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Quick jump to below stories:
Urban unrest spreads in France
Soaring price of gold predicts bout of carnage in bond markets
Iran oil bourse: a threat to the petrodollar?
The FBI's Secret Scrutiny - In Hunt for Terrorists, Bureau Examines Records of Ordinary Americans
China Makes New Demands on "Complacent" Oil Market
Buying Local And The Circulating Dollar
Wal-Mart Documentary Director Issues Offer to Company

[As France experiences a meltdown, the major media merely gloss over the common themes given for the massive rioting that now threatens to spread throughout Europe: declining government services, rampant unemployment, poverty, rising prices, inflation and a progressive squeeze on “Les Miserables” to keep up appearances for the outer world and the financial markets. However these trends are masked, they are exactly what should be anticipated as Peak Oil and gas put stress on the current economic paradigm. It is fundamentally maladaptive to consider only energy supplies without taking into account the damage done to the social fabric which will then make it more difficult to engage in remedial strategies, conservation, and rational, pro-active future planning. Energy that could have been used to keep things running while alternative plans are made is now being spent putting out fires, dispatching police and troops and on otherwise unnecessary activities. I remember an observation made frequently in Los Angeles after both the 1965 Watts riots and the 1992 Rodney King riots. “The fools are burning their own neighborhoods.”

The ability of modern industrial civilizations to absorb these blows is now strained almost to the breaking point. Human frustrations and the fundamental lack of understanding about why these conditions exist are only accelerating the problems we will all be experiencing soon enough. Rising expectations – undiminished by a truthful presentation of reality – are going to make adjustments in the face of Peak Oil that much more difficult and ultimately impossible. – MCR]

Urban unrest spreads in France

James Sturcke and agencies
Monday November 7, 2005
The Guardian,11882,1636153,00.html

In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.

France was tonight braced for a 12th consecutive night of the rioting that has spread to close to more than 270 towns and claimed one life.

Jean-Jacques Le Chenadec, 61, from Stains, in the Seine-Saint-Denis region outside Paris, died today from his injuries in hospital after being beaten on Friday as he put out a fire in a rubbish bin.

Police have made more than 1,200 arrests so far, 400 of them last night. The violence, though concentrated in Paris's bleak suburbs, has spread throughout France, with some town mayors now considering curfews.

The torching of cars outside Brussels' main train station and in a working class district of Berlin has been blamed on copycat rioting.

As night fell in the southern French city of Toulouse, 50 rioters set fire to a bus and pelted police with Molotov cocktails and rocks in the evening's first - but probably not last - unrest on the streets.

Last night, the 11th and worst night of violence so far, vandals set fire to more than 1,400 vehicles and 36 police were injured, the head of national policing, Michel Gaudin told a news conference today.

Attacks were reported in 274 towns and police made 395 arrests overnight, Mr Gaudin said.

"This spread, with a sort of shock wave spreading across the country, shows up in the number of towns affected," Mr Gaudin said, noting that the violence appeared to be rippling out from its flash point in the Parisian suburbs and worsening elsewhere.

There were also fears that unrest could spread to other countries after cars were torched outside Brussels's main train station and in a working class district of Berlin, although officials in Belgium and Germany sought to downplay the risk of violence on the level of what France has endured.

In the French capital, 10 riot police officers were injured by youths firing fine-grain birdshot in the southern suburb of Grigny, a national police spokesman, Patrick Hamon, said. Two of them required hospital treatment for non life-threatening wounds.

Churches were set ablaze in northern Lens and southern Sete, while arsonists burned two schools and a bus in the central city of Saint-Etienne and its suburbs, injuring two people. In Colombes, outside Paris, a 13-month-old child required hospital treatment for a head injury after youths threw stones at a bus, Mr Hamon said, while a day-care centre in Saint-Maurice, another Paris suburb, was burned.

Much of the anger from the impoverished immigrant communities where most of the unrest has occurred has focused on the interior minister, Nicolas Sarkozy, who inflamed passions by referring to troublemakers as "scum."

In Strasbourg, youths stole a car and rammed it into a housing project, setting the vehicle and the building on fire. "We'll stop when Sarkozy steps down," said the 17-year-old driver of the car, who gave his name only as Murat.

The rioting began last week when two teenagers of African origin were accidentally electrocuted while hiding from police in Clichy-sous-Bois, north of Paris. The violence is fuelled partly by resentment at France's discriminatory treatment of its north and black African communities, a far cry from the liberty, equality and fraternity of the country that likes to call itself the birthplace of human rights.

"The law must have the last word," the president, Jacques Chirac, said yesterday after a security meeting with senior ministers, making his first public address on the riots. France is determined "to be stronger than those who want to sow violence or fear, and they will be arrested, judged and punished," he added.

The prime minister, Dominique de Villepin, promised accelerated trials for rioters and extra security during France's worst civil unrest in at least a decade.

Australia became the latest country to issue a travel warning, after the British Foreign Office told people on Saturday to "exercise extreme care" in cities affected by the trouble.

The country's biggest Muslim fundamentalist organisation, the Union for Islamic Organisations of France, issued a fatwa forbidding those "who seek divine grace from taking part in any action that blindly strikes private or public property or can harm others".

Authorities said that 4,700 cars have been set alight since the rioting began and 1,200 suspects have been detained at least temporarily.

The violence has prompted soul-searching about how to ease anger and frustration among troubled youths in France's grim public housing estates, where many residents are minorities. Educators met the French prime minister to think of ways to help.

"These are young people who are generally resigned, they face discrimination everywhere, for housing and work, and their malaise gets expressed in violence," said Ahmed Touabi, principal of an elementary school in the Paris suburb of Argenteuil. The troublemakers "feel rejected by France, and they want to spit on France."

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Soaring price of gold predicts bout of carnage in bond markets

By Ambrose Evans-Pritchard (Filed: 05/11/2005)
The Telegraph

In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.

The rising price of gold is a flashing red alert for investors, pension funds, and insurance firms holding bonds worth trillions of dollars, according to a new study by H.C. Wainwright & Co.

After reviewing data back to 1951, it found that gold is an uncannily accurate predictor of inflation one year ahead -- and a crystal ball for future interest rates and bond prices. If so, there may be carnage in the bond markets in 2006, since gold is now screaming inflation.

Gold touched $478 an ounce in September, the highest level in 18 years. It has risen about 90pc since 2001, although it has slipped back over the past month.

This rise is at odds with abnormally low interest rates on all forms of debt - from junk bonds, to Latin American loans, to gilts and US treasuries.

