646: Boundless Barbarity

Adam Curry & John C. Dvorak

3h 22m
August 24th, 2014
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Executive Producers: Sir Ed Ferrell, Sir Don Tomaso Di Toronto, Francis Sheehy, Sir David Foley Grand Duke of Silicon Valley, Dame Astrid Viscountess of Tokyo

Associate Executive Producers: Jason Keefer, Marvin Lee Brittain, Joshua L. Stillwell, Ed LeBouthillier

Cover Artist: Daniel MacDonald

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inthemorning forwards
Hi Adam,
I've had inthemorning.net forwarding to noagendashow.com for a while now, but I just added some subdomain forwards for fun.
facebook.inthemorning.net forwards to the No Agenda facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/pages/No-Agenda/107744082588721
gplus.inthemorning.net forwards to the Google+ community https://plus.google.com/communities/101292674006572799842
info.inthemorning.net forwards to the search archive http://adam.curry.com/html/NoAgendaShowNotesArc-1389758416.html
listen.inthemorning.net, podcast.inthemorning.net, and show.inthemorning.net all forward to noagendashow.com, just like the base domain
live.inthemorning.net forwards to http://www.nagradio.com/
reddit.inthemorning.net forwards to http://reddit.com/r/inthemorning
Finally, twitter.inthemorning.net forwards to your twitter profile
I don't know if they'll be of any use to you, but there they are. Let me know if there are any changes or additional sub-domains you'd like added.
--
Sincerely,
Andrew Spiehler
@itmcitizen
TODAY
Washington's giant panda cub Bao Bao turns 1 - CNN.com
Sun, 24 Aug 2014 06:44
By Nunu Japaridze, CNN
August 24, 2014 -- Updated 0046 GMT (0846 HKT)
Giant panda cub Bao Bao celebrated her first birthday in style.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
Bao Bao is a giant panda cub at at the Smithsonian's National Zoo in WashingtonShe turns 1, celebrating with a special frozen cake and cheers from her fansThe giant panda will head to China to take part in a breeding program when she's 4(CNN) -- First birthdays are often a big deal.
And when you're a giant panda cub -- such as Bao Bao, at the Smithsonian's National Zoo in Washington -- they are even bigger.
The adorable 44 -pound cub celebrated turning 1 on Saturday with a special frozen cake and cheers from her fans.
The cake, made by the zoo's nutrition department, contained Bao Bao's favorite fruits, including apples and pears, packed in ice.
It was decorated with flower-shaped ornaments carved from carrots and sweet potatoes and topped off with a large number "1."
Bao Bao, whose name means "precious" and is one of 42 surviving cubs born last year in human care, approached the ice cake with suspicion, but in no time licked it with apparent delight.
A representative from the Chinese embassy was on hand, while the panda's fans were encouraged to tweet birthday wishes using #BaoBaobday.
According to the zoo, Bao Bao was born after a precisely-timed artificial insemination performed by the panda team in Washington and scientists from the China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda in Wolong, Sichuan Province.
Bao Bao's parents were born at the China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda. They were later loaned to the National Zoo through an agreement with the China Wildlife Conservation Association.
As to their little girl, she won't celebrate many more birthdays in the United States.
After she turns 4, Bao Bao will go to China to enter the breeding program there for giant pandas.
Drinks & Dinner
Bank$ter friend of ISIS/ISIL/IS branding
TARP 2.0 EU
Customer Service
we need to discuss customer service so we are not constantly in the
middle. Aric attributes this to new listeners. I attribute it to NOT
listening.
---------------------------- Original Message ----------------------------
Subject: Re: [Fwd: John I am resending this because I haven't heard back -
Ring for my Knighthood?]
From: "Aric The Shill"
Date: Sat, August 23, 2014 8:25 pm
To: "John C. Dvorak"
--------------------------------------------------------------------------
Since there seem to be a lot of new listeners, it might be worthwhile to
revisit why Im here on air. Specifically that they can email me directly
with issues and whatnot. Thereby avoid waiting on either you or Adam to
1. catch the email 2. Respond and/or forward it to me.
Mac 'n Cheese 646
ITM! dynamic dou from Sir JD, Baron of Silicon Valley.
This is my #MACANDCHEESE donation from the twitter-verse.
https://twitter.com/hashtag/NA646?src=hash
I had to make sure you got at least one 64.64 donation in anticipation of JCD's MAC N CHEESE Analysis. I vow to keep my TWITTER icon as MAC-N-CHEESE until the No Agenda communit-TAY answers the call. (or until **SQUIRELL …
This was a also a Sunday morning 6:46 "before the show" revelation - so apologies for the late donation.
https://twitter.com/idjohn/status/503546286784536576
Thanks for the travel karma from a few weeks ago & Keep up the great work! - Sir JD
Hobby Lobby Follow-Up
Obama administration adapts healthcare rules to Hobby Lobby ruling | World news | theguardian.com
Fri, 22 Aug 2014 19:10
Seeking to quell a politically charged controversy, the Obama administration announced new measures Friday to allow religious non-profits and some companies to opt out of paying for birth control for female employees, while still ensuring those employees have access to contraception.
Even so, the accommodations may not fully satisfy religious groups who oppose any system that makes them complicit in providing coverage they believe is immoral.
Effective immediately, the US will start allowing faith-affiliated charities, colleges and hospitals to notify the government '' rather than their insurers '' that they object to birth control on religious grounds. Then the government will instruct a non-profit's insurer or third-party administrators to take on the responsibility of paying for the birth control, at no cost to the employer.
In a related move, the administration announced plans to extend an existing accommodation to some for-profit corporations that is currently available only to nonprofits. That measure would be available for ''closely held'' corporations that are owned by families or a small number of investors, and would transfer responsibility for birth control coverage away from the employer, according to a fact sheet posted on a government web site.
The duel decisions mark the Obama administration's latest effort to address a long-running conflict that has pitted the White House against churches and other religious groups, sparking dozens of legal challenges. The supreme court ruled in June that the government can't force companies like Hobby Lobby Inc to pay for birth control. Days later, the high court sided with religious non-profits such as Wheaton College, an evangelical school, which argued that the existing accommodation required them to sign a form that violated their beliefs.
The latest proposals, which were expected to be formally released later Friday, will likely run up against the same objections, because they still enable employees to receive contraception at no extra charge through their health plans '' one of a range of preventive services required under President Barack Obama's healthcare law.
''We will be studying the new rule with our clients, but if today's announcement is just a different way for the government to hijack the health plans of religious ministries, it is unlikely to end the litigation,'' said Mark Rienzi, senior counsel at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which has represented both Hobby Lobby and Wheaton.
Moral Self Licensing
Video: How the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge started - Telegraph
Sun, 24 Aug 2014 13:55
On 15 July a golfer in Florida, Charles Kennedy, was nominated by a friend to do an Ice Bucket Challenge.
At the time, the challenge was not connected to a particular charity, but Mr Kennedy decided that the money raised by his ice bucket challenge should go to ALS because his cousin suffered from the disease.
He then nominated his cousin's wife to soak herself and urge others to take it on. It then reached the radar of another ALS sufferer, Pat Quinn from New York.
The 31-year-old launched the campaign with the help of friend Pete Frates, a former Boston college basketball player who also suffers from the condition.
Mr Frates is credited with helping the challenge truly go viral after he posted a video nominating friends and stars including US football player Tom Brady. And from there it simply spiralled ...
New Research Points to Brain Toxin as Cause of ALS-like disease in Guam - The ALS Association
Sun, 24 Aug 2014 06:56
February 3, 2004
Investigators have found a possible link between an ALS-like disease and a toxic substance produced by cyanobacteria, microscopic organisms once called blue-green algae.
The research, funded by The ALS Association and published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, raises the question of whether environmental neurotoxins in the diet may play a role in the development of some forms of neurodegenerative diseases.
In the study, the investigators found that the diet of the indigenous Chamorro people may account for the high incidence of a neurological disease called amyotrophic lateral sclerosis/parkinsonism-dementia complex (ALS-PDC), which has symptoms of ALS, Parkinson's, or Alzheimer's Disease. In the mid 20th century, the disease affected about 400 per 100,000 Chamorro, but now the rate of ALS-PDC is down about 22 per 100,000.
"This research adds to the inventory of suspicion that the environment may play a role in the development of ALS/PDC," said Dr. Lucie Bruijn, science director and vice president of The ALS Association. "This study provides interesting data that should be further investigated."
In Guam, investigators found that a high incidence of ALS-PDC in the native Chamorro people may be linked to their feasting on flying fox bats. The bats forage on seeds from cycad trees, which contain cyanobacteria in their roots that produce the neurotoxin b-methylamino-L-alanine (BMAA). BMMA is an excitotoxin, causing a persistent excitation of neurons that ultimately exhausts the cells until they can no longer function.
Ethnobotanist Paul Alan Cox, Ph.D., ecologist Sandra Banack, Ph.D., and biochemist Susan Murch, Ph.D. reported that the neurotoxin is biomagnified 100,000 times in concentration as it travels up the Guam food chain to flying foxes. Chamorro people who died of ALS-PDC have high levels of BMAA in their brain, while healthy brain tissue does not have the toxin, according to Cox's findings.
In examining the biomagnification process in the food chain in other cultures, the research also found similar concentrations of BMAA in the brain tissues of two patients from Canada who died from Alzheimer's disease. "We cannot say much from a finding of BMAA in only two AD patients," said Dr. Cox, "so further studies are needed to determine if there may be an association between BMAA and AD or ALS and other neurodegenerative diseases outside of Guam. At this point, we simply don't know."
"This is certainly intriguing," remarks Dr. Bruijn. "Further studies in a larger population of ALS and Alzheimer's disease patients are needed to confirm these findings."
Ice Bucket Challenge Donations Reach $62.5 Million - The ALS Association
Sun, 24 Aug 2014 06:47
Contact:Carrie Munk The ALS Associationcmunk@alsa-national.org
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Washington, D.C. (August 23, 2014) '-- As of Saturday, August 23, The ALS Association has received $62.5 million in donations compared to $2.4 million during the same time period last year (July 29 to August 23). These donations have come from existing donors and 1.2 million new donors to The Association.
The ALS Association's mission includes providing care services to assist people with ALS and their families through a network of chapters working in communities across the nation and a global research program focused on the discovery of treatments and eventually a cure for the disease. In addition, The Association's public policy efforts empower people to advance public policies in our nation's Capital that respond to the needs of people with ALS.
For more information, please contact Carrie Munk at cmunk@alsa-national.org.
About The ALS AssociationThe ALS Association is the only national non-profit organization fighting Lou Gehrig's Disease on every front. By leading the way in global research, providing assistance for people with ALS through a nationwide network of chapters, coordinating multidisciplinary care through Certified Treatment Centers of Excellence, and fostering government partnerships, The Association builds hope and enhances quality of life while aggressively searching for new treatments and a cure. For more information about The ALS Association, visit our website at www.alsa.org.
The cold, hard truth about the ice bucket challenge '' Quartz
Sat, 23 Aug 2014 21:36
I look at the camera, hold a bucket of ice water over my head, tip it upside down, post the video on social media and then nominate two others to do the same. Along the way, my nominees and I use the opportunity to donate to the ALS Association, a charity that fights amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (also called Lou Gerhig's disease), a fatal neurodegenerative disease. Multiply this activity 70,000 times, and the result is that the ALS Association has received $3 million in additional donations. Via the ice bucket challenge, celebrities and the general public have fun and receive publicity; at the same time, millions of dollars are raised for a good cause. It's a win-win, right?
Sadly, things are not so simple.
The key problem is funding cannibalism. That $3 million in donations doesn't appear out of a vacuum. Because people on average are limited in how much they're willing to donate to good causes, if someone donates $100 to the ALS Association, he or she will likely donate less to other charities.
This isn't just speculation. Research from my own non-profit, which raises money for the most effective global poverty charities, has found that, for every $1 we raise, 50 would have been donated anyway. Giving What We Can fundraises for global poverty charities by encouraging people to pledge at least 10% of their income. For everyone who joins, we ask them to estimate what proportion they would have donated otherwise. Averaged among all our members, that amount is greater than 50% (or $150mn out of $300mn). Given our fundraising model, which asks for commitments much larger than the amount people typically donate, we have reason to think that this is a lower proportion than is typical for fundraising drives. So, because of the $3 million that the ALS Association has received, I'd bet that much more than $1.5 million has been lost by other charities.
A similar phenomenon has been studied in the lab by psychologists. It's called moral licensing: the idea that doing one good action leads one to compensate by doing fewer good actions in the future. In a recent experiment, participants either selected a product from a selection of mostly ''green'' items (like an energy-efficient light bulb) or from a selection of mostly conventional items (like a regular light bulb). They were then told to perform a supposedly unrelated task. However, in this second task, the results were self-reported, so the participants had a financial incentive to lie; and they were invited to pay themselves out of an envelope, so they had an opportunity to steal as well.
What happened? People who had previously purchased a green product were significantly more likely to both lie and steal than those who had purchased the conventional product. Their demonstration of ethical behavior subconsciously gave them license to act unethically when the chance arose.
Amazingly, even just saying that you'd do something good can cause the moral self-licensing effect. In another study, half the participants were asked to imagine helping a foreign student who had asked for assistance in understanding a lecture. They subsequently gave significantly less to charity when given the chance to do so than the other half of the participants, who had not been asked to imagine helping another student.
The explanation behind moral licensing is that people are often more concerned about looking good or feeling good rather than doing good. If you ''do your bit'' by buying an energy-efficient lightbulb, then your status as a good human being is less likely to be called into question if you subsequently steal.
In terms of the conditions for the moral licensing effect to occur, the ice bucket challenge is perfect. The challenge gives you a way to very publicly demonstrate your altruism via a painful task, despite actually accomplishing very little (on average, not including those who don't donate at all, a $40 gift, or 0.07% of the average American household's income): it's geared up to make you feel as good about your actions as possible, rather than to ensure that your actions do as much good as possible.
This why Caitlin Dewey, a blogger for the Washington Post who claims that we should praise the challenge for raising so much money, gets it all wrong. The ice bucket challenge has done one good thing, which is raise $3 million for the ALS Association. But it's also done a really bad thing: take money and attention away from other charities and other causes. That means that, if we want to know whether the ice bucket challenge has been on balance a good thing for the world, we've got to assess how effective the ALS Associations is compared with other charities. If 50% of that $3 million would have been donated anyway, and if the ALS association is less than half as effective at turning donations into positive impact on people's wellbeing than other charities are on average, then the fundraiser would actively be doing harm. It's perfectly possible that this is the case: even though some charities are fantastically effective, many achieve very little. You just can't know without doing some serious investigation.
This isn't to object to the ALS Association in particular. Almost every charity does the same thing '-- engaging in a race to the bottom where the benefits to the donor have to be as large as possible, and the costs as small as possible. (Things are even worse in the UK, where the reward of publicizing yourself all over social media comes at a suggested price of just £3 donated to MacMillan Cancer Support.) We should be very worried about this, because competitive fundraising ultimately destroys value for the social sector as a whole. We should not reward people for minor acts of altruism, when they could have done so much more, because doing so creates a culture where the correct response to the existence of preventable death and suffering is to give some pocket change.
Cannibalism of funding among charities is a major problem. However, there is a solution. The moral licensing phenomenon doesn't always happen: there is a countervailing psychological force, called commitment effects. If in donating to charity you don't conceive of it as ''doing your bit'' but instead as taking one small step towards making altruism a part of your identity, then one good deed really will beget another. This means that we should tie new altruistic commitments to serious, long-lasting behavior change. Rather than making a small donation to a charity you've barely heard of, you could make a commitment to find out which charities are most cost-effective, and to set up an ongoing commitment to those charities that you conclude do the most good with your donations. Or you could publicly pledge to give a proportion of your income.
These would be meaningful behavior changes: they would be structural changes to how you live your life; and you could express them as the first step towards making altruism part of your identity. No doubt that, if we ran such campaigns, the number of people who would do these actions would be smaller, but in the long term the total impact would be far larger.
So, sure, pour a bucket of water over yourself, or go bungee jumping, or lie in a bathtub of beans, whatever. But only do these things if you connect these fundraisers with meaningful behavior change, otherwise your campaign, even if seemingly fantastically successful, could be doing more harm than good.
We welcome your comments at ideas@qz.com.
It's going to take a lot more ice buckets to fill the NIH funding gap - The Washington Post
Sat, 23 Aug 2014 21:25
In the weeks since Facebook has been filled with ice bucket challenge videos, there's been a robust publicdebate over what it means that people are suddenly donating to ALS research at record rates. But this latest viral sensation is also highlighting how much philanthropy is having to step in to make up for the declining public investment in research to cure some terrible diseases.
The ALS Association reports that the ice bucket challenge has netted $31.5 million in donations in just the past three weeks, compared to $1.9 million during the same period last year. That windfall is almost as much as the $40 million the National Institutes of Health expects to spend on ALS research this year, which is down from $59 million in the 2010 fiscal year.
There's no cure for ALS, a disease that kills most infected people within three to five years of the onset of symptoms. The disease, which eats away at its victims' nervous systems, fortunately has a relatively limited scope '-- as many as 30,000 Americans are thought to have it at any time.
It's hard to predict what it's going to cost to eventually find a cure. But the ALS Association's donation surge in recent weeks '-- and whatever future donations the ice bucket challenge likely will generate '-- won't be enough on its own to fund the research and development that's needed to eliminate this disease.
"It's not enough money," said Mary Woolley, chief executive of Research!America. "It takes the level of funding on a sustained basis that very few foundations can provide. And then the federal government really has to sustain that process."
So what could all that ice bucket money do?
"It makes it possible for some young scientist to get a start to try out their new hypothesis before they are ready to submit a proposal to NIH," Woolley said. "It may also bridge some dry spells they're feeling right now because the NIH is really strapped."
The decline in NIH funding isn't unique to ALS research. The agency budget, after reaching a peak of $31.2 billion in 2010, fell to $30.2 billion in 2014. And the NIH says its budget has effectively been cut by 22 percent in the past decade when accounting for medical inflation. Further, the sequester's automatic 5 percent cut to the NIH resulted in 8 percent fewer research grants in the 2013 fiscal year compared to the previous year.
The success rate for NIH grant applications has fallen from about 30 percent in 2000 to 15 percent last year. Jeffrey Rothstein, who heads the Packard Center for ALS Research at Johns Hopkins, said NIH's smaller budgets has made it noticeably more difficult for medical researchers to get government funding.
"To get money from the NIH, it takes a long time, and because it's so competitive, you actually have to have a lot of the work done to get funded," said Rothstein, who's been studying ALS for nearly 20 years. "How do you get to that point? That's where the philanthropy is critical."
Research is just one part of the equation. Then there's actually the cost of developing drugs.
Right now, there's only one FDA-approved drug to treat ALS, but it only slows down the disease a bit. Clinical trials are taking place for other treatments.
ALS is one of 7,000 types of so-called orphan diseases that affect just small parts of the population, fewer than 200,000 people each. But all those orphan diseases add up to 25 million affected Americans.
The United States recognized the special challenge of funding cures for orphan diseases in a 1983 law providing drugmakers with a number of advantages for pursuing treatments '-- faster drug approval times, tax benefits and stronger patent protections. That's led to the FDA approval of about 350 drugs for orphan diseases in the past 30 years, compared to just a handful in the decade leading up the 1983 law.
MIT Sloan School of Management professor Andrew Lo said drugmakers more than ever are seeing the financial benefits of orphan disease products, which could cost hundreds of millions of dollars to develop. But Lo, who's proposed a type of super fund to finance orphan drug development, said he's worried about the declining public investment in research for these rare diseases.
"Without the research, you can't develop the drugs," Lo said. "The private sector funding is not going to be of any use unless you have the basic research."
Jason Millman covers all things health policy, with a focus on Obamacare implementation. He previously covered health policy for Politico.
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NWO
New World Order sucession to Pax Americana
The Masters are diverting rapidly to distract
Bloc the mind from concntrating and seeing the reality
You are imprisoned in fleeting moment of superficiality
Sunni Shia civil war
Brutalize the sunnis to anger them to fight the shias
Lybia, Syria, Iraq
The same plan, the same supplier
ISIL = French ISIS = English
Weapons are not from Sanata Clause
Pax Israelia is the next world ruler ?
Backroom negotiations ongoing with Iran
The triumph of the Shia version of Islam over the Sunni
A new Imam of Magdi is needed under shia rule?
Only with Iran's involvement
Saudia Arabia is in trouble now with the US cosying up to Iran
Caliphate!
Bank$ter friend ob ISIS/ISISL/IS branding
Native Arab Muslim anaysis of beheading video
Hey,
Few observations on the video since I'm an native Arab Muslim and had my share of crap that i see online and on TV :
The English chap (John) is left handed, Islamic strict teaching discourages the use of the left hand to eat, shake hand, receive something from someone and slaughter animals.
It’s clear the John didn't do it (if it happened). IS militants (formally known as ISIL), Nusra, Free Army and other groups are quite fast is chopping heads. From other videos I saw, they chop heads within 9 seconds.
John's hand is clean when he grabs the other journalist at the end of the video.
It's quite windy but you don't hear the wind.
John's shirt is so damn cleaned and ironed.
Looking at the land and the slippers of Foley, it looks like this region, looks like Gulf region sand and the slippers look quite familiar to the ones worn here.
2 minutes on the movie, you'll see that Foley is poorly shaved. bad barber.
The body shot has a knife that looks different that John's.
Yes, the ship sailed is an Arabic thing.
Ahmed with more native analysis
Hi Adam,
I listened to episode 646 and to your commentary about the video and
about the president's speech about ISIS. As a person of Middle Eastern
descent who speaks fluent Arabic and who follows lots of news and shows
on Middle Eastern TV, I wanted to point out a few things:
1. I did not personally watch Foley's beheading video, but I heard you
and John say that they used a pen or small knife to cut his head off,
here are a few things to note:
a. In Saudi Arabia (where they implement the strictest Sharia law),
when they execute someone because he has committed murder, it is
by a sword, a big and sharp one, and it's typically by one blow to the
back of the neck that splits the head from the body.
b. When different terrorist groups in the Middle East like to make a
scare buzz in the media, they typically will execute people by having
them get down on their knees and shoot them in the back of the head or
have them lay face down, hands tied behind their backs and again, just
unload their AKs into them like prisoners of war.
c. As far as I know, the _ONLY_ thing that involves a knife and cutting
the throat is when slaughtering animals (in particular sheep/beef).
2. You both commented on Obama's speech on ISIS when he said "they have
no religion" and John said that it was poorly written. Let me tell you,
this statement is a literal translation of an Arabic statement, this
makes me wonder if the person who wrote the speech for him is of Middle
Eastern origins, I cannot prove or disprove it, but I can tell you that
I've never ever heard that statement said in the U.S. before.
