2/3/09 News Radar

by JASON | 7:25 AM in |

Home values in Orange County declined 16.5 percent in 2008, an analysis by online hometracker Zillow shows. That compares to a drop in value of 11.6 percent for homes nationwide.

The median value for all homes in Orange County was estimated — or by Zillow’s calculations, “Zestimated” — at $474,560. That differs from the number released last week by DataQuick, which cites recent transactions showing the latest median value for homes sold in O.C. was $395,000.

In the Los Angeles metropolitan area, which includes Orange County (see chart at right), 94 percent of homes lost value in the past year, and 52 percent sold at a loss, according to Zillow’s report. Foreclosures made up nearly 36 percent of transactions.http://lansner.freedomblogging.com/2009/02/03/52-of-homes-in-laoc-sold-at-a-loss/13444/

As the regional economy continues to sputter, vacancy rates are beginning to climb at warehouses and distribution centers for industrial goods, putting the already hard-hit Inland Empire at further risk of decline and threatening facilities in Los Angeles and Orange counties as well.

After years of high occupancy and rapid construction of cargo hubs, immense spaces are now standing empty. Some fell victim to the collapse of retailers such as Mervyns and Wickes Furniture; others are vacant because the huge national falloff in demand for consumer goods has meant fewer imports and less need for storing and shipping them.

Nearly all of these warehouses and shipping hubs are located in San Bernardino and Riverside counties, where a long-running industrial real estate boom is finally starting to go bust.

Feb. 3 (Bloomberg) -- Brazil’s industrial output fell the most in at least 17 years as companies across the country slashed production to adjust to plunging demand.

Factory production declined 14.5 percent in December from the year-ago month, the biggest decline since the statistics agency began tracking annual output in 1992. The drop exceeded all 22 forecasts in Bloomberg survey of economists. Output fell a revised 6.4 percent in November.

“If this number doesn’t take your breath away, I don’t know what would,” said Tony Volpon, chief strategist at CM Capital brokerage in Sao Paulo. “There are really few adjectives to describe just how bad the December number was.”

Feb. 3 (Bloomberg) -- The Bank of Japan will buy 1 trillion yen ($11.1 billion) of shares owned by financial institutions to shore up their capital, which has been ravaged by the global stock-market rout.

The central bank will purchase stocks until April 2010, resuming a program it ended more than four years ago, it said in a statement after Governor Masaaki Shirakawa and his policy colleagues met in Tokyo today. The bank will hold the shares until at least March 2012.

Feb. 3 (Bloomberg) -- The Bank of England said it accepted collateral with a nominal value of 287 billion pounds ($409 billion) in its emergency lending program for institutions stung by the global financial crisis.

The bank values the securities at 242 billion pounds, a discount of 16 percent as of Jan. 30, when the application deadline expired. It loaned 185 billion pounds in Treasury bills against the collateral, according to a statement by the central bank in London today.

The federal government has invested almost $200 billion in U.S. banks over the last three months to spark new lending to consumers and businesses.

So far, it hasn't worked. Lending has declined, and banks that got government money on average have reduced lending more sharply than banks that didn't.

Consider the case of Bethesda's EagleBank, which received $38.2 million from the Treasury Department in early December.

The company, which focuses on lending to local businesses, was delighted to get the money, executives said. Its nine-member board convened an impromptu conference call during the week of Thanksgiving to approve the deal.

But EagleBank used roughly half the money to digest the acquisition of Fidelity & Trust Bank, a Bethesda rival with financial problems.

And it has struggled to use the rest to increase lending.

The government investment boosted EagleBank's capital, a cash reserve that regulators require banks to hold as a cushion against losses. More capital meant EagleBank could make more loans, but the company has not been able to take advantage. Lending also requires deposits, the money that banks give to borrowers, and EagleBank's deposit base shrank over the past three months.

"You look around and everyone is saying, 'Banks are not lending,' " said Ronald Paul, EagleBank's chairman. "Well, we'd like to. I could grow my loan base considerably if I just had the deposits."

Feb. 3 (Bloomberg) -- The U.S. housing market lost $3.3 trillion in value last year and almost one in six owners with mortgages owed more than their homes were worth as the economy went into recession, Zillow.com said.

