U.S. PLANS BUFFER ZONE ALONG SYRIA BORDER

Press TV

The US is reportedly planning to establish a buffer zone along Lebanon’s border with Syria in a bid to step up pressure on the Syrian government.

Suleiman Frangieh, head of Lebanese al-Marada movement, said Monday that there is strong evidence suggesting that Washington seeks to establish a buffer zone along Lebanon-Syria border and that the move harms Lebanon’s interests.

He also defended remarks by Lebanese Defense Minister Fayez Ghoson about the unrest in Syria and criticized those saying that attacking the defense minister is an indirect attack on the Lebanese Army.

Lebanese defense minister recently said that members of al-Qaeda terrorist group, fighting against the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, have entered Syria via Lebanon.

Head of al-Marada movement also said that Lebanon would continue to support the Syrian government.

“We are with the Syrian regime, but we will not take any act against Lebanon. We don’t raise President (Bashar) al-Assad’s picture, we rather raise our president’s picture. We believe in having a good relation with Syria, but we don’t say that it is our reference. For us, Lebanon’s advantage is a priority, and history will prove that,” Frangieh said.

Syria has been experiencing unrest since mid-March and according to the UN, 5,000 people have been killed in the country over the past nine months.

While the West and the Syrian opposition accuse the government of the killings, Damascus blames “outlaws, saboteurs and armed terrorist groups” for the unrest that erupted in mid-March, insisting that it is being orchestrated from abroad.

Syrian President Assad has repeatedly accused Israel, Turkey and a number of Western countries of fueling unrest in the country by funding and arming government opponents.

In interviews with Israeli news outlets over the past few months, the Syrian opposition members have clearly expressed their vision for the future of Syria and their interest in establishing relations with the Tel Aviv regime.
However, Syrians have repeatedly expressed solidarity with the government. Figures show that during the past weeks, about 12 million people have demonstrated in support of President Assad and his reform program.

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INSIDE SYRIA: IS THE ARAB LEAGUE MISSION DOOMED TO FAIL?

How effective is the Arab League mission? Has the Syrian regime managed to continue their heavy handed crackdown on protesters despite Arab League’s presence on the ground? Guests: Elias Hanna; As’ad Abukhalil; and Ahed al-Hendi.

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ARAB LEAGUE MISSION ‘IS FAILING’ IN SYRIA

Arab League observers have been on a mission since Monday to assess whether Syria has halted its nine-month crackdown on protests against President Bashar al-Assad.

But a group that advises the Arab League says the monitors, some with a controversial history, are inadvertently helping the Syrian government cover its continued violent actions.

Ashraf al-Moqdad, an opposition activist of the Damascus Declaration, spoke to Al Jazeera from Egypt on why he believes the Arab mission has failed in Syria.

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LIBYA REBELS GO GUNNING FOR SYRIA TO TOPPLE ASSAD

Former Libyan rebels are now chanting for Syrians to follow their revolutionary path. Hundreds of mercenaries, some of whom are said to be former terrorists, are ready to pick up arms again to help overthrow President Assad.

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MARK ALMOND: SYRIA MAY SOON SPREAD RELIGIOUS WAR IN THE MIDDLE EAST

Time Magazine has chosen an unknown protester as the person of the year – just one of hundreds of thousands who hit the streets to demonstrate in countries across the globe, and helped overthrow the regimes of three Arab countries. Mark Almond, who’s a professor of international relations at Bilkent University in Ankara warns that Syria may soon spread religious war in the Middle East.

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DR. JEREMY SALT: ‘LIBYA STYLE SCENARIO COULD BE REPEATED IN SYRIA’

As Syrian forces reportedly continue to kill civilian protesters, armed rebels have threatened to step up their own attacks. The commander of Syria’s armed rebels threatened to step up attacks on President Bashar al-Assad’s forces on Wednesday, according to Reuters. He said he was frustrated with Arab League monitors’ lack of progress in ending a government crackdown on protests.

Dr. Jeremy Salt, Middle East expert talk to RT, claiming there is tunnel vision when it comes to deciding just who is doing the killing in Syria.

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CHRIS BAMBERY: U.S. IS PREPARING FOR MILITARY INTERVENTION IN SYRIA

Damascus is criticizing the US for sending an envoy to Cairo’s Arab League discussions about ending the Assad regime’s crackdown on dissent.

Chris Bambery, London-based political analyst says the US is preparing for a military intervention in Syria.

MAJOR ECONOMIES EVERYWHERE FACE DEBT ROLLOVER TROUBLES IN 2012

By Mike “Mish” Shedlock, Global Economic Trend Analysis

With everyone watching debt rollovers in Europe, let’s instead take a look at the total global debt rollover and debt issuance problem.

Bloomberg reports World’s Biggest Economies Face $7.6T Debt

Governments of the world’s leading economies have more than $7.6 trillion of debt maturing this year, with most facing a rise in borrowing costs.

Led by Japan’s $3 trillion and the U.S.’s $2.8 trillion, the amount coming due for the Group of Seven nations and Brazil, Russia, India and China is up from $7.4 trillion at this time last year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
The amount needing to be refinanced rises to more than $8 trillion when interest payments are included. Coming after a year in which Standard & Poor’s cut the U.S.’s rating to AA+ from AAA and put 15 European nations on notice for possible downgrades, the competition to find buyers is heating up.

Country                                     2012 Bond                           ($) Coupon Payments

Japan                                         3000 billion                                   117 billion
U.S.                                             2783 billion                                    212 billion
Italy                                           428 billion                                       72 billion
France                                       367 billion                                      54 billion
Germany                                  285 billion                                       45 billion
Canada                                      221 billion                                       14 billion
Brazil                                         169 billion                                       31 billion
U.K.                                            165 billion                                      67 billion
China                                         121 billion                                       41 billion
India                                          57 billion                                        39 billion
Russia                                        13 billion                                           9 billion

Japan’s Problem

Remarkably, rolling over US debt is unlikely to be a problem. The same cannot be said for Japan. Because of demographics, pension plans will be net sellers of Japanese bonds. Unless balance of trade or tax revenues increase enough in 2012 Japan will not be able to roll this debt over at 1%. A rise to 3% would consume nearly all of Japanese revenues.

Europe’s Problem

The ECB elected to kick the can down the road with a 3-year long-term refinance operation (LTRO).

For example, please consider Spanish banks use ECB cash to cover maturing debt-sources

MADRID, Dec 22 (Reuters) – Spanish banks will use the majority of the cheap long-term cash from the European Central Bank to cover steep 2012 debt maturities, market and banking sources said on Thursday.

Spain’s banks face a massive spike in their funding needs next year with around 130 billion euros ($170 billion) of debt coming to maturity. Many banks took on 3-year, government-guaranteed debt in 2008, making up a large part of borrowing.

“The banks that have taken part in the auction have primarily done so to finance the hefty maturities that fall next year, mostly in the first half,” said one savings bank source.