The yield on German 10-year bonds fell below 3pc this spring, the lowest ever recorded, bringing down all eurozone yields in lockstep. While rates have since crept back up, they are still anticipating very tame inflation.

As a rule of thumb, long-dated bonds lose half their value if inflation doubles (and stays high).

The study, released by the World Gold Council, found that gold is a much better forecaster of inflation than oil, which indicates what will happen to prices next month, but not next year.

"Gold provides a much earlier warning. The optimal correlation (0.73) between changes in the price of gold and changes in 10-year T-bond yields is about 12 months," it said.

"Because gold moves earlier than official measures of inflation, it works much better at anticipating monetary policy than 'Fed watching'," it said.

"Gold is a powerful predictor of nominal interest rates, both long and short. It is free from many of the errors of measurement that bedevil the official indices of inflation," it said.

While the price of gold can be buffeted by the vagaries of South African politics, Chinese demand, and central bank sales, the study found distortions rarely last long.

Unlike industrial metals, it is not subject to abrupt business-cycle swings in supply and demand.

Although gold has come off its peak, dropping to $456 yesterday, most experts view this as a short term "technical" correction in a healthy bull market.

Gold has had nine corrections in this upward trend, usually lasting about six weeks. Each time gold has held above its 50-week moving average, a key support line watched by the big funds and bullion traders.

Three European central banks may have played a role in the latest dip, selling 398m ounces in the last week of October, according to the ECB in Frankfurt.

But central banks cannot offload reserves at this pace week after week since they are restricted by a five-year accord to total sales of 500 tonnes a year. In any case, Asia's central banks are automatic buyers as they move to keep the gold ratio of their fast-growing foreign reserves at 2pc.

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[The original plan was for Iran to open its oil bourse in 2005. The delay may well play to Iran’s advantage as an opening in 2006 with a crashing US economy, weakened dollar and in the midst of high demand and dwindling supplies will give it a stronger send off. Even today the US media glibly lies and misleads about falling oil prices while failing to tell the American people that most of its domestic production is still shut in or that the “falling” prices are simply a result of tapping the strategic reserves of this and other IEA countries. Both of those “artificial” market influences will end shortly and as reality sets in, the Iranians will offer many producing nations an alternative and an incentive to further abandon US hegemony and the dollar. Iran knows the US cannot attack it militarily because the rest of the planet cannot and will not do without Iranian oil. – MCR]

Iran oil bourse: a threat to the petrodollar?

By Emilie Rutledge
Thursday 03 November 2005, 13:10 Makka Time, 10:10 GMT

In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.

Iran 's decision to set up an oil and associated derivatives market next year has generated a great deal of interest.

This is primarily because of Iran's reported intention to invoice energy contracts in euros rather than dollars.

The contention that this could unseat the dollar's dominance as the de facto currency for oil transactions may be overstated, but this has not stopped many commentators from linking America's current political disquiet with Iran to the proposed Iranian Oil Bourse (IOB).

The proposal to set up the IOB was first put forward in Iran's Third Development Plan (2000-2005). Mohammad Javad Assemipour, who heads the project, has said that the exchange will strive to make Iran the main hub for oil deals in the region and that it should be operational by March 2006.

Geographically Iran is ideally located as it is in close proximity to major oil importers such as China, Europe and India.

It is unlikely, in the short term at least, that large numbers of energy traders will decamp and set up shop in Iran; a country which happens to be categorised as a member of the "axis of evil" by the president of the world's largest oil-importing country; the United States.

But over time, Iran could take some business away from the two incumbent energy exchanges, the International Petroleum Exchange and the New York Mercantile Exchange who both invoice sales solely in dollars.

Economic motives

If successful, the IOB will provide Iran with concrete economic benefits especially if it invoices at least some of its energy contracts in euros.

Iran has around 126 billion barrels of proven oil reserves about 10% of the world's total, and has the world's second largest proven natural gas reserves.

From an economic perspective, invoicing oil in euros would be logical for Iran as trade with the euro zone countries accounts for 45% of its total trade. More than a third of Iran's oil exports are destined for Europe, while oil exports to the United States are non existent.

The IOB could create a new euro denominated crude oil marker, which in turn would enable GCC nations to sell some of their oil for euros. The bourse should lead to greater levels of foreign direct investment in Iran's hydrocarbon sector and if it facilitates futures trading it will give regional investors an alternative to investing in their somewhat overvalued stock markets.

Euro zone countries alone account for almost a third of Iran's imports and currently Iran must exchange dollars earned from hydrocarbon exports into euros which involves exchange rate risk and transaction costs.

The decline in the dollar against the euro since 2002 - some 26% to date - has substantially reduced Iran's purchasing power against its main importing partner.

If the decline continues, more states will increase the percentage of euros vis-à-vis the dollar they hold in reserve and in turn this will increase calls both in Iran and the GCC to invoice at least some of their oil exports in euros.

A move away from the dollar and a strengthening of the euro would further benefit Iran as according to a member of Iran's Parliament Development Commission, Mohammad Abasspour, more than half of the country's assets in the Forex Reserve Fund are now euros.

It is primarily the US which stands to lose out from any move away from the petrodollar status quo, it is the world's largest importer of oil and a move away from invoicing oil in dollars to euros will undoubtedly have a negative effect on its economy.

Fewer nations would be willing to hold the dollar in reserve which would cause a significant devaluation and result in the loss seigniorage revenues. In addition, US energy-related companies stand to lose out as they will be unable to participate in the bourse due to the longstanding American trade embargo on Iran.

Political considerations

In the 1970s, not long after the collapse of the gold standard, the US agreed with Saudi Arabia that Opec oil should be traded in dollars in effect replacing the gold standard with the oil standard.

Since then, consecutive US governments have been able to print dollar bills and treasury bonds in order to paper over huge current account and budgetary deficits, last year's US current account deficit was $646 billion.

Needless to say, the current petrodollar system greatly benefits the US; it enables it to effectively control the world oil market as the dollar has become the fiat currency for international trade.

In terms of its own oil imports, the US can print dollar bills without exporting commodities or manufactured goods as these can be paid for by issuing yet more dollars and T-bills.

George Perkovich, of the Washington based Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, has argued that Iran's decision to consider invoicing oil sales in euros is "part of a very intelligent strategy to go on the offense in every way possible and mobilise other actors against the US."

This viewpoint however, ignores Iran's economic motives, just because the decision, if eventually taken, displeases the US does not mean that the rationale is purely political.

