February 28, 2009

Rich Americans Sue UBS to Keep Names Secret

By: Lynnley Browning, The New York Times 

UBS was sued on Tuesday in a Swiss federal court by wealthy American clients seeking to prevent the disclosure of their identities as part of a tax-evasion investigation by the United States Justice Department.

The lawsuit accuses UBS and Switzerland's financial regulator, the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority, or Finma, of violating Swiss bank secrecy laws and of conducting what Swiss law considers illegal activities with foreign authorities. It also named Peter Kurer, the chairman of UBS, and Eugen Haltiner, the chairman of Finma, as defendants.

The suit, filed by a lawyer in Zurich, Andreas Rued, on behalf of nearly a dozen American clients, underscores the growing clash between Swiss banking secrecy laws and those of the United States. Tax evasion is not considered a crime in Switzerland. Disclosing client names under Swiss law is a criminal offense and can expose bank executives and officers to fines, prison terms and other penalties.

UBS is the world's largest private bank and Switzerland is the world's largest offshore tax haven, with trillions of dollars in assets.

The lawsuit, which UBS described in an internal memo late Tuesday, stems from UBS's agreement last week to turn over to federal authorities in Washington the names of 250 wealthy Americans suspected of using secret UBS offshore accounts and entities to evade taxes.

UBS reached a $780 million deferred-prosecution agreement to settle accusations that it used undisclosed offshore private banking services to help wealthy Americans evade taxes. But the bank is still under scrutiny by the Justice Department, which is seeking to force it to disclose the names of the 52,000 American clients it suspects may have evaded taxes.

Mr. Rued could not be reached for comment.

Shrivelled liberties, the fightback starts here!


Freedom-wise, there's nowhere more self-satisfied than Britain. Bastion of personal liberty, home of the ground-breaking Magna Carta, the place where the sturdy yeoman can sit under his thatched roof secure from the intrusions of the king...

Pull the other one. Any sentient citizen must realise that in terms of liberty, the country has less than a state-of-the-art democracy; in fact, it's been coasting on its reputation.

Now, thanks to a slavishly Bush-poodling Labour government with a startlingly authoritarian bent, Britons are beginning to recognise that this sceptred isle, this earth of majesty, this seat of Mars, this other Eden is about to become this surveillance state, this database depot, this green and pleasant centre of preventive detention, this precious home of biometrically-keyed national identification cards set in a sea of CCTV cameras.

The government's appetite to maintain detailed files on its citizens is growing

But Britons are getting a chance to have their own democratic moment. On Saturday February 28, lawyers, judges, politicians, human rights supporters, anti-surveillance activists, members of the Countryside Alliance, rock 'n' rollers denied the right to stage concerts of their own choosing (honestly) and presumably more than a few ordinary concerned citizens will be gathering all across the UK - in London of course, but also in Belfast, Bristol, Cardiff, Cambridge, Glasgow and Manchester - at the Convention on Modern Liberty.

There they will hear from a roster of speakers that will include Shami Chakrabarti, Henry Porter, Helena Kennedy and David Davis. And they will learn more about the ever encroaching threats to individual liberty that have been fuelled by government's growing appetite to keep its citizens under constant watch and maintain detailed files on what they do. It may not be as dramatic as the storming of the Bastille, but it's a start.

And a start that might learn from the USA. A new, more American-like legal recognition of individual rights would be a welcome update for what is still, just, one of the world's leading democracies. Not that it could prevent all transgressions, as the Bush-Cheney administration amply demonstrated.

 But such a change would bring about a fundamental alteration in the relationship between the people and the government.

In Britain, the people have always been subservient to the government. Power was first invested in the king, who, the citizenry was told, received it from God. Over the centuries the king's authority was gradually ceded to Parliament.

And though it's true that Parliament is elected by the people, the relative infrequency of elections - contrast with the US where a third of the Senate and the entire House of Representatives is contested every two years - and the power of party discipline mean that voters can yelp and squawk and scream and march in their millions but be safely ignored by the ruling class.

