Olduvaiblog: Musings on the coming collapse

Home » 2014 » January » 06 (Page 2)

Daily Archives: January 6, 2014

Exclusive: Permit Shows Bakken Shale Oil in Casselton Train Explosion Contained High Levels of Volatile Chemicals | DeSmogBlog

Exclusive: Permit Shows Bakken Shale Oil in Casselton Train Explosion Contained High Levels of Volatile Chemicals | DeSmogBlog.

On January 2, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA)issued a major safety alert, declaring oil obtained via hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) in the Bakken Shale may be more chemically explosive than the agency or industry previously admitted publicly.

This alert came three days after the massive Casselton, ND explosion of a freight rail train owned by Warren Buffett‘s Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) and was the first time the U.S. Department of Transportation agency ever made such a statement about Bakken crude. In July 2013, another freight train carrying Bakken crude exploded in Lac-Mégantic, vaporizing and killing 47 people.

Yet, an exclusive DeSmogBlog investigation reveals the company receiving that oildownstream from BNSF — Marquis Missouri Terminal LLC, incorporated in April 2012 by Marquis Energy — already admitted as much in a September 2012 permit application to the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

The BNSF Direct “bomb train” that exploded in Casselton was destined for Marquis’ terminal in Hayti, Missouri, according to Reuters. Hayti is a city of 2,939 located along the Mississippi River. From there, Marquis barges the oil southward along the Mississippi, where Platts reported the oil may eventually be refined in a Memphis, Tennessee-based Valero refinery.

According to Marquis’ website, its Hayti, Missouri terminal receives seven of BNSF Direct’s 118-unit cars per week, with an on-site holding terminal capacity of 550,000 barrels of oil.

Marquis was one of many companies in attendance at a major industry conference in Houston, Texas in February 2013, called “Upgrading Crude By Rail Capacity.” Its September 2012 Missouri DNR permit application lends additional insight into how and why BNSF’s freight train erupted so intensely in Casselton.

“Special Conditions”

Rather than a normal permit, Marquis was given a “special conditions” permit because the Bakken oil it receives from BNSF contains high levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), the same threat PHMSA noted in its recent safety alert.

Among the most crucial of the special conditions: Marquis must flare off the VOCs before barging the oil down the Mississippi River. (Flaring is already a highly controversial practice in the Bakken Shale region, where gas is flared off at rates comparable to Nigeria.)

It’s a tacit admission that the Bakken Shale oil aboard the exploded BNSF train in Casselton, ND is prone to such an eruption.

“Hazardous Air Pollutant (HAP) emissions are expected from the proposed equipment,” explains the Marquis permit. “There will be evaporative losses of Toluene, Xylene, Hexane, and Benzene from the crude oil handled by the installation.”

Benzene is a carcinogen, while toluenexylene and hexane are dangerous volatiles that can cause severe illnesses or even death at high levels of exposure.

Scientific Vindication

In a December 31 Google Hangout conversation between actor Mark Ruffalo, founder of Water Defense, and the group’s chief scientist Scott Smith, Mr. Smith discussed the oil samples he collected on a previous visit to North Dakota’s Bakken Shale.

“What I know from the testing I’ve done on my own — I went out to the Bakken oil fields and pumped oil from the well — I know there are unprecedented levels of these explosive volatiles: benzene, toluene, xylene,” said Smith.

“And from the data that I’ve gotten from third parties and tested myself, 30 to 40 percent of what’s going into those rail cars are explosive volatiles, again that are not in typical oils.”

In an interview with DeSmogBlog, Smith said Marquis Energy’s Missouri DNR permit application is in line with his own scientific findings, a vindication of sorts in the aftermath of the Casselton explosion.”We must work to better understand the risks involved with the transportation of unconventional crude oil, whether diluted bitumen or Bakken fracked oil,” Smith told DeSmogBlog.

“It all starts with scientifically and transparently understanding exactly what is in these crude oils, and working to set new safety standards to protect human lives and all waterways, wetlands, marshes and sensitive ecosystems.”

It may be the dead of winter in North Dakota, but the Casselton explosion has shined a bright light on the myriad serious threats of Bakken oil rolling down the tracks through the backyards of thousands of Americans. The industry’s secrecy about the explosiveness of this oil just went up in flames.