3. One last thing, your analysis of the Middle East needs to take into
account a few issues, Hamas, their relationship to the Muslim
Brotherhood, the Muslim Brotherhood's relationship to Erdogan, and what
happened to the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt over the last 2 years.
Sorry for the long e-mail, keep up the great work you and John.
-Ahmed
GlobalPost - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Fri, 22 Aug 2014 13:04
GlobalPost is an online US news company that focuses on international news founded on January 12, 2009 by Charles M. Sennott and Philip S. Balboni.[1] Its stated mission is "to redefine international news for the digital age."[2] GlobalPost has 65 correspondents worldwide.[3]
History[edit]In 2009 GlobalPost announced syndication agreements with PBS and CBS. As part of the PBS partnership, GlobalPost correspondents began producing video segments for airing on The PBS NewsHour.[4] Additional arrangements with media outlets including the New York Daily News, Times of India, and Newark Star-Ledger offered news organizations unlimited rights to republish GlobalPost content in exchange for a flat service fee. According to GlobalPost ownership, income from their syndication agreements accounted for more than 12-percent of the site's revenue.[5]
Interest in the site's direct-to-reader paid access options, however, has been lackluster. Within a year of launch GlobalPost had discounted their premium "Passport Service" - which offered access to unique content, but had fewer than 400 subscribers - from $199 to $99 per year.[6] A second price cut the same year discounted the subscription rate to less than $30.[7]
In 2011, GlobalPost's "On Location" video series was recognized with a Peabody Award and an Edward R. Murrow Award.[8]
References[edit]External links[edit]Nieman Journalism Lab. "GlobalPost". Encyclo: an Encyclopedia of the Future of News. Retrieved 1 April 2012.
Funders-GroundTruth Project Inc
Fri, 22 Aug 2014 22:37
Filling the need for trusted information on national health issues, the Kaiser Family Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Menlo Park, California. Kaiser focuses on the major health care issues facing the US, as well as the US role in global health policy. Unlike grant-making foundations, Kaiser develops and runs its own research, journalism ['...]
The GroundTruth Project ''
Fri, 22 Aug 2014 22:36
This blog is all about "ground truth." The observations, analysis, notes and musings posted here are based on facts gathered in the field from Africa, Asia, Europe, the Middle East and the Americas. We highlight the work of our team of correspondents '... [Read More...]
IN-iraq-ARCHIVE
Sun, 24 Aug 2014 03:51
(Sergeant First Class Steven J. Chevalier, photo courtesy of Charlie Co. 2nd/327th)
I only knew Sergeant First Class Steven J. Chevalier, 35, of Flint Michigan for about a week. I didn't know what kind of man he was in the States. I didn't know what kind of father he was to his two daughters. I caught a glimpse of what kind of soldier he was in Iraq.
I went up to Samarra to cover Charlie company of the 2nd/327th Infantry stationed at Patrol Base Olsen. Samarra was notorious for insurgents and Olsen for characters who fit the patrol base's quirky structure, a former casino or a ''s--- hole'' as some called it. SFC Chevalier, or ''Chevy'' as he was known, wore tinted ballistic glasses and carried a posture of a sergeant used to being listened to. I tried to stay out of his way. But he was 3rd Squad's platoon leader so he was pretty much everywhere.
It was apparent from the beginning he was a stickler, he was in charge, he was easy to anger and always coaching younger soldiers.
On the second day at Olsen, we went out on what was supposed to be a coordinated mission with the Iraqi Police. The police mission never happened because the Iraqis didn't know the U.S. soldiers were coming to get them. Sgt. Chevalier grumbled that if they knew when the mission was going to happen, they might end up with multiple IED attacks against them.
We went out to a Sons of Iraq checkpoint instead, and SFC Chevy pointed out how far the neighborhood of Qadasia had come. He was genuinely proud of the T-walls his guys had stood up, of the Sons of Iraq they visited every week. He talked, spreading his arms, of what Charlie Company had done for the city.
Barbed wire and trash was still strewn over many neighborhoods, but on the way back to Olsen, Chevy wanted me to see all the shops that had opened and stayed open into the night, meaning the city was safe enough to have lifted the curfew.
He was the kind of guy who didn't hold back on what he believed. One night when I was in the tight quarters he shared with Lt. Erich Almonte interviewing the lieutenant, he kept jumping in with his own opinions and ideas.
''An 18-year old kid in the Army has more experience than a 21-year old has on the streets,'' Chevy said.
''They see a dose of reality. Good times and hard times. I got privates with master's degrees, privates who aren't citizens. Some have two combat tours and are not even 20-years old.''
''I still get calls from soldiers, emails over here,'' Chevy said. ''I've known them for eight years and they ask for help. Some guys can't talk to their family like they can talk to me.''
Chevy talked about how the top company gets put in the worst area. He said that Charlie had had more training because they knew they were coming to Samarra, and that the previous unit the 82nd Airborne had taken a lot of casualties. ''We were told not to accept failure,'' Chevy said.
He offered his opinions about T-walls, ''it's actually what the people want.''
He told me how they came across a woman whose days-old infant was sick. ''It would have been easy to tell the mother just to go to the hospital, but we actually took them there,'' he said.
Charlie Company from what I heard, had not taken any casualties during their nine months in Samarra. And then SFC Chevy's vehicle got hit by a grenade last Wednesday, July 9th. He was airlifted and died in the hospital at Joint Base Balad. That's all I know. The Department of Defense does not provide many details.
He told me he had 14 years in the Army and four years as a platoon sergeant.
SFC Chevy was just a soldier. He had participated in over 300 combat patrols, over 30 raids, found eight weapons caches, found 10 IEDs, called in Medivac helicopters for nine Soldiers and Iraqi Security Forces, twice under fire, according to Lt. Almonte.
One of his men, Sgt. Eric Shaw of Maine, told me Chevalier had seen some of the most intense fighting in the war that any of them had heard of. He was on his third tour here.
The soldier memorial for SFC Chevalier in Iraq is on Tuesday. He is survived by his mother, his aunt, his brother, and his two daughters- Ashley and Alishia, Lt. Almonte said.
Here's what some of his soldiers and colleagues said about him:
No matter how bad I would mess up, he always stood behind me. PVT Jesse Ball.
"Angry Steve" as we knew him because of his ill mannered temper, which really was just who he was and not bad at all. He said he improved on his attitude since being in Samarra. He called it ''grussfaba'' or something like that, out of humor. SFC Ensley
SFC Chevalier was one of best platoon sergeants I have worked for. He was strong of character and of will, and it was an honor to have known him. SPC Weinstein, Michael J
SFC Chevy has impacted our lives in ever way, he has shown true leadership and how to do our jobs right. He will never be forgotten and his memory will live through us. SPC McKenzie
SFC Chevy always put his trust and confidence in me as his Squad leader, never doubting or second guessing me. He gave me the confidence to be a great leader. SGT Andrew Hayes.
SFC Chevalier was a man who's name could be pronounced correctly by few; however no one will forget the sacrifices he made for his platoon and company. I won't be getting anymore blind mau-tai flying jump kicks to the back of legs anymore, but I will carry with me a friendship that has grown over the last year and half that I can never forget. 1st LT Todd Baldwin.
Jim Foley's Linked-in profile
Reporting Officer
USAID/Tatweer Baghdad
July 2008 – March 2010 (1 year 9 months)
Further evidence that Foley worked for USAID appeared in Thursday's Houston Chronicle:
James Foley (we just called him Jim) was my teammate at the USAID Tatweer project in Baghdad, Iraq in 2008-2009. He helped us to write our reports, took our pictures during all events and was very outgoing, nice and easy-going guy, always ready to help and to share a smile
What is the Tatweer Project?
Tatweer Project
Developing National Capacity in Public Management
The Tatweer project is an integral part of the United States Government’s National Capacity Development (NCD) Program with the overall goal to “build the capacity of key Iraqi ministries to deliver core services”. The NCD Program approach is to define the critical path to the improved delivery of public services, and to develop
plans and responses to address the issues and improve the service delivery performance.
Within this NCD program,Tatweer resources are focused on “developing national capacity in public management”, with the conviction that improving ministries’ performance in core administrative functions such as fiscal planning, personnel management, project management, leadership and communication, and utilization of information technology contributes significantly to the ultimate goal of improving public service delivery for the benefit of Iraqi citizens.
Not sure if this is related but Tatweer Oil Services and Drilling one of the leading companies in Basra-Iraq that was established in 2006 to peruse investment opportunities in the fresh and promising Iraqi market, the company plays an important role in Iraq efforts to develop the Iraqi infra structures to promote Iraqi private sector investment.
Wonder if Tatweer Oil Services and Drilling is the result of this:
From USAID/Tatweer Program 2008-09 Annual Report:
Ministry of Oil: Organizational Self-Assessment and Transformation Program (OSTP).
The OSTP program works with teams of “champions” in 33 directorates of eleven ministries, executive
offices, and companies. Its work with North Oil and North Gas is especially successful, leading the teams of champions to move forward on their own to address key needs in the companies’ systems.
This progress attracted the attention of the Minister of Oil, who requested that the OSTP program be replicated in all 16 Iraqi oil companies and at Ministry headquarters. USAID/Tatweer is responding by working with the Ministry of Oil (MoO) to establish an OSTP unit that can service all of the oil companies.
Photo fail
Starbucks coffee?
Activist Post: NATO Using Foley and ISIS As A Pretext For Bombing Syria - Ultimate Target Is Russia
Fri, 22 Aug 2014 15:01
Brandon TurbevilleActivist PostThe Islamic State and the war in Syria is back on the front pages of the news once again on the heels of the alleged killing of James Mark Foley, an American journalist working in Syria. The outrage surrounding the alleged beheading of Foley, while justifiable if it is real, is already being used for propaganda purposes, namely in order to build up American support for an aerial bombing campaign against the Syrian government.
With this in mind, it is important to examine the facts surrounding the alleged execution of James Foley and the ways in which this incident is being used to justify more American military intervention in the Middle East and Syria specifically.
Questions Surrounding The Authenticity of the Video
While beheadings are by no means unbelievable or foreign to the Syrian destabilization crisis, the alleged beheading of journalist James Foley is one that should be viewed with some amount of healthy skepticism. Indeed, there are a number of anomalies associated this particular video that set it apart from the scores of other beheading videos produced by the Western-backed death squads attempting to overthrow the government of Bashar al-Assad and establish an Islamic caliphate across the Middle East.
A number of commentators have pointed out that James Foley seems remarkably calm and collected in the video, particularly given the fact that he knows that he is not very much longer for this world. Some may argue that Foley is calm due to fact that he knows he is going to die and has made peace with this fact, a condition that overtakes many when death is imminent. Others, however, may point to this as evidence to the contrary, i.e. that Foley knows he is not going to die and thus suggests that he is, in fact, acting in a cleverly devised propaganda video.Second, there is the fact of a distinct lack of blood in an execution that involves the slicing of a human throat. As Syrian Free Press reports, when one slows down the video, it is evident that the knife held by the death squad fighter cuts back and forth 7-10 times. Yet there is not one drop of blood to be seen. This is highly unusual to say the least.
Third, and perhaps most damning, is the fact that the process of the actual beheading is censored. In all the videotaped beheadings that have taken place in the Syrian war since 2011, there have been none (at least as far as this writer knows) that have been censored by ISIS or any other death squad organization. Indeed, if the entire purpose of the beheading video is to create fear and outrage, then censoring the actual beheading is counterproductive.
US Controls ISIS
Lastly, it is important to point out that the Islamic State is not some shadowy force that emerged from the caves of Afghanistan to form an effective military force that is funded by Twitter donations and murky secretive finance deals. IS is entirely the creation of NATO and the West and it remains in control of the organization.
As Tony Cartalucci writes in his article ''Implausible Deniability: West's ISIS Terror Hordes In Iraq,''
Beginning in 2011 - and actually even as early as 2007 - the United States has been arming, funding, and supporting the Muslim Brotherhood and a myriad of armed terrorist organizations to overthrow the government of Syria, fight Hezbollah in Lebanon, and undermine the power and influence of Iran, which of course includes any other government or group in the MENA region friendly toward Tehran.
Image: ISIS corridors begin in Turkey and end in Baghdad. [image credit: Land Destroyer]Billions in cash have been funneled into the hands of terrorist groups including Al Nusra, Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), and what is now being called "Islamic State in Iraq and Syria" or ISIS. One can see clearly by any map of ISIS held territory that it butts up directly against Turkey's borders with defined corridors ISIS uses to invade southward - this is because it is precisely from NATO territory this terrorist scourge originated.
ISIS was harbored on NATO territory, armed and funded by US CIA agents with cash and weapons brought in from the Saudis, Qataris, and NATO members themselves. The "non-lethal aid" the US and British sent including the vehicles we now see ISIS driving around in.
They didn't "take" this gear from "moderates." There were never any moderates to begin with. The deadly sectarian genocide we now see unfolding was long ago predicted by those in the Pentagon - current and former officials - interviewed in 2007 by Pulitzer Prize-winning veteran journalist Seymour Hersh.
Hersh's 9-page 2007 report, "The Redirection" states explicitly:
To undermine Iran, which is predominantly Shiite, the Bush Administration has decided, in effect, to reconfigure its priorities in the Middle East. In Lebanon, the Administration has co¶perated with Saudi Arabia's government, which is Sunni, in clandestine operations that are intended to weaken Hezbollah, the Shiite organization that is backed by Iran. The U.S. has also taken part in clandestine operations aimed at Iran and its ally Syria. A by-product of these activities has been the bolstering of Sunni extremist groups that espouse a militant vision of Islam and are hostile to America and sympathetic to Al Qaeda.
"Extremist groups that espouse a militant vision of Islam" and are "sympathetic to Al Qaeda" - is a verbatim definition of what ISIS is today. Clearly the words of Hersh were as prophetic as they were factually informed, grounded in the reality of a regional conflict already engineered and taking shape as early as 2007. Hersh's report would also forewarn the sectarian nature of the coming conflict, and in particular mention the region's Christians who were admittedly being protected by Hezbollah.
While Hersh's report was written in 2007, knowledge of the plan to use death squads to target Middle Eastern countries, particularly Syria, had been reported on even as far back as 2005 by Michael Hirsh and John Barry for Newsweek in an article entitled ''The Salvador Option.''Regardless, Cartalucci states in a separate article, ''NATO's Terror Hordes In Iraq A Pretext For Syria Invasion,''
In actuality, ISIS is the product of a joint NATO-GCC [Gulf Cooperation Council] conspiracy stretching back as far as 2007 where US-Saudi policymakers sought to ignite a region-wide sectarian war to purge the Middle East of Iran's arch of influence stretching from its borders, across Syria and Iraq, and as far west as Lebanon and the coast of the Mediterranean. ISIS has been harbored, trained, armed, and extensively funded by a coalition of NATO and Persian Gulf states within Turkey's (NATO territory) borders and has launched invasions into northern Syria with, at times, both Turkish artillery and air cover. The most recent example of this was the cross-border invasion by Al Qaeda into Kasab village, Latikia province in northwest Syria.
Cartalucci is referring to a cross-border invasion that was coordinated with NATO, Turkey, Israel, and the death squads where Israel acted as air force cover while Turkey facilitated the death squad invasion from inside its own borders.Propaganda Used Early On To Blame Assad
It is also important to keep in mind that, when Foley was originally abducted, it was widely publicized that his captors were the Syrian government itself. This, of course, was a ridiculous assertion and was recognized as such by all legitimate researchers familiar with the Syrian crisis. The American people, however, bought the propaganda hook, line, and sinker. Now that a video has been released of Foley being beheaded by ISIS, the American people have shown that they do not have an attention span that reaches back to when Foley was used as propaganda in Syria the first time around.
For those that do have a lingering memory, propaganda pieces have been produced such as that of Michael B. Kelley of Business Insider who laughably claims that Assad may have handed Foley over to ISIS, a group that Assad has been actively fighting since the start of the destabilization campaign in 2011. Kelley's absurd suggestion reaches the point of absolute insanity when he even goes so far as to suggest that Assad created ISIS.
Propaganda Purposes in August, 2014 '' American Bombing Of Syria
Regardless of whether or not the beheading video is real, the fact is that it is being used as a shameless piece of propaganda. The NATO powers are certainly not letting a good crisis go to waste.
As I have written on a number of occasions in the past, the goal is to drum up support from the American people for a bombing campaign or ''limited strikes'' inside Syria for the purpose of creating a buffer zone, a desire of NATO since the destabilization campaign began.
The reason that ISIS was allowed to seize such large swaths of territory across Iraq was an attempt to create a justification for the eventual invasion of Syria in addition to the reinvasion of Iraq. Indeed, any deployment of American troops, airstrikes, or any other type of US military force, will necessitate a battle against ISIS inside Iraq as well as ''cross-border'' strikes against the organization in Syria. Such ''cross-border'' strikes would likely be met with apathetic support from the American people since any restraint regarding borders will be presented and then viewed as placing ''handcuffs on the troops.''
Any military action taken across the border inside Syria will not be taken for the purposes of eliminating ISIS. The truth is that such military action will be nothing more than a backdoor attempt at establishing the ''buffer zone'' that NATO so ardently desired early on in the Syrian conflict. With the establishment of this ''buffer zone,'' a new staging ground will be opened that allows terrorists such as ISIS and others the ability to conduct attacks even deeper inside Syria.
This pretext has already been publicly discussed in mainstream media outlets across the world. Take, for instance, the article by Patrick Cockburn published in The Independent on June 19, 2014 entitled ''Iraq Crisis Exclusive: US Rules Out Military Action Until Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki Stands Down,'' where Cockburn argues the necessity of a series of airstrikes to be launched against both Iraq and Syria.
Cockburn writes,
The general support for the Sunni revolt in northern and western Iraq will make it very difficult for any counter-offensive, which would be facing far more opponents than Isis originally fielded. Isis now controls almost all the Euphrates valley from Fallujah west of Baghdad through western Iraq and eastern Syria as far as the Turkish border. Any long-term campaign against Isis by the Iraqi government backed by US air power would require air strikes in Syria as well as Iraq. The two countries have effectively become a single battlefield.
Consider also, the writings of former State Department Director of Policy Planning under the Obama administration, Anne Marie Slaughter, who has been foaming at the mouth every bit as much as John McCain when it comes to the prospect of intervening militarily in Syria. In her most recent op-ed in the New York Times, ''Don't Fight In Iraq And Ignore Syria,'' the appropriately-named Slaughter writes,Deciding that the Syrian government, as bad as it is, was still better than the alternative of ISIS profoundly missed the point. As long as we allow the Syrian government to continue perpetrating the worst campaign of crimes against humanity since Rwanda, support for ISIS will continue. As long as we choose Prime Minister Maliki over the interests of his citizens, all his citizens, his government can never be safe.
President Obama should be asking the same question in Iraq and Syria. What course of action will be best, in the short and the long term, for the Iraqi and Syrian people? What course of action will be most likely to stop the violence and misery they experience on a daily basis? What course of action will give them the best chance of peace, prosperity and a decent government?
The answer to those questions may well involve the use of force on a limited but immediate basis, in both countries. Enough force to remind all parties that we can, from the air, see and retaliate against not only Al Qaeda members, whom our drones track for months, but also any individuals guilty of mass atrocities and crimes against humanity. Enough force to compel governments and rebels alike to the negotiating table. And enough force to create a breathing space in which decent leaders can begin to consolidate power.
Bombing Syria '' A Strike At RussiaSlaughter's previous op-eds, of course, betray an underlying reason for her obsessive warmongering against Syria '' the strategic desire to weaken Russia. In this, Slaughter reveals herself as an adherent to the Brzezinski doctrine as it is espoused in The Grand Chessboard.[1] Even if Slaughter does not openly state her affinity for such a destructive and provocative foreign policy by name, her ideology is revealed by both her actions and her work. It is important to point out that Slaughter's position should not be construed as merely her own, but as a representation of the desires of the NATO powers that employ her.
Indeed, in her April, 2014 op-ed for Project Syndicate, entitled ''Stopping Russia Starts In Syria,'' Slaughter is nothing if not obvious about her offensive geopolitical targeting of the Russian Federation as well as that of China and Japan. She writes that,
The solution to the crisis in Ukraine lies in part in Syria. It is time for US President Barack Obama to demonstrate that he can order the offensive use of force in circumstances other than secret drone attacks or covert operations. The result will change the strategic calculus not only in Damascus, but also in Moscow, not to mention Beijing and Tokyo.
Slaughter essentially argues that Putin is much too strong to inflict damaging geopolitical costs in Ukraine. She suggests that Putin is much weaker in Syria, however, and, therefore, it is Syria where the United States must strike. Slaughter states,Regardless of Putin's initial motivations, he is now operating in an environment in which he is quite certain of the parameters of play. He is weighing the value of further dismemberment of Ukraine, with some pieces either joining Russia or becoming Russian vassal states, against the pain of much stronger and more comprehensive economic sanctions. Western use of force, other than to send arms to a fairly hapless Ukrainian army, is not part of the equation.
That is a problem. In the case of Syria, the US, the world's largest and most flexible military power, has chosen to negotiate with its hands tied behind its back for more than three years. This is no less of a mistake in the case of Russia, with a leader like Putin who measures himself and his fellow leaders in terms of crude machismo.
It is time to change Putin's calculations, and Syria is the place to do it.
After repeating the tired, disproven, and borderline idiotic propaganda of Assad's alleged ''chemical weapons attacks,'' ''killing his own people,'' and ''barrel bombs,'' Slaughter attempts to cover up what is nothing more than a geopolitical strategy as a humanitarian issue.Slaughter laments the fact that ''It is impossible to strike Syria legally so long as Russia sits on the United Nations Security Council, given its ability to veto any resolution authorizing the use of force.'' However, she continues her article by stating that the United States should act anyway, unilaterally or multilaterally, by striking Syria and, at the very least, destroying its ''fixed wing aircraft.''
The US, together with as many countries as will cooperate, could use force to eliminate Syria's fixed-wing aircraft as a first step toward enforcing Resolution 2139. ''Aerial bombardment'' would still likely continue via helicopter, but such a strike would announce immediately that the game has changed. After the strike, the US, France, and Britain should ask for the Security Council's approval of the action taken, as they did after NATO's intervention in Kosovo in 1999,'' she states.
Slaughter continues by writing,
Equally important, shots fired by the US in Syria will echo loudly in Russia. The great irony is that Putin is now seeking to do in Ukraine exactly what Assad has done so successfully: portray a legitimate political opposition as a gang of thugs and terrorists, while relying on provocations and lies to turn non-violent protest into violent attacks that then justify an armed response.
