Saddam faked having WMD to prevent possible Iran invasion

image2237624g.jpg(CBS) Saddam Hussein initially didn’t think the U.S. would invade Iraq to destroy weapons of mass destruction, so he kept the fact that he had none a secret to prevent an Iranian invasion he believed could happen. The Iraqi dictator revealed this thinking to George Piro, the FBI agent assigned to interrogate him after his capture.

Piro, in his first television interview, relays this and other revelations to 60 Minutes correspondent Scott Pelley this Sunday, Jan. 27, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.

Piro spent almost seven months debriefing Saddam in a plan based on winning his confidence by convincing him that Piro was an important envoy who answered to President Bush. This and being Saddam’s sole provider of items like writing materials and toiletries made the toppled Iraqi president open up to Piro, a Lebanese-American and one of the few FBI agents who spoke Arabic.

“He told me he initially miscalculated… President Bush’s intentions. He thought the United States would retaliate with the same type of attack as we did in 1998…a four-day aerial attack,” says Piro. “He survived that one and he was willing to accept that type of attack.” “He didn’t believe the U.S. would invade?” asks Pelley, “No, not initially,” answers Piro.

Once the invasion was certain, says Piro, Saddam asked his generals if they could hold the invaders for two weeks. “And at that point, it would go into what he called the secret war,” Piro tells Pelley. But Piro isn’t convinced that the insurgency was Saddam’s plan. “Well, he would like to take credit for the insurgency,” says Piro.

Saddam still wouldn’t admit he had no weapons of mass destruction, even when it was obvious there would be military action against him because of the perception he did. Because, says Piro, “For him, it was critical that he was seen as still the strong, defiant Saddam. He thought that [faking having the weapons] would prevent the Iranians from reinvading Iraq,” he tells Pelley.

He also intended and had the wherewithal to restart the weapons program. “Saddam] still had the engineers. The folks that he needed to reconstitute his program are still there,” says Piro. “He wanted to pursue all of WMD…to reconstitute his entire WMD program.” This included chemical, biological and nuclear weapons, Piro says.

Saddam bragged that he changed his routine and security to elude capture. “What he wanted to really illustrate is…how he was able to outsmart us,” says Piro. “He told me he changed…the way he traveled. He got rid of his normal vehicles. He got rid of the protective detail that he traveled with, really just to change his signature.”

It took nine months to finally capture Saddam, but U.S. calculations on where he might be early on turned out to be accurate. Saddam was at Dora Farms early in the war when the known presidential site was targeted with tons of bombs and many missiles. “He said it in a kind of a bragging fashion that he was there, but that we missed him. He wasn’t bothered by the fact that he was there,” Piro tells Pelley.

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This is not a joke folks…

The Internet-based group “Anonymous” has released statements on YouTube and via a press release, outlining what they call a “War on Scientology”. Church of Scientology related websites, such as religiousfreedomwatch.org have been removed due to a suspected distributed denial-of-service-attack (DDoS) by a group calling themselves “Anonymous”. On Friday, the same group allegedly brought down Scientology‘s main website, scientology.org, which was available sporadically throughout the weekend.

Several websites relating to the Church of Scientology have been slowed down, brought to a complete halt or seemingly removed from the Internet completely in an attack which seems to be continuous. The scientology.org site was back online briefly on Monday, and is currently loading slowly.

On Monday, the group released a video titled: “Message to Scientology” on YouTube concerning their intentions to attack the Church of Scientology. A robotic voice on the video begins with “Hello leaders of Scientology. We are Anonymous,” and continues by explaining their motivations: “Over the years we have been watching you, your campaigns of misinformation, your suppression of dissent and your litigious nature. All of these things have caught our eye. With the leakage of your latest propaganda video into mainstream circulation the extent of your malign influence over those who have come to trust you as leaders has been made clear to us. Anonymous has therefore decided that your organisation should be destroyed.” The message goes on to state that the group intends to “expel Scientology from the Internet”. As of Wednesday, the video had been viewed 370,347 times, favorited 2,473 times, and is currently YouTube’s top third video of the day.

if this video is any indication, it seems like the assailants mean business.

