Making Unique Observations in a Very Cluttered World

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

U.S. Wasted at Least $31 Billion in War Contracts -

U.S. Wasted at Least $31 Billion in War Contracts - 

It turns out that scattering cash into the wind would have been more efficient than the U.S. system for awarding reconstruction contracts during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. A two-year inquiry by a congressionally created panel finds that at least 15 percent of the $206 billion-with-a-B spent on wartime contracts thus far has been lost to waste, fraud and abuse. That very conservative estimate is likely to grow — and it amounts to an indictment not just of wartime contracts, but the wars themselves.
The Commission on Wartime Contracting (.pdf) concludes that “vast amounts” of contract money in Iraq and Afghanistan provided “little or no benefit” to the war efforts. The commission confirmed $31 billion in contractor cash lost to corruption or dysfunction. But it warned that the true figure could be as high as$60 billion, or “$12 million every day for the past 10 years.”
And even that massive figure — almost 30 percent of all wartime contract dollars — isn’t the whole story. Iraq and Afghanistan remain riddled with corruption. That corruption endangers all the “apparently well-designed projects and programs” that the U.S. has launched in both countries. Untold “billions of dollars” are liable to “turn into waste” in the future, says the report, “if the host governments cannot or will not commit the funds, staff, and expertise to operate and maintain them” — especially money spent on the Afghan military and on Iraqi healthcare centers.
How did wartime contracting turn into a sludge of waste and fraud? It’s not just the Pentagon’s sole-source contracting jones, which Sharon Weinberger has shone a spotlight onto all week long here atDanger Room. (The commission does, however, write that the U.S. has “awarded task orders for excessive durations without adequate competition.”) It’s also the sheer ignorance of U.S. war planners.
“U.S. officials lack an understanding of the need to reconcile short-term military and longer-term development goals and objectives,” the commission finds, “realistically assess host-country conditions and capabilities, and work within the constraints of local economies’ absorptive capacity for influxes of cash.”
Afghanistan’s GDP is about $27 billion. Yet onto that barren economic landscape, the U.S. has dumped about $450 billion in war-related cash.
Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies incisively observed last year that the huge cash infusion made corruption “an ‘existential necessity’ for those who could get the money.” Yet the U.S. never considers its own war spending to be a systemic driver of the corruption that squanders it.
Nor does prolonged time on the ground in either Iraq or Afghanistan rectify that ignorance. “Lack of knowledge of local contractor and subcontractor companies” is rampant, the commission finds. Look no further than the warlords and insurgent pals that the U.S. has hired to guard its military bases, a trend that’s accelerating for special-operations forces in Afghanistan. Not only can that ignorance undermine the very goals of the war, but it’s a “major contributor” to wasted money.
And on top of all of that is another systemic failure. The commission finds that the Pentagon still lacks sufficient numbers of dedicated personnel to perform basic oversight of its mega-contracts. There aren’t “acquisition personnel and structures needed to manage and oversee an unprecedentedly large contractor force that at times has outnumbered troops in the field.”
That helps explain how a company like Blackwater could set up a shell company called Paravant to win a contract training Afghan soldiers without anyone at the Pentagon noticing. Astonishingly, the supposed watchdogs at the Defense Contract Audit Agency have a backlog of unaudited incurred costs that will “exceed $1 trillion in 2016.”
Ten years of war haven’t changed the Pentagon’s acquisitions mindset. War contracts get less emphasis than big-ticket items like planes and ships. ”More than half of defense-contract spending is for services and not for hardware procurement,” the commission finds. “Yet Defense’s culture and processes remain focused on weapons systems.”
One major oversight of the commission’s own: it doesn’t focus on the CIA’s contract personnel. CIA cash receives extremely little public scrutiny, and it can go to things that undermine U.S. war goals, like, say,propping up Afghan warlords such as Ahmed Wali Karzai.
The commission provides numerous recommendations for what it calls “urgent” reform, from hiring tons more contract overseers to curbing the use of private security contractors. And one of the commission’s sponsors, Sen. Jim Webb (D-Virginia), a Reagan-administration Navy secretary, promises that its report will be more than unhappy bedtime reading. “I would like to express my strong view that these recommendations will be listened to and, when appropriate, acted on by the United States Congress,” Webb told reporters Wednesday.
But it’s been 10 years of waste, fraud and abuse in Iraq and Afghanistan, and both wars are winding down. If there ever is any contractor reform, it may come too late for the wars the U.S. is actually waging. And the commission finds that a major driver of all the wasted cash is basic ignorance — a problem that can’t be solved by implementing any well-intentioned set of reformist bullet points.
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German City Unveils "Prostitute Meter" - Streetwalers get a nightly permit, like a parking ticket -