Also consider Italy banks almost halfway to 2012 funding needs

Italy’s banks are almost halfway towards meeting their funding needs for 2012 after they tapped 116 billion euros of cheap long-term cash from the European Central Bank on Wednesday.

The ECB’s first ever offer of three-year loans on Wednesday drew heavy demand of 489 billion euros from 523 banks, raising hopes a credit crunch can be avoided and that the money could be used to buy Italian and Spanish bonds.

The ECB will follow up with another similar operation in February in a move designed to directly help banks which need to raise capital.

A study by local broker Intermonte said 42-44 percent of total Italian bank funding and 75-80 percent of wholesale funding for next year had been raised on Wednesday.

The euro zone banks also have about 920 billion euros of liquidity existing with the ECB which indicates Italian banks could have some 230 billion.

On top of this are funds the banks can raise through the wide range of cash operations offered by the ECB.

Dollar Swaps Soar

That “wide range of cash options” no doubt includes the fact that European banks can borrow money from the Fed at a cheaper rate than US banks can. Please consider Demand for Dollars from Fed’s Discount Window Swells in Europe by 12,735% After Fed Cut Rates on Dollar Swap Lines

There is considerable debate as to whether European banks are using cash from the ECB to purchase sovereign debt and capitalize on massive spreads but Italian banks deny the charge as noted by this clip from Reuters:

There is speculation that some banks will use the ECB funds not to boost the real economy but for carry trades on investment in high-yielding government bonds. “We intend to support the real economy as far as is possible given the stiff ties imposed by EBA,” the CEO of UBI Banca Victor Massiah told Reuters.”

There is also debate as to whether or not the LTRO can stop contagion. For a detailed discussion, please consider European Bank-to-Bank Lending Mistrust Hits Second Consecutive High; ECB’s LTRO Won’t Stop Collateral Contagion.

For now, massive Fed dollar swaps coupled with the ECB’s first ever 3-year LTRO have temporarily calmed European debt markets, how long that lasts remains to be seen.

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INTERVIEW WITH DAGONG’S CHAIRMAN GUAN JIANZHONG ON DOWNGRADING AMERICA’S CREDIT RATING

Before Standard & Poor’s downgraded America’s sovereign debt rating in August, Dagong Credit in China had already done so. Dagong’s chairman, Guan Jianzhong, says the US has not done enough to improve its fiscal condition.

BOB CHAPMAN: HOW THE FEDERAL RESERVE OVERSHADOWS THE EUROPEAN BANKING SYSTEM

Bob Chapman | International Forecaster

What does one write about between Christmas and New Years? Things are usually pretty quiet, especially in Europe. As a result we’ll give you a little about this and a little about that.

Public institutions worldwide are fighting ratings downgrades foremost of which is France, the US and, of course, sovereigns and banks worldwide. Miracles of miracles finally the rating agencies are doing their jobs. The caper they pulled in collusion with Wall Street in rating mortgage securities should have put them all in jail for life. We’ll call these efforts makeup time for their previous sins, which they never were prosecuted for. The complaint is their methodology is unreliable. We can assure you they know exactly what they are doing. The French want them to cease and desist. That is not going to work, because the French government and banks have very serious solvency problems. Central bankers and sovereigns always believe they are above the law. Eventually they all pay the price of greed and corruption.

Early in December the BIS informed the UK’s policy of quantitative easing, the creation of money and credit, was not working. The US central bank, the Federal Reserve, has been doing the same thing for 12 years, so we ask why has not the BIS cited them as well? Horrors of horrors just two weeks ago the ECB, European Central Bank, decreed that they were going to implement QE as well. We ask, why no BIS comment regarding the Fed and the ECB? Might it tend to bring both systems down? All of these central banks and sovereigns playing this game know that it won’t work, but they play the game anyway buying time to hope to create an opening to bring about a change in direction, which never comes. That is why we have well planned wars to distract the people from the real economic and financial problems and, of course, to relieve population problems. If you doubt us we refer you to many of the writings and statements regarding population control via Foreign Affairs, the literary organ of the CFR, the Council on Foreign Relations, or the Trilateral Commission, along with their statements as well. We might add Obamacare, which will be implemented in one year, and the “death panels”, which will become part of your life and death. Wait until you are told that your beloved mother and father’s illnesses will cost too much to treat and they will be allowed to die. We are not meandering and you cannot make such stuff up. These are the thoughts and actions of our leadership, which control your lives from behind the scenes.

The euro zone may have publicly made it clear it is their show and that they need no assistance from, of all places, the Bank of England nor the Federal Reserve, yet they mimic them, now having implemented their own QE, accompanied by $1 trillion in swap assistance from the Fed. We see the words and ideas, but the reality is that behind the scenes the Fed is pulling the strings. You judge them by what they do not by what they say. In view of their newfound responsibilities we still find the rating agencies far behind the curve, due to pressure from banking and the political structure. Keeping that in mind investors have to rely on their own research and not that of an intimidated rating system. Besides rating changes are discounted months in advance by other professionals.

All of the events you have seen in the UK, US and Europe were predicted by us. The revelations of the past year were yesterday’s news. All three entities have committed themselves to the furtherance of hanging paper whenever and wherever they can. We saw the euro crisis before it happened, so it was of no surprise to readers. The specialty media and the financial sector completely missed the boat. All three entities have proven themselves incapable of any plan or initiative of solving their problems. They just keep the game going knowing the result and refuse to purge the system, because it will rob them of their power base. This is why heretofore the PTB have not allowed any attacks verbally on their central banks, with the exception of the US. Over the next three years that will change and the Fed’s monetary work will be passed back to the US Treasury. If Ron Paul is elected it will probably happen in 2013. An end to “The President’s Working Group on Financial Markets” will precede it. That will end official market manipulation and kill the control that has been exercised by the owners of the Federal Reserve for the past 100 years. The termination of both entities will be important beyond belief.

The ECB last week began the process of making loans worth $640 billion to 523 banks. For collateral they’ll accept anything including what is known as toxic waste, virtually worthless bonds containing mortgages and the bonds of near bankrupt nations. In essence the ECB is doing what the Fed has been doing and calling it something else. As you can see almost all bankers and politicians are deceivers. This is a long-term financing operation, LTRO, which directly funds, whereas the Fed funds via market intervention. The ECB expects borrowers to bolster their balance sheets and to buy Europe’s version of toxic waste, sovereign debt, out of the market. We do not expect the latter to perform as perceived, even though with little risk a bank can buy Spanish and Italian bonds and net 4%. At the end of February more loans will be offered to repeat the process. What you are seeing is the leveraging of the purchase of foreign toxic waste with each succeeding auction. This is an end run on quantitative easing. It could easily hand banks a net 30% return for doing virtually nothing, at the same time bail the banks out, these very same banks that caused all these problems in the first place. It is called double your money in three years. A gift from euro zone taxpayers. This also shows you how easy it was to end run German taxpayers that wanted all of this stopped. This is an extremely important point. It shows you how little the bureaucrats in the EU and euro zone think of the constituents in any of the member countries.

