Our Future and the End of the Oil Age

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This slide presentation by Dmitry Orlov is a thought provoking look into a future without oil. The time wean ourselves of this dependency is now and not when a barrel of oil reaches $200 a barrel.


The United States of Usury and the Takedown of the World Financial System – Oops!

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The United States of Usury and the Takedown of the World Financial System. Reminds a line from the Britney Spears song – Oops I did it again!

How many more insults will the world serfs take? The United States of Usury is being used and manipulated to bring down the entire world financial system. You have to wonder if Bernake and Obama are actually trying to “fix” things or if they are actually there to put the “fix in”. These agents of destruction need to be recognized and outed for what they really are. The United States of Usury is a fake economy, built on a fiat currency, run on the a financial model called fraud by the Federal Reserve. God help us all for the coming storm and serfdom…

Protect yourself – buy physical gold and silver, pray, eat healthy foods, exercise, read, become self-sufficient, stop buying garbage at the malls, and prepare.

  • More lucid commentary by Max Kesier
  • Max Keiser on Alex Jones
  • John Perkins and the Confessions of an Economic Hitman
  • Aquaponics
  • Window Farms

Who Benefits From High Food Prices?

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In this article way back in 2008 Nomi Prins rightly argues its market speculators like Goldman Sachs and cohorts that are behind the rise in food prices. As Monsanto and ADM post records profits, the poor the getter poorer, and food prices are increasing.

By Nomi Prins | Wed Jun. 18, 2008


Forget subprime. The next price bubble to watch is food speculation.

Last week, new consumer price data [1] released by the US Labor Department confirmed what most shoppers already suspected: Food prices, which took their biggest one-month leap in nearly two decades in April, rose even further in May. Energy costs, too, went up last month. The big question, though, is why?

At the financial leaders G8 summit [2] that wrapped up over the weekend, food and oil speculation were front and center.And G8 leaders aren’t the only ones expressing concern over traders profiting from the world’s pain. Major hedge-fund stars like George Soros and Michael Masters are also screaming moral foul on commodity speculation—a clear signal there’s more fire than smoke on the horizon.

US Food and Gas Expenditures as % of Income

As Masters told [3] a Senate committee last month, “Institutional investors have purchased over 2 billion bushels of corn futures in the last five years. [They] have stockpiled enough corn futures to potentially fuel the entire United States ethanol industry at full capacity for a year.”

Indeed, the current agricultural price bubble has produced record highs in soybeans and wheat as well. Against this backdrop, a clueless Congress passed US farmer and food-stamp aid within the recent farm bill, without addressing the possibility that speculation could be to blame, or that curtailing speculation could help alleviate the domestic and global food crisis. They should have looked toWall Street’s lead.

The latest grain and oilseed trading report from the Chicago Mercantile Exchange cited first quarter of 2008 trading volume up 32 percent over the last quarter of 2007. That’s extra money coming in from speculators, not corn or wheat farmers hedging their crop prices in case of bad weather.

Additionally, the hot new favorite among traders is betting on packages of energy and agricultural futures. Called CCO’s (collateralized commodity obligations), they are like their subprime cousins, CDO’s (collateralized debt obligations). Their performance is linked to rising commodity prices; the higher the prices, the more profit to the CCO.

There’s another group, besides the standard speculator crew, literally reaping extreme profits from the price squeezes—the crop equivalents of Exxon, multinational agricultural biotechnology corporations. Monsanto, which recently told the 12th Annual Goldman Sachs Agricultural Biotech Forum that its profits would double by 2012, is buzzing (PDF) [4]; the firm’s stock price doubled during the past year. ADM, the nation’s second-largest ethanol producer, saw its annual revenues increase by 64 percent. Even agriculture conglomerate Cargill’s third-quarter profits rose 86 percent.

Last week, a group of senators led by Carl Levin (D-Mich.) introduced the Close the London Loophole Act, which would curtail a situation that allows speculators to bypass all Commodity Futures Trading Commission regulations by trading on foreign exchanges.

But without strong regulation of electronic exchanges and the derivatives products that enable speculators to move huge proportions of the futures markets underlying commodities, putting a bit of regulation into the London-based exchanges will not alleviate anything. Unless that’s addressed, this bubble is going to take more than homes with it. It’s going to take lives.

