affiliation is merely a shared name, employee, or board member. All told, over 400 Republican bills are pending in state legislatures, attacking womens’ reproductive rights. But even this doesn’t seem enough for the GOP. Republicans in Wisconsin just repealed a law designed to prevent employers from discriminating against women.

    Or, finally, consider students – a significant and growing electoral force, who voted overwhelmingly for Obama in 2008. What are Republicans doing to woo them back? Attack them, of course. Republican Budget Chair Paul Ryan’s budget plan – approved by almost every House Republican and enthusiastically endorsed by Mitt Romney – allows rates on student loans to double on July 1 – from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent. That will add an average of $1,000 a year to student debt loads, which already exceed credit-card debt. House Republicans say America can’t afford the $6 billion a year it would require to keep student loan rates down to where they are now. But that same Republican plan gives wealthy Americans trillions of dollars in tax cuts over the next decade. (Under mounting political pressure, House Republicans have come up with just enough money to keep the loan program going for another year – safely past Election Day – by raiding a fund established for preventive care in the new health-care act.) Here again, Romney is trying to tiptoe away from the GOP position. He now says he supports keeping student loans where they were. Yet only a few months ago he argued that subsidized student loans were bad because they encouraged colleges to raise their tuition.

    How can a political party be so dumb as to piss off Hispanics, women, and young people? Because the core of its base is middle-aged white men – and it doesn’t seem to know how to satisfy its base without at the same time turning off everyone who’s not white, male, and middle-aged.


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    Response to Demeter (Original post)

    Sat Apr 28, 2012, 11:14 AM

    33. America's Mad Cow Crisis



    Americans might remember that when the first mad cow was confirmed in the United States in December, 2003, it was major news. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had been petitioned for years by lawyers from farm and consumer groups I worked with to stop the cannibal feeding practices that transmit this horrible, always fatal, human and animal dementia. When the first cow was found in Washington state, the government said it would stop such feeding, and the media went away. But once the cameras were off and the reporters were gone, nothing substantial changed.

    In the United States, dairy calves are still taken from their mothers and fed the blood and fat of dead cattle. This is no doubt a way to infect them with the mad cow disease that has now been incubating here for decades, spread through such animal feeding practices. No one knows how the latest dairy cow was infected, the fourth confirmed in the United States. Maybe it was nursed on cow's blood. Perhaps it was fed feed containing cattle fat with traces of cattle protein. Or perhaps there is a mad cow disease in pigs in the United States, which simply has not been found yet, because pigs are not tested for it at all, even though pigs are fed both pig and cattle byproducts, and then the blood, fat and other waste parts of these pigs are fed to cattle.

    All these U.S. cattle feeding methods are long banned and illegal in other countries that suffered through but eventually dealt properly with mad cow disease. Here, rather than stopping the transmission of the disease by stopping the cannibal feeding, mad cow is simply covered up with inadequate testing and very adequate public relations. US cattle are still fed mammalian blood, fat and protein, risking human deaths and threatening the long term safety of human blood products, simply to provide the U.S. livestock industry with a cheap protein source and a cheap way to get rid of dead animal waste....Some years ago responsible U.S. beef companies wanted to test their animals for mad cow disease and label their beef as being disease free, but they were forbidden under penalty of law from doing so. Only the USDA can test for mad cows in America. In 2004 and 2005, after two additional mad cows were discovered in Texas and Alabama, the United Sates government declared that obviously mad cow wasn't much of a problem and gutted its anemic testing program. Today only about 40,000 cattle a year are tested, out of tens of millions slaughtered. It's amazing that the California cow was even detected given this pathetic testing program that seems well designed to hide rather than find mad cows.

    The prevention of mad cow disease is relatively simple. If your country has it, test each animal before it goes to slaughter to keep the diseased animals out of the food chain. Cheap, accurate and easy tests are now available in other countries but illegal here. Testing cattle both identifies the true extent of the disease, and keeps infected animals from being eaten in your sausage or hamburger. In this manner countries like Britain, Germany, France and Japan have controlled their problem through testing and a strict ban on cannibal feed. Once mad cow disease moves into the human population of a country, all bets are off as to what could happen next. It's a very slow disease, it develops invisibly over decades in someone who has been infected, and it is always fatal. We'll know a lot more in fifty years, but the future looks worrisome. In Britain people are dying from mad cow disease, people who never consumed infected meat. They used medical products containing human blood, and that blood was infected because it was from infected people. There is no test to identify infectious prions, the causal agent, in blood... The U.S. government refuses to implement the feed ban and the animal testing necessary. It doesn't matter if the President is named Clinton, Bush or Obama because their bureaucrats in the USDA and FDA stay the course and keep the cover up going. Docile, eating what they are fed, trusting the rancher all the way to the slaughterhouse. Is that just the cows, or is it us too?


    John Stauber is an independent author and activist. He founded the Center for Media and Democracy in 1993, retiring in 2009. Way back in 1997 he co-authored Mad Cow USA.

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    Sat Apr 28, 2012, 11:22 AM

    34. The Corruption Law That Scares the Bejesus Out of Corporate America



    Walmart's Mexican bribery scandal is shining the spotlight on the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, an obscure law that's become a bane for some of the world's largest corporations...The statute, generally referred to as the FCPA, was passed in 1977 and bans individuals and companies from bribing foreign government officials to win business or influence their decision making. Those who run afoul of the law can face large fines or prison time. For decades after it was enacted, it was barely used. But in the last five years, it has evolved from an obscure vestige of the post-Watergate era into into one of the most talked about and feared laws in America's board rooms.

    Just ask Walmart.


    There was a time when American businesses didn't fret much about foreign bribery, much less what federal prosecutors might do about it. Rather, it was considered an ugly but necessary aspect of doing business in the graft-plagued developing world. That changed in the wake of Watergate.

    The path from Nixon's dirty tricks to the problem of foreign corruption was a bit roundabout, to say the least. At the tail end of the Watergate congressional hearings, a group of business executives testified to making illicit payments to the president's re-election campaign. Their admission perked the interest of Stanley Sporkin, the head of the Securities and Exchange Commission's enforcement division, who wondered how those contributions would have been accounted for on the companies' books. He began an investigation, which eventually revealed that the same slush funds used to funnel money to political campaigns at home were also used to pay bribes abroad. The federal inquiry expanded, and more than 400 corporations eventually confessed to collectively making more than $300 million worth of corrupt payments overseas. This wasn't the first time U.S. companies had been caught doling out cash to foreign governments. After giving the Lockheed Corporation a $250 million federal loan guarantee to avoid bankruptcy in 1971, federal regulators discovered that the airplane maker had bribed public officials in Japan, Italy and the Netherlands to win government contracts. The revelations became national embarrassments in the countries where the deals had occurred. The Lockheed affair and the shocking outcome of Sporkin's detective work both contributed to a sense that reform was necessary. As Andrew Spalding, a professor at the Illinois Institute of Technology's Chicago-Kent College of Law, has written, U.S. policy makers worried that such rank corruption would become a Cold War liability both by harming our relationship with allies and by discrediting capitalism. ...The FCPA eventually passed under the Carter administration, making the United States the first country to officially outlaw foreign bribery. The law then promptly faded from memory. Cases were rare and little talked about. However, by the 1990s, old concerns about the law began to re-emerge.

    Before the FCPA's passage, its opponents argued that criminalizing foreign bribery would put American companies at a disadvantage against international competitors from countries with looser laws -- some governments actually allowed corporations to deduct their bribe payments from their taxes -- and would discourage them from doing business in corruption-prone parts of the world. In 1995, John Hines, Jr. of Harvard's Kennedy School released a paper arguing U.S. companies were in fact investing less in countries where bribery was prevalent than they might have otherwise. When the members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development agreed on an international convention against bribery, the Clinton administration pushed Congress to adopt it by arguing it would level the playing field for U.S. businesses, which were allegedly losing $30 billion a year in business to less scrupulous competition. Even after the convention was adopted, the FCPA still remained largely beneath the radar. That changed dramatically in 2007. The graph below, based on annual report by the law firm Shearman & Sterling, shows how the yearly number of Department of Justice cases brought against corporations more than doubled in middle of the last decade.

    The penalties paid out by companies also surged, peaking at more than $1.7 billion in 2010.

    What brought on the sudden shift isn't entirely clear. The Sarbanes Oxley Act's accounting reforms might have made it more difficult for companies to hide bribes on their books. Meanwhile, the United Nations adopted its own convention on corruption in 2003, and there may have been a sense that the United States needed to show good faith by enforcing its own laws more stringently. If you're to believe comments from Justice Department officials at the time, the Bush Administration simply thought that combating graft was important to the growth of global business. Others have been skeptical of the DOJ's motives. A 2010 Forbes article argued that the only beneficiaries of the government's crusade seemed to be white collar defense lawyers, who reaped hundreds of millions of dollars worth of fees from companies conducting lengthy internal investigations... Increasingly, the FCPA has become a tool for American prosecutors to police the world's large multinationals. Corporations whose shares trade on American exchanges are considered fair targets. So are corrupt transactions that pass through American banks. Using that theory, the Justice Department brought a case against against Japan's JPC, a company that, as the Shearman & Sterling report put it, had "no apparent commercial connection with the United States whatsoever." Rather than test the government's arguments in court, and risk criminal convictions for their executives, most companies have chosen to settle using deferred prosecution agreements.