The real hook in all of this is that it is being sold as a sovereign bailout of six countries in serious financial trouble. That it is, but what it really is, is a bank bailout similar to many other programs of the last three years. These 3-year loans can be terminated in one or two years, but who would want to do that? It is a license to steal; borrowing at 1% and investing in sovereign debt at 4% to 5%. The ECB will have a hard time weaning banks off such a prohibited concoction.

Over three years a bank can make 70% to 90% with the ECB, which is the euro zone taxpayer, taking almost all the risk. This deal from the ECB to the banks is far more blatant than the previous antics of the Fed. This arrangement, of course, leaves enormous leeway for officers of these banks to accumulate massive bonuses. These officers are raking in rigged profits, so why should they not ingratiate themselves at the public’s expense? We figure with the next tranche of funds comes up at the end of February the demand will be giant. It could double to a net $2 trillion and then if that wasn’t enough the banks will leverage the proceeds 9 to 1 to perhaps 35 to 1. How is that for a liquidity boost? Incidentally, the ECB and banks can do this indefinitely. That means a reversal of the recession in Europe and perhaps in other regions as well. For now the liquidity problem in Europe has been solved. The flip side is major inflation. From a banks viewpoint a small price to pay, as they rake in the profits and at the same time solve liquidity problems for the six problem nations.

A solution made in heaven that was prearranged with all the bankers. As we said, $9 trillion or more can be created and unless withdrawn from the system over three years we could see serious inflation. The ECB and the bankers are not going to tell you all this, and 90% of economists will miss these important points. Following this thrust of money we have seen Greek elections thrown ahead into April to give the bankers more time to make a deal to prevent Greek default, although the bankers know whatever deal they make it may be rejected by a new government. While this transpires the European economy will recover and Greece may stick with any deal that has been made. Greece’s not leaving the euro would take off some major stress on the euro. We won’t know what will transpire with Greece until late in April. This creation of money and credit over the next three years, unless money is drained from the system, could in and itself destroy the euro. These funds are far in excess of what the Fed and the Bank of England have created.

What is the answer to this course set by Europe reminds us we have to protect our wealth. It won’t take long for gold and silver to react to this giant monetization. In fact, recognition should begin and be manifest in the market beginning in the New Year. Manipulation, or not, their prices are going higher, especially from these low levels. At current levels investors should be loading up on gold and silver coins, bullion and shares, especially shares, which have been beaten down very hard.

We mention over and over again that the Federal Reserve has been in part bailing out Europe. This is the second time they have done this in concert with other central banks. Last time it was $500 billion in swaps and this time we are told that the swap figure is $1 trillion. We suppose we will find out in time. The Fed, which can lend directly, goes through the ECB, because they will guarantee the return of the funds, not only to the Fed, but also to other supposedly active lenders such as the Bank of Japan, the Bank of Canada, the Bank of England and the Swiss National Bank. The lenders are charging .50% to lend the funds. The Fed and other central banks are trying to obscure what they are doing after the revelations pertaining to massive lending by the Fed previously as exposed by the GAO under Dodd-Frank.

The currency swap is not technically a loan and does not show up on the Fed’s books as a loan. By the ECB borrowing dollars from the Fed it keeps the ECB from having to print more euros. This way the ECB lends dollars it has borrowed to its member banks. These banks are under severe pressure by their governments to purchase new and outstanding government debt. There is no doubt this will happen, but in what amounts we cannot say.

Thus, we see $638 billion the ECB has in hand plus perhaps $1 trillion from the Fed and its helpers, which is being served up to 523 banks. We then have to remember that this is a fractional banking system, which historically lending at 9 to 1 is prudent. If used that would be some $15 trillion, certainly enough for Europe to survive on. As you can see, the funds available could be endless.

Also, as you can see all is not the way it seems to be. 99.9% of Americans do not know what is going on and we’d be surprised if 35% of Europeans understand. In the US there has been a media blackout and in Europe very light coverage. The banks simply do not want anyone to know what they are up too. As we display these numbers it should be kept in mind that all these countries are loaded with unpayable debt, so what they are doing is going further into debt to pay off existing debt. This approach is generally recognized as a Ponzi scheme – we might also add all the derivative exposure these banks and government have.

The privately owned Central Bank of the US, the Federal Reserve, has absolutely no authority to bailout Europe, which they have been doing for three years and no one says a thing about it. Less than a month ago, Fed Chairman Bernanke said he has no authority to bailout Europe and he had no intention of doing so.

This is why the Fed needs to be terminated and its functions returned to the US Treasury. The Fed and other central banks running the world and they shouldn’t be. Mr. Bernanke has promised more transparency and two weeks later we get more subterfuge. There is no question Ron Paul and we have been right for over 50 years. Elect Ron Paul and get rid of the Fed.

This past week the ECB balance sheet soared to $3.55 trillion via new lending. The increase in bank lending by the ECB rose $278 billion to $1.143 trillion. That was at a 1% interest rate.

For those of you who thought Europe was improving, Spanish residential mortgages fell for an 18-month in October.

Home loans fell 43.6% year-on-year. Spain has 700,000 unsold homes sitting empty. Bad loans are at a 17-year high of 7.42%. Spain’s recovery, as that of the US, will be long and arduous.

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THE EUROPEAN PONZI SCHEME AND THE EURO

by Bob Chapman

It is now obvious to alert observers that the ECR’s new long-term refinancing program, LTRO, is an end-run quantitative easing program. The bankers and politicians would not dare call it what it really is. Who would not want 3-year loans at 1%? Then there is Target 2, where the Bundesbank has secretly but legally, lent the ECB $640 billion. That money will be shared as a bailout for the six euro zone nations, which are on the edge of bankruptcy. These are technically claims not loans. You only discover the legerdemain if you root around in the footnotes of the reports of euro zone members. Just five years ago these target claims were just 7% of Bundesbank assets. They now represent 64% of assets. Worst yet the collateral the ECB holds to back these loans is toxic debt. If and when debt failure occurs proportionately Germany’s part of all that debt is 28% of the total. We learn something new every day. What this means is that $1 trillion swap, which is really a loan to the ECB by the Fed, will probably be exclusively used to bail out European banks, 523 at last count.

Just to give you an idea of debt structure, as a percentage of GDP, Germany’s public debt as a percentage of public debt in 2009 was 74% and today it is 83% of GDP. In Greece in 2009 it was 79% and today it is 82%. Italy is 120% and Greece 160%.

The bottom line is there has been little or no restraint in spending over the last ten years in government, personal and corporate debt all of which has grown exponentially. Just look at Italy and Italians are big savers. In ten years corporate debt is up from 96% to 128%, personal debt has risen from 30% of GDP to 53% of GDP. Overall debt is up from 252% to 310%. The 18 main countries in the OECD saw the total debt to GDP rise from 160% of GDP in 1980 to 321% in 2010. Corporate non-financial corporations increased by 300%, governments 425% and personal by 600%.

We just saw this latest swap of $1 trillion by the Fed to the ECB and you have to ask yourself how long can this go on? The leverage in the system; where does it end? We do not know and neither does anyone else, but it will end unhappily.

