Saturday, February 19, 2011

Holland & HollandImage via Wikipedia
Forget Gold: Why Investors Are Targeting Guns...

When the final hammer came down at the end of the December auction at Holt's Auctioneers - which specializes in the sale of classic English shotguns - total sales had hit a record $2.72 million. Among the hot sellers: a pair of Purdey shotguns had sold for $131,200, while two guns made by Holland & Holland went for $128,000. "Those are impressive and reassuring figures," says Roland Elworthy, a valuer at Holt's. Meanwhile Sotheby's, whose sporting-guns sales are handled by Gavin Gardiner Limited, also enjoyed a healthy December auction - one buyer paid $134,400 for a single Boss & Co. 12-gauge shotgun. "Demand is as strong as I've ever seen it," enthuses Gardiner, who has been auctioning classic firearms for 25 years.

The market for English shotguns is as hot as the casing of a spent cartridge, with gun prices reaching new highs. Auctioneers say the boom was triggered by the September 2008 collapse of investment bank Lehman Brothers, during the Great Recession. Spooked by the unpredictability of the stock market, a growing number of investors, mainly those already into game-bird hunting, wanted to diversify their portfolios and saw top-end shotguns not only as a safe investment with reliable returns, but one with actual utility. "There is a lot of similarity between our market and the classic, vintage car market," Gardiner says. "Guns are an investment you can use and enjoy." Adds Elworthy: "If it is reasonably [unaltered], is serviced and looked after, an English gun should do nothing else but increase steadily in value." (See pictures of politicians and their guns.)
Investors don't exactly make a killing: valuations tend to rise by only around 3%-5% a year. But at least putting money into high-end English shotguns is a safe bet, backed up by Holland & Holland's 150 years' worth of sales records. Gardiner calls it an "underfed" market where demand will always outstrip supply and push up prices. That's because only a very few guns - which are largely handcrafted and take two-and-a-half to three years to make - are produced each year. Holland & Holland, for instance, delivered just 88 guns last year.

Guns with a special provenance, however - those once owned by royalty or a champion shooter, for example - can accrue in value at an even greater rate. At Holt's December sale, a 12-gauge Purdey once owned by champion U.S. Shooter Russell B. Atkins had an estimated value of $24,000 to $32,000 - and sold for $52,800. Then again, the Boss gun that Gardiner sold for $134,400 in December achieved its record price because of the quality of the firearm, not because the seller was legendary guitarist Eric Clapton. "If he were known as Britain's best game shot instead of Britain's best guitarist, then it would have added to the price," Gardiner says. (See video: "Get Your Gun and Sing.")
Why are English shotguns - particularly those made by Purdey, Holland & Holland and Boss - so well-regarded? Because game-bird hunting - called shooting in Britain - has, since the mid-19th century, come to be seen as a particularly upper-class English sport, much like fox hunting. And English manufacturers have grown along with the sport, developing the teams of craftsmen and honing the techniques necessary to produce world-beating guns. The finished products are essentially works of art, featuring hand-etched, detailed engravings on the steel lockplates, and stocks of highly-polished and oiled walnut. They're also amazingly balanced, Elworthy says. "It's quite sublime; like holding a fairy's wand." Long-lasting, too - Elworthy's personal shotgun is a 113-year-old Holland & Holland. As a result, the guns enjoy the same sort of cachet as those other super-expensive, royalty-approved English products, Rolls-Royce and Bentley cars. And, ironically, just as Rolls and Bentley are now German-owned, Purdey and Holland & Holland are each part of a French luxury-goods conglomerate: Richemont and Chanel, respectively.

Most buyers of classic shotguns are British or European, though approximately 25% of Holt's buyers are from the U.S. However, this is one boom that's not - so far - being fed by an increasingly wealthy Asia, in part because of strict gun-control laws in China and Japan. Auctioneers are seeing many more Russian customers these days, though Gardiner admits that most buyers from developing economies tend to buy new guns rather than classic models. Of course, those come with their own recession-bucking price tags: new Holland & Holland guns, for instance, start from $64,800 to $106,720 (See pictures of gun culture in the U.S.)
Meanwhile, the next round of major classic firearms auctions is in the spring and expectations are that more record prices will be set. English shotguns aren't cheap - but investors get a lot of bang for their bucks.

Acknowledgements: Yahoo- News / Grose, London

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The state capitol of Madison, WisconsinImage via Wikipedia
Wisconsin battle lines harden over union curbs  -   Tea Party needs a stiff brandy...

MADISON, Wisconsin | Sat Feb 19, 2011 3:55pm EST
(Reuters) - Supporters of legislation to reduce public employee union bargaining power and benefits in Wisconsin were far outnumbered by opponents on Saturday, as the two sides shouted competing slogans under clear skies.

