Making Unique Observations in a Very Cluttered World

Friday, 26 July 2013

GPS Flaw Could Let Terrorists Hijack Ships

GPS Flaw Could Let Terrorists Hijack Ships - 

The world’s GPS system is vulnerable to hackers or terrorists who could use it to hijack ships -- even commercial airliners, according to a frightening new study that exposes a huge potential hole in national security.
Using a laptop, a small antenna and an electronic GPS “spoofer” built for $3,000, GPS expert Todd Humphreys and his team at the University of Texas took control of the sophisticated navigation system aboard an $80 million, 210-foot super-yacht in the Mediterranean Sea.
“We injected our spoofing signals into its GPS antennas and we’re basically able to control its navigation system with our spoofing signals,” Humphreys told Fox News.

By feeding counterfeit radio signals to the yacht, the UT team was able to drive the ship far off course, steer it left and right, potentially take it into treacherous waters, even put it on a collision course with another ship. All the time, the ship’s GPS system reported the vessel was calmly moving in a straight line, along its intended course. No alarms, no indication that anything was amiss.
Capt. Andrew Schofield, who invited Humphreys and his team aboard to conduct the experiment told Fox News he and his crew were stunned by the results.
“Professor Humphreys and his team did a number of attacks and basically we on the bridge were absolutely unaware of any difference,” Schofield said. “I was gobsmacked -- but my entire deck team was similarly gobsmacked,” he told Fox News.
The possible consequences, according to Humphreys, are both ominous and far-reaching.
“For maritime traffic, there are big implications,” Humphreys told Fox News from the bridge of the White Rose of Drachs. “You’ve got 90 percent of the world’s cargo going across the seas. Imagine shutting down a port. Imagine running a ship aground. These are the kinds of implications we’re worried about.”
As the Costa Concordia tragically proved, a cruise ship off-course can have disastrous results. The Exxon Valdez was only narrowly off its intended track when it ran aground on Bligh Reef, spilling 11 million gallons of oil into Prince William Sound.
Humphreys told Fox News the easiest and most sinister “spoof” is to slowly slide a vessel onto a parallel course. Over time, the compass might read the same heading, but the ship could be far from where the crew thinks it is.
“You’re actually moving about a kilometer off of your intended track in a parallel line and you could be running aground instead of going through the proper channel,” Humphreys said.
And because aircraft have a similar navigation system to that aboard the White Rose of Drachs, Humphreys says a commercial airliner could be “spoofed” as well.
“Going after an expensive vessel on the seas and going after a commercial airliner has a lot of parallels,” he told Fox News.
The government is aware of this critical vulnerability. Last year, Fox News reported exclusively on a more primitive experiment Humphreys conducted using a small, unmanned drone. He was able to feed “spoofing” signals into the drone’s GPS, causing it to nearly fall out of the sky. As a result, Humphreys was called before Congress to testify, and also spoke with officials from the FAA, CIA and Pentagon.
This latest experiment takes Humphreys’ research to a whole new level.
“Before we couldn’t control the UAV. We could only push it off course. This time my students have designed a closed loop controller such that they can dictate the heading of this vessel even when the vessel wants to go a different direction,” Humphreys said.
Yet the Department of Homeland Security has -- according to Humphreys -- been “fumbling around in the dark” on GPS security, doing little to address the threat. Texas Congressman Mike McCaul, chairman of the Homeland Security Committee is incensed.


Forgotten War, Forgotten Soldiers - American POWs left behind from Korean War -

Forgotten War, Forgotten Soldiers - American POWs left behind from Korean War - 

U.S. prisoners of war were left behind in North Korea, China, and Russia after the Korean War and the Pentagon failed to win their release or a full accounting of their fate, according to research contained in a new book that is highly critical of U.S. POW recovery efforts.

“The Obama White House and Pentagon show not a trace of urgency in recovering our Korean War POW/MIAs, perished or alive,” said Mark Sauter, the book’s co-author who has spent more than two decades investigating missing soldiers.

