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May 7, 2009

The Middle East Goes To Cuba: Qatar To Build Luxury Hotel In Cuba

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Well, if America wants to be a major player in the redevelopment of Cuba then we better start talking with Cuba in a meaningful way real soon before the rest of the industrial world beats us to it.  Do American businesses want to do business with Cuba?  Of course they do, they don’t want to miss out on all the opportunities to bring Cuba into the 21st century and all the money to be made doing so.

Here in America we have been conditioned to believe that Castro’s Cuba is all bad and that Cuba is automatically our enemy without knowing why Castro’s Cuba look at America as a fiend – it’s not just about communism.

Before the Cuban Revolution that led to the overthrow of U.S. backed Dictator Fulgencio Batista in 1959, Havana was the original Sin City.  Havana was Las Vegas, before there was a Las Vegas.

Because gambling, liquor, prostitution, etc were all illegal in the United States, rich and famous Americans were looking for a place where they could revel and paint the town red without going to jail. They discovered Havana and since it is a tropical paradise and only 90 miles from Florida it became wealthy Americans’ winter destination and airlines and cruise lines offered grand tour packages to Havana.

American mob bosses benefited from Cuba’s President Fulgencio Batista’s corrupt regime and bribed them and created a glamorous playground for the rich. They created a prohibition haven, a place of safety from prosecution overflowing with dazzling nightclubs and mojitos flowing all day, outrageous cabarets, dancing girls, all-night bars, backstreet brothels, fancy hotels and resorts, gambling, music, drugs, sex and scandal.  Affluent Americans and movie stars did not disappoint the mob investors; they went to Havana in droves to whoop it up!

Many Cubans were outraged by the reveling and debauchery and Castro who was a young revolutionist became popular and his philosophy became widely accepted. When Castro overthrew Batista he had a new vision for Cuba and Americans were banned from travel to his tropical paradise.

Relations between the U.S. and Cuba quickly deteriorated when Castro nationalized many of the U.S. owned industries in Cuba. Each time the Cuban government nationalized American properties, the American government took countermeasures, resulting in the prohibition of all exports to Cuba on October 19, 1960.

In March 1960 President Eisenhower had quietly authorized the CIA to organize, train, and equip Cuban refugees as a guerrilla force to overthrow Castro. Consequently, Cuba began to consolidate trade relations with the communist Soviet Union which lead to the United States breaking off all remaining official diplomatic relations.

On January 3, 1961 the US withdrew diplomatic recognition of the Cuban government and closed our embassy in Havana.

So here we are 48 years later and Cuba and Qatar have signed an agreement to build a $75 million, 450-room resort on a cay south of the island.

Cuba and Qatar will spend 14 months negotiating financing details for the five-star “Gran Paraiso” or “Great Paradise,” said Ghanim Bin Saad al-Saad, president of state-owned Qatar Diar Real Estate Investment Company, construction will take another year and a half with a goal to open in 2015.

The resort is planned for Cayo Largo Sur, a strip of white sand, coral reefs and warm, calm waters 105 miles south of Havana that is already home to a cluster of high-rise hotels. The Gran Paraiso will also include 60 retreat villas that could be expanded in the future.

Tourism is Cuba’s second-largest moneymaker behind nickel exports.

A record 2.35 million foreigners visited last year, mostly from Canada and Europe. That was a 9.3 percent increase over 2007.  Foreign arrivals are up another 2 percent so far this year despite the global economic slowdown.

America should not continue to snub Cuba.  Even though we’ve not been friendly neighbors, Cuba really hasn’t done anything harmful to America. Cuba is very close to us geographically and we should have a respectable relationship with them. Sending the CIA to Cuba to overthrow Castro was not an endearing thing to do. 

If we continue our relationship with Cuba as is, out of necessity Cuba might befriend nations that are adversarial towards America.  We don’t have to be their BFF but we should be cordial and reopen trade with them.  Why not?

Will America come out and play with Cuba?

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March 17, 2009

Economy: New Home Construction Up!

During February new home construction surged in the Northeast, jumping nearly 89%! New home construction also increased in the Midwest and in the South.

Initial construction of U.S. homes unexpectedly surged in February, after an eight month decline, according to a report released today.

New housing construction rose to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 583,000 last month, up 22% from a revised 477,000 in January, according to the Commerce Department. It was the first time new housing construction increased in eight month, since June 2008 when they rose 11%.

Starts are down more than 47% from February 2008, when over 1.1 million new homes broke ground.

