Friday, 29 January 2010

Funds Flee Greece as Germany Warns of "Fatal" Eurozone Crisis

THE TELEGRAPH: Germany has triggered a near-panic flight from southern European debt markets by warning that there will be no EU bail-outs, even though it fears the region's economic crisis has turned dangerous and could prove "fatal" for the entire eurozone.

Funds flee Greece as Germany warns of "fatal" eurozone crisis. Photograph: The Telegraph

The yield on 10-year Greek bonds blasted upwards by over 40 basis points to 7.15pc in a day of wild trading. Spreads over German Bunds reached almost four percentage points, by far the highest since Greece joined the euro, and close to levels that risk a self-feeding spiral. Contagion hit Portuguese, Spanish, Irish, and Italian bonds.

George Papandreou, the Greek premier, said in Davos that his country had been singled out as the weak link in a "attack on the eurozone" by speculators and political foes. "We are being targeted, particularly by those with an ulterior motive."

Marc Ostwald, from Monument Securities, said the botched bond issue of €8bn (£6.9bn) of Greek debt earlier this week has made matters worse. Many of the investors were "hot money" funds that bought on rumours that China was emerging as a buyer, offering them a chance for quick profit. When the China story was denied by Beijing and Athens, these funds rushed for the exit.

However, a key trigger yesterday was testimony in Germany's parliament by economy minister Rainer Brüderle, who said there would be "no bail-outs" for struggling debtors and no move to a "European economic government".

"A few European nations are exhibiting dangerous weaknesses. That could have fatal consequences for all countries in the eurozone," he said. Despite the warning, he said each country must solve its own problems.

"Germany is not in a mood to be the deep pocket for what they consider profligate, southern neighbours," said hedge fund doyen George Soros. >>> Ambrose Evans-Pritchard | Thursday, January 28, 2010

Thursday, 28 January 2010

Rowan Williams Goes to Wall Street to Tell the Money Men to Repent

TIMES ONLINE: The whole world, and not just Britain, is broken, with continents such as Africa feeling forgotten and uncared for, the Archbishop of Canterbury said in the heart of New York’s financial district yesterday.

Any money men who might have happened in to Trinity Wall Street to shelter from the snow would have found a different sort of chill as Dr Rowan Williams delivered his lesson.

Standing at the lectern of the famously wealthy US Episcopal church, which lies at the head of Wall Street, the leader of the Anglican Communion condemned the “straw man” of self-interest.

His theme was that financiers, wordsmiths — in fact anyone in the Western world connected in any way with economic reality — should look at themselves in the mirror and repent.

Economic life had become independent of intelligent thought and “wildly irrational”, the Archbishop said. He condemned the “uncritical” way in which bankers and traders pursued wealth regardless of the consequences, selling expensive mortgages to the poor and repackaging them into complex products that few understood.

The “invention of more and more recondite metaphysical, unreal forms of wealth generation” existed, he said, simply to “produce noughts on the end of the balance sheet”.

Dr Williams, conscious that he was speaking close to a general election, echoed the social thought of the Roman Catholic Church when he added that society was founded on love, and there would be no sustainable model until this was recognised. >>> Ruth Gledhill and Alexandra Frean | Friday, January 29, 2010

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Mervyn King Calls for Pay Cuts and a Carve-up of International Banks

TIMES ONLINE: Mervyn King said yesterday that bankers should take a permanent pay cut to align them with other professionals as he outlined plans to carve up lenders across national boundaries.

Speaking to the Treasury Select Committee, the Governor of the Bank of England said the banking sector could be sustainable only if “returns and remuneration for both equity holders and employees are comparable with other professions and other types of investments”.

Mr King said that he thought it very unlikely that anyone would be able to “justify the extraordinary pay recently”, hinting at the row over the size of City banks’ bonus pools.

Mr King told the committee that he believed big lenders should be forced to carve themselves up into subsidiaries along national lines to try to build financial firewalls across the banking system and stop massive losses spreading. Foreign banking subsidiaries that run into trouble could be separated and contained — and become the problem of the overseas country in which they are based.

While Mr King said that the central bank was still considering whether to implement so-called Glass Steagall measures that force banks to separate their retail and riskier investment businesses from each other, he explained: “Banks who think they can do everything for everyone all over the world are a recipe for concentrating risk.”

He said that, ideally, the banking sector should be made up of more, smaller participants that specialised in different activities. >>> Suzy Jagger and Katherine Griffiths | Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

The Dollar Bubble

The Disgusting, “Shameless” Tony Bliar!

THE INDEPENDENT: (from a firm that bet on British banks going bust)

Tony Blair is to be paid at least £200,000 by a City firm accused of profiteering from the financial crisis that brought Britain's banks to their knees.

