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    Repiglican Roast

    A spirited discussion of public policy and current issues

    Name:
    Location: The mouth of being

    I'm furious about my squandered nation.

    Saturday, January 05, 2013

    What's the Matter?

    MSNBC is part of the problem in America. It is one long deceitful ad after another for the Obama administration. The New York Times is almost as bad as MSNBC. But the entire corporate media system works to keep public understanding low. Anyone
    who gets news from it cannot possibly fathom the issues. If they understood the issues, why would they watch and read corporate/state propaganda?
    MSNBC has been marketed so cleverly. Its defenders constantly praise Rachel Maddow (She's so smaaaat!) And because they think she's brilliant, they're willing to fall in line with her ridiculous interpretation of policy and events.

    There is also the lesser of 2 evils dynamic. The republicans are presented in such a way as to terrify and repulse the public. Not that they aren't terrifying and repulsive. They are. But so are democrats. Yet that democrats push the same terrifying, repulsive agenda is carefully  obfuscated by media. We are more than a decade past Clinton's banking deregulation. That deregulation destroyed what was left of an already compromised economy. Yet the media position Clinton as a great economic manager. So much so the democrats coud trot him out during their 2012 convention. If the public understood the roll he played int eh economy, he'd be tarred, feathered and ridden out on a rail. People gobble up the propaganda because they don't have knowledge about what he did or  understanding of how economies function.
    A similar thing is at work with Obama. He was shoe horned into office because the republicans are so scary, and maddow is so smaaaaat, and there is essentially no coverage of his policies, certainly no meaningful critique. The only critique comes from right wing media and that is garbage. People who partake of that are dumb enough to think Obama is a socialist.

    Monday, February 15, 2010

    How I Love This Poem!

    A VALEDICTION FORBIDDING MOURNING.
    by John Donne


    AS virtuous men pass mildly away, 
        And whisper to their souls to go, 
    Whilst some of their sad friends do say,
        "Now his breath goes," and some say, "No."                     
    So let us melt, and make no noise,                                       5
        No tear-floods, nor sigh-tempests move ;
    'Twere profanation of our joys 
        To tell the laity our love. 
    Moving of th' earth brings harms and fears ;
        Men reckon what it did, and meant ;                              10
    But trepidation of the spheres, 
        Though greater far, is innocent. 
    Dull sublunary lovers' love 
        —Whose soul is sense—cannot admit 
    Of absence, 'cause it doth remove                                     15
        The thing which elemented it. 
    But we by a love so much refined,
        That ourselves know not what it is, 
    Inter-assurèd of the mind, 
        Care less, eyes, lips and hands to miss.                           20
    Our two souls therefore, which are one, 
        Though I must go, endure not yet 
    A breach, but an expansion, 
        Like gold to aery thinness beat. 
    If they be two, they are two so                                          25
        As stiff twin compasses are two ; 
    Thy soul, the fix'd foot, makes no show 
        To move, but doth, if th' other do. 
    And though it in the centre sit, 
        Yet, when the other far doth roam,                                30
    It leans, and hearkens after it, 
        And grows erect, as that comes home. 
    Such wilt thou be to me, who must,
        Like th' other foot, obliquely run ;
    Thy firmness makes my circle just,                                    35
        And makes me end where I begun. 
     

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    Monday, November 09, 2009

    Time To Fire Tim Geithner

    http://weblogs.sun-sentinel.com/news/politics/dcblog/Tim%20Geithner.jpgToads and lizards fall from this liars mouth every time he opens it. CHANGE? This is more of the same and a kick in the face to the American people from Barack Obama.

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    Pfizer Broke the Law by Promoting Drugs for Unapproved Uses

    “Marketing departments of many drug companies don’t respect any boundaries of professionalism or the law,” says Jerry Avorn, a professor at Harvard Medical School in Boston and author of “Powerful Medicines: The Benefits, Risks, and Costs of Prescription Drugs” (Random House, 2004). “The Pfizer and Lilly cases involved the illegal promotion of drugs that have been shown to cause substantial harm and death to patients.”
    The widespread off-label promotion of drugs is yet another manifestation of a health-care system that has become dysfunctional.
    “It’s an unbearable cost to a system that’s going broke,” says Avorn, who heads the pharmacology economics unit of Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. “We can’t even afford to pay for effective, safe therapies.”
    10 Million Prescriptions
    About 15 percent of all drug sales in the U.S. are for unapproved uses without adequate evidence the medicines work, according to a study by Randall Stafford, a medical professor at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California.
    He estimates that doctors write more than 10 million such prescriptions each year.

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    Is the House Health Care Bill Better than Nothing?

    (...)

    What does the insurance industry get out of it? Tens of millions of new customers, courtesy of the mandate and taxpayer subsidies. And not just any kind of customer, but the youngest, healthiest customers -- those least likely to use their insurance. The bill permits insurers to charge twice as much for older people as for younger ones. So older under-65's will be more likely to go without insurance, even if they have to pay fines. That's OK with the industry, since these would be among their sickest customers. (Shouldn't age be considered a pre-existing condition?)
    Insurers also won't have to cover those younger people most likely to get sick, because they will tend to use the public option (which is not an "option" at all, but a program projected to cover only 6 million uninsured Americans). So instead of the public option providing competition for the insurance industry, as originally envisioned, it's been turned into a dumping ground for a small number of people whom private insurers would rather not have to cover anyway.
    If a similar bill emerges from the Senate and the reconciliation process, and is ultimately passed, what will happen?
    (...)
    First, health costs will continue to skyrocket, even faster than they are now, as taxpayer dollars are pumped into the private sector. The response of payers -- government and employers -- will be to shrink benefits and increase deductibles and co-payments. Yes, more people will have insurance, but it will cover less and less, and be more expensive to use.

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    On the anniversary of the crashing of the berlin wall, why we must endure bogus claims about Reagan

    Reagan's record speaks for itself.  He was a disaster for the country. His administration trashed carter's energy conservation polices in favor of building up the dictatorship in Saudi Arabia, ripped the solar panels from the white house, pulled the funding for alternative energy research and development, shoveled money into the pentagon instead. Without Reagen we may have solved our energy problem decades ago.
    As part of his moronic deregulatory agenda he gutted the FTC allowing, among other travesties, defense contractors to buy media conglomerates. Clear conflict of interest. And bent the rules to allow that pig Murdoch to become a media mogul in the US.
    His administration not only created the environment for vast media consolidation, but consolidation of all kinds, the utter suppression of healthy competition, the destruction of main street, the wiping out of small towns, family farms, common sense.
    He appointed narcissistic shit stain Antonin Scalia to the court, empowered Bush family ambitions, staged dirty wars in central America resulting in untold deaths, cut deals with the Iranian militants to hold American hostages - a treasonous act - ignored AIDS until MILLIONS were infected, deregulated industry after industry, began the revolving door between government and industry with the ultimate consequence that our food, water and air are not safe anymore.
    Because of Reagan our unions are broken, allowing far too much power to corporate interests. Who have taken a wrecking ball to the American middle class and to anything that remotely resembles democracy. On and on. I don't have all day though it could easily take all day to list Reagan's list of crimes against freedom, democracy, life, America.
    There was not widespread homelessness in the US prior to Reagan. The dollar had value prior to Reagan. There was a healthy middle class prior to Reagan, and plenty of upward mobility. America was not teetering on the brink prior to the right wing onslaught of idiocy.

    Reagan most certainly DID NOT win the cold war - which was a joke anyway - the soviet union broke itself in Afghanistan. Its called bankruptcy. And we are there now thanks to Reagan's right wing heirs in both parties.
      He was a very bad turning point. Just look at the record. Though he was apparently personally likable, though I did not imbibe,  and probably never made a single decision on his own he began the earnest destruction of the US in favor of making a small group of people fabulously wealthy. He was even surrounded by some of the same scum who ran DUBYA. Neither man should ever have been president.
    People praising Reagan are simply uninformed and probably watch that propaganda outlet FOXS news.
    And yes, Clinton was also a right wing piece of shit who did huge damage to the country and to the democratic party by causing those running it to agree to shift right in the hopes of getting elected.