In light of such sentiments and the US's current insistence that Iran be referred to the UN Security Council Iran must consider and weigh carefully the economic benefits against the potential political costs.

Although a matter of conjecture, some observers consider Iran's threat to the petrodollar system so great that it could provoke a US military attack on Iran, most likely under the cover of a preemptive attack on its nuclear facilities, much like the cover of WMD America used against Iraq.

In November 2000, Iraq began selling its oil in euros, its Oil For Food account at the UN was also transferred into euros and later it converted its $10 billion UN held reserve fund into euros.

At the time of the switch many analysts were surprised and saw it as nothing more than a political statement, which in essence it may have been, but the euro has gained roughly 17% over the dollar between then and the 2003 US invasion of Iraq. Perhaps unsurprisingly, since the US led occupation of Iraq its oil sales are once again being invoiced in dollars.

The best policy choice for Iran would be to proceed with the IOB as planned as the economic advantages of such a bourse are clear, but in order to mitigate against the potentially greater political "threat" should provide customers with flexibility.

It would make it much harder for America to object to the new bourse, overtly or covertly, if Iran allows customers to decide for themselves which currency to use when purchasing oil, such an approach would facilitate for euro purchases without explicitly ruling out the dollar.

Emilie Rutledge is a British economist who is currently based at the Gulf Research Center in Dubai.

The opinions expressed here are the author's and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position or have the endorsement of Aljazeera

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The FBI's Secret Scrutiny

In Hunt for Terrorists, Bureau Examines Records of Ordinary Americans

By Barton Gellman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, November 6, 2005; A01

In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.

The FBI came calling in Windsor, Conn., this summer with a document marked for delivery by hand. On Matianuk Avenue, across from the tennis courts, two special agents found their man. They gave George Christian the letter, which warned him to tell no one, ever, what it said.

Under the shield and stars of the FBI crest, the letter directed Christian to surrender "all subscriber information, billing information and access logs of any person" who used a specific computer at a library branch some distance away. Christian, who manages digital records for three dozen Connecticut libraries, said in an affidavit that he configures his system for privacy. But the vendors of the software he operates said their databases can reveal the Web sites that visitors browse, the e-mail accounts they open and the books they borrow.

Christian refused to hand over those records, and his employer, Library Connection Inc., filed suit for the right to protest the FBI demand in public. The Washington Post established their identities -- still under seal in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit -- by comparing unsealed portions of the file with public records and information gleaned from people who had no knowledge of the FBI demand.

The Connecticut case affords a rare glimpse of an exponentially growing practice of domestic surveillance under the USA Patriot Act, which marked its fourth anniversary on Oct. 26. "National security letters," created in the 1970s for espionage and terrorism investigations, originated as narrow exceptions in consumer privacy law, enabling the FBI to review in secret the customer records of suspected foreign agents. The Patriot Act, and Bush administration guidelines for its use, transformed those letters by permitting clandestine scrutiny of U.S. residents and visitors who are not alleged to be terrorists or spies.

The FBI now issues more than 30,000 national security letters a year, according to government sources, a hundredfold increase over historic norms. The letters -- one of which can be used to sweep up the records of many people -- are extending the bureau's reach as never before into the telephone calls, correspondence and financial lives of ordinary Americans.

Issued by FBI field supervisors, national security letters do not need the imprimatur of a prosecutor, grand jury or judge. They receive no review after the fact by the Justice Department or Congress. The executive branch maintains only statistics, which are incomplete and confined to classified reports. The Bush administration defeated legislation and a lawsuit to require a public accounting, and has offered no example in which the use of a national security letter helped disrupt a terrorist plot.

The burgeoning use of national security letters coincides with an unannounced decision to deposit all the information they yield into government data banks -- and to share those private records widely, in the federal government and beyond. In late 2003, the Bush administration reversed a long-standing policy requiring agents to destroy their files on innocent American citizens, companies and residents when investigations closed. Late last month, President Bush signed Executive Order 13388, expanding access to those files for "state, local and tribal" governments and for "appropriate private sector entities," which are not defined.

National security letters offer a case study of the impact of the Patriot Act outside the spotlight of political debate. Drafted in haste after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the law's 132 pages wrought scores of changes in the landscape of intelligence and law enforcement. Many received far more attention than the amendments to a seemingly pedestrian power to review "transactional records." But few if any other provisions touch as many ordinary Americans without their knowledge.

Senior FBI officials acknowledged in interviews that the proliferation of national security letters results primarily from the bureau's new authority to collect intimate facts about people who are not suspected of any wrongdoing. Criticized for failure to detect the Sept. 11 plot, the bureau now casts a much wider net, using national security letters to generate leads as well as to pursue them. Casual or unwitting contact with a suspect -- a single telephone call, for example -- may attract the attention of investigators and subject a person to scrutiny about which he never learns.

A national security letter cannot be used to authorize eavesdropping or to read the contents of e-mail. But it does permit investigators to trace revealing paths through the private affairs of a modern digital citizen. The records it yields describe where a person makes and spends money, with whom he lives and lived before, how much he gambles, what he buys online, what he pawns and borrows, where he travels, how he invests, what he searches for and reads on the Web, and who telephones or e-mails him at home and at work.

As it wrote the Patriot Act four years ago, Congress bought time and leverage for oversight by placing an expiration date on 16 provisions. The changes involving national security letters were not among them. In fact, as the Dec. 31 deadline approaches and Congress prepares to renew or make permanent the expiring provisions, House and Senate conferees are poised again to amplify the FBI's power to compel the secret surrender of private records.

The House and Senate have voted to make noncompliance with a national security letter a criminal offense. The House would also impose a prison term for breach of secrecy.

Like many Patriot Act provisions, the ones involving national security letters have been debated in largely abstract terms. The Justice Department has offered Congress no concrete information, even in classified form, save for a partial count of the number of letters delivered. The statistics do not cover all forms of national security letters or all U.S. agencies making use of them.

"The beef with the NSLs is that they don't have even a pretense of judicial or impartial scrutiny," said former representative Robert L. Barr Jr. ( Ga.), who finds himself allied with the American Civil Liberties Union after a career as prosecutor, CIA analyst and conservative GOP stalwart. "There's no checks and balances whatever on them. It is simply some bureaucrat's decision that they want information, and they can basically just go and get it."

'A Routine Tool'

Career investigators and Bush administration officials emphasized, in congressional testimony and interviews for this story, that national security letters are for hunting terrorists, not fishing through the private lives of the innocent. The distinction is not as clear in practice.