“Time is running out for many of their family members, not to mention American POWs reported in North Korea long after the war, if any still survive,” he told the Washington Free Beacon. “Contrast this with South Korea, which has recovered dozens of its POWs alive in recent years. Some family members believe the U.S. government is simply waiting for the problem to go away.”

The book, American Trophies: How American POWs Were Surrendered to North Korea, China, and Russia by Washington’s ‘Cynical Attitude,’ includes numerous cases of missing Americans from the Korean War, along with several from the Cold War and Vietnam War. It is based on years of research, interviews, and documents by the authors, Sauter and John Zimmerlee.

Declassified intelligence reports obtained by the authors reveal that Americans were being held captive in China, North Korea, and the Soviet Union at least through the 1990s.

Publication of the book follows the recent disclosure of a Pentagon report highly critical of Defense Department POW search efforts. “The Pentagon’s effort to account for tens of thousands of Americans missing in action from foreign wars is so inept, mismanaged and wasteful that it risks descending from ‘dysfunction to total failure,’” said an internal Pentagon study suppressed by military officials but first reported by the Associated Press July 8.

The book cites the same report and others, saying they “cast grave doubt about government goals for finding and identifying the missing from Korea and other wars.” The study said the cost of recovering a single missing soldier can reach between $2.1 million and $5.7 million.

“The Obama administration has failed to manage these POW programs effectively or press other countries for answers,” the book says. “It has even sidelined the long-running Presidential US-Russia Joint Commission on POW/MIAs, now stuck in White House bureaucracy.”

The House Armed Services Committee will conduct a hearing Aug. 1 when senior Pentagon POW officials are expected to face tough questioning on the matter.

The book documents several cases of missing Americans who were reported alive but never returned after the conflict. The Korean War lasted from 1950 to 1953 and involved a coalition of U.N. states led by the United States fighting a Soviet-backed North Korea and later China.

The cases include the fate of Harry Moreland, who the Chinese say escaped from an enemy prison despite having both legs amputated. In another case, Air Force Capt. Sam Logan went missing after his aircraft went down near Pyongyang in late 1950. He disappeared under mysterious circumstances.

Richard Desautels was captured by the Chinese in 1950 and taken to Manchuria where he was kept prisoner and was never returned after Beijing released other prisoners.

Gilbert Ashley and four other B-29 crewmen parachuted safely after their plane went down in North Korea, but they were never returned after the conflict.

“The U.S. military radioed a demand to return them: Communists cannot plausibly deny you are alive and must arrange your exchange. They never came home,” the authors said of Ashley and his crew.

One former Soviet colonel told the authors that an U.S. F-86 pilot captured by the Russians was sent to Moscow because Soviet leader Josef Stalin wanted to speak to him. And a North Korean source revealed that the North Korean communist government kept American prisoners for the same reason serial killers keeps mementos of victims.

“Pyongyang, Beijing, and Moscow kept our prisoners for several strategic and tactical reasons,” the book states. “American captives were also sometimes a sort of ‘trophy.’”

China conducted show trials of U.S. POWs captured in Korea and traded them for scientists held by the United States. The book says evidence reveals the Chinese were holding other American prisoners who were never released.

“We expect mendacity and indifference from North Korea, China, and Russia, and it is they who kept American captives and frustrate attempts to account for them,” the authors said. “But we hold the US government to a higher standard, which it has failed to meet.”

The authors’ investigation of missing POWs found that the Pentagon had “substantial evidence” American POWs remained in enemy hands after the end of the Korean War but declared all of them dead—even those that were thought to be alive.

At one point after the war, the Air Force’s most senior general, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Nathan Twining, asked the CIA to conduct a covert action program in 1954 to recover what the general said was “apparently substantial number of U. S. military personnel captured in the course of the Korean War (who) are still being held prisoners by the Communist Forces,” according to one document.

The CIA rejected the request claiming it did not believe reports of secretly held POWs.

Russia initially agreed to cooperate in the late 1990s with the Pentagon on accounting for missing servicemen but continues to “stonewall” access to KGB files that could shed light on the missing Americans, including those Moscow admitted were sent to Russia, the book says.

