Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Its Christmas Time In America

A recent Rasmussen survey found that nearly two thirds of Americans think Christmas is the most important holiday of the year.

In the survey, 92% of adults say they will celebrate Christmas this year, while only six percent (6%) said they would not. The vast majority (70%) will open their gifts on Christmas morning while more than 20% will open their gifts on Christmas Eve.

Meanwhile, Hallmark estimates that Americans will send more than 2.1 billion holiday cards this year, up from 1.9 billion cards in 2007. On average, each American household will mail more than 20 Christmas cards this holiday season.

In America, the weeks leading up to Christmas are historically the biggest shopping weeks of the year. Many retailers make up to 70% of their annual revenue in the month preceding Christmas. In fact, the Friday and Saturday before Christmas are usually the two busiest shopping days of the year.

The three occasions that Americans consume food in the greatest quantity are Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Super Bowl Sunday. At least according to the National Football League.

A native Mexican plant, poinsettias were named after Joel R. Poinsett, U.S. ambassador to Mexico who brought the plant to America in 1828. Poinsettias were used by Mexican Franciscans in their 17th century Christmas celebrations.

The modern American Christmas custom of displaying a wreath on the front door of the house, is actually borrowed from ancient Rome's New Year's celebrations. Romans wished each other "good health" by exchanging branches of evergreens. It became the custom to bend these branches into a ring and display them on doorways.

According to the National Christmas Tree Association, Americans buy around 30 million real Christmas trees each year . The top selling Christmas Trees are: balsam fir, Douglas-fir, Fraser fir, noble fir, Scotch pine, Virginia pine and white pine. The average growing time for a Christmas tree in America is seven years.

In 2007, 17.4 million people bought artificial Christmas trees, a dramatic 87 percent jump from the previous year's total of 9.3 million. According to the United States Commerce Department 85 per cent of all artificial trees in the United States are manufactured in China.

In 1939, Chicago based Montgomery Ward copywriter Robert L. May wrote the story of Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer. The story was so popular that despite the wartime paper shortage, over 6 million copies had been distributed by 1946.

In fact, the song "Rudolph The Red Nose Reindeer" would become the second most popular holiday song of all time. It is listed only behind Bing Crosby's White Christmas.

If you watch "A Christmas Carol" this holiday season, just remember that Charles Dickens considered several other names before settling on Tiny Tim. The three other alternative names were; Little Larry, Puny Pete, and Small Sam.

According to eBay, the best selling 2008 electronics are the Nintendo Wii, Xbox 360, Ipod Touch and Sony PSP. Expect to find these gifts in a featured spot under many real and artificial 2008 Christmas Trees.

Its Christmas time in America. Please have a great holiday and a safe and prosperous New Year.

For More Read: The Holiday Song That Became A World Record on eworldvu.com

Monday, December 22, 2008

Days Without A Sunspot Reach The Top Two

There were sixteen days without a sunspot in the first nineteen days of December 2008.

This means that this years lack of sunspot activity has exceeded 1912 as the second quietest year in more than a century.

In fact, last year was also noted for the quiet of the sun. 2007 also finished in the list of top ten years without a sunspot. However, the number of days without solar activity has dramatically increased this year from one year ago.

Meanwhile, according to the National Climatic Data Center, this year will be America’s coldest year since 1997. Certainly, this has become apparent in the last few weeks, as the harsh reality of ice and snow has been seen in several unusual places in the country.

In Southern California a half-inch of snow covered Malibu’s hills while a half-foot of the white stuff barricaded highways and marooned commuters in desert towns east of Los Angeles. Three inches of snow closed Las Vegas’ McCarren Airport and dusted the Strip’s hotels and casinos. Recently, eight inches of snow struck New Orleans and blanketed Southern Louisiana.

The cold has also strengthened in places that are used to its intensity. The National Weather Service reports that last summer was Anchorage’s third-coldest on record. In addition, the National Snow and Ice Data Center found that Arctic sea ice expanded 13.2 percent this year, or 270,000 square miles. In Canada, every part of the country will have a White Christmas for the first time since 1971.

