Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Obama to order expansion of overtime pay for millions of workers TRAP ANOTHER WAY OF BANKRUAGTING OUR EMPLOYERS WHO CANT AFFRD TO PAY THEY EMPLOYEES NOW

Obama to order expansion of overtime pay for millions of workers

President Obama, flexing his executive authority once again, plans to order the Labor Department to expand overtime pay requirements to include millions more workers -- in a move likely to rankle the business community.
The president plans to make the announcement on Thursday at the White House, a senior administration official confirmed to Fox News. Though the administration has claimed previous executive actions had bipartisan support, officials are acknowledging that this particular move will anger business groups and congressional Republicans.
But the announcement would appear to dovetail with Democrats' election-year strategy of focusing on income inequality and the middle class.
The New York Times, citing White House officials briefed on the announcement, first reported that Obama will direct his Labor Department to require overtime pay for millions of workers currently classified as "executive or professional" employees.
The new regulations to the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act reportedly would mandate that businesses provide overtime pay for those who work jobs as varied as fast-food restaurant managers, loan officers, and computer technicians. Currently, businesses are prohibited from denying overtime to a salaried worker making less than $455 per week. The rules that Obama is proposing would increase that salary threshold, though it was not clear by how much.
Conservative groups have warned that Obama's planned change would lead businesses to reduce staff or cut pay.
"There’s no such thing as a free lunch," Cato Institute senior fellow Daniel Mitchell told The Times. "If they push through something to make a certain class of workers more expensive, something will happen to adjust."
However, White House officials said that the changes would result in more money going to workers. "We need to fix the system so folks working hard are getting compensated fairly,” White House Domestic Policy Council Director Cecilia Munoz  told the paper. "That’s why we are jump-starting this effort."
The executive action is likely to be viewed as a challenge to congressional Republicans, who have criticized Obama's president’s "pen and phone" strategy to get things done and vowed fight his proposal to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 per hour from $7.25.
Click for more from The New York Times 
Fox News' Ed Henry contributed to this report.

Dem Donor Connected to Hillary Aide Pleads Guilty $2 Million in Illegal Campaign Donations

Dem Donor Connected to Hillary Aide Pleads Guilty $2 Million in Illegal Campaign Donations

Jeffrey Thompson, a major Democratic donor who became wealthy by providing corporate services to the government of the District of Columbia, pled guilty on Monday in federal court to two felony charges of making illegal campaign contributions to local and federal elections.

U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia Ron Machen, who prosecuted the case, said in a press conference after Thompson entered his guilty plea that Thompson's illegal donations to two Washington, D.C. mayoral elections and six city council elections were nearly $2 million. Thompson's illegal donations to one 2008 Democratic presidential campaign exceeded $800,000.
Machen claimed that Thompson implicated two high profile District of Columbia politicians and one "senior advisor" to a 2008 presidential campaign in his illegal scheme. Though Machen did not name either the presidential campaign or the "senior advisor," the Washington Post has reported the campaign was Hillary Clinton's and the "senior advisor" is long time Clinton confidante Minyon Moore.

Under the plea deal, Thompson could serve as little as six months in jail if he fully and truthfully cooperates with federal prosecutors who are currently building cases against Thompsons' unindicted co-conspirators. Machen said that list included political candidates, public officials, and political operatives.
Machen said that Thompson "admitted to bankrolling efforts to secretly inject millions of dollars into local and federal elections." He added that  "DC campaigns have been compromised by covert corporate money for years....Jeffrey Thompson's guilty plea pulls back the curtain to expose widespread corruption."
Machen specifically named only one of these high profile politicians, Michael Brown, the former District of Columbia city councilman and son of the late Commerce Secretary Ron Brown, who served in President Clinton's administration.
According to Machen, Thompson "agreed to pay off a competing campaign [in 2006], that of Michael Brown, to drop out of the race and endorse his preferred candidate." Brown was paid "$200,000 up front" and also received a "$150,000 consulting contract" to drop out of the race.

Thompson also admitted that in 2008 he "funded a $100,000 shadow campaign that led to Michael Brown's election to the [Washington, D.C.] city council."

Machen said that in 2010, Thompson provided "$650,000 in [illegal] funding for mayoral campaign A." According to Machen, mayoral candidate A won the election.
Though Machen never identified current Washington, D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray as mayoral candidate A, Gray was the successful candidate in the 2010 election.

At the time, Machen said, Thompson's company, DC Charter, had a $300 million contract with the District of Columbia city government, and Thompson thought mayoral candidate A would help him maintain and improve his contractual relationship with the city better than the then-incumbent mayor.

Machen said that "in June of 2010, mayoral candidate A came back to Thompson asking for more help." Thompson, concerned that his open identification as a supporter of mayoral candidate A could lead to retribution from the then-incumbent mayor, insisted that mayoral candidate A refer to him as "Uncle Earl" in all their dealings, and mayoral candidate A complied.

Machine said that mayoral candidate A personally asked Thompson to fund a $425,000 budget for get-out-the-vote activities, and Thompson complied with that request.
After mayoral candidate A was elected, Machen said, Thompson requested that mayoral candidate A expedite a settlement agreement between his company, DC Charter, and the District of Columbia government, and mayoral candidate A, now the mayor, complied.

Mayor Vincent Gray quickly denied any wrong doing, but former U.S. Attorney Joseph diGenova told local Washington television station WJLA it is now only a matter of time until Mayor Gray is indicted or cuts a deal with the prosecution.