Tens of thousands have demonstrated throughout the week against Republican Governor Scott Walker's proposals, which supporters say are necessary to bring state spending under control and opponents contend are aimed at breaking the back of state worker unions.

Both sides drew thousands on Saturday, but opponents appeared to have several times as many on hand as those attending a rally backed by Tea Party groups, the first such demonstration this week.

The bill's opponents marched counter-clockwise around the State Capitol, encircling its supporters, and chanted "kill the bill" among other slogans.

The supporters countered with "Recall them all," referring to Democratic state senators who fled to Illinois last week to avoid giving Republicans the quorum needed to consider the proposal.

"I've been working in a factory for 26 years. We pay 15 percent for the cost of our health care. The state workers get Cadillac insurance and pensions. They have no god-given right to collective bargaining," said bill supporter Anthony Thelen, 46, who works in a non-union factory outside of Milwaukee.

In addition to sharply curtailing union bargaining power, the Republican legislation would make state workers contribute more to health insurance and pensions.

"I'm so excited that you people have come out to support Governor Walker. In an era of irresponsible government he is doing the right thing," Ned Ryun, President of the American Majority, a sponsor of the rally, told the crowd.

Although there had been fear of a clash, the atmosphere was generally peaceful and friendly, with organizers on both sides urging followers to be courteous and police needing to do little but stand by.

Margaret Derr, high school math teacher and union member, said she didn't dislike the governor personally.

"I'm just opposed to the bill. I have no problem contributing more to my healthcare and pension. I understand about the deficit, but some of the proposals are just about union busting."

Regarding the supporters' rally, she said: "I believe in free speech. This is what democracy is about, everybody being heard."

While the weather was cold, as of early afternoon snow and freezing rain forecast for the day had failed to materialize.

Acknowledgements:  (Reporting by James Kelleher; Editing by Jerry Norton)

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Snow Mountains of Kabul (Photo made by: Joe Bu...Image via Wikipedia

Part I

Amir, a well-to-do Pashtun boy, and Hassan, a Hazara who is the son of Ali, Amir's father's servant, spend their days in the then peaceful city of Kabul, kite fighting and roaming through the streets. Amir’s father, a wealthy merchant, who Amir affectionately refers to as Baba, loves both the boys, but seems critical of Amir for not being manly enough. Amir secretly believes his father blames him for his mother’s death during childbirth. However, he has a kinder father figure in the form of Rahim Khan, Baba’s friend, who understands Amir better, and is supportive of his interest in writing. Amir tells us that his first word was 'Baba' and Hassan's "Amir,' suggesting that Amir looked up most to Baba, while Hassan looked up to Amir.
Assef, a notorious sociopath and violent older boy with sadistic tendencies, mocks Amir for socializing with a Hazara, which is, according to Assef, an inferior race that should only live in Hazarajat. He prepares to attack Amir with brass knuckles, but Hassan bravely stands up to him, threatening to shoot out Assef's left eye with his slingshot. Assef and his posse back off, but Assef threatens revenge.

Hassan is a successful "kite runner" for Amir, knowing where the kite will land without even watching it. One triumphant day, Amir wins the local tournament, and finally Baba's praise. Hassan runs for the last cut kite, a great trophy, saying to Amir, "For you, a thousand times over." Unfortunately, Hassan runs into Assef and his two friends. Hassan refuses to give up Amir's kite. Amir searches for Hassan but hides when he hears Assef's voice. Assef decides to teach Hassan a lesson by raping him. Amir witnesses the act but is too scared to intervene, and returns home ashamed, guilty for not being able to help his best friend. He feels that his cowardice in Hassan's rape would destroy any hopes for Baba's affections, so he says nothing. Afterwards, Hassan and Amir keep a distance from each other. Amir reacts indifferently because he feels ashamed, and is frustrated by Hassan's saint-like behavior. Already jealous of Baba's love for Hassan, he worries that if Baba knew of Hassan's bravery and his own cowardice, that Baba's love for Hassan would grow even more.
Amir, filled with guilt on his birthday, cannot enjoy his gifts.[2] The only present that does not feel like "blood" money is the notebook to write his stories in given to him by Rahim Khan, his father's friend and the only one Amir felt really understood him.

Amir felt that life would be easier if Hassan was not around, so he planted a watch and some money from his birthday party under Hassan's mattress in hopes that Baba would force him to leave; Hassan falsely confesses when confronted by Baba about the watch and the money. Baba forgives him, despite the fact that, as he explained earlier, he believes that "there is no act more wretched than stealing." Hassan and his father Ali, to Baba's extreme sorrow, leave anyway. Hassan's departure frees Amir of the daily reminder of his cowardice and betrayal, but he still lives in their shadow and his guilt.