Nomi Prins – Book TV: After Words: Nomi Prins, \”It Takes a Pillage\”


The Coming of the Dajjal and his System – Hamza Yusuf Lecture

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This is a 12 part lecture that has invaluable information for all believers in truth and justice. The wisdow of Shakyh Hamza Yusuf is even more appropriate now in these turbulent times.

Links to other lectures on the Dajjal;

In Madoff scandal, Jews feel an acute betrayal

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International Herald Tribune
In Madoff scandal, Jews feel an acute betrayal
By Robin Pogrebin
Wednesday, December 24, 2008

There is a teaching in the Talmud that says an individual who comes before God after death will be asked a series of questions, the first one of which is, “Were you honest in your business dealings?” But it is the Ten Commandments that have weighed most heavily on the mind of Rabbi David Wolpe of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles in light of the sins for which Bernard Madoff stands accused.

“You shouldn’t steal,” Rabbi Wolpe said. “And this is theft on a global scale.”

The full scope of the misdeeds to which Madoff has confessed in swindling individuals and charitable groups has yet to be calculated, and he is far from being convicted. But Jews all over the country are already sending up something of a communal cry over a cost they say goes beyond the financial to the theological and the personal.

Here is a Jew accused of cheating Jewish organizations trying to help other Jews, they say, and of betraying the trust of Jews and violating the basic tenets of Jewish law. A Jew, they say, who seemed to exemplify the worst anti-Semitic stereotypes of the thieving Jewish banker.

So in synagogues and community centers, on blogs and in countless conversations, many Jews are beating their chests — not out of contrition, as they do on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, but because they say Madoff has brought shame on their people in addition to financial ruin and shaken the bonds of trust that bind Jewish communities.

“Jews have these familial ties,” Rabbi Wolpe said. “It’s not solely a shared belief; it’s a sense of close communal bonds, and in the same way that your family can embarrass you as no one else can, when a Jew does this, Jews feel ashamed by proxy. I’d like to believe someone raised in our community, imbued with Jewish values, would be better than this.”

Among the apparent victims of Madoff were many Jewish educational institutions and charitable causes that lost fortunes in his investments; they include Yeshiva University, Hadassah, the Jewish Community Centers Association of North America and the Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity. The Chais Family Foundation, which worked on educational projects in Israel, was recently forced to shut down because of losses in Madoff investments. Many of Madoff’s individual investors were Jewish and supported Jewish causes, apparently drawn to him precisely because of his own communal involvement and because he radiated the comfortable sense of being one of them.

“The Jewish world is not going to be the same for a while,” said Rabbi Jeremy Kalmanofsky of Congregation Ansche Chesed in New York.

Jews are also grappling with the implications of Madoff’s deeds for their public image, what one rabbi referred to as the “shanda factor,” using the Yiddish term for an embarrassing shame or disgrace. As Bradley Burston, a columnist for haaretz.com, the English-language Web site of the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, wrote on Dec. 17: “The anti-Semite’s new Santa is Bernard Madoff. The answer to every Jew-hater’s wish list. The Aryan Nation at its most delusional couldn’t have come up with anything to rival this.”

The Anti-Defamation League said in a statement that Madoff’s arrest had prompted an outpouring of anti-Semitic comments on Web sites around the world, most repeating familiar tropes about Jews and money. Abraham Foxman, the group’s national director, said that canard went back hundreds of years, but he noted that anti-Semites did not need facts to be anti-Semitic.

“We’re not immune from having thieves and people who engage in fraud,” Foxman said in an interview, disputing any notion that Madoff should be seen as emblematic. “Why, because he happens to be Jewish, he should have a conscience?”

He added that Madoff’s victims extended well beyond the Jewish community.

In addition to theft, the Torah discusses another kind of stealing, geneivat da’at, the Hebrew term for deception or stealing someone’s mind. “In the rabbinic mind-set, he’s guilty of two sins: one is theft, and the other is deception,” said Burton Visotzky, a professor at the Jewish Theological Seminary.

“The fact that he stole from Jewish charities puts him in a special circle of hell,” Rabbi Visotzky added. “He really undermined the fabric of the Jewish community, because it’s built on trust. There is a wonderful rabbinic saying — often misapplied — that all Jews are sureties for one another, which means, for instance, that if a Jew takes a loan out, in some ways the whole Jewish community guarantees it.”

Several rabbis said they were reminded of Esau, a figure of mistrust in the Bible. According to a rabbinic interpretation, Esau, upon embracing his brother Jacob after 20 years apart, was actually frisking him to see what he could steal. “The saying goes that, when Esau kisses you,” Rabbi Visotzky said, “check to make sure your teeth are still there.”

