El Conquistqdor Francisco de Orellana

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

Friday, October 26, 2012

And now....growing positive news from our neighbor.....

The “Murder Capital” Puts Down its Guns

Fifteen years ago Colombia was almost a failed state. Leftist revolutionaries controlled big tracts of jungle. There were battles with the army and paramilitaries. Drug cartels ran many of the big cities. It was one of the last places on earth you would think of investing in real estate.

However, these days that’s exactly what I’m doing. And here’s why...

Even before April of this year, when TIME magazine wrote about “the Colombian comeback,” I visited the country to see for myself what was going on.

I spent time in Medellín — one-time “murder capital of the world,” now a totally transformed city. I visited the country’s Caribbean coast. And I saw for myself wealthy Colombians enjoying their new vacation pads and relaxing on sandy beaches.

Colombia’s middle class is on the upswing. The rich are getting even richer. And we can profit by buying the type of apartment these people want to live in. Prices today reflect Colombia’s past. Not her present or future potential. You can net an 8% yield from a rental here. And you are buying so cheap that, as this middle class grows, values will increase. You are also getting diversification from your dollar; real estate here sells in Colombian pesos.

This “comeback” hasn’t happened overnight. Nor is Colombia rid of the security issues that ripped the economy apart. If you are trying to pipe oil hundreds of miles through the jungle or prospect for gold in remote areas surrounded by armed gangs or guerrillas, the issues are clear. Powerful criminal elements have emerged that are bold and brazen.

But the income of the average Colombian has doubled in less than a decade. Shiny new boutiques and restaurants line Medellín’s Golden Mile.

Roads are tightly packed with cars, many of them brand-new. Approximately two out every five Colombians is under 20. And they are full of optimism as they congregate in open squares and plazas. Many of their older brothers and cousins who left in the 1990s are returning.

Foreign companies — Canadian resource and European manufacturing — are establishing themselves. Expat hangouts are packed with Canadian and European resource contractors.

On Wall Street they call Colombia “the next Brazil” with good cause. Colombia has gold, oil, and hydroelectric power. It grows coffee and has plentiful forests. Debt levels are low. The population is young.

And after two decades of liberalization the Colombian government is one of the most forward- and outward-looking in the region. “We don’t expropriate,” President Santos told a group of Spanish businessmen who arrived shortly after Argentina’s President Kirchner took control of oil company YPF. The Colombians have closed a free- trade deal with the US and wealthy Venezuelans are now flooding into the country, bringing oil expertise. Growth is running at 6%. Inflation is low at 3.4%.

Colombians and international investors have good cause to be confident. It’s just like what I saw in northeast Brazil in 2008. (See below.)

An ambitious, $100-billion infrastructure plan is in the works (and desperately needed) for the next decade. Roads, airports...even an $8-billion, Chinese-funded railway that will compete with the Panama Canal. The Chinese want to get Colombian coal out without having to incur hefty Panamanian tolls. A government program calls for 200,000 new houses. And there is a focus on initiatives to improve social mobility.

How exactly do you play this upward swing? By buying the type of apartment the new upper middle class wants to live in. The best opportunity is in Medellín. The notorious Medellín cartel is finished — history. (You can now take a guided “Pablo Escobar” tour.)

In the city’s upscale areas of El Poblado and along its Golden Mile, you can buy a well-built, 1,000-square-foot condo in an older building for as little as $100,000. This area of Medellín is the place to be and to invest.

There’s a real café culture here. Like what you’ll find in a leafy European city. But here you get to sip your coffee or dine outside year-round. Scorching summer heat or cool winters won’t cramp your style, seeing as the perfect weather (Medellín sits at 5,000 feet) only varies by one degree all year. You’ll find great restaurants, trendy bars, and fancy boutiques.

Minutes away from El Poblado, the Golden Mile is an area of banks, offices, boutiques, and outdoor eateries that buzzes with traffic and commerce. On the weekends the nightlife is around here and in the Zona Rosa in El Poblado.

Sizes are quoted in square meters. You can multiply by 10 for a quick-and-dirty calculation of what that converts to in square feet. Prices on a per-square-meter basis are generally higher here for smaller units. Interestingly, large penthouse units with outside space can be found at the lower range of prices per square meter. Views just don’t seem that important to locals.

Pre-construction condos sell for $2,000 per square meter and above. This is a crazy anomaly. Pre-construction is dramatically overpriced compared to older apartments. Figure $1,500 to $1,600 per square meter for a shiny new condo in a high-end building that was delivered within the past couple of years.

You’ll find that short-term rentals aren’t permitted in the nicer, owner-occupied buildings. It’s illegal to rent your unit short-term (less than one month) if 70% of owners in the building haven’t agreed to this. But these are still the best buildings in which to buy. The best-maintained and the quietest. The type of building in which the new upper middle class will want to buy or rent. You could net a yield of 8% by renting to a visiting executive from abroad for a few months at a time. There’s a constant flow, as well as agents who specialize in this market.

Sign a year-long contract with a local and your yield will be a bit less. Multinationals like Hewlett-Packard are making Medellín their home. Domestic Medellín-based multinationals are strong in cement, financial services, and food products.

With Colombia staying the course to normalization and beyond, prices are set to rise strongly over the next five to 10 years. And each year while you wait you could bag an 8% yield. Confidence is everywhere.

When I visited Santa Marta and neighboring resort towns on the Caribbean coast, condo buildings were shooting up from beachfront plots. They were selling fast, and long before buildings were finished.

Not on the cheap. A decent condo with a view could set you back $300,000. The buyers were Colombians living in Medellín and Bogotá. And Colombians living in the US and Europe. Five years ago they would have bought a condo in Miami or Panama. Now they have the confidence and comfort to put themselves and their money in their home country.

Don’t expect Colombia’s progress to be without disturbance. But Colombia is on the up. The people are enjoying a peace dividend. They won’t hand that back easily. The fighters and revolutionaries are old and tired. If Colombia comes close to reaching its potential, it will live up to its label as “the next Brazil,” where real estate values rose by up to 20%...year after year.


Ronan McMahon
for The Daily Reckoning

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

A timely book review from one of our favorite reads...."Democracy, the God That Failed"

We are taught that the change from monarchy to democracy is progress; that is, a change from servitude to liberty. Yet no monarchy in Western history ever taxed its subjects as heavily as every modern democracy taxes its citizens.

But we are taught that this condition is liberty, because “we” are — freely — taxing “ourselves.” The individual, as a member of a democracy, is presumed to consent to being taxed and otherwise forced to do countless things he hasn’t chosen to do (or forbidden to do things he would prefer not to do).

Whence arises the right of a ruler to compel? This is a tough one, but modern rulers have discovered that a plausible answer can be found in the idea of majority rule. If the people rule themselves by collective decision, they can’t complain that the government is oppressing them. This notion is summed up in the magic word democracy.

It’s nonsense. “We” are not doing it to “ourselves.” Some people are still ruling other people. Democracy is merely the pretext for authorizing this process and legitimizing it in the minds of the ruled. Since outright slavery has been discredited, democracy is the only remaining rationale for state compulsion that most people will accept.

Now comes Hans-Hermann Hoppe, of the University of Nevada Las Vegas, to explode the whole idea that there can ever be a just state. And he thinks democracy is worse than many other forms of government. He makes his case in his new book Democracy — The God That Failed: The Economics and Politics of Monarchy, Democracy, and Natural Order (Transaction Publishers).

Hoppe is often described as a libertarian, but it might be more accurate to call him a conservative anarchist. He thinks the state — “a territorial monopoly of compulsion” — is inherently subversive of social health and order, which can thrive only when men are free.

As soon as you grant the state anything, Hoppe argues, you have given it everything. There can be no such thing as “limited government,” because there is no way to control an entity that in principle enjoys a monopoly of power (and can simply expand its own power).

We’ve tried. We adopted a Constitution that authorized the Federal Government to exercise only a few specific powers, reserving all other powers to the states and the people. It didn’t work. Over time the government claimed the sole authority to interpret the Constitution, then proceeded to broaden its own powers ad infinitum and to strip the states of their original powers — while claiming that its self-aggrandizement was the fulfillment of the “living” Constitution. So the Constitution has become an instrument of the very power it was intended to limit!

The growth of the Federal Government might have been slowed if the states had retained the power to withdraw from the confederation. But the Civil War established the fatal principle that no state could withdraw, for any reason. So the states and the people lost their ultimate defense against Federal tyranny. (And if they hadn’t, there would still have been the problem of the tyranny of individual states.) But today Americans have learned to view the victory of the Union over the states, which meant an enormous increase in the centralization of power, as a triumph of “democracy.”

Hoppe goes so far as to say that democracy is positively “immoral,” because “it allows for A and B to band together to rip off C.” He argues that monarchy is actually preferable, because a king has a personal interest in leaving his kingdom in good condition for his heirs; whereas democratic rulers, holding power only briefly, have an incentive to rob the public while they can, caring little for what comes afterward. (The name Clinton may ring a bell here.)

