Category: Poverty / Homeless / Hunger


Jobseekers being forced into zero-hours roles

Letter from Conservative minister reveals plans to sanction unemployed people if they fail to agree to controversial contracts
Jobseekers

Jobseekers queue outside a Jobcentre Plus branch at London Bridge. Photograph: Oli Scarff/Getty Images

 

For the first time, benefit claimants are at risk of sanctions if they do not apply for and accept certain zero-hours jobs under the new universal credit system, despite fears that such contracts are increasingly tying workers into insecure and low paid employment.

Last week, the Office for National Statistics revealed the number of contracts that do not guarantee minimum hours of work or pay but require workers to be on standby had reached 1.4 million.

More than one in 10 employers are using such contracts, which are most likely to be offered to women, young people and people over 65. The figure rises to almost half of all employers in the tourism, catering and food sector.

Currently, people claiming jobseekers’ allowance are not required to apply for zero-hours contract vacancies and they do not face penalties for turning them down.

However, the change in policy under universal credit was revealed in a letter from Esther McVey, an employment minister, to Labour MP Sheila Gilmore, who had raised the issue of sanctions with her.

The senior Tory confirmed that, under the new system, JobCentre “coaches” would be able to “mandate to zero-hours contracts“, although they would have discretion about considering whether a role was suitable.

Separately, a response to a freedom of information request to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) published on its website reveals: “We expect claimants to do all they reasonably can to look for and move into paid work. If a claimant turns down a particular vacancy (including zero-hours contract jobs) a sanction may be applied, but we will look into the circumstances of the case and consider whether they had a good reason.”

Higher level sanctions – imposed if a jobseeker refuses to take a position without good reason or leaves a position voluntarily – will lead to a loss of benefits for 13 weeks on the first occasion, 26 weeks on the second occasion and 156 weeks on the third occasion.

Asked about the issue by the Guardian, the DWP said jobseekers would not be required to take a zero-hours contract that tied them in exclusively to work for a single employer. The government is already consulting on whether to ban this type of contract altogether.

The change has been made possible because universal credit will automatically adjust the level of benefits someone receives depending on the number of hours they work. This means claimants should not face periods without the correct benefits when their earnings fluctuate or they change job.

However, critics raised concerns that the new policy will force people into uncertain employment and restrict the ability of claimants to seek better work while still placing a burden on many to increase their hours.

Labour’s Sheila Gilmore said she was concerned about the situation because JobCentre decision makers already do not appear to be exercising enough discretion before applying sanctions under the old regime.

“While I don’t object to the principle of either universal credit or zero-hours contracts, I am concerned about this policy change,” she said. “I also fear that if people are required to take jobs with zero-hours contracts, they could be prevented from taking training courses or applying for other jobs that might lead to more stable and sustainable employment in the long term.”

 

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ByBruce Kennedy

Another bad sign for America’s middle class

You don’t have to be an economic victim of the Great Recession to know that America’s middle class is being squeezed in an unprecedented manner. Not only is the U.S. middle class no longer the world’s richest, according to recent research, but millions of families who were once financially secure are now living hand-to-mouth.

What’s going on? A new report from the National Employment Law Project finds that, nearly five years after the recession officially ended, most of the jobs that have been created during the recovery offer lower wages. Such positions made up 22 percent of jobs lost in the recession, but have accounted for 44 percent of employment growth.

 

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Where is the middle class heading?

 

The labor research and advocacy group also found that, from the outset of the recession in late 2007 to its low point in February of 2010, “employment losses occurred throughout the economy, but were concentrated in mid-wage and higher-wage industries.”

By contrast, mid-wage positions, which composed 37 percent of the jobs cut in the recession, have made up only 26 percent of those recovered. High-wage industries, which made up 41 percent of recession jobs lost, reportedly had a 30 percent recovery growth.

“Today, there are nearly 2 million fewer jobs in mid- and higher-wage industries than there were before the recession took hold, while there are 1.85 million more jobs in lower-wage industries,” NELP said in a statement,

 

Read More Here

 

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The low wage jobs explosion

  @Luhby April 28, 2014: 4:57 PM ET

low wage explosionLow wage jobs are on the rise.

NEW YORK (CNNMoney)

Looking for a job? The ones you’ll find will likely be low wage.

The labor market has been recovering since the Great Recession ended, but many of the jobs created have been in low-wage industries, according to a new report by the National Employment Law Project, a left-leaning group.

Among the fastest-growing jobs: Food services, home health care and retail — all of which pay relatively little.

Better paying blue-collar industries, such as construction and manufacturing, have not recovered to their employment levels before the recession.

Lower wage industries accounted for 44% of employment growth since employment hit bottom in February 2010, the group found.

Going back to the start of the recession six years ago, the nation has added 1.85 million jobs in low-wage industries, but mid-wage and higher-wage industries have shed nearly 1 million positions each.

 

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Depriving the homeless of their last shelter is Silicon Valley at its worst – especially when rich cities aren’t doing anything to end homelessness

homeless in california
There are nearly 90,000 homeless people live in Los Angeles County but only 9,000 to 10,000 beds available in homeless shelters, single-room occupancy hotels, and other facilities. Photograph: David McNew / Getty Images

Across the United States, many local governments are responding to skyrocketing levels of inequality and the now decades-long crisis of homelessness among the very poor … by passing laws making it a crime to sleep in a parked car.

This happened most recently in Palo Alto, in California’s Silicon Valley, where new billionaires are seemingly minted every month – and where 92% of homeless people lack shelter of any kind. Dozens of cities have passed similar anti-homeless laws. The largest of them is Los Angeles, the longtime unofficial “homeless capital of America”, where lawyers are currently defending a similar vehicle-sleeping law before a skeptical federal appellate court. Laws against sleeping on sidewalks or in cars are called “quality of life” laws. But they certainly don’t protect the quality of life of the poor.

To be sure, people living in cars cannot be the best neighbors. Some people are able to acquire old and ugly – but still functioning – recreational vehicles with bathrooms; others do the best they can. These same cities have resisted efforts to provide more public toilet facilities, often on the grounds that this will make their city a “magnet” for homeless people from other cities. As a result, anti-homeless ordinances often spread to adjacent cities, leaving entire regions without public facilities of any kind.

Their hope, of course, is that homeless people will go elsewhere, despite the fact that the great majority of homeless people are trying to survive in the same communities in which they were last housed – and where they still maintain connections. Americans sleeping in their own cars literally have nowhere to go.

Indeed, nearly all homelessness in the US begins with a loss of income and an eviction for nonpayment of rent – a rent set entirely by market forces. The waiting lists are years long for the tiny fraction of housing with government subsidies. And rents have risen dramatically in the past two years, in part because long-time tenants must now compete with the millions of former homeowners who lost their homes in the Great Recession.

The paths from eviction to homelessness follow familiar patterns. For the completely destitute without family or friends able to help, that path leads more or less directly to the streets. For those slightly better off, unemployment and the exhaustion of meager savings – along with the good graces of family and friends – eventually leaves people with only two alternatives: a shelter cot or their old automobile.

 

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I stumbled onto this blog ( The Last Great Stand) today and  found something  that  I  felt  I  needed to  share.  There  is  so  much  information here.  So  much research and  data  has  been  compiled that I was  compelled. 

For those  who are teetering on the  fence……

It is  time  to open your  eyes  and  see the possibilities of what  our  future could very  well be. 

