News December 2011
SOPA cyber-piracy bill would create 'federal big brother' to govern the internet, fearful experts warn
Planned legislation to attack internet piracy will give the government too much power to close websites, a group of internet founders have warned.
A collective of more than 80 of the internet's creators have claimed a new bill could damage America's credibility and create 'fear and uncertainty'.
The founders of Google, Twitter, Yahoo! and other major websites have also slammed the Stop Online Piracy Act being considered in Congress. Read more
Iran Nuclear Program: Country Proposes New Nuclear Talks With World Powers
TEHRAN, Iran -- Iran has proposed a new round of talks about its controversial nuclear program with the six world powers, the country's top nuclear negotiator said Saturday.
Saeed Jalili said he has formally called on the six powers - the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany - to return to the negotiating table with Iran. Read more
A Run On The Global Banking System—How Close Are We?
Nine weeks after its bankruptcy, the general public still hasn't quite realized the implications of the MF Global scandal.
My own sense is, this is the first tremor of the earthquake that's coming to the global financial system. Read more
Michigan man may have intentionally infected hundreds with HIV
The man, identified as David Dean Smith, 51, of Comstock Park, north of Grand Rapids, has been charged with felony sex offenses after he told police he was HIV-positive and had set out to intentionally infect as many people as he could, police said. Health officials have issued an alert warning that "possibly hundreds of people have been exposed to HIV." Read more
Wrapping Up 2011
TYT: Some Stunning and Crazy Facts on Income Inequality [6:09]
MSNBC - Dylan Ratigan - 2011 Wraps Up With A Fragile Economy 12-28-2011 [9:53]
Debris Field The Size Of California From Japanese Tsunami Begins To Litter West Coast (12/24/11) [0:33]
RT's 10 that shaped 2011: Japan's Ttsunami & Fukushima Meltdown [6:13]
I'm Really Worried About Our Relationship With Iran
Dec 27, 2011 Iran 'to block Hormuz strait' if sanctions applied (12/27/11) [4:29]
The Build Up to WW3 Continues - IRAN threatens closing Strait of Hormuz (12/28/11) [6:57]
I'm Really Worried About Our Relationship With Pakistan
US and Pakistan in war of words (09/23/11) [2:53]
From bald eagle to red dragon - Pakistan changes ally (12/26/11) [2:14]
China To USA: 'If You Mess With Pakistan You Will Be Messing With China' - Webster Tarpley (05/05/11) [1:23]
Judge Jed Rakoff Chides SEC Again In Citigroup case
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission got a fresh dressing-down from the judge who rejected its $285 million settlement with Citigroup Inc, as he said the regulator kept him out of the loop on its efforts to salvage the case.
...So when Rakoff on Tuesday issued a ruling opposing any delay in the case, he was beaten to the punch; 78 seconds earlier, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had granted the SEC the temporary halt it sought... Read more
Nuclear Power Play: Ambition, Betrayal And The 'Ugly Underbelly' Of Energy Regulation
WASHINGTON -- A feud at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, where five presidentially appointed commissioners oversee the safety of the nation's nuclear power reactors, has broken out into full public view, with Chairman Gregory Jaczko's fellow commissioners assailing his character and management style, both in a letter made public earlier this month and in the resulting testimony before Congress. ... Read more
Richard Cordray, CFPB Nominee, Could Get Recess Appointment In January
WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama has been pressing the Senate for months to confirm Richard Cordray as the director of the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, only to be blocked by Republicans ...
...But it appears that Obama has a small window next week -- possibly a mere 30 seconds -- when he could make recess appointments, and at least one consumer advocacy group expects the president to move on Cordray. Read more
Keynes Was Right
... So the real test of Keynesian economics hasn't come from the half-hearted efforts of the U.S. federal government to boost the economy, which were largely offset by cuts at the state and local levels. It has, instead, come from European nations like Greece and Ireland that had to impose savage fiscal austerity as a condition for receiving emergency loans - and have suffered Depression-level economic slumps, with real G.D.P. in both countries down by double digits.This wasn't supposed to happen, according to the ideology that dominates much of our political discourse. In March 2011, the Republican staff of Congress's Joint Economic Committee released a report titled "Spend Less, Owe Less, Grow the Economy." It ridiculed concerns that cutting spending in a slump would worsen that slump, arguing that spending cuts would improve consumer and business confidence, and that this might well lead to faster, not slower, growth. ... Read more
Eurozone Faces Tough Hurdles Early in 2012
After a turbulent 2011, the 17 countries that use the euro will be quickly confronted in the new year with major hurdles to solving their government debt crisis, just as the eurozone economy is expected to sink back into recession.
Key events early in the New Year:
Overall, Italy has more than euro300 billion ($392 billion) in debt maturing in 2012. Read more
Obama's Economic Policies 'Fair' Or 'Poor,' Economists Say
WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama gets mediocre marks for his handling of the economy and Mitt Romney easily outpolls his Republican rivals in an Associated Press survey of economists. Read more
Dangerous mix: Iranian oil and U.S. sanctions
Iran has threatened that it will retaliate against the Obama administration's proposed new economic sanctions on Iran's oil exports by blocking the flow of oil from the Persian Gulf. "If sanctions are adopted against Iranian oil," said Iran's Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi, "not a drop of oil will pass through the Strait of Hormuz," the narrow waterway at the mouth of the Persian Gulf, which one-fifth of the world's oil supply passes through daily. Read more
CNN reports 28 Dec 2011 - U.S. warns Iran on Strait of Hormuz (12/28/11) [3:14]
Dec 27, 2011 Iran 'to block Hormuz strait' if sanctions applied (12/27/11) [4:29]
Iran to block Strait of Hormuz if oil export at risk (12/28/11) [2:19]
Iran threatens to block oil shipments in Strait of Hormuz (12/27/11) [6:30]
So Why Would The U.S. Want To Attack Iran? (12/27/11) [5:33]
SEC Wins Emergency Stop In Citigroup Fraud Case
The rulings come as the SEC tries to ensure it can continue settling enforcement cases without requiring corporate defendants to address whether they did anything wrong.
That practice was called into question when Rakoff on November 28 harshly rejected the proposed settlement with New York-based Citigroup.
He said the SEC's failure to require Citigroup to admit or deny its charges left him no way to know whether the settlement was fair. Rakoff also called the $285 million payout "pocket change" for the third-largest U.S. bank. Read more
Christine Lagarde: World Economy In 'A Dangerous Situation'
..."The world economy is in a dangerous situation," she told France's Journal du Dimanche in an interview published on Sunday.
The debt crisis, which continues into 2012 after a European Union summit on December 9 only temporarily calmed markets, "is a crisis of confidence in public debt and in the solidity of the financial system," she said. Read more
Former Fed VP Accuses Bernanke Of Bailing Out Europe Via Currency Swaps
First it was Zero Hedge. Then Ron Paul joined in. Now it is the turn of a former Dallas Fed Vice President, Gerald ODriscoll, to outright accuse the Fed of bailing out Europe courtesy of "incomprehensible" currency swaps, and implicitly accusing Bernanke of lying that he would not bail out Europe even as he has done precisely that. Read more
US Navy Says Any Disruption To Straits Of Hormuz "Will Not Be Tolerated"
Iran and the United States elevated the belligerent tone between them on Wednesday over an Iranian vow to close the Strait of Hormuz, a vital Middle East waterway for oil tanker traffic, if Western powers attempted to make good on their threat to stifle Iran's petroleum exports. Read more
Art Cashin UBS Exposes The Behind The Scenes Panic In Europe
Savvy Bankkers are said to be setting up personal and communal trusts domiciled in places like the Bahamas, the Caymans or the Isle of Jersey. Some banks are offering depository accounts denominated (and repayable) in alternate currencies like the dollar or the yen.
We think a Lehman-like event would most likely be triggered by a run on a bank or a series of banks. The scramble for currency (value) protection among the public could turn into that bank run in the same way that a crowd can instantly turn into a mob. Watch the money flows out of Greece and Italy very carefully. The pot continues to bubble Read more
The basic problem that the US faces is that we have: 1) GREEDY bankers, 2) ALL the important Financial regulations have been dismantled, 3) no group of politiciians are willing to say the laws are broken and fix them, and 4) the regulators, i.e. SEC, and the Judicial Branch of the governement is unwilling to do their job.
Federal Judge Questions SEC Settlement
A federal judge in Milwaukee has criticized the Securities and Exchange Commission for being too soft with corporate enforcement, marking the second time the agency has been criticized for weak settlements in the past month...