And historically, kings showed no desire to invade family life; but modern democracies want to “protect” children from their parents. By comparison with the rule of our alleged equals, most kings displayed remarkably little ambition for power. And compared with modern war, the wars of kings were mere scuffles.

Democracy has proved only that the best way to gain power over people is to assure the people that they are ruling themselves. Once they believe that, they make wonderfully submissive slaves.

Joseph Sobran

Alabama Lawmaker Wants To Ban U.N. Observers

October 24, 2012 by Bob Livingston

Want proof that America has sunk to the level of a third-world banana republic? Four words: United Nations election observers.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), a U.N.-affiliated agency, will be observing the Nov. 6 U.S. election for election fraud and voter suppression. It will be on hand at the request of the NAACP, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, and other liberal organizations. The observers come from such bastions of free and fair elections as Serbia, Belarus, Ukraine and Kazakhstan. OSCE has assessed elections in the United States since 2002. It somehow missed those Black Panthers guarding the doors in Pennsylvania in 2008.

The States of Missouri, South Dakota, North Dakota and New Mexico explicitly allow for international observers. Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard wants to make sure Alabama does not. Hubbard says he will push for future legislation to ban non-U.S. citizens from acting as poll watchers.

U.S. election laws already allow multiple parties — some affiliated with candidates and others who are part of interested groups — to observe the election process. One of those is True the Vote, a conservative, Tea Party-affiliated group. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, ACLU and Leadership Conference could monitor them as well. Of course, when you have a racist and highly partisan U.S. Attorney General like Eric Holder, it doesn’t matter how much fraud is uncovered. It’ll just get ignored when it doesn’t fit his agenda.

Foreign observers are redundant and unnecessary. The George W. Bush/Al Gore election of 2000 showed that the United States is perfectly capable of botching the election process on its own. It doesn’t need U.N. observers bringing their “botching” expertise into the mix.

"Doctors in Cuenca Even Answer Their Own Phones..."

By Edd Staton, Itnernational Living

Imagine a country where a doctor personally greets you and takes you into his small office for a consultation. Where you have his personal cell number and most "appointments" are drop-by visits with no waiting around. A place where that doctor makes house calls and you won’t be charged for any follow-up visits to the office…

Welcome to health care in Ecuador—where most medical staff are U.S.- or European-trained and everything costs a fraction of what health care does back home.

Back in Georgia I was doing well as a sales professional, but, like many other folks in the U.S., I found myself at once downsized and caught in the crosshairs of the economic downturn. But rather than stumble to the finish line doing unfulfilling work for sub-standard pay, I figured out a way to turn in the keys early…

I moved to Cuenca, Ecuador. I did it for all the right reasons—and discovered an exciting new life beyond the curtain of fear that keeps most people stuck at home. I’ve been living here for two years now, and my expat experience thus far has vastly exceeded expectations that were pretty high to begin with.

One of the most impressive aspects of life in Ecuador is the quality and affordability of health care. People sometimes compare day-to-day living here to the way it was in the U.S. back in the ‘50s. In the field of medical care, there is an element of truth to that.

Instead of reams of paperwork, with a bloated staff to handle it, impersonal service, and exorbitant prices, health care during my two years in Cuenca has meant excellent treatment, low costs, and simplicity.

Take my first visit to an Ecuadorean doctor. I had only been here a short time. I was a little anxious. There was nothing wrong with me—I hoped!—I was just going for a physical. But not knowing the doctor, where his office was, or how the medical system worked in Ecuador meant I was a little on edge.

As I’d been told, a receptionist near the elevator collected my payment ($25), gave me a receipt, and directed me to his office. I opened the door to walk into the waiting room…except it wasn’t a waiting room. I found myself standing in the doctor’s small office as he talked with a patient across his desk. Oops.

I sheepishly retreated and took a seat in the hallway. A few minutes later, the doctor came out and invited me in. He never handed me "the clipboard" with multiple pages of personal history and insurance information to fill out.

Instead, he politely asked me how he could help. After an interview, he escorted me back to the examining room right behind his office. "Where are his nurses?" I wondered. It turns out doctors don’t have staff other than a shared receptionist. Dentists often have an assistant but personally do all the procedures, even cleanings.

His portion of the examination completed, he wrote instructions for a blood profile and X-ray and sent me across the street to an adjacent building. The lab technician drew the blood and told me to come back after lunch to pick up my results. Then the X-ray tech finished his work and handed me the X-ray.

I paid about $170 for both services, went to lunch, picked up my lab results, and took everything back to the doctor that same afternoon. (There is no payment for follow-up visits that occur even weeks later, by the way.)

These are only a few of the pleasant surprises I’ve discovered since that first encounter with Ecuador’s medical system two years ago. Another surprise is that when my wife or I want to visit a doctor, we call him on his cell phone to find out when he will be in his office. That’s right; his personal cell phone.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Get a U.S. Passport Now – While You Still Can

I write a lot about the many advantages of second citizenship and, with it, the benefits of a second passport.

Today, I want to issue a serious warning to my fellow Americans: act now to obtain a first passport – a U.S. passport, or you may soon lose your chance.

I suspect that most Americans think they are entitled to a U.S. passport as a matter of right. But when I turn to page six of my 2005 re-issued passport it states: “U.S. Government Property.” It tells me that: “Upon demand made by any authorized representative of the U.S. Government, it must be surrendered.”

By law, the government can refuse to issue or renew your passport for reasons ranging from an outstanding federal arrest warrant to an existing debt of $5,000 or more in delinquent child support payments.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Senate passed a bill by Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) that would have denied or revoked a U.S. passport if the IRS claimed a person owed $50,000 or more in delinquent taxes. Fortunately, this bill was killed in the House.

But pause and consider your situation if the U.S. State Department refused to issue you a passport or if it revoked your current passport – you would lose the right and ability to travel to, or live in, a foreign country. If you are already abroad, you would become an instant illegal alien subject to deportation to the United States.

Ironically, until a century ago, almost anywhere you went in the world, passports were not required for international travel. Rare passports were used mainly to insure passage of diplomats sent to negotiate peace treaties or carry official papers.

Now governments use passports as another part of citizen control and surveillance. Official passport control marked the Cold War years, but now it is applied with a bureaucratic, computer-driven vengeance, justified by the endless “War on Terror.”
Human Controls

I often get questions about the possibility of currency and capital controls, but thinking Americans should be equally concerned about foreign travel controls – the possibility that the government is planning a geographic prison for those they decide to keep within the U.S. borders – for whatever reason.

If you need proof of the ominous direction in which this passport control movement is heading, PapersPlease.org, an affiliate of the First Amendment Project, has reported on what the U.S. State Department is planning for future passport applicants. And it looks like a systematic restriction of selected Americans to the homeland. This goes far beyond any of the existing unfair, secret “no-fly” lists or brainless TSA body scans, searches and groping.

Robert Wenzel, writing in the Economic Policy Journal, notes that in 2011 “…the State Department proposed a new ‘Biographical Questionnaire’ for U.S. passport applicants” that required those receiving a long-form DS-5513 application to answer a host of invasive personal questions ranging from every address at which you have ever resided and your lifetime employment history to whether or not you were circumcised and, if so, with what religious rituals.

Wenzel reveals: “Ignoring massive public opposition, and despite having admitted that it is already using the ‘proposed’ forms illegally without approval…” the State Department now wants approval for two “new” passport application forms, both just as objectionable. The State Department is now seeking approval for a somewhat revised Form DS-5513 as well as a new Form DS-5520, both for passport applicants, containing many of the same inane questions.
Don’t Wait – Take Action

Don’t let your voice go unheard. Tell the State Department exactly what you think of their new requirements – you can (and should) send written comments by fax to (202) 395-7245. When you submit comments, state that they concern the Office of Management and Budget’s review of proposed Department of State information collection requests, Form DS-5513 (ICR Reference Number 201208-1405-002) and Form DS-5520 (ICR Reference Number 201208-1405-001).

In the meantime, don’t take any chances. You can and should apply for a U.S. passport now. How to obtain a passport is explained here, including how it can be done online. An adult passport costs $135 with Form DS-11 and a minor’s passport is $105 with Form DS-82. Be aware that first time applicants must appear in person after filing.
A Second Passport Now

The law requires a U.S. citizen to use his or her U.S. passport to leave or enter the country. What I have told you here makes absolutely clear that what also is needed is a second passport issued by a country whose government, unlike the United States, does not treat its citizens like so many sheep to be herded into pens.

Under the title “Your Papers, Please,” the late chairman of The Sovereign Society, Jack Puglsey, wrote: “One can’t help but reflect on George Orwell’s dystopian novel, 1984 … the nightmarish depiction of what future life could be like under a repressive, post-World War government. Orwell’s prescience is unnerving.”

Jack was right when he added: “The elements of that Orwellian nightmare are either proposed or already here.”

Protect yourself before you might be denied your first passport, the first step to a valuable second passport and greater freedom.