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    Thursday, March 12, 2009

    18,000 Americans die every year for lack of HEALTH INSURANCE

    But President Barack Status Quo Obama isn't launching a war on that. In fact he had to be bullied into even allowing single payer advocates to attend his big health care reform planning meeting with the insurance companies.

    I'm sick to death of right wing democrats and will not be voting for this one in 4 years. Let the republicans completely wreck the country. Then maybe the citizens will get up off their asses and fight back.

    .....
    if you've got drug gangs crossing our borders and killing U.S. citizens."

    Already this year there have been 1,000 people killed in Mexico along the border, following 2008's death toll of 5,800, according to federal officials who credit Mexican President Felipe Calderon for a crackdown on drug cartels.

    But the spillover on the border -- for example, to El Paso from neighboring Ciudad Juarez -- has created a political reaction.

    In a recent visit to El Paso, Texas Gov. Rick Perry called for 1,000 troops to protect the border.

    Obama was cautious, however. "We've got a very big border with Mexico," he said. "I'm not interested in militarizing the border."

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    True Dirty Facts About The Dip Shit Right Wing

    [...]

    The conservative movement has invested enormous effort in crafting a political mythology that gratifies its ideological impulses. The lesson they learned from Ronald Reagan is that ideological purity is not only compatible with political success, but is also the best path to political success. They dutifully applied this interpretation to everything that happened since--George H.W. Bush, then Newt Gingrich, and then George W. Bush all failed because they deviated from the true path--and to all that happened before. Nixon failed because he embraced big government. Kennedy succeeded because he was actually a proto-supply-sider.

    From such a perspective, Roosevelt casts a long and threatening shadow over the conservative movement. Here was a case of a wildly unpopular conservative Republican, Herbert Hoover, who gave way to an unabashed liberal Democrat who won four presidential elections. Shlaes goes to great pains to explain away this apparent anomaly. In this instance, she does produce an internally coherent argument. It is, alas, wildly ahistorical.

    If the New Deal failed so miserably, one might wonder why voters continued to endorse it. In Shlaes's telling, Roosevelt's first challenger, Alf Landon, lost in 1936 because he "failed to distinguish himself" from Roosevelt. It is certainly true that Landon hailed from the party's moderate wing and shied away from the root-and-branch condemnation of the New Deal favored by, say, Hoover. But as the campaign wore on, Landon's rhetoric grew increasingly harsh. If Roosevelt returned to office, he warned, "business as we know it is to disappear." Voters who opposed the New Deal may not have had a perfect choice, but they did have a clear one. It also takes quite a bit of ideological credulity to believe, as Shlaes apparently does, that Roosevelt's twenty-point victory represented anything other than massive support for his program. Landon himself later remarked that "I don't think that it would have made any difference what kind of a campaign I made as far as stopping this avalanche is concerned."

    And Shlaes offers an even odder explanation for Roosevelt's triumph in 1940. Wendell Willkie seized the advantage by attacking the New Deal, she writes, but squandered it with his dovish position on the war. The war, she argues, had become "the single best argument to reelect Roosevelt and give him special powers." After the election, she asserts, the Republicans "concluded, accurately enough, that the outcome would sideline not only their party but their record of accuracy when it came to the economy. They had been right so often in the 1930s and they would not get credit for it. The great error of their isolationism was what stood out."

    Shlaes, characteristically, bolsters this highly idiosyncratic reading of history with only bare wisps of data. It is true that the outbreak of war in Europe made Roosevelt, the incumbent, appear safer. But this pro-incumbent upsurge merely cancelled out a powerful current of anti-third term sentiment. Moreover, public opinion opposed entry into the war, and Roosevelt had to fight the suspicion that he was nudging the country into the war by explicitly promising to stay out. Shlaes's portrayal of an electorate seeking activist government abroad and laissez-faire at home gets the history almost perfectly backward. (The Forgotten Man ends with the 1940 race, sparing her readers any further contortions of electoral interpretation.)

    [...]

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    Monday, December 01, 2008

    Games With Oil

    Ali al-Naimi, the oil minister of Saudi Arabia, OPEC’s largest exporter and its de facto leader, said in Cairo that $75 a barrel oil represents a “fair price” needed to support investment in new fields. The group’s next meeting is in Oran, Algeria, on Dec. 17.

    Oil fell as much as $99.02 a barrel from its July record, making the four-month slump steeper than crude’s drop from its 1996 peak to the low set in December 1998.

    At that time the hesitation of countries including Iraq, Venezuela and Russia to rein in output amid the Asian financial crisis and a warm U.S. winter contributed to the decline. Now, sinking demand is the main issue as the world’s largest economies slip into recession.

    Crude oil for January delivery fell $5.15, or 9.5 percent, to $49.28 a barrel at 2:47 p.m. on the New York Mercantile Exchange, the lowest settlement since May 23, 2005. It was the biggest one-day drop since Oct. 10.

    Supplies Rise

    OPEC, the International Energy Agency and the U.S. Energy Department reduced consumption projections in November because of the economic outlook. OPEC trimmed its forecast for average oil use next year by 530,000 barrels, or 0.6 percent, and the IEA cut its estimate by 670,000 barrels, or 0.8 percent.

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    Never Mind Barack Obama. Fascism Still on the March in the USA

    The U.S. military expects to have 20,000 uniformed troops inside the United States by 2011 trained to help state and local officials respond to a nuclear terrorist attack or other domestic catastrophe, according to Pentagon officials.

    he long-planned shift in the Defense Department's role in homeland security was recently backed with funding and troop commitments after years of prodding by Congress and outside experts, defense analysts said.

    There are critics of the change, in the military and among civil liberties groups and libertarians who express concern that the new homeland emphasis threatens to strain the military and possibly undermine the Posse Comitatus Act, a 130-year-old federal law restricting the military's role in domestic law enforcement.

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    Thursday, November 13, 2008

    Clouds of pollution threaten glaciers, health

    A dirty brown haze sometimes more than a mile thick is darkening skies not only over vast areas of Asia, but also in the Middle East, southern Africa and the Amazon Basin, changing weather patterns around the world and threatening health and food supplies, the U.N. reported Thursday.

    The huge smog-like plumes, caused mainly by the burning of fossil fuels and firewood, are known as "atmospheric brown clouds."

    When mixed with emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases blamed for warming the earth's atmosphere like a greenhouse, they are the newest threat to the global environment, according to a report commissioned by the U.N. Environment Program.

    [...]

    One of the most serious problems, Ramanathan said, is retreat of the glaciers in the Himalaya and Hindu Kush and in Tibet. The glaciers feed most Asian rivers and "have serious implications for the water and food security of Asia," he said.

    Monsoon rains over India and southeast Asia decreased between 5 and 7 percent overall since the 1950s, the report says, naming brown clouds and global warming as a possible cause. Likewise, they may have contributed to the melting of China's glaciers, which have shrunk 5 percent since the 1950s. The volume of China's nearly 47,000 glaciers has fallen by 3,000 square kilometers (1,158.31 square miles) in the past 25 years, according to the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

    Soot winds up on the surface of the glaciers that feed the Ganges, Indus, Yangtze and Yellow rivers, which makes the glaciers absorb more sunlight and melt more quickly and also pollutes the rivers, the researchers say.

    [...]

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    Wow!

    NASA's Hubble Space Telescope is back in business a few ...

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    Thursday, November 06, 2008

    Better Watch Out Obama or Rahm wil get you oily

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    Just 3 ‘superbanks’ now dominate industry. so much for competition.

    [...]
    Several of the nation's biggest banks have failed or been absorbed by healthier institutions, leaving three giant "superbanks" with an unprecedented concentration of market power: Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo.

    While that may be good news for emerging giants and the failing companies they helped rescue, the new oligopoly raises troubling questions about regulation and competition, analysts and consumer advocates say.