Do  we  know  for  sure any of this  will take place?

No one  can  be  100% sure.

Was  anyone 100% sure  that the  Great Depression  would take  place?

I am  betting that  those  who took  their lives  after the  crash  , never in their  wildest  dreams  thought anything quite like that  would take  place.     I am  also  willing to  bet  they  would have laughed at  anyone warning them of  the  impending doom  about  to  descend on their prosperous lives.

Still feeling strong  in your  convictions  of  ridicule and  conspiracy theory labeling?

How many listened  when the financial trouble  of  2008 was being  discussed?

It hit  most  like a  runaway train.

Question is  ……has it  rattled  your  sense  of  reality  enough to  bring you out of  your little  idyllic  dream world?

If  it  has , then do not let the  length  nor the  volume  of  information  in these presentations  deter you.  Here  you  will find  information  you  may  already  be  aware  of  and  items  that  had  never even  occurred to you.  In  either  case  it is  well worth the  time invested.

I  hope  you  will give it a  go ,  you have  nothing to  lose  but a  bit  of  time  and  so  much  to  gain.

For those  who are  still poo pooing good luck to  you .  I  sincerely  wish you  well.

~Desert Rose~

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MY PERSONAL PREDICTIONS IN DETAIL
JUST USING COMMON SENSE
(WITH A TOUCH FROM PARTS I-IX)

 

For anyone interested in learning just how screwed the U.S. is, I am doing what will end up being about 10 Part Series. Many people laugh when you mention the Dollar collapsing and Martial Law. I’m afraid it’s no laughing matter. I put these together to explain to the nay sayers as best I could:

by reasonvoice

The Last Great Stand

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The Last Great Stand

 

Part I: Saudi Arabia Acting Like an Anchor Weight Around the Petrodollar…

by reasonvoice

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The largest oil exporter in the Middle East has teamed up with the second largest consumer of oil in the world (China) to build a gigantic new oil refinery and the mainstream media in the United States has barely even noticed it.  This mammoth new refinery is scheduled to be fully operational in the Red Sea port city of Yanbu by 2014.  Over the past several years, China has sought to aggressively expand trade with Saudi Arabia, and China now actually imports more oil from Saudi Arabia than the United States does.  In February, China imported 1.39 million barrels of oil per day from Saudi Arabia.  That was 39 percent higher than last February.  So why is this important?  Well, back in 1973 the United States and Saudi Arabia agreed that all oil sold by Saudi Arabia would be denominated in U.S. dollars.  This petrodollar system was adopted by almost the entire world and it has had great benefits for the U.S. economy.  But if China becomes Saudi Arabia’s most important trading partner, then why should Saudi Arabia continue to only sell oil in U.S. dollars?  And if the petrodollar system collapses, what is that going to mean for the U.S. economy?

Those are very important questions, and they will be addressed later on in this article.  First of all, let’s take a closer look at the agreement reached between Saudi Arabia and China recently.

The following is how the deal was described in a recent China Daily article….

In what Riyadh calls “the largest expansion by any oil company in the world”, Sinopec’s deal on Saturday with Saudi oil giant Aramco will allow a major oil refinery to become operational in the Red Sea port of Yanbu by 2014.

The $8.5 billion joint venture, which covers an area of about 5.2 million square meters, is already under construction. It will process 400,000 barrels of heavy crude oil per day. Aramco will hold a 62.5 percent stake in the plant while Sinopec will own the remaining 37.5 percent.

At a time when the U.S. is actually losing refining capacity, this is a stunning development.

Yet the U.S. press has been largely silent about this.

Very curious.

Read More Here

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The Last Great Stand

Part II: The Beginning of the End of the Petrodollar: And The United States

by reasonvoice



Throughout history, empires and their civilisations have come and gone. During the first part of the last century, the US quietly built its empire, first in the North and Central Americas and in South America. Soon after the Second World War, the US worked to maximise the advantages it gained, and the power it assumed, between 1943 and 1945, from its victory over Germany and Japan, and as a consequence of massive Soviet casualties, and large British debt and financial burden caused by the war. The USA assumed the leading role in the Western world by, on one hand, containing the Soviet Union and preventing the spread of communist revolution beyond the borders of the Soviet bloc; and on the other hand, ensuring uncontested American supremacy within the Western world.

During the Cold War years, there was little or no challenge to the dominant position of the US in the Western world. However, with the end of the Soviet Union in 1991, the knot tying the basic objectives of the US global strategy together began to come unravelled. Once the communist danger was off the table, American supremacy ceased to be an automatic requirement of the Western system.

Since 20 September 2002, the US government has abandoned its former multilateral approach to global affairs, and adopted an imperial posture known as the so-called Bush doctrine.

This new agenda is based on militarist and imperial values with some theocratic overtones. This current agenda looks much like what some people see in US foreign policy at the end of the 19th century, and the beginning of the 20th, when the US actively sought to dominate the entire Caribbean basin, Central America and even the western Pacific.

Six months after the Bush doctrine was announced, the new American doctrine was applied as a justification for an unprovoked war against Iraq by the neo-conservative administration of the US government. Toppling Saddam Hussein’s regime without the support of the UN, and in the face of strong opposition from traditional US allies, was a clear presentation of a new unilateralist American foreign policy. The “regime change” in Baghdad was not an isolated event, but only an opening salvo in a much broader neo-conservative agenda. The neo-conservatives ‘advocate a paradigm shift in which the United States spreads American values by asserting American power-by force, if necessary’. This agenda seeks to reshape American hegemonic practices according to old imperial doctrines, but with new post-colonial political and military tools.

Since 2005, there is a looming crisis brewing over Iran. In the media the phantom of Iran “threat” is being amplified across the world. In order to justify a military operation against Iran, the neo-conservative rulers of the US have started a demonization campaign against this country, presenting the latest incarnation of America’s enemy, in much the same way Saddam Hussein was in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq. They have put a lot of effort into making people believe that Iran is ruled by dangerously crazy people who are trying to make a nuclear bomb, and that they would not hesitate to bomb one or more US cities. In view of such a danger, the only answer is to wage a preventive war. Speculations about possible U.S.-Israel attacks on Iran have reached a stage of war propaganda by Western media. A recent report by the Oxford Research Group revealed that any bombing of Iran by U.S. forces, or by their Israeli allies, would result in the unnecessary death of many innocent lives.

Many observers view the US neo-conservative clique and its agenda as a conspiracy. This article, however, is based on the premise that they are merely part of a larger equation of global economic and political conditions. This view is rooted in an understanding that vested interests representing the energy, electronics, weapons, and influential segments of the media and communications industries in the US are always entrenched in key sectors of government. These interests are concerned with maintaining their privileged position. And key elements of the US economic and political elite are now responding directly to changes in global conditions that have arisen since the end of the Cold War. This is not a conspiracy. It is only business as usual.

Since the end of the Cold War, the US has waged four wars – two in Iraq, one in the former-Yugoslavia, and one in Afghanistan- and is threatening more. All this aggression is not the result of a paranoid theory, but simply a convergence of political and economic interests, travelling under the rubric of “war on terror”. This argument is not based on the image of a few evil people, conspiring in secret, against the people for their evil aims. However, diverging from conspiracy theory does not ignore the fact that indeed there are real conspiracies, criminal or otherwise. In particular, the US political landscape is littered with examples of illegal political, corporate and government conspiracies, such as Watergate, and the Iran-Contra scandal.