The fact is that from 1998 until January 2007, the average temperature of the Earth’s atmosphere near its surface decreased some 0.25 C (0.45 F) but from January 2007 until the spring of 2008, it has dropped a whopping 0.75 C (1.35 F).

So, a lack of solar activity in the last two years may well be driving this dramatic global cooling trend. In 2008, the days without a sunspot reached the top two. If this trend continues, dreams of a white Christmas may soon become a reality in Malibu.

For more on global cooling and sunspot activity see: To Predict Global Climate Change Look To The Sun on eworldvu

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Mystery Of The Christmas Star

The Star of Bethlehem, also called the Christmas Star, in Christian tradition is a star that revealed the birth of Jesus to the three Wise Men (Magi).

According to the bible (Gospel of Matthew) the Magi were "men from the east" who were inspired by the appearence of the Star to travel to Jerusalem.

Christians regard the Christmas Star as a miraculous sign given by God to mark the birth of Christ. Some theologians have claimed that the star fulfilled a prophecy, known as the Star Prophecy.

So, what exactly was the Christmas Star? Astronomers have proposed various explanations including a super-nova, a planet, or a comet. It has been speculated that the star could have been an astrological event. Some even claim that the Christmas Star was nothing more than a science fiction story.

Of course, we do know that the Christmas Star did not first appear to the Magi on December 25. Indeed, it was Pope Julius I who selected the 25th of December to celebrate Christmas Day. The reason he chose that day is still very unclear. Although it is possible that it was a way to bring Christian religion to a pagan holiday.

The actual day of the year that the Star may have appeared has been a subject of speculation for years. The Bible, (Luke) records that at the birth of Christ, shepherds were watching over their flocks by night. There were only two specific times in a year when this was done, namely when lambs were being born in the spring or autumn. At other times of the year they were kept safely in their sheep-folds to protect them from wild animals.

The New Testament of the Bible (Revelation 12) tells of the birth of Christ when the constellation Virgo (the woman in the heavens) was clothed with the sun and had the moon at her feet. This would indicate that Jesus was born when the sun and moon were in Virgo. In other words, at the time of the September New Moon, or shortly thereafter.

However, before we conclude that the Christmas Star first appeared on a September day, consider what new scientific research has to say.

The Nativity is generally accepted to have occurred somewhere in the historical time frame between 3B.C. and 1 A.D. This is the period that Australian stargazer and the editor of Sky and Space magazine, Dave Reneke would analyze with complex computer software.

His goal was to chart the exact positions of all celestial bodies and map the night sky. In effect, advanced computer software was used to re-create night over the Holy Land exactly as it appeared more than 2,000 years ago.

Reneke discovered that a bright star really did appear over Bethlehem over 2000 years ago. He said his research showed that: " Venus and Jupiter became very close in the year 2 B.C. and they would have appeared to be one bright beacon of light" in the night sky.

As for the exact date of the appearance of this beacon of light, Mr Reneke pinpointed the planetary conjunction, which appeared in the constellation of Leo, to the exact date of June 17.

So, if the Christmas Star heralding the birth of Christ did arrive on June 17th, a few changes may be in order here. After all, we have consistently been nearly six months late in spreading our annual holiday cheer and those Christmas in July promotions should really be called after Christmas mark down sales every year.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

A Two Month Tax Holiday In 2009

350 billion dollars are left to be spent from the 700 billion dollar bailout bill spearheaded by Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, approved by Congress and signed into law by President George Bush.

Certainly, it should be interesting to see what the United States Congress spends hundreds of billions of taxpayer money on, after the new year.

The most likely outcome of this bailout bill spending spree will involve a massive transfer of wealth from taxpayers to government-directed projects. The sad truth is that it will be years before these government projects actually produce any jobs.

However, there is one idea on Capital Hill that does seem to make a lot of sense. As a result, there is probably little chance that it will gather the necessary votes in Congress to become law in 2009. It is a radical idea for sure. The concept is to give much of the remaining taxpayer bailout money back to help the individual taxpayer.

