Wednesday, March 30, 2011

"Fukushima - Undoubtedly the biggest nuclear disaster since Chernobyl" - A.Gopalakrishnan

by on Mar 29, 2011

Newsclick interviews Dr. A. Gopalakrishnan, former chairman of the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board in India on March 24, 2011. He speaks about the primary reasons for the continuing disaster in the Fukushima reactors following a major earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

Japan on "maximum alert" as plutonium found in soil near nuclear plant

From the UK Telegraph:

Japan's prime minister has declared a state of "maximum alert" over the country's nuclear disaster after highly toxic plutonium was found to have leaked into the soil from the plant.

Naoto Kan told the Japanese parliament that the combined 9.0 magnitude earthquake, tsunami and nuclear accident were the "biggest crises" in decades.

"From now on, we will continue to handle it in a state of maximum alert," he said.

Mr Kan's comments came after the Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco), the operators of the Fukushima plant, confirmed that plutonium had been detected for the first time in two out of five soil samples.

Tepco said the levels of plutonium were not harmful to human health, but experts said the discovery raised concerns that the reactor's containment mechanism had been breached.

"Plutonium is a substance that's emitted when the temperature is high, and it's also heavy and so does not leak out easily," said Hidehiko Nishiyama, deputy director of Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency.

"So if plutonium has emerged from the reactor, that tells us something about the damage to the fuel. And if it has breached the original containment system, it underlines the gravity and seriousness of this accident."

It is thought that some of the plutonium may have entered the soil from spent fuel rods at the plant or due to damage to reactor Number 3, the only one using the substance in its fuel mix.

Used in nuclear bombs and a by-product of atomic reactions, plutonium is an extremely dangerous radioactive on

US workers finally compete with workers in India & China by working for FREE

I have opined on this blog before about "the race to the bottom" in global wages and conditions as globalization allows billions of workers to compete and back stab each other to gain paid work. But it seems that US workers have gone for broke and are now willing to work for free.

Not even in Zimbabwe, at the height of the hyperinflation, were even dedicated hospital staff willing to go to work once the bus fare exceeded their wages, yet in the US the economic conditions seem so bad that workers are willing to make a loss just to say they have a job.

How can you eat "self-esteem"?

FORTUNE -- With nearly 14 million unemployed workers in America, many have gotten so desperate that they're willing to work for free. While some businesses are wary of the legal risks and supervision such an arrangement might require, companies that have used free workers say it can pay off when done right.

"People who work for free are far hungrier than anybody who has a salary, so they're going to outperform, they're going to try to please, they're going to be creative," says Kelly Fallis, chief executive of Remote Stylist, a Toronto and New York-based startup that provides Web-based interior design services. "From a cost savings perspective, to get something off the ground, it's huge. Especially if you're a small business."

In the last three years, Fallis has used about 50 unpaid interns for duties in marketing, editorial, advertising, sales, account management and public relations. She's convinced it's the wave of the future in human resources. "Ten years from now, this is going to be the norm," she says.

Why do people work for free?

The benefit unpaid labor offers to a business is pretty clear, but it can also give employees needed experience, a reference letter or even a self-esteem boost in a depressing economy.

Cassie Johnson, a 27-year old in San Marcos, Calif., lost her job as an enrollment adviser for an online university in 2009 and was receiving unemployment benefits for a year before finding an assistant manager position at a Starbucks (SBUX) that's so far from her home she spends most of her pay on gas. Since starting a public relations internship in February, she feels a renewed sense of purpose.

"I'm learning a lot and I feel really good about it. I'm happy. I feel relevant. I'm not making any money, so it's tough, but I feel it's setting me up for a career," Johnson says. "I only have $1.50 left in my checking account right now but I'm living with my boyfriend and he's been really good about supporting me." on

Yemen update

Bahrain update

CrossTalk on Libya: Humanitarian Bombs?

From: RussiaToday | Mar 28, 2011

On this edition of CrossTalk with Peter Lavelle: Will NATO prove to be a true liberator of the Libyan people? Will it bring peace to the desperate state and will it win the recognition of the whole international community? Will the West finally find itself on the right side of history? Or will it sink into another quagmire? CT-ing with Eric Garris, Islam Qasem and Ezzedine Choukri Fishere.

Libyan update

Syrian protests update

Odyssey Hunts Nazi-Torpedoed Ship’s $260 Million of Silver

From Bloomberg:

Odyssey Marine Exploration Inc. (OMEX), the ocean salvager featured in the Discovery Channel series “Treasure Quest,” is trying to recover silver valued at as much as $260 million by October from a ship torpedoed by a Nazi submarine in 1941.

The Tampa, Florida-based company was awarded a contract by the U.K. government last year that would allow it to keep about 80 percent of the bullion treasure of the S.S. Gairsoppa, a cargo steamer sunk by a German U-boat off the Irish coast. There’s an estimated 4 million to 7 million ounces at the shipwreck site, according to Odyssey President and Chief Operating Officer Mark Gordon.

“This is the year we’re going to go out and find it,” Gordon said in an interview. “The total survey and recovery costs will be a fraction of the value. You’d be looking at single-digit millions of dollars for the budget.”

Odyssey aims to salvage Gairsoppa’s cargo from beneath as much as 14,000 feet (4,270 meters) of water amid surging prices for silver, which has more than doubled in the past year, and gold, which rose to a record last week. The company recovered 17 tons of gold and silver coins in 2007 in an Atlantic Ocean operation it codenamed Black Swan. It also plans to hoist treasure from at least five other ships, including HMS Sussex, which sank in 1694 near Gibraltar and may hold gold that the New York Times has estimated is valued at as much as $4 on

Americans feather nests with silver Eagles

From Precious Metals News:

At Stack’s, a coin dealer in midtown Manhattan, the shop floor is filled with glass cases displaying coins and banknotes ranging from recently-minted pieces to 18th-century antiques. These days, however, customers mainly have eyes for one product: the silver American Eagle.