Having said that I generally consider the belief in conspiracy theories a pointless diversion of focus, and waste of energy. While real conspiracies have existed throughout history, history itself is not a conspiracy.

Since the end of the Cold War, the power of the United States is in decline. Particularly its share of world trade and manufacturing is substantially less than it was just prior to the end of the Cold War, and its relative economic strength measured against the EU and the East Asian economic group of Japan, China and Southeast Asia is similarly in retreat. The persistent use of US military power can be viewed as a reaction to its declining economic power and not merely as a response to the post-Cold War geopolitical picture. The American neo-conservative leaders see the military power of the US ‘as a trump card that can be employed to prevail over all its rivals’, and thus stop this decline. This is what the Bush administration is trying to achieve: to create a militarised world in which the strength of the US military forces can change and re-define the rules of the game. This is a clear goal, a specific agenda, which does not constitute a conspiracy. It is merely the way in which the system currently works, and the US is taking advantage of existing structural opportunities. This article is an attempt to provide primarily a macroeconomic explanation to the origins of and motivations behind the recent US policies shaped by the neo-conservative Bush administration.

Read More Here

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The Last Great Stand

Part III: Why Are We Letting China Buy American companies?

by reasonvoice

CAN YOU IMAGINE THE INFLATION ALL  HITTING THE SYSTEM AT ONCE?

IN MY OPINION, THAT PUTS THE STOCK MARKET’S REAL VALUE AT LESS THAN AN OUNCE OF GOLD WHEN THE FINANCIAL HOUSE OF CARDS FINALLY DOES COME CRASHING DOWN. ITS ALMOST COMPLETELY WORTHLESS, REGARDLESS OF THE NUMBER IT READS. OF COURSE STOCKS ARE GOING TO PLUNGE!

This takeover, the largest takeover of a US company by a Chinese firm, represents a precedent that will damage the American economy and cost jobs in the long run.

It also may have emboldened China. Weeks after permission was granted by Washington, Beijing claimed the airspace over some contested islands in the East China Sea as “a defense identification zone.” Chinese saber rattling forced the Pentagon to dispatch two unarmed B-52 bombers to fly in the airspace to send a message to China that it was overstepping its bounds.

China’s ambitions are multi-pronged and the Smithfield Foods transaction is another questionable invasion by Beijing. Currently, American authorities only evaluate foreign takeovers on the basis of national-security issues or shareholder rights and securities laws. But these criteria are inadequate.

A fairer test in the case of Smithfield, and future buyout attempts by China, should also require reciprocity: Only corporations from countries that allow Americans to buy large companies should be allowed to buy large American companies.

That’s not the case with China, Middle Eastern sheikhs or Russians. Critics of reciprocity label this as protectionism. It’s not. It’s protectiveness.

Here’s why.

Last year, Chinese banks were also allowed for the first time to buy several financial institutions. Next year, in the absence of curbs, China will likely launch a bid for a sizeable resource company. This was last attempted in 2005, when a Chinese oil giant bid $18.5 billion to buy Unocal Corporation. Congress and the media reacted negatively and the Chinese withdrew the bid.

But Wall Street has been lobbying to allow China in to make big takeovers so it can earn larger fees.
They and others argue that restricting China would be unfair and foolish because American companies have been allowed to invest billions in China. But investments there are restricted to “green fields” — high-risk start-up operations or minority ownership. The fact is that Coca-Cola or General Motors or Maytag cannot take control of an existing, established Chinese rival.

Smithfield has become the branch plant of its new proprietor — a holding company called Shuanghai International Holdings Limited, the biggest meat processor in China. But the ultimate beneficial owner is the Chinese government, and Shuanghai answers to the politics, policies and edicts of Beijing. This is the nature of “China Inc.”

The Smithfield buyout is a great loss because the company has become a huge exporter, to Japan and elsewhere, and has developed, with taxpayer assistance, systems and technologies that are best in class.

Of course, that was why it became a target and why China Inc. overpaid to get it. But the only American beneficiaries will be a handful of investors. The rest of Smithfield’s stakeholders, and the American economy, will be bruised.

The damage includes the fact that Smithfield’s technology, research and development and patents will be transferred to the Chinese parent company. Smithfield will be hollowed out and the head office will be moved to China. Talent will leave.

Read More Here

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The Last Great Stand

Part IV: Get Ready America. It’s Going to be US In the Nike Sweatshops Very Soon!

by reasonvoice

  • The Role These Chinese Buys Will Play In Our Downfall
  • What is FRACTIONAL RESERVE BANKING and why does it matter?
  • I talked about our lack of ability to PRODUCE for ourselves if we had to. 
  • The Article Talks About the Chinese Investments

HOW IS ALL THIS WORKING TOGETHER?

THINK… NONE OF THIS FACTORS OUR DOMESTIC FINANCIAL WOES

ARTICLE BELOW DOES AN UNREAL JOB EXPLAINING THE CURRENT TRANSITION

What Russia has done is allow the Chinese to become the wholesale brokers of Russian oil. The deal is between Russian Rosneft the biggest oil company in the world and  China’s Sinopec.  The deal is valued at $85 billion and will supply China with 100 million tons of Crude oil. On top of that LNG (Liquid Natural Gas) deal was signed that will sell 3 million tons of LNG per year to China as well . The energy deals between the two partners is worth $270 Billion over the course of 25 years. Over 21 trade deals in total have been signed by the two powers and none of them have anything to do with the dollar.

imply incredible is what I can say that has transpired in the last 6 years since the collapse of the US economy in 2008. Folks what we are witnessing right now is the final paragraphs of the final chapter that was the US economic superpower. I am not kidding you nor am I using any form of hyperbole when I say that this year is critical. Though I do not posses a crystal ball to tell you “EXACTLY” when the end will come, what I do posses is major market as well as global indicators that can give me an idea as to a time frame.

Using the vast amount of data at my fingertips what I can tell you is this: 2014 is the year to prepare and get your life in order and I will detail this as clearly as I can to show you why.

  • First and foremost there is a major global reconfiguration away from the dollar as a the preferred means of trade settlement.

I have often stated that the largest economies have taken strategic steps already to trade in a world without the dollar.  The chief architects of this plan are the Russians and Chinese and what they have done and are doing is dismantling with precision the petro-dollar supremacy. Case in point, Russia is the largest oil producer in the world and they have back in 2013 set up a deal with the Chinese. That deal was the first major shot into the Dollar’s armor as world reserve currency and it’s grip to the pricing of oil

So what does it mean? Simple the largest oil producer is handing off the distribution of it’s product to the largest economy in world (China) to sell it in YUAN bypassing the dollar!!!  In order to put this in proper perspective you have to get into your head that the entire Petro-Dollar scheme was based off the idea of cheap Saudi oil supplied perpetually. Well that reality is coming apart in a major way, lets take a second and look at Saudi oil and it’s history.

Read More Here

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The Last Great Stand

Part V: The Coming Economic Enslavement of Communism

by reasonvoice

Experts Warning of Coming Global Financial MeltdownThis all is starting to make a lot of sense now. In the last month there has been 8 mysterious death of 8 bankers across the globe. Maybe they knew something and were trying to warn others before its too late. From Bank of America’s head of global technical strategy warning that the U.S. dollar is in serious trouble, to Capitol One’s unprecedented policy change where they will now show up at Credit Card users homes to collect on debts, it seems even the big banks are going into panic mode.

