Daily Digest

Daily Digest 12/23 - Health Insurance Premiums, Homeless in Foreclosed Homes, Price of Gold

Thursday, December 23, 2010, 11:00 AM
  • Rising Health Insurance Premiums Prompt New Rules
  • Wednesday’s Worry – ETF Madness hits $1,000,000,000,000
  • High Metal Prices Spur Fourmile Fire Thefts; Victims Feel 'Violated' (Colorado)
  • Officials Warn of Catalytic Converter Thefts (Ohio)
  • Homeless Squatting In Foreclosed City Homes (Video)
  • Jewellers Find Silver Lining In Price Of Gold
  • Spaniards Pin Hopes On Lottery During Austere Christmas

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Rising Health Insurance Premiums Prompt New Rules

Pushing to restrain skyrocketing health insurance premiums, the Obama administration Tuesday set out new rules requiring insurers to justify any increase of more than 10% a year....Under the new rules, insurance companies that seek rate increases of more than 10% next year will have to post their justifications on the federal government's new healthcare website, http://www.healthcare.gov.

Wednesday’s Worry – ETF Madness hits $1,000,000,000,000 (ilene)

After adding $209Bn (26.3%) in total assets so far this year, the US ETF industry has passed the Trillion Dollar mark led by $31Bn of inflows into fixed income ETFs, of all things as well as $29Bn of inflows into emerging markets, and $21Bn into domestic.  Recent outflows have knocked commodity ETFs down to $11.4Bn, miles down from last year’s $32.6Bn inflow – rats leaving a sinking ship, perhaps?  That would be very bad news for the firm that bought up 90% of the LME copper supply recently.  Do ETF traders really know something or are they a lagging indicator?

High Metal Prices Spur Fourmile Fire Thefts; Victims Feel 'Violated' (Colorado)

At least five people now have been arrested for stealing scrap metal from the remains of homes destroyed by the Fourmile Fire, although the theft of copper and aluminum is not unusual throughout Boulder County, according to sheriff's officials.... Thefts of metal have been increasing around the county -- and the country -- along with the rise in metal prices. Thefts nationwide began increasing in 2006, when prices began to spike, but they fell again in 2008 when the economy crashed. This year, prices have again been on the rise again, with copper prices hovering around record highs in the last week. 
"Metal thefts have been an ongoing issue -- it's all over the place," Brough said.

Officials Warn of Catalytic Converter Thefts (Ohio)

After a rash of catalytic converter thefts in the Columbus area, Ohio Department of Insurance Director Mary Jo Hudson released a list of ways to protect yourself from becoming a victim.... The converters contain precious metals such as palladium, platinum and rhodium. Converters can be sold for up to $200.

Homeless Squatting In Foreclosed City Homes (Video)

The City of Rochester has about 3,000 vacant buildings. Several of them have new occupants – homeless people – who moved in, changed the locks, and turned on the lights. 
Legally, they’re known as “squatters,” people who live in a place without a deed or tenant agreement. They’ve been living in the houses for months without anyone noticing.
“It’s just wonderful to have a house, to have heat, to have food in your refrigerator,” said a woman who moved into a three-bedroom house last week with her two children, including a 3-week-old newborn.

Jewellers Find Silver Lining In Price Of Gold (New Zealand)

[The cost of] a good piece of gold jewellery is starting to climb out of the reach of a lot of people and consequently silver jewellery has taken a big leap. You can still buy a nice piece for hundreds of dollars, rather than thousands." 
Jewellery manufacturers had changed their styles and were using less gold to counteract rising prices and even though labour rates and manufacturing costs were the same, a gold wedding ring that had recently sold for $790 would cost $980 to replace.

Spaniards Pin Hopes On Lottery During Austere Christmas

Spaniards are cutting back on food and gifts this year as an economic downturn grinds on but ticket sales for an annual Christmas lottery have bucked the trend as they look to the world's biggest payout for relief from the crisis. The State Lottery and Betting organisation estimates sales for Wednesday's draw for "El Gordo" or "The Fat One", as the lottery is called, will match or be slightly higher than last year's total of 2.7 billion euros (3.5 billion dollars).