The elitists want fast GDP growth attained by the issuance of more money and credit as exemplified over the past three years by the Federal Reserve and others. This supposedly allows fast growth. Unfortunately, thus far this has not been successful as yet, just sending GDP slightly upwards for a short period of time. History shows us that 98% of the time this approach has been unsuccessful. It is glaringly obvious that the only thing central banks have tried to do is save themselves, banks and other financial institutions and governments. Little or no effort has been made to rebuild labor markets or to provide capital for expansion, research and market protecting efforts. Nations cannot trade their way out of this dilemma, because they have to compete against China, German, Japan, etc., which means the powerhouse will grab 60% of the trade benefits due to use of slave labor and productivity. We hear the elitists and their mouthpieces recommend more international cooperation to rebalance trade flows. Of course they realize we have seen what a problem WTO and NAFTA have been for trade facility. They know right well that the only solution for trade is universal barriers on goods and services. We operated that way for hundreds of years and a fair balanced system worked. The reason the WTO and NAFTA haven’t been dumped is that transnational corporate interests are making a fortune and that free trade, globalization, offshoring and outsourcing are being used to destroy economies of the US, UK and Europe in order to force these countries inhabitants to accept world government. Nobody wants to talk about it, but this is part of the economic and financial solution. A balanced playing field, which is something we certainly do not have presently. Incidentally, this is another reason we need Ron Paul as our president. The end of free trade would allow the US, UK and Europe to recover and thus help bring about a long awaited recovery, which central banks and insolvent banks, have not been able to bring us. Politicians are reluctant to change labor markets, because their major campaign contributors all want free trade for profits and to bring about world government. Corporate profits during this inflationary depression are staggering. Corporations get tax breaks and instead of creating jobs they buy more automation equipment to effect more layoffs. Their profits are being used to hold up the banking system and the government, instead of being used to support a fair system. Thus, a combination of trade tariffs and bank lending could help save the system, or should we say the best parts of the system.

Corporate profits, as a percentage of GDP, are at an all-time high of 13% in just cash alone. Yet, real net investments are the lowest in some 35 years. Doesn’t that seem strange to anyone especially professionals, who know exactly why the system is not working and why the economies of the US, UK and Europe are being destroyed. Yet, like the elimination of free trade no one wants to even think about it. Even conservative newsletter writers or commentators shy away from discussion or simply do not understand the issue. Many cite the problem of aging in western societies and they are in part correct. These problems can be suppressed by offering incentives for breeding and the recreation of tariffs on goods and services to allow for a balanced trading field. The latter will allow for training of a new generation of workers, which currently have no future at all. Companies say growth is sluggish, so they won’t loan. They caused the sluggishness in the first place via offshoring and outsourcing financing that has caused the absence of jobs, all, or most all countries are headed in the same direction with the same problems. Everyone is trying to export more as all nations undergo austerity programs and tax increases. As we all know that is impossible. That is why 523 banks in the euro zone needed $600 billion in loans. If they are not all broke they soon will be. This points up the impossibility of any debt payback. The loans are a subterfuge to keep the game going.

It is pretty obvious that the Illuminists are going to inflate away the debt they have created. They will keep doing that until the system falls to its knees and they cannot do it anymore, which should in finality bring the system down. Elitists tell us confidence in the system will keep higher inflation at bay. We’ll see, but do not attempt to use official figures. They so often have been proven to be bogus.

Europe wants to change the structure of both the Maastricht Treaty of 1992 and the Lisbon Treaty as well. That could take them two years. Considering the EU’s track record we are not at all optimistic that any changes will ever be followed. Again, all that is being done is buying time. The ECB bank will have to keep interest rates down and plenty of freshly minted money and credit available via swaps with the Fed. No matter what the ECB, EFSF and the ESM do they all must borrow money from the solvent members, and the Fed and there is no possible way of paying it back. The Fed isn’t concerned about getting paid back, because the US taxpayer will pick up the bill. While this transpires over the next three years Spanish debt to GDP could increase from 60% to 70% and from 120% to 140%. There is simply no end to the game, because eventually it spells failure. Who would have believed with all its economic and financial success that Germany would have debt to GDP of 87%? They need 3% GDP growth to stay even and in 2012 that will be no easy task with fellow EU members having the same problems.

In addition to the current European Ponzi scheme we have the problem of the euro. For years we said the euro would fail and now many other analysts accompany us. We have been told as a precaution that Germany and France have been printing the Deutschemark and the franc. Needless to say, many steps would have to be taken for any nation leaving the euro, and there would be significant turbulence in all markets as a result; especially in the CDS unregulated market. The beginning of the failure could be the catalyst that ushers in worldwide depression. Considering the trillions of dollars being fed into the system, as we have said earlier Europe should recover and some of those funds will slosh over into England and the US causing a better than expected year.

Thus, we move forward with the trillion-dollar swap – a Mickey Mouse way of again breaking the rules and the spirit of the rules. The funds will be distributed by the ECB to the 523 banks, which will lend a portion of those to hedge funds and other connected investors, so that they can continue to manipulate markets.

The Germans are at a crossroads. Do they really want to abandon the euro? They know tariffs will go up immediately that will make German products more expensive as exports. Such an event would spell the end of the WTO, the World Trade Organization. The euro zoned and the EU that exclusive club would be in for big changes. The end of free trade and their treaties would be ripped asunder. Tariffs would rise all over the world and a level playing field would be created, allowing America and many other countries to again protect their national interests. US deindustrialization would end and many German advantages as well would end. The Germans were the big push behind the euro in 1990 to 1993, but they were not alone. Their banking masters were always in the background expediting the process of monetary, fiscal and political union in order to bring about world government. It should be remembered in the G20 agreement that the US had to comply with those rules. Either Germany really wants to consolidate the union with or without the euro, or they want to break up the union and dump the union. The question is which is it, and our answer is we do not know as yet. All we can say is there is something big brewing. Does Germany want to dominate Europe or go on its own? This is a very intriguing question. Germany’s strengths are exports and they must keep their advantages in some form. It could be in increased productivity, but attempting to maintain productivity growth at 4% to 5% is very difficult, when the annual US average since WWII is 2.5%. Whatever is apparent is that the interdependent, interconnected world of free trade and globalization is not working. Even with all the WTO and NAFTA controls there are vast imbalances. Just look at the US economy, 12 million jobs lost over 12 years and 450,000 businesses never to return, unless tariffs are implemented. The same is true for England, southern and Eastern Europe. The only countries that have held on fairly well are those with natural resources. Even Wall Street has been affected with a slower economy and less funds to be invested. The credit crisis pointed that out and now they are faced with a debt crisis, as major US banks hold over $2 trillion in cash to weather the coming storm. It may take awhile, but it is on the way.