China admitted that it secretly transported Richard Desautels to China and has a classified file on his case and that of other missing soldiers that it refused to turn over to U.S. investigators.

However, the authors are harshly critical of the Pentagon for its failure to resolve the cases of missing soldiers.

“The Pentagon’s POW/MIA organizations are plagued by incompetence, waste, over-lap and in-fighting,” the book said.

Despite spending tens of millions of dollars in recent decades, the Pentagon has identified the remains of 246 of out of 8,177 Korean War POW/MIAs.

In the case of North Korea, the U.S. government has paid the communist regime $22.1 million for U.S. remains, access to sites, and excavations. North Korea in return has tried to fool U.S. investigators by “salting” POW recovery sites using warehoused Americans’ remains.

On the recent U.N. Human Rights Commission of Inquiry on North Korea, the authors note that the inquiry will not include a search for POWs from the Korean War despite that conflict being fought under the United Nations flag.

A recent North Korean defector disclosed to the Free Beacon that South Korean soldiers from the Korean War are still being held in North Korea.

The authors state that they do not believe there is a “conspiracy” to cover up Korean War prisoners.

“Our view is that senior U.S. leaders and the government bureaucracy that helps set the agenda for them resist emphasizing a problem that appears beyond their control to resolve,” they say.

“This is today’s ‘cynical attitude.’ The bureaucracy knows what to push and what to ‘research’ forever. Families of the missing want and deserve answers, be they from foreign countries, U.S. records or remains.”

Norm Kass, a recently retired senior Pentagon official involved in POW affairs, is quoted in the book as saying that the poor effort by the U.S. government to account for POWs will leave most of their relatives dead before they get answers.

“It’s a way a bureaucracy has of pretending to pursue an issue when in reality it has no interest in dealing with the issue,” Kass stated.

Sauter is a veteran journalist who has spent more than two decades researching POW issues. He was an Army officer once stationed on the Demilitarized Zone separating the two Koreas.

Sauter’s investigation of missing prisoners began in 1989 when he uncovered a classified memo at the Eisenhower Presidential Library stating U.S. prisoners were sent to the Soviet Union. The memo is disclosed in the book.

Zimmerlee is the son of Air Force officer John Henry Zimmerlee, who disappeared in 1952 during the Korean War.

“When most Americans think of pressing issues with Beijing, Moscow and Pyongyang, topics such as cybersecurity, trade and arms proliferation come to mind. But for families across the nation, the most important issue is one rarely discussed by government and media—the fate of Americans left, dead or alive, in North Korea, China and the former Soviet Union,” Sauter and Zimmerlee said.


Obamacare Call Center Hiring Part-Time Workers, Not Providing Healthcare... -

Obamacare Call Center Hiring Part-Time Workers, Not Providing Healthcare... - 

In order to ensure Americans understand how to access the benefits available to them when many provisions of the Affordable Care Act go online October 1, the Obama administration announced last month that it is setting up a call center that will be accessible to Americans 24 hours a day. 

One branch of that call center will be located in California’s Contra Costa County, where, reportedly, 7,000 people applied for the 204 jobs. According to the Contra Costa Times, however, “about half the jobs are part-time, with no health benefits — a stinging disappointment to workers and local politicians who believed the positions would be full-time.” The county supervisor, Karen Mitchoff, called the hiring process “a comedy of errors” and said she “never dreamed [the jobs] would be part-time.”

The Times indicates that a job posting advertised all of the jobs as full-time, and one call center employee, who said no reason for the apparent change was provided, told the paper, ”It reminded me of that George Clooney movie where he goes around the country firing people (‘Up in the Air’). The woman said, ‘I know you were led to believe you would be full-time, but things have changed…You are actually ‘part-time intermittent.’”

The Contra Costa employees are currently in training, and the call center — one of three based in California — is set to go live on October 1. 


