International Forecaster Weekly

Latest Scandals, Moneylaundering Scams, Prison Population Boom, Neocon Conjobs

Latest scandals, moneylaundering scams, prison population boom, Neocon conjobs.... data collection on you... remote radiology... Polaroid employees retirement fund exposed... teaching kids how to rat in school... Oil for food for kickbacks...

Bob Chapman | May 1, 2005

We may well have another new scandal waiting in the wings. The issue is relating to Paul Volcker, former Chairman of the Federal Reserve and currently a UN investigator (whitewasher) and his position on the board of Canada’s largest company, elitist run Power Corp., since a past president of the firm, Maurice Strong, is involved in the oil-for-food scandal. Strong is a Rockefeller protégé and runs things for the elitists in Canada as well as at the UN. He is in the second tier of Illuminati command.

There have been resignations of top investigators on Mr. Volcker’s team. Secretary-General Kofi Annan insists the team’s report exonerated him and instead will lay all the blame on his son so he can stay on. We hear there is an argument regarding the splitting up of the stolen funds, and the Bush administration may abandon their support of Annan if he does not do what he is supposed to do. There is about $11 billion involved.

Mr. Strong has acknowledged that Tongsun Park, the Korean accused of illegally acting as an Iraqi agent in 1997 invested in Cordex, a company owned by Mr. Strong and his son Fred Strong. Maurice Strong has stepped down from his UN position as adviser to Mr. Annan on Korean affairs for the rest of the investigation. Cordex went bankrupt two years after its inception. Mr. Park invested $1 million in Cordex, which many view a fee to get in on the looting of the oil-for-food caper. William Turner, a former Power Corp. board member who also added $1 million to the Cordex deal, joined the Strong-Park alliance. Volcker’s connection to Power Corp. puts him in bed with the whole group and he is supposed to be investigating his friends. Now we ask you, does this seem above board to you? Volcker’s committee failed to mention Mr. Park in the scandal. This is the same Mr. Park who was the focus of Koreagate in the 1970s. We guess old habits die-hard. The top Volcker investigator and his assistant quit because Volcker was whitewashing the scandal. Heritage Foundation’s top researcher, Nile Gardiner, has urged Volcker to resign because his committee has no credibility left. Thus, the daisy chain of Volcker, Strong, Park, Power Corp., Cordex, the French Bank BNP, which handled oil-for-food accounts, and Total, the French oil company, which just happened to have profited from the oil-for-food scam, Mr. Volcker says his board position at Power Corp. was all about fishing for salmon with his friends. This is classic conflict of interest by Volcker. Our question is, how much of the $11 billion will end up in Volcker’s pocket? This is the typical type of multi-billion-dollar scam the elitists pull all the time. You just do not normally hear about them. The elitists do as they please and never go to jail.

Our Defense Department is in the process of setting up nine bases in Afghanistan. Three will be on the Iranian border, one each near the Tajik and Uzbek borders and four along the Pakistan border. This is the result of the weakness of the US controlled Afghani government and its president Hamid Karzai. Defense fears a Taliban overthrow with no Afghan Army of any sufficient size to assist the US. That means the US supplies all the defense and firepower. Incidentally, several of those bases are on the Iranian border.

The major reason Army recruiting has fallen 27% below quotas is that black enlistments have dropped precipitously, by 41%, over the last few years. In 2000, some 23.5% of all enlistments were black. That percentage is now 13.9% for the first four months of 2005. That isn’t surprising in as much as almost no black Americans support the war. Black enlistment in ROTC is off 36% since 2001.

We reported in early March on Bank Hopoalim, Israel’s largest bank and the arrest of 22 bank employees and top managers, in what Israeli police are calling the largest money-laundering case in the nation’s history. Involved is exiled Russian Mafia oligarch Vladimir Guzinsky. It is no wonder President Putin got rid of such criminal rabble. It was no secret that Branch 535 was one of the Israel’s top money-laundering centers. The question is why was it busted? It looks like Guzinsky and his former business partner Zvi Hefetz, who hardly speaks English and was appointed by Ariel Sharon to become Ambassador to London, are all in this together. This case illustrates to the world that the present Israel government is a combination of crime and politics. This is a major international criminal case and it is linked to the collapse in the dollar. It, of course, is also linked to what is happening in Israel and Lebanon, which is not only geopolitical, but also financial. This discovery exposes a shift by organized crime, especially from the Russian side of the business from Cyprus as a money-laundering center to Beirut and Tel Aviv.