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    Response to Demeter (Original post)

    Sat Apr 28, 2012, 11:27 AM

    35. Demonstrators Confront Wells Fargo Shareholders



    On Tuesday, April 24 in San Francisco, thousands of angry homeowners, immigrants, union members, Occupiers and community groups converged on the annual shareholders meeting of Wells Fargo Bank. In a carefully choreographed protest, simultaneous marches left Justin Herman Plaza on the city's waterfront, the site of the Occupy San Francisco encampment last fall. Demonstrators walked up parallel streets into the financial district, where they encircled the block in which the meeting was set to take place, in the Julia Morgan ballroom of the Merchants Exchange Building. Beforehand, some demonstrators had moved into the building's lobby, while others chained themselves together, putting sleeves around their arms to make it hard for police to cut them apart to arrest them.

    A group of religious, union and community representatives had purchased shares of stock in the bank beforehand, supposedly allowing them to attend the shareholders meeting. Some even held proxies, allowing them to vote the stock belonging to others. As the rally swirled outside and speeches and songs filled the streets now vacant of normal traffic, the police closed off the building and refused to let the shareholders inside.

    Maria Poblet, from the housing rights organization Just Cause, and Cinthya Muñoz, from Alameda County United in Defense of Immigrant Rights, spoke from a flatbed truck in front of the bank, reminding the crowd of the reasons they'd brought their protests to the bank's doors. "Shareholders want to meet about how to best reap profits from foreclosures, for-profit prisons and detentionDemonstrators Confront Wells Fargo Shareholders centers, student loans, and tax evasion," Poblet shouted. "Today the bank can see that there's no more business as usual. We say no!"

    Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf, however, closed the meeting to the shareholders kept at bay by the police outside.
    ...Fifteen protesting shareholders were finally permitted across police lines and went into the meeting. When Stumpf began a presentation congratulating the bank for making a $15.9 billion profit last year, in the Demonstrators Confront Wells Fargo Shareholdersmidst of foreclosures and a recession, they interrupted him. Police converged on them, took them out of the meeting, and cited and released them. Nine others were arrested outside. Afterwards, the remaining shareholders approved a $19.8 million compensation package for Stumpf's last year's labor.


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    Response to Demeter (Original post)

    Sat Apr 28, 2012, 11:30 AM

    36. One Of Our Favorite Market Indicators Is Plunging, And Just Went Negative


    HEADS UP: The Citigroup Economic Surprise Index went negative this week (via @ivanthek).
    Here's a 3-year look at the index, which tries to capture how well economic data is coming in compared to analyst expectations.

    Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/the-citigroup-economis-surprise-index-goes-negative-2012-4#ixzz1tLxvXOxX

    The index seems to matter.
    This fantastic chart from Reuters' Scotty Barber shows the connection between the index and the forward 3-month relative performance of stocks. vs. bonds.

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    Response to Demeter (Original post)

    Sat Apr 28, 2012, 01:05 PM



    Next weekend I will be AWOL...out of town until Sunday. If there's to be a thread, SOMEBODY ELSE will have to start it. I'm accepting any commitment as of now.

    That's Friday, May 4th through Saturday, May 5th. Be the first in the group to host a Weekend!

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    Response to Demeter (Reply #37)

    Sat Apr 28, 2012, 01:23 PM

    39. I'll kick it off IF -

    IF I can get a promise of lots of help on the economics/finance front.

    Also, will need people to post on Saturday, as I am tied up all day.

    So - if we can have a collaborative, communal (dare I say "ist" on the end of that?) effort, I will start it off Friday night. Already have a theme and headline in mind.

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    Response to bread_and_roses (Reply #39)

    Sat Apr 28, 2012, 01:40 PM

    42. Okay! You're IT!


    Always wanted to be an It Girl, didn't you, b&r?

    A flapper was a girl in the 1920s who was considered to be testing the acceptable behavior of previous generations. In the slang of the period, she was "the it girl." She wore short skirts, bobbed hair, smoked in public, did not obey all the rules of her parent's, listened and danced to the new music known as jazz and rebelled against the norms and morals of the generation of her elders.

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    Response to Demeter (Original post)

    Sat Apr 28, 2012, 01:12 PM

    38. Government shutdown on the horizon? (AGAIN? BUT THAT TRICK NEVER WORKS!)





    Plunging ahead along party lines, the House Appropriations Committee on Wednesday approved a set of Republican-backed spending targets that break with the August debt accords by demanding more than $27 billion in additional savings from non-defense programs.

    The 28-21 vote sets up a long summer of political skirmishing, all leading to what could be another government shutdown fight Oct. 1 when a new fiscal year begins and the GOP must come to terms with the White House and Democratic Senate.

    “The majority is not only reneging on an agreement. It is thumbing its nose at the rule of law,” complained Rep. David Price (D-N.C.). Rep. Norman Dicks (D-Wash.) singled out the allocation for labor, health and education programs, saying it represents “a critical error” by Republicans and will require cuts of $6.3 billion below the already reduced funding for the current year.

    Read more: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0412/75614.html#ixzz1tMNq34nY

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    Response to Demeter (Reply #38)

    Sat Apr 28, 2012, 01:24 PM

    40. Paul Daniels - Rabbit from a Hat (SCREAMINGLY FUNNY)



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    Response to Demeter (Reply #40)

    Sat Apr 28, 2012, 01:27 PM

    41. Easily the funniest magic trick i've ever seen - penn and teller



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    Response to Demeter (Original post)

    Sat Apr 28, 2012, 03:00 PM

    43. Why Hasn't the Euro Fallen More in the Crisis?




    As Europe’s sovereign debt crisis has ground on and the once unthinkable prospect of a breakup of the Continent’s currency union has become a realistic possibility, the euro itself has remained surprisingly resilient, especially against the dollar. With a few exceptions, the euro has traded over $1.30 for the past couple of years. Why, I wondered, hasn’t all of the hemming and hawing among Europe’s leaders taken more of a toll on the common currency? This is a matter of particular importance to me as I plan a move to Berlin, where I might consider buying an apartment—if I could be confident that my investment won’t lose a big chunk of its value due to a strengthening dollar.

    So I figured I’d call some experts to find out what gives. The bottom line: It’s not so much a case of a strong euro as it is a weak dollar, and neither is particularly attractive when compared with such superstars as the Swiss franc, Australian dollar, and the Japanese yen. The dollar-euro “market is a battle of ugly currencies,” Neil Mellor, a currency strategist at Bank of New York Mellon (BK) in London, told me. Since the U.S. Federal Reserve shows no signs of tightening monetary policy, there’s not a lot of incentive for traders to buy dollars. “There has been a policy of debasement of the currency by the Fed, and I don’t think that’s going to change any time soon,” Mellor said. Fair enough, but still worrisome for someone considering a big purchase in euros, so I decided to get a second opinion. Sara Yates from Barclays (BCS) didn’t disagree about the euro’s performance against commodity-based currencies such as Australia’s and Canada’s dollars. But she did note some sensible reasons traders have largely supported the euro for the past year or two. While there has been no shortage of dire headlines out of the euro zone, Yates believes enough news has been positive to keep the currency from collapsing. Despite the dithering and dickering across the Continent, Europe’s leadership has managed to put together a bailout for Greece, and the European Central Bank has propped up commercial banks with €1 trillion in three-year loans. “There are problems remaining,” Yates said, “but in a sense the euro area is better protected against a blowup than it was a couple of years ago.”

    It has also probably been getting substantial support from China and the Middle East. While most countries still hold their currency reserves in dollars, there’s little doubt that many would like to diversify their holdings. It’s hard to find figures that show what central banks are up to, but it’s pretty clear that when the euro starts falling, banks around the world start buying. As the price of crude has surged, Middle Eastern countries have found themselves with lots of cash, and “they have to diversify some of the dollars they get from oil sales,” said Chris Walker, a currency strategist with UBS (UBS) in London. Nick Bennenbroek, head of currency strategy for Wells Fargo (WFC) in New York, pointed out that some of the euro’s resilience this year is because much of the negative sentiment had already been priced into the euro-dollar rate in late 2011. Still, he and the other currency strategists I spoke to all predicted a further weakening of the euro against the dollar in the next six to 12 months, to somewhere between $1.20 and $1.25. (Bloomberg’s survey of 54 traders or strategists is predicting the euro will trade at $1.30 in the fourth quarter.) “Investors are still worried about the longer-term fundamentals of the euro,” Bennenbroek said. “We’re going to see slow growth or even recession in Europe, [which] will cause the euro to weaken over time.”

    And what if the euro disintegrates? None of the people I spoke with would rule it out. Richard Franulovich, a strategist at Westpac Banking (WBC) in New York, said his “base case” is that Greece will exit the euro zone within 12 to 18 months. “At some point, the population will say they’re better off outside the euro,” Franulovich said. And after that? “If Greece were to exit, you could easily see the ECB shedding all its conservatism and guaranteeing all euro bonds to keep other weak countries in the currency union.” Of course, he allows, the opposite could also happen and the ECB might say it’s best to let other weak economies go their own way. “If the euro breaks up, there could be an incalculable chain of events,” he said with what sounded like a grimace over the phone. Predicting what might happen “is like trying to unscramble an egg.”

    Maybe I’ll hold off on buying that apartment after all.

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    Response to Demeter (Original post)

    Sat Apr 28, 2012, 03:03 PM

    44. Ben Bernanke vs. Paul Krugman Posted by Ezra Klein


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    Response to Demeter (Original post)

    Sat Apr 28, 2012, 03:05 PM

    45. Higher Taxes and a Loss in Europe Hurt Ford Profit



    The Ford Motor Company on Friday said that its profit fell by almost half in the first quarter, as higher taxes and a loss in Europe overshadowed improvements in its North American business.

    Ford reported net income of $1.4 billion, 45 percent less than the $2.55 billion it earned in the same period of 2011. Revenue declined 2 percent, to $32.4 billion.