...Last February, SEC chairwoman Mary Schapiro said that the agency doesn't have enough money to satisfactorily police Wall Street or draft new regulations required by the Dodd-Frank financial reform law. Read more
MF Global Collapse Spotlights Practice That Heightens Systemic Financial Risk... Ever Hear of Rehypothecation?
The swift implosion of MF Global highlights a common practice used by aggressive speculators, one that experts say makes the broader financial system vulnerable to another crisis. It's called rehypothecation, and it allows a firm to essentially pledge the same limited collateral to arrange fresh loans. Pretty interesting article. Read more
The Nomi Prins video is a week old, but it is a great interview. Watch the whole interview, Nomi Prins talks about the corruption in banking, how nothing has changed in Washington, and how the Occupy movement IS helping to keep the attention on the GREED in the Financial Industry.Journalist Nomi Prins Reports on Jon Corzine Congressional Testimony Over MF Global Collapse (12/14/11) [17:33]
Did you know that the "big" banks get nearly free money from the FEDs Discount Window, which they are suppose to lend out to stimulate our economy. But, instead they have held onto the money, or they invest it into other countries like Brazil where they can get 10% interest (Carry Trade).Banks Holding 1.4 Trillion, Could Create 19 Million Jobs (12/20/11) [15:42]
If we do it it is called Inside Trading. If Congress does it it is called making millions.Hedge Fund Managers Get Insider Info from Senators (12/20/11) [10:46]
WSJ: Inside Capitol, Investor Access Yields Rich Tips [article]
Flowcharting The True Cause Of The Eurozone Crisis
BBC | Author | 12/21/11
And that was in the year that featured the Arab Spring, the Japanese tsunami and the death of Osama Bin Laden. What's more, 2012 looks set to be not much different. But as eurozone governments hammer out new rules to limit their borrowing, are they missing the point of the crisis? Read more
Dylan Ratigan Show
Todays show was about the "destructive" culture in Washington and how to go about fix it. Tom Brokaw talks about our legacy and what we are leaving our kids. Bernie Sanders talks about Corporations and their power to corrupt. Nick Penniman talks about getting money out of Washington... GetMoneyOut.com.Restoring Our Nations Fundamental Values [10:48]
Bernie Sanders, Disconnect Divides DC [5:37]
Nick Penniman from UnitedRepublic.com and GetMoneyOut.com, How to get Money Out of Washington [9:12]
The "good" news is the US is winding up operations and leaving Iraq. The "bad" news is how bad the US is leaving Iraq. Tim McGirk finds it ironic that Private Bradley Manning is possibly on trial for his life for possibly leaking military secrets to Winkleaks, while the military is throwing Top Secret material out in the city junkyard.In Exiting Iraq, US Military Discards Trove of Documents on 2005 Haditha Massacre of Iraqis (12/21/11) [12:18]
The U.S. military may be leaving Iraq, but the U.S. government is not. The U.S. embassy in Baghdad is the largest in the world and thousands of private contractors will fill the role of the departing U.S. troops. (12/16/11) [15:37]
Nine years, the U.S. invasion and occupation has left a bloody toll on Iraqi civilians and foreign troops. Nearly 4,500 U.S. troops died and another 32,000 were wounded (12/16/11) [6:24]
Hedge-Fund Titans Got Inside Political Tips
I'm surprised this Wall Street Journal story, detailing how hedge funds manage to obtain profitable inside information, hasn't gotten more attention. The whole story seems pretty explosive. I'd like to pull out a bit at the end, about how some hedge-fund players learned that key Democratic moderates in the Senate would jettison the public option in the health care bill in 2009: Read more
Payroll Tax Cut Fight: 'Wall Street Journal' Editorial Rips Boehner, McConnell
The Wall Street Journal editorial page attacked congressional Republicans Wednesday for possibly losing the payroll tax cut standoff to President Barack Obama. The editorial begins:
GOP Senate leader Mitch McConnell famously said a year ago that his main task in the 112th Congress was to make sure that President Obama would not be re-elected. Given how he and House Speaker John Boehner have handled the payroll tax debate, we wonder if they might end up re-electing the President before the 2012 campaign even begins in earnest. Read more
European Central Bank Lends Record $639 Billion To Banks Over 3 Years
FRANKFURT, Germany - The European Central Bank loaned a massive euro489 billion ($639 billion) to 523 banks for an exceptionally long period of three years to steady a financial system that is under pressure from the eurozone debt crisis.
It was the biggest ECB infusion of credit into the banking system in the 13-year history of the shared euro currency.
Wednesday's loans surpassed the euro442 billion ($578 billion) in one-year loans from June, 2009, when the financial system was reeling from the collapse of U.S. investment bank Lehman Brothers.
The ECB is trying to make sure that banks have enough ready cash so they can keep on lending to businesses. Otherwise, a credit crunch could choke off growth and spread the debt crisis to the wider economy through the banks. Read more
China's Ghost Cities - See Yesterday's Article
Fukushima - The First 9 Months
Below are four videos on Fukushima, ranging in time from a few weeks after the accident to the middle of December. Many people, and countries, are taking the accident as a warning sign against nuclear power, while the US NRC is charging ahead extending older reactor contracts and issuing new ones. Most people don't realize that 1) right now we don't need the power, 2) the only reason nuclear power is viable is because the public takes on the liability for an accident, and 3) the military needs domestic reactors to create the plutonium to make bombs.NEW FIRE IN REACTOR NO 4! At Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant In Japan [15:14]
Nuclear Emergency: TEPCO releases photo of No 4 reactor building at the Fukushima [2:28]
US Drones Confirms Exposed Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant Fuel Rods RAW VIDEO [2:07]
Fairewinds Calls for the NRC to Delay Licensing Until Fukushima Lessons Are Evaluated (04/25/11) [8:27]
A. Gundersen, NRC Ready to Approve Westinghouse-Toshiba AP1000 Reactors Disregarding (11/10/11) [14:58]
What Now for Iraq - VoteVets.org on Dylan Ratigan (12/15/11) [10:17]
Deadly blizzard pushes into Great Plains
(AP) WICHITA, Kan. - Fierce winds and snow that caused fatal road accidents and shuttered highways in five states, crawled deeper into the Great Plains early Tuesday, with forecasters warning that pre-holiday travel would be difficult if not impossible across the region.
Hotels were filling up quickly along major roadways from eastern New Mexico to Kansas, and nearly 100 rescue calls came in from motorists in the Texas Panhandle as blizzard conditions forced closed part of Interstate 40, a major east-west route, Monday night Read more
The New Blue Collar: Temporary Work, Lasting Poverty And The American Warehouse
...Dickerson, grateful to have even a temp job, was taken on as a "lumper" -- someone who schleps boxes to and from trailers all day long. As unglamorous as her duties were, Dickerson became an essential cog in one of the most sophisticated machines in modern commerce -- the Walmart supply chain. Walmart, the world's largest private-sector employer, had contracted a company called Schneider Logistics to operate the warehouse. And Schneider, in turn, had its own contracts with staffing companies that supplied workers.
The experience would change the way Dickerson saw the retail industry -- particularly during the frenetic run-up to the holidays, when workers are under tremendous pressure to get products out the door and into stores.
"I don't think people know what the people in those warehouses have to go through to get them their stuff in those stores," Dickerson says. "If you don't work in a warehouse, you don't know." Read more
Will China Break?
I've been reluctant to weigh in on the Chinese situation, in part because it's so hard to know what's really happening. All economic statistics are best seen as a peculiarly boring form of science fiction, but China's numbers are more fictional than most. I'd turn to real China experts for guidance, but no two experts seem to be telling the same story.Still, even the official data are troubling - and recent news is sufficiently dramatic to ring alarm bells. Read more
Inside Capitol, Investor Access Yields Rich Tips
When Senate Democrats finally brokered a compromise over the proposed health-care law, a group of hedge funds were let in on the deal, learning details hours before a public announcement on Dec. 8, 2009.
The news was potentially worth millions of dollars to the investors, though none would publicly divulge how they used the information. They belong to a select group who pay for early, firsthand reports on Capitol Hill.
Seeking advance word of government decisions is part of a growing, lucrative - and legal - practice in Washington that employs a network of brokers, lobbyists and political insiders who arrange private meetings ... Read more
Bank Of America Shares Fall Below $5
Shares of Bank of America Corp traded below $5 on Monday for the first time since the depths of the current bear market in March 2009.