The recent assassination of Lebanese PM Rafik Hariri, for among other reasons, was to stop Beirut from becoming a major international financial center for the European and Southwest Asian capital, which it has previously been up until the 1970s and civil war. Hariri wanted Russia to establish a foreign trade bank in Beirut and he wanted cooperation in gas, oil refining and real estate projects in Russia, Lebanon and Southeast Asia. Neither George nor the neocons, or Sharon in Israel, found this to be in their best interest so they liquidated Hariri. Now that Hariri is dead that project is in suspension and Lebanon may end up in civil war again. A diversion of funds probably won’t take place and those funds will instead continue to prop up the doomed international financial system. Instead the region will be in chaos. The oil will be stolen and Tel Aviv is to become the globalized financial center for the region. A hint at this was the naming of former Rhodesian Stanley Fischer as Governor of the Bank of Israel. No, we didn’t know him when we lived in Rhodesia. Fischer is another one of George Schultz’s hit men.

Bank Hapoalim, or worker’s bank, was formerly part of Histadrut, a trade union federation and was privatized in 1997. Thirty percent is owned by Ted Arison, a gunrunner for Israel before it became a state. He made his fortune with his Carnival Cruise Lines, which operates floating casinos. He is an associate of Meshulam Riklis, another casino operator, who lived near us in Malibu. Riklis and Arison have bankrolled Sharon. Arison is deceased and his daughter, Shari Arison, runs the show. Chairman of the bank is Shlomo Nehama who handles Netanyahu. Other players in the bank group are, Charles & Edgar Bronfman, Michael Steinhardt, Steinhardt’s father was a bookkeeper for Meyer Lansky, who served time in federal prison. He also holds the mortgage on Sharon’s ranch, which he often visits. Leonard Abramson, founder of HMO US Health Care, Charles Schusterman, owner of oil independent Samson Resources, Lewis Ranieri of Salomon Bros. who invented mortgage-backed securities and Danny Dankner, a very wealthy Israeli. Needless to say, not one of these crooks is under investigation. Close to this rogues gallery, living in Israel are: Vladimir Guzinsky and Leonid Nevzlin, both wanted in Russia for fraud, tax invasion and murder and Arcadi Gaydamak, a Russian-Israeli who is wanted in France for fraud.

Lurking behind the scenes is dissatisfaction by US elitists with recent attempts by Israeli Intelligence agents to transport from the Philippines to China over three trillion dollars of US Federal Reserve Bearer Bonds, which were bogus.

The action apparently was in retaliation for a number of actions taken against Israelis by US intelligence organizations that included one of the biggest illegal drug discoveries ever. That was ecstasy worth $100 million grabbed in Australia. Israel was omitted by the US from participation in one of the most ambitious aircraft projects of the century, the new American Joint Strike Fighter. Omission was caused by Israeli arms transfers to China. Sharon has also been told to stop West Bank expansion, or else. Israel has just gone ahead with 50 new homes. We see real trouble brewing in relations between the neocons and Israel. Thousands of US Border Patrol agents are wearing bulletproof vests that are potentially defective or past their expiration dates, increasing the risk of injury and death. New vests were ordered over a year ago, but the war in Iraq takes precedence. The Georgia governor has signed a law requiring that voters show photo identification before casting ballots. Previously registered voters can present a Social Security Card.

Best Western has lost customers and money since January when the Phoenix company began routing reservation calls through the Philippines, hotel owners say. They want the company to stop because agents stumble over US terminology, colloquialisms, geography and unusual questions. Owners say the outsourcing is absolutely the worst thing that has ever happened to us. If you remember, Forrester Research estimates 3.4 million US service jobs will go offshore by 2015. Our estimate is 10 million if allowed to continue. The change at Best Western has cost 480 Americans their jobs.

Moscow News tells us that US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice admitted that the US was set to inspect Russia’s nuclear facilities and that Mr. Putin resigns in 2008 after his second term expires. She also hinted that Belarus would soon have an orange revolution. The Russian government ignored her requests. She criticized the judiciary and said the world would be watching, especially Israel, on how the state moves against the oil giant Yukos and its jailed chairman play out. The rest of the big players in Yukos are now in Israel protecting Ariel Sharon.

The helicopter shot down last Thursday was carrying Blackwater Security mercenaries. The six killed were guarding diplomats. A total of 11 people died in the helicopter crash, three Bulgarian crewmembers and a pair of security guards from Fiji. As you can see, mercenaries are recruited from all over the world.