    Officials attributed about half of the decline to the company’s tax rate quadrupling from a year ago. In addition, its European business swung to a $149 million pretax operating loss from a $293 million operating profit.

    Excluding taxes and special items, Ford earned $2.29 billion, or 39 cents a share, its 11th consecutive quarterly operating profit. That is 19 percent less than a year ago, when it earned $2.84 billion, or 47 cents a share, but higher than Wall Street’s average estimate of 35 cents...

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    Response to Demeter (Reply #45)

    Sat Apr 28, 2012, 04:42 PM

    57. What Detroit’s Resurgence Says About The Auto Bailout



    Forget the ides, the American auto industry had a banner month in March. General Motors, Chrysler and Ford all reported some of their best sales numbers in years, with fuel-efficient vehicles, even some hybrids, accounting for much of the increases.

    The data reflect unvarnished good news for the country’s economic recovery, and the companies’ production strategies seem neatly tailored to withstand car consumers’ squeamishness over high gas prices. None of these strides would have been possible if the U.S. auto industry had vanished in 2009. That broadly vindicates the government’s intervention at the height of the economic crisis, but it also masks a more complicated story about the degree to which the government’s actions led to Tuesday’s stellar figures...

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    Response to Demeter (Original post)

    Sat Apr 28, 2012, 03:12 PM

    46. Stunned Home Buyers Find the Bidding Wars Are Back



    ...From California to Florida, many buyers are increasingly competing for the same house. Unlike the bidding wars that typified the go-go years and largely reflected surging sales, today's are a result of supply shortages...Competitive bidding in the current environment isn't producing huge price increases or leaving sellers with hefty profits, as occurred during the housing boom. Still, the bidding wars caused by tight inventory provide the latest evidence that housing demand is starting to pick up after a six-year-long slump.

    An index that measures the number of contracts signed to purchase previously owned homes rose in March to its highest level in nearly two years, up 12.8% from a year ago and 4.1% from February, the National Association of Realtors reported on Thursday.

    "We very much believe we've hit bottom," said Ivy Zelman, chief executive of a research firm, who was among the first to warn of a downturn seven years ago. Earlier this week, she raised her home-price forecast for the year, calling for a 1% annual gain, up from a 1% decline. The Wall Street Journal's quarterly survey found that the inventory of homes listed for sale declined sharply in all 28 markets tracked. Real-estate agents consider a market balanced when there is a six-month supply of homes for sale. At the height of the housing crisis, in 2008, there was an 11.1-months' supply. In March, there was a 6.3-months' supply...



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    Response to Demeter (Original post)

    Sat Apr 28, 2012, 03:26 PM

    47. Obama to Sign Executive Order to Keep for-Profit Colleges From Defrauding Military Families



    President Obama announced today that he would sign an executive order aimed at preventing abuse in a federal program that helps military members, veterans, and their families attend college. Under the new rule, schools will be required to provide information regarding financial aid, loan repayment plans, and credit transfers, practices that will help end abuse primarily at for-profit colleges.

    The executive order will target several main areas, particularly by requiring colleges to provide the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Know Before You Owe financial aid information to all students and cracking down on aggressive recruiting practices. Schools with histories of bad practices will be kept from recruiting on military bases and, through the CFPB, existing rules will be more stringently enforced and a complaint system for military students will be created.

    Obama told the story of one college recruiter who visited North Caronlina’s Camp Lejeune and signed up Marines who had brain injuries “just for the money.”

    “One of the worst examples of this is a college recruiter who had the nerve to visit a barracks at Camp Lejeune and enroll marines with brain injuries, just for the money,” Obama said. “These Marines had injuries so severe, some of them couldn’t recall what courses the recruiter had signed them up for. That’s appalling. That’s disgraceful. It should never happen in America.”


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    Response to Demeter (Original post)

    Sat Apr 28, 2012, 03:30 PM

    48. Burden of Proof: Geithner, Obama, and Wall Street’s Unpunished Crimes By Richard (RJ) Eskow



    Forgery. Perjury. Investor fraud. Bribery. Money laundering. The body of evidence against individuals at the nation’s biggest banks is overwhelming. Nothing speaks louder about the banks’ guilt than this evidence - nothing, that is, except the billions they’ve paid to settle the charges.

    The Administration reacted indignantly this week to suggestions it’s still slow-walking its investigation. And then, despite all this evidence, the Treasury Secretary of the United States proclaimed that no laws had been broken. And the White House wonders why its word is no longer enough?

    A source in the office of a key figure in the investigation has denied a new story that they’re ruled out criminal prosecutions. But the burden of proof has shifted. Nothing will convince the public now except action. Whether it’s JPMorgan Chase settling bribery charges in Alabama, Wells Fargo settling charges of laundering drug-cartel money in Mexico, or the nation’s five largest banks buying their way out of widespread foreclosure fraud and tax evasion, never in history has so much evidence led to so little action. Investigators pinpointed the fraudulent activity of individual accountants in GE Capital’s settlement with the SEC, only to be dumbfounded to discover that no criminal indictments were handed down. So it was nothing short of astonishing to hear the Secretary of the Treasury assert yesterday that no crimes were committed by America’s banks, saying that “most financial crises are caused by a mix of stupidity and greed and recklessness and risk-taking and hope” and adding “you can't legislate away stupidity and risk-taking and greed and recklessness.”

    That’s a straw-man argument, since nobody has suggested outlawing character traits. The Administration’s critics are pointing to a mound of evidence implicating bankers in criminal activity and asking the simple question: Where are the prosecutions? Geithner was doubling down on an assertion his boss made last December, when President told 60 Minutes that ““Some of the most damaging behavior on Wall Street — in some cases some of the least ethical behavior on Wall Street — wasn’t illegal.” Deliberately or not, that sent a message to bankers that they could stop worrying about indictments - that is, if they ever had worried. Why would they? There’s been no investigation, no grilling, and no subpoenaing of bank executives’ emails or phone records. And as far back as 2010, Eric Holder and his Justice Department were trying to pass off long-standing investigations as part of a major assault against financial fraud called “Operation Blind Trust.” The DoJ's claims were quickly debunked and “Blind Trust” was shown to be nothing more than a deception which a Bloomberg columnist said used “trumped-up numbers.” The Columbia Journalism Review summed up their recap of “Blind Trust” coverage with the headline, "Obama Administration’s Financial Fraud Task Force Stunt Misfires."


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    Response to Demeter (Original post)

    Sat Apr 28, 2012, 03:33 PM

    49. My Faith-Based Retirement By JOE NOCERA



    My 60th birthday is less than a week and a half away, and if there is one thing I can say with certainty it’s that 60 is not the new 50. My body creaks and groans. My eyes aren’t what they used to be. I don’t sleep as soundly as I did just a few years ago. Lately, I’ve been seeing a lot of doctors, just to make sure everything still more or less works. I’ve also found myself with a sudden urge to get my house in order — just, you know, in case. Insurance, wills, that sort of thing. Sixty is when you stop pretending you’re going to live forever. You’re officially old. Or at least old-ish. The only thing I haven’t dealt with on my to-do checklist is retirement planning. The reason is simple: I’m not planning to retire. More accurately, I can’t retire. My 401(k) plan, which was supposed to take care of my retirement, is in tatters.

    Like millions of other aging baby boomers, I first began putting money into a tax-deferred retirement account a few years after they were legislated into existence in the late 1970s. The great bull market, which began in 1982, was just gearing up. As a young journalist, I couldn’t afford to invest a lot of money, but my account grew as the market rose, and the bull market gave me an inflated sense of my investing skills.

    I became such an enthusiast of the new investing culture that I wrote my first book, in the mid-1990s, about what I called “the democratization of money.” It was only right, I argued, that the little guy have the same access to the markets as the wealthy. In the book, I didn’t make much of the decline of pensions. After all, we were in the middle of the tech bubble by then. What fun!

    The bull market ended with the bursting of that bubble in 2000. My tech-laden portfolio was cut in half. A half-dozen years later, I got divorced, cutting my 401(k) in half again. A few years after that, I bought a house that needed some costly renovations. Since my retirement account was now hopelessly inadequate for actual retirement, I reasoned that I might as well get some use out of the money while I could. So I threw another chunk of my 401(k) at the renovation. That’s where I stand today...


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    Sat Apr 28, 2012, 03:36 PM

    50. New 'Get The F**k Outta The Road' Program Aims To Increase Pedestrian Safety





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    Sat Apr 28, 2012, 03:38 PM

    51. Lehman Bros. pay report brings calls for reform




    Lawmakers and others say disclosure at financial institutions should be beefed up after report that 50 Lehman employees were awarded nearly $700 million in the year before the investment bank collapsed...


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    Sat Apr 28, 2012, 03:57 PM



    Is CISPA SOPA 2.0? We Explain the Cybersecurity Bill By Megha Rajagopalan


    The act, sponsored Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., and Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, D-Md., would make it easier for private corporations and U.S. agencies, including military and intelligence, to share information related to “cyber threats.” In theory, this would enable the government and companies to keep up-to-date on security risks and protect themselves more efficiently. CISPA would amend the National Security Act of 1947, which currently contains no reference to cyber security. Companies wouldn’t be required to share any data. They would just be allowed to do so...CISPA could enable companies like Facebook and Twitter, as well as Internet service providers, to share your personal information with the National Security Agency and the CIA, as long as that information is deemed to pertain to a cyber threat or to national security.

    How does the bill define “cyber threat”?

    The bill itself defines it as information "pertaining to a vulnerability of" a system or network — a definition that opponents have criticized as too broad. The bill gained support after sponsors agreed to allow votes on several amendments they said would make concessions to privacy activists; one aims to narrow the definition of "cyber threat.”