Thompson also admitted to spending more than $600,000 on illegal federal campaign donations used to promote the campaign of a Democratic candidate for president in 2008 (identified in the press as the Hillary Clinton campaign) in the states of Texas, Indiana, Pennyslvania, North Carolina, and in the territory of Puerto Rico.
In September 2013 Troy White pled guilty to a misdemeanor charge as the political operative who received and spent these illegal funds.
Image source: WJLA TV

NSA Plans To Infect ‘Millions’ of Computers with Malware & Using Facebook to Hack Into Your Computer

NSA Plans To Infect ‘Millions’ of Computers with Malware & Using Facebook to Hack Into Your Computer

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According to Dustin Volz of National Journal This just in from the Edward Snowden vault of government secrets: The National Security Agency is breaking into “potentially millions of computers worldwide” and infecting them with malware “implants” as part of an effort that is increasingly relying on automated systems and not human oversight, according to a by First Look Media report the NSA is pretending to be Facebook to get the job done.
“In some cases the NSA has masqueraded as a fake Facebook server, using the social-media site as a launching pad to infect a target’s computer and exfiltrate files from a hard drive,” First Look reported on Glenn Greenwald’s Intercept channel, citing a classified slide presentation from 2009. “In others, it has sent out spam emails laced with the malware, which can be tailored to covertly record audio from a computer’s microphone and take snapshots with its webcam. The hacking systems have also enabled the NSA to launch cyberattacks by corrupting and disrupting file downloads or denying access to websites.”
 According to Ryan Gallagher  and  Glenn Greenwald of The Intercept  as part of the “industrial-scale exploitation,” the agency is leveraging Facebook’s global appeal to trick targets into logging in to a doppelganger version of the site, a technique dubbed “Quantumhand.”
The implants being deployed were once reserved for a few hundred hard-to-reach targets, whose communications could not be monitored through traditional wiretaps. But the documents analyzed by The Intercept show how the NSA has aggressively accelerated its hacking initiatives in the past decade by computerizing some processes previously handled by humans. The automated system – codenamed TURBINE – is designed to “allow the current implant network to scale to large size (millions of implants) by creating a system that does automated control implants by groups instead of individually.”
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The classified files – provided previously by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden – contain new details about groundbreaking surveillance technology the agency has developed to infect potentially millions of computers worldwide with malware “implants.” The clandestine initiative enables the NSA to break into targeted computers and to siphon out data from foreign Internet and phone networks.
The covert infrastructure that supports the hacking efforts operates from the agency’s headquarters in Fort Meade, Maryland, and from eavesdropping bases in the United Kingdom and Japan. GCHQ, the British intelligence agency, appears to have played an integral role in helping to develop the implants tactic.
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“Owning the Net”

The NSA began rapidly escalating its hacking efforts a decade ago. In 2004, according to secret internal records, the agency was managing a small network of only 100 to 150 implants. But over the next six to eight years, as an elite unit called Tailored Access Operations (TAO) recruited new hackers and developed new malware tools, the number of implants soared to tens of thousands.
To penetrate foreign computer networks and monitor communications that it did not have access to through other means, the NSA wanted to go beyond the limits of traditional signals intelligence, or SIGINT, the agency’s term for the interception of electronic communications. Instead, it sought to broaden “active” surveillance methods – tactics designed to directly infiltrate a target’s computers or network devices.
Please refer to The Intercept for detailed article.