Slaughter, of course, is angry that the incessant and nonsensical propaganda of her former office, the US State Department, and other Western governments across the world have largely failed to manufacture a string of lies that would serve to effectively motivate Americans to gear up for war yet again.So far, on this particular issue, American apathy largely contributed to preventing a war.
Unfortunately, with slightly more clever propaganda narratives, that apathy will easily be converted over to the benefit of the world oligarchy. Indeed, with the broadcast of the killing of an American citizen in such a grotesque fashion, that apathy can quickly be converted to rage and nationalistic fervor. Such techniques of propaganda are well understood by elites the world over.
As Hermann Goring stated years ago,
Why of course the people don't want war. Why should some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece? Naturally the common people don't want war: neither in Russia, nor in England, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But after all it is the leaders of a country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy or fascist dictatorship, or a parliament or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the peace makers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.
The American people have tragically proven this statement true time and time again.Notes:
[1] Brzezinski, Zbigniew. The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy And Its Geostrategic Imperatives. Basic Books. 1997. Pp. 40-41
Recently from Brandon Turbeville:
Brandon Turbeville is an author out of Florence, South Carolina. He has a Bachelor's Degree from Francis Marion University and is the author of six books, Codex Alimentarius -- The End of Health Freedom, 7 Real Conspiracies, Five Sense Solutions and Dispatches From a Dissident, volume 1 and volume 2, and The Road to Damascus: The Anglo-American Assault on Syria. Turbeville has published over 300 articles dealing on a wide variety of subjects including health, economics, government corruption, and civil liberties. Brandon Turbeville's podcast Truth on The Tracks can be found every Monday night 9 pm EST at UCYTV. He is available for radio and TV interviews. Please contact activistpost (at) gmail.com. BE THE CHANGE! PLEASE SHARE THIS USING THE TOOLS BELOW
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Report: British intelligence has identified Foley's killer - Middle East Israel News | Haaretz
Sun, 24 Aug 2014 14:31
The British security services MI5 and MI6 have identified the British member of the Islamic State jihadist organization who is suspected of murdering American journalist James Foley, according to the London-based Sunday Times newspaper.
The newspaper attributed the information to "senior government sources."
The Sunday Times did not name the killer, saying that its sources "gave no details of the man they have identified," though it did give the name of a person it described as a "key suspect" '' hip-hop artist Abdel-Majed Abdel Bary.
According to the newspaper, Bary, 23, left his family's home in an upmarket London suburb last year. It says he recently tweeted a picture of himself holding up a severed head.
The gruesome video of Foley's beheading, which was released last week, featured a man with a London accent. The newspaper said that Bary is known to fellow fighters as ''Jihadi John.''
The Islamic State, also known as ISIS, has conquered considerable swathes of land in Iraq and Syria in recent months.
Full text of the last email the Islamic State sent to the Foley family | GlobalPost
Fri, 22 Aug 2014 09:55
(Don Emmert/Getty Images)
BOSTON, Mass. '-- American journalist James Foley was murdered by Islamic State militants, who on Aug. 19 publicized the killing in a graphic video uploaded to YouTube.
On Tuesday, Aug. 12, Foley's parents received an email from their son's captors stating that Foley would be ''executed.'' The Foley family, GlobalPost, government authorities and private security consultants had been investigating Foley's whereabouts and attempting to secure his release since he was kidnapped on Thanksgiving Day nearly two years ago.
The terrorist group declared Foley's death would be in retaliation for recent US airstrikes against the Islamic State in Iraq.
The Islamic State, which is now holding three American hostages in Syria, has since threatened to kill one of them, freelance reporter Steven Sotloff, if the US continues its bombing campaign in Iraq.
The Foley family has agreed to release the email from Foley's captors. GlobalPost has chosen to publish it in full in the interest of transparency and to fully tell Jim's story. We believe the text offers insight into the motivations and tactics of the Islamic State.
In addition to the extreme views it espouses, the email contains factual inaccuracies. For example, the Foley family was not ''given many chances to negotiate'' for Jim's release. After more than a year without contact, the Foleys received their first message from Jim's captors on Nov. 26, 2013, asking for money, fast. After the militants had proved to the Foleys and investigators that they were in fact holding Jim, they made their sole demand for a ransom of 100 million euros (about $132 million) or the release of unspecified prisoners held by the United States.
The next time the Foley family heard from the captors was on Aug. 12, 2014. They received this email:
HOW LONG WILL THE SHEEP FOLLOW THE BLIND SHEPPARD?
A message to the American government and their sheep like citizens:
We have left you alone since your disgraceful defeat in Iraq. We did not interfere in your country or attack your citizens while they were safe in their homes despite our capability to do so!
As for the scum of your society who are held prisoner by us, THEY DARED TO ENTER THE LION'S DEN AND WHERE EATEN!
You were given many chances to negotiate the release of your people via cash transactions as other governments have accepted,We have also offered prisoner exchanges to free the Muslims currently in your detention like our sister Dr Afia Sidiqqi, however you proved very quickly to us that this is NOT what you are interested in.
You have no motivation to deal with the Muslims except with the language of force, a language you were given in ''Arabic translation'' when you attempted to occupy the land of Iraq!Now you return to bomb the Muslims of Iraq once again, this time resorting to Arial attacks and ''proxy armies'', all the while cowardly shying away from a face-to-face confrontation!
Today our swords are unsheathed towards you, GOVERNMENT AND CITIZENS ALIKE! AND WE WILL NOT STOP UNTILL WE QUENCH OUR THIRST FOR YOUR BLOOD.
You do not spare our weak, elderly, women or children so we will NOT spare yours!
You and your citizens will pay the price of your bombings!
The first of which being the blood of the American citizen, James Foley!
He will be executed as a DIRECT result of your transgressions towards us!
http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/middle-east/syria/140821/text-last-email-islamic-state-sent-foley-family
ISIS offered to swap Foley for 'Lady Al Qaeda': Terrorists wanted return of MIT-graduate jailed in U.S. for planning 'mass casualty strike' with dirty bomb, ebola, and chemical weapon 'that spared children'.
Fri, 22 Aug 2014 12:03
ISIS sent 'laundry list' of demands for release of James FoleyBefore ransom rose to $132m, ISIS wanted release of Afia Siddiqui among other prisonersMother-of-three was jailed after she was caught with plans for 'mass casualty attack' and details of New York landmarksAuthor describes her as a 'poster girl for jihadists' and her release would have been PR disaster for ObamaIn her handbag was found details for a dirty bomb, Ebola, and a theoretical chemical weapon that did not kill children, her New York trial was told Government refused to enter into negotiation with his captors and launched failed rescue attempt instead - in contrast to the Bowe Bergdahl swapBy Martin Gould For Mailonline In Rochester, New Hampshire
Published: 15:33 EST, 21 August 2014 | Updated: 03:11 EST, 22 August 2014
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An MIT-educated neuroscientist terrorist known as 'Lady al Qaeda' was named on a 'laundry list' of demands from ISIS captors holding James Foley named, it was revealed today.
Petite mother-of-three Aafia Siddiqui is currently serving 86 years in a Texas jail after being arrested with plans for a 'mass casualty attack' in the US, including infecting people with Ebola and a dirty bomb.
But President Barack Obama's administration point blank refused to consider releasing Siddiqui, or handing over a $132 million ransom, according to the New York Times.
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Lady Al Qeada: Aafia Siddiqui is currently serving 86 years in a Texas jail after being arrested with plans for a 'mass casualty attack' in the US, including infecting people with Ebola and a dirty bomb. She was named by Foley's captors on a 'laundry list' as the person they wanted in a prisoner swap
Hunted: Mother-of-three Siddiqui, who is 5 ft. 4 in. and weighs just 90 lb, was on the FBI's Most Wanted Terrorist list after 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed mentioned her name during his 2003 interrogation
Karachi-born Siddiqui, 42, attended two New England universities. She gained a PhD from Brandeis and then trained as a neuroscientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
She founded the Institute of Islamic Research and Teaching while living in the U.S.
Mother-of-three Siddiqui, who is 5 ft. 4 in. and weighs just 90 lb, was on the FBI's Most Wanted Terrorist list after 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed mentioned her name during his 2003 interrogation.
Siddiqui, who is divorced from her first husband is now married to Ammar al-Baluchi, one of the 9/11 masterminds, who is currently being held in Guantanamo. He is the nephew of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.
Burqa-clad Siddiqui was arrested in Ghanzi, Afghanistan in 2008 after a local saw her poring over a map. He became suspicious as most women in that country are illiterate.
When she was held she had detailed plans on how to kill by spreading Ebola, making a dirty bomb and even a theoretical chemical weapon that somehow spared children while killing adults.
She also had two pounds of highly toxic sodium cyanide hidden in her bag and documents detailing potential New York targets for attack including Wall Street, the Empire State Building, the Brooklyn Bridge, the Statue of Liberty and the subway system.
The documents also showed the Plum Island Animal Disease Center on Long Island Sound, New York - which was used for biological weapons testing during the Cold War - as another potential target.
During interrogation the day after her arrest she grabbed a rifle that had been left on a table and started shooting at her questioners. She failed to hit them but she was shot in the stomach as they returned fire.
Author Deborah Scroggins, who wrote a book about Siddiqui, calls her the 'poster child for jihadists around the world.'
'I doesn't surprise me that ISIS should call for her release, even though she is associated with al-Qaeda, because they want to take over al-Qaeda's mantle,' she told MailOnline.
'What better way to establish your bona fides than to exchange a prisoner for the jihadist's icon?'
Scroggins, whose book, Wanted Women: Faith, Lies, and the War on Terror was published in 2012, points out that Siddiqui received an 86-year jail sentence despite never harming anyone, and it has never been fully explained whether her plans were realistic or just in her head.
Demands: Obama refused to negotiate with the terrorists over Foley's release - in stark contrast to suspected deserter Bowe Bergdahl who was released to huge controversy in exchange for five Taliban prisoners
Family pays tribute to US journalist beheaded by ISIS
Siddiqui was only charged with two counts of attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon and three counts of assault. She was brought to the U.S. for trial which lasted for 14 days in January and February 2010.
'She was only tried for firing a gun at U.S. personnel overseas and Congress had just passed a law, going back to the attacks on the embassies in Nairobi and Dar-es-Salaam, that said anyone trying to kill U.S. personnel would get special strict sentencing,' said Scroggins.
During her trial she said she loved both the United States and Islam. Her lawyers pleaded for leniency due to mental issues, but she said: 'I am not paranoid. I do not agree with that.'
'I do not want any bloodshed. I do not want any misunderstanding. I really want to make peace and end the wars,' she said during her trial.
Siddiqui - prisoner number 90279-054 - is currently held in the Federal Medical Center in Carswell, Texas, which specializes in treating inmates with mental health issues. She is not due for release until August 8, 2083.
Scroggins added: 'She is definitely closely involved with the highest levels of al-Qaeda, but the fact is she has never been convicted of killing or injuring anyone, but she has become a cause celebre in the jihadist movement.'
Her 86-year sentence, imposed by U.S. District Judge Richard Berman, led to violent protests in her home country of Pakistan. Thousands of protestors burned tires in Lahore, and police had to fire teargas to quell riots in her hometown of Karachi.
Failed rescue: Obama authorized instead a daring mission to snatch back Foley and his fellow captives on July 4. But after a firefight, special forces realized the hostages were not there
Obama says US will be relentless against Islamic State
Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani called Siddiqui 'the daughter of the nation' and begged U.S. authorities to release her.
While Obama did swap five Taliban prisoners in exchange for suspected deserter Bowe Bergdahl, who was freed on May 31 to huge controversy,Obama authorized a daring rescue mission over the July 4 weekend that failed in the Syrian desert.
At least five ISIS militants were killed and one American soldier was wounded as the raid failed because the terrorists had moved Foley and other hostages including Miami journalist Steven Sotloff away from the base in Syria's northern Raqqa province.
Scroggins said the question of whether Siddiqui's release would be a real threat is doubtful. 'But exchanging her would have been a PR disaster for the Obama administration.'
She pointed out that the prisoners released in exchange for Bergdahl had not been convicted and tried in a U.S. court as Siddiqui was.
Her release would certainly have been perceived as a tremendous victory for the jihadist forces,' said Scroggins.
US says we do not pay ransoms
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Islamic State: Biggest threat to United States? - BBC News
Fri, 22 Aug 2014 14:59
By Shashank JoshiSenior research fellow, Royal United Services Institute
22 August 2014 Last updated at 13:57
Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel (L) and General Martin Dempsey did not hold back when describing IS US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel has used a remarkable set of words to describe the militants of Islamic State (IS).
He warned of their "apocalyptic, end-of-days strategic vision", argued that they pose "an imminent threat to every interest we have, whether it's in Iraq or anywhere else", and depicted them as "beyond anything that we've seen". Is this reckless threat inflation, or is Mr Hagel correct?
The US has faced a variety of effective militant groups in the past, a number of which have successfully targeted American interests.
The most significant of these has been al-Qaeda, which bombed three US embassies in 1998, a US warship in 2000, and attacked New York and Washington with hijacked aircraft in 2001. Over the past decade, al-Qaeda's regional allies have killed numerous other Americans, mostly in war zones. One such ally, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, has successfully placed bombs on US-bound aircraft, forcing heightened airport security as recently as July 2013.
IS has sought to sideline al-Qaeda, declaring itself the standard bearer of global jihad By contrast, IS has never come close to attacking the US homeland and has only claimed one American life, journalist James Foley. A Frenchman who fought with IS did succeed in killing four people at Brussels' Jewish Museum in May. But, as my RUSI colleague Raffaello Pantucci observes, there is no evidence that this, or four other disrupted plots, were directed by IS.
The potential return of thousands of European citizens from IS ranks does pose a serious challenge to European intelligence agencies and police forces, even if only a tiny proportion of those returnees are inclined to and capable of conducting attacks.
But this is not a new problem. As early as November 2013, terrorism expert Thomas Hegghammer pointed out that were witnessing "the largest European Muslim foreign fighter contingent to any conflict in modern history".
Anti-American sentiment within IS is likely to have risen after US strikes began Unless Mr Hagel has secret intelligence to the contrary, it therefore seems wildly implausible that IS presents, as he put it, an "imminent threat to every interest'... anywhere".
Even within Iraq, the threat to US forces in Irbil and Baghdad is modest. Mr Hagel's use of the word "imminent" was probably intended to establish a legal rationale for forthcoming US military strikes, and address US domestic concern over Mr Foley's murder.
On the other hand, it should be recognized that IS is one of the most powerful jihadist movements in modern history. The group possesses an estimated 10,000-17,000 fighters, including an estimated 2,000 Europeans, and billions of dollars, according to the French foreign minister.
The killing of US journalist James Foley shocked America They control 35,000 square miles of territory across two countries, on which they operate advanced US military equipment seized from the Iraqi army. In places, they enjoy the support of former Iraqi officers once loyal to Saddam Hussein and some Sunni tribes.
IS should therefore be understood not merely as a terrorist group, but as a hybrid revolutionary movement with nation-building aspirations and conventional armed forces. This makes them vulnerable - they have more material infrastructure and capabilities to target than, say, al-Qaeda - but also more resilient.
In this sense, it is reasonable for Mr Hagel to depict IS as unprecedented. Other fundamentalist groups that controlled states, such as the Taliban in Afghanistan, have been relatively parochial movements far less extreme in their methods and objectives.
IS is in many ways a cross between a state and a military and ideological group The US has faced far more powerful state adversaries. The Soviet Union, for instance, killed many more people under its control than IS has done and could have inflicted far greater damage on the US had it chosen to do so. But Moscow could be deterred, whereas the "apocalyptic" ideology of IS is perceived as incapable of long-term coexistence or compromise.
Very few groups have combined this territorial control, state-like structure, and avowed intention to attack the West. Mr Hagel, despite his hyperbole, has a point.
Charles Frith - Punk Planning: MI6 and CIA Fomented The Syrian Uprising 2 Years Before It Happened
Sun, 24 Aug 2014 13:15
Israel is smashing up all its neighbours as part of the Oded Yinon plan.You will not see this information in the news and so if you watch the news more than this video, the fake corporate news media becomes your reality.GLOBAL RESEARCH - Gear"id ' ColminIn an interview with the French TV station LCP, former French minister for Foreign Affairs Roland Dumas said:'' I'm going to tell you something. I was in England two years before the violence in Syria on other business. I met with top British officials, who confessed to me that they were preparing something in Syria.This was in Britain not in America. Britain was organizing an invasion of rebels into Syria. They even asked me, although I was no longer minister for foreign affairs, if I would like to participate.Naturally, I refused, I said I'm French, that doesn't interest me.''Dumas went on give the audience a quick lesson on the real reason for the war that has now claimed the lives of tens of thousands of people.''This operation goes way back. It was prepared, preconceived and planned'... in the region it is important to know that this Syrian regime has a very anti-Israeli stance.Consequently, everything that moves in the region- and I have this from the former Israeli prime minister who told me 'we'll try to get on with our neighbours but those who don't agree with us will be destroyed.It's a type of politics, a view of history, why not after all. But one should know about it.''Dumas is a retired French foreign minister who is obliged to use discretion when revealing secrets which could affect French foreign policy. That is why he made the statement 'I am French, that doesn't interest me'. He could not reveal France's role in the British plan as he would be exposing himself to prosecution for revealing state secrets.There have been many disinformation agents in the British and French press, many of them well known 'leftist' war correspondents and commentators, who have tried to pretend that Israel secretly supports Assad. Those who make such arguments are either stupid, ignorant or deliberate disinformation agents of NATO and Israel.Israel's support for Al Qaeda militants in Syria has even been admitted by the mainstream press. For example, Germany's Die Welt newspaper published a report on June 12th on Israel's medical treatment of the Al Qaeda fighters.Israel planned this war of annihilation years ago in accordance with the Yinon Plan, which advocates balkanization of all states that pose a threat to Israel. The Zionist entity is using Britain and France to goad the reluctant Obama administration into sending more American troops to their death in Syria on behalf of Tel Aviv.Of all the aggressor states against Syria, Israel has been the quietest from the start. That is because Laurent Fabius, Francois Holland, William Hague and David Cameron are doing their bidding by attempting to drag Israel's American Leviathan into another ruinous war so that Israel can get control of the Middle East's energy reserves, eventually replacing the United States as the ruling state in the world. It has also been necessary for Tel Aviv to remain silent so as not to expose their role in the 'revolutions', given the fact that the Jihadist fanatics don't realize they are fighting for Israel.This is the ideology of Zionism which cares no more for Jews than it does for its perceived enemies. The Jewish colony is determined to become a ruling state in the Middle East in the insane delusion that this will enable it to replace the United States as a global hegemon, once the US collapses fighting Israel's wars.Israeli Prime Minister once told American talk show host Bill Maher that the reason why Israel always wins short conflicts, while the United States gets bogged down in endless wars. '' The secret is that we have America'', he said.But Israel is itself slowly collapsing. If one excludes the enslaved Palestinian population, the Jewish state still has the highest level of poverty in the developed world with more and more Jews choosing to leave the 'promised' land, a garrison state led by mad men, an anti-Semitic entity threatening to engulf the world in war and destruction. Israel cares no more about its own working class Jews than any other ethnic community.In fact, if the Likudnik crooks running the Israeli colony get their way, working class Israelis will be among the first to pay as they are conscripted to fight terrorists created by their own government. With orthodox Jews protesting in the streets of New York against Israel and Haredi Jewish minority opposing Israel's rampant militarism, Zionism is coming under increased attack from Jewish religious authorities and non-Zionist Jews both inside and outside of the occupied territories.This is not the first time that Roland Dumas has spoken out against wars of aggression waged by successive French regimes. In 2011 he revealed that he had been asked by the United States when he was foreign minister in the Mitterrand administration to organize the bombing of Libya. On that occasion the French refused to cooperate. Dumas, a lawyer by profession, offered to defend Colonel Gaddafi, at the International Criminal Court in the event of his arrest by Nato.Dumas was also vocal in condemning France's brutal neo-colonial bombing of the Ivory Coast earlier in 2011, were death squads and terrorists similar to those later deployed in Libya and Syria were unleashed upon the Ivoirian population in order to install a IMF puppet dictator Alassane Quattara in power. Gbagbo was described as one of the greatest African leaders of the past 20 years by Jean Ziegler, sociologist and former member of the Advisory Committee of the UN Human Rights Council.Gbagbo had plans to nationalize banks and wrest control of the country's currency from the colonial finance institutions in Paris. He also wanted to roll back many of the worst effects of IMF restructuring by nationalizing industries and creating a functioning, universal free health service. All of this threatened the interests of French corporations in the former French colony. So, the Parisian oligarchy went to work to find a suitable replacement as caretaker of their Ivoirian colony.They sent in armed terrorist gangs, or 'rebel's in the doublespeak of imperialism, who murdered all before them while the French media blamed president Gbagbo for the violence that ensued. Gbagbo and Gaddafi had opposed Africom, the Pentagon's plan to recolonize Africa. That was another reason for the 2011 bombing of their two African countries.The formula is always the same. Imperialism backs 'rebels', whenever its interests are threatened by regimes that love their country more than foreign corporations. One should not forgot that during the Spanish Civil War of 1936, General Franco and his cronies were also 'rebels' and they, like their counterparts in Libya in 2011, were bombed to power by foreign powers, replacing a progressive, republican administration with fascism.There are pro-Israeli fanatics in France who have used the analogy of the Spanish Civil War as justification for intervention in Libya and Syria. The pseudo-philosopher Henry Bernard Levy is one of them. Of course, the ignoramus Levy doesn't realize that the reason France, England and the USA did not officially intervene in the Spanish Civil War is because they were covertly helping the 'rebels' from the start. They enabled arms shipments to the Francoist 'rebels' while preventing arms deliveries to the Spanish government, who, like Syria today, were helped by Moscow. Anyone who has studied the Spanish Civil War knows that all the imperialist countries wanted Franco as a bulwark against communism.There is nothing imperialism loves more than a rebel without a cause. What imperialism hates, however, are revolutionaries. That is why the 'rebels' which imperialism sends into other countries to colonize them on behalf of foreign banks and corporations, have to be marketed as 'revolutionaries' in order to assure the support of the Monty Python brigade of petty-bourgeois, ' leftist' dupes such as Democracy Now! and their ilk.Dumas is not the only top French official to denounce the New World Order. Former French ambassador to Syria Michel Raimbaud wrote a book in 2012 entitled 'Le Soudan dans tous les (C)tats', where he revealed how Israel planned and instigated a civil war in South Sudan in order to balkanize a country led by a pro-Palestinian government. He also exposed the pro-Israeli media groups and 'human rights' NGOS who created the 'humanitarian' narrative calling for military intervention by the United States in the conflict.The subject was covered extensively by African investigative journalist Charles Onana in his 2009 book, Al-Bashir & Darfour LA CONTRE ENQUŠTE.There are many more retired French officials who are speaking out about the ruinous policies of this French government, including the former head of French domestic intelligence Yves Bonnet. There have also been reports of dissent in the French armed forces and intelligence apparatus.After the assassination of Colonel Gaddafi in October 2011, the former French ambassador to Libya Christian Graeff told French radio station France Culture that it was responsible for the diffusion of lies and war propaganda on behalf of Nato throughout the war. Graeff also warned the broadcasters that such disinformation could only work on the minds of serfs but not in a country of free minds.The power of the Israeli lobby in France is a subject rarely discussed in polite circles. In France there is a law against questioning or denial of the holocaust. However, denial of the Korean holocaust, Guatemalan holocaust, Palestinian holocaust, Indonesian holocaust and the dozens of other US/Israeli supported genocides is not only perfectly legal but is the respectable norm.The same lobby which introduced the Loi Gayssot in 1990, effectively ending freedom of expression in France, would also like to ban any independent investigations of genocides whose narratives they have written, such as the Rwanda genocide, where Israel played a key role in supporting the 'rebels' led by Paul Kagame, who invaded Rwanda from Uganda from 1991 to 1994, leading to the genocide of both Tutus and Tutsis. Many serious scholars have written about the Rwandan genocide, which the Israel lobby repeatedly uses as a case study to justify 'humanitarian' intervention by Western powers. The Zionist thought police would like to see such authors prosecuted for 'negating' imperialism's disgusting lies on African conflicts.Now, the Israeli Lobby is forcing the (their) French government to prosecute twitter messages which the lobby deems 'anti-Semitic'. This is one further step towards the creation of a totalitarian state where any criticism of imperialism, foreign wars, racism, oppression, perhaps eventually capitalism itself could fall under the rubric of 'anti-Semitism'.These people are sick, and those who cow down to them are sicker. Perhaps the etymology of sickness, a word cognate with the German Sicherheit (security) according to dictionary.com, is not a coincidence. For what is particularly sick about our society is the cult of security, endless surveillance, ubiquitous cameras, the cult of the all seeing eye, the prurient gaze as part of the incessant discourse on terrorism by those who specialize in the training of the very terrorists they claim to be protecting us from. Whether or not the words security and sickness are linguistically related, they are certainly cognate in a philosophical sense.Roland Dumas and others like him should be highly commended for having to guts to say what so many others are too morally corrupt, too weak and cowardly to admit.As the French government and its media agencies drum up hysteria for war on Syria, Roland Dumas, now in the twilight of his years, is warning people of the consequences of not understanding where Israel is leading the world. Will enough people heed the warning?