Article suggestions for the Daily Digest can be sent to [email protected]. All suggestions are filtered by the Daily Digest team and preference is given to those that are in alignment with the message of the Crash Course and the "3 Es."


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The War You Don't See

From the award-winning director of The War on Democracy comes John Pilger's latest work, The War You Don't See. This hard-hitting exposé scrutinizes the effects of the media during wartime, asking what is the role of the media in rapacious wars.

When symbols are separated from facts and the facts don't matter, could the media be accused of conspiring to play down the carnage and of using 'embedded journalism' to amplify the lies? This documentary unveils the war you don't see and allows you to make up your own mind.

~ VF ~

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Re: Daily Digest 12/23 - Health Insurance Premiums, ...

"The Treasury will sell $99 billion of two-, five- and seven-year notes next week for a third straight month amid prospects for a rising budget deficit, according to the Federal Reserve’s primary dealers.

The U.S. had scaled back auction sizes after earlier expanding debt sales to finance annual budget deficits exceeding $1 trillion. It sold $118 billion in two-, five- and seven-year debt at each of six monthly sales of the three maturities from November 2009 through April. The $858 billion bill President Barack Obama signed Dec. 17 extending tax cuts for two years spurred speculation federal borrowing will need to increase.

“The Treasury had been cutting issue sizes, but there is no room to cut further given that the budget will be higher than it would have been a few months ago before the tax legislation,” said Suvrat Prakash, an interest-rate strategist in New York at BNP Paribas SA, which as a primary dealer is required to bid at Treasury auctions. “It’s going to be very hard for them to cut amounts any time soon.” "

"PRICHARD, Ala. — This struggling small city on the outskirts of Mobile was warned for years that if it did nothing, its pension fund would run out of money by 2009. Right on schedule, its fund ran dry.

Then Prichard did something that pension experts say they have never seen before: it stopped sending monthly pension checks to its 150 retired workers, breaking a state law requiring it to pay its promised retirement benefits in full.

Since then, Nettie Banks, 68, a retired Prichard police and fire dispatcher, has filed for bankruptcy. Alfred Arnold, a 66-year-old retired fire captain, has gone back to work as a shopping mall security guard to try to keep his house. Eddie Ragland, 59, a retired police captain, accepted help from colleagues, bake sales and collection jars after he was shot by a robber, leaving him badly wounded and unable to get to his new job as a police officer at the regional airport.

Far worse was the retired fire marshal who died in June. Like many of the others, he was too young to collect Social Security. “When they found him, he had no electricity and no running water in his house,” said David Anders, 58, a retired district fire chief. “He was a proud enough man that he wouldn’t accept help.”

The situation in Prichard is extremely unusual — the city has sought bankruptcy protection twice — but it proves that the unthinkable can, in fact, sometimes happen."

"Dec. 16 (Bloomberg) -- Arnold Schwarzenegger swore after his first month as California governor that he'd rip up the state's credit cards. Instead, the Republican former action- movie hero pushed through at least $52 billion of borrowing.

Debt of the world's eighth-largest economy almost tripled in Schwarzenegger's seven years, to $91 billion on June 30 from $34 billion in 2003, state Treasury figures show. Californians owed $2,362 per person last year, up from $977 before he went to work. Under Schwarzenegger, the state's workforce grew 9.9 percent to 348,213, according to his finance office.

When Democrat Jerry Brown takes over the biggest U.S. municipal borrower on Jan. 3, he'll inherit interest and principal payments that consume 7.1 percent of general-fund spending, twice what greeted Schwarzenegger. That will rise to 10 percent in 2012, leaving less for services and to tackle a budget deficit that may reach $28 billion in 18 months."

"Even as Cincinnati City Council grappled with plans to erase a $54 million budget deficit, two meetings Wednesday at the opposite end of Downtown began shaping the next major financial challenge - one involving sums with considerably more zeroes - that will confront council in 2011.

Both meetings - one at the Hamilton County Courthouse, the other at City Hall - dealt with the financially troubled Cincinnati Retirement System, and the outcomes in each will have much to say about how, even whether, the city can dig out of a projected $1 billion-plus long-term pension hole."

