Sunday, February 5, 2012

The Sunday 'Report;' 02/05/2012

What The National Pamphleteers Don't Report:
[STRATFOR] Annual Forecast 2012
Staff Report,
January 20, 2012

    There are periods when the international system undergoes radical shifts in a short time. The last such period was 1989-1991. During that time, the Soviet empire collapsed. The Japanese economic miracle ended. The Maastricht Treaty creating contemporary Europe was signed. Tiananmen Square defined China as a market economy dominated by an unchallenged Communist Party, and so on. Fundamental components of the international system shifted radically, changing the rules for the next 20 years.
    We are in a similar cycle, one that began in 2008 and is still playing out. In this period, the European Union has stopped functioning as it did five years ago and has yet to see its new form defined. China has moved into a difficult social and economic phase, with the global recession severely affecting its export-oriented economy and its products increasingly uncompetitive due to inflation. The U.S. withdrawal from Iraq has created opportunities for an Iranian assertion of power that could change the balance of power in the region. The simultaneous shifts in Europe, China and the Middle East open the door to a new international framework replacing the one created in 1989-1991.
    Our forecast for 2012 is framed by the idea that we are in the midst of what we might call a generational shift in the way the world works. The processes are still under way, and we will therefore have to consider the future of Europe, China and the Middle East in some detail before drawing a conclusion. The 2012 forecast is unique in that it is not a forecast for one year in a succession of years, all basically framed by the same realities. Rather, it is a year in which the individual forecasts point to a new generational reality and a redefinition of how the world works.  2012 may not be [....]

3 Ways Facebook Plans to Exploit Users
By Jeff Macke
February 2, 2012
    In a move hitting the front page of nearly every newspaper in the world, social networking giant Facebook took the first steps toward an initial public offering (IPO) yesterday by filing what's called an S-1 form with the Securities and Exchange Commission.  But folks desperate to buy shares still have to wait at least another three months until before see the company debut on a stock exchange under ticker symbol (FB).  So why all the fuss? Because despite all we think we know about a company that counts a membership equal to more than 10% of the earth's population, Facebook's filing was the first chance for outsiders to see the different ways FB profits from users. A careful read of the S-1 reveals Facebook's plans to make even more money from members using the free service to connect with old friends.  Earlier today my co-host Matt Nesto and I discussed 3 ways Facebook plans to exploit you the user, in order to justify their plans to increase revenues, profit, and valuation. The list may disturb you.
1. Facebook is going to "sell" users for $120 each
According to their filing, Facebook had 850 million Monthly Active Users (MAU) at the end of 2011. From that user base the company generated roughly [....]
Big tax mines that could blow up your return
Missing these tax changes could bring some IRS attention, hefty fines
By Andrea Coombes,
January 25, 2012
SAN FRANCISCO (MarketWatch) — Most people don’t have tax returns as complex as Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich or Barack Obama, but even if you aren’t reporting a Cayman Island account or many millions in S-corp. profits or book sales, there are brand-new pitfalls to watch for as you go to do your 2011 return.
Congress’s relative gridlock last year means there aren’t a slew of complex tax changes to deal with when you file this year — but there are some doozies that may trip up taxpayers.
For instance, thanks to a law passed in 2008, investors now face new rules and a new form for reporting cost basis for stocks sold in 2011. And now that brokers are reporting your cost basis to the IRS, too, it’s all the more crucial that you get it right.  Also, taxpayers with financial assets overseas need to make sure they’re on the right side of new rules, and a new form, for reporting those assets. The penalty for failing to file the new Form 8938 starts at a flat $10,000 and rises [....]