The trouble with open networks: After Twitter cracks down on ISIS, the militants move to Diaspora | PandoDaily
Fri, 22 Aug 2014 19:08
By David HolmesOn August 22, 2014
Earlier this week, after the Islamic militants of ISIS beheaded journalist James Foley and posted a horrific video of his murder, Twitter suspended a number of ISIS-affiliated accounts. CEO Dick Costolo clarified the company's policy in a tweet, saying, ''We have been and are actively suspending accounts as we discover them related to this graphic imagery'' (though, apparently, accounts associated with major news organizations are exempt from this rule).
But while centralized networks like Twitter and Facebook can remove content or ban users with a virtual flip of a switch, not all networks function like this. Take Diaspora for example. Instead of managing and storing data on servers owned within one organization, Diaspora lets users set up smaller, local servers called ''pods.'' Diaspora's administrators cannot police the content on these servers, only the person or ''podmin'' who set up that particular pod can.
For proponents of the open Internet, and adherents to the ''free and open source software'' (FOSS) philosophy, that's a good thing. The Internet, many argue, is not something that should be controlled by a handful of large companies or governments, and products like Diaspora help ensure there will always be a place where the free-flow of information is unhindered.
But there's a downside to this open Internet utopia, and we're seeing it right now as ISIS, spurned by Twitter and Facebook, has begun to adopt these localized Diaspora pods to promote its extreme messages and activities. And because Diaspora is working like it's ''supposed'' to, there's little the social network can do about it.
''diaspora* is a completely decentralized network which, by its nature, consists of many small servers exchanging posts and messages,'' Diaspora's creators wrote in a blog post. ''There is no central server, and there is therefore no way for the project's core team to manipulate or remove contents from a particular node in the network (which we call a 'pod'). This may be one of the reasons which attracted IS activists to our network.''
That doesn't mean it's not concerned about ISIS activity on its platform, however. It's working to alert individual administrators when extremist propaganda is found on one of the pods, if for no other reason than that the pod administrators may face legal consequences for hosting that content. But they also say it would go against the network's FOSS philosophy to attempt to ''influence'' these administrators in any way.
It's hard to ask much more of Diaspora which, by the design of its creators, makes it not only philosophically problematic but virtually impossible to police this content. Diaspora is a tool, not a centralized consumer product like Twitter. It's like blaming inventor of the web Tim Berners-Lee for online child pornography. For its part, Diaspora has been cataloging the accounts belonging to ISIS members and supporters to make it easier for podmins to remove the content themselves, and the platform claims that ''all of the larger pods have removed the IS-related accounts and posts.''
This is yet another example of what's become an ongoing narrative surrounding sites that host user-generated content. The more protections sites offer to preserve the open Internet and all of the good that comes with that, the more chances there are for people to post content that runs afoul of laws and public taste. And as this story shows, there is likely no way to keep ISIS off the social web entirely. But the good news is, as larger networks like Twitter and Facebook, along with the pods that Diaspora can control, continue to apply and enforce standards on content like ISIS' propaganda, these extremists are forced to find more and more farflung (and less popular) networks to push their violent, hateful message.
[Illustration by Brad Jonas]
David Holmes is Pando's East Coast Editor. He is also the co-founder of Explainer Music, a production company specializing in journalistic music videos. His work has appeared at FastCompany.com, ProPublica, the Guardian, the Daily Dot, NewYorker.com, and Grist.
LiveLeak bans future ISIS beheading videos
Fri, 22 Aug 2014 16:47
NEW YORK (CNNMoney)
There was so much interest in the Foley video Wednesday that LiveLeak warned visitors about possible slowdowns due to "an abnormally high volume of traffic."
But Thursday, the site's operators announced an out-of-character decision: "We will not be showing further beheadings carried out by" ISIS.
"We've shown the world the true horror of this form of execution more than once in the past and we cannot find any compelling reason to even be thought of as promoting the actions of this group," LiveLeak said in a statement.
"There is no reason at all to show more beheadings," they added.
Related: Twitter removes images of James Foley's death
Some of LiveLeak's users may strongly disagree, and the website acknowledged as much in its statement. They said they'd hold a live discussion with users later on Thursday.
The fact of the matter is that many millions of Internet users seek out sites like LiveLeak to see the very kind of gruesome content that traditional media refrain from showing viewers.
But "our belief in your rights to view whatever you wish do not override our rights to not host it here," LiveLeak said.
In other words, even LiveLeak wants to draw a line somewhere -- mirroring decisions by YouTube, Twitter(TWTR, Tech30) and Facebook(FB, Tech30) about what sorts of objectionable material may be shared by users.
Related: Future of media
The (unnamed) LiveLeak operators said they'd had several meetings about the Foley beheading video. The site has provided access to other such videos in the past.
But "there is every chance - given the rumours of hostage stockpiling currently doing the rounds - that we could see a return to the dark times of 2004/5 when beheadings happened with an alarming and depressing regularity," the statement said. "It's this which prompted us" to effectively ban future ISIS videos.
The site added that "this does not mean we won't continue to show graphic media should we deem it reasonable to do so, we will continue despite the regular condemnation, in other words for the most part nothing is going to change... We simply will not host further beheadings" from ISIS.
Related: James Foley remembered as 'brave and tireless' journalist
First Published: August 21, 2014: 11:29 AM ET
Pope Francis telephones family of American journalist James Foley | CatholicHerald.co.uk
Fri, 22 Aug 2014 17:19
Pope Francis has offered his condolences in a phone call to the family of a American journalist killed by Islamic State militants in Syria.
Vatican spokesman Fr Federico Lombardi said the Pope phoned relatives of the late James Foley to console them for their loss and assure them of his prayers.
The call to the Foley family in Rochester, New Hampshire, came in the afternoon New Hampshire time. Fr Lombardi released no additional details.
According to the Associated Press, US officials confirmed the authenticity of a graphic video that showed Islamic State fighters beheading Foley, a 1996 graduate of Marquette University who had been a freelance journalist for the past several years, mostly in the world's trouble spots. In 2011, he was kidnapped on a Libyan battlefield and held captive in Tripoli for 45 days.
Sometime in late 2012 he went missing in Syria. The last time his family heard from him was before Thanksgiving that year.
The Islamic State militants said they killed Foley in retaliation for US airstrikes on their strongholds, and the group threatened to kill another US hostage also shown in the video.
President Obama called Foley's parents, John and Diane Foley, before addressing the nation about their son's death and told them: ''We are all heartbroken.''
When the president was making his televised remarks about James Foley's death, his parents spoke to reporters on the front yard of their home.
''We thank God for the gift of Jim. We are so, so proud of him,'' said Diane Foley.
She added that he was ''a courageous, fearless journalist '' the best of America.''
John Foley told reporters: ''We think his strength came from God'', and his wife interjected: ''We know it did.''
His father also described how their son not only wanted to humanise the wars he was covering but would also ''take a bullet'' for any of his colleagues.
''It's not difficult to find solace,'' his father added, saying he knows his son is ''in God's hands''.
He said it is now up to others to ''pick up the gauntlet'' and continue the work his son was doing.
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TARP 2.0
''Federal Reserve and Other Central Banks Own Close to Half of All Stock Markets''
Fri, 22 Aug 2014 12:01
These links reveal that the US Federal Reserve Board and other central banks around the world own ''close to half of all [the] stock markets.'' The title of this post is the title of the first link. Please re-read the first sentence and let it sink in to grasp the meaning of this shocking revelation. I think most citizen-investors around the world assumed that all stocks were owned by private investors, sovereign investment funds, pension funds, mutual funds, etc. Not true! The first three links reveal that vast amounts of stock equities are owned by the US Federal Reserve Board and other central banks! The Fed and the central banks have surely been buying these stock funds with fantasy money, money created by the central banks ''out of thin air.'' If a private investor tried to do that, it would be called ''counterfeiting.''
As the first link observes: ''This has led to an artificially high stock market, and an over-analysis of the real value of tradable equities (emphasis added).'' The first link also warns about the ''market manipulation'' that is now possible due to vast amounts of stocks being owned by the central banks, not by ''real'' investors. Indeed, it asks the succinct question: ''Are there any markets at all that are not manipulated bubbles'...?'' My own opinion is that there are no truly independent markets anywhere any longer. The second link and third link offer different, but supportive, perspectives on this matter of grave importance for global financial markets of all kinds. Obviously, if the Fed and other central banks hadn't bought massive amounts of stocks with what is essentially ''funny money''' created out of thin air, the stock valuations in all global markets would be way lower than they are today.
'...
If central banks own such vast tracts of stocks, it allows for the possibility of them creating a financial crisis at a time of their choosing by selling massive amounts of their stock holdings in a coordinated global fashion. This could cause a stock market crash that no one would have seen coming. Revelation 17-18'²s prophecy about the collapse of the global financial markets in the latter days leaves one with the impression that investors and average merchants are shocked by the sudden collapse of the global markets. Previous posts at this website have discussed various possible ''triggers'' for the fulfillment of this prophecy. Now we have another possible ''trigger'' for that prophecy being fulfilled. The Fed and central banks could deliberately cause a financial meltdown in stock markets by coordinated selling of their equity holdings. Why would they do that? To gain control of the world's corporations by buying them up with fantasy money when their valuations are at very low levels would be one explanation. It may also be arranged by a shadowy group of insiders who want to dump the current monetary/financial system so they can bring in a new global financial and monetary system that allows for them to control the world's monetary transactions and, thereby, control all people. That is exactly what Revelation 17-18 and Revelation 13:16-18 prophecy will happen. The ''seven heads and ten horns'' are prophesied to deliberately take down the current financial and monetary system to impose a new one of their own making on the world. We may be drawing close to such an event happening. As these links reveal, the means to do it already exist.
Full article:''Federal Reserve and Other Central Banks Own Close to Half of All Stock Markets'' (Steven Collins)
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New Fed Exit Strategy Emerges and Foreign Banks Big Winners - Real Time Economics - WSJ
Sat, 23 Aug 2014 21:23
Federal Reserve officials haven't decided when to raise short-term interest rates, but as The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this week, they are closer to finishing a blueprint for how they'll do it.
Minutes of the Fed's July 29-30 policy meeting laid out fresh details and elaborated on others. Among the big winners in the new approach''as we'll explain lower in this post''are foreign banks.
But first the details:
Rather than target a specific federal-funds rate, as it did before 2008, the Fed in the future will try to keep its target interest rate within a band. Right now it is between 0% and 0.25% and when it decides to raise rates the Fed will move that quarter-percentage point band higher. ''Almost all participants agreed that it would be appropriate to retain the federal funds rate as the key policy rate, and they supported continuing to target a range of 25 basis points for this rate at the time of liftoff and for some time thereafter,'' the minutes said.
The Fed's primary tool is an interest rate it pays banks for the money they have on deposit with the central bank, known as interest on excess reserves, or IOER. This will be the upper end of the band. This rate is now 0.25% and seems likely to go to 0.5% with the Fed's first rate increase. The lower end of the band will be interest the Fed pays money market funds and other nonbanks for cash not on deposit at banks (known as the overnight reverse-repo rate, or ON RRP in Fed lingo). This is now 0.05% and seems likely to go to 0.25% with the Fed's first rate increase. ''Most participants anticipated that, at least initially, the IOER rate would be set at the top of the target range for the federal funds rate, and the ON RRP rate would be set at the bottom of the federal funds target range,'' the minutes said.
The Fed wants to gradually shrink its securities holdings and eventually get its portfolio of mortgage-backed securities to a minimum.
After the Fed starts raising short-term interest rates using these tools, officials will allow their holdings of all securities to shrink as the securities mature. Right now, the Fed is reinvesting proceeds from maturing securities to keep the size of its portfolio stable. ''Most participants supported reducing or ending reinvestment sometime after the first increase in the target range for the federal funds rate,'' the minutes said.
The Fed is going to avoid disrupting financial markets by selling its securities, unless absolutely necessary or for fine-tuning its portfolio. ''Most participants continued to anticipate that the Committee would not sell (mortgage-backed securities), except perhaps to eliminate residual holdings.Fed officials are on track to formalize the plan in September, but want to give themselves wiggle room because they've had to revise their vision of this process before and they're still learning how to use some of these new levers. ''Participants agreed that the [Fed] should provide additional information to the public regarding the details of normalization well before most participants anticipate the first steps in reducing policy accommodation to become appropriate. They stressed the importance of communicating a clear plan while at the same time noting the importance of maintaining flexibility so that adjustments to the normalization approach could be made as the situation changed and in light of experience.''The most striking feature of the Fed's strategy is that it keeps in place an effective subsidy that the U.S. central bank is currently paying to foreign banks.
Here's how:
In recent years foreign banks have been tapping U.S. money market funds for very cheap short-term loans. Unlike domestic banks, foreign banks don't have domestic depositors to tap for funds, so they turn elsewhere for dollars. Money market funds make the funds available for a few hundredths of a percentage point. The foreign banks in turn park those loans at the Fed for 0.25% interest. They earn profits on the spread between the cheap cost of funds available from money market funds and the higher rate they get at the Fed.
It's a trade that domestic U.S. banks have been unwilling to make because they have to pay additional fees to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. on their borrowings, fees the foreign banks don't have to pay. ''A change in the calculation of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) deposit insurance fee in 2011 likely reinforced the relative attractiveness of fed funds borrowing for foreign banks (which are generally not FDIC insured) versus domestic banks,'' New York Fed economists found in a study last year. Foreign banks accounted for nearly 60% of fed funds market trading in 2012, according to the New York Fed study.
By keeping a quarter-percentage-point spread in place between money market funds and commercial banks with its new system, the Fed is effectively keeping in place a structure that allows foreign banks to profit where domestic U.S. banks can't.
''The wider spread is primarily a gift to foreign banks,'' said Louis Crandall, a money market analyst with Wrightson ICAP.
Another striking feature of the Fed's evolving strategy is its broader reliance on the federal-funds market, where banks make short-term loans of reserves to each other overnight. The Fed has used the fed-funds rate as its benchmark short-term interest rate for many years. But some analysts wonder of this market is outdated.
This market is awash in cash due to the Fed's efforts to pump money into the banking system. Because banks have so much cash, the fed-funds market where they tap reserves experiences very little day-to-day trading. One New York Fed study shows daily trading volume in the market has contracted from an already-thin $200 billion before the financial crisis to nearly $50 billion. Moreover, traditional U.S. commercial banks are especially inactive. The most active players are government sponsored Federal Home Loan Banks and foreign banks.
''The fed funds market is but a shadow of what it was prior to the crisis,'' Raymond Stone, an analyst at Stone McCarthy Research, said in a note to clients Wednesday. ''It is no longer clear that the funds rate is the key determining factor of the behavior of short-term interest rates.''
Fed officials don't want to abandon the fed-funds rate, in part because the values of many derivatives contracts are tied to it, and in part because they are used to it being their key tool for influencing short-term rates. ''Almost all participants agreed that it would be appropriate to retain the federal funds rate as the key policy rate,'' the minutes said.
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Essential Intelligence: TARP 2.0 '' the Preparations
Fri, 22 Aug 2014 17:01
Bracing for impact: Ferguson, Ukraine & the Middle-EastThis article examines the militant preparations to TARP 2.0 both side of the Atlantic. Analysis of history involves zooming in on the internal politics of instigators, while zoom-out upon the external politics concerning those being instigated.This time round the entire instigation seems to have been lying since long in the hands of the Anglo-American Banksters, while the victims are the Middle-East and the Ukraine, with grave implications to Russia on both fronts. In our previous articleDirect Petrodollar[Link] we have examined the outline of preserving the Petro-dollar in a financial multi-polar world, where Oil-sheiks would be reluctant to save in USD and/or GBP.Coming October is likely to be like in 2008, with TARP 2.0 following suit through a newly elected Congress.This would involve minor civil riots across the rust belt, e.g. St. Louis (Ferguson) and Detroit, which would be leveraged in order to excuse a hardened police-state across the USSA in order to protect the Banksters from any pogrom eventuality.Then all hell is likely to break loose on Israel from North (Hezbollah) Center (Hamas) and South (AQ in the Sinai) alike, in order to overtake the Natural-Gas resources and in order to Jump at Egypt next, again installing an MB (UK:MI6, BP) regime. This is while ISIS would extend to Saudi-Arabia/UAE.In order to facilitate this middle-Eastern meddling, the USA admitted its D(C)tente policy with Iran already in December 2013, namely giving Iran a Cart-Blanche concerning its intertwined Nuclear and ICBM strategic programmes.The Ukraine is going to see a much expanded and extended civil war, also mediated by means of a parliamentary elections. Surely the Putsch regime in Kiev is not going to yield the oligarchical major gains for decency's sake. Bibi keeps on playing his circus of Israeli internal politics with a handful of much hyped pinpoint executions of leading Hamas military commanders. Were those eliminated directors at BP? - No. Same for real impact.*** The Negro Spring within NAFTA's melting-pot ***and how a Tetris crash-mode enables totalitarianismCall it the Tetris crash mode, whereby the lowest strata of society succumbs while the rest keeps on thriving, e.g. the GIPSI austerity within EU context or the Arab-Spring within EMEA context.Ferguson is in the center of St.Louis, which is a major center for Boeing [Link]: ''St.Louisis headquarters forBoeingDefense, Space & Security (BDS) and with nearly 15,000 employees ''. This co-location of trouble and service provider may suggest at a compound battle laboratory, where Boeing may tune its offerings, or at least be able to assist the USG in the techno-logistical aspects of such an exercise of internal citizens riots in the tele-computation age.The National Guard: What Nation? and Guarding what? St. Louis is part of the rust-belt along Detroit and many other deteriorating areas, home to many Negros and Muslims.Remove all poor slams and other poor residences from city centers.Melting-Pot and Endless Feckless WarfareKeeping the lid on the Israeli Melting-Pot of incompatible races and cultures, while also boiling up its contents, and even paying extremeJizyato the Arabs and to the Ultra-Orthodox, requires a socio-political reference threat, aFeindbild, of the perpetually insurmountable guerilla.That's why the Orwellian charade has been for decades now overly and overtly intensive with feckless attrition wars and with synthetic terrorism. That's the main avenue by which the internal politics (dictated from overseas) impacts the foreign and defense policies (also dictated from overseas).Similarly, within EMEA (a multi-Genocidal term), Eurabia was founded onJizyapayments under theFeindbildguise of a self-preserving European society,to any 3rd world people - whose invasion in to Europe was forced by the USA. This methodology enabled the marginalization of whites in the Atlantic Anglo-sphere.'Suspension of Threat' would then be a 'Suspension of Disbelieve' by means of a semblance of a 'Synthetic Feindbild'.The 'Synthetic Feindbild' is then the Mirage of a realistically appearing 'reference Threat', e.g. the USSR would have intended to flood western Europe with Tanks, or the Hamas was effectively ranging the Tel-Aviv metropolis.***A Shiite-Salafist new Middle-East ***...In case the US invades theKRG[Link]The scenario of direct-Petrodollar [Link], which relies on morbid tribalism, rather not on peace-processes between states, would favor the Shiite-Salafist conflict over the century old Sunni-Jewish conflict, which by now rests mostly on ice [Link].ISIS provides the 1st in 3 stages of the Shiite Fertile crescent: After ISIS has ruined the Kurds, Sunni & Christian (Yezidi) alike, and the Syrian Sunni majority, ISIS demonized itself in public.Stage 2: The US invades the KRG, boots on the ground with its own military divisions and completes the deep reformatting of the socio-politics turning it pro-Iranian.John Kerry: ISIS 'Must Be Destroyed'. Stage 3: Iran controls all the way to Lebanon by means of a Shiite fertile-crescent.That's why ISIS is neither Sunni (which it destroys) nor Shiite (for which it does the dirty work), but rather a Salafist [Link] machination, described in this article [Link]:ISIS are Sunni Impostors. Would this leave a Salafist-Shiite cut of the M.E., in a Ribbentrop-Molotov style? - this wouldn't be good for the IHH and Petrodollar, unless it would force the Saudis to remain confined to the Petro-dollar regime.That would be a local cold-war for sake of preserving the Petrodollar, without eradicating Saudi-Arabia and without extending Eurabia.Iran's status of a regional power is in keeping with the 1997 "Grand Chessboard" anti-Russian/EU/Eurasia destabilization act authored by Brzezinski. Regardless of where the division-line between the Shiite and the Salafist would pass, Israel and the entire Arab-Sunni world are put in the clutches of morbid globalism. When the financial crash comes, it would lead to a deluge of brutality across the USA, the Middle-East and the Ukraine. All preparations seem to be deployed and tested by means of preliminary toy conflicts. The timing of coming winter, of US congressional elections and of Ukrainian Parliamentary elections are all scheduled for the coming couple of months, while all the world's economies are shrinking and while economic bubbles start deflating, e.g. the sub-prime car loans in the USAand the Real-estate bubble in China. The Banksters seem to be well prepared in order not to let such a ''good crisis'' go away without furthering their fundamental strategic Agenda of mixing and subjugating the world. Unfortunately, the decisively large majorities of people in both the Ukraine and Israel still believe the US-controlled MSM, enough in order to maintain their unadulterated orientation towards the USA, in spite of having been strapped to the altar of globalisation by it, while its machete is already flipping in the air around their necks, ready for the offering. ISIS seems to be the trump card, also furthering the pretext to a police state across the USSA: GOP Rep: ISIS, Mexican Drug Cartels Are 'Talking to Each Other'.Will general winter save Russia again? and will it translate to a stronger stand against ISIS before the USA purges the KRG? ...which is NOT a US redeployment to Baghdad or Basra.