"With retirees' basic pensions protected by law, City Hall views spiraling health costs as the one major existing expense that could be trimmed to help stabilize the $2 billion city pension fund, which experts warn could become insolvent within 20 years unless major changes are made."

"Philadelphia School District officials are staring down a gap of $430 million or more in next year's budget, and the deficit could surpass the half-billion mark under worst-case scenarios, according to officials briefed on the district's finances. "

  • Other news, headlines and opinion:

Text: Fitch Downgrades Hungary to BBB-; Outlook Negative

New Jersey to Issue $2 Billion of Debt to Terminate Interest-Rate Swaps

Debt Struggles Set to Deepen for Peripheral Europe: Euro Credit

Unemployment sets record in Washington and State's jobless benefit tallies set record in 2010

Senate Approves $725 Billion Defense Spending Bill

`Grotesque' Basel Rules May Kill Danish Bonds

Asia's baby shortage sets demographic timebomb ticking

Dubai May Sell More Assets as $20 Billion in Debt Comes Due in Next Year

Ireland Takes Control of Allied Irish, Fourth Bank in Two Years

Economists See Slower Housing Recovery

16 U.S. Cities That Could Face Bankruptcy in 2011

Fitch cuts Portugal rating one notch to A-plus‎

..............................Since there are no markets tomorrow I'll be back on Monday. Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays....

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Re: Daily Digest 12/23 - Health Insurance Premiums, ...

Assange named Le Monde Man of the Year


WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been named "Man of the Year" by French newspaper Le Monde.

The newspaper is one of five publications to cooperate with the whistleblowing website on its its latest release of leaked documents.

The newspaper officially named Mr Assange in a weekly supplement magazine due out today.

Fifty-six per cent of voters on the newspaper's website voted in favour of Assange, while jailed Chinese dissident and Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo received 22 per cent.

Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg received just 6.9 per cent of the vote a week after Time magazine announced him as its "Person of the Year".

Meanwhile, Mr Assange says he and other individuals should not be held to the same standard of accountability as his website levels at governments and officials.

Mr Assange says transparency is for governments not individuals.

He made the comment in an interview published by a Brazilian newspaper when responding to press revelations about the sexual assault case against him in Sweden.

Mr Assange also accused Britain's Guardian newspaper of being manipulated and improperly publishing details of the case.


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Re: Daily Digest 12/23 - Health Insurance Premiums, ...


The John Pilger doco I posted above has an interview with Julian Assange well worth watching it for. To give a line in on that, this offering from Amy Goodman at Democracy Now deserves to go viral on the net, in itself : -

~ VF ~


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Re: Daily Digest 12/23 - Health Insurance Premiums, ...

Really cool series of 10 short videos about bee swarms.  You may find this interesting.  I do because I'm a beekeeper.  Hoping you enjoy!



... dons

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Re: Daily Digest 12/23 - Health Insurance Premiums, ...
from ASPO-USA's Peak Oil Notes, 23 Dec 2010

Wall Street analysts continue to talk of a slowdown in China’s demand for oil next year. A recent
survey has Beijing consumption increasing by a modest 6.3 percent in 2011 down from the
torrid 20 percent jump in 2010. The conventional wisdom is that Beijing’s efforts to slow inflation
through a tightened money supply will lead to increased interest rates and a lower demand for
oil. Price increases decreed by Beijing this week will also temper demand.

In the meantime, however, there is still no sign that demand is abating to the extent posited by
the Wall Street economists. So far China has seen unusually cold and snowy weather in
December. Coal stocks in central and northern China are dropping rapidly at many power
stations and supply is not forecast to keep up with the increased demand in the next few
months. In some areas coal suppliers with long-term fixed price contracts are holding back on
shipments. Blackouts and power rationing seem likely to spread.
It is now widely reported that China’s apparent demand for oil increased by 15 percent, year
over year, in November to a new all-time high of 9.3 million b/d in December
and natural gas
consumption increased by 13 percent. Given the inability of the domestic coal industry and coal
transport systems to keep up with demand, it seems likely that higher than expected demand for
oil will continue to at least through the winter to offset faltering coal supplies. 
Has anyone seen a peakist analysis of when China and India
will have soaked up all the spare oil capacity created by the GFC ?
NYMEX Crude Oil Futures US$91.55 /b
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Re: Daily Digest 12/23 - Health Insurance Premiums, ...
WikiLeaks to Release Israel Documents in Six Months
By Peninsula News

December 23, 2010

DOHA: WikiLeaks will release top secret American files concerning Israel in the next six months, its founder Julian Assange disclosed yesterday.