German City Unveils "Prostitute Meter" - Streetwalers get a nightly permit, like a parking ticket - 
German City Unveils "Prostitute Meter"

Prostitution is legal in Germany, but collecting taxes from streetwalkers requires some creative efforts.

In Bonn, officials have unveiled a meter that prostitutes must pay roughly $8 into each night to get a nightly permit to practice the world's oldest profession. Freelance sex workers get an automated ticket, much like a parking slip, according to Der Spiegel. Officials say taxing prostitutes who work out of fixed locations is simple, but streetwalkers could easily avoid duties.

"It's not fair that some women who work in establishments like sex centers or sauna clubs are taxed only because we can find them more easily there," city spokeswoman Monika Frömbgen said.

Prostitution has been legal in Germany since 2002.

BUFAS, a sex worker advocacy group, called the flat fee unfair.

"We are against such special rules, and favor the legal equality of every worker, including in matters of taxes," said spokesperson Beate Leopold.

But Frömbgen contered that Bonn has a right to collect taxes, and this makes it possible.

"Communities have a bit of room to adjust their own taxes, and we are legally granted the right to levy these taxes,"  she said.


Fukushima Is Continually Blasting All Of Us With High Levels Of Cesium, Strontium And Plutonium -

Fukushima Is Continually Blasting All Of Us With High Levels Of Cesium, Strontium And Plutonium - 

