El Conquistqdor Francisco de Orellana

El Conquistqdor Francisco de Orellana
The Conquistador who put the Amazaon baisn "on the map"....Francisco Orellana

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Could the Appetite For Chocolate Exceed the World's Supply?

Note from this Blog: Looking to start a business in Ecuador...one idea...purchase a couple of cheap acres of cow pasture and grow CACAO....

By Christina Ng | ABC News Blogs

Imagine Halloween and Valentine's Day without chocolate. Imagine a world with chocolate prices so high that not everyone could afford to indulge. Not a bright future.

Though the world's demand for chocolate almost exceeds the ability of worn-out plants to produce it, experts say it's not time to panic yet. But something needs to be done.

"An improvement needs to be made to extend this supply chain," Robert Peck, senior director of operations for the World Cocoa Foundation, told ABCNews.com. "We have to start thinking, where is that increase in supply going to happen and how are we going to get it?"

The demand for chocolate increases by about 2.5 to 3 percent each year, which means about four million more tons of cocoa are needed every year.

Experts predict that by 2020, the demand for chocolate will increase by 25 percent. That's about five million metric tons of chocolate.

"Cocoa has been almost completely static," said Andrew Pederson, global chocolate manager for Mars, Inc., the makers of M&Ms, Milky Way bars, Snickers and other confections. "The crops don't perform well. They're aging pretty badly. Farmers don't have a lot of tools and training."

Existing cocoa plants, mostly in tropical countries, are old and worn out, and it is difficult to find space to plant more. Expansion of cropland could mean deforestation.

"Cocoa is a crop that is fragile. Cocoa is a crop that is very picky where it likes to grow," Peck said. "It needs tropical, humid conditions with rich soil. There's not a lot of land availability with those conditions around the world."

Experts say newer and stronger cocoa plants need to be developed to keep up with demand, which can take years.

"It takes time to influence the product of the tree," Peck said. "Results don't happen overnight."

Peck called the chocolate industry a "very well-developed sector" and said the issue of appetite overrunning ability is not a surprise. He said the industry has been investing in and implementing programs and research for years to combat the problem.

"From my very personal perspective, overnight there probably won't be a major variance in chocolate prices for consumers," Peck said.

So, for now, chocolate lovers need not fret.

"We want to make sure people can continue loving it without any cares or worries, except for having too much," Pederson said.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

March 31: Operation Global Blackout: Hackers Intend to Shut Down the Internet by Disabling Core DNS Servers

The hacking group known as Anonymous intends to attack the core servers that control the routing of all internet traffic. DNS, or Domain Name Servers, are a critical backbone of the web and make it possible for internet surfers to reach web site destinations by typing in a domain name in their browsers. Once a particular web site is requested, a query is sent to a domain name server, which then redirects that web address to a specific IP address on the web. Without these servers, access to web sites through traditional means (typing in a ‘dot com’) becomes impossible, because there is no way to direct the traffic to the appropriate web site destination.

According to a statement released by Anonymous, it is these servers that will come under fire on Saturday, March 31.

Anonymous says they do not intend to ‘kill’ the internet completely, but rather, the end game of Operation Blackout 2012 is a temporary take down of the internet where “it hurts most.” According to the group, the operation is being carried out to:

…protest SOPA, Wallstreet, our irresponsible leaders and the beloved bankers who are starving the world for their own selfish needs out of sheer sadistic fun, on March 31, anonymous will shut the Internet down. (source)

Excerpt of statement:

Citizens of the United States, We are Anonymous.

This is an urgent emergency alert to all people of the United States. The day we’ve all been waiting for has unfortunately arrived. The United States is censoring the internet. Our blatant response is that we will not sit while our rights are taken away by the government we trusted them to preserve. This is not a call to arms, but a call to recognition and action!

The United States government has mastered this corrupt way of giving us a false sense of freedom. We think we are free and can do what we want, but in reality we are very limited and restricted as to what we can do, how we can think, and even how our education is obtained. We have been so distracted by this mirage of freedom, that we have just become what we were trying to escape from.

For too long, we have been idle as our brothers and sisters were arrested. During this time, the government has been scheming, plotting ways to increase censorship through means of I S P block aides, D N S blockings, search engine censorship, website censorship, and a variety of other methods that directly oppose the values and ideas of both Anonymous as well as the founding fathers of this country, who believed in free speech and press!

The United States has often been used as an example of the ideal free country. When the one nation that is known for its freedom and rights start to abuse its own people, this is when you must fight back, because others are soon to follow.

Read full Statement

If this latest threat is carried out, it will highlight the significant security risks inherent in the internet as it exists today. According to numerous reports, including those of the head of US Cyber Security General Keith Alexander, infrastructure, commerce and transportation are susceptible to attacks that could damage physical equipment like thousand-ton machines, cause widespread power outages, and affect just-in-time delivery systems that keep food, gas and commerce flowing.

If Anonymous is capable of attacking core DNS servers that take down the web, even for a day, it would be a show of just how fragile our entire way of life really is. Though Anonymous hackers undoubtedly include some of the best and brightest techies out there, they would likely pale in comparison to the cumulative power of hackers operating under the sponsorship of a large Asian government (we won’t name any names), or a coordinated rogue terror network that acts not for the purpose of protest, but devastation.

If such an attack were to be unleashed on the Untied States terrorism experts suggest a coordinated take-down of the entire United States could be executed in as little as 15 minutes.

For more on YouTube click here......http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M9iOSg9CHTI

Author: Mac Slavo
Date: March 28th, 2012

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Casa 1028 Mobile Bar: A legend on wheels offers drinks on the go

By Lance Brashear

Evoking the history and mysticism of Quito's historical center, a new vehicle is now making inroads into those old streets of El Centro – one that serves cocktails.

Casa 1028 Mobile Bar, a large black bus that voyages to the heart of Quito, offers passengers anecdotes, appetizers, and a few glasses of wine, all of which help to blur the line between history and legend.

The mobile bar belongs to a small group of partners, including professional tour guide Francisco Rodas, who are venturing into familiar territory on new wheels. They travel only at night and their intention is to alleviate some of the challenges facing evening visits to El Centro, while putting a new twist on an old experience.

Francisco explains: "There is still a lot of insecurity walking at night. The cold and rain also is a factor that inconveniences many persons. And the altitude, if we are talking about visitors walking through El Centro can be a little complicated especially for older people."

The point of Casa 1028 he says, "is to be in a secure environment, a relaxing environment, to visit a good part of the attractions of the historical center." And of course, enjoy a few drinks and snacks.

But Francisco is quite clear about something else. "Our proposal is not a city tour…the idea is that we are offering a nocturnal, panoramic drive while you enjoy a glass of wine and selected appetizers."

The experience is meant to be more than just a drive through town, but less than a history lesson. It is a brief journey through mythical Quito, where legends are told, which are as much a part of the identity of the city as the colonial architecture.

The route begins on Orellana Avenue and makes stops at Quito's iconic landmarks such as the Basillica Church, Cathedral Church, San Francisco Plaza, amd Independence Plaza. At each stop, as the waiter pours another glass of wine, Francisco offers a brief explanation of the significance of the site and when appropriate includes the telling of one of Quito's mythical tales, such as the Legend of Cantuña or the legend of Casa 1028, which Francisco has appropriated for the name of their venture.

"Among the legends of Quito it is one of the better known ones," says Francisco. It is the story of a beautiful girl who attracts the attention of a bull at one of Quito's bullfights. She leaves the event, only to be followed by the bull that enters her room and kills her before disappearing into the streets of Quito. The idea of naming the bus after the legend was part of their initial design.

"We had the idea to transform the bus, internally, into a colonial house…the tables, chairs would have a colonial style – the form, the structure…the decoration would be like a colonial house," Francisco explains. But as their ideas matured they opted for a modern bus to reflect the reality of Quito today: "It is a modern city that has its historical center."

Since this is not officially a tour, Francisco offers only small bits of information throughout the drive allowing guests the principal activity of simply conversing and enjoying the scenery as they eat and drink.

"The themes we explain are very concrete. Here we manage a tour methodology [that is] a little more lucid. We tell histories, important facts that have passed in these sites – the type of things that can be more attractive in one way or another and can remain in the minds of the passenger," he says.

The trip begins at 7:00 p.m. - a two hour ride with several brief stops, a welcome drink, four glasses of wine, and appetizers throughout the journey. All are served by a professional waiter.

Francisco says, "The idea is that you can take the ride and still have the opportunity to go to dinner afterwards. This is why we offer light appetizers, so the person has an appetite in case they have planned dinner."

The foods have a gourmet presentation, such as cheese balls with sambo seed (a type of pumpkin seed) and crab filling, heart of palm ceviche, mini ham (pernil) sandwiches, and "causa de papa," which resembles a traditional locro soup dish but is much easier to consume than soup on a bus.

For those who prefer a meatless journey, Francisco says, "We offer the possibility that if you are vegetarian of have some restriction we send a worksheet in which you can register that information [ahead of time]."

Serving food and drink on a bus that is continuing in motion through the rough and hilly streets of El Central can be a challenge. The Casa 1028 engineers have come up with two solutions to make the ride quite comfortable.

First, "We only serve wine when the bus is not in motion." And second, acrylic trays and specially designed glasses are used to keep all liquids and food where they belong: on the table, and not in your lap.

The bus has four tables that seat four people and a smaller two-person table, for a total seating capacity of 18. A bathroom is installed and a sound system plays background music, though live music can be scheduled with prior notice. A Spanish-English bilingual guide is standard but other languages (French and German) are available with advance request. And charter groups may extend the trip an additional hour for the chance to visit the Panecillo Hillside

The Casa 1028 Mobile Bar, as it tumbles through old town, is anything but covert, framing the easy-going party inside for passersby on the street. Driving through the labyrinth of Quito's colonial past it maneuvers through the cloud that obscures the line between history and legend. A time machine, it is not; but, travel it does through selected chronicles in the biography of a city that is less forgotten by time than remembered more and more in a new way.