    "Bank fees are going up, up, up, and that’s the danger to consumers as more of these banks consolidate,” says Sally Greenberg, executive director of the National Consumer League. “It’s difficult for the average person to get a bank account that doesn’t involve fees, and if you get into financial distress you’re cooked, and you’ll be ‘fee-ed’ to death.”

    According to a recently released banking fee study from Bankrate.com, ATM surcharges rose 11 percent this year to an average of $1.97, and the fee a bounced checks rose 2.5 percent to an average $28.95.

    “Large institutions are impossible to manage prudently, let alone regulate,” says Amar Bhide, a professor at the Columbia Business School.

    In fact, existing federal banking laws say that no bank can have more than 10 percent of the domestic deposit market — a threshold recently surpassed by all three superbanks.

    When asked whether the government would take any action, a Justice Department official was noncommittal.

    “It’s always something we’ve looked at and will continue to look at," said spokeswoman Gina Talamona. "It’s something we’ve looked at as part of our general antitrust review.”

    The reason limits on market share were put in place were so banks didn’t get so big they’d become monopolies that could risk the whole economy, explains Atul Gupta, finance department chair for Bentley University in Boston.

    But now the government appears to be pushing banks in the direction of more consolidation. The Treasury is pouring some $250 billion of taxpayer money into healthy financial institutions, and some of that is being used by stronger banks to snap up weaker rivals.

    [...]

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    Wednesday, November 05, 2008

    Barack Obama elected 44th president

    Image: Obama family

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    Thursday, October 02, 2008

    The Telescope Turns 400

    Dutch eyeglass-maker Hans Lippershey first tried to patent the telescope in October 1608, and his invention was soon a big hit in Europe—as a tool for insider trading. Futures contracts were in vogue, and spying a cargo ship first had financial benefits. Oh, and the telescope also redefined our universe: In 1608, Earth was the center of God's perfect Creation. By 1610, Galileo showed that Jupiter had moons, Earth's moon had mountains, and the Catholic church was fallible. Four centuries on, we know we're a mere speck in a universe of wonders.

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    Oil May Fall to $50


    [...]

    Crude-oil future prices have fallen almost a third in New York since reaching a record $147.27 a barrel on July 11, driven by concerns a worsening financial crisis in the U.S. is crimping energy demand. U.S. oil use is declining faster than expected, while European consumption is falling ``rapidly,'' and OPEC production capacity is ``just about to soar,'' Merrill said.

    ``Combined, these factors represent significant short-term headwinds for both upstream and downstream companies alike,'' Merrill analysts Mark Hume and Alexis Clark said in the report. ``Notionally it is conceivable that in a worst-case scenario global oil demand actually contracts in the near-term as it did back in the 1980s post the Iranian Revolution.''

    [...]

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    Pictured: Typical Republican Voter

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    Wednesday, October 01, 2008

    Mortgages Now, Credit Cards Later

    A hurricane of bad credit card debt will start crashing ashore in the United States in the first quarter of next year, even as the mortgage crisis continues, analysts at New York research firm Innovest Strategic Value Advisors warned Monday.

    “A combination of a 10-year steady drip of deteriorating personal finances and a tidal wave . . . brought on by the mortgage and credit crisis leads us to believe that credit cards are going to implode in the near term,” Gregory Larkin, Innovest's senior banking analysts said during an online seminar on the topic.

    So far, credit-card “charge-offs” – debts declared irrecoverable by card issuers – have been “defying gravity,” with losses lower than in both 2001 and 2005, Mr. Larkin said.

    But, historically, after a time lag, irrecoverable credit-card debt has followed mortgage charge-offs up or down, and U.S. mortgage charge-offs have rocketed up eight-fold since the last quarter of 2007.

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    US Econmoy Cracks From Years Of Right WIng Deregulation. Autosale Crash

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Major automakers reported plunging U.S. sales for September on Wednesday -- led by a 34 percent slide at Ford Motor Co -- as an escalating credit emergency slammed a slumping industry and raised new doubts about when the world's largest auto market would hit bottom.

    The downturn in auto sales for September coincided with a crisis on Wall Street and claimed even the auto industry's better-performing brands.

    Sales were down 24 percent at Honda Motor Co Ltd, 32 percent at Toyota Motor Corp and 37 percent at Nissan Motor Co Ltd.

    U.S. industry sales leader General Motors Corp, which was more aggressive in discounting its vehicles, managed to keep its September sales decline to a relatively small 16 percent to take a larger share of a rapidly declining market.

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    Satellite-Surveillance Program to Begin Despite Privacy Concerns

    The Department of Homeland Security will proceed with the first phase of a controversial satellite-surveillance program, even though an independent review found the department hasn't yet ensured the program will comply with privacy laws.

    Congress provided partial funding for the program in a little-debated $634 billion spending measure that will fund the government until early March. For the past year, the Bush administration had been fighting Democratic lawmakers over the spy program, known as the National Applications Office.

    [...]

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    Nasty Old Liar McCain Acts like He was born to Rule, like Chimpy

    At another point, McCain was asked if he's strayed from his "straight talk" image with advertising that some have labeled deceptive. McCain dryly responded, "It would be valuable if you gave some examples for an assertion of that nature."

    He went on to say: "I have always had 100 percent, absolute truth, that's been my life and putting my country first. I'll match that record with anyone and an assertion that I have ever done otherwise, I take strong exception to."

    As examples, a questioner at the Register noted a McCain commercial that suggested Obama favored comprehensive sex education for kindergartners and assertions by his campaign that a "lipstick on a pig" comment Obama made was a reference to Palin. News media fact-checking the sex education ad deemed it deceptive and a distortion of Obama's position.

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    What the right is really up to.

    n an example of how fragile credit markets have become, the state of Massachusetts yesterday tried to borrow $400 million to make its routine quarterly local aid payments to cities and towns. State treasury officials said the credit markets abruptly froze midday, leaving them $170 million short. The state will have to use its own funds to complete the local aid payments, draining the state's balance to extremely low levels.

    "I don't think any treasurer alive could say they've ever seen anything like this," said Timothy P. Cahill, the state's treasurer. "There have always been cash shortages, but you could always go to the market and get more. This is the first time we haven't been able to do that."

    Cahill said he believes the credit market will in effect remain shuttered today as the nation's largest lenders hold on to their cash amid uncertainty over plans for a federal bailout. In short, the House's rejection of a $700 billion Wall Street bailout plan takes Massachusetts and the rest of the US economy into territory that few policy makers and analysts wanted to explore.

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    Tuesday, September 30, 2008

    Gerald Lechliter writes:

    I'm a retired (1999) Army colonel and was astounded by McCain's confusion about military "strategy" during the debate. I listened to it and then read the applicable area in the transcript. Either he was using language extremely carelessly or he didn't learn some basics in his military career. He was a Navy captain who attended, I believe, the National War College and national security is supposedly his strong suit. It should be second nature.

    A good analogy to explain military strategy is a stool with three legs: goals (mission); means (concept of operation); and resources (people and equipment). If the legs are not balanced, you have an unbalanced stool, increasing the likelihood of failure.

    The surge added troops (resources) to carry out the counterinsurgency mission of defeating the insurgents and establishing enough stability so that the Iraqis themselves could develop the means of controlling the violence.

    The final goal (grand strategy as distinguished from military strategy) is the emergence of a fully functioning Iraqi state friendly to the US. Military strategy must support that goal. The primary means (concept of operation) in the military strategy was to station small units among the Iraqis rather than in large Forward Operating Bases; cordon off the neighborhoods of Baghdad with cement walls; co-opt the Sunnis by paying them to fight al Qaeda in Iraq; and winning the hearts and minds of the population that tolerated and supported insurgents (dry up the sea in which the insurgents found nourishment). His continued stating that the surge was a strategy is inexplicable.

