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So, in an effort to shine some light on what exactly the debt ceiling means to all of us, Business RT spoke to leading Moscow financial expert Chris Weafer, a senior partner at Macro-Advisory.com. 1  What exactly is the “debt ceiling?” ...
So, in an effort to shine some light on what exactly the debt ceiling means to all of us, Business RT spoke to leading Moscow financial expert Chris Weafer, a senior partner at Macro-Advisory.com. 1  What exactly is the “debt ceiling?” The US debt ceiling has existed for almost a century, and describes the maximum amount of money the US can legally borrow. The country introduced the legislative limit on its debt back in 1917, and since them it has stipulated the affordable amount of national debt that can be issued by the US Treasury. As of Sept. 25, the US Treasury reported federal government debt at just shy of $16.7 trillion ($16,699,396,000,000.00, to be exact) in its daily statement, a figure which has been reported for 130 days straight. This is about $25 billion shy of the precise legal limit – $16,699,421,095,673.60. When the US approaches this debt limit, it can take some “extraordinary measures” to buy some time before Congress agrees to raise the ceiling. In its entire history, the US has so far never reached the point of default, where Treasury can’t pay its debt obligations. 2  Who holds the US debt? The US owes about two-thirds of its debt to US-based creditors, with almost 66 percent of the country’s debt held domestically. US individuals and financial institutions hold around 31.7 percent of US Treasuries, with the US central bank, the Federal Reserve, which holds some 12 percent of the debt. Foreign creditors, including China and Japan, own an estimated 34 percent of total US government debt. These two “big lender” countries have recently urged the US to take decisive steps to avoid a default. 3 What does the US borrow the money for? In the US, often referred to as a “big-spending” country, both individuals and the government have habitually spent more than they earn, pushing the economy deeper into debt.“Just like any ordinary individual, the choice is either to cut back on spending or to borrow money to bridge the gap,” Weafer says. In 2012, 22 percent of total government expenditures went to social security (means-tested payments to the poor and unemployed), while 21 percent was spent on health care, again mostly for poor Americans who cannot afford private health insurance. The third largest expenditure item is defense at 19 percent. In recent decades, the US defense bill has ballooned, mainly due to costly wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. The so-called “War on Terror” has also added greatly to the debt burden, while the Department of Homeland Security, created after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the US, has cost taxpayers more than a cumulative $800 billion. The biggest contributory factor to the fast-growing debt mountain in recent years, however, has been the economic crisis that began in 2008. Apart from hundreds of billions of dollars paid out to rescue failing Wall Street banks that had made too many toxic loans, the US government has also paid out large amounts on vital social programs to aid the growing “army of the unemployed.” Coupled with the Bush-era tax cuts to the rich and big business, lower average incomes and greater unemployment have hit government tax revenues hard, sending federal government debt sky-high. 4  Why can’t they simply print more dollars and pay their debt? No economy in the world can simply turn on its printing presses and create as much cash as it wishes, as this would make its currency worthless. “If the amount of currency in issue is not sensibly related to the strength of the economy, then foreign trade partners will … devalue the currency quickly,” Weafer explains. “If you have one asset and income source which allows you to issue one dollar, and then you print one more dollar, everybody else will see what you have done and will value your one dollar at only fifty cents. Some countries have done that in the past, but in those cases people soon had to use suitcases just to carry enough currency to buy a loaf of bread.” Under the Bretton Woods fina
about 2 hours ago
Bold and daring as ever, Banksy once again explores the world of militaristic warfare with his latest piece for Better Out Than In. Following this weekend's "Rebel Rocket Attack" video, the new piece - unofficially dubbed "Crazy Horse" -...
Bold and daring as ever, Banksy once again explores the world of militaristic warfare with his latest piece for Better Out Than In. Following this weekend's "Rebel Rocket Attack" video, the new piece - unofficially dubbed "Crazy Horse" - appears on Manhattan's Lower East Side and depicts military soldiers as a group of crazed, night vision-donning horses. Further adding to the piece is the corresponding "audio guide": in this case, directly lifted from an infamous 2007 Eastern Baghdad-set video - brought to the public's eye via Wikileaks - that sees an Apache helicopter firing upon a group of unarmed civilians. In conjunction with previous works, Banksy's stance on not only the war in Iraq, but military intervention in general, is more than clear. Click here to view full gallery at Hypebeast.com
about 3 hours ago
WikiLeaks founder and editor-in-chief Julian Assange has voiced fresh criticism for the upcoming Dreamworks movie The Fifth Estate, calling it a “geriatric snoozefest that only the US government could love.” The Twitter account for WikiL...