The Dark Side of the Ukraine Revolt

The Dark Side of the Ukraine Revolt

Svoboda rally
The Svoboda (Freedom) Ukrainian nationalist party holds a rally in Kiev, January 1, 2014. (Reuters/Maxim Zmeyev)
This article is a joint publication of TheNation.com and Foreign Policy In Focus.
The April 6 rally in Cherkasy, a city 100 miles southeast of Kiev, turned violent after six men took off their jackets to reveal T-shirts emblazoned with the words “Beat the Kikes” and “Svoboda,” the name of the Ukrainian ultranationalist movement and the Ukrainian word for “freedom."
– Jewish Telegraphic Agency, April 12, 2013
While most of the Western media describe the current crisis in Ukraine as a confrontation between authoritarianism and democracy, many of the shock troops who have manned barricades in Kiev and the western city of Lviv these past months represent a dark page in the country’s history and have little interest in either democracy or the liberalism of Western Europe and the United States.
“You’d never know from most of the reporting that far-right nationalists and fascists have been at the heart of the protests and attacks on government buildings,” reports Seumas Milne of the British Guardian. The most prominent of the groups has been the ultra-right-wing Svoboda or “Freedom” Party.
The demand for integration with Western Europe appears to be more a tactic than a strategy: “The participation of Ukrainian nationalism and Svoboda in the process of EU [European Union] integration,” admits Svoboda political council member Yury Noyevy, “is a means to break our ties with Russia.”
And lest one think that Svoboda, and parties even further to the right, will strike their tents and disappear, Ukrainian News reported on February 26 that Svoboda party members have temporarily been appointed to the posts of vice prime minister, minister of education, minister of agrarian policy and food supplies, and minister of ecology and natural resources.
Svoboda is hardly a fringe organization. In the 2012 election won by the now deposed president, Viktor Yanukovych, the party took 10.45 percent of the vote and over 40 percent in parts of the western Ukraine. While the west voted overwhelmingly for the Fatherland Party’s Yulia Tymoshenko, the more populous east went overwhelmingly for the Party of Regions’ Yanukovych. The latter won the election handily, 48.8 percent to 45.7 percent.
Svoboda—which currently has thirty-six deputies in the 450-member Ukrainian parliament—began life in the mid-1990s as the Social National Party of the Ukraine, but its roots lie in World War II, when Ukrainian nationalists and Nazis found common ground in the ideology of anti-communism and anti-Semitism. In April 1943, Dr. Otto von Wachter, the Nazi commander of Galicia—the name for western Ukraine—turned the First Division of the Ukrainian National Army into the 14 Grenadier Division of the Waffen SS, the so-called “Galicia Division.”
The Waffen SS was the armed wing of the Nazi Party, and while serving alongside the regular army, or Wehrmacht, the party controlled the SS’s thirty-eight-plus divisions. While all Nazi forces took part in massacres and atrocities, the Waffen SS did so with particular efficiency. The postwar Nuremberg trials designated it a “criminal organization.”
Svoboda has always had a soft spot for the Galicia Division, and one of its parliament members, Oleg Pankevich, took part in a ceremony last April honoring the unit. Pankevich joined with a priest of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church near Lviv to celebrate the unit’s seventieth anniversary and rebury some of the division’s dead.
“I was horrified to see photographs…of young Ukrainians wearing the dreaded SS uniform with swastikas clearly visible on their helmets as they carried caskets of members of this Nazi unit, lowered them into the ground, and fired gun salutes in their honor,” World Jewish Congress president Ronald Lauder wrote in a letter to the Patriarch of the Ukrainian church. He asked Patriarch, Filret, to “prevent any further rehabilitation of Nazism or the SS."
Some 800,000 Jews were murdered in Ukraine during the German occupation, many of them by Ukrainian auxiliaries and units like the Galicia Division.
Three months after the April ceremony, Ukrainians re-enacted the battle of Brody between the Galicia Division and Soviet troops, where the German XIII Army Corps was trying to hold off the Russians commanded by Marshall Ivan Konev. In general, going up against Konev meant a quick trip to Valhalla. In six days of fighting the Galicians lost two-thirds of their division and the XIII Corps was sent reeling back to Poland. The Galicia Division survivors were shipped off to fight anti-Nazi partisans in Yugoslavia. In 1945, remnants of the unit surrendered to the Americans in Italy, and in 1947 many of them were allowed to emigrate to Britain and Canada.
The US press has downplayed the role of Svoboda, and even more far-right groups like Right Sector and Common Cause, but Britain’s Channel 4 News reports that such quasi-fascist groups “played a leading role” in organizing the demonstrations and keeping them going.
In the intercepted phone call between US Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland and US Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt, the two were, as Russian expert Stephen Cohen put it to Democracy Now, “plotting a coup d’├ętat against the elected president of Ukraine.”
At one point in the call, Nuland endorsed “Yat” as the head of a new government, referring to Arseniy Yatsenyuk of the Fatherland Party, who indeed is now acting prime minister. But she went on to say that Svoboda leader Oleh Tyahnybok should be kept “on the outside.”
Her plan to sideline Tyahnybok as a post-coup player, however, may be wishful thinking, given the importance of the party in the demonstrations.
Tyahnybok is an anti-Semite who says “organized Jewry” controls the Ukraine’s media and government, and is planning “genocide” against Christians. He has turned Svoboda into the fourth-largest party in the country, and, this past December, US Senator John McCain shared a platform and an embrace with Tyahnybok at a rally in Kiev.
Svoboda has links with other ultra-right parties in Europe through the Alliance of European National Movements. Founded in 2009 in Budapest, the alliance includes Svoboda, Hungary’s violently racist Jobbik, the British National Party, Italy’s Tricolor Flame, Sweden’s National Democrats and Belgium’s National Front. The party also has close ties to France’s xenophobic National Front. The Front’s anti-Semitic former leader Jean-Marie Le Pen was honored at Svoboda’s 2004 congress.
Svoboda would stop immigration and reserve civil service jobs for “ethnic Ukrainians.” It would end abortion and gun control, “ban the Communist Ideology” and list religious affiliation and ethnicity on identity documents. It claims as its mentor the Nazi-collaborator Stepan Bandera, whose Ukrainian Insurgent Army massacred Jews and Poles during World War II. The party’s demand that all official business be conducted in Ukrainian was recently endorsed by the parliament, disenfranchising thirty percent of the country’s population that speaks Russian. Russian speakers are generally concentrated in the Ukraine’s east and south, and particularly in the Crimean Peninsula.
The US and the EU have hailed the resignation of President Yanukovych and the triumph of “people power” over the elected government—Ambassador Pyatt called it “a day for the history books”—but what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.
Before the deployment of Russian troops this past week, anti-coup, pro-Russian crowds massed in the streets in Crimea’s capital, Simferopol, and seized government buildings. While there was little support for the ousted president—who most Ukrainians believe is corrupt—there was deep anger at the de-recognition of the Russian language and contempt for what many said were “fascists” in Kiev and Lviv.
Until 1954, Crimea was always part of Russia until, for administrative and bureaucratic reasons, it was made part of Ukraine. At the time, Ukraine was one of fifteen Soviet republics.
Ukraine is in deep economic trouble, and for the past year the government has been casting about for a way out. Bailout negotiations were opened with the International Monetary Fund and the European Union, but the loan would have required onerous austerity measures that, according to Citibank analyst Ivan Tchakarov, would “most probably mean a recession in 2014.”
It was at this juncture that Yanukovych abandoned talks with the EU and opened negotiations with the Russians. That turnaround was the spark for last November’s demonstrations.
But as Ben Aris, editor of Business News Europe, says, “Under the terms of the EU offer of last year—which virtually nobody in the Western media has seriously examined—the EU was offering $160 million per year for the next five years, while just the bond payments to the IMF were greater than that.”
Russia, on the other hand, “offered $15 billion in cash and immediately paid $3 billion.… Had Yanukovych accepted the EU deal, the country would have collapsed,” says Aris.
The current situation is dangerous precisely because it touches a Russian security nerve. The Soviet Union lost some twenty-five to twenty-seven million people in World War II, and Russians to this day are touchy about their borders. They also know who inflicted those casualties, and those who celebrate a Waffen SS division are not likely to be well thought of in the south or the east of Ukraine.
Border security is hardly ancient history for the Kremlin. As Russian expert Cohen points out, “Since the Clinton administration in the 1990s, the US-led West has been on a steady march toward post-Soviet Russia, beginning with the expansion of NATO…all the way to the Russian border.”
NATO now includes Croatia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovenia and former Soviet-led Warsaw Pact members Albania, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Romania.
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen’s comment that the IMF-EU package for Ukraine would have been “a major boost for Euro-Atlantic security” suggests that NATO had set its sights on bringing Ukraine into the military alliance.
The massive demonstrations over the past three months reflected widespread outrage at the corruption of the Yanukovych regime, but they have also unleashed a dark side of Ukraine’s politics. That dark side was on display at last year’s rally in Cherkasy. Victor Smal, a lawyer and human rights activist, said he told “the men in the T-shirts they were promoting hatred. They beat me to the ground until I lost consciousness.”
Svoboda and its allies do not make up a majority of the demonstrators, but as Cohen points out, “Five percent of a population that’s tough, resolute, ruthless, armed and well funded, and knows what it wants, can make history.”
It is not the kind of history most would like to repeat.

Read Next: John Feffer and Foreign Policy in Focus on the clash of partnerships in Ukraine.