The Michigan Daily

The “Message to Scientology” video was highlighted as the “YouTube Video of the Week” by The Michigan Daily. Commenting on the video, the piece states “if this video is any indication, it seems like the assailants mean business”. In a blog post on USA Today‘s website, Jess Zielinski wrote that it was “not a shock that hackers hold a grudge against Scientology,” and in a followup post on another USA Today blog, Angela Gunn wrote that “those of us who remember … the adventures of Operation Clambake are fascinated to see this kind of thing flare up again”. Blogging for Wired magazine, Ryan Singel wrote about the incident in a piece on Wednesay titled “War Breaks Out Between Hackers and Scientology — There Can Be Only One”. Singel wrote that the Project Chanology wiki page “directs Anonymous members to download and use denial of service software, make prank calls, host Scientology documents the Church considers proprietary, and fax endless loops of black pages to the Church’s fax machines to waste ink”. According to Wired, “The Church of Scientology did not immediately respond to a call for comment”.

The viewpoints expressed in the video are echoed on the “Project Chanology” website, an open source of information and direction for those within Anonymous, which talks of tactics such as blackfaxing and prank calling alongside other “real-life” methods of attack. The satirical website Encyclopedia Dramatica also has a similar page devoted to “Project Chanology”.

The so-called Church of Scientology actively misused copyright and trademark law in pursuit of its own agenda … They attempted not only to subvert free speech, but to recklessly pervert justice to silence those who spoke out against them.

—”Anonymous” – Press Release

“Anonymous” released a statement on Monday in the form of a press release, “Internet Group Anonymous Declares “War on Scientology”: “Anonymous” are fighting the Church of Scientology and the Religious Technology Center”. In the statement, the group explained their goal as safeguarding the right to freedom of speech “A spokesperson said that the group’s goals include bringing an end to the financial exploitation of Church members and protecting the right to free speech, a right which they claim was consistently violated by the Church of Scientology in pursuit of its opponents.” The press release also claimed that the Church of Scientology misused copyright and trademark law in order to remove criticism from websites including Digg and YouTube. The statement goes on to assert that the attacks from the group “will continue until the Church of Scientology reacts, at which point they will change strategy”.

The attack was reportedly motivated by the Church of Scientology’s attempts to remove a promotional video featuring Scientologist Tom Cruise from YouTube. After the Church of Scientology lodged a copyright infringement complaint with YouTube, the site took down the video. The Tom Cruise video is still available on Gawker.com, which has stated it will not remove the video “It’s newsworthy, and we will not be removing it.”

… a whole range of sites has turned the Church into a mockery by doing what mainstream celebrity-coverage outlets wouldn’t dare.

Gawker.com

Gawker.com discussed the actions of the “Anonymous” group, in a post on Monday titled “Scientology vs. the Internet: Why Kids On The Internet Are Scientology’s Most Powerful Enemy”. Gawker.com briefly outlined actions of other anonymous users critical of Scientology, including actions taken in the past by users of YouTube, Digg, and YTMND “This isn’t the only group of Internet users unafraid of the intimidating cult; a whole range of sites has turned the Church into a mockery by doing what mainstream celebrity-coverage outlets wouldn’t dare.”

A poster on the newsgroup alt.religion.scientology (a.r.s.) was critical of the actions by the “Anonymous” group. In a post titled “Open Letter to Anonymous” Jeff Jacobsen, webmaster of lisamcpherson.org, posting as “cultxpt” wrote that “It’s understandable that people get upset over the things the Church of Scientology has done online and off”, pointing out that the Church of Scientology had “tried to shut down a.r.s.”, and “spam our newsgroup to this day”. In 1999 “sporgery“, a form of nonsensical spam tactic, was used as an attempt to disrupt discussion on the newsgroup. Previously in 1995 Helena Kobrin, an attorney for the Church of Scientology, attempted to remove the a.r.s. group from Usenet. Kobrin sent a rmgroup message which stated: “We have requested that the alt.religion.scientology newsgroup be removed from all sites”. This later led to a declaration of war by the hacker group Cult of the Dead Cow, and an increase in popularity of the a.r.s site. This initial conflict came to be known as “Scientology versus the Internet“.

The post from Jacobsen went on to criticize the actions of the “Anonymous” group, stating: “We’re supposed to be the good people,” and stated that contrary to the Anonymous group’s tactics, “Our weapons as critics are reason, evidence, argument, and free speech”.