The median estimated home price declined 11.6 percent in 2008 to $192,119 and homeowners lost $1.4 trillion in value in the fourth quarter alone, the Seattle-based real estate data service said in a report today.

“It’s like a runaway train gaining momentum,” Stan Humphries, Zillow’s vice president of data and analytics, said in an interview. “It’s difficult to say when we’ll see a bottom to the housing market.”

The issue of gays in the military is about to resurface in Congress in the early days of the Obama administration, with the possibility it could dog the new president much as it derailed President Bill Clinton's agenda as he took office early in 1993, WND has learned.

The House Armed Services Committee told WND that Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D-Calif., is preparing to submit legislation to the panel that would reverse the 15-year-old "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy and bar discrimination based on sexual orientation. The Clinton administration enacted the "Don't Ask" policy to allow homosexuals to serve if they do not reveal their orientation.

A top Democratic aide confirmed to WND that Tauscher plans to introduce the legislation to the House in the next several weeks.

An admitted illegal alien who has been accepted to UCLA is said to be distraught by her inability to collect state and federal financial aid.

The Los Angeles Times glamorized Karina De La Cruz' story in a lengthy article today. The newspaper identifies her by father's surname to protect her from repercussions of leaking her mother's family name.

"The first in her family to attend college, De La Cruz believes that a 3.0 is her way out of a crowded apartment and into a life with new opportunities," the Times reports.

UCLA did not inquire about her immigration status when she applied. University officials claim they are looking for the best students, not seeking to enforce immigration law.

According to the report, the average freshman student at UCLA has a 4.22 GPA. De La Cruz had a 3.365 when she applied – and she scored 380 out of a possible 800 on an SAT subject test.

However, she was elated to find that UCLA accepted her in March 2008.

After President Obama's illegal alien aunt defied deportation orders, one group has filed an arrest request with Immigration and Customs Enforcement and is publicly demanding that the president deport her.

Americans for Legal Immigration PAC, or ALIPAC, is urging Obama to honor his rhetoric about the rule of law by ousting Zeituni Onyango from the United States.

"President Obama has promised the American public that his administration will honor the principles of open government, the Constitution, and the Rule of Law," ALIPAC President William Gheen said. "Obama must either deport his aunt or destroy his own credibility by showing her favoritism."

Obama should deport himself while he's at it since he isn't legal either.

“Make no mistake, tax cheaters cheat us all, and the IRS should enforce our laws to the letter. ” Sen. Tom Daschle, Congressional Record, May 7, 1998, p. S4507.

Little piece of irony for a smile today!

There is no doubt that the government is preparing a nationwide system of detention facilities under the guise of emergency management that could be used to house large quantities of Americans during a time of civil strife. Many think that it is a conspiracy theory, but it is not. It is a fact that the federal government has many facilities right now that can be used to house large numbers of political dissidents if the need arises.

Additionally, in the 1980s it was reported that Oliver North had assisted FEMA in drafting preparations for civil defense. The plans included the suspension of the U.S. Constitution, the imposition of martial law, internment camps, turning control of state and local governments to military commanders and giving dictator like powers to FEMA in the event of a national emergency including events such as nuclear war and widespread political dissent. This news was reported by the Akron Beacon Journal, the Miami Herald and other publications on and after July 5th 1987. North himself was questioned about this report during the Iran-Contra scandal by Congressman Jack Brooks but was stopped by the committee Chairman because it touched upon classified information.










So, you know about the Treasury's $700 billion bailout plan. But you probably don't know that the Federal Reserve has lent out about $2 trillion since September. Few do. And that is what's irritating bulldog Congressman Alan Grayson. Will he be able to shed a light on the Fed's secret spending?

MPs were told that the national safety camera programme saw a surge in the use of cameras between 2001 and 2007.

The total number of sites rose from 1,672 to 4,737 in just six years with some dramatic rises in various parts of the country, including a twelvefold rise in Leicestershire.

The vast increase in the number of cameras and the rise in speeding fines from £40 to £60 meant that the amount of money the cameras raised rose from just over £10 million in 2001 to £120 million in 2007.