Under the old legal test, the FBI had to have "specific and articulable" reasons to believe the records it gathered in secret belonged to a terrorist or a spy. Now the bureau needs only to certify that the records are "sought for" or "relevant to" an investigation "to protect against international terrorism or clandestine intelligence activities."

That standard enables investigators to look for conspirators by sifting the records of nearly anyone who crosses a suspect's path.

"If you have a list of, say, 20 telephone numbers that have come up . . . on a bad guy's telephone," said Valerie E. Caproni, the FBI's general counsel, "you want to find out who he's in contact with." Investigators will say, " 'Okay, phone company, give us subscriber information and toll records on these 20 telephone numbers,' and that can easily be 100."

Bush administration officials compare national security letters to grand jury subpoenas, which are also based on "relevance" to an inquiry. There are differences. Grand juries tend to have a narrower focus because they investigate past conduct, not the speculative threat of unknown future attacks. Recipients of grand jury subpoenas are generally free to discuss the subpoenas publicly. And there are strict limits on sharing grand jury information with government agencies.

Since the Patriot Act, the FBI has dispersed the authority to sign national security letters to more than five dozen supervisors -- the special agents in charge of field offices, the deputies in New York, Los Angeles and Washington, and a few senior headquarters officials. FBI rules established after the Patriot Act allow the letters to be issued long before a case is judged substantial enough for a "full field investigation." Agents commonly use the letters now in "preliminary investigations" and in the "threat assessments" that precede a decision whether to launch an investigation.

"Congress has given us this tool to obtain basic telephone data, basic banking data, basic credit reports," said Caproni, who is among the officials with signature authority. "The fact that a national security letter is a routine tool used, that doesn't bother me."

If agents had to wait for grounds to suspect a person of ill intent, said Joseph Billy Jr., the FBI's deputy assistant director for counterterrorism, they would already know what they want to find out with a national security letter. "It's all chicken and egg," he said. "We're trying to determine if someone warrants scrutiny or doesn't."

Billy said he understands that "merely being in a government or FBI database . . . gives everybody, you know, neck hair standing up." Innocent Americans, he said, "should take comfort at least knowing that it is done under a great deal of investigative care, oversight, within the parameters of the law."

He added: "That's not going to satisfy a majority of people, but . . . I've had people say, you know, 'Hey, I don't care, I've done nothing to be concerned about. You can have me in your files and that's that.' Some people take that approach."

'Don't Go Overboard'

In Room 7975 of the J. Edgar Hoover Building, around two corners from the director's suite, the chief of the FBI's national security law unit sat down at his keyboard about a month after the Patriot Act became law. Michael J. Woods had helped devise the FBI wish list for surveillance powers. Now he offered a caution.

"NSLs are powerful investigative tools, in that they can compel the production of substantial amounts of relevant information," he wrote in a Nov. 28, 2001, "electronic communication" to the FBI's 56 field offices. "However, they must be used judiciously." Standing guidelines, he wrote, "require that the FBI accomplish its investigations through the 'least intrusive' means. . . . The greater availability of NSLs does not mean that they should be used in every case."

Woods, who left government service in 2002, added a practical consideration. Legislators granted the new authority and could as easily take it back. When making that decision, he wrote, "Congress certainly will examine the manner in which the FBI exercised it."

Looking back last month, Woods was struck by how starkly he misjudged the climate. The FBI disregarded his warning, and no one noticed.

"This is not something that should be automatically done because it's easy," he said. "We need to be sure . . . we don't go overboard."

One thing Woods did not anticipate was then-Attorney General John D. Ashcroft's revision of Justice Department guidelines. On May 30, 2002, and Oct. 31, 2003, Ashcroft rewrote the playbooks for investigations of terrorist crimes and national security threats. He gave overriding priority to preventing attacks by any means available.

Ashcroft remained bound by Executive Order 12333, which requires the use of the "least intrusive means" in domestic intelligence investigations. But his new interpretation came close to upending the mandate. Three times in the new guidelines, Ashcroft wrote that the FBI "should consider . . . less intrusive means" but "should not hesitate to use any lawful techniques . . . even if intrusive" when investigators believe them to be more timely. "This point," he added, "is to be particularly observed in investigations relating to terrorist activities."

'Why Do You Want to Know?'

As the Justice Department prepared congressional testimony this year, FBI headquarters searched for examples that would show how expanded surveillance powers made a difference. Michael Mason, who runs the Washington field office and has the rank of assistant FBI director, found no ready answer.

"I'd love to have a made-for-Hollywood story, but I don't have one," Mason said. "I am not even sure such an example exists."

What national security letters give his agents, Mason said, is speed.

"I have 675 terrorism cases," he said. "Every one of these is a potential threat. And anything I can do to get to the bottom of any one of them more quickly gets me closer to neutralizing a potential threat."

Because recipients are permanently barred from disclosing the letters, outsiders can make no assessment of their relevance to Mason's task.

Woods, the former FBI lawyer, said secrecy is essential when an investigation begins because "it would defeat the whole purpose" to tip off a suspected terrorist or spy, but national security seldom requires that the secret be kept forever. Even mobster "John Gotti finds out eventually that he was wiretapped" in a criminal probe, said Peter Swire, the federal government's chief privacy counselor until 2001. "Anyone caught up in an NSL investigation never gets notice."

To establish the "relevance" of the information they seek, agents face a test so basic it is hard to come up with a plausible way to fail. A model request for a supervisor's signature, according to internal FBI guidelines, offers this one-sentence suggestion: "This subscriber information is being requested to determine the individuals or entities that the subject has been in contact with during the past six months."

Edward L. Williams, the chief division counsel in Mason's office, said that supervisors, in practice, "aren't afraid to ask . . . 'Why do you want to know?' " He would not say how many requests, if any, are rejected.

'The Abuse Is in the Power Itself'

Those who favor the new rules maintain -- as Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, put it in a prepared statement -- that "there has not been one substantiated allegation of abuse of these lawful intelligence tools."

What the Bush administration means by abuse is unauthorized use of surveillance data -- for example, to blackmail an enemy or track an estranged spouse. Critics are focused elsewhere. What troubles them is not unofficial abuse but the official and routine intrusion into private lives.

To Jeffrey Breinholt, deputy chief of the Justice Department's counterterrorism section, the civil liberties objections "are eccentric." Data collection on the innocent, he said, does no harm unless "someone [decides] to act on the information, put you on a no-fly list or something." Only a serious error, he said, could lead the government, based on nothing more than someone's bank or phone records, "to freeze your assets or go after you criminally and you suffer consequences that are irreparable." He added: "It's a pretty small chance."