But how will the public react to the news that industry knew this could happen all along? With the Dec. 30 explosion in Casselton, and the deadly Bakken oil train explosion in Lac Megantic, Quebec last July, all North Americans ought to question the wisdom of extracting and transporting this highly dangerous oil.

Bond Tab for Biggest Economies Seen at $7.43 Trillion in ’14 – Bloomberg

Bond Tab for Biggest Economies Seen at $7.43 Trillion in ’14 – Bloomberg.

The world’s biggest economies will need to refinance $7.43 trillion of sovereign debt in 2014 as bond yields begin to climb from record lows, threatening to raise borrowing costs while nations struggle to bring down elevated budget deficits.

The amount of bills, notes and bonds coming due for the Group of Seven nations plus Brazil, Russia, India and China is little changed from 2013 after dropping from $7.6 trillion in 2012, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. At $3.1 trillion, representing a 6 percent increase, the U.S. faces the largest tab. Russia, Japan and Germany will see refinancing needs drop, while those of Italy, France, Britain, China and India increase.

While budget deficits in developed nations have fallen to 4.1 percent of their economies from a peak of 7.8 percent in 2009, they remain about double the average in the decade before the credit crisis began. The cost for governments to borrow may rise further after average yields last year rose the most since 2006, as the global economy shows signs of improving and the Federal Reserve pares its unprecedented bond buying.

“Refinancing needs remain elevated in many developed nations, particularly the U.S.,” Luca Jellinek, the London-based head of European rates strategy at Credit Agricole SA, said in a Dec. 30 telephone interview. “The key here is demand rather than supply. If demand drops as growth picks up, and we expect it will, that could put pressure on borrowing costs.”

Photographer: Brent Lewin/Bloomberg

A man is silhouetted against the sun as he walks his bicycle down a flight of stairs in…Read More

Debt as a proportion of the economies of the 34 members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development will rise to 72.6 percent this year from 70.9 percent last year and 39 percent in 2007, according to the group’s forecasts.

Deficit Spending

The amount of government debt obligations contained in a benchmark Bank of America Merrill Lynch index has more than doubled to $25.8 trillion since the end of 2007 as countries from the U.S. to Japan financed increased spending to counter the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.

After interest-rate cuts around the world and the Fed’s bond purchases pushed down average yields on government notes to an all-time low of 1.29 percent in May, borrowing costs have since jumped, according to the Bank of America Merrill Lynch Global Broad Market Sovereign Plus Index.

Yields climbed to 1.84 percent by the end of December, making the 0.41 percentage point increase in 2013 the biggest in seven years, the data show. That represents an extra $4.1 billion in annual interest on every $1 trillion borrowed.

Bond buyers are demanding more compensation as the Fed plans to scale back its own monthly debt purchases in January to $75 billion from $85 billion and the U.S.-led recovery prompts investors to seek assets with higher returns such as equities.

Risk Premium

Government debt lost an average 0.36 percent worldwide last year, the first decline since 1999.

Based on 41 economists surveyed by Bloomberg on Dec. 19, the Fed will reduce its buying by $10 billion in each of the next seven meetings before ending its stimulus in December.

The U.S., the world’s largest economy, will expand 2.6 percent this year after 1.7 percent growth in 2013 and accelerate 3 percent in 2015, which would be the fastest in a decade, according to economists surveyed by Bloomberg. With Europe and Japan also forecast to grow, the three economies will all expand for the first time since 2010.

“With the Fed pulling back on bond purchases and growth picking up, bond investors will demand higher yields to justify investment,” Mohit Kumar, a money manager at GLG Partners, a hedge-fund unit of Man Group Plc, said by telephone from London. “We need to price in higher risk premium in an environment where rates and market volatility are likely to increase.”

Debtor Nations

Even as faster growth helps increase tax revenue, higher refinancing costs may squeeze governments that are still contending with fiscal deficits. Spending will outstrip revenue in the world’s largest economies by 3.3 percent of their gross domestic product this year, versus an average of 1.75 percent in the 10 years through 2007, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

In the U.S., the world’s largest debtor nation with $11.8 trillion of marketable debt obligations, the amount due this year will increase by about $187 billion, data compiled by Bloomberg show. France, faced with an economy that has barely grown in two years, will see the amount of debt securities due this year rise by 15 percent to $410 billion.