    ...SOPA was about intellectual property; CISPA is about cyber security, but opponents believe both bills have the potential to trample constitutional rights. The comparisons to SOPA stem from language in an earlier version of CISPA that referenced intellectual property. That wording was removed early on in response to mounting criticism. SOPA would have strengthened copyright laws, barring search engines and other websites from linking to sites that violated intellectual property regulations. That prompted a First Amendment concern from critics that it would give government the power to block websites wholesale, trampling free speech. CISPA’s liability shield, on the other hand, has sparked a concern based on the Fourth Amendment, which protects against unreasonable search and seizure. Opponents contend the law would make it too easy for private companies and the intelligence community to spy on users in the name of cyber security.


    In the Evening Hours, CISPA Gets Some New Features By Megha Rajagopalan


    ...What’s next

    CISPA faces a hard road in the Democrat-controlled Senate, where it must duke it out with cyber security bills backed by Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. The White House said this week that advisers would recommend that President Obama veto CISPA if it ever reaches his desk.

    What Everyone Who Uses The Internet Needs To Know About CISPA


    The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, a digital equivalent of allowing the government to fight perceived threats by monitoring which books citizens check out from the library, passed the House yesterday and will now be taken up by the Senate.

    Online advocates, fresh off their victory against the Stop Online Piracy Act, are now gearing up to oppose CISPA because of the disastrous effect the bill could have for private information on the internet. The bill’s opponents argue that it goes too far in the name of cybersecurity, endangering citizens’ personal online information by giving the government access to anything from users’ private emails to their browsing history.

    As the fight in the Senate begins, here is everything you need to know about CISPA:

  • CISPA’s broad language will likely give the government access to anyone’s personal information with few privacy protections: CISPA allows the government access to any “information pertaining directly to a vulnerability of, or threat to, a system or network of a government or private entity.” There is little indication of what this information could include, and what it means to be ‘pertinent’ to cyber security. Without boundaries, any internet user’s personal, private information would likely be fair game for the government.

  • It supersedes all other provisions of the law protecting privacy: As the bill is currently written, CISPA would apply “notwithstanding any other provision of law.” In other words, privacy restrictions currently in place would not apply to CISPA. As a result, companies could disclose more personal information about users than necessary. Ars Technica writes, “if a company decides that your private emails, your browsing history, your health care records, or any other information would be helpful in dealing with a ‘cyber threat,’ the company can ignore laws that would otherwise limit its disclosure.”

  • The bill completely exempts itself from the Freedom of Information Act: Citizens and journalists have access to most things the government does via the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), a key tool for increasing transparency. However, CISPA completely exempts itself from FOIA requests. The Sunlight Foundation blasted CISPA for “entirely” dismissing FOIA’s “fundamental safeguard for public oversight of government’s activities.”

  • CISPA gives companies blanket immunity from future lawsuits: One of the most egregious aspects of CISPA is that it gives blanket legal immunity to any company that shares its customers’ private information. In other words, if Microsoft were to share your browsing history with the government despite your posing no security threat, you would be barred from filing a lawsuit against them. Without any legal recourse for citizens to take against corporate bad behavior, companies will be far more inclined to share private information...MORE
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    Sat Apr 28, 2012, 04:17 PM

    53. The Trouble with Money


    Recently I was asked by a high school teacher if I had any ideas about why students today seem so apathetic when it comes to engaging with the world around them. I waggishly responded, "Probably because they're smart."

    In my opinion, we're asking our young adults to step into a story that doesn't make any sense....Sure, we can grow the earth's population to 9 billion (and probably will), and sure, we can extract our natural gas and oil resources as fast as possible, and sure, we can continue to pile on official debts at a staggering pace -- but why are we doing all this? Even more troubling, what do we say to our youth when they ask what role they should play in this story -- a story with a plot line they didn't get to write?

    So far, the narrative we're asking them to step into sounds a lot like this: Study hard, go to college, maybe graduate school. And when you get out, not only will you be indebted to your education loans and your mortgage, but you'll be asked to help pay back trillions and trillions of debt to cover the decisions of those who came before you. All while operating within a crumbling, substandard infrastructure. Oh, and by the way, the government and corporate sector appear to have no real interest in your long-term future; you're on your own there.

    Yeah, I happen to think apathy is a perfectly sane response to that story. Thanks, but no thanks.

    Money Is Not Wealth

    Money is just a marker for real things. As long as you can exchange your money for real things, your money represents value. Because we tend to conduct all of our most meaningful transactions using money, our perspective can become warped to the point that we think it is the money itself that has value.

    The economy is measured in these units, these markers, which we call "money." But money is not the same thing as the economy. Far from it. And money has no value on its own, but only in relation to the things we can exchange it for. The economy consists of real needs and wants being fulfilled. On one end of the spectrum, we have the basics like food, water, shelter, medical care, and other necessities. On the other end of the spectrum, we have 15-minute neck massages at the airport. Everything else lies in between

    Money, on the other hand, is simply a facilitator of exchanges....MORE AT LINK


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    Response to Demeter (Reply #53)

    Sat Apr 28, 2012, 04:19 PM

    54. Get Ready for 'Hot' Inflation



    Ideological deflationists and inflationists alike find themselves both facing the same problem. The former still carry the torch for a vicious deflationary juggernaut sure to overpower the actions of the mightiest central banks on the planet. The latter keep expecting not merely a strong inflation but a breakout of hyperinflation.

    Neither has occurred, and the question is, why not?

    The answer is a 'cold' inflation, marked by a steady loss of purchasing power that has progressed through Western economies, not merely over the past few years but over the past decade. Moreover, perhaps it’s also the case that complacency in the face of empirical data (heavily-manipulated, many would argue), support has grown up around ongoing “benign” inflation.

    If so, Western economies face an unpriced risk now, not from spiraling deflation, nor hyperinflation, but rather from the breakout of a (merely) strong inflation.

    Surely, this is an outcome that sovereign bond markets and stock markets are completely unprepared for. Indeed, by continually framing the inflation vs. deflation debate in extreme terms, market participants have created a blind spot: the risk of a conventional, but 'hot,' inflation...MORE

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    Sat Apr 28, 2012, 04:28 PM

    55. Movie career


    Movie career

    In 1906 Houdini started showing films of his outside escapes as part of his vaudeville act. In Boston he presented a short film called Houdini Defeats Hackenschmidt. Georg Hackenschmidt was a famous wrestler of the day, but the nature of their contest is unknown as the film is lost. In 1909 Houdini made a film in Paris for Cinema Lux titled Merveilleux Exploits du Célébre Houdini à Paris (Marvellous Exploits of the Famous Houdini in Paris). It featured a loose narrative designed to showcase several of Houdini's famous escapes, including his straitjacket and underwater handcuff escapes. That same year Houdini got an offer to star as Captain Nemo in a silent version of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, but the project never made it into production.

    Houdini swims above Niagara Falls in a scene from The Man from Beyond, 1922

    It is often erroneously reported that Houdini served as special-effects consultant on the Wharton/International cliffhanger serial, The Mysteries of Myra, shot in Ithaca, New York, because Harry Grossman, director of The Master Mystery also filmed a serial in Ithaca at about the same time. Houdini had nothing to do with "Myra", which treated spiritualism as real, something he never would have approved of. The actual consultants on the serial were pioneering psychic investigator Hereward Carrington and magician Aleister Crowley.

    In 1918 Houdini signed a contract with film producer B.A. Rolfe to star in a 15-part serial, The Master Mystery (released in January 1919). As was common at the time, the film serial was released simultaneously with a novel. Financial difficulties resulted in B.A. Rolfe Productions going out of business, but The Master Mystery led to Houdini being signed by Famous Players-Lasky Corporation/Paramount Pictures, for whom he made two pictures, The Grim Game (1919) and Terror Island (1920).

    While filming an aerial stunt for The Grim Game, two biplanes collided in mid-air with a stuntman doubling Houdini dangling by a rope from one of the planes. Publicity was geared heavily toward promoting this dramatic "caught on film" moment, claiming it was Houdini himself dangling from the plane. While filming these movies in Los Angeles, Houdini rented a home in Laurel Canyon. Following his two-picture stint in Hollywood, Houdini returned to New York and started his own film production company called the "Houdini Picture Corporation". He produced and starred in two films, The Man From Beyond (1921) and Haldane of the Secret Service (1923). He also founded his own film laboratory business called The Film Development Corporation (FDC), gambling on a new process for developing motion picture film. Houdini's brother, Theodore Hardeen, left his own career as a magician and escape artist to run the company. Magician Harry Kellar was a major investor.

    Neither Houdini's acting career nor FDC found success, and he gave up on the movie business in 1923, complaining that "the profits are too meager". But his celebrity was such that, years later, he would be given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (at 7001 Hollywood Blvd).

    In April 2008 Kino International released a DVD box set of Houdini's surviving silent films, including The Master Mystery, Terror Island, The Man From Beyond, Haldane of the Secret Service, and five minutes from The Grim Game. The set also includes newsreel footage of Houdini's escapes from 1907 to 1923, and a section from Merveilleux Exploits du Célébre Houdini à Paris (although it is not identified as such).

