11 Jan 2009, 12:13pm
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Piercing Cold Grips Euros

Slovenia with record low temperature -49

MINA, Jan 10, 2009 [here]

Slovenia registered the lowest temperatures ever. At the Bohin resort, a half frozen weatherman standing outside, reported minus 49°C.

Slovenian Media have reported recommendations of the meteorological institute of Germany, which alarms over the risks of having piercings –- the metal earrings on people’s body could cause dangerous freezing.

No metal objects attached to the body should be worn, warns the media, for people who must venture outside. For everyone else, Slovenian media urges its citizens to stay in their homes.

5 Jan 2009, 1:18pm
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Charity homes built by Hollywood start to crumble

by John Harlow, The Sunday Times, January 4, 2009 [here]

Residents of a model housing estate bankrolled by Hollywood celebrities and hand-built by Jimmy Carter, the former US president, are complaining that it is falling apart.

Fairway Oaks was built on northern Florida wasteland by 10,000 volunteers, including Carter, in a record 17-day “blitz” organised by the charity Habitat for Humanity.

Eight years later it is better known for cockroaches, mildew and mysterious skin rashes.

A forthcoming legal battle over Fairway Oaks threatens the reputation of a charity envied for the calibre of its celebrity supporters, who range from Johnny Depp and Brad Pitt to Colin Firth, Christian Bale and Helena Bonham Carter.

The case could challenge the bedrock philosophy behind Habitat for Humanity, claiming that using volunteers, rather than professional builders, is causing as many problems as it solves.

April Charney, a lawyer representing many of the 85 homeowners in Fairway Oaks, said she had no problems taking on Habitat for Humanity, despite its status as a “darling of liberal social activists”. She said the charity should have told people that part of the estate had been built on a rubbish dump.

One man pulled up his floorboards to find rubbish 5ft deep under his kitchen. Other complaints include cracking walls and rotting door frames that let in rats and ants. Many residents have complained of mildew and mysterious skin rashes. … [more]

Ed Note: But it’s the thought that counts, isn’t it?

4 Jan 2009, 1:06pm
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Richardson withdraws as Commerce nominee

New Mexico governor cites pending investigation of business dealings

NBC News, Jan 4, 2009 [here]

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, tapped in December by President-elect Barack Obama to serve as secretary of Commerce, has withdrawn his name for the position, citing a pending investigation into a company that has done business with his state.

“Let me say unequivocally that I and my Administration have acted properly in all matters and that this investigation will bear out that fact,” he said Sunday in a report by NBC News’ Andrea Mitchell. “But I have concluded that the ongoing investigation also would have forced an untenable delay in the confirmation process.”

A federal grand jury is investigating how a California company that contributed to Richardson’s political activities won a New Mexico state contract worth more than $1 billion. Richardson said in a statement issued by the Obama transition office that the investigation could take weeks or months but expressed confidence it will show he and his administration acted properly. … [more]

Ed Note: Sponge Bill thrown under the bus. Too much payola, even for the Obribeme Administration.

30 Dec 2008, 11:31pm
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Fed and US Treasury Give-Away (Looting) $8 Trillion and Counting

New Bank Credit Lines Rated by Moody’s Drop to Six-Year Low

Bloomberg.com, Dec 17, 2008 [here]

… The $8.5 trillion committed by the U.S. to rescue the financial system hasn’t succeeded in unlocking credit markets that seized up with the collapse of the subprime mortgage market in 2007. …

Economy rescue: Adding up the dollars

CNNMoney.com, Dec 4, 2008 [here]

[$7.2 trillion committed and $2.6 trillion already spent.]

Financial Crisis Tab Already In The Trillions and Counting

CNBC.com, Nov. 28, 2008 [here]

Given the speed at which the federal government is throwing money at the financial crisis, the average taxpayer, never mind member of Congress, might not be faulted for losing track.

CNBC, however, has been paying very close attention and keeping a running tally of actual spending as well as the commitments involved. And there’s been quite a jump since we last tabulated things two weeks ago.

Try $7.36 trillion dollars. That’s more than double what was spent on WW II, if adjusted for inflation, based on our computations from a variety of estimates and sources. …

Fed Covers Up Financial Crisis–Bailout Cost May Be Much Higher

Investment-blog.net, Nov. 12, 2008, [here]

While the government is clearly spending a lot of taxpayers’ money to bail out financial firms, the tally is even bigger than most Americans (economists and pundits included) are probably aware or willing to admit.

The bailout bonanza has gotten so big and happened so fast it’s the true cost often gets lost in the discussion. Maybe Hank Paulson and Ben Bernanke prefer it that way because the tally so far is nearly $3.5 trillion, and that’s before a likely handout for the auto industry.

Yes, $3.45 trillion has already been spent, as Bailoutsleuth.com details:

$2T Emergency Fed Loans (the ones the Fed won’t discuss, as detailed here)
$700B TARP (designed to buy bad debt, the fund is rapidly transforming as we’ll discuss in an upcoming segment)
$300B Hope Now (the government’s year-old attempt at mortgage workouts)
$200B Fannie/Freddie
$140B Tax Breaks for Banks (WaPo has the details)
$110B: AIG (with it’s new deal this week, the big insurer got $40B of TARP money, plus $110B in other relief)

Tallying up the “true” cost of the bailout is difficult, and won’t be known for months if not years. But considering $3.5 trillion is about 25% of the U.S. economy ($13.8 trillion in 2007) and the U.S. deficit may hit $1 trillion in fiscal 2009, hyperinflation and/or sharply higher interest rates seem likely outcomes down the road.