New construction of single-family homes, considered the core of the housing market, increased 1.1% to an annual rate of 357,000 versus 353,000 in January.

February’s increase was driven by a nearly 80% increase in construction of multi-family homes — new construction of buildings with 5 or more units.  Construction of multi-family homes increased 80% to 212,000 from 118,000 in January 2009.

Applications for building permits, considered a reliable sign of future construction activity, rose 3% to 547,000 last month. Economists were expecting permits to fall to 500,000.

Even though the flood of new construction is a welcome sign, market analysts caution that the increase could be short lived and believes that this is a temporary rebound, not a recovery.

“The housing market may be thawing, but this month’s gain only brings the pace of total starts back up to that of December 2008,” said Celia Chen of Moody’s Economy.com.

“We see no specific factor that might explain this jump; multifamily starts are always noisy but this is exceptional,” said Ian Shepherdson of High Frequency Economics.

However, all this new construction likely means that the post Lehman crash is over – which is a really GOOD thing.

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Happy St. Patty’s Day!  May the luck of the Irish be with you!!!

March 15, 2009

Russia’s Richest Oligarchs Losing Billions and Billions

Moscow has lost the title of billionaire capital of the world.  New York is now the billionaire capital with London coming in second.  Russian billionaires lost more than $250B and approximately two thirds of its billionaires due to the world financial crisis.

In 2008 there were 87 Russians billionaires with a total estimated wealth of $471.4B.  Today there are 32 Russian billionaires with an estimated wealth of $102.1B.

In 2008 there were 1,125 billionaires worldwide; today there are only 793.

Russia’s descent into its economic predicament began when the heavily oil-dependent economy was hit by falling crude prices. Russia’s stock market is down by 67% over the past year and their currency, the ruble, has depreciated 29% against the dollar.

Russia’s government has already spent $250 billion to prop up its currency so that it can avoid a sharp devaluation of the ruble. Russia has even helped private businesses refinance their foreign debt so that foreigners don’t take over several Russian businesses. Even with help from the government dozens of Russians fell from billionaire ranks, including the very wealthy investment banker Ruben Vardanian who owns Troika Dialog.  He allegedly got a substantial cash injection from the state owned Sberbank.

Even Russia’s richest woman Yelena Baturina has financial problems.  Baturina had a vision of building one of the most outrageous buildings in Moscow called ‘Project Orange’an avant garde complex shaped like slices of fruit, with a tinted facade that would cast an orange glow over the Moscow River.  Last week Ms. Baturina applied for about $1.4 billion in government loan guarantees for her construction company. In 2008 Ms. Baturina’s wealth was estimated at $4.2 billion.

The credit crunch has brought Russian real estate to a halt. Russian’s Donald Trump — Kirill Pisarev — and his partner, Yuri Zhukov each lost 90% of their wealth as shares of their real estate firm lost nearly all of its value. Russian analysts say that real estate is expected to remain the worst part of the Russian market, impacted by the dramatic slowdown in property sales and construction.

March 7, 2009

March 7, 2009: President Obama’s Weekly Address – Reforms Will Save Americans $40 Billion Each Year

President Barack Obama used his March 7, 2009 weekly address to detail his plans to fix our ailing economy, noting that reforming healthcare is necessary to ensure our long term fiscal health.  While ending this crisis will not be quick or easy, the President’s plans will take the swift, bold, and responsible actions needed for the United States to emerge stronger and more prosperous than before. And that is why reforming healthcare, jumpstarting job creation, restoring lending, relieving responsible homeowners, and making hard choices are all so critically important right now.

Transcript of President Obama’s remarks:

Yesterday, we learned that the economy lost another 651,000 jobs in the month of February, which brings the total number of jobs lost in this recession to 4.4 million.  The unemployment rate has now surpassed 8 percent, the highest rate in a quarter century.

These aren’t just statistics, but hardships experienced personally by millions of Americans who no longer know how they’ll pay their bills, or make their mortgage, or raise their families. 

From the day I took office, I knew that solving this crisis would not be easy, nor would it happen overnight.  And we will continue to face difficult days in the months ahead.  But I also believe that we will get through this — that if we act swiftly and boldly and responsibly, the United States of America will emerge stronger and more prosperous than it was before. 

That’s why my administration is committed to doing all that’s necessary to address this crisis and lead us to a better day.  That’s why we’re moving forward with an economic agenda that will jumpstart job creation, restart lending, relieve responsible homeowners, and address the long-term economic challenges of our time:  the cost of health care, our dependence on oil, and the state of our schools.