Fukushima is now far and away the worst nuclear disaster in all of human history.  Chernobyl was a Sunday picnic compared to Fukushima and the amount of cesium-137 released at Fukushima this year so far is equivalent to 168 Hiroshima bombs.  The crisis at Fukushima is far, far worse than you have been told.  We are talking about multiple self-sustaining nuclear meltdowns that will not be fully contained for years.  In an attempt to keep people calm, authorities in Japan (and around the rest of the world as well) have lied and lied and lied.  Over the months that have passed since the disaster began, small bits of the truth have slowly started to come out.  Authorities are finally admitting that the area immediately surrounding Fukushima will be uninhabitable indefinitely, and they are finally admitting that the amount of radioactive material that has been released is far higher than initially reported.  It is going to take the Japanese years to fully contain this problem.  Meanwhile, Fukushima will continue to blast all of us with high levels of cesium, strontium and plutonium and will slowly kill millions of people around the globe for years to come.
These days, the mainstream media does not talk about Fukushima much.  The reality is that there have been a whole lot of other disasters for them to talk about.
But just because Fukushima is a nightmare that is playing out in very slow motion does not mean that it does not deserve our full attention.
To get an idea of just how nightmarish Fukushima has turned out to be, just consider the words of nuclear expert Steven C. Jones....
By way of comparison, the Chernobyl nuclear disaster that occured in 1986 in the Ukraine, Russia- heretofore the worst nuclear disaster on record- burned for 10 days and cumulatively killed an estimated 1 million people worldwide. The Fukushima, Japan nuclear disaster has 5 nuclear reactors burning, 2 in partial meltdown and 3 in full meltdown- and they've ALL been uncontrollably burning since March 11th. Its been over 3 months and this nuclear disaster remains completely out of control. In fact, some industry estimates cite the possibility that these meltdowns will be contained (optimistically) in 1-3 years, at the very earliest.
The amount and intensity of the radioactive fallout from this particular nuclear disaster will assuredly kill hundreds of millions of people worldwide over time. Japan itself is, of course, the epicenter of this radioactive contamination that has spread out from these reactors.
Keep in mind that radioactivity from the Chernobyl disaster deeply contaminated77,000 square miles.
So if Fukushima is many times worse, what does that mean for us?
Just recently, authorities in Japan confessed that the amount of cesium-137 released by Fukushima is equivalent to 168 of the nuclear bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima.  The following is a brief excerpt from a recent article inthe Telegraph....
Japan's government estimates the amount of radioactive caesium-137 released by the Fukushima nuclear disaster so far is equal to that of 168 Hiroshima bombs.
I am no nuclear expert, but shortly after the Fukushima disaster began I postulated that much of northern Japan would be rendered uninhabitable by all of this radiation.
Well, it turns out that authorities in Japan have finally reached the same conclusion.  According to the New York Times, the Japanese government is acknowledging that large areas around the Fukushima nuclear facility may be uninhabitable for decades....
Broad areas around the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant could soon be declared uninhabitable, perhaps for decades, after a government survey found radioactive contamination that far exceeded safe levels, several major media outlets said Monday.
So what is the big deal?
Unfortunately, most people do not have any concept of just how dangerous nuclear contamination can be.
At this point, the vast majority of people living in the northern hemisphere have been exposed to radioactive material from Fukushima.
We can't see them, but radioactive particles can do an insane amount of damage.  We can breathe them in, we can eat them in our food and we can even absorb them through our skin.  Once trapped inside our bodies, these particles can slowly "bake" us for years and years.  The following is from an opinion piece by Helen Caldicott in the Guardian....
Internal radiation, on the other hand, emanates from radioactive elements which enter the body by inhalation, ingestion, or skin absorption. Hazardous radionuclides such as iodine-131, caesium 137, and other isotopes currently being released in the sea and air around Fukushima bio-concentrate at each step of various food chains (for example into algae, crustaceans, small fish, bigger fish, then humans; or soil, grass, cow's meat and milk, then humans). [2] After they enter the body, these elements – called internal emitters – migrate to specific organs such as the thyroid, liver, bone, and brain, where they continuously irradiate small volumes of cells with high doses of alpha, beta and/or gamma radiation, and over many years, can induce uncontrolled cell replication – that is, cancer. Further, many of the nuclides remain radioactive in the environment for generations, and ultimately will cause increased incidences of cancer and genetic diseases over time.