Belarus to Ask Russia to Send Warplanes

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Belarus to Ask Russia to Send Warplanes

by TheTotalCollapse.com on March 12, 2014
Russian military ally Belarus will ask Moscow to deploy 12 to 15 warplanes on its territory in response to increased NATO activity near its borders due to tension over Ukraine, President Alexander Lukashenko said Wednesday.
The U.S. and Poland, Belarus’s western neighbour, began war games on Tuesday that are expected to involve at least 12 U.S. F-16 fighter jets. A joint naval exercise of U.S., Bulgarian and Romanian naval forces in the Black Sea started on Wednesday.
The drills were planned before the crisis in Ukraine but underscore support for NATO nations near Russia, which has taken control of Ukraine’s Crimea region and has warned it could invade to protect Russians there after the president’s ouster.
“We reacted calmly until large-scale exercises began … in Poland,” Lukashenko said. “There is a clear escalation of the situation near our borders.”
He said Belarus would ask Russia to send “no more than 12 to 15 planes”, indicating that the request had been made under a clause of a “union treaty” signed by Slavic nations after the Soviet Union’s collapse.
“Send them to Belarus, determine their patrol routes,” Lukashenko said. “Let them work, let them patrol.”
The Russian Defence Ministry could not immediately be reached for comment.

Bernanke Confesses to Economic Doping


Bernanke Confesses to Economic Doping (Video)

 

Bernanke to Oprah: "I've Been Doping for Years": http://youtu.be/orh64vypKwU via @YouTube 

EXCLUSIVE – The Oprah Winfrey Interview we should have seen: Ben Bernanke Confessing to Years of Performance-Enhancing Economic Doping. 
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U.S. Dollar Collapse: Where is Germany’s Gold?

U.S. Dollar Collapse: Where is Germany’s Gold?

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This Article was first published in February 2013
The financial world was shocked this month by a demand from Germany’s Bundesbank to repatriate a large portion of its gold reserves held abroad. By 2020, Germany wants 50% of its total gold reserves back in Frankfurt – including 300 tons from the Federal Reserve. The Bundesbank’s announcement comes just three months after the Fed refused to submit to an audit of its holdings on Germany’s behalf. One cannot help but wonder if the refusal triggered the demand.
Either way, Germany appears to be waking up to a reality for which central banks around the world have been preparing: the dollar is no longer the world’s safe-haven asset and the US government is no longer a trustworthy banker for foreign nations. It looks like their fears are well-grounded, given the Fed’s seeming inability to return what is legally Germany’s gold in a timely manner. Germany is a developed and powerful nation with the second largest gold reserves in the world. If they can’t rely on Washington to keep its promises, who can?
Where is Germany’s Gold?
The impact of Germany’s repatriation on the dollar revolves around an unanswered question: why will it take seven years to complete the transfer?
The popular explanation is that the Fed has already rehypothecated all of its gold holdings in the name of other countries. That is, the same mound of bullion is earmarked as collateral for a host of different lenders. Since the Fed depends on a fractional-reserve banking system for its very existence, it would not come as a surprise that it has become a fractional-reserve bank itself. If so, then perhaps Germany politely asked for a seven-year timeline in order to allow the Fed to save face, and to prevent other depositors from clamoring for their own gold back – a ‘run’ on the Fed.
Now, the Fed can always print more dollars and buy gold on the open market to make up for any shortfall, but such a move could substantially increase the price of gold. The last thing the Fed needs is another gold price spike reminding the world of the dollar’s decline.
Speculation Aside
None of these theories are substantiated, but no matter how you slice it, Germany’s request for its gold does not bode well for the future of the dollar. In fact, the Bundesbank’s official statements are all you need to confirm the Germans’ waning faith in the US.
Last October, after the Bundesbank had requested an audit of its Fed holdings, Executive Board Member Carl-Ludwig Thiele was asked in an interview why the bank kept so much of Germany’s gold overseas. His response emphasized the importance of the dollar as the world’s reserve currency:
Thiele’s statement can lead us to only one conclusion: by keeping fewer reserves in the US, Germany foresees less future need for “US dollar-denominated liquidity.”"Gold stored in your home safe is not immediately available as collateral in case you need foreign currency. Take, for instance, the key role that the US dollar plays as a reserve currency in the global financial system. The gold held with the New York Fed can, in a crisis, be pledged with the Federal Reserve Bank as collateral against US dollar-denominated liquidity.”
History Repeats
The whole situation mirrors the late 1960s, during a period that led up to the “Nixon Shock.” Back then, the world was on the Bretton Woods System – an attempt on the part of Western central bankers to pin the dollar to gold at a fixed rate, while still allowing the metal to trade privately as a commodity. This led to a gap between the market price of gold as a commodity and the official price available from the Treasury.
As the true value of gold separated further and further from its official rate, the world began to realize the system was unsustainable, and many suspected the US was not serious about maintaining a strong dollar. West Germany moved first on these fears by redeeming its dollar reserves for gold, followed by France, Switzerland, and others. This eventually culminated in Nixon “closing the gold window” in 1971 by ending any link between the dollar and gold. This “Nixon Shock” spurred chronic inflation throughout the ’70s and a concurrent rally in gold.
Perhaps the entire international community is thinking back to the ’60s, because Germany isn’t the only country maneuvering away from the dollar today. The Netherlands and Azerbaijan are also discussing repatriating their foreign gold holdings. And every month, we hear about central banks increasing gold reserves. The latest are Russia and Kazakhstan, but in the last year, countries from Brazil to Turkey have been adding to their gold holdings in order to diversify away from fiat currency reserves.
And don’t forget China. Once the biggest purchaser of US bonds, it is now a net seller of Treasuries, while simultaneously gobbling up gold. Some sources even claim that China has unofficially surpassed Germany as the second largest holder of gold in the world.
Unlike the ’60s, today there is no official gold window to close. There will be no reported “shock” indicator of a dollar flight. This demand by Germany may be the closest indicator we’re going to get. Placing blame where it’s due, let’s call it the “Bernanke Shock.”
It Takes One to Know One
In last month’s Gold Letter, I wrote about the three pillars supporting the US Treasury’s persistently low interest rates: the Fed, domestic investors, and foreign central banks – led by Japan. I examined how Japan’s plans to radically devalue the yen may undermine that country’s ability to continue buying Treasuries, which could cause the other pillars to become unstable as well.
While private investors and even the Fed might be deluding themselves into believing US bonds are still a viable investment, Germany’s repatriation news makes it clear that foreign governments are no longer buying the propaganda. And why should they? If anyone should appreciate the real constraints the US government is facing, it is other governments.
Our sovereign creditors know that Ben Bernanke and Barack Obama are just regular men in fancy suits. They know the Fed isn’t harboring some ingenious plan for raising interest rates while successfully selling back its worthless mortgage and government securities. Instead, the Fed is like a drug addict making any excuse to get its next fix. [See Bernanke's tell-all interview with Oprah where he confesses to economic doping!]
US investors should be as shocked as the Bundesbank about the Fed’s deception. While we cannot redeem our dollars for gold with the Fed, we can still buy gold with them in the open market. As more investors and governments choose to save in precious metals, the dollar’s value will go into steeper and steeper decline – thereby driving more investors into metals. That’s when the virtuous circle upon which the dollar has coasted for a generation will quickly turn vicious.

