El Conquistqdor Francisco de Orellana

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

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Ambulance rides....spiling guts in Ecuador.....

Jeeze, that was some crazy sh*t." I thought as I sat in an ambulance on the coast of Ecuador this week.

I started to recollect what happened as I sat next to the nurse looking down at my friend as the ambulance sped along.

Moments earlier we were on the construction site of where I was in the last day or two of completing 3 tiki huts or "cabañas" on the southern coast of Ecuador.

In the final moments of the day, the lead builder was cutting a piece of wood for the balcony of one of the huts with an electric saw when... "zip" it kicked back and caught him in the shirt.

I was about 30 feet away so I saw it all go down.

At first, his look was of shock, then relief as he thought he missed getting knicked, then as he checked his shirt he realized there was a hole in it.

He lifted up his shirt and ... wow... he saw the 6 inch slice in the side of his belly exposing his fat and underneath, different color things that I confirmed later were in fact his intestines.

I had never seen a cut like that.

He waved me over and grabbed my shoulder while another worker took his other shoulder and we walked quickly to the nearby clinic while he held his side. It was conveniently only 1 block or so away.

Once inside we went to the emergency room where he quickly got taped up. The small clinic had to ambulance him to the nearest hospital with surgeons that could stitch him up.

Once we finished the almost hour long ambulance ride he went into surgery, where he stayed for the next 3 hours.

He had to spend the night in the hospital but by the next day he could walk out of there.

He will have to stay off his feet for a couple weeks but the docs said he didn't cut anything vital, so he should be OK soon.

The total bill from the hospital stay, surgery and ambulance ride = $0 (It was a public, free hospital.)

A few things I learned from the incident:

- Ecuadorian construction sites are VERY hazardous places, don't just meander through them like you would a park. Proceed with caution, heads up!

- When hiring workers off the street and managing a project yourself you not only have to police them to be sure they're working, but also to be sure they're working safely. For instance my worker (and friend) was cutting a board horizontally in the air when he shouldn't have AND he was looking away from where he was cutting. As well, the nurse at the hospital said construction accidents are quite common but the most common is when workers fall great distances.

- Most public, free hospitals in Ecuador are in fact pretty good and can be relied upon in time of need. Just be sure someone is there that can run to a nearby farmacy and buy you medicines as the doctors ask for them.

- The tool he was using wasn't mine, but don't lend Ecuadorian workers your fancy power tools that you may have brought from the US, they will probably say they know how to use them when they really don't. Let them build how they know how to build.

- I knew this already listening to stories from other people in Ecuador, that's why I had one of the workers stay back at the job site when the accident happened. But in time of emergency don't abandon valuables, some sly locals will seize the opportunity to rob you, it's sad but it's how it works in poor countries sometimes.

 Saludos til next time,

Dom Buonamici
Murali B&B Airport Guayaquil

Is Genetically Modified Food Killing Us?

Eric Fry, reporting from Laguna Beach, California...

“Is Genetically Modified Food Killing Us?” Alex Daley asks in today’s Daily Reckoning. “Probably not,” he confidently responds to his own question. But the worldwide scientific community is slightly less confident. The long-term effects of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are simply unknowable.

The idea that GMOs might kill us over the long term is not necessarily a deal-breaker. So does cholesterol, saturated fat and corn syrup. But that doesn’t stop Americans from spending $20 billion a year on ice cream.

No, the problem with GMOs is not that they might kill us; the problem is that we have no idea how they might kill us. We have no idea if they might harm us quickly, or slowly...or not at all.

More importantly, we have no idea if — down the road — they might catastrophically alter the genetic traits of various organisms — in particular, the human organism. Therefore, the entire GMO experiment promises feast or famine...literally.

If feast be the result, the companies that produce these genetic marvels stand to reap billions of dollars in profits. But if these marvels sow the seeds of biological self-destruction, the companies that produce them are likely to face a financial famine.

Time will tell, of course. But how much time is anyone’s guess. In the meanwhile, if the image you see in your mirror begins to look strangely like a laboratory rat, you’ll know the reason why. The producers of GMOs are conducting a grand experiment on the vast open air laboratory called Planet Earth.

Hopefully, this experiment produces bountiful benefits to mankind. However, several GMO experiments-to-date, conducted in much smaller labs around the world, have produced worrisome results, like the experiment Dr. Severine Kirchner highlighted in the October 9, 2012 edition of The Daily Reckoning, Gambling with the Genome.

“A team of French scientists linked one of Monsanto’s genetically modified corn to elevated risks of cancer,” Dr. Kirchner reported. “[The] research team fed rats for two years a diet containing Monsanto’s genetically modified corn. Results: the rats on the GMO diet died earlier than those on a standard diet. The animals on the GMO diet also suffered mammary tumors, as well as severe liver and kidney damage.”

The Daily Reckoning

Sunday, November 25, 2012

2012 Changes to the Ecuadorian Residency Visa Requirements

One big reason to move to Ecuador is the ease with which you can become a LEGAL resident.

Trust me, it stinks to have to make border runs every month or two like expats in Thailand, or overstay your visa illegally.

This year, in 2012, I've started helping new expats in Ecuador get residency visas or tourist visa extensions while they stay in my B&B in Guayaquil.

And through this work, I've witnessed a few changes to the requirements over the course of 2012.

Here they are as I write this on November 23, 2012...

1. A few months ago they abolished the rule that you had to submit your application for residency visas or extensions with at least 30 days remaining before your current visa expires. Now, as long as you get it in while still on a valid visa in Ecuador you're OK.

2. Around August they started requiring foreigners bring a birth certificate (apostilled or certified in an Ecuadorian embassy abroad) from their home country in order to get the "cedula" or your official Ecuadorian ID card.

3. Over the course of the last year Ecuador has opened immigration offices in both Manta and Cuenca where you can apply for residency visas but you still need to come to the main offices in Guayaquil or Quito after the fact to attain your Ecuadorian "Cedula".

4. Last week while helping someone get their cedula, I learned of a brand new rule on the books (directly from the Cedula Officials) that foreigners getting first time cedulas need to get proof of their civil state, meaning if they are single, they need to go to their consulate and get a document verifying they are in fact "single" in their home country, or bring an apostilled or Ecuadorian-Embassy-Certified marriage certificate. Before, if you were single just doing a quick sworn statement in a local notary would do. As of now, they still might accept the sworn statement because new laws usually take a while to begin to get enforced.

What hasn't changed?

Thankfully, for several years now the main qualifications needed for a residency visa have not changed... as of yet. You still qualify for residency in Ecuador if you have a pension over $800 a month (or $900/mon if you'd like to bring a spouse), or an investment in the country legally valued over $25,000.

Dom Buonamici
Murali B&B Airport Guayaquil

What you must bring to Ecuador to get a residency visa.....

I'm headed back to the US for 3 weeks, what documents and things do I need to bring back to Ecuador in order to get a residency visa?"

Great question.

As with any visa process, there is a laundry list of requirements all attainable rather pain-free once already in Ecuador. BUT there are a few requirements you CAN'T get in Ecuador, so you will need to bring them from your home country.

Regardless of your choice of visa, you will need to bring...

1. A birth certificate apostilled by your secretary of state (for US citizens only) or have your birth certificate certified/legalized by an Ecuadorian Embassy in your HOME country. I recommend getting your documents certified by an Ecuadorian Consulate, some state apostilles no longer look like apostilles so some immigration officials won't accept them even though they should. Ecuadorians love STAMPS.

2. A local police record check from where you've lived the last five years... you'll need this document aposstilled or legalized by an Ecuadorian consulate in your home country. A federal or FBI check is not necessary.

3a. For MARRIED folks, you'll need an official copy of your marriage certificate apostilled or legalized/certified by an Ecuadorian consulate in your home country.

3b. For SINGLE folks, your proof of "single" status can be obtained from the Secretary of State in your former home state (in fact NOT from a consulate like the Ecuadorian Cedula employee told me earlier this week), but a certified divorce decree, will also serve the same purpose. This document also needs to be apostilled or legalized by an Ecuadorian consulate in your home country. (THIS IS ONLY NEEDED FOR THE CEDULA, NOT THE RESIDENCY VISA.)

For folks applying for the PENSIONERS resident visa...

4. You'll need a document serving as proof of your pension from the issuing institution legally apostilled or certified in an Ecuadorian Consulate in your home country. For instance, this can be a BENEFITS STATEMENT from a social security or disability pay out.

For folks looking to get an investors visa the first 3 requirements are all you need to bring to Ecuador, the rest is attainable once here and translations of foreign documents to Spanish IS necessary but can be done cheaper once in Ecuador.

Random visa notes and Q&A based on yesterdays email...

- First a correction, as of July of 2012, you can, in fact, get both your residency visa AND cedula (Offical Ecuador ID card) in Cuenca as well as in Guayaquil and Quito. I think many are still unaware of this, like I was, cause many folks still come to Guayaquil to get cedulas when they no longer have to.

