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LDS Church Emergency & Disaster Relief Report – 2011

With many disasters and severe weather incidents, 2011 was an active year for Mormons’ church service around the world.

Mormons’ church service – Mormon helping handsThe earthquake and devastating tsunami in Japan was the worst disaster of the year, and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints sent immediate aid and still continues to help. The LDS Church provided more than 250 tons of supplies, food, water, blankets, bedding, hygiene items, clothing and fuel. Church-sponsored volunteers numbering over 20,000 have donated 175,000 hours of service in Japan. Church Humanitarian Services has worked with and continues to donate equipment and supplies to 20 of 54 fishing co-ops wiped out by the disaster. Latter-day Saints within Japan mobilized to help their stricken neighbors. Fifty-two Mormon meetinghouses were also damaged and have since been repaired.

Other disasters struck different parts of the world, which experienced flooding, landslides, earthquakes, tornadoes and a hurricane (Irene). They occurred in Australia, New Zealand, Colombia, Brazil and the Philippines, as well as the Midwest and southern United States. Latter-day Saints in each of these areas also donated their time and efforts. “Mormon Helping Hands” is the name of groups of Mormons gathered to help in relief efforts on the ground. They can mobilize locally or travel, sometimes at their own expense.

In Germany, 9,000 Latter-day Saints and their neighbors worked side-by-side to donate 34,000 hours in support of children battling cancer. (Read about other Mormon Helping Hands projects.)

2011 was the tenth anniversary of the formation of the Perpetual Education Fund, funded by donations from Latter-day Saints. This fund helps with schooling expenses for returned-missionaries from impoverished countries. The money is loaned to them, so they can afford advanced education. The loan is paid back as they join the work force, and then loaned to the next worthy young person. Thousands have achieved better employment through this program since its inception.

Additional Resources
Basic Mormon Beliefs — Official LDS Church Website

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Listen to the Prophet: The Next Financial Crisis will be Hellish…and it’s on its Way

Occupy Wall Street - Oakland, CA
Occupy Wall Street – Oakland, CA

“There is definitely going to be another financial crisis around the corner,” says hedge fund legend Mark Mobius, “because we haven’t solved any of the things that caused the previous crisis.”

We’re raising our alert status for the next financial crisis. We already raised it last week after spreads on U.S. credit default swaps started blowing out. We raised it again after seeing the remarks of Mr. Mobius, chief of the $50 billion emerging markets desk at Templeton Asset Management.

Speaking in Tokyo, he pointed to derivatives, the financial hairball of futures, options, and swaps in which nearly all the world’s major banks are tangled up.

Estimates on the amount of derivatives out there worldwide vary. An oft-heard estimate is $600 trillion. That squares with Mobius’ guess of 10 times the world’s annual GDP. “Are the derivatives regulated?” asks Mobius. “No. Are you still getting growth in derivatives? Yes.”

In other words, something along the lines of securitized mortgages is lurking out there, ready to trigger another crisis as in 2007-08.

What could it be? We’ll offer up a good guess, one the market is discounting.

Seldom does a stock index rise so much, for so little reason, as the Dow did on the open Tuesday morning: 115 Dow points on a rumor that Greece is going to get a second bailout.

Let’s step back for a moment: The Greek crisis is first and foremost about the German and French banks that were foolish enough to lend money to Greece in the first place. What sort of derivative contracts tied to Greek debt are they sitting on? What worldwide mayhem would ensue if Greece didn’t pay back 100 centimes on the euro?

That’s a rhetorical question, since the balance sheets of European banks are even more opaque than American ones. Whatever the actual answer, it’s scary enough that the European Central Bank has refused to entertain any talk about the holders of Greek sovereign debt taking a haircut, even in the form of Greece stretching out its payments.

That was the preferred solution among German leaders. But it seems the ECB is about to get its way. Greece will likely get another bailout — 30 billion euros on top of the 110 billion euro bailout it got a year ago.

It will accomplish nothing. Going deeper into hock is never a good way to get out of debt. And at some point, this exercise in kicking the can has to stop. When it does, you get your next financial crisis.

And what of the derivatives sitting on the balance sheet of the Federal Reserve? Here’s another factor behind our heightened state of alert.

“Through quantitative easing efforts alone,” says Euro Pacific Capital’s Michael Pento, “Ben Bernanke has added $1.8 trillion of longer-term GSE debt and mortgage-backed securities (MBS).”

