Wall Street Bailout, Financial Fraud,
Extreme Climate Change
Revealing News Articles
October 24, 2008
Below are key excerpts of important news articles you may have missed. These articles include revealing information on the realities underlying the Wall Street bailout, lack of resources at the FBI to investigate financial fraud, a new report that climate change may be much more extreme than expected, and more. Each excerpt is taken verbatim from the major media website listed at the link provided. If any link fails to function, click here. Key sentences are highlighted for those with limited time. By choosing to educate ourselves and to spread the word, we can and will build a brighter future.
Banks Are Likely to Hold Tight to Bailout Money
October 17, 2008, New York Times
All of the combined profits that major banks earned in recent years have vanished. Since mid-2007, when the credit crisis erupted, the country's nine largest banks have written down the value of their troubled assets by a combined $323 billion. The problems that began with home mortgages, analysts say, are migrating to auto, credit card and commercial real estate loans. The deepening red ink underscores a crucial question about the government's plan: Will lenders deploy their new-found capital quickly, as the Treasury hopes, and unlock the flow of credit through the economy? Or will they hoard the money to protect themselves? John A. Thain, the chief executive of Merrill Lynch, said on Thursday that banks were unlikely to act swiftly. "We will have the opportunity to redeploy that," Mr. Thain said of the new capital. "But at least for the next quarter, it's just going to be a cushion." For every dollar the banks earned during the industry's most prosperous years, they have now wiped out $1.06. [Treasury Secretary Henry M.] Paulson unveiled plans to provide $125 billion to nine banks on terms that were more favorable than they would have received in the marketplace. The government, however, has offered no written requirements about how or when the banks must use the money. "There is no express statutory requirement that says you must make this amount of loans," said John C. Dugan, the comptroller of the currency. The banks could use the money from the government for any number of things. Some analysts say the banks may use it to acquire weaker competitors. Others say they might use it to avoid painful cost-cutting. And still others say the banks may sit on the capital.
Note: With no requirements placed on how the bailout money is to be used, what is to stop the banks from using taxpayers's money to inflate the bonuses to top executives, or to increase political campaign contributions to Congress members in return for future favorable legislation?
F.B.I. Struggles to Handle Financial Fraud Cases
October 19, 2008, New York Times
The Federal Bureau of Investigation is struggling to find enough agents and resources to investigate criminal wrongdoing tied to the country's economic crisis, according to current and former bureau officials. The bureau slashed its criminal investigative work force to expand its national security role after the Sept. 11 attacks, shifting more than 1,800 agents, or nearly one-third of all agents in criminal programs, to terrorism and intelligence duties. The cutbacks have left the bureau seriously exposed in investigating areas like white-collar crime, which has taken on urgent importance in recent weeks because of the nation's economic woes. So depleted are the ranks of the F.B.I.'s white-collar investigators that executives in the private sector say they have had difficulty attracting the bureau's attention in cases involving possible frauds of millions of dollars. Since 2004, F.B.I. officials have warned that mortgage fraud posed a looming threat, and the bureau has repeatedly asked the Bush administration for more money to replenish the ranks of agents handling nonterrorism investigations. But each year, the requests have been denied, with no new agents approved for financial crimes, as policy makers focused on counterterrorism. According to previously undisclosed internal F.B.I. data, the cutbacks have been particularly severe in staffing for investigations into white-collar crimes like mortgage fraud, with a loss of 625 agents, or 36 percent of its 2001 levels.
Note: How fortunate for the financial fraudsters that the FBI doesn't have the resources to investigate them! Was it just a coincidence that first the "war on terror" and then the Wall Street bailout both have resulted in trillions of dollars going to a few well-positioned corporations? For more on government corruption from reliable sources, click here.
Biden to Supporters: "Gird Your Loins"
October 20, 2008, ABC News
Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., on Sunday guaranteed that if elected, Sen. Barack Obama., D-Ill., will be tested by an international crisis within his first six months in power and he will need supporters to stand by him as he makes tough, and possibly unpopular, decisions. "Mark my words," the Democratic vice presidential nominee warned at the second of his two Seattle fundraisers. "Remember I said it standing here if you don't remember anything else I said. Watch, we're gonna have an international crisis, a generated crisis, to test the mettle of this guy. And he's gonna need help. He's gonna need you ... to use your influence, your influence within the community, to stand with him. Because it's not gonna be apparent initially ... that we're right. Gird your loins," Biden told the crowd. "We're gonna win, but this is not gonna be an easy ride. The next president is gonna be left with the most significant task. It's like cleaning the Augean stables, man. He's gonna need your help. Because I promise you, you all are gonna be sitting here a year from now going, 'Oh my God, why are they there in the polls? Why is the polling so down? Why is this thing so tough?' We're gonna have to make some incredibly tough decisions in the first two years. So I'm asking you now ... [to] be prepared to stick with us. There are gonna be a lot of you who want to go, 'Whoa, wait a minute, yo, whoa, whoa, I don't know about that decision'," Biden continued. "Because if you think the decision is sound when they're made, which I believe you will, they're not likely to be as popular as they are sound. Because if they're popular, they're probably not sound."