The mission creep of the federal government’s desire to build massive databases containing information on you continues relentlessly. The Department of Education wants to gather information on the progress of 15 million college students in the US, including race, degree plans and financial aid. The federal Centers for Disease Control & Prevention want access to personal data collected by immigration agencies on those who board international flights in the US. The Department of Fatherland Security is asking Congress to allocate $847 million to create a new Office of Screening Coordination & Operations. It would coordinate and consolidate databases it plans to assemble with digital fingerprints and photographs, eye scans and other personal information gathered on millions of Americans and foreign visitors. Our government cannot even spell privacy and don’t want to be bothered with personal requests and details. To them we are just so many mindless sheep to be herded around. The TSA that promised that the information it gathered would only be used for aviation security, and it has, is being given to state and federal law-enforcement agencies. We move relentlessly deeper into a police state.

The National Education Association and eight school districts in Michigan, Texas and Vermont have sued the Department of Education, accusing it of violating a passage in the law that says states cannot be forced to spend their own money to meet federal requirements.

Nanopierce Technologies (NPCT) alleges that the DTC, Depository Trust Clearing Corp has allowed the OTC market to be rigged by naked shorts. In comments to the SEC, attorneys have said StockGate is bigger than anyone has imagined. The following numbers are from the attorneys, but we have quoted these kinds of figures for six years and the SEC refused to listen to us because they are behind the whole scam. Illegal naked short selling has stripped trillions of dollars from American investors, and has resulted in more than 7,000 public companies having been shorted-out of existence over the past six years. Experts believe more than $3 trillion could have been lost. Over and over and over we had demanded an investigation of the SEC, but not one politician would touch it. How about all the thousands of companies the SEC has stopped trading in. Years go by and the SEC never allows them to trade again. When asked, they simply say they are under investigation. These stoppages are arranged to assist the shorts at major brokerage houses. We hope this lawsuit nails these criminals.

Due to information released under the Freedom of Information Act it has been fully confirmed that while America was officially grounded on 9/11, the FBI escorted 160 Saudis out of the country including members of Osama bin Laden’s family. Our President and the neocon elitists vehemently denied lending any assistance to the Saudis. The documents also conflict with the report issued last year by the 9/11 Commission. Why were Saudis allowed to leave the country? We also know for sure now that the President, the Administration and the investigating committee all lied about the matter. As you can see, your government is your enemy and they consistently lie about everything.

Our President is a real sweetheart. Some 7,000 of our servicemen are dead and over 30,000 wounded and George W. Bush in his budget would create a $250 enrollment fee; more than double the prescription co-payment from $7 to $15; cut $351 million from veteran’s nursing homes by serving 28,000 former residents; and eliminate $104 million in state grants. It also eliminates 3,000 Department of Veterans Affairs' employees, while a backlog of 700,000 claims exists. Bush is not only a pervert he is a scumbag.

Today’s complaints come from America’s small and medium sized business because all the transnational corporations are the culprits. The super capitalists are happy screwing the American public. This is not 1985 when the trade deficit was 3.5% of GDP. Today it is 6.3% of GDP and growing larger and our debt is astronomical. Another fact complicating American options is China is a major creditor. If we set up trade tariffs and barriers China might start selling $650 billion in Treasuries. If they do they will take 30% plus losses. China did not create the problem, the elitists did. The barriers have to go up, the Treasuries sold, and the dollar sent lower. There is no way out. If the yuan is revalued by 35%, China will stop buying US Treasuries and agencies, which will push US interest rates upward. As this transpires, interest rates will rise in the US. The best result of all this is that any protectionist measures will break WTO agreements and that is great. We should not be in the WTO anyway. There is no need for it as there is no need for NAFTA. The Administration is selling free trade and opening up the country to more textile imports along with sugar and vegetables under CAFTA and, at the same time is keeping China out. That means, if China is out so is CAFTA. This is how stupid the Administration is. We want trade barriers to save American jobs and an end to free trade and globalization. Let the world sell the dollar – let it fall. It will fall eventually anyway. The economy has to be purged and this is a great start.

