Bailout of Insurance Companies, Bank Mergers Pushed by Treasury, Secret GMO Plan
Revealing News Articles
October 31, 2008
Below are key excerpts of important news articles you may have missed. These articles include revealing information on the expansion of the Wall Street bailout to insurance companies, the Treasury Department's use of the bailout to bring about a new round of bank mergers, the secret plan by European heads of state to force GMO (genetically modified organisms) on their populations, 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.
P.S. For a powerful, five-minute video showing the many ways your vote can disappear and what you can do about it, click here.
So When Will Banks Give Loans?
October 25, 2008, New York Times
"Chase recently received $25 billion in federal funding. What effect will that have on the business side and will it change our strategic lending policy?" It was Oct. 17, just four days after JPMorgan Chase's chief executive, Jamie Dimon, agreed to take a $25 billion capital injection courtesy of the United States government, when a JPMorgan employee asked that question [during] an employee-only conference call. The JPMorgan executive who was moderating the employee conference call didn't hesitate to answer. "What we ... think it will help us do is perhaps be a little bit more active on the acquisition side or opportunistic side for some banks who are still struggling. I think there are going to be some great opportunities for us to grow in this environment, and I think we have an opportunity to use that $25 billion in that way." Read that answer as many times as you want – you are not going to find a single word in there about making loans to help the American economy. On the contrary: It is starting to appear as if one of Treasury's key rationales for the recapitalization program – namely, that it will cause banks to start lending again – is a fig leaf, Treasury's version of the weapons of mass destruction. In fact, Treasury wants banks to acquire each other and is using its power to inject capital to force a new and wrenching round of bank consolidation. Treasury would even funnel some of the bailout money to help banks buy other banks. And, in an almost unnoticed move, it recently put in place a new tax break, worth billions to the banking industry, that has only one purpose: to encourage bank mergers. As a tax expert, Robert Willens, put it: "It couldn't be clearer if they had taken out an ad."
Note: Was the real purpose of the "bailout" to strengthen the biggest banks by enabling them to gobble up the smaller ones at the public's expense? No wonder the legislation was rushed through without discussion! For lots more highly revealing reports on the Wall Street bailout, click here.
U.S. Is Said to Be Urging New Mergers in Banking
October 21, 2008, New York Times
In a step that could accelerate a shakeout of the nation's banks, the Treasury Department hopes to spur a new round of mergers by steering some of the money in its $250 billion rescue package to banks that are willing to buy weaker rivals, according to government officials. As the Treasury embarks on its unprecedented recapitalization, it is becoming clear that the government wants not only to stabilize the industry, but also to reshape it. Two senior officials said the selection criteria would include banks that need more capital to finance acquisitions. "Treasury doesn't want to prop up weak banks," said an official who spoke on condition of anonymity, because of the sensitivity of the matter. "One purpose of this plan is to drive consolidation." With bankers traumatized by the credit crisis and the loss of investor confidence, officials said, there are plenty of banks open to selling themselves. The hurdle is a lack of well-capitalized buyers. Stable national players like Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, and Wells Fargo are already digesting acquisitions. A second group of so-called super-regional banks are well positioned to take over their competitors, officials said, but have been reluctant to undertake or unable to complete deals. By offering capital at a favorable rate, the government may encourage them to expand.
Note: So the U.S. government is using billions of taxpayer dollars to support megamergers which create less competition and more monopolistic conditions. Hmmmm. Is that what the taxpayers really want? For lots more highly revealing reports on the Wall Street bailout, click here.
Bailout Expands to Insurers
October 25, 2008, Washington Post
The Treasury Department is dramatically expanding the scope of its bailout of the financial system with a plan to take ownership stakes in the nation's insurance companies, signaling new concerns about a sector of the economy whose troubles until now have been overshadowed by the banking industry, government and industry sources said. Insurers, including The Hartford, Prudential and MetLife, have pushed the Bush administration to include them in the plan. Many firms have taken losses from mortgage-related securities and other investments and are struggling to replenish their coffers. The new initiative underscores the growing range of problems that Treasury is scrambling to address with the $700 billion allocated by Congress this month. The shape of the plan has changed repeatedly since Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. introduced it last month as an effort to rescue banks by buying their troubled mortgage-related assets. That original mandate has now been pushed aside by a plan to take equity stakes in banks and insurance companies, and other businesses are lobbying to be included. The government has been forced to expand the plan partly because the federal guarantees previously given some institutions, such as banks, have put other companies and financial sectors at a disadvantage, making them less attractive to uneasy investors. The cost of saving the country's largest insurer continues to rise. Senior managers at troubled insurance giant American International Group warned the Federal Reserve yesterday that the company would probably need more taxpayer money than the $123 billion in rescue loans the government has provided.