In an excusive interview with Al Jazeera, Assange said only a meagre number of files related to Israel had been published so far, because the newspapers in the West that were given exclusive rights to publish the secret documents were reluctant to publish many sensitive information about Israel.

“There are 3,700 files related to Israel and the source of 2,700 files is Israel. In the next six months we intend to publish more files depending on our sources,” said Assange in the nearly one-hour interview telecast live from the UK.

Asked if Israel had tried to contact him though mediators, Assange said, “No, no contacts with Israel but I am sure Mossad is following our activities closely like Australia, Sweden and the CIA.

The Guardian, El-Pais and Le Monde have published only two percent of the files related to Israel due to the sensitive relations between Germany, France and Israel. Even New York Times could not publish more due to the sensitivities related to the Jewish community in the US,” he added.


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Treasuries held by the Fed increased to $1 trillion


"The Federal Reserve’s total assets grew $42.2 billion to a record $2.43 trillion as the central bank increased its holdings of Treasury securities faster than its holdings of housing debt declined.

Treasuries held by the Fed increased by $39.7 billion to $1 trillion as of Dec. 22, according to a weekly release by the central bank today. The Fed’s holdings of mortgage-backed securities fell by $445 million to $1 trillion and federal agency debt securities fell by $424 million to $147.5 billion.

The Fed has bought $155.7 billion in Treasuries on its way to purchasing $600 billion in government debt through June 2011. The Fed is also reinvesting the proceeds of its maturing mortgage holdings. The second round of unconventional monetary easing is aimed at spurring economic growth and preventing inflation from falling too low. "

"New Jersey's unfunded pension liability, or the gap between what public employees are owed and the assets available to pay them, grew from $45.8 billion to $53.9 billion over the last year, an increase of 18 percent.

Taken together, the seven pension funds that cover teachers, police officers, firefighters, judges, and other government employees had 62 percent of the funds required to pay promised benefits in the long run, down from 66 percent the year before. Pension experts recommend maintaining funding levels of at least 80 percent."

"COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio's looming budget hole could be even larger than expected – possibly reaching $10 billion or more, a key lawmaker warned Thursday.

Incoming Senate Finance Chairman Sen. Chris Widener said in an interview that he was hesitant to put a hard number on the budget problem that the Republican-controlled legislature and GOP Governor-elect John Kasich will face next year. But Widener, a Springfield Republican, said it probably goes beyond the $8.4 billion that Senate Republicans had estimated.

That estimate represents the amount of one-time money -- such as federal stimulus dollars -- used to balance the current two-year state budget of $50.5 billion. Lawmakers can't count on that money being there next time around."

"SHANGHAI (Dow Jones)--China's Ministry of Finance failed to attract enough bids to sell all of the three-month bills it planned to sell in an auction Friday, as a liquidity squeeze hurt investor demand for new debt offerings.

The lackluster demand for the bill sale comes as China's short-term money market rates have been rising recently after the central bank raised banks' reserve requirement ratio three times since November and amid a seasonal year-end increase in demand for cash from companies and individuals.

The weighted average interbank seven-day repurchase rate, a benchmark gauge of short-term liquidity, rose to 6.25% Friday from 5.71% Thursday, compared with a rate of about 3.60% a week earlier.

The ministry said in a statement it sold CNY16.76 billion ($2.53 billion) worth of three-month bills at 3.6769%, short of the CNY20 billion worth it planned to sell.

Friday's was the second uncovered government debt auction within a month to attract insufficient demand, after the ministry sold just 58% of the planned CNY20 billion worth of three-month bills on Nov. 26. "

"NEW YORK (Dow Jones)--Weekly reporting municipal bond mutual funds lost $2.9 billion in the week ended Wednesday, Thomson Reuters unit Lipper FMI said Thursday.