The former prime minister has been hired by the hedge fund Lansdowne Partners to deliver four presentations to staff about the world political situation. Mr Blair, one of the world's most highly paid speakers, reportedly commands between £50,000 and £170,000 for a single speech.

Details of his latest money-spinning appearance emerged days before he is due to appear before the Chilcot inquiry into the Iraq war.

He was accused last night of a "shameless" willingness to accept money from any source. Blair's £200,000 hedge fund pay-day >>> Nigel Morris, Deputy Political Editor, and Nick Clark | Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Sunday, 24 January 2010

Al Arabiya Debate

The Economic System of Islam

Part 1:

Part 2:

Al-Jazeera Reporter Asks about Shariah-finance

Obama Rips Up the Rule Book

THE TELEGRAPH: The President's attempt to reform US banks may have unintended consequences, as billions are wiped off their shares prices and opponents sharpen their knives

Just over two years ago, a junior trader on Société Générale's proprietary trading desk in Paris was celebrating after making his bank a profit of almost £1bn. His success, he reckoned, would justify a bonus of about £200,000 and catapult him up the corporate hierarchy and on to greater riches. And why not? He had taken bold positions on a number of European stock exchange indices and they'd come good.

Within weeks, though, the positions had unravelled. The £1bn profit turned into a £3.7bn loss and nearly broke his bank. The SocGen individual was Jérôme Kerviel, the biggest rogue trader of them all.

As Kerviel went on the run and the bank launched an investigation into how he had evaded its controls, it emerged that the loss-making positions he held totalled £37bn – more than the value of the bank. Such huge exposures were only possible on the proprietary trading desk ("prop desk") – the casino in the bank – where a select group of traders are trusted to gamble with the lender's own money.

When it works, prop trading can be a source of great riches – for both the bank and the banker. Citigroup's prop trading oil unit Phibro made an average profit of $371m (£230m) a year between 2003 and 2008. With performance like that, some might say its British-born boss, Andrew Hall, deserved the $100m he was paid.

President Barack Obama, though, was not among them. When details of Hall's deal emerged last year, the White House described it as "out of whack" given that Citigroup had been rescued by the state. Last week, as he unveiled the biggest potential shake-up of banking since the Great Depression, the President went one step further. He described such payments as "obscene" and illustrative of the "binge of irresponsibility". >>> Philip Aldrick | Saturday, January 23, 2010
Joseph Stiglitz: Why We Have to Change Capitalism

THE TELEGRAPH: In an exclusive extract from his new book, Freefall, the former World Bank chief economist, reveals why banks should be split up and why the West must cut consumption.

Joseph Stiglitz Photo: The Telegraph

In the Great Recession that began in 2008, millions of people in America and all over the world lost their homes and jobs. Many more suffered the anxiety and fear of doing so, and almost anyone who put away money for retirement or a child's education saw those investments dwindle to a fraction of their value.

A crisis that began in America soon turned global, as tens of millions lost their jobs worldwide – 20m in China alone – and tens of millions fell into poverty.

This is not the way things were supposed to be. Modern economics, with its faith in free markets and globalisation, had promised prosperity for all. The much-touted New Economy – the amazing innovations that marked the latter half of the 20th century, including deregulation and financial engineering – was supposed to enable better risk management, bringing with it the end of the business cycle. If the combination of the New Economy and modern economics had not eliminated economic fluctuations, at least it was taming them. Or so we were told.

The Great Recession – clearly the worst downturn since the Great Depression 75 years earlier – has shattered these illusions. It is forcing us to rethink long-cherished views.

For a quarter century, certain free-market doctrines have prevailed: free and unfettered markets are efficient; if they make mistakes, they quickly correct them. The best government is a small government, and regulation only impedes innovation. Central banks should be independent and only focus on keeping inflation low.

Today, even the high priest of that ideology, Alan Greenspan, the chairman of the Federal Reserve Board during the period in which these views prevailed, has admitted that there was a flaw in this reasoning – but his confession came too late for the many who have suffered as a consequence.

In time, every crisis ends. But no crisis, especially one of this severity, passes without leaving a legacy. The legacy of 2008 will include new perspectives on the long-standing conflict over the kind of economic system most likely to deliver the greatest benefit.

I believe that markets lie at the heart of every successful economy but that markets do not work well on their own. In this sense, I'm in the tradition of the celebrated British economist John Maynard Keynes, whose influence towers over the study of modern economics.