Americans' suspicion of government survives across the political spectrum

As for rebels… Well, there's Oliver Cromwell, who asserted the rights of Parliament, but after he died, the monarchy was restored, and wasn't the restoration more fun? And there was, it's true, the Glorious Revolution, though that should have been called the Clever Revolution, for the smart way one monarch was swapped in for another. But many hardcore malcontents just upped and left.

And many of them came to America, where one can more plausibly say that the people rule. They overthrew one government (citing "inalienable rights"') and created the next one (in the name of "We, the People"). The Constitution they wrote treated government with extreme suspicion, and they shackled it with checks and balances and separated powers and a firm Bill of Rights that prohibited the government from making laws that limited individual liberty.

Civil liberties activists demonstrate against the government's plans for compulsory identity cards linked to a national database
ID card protests

Today, that suspicion of government survives across the political spectrum: the left is wary of official police powers, the right of spreading, meddlesome, freedom-squelching bureaucracy. The result is a highly individualistic culture, one that constantly mythologises outlaws (Jesse James, Vito Corleone), self-appointed vigilantes (Dirty Harry, Spiderman), and the freelance rebel who climbs onto a motorcycle and goes on the road or jumps aboard his raft and heads down the Mississippi.

With all its problems and difficulties, the pull of this individual freedom has been felt throughout the world - as it will be in the UK on February 28. It's time to take a stand. It's time to summon up the shades of such great British reformers as William Wilberforce and his fellow abolitionists. It's time to realise that Britain needs to make real something it already thinks is right. It's time, in fact, for the UK's very own Bill of Rights

AIG Asset Sales Could Be Financed by the US

By: Reuters

The US government may agree to finance some buyers of American International Group assets, take stakes in assets and ease terms of its aid to the troubled insurer, a person familiar with the matter said Thursday.


These are some of the options under discussion between the government, the insurer and credit rating agencies, as AIG looks to avoid a credit downgrade that would trigger a host of liquidity issues and hurt its business, the source said.

Other options include changing the terms of a $40 billion preferred stock investment and reducing or even eliminating the dividend, the source said.

The sides are also looking at lowering the interest rate on the government's credit line to AIG, and swapping debt for equity for some businesses, the source added.

AIG [AIG  0.42    -0.10  (-19.23%)   ] may also get an additional equity commitment of several billion dollars from the government, and could come as an expanded credit line, the source said.

AIG, facing the prospect of a third round of government aid and the largest quarterly loss in U.S. corporate history, is trying to sell off assets to stay afloat and help pay back part of the $150 billion it borrowed after being driven to the brink of collapse last year.

Deadlines for bids for the Asian assets, sales of which could raise tens of billions of dollars for AIG, are due on Friday, according to sources. AIG is also selling off stakes in U.S. subsidiaries.

An AIG spokeswoman did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The major Asian assets on the block are AIG's American Life Insurance (Alico), a unit that generates more than half of its revenues from Japan, and a 49 percent stake in Hong Kong-based life insurance group American International Assurance (AIA).

Analysts originally expected the units to fetch more than $10 billion each, but the value of the assets has likely fallen since the auction began.

With the auction in its last phase, AIG has signaled it's willing to give up control of AIA, sources said.

The AIA sale process has been hampered by weakening economic conditions and suitors dropping out, though hope of China's interest in the asset was re-kindled by an official on Thursday.

Chinese firms' potential bids would be solely a corporate decision, said Li Kemu, vice chairman of the China Insurance Regulatory Commission, suggesting Beijing would not block involvement by a Chinese firm.

Asked whether China Life or Bank of China might bid for the American insurer's assets, Li said Chinese companies were holding discussions with AIG about a possible deal.

"The discussion is still going on, and we are paying high attention to it," Li said.

State Stakes?

Also under consideration is a plan that would allow the U.S. to take stakes in AIG assets like Alico and AIA, and either spin them off or sell them later if the current auctions fail, according to one of the sources.

"The details of the plan are not yet settled and talks are fluid," the source said.

