October 31, 2010

PositiveID's Implantable Microchip

America is quickly becoming a cashless society. Whereas it would have seemed odd, or even in poor taste to do so in the past, people routinely use plastic to pay for even the smallest purchases, such as a Slurpee from 7-Eleven. Almost all gas stations allow you to "pay at the pump," and even fast food restaurants began accepting "debit or credit" a few years ago. And that's not to mention the millions of cashless transactions that occur every day in cyberspace, through web sites like eBay, Amazon.com, and other popular e-tailers. Clearly, having some form of cashless payment is essential to being a fully functioning American consumer these days, and millions of people are opting to use a debit card attached to their checking accounts rather than traditional credit cards. - James Marshall, America: Cashless Society, CC-Yes.com, August 21, 2007

College campuses and businesses have been used for testing the RFID environment over the last twenty years. It's all about conditioning the youth. Once conditioned, there is no complaining or rejection because the person hasn't known anything else. I am not in support of a cashless society, but it is very clear that we are going the way of the RFID chip. Everyone will eventually have a global database assigned to them for all facets of life, which will also contain an inventory. Anything found on a person that is not in their inventory will be fined or imprisoned. Underground trading will also force one to remain underground and apart from life as we know it now. Some assume that they will be able to reject the chip and still be able to have a job, home, car, school, and etc., but that can't happen. Hence, every home in the U.S. will have to be license and subjected to inspections; and they are already marking the GPS location of every front door to every home (see Census GPS-tagging your home's front door). - Is a cashless society likely?, Debatewise, October 28, 2010

Cashless Society – Have You Even Thought About What That Means?

March 2, 2010

Binary Dissent - Cashless Society. We’ve been sold this expression since we were children. I can remember hearing about it in primary school, teachers cocking on about it — it's the future! Back then it was a little hard to swallow — I have been a computer nerd my entire life, and even something like a ‘cashless society’ was straight out of Star Trek.

Now, years on, technology has evolved into a completely unknown beast. What was once unimagined is expected for 10 dollars or less. Technology that was considered radical is now being distributed on McDdonald's happy meal toys. Hell, check out the OCZ NIA and come to the realization that the world is ‘moving forward,’ a quote I’ll borrow from the Bush regime — made famous for describing the ‘progress’ in Iraq.

Cashless Society. A world without cash. It makes sense: we are nearly there if you consider that credit cards and internet transactions are basically ‘cashless.’ Yet we are still bound to carrying something physical, aren’t we. Credit cards need wallets, internet transactions need credit cards. Not exactly the free-range monetary chicken coop we were led to believe when we hear the trigger words ‘cashless society.’

Onto the stage and into the limelight steps the Verichip[now known as PositiveID], the world's first and only FDA-approved implantable microchip for humans. Don’t worry folks — we want it, we just don’t know it yet! Never fear, there is probably going to be at least another one billion dollars spent on marketing to convince us of how beneficial these chips will be.

See, it's not that terrifying after all is it? When you look closely at it, its size is comparable to a single grain of rice. It sounds a bit rough; never fear, people are working tirelessly to ensure that you won't notice them. Hitachi currently has one developed the size of a speck of powder. You really have to see the image to believe it.

Assuming you haven’t read about microchips or RFID, I will do you the liberty of explaining what it is all about. Currently, Verichip is ‘helping’ the medical industry with these amazing devices. If you have a pet dog or cat, you will have connected the dots already. Basically you get implanted with this RFID chip, and forever can be ‘scanned’ with a hand-held device.

Upon the ‘scanning,’ the RFID chip broadcasts a unique identifier key, that allows the ‘scanner’ to match your unique chip with the relevant DATABASE record. “SHOW ME YOUR ID” — this quote is going straight to the ancient history books.

Neat-o right? Well I guess if you didn’t exactly catch on to the example I used above. Still blank? You are not an animal. But that basic comparison is the tip of the iceberg. Privacy advocates all around the world are bashing their heads against anything they can to prevent humans from being microchipped. I’ll touch upon a few points as to why, as if you couldn’t already guess.

Verichip has been busy implanting these devices inside of Alzheimer’s patients, which sounds innocent enough or good-heartedly motivated. But think about it: if a patient can’t logically make a decision regarding the implantation, how can they give permission with a ‘sound mind’?

When does it become ‘forced’ implantation? That point gets made in the amazing documentary titled One Mainframe to Rule them All, which can be found on YouTube. I would definitely check it out if you are interested in learning more.

Cashless Society. There are only two options before us for a truly cashless society to exist.

  1. One involves our mobile phones incorporating every piece of data usually stored on plastic cards in our wallets — Medicare, licenses, credit and bank cards, etc. and integrating a new form of point-of-sale device at the counter of businesses, allowing a transaction to occur with the simple swipe of your mobile phone.

  2. Or we all get microchipped and the same thing happens.
Personally I think option #1 is going to be the way to integrate option #2.

As seen in this IBM advertisement for this cashless society, the man simply walks through a scanner at the exit of the shopping center. There is nothing saying that he has a microchip or a device acting as his ‘phone.’

This is what is known as conditioning. We are being conditioned to accept this cashless society, and we do not even know it. That's why the very term ‘Cashless Society’ causes a whirlpool of Endocrinol chemistry stirring in your brains. These are trigger words designed and implanted into our brains to recall every single futuristic movie we have ever seen, all the ‘good’ ones. So every time we hear ‘cashless society’ we relive how amazing it would be in the future, where we didn’t need to carry anything around to function.

Keyless entry to our house, remote starting of the car, hands free shopping — the list is endless.

All these possibilities do actually sound pretty enticing, but what kind of negatives are we looking at? For starters, everyone has used Google Earth. Pretty cool application, but freaky for the first five minutes using it. Now imagine every single person in the world had a microchip (cold shivers) and now imagine that every single microchip was represented as a bring orange dot on Google earth! Ya ha, now you are getting it.

Ok, here's another one. Let's just say you got into an argument with the bank. Mean words are exchanged and the boss takes it personally. He turns off your account. All of a sudden, in a cashless world, you have no money! You have no means to purchase any food or pay the bills — the entire world operates on ‘credit.’ What then?

Verichip has only recently teamed up with a company named Receptors LLC. What this merging has bought to the table is the combination of an implantable microchip and a sensor that is a “virus triage detection system for the H1N1 virus.” So basically you can be ‘scanned’ and they can tell if you are infected with H1N1 or any other pathogens they develop the capability of detecting.

Imagine the wet-dream-fantasy-world airport security head honchos would be living in, if this were already a cashless society? The ease of filtering and screening entire airports would be reduced to a basic metal detector.

What has my knickers in a bunch, however, is not just this development — what else is being created? Once the pathogen-detection system is developed properly, will they stop there or will they start moving towards detecting human emotions? Bio signals can already be read and converted into data that can be analyzed; emotions can already be read.

How much time do we have before this chip is enforced en mass for the betterment of humanity. How long before generation Z starts requesting it as an accessory for their iPhone? Scares the shit out of me.

Cashless Society. This isn't paranoid thinking: we have been embedded with subconscious desires for this microchip, and the companies that are developing these technologies aren’t famous for their humanitarian efforts. It's simply a matter of time. And until the right opportunity presents itself to initiate a massive population chipping agenda, we will continue to be conditioned to accept it.

Say no to the chip and at least warn other people about it — just to create awareness that this isn’t science fiction anymore.

For kicks, I’m going to dig up some biblical prophecies for their WTF value.

“And he provides that no one will be able to buy or to sell, except the one who has the mark, either the name of the beast or the number of his name. Here is wisdom. Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for the number is that of a man; and his number is six hundred and sixty-six.” – Revelations 13:17-18.
When you come across a company like SoMark Innovations, and you see for yourself the merging of RFID technology and TATOO’s, it's way too obvious to be ignored. It’s ok though — just live your life folks — nothing to see here…….

Smart Cards, Smart Phones and a Cashless Society

Dutch Banks, Telcos Team Up for 2012 Smartphone Payment System

September 10, 2010

TechEYE.net - A number of Holland's leading banks and mobile phone operators have teamed up to offer a smartphone payment system by 2012, the first of its kind in Europe.

The banks include ABN Amro, Rabobank, and ING, while the telcos include Royal KPN NV, Vodafne, and Deutsche Telekom's T-Mobile, all of which will take part in a joint venture designed to provide the country with a secure mobile payment system within two years.

The scheme will turn Dutch smartphones into mobile wallets, allowing them to potentially ditch their credit cards in favour of paying by phone. This should allow for store checkouts, vending machine payments, parking meter transactions, and even purchasing train tickets, all by scanning your smartphone across a point-of-sale window, which will result in a fully wireless payment.