To prevent foreclosures for as many as 4 million homeowners — and lower interest rates and lift home values for millions more — we are implementing a plan to allow lenders to work with borrowers to refinance or restructure their mortgages.  On Wednesday, the Department of Treasury and Housing and Urban Development released the guidelines that lenders will use for lowering mortgage payments.  This plan is now at work.

To restore the availability of affordable loans for families and businesses — not just banks — we are taking steps to restart the flow of credit and stabilize the financial markets.   On Thursday, the Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve launched the Consumer and Business Lending Initiative — a plan that will generate up to a trillion dollars of new lending so that families can finance a car or college education — and small businesses can raise the capital that will create jobs.

And we’ve already begun to implement the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act — a plan that will save and create over 3.5 million jobs over the next two years — jobs rebuilding our roads and bridges, constructing wind turbines and solar panels, expanding broadband and mass transit.  And because of this plan, those who have lost their job in this recession will be able to receive extended unemployment benefits and continued health care coverage, while 95 percent of working Americans will receive a tax break beginning April 1st.

Of course, like every family going through hard times, our country must make tough choices.  In order to pay for the things we need — we cannot waste money on the things we don’t. 

My administration inherited a $1.3 trillion budget deficit, the largest in history.  And we’ve inherited a budgeting process as irresponsible as it is unsustainable.  For years, as Wall Street used accounting tricks to conceal costs and avoid responsibility, Washington did, too.

These kinds of irresponsible budgets — and inexcusable practices — are now in the past.  For the first time in many years, my administration has produced a budget that represents an honest reckoning of where we are and where we need to go.

It’s also a budget that begins to make the hard choices that we’ve avoided for far too long — a strategy that cuts where we must and invests where we need.  That’s why it includes $2 trillion in deficit reduction, while making historic investments in America’s future.  That’s why it reduces discretionary spending for non-defense programs as a share of the economy by more than 10 percent over the next decade — to the lowest level since they began keeping these records nearly half a century ago.  And that’s why on Wednesday, I signed a presidential memorandum to end unnecessary no-bid contracts and dramatically reform the way contracts are awarded — reforms that will save the American people up to $40 billion each year.

Finally, because we cannot bring our deficit down or grow our economy without tackling the skyrocketing cost of health care, I held a health care summit on Thursday to begin the long-overdue process of reform.  Our ideas and opinions about how to achieve this reform will vary, but our goal must be the same:  quality, affordable health care for every American that no longer overwhelms the budgets of families, businesses, and our government.

Yes, this is a moment of challenge for our country.  But we’ve experienced great trials before.  And with every test, each generation has found the capacity to not only endure, but to prosper — to discover great opportunity in the midst of great crisis.  That is what we can and must do today.  And I am absolutely confident that is what we will do.  I’m confident that at this defining moment, we will prove ourselves worthy of the sacrifice of those who came before us, and the promise of those who will come after. 

Thank you.

March 6, 2009

Economy: 651,000 Jobs Lost In February. Unemployment Rate Reaches 8.1%

unemployment-cartoon-get-a-job The U.S. economy lost 651,000 jobs in February, the fourth month in a row where job losses were near or above 600,000 and the unemployment rate climbed to 8.1%, the highest rate in over 25 years.

Of the 4.4 million jobs lost since the recession began in December 2007, more than half vanished in the last four months. Experts believe that our unemployment rate will get close to 9% in 2010 while some say it might be closer to 10%.  The Federal Reserve doesn’t expect the unemployment rate to fall below 7% until 2011.

Job losses are prevalent across most businesses with only education and health services reporting job growth.

According to a survey of businesses 660,000 jobs were lost in the private-sector in February. Goods-producing industries (i.e. car dealerships, department stores, coffee shops — businesses that provide tangible things that you can see, feel, touch or walk out of the store with) lost 276,000 jobs, while services (i.e. CPAs, Electricians, Nail Salons/Hair stylists/Spas, Dog Groomers — businesses that provide services) lost 375,000 jobs. Construction employment fell by 104,000 in February making it a total of 904,000 jobs lost in the construction industry since the recession began.

The unemployment rate for African-Americans rose to 13.4% in February, which is the highest rate it’s been since December 1993. Unemployment of young people and students rose to 21.6% because young people and students are now competing with unemployed adults for the same jobs.