Freedom of speech means we need to allow all to speak – including those we strongly disagree with.

Andreas Heldal-Lund, Operation Clambake

On Tuesday, the founder of Operation Clambake, a non-profit organization and website critical of Scientology based in Stavanger, Norway, released a statement about the attacks by “Anonymous”. Andreas Heldal-Lund was critical of the “Anonymous” groups actions, stating: “The author of Operation Clambake does not condone such activity. Attacking Scientology like that will just make them play the religious persecution card. They will use it to defend their own counter actions when they try to shatter criticism and crush critics without mercy.” Heldal-Lund went on to emphasize the right of all people and organizations to freedom of speech – including the Church of Scientology: “Freedom of speech means we need to allow all to speak – including those we strongly disagree with. I am of the opinion that the Church of Scientology is a criminal organisation and a cult which is designed by its delusional founder to abuse people. I am still committed to fight for their right to speak their opinion.”

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Now the Three Little Pigs are racist!

A story based on the Three Little Pigs fairy tale has been turned by a government agency’s awards panel as the subject_44375959_pig203.jpg matter could offend Muslims.

The digital book, re-telling the classic story, was rejected by judges who warned that “the use of pigs raises cultural issues”.

Becta, the government’s educational technology agency, is a leading partner in the annual Bett Award for schools.

The judges also attacked Three Little Cowboy Builders for offending builders.

The book’s creative director, Anne Curtis, said the idea that including pigs in a story could be interpreted as racism was “like a slap in the face”.

‘Cultural issues’

The CD-Rom digital version of the traditional story of the three little pigs, called Three Little Cowboy Builders, is aimed at primary school children.

But judges at this year’s Bett Award said that they had “concerns about the Asian community and the use of pigs raises cultural issues”.

The Three Little Cowboy Builders has already been a prize winner at the recent Education Resource Award – but its Newcastle-based publishers, Shoo-fly, were turned down by the Bett Award panel.

The feedback from the judges explaining why they had rejected the CD-Rom highlighted that they “could not recommend this product to the Muslim community”.

They also warned that the story might “alienate parts of the workforce (building trade)”.

The judges criticised the stereotyping in the story of the unfortunate pigs: “Is it true that all builders are cowboys, builders get their work blown down, and builders are like pigs?”

Animal Farm?

Ms Curtis said that rather than preventing the spread of racism, such an attitude was likely to inflame ill-feeling. As another example, she says would that mean that secondary schools could not teach Animal Farm because it features pigs?

Her company is committed to an ethical approach to business and its products promote a message of mutual respect, she says – and banning such traditional stories will “close minds rather than open them”.

Becta, the government funded agency responsible for technology in schools and colleges, says that it is standing by the judges’ verdict.

“Becta with its partners is responsible for the judging criteria against which the 70 independent judges, mostly practising teachers, comment. All the partners stick by the judging criteria,” said a Becta spokesman.

The reason that this product was not shortlisted was because “it failed to reach the required standard across a number of criteria”, said the spokesman.

Becta runs the awards with the Besa trade association and show organisers, Emap Education.

Merlin John, author of an educational technology website which highlighted the story, warns that such rulings can undermine the credibility of the awards.

“When benchmarks are undermined by pedestrian and pedantic tick lists, and by inflexible, unhelpful processes, it can tarnish the achievements of even the most worthy winners.

“It’s time for a rethink, and for Becta to listen to the criticisms that have been ignored for a number of years,” said Mr John.

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Raid on London Scientology HQ planned for feb 10

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Yale Sounds the Alarm on the Declining Dollar: Dire Straits

If today’s US budget deficit raises concerns, then tomorrow’s projections should sound an alarm, writes economist David Dapice. As the United States descends further and further into debt – by several trillion dollars over the next ten years – the value of US currency will decline. Should a worldwide “run on the dollar” result, shockwaves would resonate throughout the global economy. Dapice argues that if US legislators want to avoid drastic economic and political consequences, they must acknowledge the necessity of decreasing the deficit – and impose realistic cuts on spending, not taxes. “Without a reduction in spending on Iraq and entitlement reform and controls on other types of spending,” says Dapice, “it will be very hard to make a substantial dent in the deficit.” Washington’s continual denial of its fiscal responsibility may push the world economy past its tipping point. – YaleGlobal