Is Portugal Next In Line For Wealth Confiscation?
Fri, 22 Aug 2014 19:03
Submitted by Nick Giambruno via Doug Casey's International Man blog,
The pattern should be seared in your memory by now. If you fail to recognize it, you could be struck with a huge financial blow.
It's a pattern that has played out over and over throughout history: a government gets into financial trouble, then denies there's a problem, which is followed by a surprise wealth grab.
That's exactly what happened when bank deposits in Spain and Cyprus were raided. We've also seen retirement savings confiscated in some form in Poland, Portugal, and Hungary. Capital controls have been imposed in Cyprus and Iceland.
Of course these aren't the only examples of blatant government thievery. These examples are just within Europe and just within recent years. They can and will happen anywhere.
These events highlight the need to use international diversification to mitigate your political risk'--the risk that comes from governments.
I think they also give us some clues as to what country is next on the chopping block.
A Roadmap to ConfiscationIt starts out with government officials telling you everything is all right'--when clearly everything is not all right.
Like when the president of Cyprus promised that bank deposits would be safe. A promise that we all know turned out to be worthless. Another example of why you're almost always better off believing the opposite of whatever the government says, especially in a crisis.
Deceptions like this don't happen by accident. The politicians and media deliberately lull the people into complacency so that they can optimize their forthcoming theft.
The next thing that happens needs to come as a surprise, otherwise it loses its effectiveness. It starts with a bank holiday or capital controls. It's usually optimal'--from the government's view'--to impose these measures on weekends or during a holiday to catch people off guard. They need the element of surprise or else people would take protective measures, like moving their money abroad and safely out of reach.
Once the banks are closed and capital is trapped, the government is free to confiscate as much wealth as it can get away with. It doesn't matter what they call it or how they do it, the bottom line is they are making an unscrupulous grab. Capital controls are usually kept in place after the grab to prevent the remaining money from fleeing further slaughter.
So don't forget the pattern:
Country gets into serious financial trouble;Official government denials;Surprise bank holiday/capital controls; andConfiscation.I think Portugal is a ripe candidate for being the next country to fall into this pattern.
Portugal Is Blinking RedIn late July 2014, Banco Esp­rito Santo (BES)'--Portugal's second-largest bank'--went bust amid allegations of accounting problems and fraud.
BES is no ordinary bank. The Esp­rito Santo family, which owned the bank and a large empire of companies in Portugal and abroad, has been described as Portugal's Rockefellers.
BES was quickly bailed out by the Portuguese government, the EU, and the IMF.
When I read about the incident in the mainstream financial media, most outlets refused to use the word ''bailout.'' Instead, it seemed that someone handed down the order to describe the event as a ''rescue.'' Such a concerted effort to coordinate talking points seems to me to be an Orwellian attempt to make this incident seem less objectionable, and perhaps to help conceal the real nature of Europe's continued economic problems.
The fact that such a huge fraud at such a significant bank for so long escaped the notice of regulators'--which supposedly had kept a close watch on Portugal due to a prior crisis in 2011'--has reinforced fears that the banks and banking systems of the PIIGS countries (Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece, and Spain) are not as good as they seem.
So looking at our roadmap to confiscation, Portugal is clearly at the first stage in the pattern'--serious financial trouble.
We also have government officials telling us everything is OK when it is probably too early to declare victory. Mario Draghi, the head of the ECB, recently stated that the collapse of BES ''affected neither the banking sector in Portugal, nor Portugal at large, nor other markets.'' It's reminiscent of how, prior to the crisis in Cyprus, government officials were assuring everyone that there was nothing to worry about. Portugal also seems to be at stage two of our confiscation roadmap.
So in short we have another serious financial mess in Portugal. It occurred right under the noses of the regulators who were supposedly keeping a close watch on the country from a prior bailout and crisis in 2011. We have the media sugarcoating the incident, and government officials telling us everything is fine.
To me, it smells like a wealth confiscation in Portugal is just around the corner.
Get Out Before They Close the WindowIf you have any money in a Portuguese bank, I think it's clear that now is the time to head for the exits while you still can.
When it comes to protecting yourself from confiscations, capital controls, bank holidays, and other desperate measures of an out-of-control government, it's absolutely essential to take action before it's too late.
Unless you're part of the political elite, you won't know exactly when the window of opportunity will slam shut. In Cyprus, that moment came on an ordinary Saturday morning'--to surprise as many people as possible before they could take defensive action.
While the window is still open for those in the US to protect themselves, the warning signs are clearly there. And the writing is on the wall.
It's only logical to find ways to protect yourself. Moving some of your savings outside of the immediate reach of your home government and into a competently run jurisdiction with relatively sound banks makes sense no matter what happens.
Fortunately you can do this from the comfort of your own living room, by opening offshore bank and brokerage accounts remotely.
Naturally, things can change quickly. New options emerge, while others disappear. This is why it's so important to have the most up-to-date and accurate information possible. That's where International Man comes in. Be sure to get the free IM Communiqu(C) to keep up with the latest on the best international diversification strategies.
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German Two-Year Bonds Have Negative Yield, Demand High; Euro Bond Bubble Guaranteed to Burst
Fri, 22 Aug 2014 18:32
Central bank money madness continues, with market participants expecting QE to begin in Europe.
Would QE by the ECB spur European bank lending? Of course not. Banks do not lend from excess reserves. Banks lend (provided they are not capital impaired), when credit-worthy borrowers want credit and banks perceive risks worth lending.
The ECB tried to induce banks to lend by charging, rather than paying interest on excess reserves. The results are in: Yield on Two-Year German Bonds is Negative
German two-year debt yields held close to 15-month lows just below zero on Wednesday, with record low money market rates and expectations of easier ECB monetary policy underpinning demand at an auction of similarly dated bonds.
Germany sold over 4 billion euros of a new two-year bond, with demand from investors double that amount despite the average yield and the coupon both being zero.
A Reuters poll this week showed money market traders saw a 50-percent probability of QE in the next 12 months, up from a one-in-three chance in last week's survey.
"We've seen really bad growth numbers and these translate into deflation fears, which in turn fuel QE expectations," DZ Bank market strategist Felix Herrmann said, noting that risks around wars in Iraq, Ukraine and Gaza also supported demand at the German auction.
"All that argues for lower German yields for shorter and medium term maturities. There are few, if any, reasons for Bund yields to rise."
Two-year bonds yield minus 0.004 percent in the secondary market, meaning buyers will get slightly less money than they invested when the bond comes due. They first traded negative at the height of the euro zone debt crisis in 2012.
Some banks may prefer to buy such assets rather than being charged 10 basis points for keeping the money in the ECB's deposit facility - a result of the central bank's unprecedented deposit rate cut into negative territory in June.
That rate cut and the ample excess liquidity in the euro zone banking system has pushed the overnight bank-to-bank Eonia lending rate fell to a new record low of 0.005 percent.
Elsewhere in the euro zone, ECB easing expectations pushed other euro zone yields lower on Wednesday. Spanish and Italian 10-year yields hit new record lows earlier in the session, falling 6 and 3 bps respectively to 2.38 and 2.56 percent, before reversing some of those gains in the afternoon.
Portuguese and Greek equivalents dropped 12 and 10 bps respectively to two-month lows of 3.31 and 5.80 percent.
Bubble Guaranteed to BurstThe calls pour in for the ECB to "do something". The ECB did, and the results speak for themselves.
There is no demand for loans and/or willingness of banks to lend. Credit-worthy customers simply do not want loans in this environment. And no fundamental flaws with the euro have been fixed after all these can-kicking years.
Meanwhile, Spanish banks gorge on low-yielding Spanish bonds, Italian banks on low-yielding Italian bonds, Portuguese banks on low-yielding Portuguese bonds, etc., all with massive leverage.
The ECB's expectation was to spur lending, instead it created a bond bubble. It's a bubble guaranteed to burst.
Mike "Mish" Shedlockhttp://globaleconomicanalysis.blogspot.com
EUROLand - AIRSPACE CONTROL
AIRSPACE CONTROL-Aviation bosses monitor Icelandic volcano fall out as 'red alert' issued - Manchester Evening News
Sat, 23 Aug 2014 20:43
Aviation authorities in the UK are closely monitoring the fall out from a volcanic eruption in Iceland, where planes have been put on high alert.
Iceland's Met Office this afternoon reported a subglacial lava eruption at the Bardarbunga volcano, which has been rattled by thousands of earthquakes over the past week.
In 2010 an eruption of the Eyjafjallajokull volcano, in the south of the country, produced an ash cloud that caused a week of aviation chaos with more than 100,000 flights cancelled around the world, and bringing Manchester Airport to a standstill.
Hundreds of thousands of people alone at Manchester faced disruption back in 2010 when all flights were grounded around the UK.
This image from Icelandic authorities shows the extent of the ash rising from the volcano in 2010
A spokeswoman for NATS, the UK's air traffic control organisation, said: "NATS is monitoring the situation and working in close collaboration with the Met Office, Department for Transport and our safety regulator, the Civil Aviation Authority, as this dynamic situation develops further."
She added that NATS will help determine what impact the eruption will have for operations in UK airspace and advise airline customers accordingly.
Just minutes before the eruption Iceland raised its aviation alert to the highest level of red, which warns that an eruption could cause "significant emission of ash into the atmosphere."
A spokesman for budget airline easyJet said it is putting its contingency plans into action following the red alert, using specialist technology to ensure any ash created by the eruption is detected and chartered.
"easyJet will use this and other data provided by the authorities to determine what, if any, changes it should make to its flying programme," he said.
"As things stand there are no changes to easyJet's flying programme, including flights to and from Iceland."
He added: "The safety and wellbeing of our passengers and crew is easyJet's highest priority."
Aviation chiefs are confident that the UK is much better prepared to deal with a potential ash cloud crisis than it was four years ago.
Earlier this week a Nats spokeswoman said: "Even in a worst-case scenario we are in a much better position to deal with this than we were in 2010."
The Civil Aviation Authority said: "Volcanic ash can adversely affect aircraft in a number of ways. Jet aircraft engines in particular are susceptible to damage from volcanic ash.
"That's why there are comprehensive safety arrangements in place. As a result of the work that has been undertaken since the 2010 ash crisis and arrangements that have been put in place since, we are confident that high levels of public safety can be maintained, while minimising disruption."
The CAA said the improvements include:
A new system of regulating the way aviation deals with ash that allows more airspace to be used safely and gives airlines more input into the process; Improvements in the observing and forecasting of where ash is and its density - including a new radar in Iceland to detect ash in the atmosphere; The establishment of two working groups including airlines and scientists to act as advisers on ash forecasting and how best to use the output from the Met Office modelling system.A spokeswoman for the Met Office said: "We are in close contact with the Icelandic Met Office, but currently they tell us that the eruptions are sub-glacial, so no ash has made it to the surface.
"If ash does make it to the surface, we will run our model which will indicate where any ash would go, and we will inform the CAA and Nats. They will then make the decision on how that will affect any air flights."
Words Matter
Sam Lueng email
Hi John and Adam,
Great Thursday show, as always. Your analysis of the Foley and the Ferguson situation can only be described as top-notch.
One thing though. John almost pulled the wool over our eyes on the etymology of penalty and testimony. I'm sure astute listeners would already have pointed out that the latin root for penalty is peonalis for pain, not penis. (http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=penalty) Testimony, on the other hand, comes from testimonium (little surprise), referring to the third person, not the male gonads. (http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=testimony&allowed_in_frame=0)
Clearly, John has other things on his mind of late, though I only dare to imagine the specifics.
All joking aside, I recall a conversation I had with Adam on D-STAR about getting John a DVAP dongle that may help him hit more than just 14-C. I just recently came into small bonus at work and would be happy to send him one if he'd like. What's the best address to send it to? The El Cerito PO Box?
Keep up the good work.
Yours,
Sam
Baron of the No Agenda Round Table.
Furgeson
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Williams is a political strategist and founder of LJW Community Strategies. She serves as a strategic adviser to elected leaders and organizations across the country and has been featured
as a commentator on BET, Pacifica Radio in New York and Los Angeles, MSNBC, Current TV and NY1's Inside City Hall. She also hosts TWiB in The Morning! on the award winning online radio station TWiB FM which airs live Monday '' Thursday at 9AM eastern. L. Joy's effectiveness has been proven throughout her career beginning as a Field Volunteer for the McCall for Governor Campaign in 2002 where she made herself valuable by personally registering 1,823 voters. She later would serve as Campaign Manager for New York State Assembly Member Karim Camara, a GOTV Supervisor in Milwaukee, Wisconsin for the Kerry/Edwards 2004 Presidential campaign, the Election Supervisor for Pacifica Foundation/WBAI Radio in New York, was a special assistant to former New York City Council Speaker Gifford Miller and a program assistant at Demos, a nonpartisan public policy and advocacy organization. Ms. Williams served as deputy director of community relations to former New York City Comptroller Bill Thompson and went on to become Thompson's political director in his 2009 mayoral campaign. L. Joy's passion for political activism was instilled at an early age and comes from her family's deeply rooted faith and a commitment to dedicate their lives to social justice. From high school, through her college years at Hofstra University, and
into her adult life, Joy has always been a problem solver. In 2006 she initiated Brooklyn Lives, an HIV/AIDS awareness project, after learning that Brooklyn was cited as the HIV/AIDS epicenter in New York City. In just a few weeks, she mobilized elected officials, nonprofit and business leaders, media companies and the community at large
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President of the Brooklyn NAACP, a National Board Member of PAC+ and serves on her local community board. She attended Hofstra University and lives in Brooklyn, New York.
LJW Community Strategies | About Us
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LJW Community Strategies LLC is a strategic advisory and community engagement firm that provides support to corporate, elected, non-profit, and membership-based organizations so that they can engage and communicate more effectively with their members, constituents,government institutions andthe general public.We take the time to study your target region, community, or constituents in order to customize a strategy and assist you in reaching
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Revved Up - Glenn Thrush - POLITICO Magazine
Fri, 22 Aug 2014 16:48
A few days after 18-year-old Mike Brown was gunned down in Ferguson, Missouri, White House officials enlisted an unusual source for on-the-ground intelligence amid the chaos and tear gas: the Rev. Al Sharpton, a fiery activist who became a household name by provoking rather than pacifying.
Sharpton'--once such a pariah that Clinton administration officials rushed through their ribbon-cuttings in Harlem for fear he'd show up and force them to, gasp, shake his hand'--arrived on the scene 72 hours after the shooting at the request of Brown's grandfather, who had admired his advocacy on behalf of the family of slain Florida teen Trayvon Martin.
But if the old Al Sharpton would have parachuted into Ferguson to rile up the masses, the Obama-era Al Sharpton trod a more gingerly path to justice. Over the years, the 59-year-old former Brooklyn protest leader turned MSNBC talk-show host has embraced a new identity, one that reflects his evolution from agitator to insider with all that implies. In Ferguson, Sharpton established himself as a de facto contact and conduit for a jittery White House seeking to negotiate a middle ground between meddling and disengagement. ''There's a trust factor with The Rev from the Oval Office on down,'' a White House official familiar with their dealings told me. ''He gets it, and he's got credibility in the community that nobody else has got. There's really no one else out there who does what he does.''
And the White House, as the crisis following Brown's death seemed to flare out of control, worked extensively behind the scenes to maximize The Rev's doing what he does, using him as both a source of information and a go-between. After huddling with Brown's family and local community leaders, Sharpton connected directly with White House adviser and First Friend Valerie Jarrett, vacationing in her condo in the exclusive Oak Bluffs section of Martha's Vineyard, not far from where President Obama and his family were staying. Obama was ''horrified'' by the images he was seeing on TV, Jarrett told Sharpton, and proceeded to pepper him with questions as she collected information for the president: How bad was the violence? Was it being fueled by outside groups'--and could Sharpton do anything to talk them down? What did the Brown family want the White House to do?
It was a heady consultation for Sharpton, who spent years on the outside dreaming of a place in the pantheon of the civil rights leaders he revered as a teenage street preacher in Brooklyn, and it's an irony lost on no one that his rise to White House adviser has come thanks to Barack Obama, whose restrained personal style couldn't be any more different from Sharpton's. If anything, the Ferguson crisis has underscored Sharpton's role as the national black leader Obama leans on most, a remarkable personal and political transformation for a man once regarded with suspicion and disdain by many in his own party. It's a status made all the more surprising given that Obama, America's first black president, ran on a platform of moving beyond the country's painful racial divisions while Sharpton is the man who once defined those divisions for many Americans.
What brought them together, according to numerous sources I've spoken with about this over the years, is a shared commitment to racial justice, and a hardheaded pragmatism that has fueled their success. ''He realized I wasn't as irrational or as crazy as people thought,'' Sharpton told me in an interview this week, and indeed Sharpton not only visits the White House frequently, he often texts or emails with senior Obama officials such as Jarrett and Attorney General Eric Holder, the first African American to hold that job and who, like Sharpton, views the Ferguson crisis as a pivotal one in Obama's presidency.
''I've known Al since he was 12 years old, and he's arrived at the level he always wanted to arrive at, which is gratifying,'' the Rev. Jesse Jackson, a colleague and sometimes rival, told me. ''He's the man who's the liaison to the White House, he's the one who's talking to the Justice Department.''
***
To get where he is Sharpton not only shed 150 pounds but much of his old bullhorn-in-your-face-bombast. When we talked this week, he was preparing remarks to be delivered at the funeral for Mike Brown in Ferguson planned for Monday. Sharpton said his critics ignore just how much time and experience has matured him. ''I've grown to appreciate different roles and different people, and I weigh words a little more [carefully] now. I've learned how to measure what I say,'' he said. ''Al Sharpton in 1986 was trying to be heard. I was a local guy and was like, 'Y'all are ignoring us'... That's not the case now.''
The many incarnations of Rev. Al Sharpton, 1988-2014. | AP Photo
Yet the old image is indelible. Three decades ago, the overweight, track-suited, medallion-bedecked Sharpton led a rally against a white-owned clothing store in Harlem that was subsequently burned to the ground by a deranged black protester, killing eight people. Around that time, he was convicted of defaming a white upstate New York prosecutor he falsely accused of raping black teenager Tawana Brawley in the 1980s, an infamous case that made him famous as the caricature of an inflammatory inner-city preacher immortalized by Tom Wolfe in Bonfire of the Vanities. Sharpton often, regrettably, played to type: During the 1991 Crown Heights riots in Brooklyn, Sharpton stoked black rage after a Hasidic Jewish driver killed a young boy with his car. At the child's funeral, Sharpton railed against Jewish ''diamond merchants'' who bought their wares from apartheid South Africa, then ran down black kids in Brooklyn. There was his much-mocked stint as an FBI informer in the 1980s. There were poorly managed mayoral and presidential bids that ended in tatters, and in deep debt.
Sharpton's mere presence remains an irritant to many white conservatives. When Sharpton this week denounced Ferguson officials for releasing surveillance footage of Brown roughing up a convenience store employee (he accused them of ''smearing'' Brown's memory), Bill O'Reilly of Fox News ripped Sharpton as a ''charlatan'' and ''race hustler'' who only cared ''about his own self-aggrandizement,'' echoing dozens of similar critics over the years.
''How is it possible... that he carries so much tainted baggage from the past, yet still enjoys enormous pull with the political class?'' was the question posed earlier this year by New York Post editorial writer Michael Goodwin, part of a Greek chorus of 50- and 60-something Gotham journalists determined to make sure Sharpton's past isn't lost in all the New Al talk.
''Why,'' Goodwin asked, ''isn't he politically toxic?''
***
Sharpton's determination to reinvent himself has a lot to do with his rise, but he owes just as much to the unique symbiosis with the president, a relationship predicated less on personal friendship than on a colder assessment of mutual self-interest by two of the most powerful African Americans in the country. ''He's calculating ... he gets the game,'' Sharpton recently told an associate when asked about why he's bonded with Obama.
''The relationship evolved over time,'' Sharpton explained to me. ''I realized he was just a different kind of guy. ... He wasn't going to be guided by emotions. He was not intimidated. There was no game you could play [with him]. The key for him was seeing that I wasn't insincere, that I actually believed in the stuff I was talking about.''
Sharpton probably never would have gotten into Obama's orbit if many of Obama's 2008 campaign advisers had gotten their way. He was an early endorser of Obama's'--bucking other black power brokers like Harlem Rep. Charlie Rangel, who lined up behind Hillary Clinton'--but the candidate's mostly white leadership team was reluctant to let him into the fold. In his memoir The Audacity to Win, 2008 Obama campaign manager David Plouffe said Obama and his staff blew a gasket when they learned that Sharpton planned a pilgrimage to overwhelmingly white Iowa in the days leading up the critical caucus vote that year.
Obama got Sharpton on the phone and, in his genial way, began discussing the logistical challenges of a visit'--maintaining all along that he wanted to make the visit happen. It took Sharpton a few minutes, but he got the message. ''I called him back and said, 'I'm not going,''' Sharpton told me. ''He told people he never forgot that.''
Sharpton called it ''the turning point'' but of course, there was more to it than that. Obama, as president, needed a single, credible national spokesman on black issues, who was willing to catch flak from black critics as he navigated toward the political center'--and he needed one whose name wasn't Jesse Jackson.