"I don't necessarily want somebody knowing what videos I rent or the fact that I like cartoons," said Mason, the Washington field office chief. But if those records "are never used against a person, if they're never used to put him in jail, or deprive him of a vote, et cetera, then what is the argument?"

Barr, the former congressman, said that "the abuse is in the power itself."

"As a conservative," he said, "I really resent an administration that calls itself conservative taking the position that the burden is on the citizen to show the government has abused power, and otherwise shut up and comply."

At the ACLU, staff attorney Jameel Jaffer spoke of "the profound chilling effect" of this kind of surveillance: "If the government monitors the Web sites that people visit and the books that they read, people will stop visiting disfavored Web sites and stop reading disfavored books. The FBI should not have unchecked authority to keep track of who visits [al-Jazeera's Web site] or who visits the Web site of the Federalist Society."

Links in a Chain

Ready access to national security letters allows investigators to employ them routinely for "contact chaining."

"Starting with your bad guy and his telephone number and looking at who he's calling, and [then] who they're calling," the number of people surveilled "goes up exponentially," acknowledged Caproni, the FBI's general counsel.

But Caproni said it would not be rational for the bureau to follow the chain too far. "Everybody's connected" if investigators keep tracing calls "far enough away from your targeted bad guy," she said. "What's the point of that?"

One point is to fill government data banks for another investigative technique. That one is called "link analysis," a practice Caproni would neither confirm nor deny.

Two years ago, Ashcroft rescinded a 1995 guideline directing that information obtained through a national security letter about a U.S. citizen or resident "shall be destroyed by the FBI and not further disseminated" if it proves "not relevant to the purposes for which it was collected." Ashcroft's new order was that "the FBI shall retain" all records it collects and "may disseminate" them freely among federal agencies.

The same order directed the FBI to develop "data mining" technology to probe for hidden links among the people in its growing cache of electronic files. According to an FBI status report, the bureau's office of intelligence began operating in January 2004 a new Investigative Data Warehouse, based on the same Oracle technology used by the CIA. The CIA is generally forbidden to keep such files on Americans.

Data mining intensifies the impact of national security letters, because anyone's personal files can be scrutinized again and again without a fresh need to establish relevance.

"The composite picture of a person which emerges from transactional information is more telling than the direct content of your speech," said Woods, the former FBI lawyer. "That's certainly not been lost on the intelligence community and the FBI."

Ashcroft's new guidelines allowed the FBI for the first time to add to government files consumer data from commercial providers such as LexisNexis and ChoicePoint Inc. Previous attorneys general had decided that such a move would violate the Privacy Act. In many field offices, agents said, they now have access to ChoicePoint in their squad rooms.

What national security letters add to government data banks is information that no commercial service can lawfully possess. Strict privacy laws, for example, govern financial and communications records. National security letters -- along with the more powerful but much less frequently used secret subpoenas from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court -- override them.

'What Happens in Vegas'

The bureau displayed its ambition for data mining in an emergency operation at the end of 2003.

The Department of Homeland Security declared an orange alert on Dec. 21 of that year, in part because of intelligence that hinted at a New Year's Eve attack in Las Vegas. The identities of the plotters were unknown.

The FBI sent Gurvais Grigg, chief of the bureau's little-known Proactive Data Exploitation Unit, in an audacious effort to assemble a real-time census of every visitor in the nation's most-visited city. An average of about 300,000 tourists a day stayed an average of four days each, presenting Grigg's team with close to a million potential suspects in the ensuing two weeks.

A former stockbroker with a degree in biochemistry, Grigg declined to be interviewed. Government and private sector sources who followed the operation described epic efforts to vacuum up information.

An interagency task force began pulling together the records of every hotel guest, everyone who rented a car or truck, every lease on a storage space, and every airplane passenger who landed in the city. Grigg's unit filtered that population for leads. Any link to the known terrorist universe -- a shared address or utility account, a check deposited, a telephone call -- could give investigators a start.

"It was basically a manhunt, and in circumstances where there is a manhunt, the most effective way of doing that was to scoop up a lot of third party data and compare it to other data we were getting," Breinholt said.

Investigators began with emergency requests for help from the city's sprawling hospitality industry. "A lot of it was done voluntary at first," said Billy, the deputy assistant FBI director.

According to others directly involved, investigators turned to national security letters and grand jury subpoenas when friendly persuasion did not work.

Early in the operation, according to participants, the FBI gathered casino executives and asked for guest lists. The MGM Mirage company, followed by others, balked.

"Some casinos were saying no to consent [and said], 'You have to produce a piece of paper,' " said Jeff Jonas, chief scientist at IBM Entity Analytics, who previously built data management systems for casino surveillance. "They don't just market 'What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.' They want it to be true."

The operation remained secret for about a week. Then casino sources told Rod Smith, gaming editor of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, that the FBI had served national security letters on them. In an interview for this article, one former casino executive confirmed the use of a national security letter. Details remain elusive. Some law enforcement officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity because they had not been authorized to divulge particulars, said they relied primarily on grand jury subpoenas. One said in an interview that national security letters may eventually have been withdrawn. Agents encouraged voluntary disclosures, he said, by raising the prospect that the FBI would use the letters to gather something more sensitive: the gambling profiles of casino guests. Caproni declined to confirm or deny that account.

What happened in Vegas stayed in federal data banks. Under Ashcroft's revised policy, none of the information has been purged. For every visitor, Breinholt said, "the record of the Las Vegas hotel room would still exist."

Grigg's operation found no suspect, and the orange alert ended on Jan. 10, 2004."The whole thing washed out," one participant said.

'Of Interest to President Bush'

At around the time the FBI found George Christian in Connecticut, agents from the bureau's Charlotte field office paid an urgent call on the chemical engineering department at North Carolina State University in Raleigh. They were looking for information about a former student named Magdy Nashar, then suspected in the July 7 London subway bombing but since cleared of suspicion.

University officials said in interviews late last month that the FBI tried to use a national security letter to demand much more information than the law allows.

David T. Drooz, the university's senior associate counsel, said special authority is required for the surrender of records protected by educational and medical privacy. The FBI's first request, a July 14 grand jury subpoena, did not appear to supply that authority, Drooz said, and the university did not honor it. Referring to notes he took that day, Drooz said Eric Davis, the FBI's top lawyer in Charlotte, "was focused very much on the urgency" and "he even indicated the case was of interest to President Bush."