    Finally, many factors unrelated to a preceding the surge led to the reduction in violence. For example, the decision of Sunni tribal leaders to eliminate al Qaeda in Iraq by cooperating with the US for personal reasons and money; the completed ethnic cleansing of neighborhoods in Baghdad; and Sadr's truce with the US, among others

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    End of Season

    http://www.umassvegetable.org/images/soils_crops_pest_mgt/crop/eggplant1.jpg

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    Shoppers to see more foods labeled with country of origin

    [...]
    It's a law years in the making but timely, as China's milk scandal and the recent salmonella-tainted Mexican peppers prompt growing concern over the safety of imported foods.

    Still, hold the import-bashing: Numerous outbreaks in recent years have come from U.S.-produced foods, like spinach grown in California.

    Until now, shoppers have had little clue where many everyday foods — meats, fresh fruits and vegetables, certain nuts — originate. That's what the so-called COOL law, for country-of-origin labeling, changes.

    [...]
    But if your melamine containing chinese milk product is mixed with industrial organic ala Horizon, no label law applies.
    Q: What does the new law require?

    A: That retailers notify customers of the country of origin — including the U.S. — of raw beef, veal, lamb, pork, chicken, goat, wild and farm-raised fish and shellfish, fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables, peanuts, pecans, macadamia nuts and whole ginseng. (The aim was big agricultural commodities; ginseng was added for fear of imports masquerading as U.S.-grown.)

    Q: Where will I see the country of origin?

    A: Anywhere it fits. The rubber band around asparagus; the plastic wrap on ground beef; the little sticker that says "Gala" on an apple. If a food isn't normally sold in any packaging — such as a bin of fresh green beans or mushrooms — then the store must post a sign.

    Q: Aren't many foods already labeled?

    A: Some fresh produce already uses origin labeling as advertising. "Fresh from Florida" or "Jersey Grown" or "Vidalia Onion" tags don't have to be changed under the new rules; the shopper should realize they're all U.S. products.

    The COOL law mandating such labels first passed in 2002, but lobbying by grocery stores and large meatpackers led Congress to delay the U.S. Department of Agriculture from implementing it. Seafood labeling was phased in first, in 2005 — a key change given recurring safety problems with fish and shellfish from certain countries, including China.

    Q: What's the biggest exception?

    A: The labels aren't for processed foods, meaning no label if the food is cooked, or an ingredient in a bigger dish or otherwise substantially changed. So plain raw chicken must be labeled but not breaded chicken tenders. Raw pork chops are labeled, but not ham or bacon. Fresh or frozen peas get labeled, but not canned peas. Raw shelled pecans, but not a trail mix.

    Q: What if the foods are merely mixed together?

    A: They're exempt, too. So cantaloupe slices from Guatemala get labeled. Mix in some Florida watermelon chunks, and no label. Frozen peas, labeled. Frozen peas and carrots, no label. As for bagged salads, USDA considers iceberg and Romaine to be just lettuce, so that bag gets a label. Add some radicchio? No label.
    {...}

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    More Evidence America is a Nation of Clueless Idiots

    Four State Board of Education members are promoting a Bible curriculum for Texas public schools that has been criticized as favoring certain Christian views and has already landed some districts in court.

    An e-mail to school districts encouraged local control in deciding which Bible courses to adopt, but it went on to recommend a curriculum that some officials are predicting will lead to more lawsuits.

    The e-mail was sent by board members Terri Leo of Spring, Barbara Cargill of The Woodlands, Cynthia Dunbar of Richmond and Gail Lowe of Lampasas.

    "We recognize ... that the curriculum provided by the National Council On Bible Curriculum In Public Schools has been implemented successfully in numerous school districts within the state of Texas for years," they wrote in the e-mail.

    Mark Chancey, chairman of Southern Methodist University's department of religious studies, said in Saturday's editions of the San Antonio Express-News and Houston Chronicle that the national council's curriculum "reflects a bias toward conservative Protestant perspectives of the Bible at the expense of other perspectives."

    "It's absolutely jaw dropping," Chancey said of the e-mail.

    Lowe said the e-mail was an effort to "inform and reaffirm that this curriculum has been around for a number of years and has always satisfied" the state's requirements for electives.

    Leo, Cargill and Dunbar did not respond to requests for comment.

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    Money market freeze stirs rate cut speculation

    [...]

    Global central banks more than doubled the amount of dollar funding to $620 billion, but the move showed no signs on Tuesday of thawing the freeze in money markets where banks are hoarding cash and bracing for more trouble ahead in the deepening year-long credit crisis.

    Analysts said central banks may now be forced to cut interest rates in a coordinated move because their massive fund injections have done little to ease strains that are threatening to become a bigger systemic breakdown that could endanger the global economy.

    [....]

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    More than 140 dead in Indian temple stampede

    [...]
    handful of people fell while climbing a steep slope toward the Chamunda temple, sited inside a hilltop fort near the city of Jodhpur, triggering the crush, a Reuters photographer at the scene said.

    "People were falling over one another. Many ran but were trampled under the feet of thousands," Anubhav, a witness who only gave his first name, said.

    Other witnesses said too many people were trying to pass through a narrow part of the climb at the same time. Many suffocated after they fell.

    "We have a final figure of 147 people died and 55 injured," Rajiv Dasoth, an inspector-general with the Rajasthan police, said. "The situation is under control and all the injured are being taken care of in hospitals."

    Officials said the crowds were especially large Tuesday, as pilgrims gathered for the start of the nine-day Navratri festival.

    [...]

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    Congress has passed legislation quickening citizenship applications for those serving in the U.S. military.

    [...]
    An estimated 34,000 foreign-born troops have served overseas in Iraq and Afghanistan. Lawmakers say citizenship applications from troops have been delayed months, and in some cases, years.

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    NASA Mars Lander Sees Falling Snow, Soil Data Suggest Liquid Past

    [...]

    A laser instrument designed to gather knowledge of how the atmosphere and surface interact on Mars has detected snow from clouds about 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) above the spacecraft's landing site. Data show the snow vaporizing before reaching the ground.

    "Nothing like this view has ever been seen on Mars," said Jim Whiteway, of York University, Toronto, lead scientist for the Canadian-supplied Meteorological Station on Phoenix. "We'll be looking for signs that the snow may even reach the ground."

    Phoenix experiments also yielded clues pointing to calcium carbonate, the main composition of chalk, and particles that could be clay. Most carbonates and clays on Earth form only in the presence of liquid water.

    "We are still collecting data and have lots of analysis ahead, but we are making good progress on the big questions we set out for ourselves," said Phoenix Principal Investigator Peter Smith of the University of Arizona, Tucson.

    Since landing on May 25, Phoenix already has confirmed that a hard subsurface layer at its far-northern site contains water-ice. Determining whether that ice ever thaws would help answer whether the environment there has been favorable for life, a key aim of the mission.

    The evidence for calcium carbonate in soil samples from trenches dug by the Phoenix robotic arm comes from two laboratory instruments called the Thermal and Evolved Gas Analyzer, or TEGA, and the wet chemistry laboratory of the Microscopy, Electrochemistry and Conductivity Analyzer, or MECA.
    [....]

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    Monday, September 29, 2008

    Green-spored Lepiota (Chlorophyllum molybdites) in Maturity, Forming "fairy ring"


    He wha tills the fairies' green
    Nae luck again shall hae :
    And he wha spills the fairies' ring
    Betide him want and wae.
    For weirdless days and weary nights
    Are his till his deein' day.
    But he wha gaes by the fairy ring,
    Nae dule nor pine shall see,
    And he wha cleans the fairy ring
    An easy death shall dee.

    Labels:

    Green-spored Lepiota (Chlorophyllum molybdites) in Their Youth

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    “Is This the United States Congress or the Board of Directors of Goldman Sachs?”

    The House is set to vote today on a $700 billion emergency bailout plan for the financial industry. The proposed legislation was forged during a marathon negotiating session over the weekend between lawmakers from both parties and Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson. The 110-page bill would authorize Paulson to initiate what is likely to become the biggest government bailout in US history, allowing him to spend up to $700 billion to relieve faltering banks and other firms of bad assets backed by home mortgages, which are falling into foreclosure at record rates.


