“The Obama administration is warning that the danger of a terrorist attack with nuclear weapons is increasing, but U.S. officials say the claim is not based on new intelligence and questioned whether the threat is being overstated.”
-Washington Times, April 14, 2010
I don’t agree with President Obama on a number of things, but here’s one we do see eye-to-eye on:
The threat posed by nuclear terrorism.
Consider recent events in the former Soviet Union. Desmond Butler of the Associated Press reported back on December 9:
Despite years of effort and hundreds of millions of dollars spent in the fight against the illicit sale of nuclear contraband, the black market remains active in the countries around the former Soviet Union. The radioactive materials, mostly left over from the Cold War, include nuclear bomb-grade uranium and plutonium, and dirty-bomb isotopes like cesium and iridium.
The extent of the black market is unknown, but a steady stream of attempted sales of radioactive materials in recent years suggests smugglers have sometimes crossed borders undetected. Since the formation of a special nuclear police unit in 2005 with U.S. help and funding, 15 investigations have been launched in Georgia and dozens of people arrested.
(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)
And what of the years between 1991 (Georgian independence) and 2005? I shudder to think how much radioactive material might have found their way across the Georgian border and into the hands of the bad guys during those 14 years.
According to the piece, highly-enriched uranium has also recently been seized from smugglers in Moldova, another former Soviet republic.
From the Council on Foreign Relations website:
There have been no confirmed reports of missing or stolen former-Soviet nuclear weapons, but there is ample evidence of a significant black market in nuclear materials. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has reported more than a hundred nuclear smuggling incidents since 1993, eighteen of which involved highly enriched uranium, the key ingredient in an atomic bomb and the most dangerous product on the nuclear black market.
(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)
That portion of the CFR website was last updated in January 2006.
While the Council said there have been no confirmed reports of missing or stolen nuclear weapons, the same can’t be said of nuclear material. Butler added:
Russia maintains that it has secured its radioactive material — including bomb-grade uranium and plutonium — and that Georgia has exaggerated the risk because of political tension with Moscow. But while the vast majority of the former Soviet Union’s nuclear arsenal and radioactive material has been secured, U.S. officials say that some material in the region remains loose.
“Without a doubt, we are aware and have been over the last several years that not all nuclear material is accounted for,” says Simon Limage, deputy assistant secretary for non-proliferation programs at the U.S. State Department. “It is true that a portion that we are concerned about continues to be outside of regulatory control.”
(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)
“U.S. officials say that some material in the region remains loose.”
If smuggling is taking place and the whereabouts of the nuclear material is unknown, I wonder if the above shouldn’t be changed to “some material from the region remains loose?”
Since illegal aliens and drugs routinely manage to find their way into the United States, it requires no stretch of the mind to envision nuclear material for a terrorist weapon also being smuggled in.
Butler’s incredibly-informative piece be read on the Yahoo! News website here.
I remember the good ol’ days back in the summer of 2007 when my previous blog, Boom2Bust.com, was up and running, and there would be times it was real hard to find something to blog about. That didn’t last long. By the autumn of 2008, all hell had broken loose not just in the United States but in the global financial system as well. Even I was surprised at how fast the turmoil spread.
With this new project and its focus on protecting and growing self and wealth, I’ve found myself looking back over how the financial crisis began and what has transpired to date. To assist with that, I’ve been using three good crisis “timelines” out on the Internet, which I’d like to share with you today.
First, there’s the financial crisis timeline from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. Entitled “The Financial Crisis: A Timeline of Events and Policy Actions,” this timeline’s coverage begins with an entry from February 27, 2007:
The Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (Freddie Mac) announces that it will no longer buy the most risky subprime mortgages and mortgage-related securities.’
And continues until the most recent entry on December 1, 2010:
The Congressional Budget Office releases a study describing the various actions by the Federal Reserve to stabilize financial markets since 2007 and how those actions are likely to affect the federal budget in coming years. The report also presents estimates of the risk-adjusted (or fair value) subsidies that the Federal Reserve provided to financial institutions through its emergency programs.