The stock hit a session low of $4.96, and with more than 245 million shares traded so far its volume-weighted average price was $5.0432. The stock closed at $5.20 on Friday. Read more
Kim Jong-il, North Korean Dictator, Dies
Within hours of announcing Mr. Kim's death, which had been kept secret for roughly two days, North Korea on Monday test-fired missiles off its eastern coast, a news report said. Read more
Pakistani Crisis Prompts Leader to Race Home
A tense showdown between Pakistan's powerful army and its besieged civilian government brought President Asif Ali Zardari hurrying back from Dubai early on Monday. Read more
The Pakistanis Have a Point
As an American visitor in the power precincts of Pakistan, from the gated enclaves of Islamabad to the manicured lawns of the military garrison in Peshawar, from the luxury fortress of the Serena Hotel to the exclusive apartments of the parliamentary housing blocks, you can expect three time-honored traditions: black tea with milk, obsequious servants and a profound sense of grievance.
... Talk to Pakistani politicians, scholars, generals, businessmen, spies and journalists - as I did in October - and before long, you are beyond the realm of politics and diplomacy and into the realm of hurt feelings. Words like "ditch" and "jilt" and "betray" recur. With Americans, they complain, it's never a commitment, it's always a transaction. This theme is played to the hilt, for effect, but it is also heartfelt. Read more
Assessing the 'Surge': A Survey of Baghdad Neighborhoods
To study the ground-level effects of the American troop buildup, reporters and video journalists for The New York Times visited Baghdad's neighborhoods, interviewing residents, Americans on patrol and Iraqi officials. To explore the videos and written reports, select a neighborhood below. Read more
Frantic Dash From Flood in the Middle of the Night, Philippines
...The Philippine Red Cross said late Sunday that 652 people were known to have died in the flooding and estimated that more than 800 more were missing. About 35,000 people were in evacuation centers, according to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.
... Typhoons and tropical storms are common in the Philippines, which gets about 20 major storms a year, but they do not often slam into Mindanao the way this storm did, destroying thousands of houses and washing out roads and bridges. Read more
A. Gundersen, NRC Ready to Approve Westinghouse-Toshiba AP1000 Reactors Disregarding (11/10/11) [14:58]
Fairewinds Calls for the NRC to Delay Licensing Until Fukushima Lessons Are Evaluated (04/25/11) [8:27]
New Unbelievable Pictures of Fukushima (04/09/11) [5:05]
A Romance With Risk That Brought On a Panic
Soon after taking the reins of MF Global in 2010, Jon S. Corzine visited the Wall Street firm's Chicago offices for the first time, greeting the brokers, analysts and sales staff there.
One broker, Cy Monley, caught Mr. Corzine's eye. Unknown to MF Global's top management in New York, the employee, whose job was to match buyers and sellersin energy derivatives, was also trading a small account on the side, using the firm's capital. Read more
Karl Rove 'Issue Ads' Attacking Elizabeth Warren Help Hide His Group's Donors
WASHINGTON -- An ad released Dec. 8 by the conservative nonprofit Crossroads GPS, which is linked to Karl Rove, paints Democratic Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren as a tool of Wall Street who failed in her role chairing the Congressional Oversight Panel tasked with overseeing the bank bailout. But viewers of the ad are not urged then to oppose Warren's candidacy. Instead, they are encouraged to call the Warren campaign and let her know, "We need jobs, not more bailouts and bigger government."
As 2011 winds down, the expected onslaught of direct advocacy spending by independent groups has not materialized in reports filed with the Federal Election Commission. What groups like Crossroads GPS have spent millions of dollars on are issue advertisements, such as the Warren spot, which link candidates to issues like job creation, the environment and government spending, while avoiding FEC disclosure requirements.
According to a Huffington Post review of Crossroads GPS press releases, the group has spent $26 million on issue ads in 2011, nearly matching the $26.4 million the group spent in 2010 on direct electoral ads. Read more
Christine Lagarde: IMF Boss Says Gloomy Times Ahead And Every Economy Is At Risk
Christine Lagarde, managing director of the IMF, has issued a stark warning to world markets by claiming the future is "gloomy" and every economy in the world is at risk.
Her comments came as tensions between London and Paris were heightened further after the head of France's central bank suggested that the UK was a candidate for a credit rating downgrade.
Speaking on Thursday Legarde said: "There is no economy in the world, whether low-income countries, emerging markets, middle-income countries or super-advanced economies that will be immune to the crisis that we see not only unfolding but escalating," Read more
On Our Way to Climbing Everest
Then, I watched as a funny thing began to happen. Something unexpected, but something so necessary. A summer of simmering frustration turned into a September of action.
People woke up. And then, finally, they began to fight back.
Occupy Wall Street began as a great experiment, with people camping out in Zuccotti Park in downtown New York, sparking a worldwide movement of protests and tent cities. Occupiers had discussions about the future of our economy with a Nobel laureate economist. They echoed back the guidance of spiritual leaders who came to offer words of encouragement. They built a library, they cooked for each other, and they fed the homeless. All of those were noble achievements.
But the most critical thing Occupy Wall Street achieved was this: they lit the match that reignited a national conversation about the link between global inequality and government corruption. Read more
SEC Citigroup Settlement: Agency Looking To Appeal Blocked Settlement: Report
Enforcement staff of the Securities and Exchange Commission may request the commissioners leading the agency that they appeal last month's rejection by a U.S. district judge of a proposed $285 million settlement with Citigroup, the Wall Street Journal said, citing people familiar with the matter.
In November, Judge Jed Rakoff angrily threw out Citigroup's proposed settlement over the sale of toxic mortgage debt, excoriating the SEC over how it reaches corporate fraud settlements.
Talks aimed at hammering out several other agreements between the agency and financial firms it has accused of misconduct before or during the financial crisis have stalled, people told the Journal Read more
As Euro Crisis Continues, Bank Downgrades, Credit Squeeze Signal Possible Return To 2008
..."In some ways this is part two of the U.S. financial crisis," said Srinivas Thiruvadanthai, an economist at the Jerome Levy Forecasting Center.
Credit rating agency Fitch Ratings downgraded nine major banks on Thursday, including Goldman Sachs, Bank of America and Morgan Stanley. While acknowledging that the banks are in better shape now than in 2008, the rating agency cited vulnerability to the increased market turmoil stemming from "economic developments and regulatory challenges."
Many fear that one cataclysmic event -- such as the default of Italy or a major European bank failure -- could freeze credit markets, plunging the world into a recession similar to the downturn resulting from the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers in 2008. Read more
Three-Fourths Of Americans Say The Rich Have Too Much Power
...Seventy-seven percent of Americans say that too much power rests in the hands of large corporations and a few wealthy people, according to a poll released Thursday from the Pew Research Center.
The Pew poll doesn't use the language of Occupy Wall Street, which frames the class struggle in America and elsewhere as a face-off between "the 1 percent" and "the 99 percent." But the poll indicates that the Occupy movement's general sentiment is basically mainstream. Sixty-one percent of respondents in the Pew poll said that the U.S. economic system unfairly favors the rich. Fifty-one percent said that Wall Street hurts the economy more than it helps it. Read more
Financial Sector A Bigger Share Of Economy Now Than Before Financial Crisis
...The findings -- which, indicate that the financial sector accounts for 8.4 percent of the country's GDP, a greater share than five years ago and one of the highest percentages of the past half century, according to The Wall Street Journal -- may come as unwelcome news for anyone who believes that an outsized financial industry doing too much with too many people's money led the country to financial crisis.
As of March 2011, the financial industry was generating 29 percent of all profits in America -- not quite at 2001's record level of 46 percent, but well above the norm for most of the 20th century, when the financial sector never accounted for more than 20 percent of national profits. Read more
Bradley Manning Heads for Trial; No One Charged for Murdered Civilians (12/14/11) [15:55]The Real News Network | video [15:55] | 12/14/11
I know this is a controversial issue, but this is a new - German - take on the film clip: "Collateral Murder".
Census Data Shows 1 In 2 People In America Are Poor Or Low-Income [article]
WASHINGTON -- Squeezed by rising living costs, a record number of Americans - nearly 1 in 2 - have fallen into poverty or are scraping by on earnings that classify them as low income.
The latest census data depict a middle class that's shrinking as unemployment stays high and the government's safety net frays. The new numbers follow years of stagnating wages for the middle class that have hurt millions of workers and families.
"Safety net programs such as food stamps and tax credits kept poverty from rising even higher in 2010, ... Read more
U.S. CEO Pay Jumps Minimum Of 27 Percent Last Year, Survey Finds [article]
While the incomes of so many Americans remain the same size or get smaller, corporate chiefs can't say they're suffering in quite the same way.