In spite of all the government media propaganda, the warning signs are getting harder and harder to ignore. The fact is, our economy has teetered on the edge of the financial abyss for quite some time; and with the government now racking up over $1 trillion dollars a year in debt, it’s only a matter of time before the house of cards comes crashing down.U.S. about to hit the Debt Ceiling Yet Again…We are now only a couple of weeks away from another possible government default, as Treasury Secretary Jack Lew warns the government will run out of money to pay the nation’s bills, unless congress yet again raises the federal debt limit.

As part of the so-called budget deal that reopened the government last October, Congress suspended the $16.7-trillion debt limit through Feb. 7, 2014. With that deadline now passed, we’re now only weeks away from another possible default, causing some to wonder how much more this economy can take. In fact, former Harvard Economist Terry Burnham is so worried that he pulled all of his money out of Bank of America, and started warning everyone that they might want to consider doing the same.

Read More Here

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The Last Great Stand

Part VI: China Starts To Make A Power Move Against The U.S. Dollar

by reasonvoice

With the Chinese buying up and owning our few (relative) existing factories, we will be weak and at the mercy of others. We will be beyond any level of weakness the United States has ever known. In comes FEMA Cammps…

In order for our current level of debt-fueled prosperity to continue, the rest of the world must continue to use our dollars to trade with one another and must continue to buy our debt at ridiculously low interest rates.  Of course the number one foreign nation that we depend on to participate in our system is China.  China accounts for more global trade than anyone else on the planet (including the United States), and most of that trade is conducted in U.S. dollars. 

This keeps demand for our dollars very high, and it ensures that we can import massive quantities of goods from overseas at very low cost.  As a major exporting nation, China ends up with gigantic piles of our dollars.  They lend many of those dollars back to us at ridiculously low interest rates.  At this point, China owns more of our national debt than any other country does.  But if China was to decide to quit playing our game and started moving away from U.S. dollars and U.S. debt, our economic prosperity could disappear very rapidly.  Demand for the U.S. dollar would fall and prices would go up.  And interest rates on our debt and everything else in our financial system would go up to crippling levels.  So it is absolutely critical to our financial future that China continues to play our game.

Unfortunately, there are signs that China has now decided to start looking for a smooth exit from the game.  In November, I wrote about how the central bank of China has announced that it is “no longer in China’s favor to accumulate foreign-exchange reserves”.  That means that the pile of U.S. dollars that China is sitting on is not going to get any higher.

In addition, China has signed a whole host of international currency agreements with other nations during the past couple of years which are going to result in less U.S. dollars being used in international trade.  You can read about many of these agreements in this article.

This week, we learned that China started to dump U.S. debt during the month of December.  Many have imagined that China would try to dump a flood of our debt on to the market all of a sudden once they decided to exit, but that simply does not make sense.  Instead, it makes sense for China to dump a bit of debt at a time so that the market will not panic and so that they can get close to full value for the paper that they are holding.

As Bloomberg reported the other day, China dumped nearly 50 billion dollars of U.S. debt during the month of December…

China, the largest foreign U.S. creditor, reduced holdings of U.S. Treasury debt in December by the most in two years as the Federal Reserve announced plans to slow asset purchases.

The nation pared its position in U.S. government bonds by $47.8 billion, or 3.6 percent, to $1.27 trillion, the largest decline since December 2011, according to U.S. Treasury Department data released yesterday.

This is how I would do it if I was China.  I would try to dump 30, 40 or 50 billion dollars a month.  I would try to make a smooth exit and try to get as much for my U.S. debt paper as I could.

So if China is not going to stockpile U.S. dollars or U.S. debt any longer, what is it going to stockpile?

It is going to stockpile gold of course.  In fact, China has been voraciously stockpiling gold for quite some time, and their hunger for gold appears to be growing.

According to Bloomberg, more than 80 percent of the gold that was exported from Switzerland last month went to Asia…

Read More Here

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The Last Great Stand

Part VII: U.S. Stock Market Takes a Dive – Is The Bubble Beginning to Pop?

by reasonvoice

THIS ARTICLE IS IN MY SERIES FOR ONE REASON, AND ONE REASON ONLY. 

NO ONE CAN PREDICT EXACTLY WHEN THE CRASH IS GOING TO HAPPEN.
THERE ARE TOO MANY VARIABLES THIS TIME, vs. THE HOUSING BUBBLE. 
IN A LATER PIECE I WILL DESCRIBE HOW I SEE IT ALL FITTING TOGETHER…
BUT FOR NOW… JUST FACTS IN PARTS I-VII

In regard to the U.S. stock market bubble it’s not a question of if it will pop, but rather of when (and what excuse the so called experts that denied that it was coming will use to distract from the real cause). They’ll tell you it was due to slow downs in emerging markets, some disappointing jobs report or lower than expected corporate earnings, but this is like blaming a blade of grass that a soap bubble lands on for its demise. Bubbles pop because they are bubbles. Once they are inflated the result is inevitable. The wind may carry it a bit farther than expected (QE3) but sooner or later the laws of nature always prevail.

Read More Here

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The Last Great Stand

Part VIII: 25 Fast Facts About The Federal Reserve – Please Share With Everyone You Know

by reasonvoice

Most Americans are under the illusion the FED is somehow part of our government. Whether that would be a good thing or a bad thing is really irrelevant, because it’s not. The FED is an independently owned bank that operates for the benefit of one group of people and one group of people only… the owners of the Fed.

As we approach the 100 year anniversary of the creation of the Federal Reserve, it is absolutely imperative that we get the American people to understand that the Fed is at the very heart of our economic problems.  It is a system of money that was created by the bankers and that operates for the benefit of the bankers.  The American people like to think that we have a “democratic system”, but there is nothing “democratic” about the Federal Reserve.  Unelected, unaccountable central planners from a private central bank run our financial system and manage our economy.  There is a reason why financial markets respond with a yawn when Barack Obama says something about the economy, but they swing wildly whenever Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke opens his mouth.  The Federal Reserve has far more power over the U.S. economy than anyone else does by a huge margin.

THE FED IS THE BIGGEST PONZE SCHEME IN THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD, and if the American people truly understood how it really works, they would be SCREAMING for it to be abolished immediately.  The following are 25 fast facts about the Federal Reserve that everyone should know…

#1 The greatest period of economic growth in U.S. history was whenthere was no central bank.

#2 The United States never had a persistent, ongoing problem with inflation until the Federal Reserve was created.  In the century before the Federal Reserve was created, the average annual rate of inflation was about half a percent.  In the century since the Federal Reserve was created, the average annual rate of inflation has beenabout 3.5 percent, and it would be even higher than that if the inflation numbers were not being so grossly manipulated.

#3 Even using the official numbers, the value of the U.S. dollar has declined by more than 95 percent since the Federal Reserve was created nearly 100 years ago.

#4 The secret November 1910 gathering at Jekyll Island, Georgia during which the plan for the Federal Reserve was hatched was attended by U.S. Senator Nelson W. Aldrich, Assistant Secretary of the Treasury Department A.P. Andrews and a whole host of representatives from the upper crust of the Wall Street banking establishment.

#5 In 1913, Congress was promised that if the Federal Reserve Act was passed that it would eliminate the business cycle.