The bill is HR 7309 and was recently introduced in the House Of Representatives by Rep. Louis Gohmert, R-Texas. HR 7309 would require all federal income taxes based on wages earned and FICA withholding be left in paychecks for two straight months in 2009.

The effect of the legislation would be to dramatically increase each worker's take home pay for two months. The result would be economic stimulus in it purest form. Even wage earners who do not make enough to pay income tax would get back their FICA or Social Security withholding under the plan

A two-month reprieve from payroll and FICA taxes would cost $334.4 billion, much less than the remaining $350 billion in bailout funds authorized by Congress. It would represent a 17 percent reduction in income taxes for Americans in 2009.

Of course, the problem for our big government, Congressional legislators is that Americans would get to experience the impact of how much the federal government takes from their paycheck every month in taxes.

So, a two month tax holiday to stimulate the economy will probably never happen. Big government projects, pork barrel spending and Congressional earmarks that feed off of the taxpayer's bailout bounty will likely be the Congressional solution for economic stimulus in 2009.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Americans Need A Bailout From Government Taxes

Benjamin Franklin once said that nothing is certain but death and taxes. Today, he may have altered his famous quote to say that its certain that government is taxing people to death.

American taxpayers will pay 1.2 trillion dollars in federal and social security taxes in 2008. They will pay $101.6 billion per month in personal income taxes and $65.6 billion per month in FICA taxes.

However, the total tax burden on Americans is far greater when state, local, sales, excise and property taxes and fees are considered. Since the Congress is bailing out bad mortgage loans, hedge fund ponzi schemes and the United Auto Workers, with American taxpayer dollars, how about a bailout of the actual American taxpayer?

A 2009 payroll tax holiday would be the best place to start but here are several tax initiatives that are such bad ideas that the American taxpayer needs an immediate bailout.

Can you believe that farms or ranches with more than 25 dairy cows, 50 beef cattle or 200 hogs may soon be required to pay an annual fee of about $175 for each dairy cow, $87.50 per head of beef cattle and $20 for each hog?

The executive vice president of the Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation, Ken Hamilton, estimated the fee would cost owners of a modest-sized cattle ranch $30,000 to $40,000 a year.

These new fee's are a tax on the gas emissions of farm animals. Its a tax apparently designed to reduce green house emissions and save the planet from global warming. It will result in bankruptcy for many farms and significantly raise the price of meat. Global climate change has more to do with the hot air of Washington politicians than with the gas of cows.

A loaf of bread needs a a bailout. The government imposes 30 different taxes on bread . They are federal income taxes, state income taxes, state and local property taxes, federal payroll taxes, sales taxes, capital gains taxes, unemployment compensation taxes, workmen’s compensation taxes, retailers’ excise taxes, business license taxes and fees, utility taxes, and state wheat farmer checkoff taxes. Enough is enough, government needs to give bread a break.

If you live in Alabama, North Carolina, or Nevada and possess illicit drugs, you should have already purchased a stamp that registers tax payments on those drugs. To pay the illegal drug tax, visit your Department of Revenue and pay a small fee for a stamp that is to be placed on the container of the drugs. The stamp serves as evidence that you paid your tax so after you get arrested for illegal drug possession, you won’t be fined an increased amount based on not paying your illegal drug tax. Whoever actually pays that tax has also been seen staring at frozen orange juice because it said concentrate.

Did you realize that every time you get on an airplane you are paying a $6.00 Immigration User Fee and a $2.00 Agricultural Inspection Fee, in addition to a $12.40 Arrival Tax, and a $12.40 Departure Tax? Its just amazing there is not a tax for a passenger's actual travel time in the air.

The amusement tax works like this: the government taxes the owners of places that offer “amusement” and in return those businesses pass those taxes on to us. You're not amused? I didn't think so. Paying taxes for amusement is certainly no fun.

Some areas of the country levy a 0.5 percent tax on all take-out food. Chicago and Washington, D.C. both have enacted a tax on fast food, purportedly to pay for the removal of litter often accrued with the purchase of burgers and dogs. This tax applies to everything take-out, from egg McMuffins to late night cheese steaks. Take-out of the tax code is the appropriate action for this strange idea.