Note: For lots more highly revealing reports on the Wall Street bailout, click here.
Europe's secret plan to boost GM crop production
October 26, 2008, The Independent (One of the U.K.'s leading newspapers)
Gordon Brown and other European leaders are secretly preparing an unprecedented campaign to spread GM crops and foods in Britain and throughout the continent, confidential documents obtained by The Independent on Sunday reveal. The documents –- minutes of a series of private meetings of representatives of 27 governments –- disclose plans to "speed up" the introduction of the modified crops and foods and to "deal with" public resistance to them. The secret meetings were convened by Jose Manuel Barroso, the pro-GM President of the Commission, and chaired by his head of cabinet, Joao Vale de Almeida. The prime ministers of each of the EU's 27 member states were asked to nominate a special representative. Neither the membership of the group, nor its objectives, nor the outcomes of its meetings have been made public. But The IoS has obtained confidential documents, including an attendance list and the conclusions of the two meetings held so far – on 17 July and just two weeks ago on 10 October – written by the chairman. The list shows that President Nicolas Sarkozy of France and Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany sent close aides. Britain was represented by Sonia Phippard, director for food and farming at the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. The conclusions reveal the discussions were mainly preoccupied with how to speed up the introduction of GM crops and food and how to persuade the public to accept them. The documents also make clear that Mr Barroso is going beyond mere exhortation by trying to get prime ministers to overrule their own agriculture and environment ministers in favour of GM.
Note: For an excellent summary of the many health risks posed by genetically modified foods, click here.
No curbs on Wall Street pay despite meltdown
October 24, 2008, San Francisco Chronicle/Associated Press
Despite the Wall Street meltdown, the nation's biggest banks are preparing to pay their workers as much as last year or more, including bonuses tied to personal and company performance. So far this year, nine of the largest U.S. banks, including some that have cut thousands of jobs, have seen total costs for salaries, benefits and bonuses grow by an average of 3 percent from a year ago, according to an Associated Press review. "Taxpayers have lost their life savings, and now they are being asked to bail out corporations," New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo said of the AP findings. "It's adding insult to injury to continue to pay outsized bonuses and exorbitant compensation." That there is a rise in pay, or at least not a pronounced dropoff, from 2007 is surprising because many of the same companies were doing some of their best business ever, at least in the first half of last year. In 2008, each quarter has been weaker than the last. "There are, of course, expectations that the payouts should be going down," David Schmidt, a senior compensation consultant at James F. Reda & Associates. "But we haven't seen that show up yet." Some banks are setting aside large amounts. At Citigroup, which has cut 23,000 jobs this year amid the crisis, pay expenses for the first nine months of this year came to $25.9 billion, 4 percent more than the same period last year. Typically, about 60 percent of Wall Street pay goes to salary and benefits, while about 40 percent goes to end-of-the-year cash and stock bonuses that hinge on performance, both for the individual and the company.
Note: For lots more on the Wall Street bailout, click here.
Panel grills credit raters over inflated ratings
October 23, 2008, MSNBC/Associated Press
Executives and employees at the major credit ratings agencies were often aware of problems in the AAA grades awarded to thousands of mortgage-related securities whose downgrades helped plunge the nation into a financial meltdown. The companies – Standard & Poor, Moody's and Fitch, Inc. – made enormous profits as they evaluated a ballooning number of mortgage-backed bonds, many of which were given top marks as long as housing prices went up. "The story of the credit rating agencies is a story of colossal failure," said Rep. Henry Waxman, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. The California Democrat said, "Millions of investors rely on them for independent, objective assessments. The rating agencies broke this bond of trust, and federal regulators ignored the warning signs and did nothing to protect the public. The result is that our entire financial system is now at risk." The companies are important because their high assessments assured investors that their money should be safe. The inflated ratings awarded to securities backed up by subprime loans led investors to buy them in enormous numbers. But now, most of these securities have been downgraded and the market for them has largely evaporated, contributing to the current crisis. The panel also heard former ratings agency executives say there's an inherent conflict of interest in the industry because they're paid by bond issuers instead of investors who trust their ratings to make smart investments.
Note: For many reports on corporate corruption from reliable sources, click here.