The payment system will be based on contactless near-field communications (NFC), but not many handsets are currently NFC-capable. Nokia is planning to release a number of new NFC-capable phones next year and by 2012 the technology may be more widespread. In the mean time, however, Visa recently announced a microSD card contactless payment system that makes up for the lack of NFC-capable handsets.

In an interview with TechEye in August the head of Mobile Visa Europe, Mary Carol Harris, told us of the benefits of contactless mobile payment:
“People always carry their mobile phone and usually have it immediately to hand. The aim is to make the payment process even simpler, faster and more convenient by making contactless payments using mobile phones and credit cards at all high-traffic points of sale (e.g. supermarkets, vending machines, etc.)”
There are some downsides, however, such as the fact that if your mobile goes dead then you cannot use it to make a payment, or that if your phone is stolen you also lose your digital credit card. For the latter case the standard procedure of contacting your bank to have the number blocked and a new one reissued applies.

Both Japan and South Korea already employ NFC-based mobile payment systems, while the US is attempting to bring the system in. The Netherlands will be the first country in Europe to roll out the new payment method.

Contactless Payments: Time to Wave Goodbye to Cash by 2012

October 2, 2010

London Guardian - Have you gone "contactless" yet? During the last few months, millions of people have received new-style debit and credit cards which allow them to pay for low-value items such as their morning coffee or lunchtime sandwiches by simply waving their plastic over a reader at the till.

It's estimated there are now around 10m in the nation's wallets and purses – you'll know you've got one if it displays the "wave" symbol, shown above – with this number set to rise to 14m by the end of December, and 25m by the end of 2012.

Contactless cards have been hyped as the next big thing in banking and retail because they let people pay for less costly items (£15 or less) without having to key in a pin number or scrabble around for cash.

It's a payment revolution that's been brewing since 2007. Up until recently it has all been rather "London-centric", and largely confined to coffee shops and eateries.

Now the technology is starting to get a nationwide presence. A host of big-name retailers are either trialling it or rolling it out, including Tesco, the Co-op, Boots, Ikea, Spar, National Trust gift shops and Little Chef restaurants.

There are also trials involving Stagecoach buses in Liverpool and black cabs in London, while several UK music festivals are expected to go cashless next summer. This is all building up to the big one: the 2012 Olympics, which is being billed as "a contactless event," where visitors will be able to use their new plastic to pay for transport, tickets and refreshments.

Barclaycard this week claimed contactless payment was "reaching a tipping point". However, in spite of the company's high-profile waterslide and rollercoaster TV adverts, there are still many consumers who don't know what contactless is ... or who have one of the new cards but have been too nervous to use it because they are worried about security.

How does it work?

Contactless cards use short-range wireless technology. The reader at the till picks up a signal from your card when it's very close.

How secure is it?

This will be many people's big worry, and something that could hinder take-up. Card giant Visa insists it is "very secure."

The retailer has to enter the amount for you to approve, you then have to hold your card in front of the reader at precisely the right time – and for more than half a second. The reader display will confirm your transaction.

This means contactless payments cannot be made or duplicated without your knowledge, and there is no risk you'll be accidentally charged if you stand next to a reader, says Visa.

But what if someone steals my card? To combat the risk of a thief going on a contactless spending spree, cardholders will, when they hit a certain number of transactions or amount of spending, have to enter their pin the next time they pay, typically, each time they rack up £50 spending.

What's in it for me?

Payments typically take 12.5 seconds, while processing a cash transaction takes an average of 34 seconds, and a pin transaction 27 seconds, according to Barclaycard. That should speed up queues.

Which banks and card companies are taking part?

Barclays and Barclaycard are at the forefront, having issued 8m of the 10m cards in circulation. Halifax and Bank of Scotland have issued 650,000 debit cards so far, and targeted customers living in and around the M25, as that is where "the vast number" of merchant terminals are.

Meanwhile, Lloyds TSB plans to start issuing its cards in March, and will have 1.1m out there by the end of 2011. MBNA hopes to begin its rollout by the end of this year.

Royal Bank of Scotland/NatWest has been trialling them in London and Liverpool, and HSBC has been carrying out a similar exercise with 50,000 credit cards. By contrast, Nationwide, with 5 million current account customers, has no immediate plans to issue them. It says it is "something we are watching to see how it develops" and that, while a growing number of retailers accept the cards, they are "still very much the minority."

Which retailers are on board?

A number of coffee shops and food chains, including Pret A Manger and Eat, were "early adopters." This year has seen a flurry of announcements. In June, Boots said 21 of its stores across London and Liverpool would soon be accepting contactless payments, and in July, the Co-op said its roll-out would begin with trials in 100 food stores and 50 pharmacies next year. Meanwhile, hi-tech new terminals are appearing in Spar shops and other locations.

But it's the big supermarkets that are needed to bring it into the mainstream. Tesco – with 2,482 stores – began testing in just one: a Metro in London's Dean Street. A spokesman says the initial response has been "very positive." Sainsbury's is understood to be looking at a trial within a year or so, while Waitrose is "trying to learn more about it."

Transport for London Pushing Ahead with International Contactless Transit Card

October 19, 2010

Contactless News - Transport for London hopes to have a cross-border contactless transit and payment card in play by 2012 that would support access to transportation services domestically and overseas, according to the American Banker.

The agency is already working with several transport operators in the U.S., Europe and Australia to “develop common standards for the technology,” says a TfL spokesperson.

Meanwhile, Transport for London is in the process of upgrading its ticketing systems for buses and the London Tube network, that will allow them to accept network-branded contactless credit and debit cards, the spokesperson said. Financial institutions would issue the actual cards. In fact, TfL is already in talks with several card companies, including Visa, MasterCard and American Express.

Some experts, however, do not believe the 2012 goal is possible.

“The challenge is the interoperability of the different transit systems involved,” Tony Craddock, the chief executive of Global Prepaid Exchange, said recently in a newsletter. “Different from near field communication-based mobile payments, which has strict standards, contactless transit fare collection lacks a similar international standards body.”

Read more here.

October 30, 2010

Oil Spill in the Gulf

BP Dispersants 'Causing Sickness'

Investigation by Al Jazeera online correspondent finds toxic illnesses linked to BP oil

October 29, 2010

Al Jazeera - Two-year-old Gavin Tillman of Pass Christian, Mississippi, has been diagnosed with severe upper respiratory, sinus, and viral infections. His temperature has reached more than 39 degrees since September 15, yet his sicknesses continue to worsen.

His parents, some doctors, and environmental consultants believe the child's ailments are linked to exposure to chemicals spilt by BP during its Gulf of Mexico oil disaster.

Gavin's father, mother, and cousin, Shayleigh, are also facing serious health problems. Their symptoms are being experienced by many others living along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico.

Widely banned toxic dispersants

Injected with at least 4.9 million barrels of oil during the BP oil disaster of last summer, the Gulf has suffered the largest accidental marine oil spill in history. Compounding the problem, BP has admitted to using at least 1.9 million gallons of widely banned toxic dispersants (one that has been banned in the UK), which according to chemist Bob Naman, create an even more toxic substance when mixed with crude oil. And dispersed, weathered oil continues to flow ashore daily.

Naman, who works at the Analytical Chemical Testing Lab in Mobile, Alabama, has been carrying out studies to search for the chemical markers of the dispersants BP used to both sink and break up its oil.

According to Naman, poly-aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) from this toxic mix are making people sick. PAHs contain compounds that have been identified as carcinogenic, mutagenic, and teratogenic.

Fisherman across the four states most heavily affected by the oil disaster - Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida - have reported seeing BP spray dispersants from aircraft and boats offshore.
"The dispersants are being added to the water and are causing chemical compounds to become water soluble, which is then given off into the air, so it is coming down as rain, in addition to being in the water and beaches of these areas of the Gulf," Naman added.

"I’m scared of what I'm finding. These cyclic compounds intermingle with the Corexit [dispersants] and generate other cyclic compounds that aren’t good. Many have double bonds, and many are on the EPA's danger list. This is an unprecedented environmental catastrophe."
Commercial fisherman Donny Matsler also lives in Alabama.
"I was with my friend Albert, and we were both slammed with exposure," Matsler explained of his experience on August 5, referring to toxic chemicals he inhaled that he believes are associated with BP's dispersants. "We both saw the clumps of white bubbles on the surface that we know come from the dispersed oil."
Gruesome symptoms
"I started to vomit brown, and my pee was brown also," Matsler, a Vietnam veteran who lives in Dauphin Island, said. "I kept that up all day. Then I had a night of sweating and non-stop diarrhea unlike anything I’ve ever experienced."
He was also suffering from skin rashes, nausea, and a sore throat.

At roughly the same time Matsler was exposed, local television station WKRG News 5 took a water sample from his area to test for dispersants. The sample literally exploded when it was mixed with an organic solvent separating the oil from the water.