Faithfully yours,

Bob Bauman JD

Monday, October 22, 2012

Julian Assange Supporter Says That US Planning To Influence Ecuadorean Elections

Joshua Berlinger

Craig Murray, the former British ambassador to Uzbekistan and a vocal supporter of Julian Assange, thinks he knows why the U.S. has been uncharacteristically quiet regarding the standoff between Assange, Ecuador (which has granted him asylum) and all the governments he has drawn the ire of.

Murray made some interesting points in a recent blog post:

"The United States and allies were confident that Correa will lose, and my friend and I having both been senior diplomats for many years we understood what the United States would be doing to ensure that result. With Correa replaced by a pro-USA President, Assange’s asylum will be withdrawn, the Metropolitan Police invited in to the Embassy of Ecuador to remove him, and Assange sent immediately to Sweden from where he could be extradited to the United States to face charges of espionage and aiding terrorism."

Murray claims that the CIA is planning to play its hand in the upcoming elections in Ecuador in order to maintain U.S. influence in the region. He added:

"I learn[ed] that the U.S. budget, using mostly Pentagon funds, devoted to influencing the Ecuadorean election has, since the Venezuelan result [in which the unabashedly anti-American Hugo Chavez was reelected], been almost tripled to US $87 million. This will find its way into opposition campaign coffers and be used to fund, bribe or blackmail media and officials. Expect a number of media scandals and corruption stings against Correa’s government in the next few weeks."

While it's not as bad as backing the Contras, this isn't the Cold War.

But it would make sense for the United States to refrain from requesting Assange's extradition until seeing if his most important political ally, Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa, is ousted in favor of a more pro-American candidate in the next election (set for February 2013) — one who might be open to the the possibility of revoking Correa's asylum offer for Assange.

As of August, Correa has had a "commanding lead" over his challengers, according to The Guardian. The race for president officially began last Friday. Correa told Reuters that he would only seek reelection if he has the support of his family and his political party. He believes that there is a "high chance" that his party will nominate him again for president. Correa is quite popular among Ecuadorians, and his opposition has been described as "divided and lack[ing] a charismatic leader."

The Good Old Days are Over

Norse Prepper
October 19th, 2012

This article has been generously contributed by Norse Prepper.

Do you remember “the good old days”? It’s a simple question, but a question that induces different images to different people. I have found myself spending a lot of time lately thinking of the way things used to be and hoping that someday our country can somehow get back to those days again. Looking at our current state of affairs in this nation and around the world, there is only one conclusion that can be made…the good old days are over.

I wrote this article because children being born today, in my opinion, will not be able to look back and remember the near future as “the good old days”. As I write this, the US national debt is at $16.2 trillion with unfunded liabilities of $123.3 trillion. With Uncle Ben’s QE3 promising to print fiat money perpetually can there be any doubt that the days of the US dollar being the world currency are numbered. Everyone reading this article has a share of $442,881 of the nation’s debt and liabilities. If your children or grandchildren can’t read yet, please tell them that they also owe $442,881 as well and thank them for supporting our wasteful spending that got us to this point. Source: http://usadebtclock.com/

But don’t worry, there are elections coming. Surely the American public can see the dire straits our nation is in and elect leaders who can recognize and deal with the nation’s problems and bring us back to becoming a nation of producers instead of consumers, right? Leaders will be elected who will make the extreme sacrifices necessary to bring forth a United States where the outstretched hands of the masses will be filled with charitable donations from a robust society instead of being empty, waiting for them to be stuffed with their entitlement from the government, all the while feeling as though they earned it because they stand unproductively on dirt within our border.

I have to apologize for the last paragraph; I have always wondered what it would feel like to write fiction. The hard cold reality is that there is no possible orderly way out of the financial mess our society is in and the above mentioned dirt was probably the last thing made in the USA. To break it down simply, here are some simple and easy to understand economical facts:
You need to produce more than you consume or you are broke.
You cannot pay off a credit card with a credit card without consequences.
There is no possible way the nation’s debts and unfunded liabilities will ever be paid.

Currently, the Federal Reserve purchases the vast majority of the US Debt. There simply aren’t many buyers left who believe it to be a sound investment anymore. In 2011, congress waited until the last minute to raise the debt ceiling after much political wrangling back and forth. Was there ever any doubt by anyone that it would happen? Is there any doubt that it will happen again? What happens when it hits $50 trillion? As long as we have the ability to continue to print more money to fund our yearly deficit and make payments on the interest of existing debt, it will continue. As it continues, the US dollar will continue to be worth less and less. Commodities such as food, gas and all physical goods purchased will get more and more expensive, leaving less and less purchasing power for the American people.

You don’t have to be Nostradamus to predict that we are on the cusp of a major financial collapse. I’m not only talking about the United States, I’m talking about the world. The can has been kicked down the road almost as far as it can be kicked and we just passed a dead end sign. We will soon see massive inflation or hyperinflation, riots in the streets as we have seen around the world and as I have heard stated many times, people with nothing left to lose will lose it.

So what can we do? The answer can be summed up in one word. Prepare. Prepare as though it may happen tomorrow. Prepare as though your life and the lives of your loved ones depend on it, because it does and they do. Start exercising and working out to prepare your body for the tough times coming. Prepare yourself mentally so that when it hits the fan you don’t find yourself in the panicked state that 95% of the public will be in. Prepare to be warm when it is cold outside or cool when it is hot outside. Prepare a plan of what you and your family will do at different levels of collapse. Prepare to eat when grocery store shelves are bare. Prepare to drink when the tap fails to deliver water. Prepare for what to do when your neighbors or family or friends show up at your doorstep because they were too busy watching television. Prepare to defend what needs to be defended. Prepare prepare prepare.

Realize that at this point there is nothing you can do about the debt of this nation. There is nothing you can do to change what is coming in the Middle East. Regardless of the result of the upcoming election, neither candidate has dared utter the words broke or sacrifice. Your only job at this point is to get yourself and your loved ones you choose to help through what is coming, whatever it may be. This isn’t being selfish. This, my friends…is survival.

I truly believe that when the dust settles, we will emerge as a great and free nation. Life will be hard, but there will be more meaning to the tasks of the day. Communities will be stronger. People will be healthier. Families will be closer. To get from this point to that, there will be much misery, but the greater the struggle, the greater the victory. It is up to us in the prepping community to get our families and loved ones through the upcoming collapse. I pray that someday, my children and grandchildren will be able to look back and say “Those were the good old days.” because I chose to prepare.

Proverbs 22:3 A prudent man sees danger and takes refuge, but the simple keep going and suffer for it.

Take refuge my friends.

God Bless,

Norse Prepper

Ludwig von Mises: The dedication of elites built our civilization

Top row, L to R: St. Joan of Arc - she saved France; St. Nuno Álvares Pereira - he saved Portugal; St. Katherine Drexel - pioneer and missionary to American Indians. Bottom Row: St. Jadwiga - Queen of Poland; St. Norbert of Xanten - a nobleman who founded the Norbertines, also known as the Premonstratensians; St. Yves of Kermartin - from a wealthy Breton noble family, was known as "The Advocate of the Poor."

Mankind would never have reached the present state of civilization without heroism and self-sacrifice on the part of an elite. Every step forward on the way toward an improvement of moral conditions has been an achievement of men who were ready to sacrifice their own well-being, their health, and their lives for the sake of a cause that they considered just and beneficial. They did what they considered their duty without bothering whether they themselves would not be victimized. These people did not work for the sake of reward, they served their cause unto death.

Ludwig von Mises, Bureaucracy (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1944), p. 78.

Fabulous Luxembourg Royal Wedding

By: Hello Magazine

Guillaume and Stephanie wed in a glorious ceremony full of pomp and grandeur

Stepping out in her stunning Elie Saab wedding dress, Stephanie de Lannoy looked every inch a Princess.

Accompanied by her brother, Count Jehan de Lannoy, the 28-year-old bride walked down to the alter where Prince Guillaume stood waiting.

Elegant and poised, 28-year-old Stephanie was helped by her bridesmaid and new sister-in-law, Princess Alexandra, who looked pretty in a soft peach dress.

In the morning sunshine the cathederal looked picturesque and crowds of people lined the streets to catch a glimpse of their new hereditary Grand Duchess.

Royal guests from far and wide made the trip to Luxembourg, and began arriving around 10am on the red carpet leading to the grand cathedral's entrance.

The Earl and Countess of Wessex flew the flag for Britain, with Sophie wearing a monochrome Emilia Wickstead dress and a black hat by milliner Jane Taylor.

Danish Prince Frederick was accompanied by his glamorous wife Mary, who sported a stylish grey hat and burgundy peplum dress.

Also gracing the royal red carpet were Prince Haakon and Mette-Marit of Norway, Spanish Prince Felipe and his wife Letizia and the Netherland's Willem-Alexander and Princess Maxima, who dazzled at the previous night's gala dinner.