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    While the legislation creates multiple levels of Congressional oversight, Paulson would be granted broad latitude to purchase any assets from any firms at any price and to assemble a team of individuals and institutions to manage them. The measure would also require federal officials to rein in excessive compensation for corporate executives who participate in the bailout.

    Money for the program would be released in segments, with the Treasury secretary receiving $250 billion dollars immediately. Paulson has said he expects to spend about $50 billion a month on the program.

    The Senate could take up the bill by Wednesday. The financial package looms as a final piece of business before lawmakers leave to campaign for the November elections.

    [...]

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    Gay high school planned for Chicago.

    [...]
    The Greater Lawndale Little Village School for Social Justice submitted the proposal to the CPS Office of New Schools for a Social Justice High School-Pride Campus. This project has been in the works since spring of this year. If approved, Pride Campus, a voluntary public high school that would implement a college prep curriculum in all subject areas, would open in 2010. It would serve LGBTQA ( lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, questioning and allied ) students from all over the city.

    CPS will announce its decision by the end of October. Until then, a CPS community hearing will be held Sept. 18 at the Center on Halsted, 3656 N. Halsted. There, the public can learn more about the proposed school.

    Bill Greaves, director and community liaison of the City of Chicago Commission on Human Relations’ Advisory Council on LGBT Issues and a member of the proposed school’s design team, told Windy City Times that the community forum will be the "last hurdle" in the process. The CPS Office of New Schools has already twice interviewed the design team, made up of veteran teachers and administrators, a member of About Face Theater, CPS Office of Student Development staff and others. On Aug. 26, the delegate principal, Chad Weiden ( the current assistant principal at the Greater Lawndale Little Village School for Social Justice ) , was interviewed.

    A location for the Pride Campus has not yet been chosen, and the team has pledged to work with CPS in finding an appropriate location.

    Greaves said the design team is currently looking at several locations, but it is his "personal hope" that the campus will be centrally located, such as the South or West Loop area, so that students can have equal access to it from all parts of the city and come and go safely. Greaves said that his model is Jones College Preparatory High School in the South Loop, which has the largest GSA ( gay-straight alliance ) in the city, in large part because of its location.

    [...]

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    Activists Demand Say In Chicago Olympics

    [...]
    People have already lost jobs at Michael Reese Hospital, which is to close by the end of the year. The city had intended to borrow $85 million to have the hospital campus at 29th Street and Cottage Grove Avenue razed and replaced with an Olympic Village, but it was revealed earlier Wednesday that the deal to purchase the hospital broke down.

    "Now we got word Michael Reese took the bid off the table, so that's a surprise to me," said former Michael Reese employee Joe Smith, "and I'm still without a job."

    "We know that whether the Olympic Village takes place at Reese, or McCormick Place or anywhere else, our concerns remain," said Amisha Patel of Communities for an Equitable OIympics. "Communities of color need a real investment of jobs, transportation and real affordable housing."

    The city's original plan called for demolition and cleanup costs at the Michael Reese campus to come out of the pocket of Michael Reese parent Medline, at a cost of $20 million that the city characterized as a "charitable contribution." In the proposed deal, Mayor Daley wanted to roll the dice that the depressed real estate market would come roaring back.

    The $20 million was supposed to be enough to cover demolition, environmental cleanup and five years of interest payments on the loan at a rate of 5 percent. But costs to raze the 37-acre campus came back 60 percent higher, at $32 million. Chicago 2016 Chairman Pat Ryan tried to salvage the deal by renegotiating the purchase price, but Medline apparently wouldn't budge.

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    Public Provides Funds for Transit Only to Be Harrassed by ever increasing costs and corporate Ads

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    Cadbury Chocolate Made in China

    A Cadbury spokesman says preliminary results show its Chinese-made chocolates contain the industrial chemical melamine.

    The spokesman said Monday it was too early to say how much melamine the chocolates contained.

    He declined to give his name because of company policy.

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    Radical Right Wing Eradicating 1st Amendment.

    [...]
    From his pulpit at Bethlehem First Baptist Church outside of Atlanta, he urged his congregation to vote for Sen. John McCain and to not vote for Sen. Barack Obama.
    [...]

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    Corrupt Cracker and Snapping Turtle Look Alike Mitch McConnell in Dead Heat to keep his Kentucky Senate Seat. Vote Lunsford

    The Lunsford campaign welcomed the results, saying that it showed that people are tired of the nation's Republican leaders.

    "We're headed in the wrong direction, and eight years of Bush-McConnell economics are at the very heart of the matter. We need change now, more than ever," Lunsford said in a statement. "This will be a tight race up until the end, so we're going to work hard every day until Election Day."

    Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia's Center for Politics, said he was surprised the polling showed Lunsford had closed the gap on McConnell.

    "If Lunsford is actually doing this well, it's got to be because the public is so upset by the economic meltdown and may be blaming the legislative leaders," Sabato said. "If this is true, Democrats may win a lot more seats in both the House and the Senate than people are predicting."

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    Bush Appointee Michael Mukasey Refuses To Prosecute Crimnal Bush Appointee Alberto Gonzales. Big Surprise. Not

    http://images.publicradio.org/content/2007/09/17/20070917_mukasey_2.jpg

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    Link to "Bailout" legislation

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    Bolivian prez blasts U.S. anti-drug blacklisting Becuase it is A Cheap Political Trick To Influence Perception in US

    [...]

    Morales pointed out Wednesday that the U.S. is one of the world's largest markets for cocaine and that its close ally Colombia saw a much greater increase in coca production than Bolivia last year.

    The U.S. decertification of Bolivia is part of an annual review but comes just days after Morales expelled the U.S. ambassador, accusing him of backing Bolivia's conservative opposition.

    U.S. anti-drug aid to Bolivia will continue despite the blacklisting. The annual money added up to US$55 million last year.

    [...]

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    GUATEMALA: Lachuá, a Corner of the Jungle Resists

    The Q’eqchies are entrusted with preserving 1,994 hectares of forest, and for their work they received 82,000 dollars from INAB in 2006-07. In the same period, forest production from 1,290 hectares brought in more than 617,000 dollars, said López.

    Tourism routes were developed in El Peyán Canyon, Rocjá Postila, the Salinas Nueve Cerros estate, and the lake, Laguna Lachuá. Furthermore, the community members have planted 9.6 hectares of pineapple. The goal is to reach about 50 hectares, with harvests providing a livelihood for 110 families.

    In addition, some 200 people manage 2,000 beehives that produce honey, with plans to expand to 5,000 hives that would provide income for 300 families.

    Also planted in the area are avocados, lemons, oranges, chilli peppers and cacao. In 2006, 70,000 cacao seeds were imported and planted on 98 hectares, providing a marketable crop but also increasing the absorption of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas.

    In the Chixoy River, the residents raise tilapia fish, with the aim of harvesting 60,000 adults every six months.

    In 2005, the indigenous communities created two Community Development Councils (COCODES) responsible for improving access to the eco-region, building eight schools, administering a scholarship fund and providing electricity to three communities.

    The following year the Lachuá Park was declared a Ramsar wetlands site by the United Nations, due to its important role as habitat for animal species, especially migratory birds.

    But this is no Garden of Eden. There is heavy pressure in the area to expand farmland, drill for oil and build highways.

    Destruction in the area began in the 1970s, according to Luis Solan, in his study "Northern Transversal Strip: Neo-Colonisation On the March", when high-ranking military officers and business executives "dedicated themselves… to the accumulation of land in order to open the way for livestock and the exploitation of lumber resources."

    Encroachments on the land have not disappeared, although López said that there have been no problems so far in the protected area itself.

    In the park’s buffer zone, where the project is being carried out, 90 percent of the indigenous people are landowners. If more rural settlers establish themselves there it would amount to illegal seizure of land.

    There are six communities facing possible relocation from the buffer zone and the park itself, according to Raúl López, from the Agrarian Affairs Secretariat.

    Two communities, which only work in the buffer zone, will be relocated. The other four occupied the land after it was declared a protected area, so "there is a possibility that they will be expelled" as well, he told Tierramérica.