Naman, the chemist who analyzed the sample, said:
"We think that it most likely happened due to the presence of either methanol or methane gas or the presence of the dispersant Corexit."

"I'm still feeling terrible," Matsler told Al Jazeera recently. "I'm about to go to the doctor again right now. I'm short of breathe, the diarrhea has been real bad, I still have discoloration in my urine, and the day before yesterday, I was coughing up white foam with brown spots in it."
As for Matsler's physical reaction to his exposure, Hugh Kaufman, an EPA whistleblower and analyst, has reported this of the effects of the toxic dispersants:
"We have dolphins that are hemorrhaging. People who work near it are hemorrhaging internally. And that’s what dispersants are supposed to do..."
By the middle of last summer, the Alabama Department of Public Health said that 56 people in Mobile and Baldwin counties had sought treatment for what they believed were oil disaster-related illnesses.
"The dispersants used in BP's draconian experiment contain solvents such as petroleum distillates and 2-butoxyethanol," Dr. Riki Ott, a toxicologist, marine biologist, and Exxon Valdez survivor, told Al Jazeera.

"Solvents dissolve oil, grease, and rubber," she continued, "Spill responders have told me that the hard rubber impellors in their engines and the soft rubber bushings on their outboard motor pumps are falling apart and need frequent replacement."

"Given this evidence, it should be no surprise that solvents are also notoriously toxic to people, something the medical community has long known," Dr. Ott added.

"In 'Generations at Risk', medical doctor Ted Schettler and others warn that solvents can rapidly enter the human body. They evaporate in air and are easily inhaled, they penetrate skin easily, and they cross the placenta into fetuses. For example, 2- butoxyethanol (in Corexit) is a human health hazard substance; it is a fetal toxin and it breaks down blood cells, causing blood and kidney disorders."
Pathways of exposure to the dispersants are inhalation, ingestion, skin, and eye contact. Health impacts include headaches, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pains, chest pains, respiratory system damage, skin sensitization, hypertension, central nervous system depression, neurotoxic effects, genetic mutations, cardiac arrhythmia, and cardiovascular damage.

Even the federal government has taken precautions for its employees. US military officials decided to reroute training flights in the Gulf region in order to avoid oil and dispersant tainted-areas.

Growing number of cases

And Al Jazeera is finding a growing number of illnesses across the Gulf Coast.

Denise Rednour of Long Beach, Mississippi, has been taking walks on Long Beach nearly every day since the disaster began on April 20, and she is dealing with constant health issues.
"I've had health problems since the middle of July," she said. "At the end of August, I came home from walking on the beach and for four days had bloody, mucus-filled diarrhea, dry heaves, and blood running out of my ear."
Karen Hopkins, in Grand Isle, Louisiana, has been sick since the middle of May.
"I started feeling exhausted, disoriented, dizzy, nauseous, and my chest was burning and I can’t breath well at times," she said.
Dean Blanchard, who runs a seafood distribution business in Grand Isle, is Hopkins' boss. He too is experiencing similar symptoms.
"They [BP] are using us like lab rats," he explained, "I'm thinking of moving to Costa Rica. When I leave here I feel better. When I come back I feel bad again. Feeling tired, coughing, sore throat, burning eyes, headaches, just like everyone around here feels."
Lorrie Williams of Ocean Springs says her son's asthma has "gotten exponentially worse since BP released all their oil and dispersants into the Gulf."
"A plane flew over our house recently and sprayed what I believe are dispersants. A fine mist covered everything, and it smelled like pool chemicals. Noah is waking up unable to breath, and my husband has head and chest congestion and burning eyes," Williams said.
Like others, when Lorrie's family left the area for a vacation, they immediately felt better. But upon coming home, their symptoms returned.

Wilma Subra, a chemist in New Iberia, Louisiana, recently tested the blood of eight BP cleanup workers and residents in Alabama and Florida.
"Ethylbenzene, m,p-Xylene and Hexane are volatile organic chemicals that are present in the BP Crude Oil," Subra said. "The blood of all three females and five males had chemicals that are found in the BP Crude Oil. The acute impacts of these chemicals include nose and throat irritation, coughing, wheezing, lung irritation, dizziness, light-headedness, nausea and vomiting."
Indications of exposure

Subra explained that there has been long enough exposure so as to create chronic impacts, that include "liver damage, kidney damage, and damage to the nervous system. So the presence of these chemicals in the blood indicates exposure."

Testing by Subra has also revealed PAHs present "in coastal soil sediment, wetlands, and in crab, oyster and mussel tissues."

Trisha Springstead, is a registered nurse of 36 years who lives and works in Brooksville, Florida.
"What I'm seeing are toxified people who have been chemically poisoned," she said, "They have sore throats, respiratory problems, neurological problems, lesions, sores, and ulcers. These people have been poisoned and they are dying. Drugs aren’t going to help these people. They need to be detoxed."
Chemist Bob Naman described the brownish, rubbery tar balls that are a product of BP's dispersed oil that continue to wash up on beaches across the Gulf:
"Those are the ones kids are picking up and playing with and breathing the fumes that come off them when you crush them in your hand. These will affect anyone who comes into contact with it. You could have an open wound and this goes straight in. Women have a lot more open mucus membranes and they are getting sicker than men. They are bleeding from their vagina and anus. Small kids are bleeding from their ears. This stuff is busting red blood cells."
Dr Ott said:
"People are already dying from this… I’m dealing with three autopsies' right now. I don’t think we’ll have to wait years to see the effects like we did in Alaska, people are dropping dead now. I know two people who are down to 4.75 per cent of their lung capacity, their heart has enlarged to make up for that, and their esophagus is disintegrating, and one of them is a 16-year-old boy who went swimming in the Gulf."

Transportation Monitoring and Control

Brazilians Will Be Forced to Use RFID Chips and GPS Trackers in Their Cars

October 29, 2010

New World Order in Brazil - Brazil's government, behind the facade of open democracy, continues to advance its way as one of the most authoritarian police states in the world.

Brazilian population will be forced very soon to have in their cars identification chips (RFID), besides GPS locators and blockers.

According to several news, the Brazilian government hurries to show until November of 2010 the GPS tracker that will be legally required to be in all new cars from February of 2011.

It is unclear how this will work but in this article of the Folha de Sao Paulo says the Denatran (Transit National Department) will oversee the center, and that it will be operated by Serpro (organ of government for data processing). This means that the Brazilian government can access the location of any car registered in any country!

The article in the Folha de Sao Paulo also says:

To circumvent the criticisms of those who claim lack of privacy, which has led the discussion to the judicial arena, the Minister Marcio Fortes says there will be two options: the tracker and blocker. This will make the car stop in a given situation, for example if the thief stops at traffic lights, and will be mandatory. In the other hand, the GPS tracker will be contracted or not by the user.

The implications of this? Imagine this in the hands of a corrupt and totalitarian government, which decides to label as terrorists those who disagree with its actions? Brazilian should unite and reject this law, modeled on the American war on terror, using security as pretext for the removal of our freedoms and privacy.

Chip Identification RFID in Cars

I had read some time ago in Portugal that the cars would be required to have RFID chip (radio frequency) identification and was stunned by that. What was my surprise to learn that since 2006 we have a law that creates the Siniav, or National System for Automatic Vehicle Identification, which will require the installation of identification chips in all cars and maintain a network of reading antennas, which will identify every vehicle.

Resolution of No 212 of 13 November 2006, says:

SINIAV consists of electronic boards installed in the vehicle, antennas, readers, data processing centers and computer systems.

And goes on saying that military vehicles are not required to use it, but all other motor vehicles will have to be equipped with the chip:

§ 2 The use of military vehicles are exempt from this requirement.

Article 2: No motor vehicle, electrical, trailer and semi-trailer can be licensed on roads open to traffic without being equipped with the electronic board of this resolution.

The full resolution can be downloaded here.

According to the engineer Dario Thorbe, data is encrypted and confidential, and will be accessible only the traffic department and eventually the police. Ahhhhh, ok then, now I feel so safe!

Again the state using the pretext of security for the people to accept totalitarian measures. Gradually we are seeing around us the government, putting in place tools that will allow a micro-managing of the lives of all citizens. Close to what we have at some time in Brazil, 1984 will be pretty easy.

October 29, 2010

All the Big Banks Committed Major Fraud in the Mortgage-backed Security Market; Fed Buys $1.25 Trillion in Mortgage-backed Securities from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac

The Fed Bought Fraud

October 29, 2010

USAWatchdog.com - In the wake of the financial meltdown of 2008, the Federal Reserve announced it would buy mortgage-backed securities, or MBS. The January announcement by the Fed said it would buy MBS from failed mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in the amount of $1.25 trillion. At the time, the Fed said in a press release,
“The goal of the program was to provide support to mortgage and housing markets and to foster improved conditions in financial markets more generally.” (Click here for the full Fed statement.)
It did provide “support” to the mortgage market, but did it also buy fraud and cover the banks that sold it? The evidence shows, at the very least, it bought massive amounts of fraud.