For reservations contact Casa 1028 at 02-255-9918 or 099-972-958, or write to info@casa1028.com


Foreign Groups

1-10 persons, $45

11-18 persons, $40

National Groups

1-10 persons, $35

11-18 persons, $30

Reservations: minimum 24 hours in advance. Charters require minimum 8 days reservation. Kids 5-12, 50% discount. Guides or tour leaders, 50% discount. Taxes, tips, and extra drinks not included.





02-255-9918 / 099-972-958

Friday, March 23, 2012

The Government Read This Email Before You Did

Big Brother is Watching You – Even Closer

By Bob Bauman JD, Offshore and Asset Protection Editor

Watch what you say and do. At this very moment, the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) is building America’s largest-ever spy center - and it will be watching you (if they aren’t already).

The NSA, the cryptologic intelligence agency of U.S. Department of Defense, is the unit that secretly saddled us with the Constitution-busting ECHELON spy program.

I have recently learned some startling information about what the Bush/Obama Homeland Security Gestapo has in store for us suspect Americans.

Contractors with top-secret clearances are now building the “Utah Data Center” - an ultra-secret project in the desert that is the latest piece of a multifaceted government plan to destroy every last bit of privacy we still have.
A Super Snoop’s Dream

The heavily fortified, $2 billion secret center is part of a program, codenamed Stellar Wind, which is already in place and monitors private phone calls from around the world.

The Utah Data Center takes the program one step further by intercepting, deciphering, analyzing and storing the world’s communications from satellites and underground and undersea cables from international, foreign and domestic networks.

It will store all forms of communication, including the contents of private e-mails, cell phone calls and Google searches, as well as personal data such as parking receipts, travel itineraries and other so-called digital “pocket litter.”

This NSA project is the latest version of what the late columnist William Safire called “a super snoop’s dream.”

It’s President Bush’s Total Information Awareness program (supposedly killed by Congress in 2003 after an outcry over its potential to invade Americans’ privacy) back on steroids.

William Binney, a courageous senior NSA official who left the agency in 2001 after the NSA began its Bush-ordered warrantless-wiretapping program, bluntly told WIRED magazine earlier this month: “They violated the Constitution setting it up. But they didn’t care. They were going to do it anyway, and they were going to crucify anyone who stood in the way. When they started violating the Constitution, I couldn’t stay.”

Binney also said that Stellar Wind is far larger than has been revealed publicly and not only included eavesdropping on domestic phone calls, but also inspections of domestic e-mails. Holding his thumb and forefinger close together the former NSA official said: “We are that far from a turnkey totalitarian state.”

I urge you to read and digest the WIRED article. Learn how the NSA is spying on virtually all U.S. telephone conversations, creating secret watch lists with names of thousands of Americans placed under constant surveillance and eavesdropping on communications of every kind.

I am not surprised.
The War on Privacy

The truth is that the unconstitutional 2001 PATRIOT Act killed privacy in America.

It gave the government the power to obtain financial information in secret about anyone and to confiscate your wealth without notice - and they have been doing just that. This latest NSA multi-billion dollar project is another giant step in stripping Americans of what little personal privacy remains.

This grotesque war against privacy stems from politicians’ greed for increased power and government demands for control of our lives and our wealth.

It began 40 years ago with Nixon’s so-called "war on drugs," a colossal waste of billions of dollars that jailed millions of people and failed miserably. In the process, our legal and constitutional rights have been shredded and a permanent police state has been created.

Now we are engulfed by an unending war on terrorism in which we are asked - indeed, ordered - to surrender our freedom and privacy in exchange for an illusory “security.”

The Internal Revenue Service has also joined this war on privacy by using similar NSA computer programs and data mining techniques to sift through millions of tax refund requests, financial records and by analyzing billions of phone calls, e-mails and other data. Americans are presumed guilty of tax evasion and/or money laundering if the government does not know everything about them - where they get their money and how they spend it.

The usual cry from the warped advocates of ever-increasing government surveillance is a non sequitur: “If you aren’t doing anything wrong, what do you have to hide?”
Take Back Your Privacy

Privacy is an inherent human right and a basic requirement for living with dignity and respect. Liberty requires security without intrusion - security and privacy. Widespread surveillance by police or bureaucrats, in whatever form it takes, is the very definition of a police state.

The real choice you have to make is between personal freedom and liberty or government control of our lives and fortunes.

Wake up, folks. Open your eyes. For all my long life, I have been a political conservative - but it is plain that America has become a police state and most people are either too dumb to know it or they just don't care.

Well, some of us do care and if we go down, it will be fighting for freedom all the way.

Face reality and take two essential immediate steps to protect yourself from an out-of-control government:

First, establish an offshore financial nest egg. An offshore bank account is a good start, and the Sovereign Society can assist by helping you find reliable banks that still welcome American clients.

Second, investigate places to live and do business outside the United States. We explain where and how this can be accomplished in several of our research articles.

The important thing is to do something before it’s too late.
Faithfully yours,

Bob Bauman

President Correa knows where the price of gold is going to go......

Ecuador's President Pressing Ahead With Gold Mining, Despite Opposition

REUTERS) -- Ecuador's President Rafael Correa insisted on Thursday he will push ahead with plans to develop large-scale mining, seeking to ride out the arrival in Quito of ind igenous de monstrators who fear their lands will be wrecked.

ndigenous protesters have been marching for weeks to reach the capital, where thousands took over streets waving flags and shouting slogans. Some had their faces painted black and held wooden spears, while others wore the colorful ponchos typical of the Andean highlands.

Meanwhile, several thousand supporters of the leftist Correa gathered in other parts of the city. He says the anti-mining march was whipped up by the opposition to hurt his government before a Feb. 2013 presidential election.

The U.S.-trained economist said he needs more foreign investment to fuel welfare spending - a key contributor to his high popularity during five years in power.

"We know that mining is necessary for modern life. As well as the raw materials, we need the revenue so that we can care for handicapped people, pay for social security, build roads," the president told local radio on Thursday.

Correa said the country's first ever large-scale mining deal, which was signed with Chinese-owned Ecuacorriente earlier this month, guarantees the government - not the miners - will receive most of the income from mineral exports.

"These are the best negotiated contracts ever in world history," he said. "We got as much out of them as was possible."

Ecuador hopes to sign three contracts this year with Canadian gold miners Kinross, International Minerals and IAMGOLD, and a second deal with Ecuacorriente, which should help the OPEC nation diversify its economy away from oil exports.

Mining sources say they are confident Ecuador's government will not revise its policies in the face of pressure from local communities - but that they are concerned by signs the opposition is getting more involved in the anti-mining movement.

"The possible problems that mining can cause have been exaggerated and demonized," Santiago Yepez, head of Ecuador's mining chamber, told Reuters.

"We have to give mining a chance to prove it can bring development without causing the types of environmental disasters some are talking about."

Indigenous protesters played a key role in popular uprisings that forced two Ecuadorean presidents to step down in 1997 and 2000, and similar protests forced Bolivian leader Evo Morales to cancel plans to build a road through an Amazonian national park and indigenous territory.

Rural towns in Peru have also rallied against mining, at times paralyzing big projects, though that country's indigenous organizations lack the unity and political clout to stage national protests like their peers in neighboring Bolivia and Ecuador.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Hold Your Nose and Vote!

By Bob Bauman JD, Offshore and Asset Protection Editor

I know a thing or two about elections. As many of you know, I served as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives for Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay district a while back.

During my campaign, a Harford County newspaper editor, who didn’t like either candidate, concluded that I was the least harmful and titled his reluctant endorsement as, “Hold Your Nose and Vote!”
I believe that during this disappointing election year, this should be the national motto for American voters.

You will also notice the word, “vote” - which separates me from some of my Sovereign Society colleagues, who advocate not voting at all. That was also the libertarian argument of our founder, the late Bob Kephart, and of our late chairman, Jack Pugsley, and I debated the point with both of them. They believed that voting made no difference - nothing changes and voting endorses a failed system.

Well, I believe otherwise.
A Destructive Government

During the mid-19th century, Frederick Douglass, a fellow Talbot County Marylander and leader of the abolitionist movement, wrote: “Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them.”

It seems that for many years both major U.S. political parties have been vying with each other to test Douglass’s theory - and the great mass of Americans seem willing to submit to almost any indignity at the clumsy hands of our government.

We often hear by way of conventional wisdom that there is not enough “bipartisanship” in our politics. But, as columnist Glen Greenwald points out, the opposite is true. Many of the most damaging acts inflicted on Americans by Washington’s political elites were enacted on a fully bipartisan basis.

One of the most destructive political acts of this generation, the invasion of Iraq, was fully bipartisan, as were most of the post-9/11 civil liberties abuses and other Bush-era initiatives that President Obama has adopted and expanded, including the onerous PATRIOT Act.

In 1757, Edmund Burke, the founder of the current-ruling British Conservative Party, wrote: “No passion so effectively robs the mind of all its powers of acting and reasoning as fear.” Fear as a decisive factor in political and national life is nothing new in history.

President George W. Bush made fear his trademark. He constantly used fear to get his legislative way, describing dire threats that were (and still are) amorphous, shadowy and never-ending - for example, terrorism.

Bush, Obama and other politicians employ fear as a controlling and guiding principle to achieve dubious ends. Offering themselves as protectors, they tout their nostrums against alleged foreign invasions, barbaric tribes, suspect minorities and that wealthy “one percent” that fails to pay their “fair share.”

The solution is always more and greater taxes, increased spending and more abject surrender of our freedoms.

Gone is the Constitutional requirement that laws must relate to legitimate government interests and may not result in unfair or arbitrary treatment of any individual. Impartial judges are replaced by faceless bureaucrats, incompetent TSA friskers and anti-terror police.

Under Republican and Democrat administrations, the government engages in virtually unchecked surveillance, and no one is safe from trumped-up charges based on secret surveillances of internet use, phone calls, emails and other communications.

In the book, In the Name of Justice, published by the Cato Institute, U.S. Judge Alex Kozinski suggests that we are all federal criminals - just not yet indicted.

The Sovereign Society is of course concerned with unjustified intrusions by government, such as FATCA - the invasion into offshore financial activity, as well as the destruction of personal and financial privacy.
Pogo Says it Best

In 1948, the late cartoonist Walt Kelley created Pogo, a sensible, sensitive possum as the lead character of his long-running daily comic strip bearing the same name. Syndicated in hundreds of U.S. newspapers, the strip often engaged in social and political satire.