    According to Solano, oil palm -- to produce biodiesel -- is grown on 55,000 hectares in Guatemala, but there are plans to expand to 150,000 hectares by 2012. Monoculture is advancing with the purchase of communal lands. The peasant farmers who sell off their property then move elsewhere to settle other land.

    Green Earth Fuels, property of the Carlyle Group, Riverstone Holdings and Goldman Sachs investment funds, acquired more than 25,000 hectares this year in La Soledad, Rubelsanto, Playitas and Ixcan -- the latter three located near Lachuá.

    Furthermore, the Truestar Petroleum Corporation holds the licence for exploiting crude oil in Tortugas and Atzam, 20 kilometres west of the Rubelsanto oil fields, also located near Lachuá.

    In September 2005, PetroLatina Energy also obtained a licence to operate in Tortugas and Atzam, in an area of 31,000 hectares that includes parts of the buffer zone around the park.

    Meanwhile, the plan to build a highway through the Northern Transversal Strip has been postponed. For now it is a gravel road that would be turned into a 330-km highway as part of the plans for connecting Mexico, Guatemala, Belize and Honduras.

    The project, granted by the government to the Solel Boneh company, does not include considerations for preserving the environment, nor does it question the planned road that would run through the heart of Lachuá park.

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    Nine oil companies invest in Colombia oil exploration

    [...]

    The companies include oil giants Shell and Exxon Mobil, Australian mining and primary resources company BHP Billiton, and the Korean National Oil Company, as well as companies from Canada and Peru.

    "These companies have three years to estimate the potential of the area and choose more specific places to carry out exploration," said ANH director Armando Zamora.

    The search is being carried out in eight blocs totally 127,000 square kilometers (49,000 square miles) located in the eastern Colombia departments of Meta, Arauca, Casanare, Vichada, Guania and Guaviare.

    Colombia currently produces some 585,000 barrels of crude per day, and hopes to produce a million barrels a day by 2020.

    [...]

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    Huge European bank fails

    The deal will force the bank -- which has headquarters in both Brussels and the Dutch city of Utrecht -- to sell its stake in Dutch bank ABN Amro, which it partially took over last year. Fortis paid 24 billion euros for its share of ABN.

    Fortis Chairman Maurice Lippens will be forced to resign and will be replaced by a candidate from outside the company, Leterme said.

    "We have taken up our responsibility, we did not abandon" account holders, Leterme told reporters.

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    Wachovia Option-ARM Mortgage Losses May Force Merger

    [...]
    hree days after Chief Executive Officer Robert Steel told employees Wachovia was ``strong and performing well,'' the Wall Street Journal reported today that the Charlotte, North Carolina- based bank was in advanced takeover talks with Wells Fargo & Co. Citigroup Inc. also may make a bid, the paper reported. Wachovia fell 52 percent to $4.88 in German trading.

    Wachovia's plight stems from the $24 billion acquisition of Golden West Financial Corp., a California lender that specialized in payment-option adjustable-rate mortgages. Former CEO Ken Thompson told shareholders in May 2007 the loans would help propel earnings to new highs. Instead, Wachovia now expects losses on 12 percent, or $14 billion, of the $122 billion option- ARM portfolio. Analysts at Fitch Ratings predict default rates on such loans packaged as securities may reach 45 percent.

    [...]

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    US Congress passes 25 bln loan guarantees to automakers

    [...]

    The loan guarantees were included in a continuing resolution that included funding for the US government and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    President George W. Bush has indicated that he intends to sign the bill.

    "We're very pleased Congress has chosen to act at this critical time," said Greg Martin, director of communications for General Motors Corp's Washington office.

    GM had been subject of much speculation that it could be forced into bankruptcy.

    The bill, which was approved by the House of Representatives on Wednesday, are the first loan guarantees for US carmakers since Congress approved a similar 675 million dollar measure for Chrysler Corp. in 1980.

    Chrysler Chairman Robert Nardelli, however, said this week the loan guarantees should not be considered a rescue package for struggling carmakers. "This is not a bailout," he said.

    Under provisions of the new legislation, not only US carmakers are eligible for the guarantees but also suppliers and foreign automakers with plants in the United States that are more than 20 years old -- Nissan and Honda's US operations qualify.


    [...]

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    Treasury Would Emerge With Vast New Power through Use of "Bailout"

    Under the bill, the Treasury is to buy the securities at prices he deems appropriate. Mr. Paulson may set prices through auctions but is not required to do so.

    Rarely if ever has one man had such broad authority to spend government money as he sees fit, with no rules requiring him to seek out the lowest possible price for assets being purchased.

    The secretary is supposed to do what he can to maximize the profit or minimize the eventual loss to the federal government as a result of its purchase of mortgages and other financial instruments. But in the case of mortgages controlled by the government, he is required to approve “reasonable requests for loss mitigation measures, including term extensions, rate reductions, principal write-downs” and other possible changes. Such requests could help homeowners at the expense of the government.

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    RBS will get 'billions' in US bail-out of economy

    The Edinburgh-based bank will be able to write off a significant portion of its dodgy assets thanks to the bail-out, also known as into Tarp, the Troubled Asset Relief Programme as a result of the bank's significant presence in the US.

    Tarp was the brainchild of US treasury secretary Hank Paulson, who earlier this week got down on his knees and begged Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic House speaker, to rescue his plan to save Wall Street.

    The Royal Bank, led by chief executive Sir Fred Goodwin, has had operations in the United States since 1988, when it bought the Rhode Island-based Citizens Bank. It has since bulked up its presence there with a string of acquisitions including those of Connecticut based Greenwich NatWest and Ohio-based Charter One.

    This entitles the Scottish bank to entrust billions of dollars of non-performing loans and sub-prime tainted assets to US taxpayers, according to Colin McLean, chief executive of Edinburgh-based SVM Asset Management.

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    FACTBOX-Top ten U.S. bank failures

    [picture: farmers whose topsoil blew away joined the sod caravans of

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    Sunday, September 28, 2008

    We'll Miss You

    http://www.foxnews.com/images/352940/0_61_Paul_Newman_320.jpg

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    Palin Contradicts McCain On Pakistan, Seems To Back Obama’s Position

    [...]
    Palin’s apparent disagreement with McCain’s position on Pakistan came as the Alaska governor was picking up a couple of cheesesteaks at Tony Luke’s in South Philadelphia. She was approached by a man wearing a Temple University t-shirt, who later identified himself as Michael Rovito.

    “How about the Pakistan situation?” Rovito asked. “What’s your thoughts about that.”

    “In Pakistan?” Palin responded.

    “What’s going on over there, like Waziristian?”

    “It’s working with Zardari to make sure that we’re all working together to stop the guys from coming in over the border,” Palin said. “And we’ll go from there.”

    “Waziristan is blowing up,” Rovito replied.

    “Yeah, it is,” Palin said. “And the economy there is blowing up, too.”

    “So we do cross-border, like from Afghanistan to Pakistan, you think?” Rovito asked.

    “If that’s what we have to do stop the terrorists from coming any further in, absolutely, we should,” Palin said.
    [...]

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    CBC Presses Republicans: Do You Agree With Bachmann’s Asssertion That ‘Minorities’ Caused Financial Crisis?

    During a Senate hearing on Thursday, Rep. Michele Bachmann pinned blame for financial crisis on President Clinton, “blacks,” and “other minorities.” To make her point, she read from an article written by Terry Jones in the right-wing publication Investor’s Business Daily. Jones criticized the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) and said Clinton was misguided for pushing “homeownership as a way to open the door for blacks and other minorities to enter the middle class.” Watch Bachmann’s speech, followed by sharp criticism from Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) here.

    In a new letter to House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) obtained by ThinkProgress, 31 members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) call Bachmann’s claims “ridiculous” and ask Boehner whether her comments represent the views of the Republican Caucus:

    It is clear from Rep. Bachmann’s comments that she believes that the bipartisan laws enacted over the past decade ensuring that minority communities have equal access to banking and other financial services are the cause of this financial situation. […]

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    Netherlands has taken the bold step of imposing stiff taxes on perceived fat cat benefits

    [...]