Considering a U.S.-Iranian Deal
by George Friedman

January 24, 2012
Last week, I wrote on the strategic challenge Iran faces in its bid to shape a sphere of influence stretching from western Afghanistan to Beirut on the eastern Mediterranean coast. I also pointed out the limited options available to the United States and other Western powers to counter Iran.  One was increased efforts to block Iranian influence in Syria. The other was to consider a strategy of negotiation with Iran. In the past few days, we have seen hints of both.
Rebel Gains in Syria
The city of Zabadani in southwestern Syria reportedly has fallen into the hands of anti-regime forces. Though the city does not have much tactical value for the rebels, and the regime could well retake it, the event could have real significance. Up to this point, apart from media attention, the resistance to the regime of President Bashar al Assad has not proven particularly effective. It was certainly not able to take and hold territory, which is critical for any insurgency to have significance.  Now that the rebels have taken [....]

Eric Holder's False Testimony Warrants Impeachment
by Editorial Staff,
Investors Business Daily
January 30, 2012

Scandal: For incompetence alone, Attorney General Eric Holder should resign in the wake of the illegal "Fast and Furious" gunrunning scandal. But fresh news that he knew of it and is covering it up warrants impeachment.
    In the latest Friday night document dump — news released as to minimize its scandalous impact on the White House — congressional investigators learned that Attorney General Holder knew all along that a gun his Justice Department intentionally let fall into the hands of Mexico's cartels was used to murder U.S. Border Patrol agent Brian Terry on Dec. 15, 2010.
    Holder must have known right away because his Deputy Chief of Staff Monty Wilkinson received an email from then-Arizona U.S. Attorney General Dennis Burke telling him just that: "The guns found in the desert near the murder(ed) BP officer connect back to the investigation we were going to talk about — they were AK-47s purchased at a Phoenix gun store."  According to the Daily Caller, the emails also showed that Wilkinson then "alerted" Holder about the killing of the U.S. agent.  Since then, Wilkinson has taken the Fifth in congressional testimony and told investigators, "I don't recall," while the Justice Department on Monday [....]

How Romney Would Rank Among The Richest U.S. Presidents
by William P. Barrett,
Forbes Staff,
January 24, 2012
There’s no question Obama is part of the 1%. His income is way above $350,000, which is generally considered the cut-off.
Mitt Romney
Today’s release of Mitt Romney’ tax return information for 2010 and 2011 makes clear that if he becomes President of the United States, he would be among the richest individuals to hold that office.  But not the richest.
Romney reported adjusted gross income for 2010 of nearly $22 million. Of that, $8 million was interest and dividends. In this current economic environment of low interest rates and minimal dividends, an $8 million haul alone implies assets in the range of $200 million to $250 million. That’s in line with previous estimates and his own candidate’s financial disclosure statement, which lists broad ranges.
George Washington
For our money, George Washington wins hands down. In the largely tax-free environment that characterized colonial America, the Father of His Country was considered one of its richest residents, a product of his shrewd business sense, a marriage to a wealthy widow and several inheritances. He benefited from an older brother’s marriage into a powerful family, while early work as a surveyor helped give him a keen understanding of land.  His Mount Vernon plantation grew to 6,500 acres, and he had other acreage in Virginia and what became West Virginia. Washington ran farms, started businesses and owned lots of slaves. Indeed, in their 1996 book, The Wealthy 100: From Benjamin Franklin to Bill Gates–A Ranking of the Richest Americans, Past and Present, Michael Klepper and Robert Gunther ranked Washington 59th, ahead of later-day moguls like J. Paul Getty, Microsoft cofounder Paul G. Allen and Ronald Perelman. The authors’ ranking methodology used estimated net worth as a percent of the gross national product at the time.  Romney’s millions don’t even earn [....]