Xavier Bettel, Mayor of the City of Luxembourg, looked suave as he entered the catherdral for the service which featured more pomp and grandeur that the civil ceremony he conducted on Friday.

Cheers erupted from the crowd as Prince Guillaume, 30, and his mother stepped out of the their car, knowing they were minutes from seeing Stephanie's eagerly anticipated dress.

Europe's newest Princess emerged looking radiant and compossed, sporting a tiara from her own family's collection.
The bride's attendants were dressed in the traditional Nassau colours of blue and orange.

Six-year-old Prince Gabriel, who is the son of Guillaume's brother Louis and his wife Tessy, was chosen to act as a page boy, as was Stephanie's nephew: Lancelot de le Court.

The ceremony, which was conducted in a mixture of French and English, featured a minute's silence out of respect for Stephanie's late mother Countess Alix de Lannoy.

After saying their vows in Luxembourgish, a rousing rendition of Handel's Messiah played as the royal couple signed their marriage certificate.

Visibily more relaxed, Guillaume and Stephanie passed under a traditional saber arch, leaving the cathedral arm-in-arm as they made their way to the Grand Ducal Palace.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Where to go in 2013: Ecuador

Why go in 2013? Making tracks

There's a buzz in the Andean air – or, rather, a klaxon blast. Ecuador's rail network, almost totally closed after the devastating floods brought by El Niño in the 1990s, is scheduled for a radical $250m (£150m) revamp in 2013, rebuilding lines between increasingly cosmopolitan Quito in the mountains and the port of Guayaquil. Tracks will also connect Ecuador's famed 5,900m volcano Cotopaxi and the Nariz del Diablo (Devil's Nose), claiming the steepest (and most hair-raising) stretch of railway in the Western world. It's not for nothing that Ecuadorians dub their railway the most difficult train in the world – and the restoration has been Ecuador's most ambitious tourism project. But developers believe it will pull in unprecedented tourist numbers.

And why wouldn't it? International visitors to this diminutive but diverse nation are already at an all-time high and navigating it has never been so much fun. The highlight will be the chance to see hitherto remote places such as Machachi with Ecuador's finest old haciendas or the Baños del Inca archaeological site.

If trains don't do it for you, chocolate might. The country produces some 60 per cent of the world's quality cacao and new, exclusively chocolate-themed tours kick-off in November.

Ecuador's wildlife is why tourism started here, but this year eco-excursions just got flashier. Mashpi Lodge now offers a "boutique Amazon" experience with treetop gondola whooshing guests 2km through the jungle canopy.

Life-changing experiences

Start your Ecuadorian foray in Quito, which is Unesco-listed along with the country's other mountain metropolis, Cuenca. See the handicraft markets at Otavalo and visit one of the world's highest, most active and dramatic volcanos, Cotopaxi. If you ride only one train, make it the Riobamba–Alausi–Sibambe line with its ridiculously sheer switchback descent around the Nariz del Diablo. In Ecuador, you can be in the high Andes one moment and the rainforest or beach the next. After the mountains, soak up volcanically heated spas in Baños or go Amazon birdwatching in the world's most biodiverse spot. Nowhere else offers such diversity.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

News Stateside by Richard of Danbury, D.S.G....Ecuador looks like a good place to be


Global Food Reserves Have Reached Their Lowest Level in Almost 40 Years

Sadly, the truth is that food prices have already been steadily rising in the United States in recent years. We have come to accept this as "normal", but these horrible price increases are really squeezing the budgets of middle class families and we certainly don't need food prices to start going up even faster.


Edit. Sadly, the forces of darkness will use this situation to spread the Culture of Death around the globe, through birth control, abortion, and euthanasia. Rather than helping people to help themselves through providing instruction on how to raise food at home, they will continue to rely on the Big Ag industry to selectively provide or withhold food supplies to manipulate markets to the highest prices. Now we have the GMO seeds with their predator gene to stop reproduction of the parent plants so we must go hat in hand to the patent holders to get next year’s supply of seed stock. …and so it goes when God and His laws are taken out of the reproduction process. If you haven’t yet made plans to do so get prepared for a backyard vegetable garden for next year. Better yet, see about some backyard rabbits and hens. Learn canning and other ways of stocking up. Whatever self-sufficiency you can accomplish now do it before things become more scarce and more expensive.

Rumors of Wars…

Syria conflict 'could set whole region ablaze'

The Syria conflict risks setting the region "ablaze", International peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi has warned, as clashes broke out across the border with Lebanon.
Beirut bomb kills anti-Syrian intelligence official

A prominent Lebanese intelligence official opposed to President Bashar al-Assad was killed in a huge car bomb in Beirut in another sign that Syria's civil war is dragging its volatile neighbor into the conflict.


Edit. What a segue, the first article vindicates, illustrates, and proves the second. This is only the beginning.

Health and Wellness: formerly called Emerging Illnesses (Pestilence)…

Asian Seafood Raised on Pig Feces Approved for U.S. Consumers

According to Michael Doyle, a microbiologist from the University of Georgia, using feces to feed fish and shrimp is quite common in Asia. Many fish and shrimp that we eat spend their entire lives swimming around in a disgusting pool of animal feces…


Edit. Why! O…why, in this land of plenty, do we have to import much of anything? The simple answer is Globalization. Our government, in accord with UN mandates, treaties, and trade agreements, override the health of American people for the sake of the New World Order.

The Times They are a Changin’…

Concerned Roman Hoarded Gold To Protect Against Hyperinflation At the Outer Reaches of Roman Empire

…judging on the sporadic nature of his bury, this gold bug from the 4th century, was totally freaking out about currency devaluation and government taxation.


Edit. Well you can chalk this up to the more things change the more they remain the same. It seems that during times of declining empire people flee to basic raw materials as a hedge against future uncertainties. To be sure, this illustrates that those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Where there's smoke ...

On Ecuador's high-altitude trail to an active volcano, Lydia Bell feels the ghostly presence of a majestic Inca past.

The equatorial sun is on full beam as we power out of Quito on the Pan American highway - the same artery that Che Guevara followed on his way north from Tierra del Fuego to Venezuela in 1952. The impeccable visibility has buoyed the spirits of our guide, Antonio.

"This is most unusual, my lady!" he proclaims, as we take in the framed view of Cotopaxi through the car's windscreen.

Cotopaxi is the tallest active volcano in the world, at 5897 metres, 50 kilometres wide and with a dollop of white snow spooned on top. Of the active volcanoes along the Avenida de los Volcanes, the main Ecuadorian volcanic arc, Cotopaxi is the one to "watch"; it last erupted in 1877, coating the countryside around Quito in a thick layer of ash.

"Is it smoking?" asks my travelling companion, nervously. "No, this is just cloud cover, my ladies," Antonio says smoothly. But historically Cotopaxi has erupted every 150 years to 200 years, and there have been recent indications that the activity of the volcano is picking up. I urge her not to worry - at this altitude she hasn't enough oxygen to manage a panic attack.

The locals are quite accustomed to living among volcanoes. At the animal market in Saquisili, our first pit stop, we follow Quichua women hawking pigs, alpaca and sheep. The women sit on the trays of clapped-out Chevrolet utes, their babies bundled on their backs, their animals tethered at their feet. I peek inside a writhing hessian bag and find a litter of pink piglets. It's Thursday, so the fruit, vegetable and craft market is operating, too; farmers sell mountains of bananas, glossy Andean fruits such as the tiny, tart naranjillo, pure-cacao chocolate, alpaca ponchos and trilby hats. I indulge my fetish for folkloric baskets.

Later, we drive through rolling hills to our lunch destination, the farmhouse of a stained-glass artist, the angelic Aida Perez, near the non-touristy town of Latacunga. Her cook prepares melt-in-the-mouth pulled pork and I don't think once about the piglets at Saquisili.

Many Latacunga residents work at the rose farms that pepper the area. The town is humming with workers waiting at bus stops for a ride to work, where they can expect childcare and free food. We visit the vast greenhouses of a farm near Perez's place, where steroid-huge roses lean towards the equatorial sun. On the factory floor, magnificent blooms in violet, dairy cream, dusty pink, vermillion and apricot are pruned and bunched by an army of mainly female workers.

Our destination is the 11-room Hacienda San Agustin del Callo, one of many haciendas open to tourists. They are a priceless way for travellers to get a blast of "old" Ecuador.

Our rooms have open fireplaces and walls daubed with murals, and open onto a courtyard at the front and hummingbird-filled garden at the back. In the family sitting room hangs a portrait of the green-eyed owner of the house, Mignon Plaza, as a young woman, by Oswaldo Guayasamin, Ecuador's most famous painter. Our patron isn't well when we visit, but I hear she is a flamenco-dancing firecracker. Plaza's grandfather, General Leonidas Plaza - the leader of the liberal Revolution and twice president of Ecuador - acquired the hacienda in 1921.