Ed Note: and none of that includes the Obama Stimulus Package, now pegged at $775 billion:

Obama economic team tries to allay worries about stimulus plan

LA Times, Dec 24, 2008 [here]

Vice President-elect Joe Biden met with seven advisors for an hour here as Obama vacationed in Hawaii. With the incoming administration acknowledging the stimulus plan could cost as much as $775 billion over two years, Biden seemed intent on reassuring Americans the money would not be wasted. …

19 Dec 2008, 2:03pm
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Fed Refuses to Disclose Recipients of $2 Trillion

By Mark Pittman, Bloomberg.com [here]

Dec. 12 (Bloomberg) — The Federal Reserve refused a request by Bloomberg News to disclose the recipients of more than $2 trillion of emergency loans from U.S. taxpayers and the assets the central bank is accepting as collateral.

Bloomberg filed suit Nov. 7 under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act requesting details about the terms of 11 Fed lending programs, most created during the deepest financial crisis since the Great Depression.

The Fed responded Dec. 8, saying it’s allowed to withhold internal memos as well as information about trade secrets and commercial information. The institution confirmed that a records search found 231 pages of documents pertaining to some of the requests. …

“Notwithstanding calls for enhanced transparency, the Board must protect against the substantial, multiple harms that might result from disclosure,” Jennifer J. Johnson, the secretary for the Fed’s Board of Governors, said in a letter e-mailed to Bloomberg News. …

Fed Chairman Ben S. Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson said in September they would meet congressional demands for transparency in a $700 billion bailout of the banking system. …

“There has to be something they can tell the public because we have a right to know what they are doing,” said Lucy Dalglish, executive director of the Arlington, Virginia-based Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. …

In response, the Fed argued that the trade-secret exemption could be expanded to include potential harm to any of the central bank’s customers, said Bruce Johnson, a lawyer at Davis Wright Tremaine LLP in Seattle. That expansion is not contained in the freedom-of-information law, Johnson said.

“I understand where they are coming from bureaucratically, but that means it’s all the more necessary for taxpayers to know what exactly is going on because of all the money that is being hurled at the banking system,” Johnson said. … [more]

Ed Note: According to Robt. Fanning , “In the past 60 days,the feds just spent (without hearings) 4 times as much covering up the banking scandal as they did for all the wars and all the social programs of the first 80 years of the Twentieth Century.” source: Commodity Research Bureau Yearbook isbn 13- 978- 0- 471- 78443- 2 page 133 Gross federal debt

16 Dec 2008, 9:41pm
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A Giant Breach in Earth’s Magnetic Field

Science@NASA, Dec. 16, 2008 [here]:

NASA’s five THEMIS spacecraft have discovered a breach in Earth’s magnetic field ten times larger than anything previously thought to exist. Solar wind can flow in through the opening to “load up” the magnetosphere for powerful geomagnetic storms. But the breach itself is not the biggest surprise. Researchers are even more amazed at the strange and unexpected way it forms, overturning long-held ideas of space physics.

“At first I didn’t believe it,” says THEMIS project scientist David Sibeck of the Goddard Space Flight Center. “This finding fundamentally alters our understanding of the solar wind-magnetosphere interaction.”

The magnetosphere is a bubble of magnetism that surrounds Earth and protects us from solar wind. Exploring the bubble is a key goal of the THEMIS mission, launched in February 2007. The big discovery came on June 3, 2007, when the five probes serendipitously flew through the breach just as it was opening. Onboard sensors recorded a torrent of solar wind particles streaming into the magnetosphere, signaling an event of unexpected size and importance.

“The opening was huge—four times wider than Earth itself,” says Wenhui Li, a space physicist at the University of New Hampshire who has been analyzing the data. Li’s colleague Jimmy Raeder, also of New Hampshire, says “1027 particles per second were flowing into the magnetosphere—that’s a 1 followed by 27 zeros. This kind of influx is an order of magnitude greater than what we thought was possible.” … [more]

15 Nov 2008, 12:17pm
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Sign O’ the Times: Spam Turns Serious and Hormel Turns Out More

by Andrew Martin, NYT, November 14, 2008 [here]

AUSTIN, Minn. — The economy is in tatters and, for millions of people, the future is uncertain. But for some employees at the Hormel Foods Corporation plant here, times have never been better. They are working at a furious pace and piling up all the overtime they want.

The workers make Spam, perhaps the emblematic hard-times food in the American pantry.

Through war and recession, Americans have turned to the glistening canned product from Hormel as a way to save money while still putting something that resembles meat on the table. Now, in a sign of the times, it is happening again, and Hormel is cranking out as much Spam as its workers can produce.

In a factory that abuts Interstate 90, two shifts of workers have been making Spam seven days a week since July, and they have been told that the relentless work schedule will continue indefinitely.

Spam, a gelatinous 12-ounce rectangle of spiced ham and pork, may be among the world’s most maligned foods, dismissed as inedible by food elites and skewered by comedians who have offered smart-alecky theories on its name (one G-rated example: Something Posing As Meat).

But these days, consumers are rediscovering relatively cheap foods, Spam among them. A 12-ounce can of Spam, marketed as “Crazy Tasty,” costs about $2.40. “People are realizing it’s not that bad a product,” said Dan Johnson, 55, who operates a 70-foot-high Spam oven. … [more]

 
  
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