    As other European governments mull public dissatisfaction with large executive bonuses and severance packages, also known as golden parachutes, the egalitarian Dutch have been the ones to draw a line in the sand.

    "This fiscal discouragement policy ... is founded in the desire to counter excesses," Finance Minister and labour party leader Wouter Bos said in May, presenting a controversial bill to members of parliament to hit high earners with stiffer taxes.

    The measures were passed by the lower house of parliament this month, and are expected to get the final nod from the senate within weeks before coming into effect on January 1.

    "Thousands of people will pay more taxes," a finance ministry spokesman told AFP this week.

    The centre-left government will slap a new 30 percent tax on companies for "disproportionate exit bonus payments" to those earning more than 500,000 euros a year.

    It will also introduce a new 15 percent tax on companies who contribute to executives in the same salary bracket enjoying "excessive" pension payouts.

    Finally, it will raise the tax on the earnings of private equity and hedge fund managers from 1.2 percent to 25 percent, closing a loophole that minimised their contribution to the tax authorities.

    The measures are expected to add an annual 60 million euros to the public purse.

    The debate came to a head in recent months with the news of top bonuses paid to the executives who sold Dutch bank ABN Amro to a European banking group, and the 80 million euros in options, shares and bonuses paid to Numico boss Jan Bennink after selling the baby food concern to French dairy company Danone.

    Several top executives, including Michel Tilmant, of the ING banking group, have reportedly threatened to leave the Netherlands if the government pursued its plans.

    But Bos has stood firm, questioning the impact of such excesses on the economy, and the moral wisdom of having large income disparities.

    "One has appreciation that individuals with a unique talent should be paid more," he said recently. "But that understanding dissipates when the remuneration takes on an air of self-enrichment because the counter-balance is inadequate, or when it is not transparent or in line with achievement."

    His bill passed with the support of a majority of parties in parliament.

    Labels:

    Friday, September 26, 2008

    Stopping a Financial Crisis, the Swedish Way

    [...]

    Sweden did not just bail out its financial institutions by having the government take over the bad debts. It extracted pounds of flesh from bank shareholders before writing checks. Banks had to write down losses and issue warrants to the government.

    That strategy held banks responsible and turned the government into an owner. When distressed assets were sold, the profits flowed to taxpayers, and the government was able to recoup more money later by selling its shares in the companies as well.

    “If I go into a bank,” said Bo Lundgren, who was Sweden’s finance minister at the time, “I’d rather get equity so that there is some upside for the taxpayer.”

    Sweden spent 4 percent of its gross domestic product, or 65 billion kronor, the equivalent of $11.7 billion at the time, or $18.3 billion in today’s dollars, to rescue ailing banks. That is slightly less, proportionate to the national economy, than the $700 billion, or roughly 5 percent of gross domestic product, that the Bush administration estimates its own move will cost in the United States.

    But the final cost to Sweden ended up being less than 2 percent of its G.D.P. Some officials say they believe it was closer to zero, depending on how certain rates of return are calculated.

    The tumultuous events of the last few weeks have produced a lot of tight-lipped nods in Stockholm. Mr. Lundgren even made the rounds in New York in early September, explaining what the country did in the early 1990s.

    A few American commentators have proposed that the United States government extract equity from banks as a price for their rescue. But it does not seem to be under serious consideration yet in the Bush administration or Congress.

    The reason is not quite clear. The government has already swapped its sovereign guarantee for equity in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the mortgage finance institutions, and the American International Group, the global insurance giant.

    [...]

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    Hundreds of Economists Urge Congress Not to Rush on Rescue Plan

    Sept. 25 (Bloomberg) -- More than 150 prominent U.S. economists, including three Nobel Prize winners, urged Congress to hold off on passing a $700 billion financial market rescue plan until it can be studied more closely.

    In a letter yesterday to congressional leaders, 166 academic economists said they oppose Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson's plan because it's a ``subsidy'' for business, it's ambiguous and it may have adverse market consequences in the long term. They also expressed alarm at the haste of lawmakers and the Bush administration to pass legislation.

    ``It doesn't seem to me that a lot decisions that we're going to have to live with for a long time have to be made by Friday,'' said Robert Lucas, a University of Chicago economist and 1995 Nobel Prize winner who signed the letter. ``The situation may get urgent, but it's not urgent right now. Right now it's a financial sector problem.''

    The economists who signed the letter represent various disciplines, including macroeconomics, microeconomics, behavioral and information economics, and game theory. They also span the political spectrum, from liberal to conservative to libertarian.

    Some lawmakers are already citing the letter as reason not to endorse the Paulson plan. Today Senator Richard Shelby, a Republican from Alabama, said he has ``five pages of the leading economists in America that wrote to me and the leadership saying the Paulson plan is a bad plan. It will not solve problems. It will create more problems.''

    `How Capitalism Works'

    The letter, initially conceived by economists at the University of Chicago, was signed by professors from dozens of American universities and several outside the U.S.

    David I. Levine, a professor of economics at University of California-Berkeley, says the current plan being discussed has the wrong structure.

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    Clueless Gov of California wants More Bad Debt

    [...]
    n denying AB"‰1830, Schwarzenegger "turned his back on consumers," said Ginna Green, a spokeswoman for the California office of the Center for Responsible Lending, which supported the bill. "Many of the bills signed today do not get at the root cause of the problem, which was reckless lending," she said. "AB"‰1830 would have been a step in that direction."
    [...]

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    Carbon Is Building Up in Atmosphere Faster Than Predicted

    [...]

    In 2007, carbon released from burning fossil fuels and producing cement increased 2.9 percent over that released in 2006, to a total of 8.47 gigatons, or billions of metric tons, according to the Australia-based Global Carbon Project, an international consortium of scientists that tracks emissions. This output is at the very high end of scenarios outlined by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and could translate into a global temperature rise of more than 11 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century, according to the panel's estimates.

    "In a sense, it's a reality check," said Corinne Le Quéré, a professor at the School of Environmental Sciences at the University of East Anglia and a researcher with the British Antarctic Survey. "This is an extremely large number. The emissions are increasing at a rate that's faster than what the IPCC has used."

    The new statistics also underscore the growing contribution to the world's "carbon budget" from rapidly industrializing countries such as China, India and Brazil. Developing nations have roughly doubled their carbon output in less than two decades and now account for slightly more than half of total emissions, according to the new figures, up from about a third in 1990. By contrast, total carbon emissions from industrialized nations are only slightly higher than in 1990.


    [...]

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    Zimbabwe children eating toxic roots, rats

    [...]
    "The rising malnutrition and the rise in diseases are going to mean that children will die and we have to act very fast," said Sarah Jacobs, a spokeswoman for the relief group.Children in Zimbabwe are eating rats and inedible roots riddled with toxic parasites to stave off hunger because of chronic food shortages, an aid agency said on Thursday. Save the Children said the most vulnerable faced starvation unless they get food aid in the next couple of weeks.

    The agency, which has launched a 5 million pound ($9.2 million) appeal for emergency operations in Zimbabwe, said the situation had got much worse in the past few months and that rampant inflation meant even people with jobs would need food aid.

    The United Nations had said previously that more than 5 million people in Zimbabwe would need food aid by early next year after a poor harvest compounded by economic turmoil. Jacobs said many people in the Zambezi Valley, the poorest and driest area, were now surviving on a vile-tasting, fibrous root called makuri. "It's got no nutritional value whatsoever. It tastes disgusting and it also has a parasite which attaches to it which is toxic," said Jacobs, who has just returned from the region. "This is all they have to eat. You see babies eating it and toddlers eating it, and it's not digestible. It creates terrible stomach pains." People were eating anything to survive, she said. She had come across one child who had died after eating a poisonous root and young children eating tiny rats they caught in their huts.