Jackson, a former top aide to Martin Luther King Jr. and the first black leader to mount serious presidential campaigns (in 1984 and 1988), had leveraged his influence with Bill Clinton in the 1990s into status as a kind of president of Black America. But that wasn't to be with Obama: Even though Jackson's son Jesse Jr. had been close to Obama in Chicago, the older man never meshed with the Illinois upstart or his people (though Jackson told me he's long been ''one of the strongest of Obama's strong supporters'').
But it was an under-the-breath, hot-mike comment Jackson made before a cable interview in July 2008 that defined his relationship with Obama; Jackson said he found Obama's speeches at black churches so condescending he wanted to ''cut his nuts off.'' Obama's team essentially wrote Jackson off after that, several members of the team told me. ''Jesse wasn't an option for us. He had gotten too old'... and Obama completely eclipsed him'--and then he had that hot-mic deal where [Jesse] said he wanted to cut [Obama's] balls off,'' a former top Obama adviser told me on condition of anonymity. ''But there really was only one Jesse, and we needed to have someone to deal with in the African-American community, and Sharpton was the next best thing, so, yeah, we sort of helped build him up. ... Sharpton was the last guy standing.''
Eventually, Sharpton'--often in consultation with Jarrett and Patrick Gaspard, the New York political operative who would go on to run the White House political office '-- carved out a unique role, defending Obama's actions to black critics. In 2010, when the influential black radio host Tavis Smiley hit Obama for failing to articulate a ''black agenda'' on jobs, Sharpton shot back, calling Smiley's charge ''stupid'' and accusing him of playing into the hands of Obama's conservative critics.
''I don't know how he's managed to do it,'' says Basil Smikle, a Democratic operative long active in Harlem politics and a veteran Sharpton watcher. ''He's an outsider's insider or an insider's outsider, depending on your perspective. He's essentially covering for the president in Ferguson. ... His power has slowly and steadily supplanted that of other black leaders locally and nationally [and] the Obama victory provided a platform for him to alternate between agitator of institutions and defender of its leaders.''
Yet as Obama's presidency enters its final two years, Sharpton'--so often criticized for being a self-promoter'--finds himself in the unusual position of being too close to a White House that seems to be losing power by the day. ''We are now living in a world where Al Sharpton is considered a sellout,'' joked one Sharpton ally.
Last year, around the time that Sharpton was participating in Obama's celebration of the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s ''I Have a Dream'' speech, black nationalist and former Harvard professor Cornel West tore into Obama and Sharpton for sanitizing King's vision of economic and racial equality. ''Brother Martin himself, I think, would've been turning over in his grave,'' West told an interviewer at the time, adding: ''We saw the coronation of the bona fide house negro of the Barack Obama plantation, our dear brother Al Sharpton.''
Sharpton dismisses the criticism, telling me, ''I get hit as hard on the left as I do on the right,'' but lately he's been stepping back up the kind of activism that catapulted him to prominence in the first place. He's taken a front-and-center role in leading the protests following the chokehold killing of a black Staten Island man at the hands of police'--and will lead a huge rally in New York's smallest and whitest borough on Saturday before appearing on NBC's ''Meet the Press'' Sunday and heading back to Missouri for Michael Brown's funeral.
At home, there are flashes of the old Sharpton. New York's new mayor, Bill de Blasio, is a close ally who ran with his support in the 2013 Democratic primary (''People shouldn't forget that I opposed a black candidate for de Blasio,'' Sharpton reminded me, a reference to failed mayoral hopeful Bill Thompson). But that hasn't stopped Sharpton from publicly confronting de Blasio or his police commissioner Bill Bratton in ways that would never wash with Obama and his staff. Earlier this month, Sharpton stunned a City Hall audience by saying the mayor's biracial son Dante was a ''candidate'' for a police chokehold.
Sharpton has been much more circumspect with Obama. During his interactions with Jarrett over the Ferguson case, he urged the White House to turn up the heat on Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat, to appoint a special state prosecutor to replace St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch'--who has defended the actions of the highly militarized local cops and resisted calls for a rapidly expedited investigation. ''We're not going to get a fair investigation with that guy, he's got to go,'' Sharpton told Jarrett, according to one person familiar with the exchange. A spokeswoman for Jarrett, who has been in contact in with Nixon, declined to say if she had passed along Sharpton's demand.
Sharpton, for his part, doesn't plan to wait forever for backstage results: He told me he plans ''a series of nonviolent protests to get McCullough out of the case within the next few weeks, when everything cools down a bit.''
***
Whatever happens, it's clear that Sharpton, the master of reinvention, will soon find himself at a crossroads. Even if he can lay claim to being the country's most important black leader, what will that mean once the first black president leaves office'--or when a newer generation of telegenic, Obama-inspired black leaders like Cory Booker demands their share of the spotlight?
When we talked, Sharpton told me he sees his model for success in the rear-view mirror, in the example set by Jesse Jackson.
''I never aspired to the local political fiefdom thing that a lot of people ascribed me to,'' he said. ''I saw myself as a guy who learned from Jesse Jackson how to do national civil rights. I wasn't really interested in who was going to be the next district leader in Brooklyn. My ambitions were always a lot bigger than what my critics thought my ability was.'' He goes on to list the lessons he learned from Jackson: ''The Saturday rallies ... get your own TV show ... have a national organization'''--lastly, make friends with a president.
''He was Clinton's guy,'' Sharpton bluntly told me, ''and I'm with Obama.''
The meaning of that was clear this week in Ferguson, where Jackson, who was summoned to Missouri by local preachers, has spent as much time as Sharpton, but with little of the public attention after having been almost entirely marginalized by Obama's team (Jackson confirmed to me he's had little contact with administration officials since the Ferguson crisis began).
The relentless climber in Sharpton can't help but feel proud of surpassing a role model, but he also sees a glimmer of his own future in Jackson's fate.
''I think he's now realized that he's older now '... And he realizes that I've come into my own and he's got to deal with it,'' Sharpton said of his complicated relationship with the older civil rights leader. ''[The relationship is] respectful but it's clearly not prot(C)g(C)-mentor. I still admire what he did, I just think that things pass on. I'm going to pass on'--everybody has their day.''
Glenn Thrush is senior staff writer atPolitico Magazine.
SDR
SCO POWWOW-Russian troops enter China for military drills - English pravda.ru
Sun, 24 Aug 2014 02:57
On August 19, Russian troops arrived to the area of "Peace Mission 2014" military drills of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).
According to RT, the drills will be held on the Chinese military range Zhurihe, from 24 to 29 August. The troops of five SCO member states will take part in the drills: Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and China. In total, the drills will involve more than 7 thousand troops.
"Today, the last echelon with personnel and military equipment of the Russian contingent of troops participating in joint military counterterrorism exercises "Peace Mission 2014 arrived in Zhurihe today, on August 19. In total, about 1,000 troops of the motorized infantry unit stationed in the town of Borzya of the Trans-Baikal Territory arrived to the territory of one of the largest military range grounds in Central Asia," the chief of the press service chief of the Eastern Military District of Russia, Colonel Alexander Gordeev told RIA Novosti.
Russia tests monster Topol ballistic missile
Agenda 21
FARMERS ALMANAC PREDICTS COLD WIINTER
Fri, 22 Aug 2014 10:16
CONCORD, N.H. (AP) -- The Old Farmer's Almanac, the familiar, 223-year-old chronicler of climate, folksy advice and fun facts, is predicting a colder winter and warmer summer for much of the nation.Published Wednesday, the New Hampshire-based almanac predicts a "super-cold" winter in the eastern two-thirds of the country. The west will remain a little bit warmer than normal."Colder is just almost too familiar a term," Editor Janice Stillman said. "Think of it as a refriger-nation."More bad news for those who can't stand snow: Most of the Northeast is expected to get more snowfall than normal, though it will be below normal in New England.Before unpacking the parka, however, remember that "colder than average" is still only about 2 to 5 degrees difference.Some other regional highlights:- Florida's winter could be rainier than most years while other locales in the Southeast and central states will see less rain.- Summer will be warmer than usual in most places while a drop in rainfall in the country's midsection could hurt crop yields.- Despite some winter downpours in the west, the almanac says California's drought will likely continue.- Hurricane season isn't expected to be especially active though a major storm could hit the Gulf Coast in late August.For loyal readers of an almanac that also tracks to the minute every sunrise and sunset for the year, the timing of this year's publication may come as a surprise. Normally, it hits the stands in mid-September. In recent years, its younger cousin, the Maine-based Farmer's Almanac, has published in August and a competition of sorts has emerged, though Stillman said it had nothing to do with the earlier drop date."We've found that folks want the almanac as soon as the issue is done up, right as the growing season is done," she said. "It's also time to order oil, wood, salt for roads. We've had so many inquiries we just decided to get it into people's hands earlier."The almanac, which has about an 80 percent success rate in its forecasts, employs modern technology but still uses the "secret formula" that founder Robert Thomas devised in 1792. By combining the study of sunspots, prevailing weather patterns and basic meteorology, the almanac's weather staff comes up with a long-range forecast. The temperature deviations are based on 30-year averages compiled by government forecasters.The almanac also provides advice on planting, astronomy, food, love and trends.
Global warming 'hiatus' means heat is hiding in ocean - Yahoo News
Fri, 22 Aug 2014 10:21
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Health Minister German outlaws fluoridation of all tap water | JPost | Israel News
Fri, 22 Aug 2014 11:10
Contrary to the advice of public health and dentistry experts in her own ministry and academia, Health Minister Yael German has decided to prohibit the fluoridation of drinking water around the country. She also issued her decision Sunday in contravention of a letter written exactly two years ago by Prime Minister (and then-official health minister) Binyamin Netanyahu, who told Knesset Interior Committee chairman MK Amnon Cohen that he [Netanyahu] ''could not agree to the cessation of fluoridation'' of potable water. Netanyahu continued that municipalities had requested to continue their fluoridation of water and that they should be allowed to do so. The Health Ministry introduced mandatory water fluoridation in 1970 in cities, towns and settlements with over 5,000 residents, and indeed, 70 percent of Israelis have received fluoridated water delivered to their taps. But German opposed it as Meretz-Party mayor of Herzliya and stopped it in her city. Just weeks after entering office as health minister, she declared that she would stop fluoridation and, encountering fierce criticism from critics in leading Israeli schools of public health and dentistry and from her own ministry experts, she wavered and suggested as late as June that fluoridation could be an option instead of being outlawed. German's spokesmen said that only Ireland and Israel require fluoridation of drinking water, but her critics responded that everywhere else is it an option open to all local authorities except where barred completely only in Holland, Sweden and the Czech Republic. The Adin Committee (headed by Prof. Avner Adin) that looked into water quality standards had recommended that fluoridation not be mandatory but it also stated that it could instead be optional. The committee also stated that desalinated water -- which increasingly is making up for water shortages around the country -- be fluoridated. German reiterated on Sunday that she recognized the tasteless, colorless gas as very effective in reducing dental cavities, especially among children. But she added that instead of forcing all Israelis to consume fluoridated water to benefit children's teeth, the delivery system should be changed so each parent can decide and take action individually if they wanted their child to get dental protection. On August 26, regulations to halt all fluoridated will go into effect, and parents would have to act proactively to protect and improve their dental hygiene. The health minister maintained that according to the World Health Organization, there is a decline in dental caries in countries that do not have mandatory fluoridation. But her critics noted that high-income, homogeneous countries have fewer poor families and better dental habits than in Israel. Here, there are many large families including Arab, ultra-Orthodox and other children whose parents have a lower level of health education and cannot afford or are otherwise unable to protect their teeth and who require automatic delivery of fluoride in the drinking water. Prof. Arnon Afek, German's director-general whom she recently handpicked and who is an expert in pathology and medical administration (but not dentistry or public health), told The Jerusalem Post Sunday that he personally supported the health minister's decision to prohibit fluoridation. ''Mandatory fluoridation is medical treatment. Individuals have the right to decide if they want it or not. The question is not if fluoride is beneficial but how it should be delivered. We cannot force people. It is legitimate that experts in the field oppose the health minister's decision, but we have a policy,'' said the director-general. ''The ministry supported it for over 40 years, but this is a new era. The world has changed, and we can educate parents.'' Asked about the fact that most of the developed world has been adding vitamin D to all milk products, iodine to salt and folic acid to flour for decades due to their health benefits but that Israel has not yet done so, Afek said that if the ministry decided to do so, ''those who didn't want the supplements could choose not to consume these products. But with fluoridation of tap water, there is no free choice.'' German said only one-percent of water supplies are consumed via the tap, thus fluoridation of all potable water was ''a waste.'' Children should instead be encouraged to brush their teeth twice a day using fluoride toothpaste, she said, and dental clinics, health funds, kindergarten and elementary school teachers, the School Health Service and tipat halav (well-baby) clinics will aim at educating parents about fluoride. Prof. Itamar Grotto, chief of public health at the ministry, was on Sunday abroad on vacation and unable to comment. He avoided speaking publicly on the issue in recent months in light of the minister's position. But in a letter to then-ministry director-general Prof. Ronni Gamzu in May 2013, Grotto stated that he favored the option of fluoridation according to local needs and that desalinated sea water for drinking must be fluoridated. As late as June, Grotto said fluoridation of drinking water would be optional for municipal and local authority heads, but this was dashed by German's announcement on Sunday. German did not state how much money it has allocated for educating parents, teachers and public health nurses through all these institutions. the vast majority of countries with optional fluoridation and the handful that prohibit fluoridation have significant budgets for health education purposes. The Israel Dental Association representing the country's dentists issued a statement on Sunday stating that it supported the continuation of fluoridation via tap water. ''Fluoridation reduces and prevents dental cavities; cancellation of fluoridation [via the water supply] thus harms the dental health of Israeli residents,'' the IDA stated. The association of Arab dentists within the association has issued a strong call for fluoridation as their sector tends more to suffer from poor dental health that would be even worse without fluoride in the water. In a last-ditch effort to get German to change her mind, a group of high-level public health and dental medicine experts wrote a letter to the health minister on Sunday. ''The health ministry decided, in complete contravention to the views of public health experts -- including those in her office -- and many MKs, that her view is more important. She is the first-ever health minister not to listen to the advice of professionals and bring to her office ideology that is not based on scientific facts and irresponsible decisionmaking, to say the least.'' Among the signatories were Prof. Jonathan Mann (former dean and now head of community dentistry of the Hebrew University-Hadassah School of dental medicine; senior expert in dental epidemiology at the same school), Prof. Ted Tulchinsky, a former senior Health Ministry expert in public health; and Dr. Alon Livny, Prof. Avi Zini, Dr, Yuval Vered, Dr. Ilan Diamant, Dr. Sigal Mazor, Dr. Alex Haimov and many others.
The experts noted that more than 400 million people around the world today consume and benefit from fluoridated tap water. They maintained that German's decision on the basis of the Adin Committee were ''inaccurate and even misleading and that it never recommended halting fluoridation but to offer it according to public needs in each location and creating suitable alternatives. The committee also urged that long-term epidemiological research be carried out over 10 years with Health Ministry funding.'' But the experts said that no such research was launched since the Adin Committee made the recommendation. The public health experts added that fluoridation prevents cavities and minimizes social gaps, and that German has totally ''ignored'' the Adin Committee's recommendation to fluoridate desalinated water. ''The minister's decision is amateurish and liable to cause long-term damage to Israeli children and adults, making their health situation poorer, especially on the economically and educationally disadvantaged.'' Every year, they continued, 500 children are brought to hospital emergency rooms for treatment of bodily complications of rotten teeth. Her decision ''is liable to increase this number many times over,'' the professors declared. ''Until she became minister, Israeli society enjoyed a dental and social Iron Dome'' that protected their teeth, but ''German canceled this.'' ''This is a sad day for public health, dental health and child health in Israel,'' added Tulchinsky, who is currently head of the School of Health Professions at Ashkelon College. The health minister is deliberately depriving mainly poor children especially those living in the south and north of the country from preventing 30 percent of dental caries. She is banning fluoridation despite worldwide proof of its cost effectiveness and safety.''
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Buy a powerful vacuum cleaner before they are BANNED: New EU rules 'will outlaw best models in 10 days because they're not eco-friendly'
Fri, 22 Aug 2014 16:46
Five of the seven Which? 'Best Buy' vacuum cleaners banned from SeptemberEU says the rules will mean consumers will get better vacuum cleanersCritics claim new rule will not save energy because households will have to use their vacuum cleaners for longerManufacturers will have to regulate themselvesBy Rachel Rickard Straus for Thisismoney.co.uk
Published: 04:31 EST, 21 August 2014 | Updated: 12:28 EST, 21 August 2014
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Many of the best vacuum cleaners will be taken off the market from next month when a new EU rule comes into force banning the most powerful models
Households that need a powerful vacuum cleaner should 'act quickly' before all of the models currently available sell out, consumer watchdog Which? warned.
From September 1, manufacturers will not be able to make or import vacuums with a motor that exceeds 1,600 watts.
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Floored logic: Critics say the new regulation will not save energy because households will only vacuum for longer to reach the same level of cleanliness
But Which? warned that many of the best models, which appear in its Best Buy tables, have motor sizes that exceed this.
Of seven awarded 'Best Buy' status since January 2013, five have motors of more than 1,600 watts, it said.
The maximum wattage will be lowered even further to 900 watts by 2017. Current cleaners boast an average of 1,800 watts.
The move has angered manufacturers, who say it will do nothing to make cleaners more environmentally friendly and will simply reduce efficiency in the home.
THE VACUUM CLEANERS ABOUT TO BE SUCKED UP BY EC REGULATIONSFive of top selling vacuum cleaners on Amazon.co.uk that will be banned when new regulations come in
1. Numatic HVR200A Henry A1 Bagged Cylinder Vacuum Cleaner. 1,200W.
BANNED BY 2017
2. Vax W90-RU-P Rapide Ultra 2 Pre-Treatment Upright Carpet and Upholstery Washer. 1,000W.
BANNED BY 2017
3. Vax U90-MA-R Air Reach Multicyclonic Upright Bagless Vacuum Cleaner. 1,200W.
BANNED BY 2017
4. Sebo X4EXTRA Automatic Upright Vacuum Cleaner. 1,300W.
BANNED BY 2017
5. Hoover Smart Pets SM1901 Bagless Upright Vacuum Cleaner. 1,900W.
BANNED BY SEPTEMBER
Critics say cleaners satisfying the new rule may use less power, but householders will have to use them for longer so they are likely to use the same amount of electricity in the long run.
For the first time, vacuum cleaners will have ratings from A to G for energy use, cleaning performance on carpets and hard floors and dust emissions.
But manufacturers will create their own labels and will be self-regulated. Which? warned that it is unclear whether the ratings will be tested at all by an independent third party.
Specification: A sample of the label that manufacturers will put on all vacuum cleaners (Source: European Commission)
It added that manufacturers that give themselves A ratings across the board often don't do so well in its own independent tests, while those that do not score as highly often do better in the Which? laboratories.
Which? only offers its list of 'endangered' Best Buy vacuum cleaners to its paid subscribers.
But popular cleaners still on sale at the moment which would be outlawed by the new rule include a Bosch Power All Floor Bagged Vacuum Cleaner, a Miele S6210 2000 Watt Bagged Cylinder Vacuum Cleaner and the Panasonic Bagged Upright Vacuum Cleaner Black 2000w.
Despite his company not producing any vacuum over 1,400 watts, Sir James Dyson, the billionaire entrepreneur who pioneered 'bagless' vacuums, is also angered by the proposal.
He says the eco-labels will be misleading because they will not take into account the cost and waste of vacuum bags and filters and will give an advantage to competitors who use 'bag' technology.
He is seeking a judicial review of the proposal at the European Court of Justice.
As many as 126 million vacuum cleaner bags were sent to landfill last year alone, according to Dyson, assuming that all the bagged vacuum cleaners use one bag a month. But the cost to households and the environment is not factored in to the new EU labelling.
But the European Commission believes the new regulations will mean better vacuum cleaners for consumers.
'As a result of the new EU ecodesign and labelling regulations, consumers will also get better vacuum cleaners,' European Commission spokeswoman for energy Marlene Holzner said in a blog.
'In the past there was no legislation on vacuum cleaners and companies could sell poorly performing vacuum cleaners.
Watch this guide on how to pick the best vacuum cleaner
'Now, vacuum cleaners that use a lot of energy, that pick up dust poorly, emit too much dust at the exhaust of the vacuum cleaner, are noisy or break down pre-maturely will not be allowed on the market anymore.
'This means a better cleaning experience and less time and money spent on vacuum cleaning.'
The new measures will be extended to other appliances, including water pumps, water heaters and tumble dryers.
THE SURPRISE 'ENERGY GUZZLERS' HIDING IN YOUR HOMEBeware of frosty shelves: An inefficient freezer can be a drain on households' energy consumption
The European Commission is set to enforce rules that it says will make vacuum cleaners more energy efficient.
But could you have other surprise energy guzzlers hiding in your home? Here are a couple of common culprits:
A frosty freezer: When was the last time you defrosted your freezer?
Unnecessary frost forces the freezer to work harder and so can push up energy bills.
It won't add much on a daily basis, but it can add £100-£200 to bills over a year.
Spotlights: We often think nothing of covering bathroom and kitchen ceilings with spotlights, but they can add a significant cost on to energy bills.
One reader Kim Fox-Johnson discovered a few halogen spotlights in her kitchen were costing her almost £100 a year to run.
She is now gradually replacing them with LED bulbs, which will cost her around £15 a year to run. Read more here.
...AND A WAY TO USE PEOPLE POWER TO FIGHT BACK ON ENERGY BILLS
This is Money has joined forces with energyhelpline to launch The Energy Switch, which could help you save even more.
Readers can team up with thousands of other people and use their collective power to negotiate a unique offer on their energy bills.
This one-off special deal will give you the chance to switch to a cheaper supplier ahead of any winter energy price rises and turns the table on energy firms - rather than households having to hunt out a better price, they will be competing to offer you one.
The last collective switch by energyhelpline saw 50,000 people sign up and those who switched save £221 on average.
> Find out more about The Energy Switch and sign up here
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Deutschland Blitzkrieg
Germany clears $6.9 billion RWE unit sale to Russian investor
Fri, 22 Aug 2014 16:45
FRANKFURT/BERLINFri Aug 22, 2014 8:36am EDT
A view of the headquarters of German utility RWE in Essen November 14, 2013.
Credit: Reuters/Ina Fassbender
FRANKFURT/BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany's economy ministry approved the sale of utility RWE's (RWEG.DE) oil and gas unit DEA to a Russian investor despite tensions between Russia and the West over the Ukraine crisis.