Government needs to play a role, and not just in rescuing the economy when markets fail and in regulating markets to prevent the kinds of failures we have just experienced. Economies need a balance between the role of markets and the role of government – with important contributions by non-market and non-governmental institutions. In the last 25 years, America lost that balance, and it pushed its unbalanced perspective on countries around the world.

The current crisis has uncovered fundamental flaws in the capitalist system, or at least the peculiar version of capitalism that emerged in the latter part of the 20th century in the US (sometimes called American-style capitalism). It is not just a matter of flawed individuals or specific mistakes, nor is it a matter of fixing a few minor problems or tweaking a few policies.

It has been hard to see these flaws because we Americans wanted so much to believe in our economic system. "Our team" had done so much better than our arch enemy, the Soviet bloc. >>> | Saturday, January 23, 2010

Widerstand gegen Fed-Chef Bernanke wächst: Bis zu zehn Demokraten wollen keine nochmalige Nominierung

NZZ ONLINE: Im amerikanischen Senat wächst der Widerstand gegen eine zweite Amtszeit von Notenbankchef Ben Bernanke. Mehrere Senatoren von Barack Obamas demokratischer Partei kündigten an, gegen den Kandidaten des Präsidenten zu stimmen.

Eine Woche vor dem Ablauf der Amtszeit des amerikanischen Notenbankchefs Ben Bernanke wächst im Senat der Widerstand gegen eine nochmalige Nominierung. Auch in den Reihen der Demokraten kündigten am Freitag zwei weitere Senatoren an, Bernanke ihre Zustimmung zu verweigern.

Russell Feingold aus dem Bundesstaat Wisconsin warf Bernanke vor, die Finanzaktivitäten genehmigt zu haben, die zur schwersten Finanzkrise seit der grossen Depression geführt hätten. Bernanke habe die Politik von Ex-Präsident Bush mitgetragen, die für die aktuelle Wirtschaftskrise mitverantwortlich sei. Einer der schärfsten Kritiker Bernankes, der unabhängige Senator Bernie Sanders, sagte, mit einer Neubesetzung des Postens könnten auch die Regeln für das Finanzsystem neu geschrieben werden. >>> sda/apa/afp | Samstag, 23. Januar 2010

Saturday, 23 January 2010

Lobbyists Prepare for Battle with President Obama Over Bank ‘Fat Cat’ Curbs

A protester outside the Goldman Sachs headquarters in New York. Photo: Times Online

TIMES ONLINE: Banking industry lobbyists are preparing to do battle, buoyed by a landmark US Supreme Court ruling striking down limits on corporations’ political spending, against the ambitious and agressive plans laid on Thursday by President Obama.

Despite the pointed attacks made by the President on the “army of industry lobbyists from Wall Street”, the Financial Services Roundtable, a body which represents 100 of the largest financial firms, said that Mr Obama’s proposal would do little to protect consumers.

“The proposal will restrict lending, increase risk, decrease stability in the system, and limit our ability to help create jobs,” said Steve Bartlett, chief executive of the roundtable.

Individual bankers by and large kept quiet, preferring to weigh up the best response in private. As they did so, Mr Obama flew to the struggling rust-belt state of Ohio in hope that the attack would re-energise his popularity in middle America.

In Washington the attack on bankers was seen as a “policy pivot” designed to accommodate voters’ populist rage after the Democrats’ loss of Edward Kennedy’s Senate seat in Massachusetts. “I’ll never stop fighting for you. I’ll take my lumps, too,” Mr Obama told an audience in Elyria, at the start of a day of campaign-style events aimed at reinvigorating the Democrats before the November mid-term elections.

The President has become increasingly strident about what he calls the “fat cats” in the big banks as the American public has reacted with revulsion to big bonuses being handed out in Wall Street. Mr Obama’s political capital is dwindling, however, after the Democrats’ loss on Tuesday of the 60-seat “super-majority” that enables them to overcome a Republican filibuster in the Senate.

Yesterday, the Senate was forced to postpone the confirmation of Ben Bernanke for a new term as Federal Reserve chairman after two more Democratic senators said that they would join a revolt against him. >>> James Bone in New York | Saturday, January 23, 2010

Friday, 22 January 2010

Bank Shares Tumble on Obama Crackdown

TIMES ONLINE: Shares in Barclays and Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) tumbled this morning after sharp falls on Asian markets in the wake of President Barack Obama’s pledge last night to wage war on American banks in the biggest regulatory crackdown on financial institutions since the 1930s.

Barclays’ shares fell a further 6 per cent to 266p this morning and are trading 14.4 per cent lower than at the start of the week. RBS, the state-owned lender, lost a further 4.45 per cent today to 33.75p.

London's FTSE 100 index of leading shares tumbled by 52.40 points to 5,282.81 in mid-afternoon trade, adding to yesterday's 85.70 point decline after the US President made his announcement.