[Related Content:] The Net Worth Of The American Presidents: Washington To Obama Infographic: Is Higher Education the Next Big Bubble?
Staff Report,[Originally Published:]  May 17, 2010
    George Washington,the nation’s first President, was also one of the wealthiest men to hold the office. His Virginia plantation, “Mount Vernon,” consisted of five separate farms on 8,000 acres of prime farmland. Washington made significantly more than subsequent presidents: his salary was two percent of the total U.S. budget in 1789.
    Our 16th President, Abraham Lincoln, was not one of America’s wealthiest - any opportunity to make money after his term of office was cut short. He was born in a log cabin and served as an attorney for 17 years before his presidency. He owned a single-family home in Springfield, Illinois.
    Editor’s Note: This article was first published on May 17, 2010. The net worth of any of the Presidents on this list who are no longer living cannot change, except as measured by inflation. The fortune of the presidents who remain living have changed somewhat, but it would be nearly impossible to measure the full effect of that over the last nine months. The value of Bill Clinton’s real estate may have risen. Jimmy Carter’s publishing royalties may have improved. None of these events is likely to have a substantial effect on the rankings.
    The Net Worth of America’s Presidents is a study that can be updated from time-time-time, but the figures relative to the passage of a few years will almost certainly never be more than modest.  24/7 Wall St. has examined the finances of all forty-three presidents. This article provides net worth figures for each in 2010 dollars. Because a number of presidents, particularly in the early 19th Century, made and lost huge fortunes in a matter of a few years, the number for each man is based on his net worth at its peak.  In the case of each president we have taken into account hard assets like land, estimated lifetime savings based on work history, inheritance, homes, and money paid for services, which include things as diverse as their salary as Collector of Customs at the Port of New York to membership on Fortune 500 boards. Royalties on books have also been taken into account, along with ownership of companies and yields from family estates.
    The net worth of the presidents varies widely. George Washington was worth over half a billion in today’s dollars. Several presidents went bankrupt.  The fortunes of American presidents are tied to the economy in the eras in which they lived. For the first 75 years after Washington’s election, presidents generally made money on land, crops, and commodity speculation. A president who owned hundreds or thousands of acres could lose most or all of his property after a few years of poor crop yields. Wealthy Americans occasionally lost all of their money through land speculation—leveraging the value of one piece of land to buy additional property. Since there was no reliable national banking system and almost no liquidity in the value of private companies, land was the asset likely to provide the greatest yield, if the property yielded enough to support the costs of operating the farm or plantation.
Because there was no central banking system and no commodities regulatory framework, markets were subject to panics.
    The panic of 1819 was caused by the deep indebtedness of the federal government and a rapid drop in the price of cotton. The immature banking system was forced to foreclose on many farms. The value of the properties foreclosed upon was often low because land without a landowner meant land without a crop yield.  The panic of 1837 caused a depression that lasted six years. It was triggered by a weak wheat crop, a drop in cotton prices, and a leverage bubble in the value of land created by speculation. These factors caused the US economy to go through a multi-year period of deflation.  The sharp fluctuations in the fortunes of the first 14 presidents were a result of the economic times.
    Beginning with Millard Fillmore in 1850, the financial history of the presidency entered a new era. Most presidents were lawyers who [....]

Infographic:  Is Higher Education the Next Big Bubble?  Part One
by EW News Desk Team
January 26. 2012
    Getting into a good university is not an easy feat. Securing a job upon graduation, in the current economic climate, is not easy too. However, the biggest challenge for most university graduates is paying off their education loan. It may sound preposterous that some have called higher education the next big bubble. Hardly surprising: The sum of student debt stands higher than credit card debt across the United States.
    In 2011, Peter Thiel, co-founder of PayPal, venture capitalist and part of Facebook board of directors, warned that higher education was a bubble waiting to burst.  According to Thiel, the imminent higher education bubble bears striking similarities with the precedent technology and housing bubbles. Comparing universities to commercial markets, higher education is a major investment with poor payouts (job crisis) and market failure, leading some to question how much they have overvalued higher education in America.  The higher education bubble may [....]

[Related Content:] Infographic: Is Higher Education the Next Big Bubble? Part Two
by: EW News Desk Team
January 27, 2012
    Almost two-thirds of all undergraduates in America take out education loans, and the total size of student debt is expected to cross the $1 trillion mark this year. With the weak job market out there, how are students expected to pay off their loans? Is the next big bubble really about to burst?
Yesterday, we compared the similarities between the imminent higher education bubble and the 2005 housing bubble in the United States. The similarities cannot be denied, and the biggest difference between the two bubbles is that the higher education bubble is growing at a much faster pace.
Today, students in America graduate with an average debt of $24,000. According to some statistics, 10.8 percent of students from public schools default [....]