New York Gov. Paterson, is very concerned with obesity. In fact, he is so concerned that he is considering taxes on non-diet soft drinks. If the tax passes, ice cream or anything containing sugar or fat could be taxed next. Fat chance that a hefty tax on non-diet soft drinks does anything to reduce obesity.

Monday, December 15, 2008

No Holiday Cheer In Retail Sales This Year

The shopping malls have been quiet during the last few weeks. So, it looks like the result of a recent Gallup public opinion poll for this holiday season is about to ring true.

On average Americans spent $866 dollars on Christmas last year. However, there will be more room under the Christmas tree on December 25th because the average American plans to spend only about $616 this year.

In fact, declining retail sales have been a story for months. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, retail sales dropped 1.8 percent from October to November. The drop marked the fifth consecutive monthly decline in sales. November 2008 sales, were 7.4 percent below retail sales when compared with same month last year. The report said total sales for the September through November 2008 period were down 4.5 percent from the same period a year ago.

The only exception to the declining trend in retail spending was in electronics. Retail Electronics and appliance stores saw a sales increase from October to November to $9.23 billion from $8.97 billion, or 2.8 percent growth.

The boost in electronics and appliance sales was tied to hot consumer electronic products like video game systems, flat-screen televisions, music players and smartphones. However, while electronics sales grew month-to-month, year-to-year sales were still down 4.7 percent in November compared to the same month a year before.

Of course, the ongoing decline in retail sales reflects a dramatic decrease in consumer confidence in the economy as the 2008 global recession continues. Employment in America fell by 533,000 jobs in November and one million people losing employment may well become a dubious monthly job statistic by next spring.

In tough economic times, consumer discretionary items are always a victim and this year will be no different. There may well be electronics and video games like Wii under the average Chistmas Tree, but Santa will also leave more empty space where presents in previous years used to be.

Look for several large retail business bankrupcy's in the first quarter of the New Year. Indeed, going out of business, liquidation sales, will soon advertise the demise of debt laden retailers. The economic recession of 2008 means there will be no holiday cheer in retail sales this year.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Year Of Man-Made Global Warming Doubt

Scientists at the UN global warming conference currently underway in Poland this week, made one thing clear. They say that they have completed one crucial task. They have established beyond a doubt that man-made global warming is for real.

Last year, the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a 2007 Summary for Policymakers authored by fifty two scientists which said that climate change is "unequivocal, is already happening, and is caused by human activity."

So, if the United Nations Panel on Climate Change has proven beyond any doubt that human activity creates Global Warming, why is there so much intense disagreement to that conclusion within the scientific community?

Maybe its because the planet has not seen any warming in the last ten years. It could also be due to the fact that all those dire predictions by climate computer models of warming in this decade have proven to be so incorrect. Man-made global warming doubt also may be growing because the planet has actually begun to cool.

In fact, 2008 is set to be the coolest year of this decade, according to a preliminary estimate of global average temperature from the Met Office (UK). The global average temperature for 2008 should come in close to 14.3C, which is 0.14C below the average temperature for 2001-07.

So far in 2008, there have been 250 scientists that have added their names to a list of 400 scientists that have already spoken out against the United Nations concerning man-made global warming.

This week, a newly updated U.S. Senate Minority Report will feature the dissenting voices of these 650 international scientists. Many are current and former U.N. IPCC scientists, who have now turned against the U.N. The U.S. Senate report is the latest evidence of the growing groundswell of scientific opposition rising to challenge the concept that global warming is man-made.

Here is a sample of some of the quotes from international scientists the Senate Minority Report is said to contain:

“I am a skeptic. Global warming has become a new religion.” - Nobel Prize Winner for Physics, Ivar Giaever.

“Since I am no longer affiliated with any organization nor receiving any funding, I can speak quite frankly. As a scientist I remain skeptical."- Atmospheric Scientist Dr. Joanne Simpson, the first woman in the world to receive a PhD in meteorology and formerly of NASA who has authored more than 190 studies and has been called “among the most preeminent scientists of the last 100 years.”