One of the most dangerous radioactive elements being released at Fukushima is strontium.  Strontium accumulates in the bones and in the teeth.  It is also known to cause cancer in humans.
It has been estimated that approximately 80 percent of the strontium that was released during the Chernobyl nuclear disaster entered the food cycle.
Considering the vast amount of strontium that has been released at Fukushima, that is a very frightening statistic.
The following is what NHK World recently had to say about the levels of strontium that are being found around Fukushima....
The utility detected up to 480 becquerels of radioactive strontium 90 per kilogram of soil. That's about 100 times higher than the maximum reading recorded in Fukushima Prefecture following atmospheric nuclear tests carried out by foreign countries during the Cold War era.
TEPCO reported detecting 2,800 becquerels of strontium 89 per kilogram of soil at the same location.
Once you absorb strontium, it will stay in your bones for the rest of your life.  Just consider what Dr. Russell Blaylock recently told Newsmax....
When we look at Chernobyl, most of West Germany was heavily contaminated. Norway, Sweden. Hungary was terribly contaminated. The radiation was taken up into the plants. The food was radioactive. They took the milk and turned it into cheese. The cheese was radioactive.
That’s the big danger, the crops in this country being contaminated, the milk in particular, with Strontium 90. That radiation is incorporated into the bones and stays for a lifetime.
So would you like to have radioactive material in your bones that affects your health for the rest of your life?
It may have already happened to you and you wouldn't even know it.
Other deadly radioactive elements that are being released at high levels at Fukushima include iodine, cesium, uranium and plutonium.  Large amounts of these radioactive particles have already been absorbed in the soil and in the water in the United States.
Large amounts of these radioactive particles have also entered our food chain.
As the years go by, a whole lot of Americans are going to get sick and die and they will never even know that it was Fukushima that caused it.
Remember, just because you cannot see these radioactive particles does not mean that they aren't incredibly deadly.  Just check out what nuclear expertSteven C. Jones recently had to say about plutonium....
To give one an example of how lethal radiation is, one pound of plutonium evenly distributed into everyone's lungs would kill every man, woman and child on Earth. There are literally "tons" of radioactive plutonium (among other radioactive elements) that have been released into the air and ocean environments since March 11th. Another critical fact to remember is that radioactive plutonium, for example, remains lethal (killing life) for thousands years as it has a half-life of 24,000 years. Some other radioactive elements such as uranium have a half-life of 4.47 billion years.
That is the scary thing with many of these radioactive elements.  Now that they have been released, many of them will be with us for as long as we live, for as long as our children live and for as long as our grandchildren live.
Yes, things are much worse than you have been told.
Up until now, the Japanese government has insisted that those living outside the 20 kilometer exclusion zone are safe.
But is that really the case?
According to Reuters, Greenpeace has found incredibly high levels of radiation at schools up to 60 km away.....
Greenpeace said on Monday that schools and surrounding areas located 60 km (38 miles) from Japan's tsunami-hit nuclear power plant were unsafe for children, showing radiation readings as much as 70 times internationally accepted levels.
In addition, a recent Japan Times article noted that high levels of cesium have been discovered at 42 incineration plants in seven different prefectures in Japan....
High levels of cesium isotopes are cropping up in dust at 42 incineration plants in seven prefectures, including Chiba and Iwate, an Environment Ministry survey of the Kanto and Tohoku regions shows.
Also, a recent article in the Wall Street Journal stated that incredibly high levels of cesium-137 have been found up to 100 km away from the Fukushima nuclear facility....
The first comprehensive survey of soil contamination from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant showed that 33 locations spread over a wide area have been contaminated with long-lasting radioactive cesium, the government said Tuesday.