Rabbi Kalmanofsky said he was struck by reports that Madoff had tried to give bonus payments to his employees just before he was arrested, that he was moved to do something right even as he was about to be charged with doing so much wrong. “The small-scale thought for people who work for him amidst this large-scale fraud — what is the dissonance between that sense of responsibility and the gross sense of irresponsibility?” he said.

In a recent sermon, Rabbi Kalmanofsky described Madoff as the antithesis of true piety.

“I said, what it means to be a religious person is to be terrified of the possibility that you’re going to harm someone else,” he said.

Rabbi Kalmanofsky said Judaism had highly developed mechanisms for not letting people control money without ample checks and balances. When tzedakah, or charity, is collected, it must be done so in pairs. “These things are supposed to be done in the public eye,” Rabbi Kalmanofsky said, “so there is a high degree of confidence that people are behaving in honorable ways.”

While the Madoff affair has resonated powerfully among Jews, some say it actually stands for a broader dysfunction in the business world. “The Bernie Madoff story has become a Jewish story,” said Rabbi Jennifer Krause, the author of “The Answer: Making Sense of Life, One Question at a Time,” “but I do see it in the much greater context of a human drama that is playing out in sensationally terrible ways in America right now.”

“The Talmud teaches that a person who only looks out for himself and his own interests will eventually be brought to poverty,” Rabbi Krause added. “Unfortunately, this is the metadrama of what’s happening in our country right now. When you have too many people who are only looking out for themselves and they forget the other piece, which is to look out for others, we’re brought to poverty.”

According to Jewish tradition, the last question people are asked when they meet God after dying is, “Did you hope for redemption?”

Rabbi Wolpe said he did not believe Madoff could ever make amends.

“It is not possible for him to atone for all the damage he did,” the rabbi said, “and I don’t even think that there is a punishment that is commensurate with the crime, for the wreckage of lives that he’s left behind. The only thing he could do, for the rest of his life, is work for redemption that he would never achieve.”

Haraam E-Numbers List

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Haram E-Numbers List

The following is a list of products containing animal by-products, such as animal fat, gelatine and fatty acids (fats). It is by no means certain that they are Haraam. Only Allah (SWT) knows, and may we be guided by Him. It is better to avoid products these e-numbers, as there is doubt about them.

E No. Description Notes

COLOURS

  • E120 Cochineal (red colour) from scale insects
  • E140 Chlorophyll fatty acids & others
  • E141 Copper phaeophytins from chlorophyll

PRESERVATIVE

E252 Potassium Nitrate waste animal & vegetable material

EMULSIFIERS

  • E422 Glycerol (Glycerine) from soaps & fatty acids
  • 430 Polyoxyethelene stearate fatty acid molecules
  • 431 Polyoxyethelene stearate fatty acids
  • 433 Polysorbate 80 oleic esters of sorbitol
  • E470 Sodium salts of soap fatty acids
  • E471 Glyceryl Monostearate from glycerin & fatty acid
  • E472a Acetic esters of fatty acids esters of glycerol & acetic acid
  • E472b Lactic esters of fatty acids esters of glycerol & lactic acid
  • E472c Citric esters of fatty acids esters of glycerol & citric acid
  • E472d Tartaric esters of fatty acids esters of glycerol & tartaric acid
  • E472e Acetyltartaric esters of fatty acids esters of glycerol & tartaric acid
  • E473 Sucrose esters esters of glycerol & sucrose
  • E474 Sucroglycerides from lard
  • E475 Polyglycerol esters of fatty acids
  • 476 Polyglycerol polyricinoleate castor oil & glycerol esters
  • E477 Propylene glycol esters propylene glycol
  • 478 Lactylated glycerol esters glycerol esters & lactic acid
  • 491 Sorbitan monostearate stearic acid and sorbitol
  • 492 Sorbitan Tristearate stearic acid
  • E494 Sorbitan mono-oleate from oleic acid
  • 542 Edible bone phosphate steam-extract from animal bones

ANTI-CAKING AGENTS

  • 570 Stearic acid fatty acid in animal fats & veg oils
  • 572 Magnesium stearate stearic acid

FLAVOURINGS

  • 631 Sodium 5_inosinate meat extract & dried sardines
  • 635 Sodium 5_ribonucleotide meat extract & dried sardines
  • 904 Shellac resin by lac insect

Additives or ingredients, which have not been allocated EEC numbers and may be derived from non-halal sources, are :

  • Edible / Animal fat or oil
  • Gelatin / gelatine
  • Enzymes of catalase, lipase, pepsin, trypsin, rennin (or rennet)
  • Please note that the E471 is also known as mono & di-glyceride of fatty acids (some manufacturers do not put the E-number but
  • put the wording instead). This can be of vegetable or animal origin. There are two ways of finding out : either the wrapper says
  • “suitable for vegetarians” or you have to ask the manufacturer.