Sorry, I Can't Find Your Name
October 23, 2008, New York Times
Voting rolls, which are maintained by local election officials, are one of the weakest links in American democracy and problems are growing. Republicans have been pressing for sweeping voter purges in many states. They have also fought to make it harder to enroll new voters. Voting experts say there could be serious problems at the polls on Nov. 4. A number of states – including the battleground state of Florida – have adopted no match, no vote rules. Voters can be removed from the rolls if their names do not match a second list, such as a Social Security or driver's license database. But (like the U.S. mail) lists of this kind are notoriously mistake-filled, and one typo can cause a no match. In Ohio, Republicans recently sued the secretary of state, demanding that she provide local officials with a dubious match list. As many as 200,000 new voters could have been blocked from casting ballots. The Supreme Court rejected the suit, but Republicans are still looking for ways to use the list on Election Day. For this election, voters need to be prepared to fight for their right to cast a ballot. They should try to confirm before Nov. 4 that they are on the rolls – something that in many states can be done on a secretary of state or board of elections Web site. If their state permits it, they should vote early. If voters find on Election Day that their names are not on the rolls, they should contact a voters' rights group like Election Protection, at 1-866-OUR-VOTE.
Note: A recent report in Rolling Stone by Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and Greg Palast details many of these tactics to eliminate voters from the rolls. To watch a related video by Greg Palast click here. For many disturbing reports from major media sources on threats to free and fair elections in the US, click here. And for a powerful, five-minute video showing both the ways your vote can disappear and what you can do about it, click here.
Gap between rich, poor grows in wealthy nations
October 22, 2008, San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisco's leading newspaper)
Economic inequality is growing in the world's richest countries, particularly in the United States. The gap between rich and poor has widened over the last 20 years in nearly all the countries studied, even as trade and technological advances have spurred rapid growth in their economies. With job losses and home foreclosures skyrocketing and many of these countries now facing recession, policymakers must act quickly ... the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development said. "What will happen if the next decade is not one of world growth but of world recession? If a rising tide didn't lift all boats, how will they be affected by an ebbing tide?" Oxford University economist Anthony Atkinson said at a conference at the organization's Paris headquarters. In a 20-year study of its member countries, the group found inequality had increased in 27 of its 30 members as top earners' incomes soared while others' stagnated. The United States has the highest inequality and poverty rates in the organization after Mexico and Turkey, and the gap has increased rapidly since 2000, the report said. France, meanwhile, has seen inequalities fall in the past 20 years as poorer workers are better paid. Rising inequality threatens social mobility ... which is lower in countries like the United States, Great Britain and Italy, where inequality is high, than countries with less inequality such as Denmark, Sweden and Australia, the report said. Wealthy households are not only widening the gap with the poor, but in countries such as the United States, Canada and Germany, they are also leaving middle-income earners further behind.
Note: For more reports from reliable sources on increasing income inequality, click here.
Packs of robots will hunt down uncooperative humans
October 22, 2008, New Scientist
The latest request from the Pentagon jars the senses. They are looking for contractors to provide a "Multi-Robot Pursuit System" that will let packs of robots "search for and detect a non-cooperative human". Given that iRobot last year struck a deal with Taser International to mount stun weapons on its military robots, how long before we see packs of droids hunting down pesky demonstrators with paralysing weapons? Or could the packs even be lethally armed? Steve Wright of Leeds Metropolitan University is an expert on police and military technologies. "The giveaway here is the phrase 'a non-cooperative human subject'," he told me: "What we have here are the beginnings of something designed to enable robots to hunt down humans like a pack of dogs. Once the software is perfected we can reasonably anticipate that they will become autonomous and become armed. We can also expect such systems to be equipped with human detection and tracking devices including sensors which detect human breath and the radio waves associated with a human heart beat. These are technologies already developed." Noel Sharkey, an AI and robotics engineer at the University of Sheffield, says "This is a clear step towards one of the main goals of the US Army's Future Combat Systems project, which aims to make a single soldier the nexus for a large scale robot attack. Independently, ground and aerial robots have been tested together and once the bits are joined, there will be a robot force under command of a single soldier with potentially dire consequences for innocents around the corner."
Note: For many revealing reports of new weaponry technologies in the planning and development stages, click here.