We now know the Fed definitely bought valueless MBS because it has joined other ripped-off investors to demand Bank of America buy back billions in sour home debt. A Bloomberg story from just last week, featuring Philadelphia Fed President Charles Plosser, reports,

The New York Fed, which acquired mortgage debt in the 2008 rescues of Bear Stearns Cos. and American International Group Inc., has joined a bondholder group that aims to force Bank of America Corp. to buy back some bad home loans packaged into $47 billion of securities. On the one hand, the Fed has “a duty to the taxpayer to try to collect on behalf of the taxpayer on these mortgages,” Plosser said today at an event in Philadelphia.

Mr. Plosser lamented the “difficult spot” the central bank is in because it is both bank regulator and plaintiff. He said,

“Should we be in the business of suing the financial institutions that we are in fact responsible for supervising?” (Click here to read the complete Bloomberg story.)
To that question, I ask, shouldn’t the Fed have done a much better job of supervising the big banks in the first place? The whole financial and mortgage crisis from sour securities to foreclosure fraud is in the process of blowing sky high. The entire mess is clearly the biggest financial fraud in history! It looks to me like the regulators were just supervising their pay checks being deposited into the bank.

And remember, the $1.25 trillion of mortgage-backed securities the Fed bought from Fannie and Freddie? How much of that is fraud? William Black, the outspoken Professor of Economics from the University of Missouri KC, says all the big banks were committing “major frauds”in the mortgage-backed security market. Black says, at Citicorp, for example,

“. . . 80% of the mortgage loans it sold to Fannie and Freddie were sold under false representations and warranties.” (Click here for the complete Black interview - video.)
Black claims the frauds increased at some banks, and it is still going on today! (I admit I used this same video in a recent post. I use it again, because it is the single most important and damning indictment of the big banks out there. Professor Black defines the size of the entire fraudulent mortgage mess.)

If he’s right, and I think he is, that means the Fed just spent the last 20 months (the program ended in August 2010) buying a trillion dollars in mortgage fraud! That is a staggering amount even for the most powerful central bank in the world. Could the Federal Reserve have bought that amount of fraudulent MBS and not have known it? Could the Fed have been buying that amount of rotten worthless debt to cover the banksters in the syndicate?

Who knows if we will ever find that out because the Federal Reserve cannot be independently audited. And who knows what else it bought in sour debt to bail out their banking syndicate buddies because the Federal Reserve cannot be independently audited! It has never been audited in its 97 year history. I know one thing, if the Fed is going to keep its banking cartel alive, it is going to be forced to print massive amounts of money out of thin air to buy a heck of a lot more fraudulent mortgage-backed securities. That’s what worries and scares me the most.

October 28, 2010

Bankers' Trillion-Dollar Crime Scene

Baby Boomers: Get Out of the Stock Market Now, the Rug is Being Pulled Out By Insiders

October 28, 2010

Activist Post - If you’re a baby boomer who still believes in the stock market since the financial collapse of 2008, listen up. The floor of this Ponzi scheme is about to drop out, leaving you punching a clock for some time to come and holding an empty retirement bag for your effort. The engineered crash is coming and the elite are jumping ship in droves — you should join them and get out ASAP.

Stock market insider selling has now reached record highs. The trend has been increasing for the last several years, but now the ratios are getting beyond ridiculous. Earlier this month, Zero Hedge reported that the insider selling-to-buying ratio is 2341 to 1. Tyler Durden wrote:

After last week saw an insider selling to buying ratio of 1,411 to 1, this week the ratio has nearly doubled, hitting a ridiculous 2,341 to 1. And while Wall Street’s liars and CNBC’s clowns will have you throw all your money into “leading” techs like Oracle and Google, insiders in these names sold a combined $200 million in stock in the last week alone.

Today, CNBC reported that the insider selling activity at some of the largest traded companies is at an all-time high. This can’t be a good sign of things to come. The article points to the analysis of Alan Newman, a market strategist who tracks insider trading:

“The overwhelming volume of sell transactions relative to buy transactions by company insiders over the last six months in key leading sectors of the market is the worst . . . ever.”
CNBC reported that industry leaders have a staggering 3177 to 1 insider sell-to-buy ratio:

The largest companies in three of the most important leading sectors of the market have seen their executives classified as insiders sell more than 120 million shares of stock over the last six months. Top executives at these very same companies bought just 38,000 shares over that same time period, making for an eye-popping sell to buy ratio of 3,177 to one.

The grand total for the three sectors are “as awful as we have ever seen since we began doing this exercise years ago,” said Newman, who was ahead on such trends as the dangers of high-frequency trading and ETFs before the ‘Flash Crash’. “Clearly, insiders are seeing great value only in cash. Their actions speak volumes for the veracity for the current rally.”

Also quoted in the CNBC piece was Simon Baker, CEO of Baker Asset Management, who said the insider data “is good reason for considerable caution once the price action fades,” and “insiders normally buy early and sell early too. Longer term — 12 months out — it is more of a red flag.”

It’s pretty difficult to excuse these levels of insider looting, but the experts are doing their best to claim that these poor executives (the titans of their industries) must take profits from stock sales because their salaries and bonuses have been cut. Who do they think they are kidding? Wall Street is still paying record salaries and bonuses, reportedly worth $144 billion (about a $1000 for every working American). There also has been very little news of other industry executives taking pay cuts, as American companies are holding record levels of cash to the tune of over a trillion dollars. In fact, the flush-with-cash CEOs continue to blame the consumer class for joblessness.

Despite the mass exodus of executives from their own company’s stock, the S&P continues to remain somewhat stable since gaining 16% from July lows. Well, those gains seem somewhat pathetic since the value of the dollar — measured against the human inflation indexes such as food and oil — has plummeted. Major food commodities are up over 50% since their July lows, while oil prices have climbed $10 to over $81/bbl, or around 14% for the same time period, with predictions to break the $100/bbl mark very shortly.

Barely covering the cost of real inflationary measures is hardly success, especially with the current risks involved with being in the stock market. These risks have only increased since the 2008 financial collapse that eventually caused the stock market to bottom out the mid-6000 range. The market has been propped up with TARP funds and driven by scandalous front-running by Goldman Sachs and other large firms leading to 70% of stock purchases to be held for an average of 11 seconds. Consequently, these robo-trading programs have also been blamed for the freak “Flash Crash” in May where the stock market plummeted over 900 points in just minutes.

The charade is almost up, as the bad-but-getting-even-worse main street economy is not remotely factored in to Wall Street’s casino calculations. Truth is, most states are approaching bankruptcy, unemployment continues to worsen, and yet another major scandal is playing out with Fraudclosure Gate. Newman, the insider trading expert, says,

“At the risk of sounding like a broken record, we expect a significant correction.”

Unless you are an ultra-sophisticated trader with access to front-running software, it is time to follow these insiders out of the stock market and into real assets. As the Fed announces plans for QE2, which the stock market actually views as a good thing, the elite seem to be flocking to precious metals, commodities, and large agricultural land purchases on the expectation of an even weaker dollar. This appears to make gold, food, and oil pretty safe bets for the average bloke.

Oil Spill in the Gulf

Tests Warned of Cement Troubles Before BP Blowout

October 28, 2010

Associated Press – Tests performed before the deadly blowout of BP's oil well in the Gulf of Mexico should have raised doubts about the cement used to seal the well, but the company and its cementing contractor used it anyway, investigators with the president's oil spill commission said Thursday.

It's the first finding from the commission looking into the causes of the April 20 explosion that killed 11 workers and led to the largest offshore oil spill in U.S. history. And it appears to conflict with statements made by Halliburton Co., which has said its tests showed the cement mix was stable. The company instead has said BP's well design and operations were responsible for the disaster.

The cement mix's failure to prevent oil and gas from entering the well has been identified by BP and others as one of the causes of the accident.

BP and Halliburton decided to use a foam slurry created by injecting nitrogen into cement to secure the bottom of the well, a decision outside experts have criticized.

The panel said that of four tests done in February and April by Halliburton, only one — the last — showed the mix would hold. But the results of that single successful test were not shared with BP, and may not have reached Halliburton, before the cement was pumped, according to a letter sent to commissioners Thursday by chief investigative counsel Fred H. Bartlit Jr.

BP had in hand at the time of the blowout the results of only one of the tests — a February analysis sent to BP by Halliburton in a March 8 e-mail that indicated the cement could fail. The slurry tested in that case was a slightly different blend, and assumed a slightly different well design, but there is no indication that Halliburton flagged the problem for BP, or that BP had concerns, the letter said.
"Halliburton (and perhaps BP) should have considered redesigning the foam slurry before pumping it at the Macondo well," Bartlit wrote.
Independent tests conducted for the commission by Chevron on a nearly identical mixture were also released Thursday. The results concluded that the cement mix was unstable, raising questions about the validity of Halliburton's final test.