Dealing with a Declining Dollar – Part II

If Washington fails to rein in the budget deficit, international bond buyers might force a painful adjustment
 
Since 2001, the Dollar has steadily dropped in relation to the Euro. (Image by Debbie Campoli, (C) 2005, YaleGlobal), Enlarged image
 

MEDFORD: US President George W. Bush’s US$2.57 trillion budget proposal has brought a tepid domestic reaction, and foreigners seeking a silver-lining have little reason to rejoice either. From politicians to Wall Street economists, critics remain doubtful that the Bush budget offers a realistic plan for deficit reduction needed for a stable world economy. The plan, which calls for across-the-board restrictions on domestic spending, requires Congressional approval – unlikely, especially considering the previous rejection of many proposed cuts. Realistically, only about 30 percent of spending cuts are feasible, an inadequate amount for substantial deficit reduction.

More so than this year’s deficits, the ten-year projections may truly raise eyebrows: Over the next decade, the United States may accrue several trillion dollars in debt. Should that be the case, the dollar will likely be in danger; a worldwide “run on the dollar” would bear incalculable consequences.

 
Deficit: Official and Likely Actual. Enlarged image
 

All major nations have problematic long-term public finances due to their aging populations and overly generous promises of pensions and medical care for the elderly. However, among these nations, only the United States requires international borrowing to finance its public deficits. The large and growing current account deficit – the shortfall between the country’s export and import – could trigger a sharp fall in the dollar, bringing in its wake rising interest rates and a recession, or worse. US trading partners could not be sheltered from the fallout.

The prospect of continuing budget and trade deficits poses a problem for potential foreign buyers of dollar assets. There is little doubt that the US economy has a faster long-run growth potential than Europe or Japan. Its financial markets are larger and more liquid. Its rate of return to capital is normally higher, and its accounting is no worse – arguably better – in spite of Enron-type scandals. The long-run public finances of the EU and Japan are in comparatively worse shape due to lower birth rates and more limited immigration, as well as more generous promised benefits. These are all good reasons to accumulate dollar-denominated assets, especially when the euro or yen buys more dollars than before.

 
 
 

On the other hand, the US consumers are mired in debt: Disposable income increased US$2 trillion from 1999 to 2004, while mortgages and other consumer debt increased nearly twice as much. Consumers, therefore, will likely be hit should home prices decline or interest rates increase. There is a real risk in buying dollar assets, even though the US government (unlike most other debtors) can print dollars to repay what it has borrowed. The large tax cuts have removed room for further stimulus. The Federal Reserve might lose control of interest rates if foreign buyers of government bonds stopped buying. Even Alan Greenspan and other Fed officials have expressed concern about the current and projected levels of current account deficits. If others began to sell dollars, there is little doubt that a “run for the exits” could develop, pulling the value of the dollar sharply down.

Buyers might assume that central banks would not allow a large dollar decline, since it would hurt the world economy. They would buy dollar assets, expecting that governments would safeguard their bets. This is called moral hazard, and it can make eventual adjustments even worse, as debtor nations found out in the Asian crisis. Even if central banks do prevent the dollar’s collapse, a large hedge fund or other investor might still place its currency bets on a losing scenario. Ultimately, this would disrupt financial markets, as nearly happened with Long Term Capital Management, the hedge fund that collapsed a few years ago.

 
 
 

Were there clear indications that reducing the US federal deficit were a priority, the chance and severity of negative outcomes would decrease considerably. However, while a minority of Republicans and some Democrats remain “deficit hawks,” a powerful group still maintains, as does Vice-President Cheney, that “deficits don’t matter.” This group prioritizes extended tax cuts and social security reform over deficit reduction. Without a reduction in spending on Iraq and entitlement (especially Medicare) reform and controls on other types of spending, it will be very hard to make a substantial dent in the deficit.