Plans to sell AIG assets across the globe were put in place last fall shortly after the U.S. government saved AIG from bankruptcy with a rescue that has since ballooned to around $150 billion.

Chinese Scoop Up SoCal Foreclosures

Lots of foreigners are traveling to Southern California to see the sights and, more importantly, to look at all the foreclosed and price reduced homes.

February 22, 2009

Buying some wine? Spy cameras will be watching

Big Brother CCTV cameras are to be fitted inside shops and supermarkets on the orders of the state to keep track on anybody buying alcohol.

A law is being quietly pushed through Parliament giving councils the power to order licensed premises to fit the surveillance cameras. Pubs will also be covered.

The footage of people innocently buying a bottle of wine in a shop or a pint of beer in a bar must be stored for at least 60 days, and be handed over to the police on demand.

CCTV camera

Anyone buying alcohol - in pubs, shops and supermarkets - will be monitored by CCTV cameras

Critics say it will mean that citizens will now be tracked everywhere they go. The UK already has more than four million closed-circuit TV cameras covering the streets – the largest number in the world.

Cars are also automatically monitored using cameras that check registration plates. Now shops and pubs will also be covered.


The measures form part of the Policing and Crime Bill, but have not been highlighted by Ministers.

Under a code of conduct, which will be enforced by the Bill, any business that intends to sell alcohol will have to agree to install the cameras.

Phil Booth, of the NO2ID privacy campaign, said: 'We are already a country with more CCTV cameras than anywhere else in the civilised world, but this law is systemising the surveillance of a nation. People will be treated like suspects wherever they go.'

James Brokenshire, a Tory home affairs spokesman, said: 'The risk is that these provisions could be used as a way to impose blanket CCTV requirements where they just aren't necessary. This mustn't be another way of extending the surveillance society by the back door.'

Earlier this week, the Mail revealed how police were warning pubs they would not support their licensing applications unless they agreed to train the intrusive cameras on their customers.

The first blanket policy has been introduced in the London borough of Islington, where all applicants wanting a licence to sell alcohol are being told they must fit CCTV.

Other forces are adopting similar tactics. But the planned new law goes much further, as it will allow councils – which ultimately hand out all licences – to insist on the CCTV cameras. 


Ministers have also been restricting the public's right to 'watch the watchers'.

Earlier this week, a law came into force which carries a maximum ten-year jail term for anybody taking a picture of a police officer if it is 'likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism'.

Home Office Minister Alan Campbell, who is piloting the CCTV measure through the Commons, recently admitted that he couldn't remember the last time he was in a pub.

Mark Hastings, spokesman for the British Beer and Pub Association, said: 'It's an extraordinary admission from someone who is proposing measures that, on the Government's own admission, will cost the pub sector hundreds of millions of pounds a year.

'It shows how disconnected he is from the realities of what it's like trying to stay in business in the current environment.'

The Home Office said the clause in the Bill was intended to allow police and councils to target premises where problems were occurring, such as underage sales.

It was not meant to penalise businesses that act responsibly. It will be up to councils to decide which premises must have cameras, and they will be trained on the areas where alcohol is sold.

Swiss party wants to punish U.S. for UBS probe

ZURICH, Feb 21 (Reuters) - The right-wing Swiss People's Party (SVP) called on Saturday for retaliation against the United States over a U.S. tax probe into the country's biggest bank UBS that threatens prized banking secrecy.

The populist SVP, the country's biggest party, said Switzerland should not take in any detainees from the U.S. prison for terrorism suspects at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, which the Swiss government said last month it could consider to help shut the camp down.

Switzerland should also reconsider its policy of representing the United States in countries where it has no diplomatic presence, the parliamentary SVP said in a statement.

The SVP said gold stored by the Swiss National Bank in the United States should be repatriated and Switzerland should ban the sale of U.S. funds in the country to protect Swiss investors after the failure of U.S. regulators.

The SVP has one minister in the seven-member Swiss government which is made up of the biggest four parties, but its populist policies have shaken up usually consensual Swiss politics.