Details of the spread of speed cameras emerged as a motorist attempts to challenge the entire legality of the programme, arguing that the cameras have not received the necessary parliamentary approval.

All the money raised during the national safety camera programme was spent on buying yet more cameras, leading to accusations that they were really being used as a stealth tax on motorists.

England is on the bleeding edge of what is to come...

China will accelerate the build-up of its nuclear and conventional arsenal to form a credible deterrent, the general in charge of the country's strategic missile force said.

"We will accelerate the building of our nuclear and conventional combat strength," said Jing Zhiyuan, the commander of the Second Artillery Corp, in an article he co-wrote for the authoritative journal Qiushi published on Sunday.

"We will strengthen the build-up of combat systems and improve the training of high-quality personnel," said the article.

China will also develop "a nuclear and conventional missile force corresponding to the needs of winning a war" in conditions changed by modern information technology, it said.

The Second Artillery Corps is an independent branch of the armed forces directly under the control of the powerful Central Military Commission. It is armed with hundreds of strategic and tactical missiles.

"The Second Artillery is the core of our nation's strategic deterrence. It is the main support pillar and backup force of our national security and development," the article said.

The corps' jobs include "deterring other countries from using nuclear weapons against China, and for conducting nuclear counter-attacks and precision strikes with conventional missiles," China said in a recent policy paper.

A new bill proposed in the U.S. House of Representatives would require the Secretary of Homeland Security to conduct a program in the maritime environment for the mobile biometric identification of suspected individuals including terrorists. The federal government has been using the excuse of fighting terrorists to incrementally expand the usage of biometric identification for quite awhile now, and this is just another step into expanding the adoption of this technology. It is not a stretch to believe that if something like this is implemented for the purposes of fighting terrorists out in the oceans, that eventually it would be utilized inside the United States for domestic policing purposes. After all, former Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff thought it would be a great idea to setup an internal checkpoint within the state of Vermont to search for drug dealers and terrorists. Not to mention they’ve already setup the US-VISIT program which mandates that many non-U.S. citizens visiting the United States submit to biometric identification in order to gain entry.




Bankruptcies, unemployment and social unrest are spreading more widely in China than officially reported, according to independent research that paints an ominous picture for the world economy.

The research was conducted for The Sunday Times over the last two months in three provinces vital to Chinese trade – Guangdong, Zhejiang and Jiangsu. It found that the global economic crisis has scythed through exports and set off dozens of protests that are never mentioned by the state media.

While troubling for the Chinese government, this should strengthen the argument of Premier Wen Jiabao, who will say on a visit to London this week that his country faces enormous problems and cannot let its currency rise in response to American demands.

The new US Treasury secretary, Timothy Geithner, has alarmed Beijing and raised fears of a trade war by stating that China manipulates the yuan to promote exports.

However, a growing number of economists say the unrest proves that it is not the exchange rate but years of sweatshop wages and income inequality in China that have distorted global competition and stifled domestic demand. The influential Far Eastern Economic Review headlined its latest issue “The coming crack-up of the China Model”.

Yasheng Huang, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said corruption and a deeply flawed model of economic reform had led to a collapse in personal income growth and a wealth gap that could leave China looking like a Latin American economy.

Richard Duncan, a partner at Blackhorse Asset Management in Singapore, has argued that the only way to create consumers is to raise wages to a legal minimum of $5 (£3.50) a day across Asia – a “trickle up” theory.

The instability may peak when millions of migrant workers flood back from celebrating the Chinese new year to find they no longer have jobs. That spells political trouble and there are already signs that the government’s $585 billion stimulus package will not be enough to achieve its goal of 8% growth this year.

Personal bankruptcies surged to more than 1 million filings in the United States in 2008 -- the most since a rewrite of bankruptcy laws went into effect in 2005.

Filings of Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcies rose 33% in 2008 as the economy worsened, according to data from U.S. bankruptcy courts and compiled by bankruptcy data firm Automated Access to Court Electronic Records. Chapter 13 bankruptcy allows people to pay off debts under a three- to five-year plan; Chapter 7 bankruptcy allows for a discharge of all debts.

