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2010 November 17 | Activist News

The Road to World War 3

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Edward Snowden

Open Letter To Obama

July 26, 2013 President Barack Obama The White House 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W. Washington, D.C. 20500 Re: Civil Disobedience, Edward J. Snowden, and the Constitution Dear Mr. President: You are acutely aware More »


U.S. Companies Pay Just One-Third Of The Legal Tax Rate: GAO Study

Huffington Post July 1, 2013 By Mark Gongloff Big, profitable U.S. companies paid an average federal tax rate of less than 13 percent in 2010, according to a new study — or More »

jeff olsen

Man Tried for Chalk Drawings Found Not Guilty

NBC San Diego July 1, 2013 By Christina London The man accused of vandalism for drawing with chalk outside banks has been found not guilty on all charges. A jury returned its More »


The Bigger Story Behind the AP Spying Scandal

Washington’s Blog/Global Research May 20, 2012 By George Washington Attack on the Press You know that the Department of Justice tapped scores of phone lines at the Associated Press. You might have More »

Daily Archives: November 17, 2010

Members of US Congress Get Richer Despite Sour Economy

November 17, 2010
By Albert Bozzo

Despite a long and deep recession, the collective personal wealth of congressional members increased by more than 16 percent between 2008 and 2009, according to a study released Wednesday by the Center for Responsive Politics.

The study also indicates that a significant number of members owned shares of major players in the health-care and financial-services sectors, which were the subject of major reform legislation during the period.
The findings—based on federal financial disclosure data released earlier this year—paint a wealthy bunch in Congress, with more than half of all members—261—were millionaires.
About one in five of those had average calculated wealth in 2009 of at least $10 million. Eight of the 261 were in the $100 million-plus range.

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) ranked No. 1 in personal wealth—$303.5 million.

In contrast, U.S. median household income dropped 3 percent to $50,221 between 2008 and 2009, the second straight decline, according to the Census Dept.  In terms of millionaires, only about 1 percent of the overall population qualifies.

The CRP study comes amid a growing public outcry about the size of government and rising employee salaries when the economy—and most taxpayers—are struggling like never before, with unemployment stuck at 9.5 percent and wages and benefits flat in many sectors.
“Congressional representatives on balance rank among the wealthiest of wealthy Americans and boast financial portfolios that are all but unattainable for most of their constituents,” said Sheila Krumholz, the Center’s executive director.
Full Article Here – http://www.cnbc.com/id/40233691

UC students clash with police before fee hike vote

Associated Press
November 17, 2010

SAN FRANCISCO – University of California students have clashed with police outside a meeting of the UC Board of Regents before its expected vote on another tuition increase.

UC spokesman Pete King says police arrested at least 16 protesters Wednesday who tried to cross a police barricade in San Francisco.

Christine Byon of the UC Students Association says a group of student protesters was pepper-sprayed.

Inside the meeting, several students urged the board to vote against the proposed 8 percent tuition increase.

UC officials say the fee hike is needed because the cash-strapped state has slashed funding to the 10-campus

Full Article Here – http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20101117/ap_on_re_us/us_california_tuition_hike_1

Wall Street quietly seeks to undo new financial rules

November 16, 2010
By Kevin G. Hall

WASHINGTON — The heavy hitters of finance lost big battles earlier this year during the overhaul of financial regulation, but they’re working hard to win the war. They’re quietly trying to soften, if not kill, some of the more controversial provisions.

Lobbyists for Big Finance are working hardest to neutralize the so-called Volcker Rule, which would force big banks to spin off their lucrative proprietary trading operations, in which they invest their own capital in speculative deals.

The measure_ named after its proponent, former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker — seeks to prevent big banks from betting against trades they made on behalf of their customers, a popular practice until the financial crisis exploded in 2008. For example, big investment banks such as Goldman Sachs sold customers overvalued mortgage bonds even as they bet secretly that those bonds would default.

Financial lobbyists also are working to soften requirements that Wall Street firms put more “skin in the game” by retaining more mortgage bonds on their books to guard against shoddy lending. They’re also trying to undercut the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Through Republican lawmakers who will soon hold leadership positions in the House of Representatives, big banks are backing proposals that could lead to its being defunded or subject to conditions that weaken it.

The financial sector is also pushing to have the bureau headed by a board rather than a strong single leader.