The house crops up frequently in historical accounts. Callo, as it was called in colonial times, has Inca walls constructed in the imperial style, built between 1475 and 1500. In 1536 the chronicler, Cieza de Leon, described Callo as one of only two main Inca sites in Ecuador. It was a country dwelling for the Fathers of San Agustin de Quito in 1736, when the King of Spain ordered a geodesic mission to Ecuador - chosen for its position on the Equator - to measure the shape of the globe. The Spanish captains Jorge Juan and Antonio de Ulloa published an account of the mission, writing of Callo: "In view of the limited knowledge the Indians had of sciences and arts; and considering the way their other dwellings are constructed, one can easily detect the majesty of its owner by the palace's size, materials and arrangement."

In 1804, the German explorer Alexander Von Humboldt nicknamed the region Avenida de los Volcanes. He lavished an illustrated copperplate on Callo, describing it as a tambo, a resting place for the Inca King Huayna Capac.

Recent digs confirm the building was abandoned by the Incas in 1534, when the Spanish conquistadores passed through the central highlands - the same year Cotopaxi erupted violently - and was probably set on fire by retreating Inca armies. It's thought that Callo was a temple sanctuary dedicated to the Cotopaxi volcano, which explains the febrile atmosphere in the so-called chapel, fig-leafed with crucifixes and Christian iconography but clearly an Inca temple.

Meantime, we don thick ponchos folded at the foot of our beds and head into the garden to wait. Cotopaxi fills the horizon. A young man emerges and announces anxiously: "The alpacas! They are here for you!" and we find a furry jumble of them in the courtyard, their comical faces expressing perpetual surprise. We feed them carrots from a basket.

The next day, we drive across the vast, sparse, wind-blown Parque Nacional Cotopaxi looking for condors and more alpacas. I see none, but I do catch sight of falcons and skinny wild horses. Coots glide serenely on Limpiopungo lake as we walk its perimeter, and lapwings, gulls and sandpipers circle ahead.

We lunch at the recently opened Hacienda Santa Ana, an old Jesuit monastery filled with religious paraphernalia, near the indigenous town of Pedregal. And we return to Hacienda San Agustin del Callo to enjoy steak with American honeymooners in the Inca dining room.

That night in bed, I read excerpts from the account of the geodesic mission, which mention more about the walls at Hacienda San Agustin del Callo: "Stone is the only material used in the building and it is so hard it resembles flint; its colour is almost black. The stones are so well carved and coupled that one cannot even insert the blade of a knife."

I glance at the wall - mystifyingly geometric, so volcanic-dark it seems smoke blackened - and shiver. At that moment, the door to my room creaks open loudly and I jump, expecting to see the ghost of King Huayna. Instead, it's my travelling companion, wearing an outsize poncho. "Can I sleep in here tonight?" she asks in a small voice. "Those Inca walls are really freaking me out."

Lydia Bell travelled courtesy of Abercrombie & Kent


Getting there

Lan Airlines has a fare to Santiago from Sydney (14hr 30min), then to Quito via Guayaquil (6hr), from $2432 low-season return, including tax. Melbourne passengers fly to Sydney to connect. See lancom.

Touring there

Abercrombie & Kent has several itineraries exploring the Cotopaxi region. A four-day extension of a longer tour costs from $1920 a person, including guides, accommodation and transfers from Quito. See abercrombiekent.com.

More information

See quito.com.ec, incahacienda.com.

The South will NOT rise again.......

The Red List: Prepper Put on No Fly List, Escorted Off Plane Under Armed Guard

Mac Slavo
October 17th, 2012

Up until recently the existence of a national “red list” of domestic dissidents and potential terrorists existed only within the realm of conspiracy theory and Hollywood story lines.

But what if such a red list did exist?

What if all of those tracking and monitoring mechanisms being put into place by the Department of Homeland Security, the National Security Administration and the Central Intelligence Agency are now being utilized to identify and take action against American citizens who may pose a perceived threat to the security and stability of the United States government?

Yes, it sounds like something out of a science fiction novel, but you’d better believe that it’s happening, and it’s happening right here and now.

When 34-year-old U.S. citizen and Mississippi resident Wade Hicks boarded a military flight to visit his wife, a Navy lieutenant stationed in Okinawa, Japan, he did not think it would be a one-way trip. Stopping off in Hawaii to refuel, upon reboarding the plane, Hicks was quickly escorted back off again by armed guards. He was then taken to a secure interrogation room where Hicks was informed he would not be flying anywhere because he turned up on the no-fly list.

Hicks has since been stranded on the island state without a way home.

After being asked to get off the plane, “It started out like something fairly routine,” Hicks said in his interview with Infowars. “About 15-20 minutes later, two heavily armed Air Force security forces guys showed up.”

It was then Hicks was told he would not be flying anywhere. There is no indication as to why Hicks was able to first fly from San Francisco to Hawaii without being notified he was supposedly on the list.

Seemingly the only “crime” Hicks has committed that would end in revocation of his ability to fly is his affiliation with the Mississippi Preparedness Project, a prepper organization. Although prepping is not illegal, the FBI has been cracking down on preppers for awhile now, with everything from spying on people who visit prepper websitesto straight up stripping preppers of their Second Amendment rights.

Hicks revealed to Infowars that a supposed disabled veteran claiming to be a Navy Seal had joined his prepper group earlier in the year, but Hicks felt the man’s story seemed suspicious. Through a Freedom of Information Act request, Hicks learned the man had never been in the military even though he possessed an authentic military ID. Sometime later while out driving, Hicks saw the man’s car and ended up tailing him to a Mississippi Department of Homeland Security branchoffice where the man parked his car.

When asked if he thought his affiliation with a prepper group caused him to get detained, Hicks responded, “If it does, that’s a pretty sad situation.”

Movin' On Up? That May Depend On Your Last Name

by Dustin Dwyer

October 16, 2012 from MR

Here is a question that social scientists have been pondering for years: How much of your success in life is tied to your parents, and how much do you control?

The academic term used for this is "social mobility." And a striking new finding from economic historian Gregory Clark of the University of California, Davis claims your success in life may actually be determined by ancestors who lived hundreds of years ago. That means improving opportunities across generations might be a lot harder than anyone imagined.

Clark did not set out to study social mobility; he was trying to study how the British elite formed in the lead-up to the Industrial Revolution. Someone suggested he trace surnames, because there is a long record of elite names in British society.

"For example, in England, we know the names of most people who went to Oxford or Cambridge from about 1200 right up until the present," Clark says.

But he didn't believe these names would tell him much about the status of families over time. A surname is just one branch in a vast family tree. And all the previous work on social mobility suggests that the status of a name would change in three or four generations. That's what social mobility means — families move up, families move down.

But it turns out that surnames told Clark a whole lot.

"If I just know that you share a rare surname with someone who was wealthy in 1800, I can predict now that you're nine times more likely to attend Oxford or Cambridge. You're going to live two years longer than an average person in England. You're going to have more wealth. You're more likely to be a doctor. You're more likely to be an attorney," Clark says.

This finding was a big surprise.

So Clark and some fellow researchers checked results in other countries. They looked at records of elite status — top colleges, listings of doctors and lawyers. They checked how often certain names showed up in these places compared with how common they were in the general population. Then they checked how that comparison changed over time to see how names were moving in and out of elite positions.

They checked in England, Sweden, the United States, India, China, Japan and Chile.

"And astonishingly, there's no more mobility in Sweden on these measures than there is in South America," says Clark. "And that America looks just like England, looks just like Sweden."

And, even more astonishingly, the numbers were the same in the Middle Ages as they are today.

It's worth pointing out that Clark is talking about relative social position, not overall living conditions or income. Still, what he's claiming is huge: That is, if you come from a common background, your chance of making it into the elite is the same in the United States as it is in South America, no matter when you were born.

"It is shocking that the number is as constant as it is," says Joseph Ferrie, an economic historian at Northwestern University. Ferrie has been following Clark's work on surnames almost from the beginning, and he says it's been fascinating.

"It's hard to find any holes in the argument that he makes suggesting that this really is something that does look the same in a variety of places and times," Ferrie says.

Clark's method is unique among people who study social mobility. Ferrie and most other researchers look at individual families, not just family names. But both approaches have been transformed in the past few years as more information from censuses and household surveys have become searchable online.

Until now, nearly all the research into social mobility has only covered two generations. Now it's finally becoming possible to look at many generations, and when you do that, it looks like there's a lot less mobility than we thought.

If Clark is right, we can actually put a number on it regardless of where or when you were born.

"We can't predict the individual aspects of where you'll end up, but if we want to rank you overall in society, maybe as much as 60 percent of the outcome is determined at the time of conception," Clark says.

And if Clark is right, that number is almost impervious to change. The Industrial Revolution didn't change it. Neither did the communist revolution in China, World Wars I or II, or even social policies like the GI Bill. Clark says he's still working on exactly how to interpret that information.

But it's clear he has growing doubts about whether public policy can really help people move up the social ladder.

"And it really is conveying this message that families are where the action is at in terms of the outcomes and performance for people," Clark says.

