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..There's a little Samuel Pepys in all of us..

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

We'll start with the markets..
After weeks of uncertainty, traders seemed to seize the day..
Stock indexes powered ahead yesterday as investors saw profit to be made on some cheap stocks.. as they bet that weak economic data would support the possibility of further stimulus from the Federal Reserve.. It was at the Fed’s annual symposium in Jackson Hole, Wyoming last year that Ben Bernanke, the Fed Chairman, signaled further stimulus in light of a similar slowdown of the American economy..
'Quantitative easing' was entered into the economic lexicon..
“The market is down so much in the last week or two,” said Brian M. Youngberg, an energy analyst at Edward Jones.. “When the risk seems to come down a bit, many investors get back in it.”..
The broader market rose more than 3% and represented the second consecutive day of gains in stocks this week.. Mind you, that has merely rearranged the value of stocks.. making up for the losses of last week.. Many analysts say investors are waiting for policy makers to lay out plans for their response to the European sovereign debt issues and the economic headwinds in the United States..
One more day of rising indexes.. we might see a dip towards Thursday as some take their profit and wait for the announcement Friday from Ben..
Early trading along the Pacific Rim reflects the tone of the markets and investors in general.. Some profit taking already in evidence.. The Hang Seng and the Nikkei are very slightly up in early trading.. while Australia and New Zealand opened to slight losses..
That trend mentioned above seems to show signs of being the tone of the day.. A few hours into trading.. Japan.. Hong Kong.. have slipped into the red..
Chalk it up to minor profit taking..
We'll follow through the trading day.. But it's doubtful we'll see anything of note until the end of the week..
And as the day came to an end.. stocks in Europe rose today, defying declines in the U.S. and Asia, as investors awaited potential new action from the Federal Reserve to kick start the world's largest economy..
In a sign of the wild movements seen on financial and commodities markets in recent weeks, the price of gold, which had surged in recent weeks as investors fled into save-haven assets, plummeted 4.4% to $1,779, more than $100 below a new record reached just days ago..
Markets are likely to continue fluctuating ahead of Friday's speech.. Investors hope Bernanke will signal a third round of massive bond-buying to boost the faltering U.S. recovery..
With the goal of significantly lowering the country's debt.. the French government has announced a 3% tax hike for those earning above 500,000 euros.. that's £440,000, or $721,000..
This tax hike follows some of France's wealthiest people calling on the government to tackle its deficit by raising taxes on the rich..
Some might say this seems to be an outcry from the turkeys for an early Christmas.. but in fact, it's a brilliant strategy to quiet some of the resentment and unrest fomenting in France.. This allows high earners to say 'we're doing what we can..'
Paris has also reduced its economic growth forecast for 2012 to 1.75% from a previous 2.25%.. Prime Minister Francois Fillon said the new tax would remain in place until France reduces its budget deficit back under the EU's intended limit of 3% of GDP.. with analysts saying that could come to pass by 2013..
"This is a rigorous policy that will allow France to remain relaxed," Fillon announced.. "Our country must stick to its [deficit] commitments. It's in the interest of all French people."..
Sixteen executives, including Europe's richest woman, the L'Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt, had offered in an open letter to pay a "special contribution" in a spirit of "solidarity"..
It appeared on the website of the French magazine Le Nouvel Observateur..
It was signed by some of France's most high-profile chief executives.. including Christophe de Margerie of oil firm Total.. Frederic Oudea of Bank Societe Generale.. and Air France's Jean-Cyril Spinetta..
Big names.. and a gesture some of our banking executives could well take note of..
Especially the banking sector..