American CEOs saw pay increases of between 27 and 40 percent last year, according to a GovernanceMetrics International survey cited by the Guardian. In addition, the median value of CEOs profits on stock options jumped to $1.3 million from $950,400 -- a 70 percent boost.
"Day of Fear" Over Italy's Borrowing [2:20]
The 10 Most Memorable Moments Of The 'Occupy' Protests [article]
When the history books look back on 2011, they likely won't forget Occupy Wall Street.
The humble protest that started in Zuccotti Park on September 17 after a call from the magazine AdBusters turned quickly into a social media phenomenon and, ultimately, a worldwide movement. The demonstrations against income inequality, corporate influence in politics and other topics have attracted so much attention that Time magazine named "The Protestor" the person of the year due in part to the Occupy movement, as well as the Arab Spring.
It's perhaps the protesters' tenacity that's given them the most recognition. They continued to spread their message -- and ramp up occupations across the country and around the world -- in the face of initial skepticism, ultimately netting endorsements from a variety of politicians and unions. Read more
SOPA: Washington Vs. The Web [article]
... Grassroots lobbying has been a factor, but the SOPA war in Congress has mostly been waged between different corporate elements, each with deep pockets. While bipartisanship has been hard to come by in Washington this year on high-profile issues, it's been easy to find on SOPA and the other corporate disputes that have taken much of the legislature's time this year -- banks vs. retailers, Silicon Valley vs. Big Pharma. But unlike previous corporate spats on Capitol Hill, voters would quickly see the impact of the year's final congressional action if the government uses it to give their favorite websites the ax... Read more
Between 2008 And 2010, 30 Big Corporations Spent More Lobbying Washington Than They Paid In Income Taxes
Dylan Ratigan Goes on a Rant [4:45]
Wall St slides on euro zone deal doubts
Stocks fell on Monday after the three major credit ratings agencies issued new warnings that European leaders have failed to take the coordinated action necessary to tackle the region's debt crisis.
Worries about the deal worked out at Friday's European summit plagued sentiment, and a lowered revenue outlook by Intel, the world's largest chip maker, also took a toll. Read more
There Is Only One Issue In America [article]
...The economy of the world came down to the unholy trinity of guns, drugs and gasoline -- military industry, drugs (legal and illegal), and energy -- and now I would add agribusiness as the fourth controlling commodity, and always with the enabling bankers never too far out of sight making their profits far too often from wars and slave labor....
...A quick analysis of our electoral process revealed the obvious answer. The simple fact is we do not live in a democracy. Certainly not the kind our Founding Fathers intended. We live in a corporate dictatorship represented by, and beholden to, no single human being you can reason with or hold responsible for anything. The corporation has but one obligation, which is to increase profits for it's shareholders by any legal means necessary by the next fiscal quarter.... Read more
Democratic Sen. McCaskill finds House defense bill riddled with earmarks [article]
WASHINGTON - House Republicans banned earmarks, a top symbol of congressional profligacy, after they won control of the chamber last fall in a wave of voter anger over excessive government spending.
But more than half of the amendments to this year's House Department of Defense authorization bill were earmarks, according to Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri, a leading congressional critic of the practice. Read more
In Small Town Sebastopol, Occupy Movement Stirs Hope Of Big Changes [article]
The uniformed police chief of the small California town of Sebastopol walked toward Occupy Sebastopol's decision-making General Assembly (GA). It was Veteran's Day, and many veterans, some of them homeless, had integrated with Occupy gatherings around the nation. Occupiers in larger cities might have been nervous. But the Chief carried a plate of brownies in his hand.
"These are from the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW)," Chief Jeff Weaver said to the group. Praise followed him as he left.
Occupy Wall Street-events in big cities like New York, Oakland and Los Angeles receive considerable coverage in the mainstream media, especially when police react. Less known is the fact that the 'Occupy' movement has reached into small towns and mid-size cities around the country, engaging people in new conversations and moving into the local political sphere. ... Read more
Saving Our Democracy [article & video 12:49]
Huffington Post | Sen. Bernie Sanders | 12/08/11
...I did not do this lightly. In fact, I had never done it before. The U.S. constitution is an extraordinary document. In my view, it should not be amended often. In light of the Supreme Court's infamous 5-to-4 decision in the Citizens United case, however, I saw no alternative.
I strongly disagree with the ruling. In my view, a corporation is not a person. A corporation does not have First Amendment rights to spend as much money as it wants, without disclosure, on a political campaign.
Corporations should not be able to go into their treasuries and spend millions and millions of dollars on a campaign in order to buy elections.>/p>
The ruling has radically changed the nature of our democracy. It has further tilted the balance of the power toward the rich and the powerful at a time when the wealthiest people in this country already never had it so good. History will record that the Citizens United decision is one of the worst in the history of our country. ... Read more
Corruption Perceptions Index 2011 [article]
...The 2011 Corruption Perceptions Index shows that public frustration is well founded. No region or country in the world is immune to the damages of corruption, the vast majority of the 183 countries and territories assessed score below five on a scale of 0 (highly corrupt) to 10 (very clean.) New Zealand, Denmark and Finland top the list, while North Korea and Somalia are at the bottom. ... Read more
NYT (12/06/11): Fukushima's Ripple Effects Continue
The triple meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in March startled many people in the American nuclear industry, thechairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission said on Tuesday, although the success in ultimately gaining control of the reactors did not.
"I think there are many people who are associated with this industry who believed we had designed away, or operated in a way, that eliminated the possibility of ever having a significant, really severe accident," said the chairman, Gregory B. Jaczko, who held a year-end roundtable session with reporters. Read more
HP (12/ 9/11): Democratic National Convention Host Charlotte Proposes Law Aimed At Banning Occupy Encampments
When the Democratic National Committee picked Charlotte to host its September 2012 convention, city leaders saw it as a boost to the local service economy. Hotels would be filled, restaurants would be booked, and party spaces would be rented. Up until a few months ago, officials only had to worry about the would-be traffic congestion on Trade Street as lobbyists shuffled to the next cocktail party. But now, they have to be concerned about feistier visitors known as Occupy Wall Street. Read more
The Real News Network (TRNN)
ZH, Tyler Durden (12/07/11): Why The UK Trail Of The MF Global Collapse May Have "Apocalyptic" Consequences For The Eurozone, Canadian Banks, Jefferies And Everyone Else
In an oddly prescient turn of events, yesterday we penned a post titled "Has The Imploding European Shadow Banking System Forced The Bundesbank To Prepare For Plan B?" in which we explained how it was not only the repo market, but the far broader and massively unregulated shadow banking system in Europe that was becoming thoroughly unhinged, and was manifesting itself in a complete "lock up in interbank liquidity" and which, we speculated, is pressuring the Bundesbank, which is well aware of what is going on behind the scenes, to slowly back away from what will soon be an "apocalyptic" event (not our words... read on). Read LOTS more
Dec. 8 (Bloomberg) - European central banks may channel 150 billion euros ($200 billion) through the International Monetary Fund to fight the debt crisis in exchange for fresh pledges of fiscal probity from European governments at a last- ditch summit, a European Union diplomat said.
Plans to recycle central bank funds through the IMF started to fall into place as French President Nicolas Sarkozy warned "there'll be no second chance" for Europe in the absence of a credible crisis-containment strategy at a summit that starts this evening in Brussels. Read more
Naomi Klein: Addicted To Risk (video) [19:50]
ZH, Tyler Durden (12/07/11): In Past Week Americans Pull The Most Money From Stock Market Farce Since US Downgrade, Despite Market Surge
As if we needed another confirmation that the sad joke of a market has now succeeded in driving virtually everyone out courtesy of precisely the kind of bullshit we saw in the last 30 minutes of trading today, here comes ICI with the latest weekly fund flow data. It will not surprise anyone that in the week in which the S&P rose by a whopping 8 points on absolutely nothing but more lies, rumors and innuendo, US retail investors pulled a whopping $6.7 billion from domestic equity funds: the most since the week after US downgrade when a near record $23 billion was withdrawn. Only unlike then when the market bombed, this time it simply kept rising, and rising, and rising. In other words, every ES point higher serves no other purpose than to provide an even more attractive point for the bulk of that now extinct class known as investors to call it a day, and pull their cash out of this unprecedented shitshow that central planning has converted the market into. And for those keeping score, a total of $123 billion has now been pulled from stocks in 2011, well over the $98 billion withdrawn in 2010. Read more
Five months after its formation, the new federal agency tasked with safeguarding the financial interests of ordinary people is still without a director, meaning it cannot regulate the kinds of lenders that consumer groups say prey on the poor.