The Fed has, and will continue to tighten in the form of higher interest rates. Soon higher rates will cut into consumption. Yet, China is still plowing along with GDP growth at 9.5%. If US consumption drops and China continues to expand and overproduce, they could be in some deep trouble. In addition, due to a fixed rate on the yuan and the creation of yuan to buy dollar denominated assets, China has deprived itself of using traditional monetary policies for macro-stabilization. You cannot accomplish cutbacks by just controlling the quality of credit. In addition, China has attracted a lot of hot money thatcan leave as quickly as it came. They boosted home down payments from 20 to 30% and it accomplished nothing. Interest rates have to rise, but if they do that, the yuan will get even stronger and it will attract even more hot money. As we said before, it has been good for China, but the future will be every bit as difficult as it will be for the US.

Sales of existing homes and condos rose by 1% in March to the third highest sales pace on record, while the nationwide median price jumped by the largest amount in 14 years. The median price was $195,000 a gain of 11.4% y-o-y. The biggest ever gain since December 1980. It marked the third consecutive monthly double-digit gain in prices from a year ago. We need mortgage rates more than 2% higher than they are now to slow this market.

Our government, Wall Street and corporate America supplies us with a scandal a day.

Government inspectors entrusted to enter disaster victims’ homes and verify damage claims include criminals with records for embezzlement, drug dealing and robbery. This was discovered during accusations of widespread fraud for their payout of more than $31 million in Hurricane Frances disaster aid in Miami-Dade County, which was spared hurricane-force winds.

Secret Service records show Jeff Gannon – James D. Guckert, who was a gay male prostitute, was in the White House three dozen times when there were no scheduled briefings. The records show, on at least 14 occasions, neither the entry or exit time are completed. The question arises, who was he servicing? Was it our President George W. Bush?

The UN’s top human rights investigator in Afghanistan has been forced out under American pressure just days after he presented a report criticizing the US military for detaining suspects without trial and holding them in secret prisons. Last week the WTO appeals body upheld an order for the US to stop cotton subsidies in a dispute with Brazil. It violated global trade rules.

First it is manufacturing, then technology, then service and professional jobs and now it is the medical field. Increasingly US hospitals are outsourcing such sensitive procedures as radiology testing abroad. American hospitals are now electronically transmitting CT scans, MRI’s and ultrasounds overseas, where radiologists read the data and respond with analysis. The name for these procedures is “night hawking” because the services are utilized late at night and are sent to locals like India, Hawaii, Australia, Switzerland, Israel and Brazil. The question is are the radiologists qualified? If the prognosis is wrong who gets sued? Who is verifying the quality of the work? Is patient privacy being protected? Rep. Edward Markey (D-MA) and Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) have recently introduced legislation demanding patient consent, in advance, before data is transmitted overseas for analysis. Soon our medical profession will be gone. Doesn’t anyone besides us see what is going on? A few more years of this and we all will have to relocate to the third world to make $1,000 a month to pay for our existence and our country will become one vast ghost town.

A little noted amendment to the House-passed emergency Iraq supplemental spending bill would prohibit any funding that violates the UN Convention against Torture. The author, Rep. Edward Markey (D-MA) has led the fight against the CIA’s longtime practice of sending the terrorism suspects to countries to use torture. The move to end the neocons “outsourcing of torture” passed by a vote of 420-2. Torture by city military and mercenaries has to be stopped. It is unacceptable and un-American.

We have several friends who went to work for Polaroid after high school and spent 45 years working for the company. Incidentally Edwin Land did not develop the Polaroid Camera. It was the creation of Edward Cabalaro who was cheated out of his interest. The remnants of the company, that was stripped and looted by Europeans was sold this week for $426 million. Polaroid’s CEO gets $21.3 million of that payout. Each Polaroid retiree gets $47.00, which is the ultimate slap in the face after all those years of labor. That is 6,000 slaps in the face. Most of the retirees need the check so badly they are calling the company and begging for it. Chairman Jacques Nasser gets $12.8 million and J. Michael Pocock $8.5 million. Former US Representative Rick Lazio of New York gets $512,675 for being a director.

In 2001 Polaroid abruptly cancelled lifetime healthcare and life insurance benefits for retirees. They gained formal standing in the bankruptcy court by pursuing the matter. It did them little good. The company was essentially looted and some of the most brilliant minds in optics were just thrown out the door. This is corporate America, a sewer.

Multi-billionaire Bill Gates says the US should remove visa limits to allow more skilled foreign citizens to work in the US. Isn’t that just great. He fattens Microsoft’s bottom line by using slave labor and puts more Americans out of work and out into the streets. He would have us believe he is having trouble finding skilled workers. We can hardly believe that. Mr. Gates has been outsourcing work.