Pogo gained such a cult following that in 1956, a boom developed when the possum mused about whether to run for U.S. president (I still have my "I Go Pogo" button that bears his furry likeness).

Perhaps the most quoted line ever to come from a comic strip came from the disgusted possum as he surveyed an environmental mess made by his fellow swamp denizens. He said:“We have met the enemy and he is us.”

That pithy saying gained such currency in so many situations that Kelley was forced to explain the meaning, “I attempted to explain each individual is wholly involved in the democratic process, work at it or no. The results of the process fall on the head of the public, and he who is recalcitrant or procrastinates in raising his voice can blame no one but himself.”

Kelley was correct. Even if we don't participate in voting, we get the government that the majority of those who care enough to register and vote impose on the rest of us.
Wake Up America!

Unfortunately, too many Americans stand mute as freedoms die around them. This feeble public awareness needs to be converted into a true understanding of events — and into decisive action for true change and real hope.

My fellow Marylander, the late H.L. Mencken, once described democracy as “the theory that the common people know what they want and deserve to get it good and hard.”

I can predict with absolute certainty that unless Americans wake up, we’re all going to get it “good and hard” and it won't be pleasant. It already isn’t.

Wake up America - and vote!
Faithfully yours,

Bob Bauman

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Chocolate: A basic Ecuadorian ingredient

By Lance Brashear

The French have played an important role in the history of Ecuador. It was the French Geodesic Mission that confrmed the exact shape of the Earth in the 1700s. And in 1809, Napolean Bonaparte prompted the first shouts of independence in Quito when he deposed King Fernando VII. But the French influence has also come in more subtle, yet equally inspring, ways

In the "Manual de la Cocinera," (Cook's Manuel), published in Quito in the 19th century, there is one simple recipe for chocolate: chocolate ice cream, under the title of "Helados Franceses," or French ice cream. The book, which was re-published two years ago by the hertiage branch of city of Quito, is a testament to the cooking techniques of the time - a mixture of European and local influences. But it seems ironic that a French recipe for chocolate would end up in a local cookbook when the raw material for chocolate – the cocoa bean – is found naturally in Ecuador, not France.

The long history of chocolate, though, is the story of how people forgot where it came from, while recent history is about re-discovering its origins.

A Brief History of Cocoa

Cacao is the Spanish word for cocoa (just switch the letters o for a, and vice versa). Though genetic testing has shown that cocoa originated from the Amazon basin, it spread to Mesoamerica thousands of years ago and was consumed by the Aztec and Mayan civilzations.

In her book, "The New Taste of Chocolate (revised, 2009), A Cultural and Natural History of Cacao with Recipes," author and chocolate expert, Maricel Presilla says that cocoa dealers from the earliest times understood the nuances of the cocoa bean and often identified them by the region from which they came, knowing which ones to value more than others. She says, "The quality of the bean could be tasted in the final product…the chocolate, to which spices were often added."

The Spanish (Hernan Cortez and company) discovered cocoa in their conquest of the new world. Chocolate soon became an aristocratic drink in European society and it was consumed exclusively in liquid form until the 19th century.

Then in 1828, Conrad Van Houten of Netherlands determined how to extract cocoa butter and solid from the liquor and created an alkali treatment which made the mix darker and less acidic.

In 1879, Rodolphe Lindt of Switzerland combined cocoa with sugar, through a process called conching, which allowed chocolate to melt better and blend more smoothly and completely with doughs and batters. And that same year Daniel Peter invented milk chocolate (adding milk to chocolate mass).

So, with time the quality of chocolate seemed to matter less and less as it was industrialized. Eventually people never really quetioned its origin.

Republic of Cocoa

Ecuador does not produce an especially large amount of cocoa, but it does produce the greatest volume of fine or flavor beans in the world. The term fine or flavor is used by the International Cocoa Organization (ICCO) and refers to cocoa beans which have a distinctive flavor, distinguishing them from "bulk" beans. Bulk beans are cocoa varieties that have a chocolate flavor, but lack certain properties, or tasting "notes," found in flavor beans, which give a floral and fruity aftertaste.

Flavor beans actually represent a very small percentage of world cocoa production – only five percent. But the majority of those flavor beans – 60 to 70 percent - are grown in Ecuador. In contrast, Ivory Coast grows ten times more cocoa than Ecuador, but none of it is fine or flavor.

In her book Presilla explains the revolution that occurred in the classification of chocolate, a result of the advances in genetic testing. Cocoa is currently classified under ten categories, or clusters, one of which is the fine or flavor cocoa of Ecuador known as "nacional," or national cocoa.

Ecuadorian cocoa is often referred to as "arriba" cocoa, a name derived from the location of its discovery centuries ago, "up river," from Guayaquil, along the Guayas River in the area of present day Manabi, Los Rios, and Quevedo. Arriba cocoa is part of the national cluster and simply refers to the region from which it comes, distinguishable by its aroma and flavor.

Lourdes Delgado, cocoa expert and producer of the Chchukululu Chocolate brand (it means "singing bird" in Quechua) says arriba cocoa is described as having a floral and fruity fragrance and taste – distinguishable from cocoa grown in other places. There is something particular about the "up river" location that gives it these unique characteristics.

The French

In recent years the world has begun to rediscover the origins of chocolate. And in Ecuador, ironically, a couple of French guys are helping to reintroduce it to Ecuadorians.

Cyril Prudhomme is a French pastry chef who came to Ecuador five years ago. Last year he opened Cyril Boutique, which is attempting to take chocolate (and other pastries and breads) to another level in Ecuador.

"This is something new in Ecuador…at a high level and totally French," he says.

Jerome Monteillet, better known as Chez Jerome to Quito diners, says the interest for a chef who leaves his own country and comes to another is to experiment. At his restaurant he does just that with Ecuador's signature product.

"We mix French techniques with flavors here. I like to make a filet mignon...with bacon, and on top put a layer of sal prieta - a mix of peanut and salt which is prepared in the province of Manabi. I serve it with a sauce with a cacao base. It is a French style sauce but instead of aromatizing it with cognac, with pepper, I do it with 100 percent cocoa. It is not sweet. It is a French preparation with a national product."

In their own ways, both Prudhomme and Monteillet have brought a part of France to Ecuador. And though Chez Jerome is the first to say the French are complicated about their food - an assertion with whch Prudhomme would agree - he finds a way to keep it simple for today's recipe.

Helado de chocolate

Cook’s Manuel - 1882


1 ½ cuarts, milk (leche, cuartillo i medio)

8 oz cream, (crema, 8 onzas)

6 id chocolate, shaved

8 id sugar

Put all of these simple ingredients into a pot over the fire, stirring with a spatula. When it has boiled sufficiently so that that composition is very thick, transfer to a varnished, ceramic bowl and let cool in order to freeze it.

Fondant de chocolate

Chez Jerome - 2012


400 gr dark chocolate chips

400 gr butter

12 whole eggs

400 gr sugar

220 gr flour


Melt together the butter and the chocolate in a water bath (bain marie). In a bowl mix together the eggs and the sugar until fluffy, then add slowly the melted chocolate, followed by the flour. In a small mold put some butter and flour so the fondant does not stick, then add batter and bake 6 min. in the oven at 236ºF (113 degrees C)

El Centro comes to life once again in 2012

Every Saturday night in Quito is now a night to remember. The central historical district of Latin America's greatest colonial city is not just a place where the tangible, architectural heritage is restored by day, but where the intangible heritage – the traditions of the people - come to life after sunset.

Much of old town has been restored in the past decade and since Quito was named American Capital of Culture by the International Bureau of Cultural Capitals last year, the city has found a creative way to pump a little life into El Centro after dark - a place that is typically quiet once the sun sets.

Luz Elena Coloma, General Manager of Quito Turismo, the tourism arm of Quito, explains that with Heritage Nights visitors to El Centro can "re-live" historical Quito in the iconic spaces of the city such as Independence Plaza, San Agustin Church and Convent, and the San Marcos Neighborhood.

Heritage Nights hopes to show that central Quito "has its own personality where families can come, drink a canelazo, and walk around." Coloma hopes Quito residents can "have a re-encounter with our own roots and identity." But it is also just a chance to enjoy with friends and relatives.

Heritage Nights feature a number of activities. Each week Quito Eterno guides visitors and residents to one of Quito's historical treasures around the city center. These walking tours begin at the El Quinde shop in the municipal building in Independence Plaza. Tours are 40 minutes in duration, beginning at 7:00 p.m. The cost is $6 each.

Additionally, artistic performances are offered in the plazas and plazoletas of old town while expositions are hosted in the Manuela Saenz museum, located in the San Marcos a neighborhood. And other special programs are organized in private bars and restaurants throughout the city center.

El Centro Parking

1. La Ronda

Guayaquil S1-124 & Morales (Sector La Ronda)


1 Driving west (up) 24 de mayo, entrance is on the right.

2 Drive south on Garcia Moreno, turn left past city museum

3 Or from south side of Plaza 24 de mayo turn left from

Ambato to enter from Guayaquil Street

2. Cadisan

Between Mejia-Olmedo & Benalcazr-Garcia Moreno

Entrance: Half a block east of Benalcazar on Mejia

3. Montufar 1

Antonio Bustamante N 6-18 between Olmedo & MejiaFrom Pichincha and Olmedo, turn onto Antonio Bustamante

4. Montufar 2

Olmedo E1 – 36 & Av. Pichincha Take Av. Pichincha to Manabi

Before entering the bridge turn right, it is below the bridge

5. San Blas

Caldas N11 B y Guayaquil esquina

From north to south, where 10 de Agosto meets Guayaquil,

Caldas is on the corner.

6. El Tejar

Mejía S/N y Chimborazo

Take Hermano Miguel to the stoplight.

Turn left on Jose Lopez. At the corner turn left

We agree! And by the way......homeschooling is permitted in Ecuador.