A Senate vote scheduled for Thursday to end debate over President Barack Obama's nominee to run the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is likely to fail.
Senate Republicans, led by Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., say they will block the nomination of former Ohio attorney general Richard Cordray unless the law is amended to make the bureau more accountable.
The Republicans want a board of commissioners rather than a single director to oversee the agency - a move that would weaken the agency, consumer advocates say. Read more
The state's GOP leaders are at the forefront of a national movement to eviscerate teachers' unions and privatize public schools.
The list of initiatives reads like a grand plan to dismantle public education as we know it: Slash education spending. Outsource public teachers. Curb collective-bargaining rights. Kneecap teachers' unions. Open the floodgates to charter and "cyber" schools.
Welcome to education reform in the state of Michigan, where a Republican-dominated Legislature and a GOP governor are pushing one of the broadest anti-union, pro-privatization agendas in the country. Read more
A few weeks after the Occupy Wall Street protests began, we found ourselves having a random conversation with a couple of San Franciscans at a store counter. What were these kids going on about? they asked. Time was tight, the inquiry a pleasantry, really. Best to keep it simple. "Jobs, the economy, income inequality." Well, one offered, he knew the wife of Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf, and according to him, the reason companies aren't hiring is because they are worried about the extra cost of Obama's health care reform.
Because what can you really say to that, except... let them eat cake? Stumpf made $17.6 million in 2010-672 times what the average American takes home. And say what you will about Obamacare, but for large companies that already offer health benefits, it imposes pretty much zero costs and might even save money. Read more
TH: Kevin Kamps on The Fukushima China Syndrome (12/05/11) [7:01]
Another Interesting Thom Hartman News BriefThom Hartmann on the News (12/05/11) [6:12]
Just a quick update on a big piece of news that came through yesterday. In one of the more severe judicial ass-whippings you'll ever see, federal Judge Jed Rakoff rejected a slap-on-the-wrist fraud settlement the SEC had cooked up for Citigroup.
I wrote about this story a few weeks back when Rakoff sent signals that he was unhappy with the SEC's dirty deal with Citi, but yesterday he took this story several steps further. Read more
Occupiers are going to need a spring break, judging from the packed winter itinerary of national protests being planned under the Occupy Wall Street banner. The movement's "Beyond the Park" faction may think it's time to stop erecting tent cities in public spaces, but if these plans all pan out, the Capitol Lawn could be booked through May Day. Check out this calender of events for what some are calling Occupy's "Valley Forge moment."
December 5-9: Occupy Congress
A coalition of labor and progressive groups plans to camp out in DC and "Occupy Congress" in what could be the biggest coordination yet between union officials and Occupy activists. Read more
Last week, a federal judge in Mississippi sentenced a mother of two named Anita McLemore to three years in federal prison for lying on a government application in order to obtain food stamps.
Apparently in this country you become ineligible to eat if you have a record of criminal drug offenses. States have the option of opting out of that federal ban, but Mississippi is not one of those states. Since McLemore had four drug convictions in her past, she was ineligible to receive food stamps, so she lied about her past in order to feed her two children. Read more
The Coming War With Pakistan
Partnering with America has a price. Pakistan's paid dearly. Post-9/11, it's been harmed economically, politically, and strategically. Has its military now had enough and want out? More on that below.
At issue is the latest November 26 incident involving NATO forces killing 24 Pakistani soldiers and injuring 13 others in two remote posts along Afghanistan's border.
Army spokesman General Athar Abbas called the attack "unprovoked and indiscriminate. There was no reason for it. Map references of all our border posts have been passed to NATO a number of time." Read more
The gap between rich and poor is widening across most developed economies as skilled workers reap more rewards and top executives and bankers benefit from a global job market, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development said.
The average income of the richest tenth of the population is now about nine times that of the poorest tenth, the Paris- based OECD said today in a report. The gap has increased about 10 percent since the mid 1980s.
Mexico, the U.S., Israel and the U.K. are among the countries with the biggest divide between rich and poor, while Denmark, Norway, Belgium and the Czech Republic are among those with the smallest gap. The earnings multiple is 14-to-1 in the U.S. and Israel, compared with about 10-to-1 in the U.K., Italy and Japan and 6-to-1 in Germany and Denmark. Read more
Tyler Durden (09/22/11): Morgan Stanley's Exposure To French Banks Is 60% Greater Than Its Market Cap... And More Than Half Its Book Value
With French banks now a daily highlight in the market's search for the next source of contagion, and big, multi-syllable words such as conservatorship and nationalization being thrown about with increasingly reckless abandon, perhaps it is time to consider the downstream effects of a French bank blow up. And we are not talking French sovereign troubles, which are about to get far worse with the country's CDS once again at record highs means the country's AAA rating is as good as gone. No: banks, as in those entities that are completely locked out from the dollar funding market, and which will be toppled following a few major redemption requests in native USD currency. Which in turn brings us to...Morgan Stanley, the little bank that everyone continues to ignore for assumptions of a pristine balance sheet and no mortgage exposure. Read more
LONDON (Reuters) - European stocks and the euro slid and most bond yields rose after the threat from rating agency Standard & Poor's to downgrade euro zone countries en masse if no credible plan to solve the debt crisis emerges at a summit later this week.
The unprecedented warning also brought to a halt a rally in global equities that began last week, with the MSCI world equity index down about 0.3 percent.
The timing of the announcement and the inclusion of Germany in the group facing a ratings cut surprised many in the markets, and put pressure on the upcoming gathering of leaders to come up with a solution to the region's debt crisis.
"It highlights the importance of the weekend," said Jim O'Neill, the chairman of Goldman Sachs Asset Management. Read more
TYT: US Spends 59% of Budget on Defense [3:14]
TYT: What is the Office on Information and Regulatory Affairs? [3:55]
Cenk Uygur's 'Young Turks (TYT)' Debut On Current TV: 'We Are Here To Punch The Establishment In The Mouth'
Cenk Uygur returned to the cable news airwaves on Monday with a simple message: "we are here to punch the establishment in the mouth."
That straightforward declaration of principles came about 50 seconds into the first minute of Uygur's new show, "The Young Turks." After his stormy exit from MSNBC in July, Uygur teamed up with Current TV to move his long-running Web show (also called "The Young Turks") to television. According to Uygur, calls to do things like "punch the establishment in the mouth" are what got him shown the door at MSNBC -- something that network has always denied. Presumably, Keith Olbermann's new home (Uygur is now the lead-in show to "Countdown") told him they had no such qualms about fighting words like those. Read more
WASHINGTON - British energy giant BP has accused Halliburton of intentionally destroying evidence to conceal its role in the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil rig disaster, CNN reported on Tuesday.
In documents filed at a federal court in New Orleans, BP said Halliburton had destroyed evidence on cement slurry testing and refused to provide "inexplicably missing" computer modeling results, according to CNN.
"Halliburton's refusal has been unwavering, despite repeated BP discovery requests and a specific order from this Court," CNN said, quoting from the documents. Read more
Tyler Durden (11/26/11): $707,568,901,000,000: How (And Why) Banks Increased Total Outstanding Derivatives By A Record $107 Trillion In 6 Months
While everyone was focused on the impending European collapse, the latest soon to be refuted rumors of a quick fix from the Welt am Sonntag notwithstanding, the Bank of International Settlements reported a number that quietly slipped through the cracks of the broader media. Which is paradoxical because it is the biggest ever reported in the financial world: the number in question is $707,568,901,000,000 and represents the latest total amount of all notional Over The Counter (read unregulated) outstanding derivatives reported by the world's financial institutions to the BIS for its semi-annual OTC derivatives report titled "OTC derivatives market activity in the first half of 2011." Read more...
On Nov. 29, 2011, Bloomberg magazine's Richard Teitelbaum published an article revealing a secret meeting on July 21, 2008, with then secretary of the treasury and former Goldman Sachs CEO Hank Paulson, and around a dozen hedge-fund managers and Wall Street executives.
Five of the hedge fund managers were former Goldman Sachs employees. The meeting was held at the offices of the founder of hedge fund Eton Park Capital Management, Eric Mindich, a former 15-year employee of Goldman Sachs who rose to be the senior strategy officer of Goldman's executive office. Read more
NEW Book: 60 Minutes: Blows The Lid Off Congressional Insider Trading
Throw Them All Out: How Politicians and Their Friends Get Rich Off Insider Stock Tips, Land Deals, and Cronyism That Would Send the Rest of Us to Prison by Peter Schweizer
Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) appeared on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" on Monday and spoke about Massachusetts Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren, praising her as both politically adept and easy to get along with. ...