Warming fears are the “worst scientific scandal in the history. When people come to know what the truth is, they will feel deceived by science and scientists.” - UN IPCC Japanese Scientist Dr. Kiminori Itoh, an award-winning PhD environmental physical chemist.

“The IPCC has actually become a closed circuit; it doesn’t listen to others. It doesn’t have open minds. I am really amazed that the Nobel Peace Prize has been given on scientifically incorrect conclusions by people who are not geologists,” - Indian geologist Dr. Arun D. Ahluwalia at Punjab University and a board member of the UN-supported International Year of the Planet.

“The models and forecasts of the UN IPCC “are incorrect because they only are based on mathematical models and presented results at scenarios that do not include, for example, solar activity.” - Victor Manuel Velasco Herrera, a researcher at the Institute of Geophysics of the National Autonomous University of Mexico

“It is a blatant lie put forth in the media that makes it seem there is only a fringe of scientists who don’t buy into anthropogenic global warming.” - U.S Government Atmospheric Scientist Stanley B. Goldenberg of the Hurricane Research Division of NOAA.

“Even doubling or tripling the amount of carbon dioxide will virtually have little impact, as water vapour and water condensed on particles as clouds dominate the worldwide scene and always will.” Geoffrey G. Duffy, a professor in the Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering of the University of Auckland, NZ.

“For how many years must the planet cool before we begin to understand that the planet is not warming? For how many years must cooling go on?” - Geologist Dr. David Gee the chairman of the science committee of the 2008 International Geological Congress who has authored 130 plus peer reviewed papers, and is currently at Uppsala University in Sweden.

A climate debate continues to rage within the scientific community, and one thing has become very certain. In 2008, there is a growing scientific consensus behind man-made global warming doubt.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Decades Of Corruption In The Land Of Lincoln

The U.S. Attorney's Office had been investigating Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich for three years and right after the 2008 Presidential Election ended in early November, a tap was placed on his phone.

What the Feds heard from the Illinois Governors telephone conversations during the last few weeks have been in the words of Chicago U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald a "political corruption crime spree" .

Yesterday, Blagojevich was arrested, handcuffed and taken before a federal magistrate on charges he conspired to sell his office. The charges involve a variety of crimes including fundraising in return for state contracts, plush jobs for the governor and his wife Patti, and selling the nomination to fill the U.S. Senate seat vacated by President-elect Barack Obama to the highest bidder. It was a "pay to play" political corruption crime spree run from the Governor's office.

Of course, "pay to play" political corruption from the Governors office is nothing new in the land of Lincoln. However, this is a story not only about corruption but also about hypocrisy.

Rod Blagojevich ran for the Governor's office as a reformer to replace previous Illinois Governor Gov. George Ryan, who is now serving a six year prison term for accepting bribes. Ryan was convicted of corruption in 2006 for steering state contracts and leases to political insiders while he was Illinois Secretary of State and Governor.

If Blagojevich is convicted he will become the fourth Illinois Governor in the last 35 years to go to jail. Before Ryan was convicted in 2006, former governor Dan Walker was found guilty of taking fraudulent loans to repair his yacht. He plead guilty in 1987 to bank fraud, misapplication of funds and perjury.

Several years earlier, Gov. Otto Kerner was convicted of taking bribes during his time in office. Kerner was convicted in 1972 on bribery, tax evasion and other counts. He arranged favorable horse-racing dates as governor in return for horse-racing-association stock at reduced prices.

So, how did Rod Blagojevich launch his campaign to become the latest alleged corrupt Governor of Illinois? Well, he occupied “Dan” Rostenkowski’s Congressional seat after Rostenkowski plead guily to mail fraud charges.

U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald said the charges against Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich "would make Lincoln roll over in his grave." Still, Blagojevich is only the latest in a long line of unsavory Illinois governors and politicians. Sadly, there have been decades of corruption in the land of Lincoln.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

CCTV Can See But Nobody Is Watching

There are estimates that there are 500,000 surveillance cameras around the city of London and that an average Londoner is seen on camera 300 times each day.