WikiLeaks founder and editor-in-chief Julian Assange has voiced fresh criticism for the upcoming Dreamworks movie The Fifth Estate, calling it a “geriatric snoozefest that only the US government could love.” The Twitter account for WikiLeaks issued the statement earlier today, which reads as follows: “People love the true WikiLeaks story: a small group of dedicated journalists and tech activists who take on corruption and state criminality against the odds. But this film isn’t about that. This is a film by the old media about the new media. Viewers are short-changed. Step one: write WikiLeaks staff out of the story. Where is our primary spokesperson Kristinn Hrafnsson, three time winner of journalist of the year, who we deployed to war-torn Iraq? Where is our courageous journalist Sarah Harrison who spent 39 days protecting Edward Snowden in a Moscow airport – and is now in effective exile from the UK? Step two: write the old media into the story. Instead of the exciting true story, we get a film about a bland German IT worker who wasn’t even there and a fabricated fight over redactions with the old newspapers and the State Department saving the day. The result is a geriatric snoozefest that only the US government could love.” The Fifth Estate will be released in the UK on October 11 before a wider release in the US on October 18. The film itself is based in part on the latter’s book ‘Inside WikiLeaks: My Time with Julian Assange and the World’s Most Dangerous Website‘, as well as the works of The Guardian journalists David Leigh and Luke Harding. Assange blasted the film in January this year after reading a draft version of the script, calling it a “mass propaganda attack against WikiLeaks the organization, and the character of my staff”. If you need a reminder, here’s a trailer for the film:
about 4 hours ago
Arlington National Cemetery recently began enforcing a policy that forbids the placing of mementos on graves, notably in Section 60, which contains the graves of over 800 servicemen and women killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Arlington National Cemetery recently began enforcing a policy that forbids the placing of mementos on graves, notably in Section 60, which contains the graves of over 800 servicemen and women killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.
about 4 hours ago
Humans undermining humanity's fight against alien invaders? This is worse than when Sgt. Slaughter defected to Iraq.
Humans undermining humanity's fight against alien invaders? This is worse than when Sgt. Slaughter defected to Iraq.
about 5 hours ago
With writer/director Samuel Gonzalez, Jr.’s urban legend-inspired short Woodland Heights set for its LA premiere Friday, October 11, at 9:30pm at the Screamfest Film Festival, read on for our exclusive chat with the filmmaker and star Ar...
With writer/director Samuel Gonzalez, Jr.’s urban legend-inspired short Woodland Heights set for its LA premiere Friday, October 11, at 9:30pm at the Screamfest Film Festival, read on for our exclusive chat with the filmmaker and star Arielle Brachfeld. Produced by Roxy Shih from a script by Gonzalez, Woodland Heights stars Arielle Brachfeld (Chemical Peel) and James Preston and revolves around a young couple’s prom night which takes a bizarre turn for the worse. Based on the classic urban legend of "The Hook" and in the tradition of 1950’s drive-in horror films, the black & white flick’s tag-line reads: "There is no terror in the bang; only in the anticipation of it." Speaking with Gonzalez, he said of what inspired him to do a period piece, “When I was young, I would always search for films that allowed me to experience a new world or time period. Living vicariously through the period pieces of Spielberg and Zemeckis, my fascination only grew more intensely. I fell in love with the way directors would illustrate different historical events and believed that the best stories came from these backdrops. Transporting an audience back in time not only offers a wide creative spectrum but also allows for audiences to learn from the past.” As for the material itself, “The story of Woodland Heights has been told over and over throughout the years, starting from young children, teenagers and young adults,” the filmmaker offered. “Over time the story has evolved to the urban legend we all know and love. It’s a story we all enjoy hearing around the campfire but often dread to believe it all actually happened. I watched several films that had created this story onto the screen, and many inspired me to write a new version with the original elements. I wanted to give the audience an experience that teenagers from the 1950’s had when they raced to drive-in theaters to experience it for the first time.” We queried him on his working relationship with star Brachfeld. “It was such gift to have her on my set,” he stated. “Our relationship was, to say the least, beyond wonderful. You never know what will come out of a relationship with an actor, and the chemistry is not always there, but from the minute Arielle and I had held rehearsals, we knew that the world I was painting for her to be in was going to come naturally to her, and all fears went out the window. My actors bring my characters to life, and I love them for it. I couldn't have found a more talented and motivated actor to help me bring Woodland to the next level. Arielle has a bright and wonderful future in films ahead of her, and her passion alone is a driving force that will take her there.” Chatting with Brachfeld, she said of her teaming with Gonzalez on Woodland Heights, “Sam and I had met a few years ago on a project he was the cinematographer on, and we had kept wanting to work together again but didn't get a chance to [do so] until Woodland