The comments came after UBS agreed on Wednesday to pay a fine of $780 million and to disclose about 250 names of U.S. clients it said had committed tax fraud to settle U.S. criminal charges that it had helped rich Americans dodge taxes.

U.S. tax authorities said on Thursday they were still pursuing a civil case against UBS seeking access to thousands more names of U.S. citizens it says are hiding about $14.8 billion in assets in secret Swiss bank accounts. [ID:nN19534438]

The SVP also said it would call for an urgent debate in parliament on ways to protect Swiss banking secrecy from "further foreign blackmail". (Reporting by Emma Thomasson)

February 21, 2009

Group Protests Army Recruitment Tool That Violates International Law


An anti-war group protested the offices of video game maker Ubisoft in San Francisco yesterday to bring attention to the company's ongoing work with the U.S. Army on "America's Army", a video game that has been developed specifically to increase the number of Army recruits.

In the absence of a military draft the Army has turned to technological propaganda to meet it's recruitment targets.

The game immerses players in basic training before they can go on to play specialized combat roles. Players travel through Middle East settings using weapons that replicate those used by the US army.

The United States Army and the Modeling, Virtual Environments and Simulation Institute has stated of the game that "The Department of Defense want[ed] to double the number of Special Forces Soldiers, so essential did they prove in Afghanistan and northern Iraq; consequently, orders ... trickled down the chain of command and found application in the current release of 'America's Army.'"

Since its release, the game has "recruited" over 30,000 players everyday. It now has more than nine million registered users, and a new version is due to be launched next month.

Watch video of the protest:

Commentator Michael B. Reagan recently penned an excellent piece exposing the game as not only a fierce form of propaganda but also as a violation of international law:

Beyond its recruitment goals, the game serves as a training device for both military tactics and weapons, and to condition players for battlefield operations. To this end, "America's Army" game assignments are designed to simulate real world battlefield missions. For example in one mission, "Special Forces fight alongside Indigenous Forces they have trained. For this mission, [players] must rescue and escort a wounded resistance leader who's escaped to a neutral hospital for treatment - or hinder the escape of a wounded enemy courier, depending which side you're on." Missions like this shadow real world military actions such as the November 2004 seizure of a Fallujah hospital, a blatant violation of international law.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has found that Army use of the game, and its recruiting practice in general, violate international law. In May, the ACLU published a report that found the armed services "regularly target children under 17 for military recruitment. Department of Defense instruction to recruiters, the US military's collection of information of hundreds of thousands of 16-year-olds, and military training corps for children as young as 11 reveal that students are targeted for recruitment as early as possible. By exposing children under 17 to military recruitment, the United States military violates the Optional Protocol." The Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict, ratified by the Senate in December 2002, protects the rights of children under 16 from military recruitment and deployment to war.

Furthermore, "America's Army" is not the only video game the army has produced in an effort to vamp up recruitment. A piece in The Wall Street Journal recently highlighted the fact that the Army has been touring an exhibit known as The Virtual Army Experience for the past year and a half. This giant videogame, currently stopping at amusement parks, air shows and county fairs, has been in production since 1999 when the Army fell short of recruitment goals.

Spokesman for the U.S. Army Recruiting Command, Douglas Smith, admits that the game is a recruitment tool stating "parents are less likely to encourage their children to consider military service".

Col. Casey Wardynski, director of the Army's Office of Economic and Manpower Analysis at West Point has also described the game as a tool to capture the public interest and "an opportunity to shape their tastes".

Of course, the graphic horror of war is completely absent in both video games. Being hit by a bullet translates into a red puff of mist on the screen and soldiers regenerate once they have been killed.

Dobson students question Obama's plan

Tim Hacker, Tribune

Students inside Jeff Sherrer's advanced placement government class view President Barack Obama's address via closed circuit television on the campus of Dobson High School in Mesa. Feb. 18, 2009.

Students inside Jeff Sherrer's advanced placement government class view President Barack Obama's address via closed circuit television on the campus of Dobson High School in Mesa. Feb. 18, 2009.


