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US predicts up to 7 major Atlantic hurricanes

Posted by Admin on May 29, 2010

By JENNIFER KAY | Posted: Thursday, May 27, 2010 4:59 pm

The Atlantic hurricane season could be the busiest since 2005, when Katrina and Rita caused massive destruction along the same part of the Gulf Coast now struggling with the largest offshore oil spill in U.S. history, government scientists said Thursday.

The 2010 season may spawn as many as 23 named tropical storms, including up to seven major hurricanes, a number not likely to be affected by the spill, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicted.

Eight to 14 storms would strengthen into hurricanes, with top winds of 74 mph or higher, the agency said. Three to seven of those could become major storms that reach Category 3 or higher _ meaning they bring sustained winds of at least 111 mph.

“This season could be one of the more active on record,” NOAA administrator Jane Lubchenco said in a news release. “The greater likelihood of storms brings an increased risk of a landfall. In short, we urge everyone to be prepared.”

A hurricane might help break up the oil spill staining the Gulf of Mexico, but the oil won’t affect significantly how tropical storms develop, forecasters said. They don’t know what kind of environmental hazards to expect, though there are fears that winds and waves could push the oil deeper into estuaries and wetlands.

Government scientists said Thursday that anywhere from 500,000 gallons to a million gallons a day has been leaking from the site where an oil rig exploded April 20, killing 11 people. BP PLC, which leased the rig and is responsible for the cleanup, and the Coast Guard previously had estimated the flow was about 210,000 gallons per day.

The expanding slick already has coated wildlife and marshes in Louisiana, but Lubchenco said the spill is still small relative to hurricanes _ which sometimes span the entire Gulf.

Although some oil could be pushed inland by a storm as it makes landfall, it could be difficult to determine whether it leaked from flooded cars or factories, Federal Emergency Management Agency chief Craig Fugate said.

The 2010 government forecast is based on the weakening of El Nino. The Pacific Ocean phenomenon created strong wind shear that helped suppress storm development in the Atlantic last season. Record warm water temperatures also will feed storms crossing the Atlantic this year.

Three hurricanes developed out of nine tropical storms in 2009. None of the hurricanes came ashore in the United States. Hurricane Ida hit Nicaragua as a Category 1 storm in November.

Florida Gov. Charlie Crist urged coastal residents to remember the destruction left in the wake of hurricanes in 2004 and 2005.

“Don’t take anything for granted,” Crist said at the annual Florida Governor’s Hurricane Conference in Fort Lauderdale. “We don’t need to suffer from hurricane amnesia.”

National Hurricane Center Director Bill Read said Wednesday that his biggest concern for the season is a storm striking Haiti, where hundreds of thousands of people have been living in makeshift camps since the Jan. 12 earthquake. Heavy rains can trigger serious flooding and mudslides in the mountainous Caribbean country, but no evacuation plans exist for displaced communities.

Tropical storms are named when their sustained winds reach 39 mph. The first named storm of the 2010 season will be Alex.

In April, Colorado State University researchers predicted 15 named storms would form this season, with four developing into major hurricanes.

The Atlantic hurricane season begins Tuesday and runs through Nov. 30.

___

Associated Press writer Suzette Laboy contributed to this report from Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

___

Online:

NOAA’s National Hurricane Center: http://www.hurricanes.gov

FEMA: http://www.fema.gov and http://www.ready.gov

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US to conduct naval exercises with S Korea after attack

Posted by Admin on May 26, 2010

A giant offshore crane salvages the bow section of the South Korean naval ship Cheonan off Baengnyeong Island, South Korea, file picture from 24 April 2010

The US has confirmed it will hold naval exercises with South Korea, after a report blamed the North for the sinking of a Southern warship, officials say.

The Pentagon said the joint anti-submarine and other military exercises would start “in the near future”.

South Korean President Lee Myung-bak earlier froze trade with Pyongyang, vowing to punish those who carried out the attack.

North Korea has said it will retaliate for any action taken against it.

The country’s main newspaper called the investigation an “intolerable, grave provocation”.