BP, as part of its internal investigation, also conducted independent tests that showed the cement mix was flawed, but its analysis was criticized by Halliburton, which said it was not the correct formula. BP's report also mentioned a cement test Halliburton performed in mid-April, but it appears BP obtained the results after the accident and considered its methods flawed.

By contrast, the commission obtained proprietary additives from Halliburton as well as a recipe to re-create the slurry that was used on the well. One and a half gallons of the actual mix used on the rig remain, but it is being held as evidence in criminal and civil investigations.

A spokeswoman for Halliburton said the company was reviewing the findings. BP said it would not have a comment on the panel's conclusions Thursday.

Halliburton shares dropped from near $34 to below $30 in New York trading in the half hour after the commission released its finding. The shares recovered a bit, and closed at $31.68, down $2.74, or 8 percent. BP shares rose from $40.38 to $41.28, then quickly reversed course and fell to $40.28. The shares finished trading with a gain of 49 cents at $40.59.

In testimony before the joint Coast Guard-Bureau of Ocean Energy Management investigative panel, Halliburton engineer Jesse Gagliano, when asked if he would pour the same cement again, said he would. Thomas Roth, a vice president at the company, said before a panel assembled by the National Academy of Engineering in September that Halliburton had used foam cement on 1,000 jobs, including 279 wells at 15,000 feet or deeper.

Roth faulted BP's well design and BP's decision not to run a test to confirm the cement had set properly. He also said Halliburton's cement could have been contaminated by the oil-based muds BP used to drill the well. Such contamination can form channels in the cement through which oil and gas can escape.

The independent investigators do not address other decisions that could have contributed to the cement's failure and the eventual blowout, such as BP's decision to use fewer centralizers than recommended by Halliburton. Centralizers make sure the well's piping is centered inside the well so the cement bonds correctly.

BP has also been criticized for not performing a cement bond long, a test that checks after the cement is pumped down whether it is secure. There are also questions about whether BP pumped down enough cement to seal off the bottom of the well, which was located more than three miles below sea level.

Bill Gates and Education

Obama and Gates Are Planning a Corporate Takeover of Public Education: The Public Money Will Continue But Public Voice and Public Oversight Will Be a Thing of the Past

"The Obama administration and Gates Foundation are orchestrating an effort to get every state to adopt a set of national standards for public elementary and secondary schools. These standards describe what students should learn in each subject in each grade. Eventually these standards can be used to develop national high-stakes tests, which will shape the curriculum in every school. National standards are a seductive but dangerous idea. People tend to support national standards because they imagine that they will be the ones deciding what everyone else should learn. Dictatorship always sounds more appealing when you fantasize that you will be the dictator." —Jay P. Greene, Arkansas Democrat Gazette, April 11, 2010

Bill Gates had the good fortune to attend private school, and he sends his children there, too. Yet the Microsoft co-founder and billionaire philanthropist has a passion to fix America's public schools. Gates has been on a road show this year to promote the education documentary "Waiting for 'Superman,'" talking it up at its January premiere at the Sundance Film Festival and elsewhere, including the Toronto International Film Festival... Directed by Davis Guggenheim, an Academy Award winner for his Al Gore global-warming documentary "An Inconvenient Truth," "Waiting for `Superman'" catalogs the ills of public schools, particularly in inner-city areas: Bloated bureaucracies, high dropout rates, low percentages of graduates going on to college, teachers unions that can put the interests of adults ahead of the needs of children. - The Associated Press, Microsoft's Gates joins 'Superman' school mission, September 22, 2010

Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Bill Gates and Eli Broad (and the Business and Governors' crew) feel qualified to dictate what we teachers should be doing with the children in our classrooms (none of whom any of the corporate-politicos have ever even seen). We are doomed if we allow this to happen. Shame on the media for not presenting a balanced view of the issue. People are fed the corporate line, and believe it since there exists a long history of denigrating teachers and the teaching profession in this country (just look at the pay scales!). I find it especially disturbing that Obama, whom I supported, is promoting what GW Bush began -- an attempt to dismantle the public system of education. - Sue Monaco, The Obama Version of Meritocracy, Huffington Post, February 23, 2010

What Arne Duncan prefers is revisionist history and this is useful to those in power, for they can often count on those who raise families and work for a living not to have a detailed historical understanding necessary to spot erroneous public-policy claims. With TV and corporate media devoted to celebrities and shallow commercial coverage of political and economic issues, those in power more than often get away with skillfully manipulating the public. Due to the lack of diverse voices and dissent, they are able to present historical reality from their myopic and self-serving perspectives as if their analysis was truth to be built on, when in fact it is an assemblage of rusty facts and pernicious assumptions cobbled together to present a counterfeit historical and contemporary reality they can then sell to the public while conjuring up solutions in the form of their own market-driven ideological agendas. - Danny Weil, Arne Duncan’s History Lesson to the American Federation of Teachers (AFT): Elevating the Teaching Profession?, Dissident Voice, January 3, 2010

July 13, 2010

The Perimeter Primate - If the teachers at the ATF convention on July 10, 2010, had any idea how much money Gates has put into developing non-unionized charter schools, and that his vision includes an extreme reduction in the membership -- and power -- of their union, they might not have been so willing to cheer for him. It appears to me that Weingarten is aiding and abetting Gates' undemocratic ways.

But like most Americans who aren't studying what is really going on, I'm sure 99.9% of the teachers were uninformed and clueless. They behaved like the people they are: typical Americans who were super-excited to see a famous celebrity. Seeing Bill Gates in person was the thrilling part of the convention that they later told their families about.

As an urban public school parent, supporter of teachers, and pro-public school activist, I believe that the larger concerns the resisters have are perfectly valid and deserve to be acknowledged and discussed -- at a venue other than in blogs. The opponents of today's "ed reform" desire to be heard but are constantly being ignored and shut out. They aren't wealthy enough to pay Charlie Rose to do a five-part series on their side of the story, like Eli Broad can.

Bill Gates is an unelected individual who has been manipulating public policy from behind the scenes by making use of his extreme wealth. His lack of willingness to engage in a transparent, public debate with people who oppose what he is doing -- and who do have legitimate opinions and concerns, as well as data and historical accounts to present -- is what makes it necessary for the resisters to react in a loud and angry way.

If Bill Gates is truly interested in doing what's best for America's public school future, he should purchase one hour of prime-time airtime and present a show featuring himself debate Diane Ravitch.

The Corporate Surge Against Public Schools

Originally Published on March 5, 2008

Jack Gerson and Steven Miller - The summary of "The Corporate Surge . . ."

It’s more than a year since we wrote “Exterminating Public Education" in response to the "Tough Choices or Tough Times" report of the National Commission on Skills in the Workplace.

That report, funded in large part by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and signed by a bipartisan collection of prominent politicians, businesspeople, and urban school superintendents, called for a series of measures including:
  1. Replacing public schools with what the report called "contract schools," which would be charter schools writ large;
  2. Eliminating nearly all the powers of local school boards—their role would be to write and sign the authorizing agreements for the “contract schools;
  3. Eliminating teacher pensions and slashing health benefits; and
  4. Forcing all 10th graders to take a high school exit examination based on 12th grade skills, and terminating the education of those who failed (i.e., throwing millions of students out into the streets as they turn 16).
These measures, taken together, would effectively cripple public control of public education. They would dangerously weaken the power of teacher unions, thus facilitating still further attacks on the public sector. They would leave education policy in the hands of a network of entrepreneurial think tanks, corporate entrepreneurs, and armies of lobbyists whose priorities are profiting from the already huge education market while cutting back on public funding for schools and students.

Indeed, their measures would mean privatization of education, effectively terminating the right to a public education, as we have known it. Many of the most powerful forces in the country want the US, the first country to guarantee public education, to be the first country to end it.

For the last fifty years, public education was one of only two public mandates guaranteed by the government that was accessible to every person, regardless of income. Social Security is the other. Now both systems are threatened with privatization schemes. The government today openly defines its mission as protecting the rights of corporations above everything. Thus public education is a rare public space that is under attack.

The same scenario is being implemented with most of the services that governments used to provide for free or at little cost: electricity, national parks, health care and water. In every case, the methodology is the same: underfund public services, create an uproar and declare a crisis, claim that privatization can do the job better, deregulate or break public control, divert public money to corporations and then raise prices.

In the past year, it’s become evident that the corporate surge against public schools is only part of a much broader assault against the public sector, against unions, and indeed against the public’s rights and public control of public institutions.