Note: This remarkable warning from Joe Biden of a near-term "generated crisis" is notable as well for its anti-democratic sentiments. Gen. Colin Powell, in endorsing Barack Obama for president on "Meet the Press" on Oct. 19, also said "there's going to be a crisis come along [on] the 21st or 22nd of January that we don't even know about right now." Beyond the timing, what do these key insiders know that the public doesn't? And what country has the demonstrated capability to "generate" a crisis at will?
Wall Street's 'Disaster Capitalism for Dummies'
October 21, 2008, MarketWatch.com
Sorry to pop your bubble folks, but it no longer matters who's president. Why? The real "game changer" already happened. Democracy has been replaced by Wall Street's new "disaster capitalism." That's the big game-changer historians will remember about 2008, masterminded by Wall Street's ultimate "Trojan Horse," Hank Paulson. Congress simply handed over voting power and the keys to trillions in the Treasury to Wall Street's new "Disaster Capitalists" who now control "democracy." We let it happen. In one generation America has been transformed from a democracy into a strange new form of government, "Disaster Capitalism." Three decades of influence peddling in Washington ... accelerated under Reaganomics and went into hyperspeed under Bushonomics, both totally committed to a new disaster capitalism run privately by Wall Street and Corporate America. No-bid contracts in wars and hurricanes. A housing-credit bubble -- while secretly planning for a meltdown. Finally, the coup de grace: Along came the housing-credit crisis, as planned. Press and public saw a negative, a crisis. Disaster capitalists saw a huge opportunity. Yes, opportunity for big bucks and control of America. This end game was planned for years in secret war rooms on Wall Street, in Corporate America, in Washington and the Forbes 400. Naomi Klein summarizes the game in Shock Doctrine: the Rise of Disaster Capitalism. This "new economy" generates enormous profits feeding off other peoples' misery: Wars, terror attacks, natural catastrophes, poverty, trade sanctions, subprime housing meltdowns and all kinds of economic, financial and political disasters.
Note: The author of this highly critical commentary, Paul B. Farrell, is a well-known writer on finance and investment and a long-time columnist at The Wall Street Journal's sister-site MarketWatch.
Climate change is 'faster and more extreme' than feared
October 20, 2008, The Telegraph (One of the U.K.'s leading newspapers)
Climate change is happening much faster than the world's best scientists predicted and will wreak havoc unless action is taken on a global scale, a new report warns. 'Extreme weather events' such as the hot summer of 2003, which caused an extra 35,000 deaths across southern Europe from heat stress and poor air quality, will happen more frequently. Britain and the North Sea area will be hit more often by violent cyclones and the predicted rise in sea level will double to more than a metre, putting vast coastal areas at risk from flooding. The bleak report from WWF -- formerly the World Wildlife Fund -- also predicts crops failures and the collapse of ecosystems on both land and sea. And it calls on the EU to set an example to the rest of the world by agreeing a package of challenging targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions to tackle the consequences of climate change and to keep any increase in global temperatures below 2C. The agency says that the 2007 report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) ... is now out of date. WWF's report, Climate Change: Faster, stronger, sooner, has updated all the scientific data and concluded that global warming is accelerating far beyond the IPCC's forecasts. As an example it says the first 'tipping point' may have already been reached in the Arctic, where sea ice is disappearing up to 30 years ahead of IPCC predictions and may be gone completely within five years - something that hasn't occurred for a million years. It could result in rapid and abrupt climate change rather than the gradual changes forecast by the IPCC.
Note: For lots more on global warming from major media sources, click here.