After hours of pounding battle yesterday, Libya's rebels smashed through the fortified perimeter of Muammar Gaddafi's compound in western Tripoli.. the nerve center of the old regime.. sending huge plumes of black smoke over the city.. perhaps dealing a fatal blow to Gaddafi's ability to cling to power..
Footage apparently shot by rebels and aired on al-Jazeera showed armed rebels deep inside the Bab al-Aziziyah complex, rejoicing as they clambered upon the ruins of Gaddafi's old house, which was bombed by U.S. jets in 1986 and had been left by Gaddafi as a memorial to the West's evils..
But the man himself.. and his eldest son.. remain at large..
And this has led to a host of speculation on where they might be.. Some analysts are sure Mohammar's still in Libya.. others are sure he's taken what he has, and left for friendlier surroundings..
The fight for Tripoli appears to be virtually over.. but so far, there's no indication of where the Gaddafi's might be.. and until he's found.. the Revolutionary Council will not consider their achievements as a success..
As of this afternoon.. Libyan diplomats and students smashed portraits of Moammar Gadhafi, shouted "Game over!" and raised the rebel flag at their Manila embassy today as part of defections at missions worldwide underscoring the leader's rapid fall..
As rebels stormed the Libyan capital and Gadhafi's power and influence abroad crumbled, Libyan Consul Faraj Zarroug in the Philippine capital said about 85% of his country's 165 diplomatic missions now recognized the interim rebel government, the National Transitional Council.. Libyan diplomats abroad have been pledging allegiance to the rebels gradually after the rebellion erupted nearly six months ago.. but defections surged this week as rebels entered Tripoli in a stunning breakthrough..
While missions to Switzerland and Bangladesh, for example, switched early on, Libyan embassy officials in Japan and Ethiopia replaced the government flag with the rebel's tricolor the beginning of the week.. A spokesman for the rebels in Dubai, Edward Marques, said today.. the defections had turned into a "cascade," but declined to list the locations of rebel supporters.. The Libyan government could no longer be reached for comment..

A look into the internal goings on in Japan..
As Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan spends his final days in office before his party holds an internal vote Monday to choose his successor.. it's easy to be glib.. The man was in office only 14 months after all, and whoever replaces him will become the country’s seventh Prime Minister in five years..
Yup.. the 7th in 5..
But Kan’s departure deserves longer reflection than the resignation of his predecessor, the oddball Yukio Hatoyama, or any of the other four men who have held the office since Japan’s last memorable leader, Junichiro Koizumi, who stepped aside in September of 2006..
As the revolving door at the top illustrates.. the problem goes far beyond Kan and speaks to a crippling illness in Japanese politics.. a disease that compounds the already enormous threats to the country’s future..
Kan recognized the harm being done by the vacuum at the top and seemed more determined than any of his recent predecessors to hang on to the office, if only to change the perception that it no longer matters who the Prime Minister of Japan is..
But Japan’s political system, which allows reviled backroom operators to wield enormous power over their putative leaders, coupled with the natural and nuclear disasters that hit the country on March 11, ensured that he never stood a chance of succeeding..
Kan came to office last summer vowing to tackle the country’s debilitating financial mess.. Japan’s debt soared past $11-trillion earlier this year, more than double the size of the country’s GDP..
But the former finance minister’s bold proposal of increasing revenues by doubling the national sales tax to 10 per cent was defeated.. largely due to fierce opposition from within his own Democratic Party of Japan that was led by Ichiro Ozawa.. the party’s 'dark prince' of behind-the-scenes politics..
Realizing that he was doomed to be just another short-term leader unless he unified the DPJ behind him, Mr. Kan courted and won a head-to-head battle against Ozawa last fall.. For the first time since Koizumi, Japan seemed to have a leader who wanted to lead..
Then the world, quite literally, fell apart..
Kan’s government was derided by a largely hostile Japanese establishment.. which is largely loyal to the Liberal Democratic Party, which is now in opposition but led the country almost without interruption from 1955 to 2009.. for what's been called a 'tentative response' to the massive earthquake and tsunami that obliterated entire cities in the northeast of the country and unleashed the still-unfolding crisis at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant..
Yet another body blow to the government this morning.. as Moody's downgrades it credit to 'Double 'A'3.. They have effected the downgrade due to large government deficits.. and the inability to come to an agreement on taxation..
However, the rating agency's forecast for Japan's economic outlook was 'stable'..