Bush’s latest monstrosity comes in the form of Social Security reform. “All Americans born before 1950 will receive the full benefits.” As for the rest of you, that’s another matter. The next move will be “progressive price indexing,” which entails quite substantial benefit reductions, not only for affluent families, but for the middle-class ones as well. Under this plan, the average worker would eventually see his or her payments decline by 28%. Mr. Bush intonates that promises being made to younger workers now are empty. Thus, his miraculous cure is stock market investment, which has been a terrible failure wherever it has been used. Thus, the litany goes on. The lies continue. Our way of life disappears.

The Social Security System is not bankrupt unless the US government is bankrupt. As we said before, if you are going to loot Social Security income you have to pay that debt in negotiable trading bonds. The Bush bankruptcy position is purely a lie any sociopath would have no problem believing. The hole in the Social Security safety net is the one made by elitist politicians over the years. The system has enough funds to last until 2041 and has assets to payout 75% of promised benefits after that. As you can see this is an illusion created to justify the privatization of the system so it can be looted by Wall Street as it has been in other countries.

A New Jersey man and a group of criminals who worked at Bank of America, Wachovia, PNC Bank and Commerce Bank have pulled what being called the biggest theft of financial data in history. They tapped into bank accounts and employment records of New Jersey residents who owed money to collection agencies. That information was then sold to the more than 40 law firms and collection agencies. They turned over entire records. The criminals were paid millions of dollars over a four-year period for selling top-secret files. The ringleader faces 130 years in jail, if convicted, and the others 30 to 40 years in prison. That shows you how secure your records are.

In the oil-for-food program, the House Oversight and Investigations Committee found two companies tied to Prince Bandar over-billed $8 billion in agricultural products sold to Saddam Hussein. This is a form of kickbacks. This is the second company connected with the Prince that received kickbacks.

Fifty percent of all Americans say the Bush administration deliberately misled Americans about whether Iraq had WMD says the Gallup Poll. In May 2003, the same question brought 31% negative. Fifty-four percent disapprove of how the President is handling Iraq, while 43% approve. Fifty-three percent believed that the invasion of Iraq was not worth it.

The police chief of Minneapolis wants to license panhandlers to manage aggressive begging. Under the plan panhandlers would have to register each year at a government center and have their picture taken. Anyone failing to wear an ID badge would be jailed for 30 days and possibly fined.

Schools are offering cash and other prizes to students reporting classmates who carry guns, drugs or alcohol or commit vandalism or otherwise break rules. We do not condone such actions, but where this leads to is an Orwellian society with everyone spying on each other. Snitch programs do not work well because they can be dangerous. We were aware of such a program some years ago and someone snitched on the wrong person. The snitch and the principal were both found murdered and the culprits were never apprehended. Schools are playing with fire because there are those who will retaliate if even some years later. We have a violent society and that kind of work is best left to the professionals in our police departments. Then there is the matter of payback and jealousy – a grudge – the planting of drugs and weapons. You are opening a Pandora’s box. The matter of paying should not be an issue. If someone wants to report another person they should do so and not be paid for it. Surveillance is unsavory and smacks of Nazism, which is all too prevalent in our government today. This is a bad idea. There are some nasty people out there even at 18 who wouldn’t hesitate to wait five years and whack someone who dropped the dime on them.

The last word from Freddie Mac was the 30-year fixed mortgage dropped 2 BP to 5.78%; the 15’s declined 3 BP to 5.33%; the one-year ARMS declined 5 BP to 4.21%. The Applications Index gained 3.3%. Purchase applications were up 4% from a year ago with dollar volume up 14%. Refi applications jumped 9.8%. The average new purchase mortgage rose to $244,100. The average ARM surged $340,000. One year ago the purchase mortgage was $222,000 and the ARM was $295,000. The percentage of ARMS slipped to 34.7%.

M3 surged $53.6 billion to a record $9.597 trillion. Y-T-D M3 has expanded at a 4.3% rate with M3 less money funds growing at 6.8%.

Bank credit jumped $26.8 billion, increasing the y-t-d expansion to $310 billion, or 14.9% annualized. Securities credit was up $106 billion, or 18% annualized. Y-T-D real estate loans have expanded at a 16.3% rate during the first 16 weeks of 2005 to $2.67 trillion, that is up 13.7% over the past 52 weeks.