Interpol wants facial recognition database to catch suspects
October 20, 2008, The Guardian (One of the U.K.'s leading newspapers)
Interpol is planning to expand its role into the mass screening of passengers moving around the world by creating a face recognition database. Every year more than 800 million international travellers fail to undergo "the most basic scrutiny" to check whether their identity documents have been stolen, the global policing cooperation body has warned. Senior figures want a system that lets immigration officials capture digital images of passengers and immediately cross-check them against a database of pictures of [alleged] terror suspects, international criminals and fugitives. The UK's first automated face recognition gates -- matching passengers to their digital image in the latest generation of passports -- began operating at Manchester airport in August. Mark Branchflower, head of Interpol's fingerprint unit, will this week unveil proposals in London for the creation of biometric identification systems that could be linked to such immigration checks. The civil liberties group No2ID, which campaigns against identity cards, expressed alarm at the plans. "This is a move away from seeking specific persons to GCHQ-style bulk interception of information," warned spokesman Michael Parker. "This is the next step. Law enforcement agencies want the most efficient systems but there has to be a balance between security and privacy."
Note: For many disturbing reports on increasing threats to privacy, click here.
Passports will be needed to buy mobile phones
October 19, 2008, Times of London
Everyone who buys a mobile telephone will be forced to register their identity on a national database under government plans to extend massively the powers of state surveillance. Phone buyers would have to present a passport or other official form of identification at the point of purchase. Privacy campaigners fear it marks the latest government move to create a surveillance society. A compulsory national register for the owners of all 72m mobile phones in Britain would be part of a much bigger database. Whitehall officials have raised the idea of a register containing the names and addresses of everyone who buys a phone in recent talks with Vodafone and other telephone companies, insiders say. The move is targeted at monitoring the owners of Britain's estimated 40m prepaid mobile phones. They can be purchased with cash by customers who do not wish to give their names, addresses or credit card details. The pay-as-you-go phones are popular with criminals ... because their anonymity shields their activities from the authorities. But they are also used by thousands of law-abiding citizens who wish to communicate in private. The move aims to close a loophole in plans being drawn up by GCHQ, the government's eavesdropping centre in Cheltenham, to create a huge database to monitor and store the internet browsing habits, e-mail and telephone records of everyone in Britain.
Note: For many disturbing reports on increasing threats to privacy, click here.
Wiretap lawsuit defense challenged in court
October 18, 2008, San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisco's leading newspaper)
Civil liberties groups started a legal challenge ... to the new federal law designed to dismiss their wiretapping suits against telecommunications companies, saying the statute violates phone customers' constitutional rights and tramples on judicial authority. The law ... granted retroactive protection to AT&T, Verizon and other companies against lawsuits accusing them of illegally sharing their telephone and e-mail networks and millions of customer records with the National Security Agency. Almost 40 such suits from around the nation are pending before Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker in San Francisco. The law requires him to dismiss the cases if the Justice Department tells him the companies had cooperated in a surveillance program authorized by President Bush. Details of the department's filing and the judge's dismissal order are to be kept secret. The American Civil Liberties Union and the Electronic Frontier Foundation attacked the secrecy requirements and argued that Congress and President Bush lack authority to order courts to whitewash constitutional violations. "If Congress can give the executive the power to exclude the judiciary from considering the constitutional claims of millions of Americans ... then the judiciary will no longer be functioning as a coequal branch of government," Cindy Cohn, the foundation's legal director, said in court papers. She said the law's secrecy makes the proceedings one-sided. "Due process requires more than the chance to shadow-box with the government," Cohn wrote.
Note: For many reports from reliable, verifiable sources on threats to civil liberties, click here.
U.S. falls behind other developed countries in infant mortality
October 16, 2008, Los Angeles Times
After a century of declines, the U.S. infant mortality rate barely budged between 2000 and 2005, causing the United States to slip further behind other developed countries despite spending more on healthcare, according to a report released Wednesday. The rate was 6.86 infant deaths per 1,000 live births in 2005, virtually unchanged from 6.89 in 2000. In 1900, the rate was 100 deaths per 1,000 live births. The United States dropped to 29th in the world in infant mortality in 2004, the latest year for which data are available from all countries, tying with Poland and Slovakia. The year before, it was 27th. In 1960, it was 12th. The report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention attributed the leveling off in mortality to a 9% increase in premature births over the same period and to stalled progress in saving the earliest preterm infants. Premature birth and low birth weight are by far the biggest causes of infant death. Infant mortality rates vary by race and ethnicity, from a high of 13.63 per 1,000 births for African American women to a low of 4.42 for Cuban Americans, according to the CDC report. Differences in socioeconomic status and access to medical care did not entirely explain the gap, the report said. Premature births are increasing, possibly tied to rising rates of obesity, diabetes and hypertension. What those conditions have in common is that they are preventable, and that ... is where the United States falls behind other developed countries.
Note: For a treasure trove of reports on health issues from reliable sources click here.