China will lead emerging-market economies with the amount of maturing bonds increasing by 12 percent to $143 billion.

Japan will have $2.38 trillion of bonds and bills to refinance this year, 9 percent less than in 2013, while the amount of German debt maturing this year will decrease by about 5.3 percent to $268 billion.

Public Debt

Including interest payments, the amount of debt that needs to be refinanced by the G-7 countries plus the BRIC nations this year increases by about $712 billion to $8.1 trillion, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

“There has been a shift of a significant amount of debt” into the public sector during the crisis, saidNicholas Gartside, London-based international chief investment officer for fixed-income at J.P. Morgan Asset Management, which oversees $1.5 trillion. “Despite some improvement on the debt front, there is still a lot of deleveraging to go. The process is still ongoing and will continue for many years.”

Forecasters are overestimating the likelihood government debt costs will increase because the global economic recovery remains fragile and disinflation is starting to emerge, according toSteven Major, head of global fixed-income research at HSBC Holdings Plc, Europe’s largest bank.

The world economy will to expand 2.83 percent this year, according to forecasts compiled by Bloomberg, slower than the average 3.43 percent during the five-year span between the end of the dot-com bust in 2002 and the start of the credit crisis.

Consumer Prices

Slowing inflation also preserves the purchasing power of fixed-rate interest payments, which may support demand for bonds. Consumer prices in the U.S. will rise less than 2 percent in 2014 for a second straight year, which has only happened one other time in the last half century, data compiled by Bloomberg and the Bureau of Labor Statistics show.

In the 18 nations that share the euro, the inflation rate will be 1.2 percent, the lowest in five years.

“Growth may have picked up but it’s still pretty weak compared to previous cycles,” Major said in a telephone interview on Dec. 31. “Inflation is falling in many developed countries. Central banks should be worried about disinflation rather than inflation. It’s hard for me to imagine that bond yields will rise much against this backdrop.”

Some nations are starting to rein in spending, which may help contain borrowing costs. Government bond sales in the euro area, excluding issuance used to refinance maturing debt, will decline to 215 billion euros ($293 billion), the least since 2009, Morgan Stanley predicted.

Bond Sales

Germany said in December that it plans to curb bond and bill sales this year by 17 percent to 205 billion euros as tax revenue rises and Chancellor Angela Merkel seeks to end net new borrowing by 2015. In the U.S., the budget deficit will drop to to 3.4 percent of the economy this year, versus 10 percent five years ago, economist forecasts compiled by Bloomberg show.

Demand at U.S. government debt auctions remained stronger than before the financial crisis as investors bid for 2.87 times the amount sold last year, the fourth-highest ratio on record and surpassed only in the the prior three years.

Buying of Japanese debt was underpinned by the Bank of Japan’s commitment to buy 7 trillion yen ($71 billion) a month of bonds, a pace that would equal more than 50 percent of the 155 trillion yen in notes that Japan plans to sell this year.

Yield Forecasts

“Investors should not and will not be concerned about the supply picture,” said Major, who predicts that yields on the benchmark U.S. 10-year note will decrease to 2.1 percent by year-end from 2.99 percent last week.

His estimate conflicts with the majority of forecasters in a Bloomberg survey who say U.S. borrowing costs will increase. They anticipate yields on the 10-year notes, which rose 1.27 percentage points last year to 3.03 percent, the highest since 2011, will climb to 3.38 percent on average. No one in the survey projected yields falling below 2.5 percent. The yield was at 2.98 percent as of 9:56 a.m. London time.

Borrowing costs in all the G-7 nations are all poised to increase in 2014, based on the estimates. Yields on German bunds will increase to 2.28 percent by year-end, while those for similar-maturity U.K. gilts will end the year at 3.36 percent. That would be the highest for both nations since 2011.

Among the BRIC nations, only bond yields in India and China are poised to drop, the data show.

With global growth picking up, investors such as Standard Life Investments predict government bonds will underperform this year and are holding a greater proportion of equities than their benchmarks used to measure performance.

“We are not enthusiastic about government bonds,” Frances Hudson, a strategist at Standard Life in Edinburgh, which oversees $294 billion, said in an telephone interview on Jan. 2. “It’s reasonable to expect bond yields to rise from record lows as recovery gains momentum.”