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    Sat Apr 28, 2012, 04:38 PM

    56. Golden Eye of Hurricane By Jim Willie



    What an incredibly complex confusing and treacherous month. It can be safely said that 80% of the activity is almost totally kept from the public. The financial system is breaking in an accelerated fashion. Compare to some grisly horror movie where a man is strapped in a chair. The more he moves, the tighter the bindings pull on his gasping throat and pressed nether stones. The most significant two factors at work are the Iran sanctions and their powerful backfire, and the futile efforts in Europe to stem the banking center collapse. The anti-USDollar federation that spans widely across the globe is gathering strong momentum. Financial aggression is being met by financial alternative development. As Greece moved off the daily news fabrication factory, the reality of a collapse in Spain and Italy has moved to the front center of observations. Meanwhile, the American nitwits continue to argue over Quantitative Easing when it never stopped, and in fact, went global under their noses. The US news machine, dominated by the syndicate, churns out absurdities after more nonsensical bites on an economic recovery. The subprime loan machinery has ramped up. The retail factor does not tell of strength, but of weakness. Spending on consumption does not indicate strength, but a path to ruin still not well recognized. The gap between reality and reports is diverging.

    Back at the gold desk, another cartel member kill is in progress. A string of UBS-type gold arena deaths is the biggest untold story of the new decade. The UBS rogue trader story was a total fabrication, written and staged to conceal the removal of all UBS gold from their reserves inventory. They are a dead gold player. The gold community, even LeMetropole Cafe and GATA, appears to be missing the coalition kills taken place in sequence with each paper gold ambush. If the cartel wishes to drive down the paper gold price, then they must deal with the consequences of having one more cartel member bank offered on the physical altar in a death sacrifice. They are vulnerable from sovereign bond positions and weak currency positions. In the margin call vise, they must forfeit their gold, but in a long slow process as truly enormous physical gold orders are being filled over a pyramid of prices lower than the cartel bank wishes. Details are scanty, but the trail can be followed to some extent by false stories to cover the damaging tracks. The press did a wretched job in checking the facts on the UBS rogue story. The loss was over $6 billion. The trades were all approved at VP level. The trap was laid and UBS entered with both feet, the consequence for which was being expelled from the gold arena, probably forever, in a total loss of its gold bullion. No wonder the press did not report the actual story. It would have been a monster bull story for gold. If Barclays or Royal Bank of Scotland or Bank of America were having their golden blood removed on a table, with straps in place for directors of their gold desks, and hot pokers applied by coalition forces to extract their gold, the outcome dictated by incredibly insolvency and margin call vulnerability, the effect on the gold market would be magnificent. Such events are in progress in my opinion, based on some juicy information feeds. Rather than divulge the entire details of the cartel kill, the coalition prefers to move to the next victim in the Wall Street & London cesspool of finance....


    The USFed and Euro Central Bank are guilty of $5 trillion in paper binges in the last several months alone. The US Federal Reserve and the European Central Banks are operating like desperate siamese twins in the frantic rescue attempt to prevent a Western banking system collapse. ECB head Draghi might have expressed reluctance to trade in bad PIGS debt paper, but he has been the champion in EUR 3.1 trillion in window activity over just the last six months. Notice nothing is fixed despite the massive effort that has been no more than glorified paper mache application. It is a futile battle akin to the task of Sisyphus, who was forced to push a stone uphill, but every time he rested, it rolled back down the hill. Since the central bank paper merchants can only apply paper bandages to the paper wounds, the rotten limbs and appendages cannot distinguish between the old rot and the new fester that begins immediately upon treatment. Nothing is fixed, no remedy in place, none even attempted, nor is recognition of the problem part of the debate.

    The US financial markets have become an abandoned playground left to the High Frequency Trading freaks and their cadre of corrupt video game ilk. Volume is way down on the NYSE. Fund outflows are magnificent for stocks, as the public aint so dumb after all. ETF-type congames are losing their appeal. As the LTRO effect wanes from central bank paper shell games played at windows, the financial markets are experiencing a vast low pressure zone. The windows will eventually all be shattered.

    The US housing market is permanently destroyed. The Jackass has played word games since 2007 calling for a two-year decline. But my call has been repeated every year. Let the forecast be made in more plain terms. The US housing market will never come back. Its decline will go hand in hand with the deterioration of the USEconomy and lead the nation on the path to a USGovt debt default, accompanied by over 25 individual State defaults (called another name in legal parlance). The foreclosure parade is unending. The delinquencies mount unabated. The decline in home prices puts new household ranks into negative equity territory, exactly as Greenspan warned a year ago. What irony that the chief architect also acted as the Cassandra in warning. The banks refuse to liquidate, since doing so would expose their insolvent ruin and inflict even more deadly downdrafts in home prices, as well as expose the vast corruption among bonds, from false property titles to duplicate title usage to outright bond counterfeit, even to raids by past presidents...


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    Sat Apr 28, 2012, 05:53 PM

    58. 27 Reasons The European Sovereign Debt Bubble Is About To Burst Michael Snyder



    The economic crisis in Europe continues to get worse and eventually it is going to unravel into a complete economic nightmare. All over Europe, national governments have piled up debts that are completely unsustainable. But whenever they start significantly cutting government spending it results in an economic slowdown. So politicians in Europe are really caught between a rock and a hard place. They can’t keep racking up these unsustainable debts, but if they continue to cut government spending it is going to push their economies into deep recession and their populations will riot.

    Greece is a perfect example of this. Greece has been going down the austerity road for several years now and they are experiencing a full-blown economic depression, riots have become a way of life in that country and their national budget is still not anywhere close to balanced. Americans should pay close attention to what is going on in Europe, because this is what it looks like when a debt party ends. Most of the nations in the eurozone have just started implementing austerity, and yet unemployment in the eurozone is already the highest it has been since the euro was introduced. It has risen for 10 months in a row and is now up to 10.8 percent. Sadly, it is going to go even higher.

    As economies across Europe slide into recession, that is going to put even more pressure on the European financial system. Most Americans do not realize this, but the European banking system is absolutely enormous. It is nearly four times the size that the U.S. banking system is. When the European banking system crashes (and it will) it is going to reverberate around the globe. The epicenter of the next great financial crisis is going to be in Europe, and it is getting closer with each passing day....


    ...So why hasn’t Europe crashed already? Well, the powers that be are pulling out all their tricks. For example, the European Central Bank decided to start loaning gigantic mountains of money to European banks. That accomplished two things….

    1) It kept those European banks from collapsing.

    2) European banks used that money to buy up sovereign bonds and that kept interest rates down.

    Unfortunately, all of this game playing has also put the European Central Bank in a very vulnerable position. The balance sheet of the European Central Bank has expanded by more than 1 trillion dollars over the past nine months. The balance sheet of the European Central Bank is now larger than the entire GDP of Germany and the ECB is now leveraged 36 to 1.

    So just how far can you stretch the rubberband before it snaps?

    Perhaps we are about to find out.

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    Sat Apr 28, 2012, 06:00 PM

    59. Simon Johnson on Debt and Deficit


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    Sun Apr 29, 2012, 08:22 AM

    61. Why the Eurozone Crisis Is Getting Worse By Nouriel Roubini




    Europe has an austerity strategy. It needs a growth strategy. Since last November, the European Central Bank, under its new president, Mario Draghi, has reduced its policy rates and undertaken two injections of more than 1 trillion euros of liquidity into the eurozone banking system. This led to a temporary reduction in the financial strains confronting the debt-endangered countries on the eurozone’s periphery (Greece, Spain, Portugal, Italy, and Ireland), sharply lowered the risk of a liquidity run in the eurozone banking system, and cut financing costs for Italy and Spain from their unsustainable levels of last fall. At the same time, a technical default by Greece was avoided, and the country implemented a successful—if coercive—restructuring of its public debt. A new fiscal compact and new governments in Greece, Italy, and Spain spurred hope of credible commitment to austerity and structural reform. And the decision to combine the eurozone’s new bailout fund (the European Stability Mechanism) with the old one (the European Financial Stability Facility) significantly increased the size of the eurozone’s firewall. But the ensuing honeymoon with the markets turned out to be brief. Interest-rate spreads for Italy and Spain are widening again, while borrowing costs for Portugal and Greece remained high all along. And, inevitably, the recession on the eurozone’s periphery is deepening and moving to the core, namely France and Germany. Indeed, the recession will worsen throughout this year, for many reasons. First, front-loaded fiscal austerity—however necessary—is accelerating the contraction, as higher taxes and lower government spending and transfer payments reduce disposable income and aggregate demand. Moreover, as the recession deepens, resulting in even wider fiscal deficits, another round of austerity will be needed. And now, thanks to the fiscal compact, even the eurozone’s core will be forced into front-loaded recessionary austerity.

    Moreover, while über-competitive Germany can withstand a euro at—or even stronger than—$1.30, for the eurozone’s periphery, where unit labor costs rose 30 percent to 40 percent during the last decade, the value of the exchange rate would have to fall to parity with the U.S. dollar to restore competitiveness and external balance. After all, with painful deleveraging—spending less and saving more to reduce debts—depressing domestic private and public demand, the only hope of restoring growth is an improvement in the trade balance, which requires a much weaker euro. Meanwhile, the credit crunch in the eurozone periphery is intensifying: Thanks to the ECB long-term cheap loans, banks there don’t have a liquidity problem now, but they do have a massive capital shortage. Faced with the difficulty of meeting their 9 percent capital-ratio requirement, they will achieve the target by selling assets and contracting credit —not exactly an ideal scenario for economic recovery.

    To make matters worse, the eurozone depends on oil imports even more than the United States does, and oil prices are rising, even as the political and policy environment is deteriorating. France may elect a president who opposes the fiscal compact and whose policies may scare the bond markets. Elections in Greece—where the recession is turning into a depression—may give 40 percent to 50 percent of the popular vote to parties that favor immediate default and exit from the eurozone. Irish voters may reject the fiscal compact in a referendum. And there are signs of austerity and reform fatigue both in Spain and Italy, where demonstrations, strikes, and popular resentment against painful austerity are mounting. Even structural reforms that will eventually increase productivity growth can be recessionary in the short run. Increasing labor-market flexibility by reducing the costs of shedding workers will lead, in the short run, to more layoffs in the public and private sector, exacerbating the fall in incomes and demand.