‘Unequivocal support’

South Korea has said it will refer the North to the UN Security Council in response to the sinking of the Cheonan – and the resulting death of 46 sailors – in March.

In a move endorsed by the US, President Lee said in a televised address that Seoul would no longer tolerate “any provocative act by the North and will maintain a principle of proactive deterrence”.

Analysts describe the joint exercises as a statement of US commitment to help Seoul rather than an attempt to intimidate Pyongyang.Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said the decision to start joint naval exercises was “a result of the findings of this recent incident”.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said earlier that her country was working hard to avoid an escalation.

After talks in China, she urged countries in the region to contain “the highly precarious situation created by North Korea”.

China – North Korea’s closest trading partner and a permanent member of the Security Council – has urged “restraint”.

Japan said it was contemplating its own sanctions on Pyongyang.

The North depends on South Korea and China for up to 80% of its trade and 35% of its GDP.

In 2009, inter-Korean trade stood at $1.68bn (£1.11bn) – 13% of the North’s GDP.

The measures announced by South Korea included:

  • Stopping inter-Korean trade
  • Banning North Korean ships from using South Korean waterways or shortcuts
  • Resuming “psychological warfare”
  • Referring the case to the UN Security Council

The BBC’s John Sudworth in Seoul says the measures are as tough a response as the South could take short of military action.

They reported that parts of the torpedo retrieved from the sea floor had lettering that matched a North Korean design.The measures came less than a week after experts from the US, the UK, Australia and Sweden said in a report that a torpedo had hit the Cheonan.

Pyongyang denies any involvement in the sinking, calling the investigation a “fabrication” and threatening war if sanctions were imposed.

“If [South Korea] sets up new tools for psychological warfare such as loudspeakers and leaves slogans for psychological warfare intact, ignoring our demands, we will directly aim and open fire to destroy them,” a statement by the military said on Monday.

“More powerful physical strikes will be taken to eradicate the root of provocation if [South Korea] challenges to our fair response,” said a commander, according to official news agency KCNA.

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Despite US Pressure, Beijing Stands Firm in Currency Spat

Posted by Admin on March 29, 2010

Despite US Pressure, Beijing Stands Firm in Currency Spat

by: Kit Gillet  |  Inter Press Service

Beijing – China may be under international pressure, especially from the United States, over the valuation of its currency, but is unlikely to back down in the short term given its worries about its export sector and the jobs that depend on it.

Thus far, the lines have been drawn in the disagreement between China and the United States over the yuan – and neither side seems willing to back down.

China pegged its currency at approximately 6.8 to the dollar in July 2008, mainly to aid the country’s export industry that was badly hit by decreasing global demand and the financial crisis.

On Mar. 15, 130 members of the U.S. Congress signed a letter urging the White House to label China a currency manipulator in its Apr. 10 treasury report, which would be the first step in imposing trade tariffs on Chinese export goods.

The letter stated, “The impact of China’s currency manipulation on the U.S. economy cannot be overstated.” It went on to suggest that the current exchange rate gave an unfair subsidy to Chinese companies at the direct expense of their U.S. counterparts.

China’s Commerce Minister Chen Deming has said the country would “not turn a blind eye” if it was labelled a manipulator, and that it might, in that eventuality, seek to litigate under the global legal framework.

Both countries’ leaders have also weighed in on the issue.

Yet China is unlikely to allow a rapid appreciation of the yuan, which some suggest is undervalued by as much as 40 percent.

“China believes that that a modest revaluation of its currency would have a scant effect on U.S. trade deficits, and that once it made an adjustment, it would be pressed again and again to do more,” wrote Jeff Garten, Juan Trippe professor of international trade and finance at the Yale School of Management, in a recent note.

As the world’s largest exporter, China’s growth depends substantially on its export sector. Any strong revaluation could hurt this industry, which accounted for roughly 27 per cent of Gross Domestic Product in 2009.

“It is in nobody’s interest – China’s, the United States’ or other countries’ – to see big ups in the renminbi (yuan) or big downs in the dollar,” Vice Commerce Minister Zhong Shan told the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington on Wednesday.