Following is a table of projected bond and bill redemptions and interest payments in dollars for 2014 for the Group of Seven countries, Brazil, China, India and Russia using data compiled by Bloomberg as of Dec. 30:

To contact the reporter on this story: Anchalee Worrachate in London ataworrachate@bloomberg.net

Activist Post: Marijuana: So Evil, the U.S. Gov’t Owns the Patent “Cannabinoids as Antioxidants and Neuroprotectants”

Activist Post: Marijuana: So Evil, the U.S. Gov’t Owns the Patent “Cannabinoids as Antioxidants and Neuroprotectants”
On January 1st, Colorado became the first state in the nation to legally sell marijuana for recreational purposes.

Hoax stories tell of blood raining in the streets of the state following the legalization, while Internet memes everywhere are pointing out the fact that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration admits legal prescription drugs kill 100,000 Americans every year (while marijuana has never been linked to any overdose deaths).

This is also going to be a financial boon for the state, considering all the taxes it will rake in (an estimated $67 million a year, not to mention the millions of dollars saved in law enforcement costs for enforcing marijuana prohibition), and many are calling it a first step in nationwide legalization.

Regardless of whether or not you personally agree with marijuana legalization, would it surprise you to know that the U.S. government, via the Department of Health and Human Services, actually owns a patent on the use marijuana’s primary active ingredients as both “antioxidants” and “neuroprotectants”?

It’s U.S. Patent #6,630,507 titled ”Cannabinoids as Antioxidants and Neuroprotectants,” dated October 7, 2003:

Cannabinoids have been found to have antioxidant properties, unrelated to NMDA receptor antagonism. This new found property makes cannabinoids useful in the treatment and prophylaxis of wide variety of oxidation associated diseases, such as ischemic, age-related, inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. The cannabinoids are found to have particular application as neuroprotectants, for example in limiting neurological damage following ischemic insults, such as stroke and trauma, or in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and HIV dementia.

Seeeerioussssslyyyyy dude. Marijuana is used to treat actual diseases and disorders; it hasn’t been shown to cause them.

Parents Matt and Paige Figi would certainly agree in regard to marijuana’s neuroprotectant effects; their six-year-old was diagnosed with the rare and often deadly Dravet Syndrome. She was having upwards of 300 seizures a week. After putting her on all manner of pharmaceuticals, the parents finally turned to medicinal marijuana. Now their daughter might have one seizure a week (but sometimes she doesn’t have any).

Medicinal marijuana, already legal in 20 states, allows people to use it for treatment of everything from chronic pain to glaucoma to arthritis to offsetting the effects of harsh cancer treatments. Speaking of, studies have also shown that cannabinoids have anti-cancer properties as well.

Meanwhile, marijuana still accounts for half of all illicit drug violations and billions spent annually in law enforcement costs in a country that puts more people in prison per capita than any other nation in the world, with nearly 700,000 people arrested per year for marijuana possession alone. In a recent study on the racially biased aspect of marijuana prohibition, the ACLU noted that the drug is actually overcriminalized, as cops averaged one pot bust every 37 seconds just in 2010; further studies revealed that more marijuana arrests did not contribute to less violent crime overall.

When put in contrast with the fact that alcohol, perfectly legal in the U.S., is responsible for 4% of deaths every year worldwide — more than AIDS, tuberculosis or violence — the claim that marijuana prohibition is ultimately in the public interest is unconvincing at best.

Melissa Melton is a writer, researcher, and analyst for The Daily Sheeple, where this first appeared, and a co-creator of Truthstream Media. Wake the flock up!

Winter weather blasts Central, Atlantic Canada – Canada – CBC News

Winter weather blasts Central, Atlantic Canada – Canada – CBC News.

Snow plows prepare to clear slushy streets in Toronto on Monday as forecasters warn freezing rain will turn roads in much of Southern Ontario into ice paths. Snow plows prepare to clear slushy streets in Toronto on Monday as forecasters warn freezing rain will turn roads in much of Southern Ontario into ice paths. (Tony Smyth/CBC)

Prairies deep freeze

Prairies deep freeze 2:33

Newfoundland power update

Newfoundland power update1:24

Storm hits Atlantic Canada

Storm hits Atlantic Canada2:18

 

 

The relentless weather is causing misery this morning across much of Canada, with southern Ontario hit with freezing rain, wind-chill warnings in some parts of the Prairies and 30,000 Newfoundlanders still in the dark after a mass power outage on the weekend.