Total commercial paper gained $2.9 billion last week ($51.4 billion in 4 weeks) to $1.480 trillion. Total CP has expanded at a 14.5% y-t-d rate and up 10.7% over the past 52 weeks. Financial CP rose $2.5 billion to $1.33 trillion, up 11.1% annualized y-t-d. Non-financial CP added $0.4 billion to $150.1 billion, up 27% in 52 weeks.

Foreign holdings of Treasury and agency debt gained $1.8 billion to $1.390 trillion for the year ended 4/27/05. Custody holdings rose $55.0 billion, or 12.6% annualized y-t-d and up $206.5 billion, or 17.4% over 52 weeks.

ABS issuance slowed to $12 billion. Y-T-D issuance of $210 billion is now 12% ahead of comparable 2004 at $133 billion. Y-T-D home equity ABS issuance is 17% above a year ago.

Hedge funds first quarter gains put their assets over $1 trillion. That is a gain from $39 billion in 1990, when there were 610 funds, to 7,900 funds today.

The median price for a single-family home in Massachusetts rose in March up 12.7% to $350,000 from $310,500 a year earlier. Condos rose 10.9% to $265,000.

The sales of single-family homes in Florida were up 6% over March 2004. Last month the median statewide price rose 28% to $212,300; a year ago it was $165,700.

Over the last six years the number of low and middle income working families paying more than half their income for housing increased 76%. In 2003, 4.2 million working families spent more than half their income on housing, up from 2.4 million in 1997. There is no such thing as investing anymore. It is all speculation and trading and it is all going to have a very unhappy ending.


A letter from a subscriber - The latest from the neocon conmen in Washington:

January 24, 2005 I was contacted by NRCC representative, Mr. Scott, asking me to be an honorary co-chair of the NRCC’s Business Advisory Council. I was also informed that by my contribution of $500.00 I would be invited to Washington to participate in meetings, give input and to be Tom Reynolds's guest at the President’s Dinner this spring.

On March 18, 2005 Reynolds wrote me thanking me for my contribution and looking forward to seeing me at the President’s Dinner and again he emailed me on April 14, 2005 informing me of the dates for the dinner and stating he was looking forward to me being his guest at the President’s Dinner.

On April 18, 2005 I received a letter from J. Dennis Hastert thanking me for my support, telling me all about the President’s Dinner and to call to reserve my place. When I called I was shocked to learn that I would be required to fork over a minimum of $15,000.00 to attend the President’s Dinner. I was never informed in any correspondence written or verbal of the added expense to be Reynold’s guest. Now I ask you, what small business owner has $15,000.00 to $25,000.00 to spend for a dinner? That is one expensive entrée. That kind of fiscal spending is why we have a deficit.

Reynolds and Bush misunderstand American entrepreneurs. Small business owners struggle to keep their heads above water and insult them by misleading them and extorting their hard-earned money. Under these circumstances I am insisting that the NRCC return my hard earned $500.00. Upon receipt of my reimbursement I will return the unused wood gavel and NRCC Planner book. I did not misunderstand anything and I am sure other small business owners feel as I do.

I didn't realize the gavel President Bush sent me would hammer me. Washington is devaluing entrepreneurs like the US dollar. You don't suppose they meant 25,000 pesos? Just kidding. I can see the headline, "Entrepreneurs treated like manure."


The US prison population grew 2.3% in 2004 to 2.1 million people. That is 48,000 more prisoners.

CBS says only 25% of the public have confidence in Mr. Bush’s ability to make the right decisions about Social Security. Seventy percent are uneasy. Fifty-three percent of Americans said that the Iraq war was not worth it and 50% say that the administration deliberately misled the public about whether Iraq has weapons of mass destruction.

New orders for durable goods plunged by 2.8% in March, the biggest drop since September 2002. That means first quarter GDP was around 3.1%.

The number of Americans filing for jobless benefits rose last week by 21,000 to 320,000. The four-week moving average fell to 323,000 from 331,000. Those on state unemployment fell to 2.555 million, the lowest since 3/10/01. The economy expanded at a 3.1% rate in the first quarter, less than forecast and the slowest in two years. Inventories are high, and if not cleared quickly, it could lead to cutbacks at factories and more unemployment. The Conference Board’s Help-wanted Advertising Index, a key barometer of the job market, fell two points in March and now stands at 39, the same as a year ago. Only three regions were still positive: Mountain, West South Central and Middle Atlantic. We see renewed business caution on investing and hiring plans. Tweeter Home Entertainment Group, retailer of high-end electronics will close 19 stores and cut 200 jobs. This represents 11% of the retailer’s 177 stores and less than 5% of revenue.