The next day, July 15, FBI agents arrived with a national security letter. Drooz said it demanded all records of Nashar's admission, housing, emergency contacts, use of health services and extracurricular activities. University lawyers "looked up what law we could on the fly," he said. They discovered that the FBI was demanding files that national security letters have no power to obtain. The statute the FBI cited that day covers only telephone and Internet records.

"We're very eager to comply with the authorities in this regard, but we needed to have what we felt was a legally valid procedure," said Larry A. Neilsen, the university provost.

Soon afterward, the FBI returned with a new subpoena. It was the same as the first one, Drooz said, and the university still had doubts about its legal sufficiency. This time, however, it came from New York and summoned Drooz to appear personally. The tactic was "a bit heavy-handed," Drooz said, "the implication being you're subject to contempt of court." Drooz surrendered the records.

The FBI's Charlotte office referred questions to headquarters. A high-ranking FBI official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, acknowledged that the field office erred in attempting to use a national security letter. Investigators, he said, "were in a big hurry for obvious reasons" and did not approach the university "in the exact right way."

'Unreasonable' or 'Oppressive'

The electronic docket in the Connecticut case, as the New York Times first reported, briefly titled the lawsuit Library Connection Inc. v. Gonzales . Because identifying details were not supposed to be left in the public file, the court soon replaced the plaintiff's name with "John Doe."

George Christian, Library Connection's executive director, is identified in his affidavit as "John Doe 2." In that sworn statement, he said people often come to libraries for information that is "highly sensitive, embarrassing or personal." He wanted to fight the FBI but feared calling a lawyer because the letter said he could not disclose its existence to "any person." He consulted Peter Chase, vice president of Library Connection and chairman of a state intellectual freedom committee. Chase -- "John Doe 1" in his affidavit -- advised Christian to call the ACLU. Reached by telephone at their homes, both men declined to be interviewed.

U.S. District Judge Janet C. Hall ruled in September that the FBI gag order violates Christian's, and Library Connection's, First Amendment rights. A three-judge panel heard oral argument on Wednesday in the government's appeal.

The central facts remain opaque, even to the judges, because the FBI is not obliged to describe what it is looking for, or why. During oral argument in open court on Aug. 31, Hall said one government explanation was so vague that "if I were to say it out loud, I would get quite a laugh here." After the government elaborated in a classified brief delivered for her eyes only, she wrote in her decision that it offered "nothing specific."

The Justice Department tried to conceal the existence of the first and only other known lawsuit against a national security letter, also brought by the ACLU's Jaffer and Ann Beeson. Government lawyers opposed its entry into the public docket of a New York federal judge. They have since tried to censor nearly all the contents of the exhibits and briefs. They asked the judge, for example, to black out every line of the affidavit that describes the delivery of the national security letter to a New York Internet company, including, "I am a Special Agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation ('FBI')."

U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero, in a ruling that is under appeal, held that the law authorizing national security letters violates the First and Fourth Amendments.

Resistance to national security letters is rare. Most of them are served on large companies in highly regulated industries, with business interests that favor cooperation. The in-house lawyers who handle such cases, said Jim Dempsey, executive director of the Center for Democracy and Technology, "are often former prosecutors -- instinctively pro-government but also instinctively by-the-books." National security letters give them a shield against liability to their customers.

Kenneth M. Breen, a partner at the New York law firm Fulbright & Jaworski, held a seminar for corporate lawyers one recent evening to explain the "significant risks for the non-compliant" in government counterterrorism investigations. A former federal prosecutor, Breen said failure to provide the required information could create "the perception that your company didn't live up to its duty to fight terrorism" and could invite class-action lawsuits from the families of terrorism victims. In extreme cases, he said, a business could face criminal prosecution, "a 'death sentence' for certain kinds of companies."

The volume of government information demands, even so, has provoked a backlash. Several major business groups, including the National Association of Manufacturers and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, complained in an Oct. 4 letter to senators that customer records can "too easily be obtained and disseminated" around the government. National security letters, they wrote, have begun to impose an "expensive and time-consuming burden" on business.

The House and Senate bills renewing the Patriot Act do not tighten privacy protections, but they offer a concession to business interests. In both bills, a judge may modify a national security letter if it imposes an "unreasonable" or "oppressive" burden on the company that is asked for information.

'A Legitimate Question'

As national security letters have grown in number and importance, oversight has not kept up. In each house of Congress, jurisdiction is divided between the judiciary and intelligence committees. None of the four Republican chairmen agreed to be interviewed.

Roberts, the Senate intelligence chairman, said in a statement issued through his staff that "the committee is well aware of the intelligence value of the information that is lawfully collected under these national security letter authorities," which he described as "non-intrusive" and "crucial to tracking terrorist networks and detecting clandestine intelligence activities." Senators receive "valuable reporting by the FBI," he said, in "semi-annual reports [that] provide the committee with the information necessary to conduct effective oversight."

Roberts was referring to the Justice Department's classified statistics, which in fact have been delivered three times in four years. They include the following information: how many times the FBI issued national security letters; whether the letters sought financial, credit or communications records; and how many of the targets were " U.S. persons." The statistics omit one whole category of FBI national security letters and also do not count letters issued by the Defense Department and other agencies.

Committee members have occasionally asked to see a sampling of national security letters, a description of their fruits or examples of their contribution to a particular case. The Justice Department has not obliged.

In 2004, the conference report attached to the intelligence authorization bill asked the attorney general to "include in his next semiannual report" a description of "the scope of such letters" and the "process and standards for approving" them. More than a year has passed without a Justice Department reply.

"The committee chairman has the power to issue subpoenas" for information from the executive branch, said Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), a House Judiciary Committee member. "The minority has no power to compel, and . . . Republicans are not going to push for oversight of the Republicans. That's the story of this Congress."

In the executive branch, no FBI or Justice Department official audits the use of national security letters to assess whether they are appropriately targeted, lawfully applied or contribute important facts to an investigation.

Justice Department officials noted frequently this year that Inspector General Glenn A. Fine reports twice a year on abuses of the Patriot Act and has yet to substantiate any complaint. (One investigation is pending.) Fine advertises his role, but there is a puzzle built into the mandate. Under what scenario could a person protest a search of his personal records if he is never notified?

"We do rely upon complaints coming in," Fine said in House testimony in May. He added: "To the extent that people do not know of anything happening to them, there is an issue about whether they can complain. So, I think that's a legitimate question."