There are fears that Mr Obama's proposals could force a radical restructure of American banks - a move welcomed by George Osborne, the Shadow Chancellor, who hailed Mr Obama’s intervention.

He said: “I have said consistently that we should look at separating retail banking from activities like large-scale proprietary trading — and that this was best done internationally. Coming on top of growing agreement on a bank levy, it shows that Conservatives are part of an emerging international consensus on these issues.”

The Treasury said that it would study Mr Obama's moves carefully.

The radical proposals would limit the size of institutions and bar them from the most cavalier trading practices. >>> Emily Ford | Friday, January 22, 2010

Thursday, 21 January 2010

The Inevitable Collapse Of The Dollar

Milton Friedman: More Liberty, Less Government

Milton Friedman: Socialized Medicine

President Obama Declares War on Wall Street

THE TELEGRAPH: Wall Street was rocked today as President Barack Obama declared war on the US financial sector with plans to break up banks.

Mr Obama said he would rein in excessive risk taking by banning banks from running proprietary trading desks, hedge funds or private equity units.

In a raising of the US Government’s rhetoric against Wall Street, Mr Obama said of the financial sector: “If these folks want to fight, it’s a fight I’m ready to have.”

The news sent US shares sharply lower with the Dow Jones index falling 198 to 10404.54, led by the banking sector.

Goldman Sachs was off 8.42 at $159.37, JP Morgan fell 2.51 to $40.89 and Citigroup was 14 cents lower at $3.32.

Mr Obama said the state funded rescue of the banking sector in the credit crisis was “deeply offensive” but “necessary” as he set out reforms he claimed would ensure the taxpayer never again had to pick up the bill for failures on Wall Street.

The reforms follow proposals made by Paul Volcker, the White House adviser and former Federal Reserve chairman, who has been calling for regulation in “the spirit of Glass-Steagall”, the US act which saw investment banks broken up from retail banks. Barack Obama calls for limits to size and trading activities of banks >>> Jonathan Sibun, Assistant City Editor | Thursday, January 21, 2010

Monday, 18 January 2010

A Greek Crisis May Well Become Germany’s Problem

TIMES ONLINE: This week the European Commission begins studying Greece’s latest plan for extracting itself from its financial crisis. But although the deployment of the Brussels machinery has taken the edge off the drama, any sense that the problem is now contained would be an illusion. The possibility that a country within the eurozone will get to the brink of defaulting on its sovereign debt remains real.

The new Greek Government’s plan remains incredible, based on a cut in the budget deficit from nearly 13 per cent to under 3 per cent in three years. That implies that Greece would, in one coherent sweep, push through profound reforms of the public and private sectors that it has not yet been able to tackle.

It remains likely, then, that Greece is headed for a crisis that tests the stability of the eurozone. The burden of Europe’s most difficult decision this year would fall on Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, who would have to decide whether to rescue Greece to forestall a crisis throughout the currency club. But her Finance Minister openly rejects her declaration of a “common responsibility” for other members, and a rescue would be a hard sell to German taxpayers. Even more difficult, a real repair of the eurozone would require Germany to acknowledge that its financial management during the past decade has not been as virtuous as it likes to maintain.

Since October elections, Greece has been in an on-again, off-again crisis, since the new Government restated the budget deficit to 12.7 per cent of gross domestic product. Greece’s public debt is expected to rise this year from 113 per cent to more than 120 per cent of GDP. Markets have greeted with scepticism the assertion by George Papaconstantinou, the Finance Minister, that the plan is achievable. The costs of insuring against a default on debt have risen to the highest levels in six years since the market was launched — or $340,000 for every $10 million of debt annually over five years.

“I just think they can’t do it, and their growth prospects are worse than the Government is predicting,” Simon Tilford, chief economist at the Centre for European Reform think-tank, said. “They need to make cuts, but the country has shown little or no ability to do it” — either to cut the pension costs and early retirement extracted by the unions, to cut waste in hospitals and defence or to curb rampant tax evasion in the private sector.

Even if Greece made the cuts, that would push it into a slump and deflation; crippling for such a highly indebted country. “Whatever happens, it will be miserable for them,” Mr Tilford concluded. >>> Bronwen Maddox: Economic View | Monday, January 18, 2010

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Milton Friedman: Socialism vs. Capitalism

Wall Street Giants Pay Staff $100bn

THE SUNDAY TIMES: FOUR of Wall Street’s biggest banks will this week reveal plans to pay their staff a total of close to $100 billion (£62 billion), reigniting the row over bankers’ bonuses.

Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Citigroup and Bank of America Merrill Lynch are all expected to announce bumper pay awards for staff alongside full-year results.

Wall Street’s big payouts come as the remuneration committee at Royal Bank of Scotland prepares to meet this week to determine the size of its bonus pot.

RBS — 84%-owned by British taxpayers — has indicated it wants to pay its investment bankers about £1.5 billion in bonuses, even though it will make a loss this year at group level. The figure could creep higher if it attempts to shelter its bankers from the impact of Alistair Darling’s 50% tax on bonuses. >>> Iain Dey | Sunday, January 17, 2010

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Supermarkets Criticise Government Plans to Raise Cost of Alcohol

Socialist governments just can’t help themselves, can they? They believe that for every societal ill, there is a tax that will solve the problem. Either that, or they come with an outright ban, as has been done for all smoking in public places, and fox-hunting.

Now they come with this hare-brained idea to put even more tax on alcohol in order to combat the ugly binge-drinking ‘culture’ if culture it can indeed be called!

Binge-drinking has its causes deeply-rooted in the way we bring up our children today. We in the West have forgotten that children need to be raised by full-time mothers, not part-time ones. A part-time mother is as much use as a part-time lover!

If this government is really serious about tackling binge-drinking, it needs to find a way to encourage mothers to return to being there full-time for their children in the formative years. The government also needs to find a way of reversing the trend of the break-up of the family, for without a strong family unit, there is no sanction on dreadful behaviour by our young people.

It’s time that we stopped deluding ourselves. Good, responsible behaviour is learnt in the home, and from good, solid mothers and fathers. No tax from a socialist government wll ever be a substitute for that!
– © Mark

THE TELEGRAPH: Britain’s biggest supermarkets have criticised Government proposals to introduce a minimum price for alcohol saying it will fail to curb the country’s binge drinking culture.

They are outraged at the plans which they claim will end up targeting the wrong people and penalize middle-class consumers who drink responsibly instead.

A spokesman for Sainsbury’s said: “We believe that minimum pricing will unfairly penalise our shoppers, the vast majority of whom buy alcohol as part of their weekly shop and drink responsibly in their own homes.”

And a spokesman for Tesco agreed, saying: “We accept that the country has a binge drinking problem, but the vast majority of alcohol bought at our stores is by responsible people who enjoy a bargain.”

Yesterday, the Daily Telegraph revealed the Government was planning to fight the next election on proposals to cut alcohol abuse with a staged scheme including tougher warnings on labels and bans on discounting drinks which would culminiate in minimum prices.

But the price-fixing scheme could lead to a doubling in price of the cheapest alcoholic drinks sold in supermarkets.

Tesco said the doubling of prices would not stop alcohol abuse and would just encourage consumers to buy elsewhere.

The British Retail Consortium said cheap alcohol sold by supermarkets was not to blame and described the introduction of minimum prices as “unfair”.

Andrew Opie, food director at the British Retail Consortium, said: “Any change in alcohol policy must be based on evidence and not disadvantage the millions of people who drink responsibly and would be unfairly affected by price hikes.

“Simply putting prices up will not tackle problem drinking. It has cultural causes and they are what must be addressed. The UK already has some of the highest alcohol taxes in Europe. >>> Myra Butterworth, Rosa Prince and Simon Johnson | Thursday, January 14, 2010
Barack Obama Imposes Tax on Big Banks

THE TELEGRAPH: President Barack Obama has unveiled a new tax on the country's biggest banks to recoup the money spent bailing the system out, putting the administration on a collision course with Wall Street.

Barack Obama, the US president, is imposing a levy on banks to recoup bail-out costs. Photograph: The Telegraph

The plan, if approved by Congress, would levy the tax on up to 50 financial services companies based on the total size of their liabilities. White House officials estimates it will raise at least $90bn over the next decade and wrest back for the taxpayer the money given the banks as part of the $700bn Troubled Asset Relief Programme (TARP).

Mr Obama said the move is aimed at preventing Wall Street firms from going back to "business as usual" and resuming high-risk lending practices and huge bets on mortgages and other instruments he blames for igniting the financial crisis.

"My commitment is to recover every single dime the American people are owed," said Mr Obama.

"My determination to achieve this goal is only heightened when I see reports of massive profits and obscene bonuses at the very firms who owe their continued existence to the American people – have not been made whole, and who continue to face real hardship in this recession."

His announcement comes amid rising public anger in America at the prospect of the titans of Wall Street handing out multi-million dollar bonuses to staff little more than 12 months after the financial system was rescued by the brink. >>> Telegraph Staff | Thursday, January 14, 2010

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Wall Street Bankers Admit to Mistakes Over Crisis

THE TELEGRAPH: Wall Street’s top bankers have apologised for their starring role in provoking the global financial crisis as they brace themselves for details of a looming $120bn (£73bn) tax on profits.