The go-ahead announced on Friday removes the biggest hurdle for the 5.1 billion euro ($6.9 billion) sale, a major plank in RWE's struggle to reduce a debt burden of more than 30 billion euros.
As part of the deal, Russian tycoon Mikhail Fridman and his co-investors will get stakes in about 190 oil and gas licenses or concessions in Europe, the Middle East and North Africa.
Relations between Russia and the West were already deteriorating over Ukraine when the deal was announced in March.
The European Union and the United States have imposed economic sanctions against Russia for its annexation of Ukraine's Crimea region and its backing of pro-Russian separatists, who are fighting against government forces in eastern Ukraine. Russia, in turn, has slapped bans on Western food imports.
But Deputy Economy Minister Stefan Kapferer told journalists on Friday that the government found that the deal would not endanger Germany's energy supply and the buyer consortium's European Union base had also been a decisive factor.
PROCESS CONTINUES
The European Union's antitrust watchdog has already given the green light but regulators in a few other countries, which RWE declined to name, have yet to give their approvals.
DEA has operations in about a dozen countries, including Britain, Norway, Denmark and Egypt.
The German government could theoretically have used a clause in its foreign trade law that allows it to block takeover deals that threaten "public safety and order", but it would have been an unprecedented move.
RWE, Germany's largest power producer, has previously said it expects the deal to be finalised this year.
"We will now pursue the process further as planned," the company said in a statement on Friday.
RWE, like other German utilities, is struggling to adjust to a power sector shake-up as Germany moves away from nuclear energy and encourages a shift to renewables, while Europe's energy demand is weak.
The debt-burdened firm's market value has halved in four years.
RWE has been looking for ways to reduce its debt, including cutting jobs and shedding assets, such as the 1.6 billion euro sale of Czech gas pipeline operator Net4Gas last year.
($1 = 0.7345 Euros)
(Reporting by Alexander H¼bner, Tom K¤ckenhoff und Gernot Heller; Writing by Ludwig Burger; Editing by Michael Urquhart)
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Putin phoned Merkel 33 times this year, Kremlin says
Fri, 22 Aug 2014 12:03
BERLIN, Aug. 21 (UPI) -- When Russian President Vladimir Putin needs to call a world leader, he can reliably expect German Chancellor Angela Merkel to pick up the phone.The German newspaper Die Welt, citing statistics from the Kremlin, said Thursday that Putin has made 120 calls to world leaders thus far this year -- compared to 59 in the same period in 2013 -- and 33 of them went to Merkel. French President Francois Hollande received 15.
Putin, growing increasingly isolated from G8 and other world leaders after Russia's annexation of Crimea and suspected support of pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine, clearly has some rapport with Merkel. He also speaks fluent German and worked, from 1985 to 1990, in the Soviet Union's KGB office in Dresden, in the former East Germany.
Of the calls Putin made to Merkel, 21 of 33 were in a bilateral format, instead of a group or conference call format. Only 10 bilateral calls between Putin and U.S. President Barack Obama were in the bilateral format, excluding the involvement of an interpreter.
Hot-line calls between Putin and Merkel peaked in March, when Crimea was annexed, and again in July, when a Malaysia Airlines aircraft was shot down over Ukraine.
(C) 2014 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
F-Russia
Gazprom says Ukraine's unpaid gas bill tops $5 billion
Fri, 22 Aug 2014 16:47
Thu Aug 21, 2014 6:59am EDT
* Gazprom puts Ukraine's debt for gas supplies at $5.3 bln
* Putin, Poroshenko to meet on Aug. 26 in Minsk (Adds detail, quote)
MOSCOW Aug 21 (Reuters) - Russian natural gas exporter Gazprom said on Thursday that Ukraine's outstanding debt for gas supplies stood at $5.3 billion as of Aug. 1 and called on Kiev to ensure that gas continues to transit without disruption to Europe.
"Gazprom counts on Naftogaz of Ukraine to stick to its obligations on redemptions of arrears for the supplied gas and provision of smooth gas transit via Ukraine's territory," Gazprom spokesman Sergei Kupriyanov said.
Russia cut off gas supplies to Ukraine on June 16 in a dispute over unpaid bills. However, Russian gas shipments to Europe via Ukraine have flowed without interruptions since.
It is the third pricing dispute in a decade between the two sides and past standoffs have led to disruptions in supply to Europe.
About half of the gas Gazprom shipped to Europe last year went via Ukraine.
Ukraine wants to pay $268.50 per 1,000 cubic metres of gas - a price it was offered at the end of last year when pro-Moscow Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich was still in power. It has said it is ready to compromise.
Moscow has sought to keep the price at a 2009 level of $485 per 1,000 cubic metres, but has offered to waive an export duty, bringing prices down to $385, broadly in line with what Russia charges other European states.
A series of talks between Moscow and Kiev, brokered by the European Commission, have failed to find a compromise.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian counterpart Petro Poroshenko are due to attend crisis talks in Minsk on Aug. 26 in an attempt to resolve a confrontation over Ukraine which has plunged relations between the two countries to an all-time low.
Kupriyanov also said Gazprom had paid an additional payment of $10.54 million to Ukraine's state energy firm Naftogaz in July for gas transit.
Naftogaz said it will return the $10 million saying it was "paid in error", news agency Interfax Ukraine reported on Thursday. (Reporting by Vladimir Soldatkin; editing by Jason Neely)
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Greece asks EU to develop LNG backup plan
Fri, 22 Aug 2014 16:47
Greece has asked the European Commission to set up a backup plan to ensure liquefied natural gas (LNG) is available for Balkan countries in the event of potential disruptions to Russian gas supplies stemming from the crisis in Ukraine.
In a letter sent to European Energy Commissioner G¼nther Oettinger, Greek Energy Minister Yannis Maniatis proposed an EU emergency mechanism to ensure that surplus amounts of lower-priced LNG are reserved for EU member states with gas shortages instead of being sent to other destinations.
Russia cut off natural gas supplies to Ukraine on 16 June in a dispute over unpaid bills, prompting concerns about possible disruptions to flows of gas which transits Ukraine en route to Europe.
>> Read: Russia cuts off gas, Ukraine secures borders
Greece imports about 60% of its natural gas from Russia via Ukraine. It also imports gas from Azerbaijan through Turkey and from a domestic LNG storage facility.
Maniatis warned on Wednesday that a serious disruption in supplies to Europe was possible during the coming winter and that Greece and other Balkan countries could be hit harder that other EU markets.
"We have taken this initiative so that Europe launches a joint solidarity mechanism, which will secure LNG supplies in case of a stoppage," Maniatis told Reuters on Thursday.
The risk is that surplus LNG might be sent to Asia, Energy Ministry officials have said.
Controversial Russian/Dutch port project gets greenlight
Fri, 22 Aug 2014 16:46
BusinessNetherlandsPoliticsThe build of a controversial Russian oil terminal in the Rotterdam port is getting the go-ahead from the Rotterdam city government, despite criticism from the Cabinet and in the Rotterdam City Council about the bad timing with the Russian trade war, the Algemeen Dagblad reports.
GroenLinks MP Liesbeth van Tongeren says that the least that should happen is that the authorization of the permit to build the terminal should be put on hold. ''It's strange to punish Russia on one side and to get cozy working together on a terminal on the other side. This can't happen right now'', Van Tongeren tells the Algemeen Dagblad.
Port alderman for Rotterdam, Pex Langenberg (D66) says that this does not fall under the Russia sanctions. The build of a massive terminal to house Russian oil tankers in the Europort is ''of strategic importance to The Netherlands as energy junction'', he says.
GroenLinks believes that Langeren is making economic issues more important than they should be at this time and in this situation.
Dutch and Japanese warplanes take to the skies to accompany Russian bombers
Fri, 22 Aug 2014 16:45
THE HAGUE, August 21, /ITAR-TASS/. A Royal Netherlands Air Force F-16 fighter jet took to the skies twice on Thursday to escort two Russian Tu-95 bombers, the Dutch Defense Ministry said.
According to the Ministry, two Russian warplanes were flying from the north accompanied by two Danish F-16 planes. A Dutch fighter jet accompanied the Tu-95s over the Dutch territory up to the British area of responsibility.
The Dutch Defense Ministry claimed that after that the Russian bombers had made a U-turn and headed for the Dutch territory for a second time. The country's Quick Reaction Force had to raise another fighter jet on alarm that kept accompanying the Tu-95 bombers until they reached the British area of responsibility. After that, the Russian planes headed northward,'' the Dutch Defense Ministry stressed.
Ðhe last time Dutch warplanes took to the skies to accompany Russian bombers was on April 23.
''One of the tasks of the Royal Netherlands Air Force is to react adequately to any violations of the Dutch airspace. In pursuit of that goal, two F-16 fighter jets, incorporated in the Quick Reaction Force, will stay ready to take off at any time to ensure the country's air security,'' the Dutch Defense Ministry stressed.
Meanwhile, Japanese warplanes also had to take off Thursday to intercept two Russian bombers which had flown over the perimeter of the Japanese archipelago, the Japanese Defense Ministry said.
The Tu-95 Russian strategic bombers crossed the Sea of Japan from north to south until the border of the East China Sea. After that, they flew over the Pacific Ocean along Japan's eastern coast towards Sakhalin Island.
The Japanese Defense Ministry did not register any violations of the Japanese airspace.
Ebola Afrika
Ebola Threatens to Hobble Three Countries, $13 Billion in GDP - Businessweek
Sat, 23 Aug 2014 21:20
Ebola Threatens to Hobble Three Countries, $13 Billion in GDP
By Pauline Bax, Silas Gbandia, Elise ZokerAugust 21, 2014 5:49 AM EDT
Sandi Sesay was promised three months' pay by his boss to stop coming to work. In fact, most of Sesay's colleagues at the Marampa iron-ore mine in Sierra Leone were offered much the same deal. The reason: to prevent the spread of Ebola. Two weeks later, Sesay, 29, a driver, says he has yet to see any of the money from his employer, Dawnus Construction, a contractor at the mine. ''I am taking care of my mother, my sisters, and my wife and three children,'' he says at a gas station near his home. ''How am I going to cope?''
Sesay's and Sierra Leone's prospects were bright before the worst-ever outbreak of the virus. The economy was expected to grow 14 percent this year, almost three times faster than the average for sub-Saharan Africa. In neighboring Liberia and Guinea, rich iron-ore deposits were luring billions of dollars in foreign investment and fueling growth.
Then, in December, the first case of Ebola appeared in Guinea. Its emergence at first was seen as a short-term outbreak with limited economic impact. The disease now threatens to cripple three economies with a combined gross domestic product of about $13 billion. Commodity companies are slowing production, and airlines are shutting routes. In Liberia, the government says the epidemic threatens to derail progress made since the end of the civil war in 2003. Sierra Leone has canceled its first sale of bonds open to foreigners.
More than 1,200 have already died in those three countries. Attempts to quarantine infected populations and contain the virus have paralyzed some companies and led to job losses. Sime Darby, the world's largest palm oil producer, has slowed output in Liberia, and Sifca Group, an Ivory Coast agribusiness, halted rubber production there. ArcelorMittal, the world's biggest steelmaker, postponed expansion plans at its mine in northern Liberia because contractors transferred some of their workers out of the country as a health precaution. In early June, after London Mining and African Minerals announced similar protective measures for their operations in Sierra Leone, their shares fell in London trading. Edmond Saidu, the agriculture officer in Sierra Leone's Kailahun District, says the disease has killed farmers on cocoa and peanut plantations and rice farms, leaving the crops to rot.
Africa's richest man, Nigerian cement magnate Aliko Dangote, has pulled some employees out of his plant in Liberia and says one percentage point of growth may be shaved off in the region this year. ''It will be a great impact,'' he says. ''But various governments are doing things to tackle the situation.''
In Sierra Leone the government has sent hundreds of troops to cordon off the border. The quarantine, however, has made it almost impossible to get enough food to the capital, Freetown. Thousands of workers such as Sesay sit at home. (Richard Evans, a spokesman for mining contractor Dawnus, confirmed that a ''large number'' of staff had been furloughed with pay and says Sesay's complaint is the first he's heard of anyone not receiving money.) From Freetown's hilly streets overlooking the Gulf of Guinea, residents spend their days in their houses worrying about costs for food and fuel, which are rising despite government promises to crack down on price gougers.
Liberia has banned public gatherings and told nonessential civil servants to stay home. The government is even planning to close open-air markets, a measure that will probably push up prices in the capital, Monrovia. At the crowded Duala market in the city center, food seller Mary Kolubah says business has slowed. The wholesale shop where she buys bags of rice to resell in smaller, paper-wrapped quantities raised prices by 10 percent recently, she says. Nearby, meat seller Amadu Bah, 46, sits idle at his empty stall. Traders from Guinea and Sierra Leone cannot bring their cattle across the border region, the area hardest hit by the disease. ''I'm out of business now,'' he says, ''because selling cow meat is the only thing I've known since I was 25 years old.''
This marks the first time the disease, identified in 1976 near the Ebola River in what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo, has killed anyone in West Africa. The virus struck just as the three countries were starting to bounce back from a past of violence and instability. Liberia is recovering from a civil war that spilled into neighbor Sierra Leone during the 1990s, leaving both economies ruined. In 2010, Guinea, the world's biggest bauxite exporter, held its first democratic elections since independence, following decades of erratic military rule. The health crisis has been compounded by a distrust of government rooted in the three countries' unstable past: Officials are still struggling to convince locals that Ebola exists and isn't a hoax.
Photograph by John Moore/Getty Images
The outbreak has exposed the limitations of the countries' health-care systems, which range from a scarcity of doctors and thermometers to medical workers neglecting basic hygiene such as hand washing. The official death tally may underestimate the outbreak, the United Nations' health agency said in early August. The UN's food aid agency says it will need to feed 5 percent of the population of the three countries in the coming months, because food supply routes have been disrupted. (Five people have also died of Ebola in Nigeria, but its government has so far managed to avoid a wider outbreak.)
Airlines are suspending flights to the region, even though the UN health agency says air travel is an unlikely method of transmitting the virus. Nigeria's Arik Air suspended flights to Liberia and Sierra Leone after a Liberian man traveled by plane to Lagos, Nigeria's largest city, and collapsed at the airport, fatally infecting health-care workers and an aide who came to pick him up. British Airways and Kenya Air Lines have also halted flights to Liberia and Sierra Leone, and Gulf carrier Emirates scrapped flights to Guinea. Korean Air Lines on Aug. 14 canceled flights to Kenya's capital of Nairobi, a regional hub located thousands of miles away from West Africa.
The crisis is debilitating, says Lansana Gberie, a political analyst in Sierra Leone, ''not just because international flights are canceled and movement of people is restricted because of the quarantine moves. There's also a disabling psychological atmosphere that isn't conducive to productivity.''
Fatmata Edna Njai, a hotel receptionist in Freetown, says she was dumbfounded when her employer handed her an envelope with the equivalent of a third of her monthly salary two weeks ago and told her to stay away until Ebola is contained. Even though the hotel wasn't getting any customers, Njai was told she hadn't lost her job. She stays with her son, parents, and three other relatives inside their apartment most of the day, but she's run out of money. ''I'm praying and fasting, so that God will provide me a job,'' she says.
Two Americans Have Beaten Ebola, but We Don't Know How - NationalJournal.com
Sat, 23 Aug 2014 21:19
Two American aid workers who contracted Ebola in West Africa have been released from the hospital, and officials say they can return to their daily lives without fear of spreading the virus.
Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol have both been released from Emory University Hospital, where they had been in isolation since the beginning of August. Brantly was released Thursday, and officials said they discharged Writebol earlier in the week.
Brantly and Writebol were the first two Ebola victims to enter the U.S., and some pundits feared that allowing them back into the country would put Americans at risk for an outbreak. But hospital officials said Brantly and Writebol tested negative for Ebola and pose no risk to others.
"The medical staff here at Emory is confident that the discharge ... poses no public health threat," said Bruce Ribner, the director of the infectious diseases unit at Emory. "It was the right decision to bring these patients back to Emory for their treatment."
The Ebola outbreak that sickened Brantly and Writebol is the worst on record. More than 1,300 people have died so far in West Africa'--between 50 and 60 percent of all cases. Past outbreaks have killed as many as 90 percent of infected patients.
There is no cure for Ebola, and health officials aren't entirely sure what treatment or combination of treatments worked for the American patients. They received an experimental drug known as ZMapp, but because the drug has not been tested in humans, there are no guarantees it was responsible for their recovery.
ZMapp might have made the difference; or supporting treatments, including massive infusions of fluids, might have done the job on their own.
"They are the very first individuals to ever receive this agent. There is no prior experience with it. And frankly, we do not know whether it helped them, whether it made no difference or, theoretically, if it delayed their recovery," Ribner said at a news conference.
Mac 'n Cheese
Its a Black thing
Dear Adam Curry,
I just finished listening to NA Show 646.
My father, born in 1928, ALWAYS made Macaroni and Cheese - from scratch.
He used SHARP cheddar only. No Velveeta - that is NOT cheese.
I do not think that it was a depression issue. His father was a professor and a college president. But I imagine that it was a standard for Sundays - when my father's mother (Vivian) and five of her siblings and their children, would meet and have a pot luck after church.
I am guessing that it was a good dish for one of the aunties to give the kids, and a cheap way to feed about 8 (typical pot luck requirement), instead of baking another ham or chicken.
PS: we generally avoid pasta, but my little girl wants to live the Mac N Cheese life.
Beste
John Calvin Jones
Sorry if my references were too subtle. My father's maternal-grandfather was born a slave (in the early 1860s in the U.S.)
They were in South Carolina and North Carolina. By the 1950s, many migrated to NYC, Gary Indiana, and Los Angeles.
So, yes - we are; and my father's cooking was Southern soul food.
NA-Tech
Oregon sues Oracle for failed Obamacare website
Sun, 24 Aug 2014 13:47
E-mailTweetFacebookGoogle PlusLinkedinShare iconsAugust 22, 2014, 6:07 PM EDTOregon has filed a lawsuit against software giant Oracle that accuses that company of fraud for its role in building the state's failed health insurance exchange.
Oregon's suit, filed Friday in state court, alleges that Oracle, the largest tech contractor working on the website, made falsely convinced officials to buy ''hundreds of millions of dollars of Oracle products and services that failed to perform as promised.'' It is seeking $200 million in damages.
State officials have been targeted with withering criticism for the website, known as Cover Oregon, which never launched because of technical problems. Instead of signing up for insurance online under the Affordable Care Act, residents have had to rely on a hybrid process using print and online materials through the federal government's website, HealthCare.gov.
Oregon also accuses Oracle of breach of contract, along with civil racketeering, for ''failing to deliver on its obligations, overcharging for poorly trained Oracle personnel to provide incompetent work, hiding from the state the true extent of Oracle's shoddy performance, continuing to promise what it could not deliver, and willfully refusing to honor its warranty to fix its errors without charge.'' The state says the Silicon Valley company has presented Oregon with ''false claims'' for more than $240 million as payment for those contracts over the past three years.
The suit comes weeks after Oracle filed its own lawsuit against the state in which it accuses officials of breach of contract. The company said it is seeking $23 million in supposedly unpaid bills from the state. Oracle's suit places the blame for the failure of Cover Oregon on the state itself, with the company claiming that Oregon refused to hire a ''systems integrator'' to manage Oracle's work on the website. In a statement to The Oregonian newspaper, an Oracle spokeswoman called the state's lawsuit ''a fictional account of the Oregon Healthcare Project.''
But, Oregon counters that claim by saying that Oracle was, in fact, ''dead set against the state hiring an independent systems integrator.'' The state even quotes an anonymous former Oracle employee as claiming that the company had an elaborate ''behind-the-scenes effort'' to convince Oregon that hiring such a manager would only serve to delay the project.
(Comedian John Oliver had some particularly harsh words for Oregon after it spent more than $250 million in federal funds on the website and related items).
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Exclusive: Todd Park stepping down as America's chief technology officer
Fri, 22 Aug 2014 22:23
Todd Park is planning to step down as U.S. Chief Technology Officer by year-end, Fortune has learned from sources familiar with the situation.
He is expected to take on a new White House role, working from Silicon Valley to recruit tech talent into government roles. For example, he recently helped hire former Google executive Mikey Dickerson to help identify and fix government websites.
No word yet on Park's successor, although the White House is said to have had discussions with individuals who have worked with such companies as Google GOOG , LinkedIn LNKD and Twitter TWTR .
Park originally joined the Obama Administration in August 2009 as chief technology officer for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, after having co-founded healthcare IT companies Athenahealth ATHN and Castlight CSLT . He won early praise for his 90-day development of the initial Healthcare.gov rollout, and in 2012 was picked by President Obama to replace Aneesh Chopra as U.S. CTO. In this role he helped oversee the repair of Healthcare.gov's subsequent (and disastrous) relaunch.
Sources say that Park's decision was driven largely by his family's desire to move back to the West Coast. A formal announcement could come as early as next week.
A White House spokeswomen declined comment.
Tory Newmyer contributed to this report.
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Kate Bush asks fans not to use phones or tablets at London comeback gigs | Music | The Guardian
Fri, 22 Aug 2014 18:08
The last time she took to the stage, the prototype of the mobile phone was undergoing its first trials. And as she emerges from her 35-year time capsule to perform once again, singer Kate Bush is faced with a different world.
While most concerts are now aglow with phones and tablets, Bush is taking a stand against fans watching her shows through the digital veil of a screen.
In the runup to her highly anticipated series of concerts at the Hammersmith Apollo, Bush has released a statement appealing to her fans to put down their mobile phones at her gigs.
It would "mean a great deal to me", she wrote, if people refrained from using their phones, cameras and tablets and simply enjoyed the music.
Bush wrote on her website: "I have a request for all of you who are coming to the shows. We have purposefully chosen an intimate theatre setting rather than a large venue or stadium. It would mean a great deal to me if you would please refrain from taking photos or filming during the shows.
"I very much want to have contact with you as an audience, not with iPhones, iPads or cameras. I know it's a lot to ask but it would allow us to all share in the experience together."
With her love of theatrics and opulent costumes, Bush's keenness to stop fans uploading grainy footage to YouTube could also be an attempt to keep the show a surprise for the thousands of fans who have purchased tickets for the 22 dates she is playing in September. So far, details of the show, entitled Before the Dawn, have remained secret with Bush keen for it to remain that way. Her 1979 show included 13 performers, 17 costume changes and 24 songs.
Roger Daltrey said fans who spent gigs staring at their phone screens were 'weird'. Photograph: Kc Alfred/ReutersBush, 56, is not the first to speak out against the detrimental effect of the presence of phones at concerts, with numerous artists berating their fans for experiencing live music through the filter of a screen.
The Who frontman Roger Daltrey recently said it was "weird" that people did not have their mind on the show when they had gone to a performance and were concentrating on staring at the screen rather than the artist on stage.