“Taken all together, these are all proposals that were considered (by Congress) and rejected . . . these don’t look like proposals that were designed to help the agency do better, but rather proposals designed to gut it,” said Travis Plunkett, the director of legislative affairs for the Consumer Federation of America. “This agency hasn’t opened its doors yet, and already the House Republican leadership is carrying a lot of proposals that
Wall Street and big financial interests have offered to eviscerate the consumer agency.”

Big global banks already succeeded in softening new global rules that would have required banks to set aside considerably more funds in reserve to guard against future losses — generally called capital requirements or loan-loss reserves.

This happened at international banking negotiations held earlier this year in Basel, Switzerland. There, powerful banks weakened a proposal for a new international standard governing how much banks must keep in reserve.

These big banks also pressured global regulators to back off a mandatory requirement that would have forced banks to set aside even more capital during good times, on the premise that economic booms lead to excessive risk taking. This so-called countercyclical reserve requirement is now voluntary.

“I think the answer is they (global regulators) caved in to the pressures of the industry,” said Morris Goldstein, a former top economist at the International Monetary Fund and now a senior researcher at the Peterson
Institute for International Economics. “I’d like to say that things are more positive, but I have to say a lot of the momentum is fading. . . . I think on the whole, we’re losing steam.”

F.B.I. Seeks Wider Wiretap Law for Web

New York Times
November 16, 2010

WASHINGTON — Robert S. Mueller III, the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, traveled to Silicon Valley on Tuesday to meet with top executives of several technology firms about a proposal to make it easier to wiretap Internet users.

Mr. Mueller and the F.B.I.’s general counsel, Valerie Caproni, were scheduled to meet with senior managers of several major companies, including Google and Facebook, according to several people familiar with the discussions. How Mr. Mueller’s proposal was received was not clear.

“I can confirm that F.B.I. Director Robert Mueller is visiting Facebook during his trip to Silicon Valley,” said Andrew Noyes, Facebook’s public policy manager. Michael Kortan, an F.B.I. spokesman, acknowledged the meetings but did not elaborate.

Mr. Mueller wants to expand a 1994 law, the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act, to impose regulations on Internet companies.

The law requires phone and broadband network access providers like Verizon and Comcast to make sure they can immediately comply when presented with a court wiretapping order.

Law enforcement officials want the 1994 law to also cover Internet companies because people increasingly communicate online. An interagency task force of Obama administration officials is trying to develop legislation for the plan, and submit it to Congress early next year.

The Commerce Department and State Department have questioned whether it would inhibit innovation, as well as whether repressive regimes might harness the same capabilities to identify political dissidents, according to officials familiar with the discussions.

Full Article Here – http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/17/technology/17wiretap.html?_r=1&partner=rss&emc=rss

U.S. Sets 50 Bank Probes

Wall Street Journal
November 16, 2010

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. is conducting about 50 criminal investigations of former executives, directors and employees at U.S. banks that have failed since the start of the financial crisis.

The agency responsible for dealing with bank failures is stepping up its effort to punish alleged recklessness, fraud and other criminal behavior, as U.S. officials did in the wake of the savings-and-loan crisis a generation ago. More than 300 banks and savings institutions have failed since the start of 2008, but just a few have led to criminal charges being filed against bank officials.

In an interview, Fred W. Gibson, deputy inspector general at the FDIC, which works with the Federal Bureau of Investigation to investigate crime at financial institutions, said the probes involve failed banks of all sizes in cities across the U.S. The FDIC is also ramping up civil claims to recover money from former bankers at busted lenders. He declined to identify any of the people or banks under investigation.

“We anticipate results from our investigations, although we cannot predict when a particular case will reach a stage at which disclosure of specifics would be appropriate,” Mr. Gibson said.

Pressure is high on regulators to identify and prosecute bankers for any wrongdoing that contributed to the largest number of failures in nearly 20 years. The September 2008 collapse of Washington Mutual Inc. was the biggest ever, with seven times the value of the assets that Continental Illinois Corp. had when it failed in 1984. The current epidemic of bank failures, including 146 so far this year, has deepened the nation’s lending drought and left the industry’s survivors with more muscle to squeeze customers.

The S&L crisis of the 1980s and 1990s killed more than 1,800 institutions. From 1990 to 1995, federal officials prosecuted about 1,850 bank insiders. More than 1,000 officers, directors and other officials went to prison, and federal agencies collected $4.5 billion in professional-liability claims.