Mali Besieged by Fighters Fleeing Libya
by Scott Stewart
February 2, 2012

    Mali has experienced perhaps the most significant external repercussions from the downfall of the regime of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi. Stratfor has discussed the impact of the conflict in Libya on the wider region since international intervention began in March 2011. Instability in Libya due to that country's deep internal fault lines meant that re-establishing a government would prove difficult. As we pointed out, that instability could spread to neighboring countries as weapons and combatants flow outward from Libya.
Reports now indicate that thousands of armed Tuareg tribesmen who previously served in Gadhafi's military have returned home to Mali. The influx of this large number of well-armed and well-trained fighters, led by a former Libyan army colonel, has re-energized the long-simmering Tuareg insurgency against the Malian government. These Tuareg insurgents have formed a new group, the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA). In mid-January, they began a military campaign to free three northern regions of Mali from Bamako's control.  The government of Mali has claimed [....]

Media Act As Though Only Republicans Misbehave
by Editorial Staff,
Investors Business Daily
January 30, 2012
Journalism: What's the difference between Republican and Democratic political operatives who end up on the wrong side of the law? In the "unbiased" press, only the Republicans' party ID and connections merit attention.
    In a blog post on Publius' Forum this week, Warner Todd Huston noted the glaring difference in how the media treated the recent arrests of Zachary Edwards and Tim Russell.  Edwards, an Iowa Democrat, was charged last week with trying to commit identity theft against Matt Schultz, Iowa's Republican secretary of state, in order to pin unethical or illegal activity on him.  Russell, a Wisconsin Republican, was accused of stealing money intended for relatives of veterans killed in action.
    Both are terrible deeds, to be sure. But as Huston notes, only Russell's party affiliation and connections got played up by news reports. Russell, you see, was an aide to Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, much-hated by liberals.  The New York Times made this connection clear in its headline, as did Reuters and just about every other story about the arrest.  But when it came to the Edwards arrest in Iowa, press accounts went out of their way to avoid even mentioning that he was a Democrat. The AP dispatch, for example, [....]

Meet Sheryl Sandberg: Facebook's Highest-Paid Employee
by Claudine Zap
Work and Money,
February 2, 2012

    Mark Zuckerberg may be the face of Facebook. But Sheryl Sandberg can take much of the credit for the company's success. As chief operating officer -- and the self-described "grownup" in the room -- she was also the highest-paid employee at the social networking site. Her salary and stock awards last year: a cool $30.87 million, putting her on pace to be one of the wealthiest self-made women in the world once the company goes public.
    Sandberg, who's second in command at Facebook, is often not just the grownup in the room, but also the only woman, which she finds mind-boggling. As she told an audience at TED in Washington, D.C., "One hundred and ninety heads of state; nine are women. Of all the people in parliament in the world, 13% are women. In the corporate sector, women at the top, C-level jobs, board seats, tops out at 15-16%. The numbers have not moved since 2002 and are going in the wrong direction."  Sandberg, however, is moving in a trajectory that [....]

Polarization and Sustained Violence in Mexico's Cartel War
Staff Report,
January 24, 2012

Editor's Note: In this annual report on Mexico's drug cartels, we assess the most significant developments of 2011 and provide updated profiles of the country's powerful criminal cartels as well as a forecast for 2012. The report is a product of the coverage we maintain through our Mexico Security Memo, quarterly updates and other analyses we produce throughout the year.
    As we noted in last year's annual cartel report, Mexico in 2010 bore witness to some 15,273 deaths in connection with the drug trade. The death toll for 2010 surpassed that of any previous year, and in doing so became the deadliest year ever in the country's fight against the cartels. But in the bloody chronology that is Mexico's cartel war, 2010's time at the top may have been short-lived. Despite the Mexican government's efforts to curb cartel-related violence, the death toll for 2011 may have exceeded what had been an unprecedented number.  According to the Mexican government, [....]