“There is no need for us to discuss if it (the yuan) should be appreciated. What we should be concerned about is when and how it is,” Wu Xiaoqiu, assistant president of Renmin University and director of China’s Finance and Securities Institute, said in an interview with IPS. “The government needs to consider the competitiveness of companies in labour-intensive sectors,” he said.

The leading business publication ‘The 21st Century Business Herald’ reports that several government ministries, including the ministries of commerce and information, have been conducting pressure tests to gauge the impact of appreciation in key labour-intensive sectors, but none of their findings have yet been made public.

“Most export companies would rather have the yuan appreciate in one go rather than face the uncertainty of guessing the timing and the degree of gradual appreciation,” said Zhang Bin, a researcher at the Institute of World Economics and Politics, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

But Zhang expressed concern that some exporters might report fake figures in order to protect their own interests.

China’s export industry suffered in the wake of the economic crisis, and while numbers picked up near the end of last year, Chinese officials are now suggesting that March 2010 could be the first month since 2004 that the value of the country’s imports exceeded that of its exports.

Cheaper competition from developing nations such as Vietnam and Bangladesh, along with a 2008 labour law that increases wages across China, has already hurt the Chinese export industry. Talk of a revaluation is seen by some as a hurdle too far.

“In the words of some of our members, the United States is ‘sharpening its knives and has a murderous air about it,’” said Zhang Yujing, president of the China Chamber of Commerce for Import and Export of Machinery and Electronic goods, at a press conference last week. “I expect many companies won’t be able to bear an appreciation now.”

Zhou Dewen, vice president of the China Middle and Small Enterprises Association, told the ‘Oriental Morning Post’ that the Chinese government should withstand pressure from abroad for at least two or three years.

“If the government fails, a large amount of middle and small Chinese enterprises, which have suffered from the ongoing financial crisis, will be closed and the workers will lose their jobs,” he said in an interview published in the ‘Post’ this week.

Not all share Zhou’s pessimistic view.

“An appreciation will hurt exports. But if appreciation is gradual and modest (we are talking about five to six percent here), I think the impact should be relatively small,” Wang Tao, head of China Economic Research for Union Bank of Switzerland (UBS) Investment Bank here, told IPS.

Wang suggested that yuan appreciation, along with more flexibility, can help promote domestic consumption in China, and divert investment from export-oriented industries.

Chinese exporters are estimated to make a return of three to five percent on sales. Any substantial appreciation of the yuan could see the closure of many factories and would add to China’s unemployment rate, which a recent China Academy of Social Sciences report put at 9.4 percent.

It would also force the raising of export prices, which would in turn affect U.S. consumers, by far the largest buyer of China-made products.

Decades of free spending by U.S. consumers has left the U.S.-China trade deficit standing at roughly 227 billion dollars, down from a high of 268 billion dollars in 2008.

Chinese state media and many of its politicians have suggested that the U.S. government is merely looking for someone else to blame for its current woes. “They should not blame the problems they have by finding a scapegoat in China,” China’s new ambassador to the United Nations, He Yafei, told a briefing in Geneva earlier this month.

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Obama, Medvedev seal deal on nuclear arms pact

Posted by Admin on March 27, 2010

Obama, Medvedev seal deal on nuclear arms pact

Sat, Mar 27 10:33 AM

US President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev sealed a landmark arms-control treaty on Friday to slash their countries’ nuclear arsenals by a third and will sign it on April 8 in Prague.

After months of deadlock and delay, a breakthrough deal on a replacement for the Cold War-era START pact marked Obama’s most significant foreign policy achievement since taking office and also bolsters his effort to “reset” ties with Moscow.

Obama and Medvedev put the finishing touches on the historic accord during a phone call, committing the world’s biggest nuclear powers to deep weapons cuts.

“I’m pleased to announce that after a year of intense negotiations, the United States and Russia have agreed to the most comprehensive arms-control agreement in nearly two decades,” Obama told reporters.

But he could still face an uphill struggle for ratification this year by the US Senate, where support from opposition Republicans will be hard to come by after a bitter fight that ended in congressional approval of his healthcare overhaul.