More oddities concerning this earth of ours..
As we mentioned.. The largest natural earthquake in Colorado in more than a century struck Monday night in the state’s southeast corner, but there were no reports of damage or injuries.. The quake, with a preliminary magnitude of 5.3, was centered about nine miles from the city of Trinidad and hit at 11:46pm local time..
It was felt as far away as Greeley, about 350 miles north, and into Kansas and New Mexico..
Now yesterday.. A strong earthquake rattled the East Coast, sending tremors as far as Canada, damaging well-known buildings in the nation's capital and sending scared office workers into the streets..
There were no reports of major damage or serious injuries from the 5.8 magnitude quake, which was centered in Mineral, Virginia..
It was the largest quake in Virginia since 1897 and struck at a shallow depth, increasing its potency..
Nuclear safety fears grew when one of four emergency diesel generators at the North Anna nuclear power plant in Virginia stopped working due to the quake..
But the plant's safety systems remained powered by three operating generators.. The plant was built to withstand a quake of 6.1 magnitude..
The Pentagon, White House and Capitol were evacuated in Washington.. and thousands of alarmed workers scurried into the streets up and down the East Coast as the lunchtime quake sent items crashing down from store and office shelves..
There were no reports of deaths or serious injuries..
The National Cathedral said its central tower and three of its four corner spires were damaged, but the White House said advisers had told President Obama there were no reports of major damage to the nation's infrastructure.. airports, nuclear facilities.. all major arteries remained open and functioning..
Still earthquakes down the Eastern Seaboard.. under Lake Ontario.. felt in Toronto...
As mentioned.. odd..

Just a point to ponder..
Reports indicate that since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.. the NYPD has become one of the country's most aggressive domestic intelligence agencies..
These reports revealed that the NYPD operates far outside its borders.. and targets ethnic communities in ways that would run afoul of Civil Liberties rules if practiced by the federal government..
And it does so with unprecedented help from the CIA in a partnership that has blurred the bright line between foreign and domestic spying..
Neither the City Council.. which finances the department.. nor the Federal Government.. which contributes hundreds of millions of dollars each year, is told exactly what's going on..
The department has dispatched teams of undercover officers, known as "rakers," into minority neighborhoods as part of a human mapping program.. according to officials directly involved in the program.. They've monitored daily life in bookstores, bars, cafes and nightclubs.. Police have also used informants, known as "mosque crawlers," to monitor sermons, even when there's no evidence of wrongdoing. NYPD officials have scrutinized imams and gathered intelligence on cab drivers and food cart vendors, jobs often done by Muslims..
Many of these operations were built with help from the CIA, which is prohibited from spying on Americans but was instrumental in transforming the NYPD's intelligence unit..
Now if there is any credence to these reports, it hits at the underbelly of the Intelligence Community.. It's the stuff conspiracy buffs live for..
They continue.. A veteran CIA officer, while still on the agency's payroll, was the architect of the NYPD's intelligence programs..
The CIA trained a police detective at the Farm, the agency's 'school' in Virginia, then returned him to New York, where he put his new espionage skills to work inside the United States..
And just last month, the CIA sent a senior officer to work as a clandestine operative inside police headquarters..
While the expansion of the NYPD's intelligence unit has been well known.. many details about its clandestine operations.. including the depth of its CIA ties.. have not previously been reported..
The NYPD denied that it trolls ethnic neighborhoods and said it only follows leads.. In a city that has repeatedly been targeted by terrorists, police make no apologies for pushing the envelope.. NYPD intelligence operations have quietly disrupted terrorist plots and put several would-be killers in prison..
According to a spokesman for the NYPD.. "The New York Police Department is doing everything it can to make sure there's not another 9/11 here and that more innocent New Yorkers are not killed by terrorists.. and we have nothing to apologize for in that regard."
One of the enduring questions of the past decade is whether being safe requires giving up some liberty and privacy.. The focus of that debate has primarily been Federal programs the likes of wiretapping and indefinite detention..
The question has received less attention in New York, where residents do not know for sure what, if anything, they have given up..
But one would be exceedingly naive to think abrogation of responsibility, costs nothing.. If these clandestine machinations are in New York.. one can reasonably expect then to be in place in Washington.. Boston.. all down the Eastern Seaboard..
And if in the States.. what of the tactics of the authorities here in Britain.. throughout the Eurozone..?
And once again, it begs the question 'at what price freedom..?'

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