And the good news, according to Clark, is that families do move up the social ladder. It just might take a few hundred years to get there.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

South America Holds the World’s Best Kept Secret

Last time I came here, back in 2006, this place was a dump. If someone asked me to describe it, the words “ugly” and “dirty” would certainly come to mind.

Although I knew it was a third world country, I was still surprised by the level of poverty in some parts of Lima, the capital of Peru.

I was not expecting to see huge piles of trash accumulating on the streets. In other parts of the country, I couldn’t walk five minutes without being stopped by a beggar.

After six years, I’m back in Lima visiting my wife’s family. Although I haven’t seen piles of trash like the last time, the streets remain pretty dirty. My impression is that not much has changed … the signs of poverty are everywhere.

But the truth is, Peru is going through a deep transformation. The kind of change Brazil went through in the 1990s, before the economic boom. And these changes present a lot of opportunities for us as investors … especially if we get in early.

The Fastest Growing Country in Latin America is NOT Brazil

When I was in grad school in the U.S., one of my classmates asked me if Peru was in the Middle East. I thought he was joking, but he wasn’t. That’s when I realized many Americans know very little – or nothing – about Peru.

When investors think of Latin America, for example, the first (and maybe the only) country that comes to mind is Brazil, the South American giant. But when it comes to growth, Peru puts Brazil to shame.

Peru was the fastest growing economy in the region over the past decade. The chart below shows the gross domestic product (GDP) growth of the two countries. While both suffered during the 2008 crisis, it’s clear Peru has been growing much faster than Brazil.

More importantly, the Brazilian economy has cooled off over the past couple of years. Peru’s economic growth, on the other hand, has stabilized at a much higher level. The country is expected to grow 6% next year.

Growing Middle Class Means Huge Investment Returns

This economic boom has resulted in a rapidly expanding middle class. That’s what makes Peru a great investment opportunity.

If you don’t believe me, you just have to look at the performance of the Peruvian stock market over the past decade. While Brazilian stocks have rallied 572% in the last 10 years, Peruvian stocks have rallied 1,757%.

Despite this massive rally, Peru remains in the early stages of economic growth.

One way you can measure the potential of emerging consumers is by looking at the country's GDP per capita. That’s the gross domestic product divided by the number of people in the country.

The lower the GDP per capita, the lower the standard of living … and the lower the standard of living, the higher the growth potential.

Peru has lots of potential because its GDP per capita is equivalent to just 47% of the world average. As the middle class emerges, Peru is likely to experience a boom in consumer sectors.

Despite a recent slump in metals exports (resulting from a slowdown in Chinese imports), Peru continues to grow at a very healthy pace. Surging consumer demand is boosting the retail, service and banking industries. That’s what’s fueling the fastest economic growth in South America.
The Easiest Way to Invest in Peru

You can buy a diversified basket of Peruvian stocks through the iShares MSCI All Peru Capped Index (EPU).

This ETF has heavy exposure to mining stocks. Despite the growing middle class, mining remains the heart of the Peruvian economy.

The country is the world's sixth-largest producer of gold, third-largest producer of zinc, second-largest of copper and the largest producer of silver.

So, EPU is also a way to play the boom in precious metals. One of the largest holdings of this ETF, for example, is Compania de Minas Buenaventura. It’s the second-largest public company in Peru and one of the main gold and silver producers in the world.

But this ETF will also give you exposure to the middle class. The largest holding of the ETF is Credicorp Ltd., the largest financial services holding company in Peru.

A huge part of the population in Peru still doesn’t hold their money in banks. So Credicorp is well positioned to capitalize on the emergence of the Peruvian middle class as they start to require more modern financial services to deal with their new wealth.

Although investing in Peru is a growth idea, you’ll also get income: EPU has a current dividend yield of 2.4%, enough to beat the yields of Treasury bonds and the S&P 500 index.

Peru may just be the world’s best kept secret. If you’re a long-term investor, EPU deserves a place in your portfolio. It’s a great way to invest in this promising country.

And, a few years from now, when investors start talking about Peru on CNBC, you will be glad you were well ahead of the herd.


Evaldo Albuquerque
Senior Analyst

Get Ready For the New Cold War

By Jeff Opdyke, Editor of The Sovereign Individual

On the outskirts of Tallinn, in a quiet neighborhood of pine and birch, the #16 house is home to a man who helped tear down the Soviet Union. He was there in the fading days of the empire, an Estonian-born member of the Soviet Union’s People’s Congress and an integral part of the process that unleashed a wave of capitalism-inspired economic freedoms and reforms across the former Soviet bloc. I stopped by earlier this week for a chat.

Over coffee and homemade apple cake, we spent a morning discussing the direction of Europe, the fate of the U.S. dollar and the future of the Estonian economy (uniquely one of Europe’s best). But our discussion about what’s now at play in the currency market grabbed my attention.

I have been saying for a while now that I think China is up to something with its currency … an unspoken plan to unleash a new global reserve currency backed by hard assets. My Estonian friend agreed – but then added an unexpected twist.

“The same is happening in Russia right now,” he said with a knowing smile. “They’ve called me to talk about it. We are on the verge of a global cold war fought with currencies.”

Fiat currencies have proven to be a financial pox on the world. They have allowed politicians to spend without regard to the amount of money a country’s population can actually support through the taxation and economic growth needed to repay the debt that necessarily arises.

A forward-thinking country that finds a way to reverse course – to re-engineer some version of a “hard currency” – has the opportunity to establish its money as a new global standard. And that is exactly the project my Estonian friend says is underway in China and Russia these days.

Both China and Russia want greater global respect and greater global swagger, financially. They’re wise enough to know, however, that there’s no way for the yuan or the ruble, in their current forms, to effectively compete against the dollar – in which 60% of world reserves are held.

But they also know the dollar is vulnerable. It’s over-rated. It’s backed by mountains of debt and politicians with little financial acumen. And as developing countries themselves, they know that emerging countries the world over are desperate for a U.S. dollar replacement. Everyone these days, except maybe our own citizens, are awash in growing concerns that America’s financial decline will one day annihilate the greenback.

To replace the dollar, China and Russia must build a currency with heft – one backed by something tangible and not just the empty promises of political and economic systems still managed in authoritarian ways.

That’s where hard assets come in.
Waging War With Assets, Not Ammunition

China, for years, has been stockpiling real assets like oil, coal, gold, iron ore and the like. Numerous China-watchers have commented on the fact that the country has been buying more than necessary to manage economic growth, which they puzzle over. Some think it means China is trying to goose economic growth and that ultimately the economy will prove to be a fraud.

I see something entirely different. I think China is fashioning a hard currency – a reserve currency it will unveil, possibly soon. The man in the #16 house agrees … and, he says, Russia is doing the same.

High-level Russian officials have contacted my friend to solicit his insight on building a reserve currency with the ruble. Neither Russia nor China would overtly announce that their aim would be to undermine the dollar or the euro. Rather, they would likely claim their new currencies – maybe even a single currency they create together – are simply a means of providing a refuge for those countries that want their reserves held in a currency backed by hard assets.

Despite such claims, of course, any hard-asset-backed currency would undermine the dollar since it would reduce demand for greenbacks. As demand falls off, the value of the dollar declines, which, in turn, has all sorts of nasty financial implications inside American households … but that’s for another story.

“Russia,” my Estonian friend told me, “is using oil, gas and minerals as the new tools of war instead of military tools. This will be the beginning of a currency cold war.”

Russia certainly has the assets with which to wage this war.

As of last count, the Russians had 911 tons of gold bars and an estimated 5,000 tons of gold ore still in the ground; the country owns the world’s largest natural gas reserves and the second-largest for coal; it produces more crude oil per day than any other country; and it has the largest reserves for aluminum and iron ore, among other mineral resources.

It’s clear Russia has the assets necessary to build a hard currency … “and they are clearly preparing for something,” my friend says.
America No Longer Controls Our Own Destiny

Whether Russia or China will ever actually launch an asset-backed currency is impossible to know. But, the risk is certainly there. For investors, the threat that either – or both – of them could pull this off underscores the risk.

All empires reach a point where they inevitably decline … or even collapse. America’s financial dominance is reaching that tipping point. Lots of people talk about the dollar losing value because of the actions of Congress and the mounting debts that politicians seem not to care about.

But the reality no one is paying attention to is that our currency’s decline – or even collapse – may not even be within our control anymore. Countries like China and Russia could hasten our undoing, and the great bulk of America won’t even see it coming.

In the event a new, currency cold war heats up, you absolutely want to be sure you have non-dollar currency exposure. You can add it to your portfolio in the form of foreign stocks, foreign-currency certificates of deposit – or, like me, foreign bank and brokerage accounts.

It’s insurance against what could happen.

Until next time, stay Sovereign …

Jeff D. Opdyke

Friday, October 12, 2012

Queen Sofia visits areas hit by Spanish floods

According to The Royal Forums:

Queen Sofia paid a visit to some of the areas affected by the recent terrible flash flooding in Andalusia and Murcia. The devastating late September floods left eleven people dead.

On October 5th,Queen Sofia arrived by helicopter to the town of Puerto Lumbreras and Her Majesty later went on to visit the towns of Villanueva del Rosario and Pueblo Laguna de Vera, where much of the area was devastated by the recent flooding.

At Puerto Lumbreras, the Queen met with local families affected, the emergency services and troops working in the area with the ongoing relief efforts. Her Majesty also met with the families of those killed in the floods and the Queen offered her condolences and deepest sympathy with family members.

Following a visit to the mayor of Lorca at the local hospital, Her Majesty concluded her visit and returned to Madrid.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Property of the Month October: Beach house in Crucita $47,500

This house is a great opportunity for anyone looking for a house in Manabi.  Here are the detials.

- 80 sq meters of concrete and stone construction
- 3 bedooms, 2 Bathrooms
- Living room, dining room, kitchen
- Water sistern
- Garage
- Outside shower and bath for after a dip in the ocean
- Bar B Que area
- 100 meters from the beach with incredible ocean views
- Front porch with the views!

Price $47,500

Why didn't you tell me these things about Ecuador?

After being here a full year, here are 15 things you should have told me before I came here...

15. That I'll blow out my knee while doing a power squat with my pack on while taking an emergency dump in a gas station bathroom because the floor hasn't been cleaned for months and there's no where to set the bag down. Then there'll be NO toilet paper causing me to sacrifice a sock!

14. That even if immigration makes a mistake with your paperwork it can cause you to miss your departure flight from Ecuador, even if it's totally not your fault and you're already checked in.

13. That throwing trash out bus windows is not frowned upon and locals will get TICK*D if you say something.

12. There's a reason people throw the toilet paper in a small bin next to the toilet! Ecuadorian toilets really can't handle even a few squares without turning into an active volcano. The hard part is not sneaking a peak at the skid mark after you wipe.

11. That all women in Ecuador are after 3 things and 3 things only, marriage, marriage and ... marriage. If you're not up to it you better inform so in writing on the first date before the first round of drinks.

10. Not to look up and admire architecture and birds in the trees as you walk in the streets... because you will fall in a hole!

9. That the police are not on your side and if you call them, even in time of need, they probably won't show or they'll ask for a bribe.

8. That sure, I can buy a lot of land in the middle of no where on the coast for CHEAP, but water and electricity services will be spotty at BEST and internet is simply un-available.

7. That roosters or barking dogs will probably wake me up at the a$$ crack of dawn every day for my entire stay.

6. That drivers are "lane-challenged" and that meshing and going with the flow is the only way to make it.

5. That Cuenca is NOT the land of the "eternal spring"... more like the land of the eternal " late fall", its cold! Bring an extra jacket.

4. That hot, powerful showers as we know them don't really exist in Ecuador, the Ecuador "hot" is our "slightly luke warm".

3. That rice is served with EVERY meal, and that locals consider a mountain of plain, white rice "tasty" and I'm wierd not to do so, too.

2. That even the people in tourist information offices and airline check-in points don't speak English.

1. That no matter if someone in the street has no clue where something is, they'll still point you in a random direction, again, and again, and again.

And that despite all these setbacks I'll still be glad I came!

Domenick Buonamici
Ecuador lifer

Prince Felipe and Princess Letizia receive Ecuadorian honour to mark the end of their Royal visit

7 OCTOBER 2012

As their royal trip to Panama and Ecuador drew to a close Prince Felipe and Princess Letizia of Spain were honoured by the Ecuadorian capital city.

On the last day of their visit, the couple were named "Distinguished Guests of the City of Quito" by Mayor Augsto Barrera.

The couple were pleased to recieve the honour, presented to them as they stood beneath the ornate domed ceiling at the Society of Jesus Church.

Felipe and Letizia left their two daughters, Leonor and Sofia, at home in Spain as they carried out their duties in the South American countries.
The pair were busy attending business assemblies, visiting museums and monasteries, as well as meeting the countries' dignitaries such as President Rafael Correa of Ecuador.

As they made their way to fly back to Spain, the Prince and Princess were greeted by members of the public.

Felipe and a radiant Letizia, who recently turned 40-years-old, waved to those who lined the streets to see them off from their successful visit.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Ecuador defends giving asylum to Julian Assange


Friday 5 October 2012

Last Update 5 October 2012 1:29 am

STOCKHOLM: Ecuador’s ambassador to Sweden yesterday defended his homeland against criticism over press freedom following its granting of asylum to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who is wanted by authorities in Stockholm.

In nearly a full-page article in the Swedish tabloid Expressen, Mario Guerrero Murgueytio also explained why some media in Ecuador have been banned.

The ambassador was reacting to the way Ecuador has been portrayed in the Swedish press since Aug. 16, when it granted asylum to Assange, who had sought refuge in its London embassy to avoid being extradited to Sweden for questioning on sexual assault allegations.

Over the past few months Expressen had “published articles concerning the Julian Assange affair but has also expressed certain points of view on freedom of the press in Ecuador,” he wrote.

Much of the Swedish press has called it paradoxical that Assange was given asylum, ostensibly in defence of press freedom, in a country that suppresses local media according to several human rights group.

The Ecuadoran ambassador in his article countered that between Oct. 2009 and Aug. 2012, 99 media outlets lost their licenses, most of them for failing to pay taxes. At the same time 240 media were given permission to publish.

Assange denies the sex crime allegations and fears Sweden would extradite him to the United States, where his supporters claim he could receive harsh treatment and possibly even the death penalty.

WikiLeaks embarrassed the US government in 2010 by publishing huge caches of confidential documents on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and more than 250,000 diplomatic cables from US embassies.

Britain, whose courts granted Sweden’s extradition request, has said Assange will be arrested if he leaves the embassy

News and Views from Norway: Labour MPs mull end to monarchy

October 4, 2012

According to News and Views from Norway:

For the first time in Norwegian history, four Members of Parliament from the Labour Party say they plan to propose a thorough review of how Norway is ruled and how much power the head of state, currently King Harald, should have. The proposal could ultimately convert Norway from a monarchy to a republic.

The four Labour MPs – Truls Wickholm and Marianne Marthinsen from Oslo, Eirin Sund from Rogaland and Jette F Christensen from Egersund – told website TV2.no that they want to carefully evaluate what type of head of state Norway should have. They want to study how a head of state should be elected, how long his or her term of office should be and various other aspects of a role that would replace Norway’s current monarch with a president.

Their proposal comes on the very day King Harald, Queen Sonja and Crown Prince Haakon were due to ceremoniously opening the 157th session of Norway’s Parliament (Stortinget), when the monarch appears in full regalia and reads the government’s plans for the year aloud.

The current government remains the left-center coalition elected first in 2005 and re-elected in 2009. It consists of the small Center Party and Socialist Left party (SV) and is led by Labour, which until now has supported the monarchy and refused to go along with SV’s recurring calls to turn Norway into a republic.

This is thus the first time SV has received support for its pro-republic standpoint, but it’s far from certain whether the four Labour MPs have sufficient support within their own party. They think, though, that it’s time Norwegians seriously consider whether a constitutional monarchy is the best form of government for an egalitarian-minded, social welfare state like Norway.

“We have been so consumed by our traditions that everyone buys Se og Hør (a leading celebrity magazine that frequently features the royal family) with all its pictures of the royals and everyone thinks that’s so nice,” Wickholm told TV2.no. “Folks forget that this is all about how the country is run, who is the head of state and who should have the right to represent Norway at the United Nations and at other international organizations.”

MP Eirin Sund stressed that their proposal isn’t necessarily anti-royal. “The tone of this proposal is different than earlier ones,” she told TV2.no. “Before, it’s been proposed that the king should be put out on the street, period. Now we’re looking at the various issues involved and want an examination and broad debate to find out how we could best put forth a republic.”

An earlier call went out last summer for Crown Prince Haakon, when faced with succeeding his father as king, to ask for a referendum on the succession. That, critics argued, would give a clear signal as to whether the royal succession and continuance of the monarchy had public support.

Any formal proposal to actually end the monarchy and replace it with a republic would require a change to the constitution, which in turn requires a vote in favour by at least two-thirds of the members of parliament.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

Monday, October 1, 2012

Five Steps to Take Before Moving Your Money Offshore

Opening an offshore bank account can give you opportunities to protect and grow your wealth in ways you can’t here at home, but it is not something that should be done in haste. By taking a few simple steps ahead of time, you can make sure that your money’s new home will meet all of your future needs.
Finding What America Can No Longer Offer

Contrary to what some politicians may say, an offshore bank account is not a tool to evade taxes. The U.S. Internal Revenue Code taxes American citizens and resident “green card” holders on all their worldwide income. No matter where or how you earn your money, you may owe some U.S. taxes and must annually file at least a Form 1040 with the IRS, and possibly other forms reporting income and related taxes.

The benefits an offshore bank account can offer, however, are numerous. One of the first is protection against the declining dollar. Through currency diversification, an offshore bank account allows you to convert declining dollars into stronger currencies.