Is School Like Jail?

he people in my community love their public schools. So too it is in most of the country. If only they knew the costs, and I don’t mean just the financial costs, which are two and three times those of private schools. I also mean the opportunity costs: If only people knew what they were missing!

Imagine education wholly managed by the market economy. The variety! The choice! The innovation! All the features we’ve come to expect in so many areas of life — groceries, software, clothing, music — would also pertain to education. But as it is, the market for education is hobbled, truncated, frozen and regimented, and tragically, we’ve all gotten used to it.

The longer people live with educational socialism, the more they adapt to its inefficiencies, deprivations and even indignities. So it is with American public schools. Many people love them, but it’s like the “Stockholm Syndrome”: We’ve come to have a special appreciation for our captors and masters because we see no way out.

There is a way out. But first we have to see the problem for what it is. I know of no better means than exploring an absolutely prophetic book first published in 1974, edited by William Rickenbacker. It is called The Twelve-Year Sentence. Laissez Faire Books is offering this book, a key that unlocks the prison door, right now for $10.

This is not only one of the great titles in the history of publishing; it is a rare book that dared to say what no one wanted to hear. True, the essays are all scholarly and precise (the book came out of an academic conference), but a fire for liberty burns hot below the footnoted surface. Especially notable: This book came out long before the home-schooling movement, long before a remnant of the population began to see what was happening and started bailing out.

The core truth that this book tells: The government has centrally planned your child’s life and has forced both you and your child into the system. But, say the writers, the system is a racket and a cheat. It doesn’t prepare them for a life of liberty and productivity. It prepares them to be debt slaves, dependents, bureaucrats and wartime fodder.

I’m thinking of this book as I look at millions of unemployed young people in the US and Europe. This is what the system has produced. This is the mob that once gathered in “homeroom,” assembled for school lunches, sat for endless hours in their assigned desks and was tested ten thousand times to make sure they had properly absorbed what the government wanted them to know. Now they are out and they want their lives to amount to something, but they don’t know what.

And it’s just the beginning. There are tens of millions of victims of this system. They were quiet so long as the jobs were there and the economy was growing. But when the fortunes fell, many became members of marauding mobs seeking a father figure to lead them into the light.

Think of the phrase “twelve-year sentence.” They government took them in at the age of 6. It sat them down in desks, 30 or so per room. It paid teachers to lecture them and otherwise keep them busy while their parents worked to cough up 40% of their paychecks to the government to fund the system (among other things) that raises their kids.

So on it goes for 12 years, until the age of 18, when the government decides that it is time for them to move on to college, where they sit for another four years, also at mom and dad’s expense.

What have they learned? They have learned how to sit at a desk and zone out for hours and hours, five days per week. They might have learned how to repeat back things said by their warden — I mean teacher. They’ve learned how to sneak around the system a bit and have something resembling a life on the sly.

They have learned to live for the weekend and say “TGIF!” Perhaps they have taken a few other skills with them: sports, music, theater or whatever. But they have no idea how to turn their limited knowledge or abilities into something remunerative in a market system that depends most fundamentally on individual initiative, alertness, choice and exchange.

They are deeply ignorant about the stuff that makes the world work and builds civilization, by which I mostly mean commerce. They’ve never worked a day in the private sector. They’ve never taken an order, never faced the bracing truth of the balance sheet, never taken a risk, never even managed money. They’ve only been consumers, not producers, and their consumption has been funded by others, either by force (taxes) or by leveraged parents on a guilt trip.

So it stands to reason: They have no sympathy for or understanding of what life is like for the producers of this world. Down with the productive classes! Or as they said in the early years of the Bolshevik Revolution: “Expropriate the expropriators” Or under Stalin: “Kill the Kulaks.” Or under Mao: “Eradicate the Four Olds” (old customs, culture, habits, and ideas). So too did the Nazi youth rage against the merchant classes who were said to lack “blood and honor.”

The amazing thing is not that this state system produces mindless drones. The miracle is that some make it out and have normal lives. They educate themselves. They get jobs. They become responsible. Some go on to do great things. There are ways to overcome the twelve-year sentence, but the existence of the educational penitentiary still remains a lost opportunity, coercively imposed.

Americans are taught to love the sentence because it is “free.” Imagine attaching this word to the public school system! It is anything but free. It is compulsory at its very core. If you try to escape, you are “truant.” If you refuse to cough up to support it, you are guilty of evasion. If you put your kids in private school, you pay twice. If you school at home, the social workers watch every move you make.

There is no end to the reform. But no one talks about abolition. Still, can you imagine that in the 18th and most of 19th centuries, as this book points out, this system didn’t even exist? Americans were the most-educated people in the world, approaching near- universal literacy, and without a government-run central plan, without a twelve-year sentence. Compulsory education was unthinkable. That came only much later, brought to us by the same crowd who gave us World War I, the Fed and the income tax.

Escaping is very hard, but even high-security prisons are not impenetrable. So millions have left. Tens of millions more remain. This whole generation of young people are victims of the system. That makes them no less dangerous precisely because they don’t even know it. It’s called the Stockholm Syndrome: Many of these kids fell in love with their captors and jailers. They want them to have even more power.

We should celebrate the prophets who saw all this coming. William Rickenbacker saw it. He and the writers in this book knew what was going on. They knew what to call it. They dared to tell the truth, to speak the unspeakable: This system is more like prison than education, and it will end when its escapees are loosed on the streets to protest against anything and everything.

Even after nearly 40 years, this book has lost none of its power. It should take its place among the great documents in history that have dared to demand that the jailer step aside and let the inmates free.


Jeffrey Tucker
 Executive editor, Laissez Faire Books

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Growing financial incentives to retire in Latin America

By Suzi Dixon | Telegraph – Mon, Mar 19, 2012 11:13 GMT

Latin America is increasingly being considered an up-and-coming retirement hotspot for expats, with Mexico, Panama and Ecuador in particular all rated highly in recent polls

Favourable weather, low property prices and pensioner perks are a draw for Brits with a sense of adventure. While the cost of living has risen in recent years, the economies of the larger Latin countries are increasingly stable, making it more viable to put down long-term roots in a warmer climate.

In International Living‘s 2012 Global Retirement Index, Ecuador, Panama and Mexico occupied the top three slots in a report that rated 19 international expat hotspots. Ecuador was top choice in the cost of living category and was dubbed the "world's best retirement haven". The magazine team estimated that a couple watching their spending can live well on $800-$1,500 (about £510-£956) a month, while property prices remain low.

Eight categories were assessed to come up with the retirement report: property prices, special retirement benefits, cost of living, ease of integration, entertainment and amenities, health care, retirement infrastructure and climate.

The Ecuadorian government guarantees senior citizens access to free health care and medication and exemption from notary and registration fees. For expats considering a move, embracing the laid-back culture is a must, says Gary Phillips, 65, who moved to Cotacachi in Ecuador in 2006 and runs the expat site Pro-Ecuador.com. "Ecuadorians say mañana but mañana doesn't mean 'tomorrow', it just means 'not today'," Mr Phillips told Reuters.

The International Living team also point out that many South American (Frankfurt: A0MLL6 - news) locations have discounts you can access as a retiree, in particular in Brazil, Chile (Berlin: G4R.BE - news) and Panama. Panama has an organised programme of discounts and perks called the pensionado , open to all foreigners. Expats simply apply for a visa that gives them discounts on everything from theatre tickets to public transport to eating out and medical services.

Mexico ranked third in this year's index but occupied the top spot in 2008. The country ranks highly in terms of property prices and entertainment and arts, with many retirement communities ideal for expats.

A Expat Forum poll earlier this year, sponsored by Barclays (LSE: BARC.L - news) Wealth International , asked Brits about their motivation for moving to Mexico. More than a quarter, 27 per cent, of respondents said that they moved there to retire. The cost of living was the main draw for 24 per cent of expats polled, while a further nine per cent quoted quality of living as their reason for moving to Mexico.

But expats who have already made the move say the cost of living is on the rise and the region may not represent good value for money for long.

Bob Sheth from the Expat Forum said: "Expat living costs in Mexico seemed to have increased by at least 10 per cent over the last quarter, according to members who are discussing the topic at Expatforum.com. The reason for the sharp hike seems to be the peso losing value against the US dollar. Expats in Mexico are reliant on US imports, resulting in some alarming increases in the cost of living."

Monday, March 19, 2012

2012 Internet Access in Ecuador - The Ecuador Insider

"I hate to say it, but I just can't live without the internet."

A tenant of mine proclaimed this week.

I know, I get it, I am of the same. Haven't watched TV in months but its hard to go even a day with connecting to the net.

So how's the Internet access in Ecuador now in 2012?

It's a lot better than it was in 2009, just a few short years ago, before they connected the new internet line to Ecuador from the ocean.

On even the cheapest plans costing around $20 a month it is fast enough to watch videos on YouTube without much pausing.

So what are your service provider options?

Generally speaking, there's only the big 4 in Ecuador. CNT (state-run), TV Cable, Claro and Movistar.

Only CNT, TV Cable and Claro offer land-line internet service to homes. In the larger cities of Ecuador, all you have to do is visit one of their offices in the malls and solicit service. Sign a contract, you can do so with just a passport and a copy of a utilities bill, and then they'll come and install the net in your home in less than a week.

I'd recommend working with Claro, of the 4 I'd say they provide the best customer service.

Prices are relatively the same in all providers, with the cheapest option being unlimited internet access at a speed of 1 MB for $20 a month. 1.5MB costs $27 a month and is usually fast enough for 2 or 3 people to connect and navegate comfortably at the same time.

Is internet available in the countryside and on the coast?

Yes, and no.

On the coast of Ecuador, where it is more rural, many folks don't even have telephone lines. And without a telephone line the ISPs can't install internet in your house.

The only company of the big 4 that can install a telephone line and land line internet to your home in the rural areas of the coast is CNT, but it could take weeks or months after the solicitation for them to install your phone line.

Ask your neighbors, CNT will ask what the phone numbers are of your most direct neighbors, to see if you qualify for a new phone line.

If a telephone line, and susequently land-line internet service is not an option for you due to your rural location in Ecuador, you could get a HUAWEI internet chip from Movistar or Claro that you plug into your computer and from wherever their is cell phone coverage, which is almost all of the coast, you can get internet access.