The new tax , due to be announced on Thursday by the Obama administration, is designed to calm an angry American public and help fill the black-hole left by the US’s $700bn bail-out of the banking industry.

The heads of Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase, Morgan Stanley and Bank of America on Wednesday faced detailed questioning before the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission – the body set up by US Congress to establish the banks’ role in triggering the worst recession since the Great Depression.

John Mack, Morgan Stanley’s chairman, confessed the investment bank ate its “own cooking, and we choked on it,” while Jamie Dimon, his opposite number at JP Morgan Chase, admitted the bank did “make mistakes” – as the quartet gave a penitent performance, admitting several mistakes.

Phil Angelides, the Commission’s chairman, questioned Goldman chairman Lloyd Blankfein over the ethicacy [sic] of creating derivative instruments containing sub-prime mortgages for clients, while simultaneously profiting by betting against them.

“It sounds to me a little bit like selling a car with faulty brakes and then buying an insurance policy on the buyer of those cars,” Mr Angelides said. Mr Blankfein downplayed Goldman’s role, arguing such products remain popular today.

Exorbitant pay and bonuses also raised hackles, with Mr Angelides likening banker’s remuneration to playing at a black jack table thanks to the significant potential upside from putting little capital down. >>> James Quinn, US Business Editor | Wednesday, January 13, 2010
Haiti Earthquake Appeal: YOUR HELP Is Needed

BRITISH RED CROSS: A devastating earthquake measuring 7.3 on the Richter scale struck Haiti on 12 January 2010, killing hundreds and affecting thousands more. Please give what you can today to help thousands of people in desperate need of humanitarian assistance. Donate Now! >>>

Donation Hotline: 0845 053 5353 (24 hours)

AMERICAN RED CROSS: Washington – The American Red Cross is sending money, supplies and staff to Haiti to support relief efforts there after yesterday’s earthquake, which caused catastrophic damage and loss of life.

According to reports, as many as three million people may have been affected by the quake, which collapsed government buildings and caused major damage to hospitals in the area.

The Red Cross is contributing an initial $1 million from the International Response Fund to support the relief operation, and has opened its warehouse in Panama to provide tarps, mosquito nets and cooking sets for approximately 5,000 families. Donate Now! >>>

You may also call:

1-800 RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) – English

1-800-257-7575 – Spanish

For Google Checkout click here: Donate Now! >>>

SCHWEIZERISCHES ROTES KREUZ: Nothilfe für Erdbeben Haiti
Helfen Sie den Opfern: Nach dem schweren Erdbeben wird in Haiti eine Katastrophe befürchtet. Über die Zahl der Opfer und das Ausmass der Schäden herrscht noch Unklarheit. Das Rote Kreuz steht im Rettungseinsatz. Hier spenden >>>

AKTION DEUTSCHLAND HILFT: Aktion Deutschland Hilft ist das Bündnis renommierter deutscher Hilfsorganisationen. Gemeinsam helfen wir den Opfern des schweren Erdbebens in Haiti. Erdbeben Haiti: Sicher online spenden. Sicher Online spenden hier >>>

COMITÉ INTERNATIONAL DE LA CROIX-ROUGE: Haïti : le CICR contribue aux efforts déployés pour venir en aide aux victimes du séisme: Genève (CICR) – Le Comité international de la Croix-Rouge (CICR) coopère avec ses partenaires du Mouvement international de la Croix-Rouge et du Croissant-Rouge pour venir en aide aux victimes du tremblement de terre qui a frappé Haïti. L'institution mobilise des ressources humaines et matérielles pour faire face à cette catastrophe. [Source] Faire un don ici >>>
Deutschland – Arbeitnehmer: Wirtschaftskrise lässt Löhne spürbar sinken

WELT ONLINE: Viele Arbeitnehmer haben es im vergangenen Jahr schon im Geldbeutel gespürt, nun ist es amtlich: Das durchschnittliche Bruttoeinkommen ist 2009 deutlich geschrumpft – das meldet das Statistische Bundesamt. Auch die Unternehmen haben ein Problem. Denn die Arbeitsproduktivität ist sogar noch stärker zurückgegangen.