In fact, there is estimated to be more than 4 million surveillance cameras throughout the United Kingdom, with about 1.5 million closed circuit television cameras (CCTV) in city centers, train and subway stations, airports, and major retail areas .

However, despite spending billions of dollars on surveillance cameras, a recent report by the Police Chiefs of the United Kingdom concluded that only 3% of crimes were solved by CCTV.

So, what happened to make CCTV such a bad investment? Detective Chief Inspector Mick Neville, the officer in charge of the Metropolitan police unit provides an answer in his speech at the Security Document World Conference in London as follows:

"CCTV was originally seen as a preventative measure. Billions of pounds have been spent on it, but no thought has gone into how the police are going to use the images and how they will be used in court. It's been an utter fiasco: There's no fear of CCTV. Why don't people fear it? They think the cameras are not working."

Of course, the security cameras are working but it is very expensive to hire CCTV operators that have to endlessly look at all those security screens. Placing security cameras in millions of locations is one thing. Monitoring all those locations at all times by human beings in real time is another thing indeed.

Spending billions on security without any real return in the United Kingdom has not stopped New York City from following in their path. More than 3,000 new public and privately-owned cameras will be in service in the city by the end of this year.

Meanwhile new advanced CCTV cameras which try to 'predict' if a crime is about to take place are now being introduced on Britain's streets. The cameras can alert operators to suspicious behaviour, such as loitering and unusually slow walking.

However, as seen through the experience in the United Kingdom, there is no evidence that expensive security cameras act as a crime deterrent. In addition, few crimes are actually solved due to the hard work involved in retrieving images from the system. Certainly, it is not money well spent, if the police are not properly trained and the system is not useful in the prevention of crime.

The truth is that all these expensive CCTV security cameras have not made us much safer. Our personal privacy concerns have not yet been realized. This is because CCTV can see but nobody is watching.

Monday, December 8, 2008

A Windfall Of Failure In Domestic Energy Policy

Last May, with the price of a barrel of oil well over $100 and the American consumer furious at the price of a gallon of gas at the pump, Congress was looking for political cover.

Of course, the problem was not the absence of a congressional energy policy. No, it was the domestic oil companies that were really gauging the consumer and keeping prices high that was to blame.

As a result, the Senate Judiciary Committee would summon the top executives from the petroleum industry for a Congressional inquisition. As these executives would correctly pointed out to our astute public servants, the fact is that foreign companies and governments control the overwhelming majority of the world's oil. In fact most of the price Americans pay at the pump is the cost paid by the American oil company to acquire crude oil from someone else.

In addition, it was apparent from the hearings that if anyone is "gouging" consumers through the high price of gasoline, it is federal and state governments, not American oil companies. On average, 15% percent of the cost of gasoline at the pump goes for taxes, while only 4% represents oil company profits.

Despite these facts, Barack Obama campaigned for the Presidency on the populist message that oil company profits were too high. He promised to "make oil companies like Exxon pay a tax on their windfall profits, and use the money to help families pay for their skyrocketing energy costs and other bills." The plan was to provide a $500 per person emergency energy rebate from the windfall profits of big oil.

However, the margin of profit for oil companies never did show a profit windfall. In fact, the 8.3 percent profit margin in the gas and oil industry was pretty small in comparison with the 14.5 percent profit margin enjoyed by the electronics and appliance industry, the 18.4 percent margin for big pharma, or the 19.1 percent margin for alcohol and tobacco.

Now, just six months after the Congressional energy windfall profit tax hearings last May, the price of a barrel of oil is in sharp decline. It has already lost two thirds of its value and the bottom in the price of a barrel of crude oil is still hard to find. As a result, President-elect Barack Obama is going to break another campaign promise. There will be no windfall profit tax on big oil or consumer energy rebate plan in 2009.

The real truth is that there has not been a domestic energy policy in the United States for decades. The current domestic energy policy is only based on the hope that other countries will produce enough oil so that the price in America will not get too high.

This is because there are Congressional limitations in exploring additional domestic supply. According to the Department of the Interior, 62 percent of all on-shore federal lands are off limits to oil and gas developments, with restrictions applying to 92 percent of all federal lands. Meanwhile, alternative energy solutions are still more than a decade away.