Unlimited internet plans for your HUAWEI start around $32 a month but you will often need to be on some type of residency visa to get a monthly plan.

If you are just a tourist in Ecuador, you could pick up a prepaid HUAWEI from one of the 2 cell phone service providers mentions above for around $77, then charge the phone with credit whenever you like. $18 buys you 500 Mb of navegation which tends to last about a week depending on how much you navegate the net. Streaming vids will consume much more bandwidth then say reading text online or checking your email, which practically consumes none.

Yes, with these HUAWEI internet chips or USBs you could even plug it into your computer on the beach and surf the net from there.

Another option for foreigners visiting Ecuador is buying internet access minutes for your smart phone.

For your iPhone for instance, Movistar offers 7 day pre-paid navegation packagess for $11.20, 15 day packages for $17 and 30 day packages for $22.40. They also offer monthly plans with 1000MEGs of navegation, which on a phone could last you the better part of 3 weeks, for $32 plus tax including $12 of minutes.

In the rural areas of Ecuador where phone and internet land-line service are not available, there's also a few budding entrepreneurs installing mini-towers who will install a dish in your home and from that connect you to their internet signal. Inquire with your neighbors once on the ground if any of these folks are in your area.

Now you know how to get connected in Ecuador.

Domenick Buonamici
Investor, Traveler, Manager

Ecuador gambling ban comes into force......

Coming to Ecuador to find Las Vegas?.....stay where you are.....Ecuador does not want you!

QUITO (AFP) - The slot machines have fallen silent at Quito's largest and last-standing casino after Ecuador's new anti-gambling law came into effect at midnight, with warnings the ban could drive gambling underground.

Voters approved the closure in a referendum last year, and the government of President Rafael Correa in September gave establishments six months to close down their operations.

At the Montecarlo, Quito's main gambling destination attached to a luxury hotel north of the capital, some 120 workers waited until midnight Friday night to see their workplace shuttered, with a music concert marking the occasion for employees and patrons.

"Now comes the question -- what do we do now?" worried Darwin Jativa as the casino closed its doors for the last time.

Pedro Sanchez, a Spanish national who was a manager at the Montecarlo, warned prohibition would likely send the practice underground to illegal gambling halls.

"Mafias will be competing for the trade with a gun," he told AFP.

Nationwide the new law was to cost 3,000 people their jobs, according to the country's association of casinos and bingo halls, which said the prohibition would likely impact 22,000 indirect jobs.

Employees would be compensated following their dismissal, and would be eligible for job retraining, officials said before the ban came into force. It was approved last year as part of a raft of measures pushed by Correa in a public vote, insisting the gambling was a moral vice.

Card dealers and other casino employees were not the only ones condemning the closures.

"We are in mourning too. This place will be greatly missed," said Rosa Sosa, a 70-year-old writer, who used to frequent the Montecarlo with her husband Anibal Iturralde.

"We are adults who are just seeking a little joy, not idiots coming to squander our money," Iturralde added.

Others admitted that the tough new anti-gambling measures will help them overcome their own addictions.

"Willpower was not enough," said one former casino customer who asked not to be named.
"I thank God, and the president, for freeing us from this yoke that made me lose my family and my savings."

Ecuador deports younger brother of 2 of Colombia's most sought drug-trafficking suspects

Note from this Blog: We published a post last week mentioning the growing threat of organized crime in Ecuador and how we thought the Ecuadorian Military and Police would rise to the occasion. This recent developments support our beliefs......

By Associated Press

7:21 p.m. EDT, March 18, 2012
BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) — The younger brother of two of Colombia's most wanted drug-trafficking suspects has been deported home by neighboring Ecuador.Authorities say Juan Carlos Calle Serna was flown to Bogota on Sunday following his arrest in Ecuador's capital. They say he had been living in Quito since 2007 posing as an investor in clothes stores while allegedly laundering drug money.He is the younger brother of Luis Enrique and Javier Antonio Calle Serna. The older brothers were members of the dismantled Norte del Valle drug gang and are fugitives.Colombia's government has set $2.8 million rewards for each of the two older brothers. In addition, the U.S. government is offering a $5 million reward for Javier Antonio Calle Serna.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

How Obama Could Steal Your Gold

On a miserable spring day in 1933, smack dab in the middle of the Great Depression, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed one of the most dangerous laws ever to grace the U.S. statute books.

With Executive Order 6102, he criminalized the possession of gold coin, bullion and gold certificates by any U.S. individual, partnership, association or corporation.
Roosevelt justified his radical move with the spurious claim that “hoarding" of gold was stalling economic growth. This law remained in effect until 1975, when President Gerald R. Ford re-legalized private ownership of gold coins, bars and certificates.

However, because of Roosevelt’s law, Americans were forced to surrender their gold in exchange for U.S. paper currency.

They later discovered that not only would they never get their gold back, but those paper dollars would be devalued far below the intrinsic value of the confiscated gold.

Roosevelt based his executive order on the 1933 Emergency Banking Relief Act, which gave the president power to curb gold hoarding in any “declared national emergency” - an eerie historic echo of the PATRIOT Act.

While national emergencies can be real, as the terrorist attacks for September 11, 2001, proved all too well, they can also be manipulated and even manufactured by power-hungry politicians.
The Government Wants Your Wealth

Mark Nestmann, an expert who has written extensively on presidential emergency powers, says that President Obama has the power to “pull an FDR” and order the confiscation of gold. The legal authority that Roosevelt used to confiscate gold and silver, issuing executive orders without consulting congress, remains one of the president’s powers.

Under the radical Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) the IRS has the power to force foreign bankers to act as their spies on U.S. clients or suffer a 30% tax on their U.S. sources if they refuse.

And apparently there is nothing to stop the IRS from using FATCA to impose restrictions on foreign gold purchases by Americans.

In October 2010, I reported that U.S. Immigration and Customs agents and Border Protection officers at the Houston/George Bush Intercontinental airport seized almost $160,000 in gold and silver in 14 separate incidents from individual travelers, none of whom had been involved in criminal activity.

My colleague, Andy Hecht, revealed that in 2011, “...central banks and governments around the world purchased a staggering 450 tons of the yellow metal.” He wrote, “Indeed, 18% of all of the gold mined in 2011 found its way into central bank vaults. Central banks now realize that owning gold as a reserve asset beats low-yielding U.S. dollars or debt-riddled euros any day.”

In other words, the big-spending governments not only covet the billions in your retirement plans and pensions, but your precious metal holdings as well.
Recent Developments Require
Your Diversification

A few days ago, The Real Asset Co, an online exchange platform for precious metals, revealed in a report that the governments of Germany and Switzerland have requested the return of the U.S. gold they own that is held in the U. S. Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

The repatriation of gold is a hot topic since Venezuela recently received the last of their 160 tons of repatriated gold reserves from Europe.

With the price of gold at $1,669, the U.S. government has recently followed an unofficial policy of the confiscation of gold by U.S. government agents, not only from innocent travelers but by lawsuits against legitimate gold coin owners.

It has never been more important for you to diversify your assets offshore.

At the moment, metals held in an offshore private vault and not as part of a bank account are not reportable to the IRS. Whether that will change under pending FATCA rules is an open question.

One of the major benefits of membership in the Sovereign Society is our extensive offshore banking advisory service and our banking connections in diverse jurisdictions. We can help you “go offshore” financially, including recommending storage vaults and precious metal courier services.
Gold Confiscation Could Happen Again

Roosevelt’s gold confiscation order of 1933 is one of the most draconian economic acts in U.S. history, but could it happen again?

Well, let’s see - back then, there were failing financial institutions, a suffering dollar, huge government deficits and rising gold prices.

Today we have a sinking currency, a ballooning national deficit and a revenue-hungry IRS accosting taxpayers, suing foreign banks and harassing foreign governments for allegedly owed taxes.

I wouldn’t put it past President Obama to justify confiscating gold as a means of stabilizing the country’s monetary system.

My advice is simple: Plan and act accordingly.

Faithfully yours,

Bob Bauman
 Offshore and Asset Protection Editor
The Sovereign Society

Appears that back in the USA....things are getting "cleaned up".....

Grime Wave: Tide Detergent Thefts Sky Rocket; Masses Turn to Black Market For Essential Goods

With real unemployent approaching 25% of the population, 50 million Americans on food stamps, and the prices of essential goods rising every month, it’s no surprise that black market peddlers are turning to new product offerings to make a buck.

In What Is Money When the System Collapses? we highlighted some items that would take the place of traditional currency in the event of a catastrophic financial and economic collapse – things like food, fuel, firearms and footwear.

But for many, the world as they know it has already collapsed. Unable to afford retail prices for home essentials, these people will do what they need to in order to survive, and that includes the bartering and exchange of goods similar to what will happen in a complete economic meltdown. As Brandon Smith of Alt-Market recently pointed out, when the totalitarians squeeze the masses, those rebelling against the system because they have been left with no other choice will turn to the free (black) market to make ends meet.

These most recent thefts have law enforcement officials ‘puzzled’, but the reasons behind them are pretty simple to understand if you consider the bigger picture:

Law enforcement officials across the country are puzzled over a crime wave targeting an unlikely item: Tide laundry detergent.

Theft of Tide detergent has become so rampant that authorities from New York to Oregon are keeping tabs on the soap spree, and some cities are setting up special task forces to stop it. And retailers like CVS are taking special security precautions to lock down the liquid.

One Tide taker in West St. Paul, Minn., made off with $25,000 in the product over 15 months before he was busted last year.

“That was unique that he stole so much soap,” said West St. Paul Police Chief Bud Shaver. “The name brand is [all] Tide. Amazing, huh?”

Tide has become a form of currency on the streets. The retail price is steadily high — roughly $10 to $20 a bottle — and it’s a staple in households across socioeconomic classes.

Tide can go for $5 to $10 a bottle on the black market, authorities say. Enterprising laundry soap peddlers even resell bottles to stores.

“There’s no serial numbers and it’s impossible to track,” said Detective Larry Patterson of the Somerset, Ky., Police Department, where authorities have seen a huge spike in Tide theft. “It’s the item to steal.”