James Bullard, the St. Louis Fed President, talked about the timeline’s purpose:
The Federal Reserve and other agencies have taken many steps to contain the ongoing financial crisis and limit its impact on the broader economy. It is critically important that we clearly communicate our actions to better ensure their success. This web site was better created to provide the public with useful information about major financial events and policy actions, both over the past months and going forward.
Some nice features of this timeline include its navigation, links to sources, and the ability to convert the entire timeline into a .pdf document.
Of course, what you won’t find is the Fed taking any responsibility for helping create the financial mess. But that’s a given.
Another economic crisis timeline I’ve been looking at is the “Financial Crisis Timeline” produced by Sullivan & Worcester, a law firm with offices in Boston, New York City, and Washington D.C. Their timeline’s coverage begins on March 14, 2008:
Due to a grave liquidity crisis, the Federal Reserve authorizes the Federal Reserve Bank of New York to extend credit to JPMorgan Chase & Co. in order to provide financing on a nonrecourse basis to The Bear Stearns Companies Inc. and possibly to other primary securities dealers.
Given the likelihood of more bank failures and the current challenges facing the bank industry, the FDIC votes to keep the assessment rates charged to insured banks and savings associations for the Deposit Insurance Fund (DIF) unchanged for 2008.
Up until their latest entry on September 8, 2010:
The Federal Reserve announces that it has authorized ongoing small-value offerings of term deposits under the Term Deposit Facility (TDF) designed to ensure the operational readiness of the TDF and to provide eligible institutions with an opportunity to gain familiarity with term deposit procedures. The Board currently anticipates that TDF auctions will be held about every other month.
Navigation is basic yet nice, and the links to related material (like the Fed) is a big plus.
A comparison of the two reveals that that while some entries overlap, a number of crisis events are exclusive to each timeline.
The last timeline recommended for use tends to be a little bit different. “Timeline: Global Economy In Crisis” from the New York City-based Council on Foreign Relations is a timeline comprised of three areas. First, there’s “Capitalism in Theory and Practice (1776-Present).” Then, there’s “Regulation & Deregulation (1880-Present).” Finally, there’s Section 1, “Meltdown: 2007-Present.”
In “Meltdown,” events transpire in February 2007:
U.S. Housing Downturn
In 2006, a boom in U.S. housing prices abruptly reverses course; between the fourth quarter of 2005 and the first quarter of 2006, median U.S. housing prices fall 3.3 percent. These declines accelerate in 2007. The downturn prompts a collapse of the U.S. subprime mortgage industry, which offered loans to individuals with poor credit or no cash for a down payment. More than twenty-five subprime lending firms declare bankruptcy in February and March 2007. The collapse rattles the Dow Jones Industrial Average, which on February 27 loses 416 points, or 3.3 percent, its biggest one-day point loss since 9/11.
The last entry on CFR’s timeline is July 21, 2010:
U.S. Financial Overhaul
President Barack Obama signs into law a financial reform bill giving the federal government new powers to regulate Wall Street and prevent financial crises. The bill includes creation of a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and a Financial Services Oversight Council of existing regulators to monitor market stability. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation gains power to seize and dismantle troubled financial firms deemed “too big to fail,” and proprietary trading (when banks invest for their own profit) is banned. The bill also limits the scope of banks’ investments in hedge funds and private equity funds and requires most derivatives to be traded through public clearinghouses or exchanges.
This crisis timeline is a little bit trickier navigationally-speaking, but still pretty easy to use. Related material is not available as with the other two. However, the CFR timeline incorporates more global events. Plus, even though it doesn’t have as many entries as the others, it offers a pretty good overview of what transpired.
So there you have it. If you’re looking for a historical record of events in the U.S. and global financial crisis, I recommend using all three of these timelines: the CFR timeline for a quick overview of what went down, then those from the St. Louis Fed and Sullivan & Worcester to fill in the blanks. By doing this one should have a more complete picture of the ongoing economic crisis in the United States and abroad.
Christopher E. Hill, Editor
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