Heights. There are certain people that you just click with creatively, and Sam is one of them.” “In terms of preparing for the role,” Brachfeld continued, “we talked about these older films like The Blob, Rebel without a Cause, and even Grease and about just harnessing the innocence of that era. It was wonderful rehearsing with my co-star James Preston and Sam! Fortunately, Sam encouraged James and me to take chances while staying true to that era of filmmaking. It was really enjoyable walking the line between staying completely true [to it] but also appreciating the urban myth for the fun that it is.” As for what Gonzalez is currently working on, he concluded, “Since my return from the Iraq War, my dream is to share with the world the inspirational true story of my experience over there. The story is about five young American soldiers who find motivation where they least expect it and use music as a form of survival, touring Iraq to bring morale and camaraderie to the troops while living with day-to-day combat
about 5 hours ago
A suspected terrorist accused of planning attacks on British soldiers in Iraq could return to the UK after the Home Secretary lost a legal challenge in the Supreme Court.
A suspected terrorist accused of planning attacks on British soldiers in Iraq could return to the UK after the Home Secretary lost a legal challenge in the Supreme Court.
about 8 hours ago
Flag of the al Nusra Front Syrian children, refugees from the conflict in their homeland, sat beneath makeshift tents in Oncupinar, Turkey. Their faces poked out from behind torn pieces of scrap tarpaulin. Water boiled in pots above ...
Flag of the al Nusra Front Syrian children, refugees from the conflict in their homeland, sat beneath makeshift tents in Oncupinar, Turkey. Their faces poked out from behind torn pieces of scrap tarpaulin. Water boiled in pots above small fires. Men smoked cigarettes and women hand-washed clothing. In the distance, I heard the whump of, presumably, tank shells. The distant blasts came from just over the Turkish-Syrian border. For much of the morning, fighters from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) had been battling militias in the Kurdish village of Qustul Jendo near to the strategic Syrian town of Azaz, which ISIS took control of on September 18. There would be nothing remarkable about this fight, if six major rebel factions hadn't called on October 3 for “our brothers in ISIS to withdraw their troops and vehicles [from Azaz] to their main headquarters immediately.” Instead, ISIS—an al Qaeda-affiliated militia that has become one of the strongest factions in the region—went on the offensive against the village of Qustul Jendo and opened up another front around Azaz. For the past two weeks ISIS and the Free Syrian Army-linked Northern Storm brigade have slugged it out for control of Azaz, and, more importantly, the Bab al-Salamah border crossing a few miles up the road. Fighting broke out when ISIS attempted to kidnap a German doctor working at a local hospital on September 18. They took control of the town, as FSA reinforcements were sent from Aleppo to support the besieged Storm brigade’s fighters. There was talk of a ceasefire, but that broke down. A member of Azaz’s media center, Hazem al-Azeze, attempting to broker the ceasefire, was shot in the neck by ISIS, bleeding out on a street, according to activist accounts. In Syria, rifts between opposition factions have led to increased rebel-on-rebel violence. “How can we fight Bashar al-Assad when we have a war with ISIS and the PKK [a militant Kurdish separatist group in Southeastern Turkey] at the same time?” said one opposition activist, fearful of reprisals. “We cannot focus on just Assad anymore, but have to always look over our shoulders at who is behind us.” ISIS clashed recently with FSA brigades in the eastern city of Deir Ezzor and had reportedly declared war on the Farouk Brigades, a group falling under the FSA banner. In northeastern Hasakah province, around the mixed Arab-Kurd town of Ras al-Ayn, sporadic fighting continues between the Islamist group Jabhat al-Nusra (JN)—headed by Abu Mohammed al-Joulani, an al Qaeda operative dispatched in late 2011 by ISIS’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, to establish a jihad group in Syria—and Kurdish militias, which have largely avoided being drawn into the conflict. According to the London-based, pro-opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, ISIS had attacked a JN base in Hasakeh Province, killing two Nusra militants while seizing weapons and equipment on September 22. It is also suspected of responsibility for a car bombing that killed seven on the Syrian side of the Bab al-Hawa border crossing into Turkey on September 17. It has additionally threatened a wave of attacks in the Turkish capital, Ankara, in reprisal of the Turkish government closing the border at Oncupinar, a key supply route for rebel groups. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is facing acute domestic backlash for his government’s Syria policy: Turkey aggressively pursues regime change in Damascus, advocating direct Western military involvement in a conflict which has now killed around 115,000 people (of which 41 percents are estimated to be regime forces and allies) and laid waste to infrastructure while displacing around six million people. The Turkish government, which initially sought to leverage a settlement between Damascus and its opposition, allows foreign fighters (scores of jihadists, r
about 8 hours ago
This is Naked Capitalism fundraising week. 391 donors have already invested in our efforts to shed light on the dark and seamy corners of finance. Join us and participate via our Tip Jar or another credit card portal, WePay in the right ...