Yes, we know the transnational, global banks continue apace to move the industrial base as well as service base out of the US, the UK and Western Europe, which continues to put extreme downward pressure on those economies. Eastern Europe is a basket case like the leading six nations in trouble. We are sure, as will be the case with the six; they’ll be bailed out as well. Remember, the actions of the Fed and the ECB provides endless sums of money. This torrent of money and credit does not solve any underlying problems; they just extend the problem into the future. These are the same characters that are moving assets into their own hands and out of the US. They are assisted in these efforts by well paid off politicians and in there endeavors are crushing the upper middle and middle class. We wrote feverishly in the 1990s regarding the Commodity Futures Modernization Act, the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act and the linking together of FASB, of GAAP and with IFRS, which proceeded to spread corruption all over banking and Wall Street. They then followed with the creation of the OTC derivatives market, which now holds the entire financial world in its tentacles.

Bob Chapman is a frequent contributor to Global Research.

AMERICANS BUY RECORD NUMBERS OF GUNS FOR CHRISTMAS

Americans bought record numbers of guns last month amid an apparent surge in popularity for weapons as Christmas presents.

By Nick Allen, Los Angeles | telegraph.co.uk

According to the FBI, over 1.5 million background checks on customers were requested by gun dealers to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System in December. Nearly 500,000 of those were in the six days before Christmas.

It was the highest number ever in a single month, surpassing the previous record set in November.

On Dec 23 alone there were 102,222 background checks, making it the second busiest single day for buying guns in history.  The actual number of guns bought may have been even higher if individual customers took home more than one each.

Explanations for America’s surge in gun buying include that it is a response to the stalled economy with people fearing crime waves. Another theory is that buyers are rushing to gun shops because they believe tighter firearms laws will be introduced in the future.

The National Rifle Association said people were concerned about self defence because police officer numbers were declining.  A spokesman said: “I think there’s an increased realisation that when something bad occurs it’s going to be between them and the criminal.”

But anti-gun campaigners said those who already owned weapons were simply hoarding more of them due to “fear-mongering” by the NRA.

A spokeswoman for the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence said: “The research we’ve seen indicates fewer and fewer people are owning more and more guns.”

Dave LaRue, of Legendary Guns in Phoenix, Arizona, said Christmas sales were up 25 per cent on the previous year and ammunition sales were also “brisk”.

He said: “There are a lot of people concerned about pending gun legislation and the sense about the current administration. People think future availability will be limited and there’s a feeling of get it while you can.”

The record for gun sales in a single day was set in November, on the day after Thanksgiving, when 129,166 background searches were carried out on customers buying weapons.

Since the near-fatal shooting of congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords by a deranged gunman in Tucson, Arizona last January there have been increasing calls for tighter gun control. Miss Giffords survived being shot in the head with a semi-automatic handgun, and six other people were killed.

AMERICANS MAKE UP HALF OF THE WORLD’S RICHEST 1%

By Annalyn Censky | CNNMoney

NEW YORK — The United States holds a disproportionate amount of the world’s rich people.

It only takes $34,000 a year, after taxes, to be among the richest 1% in the world. That’s for each person living under the same roof, including children. (So a family of four, for example, needs to make $136,000.)

So where do these lucky rich people live? As of 2005 — the most recent data available — about half of them, or 29 million lived in the United States, according to calculations by World Bank economist Branko Milanovic in his book The Haves and the Have-Nots.

Another four million live in Germany. The rest are mainly scattered throughout Europe, Latin America and a few Asian countries. Statistically speaking, none live in Africa, China or India despite those being some of the most populous areas of the world.

The numbers put into perspective the idea of a rapidly growing global middle class.

Sure, China and India are seeing their economies grow quickly, and along with that growth, large portions of their populations are also becoming richer. But remember, the emerging world is starting from a very low base to begin with, so its middle class is just that — still emerging, says Milanovic.

“It doesn’t seem right to define as middle class, people who would be on food stamps in the United States,” Milanovic said.

The true global middle class, falls far short of owning a home, having a car in a driveway, saving for retirement and sending their kids to college. In fact, people at the world’s true middle — as defined by median income — live on just $1,225 a year. (And, yes, Milanovic’s numbers are adjusted to account for different costs of living across the globe.)

In the grand scheme of things, even the poorest 5% of Americans are better off financially than two thirds of the entire world.

DAVID SWANSON: “UNEMPLOYMENT NUMBERS ARE PHONY NUMBERS”

The White House was in celebration mode  after the Labor Department declared the joblessness numbers have fallen to a three year low to 8.5 percent. Approximately 212,000 new jobs were created, but many feel that these numbers are distorted since people who have been unemployed for long periods of time and people how have part-time jobs were omitted. David Swanson, activist and author of When the World Outlawed War, joins us to examine the numbers.

***

SERIOUSLY, IF YOU PICK THE WRONG MAJOR THEN PREPARE TO BE UNEMPLOYED

Aimee Groth | BusinessInsider

Today’s college grads have it tough. The unemployment rate for students with a new bachelor’s degree is 8.9% — which is pretty on-par with the rest of the nation.

Those with a GED have it even tougher, with an unemployment rate of 22.9%.

Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce released a study today that reveals the unemployment rates and salaries for nearly every type of college major — and includes these numbers for recent grads, those with experience, and those with a graduate degree (via Washington Post).

The unemployment rate for architecture majors is the highest at 13.9%, followed by arts majors (11.1%) and humanities and liberal arts majors (9.4%).

 

The unemployment rate for architecture majors is the highest at 13.9%

The unemployment rate for architecture majors is the highest at 13.9%

 

This chart shows just how much worse it is for architecture majors

This chart shows just how much worse it is for architecture majors

 

If you want financial security, your best bet is to go into engineering

If you want financial security, your best bet is to go into engineering

 

Film majors also have a high unemployment rate at 12.9%

Film majors also have a high unemployment rate at 12.9%

 

Those who study family and consumer sciences within the journalism field have the lowest starting salaries

Those who study family and consumer sciences within the journalism field have the lowest starting salaries

 

Those who choose elementary education won’t get paid that well, but they have a better chance at landing a job

Those who choose elementary education won't get paid that well, but they have a better chance at landing a job

 

But if you go with engineering, it doesn’t really matter what your focus is — you’ll make a good salary regardless

But if you go with engineering, it doesn't really matter what your focus is — you'll make a good salary regardless

 

Philosophy and religion majors have a bleak unemployment outlook

Philosophy and religion majors have a bleak unemployment outlook

 

History majors don’t fare much better

History majors don't fare much better

 

Recent economics grads face an unemployment rate of 9.4%

Recent economics grads face an unemployment rate of 9.4%

 

***

COLLEGE STUDENTS NEED TO LOOK AT THESE CHARTS BEFORE DECIDING ON A MAJOR

Gus Lubin and Robert Johnson | BusinessInsider

College freshmen are often encouraged to take strange electives, on the off chance they will discover an interest in Post-Colonial African Literature, Ancient Greek History or Modern Dance.

This seems like treacherous advice these days, when a college degree no longer guarantees a good job.

In fact tons of information is out there about majors, employment and earnings. We’ve pulled out findings from a report by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce.

May we suggest you look into engineering.