Source: The Daily

While detergent soap, in this case Tide, may be the item of the day, it’s only a small part of the expanding black market for home essentials and critical goods.

Nutritional assistance benefits are another example of a black market that moves millions of dollars of goods monthly. Those receiving benefits – often times through fraudulent means – will utilize government issued EBT cards to purchase meat, cheese, milk and other products at retail grocers, only to redistribute those items at 25% to 50% discounts on the street. In this case, both parties win. Buyers stay ahead of food inflation by getting items at discount, while sellers are able to make a living in an environment plagued with job losses. Everyone’s a winner – except, of course, the taxpayer who has to foot the bill.

So long as the economic situation in America continues to deteriorate, these black markets will continue to expand. This is exactly what happened in crumbling economies of the East Block, where cigarettes, alcohol, food and Western goods became hot commodities in underground circles.

This, and the crime that will come with it, is an inevitable outcome of a nation that has bit off more than it can chew.

Author: Mac Slavo
Date: March 14th, 2012

Why you should buy real estate.......

Absolutely Nothing About Goldman Sachs

Reporting from Laguna Beach, California...

n today’s edition of The Daily Reckoning, we’ll take a departure from our habitual musings. You won’t read anything about the demise of the US dollar, the decay of the US Empire or the debauchery of the global monetary and financial “system.”

Instead, we will share a personal anecdote of no particular importance and then launched into a couple of nonhabitual musings about investing in real estate overseas. Even if you have absolutely no interest in buying property outside of the US, you should at least scroll down the page to see the pretty pictures.

So sit back, relax and enjoy today’s edition which we have titled:

“Absolutely Nothing About Goldman Sachs”
By Eric J. Fry

Joseph Saylin did not like to take chances. He didn’t trust people very much and he didn’t trust paper wealth very much. He trusted dogs and real estate...and that’s about it.

Joseph Saylin, my grandfather, was the son of Latvian immigrants. Joseph worked hard... always. And saved money... always. He was ambitious. He was a physician at the age of 21, a lieutenant in the US Army at the age of 24, a captain at 27, a major at 31, a colonel at 35. “I was always the ‘boy this’ and the ‘boy that,’” he would often boast during his twilight years. “I was the ‘boy doctor’ and the ‘boy colonel.’ A lot of guys were jealous. But they didn’t even think about how hard I worked.”

Don’t get the wrong idea; Joseph was not one of those all-work-and- no-play guys. In his 1912 high school yearbook from El Monte, California, he offered the following senior quote:

“I am very fond of the company of ladies.”

To be sure, Joseph knew how to play; but more to the point of our tale, Joseph also knew how not to play. In other words, he did not play in the highflying stock market of the 1920s. Joseph parked his savings in real estate. Between 1923 and 1973 he bought a variety of houses and office buildings in Southern California.

He once bought 4,000 acres of sand and sagebrush in Utah, just because it was so cheap. He called it “the ranch” and always tried to drag his grandkids up there for long weekends. But his youngest grandchild, your editor, always refused to take the 12-hour car ride just to look at sand and sagebrush.

Fortunately, Joseph also bought properties of greater aesthetic and/or investment value. He purchased residential and commercial properties in Venice Beach, Brentwood, Arcadia, Orange and Lake Arrowhead. He even owned a gas station in Torrance. He always bought them cheap. Unfortunately, he often sold them cheap as well.

If only he had held onto his large house on South Rockingham in Brentwood, California (yes, the same Rockingham made famous by a former professional football player with anger management issues), he would have tripled or quadrupled the ultimate size of his estate.

But no matter, Joseph was not hurting financially. Throughout two World Wars, one Great Depression, one hyperinflation and numerous lesser crises, he maintained course and speed: Buying Southern California real estate, while using little or no debt financing.

Joseph’s frugal tactics served him well. He accumulated a small fortune during his 86 years on this planet.

He might have amassed an even larger nest egg, if his wife had not devoted her golden years to traveling around the world — first-class — with her best friend. These two feisty, 70-something women would book around-the-world flights on Pan Am and disembark wherever their whim dictated. India, Egypt, Israel. In fact, my grandmother was in Israel in 1967 when the Six-Day War broke out.

Joseph’s lifelong commitment to real estate served him extremely well. Importantly, he made most of his money during the postwar years, when America was in the sweetest “sweet spot” of its entire history. As a result, American real estate was a “strong buy” from many, many decades. It may still be a “buy,” but it probably isn’t a “strong buy.”

Now that the latest US housing boom has gone bust, a few select portions of the US real estate market may have become “strong buys” once again. But the US economy is unlikely to provide a multi-decade tailwind to housing prices like it did after the Second World War.

Of course there will still be opportunities here in the United States. But some of the best real estate bets may be in the fastest growing economies of the world. Therefore, the would-be real estate tycoon may want to cast a glance overseas and consider the opportunities that beckon from foreign shores.

Obviously, buying a beach house in Ecuador is not the same thing as buying a beach house on the Jersey Shore. But maybe that’s a good thing.

Over the next couple of days, we’re going to feature some observations about foreign real estate, courtesy of our friends over at International Living. Even if you have no interest in buying an overseas residence anytime soon, you may enjoy daydreaming with us.

Eric Fry,
The Daily Reckoning

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Grown on our farm.....served at Cafe Dios No Muere......and now coming to a location near you.....Guayusa Tea

Stash Tea Introduces Guayusa Tea: Energy from Ecuador

tash Tea, one of the largest specialty tea companies in the USA, announces the release of six great tasting new teas made with a rare, naturally caffeinated herbal tea known as Guayusa (gwhy-you-sa).

Portland, OR (PRWEB) March 13, 2012

Stash Tea, one of the largest specialty tea companies in the USA, announces the release of six great tasting new teas made with a rare, naturally caffeinated herbal tea known as Guayusa (gwhy-you-sa).

Guayusa is a stimulating herb native to the Amazon Rainforest of Ecuador where it has been part of the indigenous culture and cultivated for more than 2000 years. Guayusa is delicious. It has a naturally smooth taste and a rich and earthy aroma and slightly sweet finish.

Guayusa is also naturally caffeinated and has an energizing effect similar to coffee or Yerba Mate, but unlike coffee or Yerba Mate, Guayusa provides a slow release of caffeine for alertness and energy, without the jitters or sudden caffeine crash.

Guayusa also supports small farms in Ecuador and it helps the Amazon Rainforest thrive, as Guayusa is shade-grown.

Stash Tea offers a Pure Guayusa Tea, as well as five signature blends, all organic and 100% natural.

Guayusa Tea with Chocolate -- Natural chocolate combines with refreshing Guayusa for a dessert-like tea that's rich and stimulating.

Guayusa Tea with Chai -- Ecuador meets India in an aromatic blend of smooth Guayusa and spicy Chai.

Guayusa Tea with Yerba Mate & Ginseng -- are paired for an invigorating blend that is sure to awaken the senses.

Guayusa Tea with Lemon -- Lemony herbs and natural lemon oil combine for a slightly tart, refreshing taste.

Guayusa Tea with Mint -- Peppermint and spearmint are paired for a refreshing, rejuvenating taste.

Each package contains 18 individually wrapped tea bags. All natural ingredients. QAI and USDA certified organic. Guayusa is also fair trade certified. Suggested retail is $4.95. The new Guayusa line is now available on the Stash Tea website, http://www.stashtea.com, and will be available at select Grocery and Specialty retailers nationwide.

Stash Tea prides itself on providing superior quality teas. Based in the Portland, Oregon area since 1972, Stash Tea uses only pure, 100 percent natural ingredients in its full line of traditional black, green, white, oolong, flavored, spiced, herbal and specialty iced teas.

For more information about the new Stash Tea line of Guayusa teas, or for samples, please contact Megan Rolerkite at Stash Tea.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Hight yield deposits in Ecuador...

 I know what you're going to say...

"10%, 17% annual earnings on a savings account? Are you nuts?"

Well, no, I'm not nuts, this really does exist in Ecuador.

You see, you're probably used to a society where credit is free flowing and easily available, 0% APR credit cards, 4% home loans, etc (even after a serious crisis).

Well, the rest of the developing world, like in Ecuador, is not like that.

Cash is king, and not as easily available in the form of loans. And subsequently worth a lot more.

Heck, that's why I aim for investments that'll show me at least a 40-50% annual return.


Down here, 10% is nothing. You can get that simply depositing your money how I'll explain now.

In Ecuador, there are Credit Union-type establishments called "Cooperas" that gather money from a pool of investors and lend it out in the form of micro-financing for business, consumer and housing projects.

Often at really high interest rates (20% APR or more) for projects that were turned down by normal banks.

That's why the established credit unions with a legit track record offer around 10% APR to their investors on 6 month - 1 year CDs.

I've even seen the unestablished fly-by-nighters offer as much as 17% to their investors on 1 year CDs. But those are a little too risky for my blood.

Whereas normal banks in Ecuador place tight restrictions on opening accounts for non-resident foreigners, these credit unions don't!

Want a bank account in Ecuador without being a resident, this may be your answer...

Foreigners can walk right into one of these credit unions and open up a savings account with their passport (and a copy), and a copy of their electric or water bill (it doesn't have to be in your name), plus an initial deposit of $25.

That's it. You don't need to be a legal resident or have an Ecuadorian ID card.

And you've got a place to stash your cash in Ecuador.

Once you're a member of the credit union with an account, you can then invest in CD's from 1 month to 1 year that often earn around 10% APR, minimum investment for the highest rates is $1000.

Are these safe?

Well, your money isn't guaranteed like it is in normal banks, so I certainly wouldn't invest your whole nest egg here, and some Cooperas are much more legit than others, but there are some with lengthy track records that are trusted by the locals.

One many locals trust which has been around for 48 years with offices in the Cuenca area is La Coopera La Merced. They offer 9% APR on one year CDs of $1000 or more. But slightly higher interest rates CAN be negotiated for larger fixed deposits.

There are many others with shorter track records that offer in the 10-11% range, and the newbies or higher-risk ones often offer upwards of 14%.

Heck, personally, I find these to be at least a little more reliable than the stock market these days.