This has been evident for some time now in New Orleans, where Hurricane Katrina’s devastation is used as an excuse for permanently privatizing the infrastructure of a major American city: razing public housing and turning land over to developers; replacing the city’s public school system with a combination of charter schools and state-run schools; letting the notorious Blackwater private army loose on the civilian population; and, in the end, forcing tens of thousands of families out of the city permanently. The citizens of New Orleans have had their civil rights forcibly expropriated.

Just as the shock of the hurricane was the excuse for the shock therapy applied to New Orleans, so the economic downturn triggered by the subprime mortgage crisis is now the excuse for a national assault on the public sector and the public’s rights.

In California, where we live, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has convened an emergency session of the legislature, demanding that the state’s $14.5 billion “budget deficit" be closed by slashing vital services including housing, health care, and education. He has proposed lopping $4.8 billion off next year’s K-14 education budget. That the deficit exists largely as a result of the Governors corporate friendly tax policies is not considered part of the debate.

In public education, the corporate surge has grown both qualitatively and quantitatively. Where two years ago the corporate education change agents were mainly operating in a relatively small number of large urban areas, they have now surfaced everywhere. The corporatization of public education is the leading edge of privatization. This has the effect of silencing the public voice on every aspect of the situation.

Across the US, public schools are not yet privatized, though private services are increasingly benefiting from this market. However, increasing corporate control of programs – a different mix in every locale – is having a chilling influence on the very things that people (though not corporations) want from teachers: the ability to relate to and teach each child, a nurturing approach that nudges every child to move ahead, human assessments that put people before performance on standardized tests.

Perhaps the single most dramatic development of the corporate approach was the launching of the $60 million Strong American Schools / Ed in ’08 initiative, funded by billionaires Bill Gates and Eli Broad. This is a naked effort to purchase the nation’s education policy, no matter who is elected President, by buying their way into every electoral forum.

Ed in ’08 has a three-point program: merit pay (basing teachers’ compensation on students’ scores on high stakes test); national education standards (enforcing conformity and rote learning); and longer school day and school year (still more time for rote learning, less time for kids to be kids). The chairman of Ed in ‘08/Strong American Schools program is Roy Romer: former governor of Colorado; former chair of the Democratic National Committee; most recently superintendent of schools in Los Angeles (he was persuaded to take that job by Eli Broad). Its executive director is Mark Lampkin, a Republican lobbyist and former deputy campaign manager for George Bush.

Other steering committee members include Eli Broad; Louis Gerstner (former CEO of IBM); Allan Golston (head of the Gates Foundation’s U.S. programs); and John Engler (president of the National Association of Manufacturers and former Governor of Michigan [where he gutted the state’s welfare program]). A truly stunning array of corporate wealth and bipartisan political power in the service of privatization.

Where two years ago charter schools were still viewed as experiments affecting a relatively small number of students, in 2007 the corporate privatizers—led by Broad and Gates—grossly expanded their funding to the point where they now loom as a major presence.

In March, the Gates Foundation announced a $100 million donation to KIPP charter schools, which would enable them to expand their Houston operation to 42 schools (from eight)—effectively, KIPP will be a full-fledged alternative school system in Houston. Also in the past year, Eli Broad and Gates have given in the neighborhood of $50 million to KIPP and Green Dot charter schools in Los Angeles, with the aim of doubling the percentage of LA students enrolled in charter schools. Oakland, another Broad/Gates targets, now has more than 30 charter schools out of 92. And, as we shall see below, the same trend holds across the country.

NCLB in 2008 is still a major issue. It continues to have a corrosive effect on public schools. It is designed an unfunded mandate, which means that schools must meet ever rigid standards every year, though no more money is appropriated to support this effort. This means that schools must take ever-more money out of the class room to meet federal requirements when schools with low test scores are in “Program Improvement." Once schools are in PI for 5 years they can be forced into privatization.

NCLB is a driving force that decimates the “publicness" in public schools. In California, more than 2000 schools are now in “Program-Improvement." This means that they have to meet certain specific, and mostly impossible standards, or they must divert increasingly greater amounts of money out of the classroom and into private programs.

For example, schools in 3rd year PI must take money out of programs that helped schools with a high proportion of low achieving schools and make it available to private tutors.

The struggles of the Civil Rights Era made people realize that quality education was a right that everyone deserves. Education today, whether public or private, is a social policy. We make choices about how far it is extended, what the purpose is, what quality is offered, and to whom. Now that wealth is polarizing in this country, corporate forces are determined to create a social system that benefits the “Haves" while excluding the “Have-Nots."

Privatizing public schools inevitable leads to massive increase in social inequality. Private corporations have never been required to recognize civil rights, because, by definition, these are public rights. If the corporate privatizers succeed in taking over our schools, there will be neither quality education nor civil rights.

The system of public education in the United States is deeply flawed. While suburban schools are among the best in the world, public education in cities has been deliberately underfunded and is in a shambles. The solution is not to fight backwards to maintain the old system. Rather it is to fight forward to a new system that will truly guarantee quality education as a civil right for everyone.

Central to this is to challenge the idea that everything in human society should be run by corporations, that only corporations and their political hacks have the right or the power to discuss what public policy should be. As Naomi Klein stated so well in The Shock Doctrine, privatization “will remain entrenched until the corporate supremacist ideology that underpins it is identified, isolated and challenged." (p 14)

The real direction is to increase the role and power of the public in every way, not eliminate it. If we can spend $2.5 billion a week for war in Iraq, we can certainly build quality schools. It’s not a matter of money. The issue is who will benefit and who will control. Should schools be organized to benefit the super-rich, or should they be organized to benefit everyone?

Rising Corn Prices Trigger Fears of Rising Food Costs

Rising Corn Prices Trigger Fears of Rising Food Costs

October 13, 2010

New York Times - First it was heat and drought in Russia. Then it was heat and too much rain in parts of the American Corn Belt. Extreme weather this year has sent grain prices soaring, jolting commodities markets and setting off fears of tight supplies that could eventually hit consumers’ wallets.

In the latest market lurch, corn prices dropped in early October, then soared anew, in response to changing assessments by the federal government of grain supplies and coming harvests.

The sudden movements in commodities markets are expected to have little immediate effect on the prices of corn flakes and bread in the grocery store, although American consumers are likely to see some modest price increases for meat, poultry and dairy products.

But experts warn that the impact could be much greater if next year’s harvest disappoints and if 2011 grain harvests in the Southern Hemisphere also fall short of the current robust expectations.
“We can live with high commodity prices for a period without seeing much impact at the retail level, but if that persists for several months or a couple of years, then it eventually has to get passed on” to consumers, said Darrel Good, an emeritus professor of agricultural economics at the University of Illinois.
The rise in prices is a good indication of how volatile the market has become for commodity futures in basic farm products like corn or wheat.

Grain prices started to shoot up over the summer on reports of a catastrophic drought in the major wheat-producing regions of Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan. Prices rose not only for wheat, but also for corn and soybeans, since those grains are interchangeable as animal feed and a drop in wheat production could mean increased demand for the other grains.

Corn prices surged again on Friday after a new report from the United States Agriculture Department said this year’s corn crop would be smaller than expected. The harvest is forecast to be 3 percent lower than the 2009 crop, which set a record.

The crop will still probably be the third-largest on record, but demand for corn to be used as animal feed on American farms, in ethanol production and for exports remains high, so supplies are expected to be tight.

December corn futures on the Chicago Board of Trade reached a high of $5.84 a bushel in trading on Tuesday. In late June, similar corn futures were trading as low as $3.43. That is a 70 percent jump.

Dr. Good said the average price for the new crop, which will encompass sales through next August, is expected to be a record, at about $5 a bushel, well above the $3.95 average price for the last three crops.
The government’s latest harvest forecast suggests that corn supplies into next year will be “precariously tight,” said Don Roose, president of U.S. Commodities, a consulting and brokerage firm in West Des Moines, Iowa. “At these levels, we have to cut back on our usage,” he said. “We can either cut back on exports, our ethanol consumption or our feed.”
It is not yet clear who will be forced to cut corn consumption.

Federal ethanol mandates mean that production of biofuel from corn will remain high, regardless of price. The export market is also going strong.

Dermot J. Hayes, a finance and economics professor at Iowa State University, said there appear to be signs of what he called panic buying by some Asian purchasers of American grains for animal feed. He said they are continuing to buy even though prices are rising out of fear that prices could go much higher.
“The psychology is, you need corn or soybeans for your diets and let’s just buy now rather than wait,” Professor Hayes said.
A wild card in the export market is China, which has not historically been a significant buyer of American corn. China surprised experts when it made some purchases earlier this year, but it is not clear if it will be a major buyer of the current crop.
“Everybody will be watching that closely, to see if China is in the market or not,” said Dr. Good.
The price increases are good news for American grain farmers, who stand to get far more for their crops than they anticipated when they planted them in the spring.