As the United States tries to navigate an economic squall, a trade war could be on the horizon. European Union diplomats have privately threatened to launch a trade war against the U.S. if President Barack Obama accepts protectionist provisions contained in the latest stimulus package. These threats are forcing Obama to choose between a showdown with Congress and a collision course with other Western governments.

The “buy American” provision of the congressional stimulus package stipulates that all major public works projects favor American steel, iron and manufacturing over foreign imports. The provision is designed to create more American jobs by supporting domestic labor.

Representatives from the EU, however, have made it clear they will not stand idly by if Obama passes this legislation. Rather, these representatives have threatened to enact tit-for-tat protectionist measures against the U.S. Such moves could easily escalate into all-out trade war.

Barack Obama has granted the CIA permission to continue carrying out the controversial Bush-era practice of extraordinary rendition, it has emerged.

And he did so just two days after becoming president and vowing to dismantle his predecessor's war on terror.

As the new U.S. President issued orders shutting down the American military prison at Guantanamo Bay and fought to show the Muslim world that 'America is not your enemy', it was revealed that the renditions programme may even be expanded.

Under executive orders signed by Mr Obama on January 22, two days after his inauguration, the CIA still has the authority to carry out renditions - secret abductions and transfers of prisoners to countries that cooperate with the United States.

But despite the controversy surrounding the secretive practice, Mr Obama appears to have decided it was the one component of Mr Bush's war on terror that it must keep.

'Obviously you need to preserve some tools - you still have to go after the bad guys,' an Obama administration official told the LA Times.

So much for left vs right!

We've truly entered a Bizarro World universe, where up is down, right is left – and the Russians, of all people, are now lecturing us about the virtues of free enterprise.

Yes, it happened at the Davos conference of bigwigs, insiders, and their sycophantic hangers-on, where the elite meet to munch canap├ęs and discuss the way the world works, or, in this case, the way it isn't working. The conference was heavy with the sort of pessimism that doesn't usually accompany a gathering of the rich and pompous, yet instead of the usual self-congratulatory vaunting of their own virtue and "concern" for the world's peasants, these aristocrats of the conference table were less than ebullient about the downward spiral of the global economy – which, you'll remember, yesterday was touted as the savior of us all, but these days is portrayed as the instrument of our collective doom.

While the walkout of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan grabbed the biggest headlines – he didn't like it when David Ignatius of the Washington Post shushed him in favor of letting former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres drone on uninterrupted – the real shocker was Vladimir Putin's peroration, which sounded more like Ron Paul than the leader of a nation that has intruded the state into the economy and polity in a big way.

Putin likened the economic crisis the world is facing to "the perfect storm, which denotes a situation when nature's forces converge in one point of the ocean and increase their destructive potential many times over." This is very similar to the apocalyptic tone not only of Rep. Paul, but of gold bugs and libertarians outside the Beltway: save your candles, the dark ages are coming!

Yet our leaders were unprepared: in spite of strong indications that the crisis was breaking over our heads, only a prescient minority realized that our chickens were coming home to roost, while the "majority strove to get their share of the pie, be it one dollar or a billion, and did not want to notice the rising wave." As the Remnant looked on, Western elites were oblivious to their onrushing doom:

"I just want to remind you that, just a year ago, American delegates speaking from this rostrum emphasized the U.S. economy's fundamental stability and its cloudless prospects. Today, investment banks, the pride of Wall Street, have virtually ceased to exist. In just 12 months, they have posted losses exceeding the profits they made in the last 25 years. This example alone reflects the real situation better than any criticism.

"The time for enlightenment has come. We must calmly, and without gloating, assess the root causes of this situation and try to peek into the future."

Islamist militants in Pakistan blew up a bridge through the mountainous Khyber Pass early on Tuesday, severing a key supply route for US and NATO troops in Afghanistan. Periodic attacks on the route have pushed the international forces to seek alternative ones outside Pakistan.

All traffic on the bridge has come to a halt, The Press Trust of India reports, including dozens of supply trucks bound for US and NATO forces.

Militants have harassed NATO supply lines in northwest Pakistan for several months, conducting ambushes on convoys and attacking truck depots in Peshawar itself, according to the news service. It says Tuesday's bridge attack may be a result of increased security at supply depots.