In Moscow, Medvedev hailed the agreement — which also must be approved by Russian lawmakers — as reflecting a “balance of the interests of both countries.”

Russia made clear, however, that it reserved the right to suspend any strategic arms cuts if it felt threatened by future US deployment of a proposed Europe-based missile defense system that Moscow bitterly opposes.

The agreement replaces a 1991 pact that expired in December. Each side would have seven years after the treaty takes effect to reduce stockpiles of their most dangerous weapons — those already deployed — to 1,550 from the 2,200 now allowed and also cut their numbers of launchers in half.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the new pact sends a message to Iran and North Korea, both locked in nuclear standoffs with the West, of a commitment to thwart nuclear proliferation.

“WE INTEND TO LEAD”

“With this agreement, the United States and Russia — the two largest nuclear powers in the world — also send a clear signal that we intend to lead,” Obama said.

Signaling prospects for cuts by other nuclear powers, British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said: “As soon as it becomes useful to do so, the U.K. stands ready to include our nuclear arsenal in a future multilateral disarmament process.”

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle called it “a milestone that will promote overall nuclear disarmament,” and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso congratulated Obama and Medvedev on “this historic agreement.”

The treaty adds another chapter in a quarter century of efforts to make the world safer through nuclear arms control, after a 1986 summit between U.S. President Ronald Reagan and Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev laid the groundwork.

Obama and Medvedev will sign the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) in Prague, capital of the Czech Republic, a former Soviet satellite now in NATO.

The April 8 meeting will be close to the anniversary of Obama’s speech in Prague offering his vision for eventually ridding the world of nuclear weapons, and should help build momentum for a nuclear security summit he will host in Washington on April 12-13.

The treaty does not impose limits on US development of a missile defense system in Europe, which had been a major sticking point in negotiations. Washington insists such an anti-missile shield would be aimed at Iran, not at Russia.

“Missile defense is not constrained by this treaty,” US Defense Secretary Robert Gates said.

But Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said either side has the right to stop reducing offensive nuclear weapons if the other beefs up its missile defenses — a warning of consequences if Moscow sees a threat to its security.

“DARKEST DAYS”

Obama said the new treaty would help Washington and Moscow put behind them the “darkest days of the Cold War.”

“It cuts, by about a third, the nuclear weapons that the United States and Russia will deploy,” Obama said. “It significantly reduces missiles and launchers. It puts in place a strong and effective verification regime.

“And it maintains the flexibility that we need to protect and advance our national security, and to guarantee our unwavering commitment to the security of our allies.”

The new pact could strengthen Obama politically, building on the domestic political victory he scored this week when he signed sweeping healthcare reform into law.

Obama still faces a fight to get a two-thirds majority for Senate ratification of the treaty at a time of bipartisan rancor after the bitter fight over healthcare and other parts of his domestic agenda.

Republicans have criticized his national security policies and are in no mood to cooperate, especially ahead of November congressional elections where they hope to score big gains.

Despite that, Clinton insisted the prospects were good for bipartisan support for the treaty.

The final deal also signaled improved relations with Russia that had been badly frayed under Obama’s predecessor George W. Bush. Obama needs Moscow onboard for any further international sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program.

It showed that Moscow and Washington can find a way to work together despite differences over a host of issues from Georgia to missile defense in Europe.

Reuters

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Interpreting Obama

Posted by Admin on March 14, 2010

Interpreting Obama

David Brooks

Sat, Mar 13 05:04 AM

Who is Barack Obama? If you ask a conservative Republican, you are likely to hear that Obama is a skilled politician who campaigned as a centrist but is governing as a big government liberal. He plays by ruthless, Chicago politics rules. He is arrogant toward foes, condescending toward allies and runs a partisan political machine.

If you ask a liberal Democrat, you are likely to hear that Obama is an inspiring but overly intellectual leader who has trouble making up his mind and fighting for his positions. He has not defined a clear mission. He has allowed the Republicans to dominate debate. He is too quick to compromise and too cerebral to push things through.