If US domestic politics make serious deficit reduction unlikely, the uneasy international bond buyers may ultimately force the administration’s hand. If the Republicans wish to avoid wearing a “Herbert Hoover necklace” (President Hoover’s policies brought about the crash of 1929.) around their necks for a generation, they may decide that preventing a dollar collapse is even more important than expanding spending and extending tax cuts. Or they might gamble that others have more to lose, and continue to run both federal and current account deficits that push the limits of foreign asset buyers’ acceptance. The willingness of foreign central banks to accumulate dollar assets for mercantilist purposes makes this bet seem safer in the short term, but also makes it riskier over time. The whole world has a stake in the outcome of this debate, but few can vote – except with their money. Investors might cast the deciding votes; though if it comes to that, there could be more losers than winners.

 
 
 

For those who wish to glimpse the “tipping point” – if indeed there is one – the pace of Federal Reserve short-term interest rate hikes might provide a clue. If foreigners begin to sell Treasury bills, which still yield little more than inflation, the Fed would have little choice but to raise interest rates more quickly than it has indicated. These increases would transmit themselves to longer-term interest rates as well, and would drive up mortgage and other borrowing costs. Corporate investment, construction, and durable goods purchases (cars, furniture) would all diminish. Exports would benefit, but the net impact would be negative. If the rate hikes were steep enough, a recession would likely ensue.

Foreign central bankers would understand the fragility of their own economies and would want to keep exporting to the US market. This would tend to push them to purchase more dollar debt. However, fear of private selling of dollar debt or of a “rogue” central bank getting out of dollar assets early might create a sense of caution. With the US current account deficit over US$700 billion this year, even a slowdown in buying of debt would push the dollar down and interest rates up. This has not happened yet, but without corrective action the risks are clearly increasing. Will Washington take heed or not?

David Dapice is Associate Professor of Economics at Tufts University and the economist of the Vietnam Program at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government.

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Central Bankers Now Admit that Inflation is a HUGE Concern

DAVOS, Switzerland — The president of the European Central Bank gave a full-throated defense Wednesday of the bank’s determination to fight inflation, quashing hopes — at least for now — that it might follow the United States Federal Reserve in cutting interest rates to contain an economic slowdown.

Jean-Claude Trichet, the central bank president, said the bank, which hinted this month that it might raise interest rates, needed to focus on keeping inflation low, an approach that he argued would help calm increasingly chaotic financial markets.

The stance offered a sharp contrast to the Fed, which has shifted its focus over the last six months from fighting inflation to kick-starting the American economy. The Fed aggressively eased interest rates further in an emergency move Tuesday.

Unlike the Fed, which is required by law to promote employment while keeping prices stable, the European Central Bank’s sole role is that of a sentinel against inflation.

“Particularly in demanding times of significant market correction and turbulences,” Mr. Trichet said in testimony to the European Parliament in Brussels, “it is the responsibility of the central bank to solidly anchor inflation expectations to avoid additional volatility.”

European markets sold off sharply on Mr. Trichet’s remarks, which damped investor hopes that the bank would follow the Fed’s lead. The CAC 40 in Paris and the DAX in Germany closed down more than 4 percent.

The Fed’s move, which reflected a dire view of the state of the American economy, raised pressure on the European bank to concede that the slowdown an ocean away would drag down Europe, where the major countries are expected to show slightly softer economic growth after two years of robust performance.

Mr. Trichet did take care to note that slower growth and slackening demand among consumers and corporations could damp inflation. By this logic, if the European economy did weaken, the bank would have room to lower rates.

Early this month, the European bank kept its benchmark interest rate at 4 percent. Mr. Trichet even threatened to raise rates if European labor unions sought pay increases to compensate for higher food and energy costs. Still, financial markets have already assumed that the central bank will follow the Fed later this year.

Through bets on short-term securities, traders have bet that the bank will lower rates beginning in April, and follow through with additional cuts in the summer and autumn. That probably reflects a conviction that the bank is waiting out the early rounds of wage negotiations — a spring ritual in Europe — before shifting its stance to accommodate a worsening economic outlook.

“The E.C.B. is not really signaling that it will raise rates here, just threatening to — a bit like having a nuclear weapon,” said Julian Callow, chief Europe economist at Barclays Capital in London.

The bank has consistently played down the danger to the European economy posed by weakness in the United States, citing trade within the 15-country euro area and buoyant demand from Asia for euro-zone exports. A rising number of economists in Europe have begun to dispute this view, citing surveys of business and consumer confidence that hint at weaker growth.