 

 

In Ontario, parts of the province were hit with massive snowfalls, while other areas, including the Toronto region, were pelted with snow and freezing rain.

 

CANADA/Both drivers and pedestrians in Toronto are being urged to be aware of a possible flash-freeze in time for Monday’s rush hour. (Devaan Ingraham/Reuters)

“In southern Ontario, that temperature is starting to drop and quickly,” CBC meteorologist Jay Scotland said Monday morning. “That slushy mix on the roads is icing up quickly.”

Both drivers and pedestrians are urged to be aware of a possible flash freeze during the morning commute. A flash-freeze warning comes when a steep temperature drop causes water from rain or melted snow to quickly freeze.

The weather wreaked havoc at Pearson International Airport in Toronto on Monday morning, with hundreds of flights cancelled or delayed. Both Air Canada and WestJet advised customers to check their flight status before heading to the airport.

Due to weather, please check with your airline for delays or cancellations and give yourself extra time to get to the airport safely.

— Toronto Pearson (@TorontoPearson) January 6, 2014

“I wasn’t five minutes here at the airport before people started telling me horror stories of being stuck on an airplane for hours on end,” CBC reporter Linda Ward said from the airport.

“Passengers are telling me their planes just couldn’t get to the gate because of so many cancelled planes, so it’s definitely a very frustrating scene here this morning … The people who were on those planes [are] very angry, very tired, very hungry … They say all in all this was just a horrible travel experience.”

Environment Canada extended wind-chill and flash freeze warnings for the Toronto area on Monday morning, warning temperatures will feel as cold as –35 C to –40 C Monday night and into Tuesday morning.

A mix of snow and rain in Toronto, and snow further north, produced hundreds of accidents on the roads and highways Sunday evening, including one crash in Brampton that left one man dead.

Local school boards warned parents to check online Monday morning to see if any schools cancelled classes for the day. The Toronto Catholic District School Board said it would release a decision by 6 a.m. ET and the Toronto District School Board warned of potential closures.

Much of Quebec was also facing adverse weather warnings Monday morning. Environment Canada issued winter storm, freezing rain and wind warnings for most of the province.

Storm wallops Atlantic Canada

The winter weather blast also left much of Atlantic Canada under weather advisories.

  • Police advise motorists, including all officers, to stay off the roads as dangerous whiteout conditions brought on by snow and wind continue to lash much of Atlantic Canada. Here, a pedestrian in Halifax braves the blizzard.
1 of 17

“Atlantic Canada is a real mess … where I see the risk of freezing rain continuing this morning as a warm front pushes north,” Scotland said.

“For much of the Maritimes, this will switch over to rain through the morning and early afternoon … and further east warnings are out for Newfoundland who deal with this mess tonight through tomorrow — gusty wind, freezing rain and heavy rain.”

Environment Canada issued freezing rain warnings for most of New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island. Nova Scotia was under freezing rain and rainfall warnings, while Newfoundland was under freezing rain, blizzard and wind warnings.

In Newfoundland and Labrador, about 30,000 Newfoundland Power customers were still without electricity Monday morning after a power plant went offline in the latest power problem to hit the province in recent days.

Residents and businesses throughout the province were told to conserve energy as the province grapples with rolling power outages.

As generation becomes avail. from @nlhydro we are continuing to add customers. Conservation is still extremely important. #darknl

— Newfoundland Power (@NFPower) January 6, 2014

Aging infrastructure, a terminal station fire and a blizzard that ripped through the province Friday night combined to overburden an already stretched electricity grid, according to Premier Kathy Dunderdale.

At the peak of the power outages Saturday morning, about 190,000 customers were in the dark, Newfoundland Power said.

Prairie deep freeze

Meanwhile, much of Saskatchewan and Manitoba are under extreme wind chill warnings, where residents are facing temperatures that feel as cold as –40 C with wind chill.

“To the east, wind chill warnings are out from Hanna in eastern Alberta through southern Saskatchewan [and] Manitoba,” Scotland said.

“Across this warned area, current temps are well into the – 30s C with wind chills well into the – 40s.”

The potentially record-low temperatures are heightening fears of frostbite and hypothermia.