You’ll notice first that these two viewpoints are diametrically opposed. You’ll, observe, second, that they are entirely predictable. Political partisans always imagine the other side is ruthlessly effective and that the public would be with them if only their side had better messaging. And finally, you’ll notice that both views distort reality. They tell you more about the information cocoons that partisans live in these days than about Obama himself.

The fact is, Obama is as he always has been, a centre-left pragmatic reformer. Every time he tries to articulate a grand philosophy from his book The Audacity of Hope to his joint-session health care speech last September he always describes a moderately activist government restrained by a sense of trade-offs. He always uses the same on-the-one-hand-on-the-other sentence structure. Government should address problems without interfering with the dynamism of the market.

He has tried to find this balance in a town without an organised centre in a town in which liberals chair the main committees and small-government conservatives lead the opposition. He has tried to do it in a context maximally inhospitable to his aims.

But he has done it with tremendous tenacity. Obama is four clicks to my left on most issues. He is inadequate on the greatest moral challenge of our day: the $9.7 trillion in new debt being created this decade. He has misread the country, imagining a hunger for federal activism that doesn’t exist. But he is still the most realistic and reasonable major player in Washington.

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Inside the world of Obama’s secret-service bodyguards

Posted by Admin on March 9, 2010

Inside the world of Obama’s secret-service bodyguards

Inside the world of Obama's secret-service bodyguards

Inside the world of Obama's secret-service bodyguards

Protecting the US president has presented the secret service with the greatest challenge in its history. But who wants to kill him? And how likely are they to succeed?

The Southern Poverty Law Center began life in 1971 as a tiny law firm specialising in civil rights cases. It took on the might of the Ku Klux Klan, and was duly rewarded by having its offices razed and its senior lawyers targeted for assassination. But it kept on going and grew to be one of the most respected monitoring groups of rightwing extremism in America today.

Recently it brought out a report called Terror From the Right , which identifies, in chronological order, the serious home-grown plots, conspiracies and racist rampages that have been cooked up in America since the Oklahoma City bomb in 1995. The list runs to 10 pages of closely printed type and itemises 75 domestic terrorism events, from plans to bomb government buildings to attempts to kill judges and politicians.

Each of the incidents aimed to change the political face of America through violence, courtesy of groups with such titles as Aryan People’s Republic, The New Order and The Hated. But in the summer of 2008 the chronology takes on a sharp change of tack. Entries, which had been running at one or two per year, start coming faster. And instead of a variety of different targets, one name crops up time and time again: Barack Obama.

The first such entry is for 8 June 2008. Six people, linked to a militia group in rural Pennsylvania, are arrested with stockpiles of assault rifles and homemade bombs. One of the six allegedly tells the authorities that he intended to shoot black people from a rooftop and predicts civil war should Obama, who five days previously had cleared the Democratic nomination for president, be elected to the White House.

Next entry: 24 August 2008. The day before the opening of the Democratic convention in Denver at which Obama was nominated, three white supremacists are arrested in possession of high-powered rifles and camouflage clothing. They are talking about assassinating Obama.

24 October 2008: Less than two weeks before the election, two white supremacists are arrested in Tennessee over a bizarre plan to kill more than 100 black people, including Obama.

21 January 2009: The day after Obama’s inauguration, a white man is arrested in� Massachusetts, having allegedly killed two black immigrants and injured a third. He says he was “fighting for a dying race”.

10 June 2009: James von Brunn, aged 88, walks into the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington and shoots dead a security guard. Von Brunn, who died last month in jail awaiting trial, left a note that read: “Obama was created by Jews.”

In the 13 months that Barack Obama has been the occupant of the Oval Office he has been the subject of an extraordinary outpouring of emotion from the American electorate. At the start it was largely adulatory, though more recently the adoration has been drowned out by a cacophony of criticism from tea party activists, birthers, global-warming deniers and viewers of Fox News. At the same time, largely hidden from view, there has been a layer of antagonism towards Obama that lies well beyond the boundaries of reasonable political debate.