Goldman Sachs' aluminum scam -

Goldman Sachs' aluminum scam - 

In 1909, as one of the scores of short pictures he turned out that year, D.W. Griffith directed “A Corner in Wheat,” a 14-minute film adaptation of a story by the populist antitrust novelist Frank Norris. In it, a Wall Street speculator buys up so much of America’s wheat and keeps it off the market that prices soar and millions — including the farm family Griffith shows laboring in the fields — go hungry.

Americans’ long-standing apprehensions about banks getting control of the stuff of life are, as we’ve learned again in recent weeks, generally justified. The latest episode of Wall Street’s manipulation of commodity prices was revealed Sunday in a remarkable New York Times article by David Kocieniewski that showed how Goldman Sachs, just by warehousing 1.5 million tons of aluminum, has managed to raise the price of every beer and cola can the world over. Goldman doesn’t own the aluminum, yet in the best tradition of middlemen who add no value to the product but manage to nonetheless take a hefty cut, it owns a vast expanse of warehouses outside Detroit, where much of the nation’s aluminum is stored. And stored. And stored.

Before Goldman bought the warehouses three years ago, the Times reported, aluminum ingots generally were kept in the warehouses for six weeks before being shipped to factories to be turned into goods. Now they linger on average for 16 months, during which Goldman collects a daily storage fee from the banks, hedge funds and traders who own the ingots — a fee that is factored into the metal’s spot-market price and that raises the price for all aluminum sold on that market, no matter where it’s stored. (Goldman thoughtfully pays those traders a premium so they won’t suffer too much from the lengthy rentals.) Regulations imposed by the London Metals Exchange — which until last year was owned by banks, including Goldman and Barclays, that are its members — say that an ingot can remain in a particular warehouse for only a certain period, so Goldman employs truckers to move the ingots from one warehouse to the next in its vast storage yard.

This is capitalism straight out of Frank Norris — or Franz Kafka.

Aluminum isn’t the only commodity that banks are cornering. JPMorgan Chase is facing a reported $500 million fine by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) for allegedly manipulating California and Michigan energy markets. Earlier this month, the commission fined Barclays $435 million for similar transgressions in California. In the former case, the FERC claims that JPMorgan’s energy traders misrepresented the price of electricity contracts, which led to the states’ electricity buyers — and, ultimately, consumers — overpaying power plants that the company owned. It’s Enron revisited, albeit on a more modest scale.

Bank control of the commodity markets is both an old and new phenomenon. It was commonplace when Griffith made “A Corner in Wheat.” Four years later, in 1913, future Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis noted with alarm that “investment bankers” had become “the directing power in railroads, public service and industrial companies.” In 1956, however, after the New Deal reined in big banks’ power and abuses, Congress passed and President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the Bank Holding Company Act, which limited banks’ investments to other related financial entities.

In the 1990s — a decade in which banks grew to dominate the U.S. economy — the Bank Holding Company Act was effectively undone. Congress passed the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, which amended the 1956 law to permit banks to establish financial holding companies and gave the Federal Reserve authority to designate the kind of firms that these companies could invest in or purchase outright. In those halcyon Greenspan days — and even in some subsequent Bernanke days — the Fed approved Wall Street’s investments in commodities and a whole lot else. Indeed, in a Senate Banking Committee hearing Tuesday, Ohio Democrat Sherrod Brown reported that “the six largest U.S. bank holding companies have 14,420 subsidiaries, only 19 of which are traditional banks.”

The threat this poses to Americans and the U.S. economy is twofold. First, banks hold the ability to jack up prices on life’s essentials. Second, since giant, publicly insured banks such as JPMorgan Chase are investing in all manner of businesses and markets, taxpayers would be on the hook if those businesses and markets should tank. That’s why we need to bring back something like the Glass-Steagall Act, which built a wall between depositor banks and investment banks, and the 1956 Bank Holding Company Act. Otherwise, Wall Street will continue to corner both matter and energy.