In the current mess, no high-profile banker has been criminally charged in connection with a financial institution’s demise, as Charles Keating was for fraud after American Continental Corp. failed in 1989. He served four years in prison and became synonymous with the S&L crisis.

FDIC officials also are ramping up efforts to use civil litigation to recover money from former bank officials. Hundreds of “demand” letters have been sent to former executives, directors and other employees, as well as their professional-liability insurers, putting them on notice of potential claims, the FDIC says.

The agency’s board has authorized the filing of lawsuits seeking to recover more than $2 billion from more than 80 officers and directors of failed banks. The total is up from about 50 approved suits as of last month, seeking more than $1 billion.

Full Article Here – http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703628204575619000289073686.html?mod=WSJ_hp_LEFTTopStories

U.S. Agency and BP Faulted in Spill

New York Times
November 16, 2010

A breakdown in BP’s management system and a failure to strongly consider risk contributed to the Deepwater Horizon rig explosion that killed 11 workers and flooded the Gulf of Mexico with oil, a preliminary report by a team of scientific experts found on Tuesday.

The report, commissioned by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, was harsh in its criticism of BP, citing the company for a lack of “management discipline” and problems with “delegation of decision making” onboard the Deepwater Horizon.

But the report found no single smoking gun pointing to what led to the disaster, putting blame on BP for several missteps as well as on the Minerals Management Service, the federal agency that oversaw offshore drilling at the time of the spill.

The findings, by a 15-member committee of experts with the National Academy of Engineering, were first reported in The Wall Street Journal.

The report said that before the explosion, there was concern even among crew members about who was in charge. They pointed to a “lack of onboard expertise and of clearly defined responsibilities” for costly decisions.

Full Article Here – http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/17/us/17spill.html?src=twt&twt=nytimespolitics

Haitian protester killed by UN in cholera riot (Death toll surpasses 1000)

The Independent
November 16, 2010
By David Usborne

After violent clashes in Haiti between protesters and United Nations forces that left several wounded and one civilian dead, UN officials yesterday were endeavouring to discredit claims that the cholera outbreak in the country can be traced to a contingent of peacekeepers recently deployed there from Nepal.
Attempts to blame the arrival of the disease – never before documented in Haiti – on conditions at an encampment of Nepalese peacekeepers in an area on the Artibonite River were described as “misinformation” by UN spokesperson Corinne Momal-Vanian.
The unrest began on Monday and was centred on Haiti’s second-biggest city, Cap-Haitien, in the north, which remained mostly sealed off yesterday. 

Clashes were reported in towns in the central plateau. The dead man was reportedly shot by UN forces during an exchange in Quartier Morin, near Cap-Haitien. The Haitian Government said last night that the death toll from outbreak had surpassed 1,000.

While demonstrations continued in parts of the north of the country, the UN said they were being contained. 
“Right now, security forces… seem to have control already of the situation,” insisted Vincenzo Pugliese, a spokesman for Minustah, as the UN mission in Haiti is known.
Even before this week, the country’s radio waves were speculating that the Nepalese soldiers could be the source of the epidemic which has also put almost 15,000 in already over-stretched hospitals. Some experts fear that unless it is contained quickly the water-borne disease could afflict as many as 200,000 people in Haiti where sanitary conditions are scarce.
In a statement, the UN Mission said the finger-pointing is tied to the presidential elections due at the end of this month. “The way events unfolded suggests that these incidents were politically motivated, aimed at creating a climate of insecurity on the eve of elections. Minustah calls the people to remain vigilant and not be manipulated by enemies of stability and democracy,” the mission commanders said.
In Geneva, meanwhile, officials with the World Health Organisation insisted that combating the cholera outbreak in Haiti was more important at the moment than tracing its source. “At some time we will do further investigation but it’s not a priority right now,” said Fadela Chaib of the WHO.
The victim in Quartier Morin was reportedly shot in the back at a time when UN tanks were being targeted by stone-throwing protesters. The UN said it was investigating the shooting but insisted that the soldier who fired the shot had acted in self-defence.
Suspicions were directed at the Nepalese after reporters from the Associated Press went to the area where they are deployed and wrote of “foul-smelling waste” trickling towards the river from their camp.