The $475,000 dog house

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The $475,000 dog house is but one sign of what went wrong with our own late, great Guilded Age of architecture

The recent era of egregious consumer and corporate excess, now crashing down around our ears, is leaving behind many architectural reminders of itself. But for sheer egregiousness, few will ever beat a new residence being built near the English town of Cirencester.

It’s a $475,000 dog house.

Designed by British architect Andy Ramos, this residence will shelter a pair of Great Danes belonging to a surgeon, whose own luxurious house is to be constructed nearby.

The kennel details, as reported by the London-based Mail on Sunday newspaper, are fascinating.

The three-room dog house (two bedrooms and a lounge) will be outfitted with temperature-controlled sheepskin beds, a spa, an expensive hi-fi system, and a 52-inch plasma television set.

A retina scan at the entrance will enable the owner to keep out dogs who might try to pay unauthorized visits to the Great Danes. Closed-circuit TV cameras will provide the owner with round-the-clock surveillance of the dogs’ comings and goings between their house and their adventure playground.

A spokesman for the exclusive real estate development where the dog house will stand told The Mail: “People can design their own homes and this is a bit eccentric but it’s really nice that someone appreciates their pets as much as this lady does. She’s designed their quarters with all their needs at the fore.”

It would be easy, of course, to laugh off Mr. Ramos’s dog house as another folly of the extravagant age we live (or lived) in, then forget about the matter. If, that is, the pooch palace were merely an isolated architectural instance of some rich person’s silliness. It’s not.

Since the outset of the financial boom late in the last century, the landscapes of city and country (and the pages of the architecture magazines) have been littered with over-the-top residential extravaganzas that, despite their usually huge, overscaled size, are very often puny in artistic inspiration and ambition. The dog house is one example. There are many others.

But look-at-me, ostentatious bloat is only one part of the problem. There’s the issue of our period style, which has largely been a kind of imitative bombast.

Instead of encouraging innovative solutions to the old problem of housing, nouveau-riche clients in Britain and North America put architects to work designing lifeless, inflated pastiches of country homes in Georgian, French provincial or some other supposedly “aristocratic” manner. Everything got recycled into the new rural products — ponderous columns, architraves and pediments and entablature and the other bric-a-brac of classicism — but the results rarely sang with the elegance and flair of the originals.

Hitting the cities, the impact of this parody of ye-olde styles has been especially unfortunate. Take a drive through Toronto’s Forest Hill or York Mills or any other well-off neighbourhood in the city to see what I’m talking about. Hulking monster homes mar the streetscapes of modest Edwardian buildings (in Forest Hill) or spacious, mid-20th-century bungalows (in York Mills).

Massive, pretentious facades cobbled from remnants in the Tudor or Elizabethan or Georgian scrapyard glower out at pleasant streets that ask to be lined (and were, at least until the monster houses began to intrude) by far more retiring residences.

But if the latter-day crop of millionaires and billionaires have turned out to be aficionados of the overblown, it’s not possible to draw a necessary connection between wealth and bad taste.

The grandees of the old Georgian period (roughly 1714-1830, during the reigns of the British Georges I-IV) patronized the most advanced and intelligent architects of the day, who provided them with magnificent country seats and city mansions.

Frank Lloyd Wright was wildly successful among rich American businessmen, and even the radical Le Corbusier, a few decades later in Europe, found numerous rich private clients for his splendid experiments in residential architecture.

So what went wrong in the Gilded Age of our own century? I think it was a fateful convergence of the enormous growth of personal wealth, a widespread lack of constraint — the same failure of personal discipline and acceptance of limits that has fuelled the current economic crisis — and contempt for the human scale and visual fabric of the city, especially its streetscapes and the rhythms of its ordinary built forms.