The Khyber Pass is one of two routes into Afghanistan from Pakistan, according to Reuters. The other connects the Pakistani province of Baluchistan with the southern Afghan city of Kandahar.

While the military provides few specifics of its supply operation, observers believe most of the supplies travel through the Khyber Pass, says Reuters.

The U.S. military and NATO have not given details of the supplies they get via Pakistan or a breakdown of how much comes on the two routes. The U.S. Defense Department says the U.S. military sends 75 percent of supplies for the Afghan war through or over Pakistan, including 40 percent of fuel.

Pakistani customs officials say under normal circumstances about 300 trucks with Western force supplies travel through the Khyber Pass crossing at Torkham every day, compared with about 100 through the Chaman crossing.

With the US planning to expand its Afghan operations, Tuesday's bridge attack highlights the need for secure supply routes. US planners say they are actively looking for routes that avoid Pakistan's volatile border areas.

There are 36,000 American soldiers currently stationed in Afghanistan, where they are training Afghan security forces and doing battle with a Taliban insurgency against the government of US ally Hamid Karzai.

Supplies intended for NATO forces in Afghanistan were suspended Tuesday after Taliban militants blew up a highway bridge in the Khyber Pass region, a lawless northwestern tribal area straddling the border with Afghanistan.

Hidayatullah Khan, a government official in the Khyber Pass region, was quoted by Reuters as saying that the 30-yard-long iron bridge was located 15 miles northwest of Peshawar, the capital of the restive North-West Frontier Province.

Pakistani officials said they were assessing the damage and teams had been sent to repair the bridge. But it was not immediately clear how soon the trucks carrying crucial supplies for NATO forces would be able to travel through the Khyber Pass to Afghanistan.

More than 80 percent of the supplies meant for American and coalition forces in Afghanistan flow through Pakistan.

That ought to slow down the drug traffic going out of Afghanistan. Notice Obama is coming to the rescue though and will step up the troops. Afghanistan can't keep up with current demand let alone major supply chain incidents like this one.

The launch of Omid (Hope), Iran's first home-made satellite into orbit early Tuesday, Feb. 3, is a breakthrough demonstrating the Islamic Republic has managed to develop long-range, three-stage, solid-fuel ballistic rockets capable of carrying nuclear warheads.

Israel and Western officials have been playing down this fast-developing capability while proving helpless to hold back Iran's nuclear weapons program. Omid was launched by the Safir rocket, whereas a previous launching was boosted by a Russian rocket.

DEBKAfile's Iranian sources report the new satellite is designed for tracking, research, telecommunications and carries digital measuring instruments. They stress that it is a feather in the hat for Iran's "Military Group" – the team of scientists and technicians working on its clandestine nuclear bomb program. They are clearly moving ahead undisturbed by UN sanctions or technical difficulties toward rapidly finishing work on nuclear warheads for their ballistic rockets.

In weekend interviews, International Atomic Energy Agency director Muhammad ElBaradei contributed to the international effort to talk down Tehran's nuclear advances. He admitted Iran was in the process of constructing nuclear weapons despite his agency's monitoring efforts. But in his view it needed another two to five years to attain this objective. He therefore advised the West to try and negotiate an accord with Iran through diplomacy.

Our sources point out that ElBaradei's remarks were misleading. His remarks referred only to Iran's overt nuclear program, namely uranium enrichment, but ignored the clandestine facilities where Iran is making big strides toward a nuclear weapon.

Iran said Tuesday it had launched what it described as its first satellite produced domestically as part of an effort to build a space industry.

The launch on Monday, coinciding with celebrations marking the 30th anniversary of the Islamic revolution, came at a time when the United States and other powers are worried about Iran's nuclear ambitions and its deployment of long-range ballistic missiles with potential military uses.

It also came soon after President Barack Obama struck a conciliatory tone toward Iran, conditionally offering dialogue after years of increasing tension over fears that Tehran wants to develop nuclear missiles — which Iran's leaders deny.

The official news agency, IRNA, said the satellite was launched using a Safir-2 rocket and was "successfully set into orbit."

The satellite was named Omid, meaning hope, IRNA said, and was sent into space as a "data-processing satellite project" that began in March 2005 as "the first practical step toward acquiring national space technology."

Enough for a day!