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Mortgage Rules Weakened, Pentagon To Increase Troops in US, No Bailout Oversight
Revealing News Articles
December 5, 2008

Dear friends,

Below are key excerpts of important news articles you may have missed. These articles include revealing information on the weakening of mortgage lending rules before the financial meltdown occurred, Pentagon plans to increase deployment of troops in the US, a Congressional report finding a lack of oversight over the Treasury Department's bailout process, 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.

With best wishes,
Tod Fletcher and Fred Burks for PEERS and WantToKnow.info

US diluted loan rules before crash
December 1, 2008, ABC News/Associated Press
http://abclocal.go.com/wpvi/story?section=news/business&id=6532267

The Bush administration backed off proposed crackdowns on no-money-down, interest-only mortgages years before the economy collapsed, buckling to pressure from some of the same banks that have now failed. It ignored remarkably prescient warnings that foretold the financial meltdown, according to an Associated Press review of regulatory documents. "Expect fallout, expect foreclosures, expect horror stories," California mortgage lender Paris Welch wrote to U.S. regulators in January 2006, about one year before the housing implosion cost her a job. Bowing to aggressive lobbying - along with assurances from banks that the troubled mortgages were OK - regulators delayed action for nearly one year. By the time new rules were released late in 2006, the toughest of the proposed provisions were gone and the meltdown was under way. The administration's blind eye to the impending crisis is emblematic of its governing philosophy, which trusted market forces and discounted the value of government intervention in the economy. Its belief ironically has ushered in the most massive government intervention since the 1930s. Many of the banks that fought to undermine the proposals by some regulators are now either out of business or accepting billions in federal aid to recover from a mortgage crisis they insisted would never come. In 2005, faced with ominous signs the housing market was in jeopardy, bank regulators proposed new guidelines for banks writing risky loans. Those proposals all were stripped from the final rules.

Note: For many revealing reports on the Wall Street bailout from reliable sources, click here.

Pentagon to Detail Troops to Bolster Domestic Security
December 1, 2008, Washington Post
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/11/30/AR2008113002217.html

The U.S. military expects to have 20,000 uniformed troops inside the United States by 2011 trained to help state and local officials respond to a nuclear terrorist attack or other domestic catastrophe, according to Pentagon officials. Critics of the change, in the military and among civil liberties groups and libertarians ... express concern that the new homeland emphasis threatens to ... undermine the Posse Comitatus Act, a 130-year-old federal law restricting the military's role in domestic law enforcement. The Pentagon's plan calls for three rapid-reaction forces to be ready for emergency response by September 2011. The first 4,700-person unit, built around an active-duty combat brigade based at Fort Stewart, Ga., was available as of Oct. 1, said Gen. Victor E. Renuart Jr., commander of the U.S. Northern Command. Two additional teams will join nearly 80 smaller National Guard and reserve units made up of about 6,000 troops in supporting local and state officials nationwide. All would be trained to respond to a domestic chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, or high-yield explosive attack, or CBRNE event, as the military calls it. In 2005, a new Pentagon homeland defense strategy emphasized "preparing for multiple, simultaneous mass casualty incidents." In late 2007, Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England signed a directive approving more than $556 million over five years to set up the three response teams, known as CBRNE Consequence Management Response Forces [CCMRF].

Note: For many reports from major media sources of increasing threats to civil liberties, click here.

Bailout Oversight Lacking, GAO Says
December 3, 2008, Washington Post
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/12/02/AR2008120202219.html

The Bush administration has failed to adequately oversee its $700 billion bailout program and must move rapidly to guarantee that banks are complying with the plan's limits on conflicts of interest and lavish executive compensation, congressional investigators said yesterday. The new report by the Government Accountability Office, the nonpartisan investigative arm of Congress, said the Treasury Department has yet to impose necessary safeguards or decide how to determine whether the program is achieving its goals. The auditors said it was too soon for them to tell whether the bailout was working. "The rapid pace of implementation and evolving nature of the program have hampered efforts to put a comprehensive system of internal control in place," the report said. "Until such a system is fully developed and implemented, there is heightened risk that the interests of the government and taxpayers may not be adequately protected and that the program objectives may not be achieved in an efficient and effective manner." So far, the rescue package has provided at least $150 billion in capital infusions to 52 financial institutions, the auditors said. They added that no applications for funding were denied by the Treasury. The congressional auditors urged Treasury officials to determine how each bank receiving bailout money is using the money and whether they are using it in a way consistent with the intent of the law. Several congressional leaders have criticized financial firms for hoarding the money instead of using it to lend to borrowers.