This summing-up of the situation is, I know, a minority position, and many will disagree with it. If you think there is nothing wrong with constructing a dog house for half a million dollars, or dropping an ugly Tudor castle-gate on one of Toronto’s quiet Edwardian streets, I certainly could never convince you otherwise. But it may well be that the years of building such things are now over, and I, for one, am not sorry to see them go.

by JOHN BENTLEY MAYS
From Friday’s Globe and Mail
E-mail
December 5, 2008

Iceland – When an entire Country goes Bankrupt

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Stunned Icelanders Struggle After Economy’s Fall
By SARAH LYALL
November 9, 2008

REYKJAVIK, Iceland – The collapse came so fast it seemed unreal, impossible. One woman here compared it to being hit by a train. Another said she felt as if she were watching it through a window. Another said, “It feels like you’ve been put in a prison, and you don’t know what you did wrong.”

This country, as modern and sophisticated as it is geographically isolated, still seems to be in shock. But if the events of last month – the failure of Iceland’s banks; the plummeting of its currency; the first wave of layoffs; the loss of reputation abroad – felt like a bad dream, Iceland has now awakened to find that it is all coming true.

It is not as if Reykjavik, where about two-thirds of the country’s 300,000 people live, is filled with bread lines or homeless shanties or looters smashing store windows. But this city, until recently the center of one of the world’s fastest economic booms, is now the unhappy site of one of its great crashes. It is impossible to meet anyone here who has not been profoundly affected by the financial crisis.

Overnight, people lost their savings. Prices are soaring. Once-crowded restaurants are almost empty. Banks are rationing foreign currency, and companies are finding it dauntingly difficult to do business abroad. Inflation is at 16 percent and rising. People have stopped traveling overseas. The local currency, the krona, was 65 to the dollar a year ago; now it is 130. Companies are slashing salaries, reducing workers’ hours and, in some instances, embarking on mass layoffs.

“No country has ever crashed as quickly and as badly in peacetime,” said Jon Danielsson, an economist with the London School of Economics.

The loss goes beyond the personal, shattering a proud country’s sense of itself.

“Years ago, I would say that I was Icelandic and people might say, ‘Oh, where’s that?’ ” said Katrin Runolfsdottir, 49, who was fired from her secretarial job on Oct. 31. “That was fine. But now there’s this image of us being overspenders, thieves.”

Aldis Nordfjord, a 53-year-old architect, also lost her job last month. So did all 44 of her co-workers – everyone in the company except its owners. As many as 75 percent of Iceland’s private-sector architects have probably been fired in the past few weeks, she said.

In a strange way, she said, it is comforting to be one in a crowd. “Everyone is in the same situation,” she said. “If you can imagine, if only 10 out of 40 people had been fired, it would have been different; you would have felt, ‘Why me? Why not him?’ ”

Until last spring, Iceland’s economy seemed white-hot. It had the fourth-highest gross domestic product per capita in the world. Unemployment hovered between 0 and 1 percent (while forecasts for next spring are as high as 10 percent). A 2007 United Nations report measuring life expectancy, real per-capita income and educational levels identified Iceland as the world’s best country in which to live.

Emboldened by the strong krona, once-frugal Icelanders took regular shopping weekends in Europe, bought fancy cars and built bigger houses paid for with low-interest loans in foreign currencies.

Like the Vikings of old, Icelandic bankers were roaming the world and aggressively seizing business, pumping debt into a soufflé of a system. The banks are the ones that cannot repay tens of billions of dollars in foreign debt, and “they’re the ones who ruined our reputation,” said Adalheidur Hedinsdottir, who runs a small chain of coffee shops called Kaffitar and sells coffee wholesale to stores.

There was so much work, employers had to import workers from abroad. Ms. Nordfjord, the architect, worked so much overtime last year that she doubled her salary. She was featured on a Swedish radio program as an expert on Iceland’s extraordinary building boom.

Two months ago, her company canceled all overtime. Two weeks ago, it acknowledged that work was slowing. But it promised that there would be enough to last through next summer.

The next day, everyone was herded into a conference room and fired.

Employers are hurting just as much as employees. Ms. Hedinsdottir has laid off seven part-time employees, cut full-time workers’ hours and raised prices. The Kaffitar branch on Reykjavik’s central shopping street was perhaps half full; in normal times, it would have been bursting at its seams.

While business is dwindling, costs are soaring. When the government took over the country’s failing banks in October, Ms. Hedinsdottir’s latest shipment of coffee – more than 109,000 pounds – was already on the water, en route from Nicaragua. She had the money to pay for it, but because the crisis made foreign banks leery of doing business with Iceland, she said, she was unable to convert enough cash into foreign currency.