 

Petroleum engineer is the highest paying major, with median earnings of $120k

Petroleum engineer is the highest paying major, with median earnings of $120k

Counseling psychology is the lowest paying major, with a median of $29k

Counseling psychology is the lowest paying major, with a median of $29k

 

Major in geological engineering, military tech, pharmacology or student counseling and you will definitely get a job

Major in geological engineering, military tech, pharmacology or student counseling and you will definitely get a job

 

Social psych majors have the highest unemployment rate at 16%

Social psych majors have the highest unemployment rate at 16%

 

Business administration is the most popular major in the United States

Business administration is the most popular major in the United States

 

Guidance counselor is the least popular major

Guidance counselor is the least popular major

 

Early childhood development has the highest share of female students

Early childhood development has the highest share of female students

 

Naval architecture and marine engineering majors have the greatest share of male students

Naval architecture and marine engineering majors have the greatest share of male students

 

Computer science is the most heavily Asian

Computer science is the most heavily Asian

Student counseling is the most heavily African American

Student counseling is the most heavily African American

Biological engineering is the most heavily Hispanic

Biological engineering is the most heavily Hispanic

Forestry is the whitest major

Forestry is the whitest major

Among the ten most popular majors, computer science pays the most

Among the ten most popular majors, computer science pays the most

 

To be competitive in any of these fields you probably need a graduate degree — in student counseling 91% of your colleagues will have one

To be competitive in any of these fields you probably need a graduate degree -- in student counseling 91% of your colleagues will have one

 

Only 9% of workers in commercial art and graphic design have graduate degrees

Only 9% of workers in commercial art and graphic design have graduate degrees

 

Health and medical preparatory program majors earn a whopping 190% more with a graduate degree

Health and medical preparatory program majors earn a whopping 190% more with a graduate degree

 

If you majored in atmospheric sciences and meteorology a graduate degree probably isn’t worth it, with only a 1% pay boost

If you majored in atmospheric sciences and meteorology a graduate degree probably isn't worth it, with only a 1% pay boost

 

***

BOEING TO SHUT DOWN WICHITA PLANT

WICHITA, Kan. (AP/CBS Seattle) – The Boeing Co., for decades the brand that helped support Wichita’s claim as the aviation capital of the world, announced Wednesday it will shut down facilities in the city by the end of 2013 and send work to plants in three other states as it deals with defense spending cutbacks.

The Associated Press reports that the closure will cost 2,160 workers their jobs and end the firm’s presence in an area where it has been a major employer for generations, but Boeing tells CBS Seattle that the number is incorrect.

“We don’t know how many layoffs we will have right now,” Boeing spokesman Forrest Gossett told CBS Seattle, adding that employees at the Wichita plant will be offered jobs to the relocated sites at Oklahoma City or San Antonio.

The decision was not a surprise because Boeing said in November it was looking at closing the Wichita plant. But it still drew an angry response from Kansas lawmakers who helped Boeing land a lucrative Air Force refueling tanker project in February and had expected thousands of jobs to come to Wichita with it. Instead, the tanker work will go to Boeing’s facilities near Seattle.

“Boeing’s announcement is that things have changed,” U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran said. “Well, the only thing that really has changed in my mind in the last year is Boeing now has the contract. When they made the commitments, they didn’t.”

Mark Bass, a Boeing vice president, said the market for defense work has changed dramatically in the past 18 months and the Wichita facility wasn’t competitive because of its size and high labor costs. The site includes 97 buildings with 2 million square feet.

Bass declined to say how much the company expected to save by moving the work elsewhere.

Wichita had hoped the number of jobs at the facility would grow after Boeing won the contract worth at least $35 billion to build 179 Air Force refueling tankers. Modification work on the planes was expected to generate 7,500 direct and indirect jobs with an overall economic impact of nearly $390 million.

Boeing said 24 Kansas-based suppliers for the refueling tanker project will still provide parts as planned.

The first layoffs in Wichita are expected in the second half of 2012. While the Seattle area will build the tankers and handle their modifications, engineering work will move to Oklahoma City and future aircraft maintenance, modification and support will go to San Antonio, Texas.

The three states combined could pick up as many as 1,400 jobs, with Oklahoma City gaining 800 and San Antonio getting 300 to 400. The Seattle area will add 200 tanker construction jobs but about 100 support positions from there will move to Oklahoma City in the shuffle, Bass said. Wichita workers will be allowed to apply for jobs in the other locations.

Boeing said it will continue to have a significant impact on the Kansas economy and its aerospace industry. The Chicago-based company spent more than $3.2 billion with 475 Kansas suppliers last year. Kansas is the fourth largest state in its supplier network.

But that wasn’t enough for lawmakers like U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas, who said Boeing had promised as recently as February to remain in Wichita if it received the tanker contract. Roberts and others urged the company to reconsider.

Moran called Boeing’s move “a blow to our mental health as well as our pocketbooks.” Kansas officials are still willing to do what it takes to keep the Boeing plant open, but “it’s difficult to negotiate with someone who hasn’t kept their word,” he said.

Republican Gov. Sam Brownback promised Kansas will pursue opportunities in commercial aircraft manufacturing. Aircraft makers like Cessna Aircraft Co., Hawker Beechcraft and Bombardier still have plants in Wichita, which Brownback said remains “the best place in the world to build airplanes.”

Kansas Democratic Party chair Joan Wagnon said the decision shows that throwing money at wealthy corporations doesn’t guarantee loyalty or longevity.

“Despite all the economic incentives and tax breaks, of which there were many, and despite the loyalty of Boeing’s workers and its long history in Kansas, Boeing turned its back on a community and a state that supported the corporation generously through tough times,” Wagnon said.

But the news was welcomed elsewhere.

“The decision of the Boeing Company to move tanker work to Washington is bitter-sweet,” said Everett Mayor Ray Stephenson, noting Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer’s support for an American-made tanker. “I was grateful for his support and am saddened for the workers and families in Wichita. That said, Everett stands ready to support additional aerospace work in the Puget Sound region.”

Brewer, who once worked for Boeing, said the disappointment in Boeing’s decision to abandon its 80-year relationship with Wichita and Kansas “will not diminish anytime soon.” The city, county and state have invested too many taxpayer dollars in Boeing to take the announcement lightly, he said.

Boeing has had a facility in Wichita since it bought the Stearman Aircraft Co. in 1929.

Employment at the plant peaked during World War II, when its 40,000 workers included President Barack Obama’s grandmother Madelyn Dunham, who worked the night shift as a supervisor on the B-29 bomber assembly line.

The company remained Wichita’s largest employer for decades after the war.

It still had about 15,000 workers in the city in 2005, when it spun off its commercial aircraft operations in Kansas and Oklahoma. After the divestiture, Boeing kept 4,500 workers for its defense work in Wichita but layoffs have since slashed that number.

Spirit AeroSystems, which took over Boeing’s commercial aircraft operations, still makes parts for Boeing in Wichita.

Jeremy Hill, director of Wichita State University’s Center for Economic Development and Business Research, said most Boeing workers are likely to stay in the area and find other jobs. But the company’s departure is a psychological blow.