Part II and Part 111

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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

A smiling Saddam Hussein sitting easily on a g...Image via Wikipedia

Weapons of mass imagination...

The British newspaper, The Guardian reported recently that an Iraqi defector made up the claims that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction to help topple his dictatorial government.

The defector, allegedly Rafid Ahmed Alwan al-Janabi, said in an interview with The Guardian that he fabricated claims of mobile biological weapons and clandestine factories made to German intelligence officials throughout 2000.

Former US president, George W Bush and senior US officials cited the threat posed by Iraqi biological weapons as justification for the US-led invasion in 2003.

The world now knows no weapons of mass destruction were ever found, and as a consequence of what are now revealed as pathetic lies, years of political and sectarian bloodletting followed in Iraq, resulting in more than 100,000 deaths, mostly civilians
"Maybe I was right, maybe I wasn't right," Janabi, codenamed "Curveball" by American and German  intelligence  officials and identified as a chemical engineer, told the newspaper.

"I had a problem with the Saddam regime," he said."I wanted to get rid of him and now I had this chance."

History and the world will never shed any tears for the monsterous Saddam Hussein and his rotten regime, but they will  undoubtably question whether Mr Janabi's actions justified the means.

The information supplied by Janabi formed the basis of a 2003 speech by secretary of state , Colin Powell, before the United Nations Security Council.

"They gave me this chance to fabricate something to topple the regime," Janabi said.

"Believe me, there was no other way to bring about freedom in Iraq. There were no other possibilities."

Saddam Hussein and his despicable regime has gone, and he and many of his fellow perpetrators of evil have been executed or imprisoned, but it would be a stretch of the imagination to say  Iraq and its people are free.

Iraq is on the verge of civil war, and the coalition of the willing has all but withdrawn from Iraq.

Acknowledgements: Reuters,  Peter Petterson

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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

New Zealand soldier killed in Afghanistan vehicle crash....

A New Zealand soldier has been killed and three others injured in a vehicle accident in Afghanistan.

The Defence Force has named soldier killed as Private Kirifi Mila, who had been due to return to New Zealand in April this year.

Private Kirifi Mila was due to return home in April.
It says the soldiers were patrolling in north-east Bamyan province when their Humvee rolled down a cliff.
Private Mila was a gunner positioned on the roof of the Humvee.

One of the injured soldiers has broken ribs and another has eye socket injuries and head injuries.
The Defence Force says the accident had no connection with insurgent activity and vehicle accidents are a common problem in Afghanistan.

Chief of Defence Lieutenant General Rhys Jones says Private Mila's family has been informed and are devastated by the news.
Defence Minister Wayne Mapp says the death is sad news, as every soldier's life is very precious.

Prime Minister John Key says he is shocked and saddened by the death. He says the Defence Force in Afghanistan is operating in a dangerous and difficult environment.

Visiting Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard also paid tribute to Private Mila, telling Parliament that Australia grieves for New Zealand soldiers as it grieves for its own.

In August last year, Lieutenant Tim O'Donnell was killed and two others seriously injured when their four-vehicle convoy was attacked by insurgents also in Bamyan province.

Acknowledgements:  © 2011, Radio New Zealand

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Sunday, February 13, 2011

Seal of the President of the United StatesImage via WikipediaTHE PRESIDENTS BOOK OF SECRETS  -  Does it exist or is it a myth?

by Peter Petterson

This post discusses this claim. By the time we finish reading all the relevant comments we may   really know or at least be better educated:

It has been reported that moments after being sworn in, all new  American presidents gain access to the Nuclear Football"  -  a briefcase containing the most volatile top-secret  information in the world - America's nuclear launch codes.

The "Football " is a high profile national secret - but it is only one of a great many pieces in  the classified arsenal at the President's disposal once he assumes the ultimate role of Commander-in Chief   -  THE PRESIDENTS BOOK OF SECRETS (video) takes  viewers on a journey inside White House history to unveil some staggering information about secrets known only to the President from top-secret intelligence and classified codes and future technologies.

Just what secrecy does an out-going President share with the incoming President-elect during that first private meeting? When does he actually gain access to the vital national secrets and receive the access codes to the nuclear arsenal?

Is there a 'Keeper' who informs the new President-elect about everything? What is so classified that even a presidential clearance is not even enough to gain access? How could a woman ever be elevated to  the supreme position in the United States of America? I really don't think it is at all possible, but that is an entirely different subject for another time and place.

Is there really a Book of Secrets -  You can answer that after viewing the video.   The movie.
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