Some of the students attentively watched the speech, giving questioning looks and comments, shaking their heads and laughing at some of Obama's words. Other students listened, occasionally glancing up to watch, while texting on their cell phones, reading a book or finishing school work.

The gymnasium's events were shown simultaneously in rooms throughout the Mesa school, and teachers were given discretion on whether to show the speech, the students said.

The students in the class were hopeful things will work out but questioned whether Obama's plan would actually work to dig the country out of its economic woes. They also expected a longer speech.

Senior Syna Daudfar took some notes during the speech and was among the most vocally opposed to Obama's words.

At one point, when he talked about the costs of his stimulus plan, senior Maaike Albach and Daudfar looked at each other and said, "uh-oh."

"Overall I think it's a good idea, but he's not addressing the issues of the economic crisis," said Daudfar, a John McCain supporter who added he leans more toward being a moderate conservative. "The spending bill he just passed is just progressing the Democratic agenda rather than addressing the economic issues in the country."

Daudfar thinks Obama's plan is backward and deals with the "less important stuff" first. "Bailing out businesses" and "providing better regulatory systems for giving out money to businesses" should have been first, he said.

"If businesses can't afford to hire people, then people won't be able to work and pay off their mortgages," he said. "It's kind of like putting money into a funnel."

Albach, who is also a Republican, said Obama's plan sounds good but questioned how Obama can want to rely on "people's responsibility" when that is "what got us in this economic crisis in the first place."

"This puts us more into debt," said Albach, 18. "It's a horrible situation we're in."

Senior Brandon Miller wore a shirt with the words, "Hitler gave great speeches, too" above a picture of Obama.

Miller said he had been an Obama supporter "because of his speeches," but after debating the issues in this class and looking more into Obama's policies, his vote was swayed toward McCain.

He showed a video on his camera he had just taken of the president's minutelong motorcade and talked about what a "great experience" it was to watch it. Miller had also spent a couple of hours in front of the school, hanging out and watching the protesters.

"Even though I don't support him, I think it's cool he's here," said Miller, 18. "I just don't believe all the things he's telling us. His goal is just too big and broad."

Miller wanted to hear more about the costs and guidelines the stimulus bill entails.

Senior Katelyn Meyer, who also leans more toward being a Republican, said Obama's plan sounds good, "but it's easier said than done."

"I like the refinancing part, and I like the part about mortgages, but I'm afraid we're going to put the money in but won't see any effect," said Meyer, 18, who still thought it was "cool" to say the president was at her school, even though she didn't get to see him live.

The students also questioned why Obama chose their school for his speech since he wasn't talking about education and wondered how much money the district spent on beautifying the campus while district positions and services are being cut.

District officials noted this week that the landscaping project completed over the weekend at Dobson was already in the works and was just expedited by the president's visit. Funding came from voter-approved bonds.

New sod was laid in front of the school Tuesday, and Daudfar said, "The joke at the school is they're going to take it away when he (Obama) leaves."

AP government teacher Jeff Sherrer said his students "feel very strongly about the issues, maybe more than the general population." He thought at least one of his students was outside protesting, and he had planned to take his students outside as a class project to show them what was going on but didn't get the chance.

"These kinds of kids really get into it," Sherrer said. "During the election we had lots of debates on the issues."

Over The Top - CCTV

Under Surveillance

Film-maker Darren Pollard catches a covert surveillance vehicle spying on him outside his house and confronts them!

The EU PoliceState & The New World Order

US files new lawsuit in UBS bank secrets case to find tax cheats

By Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal authorities have filed a lawsuit against Swiss-based bank UBS AG seeking the identities of tens of thousands of U.S. customers.

The suit filed in Miami Thursday seeks to force the firm to turn over information on as many as 52,000 U.S. customers who hid their accounts from the U.S. government in violation of tax laws.

The move comes a day after the Justice Department struck a deal with UBS to get access to some of its customers who used Swiss bank secrecy law to hide billions of dollars in assets.

According to the government's lawsuit, the accounts in question held about $14.8 billion in assets in the past decade.