A hedge on the edge: SAC Capital’s insider trading scandal - and Investors May Face Clawbacks -

A hedge on the edge: SAC Capital’s insider trading scandal - and Investors May Face Clawbacks - 

After causing the collapse of the Galleon Group hedge fund in 2009, insider trading enforcements have once again shaken the hedge fund industry. Late last week, the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) charged Steven A. Cohen, CEO of SAC Capital Advisors LP, one of the world’s largest hedge funds, with failing to supervise two of his managers, Mathew Martoma and Michael Steinberg, who traded on material non-public information concerning three US listed companies in 2008.

As a result of these illegal insider trades, SAC Capital Advisors earned profits and avoided losses of almost $300 million. If the high-profile administrative suit of the SEC proves to be successful on August 26, Cohen could face a permanent bar from the financial services industry, leaving the survival of SAC Capital on the edge and sending shivers through the entire hedge fund industry.

In general, insider trading refers to some investors (e.g. managers and directors of corporations) trading on proprietary information that is not yet available to the rest of the market. In the US, insiders are allowed to trade, as long as they meet two fundamental requirements: they do not trade ahead of information events – for instance, mergers and acquisitions and corporate announcements – where they have access to sensitive information prior to the rest of the market; and they report their trades by filing a Form 4 with the SEC.

In the 2012 fiscal year, the SEC brought 58 insider trading actions against 131 managers and entities accused of gaining profits – or avoiding losses – totalling approximately A$600 million. Between 2010 and 2012, the SEC has filed more insider trading actions — a total of 168 cases against nearly 400 individuals and entities — than in any three-year period in the SEC’s history. “[T]hese illegal practices impose a cost on law-abiding investors and the integrity of the financial markets,” said Robert Khuzami, director of the SEC’s division of enforcement, in a press statement.

At one time, investors tripped over themselves to become one of the "extractive elite" in SAC Capital Advisors LP, the hedge fund run by Stevie Cohen. According to mainstream financial media, he could do no wrong. But that may be due to weak-kneed editors, instead of lack of news of alleged wrongdoing.

After Cohen's ex-wife filed a lawsuit including allegations that Cohen engaged in insider trading in the 1980's, investigative journalist Matthew Goldstein dug further. In late 2009, he wrote a document-based expose that Reuters' lawyers approved.

According to an exclusive story by Chris Roush at Talking Biz News, "Cohen repeatedly called Devin Wenig, CEO of the Thomson Reuters Markets Division and the No. 2 executive at Thomson Reuters, to complain." The multi-billionaire claimed he was being persecuted. Editors at Reuters killed the story.

The SEC wants Cohen's "Assets"

Around 60 percent of the $15 billion SAC managed belonged to Cohen and his managers. Cohen charged investors 3 percent per year and took 50 percent of gains for SAC. Most hedge funds gouge investors for 2 percent per year and 20 percent of any gains. Now, all of Cohen's assets are up for grabs by the S.E.C.

Last week, the SEC brought civil charges against Cohen for "failure to supervise," and Cohen may face criminal charges.

Cohen's Investors: Blackstone, Funds of Funds, and Individuals

Matt Goldstein followed the saga of Cohen's investors as they abandoned ship. Cohen's largest outside investor was The Blackstone Group with around $550 million invested. Other investors included Citi's private bank, a fund of funds managed at Morgan Stanley, HSBC, Skybridge Capital, and high net worth individuals.

Fund managers that invested with SAC must be quaking in their Guccis. Investors paid them high fees and expected them to perform first-class due diligence before placing funds under Cohen's management. Yet serious questions have swirled around Cohen's trading practices for more than a decade.

SEC Slaps SAC with Insider Trading Charges: Investor Clawbacks Likely

Now that Stevie Cohen's "No. 1 goal is not getting personally indicted" for insider trading, where does that leave his investors?

If the SEC can prove its case and find that SAC's gains were the result of a criminal activity, investors will likely face clawbacks. If investors accessed SAC through a fund of funds or a multi-advisor fund, they will likely sue the managers of those funds.

The SEC alleges that insider trading resulted in "hundreds of millions" of dollars in illegal profits.

SEC: Where are the Other Indictments?