Many Americans who still have jobs are under employed working an average workweek of 33.3 hours for the third straight month instead of 40 hours which is considered full-time.

The number of workers experiencing long spells of joblessness — defined by the government as 27 weeks (almost 7 months) without work — has risen to 2.9 million in February, up 1.6 million since the start of the recession in December 2007.

The number of persons working part-time who would rather be working full time jumped by 787,000 in February to reach 8.6 million. This group of workers has risen by nearly 4 million since the recession began and these workers are most likely not to have health insurance.

February 23, 2009

Jobs in Dubai Desert Dries Up And Foreign Workers Flee!

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If it can happen in Dubai, it can happen anywhere.  It’s a confirmation that international finances are horrendous when Dubai’s economy dries up!  

Dubai is one of the seven emirates and the most populous city of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). It is located along the southern coast of the Persian Gulf on the Arabian Peninsula.

Ian, a foreign worker, is a 38-year-old Englishman who moved to Dubai 2 years ago to take a job as an engineer. He lived in Dubai and became very confident that Dubai’s fast-growing economy would continue for at least a decade so he purchased a condominium for almost $300,000 with a 15-year mortgage.

90 percent of the Dubai population is made up of foreign workers.  Management teams were recruited with big salaries and with promises of an extraordinary financial future and guaranteed jobs.  Ian was laid off 2 weeks ago and is desperately searching for a job since he doesn’t know what else to do because he owns property there. If he can’t pay off his mortgage he could end up in debtors’ prison.

With Dubai’s economy in free fall, newspapers have reported that more than 3,000 cars sit abandoned in the parking lot at the Dubai Airport, left by fleeing, debt-ridden foreigners (who could in fact be imprisoned if they failed to pay their bills). Some are said to have left maxed-out credit cards inside the cars with notes of apology taped to the windshield.

The main problem is that the jobless in Dubai lose their work visas and then must leave the country within a month. That in turn reduces spending, creates housing vacancies and lowers real estate prices – a downward spiral that has left parts of Dubai once hailed as the economic superpower of the Middle East looking like a ghost town. Tens of thousands have left, real estate prices have crashed and scores of Dubai’s major construction projects have been suspended or canceled.

Last month local newspapers reported that Dubai was canceling 1,500 work visas every day. Real estate prices, which rose dramatically during Dubai’s six-year boom, have dropped 30 percent or more over the past two or three months in some parts of the city. Many used luxury cars are for sale, sometimes being sold for 40 percent less than the asking price two months ago according to car dealers. Dubai’s roads, usually congested with traffic this time of year are now mostly traffic free.

Dubai at first seemed to be a refuge, relatively insulated from the panic that began hitting the rest of the world last fall. The Gulf is cushioned by vast oil and gas wealth so some who lost jobs in New York and London began applying and accepting jobs there.

But Dubai, unlike Abu Dhabi or nearby Qatar and Saudi Arabia does not have its own oil.  Dubai built its reputation on real estate, finance and tourism. Now many expatriates are talking about Dubai as though it has been a con game all along. Sensational rumors have been spreading that Palm Jumeira (Palm Island) – the artificial island that is one of this city’s trademark developments is sinking.

Ian says he doesn’t know what to believe anymore and he is becoming a little panicked as he continues looking for a job, hoping that he finds one before his 30 days runs out.

It was reported earlier today by the Dubai Department of Finance that The Central Bank has pledge the first US$10 billion of what will eventually be a US$20 billion bond program to help Dubai meet its financial obligations so that the government can continue with its development plans. This will provide the Dubai Government with the necessary liquidity to substitute the funds that have dried up globally in the last 12 months and help them to meet all their upcoming financial obligations.

Dubai’s government and government-owned corporations have an estimated US $80 billion in combined bonds and other outstanding loans to help finance the breakneck growth and economic diversification that have made it a developmental model for the Middle East.

 

 

December 6, 2008

President-elect Obama Will Create Jobs, Jobs and More Jobs!

In his weekly address, President-elect Barack Obama said he would invest record amounts of money in a vast infrastructure program, which also includes work on schools, sewer systems, mass transit, electric grids, dams and other public utilities.

Jobs will also include infrastructure projects to repair roads and bridges, while also pushing a federal effort to bring in new-era jobs in technology and green jobs.

Obama also promises to upgrade computers in schools, expand broadband Internet access, make government buildings more energy efficient and improve information technology at hospitals and doctors’ offices.

“We need action — and action now,” Obama, said in his weekly address to the nation.

 

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