    Finally, after a good start, the ECB has now placed on hold the additional monetary stimulus that the eurozone needs. Indeed, ECB officials are starting to worry aloud about the rise in inflation due to the oil shock. The trouble is that the eurozone has an austerity strategy but no growth strategy. And, without that, all it has is a recession strategy that makes austerity and reform self-defeating, because, if output continues to contract, deficit and debt ratios will continue to rise to unsustainable levels. Moreover, the social and political backlash eventually will become overwhelming. That is why interest-rate spreads in the eurozone periphery are widening again now. The peripheral countries suffer from severe stock and flow imbalances. The stock imbalances include large and rising public and private debt as a share of GDP. The flow imbalances include a deepening recession, massive loss of external competitiveness, and the large external deficits that markets are now unwilling to finance. Without a much easier monetary policy and a less front-loaded mode of fiscal austerity, the euro will not weaken, external competitiveness will not be restored, and the recession will deepen. And, without resumption of growth—not years down the line, but in 2012—the stock and flow imbalances will become even more unsustainable. More eurozone countries will be forced to restructure their debts, and eventually some will decide to exit the monetary union.

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    Sun Apr 29, 2012, 08:26 AM

    62. The “Likelihood of a Criminal Prosecution” in MF Global Case Has Grown By Charlie Gasparino




    Federal law enforcement authorities investigating the implosion of MF Global say the likelihood of a criminal prosecution in the case has grown in recent weeks, as investigators actively discuss providing immunity to a key witness who could provide details about who was responsible for transfer of money out of customer accounts during the firm’s final frantic days, the FOX Business Network has learned. People with direct knowledge of the investigation say that in recent days federal law enforcement authorities have held high-level discussions about granting immunity from prosecution to former MF Global assistant treasurer Edith O’Brien in exchange for her cooperating in the probe. Granting immunity from prosecution is rare in criminal cases primarily because prosecutors are wary of giving possible targets free reign to discuss their alleged crimes without fear of facing charges. In fact until recently, federal prosecutors have brushed off offers of a so-called “proffer” agreement by O’Brien’s attorneys in which she would gain immunity in exchange for her cooperation in the ongoing criminal probe, these people say.

    But federal authorities investigating the MF Global collapse centering on the disappearance of $1.6 billion in customer funds have recently had a change of heart, people with direct knowledge of the matter tell FOX Business. Prosecutors believe O’Brien, as the firm’s assistant treasurer and one of the people in charge of MF Global’s funding, holds the key to whether senior officials at the firm, including former chief executive Jon Corzine, either gave direct orders for the transfer of customer funds to keep the firm alive during its final days, or knew customer funds were being used. It’s unclear if prosecutors will grant O’Brien immunity or when they will make their final decision, but people close to the investigation say they are leaning toward a proffer deal.

    Granting O’Brien immunity could pose a major headache for Corzine. As the FOX Business Network was first to report, criminal authorities from the US Attorneys office for the Southern District of New York and the US Attorney’s office in Chicago were starting to conclude that no criminal activity took place regarding the missing money and that the use of customer funds was the result of confusion at a firm. But now criminal authorities are once again actively weighing criminal charges against senior officials at the firm, including Corzine, based on the prospect of O’Brien’s testimony. Even if Corzine didn’t give direct orders to use customer money, people with direct knowledge of the investigation say he could still face charges of “conscious avoidance” or that he was willfully ignorant that customer funds were being improperly or possibly illegally used.

    “That is the only way I see that they can go forward with a criminal case,” said Columbia law school professor John Coffee. “It’s her exchanges with senior management including Corzine” that could lead to charges....O’Brien refused to answer questions at the hearing invoking her Fifth Amendment right against self incrimination. But that didn’t end her involvement in the bigger investigation; her attorneys continued to discuss matters with the Justice Department, and in recent days prosecutors began to actively discuss a potential immunity deal.


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    Response to Demeter (Reply #62)

    Sun Apr 29, 2012, 10:34 AM

    75. It keeps growing more insane by the day.

    I have no hope. I see no future. I have no fight left in me. I have run out of words to express my anger, disgust and distrust. I would so much like to kick a bunch of the fuckers on Wall ST. and in D.C. right in the fucking nuts.

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    Response to Hotler (Reply #75)

    Sun Apr 29, 2012, 06:38 PM

    81. Where there's life, there's hope, Hotler


    I want you to repeat that to yourself, every night at bedtime right after you turn out the light.

    Time enough in the grave for despair and regret.

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    Response to Demeter (Original post)

    Sun Apr 29, 2012, 08:28 AM

    63. morning...

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    Response to xchrom (Reply #63)

    Sun Apr 29, 2012, 08:33 AM

    65. Nice Shot! Is that from a film?


    You should have seen it here--the sheen of frost on the rich green grass, the sun melting off the frost, the birds singing like mad...

    I saw poppies blooming yesterday. Poppies! and phlox and peonies. My peonies are full of buds, but they are nowhere near to blooming yet. Everything continues to grow a month ahead, even though temperatures have reverted to April normal, if not a little colder, even.

    But my forget-me-nots are beautiful, those that survived last year's frost heaves. Also early.

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    Response to Demeter (Reply #65)

    Sun Apr 29, 2012, 08:36 AM

    66. i don't know -- i just googled morning images.

    but it's a pretty place.

    yeah april has not been 'kind' here either.

    it got colder in april.

    but you know -- the winter was so warm none of my tulips bloomed -- they came up -- but didn't flower.

    i love peonies -- take a pic of yours when they bloom and let us see them!

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    Response to Demeter (Original post)

    Sun Apr 29, 2012, 08:31 AM

    64. Brain Drain Feared as German Jobs Lure Southern Europeans


    Victor García, left, Cristina Fernández-Aparicio Ruiz, Albert Girones and Carolina Martínez are among the young professionals who have been drawn to Germany from Spain for employment.

    SCHWÄBISCH HALL, Germany — While much of southern Europe is struggling with soaring unemployment rates, a robust Germany is desperate for educated workers, and it has begun to look south for the solution.

    In the last 18 months, it has recruited thousands of the Continent’s best and brightest to this postcard-perfect town and many others like it, a migration of highly qualified young job-seekers that could set back Europe’s stragglers even more, while giving Germany a further leg up.

    One of those helping forge the new era is Cristina Fernández-Aparicio Ruiz, 36, a newly arrived engineer from Spain, where unemployment just hit a depression-level 24.4 percent. She is working at an industrial company near here, trying to find a way to make a new elevator part mesh with older components.

    Her German is spotty. But the company, Ziehl-Abegg, assigned her a mentor who made sure she had someone to sit with at lunch. And if she needed help finding a doctor or going to the supermarket, the company was ready to help with that, too.

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    Response to Demeter (Original post)

    Sun Apr 29, 2012, 08:38 AM

    67. The End of Growth in the United States



    With one month to go in the data series, US Total Non-Farm Payrolls have averaged 131.08 million in 2011. The problem is that the US is a Very Large System, and needs growth to support its array of future obligations, primarily Social Security and the debt it incurs to run its military budget, and other entitlements. If you had told someone ten years ago that Total Non-Farm Payrolls would be at similar levels in 2011, that likely would have sounded impossible, or extreme. But the fact is, US Total Non-Farm Payrolls averaged 131.83 million ten years ago, in 2001. The implications for this lack of growth are quite dire. | see: United States Total Non-Farm Payrolls in Millions (seasonally adjusted) 2001-2011.

    With less economic growth, and no growth in global oil production leading to permanently higher oil prices, the United States is trying to operate its Empire at previous levels. Now you know why the country along with the rest of West has gone more deeply into debt. The population keeps growing, obligations keep expanding, inputs costs keep rising. But growth keeps slowing. | see: Global Average Annual Crude Oil Production mbpd 2001 – 2011.

    Care to forecast the US will return to economic growth, given energy prices and aggregate levels of debt in the OECD nations? Good luck with that. The US could certainly increase taxes, and reduce government spending. But that won’t restore economic growth. How about increasing annual government deficits more rapidly, to double our debt even faster? Good luck with that too. As I have written before, the energy limit and total debt now trump the tiresome argument between Austrians and Keynesians, rendering the conversation moot.

    There was a time when many “experts” forecast that oil prices would come back down, and that global oil production would increase. Six years later, you don’t hear much from these people anymore. Their books, asserting there never was or would be an oil crisis, can now be had for .99 cents through used bookstores on the Amazon network. I expect them to be joined by economic revival advocates, no later than mid-decade. Growth in real terms, in the OECD nations, has now basically come to an end.


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    Response to Demeter (Original post)

    Sun Apr 29, 2012, 08:57 AM

    68. Martin D. Weiss: To Make Money In This Bubble-and-Bust World, You MUST Be A Contrarian



    ... last week’s address by PIMCO Vice President El-Erian to the St. Louis Fed is one you absolutely MUST not miss. And to save you the trouble of deciphering the economics code words, I dedicate most of this issue to the key points he makes — First and foremost, four of the world’s largest central banks have gone absolutely berserk, running the money printing presses like never before in history:

    The Bank of Japan (BOJ) had already been printing money like crazy ever since their bubble economy burst in the early 1990s. So when the debt crisis struck in 2008, the size of their balance sheet assets, which measure the cumulative total of a central bank’s money printing operations, was already the biggest in the world: About 20% of their economy. Then, when the shock waves of the Lehman Brothers collapse struck Japan, what did they do? They stepped up their money printing operations EVEN further — to about 30% of GDP. (See yellow line in chart above.) Other than Brazil in the 1970s or Germany in the 1920s, no other major nation — or group of nations — on the planet had ever gone that far! (Until, that is, Europe, which I’ll get to in a moment.)