“Persons in or near this area should be on the lookout for adverse weather conditions and take necessary safety precautions,” warns Environment Canada.

George Osborne warns of more cuts and austerity in ‘year of hard truths’ | Politics | theguardian.com

George Osborne warns of more cuts and austerity in ‘year of hard truths’ | Politics | theguardian.com.

George Osborne is making a speech today saying more cuts worth £2bn are needed.

George Osborne warns of more cuts to the welfare budget. Photograph: Reuters

George Osborne has warned of another £25bn of cuts after the next election, targeting housing benefit for the better-off and under-25s.

In a grim message to start the new year, the chancellor said Britain was facing a year of hard truths in 2014 as there were more cuts to make and the economy still had big underlying problems. He said he expected the bulk of the savings to come from welfare, as it would be an “odd choice” to leave this “enormous budget” untouched.

Benefits for the young and people of working age would be considered before any cuts to pensioner benefits such as free bus passes and television licences, he said.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “If you were going to be looking for savings in welfare, pensioner benefits is not the place that I would first turn to. I would look at housing benefit for the under-25s, when there are many people listening to this programme who can’t afford to move out of their home but if you’re on benefits you can get housing benefit under the age of 25. There are people, for example, on incomes of £60,000 or £70,000 living in council homes – I’d look at that.”

Justifying his choice to target welfare again after around £83bn of previous cuts, the chancellor said: “I think we do have to look at the welfare budget because I think it would be an odd choice as a country to say, look we’ve got a high deficit and we’re going to deal with that by just cutting the schools budget or the science budget or something like that … and to leave untouched this enormous welfare budget. That ultimately is where you can find substantial savings.”

He said he did not know when people would start to feel the effects of recovery. “There’s a hard truth, which is this country is much poorer because of the economic collapse six or seven years ago, and families feel that. What is the answer? I can’t wave a magic wand and make the country richer. The way the country gets richer and families get richer is by being a competitive country that attracts jobs and investment.”

In a speech in the Midlands on Monday morning, Osborne said there was still a long way to go before recovery as he set out a five-point plan to help the economy. “We’ve got to make more cuts – £17bn this coming year, £20bn next year, and over £25bn further across the two years after. That’s more than £60bn in total.”

Osborne built on previous warnings about the need to intensify austerity, on top of billions of pounds of existing cuts, even though the economy appears to be turning a corner. In the speech, he said the job of fixing the economy was “not even half done”. “That’s why 2014 is the year of hard truths,” he said.

The chancellor’s negative outlook forms part of his argument that people should vote Conservative to let the party “finish the job”, rather than handing control back to Labour. However, Labour said more cuts were needed after 2015 because Osborne’s “failure on growth and living standards since 2010 has led to his failure to balance the books”.

“What we need is Labour’s plan to earn our way to higher living standards for all, tackle the cost-of-living crisis and get the deficit down in a fairer way,” said Chris Leslie, shadow chief secretary to the Treasury.

It comes after David Cameron on Sunday suggested that more cuts to housing benefit were on the way and refused to rule out reducing handouts for the elderly, which include free television licences, bus passes and winter fuel allowances.

With just 16 months to go before the next election, the prime minister gave his clearest hints yet about the Conservatives’ priorities for the 2015 manifesto, including more welfare cuts and higher state pensions every year for the rest of the decade. Speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, Cameron promised the Conservatives would keep the so-called triple lock on pensions until at least 2020 if in power – which means increasing it annually by inflation, average earnings or 2.5%, whichever is highest.

He said this decision to protect the income of pensioners above other age groups at a time of austerity was “a choice based on values, based on my values”. He denied it was a move to woo the grey vote, even though eight in 10 over-60s vote, compared with just four in 10 in the 18-24 age group.

But Cameron did not rule out cuts to universal benefits for the elderly, stressing that his previous promise to keep these handouts only extended as far as the end of this parliament in 2015. He also criticised the level of housing benefit for being “frankly far too high”. “We’ve put a cap on housing benefit, but I still think there’s more we can do to reform our benefits system,” he added.

Cameron also signalled that he wants to cut taxes for the lowest paid before taxes for the rich. He did not rule out reducing the 45p top rate of tax further to 40p, saying such decisions had to be made on the basis of whether they would raise more revenue, but suggested it was not top of his priorities. His remarks are potentially a hint that the Tories could pledge to increase the level at which workers start paying income tax above £10,000 – even though 5 million of the lowest paid earn even less than that and would see no benefit.