- Sc@m alert... one subscriber emailed me.. "I was told by someone that there were coming changes that would make getting a residency visa harder and that if I give him $1395 that he could get me "grandfathered" in so that I wouldn't have to deal with all the new requirements." ... my response. This is simply not true, the requirements MAY change, who knows, but their are currently no plans to do so. This sounds like a dishonest sales pitch.

- Question... "[one guy] said he could get me my residency papers right away, but I wouldn't have to come down right off, they'd be ready for me when I came down. In other words, that's all bunk too?"

My response... I would NOT start this process from abroad... just wait until YOU ARE IN ECUADOR to begin the residency process... AND DONT use a lawyer who will likely overcharge you and then not do the work! It is really NOT necessary to use a lawyer for visas in Ecuador. This is something you can do yourself if you speak Spanish or to save a bit of hassle you could hire a facilitator (like me when I have free time :)), for instance, I charge $350 and within one month you can get both your residency visa and cedula. That's about the going rate. Lawyers usually charge double or triple that and often take MUCH longer to complete the job.

- Question: "I just received my 12-1x visa yesterday and am going back the states next thursday. What effect does my leaving have on my visa. Do I save days on the 180 for time spent away?"

My Response... I've seen people leave Ecuador with time left on a visa and when they come back they are given ONLY the remaining time until the visa expires. For a different scenario, as for the free 3 month stamp upon entry, for example, if you come to Ecuador for 2 months, leave for a month, and come back they probably will stamp your passport upon entry allowing only a 1 month stay because in a year you are only allowed to be in Ecuador for 3 months on the free tourist stamp. It works similar for visas like in your case.

- Question: "Can you explain the requirements once a residence visa has been obtained? Must a permanent resident reside in Ecuador full time or is part time sufficient?"

My Response... technically, they say officially that you need to be in the country for at least 9 months a year your first two years, but unofficially I know several people who have spent less time in Ecuador with no problems. The only time I foresee a problem is if you plan to apply for Ecuador dual citizenship as allowed after 2-3 years of residency.

- Question: "How long is the residency visa or cedula valid?"

My Response... Residency visas in Ecuador are "Indefinite" meaning you never have to renew them as long as you meet the requirements of which you used to get your visa.

- Question: "I can't move to Ecuador yet do to my job, but should I get the residency visa now?"

My Response... you can be in Ecuador up to 6 months a year on tourist visas, so just do that if you don't plan on living here... why go through the hassle and expense if you aren't even going to live here, for now. If you don't move here now, chances are you never will... that's just how life is, am I wrong?

- Question: "Dom, I'm already in Ecuador, but I forgot the aforementioned documents, can I still apply for the residency visa?"

My Response... no! You will need these documents before applying but you CAN send away for them from Ecuador if you have a good friend in your home country who can gather these documents for you and DHL them to you... I just did this this week for someone and from the US to Ecuador DHL delivered in 2 days!

- Question: "Dom, how long does it take to get the residency visa and cedula once submitting the application?"

My Response... 3 weeks to one month. If it takes longer there may be a problem or you may have selected the person to help you get your visa and cedula poorly.

- Question: "Dom, oops, I overstayed my visa in Ecuador, is there a fine or sanctions I will be subject to?"

My Response... As of 2012, there is no more fine for overstaying your visa although corrupt immigration officials may still try to charge you it... I've seen it happen, just a few weeks ago!...You can however hold firm and they likely won't insist. There is however restrictions on when you can come back into the country unless you get approved for a visa before coming back to Ecuador. Always best to stay legal.

Dom Buonamici
Murali B&B Airport Guayaquil

Friday, November 23, 2012

The First U.S. Thanksgiving Was Spanish Catholic, not Pilgrim Protestant Celebrated with a Traditional Latin Mass and a Post-Communion Meal

The First Thanksgiving in What Is Now the United States
By Spanish Catholics at St. Augustine, Florida, in 1565
Not by Protestant Pilgrims at Plymouth Rock in 1620
To Which the Local Seloy Indians Brought Wild Turkey, Corn, and Squash

History books have long portrayed images of the U.S.'s first Thanksgiving in Plymouth, Massachusetts, with Protestant Pilgrims, dressed in black and white, sharing turkey with American Indians. The Pilgrims, who came to America to escape religious persecution from the Anglicans, were themselves the perpetrators of religious persecution. When they had been in power, they had gone around the English countryside destroying Anglican altars and liturgical accoutrements because the Anglican Church was too "papist" for them. No wonder they themselves were persecuted!

Recent research has proven that 55 years before the Pilgrims landed, the Spanish founder of St. Augustine, the oldest city in the United States, Pedro Menindez de Avilis, and 800 Spanish settlers assisted at a Mass of Thanksgiving. Following the Mass, Menindez arranged a post-Communion communal meal to be shared by the Spaniards and the Seloy Indians, who occupied the landing site. The Seloy Indians would have brought wild turkey, maize (corn), and squash, among other native foods.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

You could just buy commercial rental property or a farm in Ecuador....

Government Sets Its Sights on Private Retirement Accounts: “Giant Effort to Redistribute the Wealth of America’s Older Citizens”

Mac Slavo
November 20th, 2012

A new effort by the Obama administration, Congress, the Treasury Department and labor unions aims to fundamentally alter how Americans plan and save for retirement.

Warnings have been popping up over the last several years about the possibility of re-appropriating the $3.5 Trillion sitting in private retirement and spreading those funds around to Americans who are deemed less fortunate.

This couldn’t possibly happen in America, right? At one time, most Americans also believed heath care mandates that force Americans at the barrel of a gun to surrender portions of their earnings into a universal system for all would never happen. Well, it did.

And now, those who would control and regulate every aspect of our lives are making a new push; one whose efforts will ultimately end in the seizure and redistribution the personal retirement savings of every American who has ever put money into a 401(k) or IRA.

This is no longer in the realm of conspiracy, but rather, public record.

A recent hearing sponsored by the Treasury and Labor Departments marked the beginning of the Obama Administration’s effort to nationalize the nation’s pension system and to eliminate private retirement accounts including IRA’s and 401k plans, NSC is warning.

The hearing, held in the Labor Department’s main auditorium, was monitored by NSC staff and featured a line up of left-wing activists including one representative of the AFL-CIO who advocated for more government regulation over private retirement accounts and even the establishment of government-sponsored annuities that would take the place of 401k plans.

“This hearing was set up to explore why Americans are not saving as much for their retirement as they could,” explains National Seniors Council National Director Robert Crone, “However, it is clear that this is the first step towards a government takeover. It feels just like the beginning of the debate over health care and we all know how that ended up.”

A representative of the liberal Pension Rights Center, Rebecca Davis, testified that the government needs to get involved because 401k plans and IRAs are unfair to poor people. She demanded the Obama administration set up a “government-sponsored program administered by the PBGC (the governments’ Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation).”

Such “reforms” would effectively end private retirement accounts in America, Crone warns.

“These people want the government to require that ultimately all Americans buy these government annuities instead of saving or investing on their own. The Government could then take these trillions of dollars and redistribute it through this new national retirement system.”

“This effort ultimately is designed to grab the retirement nest eggs of America’s senior citizens. This new government annuity scheme, even if it is at first optional, will turn into a giant effort to redistribute the wealth of America’s older citizens,” explains Crone. “This scheme mirrors what I expect the President will try to do with Social Security. He wants to turn that program into a welfare program, too.”

Via: National Seniors Council

With the re-election of President Obama, a majority Democrat Senate and powerful organization and lobbying from labor unions, we can fully expect legislation that will shift private accounts into the public coffers to become reality in the not too distant future.

In fact, the push to mold the perceptions surrounding this issue is already on, as highlighted in a recent Market Watch article which claims to explain the 10 Things 401(k) Plans Won’t Tell You.

Did you know, for example, that 401(k) plans aren’t supposed to provide you with full retirement benefits, and that they were originally intended to be “mere supplements” to other plans, and that they only “benefit the rich?” Not only that, but according to the article, no one can really tell you how much money you’re going to need; all of those math formulas and expert calculations were all wrong. Additionally, there are so many hidden fees that you’re losing hundreds of thousands of dollars to Wall Street (most of us knew that one).

And all this time, the millions of Americans who contributed their money to these accounts over the last three decades were under the impression that their accounts would one day grow into a retirement nest egg from which retirees could spend their days in comfort and relaxation.

Nope. We had it all wrong. Private retirement accounts were never actually designed to ensure that you could retire! Only a government managed retirement plan can ensure that you will have the money you need when you turn 59 1/2. Only they will be able to ensure you don’t pay excessive, hidden fees (even though they could have created legislation to require firms to overtly disclose this information int he first place). And, only the government can provide 100% full retirement coverage, not just supplemental funds. Oh, and they also know WHEN you should retire, currently 65 years of age.

It’s on folks. They are going to hit Americans from all angles on this one.

First, the political hearings that will claim only the rich are benefiting from private retirement accounts.

Then they’ll point out how stock market crashes and volatility put your money at risk. In fact, if we do have another market crash, look for this to be a key reverberation.

Then they put the spin machine into action, so that you think you’re getting unbiased analysis and truth.

Then they open the guilt spigot and make those who have personal retirement savings wonder if they are being greedy, and those who don’t have savings will direct their anger not just at the rich, but anyone who has put any money away.

Finally, they will pass a bill, which we have to pass first in order to know what’s in it, and it’ll be a done deal.

The government of this country is coming for everything they can get their hands on

Bank reform or just politics in Ecuador? Regardless....money laundering is a profitable business.

Ecuador lawmakers raise bank taxes ahead of election

By Eduardo Garcia

QUITO | Tue Nov 20, 2012 8:48pm EST

(Reuters) - Ecuador lawmakers on Tuesday approved hiking bank taxes to finance cash payments to the poor, a move that could cement President Rafael Correa's chances of winning re-election, but which banks have described as a confiscation.

Correa, the clear favorite to win the February vote, has broad popular support thanks to anti-poverty initiatives and a leftist platform of boosting state involvement in the economy.

"They will continue earning, a bit less, but they will continue earning," Correa told reporters after the law was approved.

Opposition critics slam the measure as a jab at banker-turned-politician Guillermo Lasso, who has launched a bid for the presidency and is the most popular opposition candidate.

"He took a visceral decision to get back at me, a personal move against someone who was faster than him and thought about the poor," Lasso told the local daily Expreso on Sunday.

The measure would finance a raise in a monthly stipend paid to about 2 million low-income citizens including the elderly and single mothers to $50 from $35 currently.

The government would raise around $165 million through several tax increases, including a new 3 percent tax on bank revenue and the elimination of a tax exemption so that banks will have to pay 23 percent income tax rather than 13 percent.

The law will go into effect once it has been published in the official gazette, but officials did not give a publication date.

Lasso in September offered to raise the stipend, known as the Human Development Bonus, if he wins office. But Correa picked up on the idea and sent a bill to Congress to make banks pay for the increase.

"I spoke about the (possible) ways to finance it, and instead of engaging in a debate the president and candidate made a revenge law," Lasso said.

Lasso's proposal was seen as an attempt to dent Correa's support among the poor. The former banker is running on a platform of lower taxes and incentives to private investors to boost job creation.

A survey by local pollster Cedatos released on Monday forecast Correa would win 52 percent of the vote, followed by Lasso with 21 percent.

A new term in office would allow Correa, an ally of Venezuela's socialist leader Hugo Chavez, to continue spending heavily on the poor and probably give the state a bigger role in the economy.


Correa, 49, has been at loggerheads with the banks since he first took office in 2007, but his attacks against the financial sector have become more frequent and caustic in recent weeks.

"They don't care about people. They care about their pockets. They're manipulating people. This is a strategy of terror. They want to scare people away from the government to put their candidate in office," Correa told reporters on Monday.

Bankers have complained that the tax increase amounts to a de facto confiscation. The banking chamber has said banks will have less money to grant loans, which could dampen economic growth in the OPEC-member country.

Correa, a U.S.-trained economist, blames banks for the hyperinflation and devaluation in 1999 that forced Ecuador to adopt the dollar as the national currency the following year and meant thousands of account holders lost part of their savings.

Correa's government has banned banks from investing in other sectors, a measure approved by a majority of voters in a 2011 referendum. And his government has implemented reforms that ban financial institutions from charging for some services to account and credit card holders.

Government regulations also force banks to acquire public debt and Congress passed a mortgage law earlier this year that allows borrowers to default on loans by giving back the houses or cars they bought to the banks that lent them the money.

(Additional reporting by Patricio Vivas; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

Monday, November 19, 2012

The South COULD rise again.....

Civil War II: Obama as Lincoln

by Patrick Wood

By the time Lincoln unleashed the Civil War (1861 – 1865) to force southern states back into the Union, years of contentious politics and civil disobedience had already set the stage. The secessionist states were exercising their Constitutional right to freely disassociate themselves from Washington, D.C, but Lin­coln thought otherwise. While ignoring the Constitution, Lincoln precipi­tated a Civil War that left 620,000 American citizens dead.

The modern secessionist movement has exploded within just a few days, thanks to the Internet, with over 675,000 petition signatures collected thus far. The minimum requirement of 25,000 signatures per state has already been met by Texas, North Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Tennessee, Louisiana and Alabama. However, petitions have been started in all 50 states!

Of course, a Petition has no more legal weight than a Resolution, but it does draw the battle line. Before his Presi­dential term is over, Obama may well try to actually fill Lincoln’s shoes by starting Civil War II.

Civil War II will be vastly different because the weapons of war are much different. The Administration can use an array of tactics like verbal intimidation, electronic tracking, lawsuits, arrests, harassment, tax audits, foreclosures, etc., before a single shot is fired. As the secessionists push back, the tension will build to a decision point on both sides as to whether human life will actually be lost.

R.J. Rummel wrote in his seminal work, Death by Government, that various governments have killed some 262 mil­lion of their own citizens in the last 200 years, far more than were ever lost by wars between nations. Of the coun­tries where “democide” occurred, none of the citizenry ever thought or expected that it could or would happen to them at the hands of their own government… but, they were wrong.

The fact is, evil men commit evil acts. Because of the evil already present at the highest levels of American govern­ment, citizens of America can only expect continual “trickle-down evil” as a result. This is not a good mix and will likely end very poorly in the future, whether shots are fired or not.
State of the Economy

Mainstream economists are paid to promote mainstream ideologue. Government economists are paid to promote government ideologue. The Bible says “the love of money is the root of all evil” (1 Tim 6:10) and that applies to econ­omists as well.

The mainstream/government pitch is that the economy is recovering and will be generally stronger in 2013; unem­ployment will be lower, housing will rise and are we working toward energy independence by 2020.

Housing – Round two of the collapse in housing should hit sometime in 2013 and carry through to 2015 – 2016. The FHA (Federal Housing Agency) is running out of money for the first time in 78 years. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are not far behind, and the three of them may need a direct government bailout. Completed foreclosures in 2012 are expected to be around 678,000, which is lower than 2011′s 800,000. However, repossessions increased last month in 35 states. Notably, Nevada increased 76 percent! People who bought even two years ago are falling into the same repossession/default trap as those who bought before the crash began in 2005.

Employment – It isn’t about to get any better in the next four years. There are a raft of companies who are poised to start layoffs just because Obama was re-elected. In October alone, planned layoffs increased 41 percent! Big com­panies are joining the layoff parade: Boeing, Westinghouse, Caterpillar, Pepsi , US Cellular, Bristol Myers, Corning and Abbott Labs, to name a few. Record numbers of workers have given up on finding a job and are not even in the unemployment statistics. Most jobs are offered as part-time so the employers don’t have to pay benefits, so many end up working 2 or three mediocre jobs and still have to pay for their own benefits.

Fiscal Cliff – It’s really a train wreck certain to happen, where two opposing trains are hurtling toward each other on the same track. It’s happening in Greece, Italy, Spain and other European countries: Politicians, bankers and citi­zens will never be on the same page without total meltdown and purging of their economic systems. In every con­ceivable measure and statistic, the U.S. is much worse off than even Greece, yet they are having weekly riots in the streets and we aren’t. Just wait!

U.S. Credit Rating  – I fully expect two downgrades by the major ratings agencies by the end of 2013. The first down­grade will be tied to the mediocre solution (if any) for the near-term fiscal cliff problems. The second downgrade will come as the festering grows worse and the U.S. plunges back into a deep recession.

Manufacturing – Eurozone PMI (Purchasing Manager’s Index) is in contraction at 45.4, and the contraction is accel­erating. The U.S. PMI is barely above 50, indicating a minute expansion, but not nearly enough to call it a “recovery.” Business sentiment in the U.S. is weakening and will likely drop below 50 in the next month or two. Obama is anti-business and will evoke policies that curtail business activity; companies are not slow in figuring this out.

Middle Class Destruction – Sixteen percent (almost 50,000,000) of Americans live under the poverty level. Another 8 million are not in the poverty class only because they are receiving either food stamps or unemployment insurance. Enrollments in food stamps have exceeded 47 million (19.33 percent of the population) and continues to rise. Without food stamps, soup lines would eclipse even the worst periods of the Great Depression!

Stocks vs. Economy – Historically, there is a strong link between economic activity and stock market values. The economy has improved since March 2009 when the first leg of the bear market concluded. Rising stock prices bol­stered the economy, but not nearly in the same proportion. Now that stocks are most likely headed into Primary Wave 3 down, the economy should track with it in the same direction – down.

Quito: A capital city that's high and mighty

This Ecuadorian gem is in the process of dramatic change, as Harriet O'Brien reveals

The Independent

Quito is a breathtaking city – in every way. At 2,850m above sea level, San Francisco de Quito (to give Ecuador's little capital its full name) is far higher than the average Alpine ski resort. Its historic quarter presents glorious churches and monasteries, cobbled old squares and steep narrow streets. The city lies at an important meeting point of traditional trading routes, hence it was developed by the Incas and then by the Spanish. Its setting is spectacular. The city isn't simply surrounded by mountains; it huddles below volcanoes – with Volcan Pichincha occasionally puffing out smoky ash to the west. Locals agree that seismic factors make this a pretty irrational location for a major urban centre. As a result, they say, there's a laid-back, live-for-the-day vibe.

The majority of residents live in the north of the long, narrow city. For, lovely though the old town in the south is, 10 years ago most people avoided it because it was so run down. The regeneration of historic Quito is ongoing and has seen major restoration of a number of architectural gems of the Spanish colonial period. Start your slice through this atmospheric district at the most dazzling of them, La Compania (00 593 2 258 4175; ficj.org.ec), the baroque church that the Jesuits built between 1605 and 1765. The grandeur of the volcanic stone reflects the might of this religious order. The interior is an astonishing extravaganza of gilt and spatial artistry. But the Jesuits were already too powerful when they devised it. Two years after they completed La Compania, the order was expelled from the Americas.

From religion to politics: Plaza de la Independencia is a few steps east of La Compania. The neo-classical Presidential Palace (00 593 2 382 7000; www.presidencia.gob.ec) on the western side is Ecuador's seat of government and is open to visitors on weekdays. But it's the flower-filled square in front that will absorb your attention. Complete with seminal Independence Monument (Quito staged South America's first mass uprising against the Spanish in 1809), this is the very heart of the city and crowds hang out here, listening to live music.

The gleaming white cathedral on the southern side looks imposing, but there are other more impressive churches to explore. So make your way two blocks south to Plaza Santo Domingo. Here the eponymous church (00 593 2 228 2695), built by Dominican monks in the 1580s, has a fine Moorish-style ceiling and an exuberantly glittering Lady Chapel.

Behind the square, at Montufar 352, you'll find one of the most appealing sites of the revived old town. A former maternity hospital now houses Escuela Taller (00 593 2 295 1772), a craft school teaching traditional skills from carpentry to gilding. Pay an entrance fee of US$2 (£1.20) and you can wander the studios chatting to diligent apprentice stonemasons, guitar makers and more.

Stroll a block further south again and you'll reach La Ronda, recently reclaimed as a picturesque street of boho panache. You could stop at one of La Ronda's cafés for a quick lunch of pasty-like empanadas (try Café Tempu at number 84). But for a real treat head to Plaza San Francisco nearby where Casa Gangotena (00 593 2 400 8000; casagangotena.com) is a sublime new hotel whose restaurant, masterminded with great skill by chef Andres Davila, is rapidly earning a reputation as the very best place to eat in the city. Davila's soups, crafted from Ecuadorian traditions, are especially good.

Newly fortified, take a postprandial walk around Plaza San Francisco and call in on the magnificent church and monastery museum here (00 593 2 228 1124). Founded in 1536, it is still home to about 50 monks, some of whom you might see as you tour the cloisters, explore the sculpture gallery and gaze in awe at the splendid nave of the San Francisco church, glinting with lashings of gilt.

Just around the corner, at Calle Cuenca 335, Casa del Alabado (00 593 2 228 0940; alabado.org) presents pre-Colombian riches. Beautifully restored and revamped, this 17th-century townhouse opened as a superb archaeological museum last year and features fabulous effigies of spirits, ancestors, witch doctors and more.

Move on to reach San Francisco covered market – at the junction of Rocafuerte and Chimborazo streets – before it closes at 3pm. Quite apart from the wondrous fruit and veg here, this relatively small market boasts a great herb section whose stalls offer traditional limpia treatments. Who would think that being rubbed with herbs and flowers would make you feel marvellous? But that, essentially, is what this ancient Andean answer to a massage is all about. Limpia market sessions cost about US$3 (£1.90); alternatively some hotels will organise treatments in the privacy of your room. Either way you'll feel as revived as Quito's lovely old town.

Fresh cuts

Access to Quito is being revolutionised. Currently this is one of the world's most challenging cities to fly into: located in the midst of the city and surrounded by mountains Mariscal Sucre airport was built 52 years ago and has been unable to expand to cope with today's larger aircraft and greater air traffic. A new airport about 10 times larger, and 18km east of the centre, has been under construction since 2006 and is due to be completed in February.

La Casona de la Ronda (00 593 2 228 7538; lacasonadelaronda.com) is a charming guesthouse that opened earlier this year on increasingly happening La Ronda. Set in a 17th-century townhouse it offers 22 bedrooms and a rooftop bar with great views. Doubles cost from US$180 (£113), including breakfast.

Join the party by heading to Quito for the first week of December. Fiestas de Quito is a week of celebrations, ending on 6 December, which celebrates the founding of the colonial city in 1534 with bands, street music and much colour (more information on quito.com).

Friday, November 16, 2012

Did not Darwin "theorize" that these things were our ancestors????? These are Cuyes!!!!!

180 Million Rats Must Die This Month To Save The Galapagos Islands

Gonzalo Solano, Associated Press

QUITO, Ecuador (AP) — The unique bird and reptile species that make the Galapagos Islands a treasure for scientists and tourists must be preserved, Ecuadorean authorities say — and that means the rats must die, hundreds of millions of them.

A helicopter is to begin dropping nearly 22 tons of specially designed poison bait on an island Thursday, launching the second phase of a campaign to clear out by 2020 non-native rodents from the archipelago that helped inspire Charles Darwin's theory of evolution.

The invasive Norway and black rats, introduced by whalers and buccaneers beginning in the 17th century, feed on the eggs and hatchlings of the islands' native species, which include giant tortoises, lava lizards, snakes, hawks and iguanas. Rats also have depleted plants on which native species feed.

The rats have critically endangered bird species on the 19-island cluster 600 miles (1,000 kilometers) from Ecuador's coast.

"It's one of the worst problems the Galapagos have. (Rats) reproduce every three months and eat everything," said Juan Carlos Gonzalez, a specialist with the Nature Conservancy involved in the Phase II eradication operation on Pinzon island and the islet of Plaza Sur.

Phase I of the anti-rat campaign began in January 2011 on Rabida island and about a dozen islets, which like Pinzon and Plaza Sur are also uninhabited by humans.

The goal is to kill off all nonnative rodents, beginning with the Galapagos' smaller islands, without endangering other wildlife. The islands where humans reside, Isabela and Santa Cruz, will come last.

Previous efforts to eradicate invasive species have removed goats, cats, burros and pigs from various islands.

Pinzon is about seven square miles (1,812 hectares) in area, while Plaza Sur encompasses just 24 acres (9.6 hectares).

"This is a very expensive but totally necessary war," said Gonzalez.

The rat infestation has now reached one per square foot (about 10 per square meter) on Pinzon, where an estimated 180 million rodents reside.

The director of conservation for the Galapagos National Park Service, Danny Rueda, called the raticide the largest ever in South America.

The poisoned bait, developed by Bell Laboratories in the United States, is contained in light blue cubes that attract rats but are repulsive to other inhabitants of the islands. The one-centimeter-square cubes disintegrate in a week or so.

Park official Cristian Sevilla said the poison will be dropped on Pinzon and Plaza Sur through the end of November.

A total of 34 hawks from Pinzon were trapped in order to protect them from eating rodents that consume the poison, Sevilla said. They are to be released in early January.

On Plaza Sur, 40 iguanas were also captured temporarily for their own protection.

Asked whether a large number of decomposing rats would create an environmental problem, Rueda said the poison was specially engineered with a strong anti-coagulant that will make the rats dry up and disintegrate in less than eight days without a stench.

It will help that the average temperature of the islands is 75 degrees Fahrenheit (24 degrees Celsius), he added.

The current $1.8 million phase of the project is financed by the national park and nonprofit conservation groups including Island Conservation.

The Galapagos were declared protected as a UNESCO Natural Heritage site in 1978. In 2007, UNESCO declared them at risk due to harm from invasive species, tourism and immigration.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

A Champagne Lifestyle on a Lemonade Budget in Ecuador

By Edd Staton
International Living

IL correspondents sometimes share their monthly budgets to help readers get a feel for the ongoing costs of living abroad. Items such as rent, utilities, and food are self-explanatory, but what about that nebulous "entertainment" category? Expenditures can vary wildly from person to person depending on individual interests and taste.

I’d like to invite you along for a "double date" with my wife and me in Cuenca, Ecuador to give you an idea of how you might spend an evening and what it would cost...

It was time for Cynthia to get her hair done, so she suggested I meet her afterward for a drink at a "Gringo Night" gathering near the salon. The cut, color, and blow dry she used to pay $120 for in the U.S. came to $36... and she looked fantastic.

We walked a block up the street to Fabiano’s, a relatively new Italian spot with excellent food and very reasonable prices. There was already a big crowd there at 5.30 p.m., and, after greeting numerous friends, we settled into a table with another couple. Both the conversation and adult beverages flowed, appetizers were ordered, and we were having so much fun we decided to stay for dinner.

Three glasses of wine, two super-sized beers, an appetizer of six large garlic bread "knots" with marinara sauce, plus a shared Caesar salad and lasagna entrée later, our bill was $21 including tip. I calculated a similar dining experience even at a chain restaurant in the States would have set us back around $80.

It was opening night for the Cuenca symphony, and we spontaneously decided to attend. The event’s location was a church in a part of town we had never visited. We had a general idea of where it was so we set out walking and, sure enough, 20 minutes later we were inside and seated "center stage."

We love the symphony but attendance had always been an extravagance because of the cost. Decent seats back home ran at least $50 apiece...and that was mid-range. (For the best seats, we would have paid $75 each.) Here in Cuenca performances are free, as are many museums and film festivals.

After an exhilarating concert we grabbed a $2 taxi ride and were home by 9.30 p.m.

First let’s do the math... $36 for the hair appointment, $21 for food and drink, plus a $2 taxi fare comes to $59. The same evening (this is theoretical, because what I’m about to share would have been cost-prohibitive) in our previous life would have run $120 at the salon, $80 at a similar restaurant, and at least $100 for the symphony. We’re already at $300, so forget about the taxi.

Now throw in the extras that didn’t cost a penny—a lovely evening with friends, an invigorating walk in the cool night air, the chance to explore a new neighborhood, and an enriching cultural experience. As the commercial says—priceless.

A hedge against food prices....they say buy into an ETF. We say...buy a farm in Ecuador and have your own chickens, fruit, pigs and turkeys

Inflation is an evil of the world. It is an unseen thief. It’s the worst form of robbery, because we often don’t even realize we’re being robbed, or the extent of damage it’s doing to our lives.

Without taking the right proactive measures, inflation is guaranteed to eat up your purchasing power and make you steadily poorer, year after year.

Some people think they are safe because they have a savings account, money market account or possibly a CD. They like these investments because of their conservative nature and low risks. However, believe it or not, they are in actuality “high risk” investments. If that’s all you’re invested in, inflation is going to gobble up any paltry returns you earn.

It may cost you at a slower rate than if you’d just stuck your money under the mattress … but not much slower.

Higher Inflation is Coming in 2013

It’s crucial right now to learn to invest in stocks that can help you fend off inflation. This is because in 2013, inflation will head higher. Food inflation, especially, is set to rise … and that’s one of the worst kinds there is.

After all, if electronics are surging in price, you don’t have to upgrade your smartphone or laptop right away if you don’t want to. If gold and silver are soaring, you don’t have to go out and buy a bunch of jewelry at that very moment.

However, you have to eat no matter what food prices are doing. If the prices are high, you can’t simply say, “Well, I won’t eat this week. Instead, I’ll wait until next week.” And more importantly, you certainly can’t say this for your family, either.

The bad thing about food inflation is that you just have to suck it up and pay the higher prices to continue to survive. That eats into money that could be spent elsewhere on bills or other things you want to purchase.

In other words, when food prices are out of control, it clamps down on discretionary consumer spending.

How do I know food costs are going up next year? Remember the terrible drought that caused the price of corn, wheat and soybeans to rise? Those wholesale costs are about to cycle through and be passed on to you, the consumer.

In fact, I saw an interview with the V.P. of a huge bulk-purchasing firm for restaurants, and he said that food prices were already starting to rise … and some were about to spike.

For instance, he said that chicken wings will continue to rise next year until they are about 100% higher than they were last year. Not good for your local sports bar, is it?

Bacon is projected to rise around 5%. Apples and apple cider are projected to rise 20%-30% this holiday season. Turkey is projected to rise 7%, just in time to hit Thanksgiving shoppers.

Whole chickens have already risen 6% since April, and chicken breasts are up 5% within the same time period.

Eggs are projected to go much higher because of a limited supply of chickens. Cooking oil is expected to jump by 5%. Dairy prices will likely rise 5%-10% higher too, he said.

So expect your grocery bill to rise in 2013 and for the cost of eating out to increase as well. But again, there is something you can do to counteract higher prices: Invest in something that keeps pace with or, even better, outpaces the rising costs of those goods.
The Solution to Rising Food Costs

There’s an easy way to get some broad exposure to fight off the horrible effects of food inflation. You can do this by investing in the PowerShares DB Multi-Sector Commodity Trust Agriculture Fund ETF (DBA). It has diverse exposure to different areas of agriculture.

DBA is about to produce its first “higher low” in a long time. It will use its moving averages as support. Additionally, we see that the weekly Relative Strength Index (RSI) is about to become oversold, and this means that higher prices are likely to come in the months ahead.

In addition to that, the moving average convergence divergence (MACD) diverged from the falling price action earlier in the year, and this showed that DBA’s descent was likely coming to an end. Well, that did happen, and now DBA has surged so much that the MACD’s lines are now above its zero line.

This tells us that the likelihood of an uptrend forming and continuing is high at this point. And with what we expect for food prices in 2013 and beyond, we know that we’ll see DBA head much higher in the months ahead.

So if you want to effectively hedge some of your higher grocery bill and dining out costs, then I’d encourage you to fight food inflation by buying DBA today.

Have a nice day!

Sean Hyman
The Sovereign Investor

Monday, November 12, 2012

After Sandy.......U.S. residents.....are you prepared for the future?

Camp FEMA Update: “We Feel Like We’re In a Concentration Camp”

Mac Slavo
November 11th, 2012

Though details are scarce and media coverage has been completely restricted by officials, stories of what victims of Hurricane Sandy are experiencing at the hands of the Federal Emergency Management Agency in the wake of the storm have begun to emerge.

The few available images from these so-called “tent cities” suggest that Camp FEMA isn’t all it’s cut out to be, with one resident using some choice words to describe how FEMA and the Red Cross have completely failed at their jobs.

…made an announcement that they were sending us to permanent structures up here that had just been redone, that had washing machines and hot showers and steady electric, and they sent us to tent city. We got fucked.

Via The Daily Sheeple

In other such tent cities the conditions are about as bad as you can describe them; on the order of third-world refugee camp, or worse:

One reason: the information blackout. Outside of the tightly guarded community on Friday, word was spreading that the Department of Human Services would aim to move residents to the racetrack clubhouse on Saturday. The news came after photos of people bundled in blankets and parkas inside the tents circulated in the media.

But inside the tent city, which has room for thousands but was only sheltering a couple of hundred on Friday, no one had heard anything about a move – or about anything else. “They treat us like we’re prisoners,” says Ashley Sabol, 21, of Seaside Heights, New Jersey. “It’s bad to say, but we honestly feel like we’re in a concentration camp.“

Sabol, who is unemployed and whose rental home was washed away in the hurricane, remembers being woken up on Wednesday at the shelter she was staying in at Toms River High School. Conditions there were “actually fine,” said Sabol.

Sabol was told that she had half an hour to pack: everyone was getting shipped to hotels in Wildwood, New Jersey, where they would be able to re-acquaint themselves with showers, beds and a door.

Sabol and about 50 other people boarded a New Jersey Transit bus, which drove around, seemingly aimlessly, for hours. Worse, this week’s Nor’easter snow storm was gathering force, lashing the bus with wind and rain.

After four hours, the bus driver pulled into a dirt parking lot. The passengers were expecting a hotel with heat and maybe even a restaurant. Instead they saw a mini city of portable toilets and voluminous white tents with their flaps snapping in the wind. Inside, they got sheets, a rubbery pillow, a cot and one blanket.

There was no heat that night, and as temperatures dropped to freezing, people could start to see their breath. The gusts of wind blew snow and slush onto Sabol’s face as her cot was near the open tent flaps. She shivered. Her hands turned purple.

It has taken three days for the tents to get warm.

Source: Reuters

Access to the facilities has been restricted by armed guard. The same holds true for activities inside of the facilities, with guards posted around the clock.

The post-storm housing — a refugee camp on the grounds of the Monmouth Park racetrack – is in lockdown, with security guards at every door, including the showers.

No one is allowed to go anywhere without showing their I.D. Even to use the bathroom, “you have to show your badge,” said Amber Decamp, a 22-year-old whose rental was washed away in Seaside Heights, New Jersey.

The mini city has no cigarettes, no books, no magazines, no board games, no TVs, and no newspapers or radios. On Friday night, in front of the mess hall, which was serving fried chicken and out-of-the-box, just-add-water potatoes, a child was dancing and dancing — to nothing. “We’re starting to lose it,” said Decamp. “But we have nowhere else to go.”

In the aftermath of this disaster, as well as the Hurricane Katrina debacle, it should be clear where the government’s priorities are.

They’ll buy billions of rounds of ammunition and won’t hesitate to put 30,000 drones into the skies over America, but when it comes to helping Americans who have lost everything, they are woefully unprepared.

This begs the question, what happened to the hundreds of millions of emergency rations, emergency blankets and supplies that were supposedly regionalized by the Department of Homeland Security fully two years ago?

Their plan is to complete the supply of fifteen H.S. warehouses around the country in the next three months. Ms. Bylier is quoted as saying “we have worked hard the last six months to meet our local objectives.” She continued “the goals of Homeland Security are in sight.” It’s difficult to know if this is a good or bad omen. No comment was offered as to why this program has been given so much urgency at this time.

It’s nice to know we’re ready. But ready for What?

Yes, exactly. Ready for what?

This is a limited-scope disaster that the government and populace knew was coming. While tragic, the worst-case scenario here is perhaps 50,000 people who can be deemed refugees who have lost their homes and belongings. Additionally, another 250,000 required short-term assistance like food and water in the immediate aftermath.

If FEMA and DHS are incapable of dealing with an emergency that affects less than 1% of the US population simultaneously, what type of response should the American people reasonably expect in the event of a sustained wide-scale disaster?
What if the New Madrid Fault cracks and causes a high magnitude earthquake across a multi-state region?
What if a rogue dirty-bomb or nuclear attack forces the evacuation of numerous metropolitan areas all at once?
What if a Tsunami on the order of Sumatra in 2004 inundates the East or West coast?
What if a massive solar flare or hackers take down our power grid infrastructure leaving the nation without electricity for weeks or months at a time ?

In all of these scenarios tens of millions of Americans would essentially become refugees.

Given the abhorrent response by the organization upon which we have been told we can depend in an emergency, the after-effects would be nothing short of Apocalyptic. A die-off would start immediately after the collapse. Many would die within a month’s time due to lack of food, clean water and from the spread of disease. The rest will battle for resources as their failure to prepare will leave them with no other choice.

Here’s the lesson: HELP WILL NOT BE ON THE WAY.

It will be so bad, in fact, that people will be praying for shelter in a FEMA concentration camp.

Welcome back Ecuadorians......you are starting to catch-on too!

Spain is immigrants' land of broken dreams

November 12, 2012, 4:51 am

MADRID (AFP) - Jorge Herrera sold his video shop in Ecuador to come to Spain and found plenty of work during its economic boom. Twenty years on, he is worse off than before he left: jobless and nearly homeless.

Faced with eviction after defaulting on his mortgage, Jorge, 41, is camping outside a Madrid bank, along with other ruined Latin American immigrants, demanding that it negotiate to write off his debt.

They are among hundreds of thousands of Latin Americans who came to Spain during its construction boom, which provided well-paid jobs for unskilled workers on building sites and, in Herrera's case, discos and hotels.

"We are people from another country who came here to live a dream, to look for a better life," said Herrera, one of a group of immigrants huddling in thick coats and blankets against the winter cold.

"What we have ended up with is frustrated dreams," he said. "We are looking for a solution to this nightmare."

Ecuador's President Rafael Correa is among Latin American leaders visiting Spain for the Iberian-American summit from November 16-17 in Cadiz, at which the plight of such immigrants is expected to be raised.

"Our leaders must do something," said Herrera.

He took out a 120,000-euro ($153,000) loan to buy an apartment in Madrid in 2003.

"Spain was a different world then," he recalled. "There were lots of opportunities. I worked in the hotel industry and they never stopped calling with work. I had a good income and we were doing very well."

A married father-of-two, he is now jobless, as is one in every four workers in Spain and four in every 10 immigrants, according to government figures.

Herrera has changed his dream. He now longs to return to Ecuador. But first, for his own peace of mind, he must settle his debts.

Spanish law allows the bank to claim the full value of the loan on a property whose price has fallen, pursuing the the mortgage-holder for the debt even after evicting them.

"If they evict us we will have to leave Spain. Our household doesn't earn enough money to support us all," said Nadia Diaz, a mother-of-two, also from Ecuador.

"But before leaving we want to settle the problem and not be left with a debt that we'll lose sleep over."

Millions of foreigners, most of them from the former Spanish colonies in Latin America, came to Spain from the 1990s up to the start of the financial crisis in 2007.

The number of foreigners in Spain soared from 500,000 in 1996 to five million a decade later, but it has been waning since and in 2011 decreased by 0.7 percent.

Of the Latin Americans still here last year, the biggest group were Ecuadorans who numbered more than 300,000, followed by Colombians and Bolivians, according to the National Statistics Institute.

A survey by an Ecuadoran migration organisation last month indicated that 70 percent of Ecuadorans in Spain now want to return to their native land.

At the chilly makeshift camp in Madrid, one of them, Manuel Arboleda, 50, rubbed his hands together in the cold.
"We immigrants are on our own," he said. "If they throw you into the street, all you have is friends who are in the same situation as you, or worse."

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Staying abreast of the News stateside by Richard of Danbury


Cash-free Greek communities take off while economy collapses

Economist Yannis Ioannides of Tufts University, Massachusetts, believes a retreat to rural life provides a “safety net” for young people. “At least they can protect themselves against the market by dropping out of it,” he told Metro.

“It’s not a solution to the crisis — it’s a solution for us,” says Dionysis, 30, a chemist who gave up his life in Athens and closed his bank account, vowing to never return.

Edit. Necessity is the mother of invention, as the saying goes. The indomitability of the human spirit also comes into play as people begin to see that big government not only is no recourse, but also never was meant as a stopgap, safety net or other Newspeak term that may apply to this situation. The fact is that in due course individuals and families will have to depend on themselves, their own creative resources, and their own skills and talents. Better to prepare now while things are relatively stable than wait until dire circumstances force you to act.

If you are blessed to have some old folks around, ask them how they coped during WWII and the Great Depression; then adapt and implement this precious firsthand knowledge to your situation.

Rumors of Wars…

Russian Submarine Detected Near East Coast

A Russian nuclear-powered attack submarine cruised within 200 miles of the East Coast recently in the latest sign Russia is continuing to flex its naval and aerial power against the United States, defense officials said.


Edit. Well as Yogi Berra would say: déjà vu all over again. Yep! This harkens back to my childhood during the Cold War when we had practice nuclear drills at school, we had public fallout shelters in the basements of city apartment buildings, when Nike missile bases ringing US cities, and good ol’ grade B sci-fi movies about mutant creatures produced by nuclear weapons. This presence off our coast is not the first time recently that Russia has been flexing its formidable muscle. While we dissipate our military might, our treasure, and blood in military misadventures the world over Russia has quietly been rebuilding not only its economy but also its conventional weaponry. These near incursions in to US border areas are meant to warn us of expanding the Middle East conflagration into Iran.

Friday, November 9, 2012

The charms of Old Quito, Ecuador

The city's restored historic area is a lure for tourists and locals alike who pack churches, restaurants, nightclubs and art galleries. And then there's the equator nearby.
The Plaza Grande, once rife with crime and drugs, now attracts tourists and locals alike. (Quito Tourism Corp.)

By Amanda Jones
Los Angles Times

November 11, 2012

QUITO, Ecuador — "Not long ago, we wouldn't think of coming to this area," Dominic Hamilton tells me as we stand on a street corner in Quito's historic area at 1 a.m. "It was horribly seedy. And dangerous."

Hamilton is a Brit who, after having spent many years writing guidebooks on South America, fell for an Ecuadorean woman and her country and made a life here. That was nine years ago.

"Old Quito is one of the most beautiful cities in the world," he continues. "But it had become a shabby shadow of its former self — with drug dealers, thieves and other illicit industries. Street peddlers had taken over the plazas. It took 20 years of planning and over $250 million to reclaim this part of the city and begin to restore it. An amazing feat."

In 1978, UNESCO named Quito, along with Krakow, Poland, the first two World Heritage Cities. Quito is the largest and most historically preserved of all of Latin America's colonial cities, but the town did nothing but go downhill until some politicians and a few prosperous businessmen decided it was time to bring it back.

Nowadays, the historic center is en fuego with energy. Tourists are staying longer than the obligatory one night en route to the Galápagos or the Amazon, and locals, who have moved into restored 17th century mansions, and suburbanites are coming to experience theater and music performances or dine at the burgeoning number of chic restaurants.

Earlier in the evening, Hamilton and I had eaten in La Ronda, an area he was determined to show me. "This street used to be the worst of the worst," he says. "It was just above the train station, and it was a red-light district."

Now the cobblestone pedestrian street wends up the hill lined with flower-hung, whitewashed buildings housing hip bars, nightclubs, art galleries and coffee houses. We'd dined at La Primera Casa, a restaurant in an old adobe on La Ronda serving traditional Ecuadorean food among modern quiteño art.

In a corner, a band played pasillo music, and we drank cinnamon canelazo, a local Andean hot toddy, while we ate empanadas and langoustines in garlic butter. Afterward, we caught a cab to La Mariscal, the neighborhood northeast of the Centro Histórico, to Seseribó, an underground salsa club where locals shimmied and swiveled on the dance floor.

In the wee hours, Hamilton dropped me at Casa Gangotena, a new hotel and possibly the boldest move yet in Quito tourism. It's set on a prime location on the Plaza de San Francisco, an area previously so thick with vendors' stalls that it was impossible to see its beauty. In 2002, the government built a covered market for these "informal sector" vendors and relocated them. It upped the police presence downtown and drove out crime.

Gangotena, formerly the home of a wealthy 1920s merchant of the same name, was purchased by one of Ecuador's largest tourism companies, which, determined to see Quito revived, transformed the ruined mansion into a 31-room boutique hotel that opened in 2011. The building kept its grand aspect, with soaring tin ceilings, cavernous rooms, marble floors and frescoed walls, but the modern-classic furnishings and avant-garde palette are most certainly this century. The same company also opened the wondrous Mashpi Lodge, a 21/2 -hour drive out of Quito in the Andean cloud forest.

There are so many historic churches and cathedrals in Quito that you could make an entire trip out of houses of worship, such as the gilded La Compañia, the simpler Santo Domingo, the Baroque San Francisco and the Gothic Basilica, among scores of others.

These days, however, Quito's cultural life thrives as the religious one once did. Almost nightly there is an event in one of the city's plazas — a concert, a dance, a choir performance, a speech, a play or a political rally. In addition, there is an extraordinary number of excellent restaurants with food unlike anywhere else in South America.

Blessed with a fecund land producing exotic fruits and vegetables, an ocean of fish and a refined European influence, Ecuadorean cuisine is imaginative and farm-to-fork fresh. I was here just before Easter, when fanesca, the traditional Easter soup, was being served.

This heavy, stew-like potage made from 12 grains representing the 12 apostles has no on recipe, I discovered. Every cook has her secret version, and it appeared that the town was having a fanesca cook-off, comparing one household or restaurant's recipe to another.

After sampling Quito's eating establishments, I decided the restaurant at Casa Gangotena had the best food and most certainly the best fanesca (the general manager's great-grandmother's recipe). One evening, I slunk into the empty restaurant for dinner at the shockingly early hour of 7:30. (Ecuadoreans generally start showing up at restaurants around 9 p.m.)

After my meal, Gangotena's chef (who had worked in the States) bounded out of the kitchen to give me an impromptu chocolate tasting. I learned that I have spent a long life eating inferior chocolate that has little cocoa and a lot of vegetable oil. Oh, the betrayal. Ecuadorean chocolate, however, is the real deal.

I tasted 100% pure dark, which means it is all cocoa, no sugar, and was too bitter; 90% cocoa, which also was too bitter; 82% cocoa, which was perfect; 70%, which was also perfect; and 50%, which, to my newly discerning palate, was less perfect.

Then I indulged in hot chocolate made of 82% Pacari organic chocolate melted with steamed milk. Bliss in a cup.

Between consuming high-calorie food, I toured several museums. My favorite, Casa del Alabado, is a small, sleekly designed pre-Columbian art museum within a renovated historic villa. With 5,000 pieces from ancient cultures that lived within the borders of Ecuador, it is a must, even if you don't like art.

After wandering the peaceful rooms of the Alabado, I explored the town's crowded back streets. I was ogling chicken feet in a food market when I noticed a small stall advertising Señora Rosa Lagla's limpia treatments, cura el espanto, or cure for fright or terror. Limpia is the traditional Ecuadorean herbal treatment for maladies both mental and physical, the idea being that it rids the body of negative energy and restores equilibrium.

Because I'm a chump for all things involving traditional healing, I asked if she would treat me, but, looking at the curtained changing booth in which she performed her cures, I requested she come to the hotel. Of course, she told me, she treats guests at the Gangotena all the time. This news surprised but bolstered me, and I made an appointment for the next day.

The diminutive Señora Rosa bustled in at the appointed hour carrying bushels of herbs, flowers and an egg. I stripped to my underwear in the bathroom and stood before her as she briskly set about whacking me with stinging nettles to chase out negative energy. This, unsurprisingly, stung.

Then she whacked me with laurel, mint, yerba buena and other assorted herbs, which immediately took away the sting. After several more herbaceous floggings, she took a whole egg, surrounded it with rose petals, and rubbed it all over my body, still intact. This was to remove any nasty energy the nettles had missed.

Thirty minutes and $40 later she was gone, and I was left with glowing skin and a thoroughly purified psyche.

The following morning, my reinvigorated spirit and I took to the streets, stopping by the Escuela Taller Quito, a school for underprivileged youngsters who are taught trades such as woodcarving, painting, restoration or sewing. Their work was staggering, especially the furniture rendered in the original, painstaking Spanish style. The student gallery (where museum-quality pieces were for sale) had inlaid writing desks complete with elaborate hidden compartments.

It would be remiss to visit Quito and not step on the equator, so I caught a cab and went to the Intiñan Equator Museum, a touristy "village" that happens to be lots of fun. Besides reenactments of early indigenous life, the museum conducts experiments that are mighty convincing when you are participating in them. For example, when standing smack on the equator, I could not pry apart the fingers of a fellow visitor, but I could easily do so when standing 3 feet to the side.

I also could not walk a straight line blindfolded; had it been a DUI test, I would have been thrown in the slammer. Water goes straight down a drain instead of circling, and you can balance an egg on the end of a nail with ease. All enjoyable and you get your passport stamped at the end. Who wants to miss that?

Dominic Hamilton looked skeptical when I told him the results of the experiments. "Why?" I asked him. He said with a shrug, "Oh, it's all part of the magic of Quito, I suppose."


New York "Third world" and Ecuador "First"???????

Peter Kelly-Detwiler, Contributor

Gas Rationing: New Yorkers,

New York Mayor Bloomberg signed an emergency order today to “establish an odd-even license plate system” for gas rationing in an effort to bring order back to the long lines waiting for gas. This was highly reminiscent to me of my travel in Ecuador in the late 90’s, when mile-long lines would result on the streets of Quito if the tankers weren’t getting paid to offload fuel in the port of Guayaquil.

The shortage of gas in New York appears to be affected principally by two dynamics:

1) a real reduction in the supply of fuel being imported into the region and refined. Of the 57 import terminals in the affected region, 8 were reported as still not operational as of Thursday. In addition, Sandy reduced refinery productivity by 308,000 barrels per day in New Jersey, temporarily crippling Bayway, New Jersey’s largest refinery and idling a Port Reading refinery as well.

2) the human psychological response akin to a run on the bank. If you don’t know when you are going to get gasoline again, you might as well get as much as you can, even if you may not need it for a while.

On Thursday, an estimated 28% of New York metro area gas stations were not pumping fuel (or could not be contacted), according to the Energy Information Administration. While critical, it’s a big improvement from Wednesday’s 38%. Sandy damaged fuel import terminals in the NY area, which was a critical blow since the port of NY is the most important petroleum hub in the northeastern U.S. In particular, Hess still has four marine terminals with suspended operations. It also reported that it does not yet have an estimate as to when its 70,000 barrel per day Port Reading , NJ refinery will come back on line, as full commercial power has not yet been restored. In addition, Phillips 66 announced Monday that its 238,000 barrel per day Bayway refinery – the area’s second largest plant – would be shut for another two to three weeks.

In a very uncomfortable way, Sandy points out the dangers of our devotion to economic efficiency: when you engineer your economy to cut out waste, you design with lowest costs in mind, and redundancy is eliminated. You rely on sophisticated systems to provide just-in-time inventory. You cut your utility budgets to the bone in order to keep electricity bills at a minimum. You cut costs everywhere, because that’s what people want. And all of that works just fine until something – a storm, a tsunami, some unanticipated Black Swan throws a monkey wrench into the finely tuned, highly calibrated economy. One moment all is fine. The next minute, ATMs don’t work. Gasoline pumps don’t function. The lights don’t come on. And the entire machine breaks down. Suddenly, the recently arrived immigrants from developing cities like Quito, Lagos, and Kuala Lumpur who are used to making ends meet and surviving as a way of life in cities with broken infrastructures seem to be the ones better able to cope. And those of us who have lived our whole lives expecting the trains to run on time, money to come out of a machine, and the lights to come on don’t quite know what to do, and we are deeply unnerved by it.

Welcome – only temporarily we hope – to the third world.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

The ABCs of Retiring to Ecuador

By Suzan Haskins
International Living

It happens to me every now and then...I look around in amazement and ask myself, "How did I get here?"

Right now, here is a small Andean mountain village basking under the equatorial sun in a green valley 8,000 feet above sea level between two extinct volcanoes in northern Ecuador.

And of course, I know more or less how I got here. Almost a dozen years ago, my husband Dan and I sold our house in Omaha, Nebraska, and left the U.S. to live in Ecuador's capital city of Quito. It remains one of my all-time favorite South American cities.

After a year in Quito, we spent a few years kicking around some of the rest of Latin America. But four years ago, we found ourselves once again drawn back to Ecuador.

What, exactly, lured us back? There are three big reasons...I call them the ABCs of Retiring to Ecuador.

A = Adventure. I don't know anyone who retired because they wanted a more boring life. And I can tell you from experience, living in a country like Ecuador is one way to make sure that you encounter something new, interesting and challenging just about every day of your life.

Whether you're already an adventure seeker, or are finally ready to bring some new faces and faraway places into your life, living in Ecuador is about the surest way I know of to literally broaden your horizons and to see and do things you've never seen or done before.

B = Better Lifestyle. What do you want to improve about your lifestyle when you retire? Eat better? Breathe cleaner air? Exercise more? Have more involvement in the community? Leave the rat race? Never shovel snow again? All of the above?

Let me tell you about the village where I live. (And this is true of most of Ecuador.) The local fruit and vegetable market is chock full of produce that was grown on local farms. Much of it was still in the ground yesterday... and some of it was even walked into the village by the farmers themselves.

We can walk from one end of the village to the other and back home in about an hour, and at an elevation of 8,000 feet, it's a great daily workout, and the air is clean and pristine.

Along the way we meet and talk to an extended circle of friends and neighbors, both local and expat, so we're always tuned in to what's happening in the community.

And the school kids are the only ones who run races here. For just about everyone else in the village, the pace of life is relaxed and unhurried. My husband and I feel like we not only quit the rat race... we left the cage. And snow? Only on the mountaintops...daily daytime temperatures hover between 60 and 70 degrees.

C = Cost of Living. Dan and I love the U.S. and are proud to be U.S. citizens. In the States you can get 30 varieties of anything you want, any time you want, anywhere you want. But variety is only one of the spices of life, and when we realized that we could enjoy this fantastic lifestyle for about half the cost of living back in Nebraska, the logic was hard to deny.

In Ecuador, the food, property taxes, utilities, and medical care (including health insurance) are significantly cheaper than in the States. And in most of those places, local services and infrastructure like Internet, satellite TV, and good quality hospitals and doctors are readily available.

You'll have your own reasons for wanting to move or retire outside the U.S.—and there are an ever-growing number of places around the world that may make better sense for you than Ecuador. But for us, Ecuador is one of the most beautiful and affordable destinations in Latin America, and it has almost all the amenities and infrastructure we need. We feel healthier here and we're enjoying life. That may not be "how" I got here, but it's certainly "why" I am here

Thursday, November 1, 2012

This Really Happens When You Move to Ecuador...

By Edd Staton
International Living

Often people relocating abroad take the opportunity to make a fresh start. They sell or give away most of their possessions and arrive at their new destination with just their suitcases in hand. Such limited space allows only the most important and cherished items to be brought along.

Here's a helpful piece of advice: If you're moving to Cuenca, Ecuador, leave all those diet books behind!

Many expats living here are thrilled when they experience significant weight loss and overall improvement in their health. Two friends of mine, David Akins and his wife Karen, relocated to Cuenca, a lovely colonial city sitting at 8,400 feet altitude in Ecuador's southern highlands, a year and a half ago.

"Since moving to Ecuador both my wife and I have lost 40 pounds each," David says. "We attribute our weight loss to a better diet of fresh fruits, yogurt, and steamed fresh vegetables (no more temptations of drive-thru restaurant for burgers and fries!). Additionally, we love to take walks along the river for exercise."

David's right. Fresh, inexpensive produce overflows at markets throughout the city. Fast food joints are few and far between. And because Cuenca, even with a population of a half million, is so compact, many expats get around town mainly on foot.

Science supports the benefits of living at higher altitude. Research finds that our bodies must work a little harder because of the thinner oxygen, thus naturally burning more calories. Combine this fact with the pedestrian lifestyle of many expats and it is no wonder the excess pounds melt away.

As a vegetarian, Kathleen Ashbrook particularly enjoys the bounty of locally grown produce in Cuenca. "Moving to a country where walking is the mode of transportation for the majority of the people and fresh fruits and vegetables are abundant is one of the healthiest things we have ever done," she tells me. "If we had stayed in the States there is no telling how much more weight we would have gained. Instead we have been steadily losing weight and gaining muscle mass. All the fresh foods that are available here have enabled both me and my husband to lose weight and feel healthy again. No dieting required. Just exercise and lots of good, healthy food."

Many people take advantage of nutritious lunches that are available all over town for as little as $2. These invariably include a big bowl of delicious soup, a glass of fresh squeezed fruit juice, an entrée with a small portion of protein plus rice and veggies, and sometimes a dessert!

Even meat-eating fast food lovers find healthy choices. KFC's chicken strips platter, instead of the usual instant mashed potatoes, slaw, and a biscuit, comes with side dishes of rice, fried plantains, and lentils!

Life in Cuenca has many benefits—low cost of living, an ideal climate, quality health care, and cultural activities. What an unexpected treat to enjoy a healthier lifestyle as well!

Whether you're shipping your belongings or arriving with suitcases, ditch the diet books. You won't need them here.

Doug Casey: There’s Going to Be a Huge Change of Ownership Over Global Resources

Mac Slavo
October 31st, 2012

International man and well known investment strategist Doug Casey warns that the world’s economic, financial and monetary systems have passed the point of no return and a change of ownership over global resources will soon take place.

At the 2012 Investment Conference in New Orleans, Casey explains why neither Presidential candidate will change anything, where the real wealth in the world is found, why gold is a must-own survival asset, and what to expect next:

We’re going to go through a really, really rough spot starting anytime between tomorrow morning and the next year.

We’re exiting the eye of the hurricane where we’ve been in since 2007… We’re going into the trailing edge of the hurricane, it’s going to last a long time, and it’s going to be very, very severe.

All the real wealth in the world – the skills in peoples’ hands, the knowledge in their minds, the factories, the farms – that’s all going to be here. It’s not going to go away.

It’s just the financial system, the economic system that’s going to collapse.

There’s going to be a huge change of ownership for those things, which is going to be very unpleasant and inconvenient for a lot of people.

It is beyond the point of no return as far as I am concerned for Europe, and for Japan, and the U.S., and China – all the developed economies, quite frankly.

Gold remains the only financial asset that’s not simultaneously somebody else’s liability.

All of these governments all over the world are printing up trillions of currency units and they’re accelerating the pace of doing so.

There’s going to be a panic into gold. There’s going to be a mania in gold. There’s going to be a bubble in gold in the future.

Even though, as we speak now, it’s at $1700, it’s no longer cheap, but it’s going a lot higher…

We’re looking at the biggest economic upset since the industrial revolution.

…[Predicting the price] is crystal ball gazing; it depends on how stupid the government is and how out of line the mob psychology becomes.

But, by the time this comes to a peak I wouldn’t be surprised – in real terms, today’s dollars – to see the equivalent of $5000 per ounce.

Of course, that may be 10 or 15 considering how badly they’re going to inflate the currency…

It Begins: Ecuador Demands Repatriation Of One Third Of Its Gold Holdings

Submitted by Tyler Durden on 10/31/2012 17:25 -0400

One week ago, when we reported the news that the Bundesbank had secretly pulled two thirds of its gold from London years ago, we said the following:

... Germany has done nothing wrong! It simply demanded a reclamation of what is rightfully Germany's to demand.

And here is the crux of the issue: in a globalized system, in which every sovereign is increasingly subjugated to the credit-creating power of the globalized "whole", one must leave all thoughts of sovereign independence at the door and embrace the "new world order." After all this is the only way that the globalized system can create the shadow cloud of infinite repoable liabilities, in which we currently all float light as a binary feather, which permits instantaeous capital flows and monetary fungibility, and which guarantees that there will be no sovereign bond issue failure as long as nobody dares to defect from the system in which all collateral is cross pledge and ultra-rehypothecated... for the greater good. Until the Buba secretly defected that is.

And this is the whole story. Because by doing what it has every right to do, the German Central Bank implicitly broke the cardinal rule of true modern monetary system (never to be confused with that socialist acronym fad MMT, MMR or some such comparable mumbo-jumbo). And the rule is that a sovereign can never put its own people above the global corporatist-cum-banking oligarchy, which needs to have access to all hard (and otherwise) assets at any given moment, on a moment's notice, as the system's explicit leverage at last check inclusive of the nearly $1 quadrillion in derivatives, is about 20 times greater than global GDP. This also happens to be the reason why the entire world is always at most a few keystrokes away from a complete monetary (and trade) paralysis, as the Lehman aftermath and the Reserve Fund breaking the buck so aptly showed.

We are confident that little if anything will be made of the Buba's action, because dwelling on it too much may expose just who the first country will be (or already has been) when the tide finally breaks, and when it will be every sovereign for themselves. Because at that point, which will come eventually, not only Buba, but every other bank, corporation, and individual will scramble to recover their own gold located in some vault in London, New York, or Paris, or at your friendly bank vault down the street, and instead will merely find a recently emptied storage room with humorously written I.O.U. letters in the place of 1 kilo gold bricks.

It appears that the story, which has refused to go away, was not covered sufficiently fast, and precisely the worst case scenario - at least for the "asset-lite" status quo - is slowly but surely starting to materialize. From Bloomberg:

Ecuador’s government wants the nation’s banks to repatriate about one third of their foreign holdings to support national growth, the head of the country’s tax agency said.

Carlos Carrasco, director of the tax agency known as the SRI, said today that Ecuador’s lenders could repatriate about $1.7 billion and still fulfill obligations to international clients. Carrasco spoke at a congressional hearing in Quito on a government proposal to raise taxes on banks to finance cash subsidies to the South American nation’s poor.

So yesterday: Germany... today: Ecuador... tomorrow: the World?

Because while Ecuador, with its 26.3 tonnes of gold, may be small in the grand scheme of gold things, all it takes is for more and more banks to join the bandwagon and demand delivery in kind from official repositories (i.e., New York and London), and the myth that is the overcollateralization of hard money by central banks will promptly come to an abrupt, bitter and, likely, quite violent end.