Frank went on to cite a recent UMass poll as evidence that Warren's electoral chances were strong. The poll showed Warren four points ahead of Brown, just within the poll's margin of error. ...
Warren said in a recent New York Times profile that she was motivated to enter politics when Frank called her to help write the financial regulation bill. "That was the first time that I understood -- and real well -- what it means to be in the room," she said. Read more
U.S. banks increased sales of insurance against credit losses to holders of Greek, Portuguese, Irish, Spanish and Italian debt in the first half of 2011, boosting the risk of payouts in the event of defaults.
Guarantees provided by U.S. lenders on government, bank and corporate debt in those countries rose by $80.7 billion to $518 billion, according to the Bank for International Settlements. Almost all of those are credit-default swaps, said two people familiar with the numbers, accounting for two-thirds of the total related to the five nations, BIS data show. Read more...
In mid-November, a group of demonstrators aligned with the Occupy movement held a rally outside a Sacramento loft building in an attempt to capture the attention of one of its residents: Jerry Brown. They were angry about the harsh tactics that police had been using against demonstrators throughout the state, and they wanted the governor to hear them out. But they weren't there to excoriate him or to demand his resignation, as their counterparts in other cities and states have done with other elected officials from Oakland's Mayor Jean Quan to New York's Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
"Gov. Brown, we challenge you to take up the fight with Occupy," declared demonstrator Kevin Carter. "We occupy for the First Amendment, free speech, peaceful assembly and the redress of grievances against the government. As the governor, you should lead this fight."
They were asking, it appeared, for the governor to join them. Read more...
The U.S. Geological Survey says both earthquakes were centered in Lincoln County and recorded between 10:42 p.m. and 11:05 p.m. Friday.
The first 2.7 magnitude earthquake was recorded about six miles west northwest of Prague. The second was a 2.3 magnitude tremor whose epicenter was five miles south southeast of Sparks and seven miles northeast of Meeker. No injuries were reported.
Several small earthquakes have been recorded recently in the area, including a 3.7 magnitude quake near Prague on Thanksgiving.
A 5.6 magnitude quake, the strongest ever recorded in Oklahoma, shook the state Nov. 5. That quake damaged dozens of homes, buckled a highway and caused other damage. Read more...
Fukushima guilty of world's worst sea contamination (11/29/11) [2:32]
WARNING! Fukushima Full Meltdown KillZone 100 Km = 3 million and 200 km = 7 million (11/29/11) [5:50]
Fuel rods inside one of the reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant may have completely melted and bored most of the way through a concrete floor, the reactor's last line of defence before its steel outer casing, the plant's operator said.
Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco) said in a report that fuel inside reactor No 1 appeared to have dropped through its inner pressure vessel and into the outer containment vessel, indicating that the accident was more severe than first thought.
The revelation that the plant may have narrowly averted a disastrous "China syndrome" scenario comes days after reports that the company had dismissed a 2008 warning that the plant was inadequately prepared to resist a tsunami. Read more...
Can the euro be saved? Not long ago we were told that the worst possible outcome was a Greek default. Now a much wider disaster seems all too likely.
True, market pressure lifted a bit on Wednesday after central banks made a splashy announcement about expanded credit lines (which will, in fact, make hardly any real difference). But even optimists now see Europe as headed for recession, while pessimists warn that the euro may become the epicenter of another global financial crisis. Read more...
The Federal Reserve's move on Wednesday to make it easier for European banks to acquire dollars shows that American policy makers understand the gravity of Europe's turmoil and will do what they can to prevent a financial collapse across the Atlantic. European leaders, however, seem paralyzed and, even at this point, fail to share the Fed's sense of urgency.
The Fed's extraordinary intervention should impress upon the European Central Bank, as well as its paymasters in Germany, that it is high time it stopped sitting on its hands. Only aggressive action by the bank can arrest the government debt crisis that is spreading across the Continent and threatening the very survival of the euro.
The Fed offered to swap dollars for euros at a low interest rate with the E.C.B., which would allow it to offer cheap dollars to European banks. That became necessary when American money market funds and other financial institutions started cutting off financing to banks in Europe, which own piles of risky government bonds. Read more...
WASHINGTON - The Federal Reserve and other major central banks moved on Wednesday to help foreign banks more easily borrow and lend money, seeking to forestall a breakdown of global financial markets and giving Europe more time to wrestle with its debts. The latest round of interventions by central banks, including the expansion of an existing Fed program that lets foreign banks borrow dollars at a low interest rate, reflects growing concerns that Europe's financial problems are hampering growth.
In a sign that the fallout is increasingly global, the Chinese central bank, which has sought to slow an overheated economy and inflation over the last year, also moved unexpectedly but independently Wednesday to encourage new lending by Chinese commercial banks. Read more...
TOKYO - Radioactive debris from melted fuel rods may have seeped deeper into the floor of a Japan's tsunami-hit nuclear reactor than previously thought, to within a foot from breaching the crucial steel barrier, a new simulation showed Wednesday.
The findings will not change the ongoing efforts to stabilize the reactors more than eight months after the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant was disabled, but they harshly depict the meltdowns that occurred and conditions within the reactors, which will be off-limits for years. Read more...
PARIS - Saying that he wanted to tell the truth to the French people, President Nicolas Sarkozy said Thursday night that Europe could be "swept away" by the euro crisis if it does not change. He said that Europe would "have to make crucial choices in the next few weeks," and that France and Germany together were supporting a new treaty to tighten fiscal discipline and promote economic convergence in the euro zone.
The European Union needs "an overhaul," Mr. Sarkozy said, to remain relevant and competitive, but he was vague about the details of what needs to be done. "If Europe does not change quickly enough, global history will be written without Europe," he said. "Europe needs more solidarity and that means more discipline."
His televised speech came against a backdrop of deepening alarm about the contagious nature of the euro crisis, which threatens Italy and has begun to sap confidence in France and Germany, the strongest economies among the 17 European Union countries that use the single currency. Read more...
BERLIN - Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, a central player in efforts to rescue Europe's single currency, on Friday ruled out a rapid solution to the euro zone's debt crisis, comparing the process to a runners' marathon and saying it could take years.
Mrs. Merkel was speaking to the German Parliament as Europe's leaders prepare for yet another round of talks on the issue, which has roiled markets across the continent and forced the collapse of governments in Greece, Italy and elsewhere. Mrs. Merkel spoke in sober and serious tones and her words drew sustained if not overly enthusiastic applause from lawmakers.
"Resolving the sovereign debt crisis is a process and this process will take years," Mrs. Merkel said. Read more...
The head of the European Central Bank, Mario Draghi, hinted Thursday that the bank might be willing to step up its support for the European economy if political leaders take decisive steps to prevent future debt crises.
After Scott Ely and his father talked with salesmen from an energy company about signing the lease allowing gas drilling on their land in northeastern Pennsylvania, he said he felt certain it required the company to leave the property as good as new.
So Mr. Ely said he was surprised several years later when the drilling company, Cabot Oil and Gas, informed them that rather than draining and hauling away the toxic drilling sludge stored in large waste ponds on the property, it would leave the waste, cover it with dirt and seed the area with grass. He knew that waste pond liners can leak, seeping contaminated waste.
Energy company officials say that standard leases include language that protects landowners. But a review of more than 111,000 leases, addenda and related documents by The New York Times suggests otherwise:
Fewer than half the leases require companies to compensate landowners for water contamination after drilling begins. And only about half the documents have language that lawyers suggest should be included to require payment for damages to livestock or crops. Read more...
The announcement Wednesday that the Federal Reserve, working with other central banks, will offer dollars to foreign banks at cut-rate prices surely raises the question: Why do foreign banks need dollars?
The simple answer is that foreign banks really like the things that dollars can buy. They liked investing in American government debt, and lending money to American corporations, and most of all they liked buying American mortgages and all manner of crazy investments derived from those mortgages.
Bank holdings of assets denominated in foreign currencies ballooned from $11 trillion in 2000 to $31 trillion by mid-2007, according to a 2009 report by the Bank for International Settlements. European banks posted the fastest growth, and that growth was concentrated in dollar-denominated assets. By the eve of the crisis, the dollar exposure of European banks exceeded $8 trillion. Read more...