Unfortunately for SAC investors, the SEC's lawyers seem to vigorously pursue insider trading, because they can grasp it. But the SEC still has to prove its case. If the allegations are true, there's still a chance of acquittal due to incompetent lawyering: trial by email instead of doing the hard work of investigating and explaining facts to a jury, until it can grasp the essentials. The game's not over.

But the "smart money" made illegal gains by committing crimes that are difficult for the SEC's lawyers to understand: crimes related to credit derivatives, commodities trading, collateralized debt obligations, and much more. The SEC has yet to effectively investigate, much less prosecute, widespread massive fraud in the financial system.


Startling images show melting North Pole turning into a lake -

Startling images show melting North Pole turning into a lake - 



Dramatic images from an automated webcam scanning the North Pole reveal a lake where solid ice used to be.
“It looks amazing,” Dr. James Morrison of the North Pole Environmental Observatory, told the Star. “It looks like it’s Lake Tahoe or something.”
The devil is in the details, though, if you’re a veteran polar scientist such as Morrison.
What he sees is an incremental sign of the relentless erosion of Arctic sea ice. What he also sees, comparing this with all the other webcam images over the months, is a loss of 30 to 40 centimetres of ice.
Even more telling, Morrison said, is what you can’t see.

Not at the North Pole, but on the Canadian side of the Beaufort Sea, an aerial reconnaissance mission this month spotted an alarming landscape of similar melt ponds riddling the surface.
“The melt ponds have covered the whole surface and melted though north of Alaska in the Beaufort. What we’re seeing on the Canada side is really bad. It’s melted all the way through.”
Melt ponds, even the 50-metre across lakes depicted in by the North Pole observatory wide-angle webcam, are not at all unusual during July at the top of the world.
They are bad for sea ice, however. While the melted ice looks dramatic, it’s the effect of the sun beating down on the half-metre deep lake that has Morrison more worried.
Erosion of sea ice happens at the bottom, under the surface, with less ice building on the foundation because of heat buildup.
“It’s important to compare the two pictures,” he said, referring to the two webcams facing in opposite directions: one showing a lake, one showing ice.
“Just by luck, Webcam 2 ended up in being in the middle of a melt pond.
“But I do think now my estimates might have been a little high” for how much sea ice would survive the summer of 2013.
The Arctic hit a record low for sea ice last summer, cracking a previous low set in 2007. The most pessimistic forecasts for this year from the Arctic Research Consortium peg it even lower.
Scientists, including Morrison, are still adding up the numbers for 2013, however. The range of estimates by the international consortium was 3.2 to 5.9 million square kilometres of ice for September.
By comparison, the June, 2013, median was 4.1 million square kilometres and the July, 2012, median was 4.6 million square kilometers, the Arctic consortium reports in its most recent Sea Ice Outlook.
Those numbers compare with an average low from 1979 to 2000 of 6.7 million square kilometres.
A study in the journal Nature reveals the environmental cost of releasing methane as Arctic sea ice melts could hit the trillions of dollars.


Full Moon 'Disturbs Good Night's Sleep'... -

Full Moon 'Disturbs Good Night's Sleep'... - 

A full Moon can disturb a good night's sleep, scientists believe.

Researchers found evidence of a "lunar influence" in a study of 33 volunteers sleeping in tightly controlled laboratory conditions.

When the Moon was round, the volunteers took longer to nod off and had poorer quality sleep, despite being shut in a darkened room, Current Biology reports.

They also had a dip in levels of a hormone called melatonin that is linked to natural-body clock cycles.

When it is dark, the body makes more melatonin. And it produces less when it is light.

Continue reading the main story

Start Quote

It's one of these folk things that you would suspect has a germ of truth”

Dr Neil Stanley
UK sleep expert
Being exposed to bright lights in the evening or too little light during the day can disrupt the body's normal melatonin cycles.

But the work in Current Biology, by Prof Christian Cajochen and colleagues from Basel University in Switzerland, suggests the Moon's effects may be unrelated to its brightness.

Lunar rhythms
The volunteers were unaware of the purpose of the study and could not see the Moon from their beds in the researchers' sleep lab.