    Meanwhile …

    At the U.S. Federal Reserve, no Fed Chairman in history — not even notorious easy-money advocates like Arthur Burns or Allen Greenspan — had EVER run the money printing presses for any extended period of time. But Fed Chairman Bernanke changed all that. Soon after the debt crisis hit in 2008, he nearly TRIPLED the size of the Fed’s balance sheet from about 6% of GDP to almost 17% of GDP. And in the years since, he has pumped it up even further to about 20% of GDP! (Red line in chart.) The Bank of England (BOE) has mostly been expanding its balance sheet in lock step with the Fed (green line). But in the global race to print money, it’s the European Central Bank (ECB) which has been leading the pack in the past year or so, suddenly expanding their balance sheet from about 20% of GDP to close to 30% GDP (blue line).

    This is absolutely massive! Heck, in the 1990s and 2000s, just the money-printing operations by ONE central bank (the Bank of Japan) changed the world: Global investors borrowed abundant amounts of cheap money in Japan and poured it into risky investments around the world, helping to create some of the largest bubbles — and busts — in history. Now, imagine FOUR central banks doing the same thing at the same time! That’s what we have today! And that’s why the folks at PIMCO say it’s so dangerous. PIMCO VP’s Critical Question: What Happens If the Central Banks FAIL in Their Giant Experiment to Cure Global Economic Ills with Paper Money?

    The answer lies in three simultaneous disasters:

  • The first disaster is that the money drug stops working. It runs into the law of diminishing returns — less economic growth despite bigger and bigger doses … and with time, even severe recessions! That’s what we already see happening in several European countries. And it’s what could ultimately happen in the U.S. as well.

  • The second disaster is the drug’s inevitable side-effect — inflation. In recent years, we’ve see it primarily in asset inflation, especially food and energy. But almost any asset can get caught up in the funnel — like firewood in an F-5 tornado.

  • The third disaster is a series of deadly cancers that spread throughout the global economy:

    * Instead of elected leaders running the world, central bankers take the wheel. Presidents and prime ministers become little more than back-seat drivers.

    * Instead of a capitalist economy financed with savings, we create a debtist economy financed with paper money.

    * Instead of financial markets for prudent investors, we create financial markets dominated by reckless speculators.

    Why This Is So Urgent …

  • First, it’s right now: This is not our forecast of some future event. As Mike’s and PIMCO’s charts prove, the money printing has ALREADY taken place … and it’s continuing at this very moment.

  • Second, it’s so massive: The combined impact of four central banks doubling, tripling and quadrupling their balance sheets is immeasurable.

  • Third, the dangers it’s creating are so large: Several major economies, especially in Europe, are already struggling — or even shrinking — despite the unprecedented money printing. Imagine what might happen when the money printing stops working or begins to create serious side effects? And …

  • Fourth, the money printing opens up such dramatic money-making opportunities for investors:

    You can make money when select investments surge in value — not only because of the money printing but also because they’re solid in their own right. And you can make even MORE money when bubbles burst — as they inevitably do.But there’s one catch …To Make Money in This Bubble-and-Bust World, You MUST Be a Contrarian! You cannot follow the crowd and assume there’s “safety in numbers.” Quite the contrary, it’s the frenzy of crowds that creates the bubbles, and it’s the panic of crowds that brings on the busts. You can’t just jump on a megatrend and stick with it for nearly a lifetime. That may have been possible in the past. But it’s virtually impossible in the bubble-and-bust world of the 21st Century! You can’t expect diversification alone to protect you. Instead, the key to success is to carefully select cream-of-the-crop investments that can survive and thrive even in the worst of times.

    Unfortunately, most of Wall Street’s investment “wise men” still don’t get it. Their philosophy, strategy and tactics are largely drawn from their experiences of that big 50-year megatrend of the second half of the 20th Century called “the postwar boom.” But those theories are almost entirely irrelevant to investing today! Far MORE important is the investment wisdom learned in the FIRST half of the 20th Century — a period, which, like today, was dominated by giant bubbles and busts. That’s when my father, J. Irving Weiss — along with his contemporaries — made most of their fortunes. And that’s when such fortunes would have been impossible without Contrarian Investing!


    I leave you today with some of his (FATHER'S) words of wisdom:

  • “The main purpose of the stock market is to make fools of as many men as possible.”

  • “I made my money by selling too soon.”

  • “I never lost money by turning a profit.”

  • And above all: “Never follow the crowd!”
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    Response to Demeter (Original post)

    Sun Apr 29, 2012, 09:02 AM

    69. Rochelle Riley: Detroit's budget too tight to run November election?





    Complaints were expected. But what happens when budget cuts and the law collide?

    (Detroit City Clerk Janice) Winfrey, much of whose job is defined by law, may have a point. It's not like you can instantaneously reduce the number of polling places or not print ballots. Not in America.

    Bing's proposal would cut the elections department budget from $7.4 million to $5 million and the presidential election budget from a requested $1.2 million to $737,000, according to elections officials. Winfrey spent $1.49 million on the 2008 election when President Barack Obama won the White House with the help of one of every two eligible Detroit voters.

    Winfrey says she plans to talk with Michigan Secretary of Ruth Johnson to determine how she can meet voter needs, save money and follow the law.

    City Chief Operations Officer Chris Brown said the mayor's staff would be "happy to reconsider the Clerk's Office budget to comply with federal election law, but we're making these cuts across the board.

    "We realize the pressure the city clerk and other departments are under, but there are opportunities to consolidate and save," he said. "The mayor's office is cutting 25% of its budget. This is about shared sacrifice."

    Winfrey, undeterred, said if the choice is to follow the law or the mayor, "I'm going to follow the law."

    The city population is smaller, she said, "but the number of voters is the number of voters. We expect 65% turnout this year. We had over 50% four years ago."

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    Response to Demeter (Original post)

    Sun Apr 29, 2012, 09:15 AM

    70. Debunking spiritualists


    In the 1920s Houdini turned his energies toward debunking self-proclaimed psychics and mediums, a pursuit that would inspire and be followed by later-day conjurers. Houdini's training in magic allowed him to expose frauds who had successfully fooled many scientists and academics. He was a member of a Scientific American committee that offered a cash prize to any medium who could successfully demonstrate supernatural abilities. None were able to do so, and the prize was never collected. The first to be tested was medium George Valentine of Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania. As his fame as a "ghostbuster" grew, Houdini took to attending séances in disguise, accompanied by a reporter and police officer. Possibly the most famous medium whom he debunked was Mina Crandon, also known as "Margery".

    Houdini chronicled his debunking exploits in his book, A Magician Among the Spirits, co-authored with C. M. Eddy, Jr. (uncredited). These activities cost Houdini the friendship of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Doyle, a firm believer in Spiritualism during his later years, refused to believe any of Houdini's exposés. Doyle came to believe that Houdini was a powerful spiritualist medium, and had performed many of his stunts by means of paranormal abilities and was using these abilities to block those of other mediums that he was 'debunking' (see Conan Doyle's The Edge of The Unknown, published in 1931). This disagreement led to the two men becoming public antagonists and led Sir Arthur to view Houdini as a dangerous enemy.

    Before Houdini died, he and his wife agreed that if Houdini found it possible to communicate after death, he would communicate the message "Rosabelle believe", a secret code which they agreed to use. This was a phrase from a play in which Bess performed, at the time the couple first met. Bess held yearly séances on Halloween for ten years after Houdini's death. She did have a contact through Arthur Ford in 1929. Ford conveyed the secret code, but Bess later claimed the incident had been faked. In 1936, after a last unsuccessful séance on the roof of the Knickerbocker Hotel, she put out the candle that she had kept burning beside a photograph of Houdini since his death. In 1943, Bess said that "ten years is long enough to wait for any man."

    The tradition of holding a séance for Houdini continues, held by magicians throughout the world. The Official Houdini Séance is currently organized by Sidney Hollis Radner, a Houdini aficionado from Holyoke, Massachusetts. Yearly Houdini Séances are also conducted in Chicago at the Excaliber nightclub by "necromancer" Neil Tobin on behalf of the Chicago Assembly of the Society of American Magicians; and at the Houdini Museum in Scranton by magician Dorothy Dietrich who previously held them at New York's famous Magic Towne House with such magical notables as Houdini biographers Walter B. Gibson and Milbourne Christopher. Gibson was asked by Bess Houdini to carry on the tradition. Before he died, Walter passed on the tradition to Dorothy Dietrich.

    In 1926, Harry Houdini hired H. P. Lovecraft and his friend C. M. Eddy, Jr., to write an entire book about debunking superstition, which was to be called The Cancer of Superstition. Houdini had earlier asked Lovecraft to write an article about astrology, for which he paid $75. The article does not survive. Lovecraft's detailed synopsis for Cancer does survive, as do three chapters of the treatise written by Eddy. Houdini's untimely death derailed the plans, as his widow did not wish to pursue the project.