As part of its deal with prosecutors Wednesday, the bank agreed to pay $780 million in fines and penalties.

The Police - Your Friendly Guides

UK Terror Law To Make Photographing Police Illegal

Cops moving away from role of public servants, assuming God-like status

UK Terror Law To Make Photographing Police Illegal 280109top

Paul Joseph Watson
Prison Planet.com

New laws set to be passed in England and Canada would make it illegal to use bad language or take photographs of police officers, moving us further away from the idea of police as public servants and more towards the notion of cops assuming God-like status.

According to the British Journal of Photography, the Counter-Terrorism Act 2008, which is set to become law on February 16, "allows for the arrest and imprisonment of anyone who takes pictures of officers 'likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism'." The punishment for this offense is imprisonment for up to ten years and a fine.

However, even before the passage of the legislation, police in Britain have already been harassing and arresting fully accredited press photographers merely for taking pictures of them at rallies and protests.

Besides the 4.2 million CCTV cameras in Britain, one for every fourteen people, Police are now equipped with mobile surveillance vans and head mounted cameras and they routinely videotape everyone at a protest, yet anyone attempting to record them has been met with increasing hostility.

Justin Tallis, a London-based photographer, was taking pictures of the anti-BBC protest this past weekend when he was approached by an officer. The officer demanded to see his photographs and when Talis refused the officer tried to seize his camera, arguing that Tallis 'shouldn't have taken that photo, you were intimidating me'.  

"The incident lasted just 10 seconds, but you don't expect a police officer to try to pull your camera from your neck," Tallis told BJP.

"The police are arresting journalists, seizing their equipment, treating them as suspects, looking at their photographs, taking copies, perhaps returning them to them, taking no further action often (but not always) and they've got, straight away, what they want," solicitor Mike Schwartz of Bindman and Partners told a UK National Union of Journalists conference.

"At every demonstration, the police are figuratively scratching their heads as to how they can get hold of your material. That's what they're after."

"The police take action, they often get what they want, and allow the lawyers in court to mop up what's happened afterwards. That's one of the trends and areas where there is a real problem: the police arresting journalists and seizing their material in order to use it in prosecutions."

An incident captured on camera and uploaded to You Tube proves that some police officers in Britain already think that is is against the law to film them.

Film-maker Darren Pollard was clearing up flood debris from his front garden when he noticed the police harassing a youth opposite his house. Darren retrieved his camera and began filming the officers. After noticing Pollard, the officers approached and then tried to claim that it was illegal to film them. After being informed by their superior that it was not illegal to film police, the officers left the scene.

Watch the clip below.

Meanwhile, in Montreal Canada, Montreal police are asking the city to outlaw bad or insulting language used against police officers, making it illegal for members of the public to call cops profanity-laced nicknames, or lob jeers, such as "pig" and "doughnut-eater."

"Chablo said several municipalities across Quebec - including Quebec City - have some variation of a law that prohibits citizens from spewing slurs at police officers," reports the Canadian Press.

"There are an awful lot of words that are borderline and it's highly subjective - it's too vague," said Ronald Sklar, a McGill University law professor, said of the police union's proposal.

What's next? How long before we have to officially salute or even get down and lick some boots?

The vast majority of people respect police officers and the dangerous work they undertake, but when people committing no crimes are being harassed and having their rights taken away while police are being given more rights to crack down on the public, the balance is tipping dangerously away from cops being public servants funded by the taxpayer and more towards them assuming a superior role in society, ruling over the scum with an iron fist.

February 10, 2009

Clergy Response Teams

Feds Train Clergy To "Quell Dissent" During Martial Law, Pastors Will Cite Romans 13 To Encourage Public's Submission To Police State.

Bullion sales hit record in rush to safety



By Javier Blas in London

Published: February 9 2009


Investors are buying record amounts of gold bars and coins, shunning risky assets for the relative safety of bullion amid renewed fears about the health of the global financial system.


The US Mint sold 92,000 ounces of its popular American Eagle coin last month, almost four times that which it sold a year ago and more than it shipped during the whole of the first half of 2007.