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World’s biggest coal company brings U.S. government to court in climate fraud

Posted by Admin on February 22, 2010

World’s biggest coal company brings U.S. government to court in climate fraud

John O’Sullivan

Feb. 17, 2010

The world’s largest private sector coal business, the Peabody Energy Company (PEC) has filed a mammoth 240-page “Petition for Reconsideration,” a full-blown legal challenge against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The petition must be answered and covers the entire body of leaked emails from ‘Climategate’ as well as those other ‘gate’ revelations including the frauds allegedly perpetrated under such sub-headings as ‘Himalayan Glaciers,’ ‘African Agricultural Production,’ ‘Amazon Rain Forests,’ ‘Melting Mountain Ice,’ ‘Netherlands Below Sea Level’ as well as those much-publicized abuses of the peer-review literature and so called ‘gray literature.’ These powerful litigants also draw attention to the proven criminal conduct by climate scientists in refusing to honor Freedom of Information law (FOIA) requests.

Peabody is, in effect, challenging the right of the current U.S. federal government to introduce cap and trade regulations by the ‘back door.’ In this article we summarize Peabody’s legal writ.

PEC has pulled out all the stops to overturn the EPA findings ‘Endangerment and Cause or Contribute Findings for Greenhouse Gases under Section 202(a) of the Clean Air Act’ made on December 7, 2009. Those findings were in turn premised on the Supreme Court decision of April 2, 2007 of Massachusetts v. EPA, 549 U.S. 497 (2007), where the court ruled that greenhouse gases are air pollutants covered by the Clean Air Act.

PEC argues inter alia that the law requires that the federal agency must articulate a “rational connection between the facts found and the choice made” as per the case of Motor Vehicle Mfrs. Ass’n of the United States, Inc. v. State Farm Mutual Auto Ins. Co., 463 U.S. 29, 43 (1983).

The PEC arguments are based primarily on the release of email and other information from the University of East Anglia (“UEA”) Climatic Research Unit (“CRU”) in November of last year. Their civil action lists most of the principle scientists such as Professor Phil Jones, of the UK’s Climatic Research Unit, who recently admitted there has been no ‘statistically significant’ global warming for 15 years and agreed the Medieval Warm Period may have been just as warm, if not warmer than current global temperatures.

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Yes, America is Still in an Official State of Emergency

Posted by Admin on February 14, 2010

Yes, America is Still in an Official State of Emergency

By Washington’s Blog

February 11, 2010 “WB” Feb. 09, 2010 — A reader asked whether the U.S. is still in an official state of emergency, and if so, what that means.

The answer is yes, we are still in a state of emergency.

Specifically:

On September 11, 2001, the government declared a state of emergency. That declared state of emergency was formally put in writing on 9/14/2001:

“A national emergency exists by reason of the terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center, New York, New York, and the Pentagon, and the continuing and immediate threat of further attacks on the United States.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, I hereby declare that the national emergency has existed since September 11, 2001 . . . .”

That declared state of emergency has continued in full force and effect from 9/11 [throughout the Bush administration] to the present.

On September 10 2009, President Obama continued the state of emergency:

The terrorist threat that led to the declaration on September 14, 2001, of a national emergency continues. For this reason, I have determined that it is necessary to continue in effect after September 14, 2009, the national emergency with respect to the terrorist threat.

Does a State of Emergency Really Mean Anything?

Does a state of emergency really mean anything?

Yes, it does:

The Washington Times wrote on September 18, 2001:

“Simply by proclaiming a national emergency on Friday, President Bush activated some 500 dormant legal provisions, including those allowing him to impose censorship and martial law.”

Is the Times correct? Well, it is clear that pre-9/11 declarations of national emergency have authorized martial law. For example, as summarized by a former fellow for the Hoover Institution and the National Science Foundation, and the recipient of numerous awards, including the Gary Schlarbaum Award for Lifetime Defense of Liberty, Thomas Szasz Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Cause of Civil Liberties, Lysander Spooner Award for Advancing the Literature of Liberty and Templeton Honor Rolls Award on Education in a Free Society:

In 1973, the Senate created a Special Committee on the Termination of the National Emergency (subsequently redesignated the Special Committee on National Emergencies and Delegated Emergency Powers) to investigate the matter and to propose reforms. Ascertaining the continued existence of four presidential declarations of national emergency, the Special Committee (U.S. Senate 1973, p. iii) reported:

“These proclamations give force to 470 provisions of Federal law. . . . taken together, [they] confer enough authority to rule the country without reference to normal constitutional processes. Under the powers delegated by these statutes, the President may: seize property; organize and control the means of production; seize commodities; assign military forces abroad; institute martial law; seize and control all transportation and communications; regulate the operation of private enterprise; restrict travel; and, in a plethora of particular ways, control the lives of all American citizens.”