#6 The following comes directly from the Fed’s official mission statement: “To provide the nation with a safer, more flexible, and more stable monetary and financial system. Over the years, its role in banking and the economy has expanded.”

#7 It was not an accident that a permanent income tax was also introduced the same year when the Federal Reserve system was established.  The whole idea was to transfer wealth from our pockets to the federal government and from the federal government to the bankers.

#8 Within 20 years of the creation of the Federal Reserve, the U.S. economy was plunged into the Great Depression.

#9 If you can believe it, there have been 10 different economic recessions since 1950.  The Federal Reserve created the “dotcom bubble”, the Federal Reserve created the “housing bubble” and now it has created the largest bond bubble in the history of the planet.

#10 According to an official government report, the Federal Reserve made 16.1 trillion dollars in secret loans to the big banks during the last financial crisis.  The following is a list of loan recipients that was taken directly from page 131 of the report…

Citigroup – $2.513 trillion
Morgan Stanley – $2.041 trillion
Merrill Lynch – $1.949 trillion
Bank of America - $1.344 trillion
Barclays PLC – $868 billion
Bear Sterns – $853 billion
Goldman Sachs – $814 billion
Royal Bank of Scotland – $541 billion
JP Morgan Chase – $391 billion
Deutsche Bank – $354 billion
UBS – $287 billion
Credit Suisse – $262 billion
Lehman Brothers – $183 billion
Bank of Scotland - $181 billion
BNP Paribas – $175 billion
Wells Fargo – $159 billion
Dexia – $159 billion
Wachovia – $142 billion
Dresdner Bank – $135 billion
Societe Generale – $124 billion
“All Other Borrowers” – $2.639 trillion

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The Last Great Stand

Part IX: Explaining The Federal Reserve, Inflation, and the Economic Bubbles About To BURST In Layman’s Terms

by reasonvoice

DO YOU EVER WONDER?

Ever wonder about why our economy is in trouble? How can so many people can be in so much debt at the same time? Does it seem strange to you no matter how hard one works, and in spite of all the advances in society, most hard working people cannot escape the treadmill of perpetual debt?

Why are so many families losing their homes to foreclosure? Why are many households dependent upon credit cards to supplement their income? Why does it take TWO spouses to maintain a household when it used to take just one? Why have so many retirement savings been wiped out? Why do prices always creep up?

Did you know that close to 1/3 of all income taxes are consumed just to pay interest on the Federal Debt? (National Debt currently 17 TRILLION DOLLARS , or about $165,000 per household.) Think about it. Every penny that you pay in income tax from January 1 – April 1 is consumed just to pay interest on Federal debt, much of it to foreign banking families!  And let’s not forget the Government’s unfunded future liabilities, estimated at 75 TRILLION. (an additional $750,000+ per household.)

Add those staggering sums to the 11 Trillion in total consumer debt (mortgages, car loans debt, credit cards, etc), student loan debt (1 Trillion more), State debt, County debt, City/Town debt, small business debt, big business debt, and you will see that the total of these debts actually exceeds (BY FAR) the amount of money supply in circulation.

So, how can such astronomical debt ever be repaid? Well, if you haven’t figured it out yet – IT CAN’T. The only way for society to service just the interest on these monstrous debts is to constantly inject new debts into the system.

Finally, on top of all your Federal, State, gasoline, and local taxes, (30% – 40% of your gross income) and on top of your personal debt service burden (another 25%-50%), there’s this thing called “inflation”, or  ”the cost of living.” What exactly is “the cost of living?” What causes it? Why does a dollar buy less and less each year while wages stay flat?

Is the stress of perpetual debt and rising prices keeping you up at night? How many strokes, heart attacks, and even suicides are induced by financial stress each year? Money and debt may even have led to your drinking problem, or perhaps even to  depression. Debt may have been the underlying cause of your divorce or that of some couple that you know.

You know in your gut that something isn’t right in this country. But you don’t have the “Economics education” to figure it out. It all seems too complicated for you to put your finger on, so you just keep slaving away to pay interest and taxes as your dollar buys less and less. All you can do is keep working like a dog and leave the matter to the Wall Street “experts” and politicians to handle for you.

But it’s all quite simple really. So simple in fact, even a dummy can understand it when it is broken down to basic elements.

Read More Here

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The Last Great Stand

Part X: A Storm is Brewing on the Horizon – Martial Law Before 2016?

by reasonvoice

All Out Political Revolution and War is Upon America in 2014?????

Problems I See As Unavoidable:

This is a perfect chance for my two cents on the monetary system. Parts I – IX gave all the technical reasons the Dollar doesn’t stand a chance in the long run. I think it’s far more common sense than all those technical reasons, but I wanted to shut up all the nay sayers. 

First, I think we can assume a worthless Dollar is VERY bad. That takes away our ability to import things we don’t produce domestically. That means whatever we use to sustain ourselves as a nation has to be here. Let’s think about it: As Part III put, we have not only outsourced almost all of our production capability overseas for cheap labor, what little production capacity we have left is being rapidly bought up by the Chinese so they can get out of our Dollar and retain something of value: namely our production capability. 

How do 300 million people survive if we can’t import anything and don’t produce squat because we are a “service” economy now? Short answer? We don’t. Not enough for everyone. That means if you have food, people will do whatever is necessary for them and their loved ones. Chances are if you have none, you’ll do the same. THAT is how a worthless Dollar plays out. Period. There will be a TON of violence for those without somewhere safe, heavily stocked with food, and well protected. 

NOW, THE MILLION DOLLAR QUESTION: DO WE EVER GET TO THAT POINT?

1. Hyperinflation: 

  • Right now the Fed is monitizing our debt to the tune of about 85 BILLION per month. That is over $5 TRILLION OUT OF THIN AIR since Obama took office. What does that mean? It means they are printing that money out of thin air. That does two things. First, it debases our currency as can be seen by one look at the dollar index. LOOK YOURSELF! The dollar has been in free fall. The ONLY thing saving the Dollar is that it is still the world reserve currency… but don’t get too excited because I’ll get to that later. Don’t count on that continuing for long. In addition to debasing the currency, it creates inflation. MASSIVE INFLATION.
  • The government tells us inflation is like 2%. Um. Ok. Gas went from under $2.00 to close to $4.00. What is that? Food prices are going up – but NOTHING like they will be soon. The same bag of dog food I used to get for $9.50 is now about $13.00. What is that if not inflation? That doesn’t sound like 2% to me. Anyone in your family who does the food shopping KNOWS food prices are going up much more than 2%.
  • We have not even begun to feel the inflation that is coming as a result of the printing presses Obama and his economic advisors have been running around the clock.
  • As I mentioned we use a system of banking called Fractional Reserve Banking. Everyone knows banks have been tight on lending money. Familiarize yourself with how Fractional Reserve Banking works, and imagine when the full extent of all this printed money IS actually all in circulation. OMG. Prices will SKYROCKET… and I’m still not even touching the reserve currency status yet. I’m assuming we still have that thus far. Stay tuned for more on that. 
  • Remember those baby boomers on fixed incomes? How are those skyrocketing prices going to work out for them? Expect ramped up foreclosures and parents moving back in with their kids. As more people experience financial hardship they’ll buy less stuff, causing companies to cut back MORE – that means more layoffs, more foreclosures, and the cycle keeps going. This is when I see the Dow ultimately dipping to around 5,000.
  • Furthermore, if there are skyrocketing prices, and super high unemployment, how will people feed their families? Hmmm. I sense this could create some MAJOR problems. I fully predict neighbor will be robbing neighbor trying to feed starving family members, so you better be armed and ready to protect your food…. oh wait… Obama wants your guns. Wow.