The loss comes on the heels of a $2.7 billion outflow in the week ended Dec. 15. It marks the sixth straight week of declines which total $12 billion.

Mutual fund numbers are looked at as a key gauge of demand, particularly for individual investors, in the muni bond market.

The four-week moving average -- a more meaningful number because of the longer time span it measures -- was an outflow of $1.7 billion atop a loss of $1.5 billion in the previous four-week period."


.................OK, now my computer gets shut off until Monday.

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Re: Daily Digest 12/23 - Health Insurance Premiums, ...

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Re: Daily Digest 12/23 - Health Insurance Premiums, ...

Speaking of health insurance premiums, my Medicare premium just jumped from $91.00 per month to $184.50.

So much for the idea of limiting to a 10% increase. 

On the other hand, while I don't like paying more for Medicare, we are all going to have to chip in if the program is to continue given the increasing cost of healthcare. If you make more than $428K annually, the rate jumps to $253/month, so the stage is set to charge those with higher incomes something closer to the real cost.

Looks like my wife and I are headed for those $1,000 + per month premiums again before too long -- and here I thought my "Golden Years" we looked after. Retirement seemed like a good idea, but I'd better keep earning as long as I can Money mouth


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Re: Daily Digest 12/23 - Health Insurance Premiums, ...

Thank you, VF, for the The War You Don’t See video.  Not very festive stuff but absolutely essential viewing for all citizens of the NATO countries.  It will, of course, be largely ignored.  And so, nothing will change until the Anglo-American empire collapses under its own weight. They may be some upside to the loss of complexity after all.

 It is hard not conclude that Julian Assange is a political prisoner.  His fate, and that of Wikileaks will reveal much about the nature of system we live in.

Kudos to John Pilger.  Speaking truth to power indeed.

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Re: Daily Digest 12/23 - Health Insurance Premiums, ...

Paul ... what debu said, X 10 Pilger has always been REAL

BTW, I hear that He's at it again 

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The Most Dangerous Man In America

Debu, Tom,

Sorry I haven't written sooner in reply ...

Have you ever heard the expression, "History Repeats"?

Have either of you ever heard of The Pentagon Papers?

Have either of you heard of Daniel Ellsberg?

If none of the above meant anything to you, it should have. I've talked to plenty of Americans lately, and none of them knew of Daniel Ellsberg or of The Pentagon Papers, yet they were directly the consequent reason to the commencement of The Watergate Scandal, the resignation of President Nixon, the funding of the Vietnam War being cut nine months after Nixon's resignation, and as Blowback, the rise of the Khmer Rouge and Pol Pot in Cambodia between 1975 and 1980 with the genocide of two and half million Cambodians, before Vietnamese troops, not an American supported United Nations, re-took Cambodia.

Worse, there were three and a half times as much bomb tonnage dropped on Cambodia and Vietnam by the United States than all of the bombs dropped by all parties in the six years of the Second World War combined. That is quite a statement in itself.

History repeats in that Iraq, Afghanistan and surrounding countries have been getting equal treatment today, but how can you begin to comprehend Julian Assange if you have no reference to Daniel Ellsberg? The two words that I would use to describe this situation would be "Media" and "Omission", yet how do you countermand that?

As I've stated in another recent post, if a country has a population that are ill-informed, they are not living in a working democracy. They weren't living in one in 1971, and they certainly aren't living in one in 2011, yet how can I prove that with any certainty?

Documentary proof would be useful, and you won't find a more concise collection than The Pentagon Papers as PDF links, proving without a shadow of a doubt that five United States President's lied through their teeth over Vietnam between 1945 and 1967. Wouldn't that surely come in useful, along with a documentary released in 2009 covering in detail with stock period footage to the build up of Daniel Ellsberg's trial and subsequent aquittal?

Informed should surely make your actions and opinions justified : -

The Most Dangerous Man In America


The Pentagon Papers - Gravel Edition

Volume One - Background to the Crisis, 1940-50 PDF

Volume Two - The Kennedy Commitments and Programs, 1961 PDF

Volume Three - U.S. Programs in South Vietnam, Nov. 1963-Apr. 1965 PDF

Volume Four - The Air War in North Vietnam, 1965-1968 PDF

Happy New Year!

~ VF ~

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