Think about that for a moment. The Fed’s entire balance sheet totaled around $800 billion before the 2008 crash, nearly all of it Treasuries. Now the Fed holds more than double that amount in mortgage derivatives alone, junk that the banks needed to clear off their own balance sheets.

“As the size of the Fed’s balance sheet ballooned,” continues Mr. Pento, “the dollar amount of capital held at the Fed has remained fairly constant. Today, the Fed has $52.5 billion of capital backing a $2.7 trillion balance sheet.

“Prior to the bursting of the credit bubble, the public was shocked to learn that our biggest investment banks were levered 30-to-1. When asset values fell, those banks were quickly wiped out. But now the Fed is holding many of the same types of assets and is levered 51-to-1! If the value of their portfolio were to fall by just 2%, the Fed itself would be wiped out.”

Mr. Pento’s and Mr. Mobius’ views line up with our own, which we laid out during interviews on our trip to China this month.

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Incredible: 2-Week Old Baby and Mother Pulled Alive From Earthquake Rubble in Turkey

ERCIS, Turkey– Rescuers have freed a woman hours after they also pulled out her 2-week-old baby girl alive from the rubble of an apartment building.

Television footage on Tuesday showed rescue workers carrying Semiha Karaduman out of the wreckage on a stretcher and moving her to an ambulance. The infant was pulled from the debris earlier.

Officials say the death toll in the 7.2-magnitude earthquake that struck eastern Turkey on Sunday is now 370. More than 2,000 buildings have collapsed.

Rescuers in two cities in eastern Turkey are struggling to pull out survivors from the wreckage

Rescuers in two cities, Ercis and Van, are still struggling to pull out people trapped trapping people inside mounds of concrete, twisted steel and construction debris. Authorities have warned survivors not to enter damaged buildings and thousands of people spent a second night outdoors in cars or tents in near-freezing conditions, afraid to return to their homes. Some 1,300 people were injured.

Dogan news agency said rescuers had pulled five people out of the rubble alive in the early hours of Tuesday, although many more bodies were discovered.

In the hardest-hit city of Ercis, 9-year-old Oguz Isler was trapped for eight hours beneath the rubble of a relative’s home. He was finally rescued, but on Tuesday he was waiting at the foot of the same pile of debris for news of his parents and of other relatives who remain buried inside.

The boy waited calmly in front of what was left of the five-story apartment block that used to be his aunt’s home. The city of 75,000, close to the Iranian border, lies in one of Turkey’s most earthquake-prone zones.

Turkish rescue workers in bright orange jumpsuits and Azerbaijani military rescuers in camouflage uniforms searched through the debris, using excavators, picks and shovels to look for Isler’s mother and father and other relatives still inside.

Dogs sniffed for possible survivors in gaps that opened up as their work progressed.

“They should send more people,” Isler said as he and other family members watched the rescuers. An elder cousin comforted him.

Mehmet Ali Hekimoglu, a medic, said the dogs indicated that there were three or four people inside the building, but it was not known if they were alive.

The boy, his sister and a cousin were trapped in the building’s third-floor stairway as they tried to escape when the quake hit. A steel door fell over him.

“I fell on the ground face down. When I tried to move my head, it hit the door,” he said. “I tried to get out and was able to open a gap with my fists in the wall but could not move my body further. The wall crumbled quickly when I hit it.”

“We started shouting: ‘Help! We’re here,”‘ he said. “They found us a few hours later, they took me out about 8 1/2 hours later. … I was OK but felt very bad, lonely. … I still have a headache, but the doctor said I was fine.”

Isler’s 16-year-old sister, Ela, and 12-year-old cousin, Irem were also saved.

“They took me out last because I was in good shape and the door was protecting me. I was hearing stones falling on it,” said Isler.

The government’s response to the quake appeared to be well-coordinated because of the country’s vast experience in dealing with killer quakes and their aftermaths. Hundreds of rescue teams from throughout Turkey rushed to the area, racing to find survivors, while Turkish Red Crescent dispatched tents, blankets and soup kitchens.

However, there was still no power and running water in Ercis. Firefighter trucks carried tons of water while giant generators were sent in on trucks.

Turkey lies in one of the world’s most active seismic zones and is crossed by numerous fault lines. In 1999, two earthquakes with a magnitude of more than 7 struck northwestern Turkey, killing about 18,000 people.

Istanbul, the country’s largest city with more than 12 million people, lies in northwestern Turkey near a major fault line, and experts say tens of thousands could be killed if a major quake struck there.

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