The survey of 2,200 locations within a 100-kilometer (62-mile) radius of the crippled plant found that those locations had cesium-137 in excess of 1.48 million becquerels per square meter, the level set by the Soviet Union for forced resettlement after the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, Japanese authorities said.
Remember that Tokyo is only about 250 km away from the Fukushima nuclear facility.
So what happens if high levels of cesium start showing up in Tokyo?
According to some sources, things have already gotten very serious in Tokyo.
Dr. Chris Busby recently traveled to Japan with some very sophisticated testing equipment and found one sample in Tokyo that had levels of radioactivity that were higher than the exclusion zone surrounding Chernobyl during that nuclear disaster.
But things are much worse for those living much closer to Fukushima.  High levels of cesium have been detected in the urine and in the breast milk of those living in the region surrounding the facility.  All over the area there are reports of people coming down with the symptoms of radiation sickness.
The truth is that the "evacuation area" should be far, far larger than it is now.  Just consider what Mike Adams of Natural News recently had to say about what recent tests have shown....
One soil sample taking 25 kilometers away from Fukushima showed Cesium-137 exceeding 5 million becquerels per square meter. This level, of course, makes it uninhabitable by humans, yet both the Japanese and U.S. governments continue to downplay the whole event, assuring their sheeple that there's nothing to worry about. By their logic, since all the people are sheeple anyway, as long as the area is safe enough for sheep, it's also safe enough for the human population.
A lot of people in Japan are going to die, and frustrations are rising.  According to an article in The Independent, a lot of Japanese feel totally abandoned by their government at this point....
It is the fate of people outside the evacuation zones, however, that causes the most bitter controversy. Parents in Fukushima City, 63km from the plant, have banded together to demand that the government do more to protect about 100,000 children. Schools have banned soccer and other outdoor sports. Windows are kept closed. "We've just been left to fend for ourselves," says Machiko Sato, a grandmother who lives in the city. "It makes me so angry."
But just because you don't live in Japan does not mean that you are not in danger.  The Fukushima nuclear facility sits right on the Pacific Ocean.  When nuclear material gets released into the air at Fukushima, the first time much of it will encounter land is when it reaches the United States.
Also, thousands upon thousands upon thousands of tons of highly radioactive water has been released into the Pacific Ocean at Fukushima.
What this is going to do to our oceans nobody knows for sure.  But according to the Los Angeles Times, the seawater near Fukushima has been found to be incredibly radioactive....
Tokyo Electric Power Co. had said Tuesday that it had found iodine-131 at 7.5 million times the legal limit in a seawater sample taken near the facility, and government officials instituted a health limit for radioactivity in fish. Other samples were found to contain radioactive cesium at 1.1 million times the legal limit.
All of this radioactive water is going to circulate all over the globe.  It is going to be a nightmare that is never going to end.
Just because the mainstream media is not talking much about all of this radiation does not mean that it is not affecting the United States....
*Radiation from Fukushima has been detected in seaweed in Puget Sound.
*Radiation from Fukushima has been detected in the drinking water in numerous states.
*Radiation from Fukushima has been discovered in milk in numerous states.
*Very high levels of radiation continue to be detected in rainwater in the northwest United States.
This is a slow motion nightmare that is going to play out for years and years.
Some nuclear experts claim that it could be up to 50 or 100 years before any of the nuclear material at the Fukushima complex will cool down enough to be removed from the facility.
Right now there is no viable solution to what is going on at Fukushima, so it will continue to blast all of us with high levels of radiation and will slowly kill millions of people around the globe for years to come.
Former nuclear industry insider Arnold Gundersen recently put it this way....
"With Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, and now with Fukushima, you can pinpoint the exact day and time they started," he said, "But they never end."
This is a nightmare that will be with us for the rest of our lives.  Millions are going to get sick and untold numbers of people are going to slowly die.
Please share this information with as many people as you can.