So, eventually, the price of American energy will rise and the Senate Judiciary Committee will again call hearings for political cover. Once again they will summon all the top oil executives to assess the blame. We should remember that its just a cynical, political game in which there is no Congressional shame.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

A Crisis With Iran In The New Year

For more than three years, every quarterly International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report on Iran has contained details of various violations.

Usually the reports cite obstruction of inspector's visits, inconsistencies between official claims and the results of tests from samples taken from various facilities and other actions of non-compliance with international regulatory oversight.

The final assessment in each report, signed by IAEA Director-General, Mohamed Elbaradei absurdly concludes that the evidence does not demonstrate that Iran is seeking nuclear weapons.

However, the last IAEA update contained new information that has increased concern in the International community. The latest IAEA report indicates that as of last month, Iran had made 630 kilograms, or about 1,390 pounds, of low-enriched uranium. Many experts now say that this amount of enriched uranium is enough to build a bomb.

Meanwhile, Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Shaul Mofaz can see a showdown between Iran and the West coming. He recently told the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations in New York; "Iran's nuclear program is proceeding like an express train. The diplomatic efforts to thwart Iran are like a slow train. If we cannot derail the Iranian train from the tracks, we are on the verge of a nuclear era that will totally alter the regional reality."

Indeed, the most up-to-date intelligence predictions by US nuclear experts is that by the end of 2009, Iran will have stocked enough weapons-grade fuel to build three nuclear bombs. The first will be ready for assembly by the time Barack Obama is sworn in as US president on January 20, 2009; the second shortly after Israel’s February 10, 2009 general election produces a new prime minister, and the third by the end of the year.

So, time is fast running out for the International community to stop Iran's nuclear ambitions. To do nothing, means taking a high risk security gamble that holocaust denier Mahmoud Ahmadinejad with a nuclear capability can safely be ignored. However, a decision to bomb the Iranian nuclear facilities means higher worldwide energy prices and another Middle East war.

The failure of international diplomacy and the speed in which Iran is enriching uranium are backing the President-elect into a very difficult corner. As a result, Barack Obama's first major foreign policy test will soon follow his January inauguration. A crisis with Iran is on the horizon for the next Administration early in the new year.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Congress Spends Billions Without A Coherent Plan

It has been pretty obvious to the Stock Market every time he appears. Treasury Secretary, Henry Paulson usually holds a press conference in the middle of the trading day. Soon after he starts speaking, the Dow Jones Industrial Average will begin a steep descent.

The market knows that the Treasury Secretary is a man with 700 billion dollars of taxpayer money that does not have a real economic plan. The Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP) was originally rushed through Congress as money that was going to save the economy from disaster by buying distressed mortgages from consumers.

However, the TARP plan now seems to have evolved into a huge bailout of selected firms in the financial services industry. Of course, TARP was passed with extensive Congressional oversight but half of the taxpayer's money has already been spent and much of the oversight provisions have not been enacted.

The only ongoing review of the TARP program is headed by Elizabeth Warren. She is the the chairwomen of a new Congressional panel that was set up to monitor the bailout. Recently, (New York Times) Ms. Warren was quoted as saying that "the government still does not seem to have a coherent strategy for easing the financial crisis, despite the billions it has already spent in that effort. The government instead seemed to be lurching from one tactic to the next without clarifying how each step fits into an overall plan."

Meanwhile, the Treasury has just bailed out Citigroup in the last week. It was a financial services company that was "too big to fail". The Citi was not sleeping well since it had billions of dollars of bad loans on its balance sheet and its stock price had reached the status of a penny stock.

The TARP was used to bailout Citi and now billions of those toxic loans will be the responsibility of the United States taxpayer to guarantee. In addition, Citi was given billions of taxpayer dollars to shore up the liquidity on its balance sheet.

Someone may ask what did Citi use all that new taxpayer cash for? Well, Inner City Press is reporting that Citi is sponsoring a Congressional junket to the Caribbean and spending over seven billion Euros to buy the highway business of Spanish construction firm, Sacyr Vallehermoso. Seems like the taxpayer's money could have been spent better, doesn't it?