    Save the Children and other agencies are resuming work after Zimbabwe's government lifted a ban on their operations at the end of August. President Robert Mugabe imposed the ban before a run-off presidential election in June, accusing the agencies of supporting the opposition. But Save the Children said in reality many agencies had not been able to work in the field since the first election round in March. "People's ways of coping have been completely exhausted. People are saying they're scared they're going to die within weeks if food doesn't come," Jacobs said. "We really are playing catch up. It's a huge humanitarian job now and there has to be much more money than there has ever been before."
    [...]

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    Zimbabwe children eating toxic roots, rats

    Children in Zimbabwe are eating rats and inedible roots riddled with toxic parasites to stave off hunger because of chronic food shortages, an aid agency said on Thursday. Save the Children said the most vulnerable faced starvation unless they get food aid in the next couple of weeks.

    "The rising malnutrition and the rise in diseases are going to mean that children will die and we have to act very fast," said Sarah Jacobs, a spokeswoman for the relief group. The United Nations had said previously that more than 5 million people in Zimbabwe would need food aid by early next year after a poor harvest compounded by economic turmoil. Jacobs said many people in the Zambezi Valley, the poorest and driest area, were now surviving on a vile-tasting, fibrous root called makuri. "It's got no nutritional value whatsoever. It tastes disgusting and it also has a parasite which attaches to it which is toxic," said Jacobs, who has just returned from the region.

    President Robert Mugabe imposed the ban before a run-off presidential election in June, accusing the agencies of supporting the opposition. But Save the Children said in reality many agencies had not been able to work in the field since the first election round in March."This is all they have to eat. You see babies eating it and toddlers eating it, and it's not digestible. It creates terrible stomach pains." People were eating anything to survive, she said. She had come across one child who had died after eating a poisonous root and young children eating tiny rats they caught in their huts. Save the Children and other agencies are resuming work after Zimbabwe's government lifted a ban on their operations at the end of August. The agency, which has launched a 5 million pound ($9.2 million) appeal for emergency operations in Zimbabwe, said the situation had got much worse in the past few months and that rampant inflation meant even people with jobs would need food aid. "People's ways of coping have been completely exhausted. People are saying they're scared they're going to die within weeks if food doesn't come," Jacobs said.
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    Thursday, September 25, 2008

    What Country Ought to Be - Lucinda Williams

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    Women's rights

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    Better ways to spend 700 Billion Dollars

    [...]
    Let's start with the nation's infrastructure. The American Society of Civil Engineers estimates our nation's bridges need $180 billion in repairs, with our rail infrastructure in need of $185 billion in maintenance. California wants to spend $40 billion for the nation's first high-speed rail network to connect southern and northern California.
    Saskia Sassen, a professor at Columbia University's Committee on Global Thought points out that infrastructure investments would feed directly into GDP based on job and enterprise growth. And we certainly have the builders to do it. Unemployment in construction is 40 percent higher than in manufacturing.

    Arizona Public Service, the state's public power utility, is currently building the nation's largest solar power array in the desert near Gila Bend, Ariz. It will be able to power 70,000 homes using only the sun's rays — and create thousands of high-tech green energy jobs to boot. Construction costs will be about $1 billion, but the utility says it will pay for itself in about seven years. The project covers just three square miles. With the $699 billion left over, you could put even more southwestern desert to work in creating clean energy.

    Health care and climate change are other major concerns. Kenneth Thorpe, a professor of health policy at Emory University points out that for $150 billion you could provide every American with private health insurance and create a universal automated health-information system. When you consider that the National Cancer Institute receives $5 billion a year in funding, you could multiply its budget by 10 and provide private health care to every American.

    McKinsey & Co., a consulting firm, estimates it will cost the U.S. economy $150 billion per year to stabilize greenhouse gases by 2030. For three years, $700 billion could pay for the cost of both health care plans (in case one doesn't work) and cover the cost to reduce carbon emissions.

    Since global trade isn't going away any time soon and America's ports are getting increasingly crowded, using the money for port expansion might be a smart idea. According to the American Association of Port Authorities, container volumes at American ports have increased by 7 percent per year over the last 20 years, far outpacing capacity growth.

    National security is also a concern. After five years in Iraq, most estimates for the war's cost tally into the $500 billion range. Unlike investments in distressed assets, paying for the Iraq War won't produce a return, but $700 billion would stem the government's future debt obligations to its creditors.

    Then there's education. The U.S. currently spends some $500 billion annually on public education, yet still finds itself slipping behind many other industrialized nations when it comes to giving the next generation the skills it needs to compete globally.

    The difference, of course, is that government spending for any of this would require a massive tax increase, with no chance of getting any of the money back. The upside: At least it would be a sure bet.

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    What Brought Us Here: Reagan Trashing the Federal Trade Commission

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    director of the Congressional Budget Office said yesterday that the proposed Wall Street bailout could actually worsen the current financial crisis.

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    In an interview later yesterday, Orszag explained using the following example: Suppose a company has Asset X, whose value is recorded on the books as $100. Because of the current economic decline, Asset X's real value has dropped to $50. If the company takes part in the government bailout and sells Asset X for $50, the company has to report a $50 loss on its books. On a scale of millions of dollars, such write-downs could ruin a company.

    Such companies "look solvent today only because it's kind of hidden," Orszag said. "They actually are insolvent" already, he said.

    In hearings on Capitol Hill so far this week, criticism of the bailout plan put forward by Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke has largely been restricted to the shape of the $700 billion proposal, how the money will be spent and what sort of oversight Treasury should have.

    But Orszag yesterday questioned the wisdom of the plan itself, testifying that "it therefore remains uncertain whether the program will be sufficient to restore trust."

    In yesterday's interview, Orszag said, "The key question is: What are we buying and what are we paying for it?"

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    China banks told to halt lending to US banks-SCMP

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    The Hong Kong newspaper cited unidentified industry sources as saying the instruction from the China Banking Regulatory Commission (CBRC) applied to interbank lending of all currencies to U.S. banks but not to banks from other countries.

    "The decree appears to be Beijing's first attempt to erect defences against the deepening U.S. financial meltdown after the mainland's major lenders reported billions of U.S. dollars in exposure to the credit crisis," the SCMP said.


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    U.S. will lose financial superpower status: Germany

    Germany blamed the United States on Thursday for spawning the global financial crisis with a blind drive for higher profits and said it would now have to accept greater market regulation and a loss of its financial superpower status.
    n some of the toughest language since the crisis worsened earlier this month, German Finance Minister Peer Steinbrueck told parliament the financial turmoil would leave "deep marks" but was primarily an American problem.

    "The world will never be as it was before the crisis," Steinbrueck, a deputy leader of the center-left Social Democrats, told the Bundestag lower house.

    "The United States will lose its superpower status in the world financial system. The world financial system will become more multi-polar."

    Steinbrueck, whose efforts to secure greater transparency on hedge funds during Germany's G8 presidency last year collapsed amid objections from Washington and London, attacked what he called an Anglo-Saxon drive for double-digit profits and massive bonuses for bankers and company executives.

    "Investment bankers and politicians in New York, Washington and London were not willing to give these up," he said.

    He proposed eight measures to address the crisis, including an international ban on "purely speculative" short-selling and an increase in capital requirements for banks in order to offset credit risks.

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    AIG who Already got their 85 billion dollar bailout, under investigation for fraud since March. Only since March?

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    As with the 25 other ongoing FBI inquiries involving the mortgage debacle, the main focus of interest is whether companies and their executives misled investors and auditors when they put a value on their mortgage-related investments.

    On Feb. 28, AIG posted its largest quarterly loss ever, blaming complex financial instruments known as derivatives for write-downs of more than $11 billion. Martin J. Sullivan, the insurer's chief executive at the time, resigned in June after AIG suffered another multibillion-dollar quarterly loss on its derivatives connected to defaulting home mortgages.

    The company's near-death is largely being blamed on its heavy involvement in a kind of unregulated derivative called credit default swaps, whereby AIG earned hefty premiums in exchange for guaranteeing another company's mortgage investments if the mortgages defaulted. AIG bet that many of the mortgages would never fail, but an unusually high percentage did.

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