[NY] State Assembly considering raising minimum wage
by Andrew Poole
The [Hornell, N.Y.] Evening Tribune
January 31, 2012
Assemblyman Phil Palmesano (R,C,I- Corning) hasn’t seen a copy of a proposed bill that would increase New York’s minimum wage, but he already has concerns about such an action.  Citing census data stating that almost half of United States citizens have fallen into poverty, Assembly Democrats announced Monday their intention to present legislation that would raise New York’s hourly minimum wage from $7.25 to $8.50, according to Associated Press reports.  The increase would also be tied to the rate of inflation, meaning in future years as inflation rises the minimum wage would also increase accordingly.  Palmesano said state minimum wage is tied to the federal wage, and that it would be better continue the same system and allow the market to determine what businesses pay.  The state needs to be careful about increasing minimum wage because it could further hinder growth in a time when businesses are struggling financially due to the economy, added the assemblyman.
“Based on what I’m hearing, I’d have concerns supporting the legislation as is,” he said.
Businesses are already paying steep unemployment rate costs, said Palmesano. If minimum wage rises, other costs, including worker’s compensation, would increase.  The assemblyman was concerned [....]

The Best-Selling Cars of All Time
Staff Report,
January 26, 2012
    The most successful car in history may be the Ford Model T. While other models may have sold more vehicles, Ford managed to sell nearly 17 million cars from 1908 to 1927 — a period when car ownership was rare compared to today. The Model T was so successful that nearly every other best-selling car adopted its formula. The Model T was inexpensive to buy, inexpensive to operate, reliable and built by a large company that had hundreds of dealerships and trained mechanics. The other vehicles on this list, from the VW Passat to the Toyota Corolla, share all of these characteristics. The best-selling cars through history have appealed to a broad buyer base because they are within the reach of the masses.  The best-selling vehicles have several other notable features in common. For one, the majority were introduced just before or around the same time that gas prices began to rise rapidly in the early 1970s, primarily because of [....]

The Invention of the Internet
[videos, speeches, photo galleries]
date unknown
    Unlike technologies such as the light bulb or the telephone, the Internet has no single “inventor.” Instead, it has evolved over time. The Internet got its start in the United States more than 50 years ago as a government weapon in the Cold War. For years, scientists and researchers used it to communicate and share data with one another. Today, we use the Internet for almost everything, and for many people it would be impossible to imagine life without it.

Thousands of federal workers owe back taxes
by Ken Thomas,
Associated Press
January 27, 2012

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama has preached that all Americans should pay their fair share in taxes, but a government report finds that tens of thousands of federal employees — from staffers in Congress to federal agencies and even Obama's executive office — collectively owe the government billions in back taxes.  Data from the Internal Revenue Service found that more than 279,000 federal employees and retirees owed $3.4 billion in back income taxes as of Sept. 30, 2010.  The data showed that 467 employees of the House of Representatives, or about 4.2 percent of the workforce, owed more than $8.5 million. In the Senate, 217 employees, or about 3 percent of the workforce, owed $2.13 million.  Obama's staff was not immune, either, with 36 people in Obama's executive office of nearly 1,800 workers — about 2 percent — owing the government $833,970 in back taxes.
    Obama used part of his State of the Union address Tuesday night to promote economic fairness, arguing for changes in the tax code that would create a minimum tax rate of at least 30 percent on anyone making more than $1 million. The finances of one of his chief Republican rivals, Mitt Romney, has been scrutinized because he, like many millionaires, pays a lower rate because most of his income came from investments, which are taxed at a lower rate.  The IRS report attracted the attention of Republicans, who said it undercut the president's argument on taxes. "If Obama wants people to pay their 'fair share,' perhaps he should start with his own staff," [....]