“It was something that was very important to people here, something they recognized, something they would tell other people when they came and visited,” Hill said. “Boeing has that name that’s household and recognized, and it had a value to people when they promote the area.”

THESE FAMOUS BRANDS WILL DISAPPEAR IN 2012

By Jim Edwards | BusinessInsider

Two days before the Wall Street Journal reported Kodak will file for bankruptcy, James R. Gregory, CEO of branding and market research firm CoreBrand, predicted that Kodak would “disappear” as a brand in 2012.

CoreBrand conducts 8,000 phone surveys of business leaders every year, and asks them about the corporate reputations of 800 companies in 49 industries. Participants are asked to rate brands based on favorability, overall reputation, perception of management, and investment potential.

Kodak has been in trouble for years, of course, after it invented the digital camera in 1975 and then failed to capitalize on it. But it was intriguing that the CoreBrand survey signaled the potential end of Kodak before its lawyers did.

Gregory says his data also shows that the Sears and Saab brands are failing to contribute to their companies’ fortunes, as is Yum! Brands and insurer Aon.

We asked Gregory to tell us which other companies’ brands appear to be in trouble, and why.

1. Kodak: Bankruptcy doesn’t mean the end for Kodak as a business. The company and its brands could be bought or restructured. But it isn’t looking good.

“There is high familiarity with the Kodak brand,” Gregory says, “but there’s a lack of clarity or focus for the organization, which shows up in our data. It’s much harder to understand what Kodak does these days. The film and development and printing of pictures is not something Kodak does anymore. Therefore, what is it they actually do? That’s something that’s not well understood.”

2. Sears: An operating loss is expected at Sears Holding Corp. for 2011 and the company is axing 100 to 120 Sears and Kmart stores to keep up. CEO Eddie Lampert is sticking with his company, however. Could Sears really disappear?

“Their brand has been suffering from the corporate brand perspective,” Gregory says. “As strong as a brand is, and it has huge familiarity and favorability over the years, you can’t continue to have a lack of focus without causing long-term damage.”

3. Avery Dennison: You’ve probably never heard of Avery Dennison but you’ve almost certainly used its products. It’s perhaps best-known for Hi-Liter pens. Avery just sold its office and consumer products business to 3M for $550 million. Could this be the beginning of the end for Avery? Gregory can’t say, but he notes that “The data is always accurate in identifying problems.”

4. Saab: An easy call, as Saab hasn’t made a car since April and it filed for bankruptcy in Sweden in December.

“The brand itself might be pretty strong, as is the case with Kodak. A brand alone cannot overcome the financial aspects of an organization,” Gregory says.

5. Aon: This is a surprise: The reinsurer signed a huge new sponsorship contract with Manchester United. Its name is arguably better known globally now than it has been in years.

Gregory’s data, however, argues that in the U.S. Aon’s marketing is not working, and therefore the company might as well drop the brand. “Aon has been one that has tried very hard to build its brand image. But it has been, basically from my perspective, ineffective. It might be more effective in other countries.”

6. CA Technologies: CA is in rude health. Its brand, however, is like a marketing witness protection program. The company used to be better known as Computer Associates but that name was tarnished by an accounting scandal in the mid-2000s.

“Again this is a brand that has evolved over time,” Gregory says. “They have not really focused on the corporate image of their organization so their brand is not pulling its weight in terms of what it should be doing.”

7. Yum! Brands: Yum! is the owner of KFC, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut. The three restaurant chains were originally spun out of PepsiCo, and the company is doing well as a whole. But the fourth moniker isn’t adding any brand equity, and the company could live without it if it wanted to, Gregory says. “One of the jobs of a holding company is to make sure the corporate message is getting out. I think they did at the very beginning but they never put meaning behind it.”

8. Pittsburgh Plate Glass Company (PPG): PPG makes paint and other industrial products, including Lucite, the see-through plastic used in stripper heels. PPG suffers from a similar problem as Yum! — its individual products and brands are famous in their own worlds, but the parent company remains an unknown.

“PPG traditionally has been a big brand in the U.S., not as a name consumers would know but as a manufacturer of paint and glass and other things,” Gregory says. Yet among its core audience — “avid readers of the business press,” Gregory says — PPG ought to be as famous as Behr or Benjamin Moore.

9. Steelcase: Steelcase is an office furniture manufacturer. If you’ve ever had a job, there’s a good chance you’ve used or sat on its products. “This one perplexes me more than most,” Gregory says. “They make wonderful products. They’re a U.S.-based company. They’ve been able to withstand the ups and downs of the office furniture industry. I just don’t think they have a strong corporate brand.”

“It doesn’t mean the company isn’t performing well,” Gregory says. “Our point of view is on the corporate brand and how it’s contributing to the financial value of the company.”

10. KeyBank: It’s a bank, and like all banks suffers from the horrible reputation of the financial services industry as a whole. “They’re also a smaller regional bank as opposed to a Bank of America or Citibank,” Gregory says. One obvious problem: What, exactly, is the difference between KeyBank and KeyCorp.?

***

KODAK TEETERS ON THE BRINK OF BANKRUPTCY

By MIKE SPECTOR And DANA MATTIOLI | The Wall Street Journal

Eastman Kodak Co. is preparing to seek bankruptcy protection in the coming weeks, people familiar with the matter said, a move that would cap a stunning comedown for a company that once ranked among America’s corporate titans.

The 131-year-old company is still making last-ditch efforts to sell off some of its patent portfolio and could avoid Chapter 11 if it succeeds, one of the people said. But the company has started making preparations for a filing in case those efforts fail, including talking to banks about some $1 billion in financing to keep it afloat during bankruptcy proceedings, the people said.

A Kodak spokesman said the company “does not comment on market rumor or speculation.”

A filing could come as soon as this month or early February, one of the people familiar with the matter said. Kodak would continue to pay its bills and operate normally while under bankruptcy protection, the people said. But the company’s focus would then be the sale of some 1,100 patents through a court-supervised auction, the people said.

That Kodak is even contemplating a bankruptcy filing represents a final reversal of fortune for a company that once dominated its industry, drawing engineering talent from around the country to its Rochester, N.Y., headquarters and plowing money into research that produced thousands of breakthroughs in imaging and other technologies.

The company, for instance, invented the digital camera—in 1975—but never managed to capitalize on the new technology.
Casting about for alternatives to its lucrative but shrinking film business, Kodak toyed with chemicals, bathroom cleaners and medical-testing devices in the 1980s and 1990s, before deciding to focus on consumer and commercial printers in the past half-decade under Chief Executive Antonio Perez.

None of the new pursuits generated the cash needed to fund the change in course and cover the company’s big obligations to its retirees. A Chapter 11 filing could help Kodak shed some of those obligations, but the viability of the company’s printer strategy has yet to be demonstrated, raising questions about the fate of the company’s 19,000 employees.