2. Healthcare: Even without the atrocity otherwise known as Obamacare, the costs of healthcare have already been increasing exponentially, so healthcare is potentially the first domino in a long line of dominos that ultimately bring down the financial strength of this nation. How? I am a simple man, so I’ll use simple arithmetic:

  • We have the largest generation in American history just entering retirement. Consequently, as a nation we will face the largest expenditures for healthcare probably in human history, but at the very least in American history. Where are these baby boomers going to get the money to pay those medical bills? The “stock market” (which is a term I will use generally for retirement investments) is where most of this enormous group of Americans have the bulk of their wealth tied up. Not all do, but a huge majority of them.
  • Prior to the 2008 crash it was estimated about 40% of Americans had enough money saved for retirement. Let’s be REALLY optimistic and say that after the crash 35% still had enough. First of all, that would be LUDICROUS, but lets assume so anyway. It’s obviously a MUCH lower number.
  • As the baby boomers begin to cash in those investments for their ungodly high medical bills and their retirement living in general, the stock market is inevitably going to drop as money is pulled out. It MIGHT not be so bad if Generation X or their employers were contributing even a fraction of what their baby boomer parents did to replace the withdrawls. HOWEVER, the reality is that so many Generation X ‘s are out of work or underemployed, so there is NOWHERE NEAR enough going in to replace what will be coming out. Furthermore, about 50% of the money in the stock market right now is “Institutional Investors.” When the Fed is lending at 0%, why not borrow and invest speculatively if you’re a huge financial institution?
  • Guess what? BUBBLE #1: We have another stock bubble brewing, but that is the smallest of the bubbles presently brewing. At some point, the institutional investors will begin the selloff and start to get out of the overpriced market while the getting is good. In an attempt to minimize losses to their retirement funds, the mom and pops of the country are going to be scrambling to get out as fast as they can. Prices will be dropping like a rock as institutions pull out in volume, and mom and pop always panic. It’s like clockwork. THEN, stocks REALLY start to drop like a ROCK as everyone is trying desperately to get into CASH. On a side note, when the market bottoms out and the mom and pops are all cleaned out and devastated, THAT is when the institutional investors will jump back in at low prices and ride the wave back up that screws the average investor again. It’s a cycle. That’s assuming we’re not under Martial Law by then- but I’ll get to that in a bit.
  • As stock prices drop, eventually we’ll see a mad selloff driven by fear like in 2008. In turn, since corporations could care less about the welfare of their employees, and they only care about the almighty shareholder – it will be LAYOFF time. MASSIVE LAYOFFS will be needed to cut costs so share prices stay up as much as possible. The more people continue to get laid off, you can count on the cycle of people not making their mortgage payments to start up again. THEN, another super round of foreclosures will begin. Banks still haven’t gotten rid of all the previous foreclosures on the books from 2008, so expect prices of homes to drop faster than you can say FAST as the selloff begins again.
  • More people pull out of the market, leads to more layoffs, leads to more jobless, leads to more foreclosures, and the cycle will be rapid. I could easily see the Dow and an ounce of gold both being around $5,000. Yes – I said 5,000. I am very well aware we’re at 16,000 now. But how you ask? Calm down, I’m getting there.

 

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Huge crowd of Palestinians is photographed waiting for aid in Yarmouk, which has been under blockade for month

Click here to see the full picture

 

 

Yarmouk refugee camp

Refugees queue for food parcels in Yarmouk. Photograph: Handout/Reuters

 

 

It is a vision of unimaginable desolation: a crowd of men, women and children stretching as far as the eye can see into the war-devastated landscape of Yarmouk refugee camp in Damascus.

A photograph released on Wednesday by the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, shows the scene when thousands of desperate Palestinians trapped inside the camp on the edge of the Syrian capital emerged to besiege aid workers attempting to distribute food parcels.

More than 18,000 people are existing under blockade inside Yarmouk, enduring acute shortages of food, medicines and other essentials. Much of the camp has been destroyed by shelling, and attempts to deliver aid to those inside have been hampered by continued fighting in Syria‘s three-year-old civil war.

United Nations workers have delivered about 7,000 food parcels over recent weeks, following negotiations between the Syrian government, rebel forces and Palestinian factions within the camp. The most recent delivery, of 450 parcels, was on Wednesday. The UN acknowledges that the level of aid is a “drop in the ocean”.

Yarmouk has been cut off since last July. Many residents are now weak and severely malnourished, as well as being exposed to the risk of disease, or death and injury from fighting.

Filippo Grandi, the head of UNRWA, described the camp as a ghost town after visiting this week. “The devastation is unbelievable. There is not one single building that I have seen that is not an empty shell by now. They’re all blackened by smoke,” he told reporters.

He said he was even more shocked by the camp’s residents, who flooded towards aid distribution points. “It’s like the appearance of ghosts. These are people who have not been out of there, that have been trapped in there not only without food, medicines, clean water – all the basics – but also probably completely subjected to fear because there was fierce fighting … They can hardly speak. I tried to speak to many of them, and they all tell the same stories of complete deprivation.”

 

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UN chief ‘deeply disturbed’ by refugee camp in Syria

The chief of the UN relief agency supporting Palestinian refugees said he is “deeply disturbed and shaken” by the despair and destruction he had seen in a besieged camp in the Syrian capital.

The Yarmouk refugee camp, located in southern Damascus, is an opposition enclave under the tight blockade of forces loyal to President Bashar Assad.

More than 100 people have died in Yarmouk since mid-2013 as a result of starvation and illnesses exacerbated by hunger or lack of medical aid, according to UN figures.

Filippo Grandi, commissioner general of UNRWA, was visiting Yarmouk as the relief agency resumed food distribution there. Shipments to the camp have been disrupted for months, sometimes cut off for weeks at a time, and Yarmouk has suffered from crippling shortages of food and medicine.

“I am deeply disturbed and shaken by what I observed,” Grandi said. Palestinian refugees to whom he spoke in Yarmouk were “traumatised by what they have lived through.”

The extent of damage to the refugees’ homes was shocking, he also said, adding that many Palestinians in Yarmouk need immediate support, particularly food and medical treatment.

Yarmouk is the largest of nine Palestinian camps in Syria. Since the camp’s creation in 1957, it has evolved into a densely populated residential district just five miles from the centre of Damascus. Several generations of Palestinian refugees have lived there.

 

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Palestinians in Syrian camp are ‘traumatized’

 

More than 100 people have died in Yarmouk since mid-2013, some of starvation

 

    • ap
    • Published: 16:25 February 25, 2014
    • Gulf News

 

 

Damascus: The chief of the United Nations relief agency supporting Palestinian refugees said on Tuesday he is “deeply disturbed and shaken” by the despair and destruction he’d seen in a besieged camp in the Syrian capital.

 

The Yarmouk refugee camp, located in southern Damascus, is an opposition enclave under the tight blockade of forces loyal to President Bashar Al Assad. More than 100 people have died in Yarmouk since mid-2013 as a result of starvation and illnesses exacerbated by hunger or lack of medical aid, according to UN figures.