Venezuela Prepares as Chavez's Health Deteriorates
Staff Report,
January 25, 2012

    According to a report published by Spanish newspaper ABC on Monday and Tuesday, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez may only have 9-12 months to live as a result of his decision to prioritize presidential duties over personal health. Chavez's prostate cancer was reportedly discovered in January of 2011, at which point his prognosis was five years. Since that initial diagnosis, Chavez has repeatedly postponed treatments or skipped them altogether in the interests of concealing his illness and protecting his political position.  The leaked report, which ABC says was given to the paper by "intelligence services" (much like a November leak to The Wall Street Journal), is dated Jan. 12 and reviews a medical examination Chavez underwent Dec. 30. According to the report, the South American president needs to undergo a painful, debilitating treatment that, while preventing him from working for more than a month, could extend his lifespan. If he defers the treatment, he will likely to die within the year. According to ABC, when presented with a similar conundrum in November, Chavez chose to stay in Caracas rather than travel to Russia for treatment -- out of fear that the political situation in Venezuela was not secure. We have no way to be completely certain that the report accurately represents Chavez's medical condition, but the tenor of the report matches a series of accounts given to Stratfor and other open sources.
    Competition within the Chavista inner circle dominated 2011, as each of Chavez's closest associates sought to take best advantage of the turmoil that ensued when Chavez's bout of illness became public in June. The upcoming October elections have added urgency to this struggle. There is no clear successor to Chavez among the Chavista elite. However, Chavez in recent weeks appointed Diosdado Cabello as first vice president of the Venezuelan United Socialist Party and later named him President of the National Assembly. Clearly, a single faction has taken the lead. Cabello represents the pragmatic, militaristic wing of the Chavista elite. However, although powerful, Cabello is not particularly popular, and he is not likely to be a suitable replacement for Chavez in October.
    The most believable political alternative to Chavez may actually come from the Venezuelan opposition. After years of disunity and infighting, the opposition is presenting its most credible challenge to Chavez since he came to office in 1999. Miranda Governor Henrique Capriles Radonski appears most likely to secure the backing of the opposition parties in the Feb. 12 primaries. Capriles has positioned himself as a man of the people, claiming he is the natural heir to Chavismo, but with a pro-business twist.  The most important thing [....]

Update on Global Food Commodities
Staff Report,
January 19, 2012

Corn, soybeans, rice and wheat are the most important food staples consumed in the world. We monitor these commodities because market fluctuations can lead to domestic unrest in import-reliant countries. Below is an assessment of these vital commodities.
Most countries have domestic agricultural industries. However, the majority of these countries do not produce more than what their populations can consume. Only a handful of countries are able to export significant quantities of key food staples to countries that cannot meet their consumption needs or experience temporary setbacks in their agricultural sectors.
    Output from exporting countries is an important geopolitical issue. Increased demand for global food supplies can cause localized shortages and price spikes. Food shortages and price increases, in turn, can lead to political turmoil and social unrest in countries whose populations depend on these imports for survival.  The most important staple crops consumed by populations around the world are corn, rice and wheat. Soybeans have also become an important alternative source of protein, particularly in Asian diets. Corn and soybean exports are largely dominated by states in the Western Hemisphere, while global wheat supplies are primarily grown by states in the Northern Hemisphere. Asian states account for the majority of all globally traded rice, but China, the world's largest producer of rice, consumes almost all of the rice it produces.  The following breaks down the current status of each of the four major staple crops. Production forecasts are drawn primarily [....]