In der schärfsten Rezession der Nachkriegszeit sind die Löhne der Deutschen so stark gesunken wie seit der Wiedervereinigung nicht. Die Bruttogehälter schrumpften im vergangenen Jahr um 0,5 Prozent auf knapp 991 Milliarden Euro, wie das Statistische Bundesamt mitteilte. Grund dafür waren vor allem die Einbußen wegen der Kurzarbeit und geringere Vergütungen. Die verfügbaren Einkommen der privaten Haushalte legten nur um 0,4 Prozent zu und damit so gering wie seit Anfang der 90er Jahre nicht mehr. Die Sparquote – der Einkommensteil, den die Menschen nicht ausgeben – blieb mit 11,2 Prozent auf dem hohen Niveau von 2008. >>> Reuters/lw | Mittwoch, 13. Januar 2010

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Even My Parents Think I'm Overpaid, Admits RBS Chief Executive

THE GUARDIAN: But Stephen Hester tells MPs that although his bonus package could be worth up to £10m, it is currently worthless as shares in the state-controlled bank have failed to rise

Stephen Hester giving evidence to the Treasury select committee today. Photo: The Guardian

Stephen Hester, chief executive of Royal Bank of Scotland, admitted today that his parents believe he is paid too much as he stressed that his bonus package was currently worthless because the bank's shares had failed to rise.

Asked by the Treasury select committee of MPs whether he understood why the government wants to restrict bonuses at the state-controlled bank, Hester replied: "Yes".

He insisted that the bank did not yet know the size of the bonus pot that would be split between its 22,000 investment bankers. Hester also revealed that a "handful" of highly paid bankers would avoid the restriction placed on the bank not to pay cash bonuses to anyone earning more than £39,000 because of legal commitments made to them.

He told the MPs, who are also taking evidence from his counterparts at Lloyds Banking Group and Northern Rock, that his "biggest single business problem" was recruiting people who were concerned about the criticism they might encounter if they work for RBS.

Institutional investors had "raised concerns about our ability to keep and motivate good people".

The bank would not tell staff whether they will get a bonus and how large it would be until the end of February, he said.

The Treasury has a power to veto bonuses at the bank under the terms of insuring £282bn of troubled loans through the asset protection scheme (APS). Hester insisted no board directors have threatened to resign as a result of this restriction and insisted he wanted to pay "the minimum possible while keeping staff engaged".

Of his own pay deal, which is linked to the RBS share price but could be worth almost £10m over three years, Hester said: "If you ask my mother and father about my pay they'd say it was too high as well, so some people close to me have that view of bankers." >>> Jill Treanor | Tuesday, January 12, 2010

THE GUARDIAN – BUSINESS BLOG: Bank pay row reaches a crescendo: Banks are preparing to snub the politicians and begin a bumper bonus round later this week. First they have to brave a few final assaults: Obama's threatened tax in America and the House of Commons Treasury committee >>> Dan Roberts | Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Monday, 11 January 2010

Arizona Speed Cameras May Be Flash in Pan as $90m Fines Are Ignored

Scottsdale freeway, where Arizona began its state programme of speed cameras. Photo: Times Online

It’s such a pity that the Brits don’t have the courage to do the same! – Mark

TIMES ONLINE: An attempt to introduce British-style speed cameras on the other side of the Atlantic has ended in a public revolt, with motorists binning speeding tickets worth $90 million (£60 million). The scheme in Arizona is now on the verge of bankruptcy and might be scrapped.

Its demise would mark an ignoble end to the first statewide effort to bring speed camera enforcement to the US, where many, including judges and elected officials, regard the devices as an unconstitutional taxcollection method.

“I see all the cameras in Arizona completely coming down,” said Shawn Dow, who is leading the public revolt via his chairmanship of Arizona Citizens Against Photo Radar. “The citizens of Arizona took away the cash cow of Arizona by refusing to pay.” He is now trying to gain support for a ballot measure banning the cameras in November’s elections.

Although about 700,000 tickets have been issued since Arizona’s 76-camera plan was rolled out last year, a mere $37 million of the $127 million in fines and surcharges has been collected. That is because Arizonans have realised that they can simply ignore tickets sent to them in the post, and the authorities cannot prove that they have received them. Unless the tickets are served in person — something Arizona cannot afford to do — they become void after three months.

Motorists have shown their opposition to the machines in other ways, too — such as placing large cardboard boxes over them, decorating them with sticky notes, attacking them with pickaxes and, in one case, setting off the cameras while standing in front wearing a monkey mask. >>> Chris Ayres in Los Angeles | Monday, January 11, 2010

Saturday, 9 January 2010

Positive Thinking Making Us Miserable, Says Author

THE TELEGRAPH: The modern "tyranny" of positive thinking is to blame for society's ills and was the true cause of the financial crisis, according to a new book by author Barbara Ehrenreich.

Author Barbara Ehrenreich. Photo: The Telegraph

She said the belief that everything will turn out all right in the end if we remain optimistic and upbeat is "delusional".