 

Filippo Grandi, the Commissioner General of UNRWA, was visiting Yarmouk as the relief agency resumed food distribution there. UNRWA shipments to the camp have been disrupted for months, sometimes cut off for weeks at a time, and Yarmouk has suffered from crippling shortages of food and medicine.

 

“I am deeply disturbed and shaken by what I observed,” Grandi said in a statement. Palestinian refugees to whom he spoke in Yarmouk Monday were “traumatized by what they have lived through.”

 

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Revelations of mistreatment of maids and cleaners add to picture of widespread labour abuse in World Cup host nation

 

 

Qatari women with maid

Qatari women with their children and housemaid strolling in Doha. Photograph: Stock Connection/REX

 

Foreign maids, cleaners and other domestic workers are being subjected to slave-like labour conditions in Qatar, with many complaining they have been deprived of passports, wages, days off, holidays and freedom to move jobs, a Guardian investigation can reveal.

Hundreds of Filipino maids have fled to their embassy in recent months because conditions are so harsh. Many complain of physical and sexual abuse, harassment, long periods without pay and the confiscation of mobile phones.

The exploitation raises further concerns about labour practices in Qatar in advance of the World Cup, after Guardian reports about the treatment of construction workers. The maids are not directly connected to Qatar’s preparations for the football tournament, but domestic workers will play a big role in staffing the hotels, stadiums and other infrastructure that will underpin the 2022 tournament.

Our investigation reveals:

• The Philippine Overseas Labour Office (POLO) sheltered more than 600 runaway maids in the first six months of 2013 alone.

• Some workers say they have not been paid for months.

• Many housemaids do not get days off.

• Some contracts and job descriptions are changed once the workers arrive in Qatar.

• Women who report a sexual assault can be charged with illicit relations.

The non-payment of wages, confiscation of documents and inability of workers to leave their employer constitute forced labour under UN rules. According to the International Labour Organisation, forced labour is “all work which is exacted from someone under the menace of any penalty and for which the said person has not offered himself voluntarily”.

Lack of consent can include induced indebtedness and deception about the type and terms of work, withholding or non-payment of wages and the retention of identity documents. Initial consent may be considered irrelevant when deception or fraud has been used to obtain it.

“Menace of penalty” can include physical violence, deprivation of food and shelter, non-payment of wages, the inability to repay a loan, exclusion from future employment and removal of rights and privileges.

Modern-day slavery is estimated to affect up to 21 million people across the globe.

When the Guardian visited in January, at least 35 runaway maids had sought sanctuary at the POLO in the capital, Doha, which provides support to 200,000 Filipinos in Qatar. The welfare officer said most complained of pay being withheld, insufficient food, overwork and maltreatment. Some said they had endured verbal and physical abuse by sponsors of different nationalities.

Eight Filipino workers interviewed by the Guardian said they had not been paid for six months, were sometimes deprived of food while cleaning for long hours and had had their passports confiscated.

“We are afraid,” said 28-year-old Jane*. “We don’t really know what to do. We are trying to survive. That’s why we do part-time jobs secretly.” If they are caught breaching their contract, the maids face months in a deportation centre. The repatriation process is often delayed when people do not have their passports, according to James Lynch, Amnesty International’s researcher on Gulf migrants’ rights.

Qatar vigorously denies it is a “slave state” and is understood to be reviewing the controversial system that governs migrant labour, and to have stepped up inspections of businesses that use migrant labour. The Qatari labour ministry said in a statement: “We have clear laws and contractual terms in place to protect all people who live and work in Qatar and anyone found to have broken those laws will be prosecuted accordingly.” It said that non-payment of wages and confiscation of passports were illegal in Qatar, and added: “The vast majority of workers in Qatar – domestic or otherwise – work amicably, save money and send this home to improve the economic situation of their families and communities in their home countries.”

But the Philippines-based OFW (Overseas Foreign Workers) Watch, which supports Filipino migrant workers, said physical abuse, delayed and refused salaries, the misrepresentation of employers and contracts and passport confiscations were common issues in Qatar. The Guardian has already highlighted this malpractice in its investigation into the mistreatment of migrant workers as Qatar gears up for the 2022 World Cup.

As with the construction workers, the abuse of maids is systemic and brought into sharp focus by a lack of legal protection and the kafala sponsorship system, under which workers cannot leave the country or change jobs without their employer’s permission, Lynch said.

“The women we’ve spoken to who have suffered abuses in the workplace, ranging from excessive working hours to physical violence, their employers came from a variety of countries,” he added.

Many maids say they do not get any rest days and that employers confiscate their mobile phones.

Several recruitment agencies contacted by phone told a Guardian reporter pretending to be a would-be client that they routinely withheld the passports of their migrant workers. One agency volunteered that it was up to the sponsor whether the maid had a day off. “If you want to give an off day, let them rest at your house,” an Al Hadeel Manpower representative said. “Don’t give them free days outside because there is more problems outside.”

 

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By Paul Bedard | FEBRUARY 24, 2014 AT 10:55 AM

Nearly a third of the 430 billion pounds of food produced for Americans to eat is wasted, a potential catastrophe for landfills and a wake-up call to officials scrambling to feed the hungry, according to a stunning new report from the Department of Agriculture.

The just-issued report revealed that in 2010, 31 percent, or 133 billion pounds, of food produced for Americans to eat was wasted, either molded or improperly cooked, suffered “natural shrinkage” due to moisture loss, or because people became disinterested in what they purchased.

“In 2010, an estimated 133 billion pounds of food at the retail and consumer levels in the United States went uneaten, and this amount is valued at $161.6 billion using retail prices. This amount of food loss translates into 141 trillion calories in 2010. These estimates suggest that annual food loss in the United States is substantial,” said Ag.

The report comes as the administration is growing concerned about landfills running out of space and struggling to help the one-sixth of Americans who go hungry every day. The report noted that 14 percent of garbage dumped into landfills is food waste, and that 49 million people, mostly poor, need more food.

While waste isn’t new to America, the volume revealed in the report is shocking, and the reasons sometimes just as surprising.

The report provides estimates of waste for different foods, including the top food groups wasted. No. 1 in 2010, the sample year, was the group including meat, poultry and fish. The report said 30 percent, or $48 billion, was wasted.

The reasons for trashing food included dented cans, spills, mold, poor coloring and even religion. Below is USDA’s list of reasons consumers trashed their food:

• Spillages, abrasion, bruising, excessive trimming, excessive or insufficient heat, inadequate storage, technical malfunction.

• Sprouting of grains and tubers, biological aging in fruit.

• Consumers becoming confused over “use-by” and “best before” dates so that food is discarded while still safe to eat.

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10 Stories From The Cold, Hard Streets Of America That Will Break Your Heart

Depressed - Photo by Sander van der Wel

If the economy is really “getting better”, then why have millions upon millions of formerly middle class Americans been pushed to the point of utter despair?