(Most or all of the emergency powers referred to by the above-quoted 1973 Senate report were revoked in the late 1970’s by 50 U.S.C. Section 1601. However, presidents have made numerous declarations of emergency since then, and the declarations made by President Bush in September 2001 are still in effect).

It is also clear that the White House has kept substantial information concerning its presidential proclamations and directives hidden from Congress. For example, according to Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists Project on Government Secrecy:

Of the 54 National Security Presidential Directives issued by the [George W.] Bush Administration to date, the titles of only about half have been publicly identified. There is descriptive material or actual text in the public domain for only about a third. In other words, there are dozens of undisclosed Presidential directives that define U.S. national security policy and task government agencies, but whose substance is unknown either to the public or, as a rule, to Congress.”

As former United States congressman Dan Hamburg wrote in October:

While … Congress and the judiciary, as well as public opinion, “can restrain the executive regarding emergency powers,” nothing of the sort has occurred. Under the 1976 National Emergencies Act (50 U.S.C. 1601-1651), Congress is required to review presidentially declared emergencies. Specifically, “not later than six months after a national emergency is declared, and not later than the end of each six-month period thereafter that such emergency continues, each House of Congress shall meet to consider a vote on a joint resolution to determine whether that emergency shall be terminated.” Over the past eight years, Congress has failed to obey its own law, a fact that casts doubt on the legality of the state of emergency.

As far as public opinion is concerned, how many Americans are even aware that a state of emergency even exists. For that matter, how many members of Congress know? …

The Obama administration is essentially arguing that the United States is currently in a state of resisting foreign invasion a full eight years after the attacks of 9/11!

This is ludicrous. [Dr. Harold C. Relyea, a specialist in national government with the Congressional Research Service (CRS) of the Library of Congress] argues that Congress and the judiciary, as “co-equal branches of constitutional government,” serve as a check on the executive power. As we have seen, Congress has either been shut out of this process, or, as in so many cases, it has capitulated. Dr. Relyea then offers that public opinion can restrain the executive. But the public doesn’t even know they’re living under a state of emergency. The media doesn’t report it, and the government is certainly not in the business of providing information that might raise the hackles of real Americans.

It’s time for the American people to rise to this challenge. Write your member of Congress, and your senators. Tell them to obey their own laws. Tell them to end this phony and treacherous state of emergency that imperils the freedom of us all.

Hamburg’s must-read article also discusses the suspension of Possse Comitatus, the operation of Northcom inside the U.S., and the refusal of the Department of Homeland Security to provide information on the state of emergency to Congress or even to Congress members on the Homeland Security committee with the highest security clearances.

The Effect of a State of Emergency on the Economy and Business

The continuous state of emergency in effect from September 2001 to the present may have had a substantial affect on the economy and business.

Initially, as William K. Black – senior regulator during the S&L crisis, professor of Economics and Law, and an expert on white collar financial crime – has repeatedly pointed out, the government knew about an epidemic of mortgage fraud a long time ago. For example, the FBI warned of an “epidemic” of mortgage fraud in 2004. However, the FBI, DOJ and other government agencies putted their agents off of financial fraud investigation and forced them to focus on terrorism instead. See this and this

And as Reuters noted last week:

U.S. securities regulators originally treated the New York Federal Reserve’s bid to keep secret many of the details of the American International Group bailout like a request to protect matters of national security, according to emails obtained by Reuters.

The national security claim may seem outlandish, but it is nothing new.

As Business Week wrote on May 23, 2006:

President George W. Bush has bestowed on his intelligence czar, John Negroponte, broad authority, in the name of national security, to excuse publicly traded companies from their usual accounting and securities-disclosure obligations.