Bernanke Is Fighting the Last War
October 18, 2008, Wall Street Journal
"Nothing," [famed economist] Anna Schwartz says, "seems to have quieted the fears of either the investors in the securities markets or the lenders and would-be borrowers in the credit market." The credit markets remain frozen, the stock market continues to get hammered, and deep recession now seems a certainty -- if not a reality already. [Recently, according to Schwarz, Secretary of the Treasury Hank Paulson has] shifted from trying to save the banking system to trying to save banks. These are not, Ms. Schwartz argues, the same thing. In fact, by keeping otherwise insolvent banks afloat, the Federal Reserve and the Treasury have actually prolonged the crisis. "They should not be recapitalizing firms that should be shut down." Rather, "firms that made wrong decisions should fail," she says bluntly. "You shouldn't rescue them. Everything works much better when wrong decisions are punished and good decisions make you rich." How did we get into this mess in the first place? As in the 1920s, the current "disturbance" started with a "mania." But manias always have a cause. "In every case, it was expansive monetary policy that generated the boom in an asset. The particular asset varied from one boom to another. But the basic underlying propagator was too-easy monetary policy and too-low interest ratest. And then of course if monetary policy tightens, the boom collapses." Today's crisis isn't a replay of the problem in the 1930s, but our central bankers have responded by using the tools they should have used then. They are fighting the last war. The result, she argues, has been failure.
Note: Anna Schwarz and Nobel-winner Milton Friedman authored A Monetary History of the United States. It's the definitive account of how misguided monetary policy turned the stock-market crash of 1929 into the Great Depression. The excellent article above mentions that Fed Reserve Chairman Bernanke once said "I would like to say to Milton and Anna: Regarding the Great Depression. You're right, we did it. We're very sorry. We won't do it again." Top bankers and their cronies have been aware of what causes the boom/bust cycle for over 100 years and taken full advantage of it. Try to find one top banker who lost significant money in any bust cycle.
Puzzled Researchers Vet BlackLight's Physics-Defying Hydrogen Power
October 21, 2008, New York Times
BlackLight Power, the company that has pulled in $60 million for its seemingly physics-defying fuel cell, is back with an announcement about an independent validation of its technology. A team of engineers, headed by Dr. Peter Jansson at Rowan University, have tested BlackLight's prototypes and found that the devices perform as BlackLight claims, ambiguously concluding that "there is a novel reaction of some type causing the large exotherm which is consistently produced." To translate: There's definitely lots of energy being produced. They're just not sure why. BlackLight says its technology can push an electron closer to the nucleus by way of a catalytic reaction, resulting in a huge amount of clean energy. The company describes the reaction as "somewhere between a nuclear and a chemical reaction," but without any of the messy fallout. The team at Rowan tested BlackLight's 1,000- and 50,000-watt reactors over three months and were able to replicate BlackLight's energy claims, saying that the energy produced "cannot be explained by other known sources like combustion or nuclear energy." The company says a complete verification of the whole process will likely happen within a year. BlackLight tells us it is now in the process of licensing its technology to power producers. The company says it has enough capital to get through commercialization and plans to have its reactors in a power plant in the next two years.
Note: For a seven-minute video demonstrating this amazing new energy source, click here. These results have been published in dozens of peer-reviewed scientific journals. See list with links by clicking here. Exciting news!
Special report: How our economy is killing the Earth
October 16, 2008, New Scientist
Consumption of resources is rising rapidly, biodiversity is plummeting and just about every measure shows humans affecting Earth on a vast scale. Most of us accept the need for a more sustainable way to live, by reducing carbon emissions, developing renewable technology and increasing energy efficiency. But are these efforts to save the planet doomed? A growing band of experts are looking at figures like these and arguing that personal carbon virtue and collective environmentalism are futile as long as our economic system is built on the assumption of growth. The science tells us that if we are serious about saving Earth, we must reshape our economy. This, of course, is economic heresy. Growth to most economists is as essential as the air we breathe. They see no limits to that growth, ever. In recent weeks it has become clear just how terrified governments are of anything that threatens growth, as they pour billions of public money into a failing financial system. Amid the confusion, any challenge to the growth dogma needs to be looked at very carefully. This one is built on a long-standing question: how do we square Earth's finite resources with the fact that as the economy grows, the amount of natural resources needed to sustain that activity must grow too? It has taken all of human history for the economy to reach its current size. On current form it will take just two decades to double. In this special issue, New Scientist brings together key thinkers from politics, economics and philosophy who profoundly disagree with the growth dogma but agree with the scientists monitoring our fragile biosphere.
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Bailout of Insurance Companies, Bank Mergers Pushed by Treasury, Secret GMO Plan