“They were calling me every day and asking me what the situation was, and they got really nervous,” Ms. Hedinsdottir said of her creditors. They got so nervous that they sent the coffee to a warehouse in Hamburg, Germany, where it now sits while she tries to find the foreign currency to pay for it.

Her fixed costs are no longer fixed. Five years ago, the company built a new factory, borrowing the 120 million kronur – about $1.5 million – in foreign currencies. But the currency’s fall has increased her debt to 200 million kronur. This summer, her monthly payments were 2.5 million kronur; now they may be double that – the equivalent of $38,500 in Iceland’s debased currency.

“My financial manager is talking to the banks every day, and we don’t know how much we’re supposed to pay,” Ms. Hedinsdottir said.

In a recent survey, one-third of Icelanders said they would consider emigrating. Foreigners are already abandoning Iceland.

Anthony Restivo, an American who worked this fall for a potato farm in eastern Iceland and was heading home, said all of the farm’s foreign workers abruptly left last month because their salaries had fallen so much. One man arrived from Poland, he said, then realized how little the krona was worth and went home the next day.

At the Kringlan shopping center on the edge of Reykjavik, Hronn Helgadottir, who works at the Aveda beauty store, said she could no longer afford to travel abroad. But the previous weekend, she said, she and her husband had gone for a last trip to Amsterdam, a holiday they had paid for months ago, when the krona was still strong.

They ate as cheaply as they could and bought nothing. “It was strange to stand in a store and look at a bag or a pair of shoes and see that they cost 100,000 kronur, when last year they cost only 40,000,” she said.

In Kopavogur, a suburb of Reykjavik, Ms. Runolfsdottir, the recently fired secretary, said she had worried for some time that Iceland would collapse under the weight of inflated expectations.

“If you drive through Reykjavik, you see all these new houses, and I’ve been thinking for the longest time, ‘Where are we going to get people to live in all these homes?'” she said.

The real estate firm that used to employ Ms. Runolfsdottir built about 800 houses two years ago, she said; only 40 percent have been sold.

By Icelandic law, Ms. Runolfsdottir and other fired employees have three months before they have to leave their jobs. At the end of that period, she will start drawing unemployment benefits.

Meanwhile, her husband’s modest investment in several now-failed Icelandic banks is worthless. “They were encouraging us to buy shares in their firms until the last minute,” she said.

She feels angry at the government, which in her view has mishandled everything, and angry at the banks that have tarnished Iceland’s reputation. And while she has every sympathy with the hundreds of thousands of foreign depositors who may have lost their money, she wonders why the Icelandic government – and, in essence, the Icelandic people – should have to suffer more than they already have.

“We didn’t ask anyone to put their money in the banks,” she said. “These are private companies and private banks, and they went abroad and did business there.”

Despite all this, Icelanders are naturally optimistic, a trait born, perhaps, of living in one of the world’s most punishing landscapes and depending for so much of their history on the fickle fishing industry. The weak krona will make exports more attractive, they point out. Also, Iceland has a highly educated, young and flexible population, and has triumphed after hardship before.

Ragna Sara Jonsdottir, who runs a small business consultancy, said she had met for the first time with other businesses in her office building. “We sat down and said, ‘We all have ideas, and we can help each other through difficult times,’ ” she said.

But she said she was just as shocked as everyone else by the suddenness, and the severity, of the downturn. When the prime minister, Geir H. Haarde, addressed the nation at the beginning of October, she said, her 6-year-old daughter asked her to explain what he had said.

She answered that there was a crisis, but that the prime minister had not told the country how the government planned to address it. Her daughter said, “Maybe he didn’t know what to say.”

Famous Cariboo Barbie Quotes – aka Sarah Palin

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“Math is hard. Let’s go shopping.”

cariboo barbie - aka sarah palin

cariboo barbie - aka sarah palin

“Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake.” – Napoleon Bonaparte

sarah palin scares me

sarah palin scares me

Top 150 words spoken at the Biden-Palin Debate

Top 150 words spoken at the Biden-Palin Debate

Great performance, Sarah Palin, but we are not that stupid

Sarah Palin - George Bushs Mini Me

Sarah Palin - George Bush's Mini Me

Bush in a Skirt

Bush in a Skirt

Palin = G.W Bush with lipstick

Palin = G.W Bush with lipstick

Nope Poster - Sarah Palin

Nope Poster - Sarah Palin

Japan’s Aging Workforce – Will America face the same problems?