The widening difference in interest rates has become fodder for debate at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum here over whether financial authorities are up to managing both financial market chaos and a worsening economic outlook.

Nouriel Roubini, a professor at New York University, said the European Central Bank had fallen far behind in a world where monetary policy takes up to 18 months to have an effect.

“The E.C.B. is still on hold,” Mr. Roubini said. “I believe they are behind the curve.”

C. Fred Bergsten, the director of the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington, offered context as well to a slowdown in the world’s largest economy. If emerging markets lose one percentage point of growth this year, when an American recession and the credit squeeze are factored in, and rich countries average growth of 1.5 to 2 percent, the result is 4 percent global growth, hardly a lame showing, Mr. Bergsten noted.

“It is inconceivable — repeat, inconceivable — to get a world recession,” he said.

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Juicing the economy has a grave cost: Inflation more debt

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) — Within weeks, lawmakers hope to pass a package of measures intended to minimize the effects of a recession. While there’s little agreement on how much such moves would boost the economy, one thing is certain: They will come at a cost.

Initially, President Bush and leading Democrats have indicated they envisioned stimulus measures – cash rebates, business breaks and other proposals – worth roughly $150 billion. Some experts think the final number could be closer to $200 billion.

Even if the stimulus package proves wildly successful, however, it won’t pay for itself in full, at least not in the near term.

The Congressional Budget Office estimated Wednesday that the federal budget deficit this year will increase to $219 billion or 1.5 percent of gross domestic product – and even more if increased military funding is approved. And that doesn’t count the cost of a stimulus plan.

Stimulus will bump that deficit up, but not necessarily dollar for dollar. Here’s why: If the stimulus effort works, the increased economic activity will generate federal tax revenue.

The CBO estimates that every dollar in a well-designed stimulus package could generate a dollar in gross domestic product. For example, if that extra dollar in GDP yields 20 cents in taxes, then only 80 percent of the cost of a stimulus package would be added to the short-term deficit.

Large budget deficits leave the government with less flexibility to pay for its programs without borrowing. But increasing the deficit in the short-term is not the worst thing, some experts say.

“The whole point of fiscal stimulus is to run a deficit [to get the economy going],” said economist Josh Bivens at the liberal Economics Policy Institute.

What’s more important than a given year’s deficit, Bivens said, is that the ratio of debt to GDP remains stable.

In other words, if the target is to have an average deficit that doesn’t run higher than its current level of 1.5 percent of GDP, the deficit could be higher some years when the economy is weak and lower when the economy is strong.

Some lawmakers want the cost of any stimulus measures to be offset by other revenue-raising steps, such as raising taxes. But proponents of the stimulus package note that it would defeat the purpose to spend money to stimulate the economy and at the same time replace it.

Those who oppose adding to the deficit point to the growing burden on federal coffers to pay for Medicare and Social Security, the costs of which will balloon in coming years unless lawmakers reduce the growth in government spending or raise taxes.

Of course, there’s another way to view cost in the stimulus debate: How much will it cost the country if the economy continues to slide and Congress takes no action?

Former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers told lawmakers last week that several hundred thousand jobs could be lost and the average family might see a drop of about $1,000 in income if Congress doesn’t pass stimulus measures.

By contrast, if a stimulus package is successful, Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody’s Economy.com, thinks it could add 700,000 jobs and cut the unemployment rate by half a percentage point by mid-2009.

“While a stimulus package will cost us, it’s going to cost us much less than doing nothing,” said Zandi. He estimates that even a mild recession could cost federal coffers $300 billion in lost tax revenue – double the cost of the stimulus package being discussed on the Hill.

What’s not clear is the cost to the economy if a stimulus package that comes too late – a real concern since legislation could get bogged down by politics.

Recessions are hard to detect. They are officially identified based on economic data from past quarters. So there’s a risk that stimulus measures could take effect when the economy is actually in recovery.

And that could increase the risk of inflation. Putting more money into the hands of consumers at a time when the Federal Reserve is making money cheaper to borrow by cutting interest rates can push prices up because it increases demand for goods.

Wages aren’t likely to keep pace with the price increases, demand and productivity would slow and – you guessed it – the economy could swing back into another recession.read more | digg story