The stories that you are about to read are absolutely heartbreaking.  I don’t know how anyone can read them without getting chills.  In America today, if you lose a good job, there is a good chance that you will get back on your feet before too long.  But there is also a good chance that you won’t be able to find a decent job and will plunge into the abyss of depression and desperation that so many millions of other Americans have fallen into.  As I wrote about earlier this month, the U.S. economy is definitely not getting any better.  For example, if you assume that the percentage of Americans that want to work is about at the long term average, then the official unemployment rate in the United States would be above 11 percent.  And compared to six years ago, 1,154,000 fewer Americans are working today even though our population has gotten significantly larger since then.  Behind all of these numbers are real flesh and blood people, and you are about to hear from some of them.  The following are 10 stories from the cold, hard streets of America that will break your heart…

#1 A 34-year-old man named Rocco

“While my wife goes to work, I’ve been staying at home to conserve fuel. I’ve been losing weight from eating less, so my family has more on their plates. It feels like the government and big business expect more and more while trying to give back as little as possible. Soon my internet connection will be shut off and since most companies don’t offer paper applications, how will I find work then? Walking around for miles a day, asking for an application that may or may not be available?”

#2 Homeless people wasting away in “Obamavilles” on the outskirts of Baltimore, Maryland…

A sheet of plastic laid over a clothesline. A mini-fortress of milk crates stacked under a tree. A thin mattress on a flimsy crate lying in a dark tunnel.

On the edge of Baltimore’s woodlands, dozens of the city’s transients live in makeshift homes which they consider safer than homeless shelters.

You can see some incredible photos of how these homeless people are living right here.

#3 A 50-year-old woman in Pennsylvania named Karen

“My husband only makes 10 dollars an hour and drives 30 miles round trip, so it’s taking all we have just to keep the Jeep filled with gas. We stopped going to church and all to save gas. We are homebodies now, afraid to use what gas we have. We save two kids from getting put in foster care just to be hit like this. It’s just a constant trap they try to keep you from receiving any help! I’m so disgusted when my 12-year-old asks me why we don’t have snacks anymore, or why are we eating so much rice, etc.”

#4 The following is an excerpt from a comment that was recently left by one of my readers

“I live right at ground zero. South West Virginia and let me tell you things are bad and getting worse by the day. We don’t do drugs but have family members hooked on meth and or pills or both. Many of these pills are prescribed by local doctors either Suboxone to get you off the opiates, a total joke by the way and tons of Xanax why would anyone need 120 Xanax a month how can you even be expected to function. These pills get traded for cash sex and other items, same goes for the SNAP cards. We have family members going to jail repeatedly for the same crimes making meth, selling pills and stealing anything that’s not nailed down. People who are 30 years old look like they are 55 years old. The jobs here are awful walmat, gas stations, fast food etc. Most of our whole county is on the government dole.”

#5 A 55-year-old man from California named Randy Carpadus

“I was working as a firefighter for the state of California and was laid off in April 2012, right at the beginning of fire season. At my age, I’m not going to be picked up by another fire department. They want younger guys.

I’ve applied for everything from truck driver, to sales, to nonprofit work. I’ve sent out almost 400 resumes, and I’ve gotten nothing. I’ve done whatever I could to make ends meet.

Through some connections, I got a temp job as a truck driver in Napa Valley — a 3-hour commute from where I live. I lived in my car and worked during grape harvest.”

#6 In this tough economic environment, debt collectors are becoming even more aggressive.  Just check out the kind of harassment that one woman named Jennifer Posey has been put through…

“This is Jimmy Lee calling from CheckCare. Just letting you know we’re in full force,” he said. The man had a thick Southern accent that stretched the word “you” into a two-syllable accusation. “We’re going to have warrants out for your arrest in Columbus, Ga.,” the man threatened. “We know you have an apartment on the canal in Clearwater.”

It was when he mentioned her home in Florida that Posey began to feel anxious. “We’re hurting you,” he continued. “We’re hurting your family, your son’s family, your cousin’s family. Whatever we can do to get you to pay.”

Forty minutes later, her phone rang again. “What about that 12-, 13-year-old child you’re trying to raise?” the voice sneered.

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MSN News

Baton Rouge’s Rich Want New Town to Keep Poor Pupils Out: Taxes

February 6, 2014 12:00 AM ET

By Margaret Newkirk

Saying they want local control, they’re trying to leave the 42,000-pupil public-education system. They envision their own district funded by property taxes from their higher-value homes, which would take money from schools in poorer parts of state-capital Baton Rouge, home of Louisiana State University. They even want their own city.

Similar efforts have surfaced in the past two years in Georgia, Alabama, Texas and Tennessee, some of them succeeding as the end of court-ordered desegregation removed legal barriers. The result may be a concentration of poverty and low achievement. A 2012 report by ACT, the Iowa-based testing organization, found only 10 percent of low-income students met college benchmarks in all subjects, less than half the average.

“It’s going to devastate us,” said Tania Nyman, 45, who has two elementary-age children in the Baton Rouge system. “They’re not only going to take the richer white kids out of the district, they are going to take their money out of it.”

U.S. educational funding varies by state, often relying heavily on local taxes. The South, once notorious for segregated schools, by 2011 had the nation’s second-narrowest funding disparity among districts, according to a study by the Federal Education Budget Project, a Washington-based research organization that is an offshoot of the nonpartisan New America Foundation.

Dropping Further

Louisiana, however, scored worst in the nation, according to the study. A December report by three LSU economics professors found that breaking up the East Baton Rouge Parish school system would depress total per-pupil spending to $8,870 from $9,635. It would rise to $11,686 in the breakaway district.

Eighty percent of the current district’s students are black, and 82 percent poor enough to qualify for free or reduced school meals. Nyman and other district boosters say a split would set a dire precedent.

“Every affluent community in the state will want to create their own little school system,” said Carnell Washington, president of the East Baton Rouge Federation of Teachers.“They are taking money away that would help the entire school system and the entire city.”

Opting Out

Backers of the split, whose website is called Local Schools for Local Children, say the district has been failing for at least a dozen years, with some schools performing so poorly that the state took them over. In the 2011-2012 school year, six of 10 students attended a school ranked failing or almost failing by the state and the drop-out rate was 20 percent, according to Baton Rouge Area Chamber, a business group.

“Baton Rouge is one of the best job markets around, and the middle class is moving out,” said Republican state Senator Mack “Bodi” White. “Those who stay have their kids in private schools.”

About 30 percent of children within district lines were in private schools in 2009, according to Tulane University’s Cowen Institute for Public Education Initiatives.

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Business Insider

We Went Out To Count All Of The Homeless In New York City, And It Was Devastating

Surprisingly few were catching trains at this hour.

 

Jan. 29, 2014, 11:05 AM

For several freezing, early-morning hours Monday, Jan. 27, thousands of New York City volunteers patrolled the city’s streets and subways looking for undocumented homeless residents.

Last year’s survey reported a 13% rise to 64,060 homeless people in shelters and on the street, bucking a national trend of declining rates. This year’s numbers won’t be available for a few weeks.

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Though some people claimed not to be homeless at all, just between apartments or homes.

Though some people claimed not to be homeless at all, just between apartments or homes.

Robert Johnson for Business Insider

…..

Where The Homeless Are (And Are Not)


With food-stamp recipients dominated by ‘working age Americans’ for the first time in history; and 1.4 million having recently dropped off the benefits rolls, we suspect, extremely sadly, that the following breakdown of homelessness in America is about to get worse. Los Angeles has by far the greatest number of unsheltered homeless in America and New York City the largest population – at around 65,000 – of homeless people in the US. One wonders at the State of the Union tomorrow…

Via Vizual-Statistix,

The PIT estimates are based on counts of all sheltered and unsheltered homeless persons on a single night

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