Note: For many revealing reports on the Wall Street bailout from reliable sources, click here.

Economic rescue could cost $8.5 trillion
November 30, 2008, Los Angeles Times
http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-pricetag30-2008nov30,0,7549258.story

With its decision last week to pump an additional $1 trillion into the financial crisis, the government eliminated any doubt that [it has] no hesitation in pledging to spend previously almost unimaginable sums of money and running up federal budget deficits on a scale not seen since World War II. Indeed, analysts warn that the nation's next financial crisis could come from the staggering cost of battling the current one. Just last week, new initiatives added $600 billion to lower mortgage rates, $200 billion to stimulate consumer loans and nearly $300 billion to steady Citigroup, the banking conglomerate. That pushed the potential long-term cost of the government's varied economic rescue initiatives, including direct loans and loan guarantees, to an estimated total of $8.5 trillion -- half of the entire economic output of the U.S. this year. The spending already has had a dramatic effect on the federal budget deficit, which soared to a record $455 billion last year and began the 2009 fiscal year with an amazing $237-billion deficit for October alone. Analysts say next year's budget deficit could easily bust the $1-trillion barrier. "I didn't think we'd see that for a long time," said Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. "There's a huge risk of another economic crisis, a debt crisis, once we get on the other side of this one." Once the financial crisis eases, higher interest rates and soaring inflation will be risks.

Note: For many revealing reports on the Wall Street bailout from reliable sources, click here.

Credit-card industry may cut $2 trillion lines: analyst
December 1, 2008, Reuters News
http://www.reuters.com/article/topNews/idUSTRE4B01HI20081201

The U.S. credit-card industry may pull back well over $2 trillion of lines over the next 18 months due to risk aversion and regulatory changes, leading to sharp declines in consumer spending, prominent banking analyst Meredith Whitney said. The credit card is the second key source of consumer liquidity, the first being jobs, the Oppenheimer & Co analyst noted. "In other words, we expect available consumer liquidity in the form of credit-card lines to decline by 45 percent." Closing millions of accounts, cutting credit lines and raising interest rates are just some of the moves credit card issuers are using to try to inoculate themselves from a tsunami of expected consumer defaults. A consolidated U.S. lending market that is pulling back on credit is also posing a risk to the overall consumer liquidity, Whitney said. Mortgages and credit cards are now dominated by five players who are all pulling back liquidity, making reductions in consumer liquidity seem unavoidable, she said. "We are now beginning to see evidence of broad-based declines in overall consumer liquidity. Already, we have witnessed the entire mortgage market hit a wall, and we believe it will, for the first time ever, show actual shrinkage over the next few months," she wrote. "In a country that offers hundreds of cereal and soda pop choices, the banking industry has become one that offers very few choices", Whitney wrote in a note dated November 30. "Pulling credit when job losses are increasing by over 50 percent year-over-year in most key states is a dangerous and unprecedented combination, in our view," the analyst said.

Note: This article, in pointing out that the banking industry offers few choices for consumers, fails to mention that the industry is rapidly becoming extremely concentrated, with major bank failures and takeovers accelerating due to the financial crisis on Wall Street. And the bailout from the Fed and Treasury has encouraged this concentration through huge tax breaks and risk protections. For many revealing reports on the Wall Street bailout from reliable sources, click here.

15 corporate chieftains each top $100 million in 5 years
November 20, 2008, Denver Post/Wall Street Journal
http://www.denverpost.com/business/ci_11036514

The credit bubble has burst. The economy is tanking. Investors in the U.S. stock market have lost more than $9 trillion since its peak a year ago. But in industries at the center of the crisis, plenty of top officials managed to emerge with substantial fortunes. Fifteen corporate chieftains of large home-building and financial-services firms each reaped more than $100 million in cash compensation and proceeds from stock sales during the past five years, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis. Four of those executives, including the heads of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. and Bear Stearns Cos., ran companies that have filed for bankruptcy protection or seen their share prices fall more than 90% from their peak. The study ... showed that top executives and directors of the firms cashed out a total of more than $21 billion during the period. The issue of compensation and other rewards for corporate executives is front-and-center in the wake of the financial meltdown. In the tech bubble of the late 1990s, more than 50 individuals each made more than $100 million from selling shares just prior to the crash. Many had just founded companies that had never turned a profit. "The system tends to reward people for participating in bubbles," says Roy C. Smith, a finance professor at New York University's business school.