'Soldiers of Conscience': To kill or not kill
October 15, 2008, San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisco's leading newspaper)
As independent documentary filmmakers from Berkeley, husband and wife Gary Weimberg and Catherine Ryan knew the Army's press office might be suspicious of their request to interview soldiers for a film about the morality of killing. Much to their surprise, though, the Army brass not only granted access to recruits on their way to Iraq and Afghanistan, but the couple's new film, "Soldiers of Conscience," which airs Thursday on PBS, also struck such a deep chord among the military, it's now to be shown in sophomore ethics classes at West Point. "They sent us a very nice, but terse, statement after they viewed it," Weimberg recalled of the military press aides who signed off on the finished product. "It read: This is approved. And, Thank you." In "Soldiers," Weimberg and Ryan focus on eight young soldiers, four of whom decide they can't pull the trigger after they reach the battlefield. Viewers may wonder why anyone with pacifist tendencies would join the Army, but each soldier has a trench epiphany - what the military calls a "crystallization of conscience" - and it's clear only the realities of wars can dredge up such emotions. The filmmakers do their utmost to ignore politics - their subjects barely mention their commander in chief's arguments for war - focusing, instead, on how soldiers marshall the will to attack. "It's not a film about Iraq," Ryan said. "Even in the wars that are supposed to be 'good wars' and fought for 'good reasons,' this question gets raised, and these stories occur."
Note: For many key reports on the realities of the Iraq and Afghan wars, click here.
World Bank Under Cyber Siege in 'Unprecedented Crisis'
October 10, 2008, FOX News
The World Bank Group's computer network – one of the largest repositories of sensitive data about the economies of every nation – has been raided repeatedly by outsiders for more than a year, FOX News has learned. It is still not known how much information was stolen. But sources inside the bank confirm that servers in the institution's highly-restricted treasury unit were deeply penetrated with spy software last April. Invaders also had full access to the rest of the bank's network for nearly a month in June and July. In total, at least six major intrusions – two of them using the same group of IP addresses originating from China – have been detected at the World Bank since the summer of 2007, with the most recent breach occurring just last month. In a frantic midnight e-mail to colleagues, the bank's senior technology manager referred to the situation as an "unprecedented crisis." In fact, it may be the worst security breach ever at a global financial institution. The crisis comes at an awkward moment for World Bank president Robert Zoellick. This weekend, the bank holds its annual series of meetings in Washington – and just in advance of those sessions, Zoellick called for a radical revamping of multilateral organizations in light of the global economic meltdown. Zoellick is positioning himself and the bank as an institution that can help chart a new path toward global financial stability. But that reputation ... depends on the bank's stable information infrastructure. The fact that the information vaults of the World Bank have been repeatedly pried open won't help Zoellick's case.
Note: For analysis of the role of banks and financial corporations in today's world, click here.
Key Articles From Years Past
The Assisi Decalogue For Peace
February, 2002, King's University College, University of Western Ontario
What if leaders of the world's major religions got together one day and denounced all religious violence? What if they unanimously agreed to make this plain, clear and bold statement to the world? "Violence and terrorism are opposed to all true religious spirit and we condemn all recourse to violence and war in the name of God or religion." It could change the world. More than 200 leaders of the world's dozen major religions did get together January 24 in Assisi, Italy. Pope John Paul II and a number of cardinals were at the meeting. So was Bartholomew I, spiritual leader of all Orthodox Christians. So were a dozen Jewish rabbis, including some from Israel. So were 30 Muslim imams from Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Pakistan. So were dozens of ministers representing Baptists, Lutherans, Anglicans, Methodists, Presbyterians, Pentecostals, Disciples of Christ, Mennonites, Quakers, Moravians, The Salvation Army and the World Council of Churches. So were dozens of monks, gurus and others representing Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs and Zoroastrians and native African religions. They unanimously agreed to condemn "every recourse to violence and war in the name of God or religion." They also said, "No religious goal can possibly justify the use of violence by man against man." And that "Whoever uses religion to foment violence contradicts religion's deepest and truest inspiration." They called their statement the Assisi Decalogue for Peace. Maybe you missed the story. It didn't even make the newspapers the next day, hidden inside or not. There was a lot of other news that day. What if leaders of the world's major religions got together one and denounced all religious violence - and no one cared?
Note: Why is it that news about war and terrorism so frequently makes headlines, but the amazing news that leaders of religions from around the world got together to denounce all violence in the name of God and religion did not even warrant an article or story in any major media?
Special note: For those who feel it's time for the U.S. Congress to print U.S. currency rather than the privately owned Federal Reserve, consider signing the petition supporting U.S. Rep. Ron Paul's bill available here.
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Wall Street Bailout, Financial Fraud, Extreme Climate Change