Much like our own recent housing crisis, the European financial mess is unfolding in a foreign language. It is the lingua franca of financial obscurity - "sovereign credit spreads" and other terms that most people don't need, or care, to know.
Yet the bottom line is simple: Europe's problems are a lot like ours, only worse. Like Wall Street, Germany is where the money is. Italy, like California, has let bad governance squander great natural resources. Greece is like a much older version of Mississippi - forever poor and living a bit too much off its richer neighbors. Slovenia, Slovakia and Estonia are like the heartland states that learned the hard way how entwined so-called Main Street is with Wall Street. Now remember that these countries share neither a government nor a language. Nor a realistic bailout plan, either. Read more...
If you want to quickly and efficiently get up to speed on the income inequality story in the US -- and who doesn't? --read this from my CBPP colleagues. It takes you pretty far into the weeds on data sources and the like, but this is one of those economic issues where the sources matter a great deal. Series that fail to include realized capital gains, for example, will miss important dynamics going on in the upper tail of the income scale.
JERUSALEM - Israel does not want to take military action against Iran over its nuclear program, but at some point may have no other option, Israel's defense minister said Thursday.
The Jewish state at this point did not intend to launch a strike against Iranian nuclear facilities, but retained the option as a "last resort," Defense Minister Ehud Barak told Israel Radio.
"We don't need unnecessary wars. But we definitely might be put to the test," he said.
Mysterious blasts, computer viruses and assassinations have disrupted Iran's nuclear program, and there has been speculation of Israeli involvement. Read more...
The amendment is geared toward two large pots of money controlled by the Defense Department to spend on infrastructure-related projects: the Commander's Emergency Response Program (CERP) and the Afghanistan Infrastructure Fund (AIF).
CERP has been around since 2004 in both Iraq and Afghanistan and has been subject to significant amounts of criticism. The program's intent was to allow commanders on the ground to have discretionary funds they could use to build trust within communities on small-scale projects -- like fixing broken windows -- ranging from tens of dollars to thousands of dollars. The program, however, spiraled out of control and was being used to build projects like electrical grids. Congress put caps on spending for individual items, but last year, spending was still nearly $1 billion. At its height in 2009, U.S. taxpayers paid $1.5 billion on this program.
"While I still support the mission in Afghanistan, I don't think we should be using American money at this point to build these large infrastructure projects, particularly within the military budget," she said. "This has never occurred before. When I saw that they had put that into the budget this year -- something called the Afghanistan Reconstruction Fund -- this is brand new and unprecedented. It is a $400 million line item. It has never been done like this before."
The current National Defense Authorization Act authorizes $800 million for CERP and AIF for FY 2012. McCaskill's amendment would prohibit directing any funds to CERP or AIF for construction or infrastructure projects that exceed $50,000. All remaining funds would go to the Secretary of Transportation. Read more...
Last week, I had a conversation with a man who runs his own trading firm. In the process of fuming about competition from Goldman Sachs, he said with resignation and exasperation: "The fact that they were bailed out and can borrow for free - It's pretty sickening."
Though the sentiment is commonplace these days, I later found myself thinking about his outrage. Here was someone who is in the thick of the business, trading every day, and he is being sickened by the inequities and corruption on Wall Street and utterly persuaded that nothing had changed in the years since the financial crisis of 2008.
Then I realized something odd: I have conversations like this as a matter of routine. I can't go a week without speaking to a hedge fund manager or analyst or even a banker who registers somewhere on the Wall Street Derangement Scale. Read more...
The markets perked up today on news that the Federal Reserve would step in and provide some limited assistance to Europe. The Dow Jones Industrial Average surged 490 points -- its largest gain since March 2009 -- on news that the Fed was coordinating an effort with other central banks to provide liquidity to markets shuddering from the sovereign debt crisis in Europe.
Less rosy, was the picture that the Fed painted of the U.S. economy. On Wednesday the Fed also released its beige book, a report compiling economic information from the Fed's 12 districts around the country.
According to the report: Hiring barely grew between September and November, while companies in some areas either found it difficult to find skilled workers or were concerned that the skills of the unemployed were deteriorating. Read more...
NEW YORK -- Goldman Sachs chairman Lloyd Blankfein can be deposed in a civil case even before the April criminal trial of a former Goldman Sachs board member accused of insider trading, a judge has ruled.
U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff signed an order Tuesday that requires Blankfein and six others to answer questions related to the civil case brought against former board member Rajat Gupta.
Gupta faces an April criminal trial on charges that he conspired with Raj Rajaratnam to break securities fraud laws through insider trading. If convicted, he faces up to 105 years in prison. He has pleaded not guilty.
Most of the biggest Occupy Wall Street camps are gone. But their slogan still stands.
As the eurozone crisis continues to develop, pressure for the European Central Bank to act is mounting. Many want the ECB to bail out troubled European countries and their banks, much like the U.S. Federal Reserve did for some American and foreign banks during the financial crisis of 2008. But so far, the ECB has rejected those calls.
President Barack Obama said on Monday at a meeting with E.U. leaders that the U.S. would be willing to help Europe stave off an economic meltdown. But since Congress would likely stand in the way of increased foreign aid, the question arises: If the ECB doesn't act, could the Federal Reserve, which is independent of Congress, step in and rescue the eurozone? Read more...
Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson stepped off the elevator into the Third Avenue offices of hedge fund Eton Park Capital Management LP in Manhattan. It was July 21, 2008, and market fears were mounting. Four months earlier, Bear Stearns Cos. had sold itself for just $10 a share to JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM)
Now, amid tumbling home prices and near-record foreclosures, attention was focused on a new source of contagion: Fannie Mae (FNMA) and Freddie Mac, which together had more than $5 trillion in mortgage-backed securities and other debt outstanding, Bloomberg Markets reports in its January issue.
Paulson had been pushing a plan in Congress to open lines of credit to the two struggling firms and to grant authority for the Treasury Department to buy equity in them. Yet he had told reporters on July 13 that the firms must remain shareholder owned and had testified at a Senate hearing two days later that giving the government new power to intervene made actual intervention improbable...
Around the conference room table were a dozen or so hedge- fund managers and other Wall Street executives -- at least five of them alumni of Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS), of which Paulson was chief executive officer and chairman from 1999 to 2006. In addition to Eton Park founder Eric Mindich, they included such boldface names as Lone Pine Capital LLC founder Stephen Mandel, Dinakar Singh of TPG-Axon Capital Management LP and Daniel Och of Och-Ziff Capital Management Group LLC. Read more...
BRUSSELS The 17 finance ministers of the countries that use the euro converged on EU headquarters Tuesday in a desperate bid to save their currency - and to protect Europe, the United States, Asia and the rest of the global economy from a debt-induced financial tsunami.
The ministers were discussing ideas that would have been taboo only recently, before things got as bad as they are: countries ceding fiscal sovereignty to a central authority; some kind of elite group of euro nations that would guarantee one another's loans - but require strong fiscal discipline from anyone wanting membership.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel reiterated her support for changes to Europe's current treaties in order to create a fiscal union, that will include binding and enforceable commitments by all euro countries.
"Our priority is to have the whole of the eurozone to be placed on a stronger treaty basis," Merkel said Tuesday in Berlin. "This is what we have devoted all of our efforts to; this is what I'm concentrating on in all of the talks with my counterparts."
Illustrating the urgency is the fact that eurozone governments have euro638 billion ($852 billion) in past debts coming due in 2012, of which 40 percent needs to be refinanced in the first four months of the year, according to a Barclays Capital estimate last week. Read more...
LONDON/BOSTON (Ben Hirschler and Scott Malone) - When Novo Nordisk's chief financial officer met marketing colleagues last Friday the conversation moved far beyond the usual discussion of sales and performance. Jesper Brandgaard asked a simple, far-reaching question: how would the firm set prices for two pivotal new insulin products if the euro collapsed?
The Danish firm, the world's biggest maker of insulin for the treatment of diabetes, sits outside the euro zone but sells into it. It's a question that is being echoed - in various forms - in the boardrooms of banks, brokerages, trading houses, law firms and the world's leading manufacturers.
"It's hard to make detailed plans but we need to think through how our pricing strategy would fare if there were suddenly a dismantling of the euro," Brandgaard told Reuters. "How do we avoid falling into a trap? This is the first time I've asked such a question. It's a topic that is increasingly on the radar."
In the case of the products in question - Degludec and DegludecPlus, two ultra-long-acting insulins - Novo Nordisk has time on its side. The new drugs are still working their way through the regulatory approval process and probably will not reach the market until late 2012. Read more...