This week the automakers are back in town requesting a bailout from the United States Congress. A few weeks ago the Big 3 flew in on private jets to attempt to get a piece of the TARP pie and were rejected. The reason given by Congress was that they didn't have a coherent business plan.

So, the automakers did not present a coherent business plan to obtain money from a 700 billion dollar government program that does not have a coherent plan. In the real world this would be considered absurd, but its just business as usual inside the beltway in Washington D.C.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Days Without Sunspots Are In The Top Five

The news is about the cold weather in late 2008. Newspapers report that glaciers in Canada, California, and New Zealand are growing, as the result of colder temperatures and increased snowfall.

After years of decline, glaciers in Norway are again growing, reports the Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Directorate (NVE).

Meanwhile, in Alaska, the United States Geologic Survey has maintained a research project measuring the state of Alaskan glaciers since 1946. This year records were broken for most snow buildup. It was also the first time since measurements began that Arctic glaciers did not shrink during the summer months.

Australian Ski fields recently recorded a heavy snow fall about a week before the summer started. Also, ski resorts across Europe opened last weekend ahead of schedule after the biggest November snowfalls in at least a decade. Meanwhile heavy snow and freezing cold closed schools in much of Spain.

In New Zealand, environmental groups are angry about the new government's plan to review the science behind climate change. Environmentalists think New Zealand's reputation would be damaged if the concept of global warming is questioned.

These are all stories making international news in recent days. Of course, these stories are the result of the significant drop in global temperatures over the last two years. A drop in temperatures that may well be connected to sunspot activity.

In 2007, there were 183 days without a sunspot observed on the face of the sun. The year would be ranked ninth in the last one hundred years for a lack of sunspot activity. This year, the number of days without sunspots have already easily surpassed that level from last year.

At the end of November 2008, the number of days without a sunspot was at 239. It made 2008, the fifth ranked year without a sunspot in a century, with one full month left to go. In fact, by the end of this week, the 2008 rank will likely move up to number three, since the sun has been blank, so far this month. The number two spot is within reach with fifteen days of sunspot inactivity during December.

Two years in a row of declining temperatures with a near record lack of sunspot activity while CO2 gas continues to increase in the atmosphere. If this trend continues, history would suggest that it could get very cold. Then, the huge, lucrative, international business of research into man-made global warming would have to be put on hold.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Terrorism Could Mean Death In Outsourcing To India

The last several days were a stark international reminder that we live in a dangerous age of terrorism. Ten armed terrorists killed nearly 200 people in India as that country's totally unprepared police force looked on.

In fact, policemen trying to disarm terrorists linked to a Pakistani militant group associated with al-Queda had only batons or World War I-era rifles to use as weapons.

As a result, India's top law enforcement official has just resigned, bowing to criticism that the attackers appeared better trained, better coordinated and better armed than police. The truth is that India does not even have a trained SWAT team.

These international headlines about a lack of homeland security in India must give corporations that have already outsourced their business functions to that country a reason for concern.

The fact is that Information technology and IT-enabled services will employ 4 million people in 2008 and account for 7% of gross domestic product and 33% of India's foreign-exchange inflows, according to Nasscom, an Indian IT industry organization.

Meanwhile, employee wages are rising rapidly in India and fast becoming more competitive with the rest of the world. The cost advantage for outsourcing to India used to be at least 1:6. Today, the ratio is down to 1:3 and worker attrition is high.

Indeed, the increase in wage inflation in the last several years is staggering. Salaries in India rose 15.1% in 2007, up from 14.4% the previous year. The 2008 forecast is an increase of 15.2% and it marks the fifth consecutive year of salary growth above 10%.

So, after this recent terrorist attack, security against terrorism will become yet another issue for international corporations to consider before outsourcing jobs to India.

As a result, the last few days of terror in India may have ramifications well beyond international politics and the tragic human cost. With worker wages skyrocketing, a lack of national security against terrorism could well mean the death of international business outsourcing to India.