What began as a 19th-century "quack theory" has become the dominant mode of thinking in the United States, she argues, influencing everything from global business decisions to the treatment of cancer patients.

Ehrenreich's book, Smile Or Die: How Positive Thinking Fooled America and the World, sets out to demolish the "distinctive American ideology of positive thinking".

Speaking ahead of the book's publication in Britain next week, Ehrenreich said: "Delusion is always dangerous and the big example I would give of that is the 2008 financial meltdown. There are many things that fed into that.

"Many, many people got way over their heads in debt – ordinary people. And in what frame of mind do you assume large amounts of debt? Well, a positive frame of mind. You think that you're not going to get sick, your car's not going to break down, you're not going to lose your job and you're going to be able to pay it off.

"Mostly, though, I blame the top levels of corporate culture which, by the middle of this decade, were completely in a bubble of mandatory optimism and positive thinking."

Ehrenreich referred to the "cult-like atmosphere of high-fives" at Countrywide, the mortgage lender which became one of the biggest casualties of the subprime crisis, and claimed that executives who sounded warnings of impending financial disaster at Lehman Brothers were dismissed as "negative" thinkers.

"Corporate America had gone into this bubble of denial where bad things could never happen," she said. >>> Anita Singh, Showbusiness Editor | Saturday, January 09, 2010

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Small Man, Big Balls! France Plans 'Google Tax' on Internet Searches

THE TELEGRAPH: France is planning a "Google tax" on internet search websites to raise money to plough into creative industries weakened by the digital revolution.

The proposal, outlined in a government-commissioned survey, has set the scene for a new Gallic run-in with Google – fast becoming the global internet behemoth the world loves to hate.

The levy on advertising revenue is the latest plank in France's drive to regulate the internet, which has seen it enact some of the world's toughest antipiracy legislation.

Besides Google, the tax would target other large operators in Europe such as Microsoft and Yahoo! whether or not their offices are in France. Google's European headquarters are in Ireland, but under the proposal, the operator would pay a levy every time a French internet user clicks on an advertising banner or sponsored link on its sites.

Guillaume Cerutti, one of the authors of the report said the tax would put an end to "enrichment without any limit or compensation".

Google – which this week extended its empire with the launch of Nexus One, its first mobile phone – has annual internet advertising revenues in France alone of £720 million, according to the report's authors. They want France's competition watchdog to investigate whether it is respecting monopoly rules on internet advertising.

President Nicolas Sarkozy has repeatedly cast himself as a defender of France's cultural heritage from digital predators. Last month, he pledged £700 million to digitise France's national literary treasures and stop them falling into Google's hands. "We are not going to be stripped of our heritage for the benefit of a big company, no matter how friendly, big or American it is," he said. >>> Henry Samuel in Paris | Thursday, January 07, 2010

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Britain Threatens to Freeze Iceland Out of EU as Loan Payback Vetoed

TIMES ONLINE: Britain warned Iceland that it would be frozen out of the European Union after its President abruptly vetoed the repayment of a £3.6 billion loan.

The Treasury expected Reykjavik to rubberstamp the terms of repayment for the loan extended by Britain and the Netherlands at the height of the financial crisis. The loan meant that 400,000 savers with deposits in Icesave did not lose their money.

President Ólafur Grimsson stunned the world’s financial community by refusing to sign the repayment schedule into law. Instead, he said that the matter would be decided in a referendum among Iceland’s 243,000 voters.

The decision threatened to bring down the Icelandic Government, took its financial system to the brink of collapse and sparked the worst row with Britain since the Cod Wars of the 1970s. Fitch, the international rating agency, downgraded Iceland’s credit rating to junk status.

Lord Myners, the financial services minister, said that if the decision was allowed to stand Iceland would be frozen out of the international financial system and would not be able to join the European Union. >>> Suzy Jagger and Jill Sherman | Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Tories Downgrade Their Promises on Tax Breaks for Married Couples

TIMES ONLINE: The Tories have downgraded their promise of tax breaks to married couples, saying that due to the dire state of the public finances it will only be possible to offer a limited scheme.

Previously the policy had been a headline pledge for the Tories, with David Cameron expressing strong support for the idea as something that the party "will definitely do".

The scheme that the Tories have favoured up till now was to allow spouses to transfer their income tax personal allowances to one another, likely to be of particular benefit to higher income couples where one partner does not work.

But with Treasury figures suggesting that such a scheme would cost £4.9 billion to implement, the shadow chief secretary to the treasury has said that the Conservatives were likely to opt initially for a more limited scheme. >>> Jenny Booth | Tuesday, January 05, 2010