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Japan has the fastest aging population of all industrialized nations, and now with the sharp economic downturn being experienced by global markets, the signs of an aging society are become more apparent.

An aging population that is either unable to work further places an additional burden on the health system, and an aging population that is unable to find work due to their age impacts negatively on the tax revenues. It is a double edged sword that is striking at the heart of Japan. In 2000, 17.4% of the Japanese population was 60 years or older,  and it is estimated that by 2025 and 2054 those numbers will increase to 28.7% and 36% respectively. For a more detailed analysis of the aging population in Japan and implications please read Yukiko T. Ellis’ report.

The United States and Canada are facing similiar problems with a dramatic rise in their population over the age of 60, which is estimated to jump from 16% in 2000 to over 25% in 2025. The impact of rise can be mitigated somewhat at least in the North American context with the influx of a younger immigrant base. However, Japan does not have this luxury and the fertility rate amongst Japanese females is some of the lowest in the world.

This article from Norimitsu Onishi highligts some of the social signs we are beginning to see now of an aging population combined with an economic slow down.

———————————————————-

A leftover city of day laborers in Japan faces grim future
By Norimitsu Onishi
Sunday, October 12, 2008

OSAKA, Japan: With job signs stuck to their vans’ windshields and sliding side doors left open in expectation, the recruiters were sizing up the potential hires at Japan’s largest day-labor market here recently.

By 4:30 a.m., thousands of aging day laborers had spilled out of the neighborhood’s flophouses and homeless shelters, or risen from its parks and streets, to form a potential work force of mostly graying men.

A sign on one blue van, barely legible in the twilight, offered a 15-day construction job paying $95 a day, minus $33 in room and board.

Although the terms were comparatively decent, the recruiter sitting in a folding chair in front of the blue van had found only one suitably young laborer by 5 a.m. Most were above the unwritten cutoff age of 55.

“It’s really hard to use the men here because they’ve gotten old,” said the recruiter, Takuya Nakamae, 55, turning his head toward his prize catch, a recruit in his 30s. “If you’re this young, everybody wants you and you get plenty of offers. Just look at how young you are!”

And yet it was the older men who really knew how to work, he said, adding: “They’re the ones who worked during Japan’s decades of economic boom, so they know the ins and outs of every job. It’s just that they don’t have the strength anymore.”

Nowadays, few young men gravitate here, the Airin district of Osaka. Little is being built in Japan’s stagnant economy, and young day laborers or part-time workers find jobs by registering their cellphone numbers with temporary employment agencies.

Many of the older men who remain arrived here to work on the 1970 Expo in Osaka, which, like the Tokyo Olympics six years earlier, became a symbol of postwar Japan’s rebirth. Over the decades, they left to work on bridges, buildings and highways all over the country, performing the dirtiest and most dangerous jobs in helping build Japan. Some made it out of here and moved on to steadier jobs and lives.

But many others are still in Airin, one of the few corners of Japan where stray dogs lie in the middle of the street alongside drunken men, and Japanese mobsters, or yakuza, sell drugs openly on street corners and run gambling dens on certain blocks. After one worker claimed abuse by the police, scores of people here rioted for five days over the summer, though old-timers said the disturbances were only a faint echo of the violent and widespread riots of the 1960s and 1990s.

Many of the men left in Airin, on average just shy of 60 years old and with no family ties, are waiting to die here, said Minoru Yamada, who moved here in 1973, once worked as a day laborer and is now chairman of Kamagasaki Shien Kiko, a private organization that helps laborers.

“At one time, this was a place where you could remake yourself,” Yamada said. “But not anymore. Now it’s become a dumping ground for old men, a place where waste is disposed of.”

A grim report by the city government last year said that conditions in Airin were rapidly worsening: an aging population, rising homelessness, deepening poverty and increasing cases of tuberculosis and alcoholism. The number of welfare recipients has grown fivefold in the past decade.

An ancient slum, this area was renamed and reshaped into Airin in the 1960s when the city government cleared it of family dwellings, concentrated all the city’s day laborers here and invited others from all over Japan to meet a construction boom. Today, the city estimates that 30,000 people live here, about a quarter of its peak two decades ago, in this 62-hectare, or 153-acre, neighborhood, which is less than one-fifth the size of New York’s Central Park.