JPMorgan, Deutsche Bank & Ex Federal Reserve Bankers Dead

JPMorgan, Deutsche Bank & Ex Federal Reserve Bankers Dead


Ex-Federal Reserve Economist Mike Dueker



If the stock market were already crashing then it would be simple to blame the dismally sad rash of dead bankers in the last week on that – certainly that was reflected in 1929. However, for the third time in the last week, a senior financial executive has died in what appears to be a suicide. As Bloomberg reports, following the deaths of a JPMorgan senior manager (Tuesday) and a Deutsche Bank executive (Sunday), Russell Investments’ Chief Economist (and former Fed economist) Mike Dueker was found dead at the side of a highway in Washington State.Police said the death appeared to be a suicide.
Via Bloomberg, Mike Dueker, the chief economist at Russell Investments, was found dead at the side of a highway that leads to the Tacoma Narrows Bridge in Washington state, according to the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department. He was 50.
He may have jumped over a 4-foot (1.2-meter) fence before falling down a 40- to 50-foot embankment, Pierce County Detective Ed Troyer said yesterday. He said the death appeared to be a suicide.
Dueker was reported missing on Jan. 29, and a group of friends had been searching for him along with law enforcement. Troyer said Dueker was having problems at work, without elaborating.
Dueker was in good standing at Russell, said Jennifer Tice, a company spokeswoman. She declined to comment on Troyer’s statement about Dueker’s work issues.
But as Michael Snyder noted recently, if the stock market was already crashing, it would be easy to blame the suicides on that.  The world certainly remembers what happened during the crash of 1929

Parents of Fallen Navy SEAL Implicate Vice President Joe Biden in the death of their son and 29 other Soldiers

Parents of Fallen Navy SEAL Implicate Vice President Joe Biden in the death of their son and 29 other Soldiers

News broke on May 1, 2011, that Osama bin Laden had been killed. One day later, Vice President Joe Biden identified the Navy SEALs as being responsible. Barely more than three months later, 30 Navy SEALs were murdered when their helicopter was shot down over Afghanistan. It has all the earmarks of retribution.
Karen and Billy Vaughn are the parents of one of those 30 brave men – Aaron Vaughn. Watch this extremely compelling interview (in two parts) with Aaron’s parents and Ginni Thomas about the downing of Extortion 17.
Via the Daily Caller, (h/t @CHHR01):

U.S. Congressman Compromised by Muslim Brotherhood

U.S. Congressman Compromised by Muslim Brotherhood

Had the Muslim Brotherhood been identified as a terrorist organization (even Saudi Arabia has done this) and enemy of the U.S. after the 9/11 attacks, any Congressman caught aiding or accepting money from said group would be guilty of treason. Last October, Rep. Gerald Connolly (D-VA) defended Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood at a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing. Now it’s been learned that in a little less than two weeks, Mr. Connolly will be accepting campaign contributions at a Muslim Brotherhood fundraiser.
Connolly: Taking money from America's enemies.
Connolly: Taking money from America’s enemies.
Via Washington Free Beacon:
U.S.-based Muslim Brotherhood allies Akram Elzend and Sameh Elhennawy will co-host a fundraiser for Connolly later this month at the Fairfax residence of Mohamed Mohamed, according to a copy of the invitation obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.
Attendees of the March 22 fundraiser are asked to donate between $150 and $400 in order to attend the event, where supporters will have a chance to “express appreciation and have direct conversation with” Connolly, according to the invitation.
A form attached to the invitation asks donors to include their personal information and contains a message that the materials were “paid for and authorized by Connolly for Congress.”
With that as a backdrop, check out Connolly’s exchange with Elizabeth (Beth) Jones, then Acting Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Near East Affairs, below. Connolly clearly has a problem with the removal of Mohammed Mursi as President of Egypt and in his argument, compares the Mursi regime to that of Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard Nixon during the Vietnam war. His point, ostensibly, is that protests should not lead to the removal of a democratically-elected government and that Mursi was removed via coup.
As an aside, Jones is the State Department employee who identified Ansar Al-Sharia, which comes under the Muslim Brotherhood umbrella, as the “group that conducted the (Benghazi) attacks” shortly after they happened, via email.
Lost on Connolly – no doubt, intentionally – is that the Muslim Brotherhood used democracy to put a tyrannical government in power. Connolly’s upcoming attendance at the Brotherhood-friendly fundraiser speaks volumes.
As the Free Beacon points out, Elzend is a Mursi supporter and founder of a group that was caught in an unflattering video last month in New York City:
Elzend is a co-founder and chair of the pro-Morsi group Egyptian Americans for Democracy and Human Rights (EADHR), which held a rally last month outside of the Saudi Arabian consulate in New York.
Demonstrators at the rally were caught accusing the Saudis of trying to “sell Egypt to the Jews” and of being “dirtier than Jews,” according to video of the event published by the Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT).
Here is that IPT video, which we posted at the time:
This is not the only instance of Connolly siding with the Brotherhood. Last year, Connolly ran interference for the IRS at a House Oversight Committee hearing. In one exchange with Chairman Darrell Issa, Connolly asserted that progressive groups had been targeted in the scandal as well; that is a lie. If, in his capacity as Executive Director for the Islamic Da’wa Organization (IDO), Malik Obama both works with the Muslim Brotherhood and received expeditious / illegal tax-exempt status from then IRS official Lois Lerner, Connolly’s claims at this hearing would be consistent with aiding and abetting the Brotherhood:
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Democrats Jim McDermott and Elijah Cummings have similarly gone out of their way to defend the IRS:
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Boehner: Issa within 'rights' to shut down lawmaker

Boehner: Issa within 'rights' to shut down lawmaker boy cott cnn they have muslims that work for them no wonder we cant get our rights back and why they hate us they are muslims