“Silver’s hot. People want it. People don’t want to have money in the bank,” says Eric Streiner, the shop’s manager. Buyers include everyone from “business executives to lunatics”, he adds.

The same story is being repeated across the US. Silver has become the favoured investment of disaffected Americans. The recent wave of disenchantment with the economic stewardship of the country’s institutions – from the government and the Federal Reserve to big Wall Street banks – has sent demand skyrocketing.

With that, the price of silver has more than doubled since the Fed first raised the prospect of a second round of quantitative easing – effectively, printing money to prop up the economy – in late August. That has made it the best performing precious metal, with nominal prices rising to levels only seen during the height of the Hunt brothers’ famous squeeze in 1980.

Daniel Brebner, commodities analyst at Deutsche Bank, says silver investors “don’t like where their country is going – particularly in the US but elsewhere as well.

“They are looking at other political alternatives, but they’re also looking at diversifying away from conventional assets they’ve held in the past.”

Nowhere is the unbridled enthusiasm for silver clearer than at the level of coins and small bars – the type of product most accessible to smaller investors. All the world’s top mints are selling silver coins at record pace: the US Mint has sold 12.4m ounces of silver American Eagles in the first three months of the year – equivalent to about 6 per cent of quarterly global mine output.

David Madge, head of bullion sales at the Royal Canadian Mint, says sales of silver Maple Leaf coins “remain robust with demand still exceeding our supply”.

The level of demand means dealers are sold out of popular products. “Anything you can get right now you can sell,” says Michael Kramer, president of Manfra, Tordella & Brookes, a New York-based coin dealership. “If I want to, I can sell my [weekly] allocation in five minutes.”

The level of demand for products such as 100 ounce bars and silver American Eagles has caused premiums – the cost of particular products over and above the value of the metal they contain – to jump to the highest levels since 2008, dealers said.

Silver has even outshone gold, which shares its perceived quality as a hedge against the debasement of paper currencies. In part that is because the grey metal also has industrial characteristics, which mean it has benefited from the global economic rebound. More important, dealers say, is the perception that silver, with its lower headline price, may have further to rally than gold.

Jonathan Potts, managing director of Fidelitrade, another US bullion dealer, draws a parallel with equity markets, where some investors prefer to invest in cheaper stocks. “We’re seeing people from all walks of life, all income levels,” he says.

“A lot of people believe that silver has a lot more upside potential than gold right now.”

Industrial boom

It is not just investors that are driving silver demand higher, writes Jack Farchy.

Industrial use of silver, in everything from electrical circuits in mobile phones to plasma television screens, has risen sharply, accounting for more than half of total silver consumption.

According to forecasts from consultancy GFMS this week, industrial silver demand is set to rise 37 per cent between 2010 and 2015, with much of that coming from the use of silver in solar power cells, which is expected to double from 2010 levels.

Disenchanted Americans are not the only driver for silver’s rally. Consumption in other countries has also jumped, led by China and India. Over the past three years China has shifted from being a net exporter to a significant importer of the metal.

Nonetheless, many traders confess to bafflement at the strength of the grey metal, pointing to rising supply from mine production and growing scrap levels as factors that ought to damp price gains.

Some investors appear to be equally wary. According to Edel Tully of UBS, “while many market participants are impressed by silver’s industrial and retail demand, and are concerned about physical shortages, another portion believe there is too much speculative noise in the market right now”.

But for every investor or analyst concerned about silver’s fundamentals, there are plenty of others calling for much higher prices.

Mr Brebner of Deutsche Bank is expecting silver to average a record $50 a troy ounce next year, compared with current prices of $37. Others are even more bullish, calling for the ratio of gold to silver prices to fall in line with the relative abundance of the two metals in the earth’s crust – about 19:1 – or for silver to surpass its inflation-adjusted high of 1980, which stands at about $150.

For the time being, at least, the silver bugs are making more noise than their detractors.

On a recent call to discuss the results of Pan American Silver, the fourth-largest miner, one private investor’s comment was less a question than a rallying call: “With the entire United States of America, the states going bankrupt, which means they’ll have to unleash . . . QE3 because the Federal Reserve will not allow them to go [bankrupt], and [with] silver [above] $35, the sky is the limit.”

Jim Rickards - QE forever

Jim Rickards, Senior Managing Director for Market Intelligence at Omnis Inc, discusses the ongoing QE program, oil and Japan with Eric King of King World News.....listen here

Gerald Celente: Libya civil war none of US business

From: RTAmerica | Mar 25, 2011

There are increasing calls for more democracy and to end corruption throughout Africa and the Middle East, but the US targeted Libya to make a statement. Gerald Celente, the director of the Trends Research Institute says this is a chilling example of US hypocrisy. Killing people with bombs to solve the humanitarian crisis is absurd and ironic he notes. In addition, Americans are suffering from high unemployment and calling for cuts to government spending, yet the Pentagon is blowing away billions per week bombing Libya

Keiser Report: Pirates of the Digital Age

by on Mar 29, 2011

This time Max Keiser and co-host, Stacy Herbert, report on well-armed television presenters, bankrupt crusaders and a reign of terror in central banking. In the second half of the show, Max talks to Isa Blumi about Yemen, Libya and the militarization of borders.

Raw gold shortage in China

Inside Story: UK march for an alternative