They each spent two separate nights at the lab under close observation.

Findings revealed that around the full Moon, brain activity related to deep sleep dropped by nearly a third. Melatonin levels also dipped.

The volunteers also took five minutes longer to fall asleep and slept for 20 minutes less when there was a full Moon.

Prof Cajochen said: "The lunar cycle seems to influence human sleep, even when one does not 'see' the Moon and is not aware of the actual moon phase."

Some people may be exquisitely sensitive to the Moon, say the researchers.

Their study did not originally set out to investigate a lunar effect. The researchers had the idea of doing the lunar analysis years later, while chatting over a few drinks.

They went back to their old data and factored in whether or not there had been a full Moon on the nights the volunteers had slept in their lab.

UK sleep expert Dr Neil Stanley said, nonetheless, the small study appeared to have significant findings.

"There is a such a strong cultural story around the full Moon that it would not be surprising if it has an effect.

"It's one of these folk things that you would suspect has a germ of truth.

"It's up to science now to find out what's the cause of why we might sleep differently when there's a full Moon."


It Is Happening Again: 18 Similarities Between The Last Financial Crisis And Today -

It Is Happening Again: 18 Similarities Between The Last Financial Crisis And Today - 

If our leaders could have recognized the signs ahead of time, do you think that they could have prevented the financial crisis of 2008?  That is a very timely question, because so many of the warning signs that we saw just before and during the last financial crisis are popping up again.  Many of the things that are happening right now in the stock market, the bond market, the real estate market and in the overall economic data are eerily similar to what we witnessed back in 2008 and 2009.  It is almost as if we are being forced to watch some kind of a perverse replay of previous events, only this time our economy and our financial system are much weaker than they were the last time around.  So will we be able to handle a financial crash as bad as we experienced back in 2008?  What if it is even worsethis time?  Considering the fact that we have been through this kind of thing before, you would think that our leaders would be feverishly trying to keep it from happening again and the American people would be rapidly preparing to weather the coming storm.  Sadly, none of that is happening.  It is almost as if they cannot even see the disaster that is staring them right in the face.  But without a doubt, disaster is coming. The following are 18 similarities between the last financial crisis and today...

#1 According to the Bank of America Merrill Lynch equity strategy team, their big institutional clients are selling stock at a rate not seen "since 2008".

#2 In 2008, stock prices had wildly diverged from where the economic fundamentals said that they should be.  Now it has happened again.

#3 In early 2008, the average price of a gallon of gasoline rose substantially.  It is starting to happen again.  And remember, whenever the average price of a gallon of gasoline in the U.S. has risen above $3.80 during the past three years, a stock market decline has always followed.

#4 New home prices just experienced their largest two month drop since Lehman Brothers collapsed.

#5 During the last financial crisis, the mortgage delinquency rate rose dramatically.  It is starting to happen again.

#6 Prior to the financial crisis of 2008, there was a spike in the number of adjustable rate mortgages.  It is happening again.

#7 Just before the last financial crisis, unemployment claims started skyrocketing.  Well, initial claims for unemployment benefits are rising again.  Once we hit the 400,000 level, we will officially be in the danger zone.

#8 Continuing claims for unemployment benefits just spiked to the highest level since early 2009.

#9 The yield on 10 year Treasuries is now up to 2.60 percent.  We also saw the yield on 10 year U.S. Treasuries rise significantly during the first half of 2008.

#10 According to Zero Hedge, "whenever the annual change in core capex, also known as Non-Defense Capital Goods excluding Aircraft shipments goes negative, the US has traditionally entered a recession".  Guess what?  It is rapidly heading toward negative territory again.

#11 Average hourly compensation in the United States experienced its largest drop since 2009 during the first quarter of 2013.

#12 In the month of June, spending at restaurants fell by the most that we have seen since February 2008.

#13 Just before the last financial crisis, corporate earnings were very disappointing.  Now it is happening again.

#14 Margin debt spiked just before the dot.com bubble burst, it spiked just before the financial crash of 2008, and now it is spiking again.