By Halimah Abdullah, CNN god hears our prayers wonder why a muslim works for cnn no wonder cnn is all ways on obama side muslims work there that is come in to and end roght now
updated 8:35 PM EST, Thu March 6, 2014
Watch this video

CBC calls for Rep. Issa's removal

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Rep. Elijah Cummings and Rep. Darrell Issa clash during IRS hearing
  • Underlying tensions are politically motivated and both sides accuse the other of opportunism
  • Congressional Black Caucus asks Speaker Boehner to remove Issa as chairman
  • Cummings, Congressional Black Caucus say Issa's actions part of disrespectful pattern
Washington (CNN) -- House Speaker John Boehner said Rep. Darrell Issa was justified in ending an acrimonious hearing on IRS targeting of conservative groups -- a meeting concluded when Issa cut the hearing room microphones with his harshest critic on the panel, Rep. Elijah Cummings, in mid sentence.
"From what I understand, I think Mr. Issa was in his rights to adjourn the hearing," Boehner told reporters on Thursday.
The Congressional Black Caucus wants Issa removed as House Oversight Committee chairman following Wednesday's uproar, which it sees as the latest in a series of disrespectful responses to pushback from Democrats during hearings on the IRS matter.
The group offered a resolution on Thursday.
"Chairman Issa's abusive behavior on March 5th is part of a continuing pattern in which he has routinely excluded members of the committee from investigative meetings and has routinely provided information to the press before sharing it with committee members," Congressional Black Caucus Chairman Rep. Marcia Fudge said.
The organization also sent Boehner a letter.
"The abuse of authority and misuse of the congressional privileges afforded them are an affront to the expectations of the American public. Congressman Darrell Issa of California abused his authority and therefore must be reprimanded to ensure the dignity of the House of Representatives is preserved," Fudge, an Ohio Democrat, wrote.
"We urge you to take prompt action to maintain the integrity of this body and remove Mr. Issa as chair of the Oversight & Government Reform Committee immediately," the letter continued.
Lawmakers clash during IRS hearing
Issa, Cummings clash at IRS hearing
Tension between congressmen Darrell Issa and Elijah Cummings during a House Oversight hearing has led to the Congressional Black Caucus calling for Issa to be removed from his post as committee chairman.
Tension between congressmen Darrell Issa and Elijah Cummings during a House Oversight hearing has led to the Congressional Black Caucus calling for Issa to be removed from his post as committee chairman.
Congressman Elijah Cummings says Rep. Darrell Issa has behaved in an un-American manner by cutting his colleague short during a congressional hearing.
Congressman Elijah Cummings says Rep. Darrell Issa has behaved in an un-American manner by cutting his colleague short during a congressional hearing.
Tensions are strained between Democrats and Republicans as the two sides continue to probe whether the IRS intentionally targeted conservative groups seeking tax exempt status.
The issue flared anew this week following a series of hearings last year around the oversight panel's investigation.
Republicans see former IRS official Lois Lerner's decision to invoke her constitutional rights not to testify at hearings as obstructionist.
Democrats believe their GOP colleagues are trying to squeeze any kind of political capital they can out of an embarrassing episode for the Obama administration in a midterm election year.
Those frustrations boiled over on Wednesday when Issa refused to take Cummings' statement and muted his microphone when he protested an early end to the hearing during which Lerner again refused to testify.
Cummings, a Maryland Democrat, says he knows a thing or two about respect.
"Let me tell you something. I've been practicing law for 30, 40 years. And, so you see these kind of things," Cummings said after the hearing Wednesday. "But the thing that we are determined is not to be detracted, to get to the truth. And so I see it as a distraction. I don't worry about disrespect, okay?"
On Thursday, Cummings elaborated on why he felt Issa's actions were troubling.
"This is not the first time chairman Issa has shut mics down. You can't shut out the minority voice," Cummings said. "He shut me down because he didn't want to hear what I was saying or what he thought what I was saying. That's un-American."
Cummings told CNN's "Erin Burnett OutFront" that he talked briefly with Issa on Thursday and said he doesn't "expect him to apologize."
Other Democratic lawmakers were similarly upset.
"What happened was so outrageous, so demeaning, so unjudicial, so awful in every respect, that we just absolutely have actually reached the boiling point," said Rep. Louis Slaughter or New York and the top Democrat on the Rules Committee.
Issa defended his actions.
"He was talking into a mic in an adjourned meeting. The fact is Mr. Cummings came to make a point of his objections to the process we'd been going through. He was, he was actually slandering me at the moment that the mics did go off by claiming that this had not been a real investigation," Issa said Wednesday.
"This had been a bipartisan investigation by multiple committees in which we had testimony in multiple hearings ... in which it was very clear there was targeting of conservative groups in which there were people who were acting outside the norm. We're going to continue our investigation. But just because Mr. Cummings would like to have a more convenient truth doesn't give him the right to make a speech."
Issa has also indicated that the probe may be approaching a "dead end" after nearly a year.
"It may well be that we have gotten to the bottom of it," Issa said.
Such uncertainty raises questions about whether Republicans who have alleged the targeting order came from political higher-ups, even the White House, can win a legal battle to compel Lerner to provide testimony.

WND: Immigration Is 'Destroying Our Society' And Turning Cities Into 'Cesspools'

WND: Immigration Is 'Destroying Our Society' And Turning Cities Into 'Cesspools'

WorldNetDaily commentator Selena Owens writes today about how much she valued Ann Coulter’s anti-immigrant remarks at CPAC, in which the pundit compared immigration to rape and called for “death squads” against reform advocates.
Owens, a Tea Party activist with the Conservative Campaign Committee, lamented that liberals are painting opponents of the DREAM Act and other reform proposals as similar to “the big bad wolf waiting to prey on innocent Goldilocks kids.”
“America will be overrun by cesspools of sanctuary cities destroying our society” if immigration reform moves forward, Owens said. “If amnesty passes, border patrol agents and American citizens who died defending borders and personal property would have died in vain.”
Coulter accurately points out that liberals use this “shaming” tactic to humiliate people into feeling guilty about standing up for secure borders, deportation and criminal punishment for immigrants who illegally enter the U.S. Why is a guilt trip laid upon law-abiding Americans regarding the potential fate of illegal immigrants? It’s not our fault that immigrants decide to enter America illegally, yet liberals and pro-amnesty GOP sellouts want us to emotionally own it by conveying exaggerated and inflammatory scenarios of children potentially being ripped from their families, deported and helplessly left to fend for themselves. That’s the narrative. Anti-amnesty citizens are akin to the big bad wolf waiting to prey on innocent Goldilocks kids.