Since the creation of the Federal Reserve in 1913, the value of the U.S. currency has collapsed. What was worth $1 back then is worth less than 4.8 cents today. That is to say, our dollar has devalued by more than 95%.

This trend continues almost daily, and that means that having an offshore account is becoming a matter of acute urgency.

In troubled times, an offshore bank account can also provide a much needed safe haven for your money.

Hundreds of thousands of sovereign individuals around the world use offshore bank accounts for exactly that. Smart people, whether savvy Argentines or Russians, use this simple, yet effective, method to protect their cash from meddling governments and stifling regulations. Now Americans are finally catching on.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) confirms that “stability reasons” — and not bank secrecy — helped foreign havens such as Switzerland attract 27% (of an estimated $21 to $32 trillion) of the world’s offshore wealth in 2011.

Offshore accounts also offer what American banks can no longer guarantee – much stronger asset protection and greatly increased banking privacy.

But to access all these potential benefits, you need to make sure you choose the right financial institution to open your account in…
Choosing the Right Home for Your Money

I would suggest taking the following steps to help you choose the right bank, assuming your country of choice has a stable government, low or no taxes and welcomes foreign investment.

Step #1: Carefully research established financial institutions in your country of choice. Gauge national banking standards to get a frame of reference against which you can judge individual banks and services offered.

Step #2: Check Google News and in-country newspapers and publications for mentions about a specific bank, good or bad. Google will guide you to the website of the country’s official bank supervisory agency with facts about each bank, its license, its current standing and any prior complaints or official actions.

Step #3: Beware of “banks” that have only an Internet presence. Most countries have outlawed “brass plate” banks that are nothing more than a name on a building or a lawyer’s office door. A website without bank officials’ names, a physical address and working phone numbers are indications of fraud.

Step #4: Be wary of any banks that offer unreasonably high interest rates or returns. If an offered deal appears too good to be true, it is just that.

Step #5: Confirm that an offshore private bank meets or exceeds the minimum standards set by the international Basel Accords. These rules limit a bank’s risk and require minimum capital, shareholder equity and disclosed reserves, as well as limiting holdings in debt and equity instruments.

One other important and relatively new consideration is an offshore bank’s status with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) compliance and registration.

In the UBS Swiss tax evasion bank scandal that began in 2008, the U.S. Internal Revenue Service played the major role in prosecuting U.S. account holders who evaded taxes. This got most of the news media coverage. But UBS was fined $200 million for failure to register with the SEC.

As a result, a growing number of offshore banks have established special, separate SEC-qualified investment banking units for American clients only. Some independent offshore investment advisers also are now SEC-registered, allowing them to advise American clients. As part of your due diligence, check to see if the offshore bank you are considering is SEC-registered.

Whether it’s in Switzerland or Liechtenstein, Hong Kong or Singapore, an offshore account serves you as a simple, yet effective tool to protect your wealth against both intrusive government and its inflated currency. But before you take your first steps offshore, always make sure to do your due diligence. Doing so will make sure that you get the most out of what offshore has to offer.

There is nothing sinister about an offshore bank account. The real question is: why don’t you have one?

Faithfully yours,

Bob Bauman

Germany Tip-Toes Toward a Euro Exit

Quote of the Day...

“The euro is in danger... If we don’t deal with this danger, then the consequences for us in Europe are incalculable.” — German Chancellor Angela Merke

The stock market will not remain in its current tranquil state. Investors will soon be roused from their blissful trance.

This trance traces its origins back to the mass self-delusion that central banks can revitalize multi-trillion-dollar economies, simply by prodding investors into stocks and other “risk assets.” Investing is not that simple. The comparison between bond yields and stock yields — two completely different investments — has become absurd.

Bonds are contracts involving a fixed stream of cash flows and a predetermined maturity date. Stocks are claims on highly uncertain streams of future free cash flows that often stretch out for decades. Many risks can enter the picture and alter the trajectory of free cash flow — and investors’ expectations of them.

Risks tend to appear out of the blue and smack investors out of their blissful trance — a trance created by central banks that have shifted far too much attention on the returns of stocks versus bonds...

Here is just one negative catalyst growing closer as the weeks and months pass: Germany could exit from the euro and return to the deutsche mark. While a German exit would offer long-awaited clarity about the future of Europe, it would also spark a mad scramble to adjust to a new reality.

A German exit would trash the euro’s value against the currency that’s steadily becoming the reserve of choice: gold. Only weak economies with bankrupt governments would be left standing behind the euro. The European Central Bank (ECB) would be free to monetize as much Italian and Spanish debt as it wished (i.e., print euros to buy the government bonds of Italy and Spain). The economists calling for a weaker currency to restore prosperity to the PIIGS countries would get to see their prescription play out in a real-world laboratory. Results would show that currency debasement does not create stronger, more competitive economies. Countries left in the euro would see collapsing living standards: import prices would rise and capital investment would fall amid a chaotic currency regime.

ECB president Mario Draghi famously deemed the euro “irreversible”; he would do whatever is necessary to preserve it. But what Draghi sees as necessary will eventually be seen as intolerable in creditor countries like Germany. Once Draghi starts monetizing Spanish debt, Germany and other wealthy countries will view the euro’s costs as greater than its benefits.

The German central bank — the Bundesbank — still exists. The Bundesbank could convert its liabilities from euros to deutsche marks at a predetermined exchange rate and take a one-time write- down on assets related to claims on PIIGS central banks. It would certainly be costly, but the alternative is worse: perpetually financing eurozone states unwilling to restructure public benefit programs unaffordable for their economies.

Having seen the example of Greece, the Spanish public suspects that austerity will only make things worse. Spain will come to believe that its salvation lies in the printing press — in the ability to inflate away its heavy debt burden. After promising markets that the ECB would buy Spanish debt, Mario Draghi now has no choice but to fire up the euro printing press.

Most other debt holders will flee the chaos unfolding in Spain. They’ll refuse to hold Spanish bonds at yields too low to compensate for default risk. The ECB, once it establishes a fake, above-market price for Spanish bonds, will ultimately find itself the only holder of those bonds. This is what happens when central planners impose prices far from what private investors consider fair value (in this case, pushing Spanish debt yields to below 4%, versus a much higher market-based yield). Once the German taxpayers see that the ECB will become the majority holder of Spanish debt, they will insist that German politicians plan an exit from the euro.

The next act in this long-running tragedy involves Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy officially requesting a bailout from the EU. Rajoy’s bailout-stalling is only a negotiating tactic to get the easiest terms possible. His so-called “austerity” budget, released this week, shows that he’s still far from the demands of EU bailout bureaucrats. For example, Rajoy’s budget ignored the EU suggestion that Spain raise the official retirement age for pensions.

Once the negotiations end, the bailout will commence. The ECB will sprinkle its fairy dust and enter a Spanish bond market that others are fleeing. The investors who are dumping Spanish bonds know that Spain’s experience will resemble Greece’s experience: a series of EU bailout checks, failed austerity programs and probably steep haircuts for bondholders. That’s why the folks who are still holding Spanish bonds will be happy for the ECB to take them out of their positions with newly printed euros.

Rajoy’s budget cuts will not be enough. Spain can’t afford to fiddle around the edges. It needs a financial restructuring focused on the zombie banks. The banks still haven’t come close to admitting their real capital shortfalls. Until there is a restructuring, with substantial haircuts for bank shareholders and bondholders, projections of economic recovery are pure fantasy.

Even if proposed budget cuts satisfy Germany and the EU, there is no political will for austerity in Spain. That much is clear from the rising energy of protests in the streets of Madrid. Protests against budget cuts have only just begun. Debilitating strikes are on the way.

We may even see the wealthy northeastern region of Catalonia vote to sever financial ties to the national government. Ambrose Evans- Pritchard summarizes Spain’s fragile political cohesion in a recent UK Telegraph column: “I have no idea what Spain will do, but emotions are running high and the country — in the words of Confidencial this morning — risks ‘disintegrating.’ We watch and wait to see whether the Basque revolt or the Catalan revolt will detonate first, and whether the Spanish will really use ‘all means’ to hold the union together.

“The newspapers ABC and La Razon both called on the government to deploy ‘the arms of the state’ to stop Catalonia holding an independence referendum.

“It is as if The Daily Telegraph were to call for coercion to stop Scottish independence. Imagine the response in Scotland.”

Do you think many investors would hold Spanish bonds while whole regions were threatening to secede, fighting a central government that might morph into a military dictatorship? Or that in this scenario Germany would tolerate staying in a euro collateralized by Spanish bonds? I don’t think so.

Germany will watch as all of this unfolds and realize that Spain’s austerity promises will be broken. The ECB will be left holding hundreds of billions of Spanish debt, with no possible exit and constant pressure to continue monetizing Spanish debt. It will be then that the drive to exit the euro will pick up speed.

Enjoy the blissful trance while you can; it is about to come to an end.


Dan Amoss
for The Daily Reckoning