In a potentially precedent setting ruling on Monday, a federal judge in New York tossed out a settlement between the Securities and Exchange Commission and Citigroup, effectively telling the SEC -- which is responsible for protecting investors and maintaining fair, orderly markets -- that it isn't going far enough in holding financial institutions accountable for their wrongdoings.
The SEC accused Citigroup of selling investors mortgage-backed bonds that the bank knew would lose value. Citi netted roughly $160 million in profits from the sale of these bonds while investors lost more than $700 million. Under the proposed settlement with the SEC, the bank would have had to pay $285 million in penalties and fees, but would not have had to admit to any wrongdoing, according to the court decision.
The lack of admission was the main reason Jed S. Rakoff, a Clinton-appointed U.S. district judge, said he decided to throw out the settlement. An admission of guilt or innocence is a matter of significant public interest, he said. "The court, and the public, need some knowledge of what the underlying facts are," wrote Rakoff. "For otherwise, the court becomes a mere handmaiden to a settlement privately negotiated on the basis of unknown facts, while the public is prevented from ever knowing the truth in a matter of obvious importance." Read more...
MF Global Bankruptcy: Portion Of Missing Customers' Funds Possibly Found At UK JPMorgan Chase (11/29/11) [article]
About $200 million in customer funds missing at MF Global may have surfaced at JP Morgan Chase in Britain, the New York Times said, citing people briefed on the matter.
During MF Global's last days, it overdrew an account at JPMorgan, the newspaper said, citing a person close to the matter. MF Global transferred roughly $200 million in the days before the firm filed for bankruptcy, the paper reported.
MF Global filed for Chapter 11 protection on October 31 after the New York-based company revealed it had made a $6.3 billion bet on European sovereign debt, spooking investors.
Regulators are trying to determine what happened to the missing money and whether MF Global may have improperly mixed customer funds with its own, a violation of industry rules. The total shortfall at the brokerage is estimated to be just under $1 billion. Read more...
The country is still celebrating the inability of the supercommittee to cut Social Security and Medicare, but it is important to move on from this victory to retake control of the political debate from the One Percent. As it stands, the One Percent are insisting that the country genuflect over the non-problem of the budget deficit, at a time when tens of millions of workers are unemployed or underemployed, millions of people are facing the loss of their homes and tens of millions of baby boomers are approaching retirement with little other than their Social Security to support them.
The deficit is the agenda of the One Percent. There is no reason that the rest of us should be concerned about budget deficits when the rest of the country is struggling with the economic disaster created by the greed and incompetence of the One Percent.
This is not a statement of morality; it is a statement based on economic reality. Budget deficits can be a problem when an economy is near full employment and the deficit can be pulling resources away from private investment, thereby slowing growth. However, it is not a problem with large numbers of unemployed workers and vast amounts of excess capacity.
This is what the financial markets are telling us every day as interest rates on long-term government bonds hover near 2.0 percent. If deficits were really crimping the economy, we would be seeing interest rates of 6 or 7 percent, or even higher. The deficit hawks do not have an economic case to support their argument, just money and influence.Read more...
OSLO, Norway - A psychiatric evaluation of confessed mass killer Anders Behring Breivik found he was insane during the July 22 bomb and shooting attacks that killed 77 people in Norway, prosecutors said Tuesday.
If a court agrees with that assessment, the self-declared anti-Muslim militant cannot be sentenced to prison but will be subjected to compulsory psychiatric care, prosecutors told reporters in Oslo.
"The conclusions of the forensic experts is that Anders Behring Breivik was insane," prosecutor Svein Holden said, adding Breivik was in a state of psychosis during Norway's worst peacetime massacre. Read more...
In a story breaking this morning, The Associated Press is reporting that the parent company of American Airlines and regional affiliate American Eagle is filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
Related to the move, Gerard Arpey has "retired" as the company's CEO and will be replace by Tom Horton, who previously served as president of AMR and American.
Bloomberg News writes that AMR Corp. "filed for bankruptcy (this morning) after failing to secure cost-cutting labor agreements and sitting out a round of mergers that dropped it from the world's largest airline to No. 3 in the U.S. With the filing, American became the final large U.S. full- fare airline to seek court protection from creditors." Read more...
Speaking from his district office here on Monday after announcing his plan to retire from the House of Representatives, Mr. Frank said he was tired of the scorching partisan battles that did not exist when he first won office three decades ago, tired of campaigning, which he detests, and, at 71, just plain tired.
"By the end of next year, I will have been doing this for 45 years with one six-month sabbatical," Mr. Frank said in an interview, referring to his career in politics, which started as an aide to former Mayor Kevin White of Boston. "It's been a privilege to fight for the quality of people's lives, but I'm ready to put a little more quality into my own life."
(Reuters) - Pakistan's military has been handed a rare opportunity to press its strategic ambitions in neighboring Afghanistan after a cross-border NATO attack that killed 24 of its soldiers over the weekend.
Fury over the incident at home, where anti-American sentiment runs high, makes it likely that both the army chief, General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, and the civilian government will play hardball with their ostensible ally, the United States.
"The Pakistan military is clearly very angry at the turn of events and the army's top leadership is under tremendous pressure from middle-ranking offices and junior officers to react," said Hasan Abbas at the U.S. National Defense University's College of International Security Affairs.
That pressure will spur the military to flex its muscles in diplomatic maneuvering with Washington in the run-up to the exit of U.S. combat troops from Afghanistan in 2014.
The August riots would not have spread from the London to other areas in England had the police response been "more robust" in the capital, an independent report has found.
While the fatal shooting of Mark Duggan by Met officers precipitated the initial Tottenham riot, the "sole trigger" for the violent disturbances elsewhere was the perception that police "could not contain" the scale of rioting in London and that "the streets were there for the taking".
"Most rioters believed they would be able to loot and damage without being challenged by the police. In the hardest-hit areas they were correct," found the Riots Communities and Victims panel
In its interim report, 5 Days in August, the independent panel, set up by the government in the wake of rioting which left five dead and saw 4,000 peopled arrested, said there was "no single cause" for the disturbances, each having its "own DNA".
It estimated that between 13,000 and 15,000 people were "actively involved" in the disturbances between 6-10 August. The final cost of the rioting could be £500m, it said.
President promises Berlusconi will resign in days rather than weeks after 10-year-bonds rise above seven per cent.
Italy's president has moved to allay fears over political uncertainty, saying a new government will be formed shortly and that Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's resignation will be accelerated.
Giorgio Napolitano said in a statement on Wednesday there was no uncertainty over Berlusconi's decision to resign once a new Finanancial Stability law was adopted, "within the space of a few days".
"Fears are totally unfounded that Italy may experience a long period of inactivity," Napolitano said, adding that "emergency measures" could be adopted at any time.
As Russia says an Israeli strike against Iran would be a "serious mistake", we ask if a confrontation is brewing.
Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, has described any possible Israeli military strike against Iran as a "very serious mistake", adding that such action would have "unpredictable consequences".
Lavrov's comments followed a warning by Shimon Peres, the Israeli president, that an attack on Iran is becoming more likely. It also comes after Western diplomats were briefed on the latest report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which details Iran's nuclear capabilities.
In 1991, negotiations started officially and unofficially between the Palestine Liberation Organisation (and the Palestinians associated with it) and the Israeli government. At the time, Israel had occupied the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) and the Gaza Strip for the previous 24 years.
Today, 20 years later, Israel and President Obama insist that the only way to bring about peace, and presumably end the Occupation, is to continue with negotiations. It is unclear if what Obama and Israel are claiming is that Israel needs 24 years of negotiations in order to end its 24-year occupation of Palestinian land, so that by the time the occupation ends, it will have lasted for 48 years.
People & Power asks if the tycoon duo's fortune could put the radical right into the White House.
Charles and David Koch are each worth about $25bn, which makes them the fourth richest Americans. When you combine their fortunes, they are the third wealthiest people in the world. Radical libertarians who use their money to oppose government and virtually all regulation as interference with the free market, the Kochs are in a class of their own as players on the American political stage. Their web of influence in the US stretches from state capitals to the halls of congress in Washington DC.
Students and supporters march in London against austerity measures and rise in annual university costs to $14,000.
Amid a heavy police presence, thousands of students and their supporters have marched through central London to protest against cuts to public spending and an increase in university tuition fees.
Police said more than 2,000 people took part in the Wednesday march, but local media reports estimated the crowd as large as 10,000 people.