Other countries’ mints have also reported strong sales. “Large purchases of coins are perhaps the ultimate sign of safe-haven gold buying,” said John Reade, a precious metals strategist at UBS.

Inflows into gold-backed exchange traded funds surged in January, pushing their bullion holdings to an all-time high of 1,317 tonnes. Last month’s flows of 105 tonnes were above September’s previous record of 104 tonnes, and absorbed about half the world’s gold mine output for January, said Barclays Capital.


“We estimate that investment demand [into gold] could double in 2009 compared to 2007,” said Mr Reade. “Purchases of physical gold have jumped over the past six months as investors’ fears about the current financial crisis ... have intensified.”

The move into gold is being driven by the very rich, with bankers saying that some clients are hoarding gold in their vaults. UBS and Goldman Sachs said last week that investor hoarding would drive prices back above $1,000 an ounce. On Monday gold was trading at $892 an ounce.

Traders and analysts said jewellery demand, historically the backbone of gold consumption, had collapsed under the weight of the high prices. Sharp falls in demand in the key markets of India, Turkey and the Middle East have capped the potential of any price rally. But the lack of jewellery demand has not discouraged investors.

Jonathan Spall, director of commodities at Barclays Capital in London, said: “We have seen more new enquiries about investing in gold so far this year than during the whole 2008.”

Philip Klapwijk, chairman of GFMS, the precious metal consultancy, said that investors were buying gold because of fears about the global financial system rather than looking for a quick gain.

“This is a new round of safe haven buying,” Mr Klapwijk said.

GFMS estimated bullion coin demand last year reached its highest level in 21 years.

The Financial Times Limited 2009

February 7, 2009

Federal Workers Happier than Private Sector Employees?

By Kelly Johnson

This weakened economy has left many employed Americans wondering if and when they'll receive the dreaded pink slip from their employer. After all, a lot of private-sector companies have cut their workforce, which has forced the unemployment rate to rise to 7.3 percent -- its highest rate in years.
Worrying about impending unemployment has led to decreased job satisfaction for a lot of civilians. In fact, a 2007 Conference Board survey of 5,000 households found that less than half of the working adults are satisfied with their jobs. And, the anxiety and fear of becoming unemployed has decreased productivity and creativity in many offices, reports OhMyGov.com.
"Although a certain amount of dissatisfaction with one's job is to be expected, the breadth of dissatisfaction is somewhat unsettling, since it carries over from what attracts employees to a job to what keeps them motivated an productive on the job," says Lynn Franco, director of the Conference Board Consumer Research Center a press release.
Conversely, job satisfaction for most federal employees increased. The reason: The public sector is one of the few industries that has been largely untouched by the economic downturn and is growing. And, as a result, 84 percent of federal employees surveyed report being happy with their jobs, according to the Office of Personnel Management (OPM).
Over the years the public sector has proven to be an employer with great job security, and has had little turnover. The number of federal employees has remained the same -- 1.9 million workers (not counting postal workers or servicemembers) -- since 1963.
"The government is not going anywhere," says John Palguta, Public Service's vice president for Policy in an OhMyGov.com report. "It's a stable place for people to work and looking at all the challenges facing our country, the government is going to need to be there to be part of the solution."
The public sector is also working to fill more than 200,000 jobs as more baby boomers chose to retire. These jobs vary across agencies and offer the same job security, as well as other benefits exclusive to federal employees.
Financial experts predict that the job market and economy will continue to decline for at least another year, and as a result, more job seekers are looking for work that will provide them job security to ride out the recession. The federal government can offer that kind of security.
"No one wants to be on sinking ship," adds Paluguta. "In the government you can see a place where things are stable or even growing."
To find jobs in the federal workforce or to find a veteran that works in the public sector, visit Military.com's Career channel.

Google Latitude keeps tabs on friends' locations


Posted by Stephen Shankland

Google Latitude

Google Latitude shows your friends on a map--as long as they've agreed to share their location.

(Credit: Google)

Just because the Internet has broken down geographic barriers, don't assume that Google doesn't care about geography.