“I want taxes that mean the rich pay not just a fair share, as it were, in taxes, but I actually want the rich to pay more in taxes,” he said. “So you ought to set tax rates that encourage people to earn, to set up businesses, to make money, and then to pay taxes. And actually what we’re finding with the 45p rate is I think it’s going to bring in a better percentage of money than the 50p rate is. So you should always look at how you set taxes in that way.

“But my priority if you like – the priority of this government and the Conservative party – the priority is to target tax reductions on the poorest people in our country … If I had money in the coffers I would target that money at the lowest paid.”

Labour said the prime minister’s words suggested he was still “paving the way for yet another cut to the top rate of tax, a further tax giveaway for millionaires and the top Tory donors who bankroll Cameron’s Conservative party”.

During the interview, Cameron also insisted a Conservative victory at the next election was achievable and that he would go all out for it even though the party is far behind Labour in the opinion polls and a new survey suggests a third of Tory voters have deserted the party since 2010.

“We’ve got 16 months to the next election. This year for me is a year about governing, it’s about delivering, it’s about putting in place the elements of that long-term plan. I’m content that the public will judge me and the government I run and the party I run in 2015,” he said.

Japan hits back at China with wizard comment – Asia-Pacific – Al Jazeera English

Japan hits back at China with wizard comment – Asia-Pacific – Al Jazeera English.

Hayashi’s letter was an apparent response to an earlier op-ed by Chinese ambassador to London [AP]
The diplomatic bickering between Japan and China has descended into name-calling in the British press, with claim and counter-claim by the countries’ ambassadors invoking the fictional evil wizard of the Harry Potter series, Lord Voldemort.

In an opinion piece published in Britain’s Daily Telegraph newspaper on Monday, Tokyo’s envoy to London, Keiichi Hayashi, compared Beijing to the villain of JK Rowling’s multi-million selling books.

“East Asia is now at a crossroads. There are two paths open to China,” Hayashi wrote.

“One is to seek dialogue, and abide by the rule of law. The other is to play the role of Voldemort in the region by letting loose the evil of an arms race and escalation of tensions, although Japan will not escalate the situation from its side.”

Hayashi’s letter was an apparent response to an earlier op-ed – also invoking Voldemort – published by the paper on January 1 by Liu Xiaoming, Chinese ambassador to London.

In the letter, Liu harshly criticised Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s recent visit to Tokyo’s controversial Yasukuni war shrine, which honours Japanese war dead, including men convicted of serious war crimes in the wake of Japan’s 1945 World War II defeat.

On Monday, Abe said he wanted to explain to leaders in China and South Korea why he visited a controversial shrine.

He expressed his hope that the leaders could meet to diffuse tension over longstanding territorial disputes and historical issues.

The shinto shrine is seen by China and other Asian nations as a symbol of Japan’s militarist past.

“If militarism is like the haunting Voldemort of Japan, the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo is a kind of horcrux, representing the darkest parts of that nation’s soul,” the Chinese envoy wrote.

In the Harry Potter series, a horcrux is a receptacle in which evil characters store fragments of their souls to enable them to achieve immortality.

China Services PMI Crumbles To 2nd Worst Level On Record | Zero Hedge

China Services PMI Crumbles To 2nd Worst Level On Record | Zero Hedge.

Following the missed expectations of the Manufacturing PMIs in China, it appears ‘reform’ is having the exact slow-growth-inducing credit-creation-dampening effects many had worried about (but dismissed because – well the Fed has out back right?). HSBC’s China Services PMI slumped by its most in 8 months to its lowest level since August 2011 (the 2nd worst level since the data began). New business expansion in particular dropped to its lowest level in 6 months and while labor market conditions improved marginally, HSBC – desperate to cling to some silver lining – noted the Composite PMI remains above 50 (phew) – adding “we expect the steady expansion of manufacturing sectors to lend support to service sector growth…” or not. Markets are disappointed…

 

This is also the slowest ‘expansion’ of Services relative to Manufacturing since April 2011

 

 

It seems JPY and US equities need Bernanke to start talking again very soon!!!

%d bloggers like this: