Be Alert!

Moriel Ministries Be Alert! has added this Blog as a resource for further information, links and research to help keep you above the global deception blinding the world and most of the church in these last days. Jesus our Messiah is indeed coming soon and this should only be cause for joy unless you have not surrendered to Him. Today is the day for salvation! For He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand. Today, if you would hear His voice, - Psalms 95:7

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Spiritual salaries go performance-based at Chesapeake church

Alert Focus: The Falling Away Ezekiel 8:15 He said to me, "Do you see this, son of man? Yet you will see still greater abominations than these." THE VIRGINIAN-PILOT - By Steven G. Vegh - January 11, 2007 -- CHESAPEAKE -- Like millions of workers in corporate America, staff members of Deep Creek Baptist Church have a financial stake in how well they contribute to their employer’s success. “If you did a good job or more than what’s expected, you get some sort of award – it’s an incentive award,” said the Rev. Ernie Myers, Deep Creek’s senior pastor. In the church world, performance-driven bonuses are rare. Yet in this season of budgeting salaries, a small number of churches are tying at least part of their employees’ compensation to some quantifiable measure of performance. The 16 administrative and clergy employees of Deep Creek – a growing Southern Baptist congregation that draws more than 1,000 to Sunday services – are eligible for annual bonuses that range as high as 5 percent of their base salary. “Not everybody gets 5 percent, but most people get something. It’s a way to reward good performance and for the church to show appreciation to the staff,” Myers said. “If you did an average job, you’d probably get a little bit.” Some clergy and church professionals question whether such pay-for-performance benchmarks can be applied to spiritual ministries. “You’re motivating people not around finances or even on performance, but on their sense of interacting with God and sensing God’s presence, and that is hard to measure,” said Joseph Umidi, who teaches Christian leadership at Regent University’s divinity school in Virginia Beach. At Bethany Baptist Church in Portsmouth, the Rev. Gene Primm discounted tying productivity measures to church ministry. “I can’t stand here today and say we’re going to have 50 baptisms next year,” he said. “We’re in the Lord’s business, but we don’t create decisions of faith.” But Rex Frieze, a church management consultant in Orlando, Fla., said churches such as Deep Creek are moving in the right direction. He argued for linking part of church paychecks to achieving “defined objectives.” “If it’s a music ministry, it might be numbers growth in the choir or performances. If it’s in the evangelism area, it could be the establishment of small groups” for Bible study, he said. At Deep Creek, Myers said, the church gives salary increases, or “step” increases, every four years, guided by published salary surveys that show pay ranges at churches of comparable size and location. Deep Creek also gives a cost-of-living wage adjustment every three years. He declined to say how much the church’s employees are paid. Myers said that in evaluating employee performance, he uses both subjective and objective criteria. “Is your ministry progressing, is it reaching people and growing?” he said. “We want to get more numbers, but we also want people to grow as Christians – we want maturity to grow. ” Myers said some ministry activity, such as youth group participation, is more suited to measurement than other areas. He also weighs whether anything outside an employee’s control affects fulfillment of objective goals. Myers gives each staff member a letter grade based on the performance evaluation. “A through F – nobody has ever gotten an F,” he said. A church committee uses the grades to decide how big each employee’s incentive award will be. Frieze, the church management consultant, said that even the best performance-based pay system can’t measure vital pastoral qualities like love and compassion. “You can’t quantify everything,” he said, but wherever benchmarks are provided, “it gives you that incentive to work hard.” FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of religious, environmental, political, human rights, economic, democracy, scientific, and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information go to: If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

U.S., Mexico, Canada 'harmonizing' policies

North American deep cooperation on many fronts already under way, reveals new official publication
Alert Focus - The Iron and the Clay / The Mystery of Lawlessness Daniel 7:4 "The first was like a lion and had the wings of an eagle. I kept looking until its wings were plucked, and it was lifted up from the ground and made to stand on two feet like a man; a human mind also was given to it. Daniel 7:7 "After this I kept looking in the night visions, and behold, a fourth beast, dreadful and terrifying and extremely strong; and it had large iron teeth. It devoured and crushed and trampled down the remainder with its feet; and it was different from all the beasts that were before it, and it had ten horns. WORLDNETDAILY - January 15, 2007 -- WASHINGTON -- The Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America, which some have criticized as a framework for moving toward regional government between the U.S., Canada and Mexico, has laid out plans for increased regulatory cooperation between the three nations in new, full-color, trilingual publications obtained by WND. Copies of the "2005 Report to Leaders" and the "2006 Report to Leaders" were sent to WND by several congressional offices that are beginning to take a serious interest in SPP working group activities and decision-making. The copyright page of the 2005 report indicates that the report was co-published by the governments of the United States and Mexico, as well as copyrighted in Canada. The 2005 and 2006 reports continue to discuss numerous memoranda of understanding and other agreements that the trilateral working groups are formulating on their own, without direct congressional oversight or any reference to being published in the Federal Register. Yet, the vast majority of the agreements reached under SPP have never been published. The reports discuss the SPP's trilateral modification of administrative rules and regulation under the rubric of "integrating" and "harmonizing" into a "North American" structure what previously were administrative rules and regulations of the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. For instance, under a heading that includes the U.N. "sustainability" language, the energy working group announces in the 2005 report that their goal is, "Creating a sustainable energy economy for North America." Justifying the working group's activity as producing "appropriate coordination" between regulators, the report concludes: "All agree that the regulatory efforts of the National Energy Board (NEB), Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and Comisión Reguladora de Energía (CRE) will benefit from increased communication and cooperation concerning the timing and other procedural aspects of related matters that may be pending between the three agencies." The report then calls for the announcement of a trilateral regulators' group that will meet three times a year (every four months) to discuss "issues affecting cross-border energy projects." The 2006 report notes that this "key milestone" was completed. Some critics of the SPP see it leading toward a breakdown of national sovereignty and representative government, fearing it will lead inexorably toward a European Union-style regionalization for North America. "Now that we see books being published by SPP, how can anyone deny that the Bush administration is involved in a process of North American deep integration?" asks Jerome R. Corsi, author and WND columnist who is writing a book on the movement. "SPP is creating North American regulations that replace and supersede U.S. regulations in a wide range of policy areas. Just the three-language format of the full color production is enough to let readers know that the Bush administration considers our appropriate regulatory scope to be North American in nature. We no longer have a U.S. energy policy, for instance, we have a North American energy policy." Corsi, known as one of the chief critics of plans for a North American Union, said: "Since 2001 and the formation of the Prosperity Partnership with Mexico, trilateral working group activity in North America has been gaining momentum. After the declaration of the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America in Waco, Texas, on March 23, 2005, we have a full-fledged shadow bureaucracy that is setting up the regulatory structure for what could easily evolve into a full regional government." The North American Energy Working Group has now set up a webpage on the U.S. Department of Energy website. A January 2006 report entitled "North America – The Energy Picture II" documents that the NAEWG first met June 27-28, 2001, in Washington. Since then, there have been eight more NAEWG full working group meetings "convened in various locations of the three countries, with many more meetings of the various expert groups convened under the NAEWG agenda." According to "North America – The Energy Picture II," NAEWG activities can be traced back to the Hemispheric Energy Ministers Meeting in Mexico, on March 8, 2001, when the heads of Natural Resources Canada, the Mexican Secretariat of Energy, and the U.S. Department of Energy "formally committed to work together to facilitate a stronger North American energy sector." "Despite the advanced stage of SPP working group activity," Corsi said, "few U.S. congressmen or senators have any idea that SPP working groups are producing a North American regulatory structure. I still find myself going into the offices of congressmen and senators on Capitol Hill and having to work with staff to show them SPP websites they never have seen before, even though some of their bosses sit on committees that are supposed to be responsible for oversight of the SPP activities I am showing them for the first time." "SPP is one of the best kept secrets in Washington," Corsi told WND, "even though SPP has a website, there are SPP websites embedded in the websites of many government agencies, and now SPP is publishing full-color books in three languages. Yet, nobody in Washington has bothered to hold a single SPP hearing. Meanwhile, we are being led into regional government by bureaucrats whose mission is to create North American policies, not to worry about the sovereignty of the United States." The SPP website contains somewhat different versions of the 2005 prosperity agenda and security agenda, as well as the 2006 prosperity agenda and the security agenda. "This is no conspiracy," Corsi continued. "Conspiracies are conducted in secret. Now, SPP even publishes books documenting the North American deep integration agenda the SPP working groups are advancing day-by-day." The 2006 published Report to Leaders documents the following working group activity in the Prosperity Agenda: -Manufactured Goods and Sectoral and Regional Competitiveness -Movement of Goods -E-Commerce and ICT -Financial Services -Transportation -Energy -Environment -Food and Agriculture -Health The 2006 Report to Leaders identifies the following Security Agenda initiatives, key milestones, and status of completion in the following areas: 1. Secure North America from External Threats -Traveler Security -Cargo Security -Bioprotection 2. Prevent and Respond to Threats within North America -Aviation Security -Maritime Security -Law Enforcement Cooperation -Intelligence Cooperation -Protection, Prevention and Response 3. Further Streamline the Secure Movement of Low-Risk Traffic Across Our Shared Borders -Border Facilitation -Science and Technology Cooperation SPP is organized within the Department of Commerce. Those who want to receive copies of the printed 2005 and 2006 reports, may contact Geri Word, the administrator within the Department of Commerce who appears most responsible for organizing SPP activity. Geri C. Word U.S. Department of Commerce Office of NAFTA and Inter-American Affairs Tel: (202) 482-1545Fax: (202) 482-5865 Email: FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of religious, environmental, political, human rights, economic, democracy, scientific, and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information go to: If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

Adultery could mean life, court finds

That's what the law says in sex-drug case Cox appealed Ecclesiastes 9:12 Moreover, man does not know his time: like fish caught in a treacherous net and birds trapped in a snare, so the sons of men are ensnared at an evil time when it suddenly falls on them. THE DETROIT FREE PRESS - By Brian Dickerson - January 15, 2007 -- In a ruling sure to make philandering spouses squirm, Michigan's second-highest court says that anyone involved in an extramarital fling can be prosecuted for first-degree criminal sexual conduct, a felony punishable by up to life in prison. "We cannot help but question whether the Legislature actually intended the result we reach here today," Judge William Murphy wrote in November for a unanimous Court of Appeals panel, "but we are curtailed by the language of the statute from reaching any other conclusion." "Technically," he added, "any time a person engages in sexual penetration in an adulterous relationship, he or she is guilty of CSC I," the most serious sexual assault charge in Michigan's criminal code. No one expects prosecutors to declare open season on cheating spouses. The ruling is especially awkward for Attorney General Mike Cox, whose office triggered it by successfully appealing a lower court's decision to drop CSC charges against a Charlevoix defendant. In November 2005, Cox confessed to an adulterous relationship. Murphy's opinion received little notice when it was handed down. But it has since elicited reactions ranging from disbelief to mischievous giggling in Michigan's gossipy legal community. The ruling grows out of a case in which a Charlevoix man accused of trading Oxycontin pills for the sexual favors of a cocktail waitress was charged under an obscure provision of Michigan's criminal law. The provision decrees that a person is guilty of first-degree criminal sexual conduct whenever "sexual penetration occurs under circumstances involving the commission of any other felony." Charlevoix Circuit Judge Richard Pajtas sentenced Lloyd Waltonen to up to four years in prison after he pleaded guilty to two felony counts of delivering a controlled substance. But Pajtas threw out the sexual assault charge against Waltonen, citing the cocktail waitress' testimony that she had willingly consented to the sex-for-drugs arrangement. Charlevoix prosecuting attorney John Jarema said he decided to appeal after police discovered evidence that Waltonen may have struck drugs-for-sex deals with several other women. Cox's office, which handled the appeal on the prosecutor's behalf, insisted that the waitress' consent was irrelevant. All that mattered, the attorney general argued in a brief demanding that the charge be reinstated, was that the pair had sex "under circumstances involving the commission of another felony" -- the delivery of the Oxycontin pills. The Attorney General's Office got a whole lot more than it bargained for. The Court of Appeals agreed that the prosecutor in Waltonen's case needed only to prove that the Oxycontin delivery and the consensual sex were related. But Murphy and his colleagues went further, ruling that a first-degree CSC charge could be justified when consensual sex occurred in conjunction with any felony, not just a drug sale. The judges said they recognized their ruling could have sweeping consequences, "considering the voluminous number of felonious acts that can be found in the penal code." Among the many crimes Michigan still recognizes as felonies, they noted pointedly, is adultery -- although the Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan notes that no one has been convicted of that offense since 1971. Some judges and lawyers suggested that the Court of Appeals' reference to prosecuting adulterers was a sly slap at Cox, noting that it was his office that pressed for the expansive definition of criminal sexual conduct the appellate judges so reluctantly embraced in their Nov. 7 ruling. Murphy didn't return my calls Friday. But Chief Court of Appeals Judge William Whitbeck, who signed the opinion along with Murphy and Judge Michael Smolenski, said that Cox's confessed adultery never came up during their discussions of the case. "I never thought of it, and I'm confident that it was not something Judge Murphy or Judge Smolenski had in mind," Whitbeck told me Friday. But he chuckled uncomfortably when I asked if the hypothetical described in Murphy's opinion couldn't be cited as justification for bringing first-degree criminal sexual conduct charges against the attorney general. "Well, yeah," he said. Cox's spokesman, Rusty Hills, bristled at the suggestion that Cox or anyone else in his circumstances could face prosecution. "To even ask about this borders on the nutty," Hills told me in a phone interview Saturday. "Nobody connects the attorney general with this -- N-O-B-O-D-Y -- and anybody who thinks otherwise is hallucinogenic." Hills said Sunday that Cox did not want to comment. The Court of Appeals opinion could also be interpreted as a tweak to the state Supreme Court, which has decreed that judges must enforce statutory language adopted by the Legislature literally, whatever the consequences. In many other states, judges may reject a literal interpretation of the law if they believe it would lead to an absurd result. But Michigan's Supreme Court majority has held that it is for the Legislature, not the courts, to decide when the absurdity threshold has been breached. Whitbeck noted that Murphy's opinion questions whether state lawmakers really meant to authorize the prosecution of adulterers for consensual relationships. "We encourage the Legislature to take a second look at the statutory language if they are troubled by our ruling," he wrote. Hills declined to say whether the Attorney General's Office would press for legislative amendments to make it clear that only violent felonies involving an unwilling victim could trigger a first-degree CSC charge. "This is so bizarre that it doesn't even merit a response," he said. Meanwhile, Waltonen has asked the state Supreme Court for leave to appeal the Court of Appeals ruling. He still hasn't been tried on the criminal sexual conduct charge. His attorney said a CSC conviction could add dozens of years to Waltonen's current prison sentence. Justices will decide later this year whether to review the Court of Appeals' decision to reinstate the CSC charge. The appeals court decision is available at Search for Docket No. 270229. FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of religious, environmental, political, human rights, economic, democracy, scientific, and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information go to: If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

Monday, January 15, 2007

The Euro, Black Gold and a call for “Death to US imperialism!”

Alert Focus: Mammon / The Third Seal / The Gates of Hades Revelation 6:5-6 When He broke the third seal, I heard the third living creature saying, "Come." I looked, and behold, a black horse; and he who sat on it had a pair of scales in his hand. And I heard something like a voice in the center of the four living creatures saying, "A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius; and do not damage the oil and the wine." Matthew 4:8-10 Again, the devil *took Him to a very high mountain and *showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory; and he said to Him, "All these things I will give You, if You fall down and worship me." Then Jesus *said to him, "Go, Satan! For it is written, `YOU SHALL WORSHIP THE LORD YOUR GOD, AND SERVE HIM ONLY.' " Matthew 6:19-20 "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. "But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal;... Matthew 16:16-18 Simon Peter answered, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." And Jesus said to him, "Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. "I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it. Matthew 16:24-26 Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. "For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. "For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? Euro displaces dollar in bond markets THE FINACIAL TIMES of LONDON - By David Oakley and Gillian Tett in London - January 14 2007 -- The euro has displaced the US dollar as the world’s pre-eminent currency in international bond markets, having outstripped the dollar-denominated market for the second year in a row. The data consolidate news last month that the value of euro notes in circulation had overtaken the dollar for the first time. Outstanding debt issued in the euro was worth the equivalent of $4,836bn at the end of 2006 compared with $3,892bn for the dollar, according to International Capital Market Association data. Outstanding euro-denominated debt accounts for 45 per cent of the global market, compared with 37 per cent for the dollar. New issuance last year accounted for 49 per cent of the global total. That represents a startling turnabout from the pattern seen in recent decades, when the US bond market dwarfed its European rival: as recently as 2002, outstanding euro-denominated issuance represented just 27 per cent of the global pie, compared with 51 per cent for the dollar. The rising role of the euro comes amid growing issuance by debt-laden European governments. However, the main factor is a rise in euro-denominated issuance by companies and financial institutions. One factor driving this is that European companies are moving away from their traditional reliance on bank loans – and embracing the capital markets to a greater degree. Another is that the creation of the single currency in 1999 has permitted development of a deeper and more liquid market, consolidated by a growing eurozone. This has made it more attractive for issuers around the world to raise funds in the euro market. And, more recently, the trend among some Asian and Middle Eastern countries to diversify their assets away from the dollar has further boosted this trend. René Karsenti, executive president of ICMA, said: “It is the stable interest rates in Europe that have helped and the fact that [the euro] has strengthened and shown resilience.” Since the start of 2003, the European Central Bank’s main interest rate has fluctuated only 1.5 percentage points, ranging from a low of 2 per cent in the middle of that year to 3.5 per cent, its rate today. In comparison, the Fed funds rate, the main US interest rate, has fluctuated 4.25 percentage points, ranging from 1 per cent in the middle of 2003 to 5.25 per cent, its level today. The euro has also risen to trade around $1.30 against the dollar, from around parity three years ago. Sterling issuance has grown in the past three years, reinforcing its attraction as a niche currency among some investors. The yen, in comparison, has fallen out of favour. Overall, international capital markets have doubled in size in terms of bond issuance during the past six years. Iran, Venezuela agree to thwart ‘US domination’ ASSOCIATED PRESS - January 14, 2007 -- Iran, Venezuela agree to thwart ‘US domination’ Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said they were ready to spend billions of dollars (euros) financing projects in other countries to help thwart US domination. The anti-US Presidents whose efforts to extend their influence have alarmed Washington met Saturday in Venezuela’s capital, the first stop on Ahmadinejad’s tour of Latin America that will also see him visit newly elected leftist leaders in Nicaragua and Ecuador. The oil-rich nations had previously announced plans for a joint USD 2 billion fund to finance investments in Venezuela and Iran, but Chavez and Ahmadinejad said Saturday that the money would also be used for projects in friendly third countries. “It will permit us to underpin investments ... Above all in those countries whose governments are making efforts to liberate themselves from the (US) imperialist yoke,” said Chavez. “This fund, my brother,” Chavez said referring to Ahmadinejad, “Will become a mechanism for liberation.” “Death to US imperialism!” he said. Ahmadinejad called it a “very important” decision that would help promote “Joint cooperation in third countries,” especially in Latin American and African countries. It was not clear if the leaders were referring to investment in infrastructure, social and energy projects - areas that the two countries have focused on until now - or other types of financing. Before his meeting with Ahmadinejad, Chavez said in his state of the nation address that he had personally expressed hope to Thomas Shannon, head of the US State Department’s Western Hemisphere affairs bureau, for better relations between their two countries. Chavez said he spoke with Shannon on the sidelines of Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega’s inauguration earlier this week, saying, “We shook hands and I told him: ‘I hope that everything improves.”’ Chavez - a close ally of Cuban leader Fidel Castro whom Washington sees as a destabilizing influence - has pledged billions of dollars (euros) of help to the region in foreign aid, bond buyouts and preferentially financed oil deals. 'Champion of struggle against imperialism' Iran, meanwhile, is allegedly bankrolling militant groups in the Middle East like Hamas and the Islamic Jihad, as well as insurgents in Iraq, in a bid to extend its influence. Ahmadinejad’s visit Saturday - his second to Venezuela in less than four months - comes as he seeks to break international isolation over his country’s nuclear program and possibly line up new allies in Latin America. After Venezuela, Ahmadinejad will visit newly elected leftist governments in Nicaragua and Ecuador that are also seeking to reduce Washington’s influence in the region. Bolivian President Evo Morales, another critic of US policy, said he plans to meet with Ahmadinejad while both are in Ecuador Monday. Chavez and Ahmadinejad have been increasingly united by their deep-seated antagonism to Washington. Chavez has become a leading defender of Iran’s nuclear ambitions, accusing the United States of using the issue as a pretext to attack a regime it opposes and promising to stand with Iran.... The increasingly close relationship has alarmed some, and critics of Chavez accuse him of pursuing an alliance that does not serve Venezuela’s interests and jeopardizes its ties with the United States, the country’s top oil buyer. Venezuela is among the top five suppliers of crude to the US market. Both countries are members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, Chavez said Saturday that they had agreed to back an oil production cut in the cartel in order to stem a recent fall in crude prices. ... [More],7340,L-3351871,00.html Future of Iraq: The spoils of war THE INDEPENDENT - By Danny Fortson, Andrew Murray-Watson and Tim Webb - January 7, 2007 -- Iraq's massive oil reserves, the third-largest in the world, are about to be thrown open for large-scale exploitation by Western oil companies under a controversial law which is expected to come before the Iraqi parliament within days. The US government has been involved in drawing up the law, a draft of which has been seen by The Independent on Sunday. It would give big oil companies such as BP, Shell and Exxon 30-year contracts to extract Iraqi crude and allow the first large-scale operation of foreign oil interests in the country since the industry was nationalised in 1972. The huge potential prizes for Western firms will give ammunition to critics who say the Iraq war was fought for oil. They point to statements such as one from Vice-President Dick Cheney, who said in 1999, while he was still chief executive of the oil services company Halliburton, that the world would need an additional 50 million barrels of oil a day by 2010. "So where is the oil going to come from?... The Middle East, with two-thirds of the world's oil and the lowest cost, is still where the prize ultimately lies," he said. Oil industry executives and analysts say the law, which would permit Western companies to pocket up to three-quarters of profits in the early years, is the only way to get Iraq's oil industry back on its feet after years of sanctions, war and loss of expertise. But it will operate through "production-sharing agreements" (or PSAs) which are highly unusual in the Middle East, where the oil industry in Saudi Arabia and Iran, the world's two largest producers, is state controlled. Opponents say Iraq, where oil accounts for 95 per cent of the economy, is being forced to surrender an unacceptable degree of sovereignty. Proposing the parliamentary motion for war in 2003, Tony Blair denied the "false claim" that "we want to seize" Iraq's oil revenues. He said the money should be put into a trust fund, run by the UN, for the Iraqis, but the idea came to nothing. The same year Colin Powell, then Secretary of State, said: "It cost a great deal of money to prosecute this war. But the oil of the Iraqi people belongs to the Iraqi people; it is their wealth, it will be used for their benefit. So we did not do it for oil." Supporters say the provision allowing oil companies to take up to 75 per cent of the profits will last until they have recouped initial drilling costs. After that, they would collect about 20 per cent of all profits, according to industry sources in Iraq. But that is twice the industry average for such deals. …[More] All EU States Now Receiving Russian Oil RADIO FREE EUROPE – Source: Reuters - January 11, 2007 -- European Union Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs has confirmed that all EU states affected by the stoppage of oil supplies because of a dispute between Russia and Belarus were now receiving oil. "At this stage I can confirm that all the oil supplies are renewed, all [EU] member states that have been affected are receiving oil," Piebalgs said. "We also, in the Oil Supply Group, get information from representatives of Russia and Belarus that the issues related to the disruption will be solved at least in the next couple of days." The oil stoppage had renewed EU concerns about its energy security and Piebalgs today called on both Russia and Belarus to be "really reliable." Russia restarted the oil flow along the Druzhba pipeline across Belarus after Belarus scrapped an oil-transit duty it imposed last week and agreed to return oil Russia said it had taken illegally. Belarus had imposed the transit duty after Russia doubled prices of natural-gas supplies and imposed duties on its oil exports to Belarus. Price of oil hits 19-month low ASSOCIATED PRESS - January 10, 2007 -- NEW YORK -- Oil prices tumbled to settle at a 19-month low Wednesday after the government reported rising inventories of gasoline, heating oil and diesel fuel. … [More] The Oil Market's Weather Obsession The drop in oil prices has been attributed to the unseasonably warm temperatures. But that isn't the whole story BUSINESS WEEK - by Moira Herbst - January 10, 2007 -- Oil prices, after soaring last year, are falling fast in 2007…. What's causing the steep decline? One of the most commonly cited reasons is the balmy weather. Spring-like temperatures in the northeastern U.S. and Europe are supposed to be playing a key part in oil prices' drop to an 18-month low. But there's a puzzling question at the heart of this argument: Why would the weather have that much of an effect? Warm weather does weaken demand for energy to heat homes and businesses. But only a tiny fraction of the oil consumed each day is ultimately used for heating. In the U.S., the figure is only about 7%. Some experts believe that trading oil based on the temperature outside is nothing more than mercury misdirection. Weather Doubts "People have attributed to the weather a much greater impact than it actually has," says Jeff Rubin, chief economist for CIBC World Markets (CM)…. In markets as in many other things, however, perception is reality. The price of oil is determined at any given time by a multitude of factors, from the political situation in Venezuela, to the economic growth in China, to weather in the U.S. If the expectations for one of those factors changes, traders push prices up or down based on their changed perceptions, often by a degree well beyond the fundamentals. "Oil prices are determined at the margin, so fluctuations in the margin drive fluctuations in prices," says Craig Pirrong, professor of finance and energy markets at the University of Houston's Bauer College of Business. "Every little movement in demand can have a major impact on price, and that's what we're seeing with the weather now." Price Adjustments Pirrong says that with an unexpected change, markets usually respond by adjusting quantity or adjusting price. In the energy market, adjusting supply is difficult in the short run, so all the burden of the shock falls on the price. "As winter approaches, everyone in the industry knows the demand for heating oil will go up," says Doug MacIntyre, senior oil analyst for the Energy Information Administration of the Energy Dept. "If demand isn't there as you thought, prices go down." The price declines have taken their toll on major oil companies. The stocks of Exxon Mobil (XOM), Chevron (CVX), ConocoPhillips (COP), and BP (BP) have all taken a hit this year. Rubin, of CIBC World Markets, points out that the futures markets may be exaggerating the price movements for oil. Futures contracts are agreements to buy or sell oil or other products in the future, at a price agreed on today. A small price decline now can lead traders to expect greater decreases in the months ahead, dragging down futures contract prices. "Sometimes perception becomes reality—especially in the futures market," says Rubin. "If people think warm weather will have a huge impact on reducing oil demand, they'll start selling oil, leading to the appearance that it does" (see, 1/8/07, "Oil: Next Stop, $45?"). "Excessive Speculation" CIBC's report on energy markets and the weather says that "a fixation on the weather is masking some key positives for oil that could see prices set new records in coming quarters." The report says that near double-digit demand for oil from countries such as China, and "rampant energy nationalism" tightening production in countries like Russia and Venezuela, will likely buoy oil prices in the future. Fadel Gheit, senior energy analyst for Oppenheimer & Co. (OPY), offers a sharper-toned rebuttal to oil market bears. "You can't reason with the market," he says. He argues that oil price volatility occurs in part because of "excessive speculation" by hedge funds and major financial institutions. He doesn't expect that to change, but he doesn't think it's rational either. "The volatility will continue; that's how traders make money," says Gheit. "The rationale [for a stable price] may be simple, but what takes place is a different story." … [More] Honduras temporarily grabs Exxon, Chevron terminals REUTERS - January 14, 2007 -- TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras -- Honduras will take temporary control of foreign-owned oil storage terminals as part of a government import program meant to drive down fuel prices, President Manuel Zelaya said late on Saturday. Zelaya ordered the move after failing to reach a deal with big oil companies Exxon Mobil and Chevron, as well as local company DIPPSA, to rent the terminals. "It is not a nationalization, it's a temporary use of the storage tanks through a lease and payment of a reasonable price," he said. Honduras produces no crude of its own and no longer has a refinery. Its fuel market, like that of most Central American countries, is dominated by Shell, Exxon Mobil and Chevron. The government program takes control of imports away from the small group of oil companies that operate service stations in the Central American nation. Those companies have opposed the new system, saying it is anti-competitive. A congressional commission set up to study the new system has said it could save Honduras -- one of the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere -- about $66 million a year. ... [More] Bush backs Alaskan oil drilling BBC NEWS - January 10, 2007 -- US President George W Bush has lifted a ban on oil and gas drilling in an Alaskan Bay known for its wildlife. Before any drilling, there will be scope for studies and public comment said the Interior Department, which stressed the need for energy security. Home to endangered whales, the Bristol Bay is thought to contain some 200 million barrels of oil. The news comes as a trans-Alaska pipeline was shut down after some 500 gallons of crude oil were spilled. The spill came from a section above ground in the Brooks Range in northern Alaska, due to a faulty weld, and it remains unknown how long the shutdown will last. …[More] Book Recommendation Forget everything you think you know about oil If you believe that oil is a fossil fuel, be prepared to have your thoughts turned upside down. If you believe that the U.S. has no choice but to rely on foreign oil until we ultimately run out of the precious resource, prepare to be challenged by new views that "have the opportunity to help give birth to a new generation of oil politics and economics." WND Books' newest release, "Black Gold Stranglehold: The Myth of Scarcity and the Politics of Oil," by Jerome R. Corsi and Craig R. Smith, explores and debunks some of the popular myths surrounding the international and domestic politics of oil production and consumption to provide Americans with beneficial information while being held in a virtual stranglehold at the gas-pumps. In "Black Gold Stranglehold," Corsi and Smith expose the fraudulent science and irresponsible politics that have been sold to American people in order to enslave them. By debunking several myths, Corsi and Smith provide an outline for progress that would help to establish America as energy-independent. Be prepared to be challenged by: -The myth of fossil fuels: Corsi and Smith argue that the deep abiotic theory of oil is a more reliable theory than the fossil fuel theory. It rejects the contention that oil was formed from the remains of plant and animal life that died millions of years ago. Instead, they believe in Thomas Gold's argument that oil is abiotic: "a primordial material that the earth forms and exudes on a continual basis" and is "pushed upward toward the earth's surface by the intense pressures of the earth's core and the influence of the centrifugal force that the earth exerted upon the specific gravity of oil as a fluid substance." … [More] FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of religious, environmental, political, human rights, economic, democracy, scientific, and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information go to: If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Global assets poised for a ``Severe Correction''

Alert Focus: Mammon / The Third Seal James 5:3 Your gold and your silver have rusted; and their rust will be a witness against you and will consume your flesh like fire. It is in the last days that you have stored up your treasure! Global Markets Face `Severe Correction,' Faber Says BLOOMBERG - By Ian C. Sayson and Pimm Fox - January 8, 2007 -- Marc Faber, who predicted the U.S. stock market crash in 1987, said global assets are poised for a ``severe correction'' and it's time to sell. ``In the next few months, we could get a severe correction in all asset markets,'' Faber said in an interview with Bloomberg Television in New York. ``In a selling panic you should buy, but in the buying mania that we have now the wisest course of action is to liquidate.'' Faber, founder and managing director of Hong Kong-based Marc Faber Ltd., advised investors to buy gold in 2001, which has since more than doubled. His company manages about $300 million in assets. The bullish outlook of traders in everything from bonds, equities and commodities to real estate and art suggests valuations are peaking, Faber said. Last year, the Morgan Stanley Capital International World Index of developed stock markets jumped 18 percent, while a survey of Wall Street's biggest bond- trading firms predicted U.S. Treasuries will post the best gains in five years during 2007. ``I am not a great buyer of assets now,'' Faber said. ``We may be in a situation where consumer-price inflation comes back and will have a negative impact on the valuation of assets.'' Faber, publisher of the Gloom, Boom & Doom Report, does have some favorites. Singapore and Vietnam are his top picks in Asia because stocks in Singapore aren't ``terribly expensive compared with interest rates'' in the city-state, while Vietnam's equities have ``incredible potential in the long run.'' … Stocks: The Chinese Correction? S&P says charts for a fund that tracks a key Chinese index look "downright scary", and it could be due for a major pullback STANDARD & POOR'S EQUITY RESEARCH - by Mark Arbeter - January 8, 2007 -- While our technical focus tends to be on the U.S. stock market -- with some analysis of the the UK's FTSE and Germany's DAX indexes -- investor fund flows have been heavily weighted towards overseas stock markets. Investment dollars tend to migrate to better returning assets, and, in this case, much more risky assets, in our view. It seems like any stock from China is a no-lose investment. The view of some speculators appears to be "just keep throwing money at the Chinese momentum, and you're on our way to quick riches." It kind of reminds you of the days. Our warning: Don't be the last one out the door. The iShares FTSE/Xinhua China 25 Index Fund (FXI), an exchange-traded fund (ETF), is designed to mimic the index it is named after. The FTSE/Xinhua is designed to represent the performance of the largest companies in the China equity market that are available to international investors. The index is made up of 25 of the largest and most liquid Chinese companies, and as of Jan. 3, financials were the largest sector representing almost 43% of the fund. Telecommunications is about 19% of the fund, followed by 16% for oil & gas, 11% industrials, and 9% for basic materials. The ETF first started trading in March, 2005. We have two major concerns about the FXI, and similar overseas investments. Number one, the chart has gone asymptotic and trading volume has exploded. The second is less scientific and more of an educated guess. And that is, we doubt investors really know anything about the companies in the fund, other than that they are based in China. The saving grace may be that these are large companies with a track record and not a '90's Internet company with zero revenues and no track record. The chart of the FXI is downright scary, in our view, and due for a major correction. The ETF bottomed out at 66 on June 13, 2006, and as of the close on January 3, 2007, has soared a remarkable 76% in less than 7 months. More incredibly, the FXI has spiked over 26% since November 28, and 13.5% since December 21. Can you say "mass speculation"? Since the last major low in June, 2006, the slope of the advance has changed four different times, getting steeper every time. Trading volume has exploded in the first trading days of 2007, running almost three times that of average daily volume. This is very typical of a speculative blowoff, and many times, they end badly. Daily momentum is extremely overbought, and has traced out negative divergences. As of January 3, the ETF was an incredible 39% above its 200-day exponential moving average. The cycle of market emotions has gone from optimism to euphoria very quickly. Unfortunately, it is likely to reverse to fear then panic, in our opinion. How this all plays out for the U.S. market is difficult to say, but it is not healthy and screams of an intermediate-term top, in our view. … [More] US-China trade deficit at all-time high FINANCIALTIMES of LONDON - By Richard McGregor in Beijing and Eoin Callan in Washington - January 11, 2007 -- China’s trade surplus reached $177.5bn (£118.7bn) last year, 74 per cent higher than in 2005, a rise that will intensify pressure on Beijing further to open its markets and accelerate the revaluation of its currency. The growth in the surplus reported by China’s customs agency – up from $102bn in 2005 and $32bn in 2004 – has been driven by continued strength in exports, up 27 per cent year on year, and relatively weaker imports growth of 20 per cent. The bilateral deficit with the US is even higher according to Washington’s measure, reaching an all-time high of $214bn in the 11 months to November. The gap between Beijing’s and Washington’s measure of the value of their bilateral trade is explained in large part by the US classification of value-added exports from Hong Kong as Chinese. The renminbi, China’s currency, has risen by about 6 per cent since it was formally decoupled from its US dollar peg in June 2005, and it is expected to continue its gradual rise this year. However, with China’s labour costs remaining low and productivity in many industries rising, few economists expect the stronger renminbi to have any substantial impact on the trade surplus. The widening trade gap with China will increase the pressure on Hank Paulson, US Treasury secretary, to persuade Beijing to allow its currency to appreciate. There is mounting impatience in Washington, where members of the newly elected Congress are proposing legislative action. Max Baucus, chairman of the Senate finance committee, is expected to introduce legislation to lower the burden of proof for China to be accused of “currency manipulation” by the US Treasury. In the House of Representatives, Sander Levin, head of the trade subcommittee, will introduce a controversial bill to prompt the use of anti-subsidy laws against non-market economies such as China. Venezuelan currency dives as Chávez plots nationalization THE TIMES of LONDON - By Nick Hasell and Elizabeth Judge - January 10, 2007 -- Venezuela’s stock market tumbled almost 19 per cent and its currency lost a third of its value in unofficial trading as investors took fright at President Chávez’s plans to nationalise utilities as part of his “Socialist revolution”. The benchmark IBC index of the Caracas stock exchange plunged 11,574 to 50,439, dragged down by the shares of the power and telephone companies of which the Government intends to seize control. American depositary receipts of CANTV, the telecoms carrier that is the only Venezuelan company traded on the New York Stock Exchange, fell by as much as 43 per cent. In Caracas, the company closed down 30.3 per cent and shares were suspended until Friday…. The knock-on effects were felt in Mexico, where the IPC index dropped 2.3 per cent on selling of telecoms stocks owned by Carlos Slim. The Mexican billionaire is in the process of buying the 28.5 per cent stake in CANTV owned by Verizon Communications, the American telecoms operator. The stake is one of three Latin American assets Verizon was preparing to sell to Mr Slim for an expected $3.7 billion (£1.9 billion). The White House swiftly attacked Mr Chávez’s nationalisation pledge and insisted that any American companies affected must be compensated. … Mugabe poised to take over goldmines LONDON DAILY TELEGRAPH - Peta Thornycroft in Johannesburg - January 11, 2007 -- ABOUT 20,000 miners have been arrested in police raids across Zimbabwe. Their detention, in one of the largest police actions in the country's recent history, has left thousands of families without any support at a time of rampant inflation and a desperate shortage of maize meal, the staple food. President Robert Mugabe's Government said it has detained more than 19,000 "illegal" miners in recent weeks, giving rise to speculation that Mr Mugabe intends to nationalise the mining sector six years after he precipitated the collapse of the economy by seizing 90 per cent of white-owned farms. Last year, he said he would take at least 51 per cent of all mines without offering compensation. Many of those arrested are legally registered with the Ministry of Mines, but the Government has claimed it is detaining illegal gold panners who are selling ore on the black market. … Euro begins 2007 in record mood AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE - January 2, 2007 -- The euro struck a near three-week high against the dollar and all-time peaks against the yen and Swiss franc in European trade. The Tokyo and Singapore markets remained closed for New Year celebrations Tuesday, while US trading was put on hold to allow Americans to mark the recent passing of former president Gerald Ford. The euro hit as high as 1.3288 dollars in early European exchanges on Tuesday, the highest point since December 13, 2006…. Analysts believe the principal driver of the foreign exchange market last year had been differences in interest rates across economic zones. Interest rates in the US have been held steady since last August at 5.25 percent, giving momentum to the European currency in recent months, while recent data in Japan has dampened expectations of another rate hike there. The euro is meanwhile now being used by 13 countries after Slovenia became on Monday the first former communist state to join the European Union's common currency. Slovenia's adoption of the euro comes five years after euro bills and coins were introduced, almost three years after Slovenia acceded to the EU, and 15 years after Slovenia declared independence from the former Yugoslavia. The euro replaces the tolar, a currency introduced in 1991 as a symbol of the tiny country's independence and an instrument aimed at cutting Belgrade's monetary control over the Slovenian economy. … Planned Destruction of the Middle Class Study finds home prices are beyond reach of many workers REUTERS - By Andrew Stern, Reuters - January 10, 2007 -- CHICAGO -- U.S. home prices may have dipped over the past year, but many American workers still struggle to afford a median-priced home in major cities, a new study said Wednesday. "American workers are really not gaining ground and they're so far behind in the first place," said Barbara Lipman, research director for the non-profit Center for Housing Policy, which conducted the study. While the median home price in the 202 largest metropolitan areas declined 2% in third quarter 2006 to $248,000 from a year ago, mortgage rates rose enough over the year that homes actually became less affordable as pay did not keep pace. "The real story is what happened to salaries," Lipman said. "Lower-paid occupations — such as in retail, or home health workers — their salaries went up only about 3%." … FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of religious, environmental, political, human rights, economic, democracy, scientific, and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information go to: If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.