Coulter expertly notes instances where “shaming is good.” She retells of an era in America in which large corporations shamed Americans about littering through “Keep America Beautiful” ads depicting Native Americans crying about people polluting the natural beauty of the earth. It worked; people stopped littering, or, at least, felt ashamed if they did. But in California, parks are closed due to littering from illegal immigrants. No, no … don’t shame them; just close the parks. If this pattern in any indication of what will happen if amnesty passes, America will be overrun by cesspools of sanctuary cities destroying our society.

Shaming can effectively be used to encourage people to feel remorseful about injustice, immorality and lawbreaking. But in the case of amnesty, the president, liberals and RINO sellouts use shaming as political power-broker deals, where American citizens are pawned off in favor of illegal lawbreakers.

Liberals use the shame game against American citizens to forcefully advance the pro-amnesty/illegal immigration agenda. I agree with Coulter that the American people are the only voice that can make a difference in this matter. If amnesty passes, border patrol agents and American citizens who died defending borders and personal property would have died in vain.

And that’s something amnesty proponents should be ashamed of.

Dana Rohrabacher Floats Impeaching Obama Over Immigration Reform

Dana Rohrabacher Floats Impeaching Obama Over Immigration Reform

In an interview with WorldNetDaily today, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) railed against President Obama’s “unconstitutional approach” to immigration, warning that the president’s policies are undermining the Constitution and suggesting that Congress impeach him and remove him from office.
“We’ve got three years to get this guy out,” Rohrabacher said. “Hopefully he — well, let me put it this way, I think he probably has been engaged in these unconstitutional approaches that may make his own ability to stay in office a question.”
“But at the very least we need to make sure after three years we get a president who will set us back on the right path and we have a Congress, meaning a Senate and a House, that can stand unified and try to prevent the type of damage you have from an arrogant president who thinks he can enforce only the laws that he agrees with,” he added.

Kupelian: Republicans Should Impeach Obama If They Take Control Of Congress

Kupelian: Republicans Should Impeach Obama If They Take Control Of Congress

WorldNetDaily managing editor David Kupelian yesterday urged Republicans to impeach and remove President Obama from office if they take control of the Senate and keep the House in the upcoming election.
Kupelian added that if Republicans don’t move to remove the president, then they should at least block all of Obama’s policies.
Speaking yesterday with American Family Association head Tim Wildmon — who has also called for Obama’s impeachment — Kupelian said that “we need to remove this guy or to stop what he’s doing as soon as possible. The next opportunity is in November and we’ll see what the Republicans and the Christians and the conservatives can do then.”

The President’s Budget – Broken Promises On Jobs

The President’s Budget – Broken Promises On Jobs

1 1078
President Obama Promised That Government Spending Was The Answer To Creating Jobs

In 2009, The Obama Administration Told The Public That If The “Stimulus” Were Passed, The Unemployment Rate Would Not Pass 8.0%. (Christina Romer And Jared Bernstein, “The Job Impact Of The American Recovery And Reinvestment Plan,” 1/9/09)

Here’s The Chart The White House Provided in 2009:
 unemployment-chart-1

Here’s The Truth:
unemployment-chart-2

  • Despite The Enactment Of A Stimulus Bill That Cost More Than $1 Trillion, The Unemployment Rate Peaked At 10.0% In October 2009. (“Current Population Survey,” BLS, Accessed 3/7/14)

  • Real Cost Of The Stimulus $1.177 Trillion: According to CBO, the stimulus bill cost $830 billion. Adding in $347 billion in long-term interest payments, the bill will total nearly $1.2 trillion.

  • Unemployment Stayed Above 8.0% For 43 Consecutive Months. (“Current Population Survey,” BLS, Accessed 3/7/14)

Even After An $1.177 Trillion Stimulus Package And Four Straight Trillion-Dollar Deficits, Too Many Americans Are Still Looking For Work

  • There are still 10.5 million Americans who are unemployed.

  • The unemployment rate at 6.7% is still far above the 5.0% the president’s advisors had predicted for 2014 with the stimulus.

  • There are currently 7.2 million Americans working part-time but wanting full-time work.

  • There are still 651,000 fewer jobs today than at the start of the recession.

Sources: “Current Population Survey,” BLS, Accessed 3/7/14; “Current Employment Statistics,” BLS, Accessed 3/7/14; Christina Romer And Jared Bernstein, “The Job Impact Of The American Recovery And Reinvestment Plan,” 1/9/09

The President’s Budget Calls For The Same Failed Plans Of “Stimulus” And Increased Federal Spending

The President’s Budget Proposal Would Increase Spending From $3.4 Trillion In 2013 To $3.9 Trillion In 2015. (“Budget Of The United States Government, Fiscal Year 2015,” OMB, 3/4/14)

  • President Obama Is Proposing $56 Billion For A So-Called “Opportunity, Growth, And Security Initiative.” “

  • The President’s Budget Also Proposes A $302 Billion Transportation Spending Increase To Support Infrastructure And Create Jobs.

  • President Obama Also Doubles Down On “Stimulus” With A Proposed National Infrastructure Bank.