Asked more recently whether Fine's office has conducted an independent examination of national security letters, Deputy Inspector General Paul K. Martin said in an interview: "We have not initiated a broad-based review that examines the use of specific provisions of the Patriot Act."

At the FBI, senior officials said the most important check on their power is that Congress is watching.

"People have to depend on their elected representatives to do the job of oversight they were elected to do," Caproni said. "And we think they do a fine job of it."

Researcher Julie Tate and research editor Lucy Shackelford contributed to this report.

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China Makes New Demands on "Complacent" Oil Market

By Adam Porter
01 Nov 2005 at 02:28 PM EST

In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.

PARIS ( -- The NYMEX weighted trade index today tested recent lows. Crude was trading close to $59, which are five-month market baselines. But according to some analysts new figures out of China could spur a fresh round of demand growth. Demand growth that would spell a renewed bullish price environment.

As Resource Investor mentioned last week, China effectively rationed its internal markets for oil this year. Forced factory shut downs and two and three-day weeks were the blunt instruments - internal pricing that meant refiners were better off exporting product, were the more sophisticated. All this added up to reduced demand growth.

Instead of running at around 18% the growth in Chinese demand could be as low as 5% this year. For much of 2005, it has been flat.

But new figures show that imports of crude products have surged. Government imposed price differentials on refiners have been relaxed. Furthermore, commercial inventories have been used up satisfying the domestic thirst for oil.

“It has been artificial rationing,” said Kevin Norrish of Barclays Capital bank to Resource Investor. “But we are set to see a big acceleration in [Chinese] demand growth through the end of this year and the beginning of next. For example right now Chinese refining is at it’s highest ever level, around six million barrels per day. It does seem to be a rebound.”

Chinese government pricing has meant that refiners have been losing money in China hand over fist. As a result refiners have exported product away from China to make better profit. This has led to a tightrope for China as fuel queues grew at the pumps.

“There are now lower exports of refined product,” Norrish explained. “SINOPEC recently admitted that they have made a loss of $1bn this year from refining operations. That meant refiners sent more of their products abroad. Now there is a significant pick up.”

In addition to this, there has been a reported surge in demand from China for Middle Eastern crude products. In fact, from crude products all over the producing world. Imports from Saudi Arabia ballooned in September according to new Chinese government figures. The middle-eastern kingdom is now the biggest single exporter to China with 19.78% of the market.

That means that 53.36% of Chinese demand for imports is now sourced in the Middle East. That is over half as high again as this time last year.

“The composition of Chinese imports has developed quite a lot,” said Norrish. “ China will be increasingly competing for the brands of light sweet crude out there, especially Middle Eastern and west African grades. Especially as much of the demand growth in China is coming from the transport sector. Heavier grades of crude are going to be used more in power generation, but also Chinese refiners are going to have to change their operations to suit the brands of crude available on the market.”

Of course these figures do come with “a health warning” as Norrish put it.

“Chinese figures are very good in as far as their timeliness goes, they are only about three weeks delayed. But you don’t get the weekly updates like you do in the USA. Also, with their data revisions you would expect to see figures changed over time. Especially with so many smaller plants in the country it would make it very unusual that you would get the figures right first time. But that is what the market has to go on.”

One obvious result of this new Chinese demand is the possibility of tighter markets going forward - one that could surprise a few people on the upside.

“The market is complacent about demand growth,” Norrish insisted. “And certainly on the impact on the physical market. We are likely to see an acceleration in [demand] growth and that may well take the market by surprise.”

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Buying Local And The Circulating Dollar

Blue Oregon

In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.

By John Amundsen of Portland, Oregon who describes himself as "a native Oregonian who wants to improve its livability, economy, and communities."

Buy local. We all want to do it, but do we really know why? It's good for our local economy. Well, that's right. If we can buy at a national chain at what we think is a lower price, isn't that better for our personal or our company's economy? Well, that's wrong. What happens to a dollar spent locally versus at a national chain or formula restaurant?

Tim Mitchell in Northwest Earth Institute's Choices for Sustainable Living states, 'A dollar spent at a locally owned store is usually spent 6 to 15 times before it leaves the community. From $1, you create $5 to $14 in value within that community.' That's good news! He also states, 'Spend $1 at a national chain store, and 80% leaves town immediately.' That's bad news. Let's recap. Dollars circulating locally -- good. Dollars leaving community -- bad. Next question.

Is that enough for everyone to start buying local? Apparently not. What about that personal and professional economy being more important than the community? Why does the federal government require that government agencies only buy from the lowest bidder, which is very often outside of the local economy or a national chain? These are good questions.

Let's take that personal economy question first. The purchaser says, 'I save money by purchasing at the lower price!' That's an obvious statement, but is the national chain always cheaper? Sometimes, it is just the opposite. Many times local suppliers and retailers are part of co-op groups and buying groups that collectively have the buying power of the national chains.

GOPD is a market research and technology company specializing in the office products industry. GOPD has been monitoring chain store pricing practices since 1999 and is the un-disputed leader in the field. A study on the national chains of office suppliers and independent office suppliers concluded this:

'Our research has shown, time and time again, that most local independent office supply companies are substantially lower in overall cost to the consumer.'

'The pricing gap between the independent and the chains is so wide, and the consumer perceptions are so engrained that the chains have the lowest prices, that some independents have chosen to match the chain store prices using our services.'

Yes, you read that right. Some independent suppliers raised their prices by matching the national chains. National chains have successfully changed the perception of the consumer that they are the lowest price through advertising and price juggling. Clearly, local is better here.

Let's just say that they are lower priced. How can they do that? Here an excerpt from a Eugene study of 'Big Box Stores' (pdf):

'Big Box stores undermine existing responsible business
According to the public research group Good Jobs First, ' retail stores do little more than take revenues away from existing merchants and may put them out of business and leave their workers unemployed. It's quite possible that a new Wal-Mart store will destroy as many (or more) jobs than it creates, and the Wal-Mart jobs pay less, meaning that they do less to stimulate the local economy.' This from its new report Shopping for Subsidies: How Wal-Mart uses Taxpayer Money to Finance Its Never-Ending Growth, which reveals that Wal-Mart reaps hundreds of millions of dollars in tax subsidies. Imagine the increased ability of Wal-Mart to rake in large profits while keeping salaries low, because of the infrastructure assistance, reduced-price land, enterprise zone, property tax breaks, and other incentives it regularly receives! It's easy to see how subsides like this give Wal-Mart a definitive advantage over existing responsible businesses.'