In other words, national security has been discussed for years as a basis of keeping normal accounting and securities-related disclosures secret. While “national security” and a state of “national emergency” may not be exactly the same, they are variations of a single theme – an existential threat to our nation – which has dominated American since September 11.

Similarly, Congressman Brad Sherman, Congressman Paul Kanjorski and Senator James Inhofe all say that the government warned of martial law if Tarp wasn’t passed.

Last year:

  • Senator Leahy said “If we learned anything from 9/11, the biggest mistake is to pass anything they ask for just because it’s an emergency”
  • The New York Times wrote:

    “The rescue is being sold as a must-have emergency measure by an administration with a controversial record when it comes to asking Congress for special authority in time of duress.”
    ***
    Mr. Paulson has argued that the powers he seeks are necessary to chase away the wolf howling at the door: a potentially swift shredding of the American financial system. That would be catastrophic for everyone, he argues, not only banks, but also ordinary Americans who depend on their finances to buy homes and cars, and to pay for college.

    Some are suspicious of Mr. Paulson’s characterizations, finding in his warnings and demands for extraordinary powers a parallel with the way the Bush administration gained authority for the war in Iraq. Then, the White House suggested that mushroom clouds could accompany Congress’s failure to act. This time, it is financial Armageddon supposedly on the doorstep.

    “This is scare tactics to try to do something that’s in the private but not the public interest,” said Allan Meltzer, a former economic adviser to President Reagan, and an expert on monetary policy at the Carnegie Mellon Tepper School of Business. “It’s terrible.”

Most of the Fed and Treasury’s looting of America to funnel trillions in bailouts, loans, guarantees, and other favors to the too big to fails was done under the justification of an “emergency”.

I don’t know whether the official declaration of a “state of emergency” in effect from September 2001 to today was directly used for financial looting. But again, the fear of an existential threat to our country was used to justify the looting.

And many people allege that the government has taken drastic steps to manipulate market prices. If true, the president’s ability to use emergency powers to “stabilize the markets” no doubt makes manipulation easier.

Congress Has the Power to Revoke the State of Emergency

A note to Congressional staffers: Congressman Hamburg is right. Congress does have the power to revoke the state of emergency.

Specifically, the National Emergencies Act, 50 U.S.C. Sections 1601-1651 (passed in 1976), gives Congress the power to countermand a presidential declaration of national emergency. Indeed, in 1976, Congress rescinded all of the declarations of national emergency made since World War II, as many of them had been on the books for years and were giving the executive unrestricted powers which were undermining the Constitution.

In 1983, the Supreme Court struck down a portion of Congress’ power to countermand a declaration of national emergency. But Congress got around that ruling by amending the National Emergencies Act in 1985 to confirm Congress’ power to countermand – through a joint resolution between the House and Senate – a declaration of emergency by the president (see this).

Moreover, in 2007, the Bush Administration tried to ignore the National Emergencies Act by issuing National Security and Homeland Security Presidential Directive 51. But that dog won’t hunt. The Constitution does not allow the president to unilaterally cut Congress out of the picture.

As former Chicago Federal Reserve economist and Senior Morningstar equity analyst William Bergman wrote in 2001:

Lord Acton’s famous saying that ‘power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely’ provides a valuable warning. In light of the sweeping powers seemingly provided by statutes like 12 U.S.C. 95a and 12 U.S.C. 95(a), those who care about democratic principles and freedom may wish to monitor the implications of these and other laws for government choices before conditions arise giving rise to assertions of emergency authority, in addition to behavior arising amidst an emergency itself. This study could usefully include a renewed assessment of the constitutionality of these and other emergency statutes, as well as more fundamental review of their welfare implications per se, including work along the lines produced for the Senate Special Committee to Terminate the National Emergency in 1973.[i]

[i] See for example Special Committee on the Termination of the National Emergency, “Emergency Powers Statutes: Provisions of Federal Law Now in Effect Delegating to the Executive Extraordinary Authority In Time of National Emergency.” United States Senate Report 93-549; November 19, 1973.

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