25 Signs That The Financial World Is About To Hit The Big Red Panic Button -

25 Signs That The Financial World Is About To Hit The Big Red Panic Button - 

Most of the worst financial panics in history have happened in the fall.  Just recall what happened in 1929, 1987 and 2008.  Well, September 2011 is about to begin and there are all kinds of signs that the financial world is about to hit the big red panic button.  Wave after wave of bad economic news has come out of the United States recently, and Europe is embroiled in an absolutely unprecedented debt crisis.  At this point there is a very real possibility that the euro may not even survive.  So what is causing all of this?  Well, over the last couple of decades a gigantic debt bubble has fueled a tremendous amount of "fake prosperity" in the western world.  But for a debt bubble to keep going, the total amount of debt has to keep expanding at an ever increasing pace.  Unfortunately for the global economy, sources of credit are starting to dry up.  That is why you hear terms like "credit crisis" and "credit crunch" thrown around so much these days.  Without enough credit to feed the monster, the debt bubble is going to burst.  At this point, virtually the entire global economy runs on credit, so when this debt bubble bursts things could get really, really messy.
Nations and financial institutions would never get into debt trouble if they could always borrow as much money as they wanted at extremely low interest rates.  But what has happened is that lending sources are balking at continuing to lend cheap money to nations and financial institutions that are already up to their eyeballs in debt.
For example, the yield on 2 year Greek bonds is now over 40 percent.  Investors don't trust the Greek government and they are demanding a huge return in order to lend them more money.
Throughout the financial world right now there is a lot of fear.  Lending conditions have gotten very tight.  Financial institutions are not eager to lend money to each other or to anyone else.  This "credit crunch" is going to slow down the economy.  Just remember what happened back in 2008.  When easy credit stops flowing, the dominoes can start falling very quickly.
Sadly, this is a cycle that can feed into itself.  When credit is tight, the economy slows down and more businesses fail.  That causes financial institutions to want to tighten up things even more in order to avoid the "bad credit risks".  Less economic activity means less tax revenue for governments.  Less tax revenue means larger budget deficits and increased borrowing by governments.    But when government debt gets really high that can cause huge economic problems like we are witnessing in Greece right now.  The cycle of tighter credit and a slowing economy can go on and on and on.
I spend a lot of time talking about problems with the U.S. economy, but the truth is that the rest of the world is dealing with massive problems as well right now.  As bad as things are in the U.S., the reality is that Europe looks like it may be "ground zero" for the next great financial crisis.
At this point the EU essentially has three choices.  It can choose much deeper economic integration (which would mean a huge loss of sovereignty), it can choose to keep the status quo going for as long as possible by providing the PIIGS with gigantic bailouts, or it can choose to end of the euro and return to individual national currencies.
Any of those choices would be very messy.  At this point there is not much political will for much deeper economic integration, so the last two alternatives appear increasingly likely.
In any event, global financial markets are paralyzed by fear right now.  Nobody knows what is going to happen next, but many now fear that whatever does come next will not be good.
The following are 25 signs that the financial world is about to hit the big red panic button....
#1 According to a new study just released by Merrill Lynch, the U.S. economy has an 80% chance of going into another recession.
#2 Will Bank of America be the next Lehman Brothers?  Shares of Bank of America have fallen more than 40% over the past couple of months.  Even though Warren Buffet recently stepped in with 5 billion dollars, the reality is that the problems for Bank of America are far from over.  In fact, one analyst is projecting that Bank of America is going to need to raise 40 or 50 billion dollars in new capital.
#3 European bank stocks have gotten absolutely hammered in recent weeks.
#4 So far, major international banks have announced layoffs of more than 60,000 workers, and more layoff announcements are expected this fall.  A recent article in the New York Times detailed some of the carnage....
A new wave of layoffs is emblematic of this shift as nearly every major bank undertakes a cost-cutting initiative, some with names like Project Compass. UBS has announced 3,500 layoffs, 5 percent of its staff, and Citigroup is quietly cutting dozens of traders. Bank of America could cut as many as 10,000 jobs, or 3.5 percent of its work force. ABN Amro, Barclays, Bank of New York Mellon, Credit Suisse, Goldman Sachs, HSBC, Lloyds, State Street and Wells Fargo have in recent months all announced plans to cut jobs — tens of thousands all told.
#5 Credit markets are really drying up.  Do you remember what happened in 2008 when that happened?  Many are now warning that we are getting very close to a repeat of that.
#6 The Conference Board has announced that the U.S. Consumer Confidence Index fell from 59.2 in July to 44.5 in August.  That is the lowest reading that we have seen since the last recession ended.
#7 The University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index has fallen by almost 20 points over the last three months.  This index is now the lowest it has beenin 30 years.
#8 The Philadelphia Fed's latest survey of regional manufacturing activity was absolutely nightmarish....
The survey’s broadest measure of manufacturing conditions, the diffusion index of current activity, decreased from a slightly positive reading of 3.2 in July to -30.7 in August. The index is now at its lowest level since March 2009
#9 According to Bloomberg, since World War II almost every time that the year over year change in real GDP has fallen below 2% the U.S. economy has fallen into a recession....