Domenick Buonamici
Investor, traveler, manager
Murali B&B located in front of the airport in Guayaquil.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Is Ecuador prepared to counter rise in organized crime?

Note from this Blog: Even though this may not be an article that is "pro Ecuador"...we feel all aspects of life here must be represented. This one from The Christian Science monitor is only one opinion from another Blog.

What is our view on this? Quite frankly....Ecuador cannot be compared with countries such as Mexico and Colombia. From our perspective "on the ground" here.....crime is not a problem and gang warfare is non existent. What IS an issue is money laundering because the currency in Ecuador is the US Dollar. Furthermore..it is on the "route" for major producers in Peru and Colombia. We see the Military and National Police rising to the occasion to handle this. And it is worth mentioning...that probably every country in the world has some type of "laundering"...including the USA!

Ecuador has been described as the 'United Nations of organized crime,' but authorities may underestimate the repercussions, writes guest blogger Elyssa Pachico.

By Elyssa Pachico, Guest blogger / March 9, 2012

An assessment by Ecuadorian security forces reportedly says that Ecuador is home to an increasing number of organized criminal groups, and that the authorities have underestimated the problem.

El Comercio reports (in Spanish) that a review by the military says that drug trafficking and organized crime may soon overwhelm the country, if "adequate measures" are not taken in time.

RELATED: Think you know Latin America? Take our geography quiz.

According to the newspaper, the 225-page report warns that if drug-related violence rises, the army will be charged with tackling the problem.

Foreign drug trafficking organizations like the Sinaloa Cartel have been present in Ecuador "for years," according to a police intelligence report quoted by El Comercio.

According to the newspaper, the police report suggests that the security forces have underestimated the extent of the problem because drug-related killings are relatively low compared to Mexico. "What is worrying is that the authorities do not fully understand what is happening with the problem of organized crime. The 'Mexico effect' is not yet visible in Ecuador," the report says.

The police assessment reportedly says that the main entry points for drug shipments include the cities of Macara, Tulcan, San Lorenzo, and Nueva Loja (see map, below). The primary exit points for drug shipments headed overseas are the port cities of Manta, Esmeraldas, Muisne, Puna, Rocafuerte, and Puerto Bolivar.

Drug traffickers use go-fast boats and submarines to transport their wares from the coast, then meet up with boats on the high seas who collect the cocaine loads and take them to Honduras, the document reportedly says. Other times, go-fast boats stop at the Galapagos islands to refuel and continue on to Central America.

The report adds that two major drug seizures in 2007 and 2008, part of an operation dubbed Green Hurricane, are evidence of Ecuador's increased importance as a drug transit country for transnational criminal groups. During the operation, narcotics police seized 3.78 tons of cocaine in southern Ecuador, and another 4.70 tons near the border with Colombia.

These reported negative assessments from the security forces are an indication that they believe they lack the resources to properly confront organized crime. The government recently ordered some 7,000 soldiers and 3,000 police to the northern frontier with Colombia, after President Rafael Correa said that border was "the gravest security problem facing the country."

But the northern border region is just one part of the problem. Along the country's coasts, trafficking gangs are increasingly reliant on semi-submersibles to transport cocaine. Police found a 12-acre poppy field in central Ecuador in December, a highly unusual discovery in a country that is generally free of illicit drug crops. In Quito, Colombian gangs have been accused of controlling much of the local drug trade. One US drug official described Ecuador as the "United Nations" of organized crime, due to the number of transnational criminal groups (including Russian and Chinese) that have set up shop here.

Mexican groups in particular have a growing foothold in Ecuador. In February, police arrested a man described as the main link between the Sinaloa Cartel and Colombian drug trafficker Daniel Barrera, alias "El Loco." Authorities arrested nine operatives who allegedly worked for the Mexican group in Ecuador last year; the investigation also led to the arrest of a top Sinaloa Cartel lieutenant, Victor Felix, in Mexico. The Sinaloa Cartel reportedly has two armed cells working along Ecuador's southern border. According to the US State Department, the Zetas, the Gulf Cartel, and Colombian rebel group the FARC all move cocaine through Ecuador.

If the security forces have in fact warned that organized crime could spill out of control unless measures are taken, this suggests that the situation is becoming critical. If authorities do not meet the challenge, it may yet turn into a national crisis.

– Elyssa Pachico is a writer for Insight – Organized Crime in the Americas, which provides research, analysis, and investigation of the criminal world throughout the region find all of her research here.

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The Christian Science Monitor has assembled a diverse group of Latin America bloggers. Our guest bloggers are not employed or directed by the Monitor and the views expressed are the bloggers' own, as is responsibility for the content of their blogs. To contact us about a blogger, click here.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Ecuador Indians march to protest Correa's land policies

By AFP | AFP – 16 hours ago

Ecuador's largest advocacy group for Indians plans a two-week march to Quito beginning Thursday to protest President Rafael Correa's land and water policies that they say are hurting their way of life.

Correa accused the group, called CONAIE, of trying to destabilize his government and urged his followers to mobilize against them.

CONAIE is the Spanish acronym for Confederation of Indigenous Nationalites of Ecuador.

The march is scheduled to start in Pangui, in the southeastern Ecuadoran province of Zamora-Chinchipe, and end March 22 in Quito after a 700 kilometer (435 mile) trip.

The Indians are supported by the Popular Democratic Movement, a leftist party, the National Union of Educators and CONAIE, which supported Correa at the start of his administration in 2007 but soon moved to the opposition.

The "march for water, life and dignity of peoples" is intended to protest government policies that affect Indians and "violate" the 2008 socialist constitution promulgated by Correa, Humberto Cholango, CONAIE president, told AFP on Wednesday.

The group is demanding that Ecuador's Congress approve laws to regulate water management and land distribution in a way that protects their interests, and reject large-scale mining that damages natural resources.

They also want Congress to denounce what they call "criminalization of social protest," collection of new taxes and the dismissal of some government officials.

The protest was prompted partly by an agreement signed this week between the governments of Ecuador and China for industrial mining of copper in the Amazon's Ecuacorriente Zamora-Chinchipe region.

Ecuador seen as new retirement hot spot

By Alina Dikik

NEW YORK (Reuters) - When Connie and Mark Pombo decided in 2010 to retire abroad, they searched for locations online. Ecuador seemed to have everything they wanted, so Mark, who had recently retired from the United Parcel Service, flew south to visit.

He was impressed. Three months later, the couple sold their Lancaster, Pennsylvania, home and packed their suitcases. Two years later, the Pombos live on a $600 monthly budget, which includes their $200 two-bedroom rental overlooking the Tomebamba River in Cuenca, a town in the sierra of the Andes Mountains.

They love their scenic and affordable lifestyle. "I could never go back to the U.S.," says Connie, 56, a semi-retired freelance writer. "The prices just rattle my brain."

In the last five years, the South American country, sometimes known for its shamanic healing, has become the top hot spot for bargain-seeking retirees like the Pombos, according to International Living magazine's 2012 Global Retirement Index.

The warm weather, cheap housing, and inexpensive healthcare are a draw, especially for baby boomers with eroded nest eggs and a sense of adventure.

The State Department estimates that some 6.3 million Americans are living abroad, and expat sites have put the number of retirees doing that as high as 1.5 million. Those numbers could swell as baby boomers hit their retirement years ready for new adventures.

For retirees, leaving the United States often means a more affordable way of life, including low-cost healthcare, real estate and even gasoline prices. Cherry-picking a warm weather spot can offer another perk. Some expatriate retirees also point to the social benefits that accrue when they become part of a tight knit community. That is especially important for those who feel isolated back home, says Mary Beckman, 55, who plans to retire to Ecuador with her husband, Steve, 60 this year.

She visited the country for the first time last month and plans to permanently move to Cuenca this year. "Everybody seems to be in the same stage in life," says Beckman, who blogs about her experiences at SouthofZero.com. "People are just open arms and very friendly."


Moving abroad -- even to an affordable tropical paradise -- has its headaches.

"Ecuador is still in the infancy stage in terms of attracting ... the infrastructure is still not as strong as other places like Costa Rica," says Nicholas Crowder, author of "Culture Shock! Ecuador: A Guide to Customs & Etiquette." He estimates 5,000 to 10,000 expats live in the country. "Many Americans are not prepared for the language and the culture."

Real estate scams are common and can include hidden fees, says realtor Amy Prisco, 40, a former New Yorker who sells coastal properties in Salinas. "It's unregulated and nobody is enforcing the laws," she says.

Ecuador has recently seen an increase in long-term home rentals, which can be a good alternative to buying, she adds. Negotiating a two or three-year lease can halve monthly payments. For example, a three-bedroom, waterfront condo can rent for $700 with a multiyear lease.

Unexpected living expenses also add up. When travel industry veteran Gary Sisk, 63, retired to Cuenca last December he was surprised at the cost of furniture, appliances and electronics, which can sell for up to three times what he once paid in the United States. Western-sized clothing can be especially difficult to find, Sisk says, "Americans tend to be a lot bigger."

Like other retired expats, Sisk is required by the U.S. government to pay taxes, even if residing abroad.

Despite the unforeseen set-up costs, prices are still low. Sisk's monthly budget is $800 per month, which includes renting a $280 per month two-bedroom two-bath apartment in a popular expat area.

Logistics like health insurance and banking have been surprisingly easy, says Connie Pombo. The Pombos pay $85 per month for comprehensive health insurance with Nova Ecuador, a national insurer.

Pombo says most retirees prefer to simply pay out of pocket for doctor visits, which are less than $20 per appointment.

The family gets Mark's $1,300 monthly retirement check in their U.S. bank account and uses an ATM for monthly cash withdrawals for all expenses including rent. Getting around by bus is only 12 cents for seniors; taxis cost anywhere from $1 to $3, Pombo adds. Gasoline is subsidized by the government and is under $2 per gallon.

The quality and efficiency of places like hospitals, banks, stores and restaurants throughout Ecuador may not be what immigrants are used to. "A lot of people think it's just like the U.S. but cheaper -- it's not, it's a developing country," says Leigh Frost, 55, a retiree who owns a small rental business in coastal town of Olon, Ecuador.