CFPB Wields New Powers with Director
by Diane Katz,
Research Report
January 30, 2012
    Within hours of Richard Cordray assuming the role of director[1] at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), agency officials began exercising their newly expanded powers. Their immediate target is all manner of “nonbank”[2] financial services used by millions of households. While proponents contend that the new regulations will benefit consumers, the structure of the bureau—its unparalleled power magnified by an absence of accountability—bodes ill for most Americans.
New Director Prompts New Powers
The CFPB became operational on July 21, 2011, but was limited by statute to enforcing existing rules over banks and credit unions (with more than $10 billion in assets) until a director was nominated and confirmed. With Cordray in place on January 4, the bureau immediately launched its supervision of “nonbank” mortgage originators, brokers, and servicers, as well as payday lenders and private education loans, as permitted by statute following confirmation of a director.  The bureau is also now authorized to supervise “larger participants” in other nonbank services. The CFPB has identified six such services for regulation, including debt collection; consumer reporting; prepaid cards; debt relief services; consumer credit; and money transmitting, check cashing, and related activities. The designation of “larger participants” must be finalized by July 21, 2012.  Reflecting the overly broad nature of its powers, the agency may also supervise any nonbank that it deems as posing a “risk” to consumers or engaging in “unfair, deceptive, or abusive” practices. While unfair and deceptive have been defined in other regulatory contexts, the addition of the term abusive, which has not previously been defined in law, grants CFPB officials inordinate discretion.
Regulatory Excess Harms Consumers
There are some bad actors in the nonbank sector (as in all endeavors, including government). But at least 40 million adults benefit from alternative financial services, citing convenience, cost, or ease of qualification for doing so.[3] Contrary to conventional wisdom, there is no “void” of conventional banking in neighborhoods where alternative service providers locate, according to a survey by the Urban Institute.[4]  To the extent that the bureau’s regulatory crackdown constrains [....]

Germany's Role in Europe and the European Debt Crisis
by George Friedman,
January 31, 2012

    The German government proposed last week that a European commissioner be appointed to supplant the Greek government. While phrasing the German proposal this way might seem extreme, it is not unreasonable. Under the German proposal, this commissioner would hold power over the Greek national budget and taxation. Since the European Central Bank already controls the Greek currency, the euro, this would effectively transfer control of the Greek government to the European Union, since whoever controls a country's government expenditures, tax rates and monetary policy effectively controls that country. The German proposal therefore would suspend Greek sovereignty and the democratic process as the price of financial aid to Greece.
    Though the European Commission rejected the proposal, the concept is far from dead, as it flows directly from the logic of the situation. The Greeks are in the midst of a financial crisis that has made Greece unable to repay money Athens borrowed. Their options are to default on the debt or to negotiate a settlement with their creditors. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) and European Union are managing these negotiations.  Any settlement will have three parts. The first is an agreement by creditors to forego repayment on part of the debt. The second is financial help from the IMF and the European Union to help pay back the remaining debt. The third is an agreement by the Greek government to curtail government spending and increase taxes so that it can avoid future sovereign debt crises and repay at least part of the debt.
Bankruptcy and the Nation State
The Germans don't trust the Greeks to keep any bargain, which is not unreasonable given that the Greeks haven't been willing to enforce past agreements. Given this lack of trust, Germany [....]

7 Unexpected Uses for Your Microwave

by Hilary Meyer, Associate Food Editor,
EatingWell Magazine
January 31, 2012
    Chances are you have a microwave sitting somewhere in your kitchen. They've gotten smaller over the years, but even the most svelte version takes up precious real estate. It's time to put that baby to work.
1. Cook fish - Cook a steak in the microwave and you'll end up with shoe leather. Fish, on the other hand, can be cooked perfectly in the microwave. Simply wrap your fish in microwave-safe plastic with a little seasoning (salt and pepper and some lemon, perhaps) and [....]

Tiny Swiss town builds the world's first solar-powered ski lift
by: Adventure Journal
February 2, 2012    Even though as the crow flies, the postage-stamp town of Tenna, Switzerland, isn't far from historic resorts like St. Moritz and Davos, Tenna is a one-horse town, one-shop, one-school, and one t-bar town. And that t-bar, the only ski lift in the whole valley, was on its last legs. But rather than let it die, locals raised enough money to update it and then went a step further: They built the world's first solar-powered ski lift.  It's more than solar-powered, in fact -- it's a smart investment. The Tenna lift generates 90,000 kilowatt hours a year, or three times the juice needed to run the lift, and the extra power goes back into the grid, which makes money for the town, which can pay residents back.  So what happens to the 82 solar "wings" when it dumps? Not a problem, because they rotate to follow the path of the sun in the sky and can be tilted to perpendicular during a storm, so there's no load and the snow slides right off.  At $1.5 million, the project [....]
Until Next Sunday....



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