Note: For many revealing reports on the Wall Street bailout from reliable sources, click here.

One Man's Military-Industrial-Media Complex
November 30, 2008, New York Times
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/30/washington/30general.html

Through seven years of war an exclusive club has quietly flourished at the intersection of network news and wartime commerce. Its members, mostly retired generals, have had a foot in both camps as influential network military analysts and defense industry rainmakers. It is a deeply opaque world, a place of privileged access to senior government officials, where war commentary can fit hand in glove with undisclosed commercial interests and network executives are sometimes oblivious to possible conflicts of interest. Few illustrate the submerged complexities of this world better than Barry McCaffrey. General McCaffrey, 66, has long been a force in Washington's power elite. A consummate networker, he cultivated politicians and journalists of all stripes as drug czar in the Clinton cabinet, and his ties run deep to a new generation of generals, some of whom he taught at West Point or commanded in the Persian Gulf war. But it was 9/11 that thrust General McCaffrey to the forefront of the national security debate. In the years since he has made nearly 1,000 appearances on NBC and its cable sisters, delivering crisp sound bites in a blunt, hyperbolic style. He commands up to $25,000 for speeches, his commentary regularly turns up in The Wall Street Journal, and he has been quoted or cited in thousands of news articles, including dozens in The New York Times. His influence is such that President Bush and Congressional leaders from both parties have invited him for war consultations. At the same time, General McCaffrey has immersed himself in businesses that have grown with the fight against terrorism.

Note: This in-depth article on the "military-industrial-media complex" is worth reading in its entirety. For lots more on war profiteering from reliable sources, click here.

I'm Still Tortured by What I Saw in Iraq
November 30, 2008, Washington Post
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/11/28/AR2008112802242.html

I should have felt triumphant when I returned from Iraq in August 2006. Instead, I was worried and exhausted. My mind was consumed with the unfinished business of our mission: fixing the deeply flawed, ineffective and un-American way the U.S. military conducts interrogations in Iraq. I'm still alarmed about that today. I'm not some ivory-tower type; I served for 14 years in the U.S. Air Force, began my career as a Special Operations pilot flying helicopters, saw combat in Bosnia and Kosovo, became an Air Force counterintelligence agent, then volunteered to go to Iraq to work as a senior interrogator. What I saw in Iraq still rattles me -- both because it betrays our traditions and because it just doesn't work. What I soon discovered about our methods astonished me. The Army was still conducting interrogations according to the Guantanamo Bay model: Interrogators were nominally using the methods outlined in the U.S. Army Field Manual, the interrogators' bible, but they were pushing in every way possible to bend the rules -- and often break them.These interrogations were based on fear and control; they often resulted in torture and abuse. I refused to participate in such practices, and a month later, I extended that prohibition to the team of interrogators I was assigned to lead. I personally conducted more than 300 interrogations, and I supervised more than 1,000. The methods my team used are not classified ... but the way we used them was, I like to think, unique. We got to know our enemies, we learned to negotiate with them, and we adapted criminal investigative techniques to our work.

Note: For revealing reports from reliable and verifiable sources on the realities of the Iraq and Afghan wars, click here.

FDA Draws Fire Over Chemicals In Baby Formula
November 27, 2008, Washington Post
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/11/26/AR2008112600386.html

Public health groups, consumer advocates and members of Congress blasted the Food and Drug Administration yesterday for failing to act after discovering trace amounts of the industrial chemical melamine in baby formula sold in the United States. "This FDA, this Bush administration, instead of protecting the public health, is protecting industry," said Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), who chairs the Appropriations subcommittee that oversees the FDA budget. "We're talking about babies, about the most vulnerable. This really makes me angry." The FDA found melamine and cyanuric acid, a related chemical, in samples of baby formula made by major U.S. manufacturers. Melamine can cause kidney and bladder stones and, in worst cases, kidney failure and death. If melamine and cyanuric acid combine, they can form round yellow crystals that can also damage kidneys and destroy renal function. Melamine was found in Good Start Supreme Infant Formula With Iron made by Nestle, and cyanuric acid was detected in Enfamil Lipil With Iron infant formula powder made by Mead Johnson. The FDA has been testing hundreds of food products for melamine in the aftermath of a scandal this year involving Chinese infant formula tainted with melamine. Chinese manufacturers deliberately added the chemical to watered-down formula to make it appear to contain higher levels of protein. More than 50,000 Asian infants were hospitalized, and at least four died.

Note: For many reports on government corruption from major media sources, click here.