Such uncertainty was once unthinkable at Kodak, whose near-monopoly on film produced high margins that the company shared with its workers. On “wage dividend days,” a tradition started by Kodak founder George Eastman, the company would pay out bonuses to all workers based on its results, and employees would use the checks to buy cars and celebrate at fancy restaurants.

Former employees say the company was the Apple Inc. or Google Inc. of its time. Robert Shanebrook, 64 years old, who started at the company in 1967 and was most recently world-wide product manager for professional photographic film, recalls young talent traipsing through Kodak’s sprawling corporate campus. At lunch, they would crowd the auditorium to watch a daily movie at an on-site theater. Other employees would play basketball on the company courts.

“We had this self-imposed opinion of ourselves that we could do anything, that we were undefeatable,” Mr. Shanebrook said.
Kodak’s troubles date back to the 1980s, when the company struggled with foreign competitors that stole its market share in film. The company later had to cope with the rise of digital photography and smartphones.

It wasn’t until 10 years ago that the mood began to sour, said Mr. Shanebrook. By 2003, Kodak announced it would stop making investments in film. “I didn’t want to stick around for the demise,” he said.

Kodak shares closed Wednesday at 47 cents, down 28% after The Wall Street Journal reported the company was preparing a Chapter 11 filing.

Kodak has lost money each year but one since Mr. Perez, who previously headed the printer business at Hewlett-Packard Co., took over in 2005. The company’s problems came to a head in 2011, as Mr. Perez’s strategy of using patent lawsuits and licensing deals to raise cash ran dry.

Hoping to plug the hole, Kodak put some of its digital patents up for sale in August. Efforts to sell the portfolio have been slowed by bidders’ concerns that Kodak might seek bankruptcy protection. The company has talked to hedge funds about borrowing hundreds of millions of dollars to bridge its finances until the patents sell, but the talks have faltered, people familiar with the matter said.

The first sign of acute cash pressure came in late September, when Kodak drew $160 million from its credit line at a time when it had told investors it would be building cash. The move sent Kodak’s stock tumbling and raised fresh concerns about the company’s viability.

Soon after, Kodak hired restructuring lawyers and advisers to help shore up its finances.

The company and its board have weighed a potential bankruptcy filing for months. Advisers told Kodak a filing would make its patent sale easier and likely allow the company to command a higher price, people familiar with the matter have said. The obligation to cover pension and health-care costs for retirees could also be purged through bankruptcy proceedings, the people said.

Those obligations—which run to hundreds of millions of dollars a year—as well as the unprofitable state of Kodak’s new businesses, have made the company undesirable as a takeover target, people familiar with the matter said.

During a two-day meeting of the company’s board, management and advisers in mid-December, executives were briefed on how Kodak would fund itself during bankruptcy proceedings should efforts to sell its patents fall short, a person familiar with the matter said.

Kodak is in discussions with large banks including J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., Citigroup Inc. and Wells Fargo & Co. for so-called debtor-in-possession financing to keep the company operating in bankruptcy court, people familiar with the matter said.

Kodak has also held discussions with bondholders and a group led by investment firm Cerberus Capital Management LP about a bankruptcy financing package, the people said.

Should it seek bankruptcy protection, Kodak would follow other well-known companies that have failed to adapt to rapidly changing business models. They included Polaroid Corp., which filed for bankruptcy protection a second time in December 2008; Borders Group Inc., which liquidated itself last year; and Blockbuster Inc., which filed for bankruptcy protection in 2010 and was later bought by Dish Network Corp. A bankruptcy filing would kick off what is expected to be a busier year in restructuring circles, as economic growth continues to drag and fears about European sovereign debt woes threaten to make credit markets less inviting for companies that need to refinance their debts.

Mr. Perez decided to base the company’s future on consumer and commercial inkjet printing. But the saturated market has proved tough to penetrate, and Kodak is paying heavily to subsidize sales as it builds a base of users for its ink.
The company remains a bit player in a printer market dominated by giants like H-P. Kodak ranks fifth world-wide, according to technology data firm IDC, with a market share of 2.6% in the first nine months of 2011.

As the company works on a restructuring plan, a key issue for creditors is whether the printer operations are worth supporting, or whether the bulk of the company’s value is in its patents.

Nortel Networks Corp., a company that also had fallen behind the technology curve, opted to liquidate itself in bankruptcy court rather than reorganize, raising a greater than expected $4.5 billion for its patent trove.

Kodak’s founder, Mr. Eastman, took his life at the age of 77 in what is now a museum celebrating the founder and Kodak’s impact on photography. His suicide note read: “To my friends, my work is done. Why wait?”

***

PRESIDENT’S COUNCIL ON JOBS AND COMPETITIVENESS

Antonio M. Perez

Chairman and CEO, Eastman Kodak Company

Since joining the company in April 2003, Kodak’s Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Antonio M. Perez, has led the worldwide transformation of Kodak from a business based on film to one based primarily on digital technologies. In the past seven years, Kodak introduced an array of disruptive new digital technologies and products for consumer and commercial applications that generated approximately $5.5 billion in revenue in 2010. Those include, among others, consumer inkjet printers, pocket video cameras, sensors for digital products, and dry labs for printing at retail, as well as offset-class commercial inkjet presses, high-volume digital production presses, digital controllers, workflow software solutions and digital plates for commercial printing and packaging. The result is a new Kodak — a company where digital products account for 75 percent of revenue, where higher gross margin commercial businesses account for more than 50 percent of revenue, and with a portfolio of cash-generating traditional businesses.

Mr. Perez brings to the task his experience from a 25-year career at Hewlett-Packard Company, where he was a corporate vice president and a member of the company’s Executive Council. As President of HP’s Consumer Business, Mr. Perez spearheaded the company’s efforts to build a business in digital imaging and electronic publishing, generating worldwide revenue of more than $16 billion.

Prior to that assignment, Mr. Perez served as President and CEO of HP’s inkjet imaging business for five years. During that time, the installed base of HP’s inkjet printers grew from 17 million to 100 million worldwide, with revenue totaling more than $10 billion.

After HP, Mr. Perez was President and CEO of Gemplus International, where he led the effort to take the company public. While at Gemplus, he transformed the company into the leading Smart Card-based solution provider in the fast-growing wireless and financial markets. In the first fiscal year, revenue at Gemplus grew 70 percent, from $700 million to $1.2 billion.

Mr. Perez is a member of The Business Council and the Business Roundtable, where he serves as Chair of the Consumer Health and Retirement Initiative and is a member of the Executive Committee. He serves as a member of the Escuela Superior de Administración y Dirección de Empresas (ESADE) International Advisory Board. He is also a member of the board of trustees of the George Eastman House International Museum of Photography and Film. Mr. Perez is a former member of the Board of Directors of Adobe, Freescale and Schering-Plough Corporation. He is also the former Chair of the Diversity Best Practices CEO Diversity Initiative.

Mr. Perez is also a founding board member of Change the Equation, a CEO-led initiative to move the U.S. to the top of the pack in science and math education over the next decade.

An American citizen born in Spain, Mr. Perez studied electronic engineering, marketing, and business in Spain and France.

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