Let me recap that: How do they offer lower prices?

* They don't pay well
* They are subsidized through our tax dollars

Now, here's another question. Is it really cheaper for the purchaser? Well, maybe. Since our tax dollars are already paying Wal-Mart to exist in any community, we may as well shop there and get some return on our investment that the government invested for us. However, if we are one of the lucky ones to have one of these types of stores in our neighborhoods, we can look forward to responsible businesses that pay a higher wage closing their doors, lower wages within the community, more foreclosures within the community, more low skill people living within the community (maybe even the ones that are not citizens yet), much less money passing hands within the community, more people moving from the community, and eventually, a big empty building where our local gangs can meet. This is what the studies tell us. At least we were able to buy milk for two bucks. This is suicide by inches for a community. It's short-sited to shop at those stores. It's ironic that these stores create their clientele. People shop there to save money (or take advantage of their investment). As time goes on they shop there because they have to. By then, the prices may not be so low.

The next question is why is there a federal law requiring government agencies to buy only from the lowest bidder. This is probably an old law from before these studies were made available. Back then; the powers that be made there best guess on what was most economical. If we have learned anything by watching our government in action, they are not always very forward thinking, and they seldom make necessary changes very fast. Here's another excerpt from a study in Great Britain:

'Giving preference to local suppliers, even if it means spending a little more, can actually benefit a city's finances. Dollars spent locally generate additional economic activity even beyond the value of the initial contract as the local supplier in turn sources goods and services locally. Each additional dollar that circulates locally boosts local economic activity, employment, and ultimately, tax revenue.'

Other cities like Albuquerque, New Mexico, Columbus, Ohio, Ketchikan, Alaska and even states like Alaska, Montana, New Mexico, West Virginia, and Wyoming are bucking that federal law and giving local vendors preference.

Some Oregon lawmakers have said that Oregon would lose if Oregon adapted an Oregon company preference. The import/export balance would be upset because business other states would reciprocate by not buying Oregon. Let's see, Oregon's unemployment was 49th out of 51 states ( District of Columbia was included) a few years ago. Oregon Economic Development spent bazillion dollars trying to attract businesses to Oregon. Oregon's unemployment today is 48 out of 51 states. A very modest improvement, but little enough to suspect the government's economic philosophy may be flawed. Maybe if Oregon invests in Oregon business, Oregon business might attract business into Oregon. Studies have proven that, so boys and girls in the government, the word is out. Those changes may be cheaper and more effective in addition to maintaining the character of our cities and towns.

Let's make it simple by concluding with a top 10 list for buying local:

Why Think Local First?

  1. Significantly more money re-circulates in Multnomah, Washington, Clackamas, and Clark Counties when purchases are made at locally owned, rather than nationally owned, businesses: More money is kept in the community because locally owned businesses often purchase from other local businesses, service providers and farms. Purchasing local helps grow other businesses as well as the Multnomah, Washington, Clackamas, Clark County tax base. (See this 10/04 study) showing that locally owned businesses generate a premium in enhanced economic impact).
    Eugene, OR Study:
  2. Non-profits receive greater support: Non-profit organizations receive an average three times greater support from smaller locally owned business owners than they do from large businesses.
  3. Our one-of-a-kind businesses are an integral part of our distinctive character. The unique character of our community is what brought us here and will keep us here. Our tourism businesses also benefit. 'When people go on vacation they generally seek out destinations that offer them the sense of being someplace, not just anyplace.' ~ Richard Moe, President, National Historic Preservation Trust
  4. Reduced environmental impact: Locally owned businesses can make more local purchases requiring less transportation and generally set up shop in town or city centers as opposed to developing on the fringe. This generally means contributing less to sprawl, congestion, habitat loss and pollution.
  5. Most new jobs are provided by local businesses: Small local businesses are the largest employer nationally and in our community, provide the most new jobs to residents.
  6. Customer service is better: Local businesses often hire people with more specific product expertise for better customer service.
  7. Local business owners invest in community: Local businesses are owned by people who live in this community, are less likely to leave, and are more invested in the community's future.
  8. Public benefits far outweigh public costs: Local businesses in town centers require comparatively little infrastructure investment and make more efficient use of public services as compared to nationally owned stores entering the community.
  9. Competition and diversity leads to more choices: A marketplace of tens of thousands of small businesses is the best way to ensure innovation and low prices over the long-term. A multitude of small businesses, each selecting products based not on a national sales plan but on their own interests and the needs of their local customers, guarantees a much broader range of product choices.
  10. Encourages local investment: A growing body of economic research shows that in an increasingly homogenized world, entrepreneurs and skilled workers are more likely to invest and settle in communities that preserve their one-of-a-kind businesses and distinctive character.

Think local first + Buy local when you can = Being a local!

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Wal-Mart Documentary Director Issues Offer to Company: WE WILL BRING THE MOVIE TO YOU

Robert Greenwald Re-Issues Offer to Screen New Wal-Mart Documentary For Company Officials Anywhere, Anytime

For Immediate Release
November 2, 2005
Contact: Jesse Derris, Sunshine Consultants – (212) 691-2800

In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.

NEW YORK – A day after the world premiere of his new movie Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price, director Robert Greenwald today re-issued his standing offer to Wal-Mart company officials to screen the movie for them in Bentonville, Arkansas – at his own expense. The offer comes a day after Wal-Mart operatives invited to the New York Premiere instead seemingly tried to pirate the movie back to company officials.

“We would love to show Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price to every employee who works for Wal-Mart; the first step in that process is to take the movie to Bentonville,” said Greenwald. “This is an open invitation to Wal-Mart to screen the film in their own backyard, and an open invitation to company officials to show the film to every one of their employees.”

After weeks of relentless attacks, Wal-Mart company officials and their media operatives from Edelman have still not seen Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price. Despite this, they continue to issue press releases and hold press conferences vilifying not only the movie, but Greenwald himself. This is an open offer to change that.

“Before Wal-Mart again responds to our movie, it makes sense that they see it,” continued Greenwald. “The company is spending millions of dollars on a smear campaign against us without any working knowledge of what they are up against, it is simply not fair to them.”

Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price opens theatrically on Friday, November 4 in Los Angeles and New York. A week later, the film will be shown at 7,000 grassroots screenings across the nation – 1,000 churches alone – during Premiere Week, the largest grassroots mobilization in the history of film. Later this year, the theatrical release will be expanded.

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