With economic crisis making credit scarce, bartering is booming
November 21, 2008, Los Angeles Times/Boston Globe
http://www.boston.com/news/nation/articles/2008/11/21/with_economic_crisis...

As the financial crisis makes cash and credit increasingly scarce, the ancient custom of bartering is booming. Cost-conscious consumers are getting creative to make every dollar count. Some are dusting off books, DVDs, video games, and other little-used items to trade for necessities or gifts. Others are exchanging services such as house painting for Web design or guitar lessons for clerical work. These newly minted cheapskates are seeing the world through green eyeshades, cutting costs wherever and whenever they can. "In the last couple of months, it's been like a bucket of cold water in our faces," said Mary Hunt, founder of money management site DebtProofLiving.com. "It has woken us up. We are paying attention to what things cost." Every recession triggers bartering, economists say. But the Internet has given the practice unprecedented reach. Before the Web connected strangers from anywhere, bartering was limited by geography and social circle. As a form of everyday currency, bartering has downsides. It's far more time-consuming and tricky to negotiate the exchange of goods and services than it is to simply plunk down some bills. Sometimes prospective swappers flake out or try to rip off their trading partners. Transactions don't always go smoothly. Still, exchanging something you no longer want or need for something you do is appealing to many. A growing number of websites, including TradeaFavor.com and JoeBarter.com, cater to the cost-conscious. There were 148,097 listings in the barter category of Craigslist in September, up sharply from 83,554 a year earlier.

Turning Around the Idea of Student Loans
December 1, 2008, New York Times
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/01/education/01microbank.html

Over sandwiches and pizza, a group of high school students here debated the pros and cons of combating poverty in five desperate nations. They scrolled through Web sites, analyzed statistics and considered how much they knew about the economy, language and culture of each country. This was no mere academic exercise. The students, at the Meadows School, have real decisions to make and, they hope, real people to rescue. By the time they scattered after their lunch period, the group had deferred until next month the decision on where to spend the $25,000 they had raised, but seemed to be leaning toward Peru. That may seem like a lot of money for a student group, but it was the entry fee for the school to become investors in Pro Mujer, a nonprofit lending institution based in New York that issues small loans to poor women in foreign countries to use for buying tools to start or expand small businesses. In raising the money and investing it with Pro Mujer, the Meadows School is by all accounts the first high school to operate a microbank. The founder of the Meadows Microcredit Action Group, Justin Blau, 17, and its faculty adviser, Kirk Knutsen, have bigger plans for their endeavor. Pro Mujer will mete out the $25,000 to recipients in the country the students select and return to the school both regular status reports as well as a modest amount of earned interest. The group plans to use that interest and other money raised locally to invest in smaller, more specific projects through Kiva, another microfinance lender, with no minimum entry requirement.

Note: For lots more on the exciting, amazingly successful microlending movement, click here.

Woman Risks Her Life for the Wolf Man She Loves
October 8, 2008, ABC News
http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/Story?id=5966970

There is hunger in the forest at night. It is the witching hour of stealth and surprise, when wolf packs hunt their prey. Using a natural calculus of speed and distance, wolves drive their quarry deep into the snow. The chases end with an assault of teeth and snarls. Learning what's beyond the menace is not for the faint of heart. But Shaun Ellis and his girlfriend Helen Jeffs are willing to risk their lives and leave behind the last remnants of a human existence to survive in the world of the wolf. "It's almost like the wolf brings out a subconscious in you, a way of dealing with the world," Ellis said. But to do so, Ellis and Jeffs have to become wolves themselves. "Lose your human, think wolf," Ellis said to Jeffs. It is a skill he has honed in the last few decades. He has done what many scientists thought impossible and has become an accepted member of a captive wolf pack. "This is the way that you need to study these animals. Get close to their world. And then they will share their secrets," he said. As a man living among wolves, Ellis bade farewell to the comforts of human society and took his place on the ground to learn the ways of a canine hierarchy. He created his own sanctuary to study captive wolf behavior at the Coombe Martin Wildlife Park, on England's southwest coast. His goal is to find ways for wolves to peacefully co-exist with ranchers whose cattle are susceptible to attack. At a nearby pub one night, he met a woman who discovered she was fascinated both by the wolves and the man living among them. Jeffs became Ellis' assistant. And later on, something more.

Note: Don't miss the amazing and touching five-minute video of this love affair at the link above.


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Mortgage Rules Weakened, Pentagon Increases Troops in US, No Bailout Oversight