    Appearance and voice recordings

    Unlike the image of the classic magician, Houdini was short and stocky and typically appeared on stage in a long frock coat and tie. Most biographers peg his height as 5 ft 5 in, but descriptions vary. Houdini was also said to be slightly bow-legged, which aided in his ability to gain slack during his rope escapes. In the 1997 biography Houdini!!!: The Career of Ehrich Weiss, author Kenneth Silverman summarizes how reporters described Houdini's appearance during his early career:

    “ They stressed his smallness—"somewhat undersized"—and angular, vivid features: "He is smooth-shaven with a keen, sharp-chinned, sharp-cheekboned face, bright blue eyes and thick, curly, black hair." Some sensed how much his complexly expressive smile was the outlet of his charismatic stage presence. It communicated to audiences at once warm amiability, pleasure in performing, and, more subtly, imperious self-assurance. Several reporters tried to capture the charming effect, describing him as "happy-looking", "pleasant-faced", "good natured at all times", "the young Hungarian magician with the pleasant smile and easy confidence". ”

    Houdini made the only known recordings of his voice on Edison wax cylinders on October 29, 1914, in Flatbush, New York. On them, Houdini practices several different introductory speeches for his famous Chinese Water Torture Cell. He also invites his sister, Gladys, to recite a poem. Houdini then recites the same poem in German. The six wax cylinders were discovered in the collection of magician John Mulholland after his death in 1970. They are part of the David Copperfield collection.

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    Response to Demeter (Reply #70)

    Sun Apr 29, 2012, 09:17 AM

    71. Artifacts/Libraries/Museums


    Houdini's brother, Theodore Hardeen, who returned to performing after Houdini's death, inherited his brother's effects and props. Houdini's will stipulated that all the effects should be "burned and destroyed" upon Hardeen's death. Hardeen sold much of the collection to magician and Houdini enthusiast Sidney Hollis Radner during the 1940s, including the Water Torture Cell. Radner allowed choice pieces of the collection to be displayed at The Houdini Magical Hall of Fame in Niagara Falls, Ontario. In 1995, a fire destroyed the museum. While the Water Torture Cell was reported to have been destroyed, its metal frame remained, and the cell was restored by illusion builder John Gaughan. Many of the props contained in the museum such as the Mirror Handcuffs, Houdini's original packing crate, a Milk Can, and a straitjacket, survived the fire and were auctioned off in 1999 and 2008.

    Radner loaned the bulk of his collection for archiving to the Outagamie Museum in Appleton, Wisconsin; but pulled it in 2003, and auctioned it off a year later in Las Vegas, on October 30, 2004.

    Houdini was a "formidable collector," and bequeathed many of his holdings and paper archives on magic and spiritualism to the Library of Congress, which became the basis for the Houdini collection in cyberspace.

    More than half of Houdini's archival estate holdings and memorabilia, however, were willed to his fellow magician and friend, John Mulholland (1897–1970). In 1991, well-known illusionist and television performer David Copperfield purchased the entirety of Mulholland's Houdini holdings from Mulholland's estate. These are now archived and preserved in Copperfield's museum in a warehouse at his headquarters in Las Vegas. His museum there contains the world's largest collection of Houdini memorabilia, and all told, preserves approximately 80,000 items of magic memorabilia of Houdini and many other famous practitioners of the arts of magic & illusion – including, among others of Houdini's stage props and material, his famous "Water Torture Cabinet" and "Metamorphosis Trunk". The museum is not open to the public, but tours are available by invitation-only to fellow magicians, scholars, researchers, journalists, and serious collectors.

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    Response to Demeter (Reply #71)

    Sun Apr 29, 2012, 09:21 AM

    72. Death


    Harry Houdini died of peritonitis, secondary to a ruptured appendix. Eyewitnesses to an incident at the Princess Theater in Montreal gave rise to speculation that Houdini's death was caused by a McGill University student, J. Gordon Whitehead, who delivered a surprise attack of multiple blows to Houdini's abdomen.

    The eyewitnesses, students named Jacques Price and Sam Smilovitz (sometimes called Jack Price and Sam Smiley), proffered accounts of the incident that generally corroborated one another. The following is Price's description of events:

    Houdini was reclining on his couch after his performance, having an art student sketch him. When Whitehead came in and asked if it was true that Houdini could take any blow to the stomach, Houdini replied groggily in the affirmative. In this instance, he was hit three times before Houdini could tighten up his stomach muscles to avoid serious injury. Whitehead reportedly continued hitting Houdini several more times and Houdini acted as though he were in some pain.

    Houdini reportedly stated that if he had had time to prepare himself properly, he would have been in a better position to take the blows. He had apparently been suffering from appendicitis for several days prior and yet refused medical treatment. One source states that his appendix would likely have burst on its own without the trauma. Although in serious pain, Houdini continued to travel without seeking medical attention.

    When Houdini arrived at the Garrick Theater in Detroit, Michigan on October 24, 1926, for what would be his last performance, he had a fever of 104 °F (40 °C). Despite a diagnosis of acute appendicitis, Houdini took the stage. He was reported to have passed out during the show, but was revived and continued. Afterwards, he was hospitalized at Detroit's Grace Hospital.

    Houdini died of peritonitis from a ruptured appendix at 1:26 p.m. in Room 401 on October 31, aged 52. In his final weeks, he optimistically held to a strong belief that he would recover, but his last words before dying were reportedly, "I'm tired of fighting".

    After taking statements from Price and Smilovitz, Houdini's insurance company concluded that the death was due to the dressing-room incident and paid double indemnity.

    Houdini's funeral was held on November 4, 1926, in New York, with more than 2,000 mourners in attendance. He was interred in the Machpelah Cemetery in Queens, New York, with the crest of the Society of American Magicians inscribed on his gravesite. A statuary bust was added to the excedra in 1927, believed to be the only graven image in a Jewish cemetery anywhere. In 1975 it was knocked over and destroyed. Temporary ones were placed there until 2011 when a group who came to be called The Houdini Commandos from The Houdini Museum in Scranton, PA placed a permanent bust with the permission of Houdini's family and the cemetery. To this day the Society holds a broken wand ceremony at the grave site in November. Houdini's widow, Bess, died on February 11, 1943, aged 67, in Needles, California. She had expressed a wish to be buried next to him but instead was interred at the Gate of Heaven Cemetery in Westchester, New York, as her Catholic family refused to allow her to be buried in a Jewish cemetery. Houdini's death is descripted in 30th episode of 1000 Ways to Die.

    Proposed exhumation

    On March 22, 2007, Houdini's great-nephew (the grandson of his brother Theo), George Hardeen, announced that the courts would be asked to allow exhumation of Houdini's body. The purpose was to investigate the possibility of Houdini being murdered by Spiritualists, as suggested in the biography The Secret Life of Houdini. In a statement given to the Houdini Museum in Scranton, the family of Bess Houdini opposed the application and suggested it was a publicity ploy for the book. The Washington Post stated that the press conference was not orchestrated by the family of Houdini. Instead, the Post reported, it was orchestrated by authors Kalush and Sloman, who hired the PR firm Dan Klores Communications to promote their book.

    In 2008 it was revealed the parties involved never filed legal papers to perform an exhumation.

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    Response to Demeter (Original post)

    Sun Apr 29, 2012, 09:27 AM

    73. Folks, I'm Going to Stop There


    What more can be said? Houdini's ghost haunts Detroit, as I've always suspected.

    I'll be going down to the Detroit Opera House for a performance of Swan Lake. I do not know where the Garrick Theater was, or if it's still standing (but I doubt it), I don't know where the hospital is or was (I was 14 when I left the Motor City), but I will give WEE regards to his shade, should we meet.

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    Response to Demeter (Original post)

    Sun Apr 29, 2012, 10:31 AM

    74. How Apple Sidesteps Billions in Taxes

    RENO, Nev. — Apple, the world’s most profitable technology company, doesn’t design iPhones here. It doesn’t run AppleCare customer service from this city. And it doesn’t manufacture MacBooks or iPads anywhere nearby.

    Yet, with a handful of employees in a small office here in Reno, Apple has done something central to its corporate strategy: it has avoided millions of dollars in taxes in California and 20 other states.

    Apple’s headquarters are in Cupertino, Calif. By putting an office in Reno, just 200 miles away, to collect and invest the company’s profits, Apple sidesteps state income taxes on some of those gains.

    California’s corporate tax rate is 8.84 percent. Nevada’s? Zero.


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    Response to hamerfan (Reply #74)

    Sun Apr 29, 2012, 06:42 PM

    83. The Apple is riddled with worms


    I've never bought anything from them, and now, I probably never will, even under point of death.

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    Response to Demeter (Original post)

    Sun Apr 29, 2012, 10:37 AM

    76. Thank you Mrs. Demeter for WEE, another good read. n/t

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    Response to Hotler (Reply #76)

    Sun Apr 29, 2012, 06:41 PM

    82. It's just Demeter, and yes, I'm available but picky


    You are entirely welcome. So glad to see you pop up around here. Like all Earth Mothers, I do worry if I don't hear from someone on a regular basis...

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    Response to Demeter (Original post)

    Sun Apr 29, 2012, 10:46 AM

    77. Is it too early to start drinking?? I found a really good tequila the other day....

    Corrido Anejo. Aged in used Maker's Mark and Jack Daniel's burbon barrels, smoooooth and tasty.

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    Response to Hotler (Reply #77)

    Sun Apr 29, 2012, 11:57 AM

    78. Never!

    Greetings from the pool. Glass of my patented deadly lemonade in hand. I thought about a pitcher of margaritas, but decided the lemonade was easier.

    Water temp is 88 degrees. Air temp about 85.

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    Response to Demeter (Original post)

    Sun Apr 29, 2012, 03:10 PM

    79. Musical Interlude

    Speaking of magic, when I hear this song tears magically form in my eyes. A sad one, but a GREAT one.
    Ladies and gents, I give you:


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    Response to Demeter (Original post)

    Sun Apr 29, 2012, 03:31 PM

    80. I like that "Magic, Escapes, and Fraud Mediums Exposed"

    Alas that we have no one so popular, charismatic, and skilled in organizing and leadership (as witnessed by his work with/for the Magicians organization) to expose the frauds and "magicians" of our current repository of dreams and fantasies - the Market.

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