While The President Calls For Bigger Government, His Administration Blocks Private Job Creation

Exhibit A Of Government Holding Back Job Creation: Keystone XL

In His Latest Budget, President Obama Outlined How His Administration Would “Continue To Act On [Its] Own To Cut Red Tape And Streamline The Permitting Process For Key Infrastructure Projects” In Order To Spur Job Creation. “At the same time, this Budget lays out how my Administration will continue to act on our own to cut red tape and streamline the permitting process for key infrastructure projects, so we can get more construction workers on the job as fast as possible.” (“Budget Of The United States Government, Fiscal Year 2015,” OMB, 3/4/14)

But The Administration Has Stalled For More Than Five Years On The Keystone XL Project Despite Its Potential For Creating Private-Sector Jobs. “During construction, proposed Project spending would support approximately 42,100 jobs (direct, indirect, and induced), and approximately $2 billion in earnings throughout the United States. Of these jobs, approximately 3,900 would be direct construction jobs in the proposed Project area in Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, and Kansas (3,900 over 1 year of construction, or 1,950 per year if construction took 2 years). Construction of the proposed Project would contribute approximately $3.4 billion (or 0.02 percent) to the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP). The proposed Project would generate approximately 50 jobs during operations.” (“Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement For The Keystone XL Project,” State Department, 1/31/14)

New CBO Report Crushes Obama’s Economic Policies

New CBO Report Crushes Obama’s Economic Policies

ObamaAngry

The number-crunchers at the bipartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) are raining more bad news on the Obama economic agenda and the Obama regime as a whole, stating that the nation’s economic recovery is worse that the recovery after the nation’s last four recessions.

The new CBO report, perhaps more damaging to the regime, states that whatever decline there has been in the unemployment number, has been largely fueled by the decline in the labor participation rate.

The report also says that the number of people out of work for more than six consecutive months, remains extraordinarily high (emphasis added):
The deep recession that began in December 2007, when the economy began to contract, and ended in June 2009, when the economy began to expand again, has had a lasting effect on the labor market. More than four and a half years after the end of the recession, employment has risen sluggishly—much more slowly than it grew, on average, during the four previous recoveries that lasted more than one year. At the same time, the unemployment rate has fallen only partway back to its prerecession level (as shown in yesterday’s blog post), and a significant part of that improvement is attributable to a decline in labor force participation that has occurred as an unusually large number of people have stopped looking for work (see the figure below). Moreover, the rate of long-term unemployment—the percentage of the labor force that has been out of work for more than 26 consecutive weeks—remains extraordinarily high.
The new CBO report on the economy falls on the heels of other recent reports by the agency that have been damaging to the Obama regime this month, including a report claiming that Obama’s minimum wage hike would cost as least 500,000 jobs, and that Obamacare would cost the equivalent of 2.3 million jobsAdditionally, just week, an ex-CBO Chief said that Obamacare subsidies caused a disincentive for people to work.
Democrats immediately circled the wagons, making the outrageous and embarrassing claim that the job losses created by Obama’s policies would give people more freedom from a new term they invented called “job lock.”

Ousted PM left Libya on way to 'another European country'

Ousted PM left Libya on way to 'another European country'

By Jomana Karadsheh and Steve Almasy, CNN
updated 7:35 PM EDT, Wed March 12, 2014
Libya's Prime Minister Ali Zeidan speaks during a news conference on March 8, 2014 in the capital, Tripoli.
Libya's Prime Minister Ali Zeidan speaks during a news conference on March 8, 2014 in the capital, Tripoli.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Acting PM says predecessor free to leave, return for legal proceedings
  • NEW: Abdullah al-Thinni says Libyan navy tracked oil tanker after it got through blockade
  • NEW: The tanker took fire but escaped, he said
  • NEW: Cairo says it will board the tanker if it enters Egyptian waters
Tripoli, Libya (CNN) -- The whereabouts of ousted Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan were a mystery Wednesday after he flew out of the country the night before, despite a prosecutor's order he not leave following his removal from office.
Zeidan was in Malta late Tuesday on a refueling stop for about two hours while en route to "another European country," Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said in televised remarks.
As of Wednesday, it was unclear which country that was or if he had arrived there.
Libya's acting Prime Minister and Minister of Defense Abdullah al-Thinni told reporters Wednesday that -- despite the prosecutor's order -- there was no ban and Zeidan was free to leave.
"If there is a warrant ... if he is wanted by the judiciary, he can return and be held accountable according to the law and international norms. And this is not considered fleeing," al-Thinni said, contradicting an earlier statement from the Ministry of Justice.
Hours earlier, the North African country's parliament dismissed the prime minister after rebels in eastern Libya said a tanker loaded with oil from a port under their control escaped a naval blockade and moved into international waters.
Libya's prosecutor general said in Tripoli he had banned Zeidan from traveling abroad because of an investigation relating to a payment the government allegedly made last year to an armed group blocking oil ports in the east.
A copy of the travel ban, dated March 11, was posted on his press office's Facebook page marked "urgent and important."
"We order placing the aforementioned in the monitoring database and banning him from travel until he appears for the investigation," said the order, addressed to the head of Libya's immigration department.
Oil chaos
The vote of no-confidence came after Zeidan's failure to stop rebels from exporting oil independently, the latest challenge in the vast desert nation's bumpy transition.
The Libyan government said late Monday it had taken control of the North Korean-flagged tanker, Morning Glory, as it tried to leave the Al-Sidra port in eastern Libya, and after having briefly exchanged fire with rebels. However, in a sign of the chaos and conflicting information typical for Libya, the rebels rejected the assertion.
On Wednesday, al-Thinni said the tanker was at sea where Libyan military forces fired on it until they were called off by the U.S. Navy for fear of an environmental disaster. The oil tanker managed to sail away despite a fire on board, he said.
A spokesman for Egypt's military, Col. Ahmed Ali, told CNN on Wednesday that its navy will monitor Egyptian waters for the oil tanker.
If the Egyptian navy finds the Morning Glory in Egyptian waters, authorities will demand to board and inspect the vessel to verify that the ship's cargo is legal and properly authorized, Ali said.
Egyptian authorities will detain the ship if they find it to be violating of any laws or regulations.
Oil production, Libya's economic lifeline, has slowed to a trickle since the summer as armed protesters have seized oil ports and oil fields to press political and financial demands. Oil revenue in the first two months of the year was only 16% of what was expected in the budget, Deputy Oil Minister Omar Shukmak said.
They are seeking a greater share of the country's oil revenue, as well as autonomy for eastern Libya.
Al-Thinni said the military would not fight the protesters in the ports.
"There will be no use of force against Libyan citizens," he said.
The conflict over oil wealth is stoking fears Libya may slide deeper into chaos as the fragile government fails to rein in the armed brigades that helped oust Moammar Gadhafi in 2011 but now do as they please.
The removal of Zeidan, a liberal weakened for months by infighting with Islamists, deepens the turmoil in the country of 6 million people.
CNN's Sarah Sirgany, Marie-Louise Gumuchian and Saad Abedine contributed to this report