This is Naked Capitalism fundraising week. 391 donors have already invested in our efforts to shed light on the dark and seamy corners of finance. Join us and participate via our Tip Jar or another credit card portal, WePay in the right column, or read about why we’re doing this fundraiser and other ways to donate, such as by check, as well as our current goal, on our kickoff post. And read about our current target here Yves here. The public is still digesting the implications of the Snowden surveillance state disclosures. Quite a few press reports have mentioned the degree to which the NSA uses contractors, usually to shake fingers at “how could they not expect businesses to cut corners and hire a guy like Snowden?” But there’s been less discussion of how these contractors fit into the surveillance ecosystem. This piece by Pratap Chatterjee helps fill that gap. Remarkably few people were paying attention when we gave our privacy away. I had a colleague who was acutely protective, with his excuse being that he’d annoyed one too many people in Russia and was still traveling with some frequency to Eastern Europe and the ‘Stans. Given how he did everything he possibly could in cash, I had a sneaking suspicion he had other motives as well. He was way too knowledgeable about encryption (as in he had a strong point of view on which versions of PGP were any good). He refused to have an internet connection at home well after it had become common (he’d use the Internet at local coffee shops and the Bloomberg library, often using their devices rather than his laptop). He’d make international phone calls using prepaid phone cards rather than having the other party’s phone number appear on his phone records. He refused to have a cell phone for the longest time. And he thought people who shopped on the Internet were insane: “Why would you give away all that information?” He’s not looking as nutty now as he did then. And it’s hard to know what if any measures to take in our Brave New World of all surveillance all the time. The part I like the least is the idea my movements can be traced. I was already in the habit of leaving my cell at home a lot (and turned off to boot) because when I leave my computer, I often want to take a real break, and I’m doing that even more than I used to. By Pratap Chatterjee, the executive director of CorpWatch and a board member of Amnesty International USA, and author of Halliburton’s Army (Nation Books) and Iraq, Inc. Cross posted from TomDispatch Big Bro is watching you. Inside your mobile phone and hidden behind your web browser are little known software products marketed by contractors to the government that can follow you around anywhere. No longer the wide-eyed fantasies of conspiracy theorists, these technologies are routinely installed in all of our data devices by companies that sell them to Washington for a profit. That’s not how they’re marketing them to us, of course. No, the message is much more seductive: Data, Silicon Valley is fond of saying, is the new oil. And the Valley’s message is clear enough: we can turn your digital information into fuel for pleasure and profits — if you just give us access to your location, your correspondence, your history, and the entertainment that you like. Ever played Farmville? Checked into Foursquare? Listened to music on Pandora? These new social apps come with an obvious price tag: the annoying advertisements that we believe to be the fee we have to pay for our pleasure. But there’s a second, more hidden price tag — the reams of data about ourselves that we give away. Just like raw petroleum, it can be refined into many things — the high-octane jet fuel for our social media and the asphalt and tar of our past that we would rather hide or forget. We willingly hand over all of this information to the big
about 14 hours ago
The Pentagon’s decision to freeze death benefits for the families of fallen soldiers is “boneheaded” and an “in your face, middle finger to the military families,” Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif. said Tuesday on “The Kelly File.” Hunter, a ...
The Pentagon’s decision to freeze death benefits for the families of fallen soldiers is “boneheaded” and an “in your face, middle finger to the military families,” Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif. said Tuesday on “The Kelly File.” Hunter, a Marine combat veteran who served tours in Iraq
about 19 hours ago