But they mean hard decisions for livestock and dairy farmers, who were hard hit during the recession and have only recently begun to recover.

Those farmers are likely to respond to higher feed prices by cutting the size of herds, or at least not increasing the number of animals they raise, say farm economists and industry executives. Many farmers will also sell animals at a slightly lower weight. Both those factors will cut supplies of meat and dairy products, eventually pushing prices up.

A similar outcome is expected for the poultry industry.

Other foodstuffs are not likely to see as strong an impact, according to economists.

That is because the cost of basic grains makes up only a small fraction of the total cost of most manufactured foods that contain them, such as breakfast cereals or bread. A large part of the cost of those items comes from transportation, processing and marketing.

The federal government forecasts that food prices will rise as much as 1.5 percent this year and 2 to 3 percent next year. The average annual increase in food prices over the last 10 years was 2.9 percent.

Despite the high commodity prices, economists do not expect a return to the raging food inflation of 2008, when worldwide demand surged and costs were propelled higher by peaking fuel prices. That led to a 5.5 percent increase in food prices in the United States in 2008 and much higher food inflation and food shortages in developing countries.

The Agriculture Department is scheduled to release an updated estimate of this year’s crop yield next month.
“There will be a lot of attention focused on the next crop report,” said Joseph Glauber, the department’s chief economist. “It just appears to be a very, very tight situation, and so there will be a lot of volatility.”

FHA Loans Are About to Get More Expensive

Is Government About to Make the Mortgage Market Even Worse?

September 29, 2010

CNBC - Today's weekly mortgage applications survey from the Mortgage Bankers Association might seem to offer a small glimmer of hope.

Yes, refinancings -- which have been running at around 80 percent of all mortgage applications -- fell despite a new record low average rate on the 30-year fixed of 4.38 percent.

Not so good.

But on the other hand, purchase applications rose 2.4 percent, largely driven by a 4.5 percent increase in government purchase applications (FHA).

Great, except for that last part.

Government purchase applications have been driving the market for the past year, accounting for, at times, nearly half of all new loans. That may be about to change.

New premium authority (translation: higher prices) goes into effect next week, on Oct. 4. New seller concessions policies are about to go into effect as well.
"These two policy changes will increase the opportunity for private capital to return to the market while improving the safety and soundness of FHA," FHA Commissioner David Stevens tells me.
The trouble is, there's really nobody out there in the mortgage market other than Fannie and Freddie. And their loan limits, as well as super-tight underwriting and fees, are pricing many potential buyers/borrowers out of the housing market.
"While there is still clearly a long way to go for private capital participation levels to reach more normalized levels, we are seeing the beginning of some increased levels of private capital," argues Stevens.
He cites a 60 percent increase in jumbo loan production in Q2 (according to National Mortgage News). The trouble is that was largely refinancings, not new-purchase loans -- and dare I mention a 60 percent increase from a market on complete life support -- still isn't exactly healthy.
"The private-label RMBS market for new mortgage origination has been dormant since early 2008, save for one transaction completed this spring," Tom Deutsch, Executive Director of the American Securitization Forum testified before a House committee this morning.
I'm not saying private capital isn't preparing to come back -- there is an awful lot of cash on the sidelines. I'm just saying it's nowhere near where it needs to be to reinvigorate the housing/mortgage market now. Banks don't have the cash either, as they have been and will be further constrained by various policy initiatives requiring higher capital levels.

Granted, FHA's share is falling overall, opening up share for the private mortgage insurers, and Stevens argues that will open up more opportunities for borrowers.
"MI (mortgage insurance) in conjunction with a Freddie or Fannie mortgage lays the groundwork for establishing the threshold levels at which point private capital pricing can succeed in attracting the consumer more broadly," he says.
Look, I'm all about laying the groundwork for the future, but we need buyers back in the market right this minute, as sales plummet and prices waiver. Analyst Meredith Whitney said on CNBC yesterday,
"In October we're going to see a really ugly Case Shiller number."

"Unless you have near perfect credit and a substantial down payment, FHA is still the only game in town for a large number of Americans," notes Guy Cecala of Inside Mortgage Finance.
Mortgage-purchase applications are 32 percent lower than they were last year, and they weren't great last year. While still the cheapest game in town, FHA loans are about to get more expensive, and that's going to knock the numbers down yet again.

Exposing Big Spender and New World Order Crony, Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley and His Surveillance Society and Bloated Government

Public Sector Union Spending $87 Million to Re-Elect Democrats and Keep Government Huge

October 22, 2010

Business Insider - The big spender this campaign season: The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME).

According to WSJ, the union is spending $87.5 million this election season to re-elect Democrats; and, of course, their goal there is to keep the government enormous, which means more jobs for AFSCME workers.

With spending cuts coming on the state level, and possibly coming at the Federal level, the stakes are huge.

Hilariously, the NYT runs a front-page story today about the Chamber of Commerce's efforts on behalf of big business this season, so both papers are really caricatures of themselves.

The Public Sector is the Largest Employer in Maryland

"If one understands that socialism is not a share-the-wealth programme, but is in reality a method to consolidate and control the wealth, then the seeming paradox of super-rich men promoting socialism becomes no paradox at all. Instead, it becomes logical, even the perfect tool of power-seeking megalomaniacs. Communism or, more accurately, socialism is not a movement of the downtrodden masses, but of the economic elite." - Gary Allen, None Dare Call It Conspiracy, Concord Press, 1971HubPages - This list contains company name and location within Maryland, ranked according to size of staff.
  1. University of Maryland - College Park
  2. US Goddard Space Flight Center - Greenbelt
  3. Godard Space Flight Center - Greenbelt
  4. National Institutes of Health - Bethesda
  5. Washington County Recreation - Hagerstown
  6. National Aeronautics Space Administration (NASA) - Greenbelt
  7. Northrop Grumman - Baltimore
  8. Titan Steel Corp - Baltimore
  9. University of Maryland Medical System - Baltimore
  10. Johns Hopkins University – Aerospace - Laurel
  11. US Health & Human Services Dept. - Baltimore
  12. CareFirst Inc - Owings Mills
  13. Convergence Marketing - Millersville
  14. Fort Detrick – Military - Frederick
  15. Hydro Aluminum North America - Linthicum Heights
  16. US Post Office - Capitol Heights
  17. Millennium Inorganic Chemicals - Cockeysville
  18. Applied Physics Laboratory - Laurel
  19. Greater Baltimore Medical Center - Towson
  20. Johns Hopkins Bayview Med Center - Baltimore
  21. Johns Hopkins School of Medicine - Baltimore
  22. Union Memorial Hospital - Baltimore
  23. Peninsula Regional Medical Center - Salisbury
  24. GEICO Insurance - Chevy Chase
  25. Laurel Regional Hospital - Laurel
Three of the largest employers in Montgomery County are in the public sector, including Montgomery County government and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

In Anne Arundel County, military and defense contractors are prominent in the top ten employer's list. Fort Meade tops the list, with the U.S. Naval Academy parked at number six. Defense contractors Northrup Grumman, Computer Science Corporation (CSC), and Booze, Allen, Hamilton take up three spots.

In Frederick County, the federal government (Fort Detrick) is the largest employer, with two federal contractors, Bechtel and SAIC, ranking third and fourth, respectively.

Marylanders Re-elected NWO Crony Martin O'Malley as Governor

A democracy is always temporary in nature; it simply cannot exist as a permanent form of government. A democracy will continue to exist up until the time that voters discover that they can vote themselves generous gifts from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates who promise the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that every democracy will finally collapse due to loose fiscal policy, which is always followed by a dictatorship. - Justice Litle, Is America’s Economic Recovery on the Whole Based on a Rotten Sham?, Daily Markets, April 20, 2010August 2, 2010

Cliff Williams - The first thing O'Malley did was call a special session to raise taxes to fund new spending. He was warned the economic indicators showed a downturn and was urged to wait. He could not because he can not control his spending addiction. He instituted a new healthcare program to cover 45,000 people and was going to pay for it with slots. The slots money is still nowhere to be seen. Is that what you consider feasible budgeting?

He continually refused to make tough budget cuts hoping for a federal bailout to balance his spending. When every penny was spent he went out and had the state's debt limit raised so he could spend even more.

Is this feasible budgeting? This isn't spend-spend-spending?????

August 2, 2010

Schiff4Senate - O'Malley has run more businesses out of Maryland with higher taxes than he's brought in. Why would a business stay here and pay employees higher wages due to the higher local cost of living when they can go elsewhere and operate at a lower cost with lower rent, lower wages and lower taxes, too?

People who scoff at politicians who "help businesses" should remember that MOST businesses in the U.S. are SMALL businesses--local mom and pop operations who are your friends and neighbors--not rich fat cats sitting on Wall Street.