#15 During 2008, the price of gold fell substantially.  Now it is happening again.

#16 Global business confidence is now the lowest that it has been since the last recession.

#17 Back in 2008, the U.S. national debt was rapidly rising to unsustainable levels.  We are in much, much worse shape today.

#18 Prior to the last financial crisis, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke assured the American people that home prices would not decline and that there would not be a recession.  We all know what happened.  Now he is once again promising that everything is going to be just fine.

Are the American people going to fall for it again?


Pentagon to deploy huge blimps over Washington, DC surveillance powers from North Carolina to Niagara Falls, Canada -

Pentagon to deploy huge blimps over Washington, DC surveillance powers from North Carolina to Niagara Falls, Canada - 

Screenshot from YouTube user raytheoncompany

A pair of high-tech Army blimps is coming to the greater Washington, DC area, and soon they will be able to provide the military with surveillance powers that spans hundreds of millions of acres from North Carolina to Niagara Falls, Canada.
The airships are part of Raytheon’s Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System, or JLENS, and when all is said and done they’ll offer the United States military what the defense contractor calls “an affordable elevated, persistent over-the-horizon sensor system” that relies on “a powerful integrated radar system to detect, track and target a variety of threats.”

Raytheon has just wrapped up a six-week testing period in the state of Utah and is now sending its JLENS fleet to the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland. Once there, the Army intends to get some hands-on experience that will eventually culminate in launching the pair of airships over Washington, DC.

Once above the nation’s capital, JLENS will allow the Army to see for 320 miles in any direction from 10,000 feet above the earth. The system can be set up to operate on its own for an entire month without requiring refueling, and offers the Pentagon surveillance capabilities that dwarf other options at a penny of the cost.

Its manufactures say JLENS “enables commanders to defend against threats including hostile cruise missiles, low-flying manned and unmanned aircraft, tactical ballistic missiles, large caliber rockets and moving surface vehicles such as boats, SCUD-launchers, automobiles and tanks.”

“Affordable defense from real world threats,” Raytheon touts the system on its website.

To provide that security, though, the Army will send its integrated pair of airships — around 75 yards in length each — high into the sky carrying “powerful radars that can look deep into enemy territory.” First, however, the residents of the metropolitan Washington, DC area — and those in around a dozen states stretching the mid-Atlantic into New England — will be asked to ignore a pair of sophisticated spying machines.

“JLENS uses advanced sensor and networking technologies to provide 360-degree, wide-area surveillance and precision target tracking,” the Defense Department found in an unclassified audit of the system conducted in late 2011. But while that tracking is designed to go after enemy drones and spot other suspicious activity, it is also touted as being able to provide a good enough image of moving land targets — or essentially anything. In a press release from February, Raytheon said the JLENS surveillance radar can “simultaneously track hundreds of threats.” 

Of course, the surveillance ship is only half of the JLENS program. That aircraft, one of the two tethered blimp-like vessles, is equipped with the appropriate lenses to wage sophisticated surveillance missions. Also included in the package is a separate ship equal in size that contains fire control radar that picks up data about incoming threats and then communicates with separate missile systems that can then wage attacks, or counter-attacks.

"We're proving blimps can see more than just the 50-yard line," JLENS program director Doug Burgess told Popular Science this week. "We really feel like we're at the point now — development is complete — and the system is ready to be deployed wherever it's needed."

According to PopSci, the JLENS already successfully completed two exercises in 2012 in which it guided a missile to shoot down other missiles — one over sea, another over land.

But while the likelihood of having one of the airships shoot down an armed drone heading for the White House seems unlikely, it’s a precaution that the Army intends on being prepared for — even at the widespread cost of losing privacy.

"When the government is conducting real-time aerial surveillance within the United States," Marc Rotenberg of the Electronic Privacy Information Center told The Huffington Post, "there are privacy issues that need to be addressed."

Raytheon estimates the using the JLENS instead of traditional, fixed-wing surveillance aircraft, could bring the cost of operation down by as much as 700 percent.

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