The company plans to launch software called Latitude on Wednesday that lets mobile phone users share their location with close contacts. Google hopes it will help people find each other while out and about and to keep track of loved ones.

"What Google Latitude does is allow you to share that location with friends and family members, and likewise be able to see friends and family members' locations," said Steve Lee, product manager for Google Latitude. For example, a girlfriend could use it to see if her boyfriend has arrived at a restaurant and, if not, how far away he is.

To protect privacy, Google specifically requires people to sign up for the service. People can share their precise location, the city they're in, or nothing at all.

"What we found in testing is that the most common scenario is a symmetrical arrangement, where both people are sharing with each other," Lee said.

The software spotlights Google's fixation with mapping and location technology. Location is an important part of navigating the real world, and Google clearly sees its geographic services as a way to establish a more personal connection with customers who today use Google chiefly for the virtual realm of the Internet. And of course money is involved, too: Google hopes its mapping technology will lead to location-based advertising revenue.

Google's power is firmly lodged in search and search advertising, but the company is trying to expand to broader online services, too. That includes online documents and various aspects of social networking, which are much more personal services and ones that put Google into more direct competition with rivals such as Microsoft, Facebook, and Yahoo. Like using Google profiles to contact information with select contacts, using Google Latitude tells Google who's who in your social graph.

Latitude lets you contact somebody who's close by.

Latitude lets you contact somebody who's close by.

(Credit: Google)

How it works
Latitude is part of Google Maps for Mobile, the company's mapping software for mobile phones, but also can be used through a gadget loaded onto its iGoogle customized home page. It'll work in 27 countries at launch, Google said.

Initially, it will work on most color-screen BlackBerry phones, most phones with Windows Mobile 5.0 or later, and most Symbian-based devices such as Nokia smartphones. An update to the Google Android operating system now being distributed to the T-Mobile G1 phone also enables it, and iPhone and iPod Touch users will get the option "very soon," Lee said.

Latitude uses Google's technology to judge a user's location not just by GPS satellite, but also by proximity to mobile phone towers and wireless networks.

That's a much more automated approach than the manual "check-in" process used by Dodgeball, a service that Google decided in January to shut down.

Other competitors exist, though. BrightKite and Loopt offer mechanisms for people to find each other by mobile phone, for example. Then there's MobiFriends, Tripit, and Dopplr.

And Google's clearest competitor, Yahoo, offers some competition with Fire Eagle. That service doesn't provide location information, but it does provide a mechanism to centralize people's geographic privacy choices, in effect taking care of some of the social graph management when it comes to location information.

To use the service, you need a Google account to record who has permission to see your location. For choosing who gets to see your location, you can use contacts stored with Gmail or Picasa, Google said.

The white lie
With the service, you can hide from specific people or disappear altogether. And you can manually set a specific location if, for example, your phone can't show it with sufficient precision or if you wish to tell someone a white lie about whether you really aren't going to go to the candy store.

People must agree to share their location before Latitude will work.

People must agree to share their location before Latitude will work.

(Credit: Google)

Google envisions two broad classes of people with whom you might want to share location information. First is a small, close-knit circle of friends and family with whom you're willing to share your exact spot. Second is a larger group with whom you're happy to share city-level detail, convenient for finding out when somebody's in town but not much more.

When somebody is close, the software lets you contact the person various ways--by calling or sending an e-mail or text message, for example. It also lets you hide from that specific person.

Privacy is of course a significant concern when it comes to sharing this sort of information. If you want to use Latitude, you must specifically enable the service.

Meeting your pals at a bar is an obvious example of the software's possibilities, but there are softer cases I see as useful, too.

Lee pointed to a case where a friend's girlfriend, though far away in Seattle, will "virtually place herself next to him." That sounds a little sappy for my tastes, but I can still relate. My wife is on the other side of the country right now, and it would be heart-warming to see just where. There are a lot of occasions where technology is better for maintaining relationships than it is for establishing them, and this looks like one to me.

Source: cnet.com