August 2, 2010

Schiff4Senate - The goal is to reduce spending sufficient enough to allow us to eliminate the income tax. Many people move to places like Florida that have no income tax. Maryland has a State and an (unheard of) County income tax. Property taxes get paid to state and county gov'ts. Plus they have the sales tax.

We need less government overall. Hopefully (however unlikely) the next governor also keeps a keen eye on the goal. That goal being to cut spending sufficient enough to eliminate the income tax. Other states have no income tax, why do we have them?

Another bonus would be to get rid of these dumb cameras at every intersection watching your every move. Who's dumb idea was it to put those in place?

Sponsoring Legislation in Maryland

January 6, 2010

LeaseTrader.com - Maryland's governor, Martin O'Malley, signed into law on May 19 Senate Bill 277, allowing the use of speed cameras in highway work zones and within a half-mile radius of schools, which means that they can be placed on freeways under these conditions.

Maryland is only the second state behind Arizona to codify the use of freeway speed cameras into law. Hawaii piloted a program but dropped it, and similar programs near San Jose, Calif., and in southern Florida were dismantled after they were found to be operating outside of state law. Maryland's law takes effect from Oct. 1.

Sean Adamec, the governor's spokesman, responded to our inquiries.
"Maryland is in a unique position," Adamec said. "A pilot program in Montgomery shows it worked; it lowered incidences of fatalities, crashing and speeding and made neighborhoods safer. It's safer for kids, road workers and it's been shown to work based on evidence. The point of them isn't to raise money but to catch speeders and that in turn makes neighborhoods safer.
"We wouldn't propose any tax on motorists traveling at safe speeds. If it was revenue rising we would've done it years ago, [but cameras] slow people down so they don't need to levy so many fines. Of course there is a financial impact to make roads safer with less fatalities, but in the end you can't put a price on the life of a child."

Maryland Legislature Approves Statewide, Freeway Speed Cameras

April 13, 2009

The Newspaper - The Maryland General Assembly yesterday gave final approval to a measure that will expand the use of speed cameras to every part of the state, allowing cameras on high-volume freeways for the first time. Lawmakers in Annapolis, at the urging of Governor Martin O'Malley (D), saw the measure as an essential means of reining in the state's run-away budget deficit. Traffic camera vendors also helped promote the effort with lavish gifts, parties and campaign donations.

The new legislation specifically authorizes the use of speed cameras anywhere in the state up to one-half a mile away from a school zone. School zone cameras can operate as late as 8pm and ticket motorists regardless of whether school is in session. It also creates a statewide freeway camera program designed to be used in so-called "work zones" where the speed limit is lowered, regardless of whether workers are actually present. On a freeway that ordinarily has a 55 MPH speed limit, for example, citations would be issued to anyone driving 57 MPH in the lowered speed zone. For-profit private companies are authorized to take charge of all aspects of the program.

O'Malley's Spy Cameras (Maryland Governor Uses Tax Dollars to Track Your Every Move)

August 8, 2010

Washington Times - With great fanfare, Gov. Martin O'Malley on Wednesday announced his use of your tax dollars to track every move made by Maryland motorists. The Democratic chief executive will spend $2 million in federal grants to double the number of roadside and mobile spy cameras, with the data centrally collected at a "fusion center" accessible to government bureaucrats.

Like speed cameras and red-light cameras, Mr. O'Malley's license-plate recognition cameras photograph the plates of passing motorists. Within a matter of seconds, a computer system looks up the vehicle owner's identity and cross-references it against a "wanted" list after recording the time, date and GPS coordinates of the vehicle. All of this information will be stored at the Maryland Coordination and Analysis Center located in Woodlawn, just outside Baltimore. Mr. O'Malley's plan is unique insofar as it allows tracking of persons of interest using cameras located in dozens of local jurisdictions.
"We believe it's the first," Maryland State Police spokesman Gregory M. Shipley told The Washington Times. "It's certainly one of the first to network police [agencies] together like this."
This high-tech shakedown hasn't come cheaply. For years, the federal government has been doling out millions in grants - including stimulus funding - for the purchase of license-plate recognition technology, yet there has been no public debate on whether this is a good idea. Former Republican Gov. Bob Ehrlich, a fierce opponent of speed-camera use, thinks that debate needs to happen.
"Bob Ehrlich would need to see compelling arguments that these 'readers' have real benefit to remove concerns about government surveillance," Mr. Ehrlich's spokesman, Andy Barth, told The Washington Times.
Mr. O'Malley is locked in a statistical dead heat with Mr. Ehrlich, who wants his old job back. That leaves Maryland voters with a clear choice in November between living in a digital shakedown surveillance state and returning to The Free State.

November Elections will Determine Future of Cameras in Maryland

October 28, 2010

stopbigbrothermd.org - For the past two years StopBigBrotherMD.org has been documenting the expansion of speed cameras in Maryland. Last year a bill sponsored championed by Governor O'Malley authorized the use of speed cameras in school zones and freeway work zones anywhere in the state.  

We argued that this new power would be abused, that it would diminish the legal rights of drivers, subject drivers to mass surveillance, and that it would be viewed as a cash cow by local governments and a way of taxing out of town drivers. We argued that while in fact these machines are fallible, that cameras would still always be presumed correct and the driver always presumed guilty. Now, a year after that new law went into effect, the truth has been exposed:
  • In most cases 'school zone speed cameras' have been placed in areas never designated or marked as school zones before statewide speed cameras were approved. This is true in Baltimore City, New Carrollton, Brentwood, Mount Rainier, Forest Heights, Cheverly, and many other towns which have recently added cameras. The SHA released guidance stating "school zones should not be established solely for the purpose of installing speed cameras" and "Not all roadways within a ½ mile radius of schools are considered School Zones". Yet this has not prevented the creation of new school zones solely for speed camera use on roads not adjacent to any school.

  • In some towns, such as Cheverly, Brentwood, and Mount Rainier, the newly approved camera sites are at locations where speed limits were lowered right before cameras were added.

  • Many of the restrictions in state law have been bent or broken, demonstrating how local governments consider themselves above the law:
  • Innocent people HAVE received tickets:
    • A camera in Baltimore was configured to the wrong speed limit for weeks, issuing hundreds of tickets in error.

    • Cameras in Forest Heights and Brentwood have been recording some very large vehicles at speeds which would be impossible under the circumstances. In some cases drivers of commercial vehicles had their careers threatened over these false tickets.

    • Citations have gone out to drivers for vehicles which are not even theirs, sometimes from cities they have never even been to, proving that in many cases there is no meaningful human review taking place before citations are sent.
  • Speed cameras are stripping drivers of due process rights. In Forest Heights, some drivers who tried to exercise their right to challenge tickets were not given court dates and instead were sent late notices with additional penalties and statements that their registrations would be suspended if they did not pay. Forest Heights has also denied a MPIA request for public records pertaining to this situation. Should these drivers be fortunate enough to eventually receive a hearing, they will still be subjected to a lower burden of proof than for any other type of violation in the state.

  • Claims by officials that the cameras are not about revenue are laughable in the face of actions by some local governments. Baltimore City voted to include $7million in speed camera revenue in their budget before the cameras were approved by the city or any camera sites selected. Towns such as Cheverly and Forest Heights have planned to vastly increase their budgets using fines from cameras placed on major state highways.

  • Claims that speed cameras have improved safety are in fact exaggerated. Montgomery county saw a large increase in traffic fatalities in the first half of 2010, bucking a nationwide trend, even as more speed camera sites were being added. Meanwhile other methods exists which can produce the same reductions in average traffic speeds where that is necessary.
Many of you resent the cameras. Maybe at some level you understand how these cameras can easily be used to impose ‘taxation without representation’ on out of town drivers. Maybe you understand that many drivers have no practical way to fight these citations, and that a corrupt local government would have no need to be fair to out of town drivers. Some of you have take action, but most of you have sat on the sidelines, hoping someone else will fight this battle for you. My message to you now is that YOUR TIME IS UP.

If there is no change to makeup of our representation in Annapolis, and the supporters of speed cameras do not pay a price, then the result will be predictable. Within the next four years the number of cameras will balloon from hundreds to thousands, with over a million citations going out every month. The camera companies are heavily pushing to see the restrictions on cameras eliminated and the fines raised. They want to see new types of photo enforcement, such as cameras on school buses, cameras at stop signs, or cameras enforcing cell phone restrictions. With each of these the burden on drivers to prove they are innocent will increase. By the time voters have a chance to weigh in again, the ‘Free State’ will be a full blown 'surveillance state'. Every driver will be at the mercy of whichever local government is most corrupt or least competent.

We need allies at the state and county level and we need them NOW. To make a difference on November 2nd, we need every single opponent of speed cameras to cast their vote. We have documented the position of the state lawmakers on statewide speed cameras here: http://sites.google.com/site/mdspeedcameravotes/Home