Crowder also cautions Americans thinking of retiring abroad to not be overly trusting. White-collar crime is becoming a concern for some retirees in Ecuador. "Gated communities have these big austere looking fronts, but a lot of crime is committed by insider jobs," says Crowder who owns a home in Ecuador. He warns against an increasing number of expat criminals who establish trust with retirees by speaking fluent English. Expect to be bombarded with ways to part with your money from locals too.

Before you take the leap, get acquainted with the locale, suggest folks who have been there. "I always tell people to take one trip in high season and then come in off season when it's chilly and overcast," says Prisco, who lives on the coast. A local attorney can help start the year-long residency process and specify which notarized documents are necessary before leaving the United States. Brushing up on Spanish and learning about the Ecuadorian language and culture is a must.

But nothing can prepare new expats for the country's different way of doing things. Embracing the laid-back culture is a must, says Gary Phillips, 65, who moved to Cotacachi, Ecuador, in 2006 and runs the expat site Pro-Ecuador.com. He always shares one piece of advice with the country's retirees: "Things happen much slower here than they do in the States. Ecuadorians say mañana but mañana doesn't mean 'tomorrow' it just means 'not today.'"

(Editing by Jilian Mincer, Linda Stern and Steve Orlofsky)

Monday, March 5, 2012

Ben Bernanke promised he wouldn’t engage in more money printing.......so there goes GOLD

It’s over folks. According to some analysts recent price swings indicate that the gold and silver run-up will soon be coming to an end.

Sharp falls in the gold price have prompted some bears or pessimists to predict it will plunge below $1,000 (£625) an ounce.

Goldcore priced bullion at $1,721 or £1,079 per ounce this morning, compared to yesterday’s fix of $1,788 or £1,121 per ounce. A spokesman said: “The massacre is attributed to a host of different reasons – from month end book squaring to Bernanke’s suggestion that ultra loose monetary policies may soon come to an end.”

Brian Dennehy of independent financial advisers (IFAs) Dennehy Weller commented: “Yet again the ‘safe haven’ myth of gold has exploded. It went down during intraday trading by about $100.

“This doesn’t mean the bull market has ended. It just means that when you buy gold you must do so with your eyes open – it is a highly volatile fringe asset.

“Our technical analysis suggests one of two possibilities. That the bull run is over and the price will eventually work its way down into the $700 to $1,000 range – or one final high lies just ahead before that large correction towards $1,000 will begin.”

Source: Telegraph

The only serious reason given for this recent volatility and rapid drop in the price of gold is that Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke promised he wouldn’t engage in more money printing. However, as is generally the case when discussing capital flows of hundreds of billions of dollars, things are just a bit more complicated than that.

It’s no secret that the gold markets are completely manipulated by large financial institutions and interested parties within our government that are intent on keeping the price as low and/or volatile as possible.

What better way to scare the masses away from true value than to create such extreme price swings in both directions that the misperception of risk and constant attacks by mainstream media experts diverts capital from one of the few true safe havens into the fabricated safety of, say, US dollar backed Treasury bonds? After all, unlike the US dollar which is backed by the full faith and credit of the United States, gold is backed by nothing!

For those paying attention, there is a distinct effort by high level public officials and influential financial leaders to marginalize the value of gold as a safe haven asset. Ben Bernanke, for example, in testimony before Congress last year, made it clear that he does not believe gold is money.

Yet, any time that US dollar hegemony is threatened anywhere in the world, be it because of gold or oil, the response by financial institutions and government alike is unmistakable and severe. Sadaam Hussein’s demise is a direct result of his unwillingness to cooperate. Bernard Von NotHaus was labeled a domestic terrorist and imprisoned by the Department of Justice for his attempts to introduce a purely precious metals based system of exchange in the US. And most recently the Pan Asian Gold Exchange, which promised to level the playing field and allow for fair global price discovery of precious metals, was curtailed before it ever had a chance to get off the ground because, as SGT Report details, it “posed an enormous threat to the existing fractional reserve bullion banks.”

We advised our readers to expect exactly these manipulations:

It will be an extremely volatile ride going forward, perhaps to the point where you’ll hate your gold so much you’ll want to spit on it. But don’t sell unless you’re sure that global crisis has turned to recovery and growth.

Gold will eventually become the ultimate bubble – you can bet on it!

Via: You’ll Hate Your Gold So Much You’ll Want to Spit On It [July 2010]

So, while we will hear that the gold bubble has burst, and that gold is a relic of the past, and that the economies of the world are recovering, remember that we have been told nothing but lies for decades. Ben Bernanke’s promises to limit monetary intervention mean absolutely nothing. Remember when he told us that there was no risk of a bubble in real estate? Or when he said that the collapse of sub-prime mortgages was contained? Keep that in mind as you take in all of the expert opinions from or benevolent leaders.

Trillions of dollars are being stolen as we speak. Governments around the world are collapsing. Instability, not recovery, is the order of the day. Thus, when the experts make a promise about something, you can fully expect exactly the opposite.

Yes, there will be volatility in gold, especially if we see a collapse in Europe, or if the government is able to maintain the perception of recovery among the masses. But be assured that if gold collapses, it won’t be alone. Asset price volatility is one of the few predictions we can make as the global economic, financial and political systems seize up.

However, unlike most assets, gold and silver have stood the test of time, especially during economic and political climates such as that in which we find ourselves today.

Given that we’ve been forced by a debilitated and collapse-prone global environment to make the choice of where to invest our time-energy yield (i.e. money), we feel much more confident investing in commodities that carry no counter-party risk, as opposed to assets denominated in paper receipts and derivatives of those receipts.

Investments like precious metals, food, personal energy production, and individual skills development, are the few assets we’re willing to consider.

Yes, there’s always the possibility of ‘losing’ value in our investment, but at least those assets will NEVER go to zero.

Author: Mac Slavo
Date: March 5th, 2012

The Great Comeback No One Will Believe

Something surprising stirs in the US economy. Something no mainstream pundit would’ve dared predict. Something most people probably won’t believe.

US manufacturing is staging a comeback.

Caterpillar, the world’s largest maker of earth-moving equipment, gave us some tangible confirmation in the latest earnings roundup. Based on the business it sees, Cat expects US construction spending will increase in 2012 for the first time since 2004. And Eaton, another large industrial, followed that up by saying it expects its markets to grow faster in the US in 2012 than anywhere else. If it plays out that way, it would be the first time since the mid-2000s that the US led the way.

These are the first robins of spring. Forget the official data. This is real economics. As hard as it may be to believe, US manufacturing is coming back. There are other clues.

A new report by Cushman & Wakefield, a commercial real estate services firm, points out that new leases for industrial property “returned to levels not seen since prior to the 2008-09 recession.” Tenants signed new leases for 306 million square feet, up 14% from a year ago and the most space signed since 2007.

What drives leases for industrial space? Let Jim Dieter, an EVP at Cushman & Wakefield answer: “Manufacturing is the main driver within the industrial landscape.” Busy factories mean more rail and truck flow. It means fuller warehouses. It means looking for more space.

How to explain this? Isn’t China eating America’s lunch?

I found a recent paper by Reynders, McVeigh Capital Management that points to a few reasons for the sudden revival that jibe with what I’ve heard from the companies themselves. The report is called “Workforce Rising: Why US Manufacturing Is Poised for a Comeback.”

One is that the wage gap is shrinking. It isn’t that much cheaper to move to, say, China anymore. The nearby chart nicely sums up what’s happening. As wages have gone gonzo in China, its wage edge melts away. US manufacturing wages were 22 times that of China’s in 2005. Today, that wage gap is under 10 times and likely will be under five by 2015.

Transportation costs figure into this too and cut further into China’s advantage. As the price of oil has stayed north of $100 a barrel, the cost to ship anything is high. As author Jeff Rubin says, “With every dollar increase in the price of the bunker fuel that powers the containerships that ply the Pacific, China’s wage advantage becomes less and less important.”

So those are two reasons for the manufacturing revival in the US. There are two more compelling reasons that have to do with what’s in the ground. Let’s start with one of my favorites: water.

In a world where fresh water is scarce, such as in China and India, the US remains water-rich by comparison. Around the world, “Many regions are already approaching ‘peak water,’ a condition under which usage rates surpass the natural rate of replenishment,” the authors write. “Importantly for the manufacturing sector, the US is home to the largest reserves of water on the planet.”

People in the US tend to ignore this lucky circumstance. Manufacturers don’t. They use lots of water to make everything from jet engines to minivans.

In addition to water, the US has plenty of cheap natural gas. As we’ve talked about before, this is bringing back firms that use natural gas to make things. The McVeigh report notes how Nucor began building a $750-million plant in Louisiana. It plans to superheat natural gas and mix it with scrap iron and iron ore pellets to make steel. If you burn natural gas, you want to be in the US.

Even the automakers are coming back. GM will invest $2.5 billion in US factories. Until recently, that money was going to Mexico. Ford signed a new contract that calls for $16 billion in US investments and 12,000 new jobs by 2015. The foreign automakers are coming too. Mercedes plans to spend $2.4 billion by 2014 to expand an Alabama plant that will add 1,400 jobs. You get the idea.

I like this whole story because it will surprise a lot of people and, hence, has some value as a contrarian observation. In September 2010 (letter No. 79), I wrote a letter with the headline “The USA — Still a Nation of Builders.” The main point, as I wrote then, was “to leave you with a different perception of American manufacturers. They are not like dinosaurs on their way to extinction. In fact, some of them are great investments.” I showed a number of ways in which US manufacturers were doing quite well.

The thesis landed with a thud. It was mostly ignored. If anything, I heard people tell me how it couldn’t be so. Nevertheless, I urged my subscribers at Capital & Crisis to buy Globe (NASDAQ:GSM), a low- cost US manufacturer, which went on to double.

A lot of investors will miss the opportunity to cash in on this rebound in American manufacturing, simply because the idea is so counter to what they think they know. When it’s obvious to everyone what’s going on, of course, it will no longer be a worthwhile investment theme. But for now, US manufacturers get little respect and offer a good pool of potential investment ideas.


Chris Mayer
for The Daily Reckoning