The district’s overall population is more than 85 percent male. But in Airin’s core – an urban valley hemmed in by wide avenues and an elevated train track – there are almost no women at all.

During Japan’s economic go-go years, the number of jobs offered here swelled, peaking at 9,614 a day in 1990. The number has fallen to about a third of that today and no longer includes jobs in the kind of large and lucrative construction projects that fueled Japan’s boom.

Still, recruiters show up every morning at the Airin General Center, the day-labor market, saying they need to check over hires before sending them to a job.

“This is different from bidding on dead tuna at a fish market auction,” said one recruiter, who said he shifted to Airin more than two decades ago after working as a pimp in Tokyo. “Sure, you can recruit on the Internet, but on the Internet, you can’t make out someone’s character. For example, a guy can be O.K. if he hasn’t been drinking. But if he has, he may get crazy and create problems for everybody around him.”

A couple of hours after the recruiters had left for the day, Tadashi Kato showed up at the center to put his name down for a job as a night watchman. Kato, 75, came here in 1957, abandoning forever his home in rural Hokkaido and family talk of fixing him up with a job at the national railway.

“It’d be natural to wonder whether I would have been better off joining the national railway, but I’ve led a carefree life and have seen things that people usually can’t,” Kato said in a guttural voice, explaining that he had taken photos of past riots here and was looking for a “successor” to inherit them.

He once lived in a flophouse. But nowadays, with few jobs coming his way, he sleeps on the streets. He refused to apply for welfare or enter the city-run homeless shelters, where each person receives one piece of hardtack bread a night. He would never, he said, depend on the government.

He was married briefly, and he said that, unlike many of the men who came here to escape after accumulating debts or abandoning their families, he long supported his former wife and their only child, a daughter.

He last saw his daughter, in Tokyo, when his first grandchild was born three decades ago.

“‘Your feet stink – don’t come here dressed like that,”‘ he said she told him. “She said I could come if I had some money for her, but not to bother if I didn’t. Either way, it’s hard being a man.”

He had not seen his daughter since, but he said he knew her address.

“When I die, I’ll absolutely go to my daughter’s,” Kato said of his ashes, adding, “Sometimes, you know, I think if I could go painlessly, it wouldn’t be that bad not to wake up in the morning.”

It was not 11 a.m. yet, but Airin’s tiny outdoor drinking stalls were already filling up. These days, the most popular was a five-stool stall that belonged to Yayoi Onodera, 48, who charged $5 per drink and sold rice balls. She had earned around $40,000 in profit since moving here from Tokyo six months ago.

“I never dreamed I’d make so much money,” Onodera said, adding that she had struggled in the beginning but was encouraged by a local yakuza leader who used to stop by before he was arrested and imprisoned for drug dealing.

Later that afternoon, many of the men drifted to Sankaku Park nearby where they watched sumo wrestlers on a television set atop a pole.

But Kazuyasu Ikeda, 64, went straight home to the 4.5-square-meter, or 49-square-foot, room he had been renting for the past six years for $11 a night. From his fourth-floor room, where he had a television set, 16 small cactuses and a small tank filled with guppies, he had a view of a parking lot and, beyond that, the Hankai train line.

He had just collected his wages for cutting grass that day and was in high spirits. The wages, of course, were nothing compared with what he had made during Japan’s economic boom. Helping to build a highway in Okinawa back then, he said, he far outearned American marines stationed there.

“At a foreigners’ bar that I used to go to, I was even more popular than the foreigners,” Ikeda said, adding that he was such a regular that the bar kept a bottle of Camus Cognac for him.

He never had children and thus suffered no guilt, he said with a laugh.

But as he watched the end of the sumo matches of the day, Ikeda, a red towel he had used while working still wrapped around his head, seemed to grow tired and his mood darkened. The conversation drifted, as it often did in Airin, to the topic of death.

Ikeda boasted that he had never taken a handout, stood in a soup line or stayed in a homeless shelter. When there were no jobs, he collected aluminum cans. His “policy” was to rely on no one, he said.

“I’ll hang on for another 10 years,” he said.

The men here, he said, were like cigarette lighters worth 100 yen, or less than $1.

“It’s painful to throw away a Zippo or Dunhill lighter even if it doesn’t light properly anymore,” he said. “But 100-yen lighters you just throw away. That’s what we are.”

International Herald Tribune Copyright © 2008 The International Herald Tribune | http://www.iht.com

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