Since 1948, every time the four-quarter change has fallen below 2 percent, the economy has entered a recession. It’s hard to argue against an indicator with such a long history of accuracy.
#10 Economic sentiment is falling in Europe as well.  The following is from a recent Reuters article....
A monthly European Commission survey showed economic sentiment in the 17 countries using the euro, a good indication of future economic activity, fell to 98.3 in August from a revised 103 in July with optimism declining in all sectors.
#11 The yield on 2 year Greek bonds is now an astronomical 42.47%.
#12 As I wrote about recently, the European Central Bank has stepped into the marketplace and is buying up huge amounts of sovereign debt from troubled nations such as Greece, Portugal, Spain and Italy.  As a result, the ECB is alsomassively overleveraged at this point.
#13 Most of the major banks in Europe are also leveraged to the hilt and have tremendous exposure to European sovereign debt.
#14 Political wrangling in Europe is threatening to unravel the Greek bailout package.  In a recent article, Satyajit Das described what has been going on behind the scenes in the EU....
The sticking point is a demand for collateral for the second bailout package. Finland demanded and got Euro 500 million in cash as security against their Euro 1,400 million share of the second bailout package. Hearing of the ill-advised side deal between Greece and Finland, Austria, the Netherlands and Slovakia also are now demanding collateral, arguing that their banks were less exposed to Greece than their counterparts in Germany and France entitling them to special treatment. At least, one German parliamentarian has also asked the logical question, why Germany is not receiving similar collateral.
#15 German Chancellor Angela Merkel is trying to hold the Greek bailout deal together, but a wave of anti-bailout "hysteria" is sweeping Germany, and nowaccording to Ambrose Evans-Pritchard it looks like Merkel may not have enough votes to approve the latest bailout package....
German media reported that the latest tally of votes in the Bundestag shows that 23 members from Mrs Merkel's own coalition plan to vote against the package, including twelve of the 44 members of Bavaria's Social Christians (CSU). This may force the Chancellor to rely on opposition votes, risking a government collapse.
#16 Polish finance minister Jacek Rostowski is warning that the status quo in Europe will lead to "collapse".  According to Rostowski, if the EU does not choose the path of much deeper economic integration the eurozone simply is not going to survive much longer....
"The choice is: much deeper macroeconomic integration in the eurozone or its collapse. There is no third way."
#17 German voters are against the introduction of "Eurobonds" by about a 5 to 1 margin, so deeper economic integration in Europe does not look real promising at this point.
#18 If something goes wrong with the Greek bailout, Greece is financially doomed.  Just consider the following excerpt from a recent article by Puru Saxena....
In Greece, government debt now represents almost 160% of GDP and the average yield on Greek debt is around 15%. Thus, if Greece’s debt is rolled over without restructuring, its interest costs alone will amount to approximately 24% of GDP. In other words, if debt pardoning does not occur, nearly a quarter of Greece’s economic output will be gobbled up by interest repayments!
#19 The global banking system has a total of 2 trillion dollars of exposure to Greek, Irish, Portuguese, Spanish and Italian debt.  Considering how much the global banking system is leveraged, this amount of exposure could end up wiping out a lot of major financial institutions.
#20 The head of the IMF, Christine Largarde, recently warned that European banks are in need of "urgent recapitalization".
#21 Once the European crisis unravels, things could move very rapidly downhill.  In a recent article, John Mauldin put it this way....
It is only a matter of time until Europe has a true crisis, which will happen faster – BANG! – than any of us can now imagine. Think Lehman on steroids. The U.S. gave Europe our subprime woes. Europe gets to repay the favor with an even more severe banking crisis that, given that the U.S. is at best at stall speed, will tip us into a long and serious recession. Stay tuned.
#22 The U.S. housing market is still a complete and total mess.  According to a recently released report, U.S. home prices fell 5.9% in the second quarter compared to a year earlier.  That was the biggest decline that we have seen since 2009.  But even with lower prices very few people are buying.  According to the National Association of Realtors, sales of previously owned homesdropped 3.5 percent during July.  That was the third decline in the last four months.  Sales of previously owned homes are even lagging behind last year's pathetic pace.
#23 According to John Lohman, the decline in U.S. economic data over the past three months has been absolutely unprecedented.
#24 Morgan Stanley now says that the U.S. and Europe are "hovering dangerously close to a recession" and that there is a good chance we could enter one at some point in the next 6 to 12 months.
#25 Minneapolis Fed President Narayana Kocherlakota says that he is so alarmed about the state of the economy that he may drop his opposition to more monetary easing.  Could more quantitative easing by the Federal Reserve soon be on the way?
Things have not looked this bad for global financial markets since 2008.  Unless someone rides in on a white horse with trillions of dollars (or euros) of easy credit, it looks like we are headed for a massive credit crunch.
What we witnessed back in 2008 was absolutely horrifying.  Very few people want to see a repeat of that.  But as things in the U.S. and Europe continue to unravel, it appears increasingly likely that the next wave of the financial crisis could hit us sooner rather than later.
None of the fundamental problems that caused the crisis of 2008 have been fixed.  The world financial system is still one gigantic mountain of debt, leverage and risk.
Authorities around the globe will certainly do all they can to keep things stable, but in the end it is inevitable that the house of cards is going to come crashing down.
Let us hope for the best, but let us also prepare for the worst.
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