He said: "I feel sorry for them, I really feel sorry for them. Looking at life through a screen and not being in the moment totally '' if you're doing that, you're 50% there, right? It's weird. I find it weird."
Last year, Beyonc(C) berated one her fans at a gig for filming. "You can't even sing because you're too busy taping," Beyonc(C) told him. "I'm right in your face, baby. You gotta seize this moment. Put that damn camera down!"
The debate around the presence of phones at live events is not restricted to music, with sport fans equally vocal on the subject. On Monday, Dutch fans at PSV Eindhoven launched a vehement protest against the introduction of Wi-Fi in their stadium, holding up banners such as "Fuck Wi-Fi, support the team," "You can sit at home," and "Stand united", while Manchester United have also told fans to leave their "large electronic devices" at home, prohibiting filming on tablets in Old Trafford this season.
Jarvis Cocker has previously criticised phone-wielders in the audience for driving him "insane at concerts", adding: "It seems stupid to have something happening in front of you and look at it on a screen that's smaller than the size of a cigarette packet. If anything, it undermines the experience because it seemed like a really good moment, and now I can see it were crap. It's like wedding videos."
Johnny Marr told NME last year that it meant that fans missed out on the sensory experience of live music in their desperation to document the event for later.
"To stand and just be looking at it through your phone is a completely wasted opportunity. You know, I don't mean to be unkind but I think you should put your phone down because you're just being a dick, really, just enjoy the gig because it's a better '... it's a dick job, filming the show. Let someone else be the dick and watch it on YouTube," he said.
"That's one of the things about gigs, it's taking in what's going on with the people around you, and watching it on a little screen - it's [a] waste of time."
The Yeah Yeah Yeahs resorted to putting up a sign at one of their venues, pleading with fans to pocket their technology. It read: "Please do not watch the show through a screen on your smart device/camera. Put that shit away as a courtesy to the person behind you, and to Nick, Karen and Brian."
It has even filtered into the world of classical music, with one of the world's leading pianists surprising concert-goers in June last year when he stormed off stage because a fan was filming his performance on a smartphone.
Krystian Zimerman returned moments later and declared: "The destruction of music because of YouTube is enormous."
But Sam Watt of Vyclone, a phone app that encourages audiences to film at concerts and then brings together the footage to create a crowd-sourced video of the event, said that such artists were fighting a losing battle and that filming at concerts enhanced rather than detracted from the experience.
"Fans filming is now part of the concert experience, that is a just a fact, so we take that footage that people are filming at concerts through the app, they upload it onto the app, and then it comes back to them mixed together with everybody else who was filming. You end up with really fantastic content," he said.
"Artists should absolutely be embracing the filming at concerts and I can't see a world where artists who aren't embracing it are going to be able to carry on.
"I know it is quite a controversial subject, but in a year or two when everyone is filming, it is going to be hard for them to ignore and not utilise that content without suffering themselves."
Since they launched the technology in 2012, major musicians have now utilised the technology, he said, with Vyclone counting Ed Sheeran, Madonna, Jason Mraz and Weezer among those who have used their app to create videos of their own concerts, often vocally encouraging fans to film certain songs during their live sets.
Watt continued: "For the artists we work with, it enables them to have this content and see the fans are connecting and embracing and almost becoming part of the show. It definitely is part of the concert experience and filming at gigs is something people are going to have to get used to.
"Our overall thinking is that filming at concerts adds to the experience, rather than taking away from it and I think if Kate Bush came round for a cup of tea, we could have a really interesting discussion about this and we might be able to win her round," he added. "Knowing that people are going to film and want those memories is really important because it is probably going to hit them on the head in the future if they say to everyone they can't film. You've got to embrace it."
Bank$ters
I THINK THE SYSTEM IS RIGGED AGAINST THE 'LITTLE GUY!' DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE JUST ROBBED BANK OF AMERICA INNOCENT SHAREHOLDERS TO THE TUNE OF 17 BILLION and LET THE CULPRITS OFF THE HOOK! | Gretawire
Sun, 24 Aug 2014 03:00
News breaking that Justice Department accepting 17 billion from Bank of America in exchange for not prosecuting anyone in connection with the sale of those mortgage backed securities before the national financial crisis.
'''.... accusations that it duped investors into buying troubled mortgage securities'....'' [NYT]
So'...the culprits get off the hook '' no charges, not even have to pay a dime.
So who pays the 17 billion? the INNOCENT SHAREHOLDERS! DOJ is supposed to PROTECT the American people, not rob them!!! The shareholders had zero to do with any decisions about the sale of mortgage backed securities.
And worse? you can bet the prosecutors over at the DOJ are high fiving each other like they have done a great thing for getting 17 billion for the US Treasury.
This is so messed up'....the culprits walk, and the innocents pay. Go figure.
PS: Do not tell me 'that's how it is always done.' You are right '....that is how it is always done and it is disgraceful'... time to change. There are thousands of good Americans putting their dollars in the stock market hoping to earn money for their children's college or even retirement. They deserve better. It may turn out that BOA stock goes up today because of the uncertainty removed from it with a settlement '-- but 17Billion will or does come out of someone's hide'....and you can be sure, it is not the DOJ and it is not the executives who are deeply involved in this.
Wonkbook: BofA's record settlement may leave homeowners disappointed - The Washington Post
Sat, 23 Aug 2014 21:14
By Puneet KolliparaAugust 22
Welcome to Wonkbook, Wonkblog's morning policy news primer by Puneet Kollipara (@pkollipara). To subscribe by e-mail, click here. Send comments, criticism or ideas to Wonkbook at Washpost dot com. To read more by the Wonkblog team, click here. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.
Wonkbook's Number of the Day: $16.65 billion. That's the size of the settlement between Bank of America and the Justice Department, the single-largest penalty a company has been levied by the government.
Wonkbook's Chart of the Day: How much Obamacare premiums are increasing in your state.
Wonkbook's Top 5 Stories: (1) Context on the Bank of America settlement; (2) protests calming in Ferguson?; (3) the Americans' Ebola recovery; (4) promising pre-Yellen economic numbers; and (5) Ice Bucket Challenge politics and policy.
1. Top story: BofA's $17 record billion settlement may not be as expensive as it soundsBank of America and DOJ reach $17 billion settlement over crisis-era mortgage securities. "Bank of America on Thursday became the third Wall Street bank to reach a multibillion-dollar agreement with the Justice Department for allegedly misleading investors about the quality of bonds sold in the lead-up to the 2008 financial crisis....There is no specific carve-out to compensate investors, whereas funds are set aside to provide relief to homeowners and blighted communities....Almost $1 billion of the Bank of America settlement will go to states...whose attorneys general were investigating the bank or its Countrywide Financial or Merrill Lynch units. Those state prosecutors have earmarked that money for...retirement funds." Danielle Douglas in The Washington Post.
On paper, the largest punishment against a bank for the mortgage crisis... "The settlement, which includes $9.65 billion in cash and $7 billion in consumer relief, resolves civil investigations by government prosecutors, the U.S. said today....The agreement cements Bank of America's status as the firm punished hardest for faulty mortgage practices. It eclipses Citigroup Inc.'s $7 billion settlement in July and JPMorgan Chase & Co.'s $13 billion accord in November. Bank of America's settlement also comes on top of its $9.5 billion deal in March to resolve related Federal Housing Finance Agency claims." Tom Schoenberg, Hugh Son and David McLaughlin in Bloomberg.
...but less painful than it looks. "The actual financial burden...may not exceed $12 billion....At issue is how much of the cost of the $7 billion in 'soft dollars,' or help for borrowers, the bank will bear....Some of the relief the bank will provide involves cutting the principal of a loan to make it easier for the borrower to pay. The dollar amount of that reduction gets credited toward what it needs to fulfill the settlement. But Bank of America wrote down many of its troubled mortgages years ago." Peter Eavis and Michael Corkery in The New York Times.
Some 'underwater' borrowers could face huge tax bill if they accept help through settlement. "In 2007, Congress adopted a law that spared homeowners from being taxed on the amount of the loan that was written off. But that tax break expired in December, and now that kind of relief can be counted as income by the IRS, an issue we wrote about in April....'That's why the Department secured a commitment from Bank of America to pay a portion of the settlement '-- over $490 million '-- to defray some of this tax liability,' U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said....'And our settlement requires the bank to notify all consumers of the potential tax liability.'" Dina ElBoghdady in The Washington Post.
And few homeowners may benefit at all. "Consumer advocates say relatively few people will be helped relative to the devastation triggered by the mortgage bonds, which fueled the worst financial crisis since the 1930s and threw millions of homes into foreclosure. Only a fraction of homeowners would be eligible for refinancing under the settlement. And the process by which people would qualify and receive aid could drag on for years, with payouts set to be completed as late as 2018. Those who have already lost homes to a foreclosure or a short sale '-- when a lender accepts less money from a sale than what the borrower owes '-- wouldn't likely benefit at all." Josh Boak, Pete Yost and Marcy Gordon in the Associated Press.
A similar JPMorgan settlement has had some disappointing results for homeowners. "As of 31 March of this year, five months after the settlement, JPMorgan only claimed verifiable modifications on 100 loans, for a grand total of $6m in credited relief '' a little under 1% of the total it has promised. Even though the settlement provides a bonus credit for relief delivered within the first year, JPMorgan has decided to stretch things out.Community housing activists like the Home Defenders League have repeatedly questioned whether relief will ever materialize. " David Dayen in The Guardian.
Under the deal, BofA can get credit for other firms' mortgage aid. "Bank of America Corp. can get credit toward its record $16.7 billion settlement of U.S. mortgage probes without doing a thing. The lender, which jumped the most in 15 months in New York trading yesterday after agreeing to resolve government claims, pledged $7 billion in consumer relief in the deal. Some of that may be satisfied as borrowers get mortgage help from firms that bought their loans or servicing rights from the bank, according to terms on the Justice Department's website. That can even apply to assets the bank already sold. Past U.S. settlements with big banks were criticized by investors and lawmakers after the companies got credit for borrower relief that might have occurred anyway or left other firms bearing the cost." Jody Shenn and Hugh Son in Bloomberg.
One group is left out: investors. "One group of people who were harmed, the investors who purchased mortgage-backed securities and then took a beating, won't be helped. Rafferty Capital Markets analyst Richard Bove, in a phone interview, said: 'The shareholders are expected to pay for something they never did, while the people who committed the crimes suffer nothing, while the people harmed get nothing.'"Philip Van Doorn in MarketWatch.
Do these settlements normalize banks' bad behavior? "The constant drumbeat of settlements really does normalize misbehavior: If every bank is constantly settling charges of mis-selling mortgages, then mis-selling mortgages can't really be that bad, can it? If every bank is constantly paying billions of dollars in fines, then paying billions of dollars in fines becomes less shameful. And if every bank is fined over and over again for the same conduct, then the attitudes of the bankers will shift." Matt Levine in Bloomberg View.
Other financial reads:
BoA seeks to prove Buffett right after settlement. Hugh Son in Bloomberg.
U.S. judge calls Argentina debt swap illegal. Nate Raymond and Joseph Ax in Reuters.
Regulators struggle with conflicts in credit ratings and audits. Floyd Norris in The New York Times.
KRUGMAN: Inflation hawks are crying wolf. "With very few exceptions, officials and economists who issued dire warnings about inflation years ago are still issuing more or less identical warnings today. Narayana Kocherlakota, president of the Minneapolis Fed, is the only prominent counterexample I can think of. Now, everyone who has been in the economics business any length of time, myself very much included, has made some incorrect predictions. If you haven't, you're playing it too safe. The inflation hawks, however, show no sign of learning from their mistakes. Where is the soul-searching, the attempt to understand how they could have been so wrong?" Paul Krugman in The New York Times.
COCHRANE: A few things the Fed has done right. "As Federal Reserve officials lay the groundwork for raising interest rates, they are doing a few things right. They need a little cheering, and a bit more courage of their convictions....The Fed's plan to maintain a large balance sheet and pay interest on bank reserves, begun under former Chairman Ben Bernanke and continued under current Chair Janet Yellen, is highly desirable for a number of reasons '-- the most important of which is financial stability. Short version: Banks holding lots of reserves don't go under." John H. Cochrane in The Wall Street Journal.
Top opinionBAI: We want our politicians to act like LBJ. But not really. "Obama...just doesn't love the full contact sport of politics. He has no capacity for the inside machinations or tactical brutality we associate with a more sophisticated and celebrated president like Lyndon Johnson. What we really need, I guess, is an executive in the mold of a Chris Christie or an Andrew Cuomo or a Rick Perry, all of whom are more extroverted and more brazen about wielding their power as governors than Obama is '-- and all of whom, not incidentally, are now fending off prosecutors and investigations....This illustrates an interesting paradox of modern politics: We love this idea of the ruthless and effective political operator, right up until the moment we're confronted by the reality." Matt Bai in Yahoo News.
YORK: The right stuff. "The very fact that Cantor felt it necessary to explain such an elementary truth of modern American politics speaks volumes about the present state of the Republican Party. Although the GOP has been successful at the congressional level, its candidates for president have lost the popular vote in five of the last six elections, in large part because they failed to attract many of the millions of voters who are not entrepreneurs. Unless things change, the landscape could look just as bleak in 2016." Byron York in Foreign Affairs.
McARDLE: Legalize drugs, deal with the downsides. "How much benefit can we expect from drug legalization? For the past few years, John McWhorter has been making powerful arguments that we should end the drug war that has fueled so many problems in the black community....At the same time, I want to be realistic about the potential benefits. If we legalize drugs, will the gangs, and all the attendant costs of the drug war, really go away? Here's one optimistic piece of evidence: The murder rate in America seems to have plummeted dramatically since the end of Prohibition." Megan McArdle in Bloomberg View.
ROHATYN AND GOLDMARK: Rebuilding America, one bridge at a time. "States should be asked to decide whether they want to join a national infrastructure program of the kind we are proposing. Those whose legislature and governor decide not to could take advantage of a simple alternative....Placing primary responsibility for infrastructure renewal on the states could win support of more conservative legislators who generally oppose new investments or expenditures by the federal government....And having a universally accepted, existing mechanism available for use of their share of the funds would allow states to opt out if they, for whatever reason, do not believe such a program is in their interest." Felix G. Rohatyn and Peter C. Goldmark Jr. in The Washington Post.
Kermit interlude: The Muppet takes the Ice Bucket Challenge.
2. The protests in Ferguson may be finally on the waneNixon orders National Guard to withdraw as protests calm down. "Gov. Jay Nixon ordered the Missouri National Guard to begin withdrawing from this St. Louis suburb Thursday, the clearest sign yet that the violent clashes between police and residents may be subsiding after nearly two weeks of civil unrest. Nixon's decision came four days after he first called on Guard troops to help contain the escalating protests over the police shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown on Aug. 9. The nightly confrontations between protesters and a heavily armed police force wielding tear gas canisters and rubber bullets have attracted global attention." Carol D. Leonnig and William Branigin in The Washington Post.
The gas is gone but the hot air remains. "Even though protesters and police are no longer clashing in the street, many battles have only just begun. While the relative calm is a welcome change from the nights of tear gas, rubber bullets and gunshot injuries, the glaring issues that were simmering under the surface before the city's anger boiled over after the death of Michael Brown are still far from solved. Many residents are calling for a complete overhaul of the police department and politicians. A number of petitions are in place, and voter registration drives have become ubiquitous on the now calm streets." Kathleen Caulderwood in International Business Times.
Who are the protesters getting arrested? A lot of out-of-towners. "Since the protests erupted, people in Ferguson have insisted that the troublemakers are not from this community. Capt. Ron Johnson, the highway patrolman in charge of security here, said as much earlier this week....In fact, of the 51 people who were arrested Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, only one person was from Ferguson. The rest were from surrounding towns and faraway cities such as Des Moines, Iowa, Chicago and New York." Jason Rosenbaum in NPR.
Activists and clergy may have been the biggest calming force in protests. "Community activism and the work of local clergy were lauded by law enforcement officials as the primary influences that led to a relatively calm night of protests overnight in Ferguson. Missouri Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson said protesters remained orderly and police did not fire tear gas or seize any handguns." Kurtis Lee in the Los Angeles Times.
The conduct of the investigation could shape the future evolution of protests. "How long '-- and how deeply '-- the demonstrations will continue to run remained anyone's guess after 12 days. Before delivering petitions Thursday that seek removal of St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch from the case, African-American organizers warned of ongoing civil disobedience unless demands on their more expansive list are met." Ken Leiser in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Explainer: Here is everything police and witnesses said happened when Michael Brown was killed. Mark Berman in The Washington Post.
Supreme Court case to shape Ferguson investigation. "To most people, an 18-year-old unarmed man may not appear to pose a deadly threat. But a police officer's perspective is different. And that is how an officer should be judged after the fact, Chief Justice William Rehnquist wrote in the 1989 opinion. The Supreme Court case, decided at a time when violence against police was on the rise, has shaped the national legal standards that govern when police officers are justified in using force. The key question about Wilson's killing on Aug. 9 is whether a reasonable officer with a similar background would have responded the same way." Eileen Sullivan in the Associated Press.
Charts: Blacks aren't thrilled with Obama's Ferguson response. "Given that Obama's approval ratings are generally underwater...when it comes to most issues these days, that might seem a small victory for the White House. But one emerging area to watch: how African Americans view his handling of the situation. While the CBS/NYT poll notes that 60 percent of blacks are satisfied with Obama's response to the Ferguson shooting...that's less overwhelming when you consider how hugely popular Obama is among African Americans in general. The latest Gallup numbers show that 86 percent of African Americans approve of the president." Aaron Blake in The Washington Post.
Long read: How Al Sharpton became Obama's go-to man on race. Glenn Thrush in Politico Magazine.
McCaskill to lead police militarization hearing. "The hearing, which will be held by the McCaskill-chaired Financial & Contracting Oversight Subcommittee, follows the Democrat's calls for demilitarization in Ferguson, Missouri....The hearing will look into programs that have provided local police with military equipment....The use of war-zone equipment by police in response to Ferguson protesters has come under criticism from an array of politicians, including Attorney General Eric Holder, who visited Ferguson on Wednesday and met with McCaskill and other members of the Missouri congressional delegation." Lucy McCalmont in Politico.
Other legal reads:
In Ferguson, young protesters are finding it's not their grandparents' protests. DeNeen L. Brown in The Washington Post.
Sexual-assault victims get campus advocates. Erica E. Phillips in The Wall Street Journal.
Why Jay Nixon missed his moment. Eli Yokley in Politico Magazine.
MENDELBERG AND BUTLER: Obama cares. Look at the numbers. "As the predominantly black, disproportionately poor community of Ferguson, Mo., erupted in protest...critics excoriated President Obama for his failure to empathize....Mr. Obama's defenders point to his second-term commitment to issues that touch the lives of poor communities of color, especially his initiative to assist young minority men, My Brother's Keeper. But what both sides are ignoring is the president's first-term record. A true measure of a president's priorities lies hidden in plain sight in his budget proposals. Under that standard, Mr. Obama has been more committed to communities like Ferguson than any Democratic president in the past half century." Tali Mendelberg and Bennett L. Butler in The New York Times.
LITHWICK AND WEST: Counselors, not protesters. "Tthere is a crucial difference between the abortion opponents whose speech rights were feted by the court in McCullen and the garden variety protesters who can still be rounded up in free speech pens and summarily arrested on the streets of Ferguson: The court was careful to explain that the protesters in Massachusetts are not actually 'protesters.' They are 'counselors.' This presents an obvious solution for the outraged citizens who have taken to the streets of Ferguson and been met with tear gas, rubber bullets, and incarceration: rebranding. From this day forth you should consider yourself 'sidewalk counselors.'" Dahlia Lithwick and Sonja West in Slate.
GILLESPIE: The libertarian moment in Ferguson. "The politics of exhaustion '-- that desperate attempt to maintain an increasingly dysfunctional and disheartening status quo that is swelling the ranks of independents and driving down political approval ratings to historic lows'--is giving way to new sets of conversations that are as urgent as they are overdue. Exactly how those conversations play out, especially in terms of partisan politics, is far less important than the fact they are taking place and moving the country forward to new areas of common ground." Nick Gillespie in The Daily Beast.
HENNINGER: Ferguson, USA. "Economic growth is nonpartisan. But inner-city public education is totally partisan. Democratic politicians made a Faustian bargain with the teachers unions, and the souls carried away have been the black children in those doomed schools. What America's Fergusons need '-- from L.A. to Detroit to New York '-- is a president, and a party, obsessed with growth and messianic about giving a kid what he needs to hold the job that growth provides. Maybe by the 100th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act." Daniel Henninger in The Wall Street Journal.
Shocking interlude: Watch a fish scarf down a shark in one bite.
3. We don't know why the two Ebola-infected Americans survivedGood news: Ebola-sickened Americans are cured. Bad news: We don't know why. "There is no cure for Ebola, and health officials aren't entirely sure what treatment or combination of treatments worked for the American patients. They received an experimental drug known as ZMapp, but because the drug has not been tested in humans, there are no guarantees it was responsible for their recovery. ZMapp might have made the difference; or supporting treatments, including massive infusions of fluids, might have done the job on their own." Sam Baker in National Journal.
Explainer: What's the outlook for the 2 American Ebola survivors? Linda Poon in NPR.
Have a great day, dear, and don't get Ebola. "These procedures come straight from interim guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There's a good reason they're 'interim' '-- we don't have a lot of evidence to go on yet....I wonder how effective the regime would really be if it were tested in an outbreak. How many people will an Ebola patient get close to before finally being ushered into a room with negative air pressure? Friends and family. At least a couple of nurses. One or more doctors. Several sick and vulnerable people in the waiting area, along with their companions. How do we know that the disease won't spread to health care workers in the United States the way it has in Africa?" Brian Palmer in Slate.
68 Ebola scares in the U.S., zero confirmed cases. "American hospitals and state labs have handled at least 68 Ebola scares over the last three weeks, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Hospitals in 27 states alerted the CDC of the possible Ebola cases out of an abundance of caution....Fifty-eight cases were deemed false alarms after CDC officials spoke with medical professions about patient exposures and symptoms, but blood samples for the remaining 10 were sent to the CDC for testing, the agency told ABC News today. Seven of the samples tested negative for the virus and results for the remaining three are pending, the agency said." Sydney Lupkin in ABC News.
Long read: Ebola threatens to hobble $13 billion in GDP, three countries. Pauline Bax, Silas Gbandia, and Elise Zoker in Bloomberg Businessweek.
Chart: This is how bad the Ebola outbreak has been in Africa. Julia Belluz in Vox.
For Ebola drug 'market failure,' would a prize speed development of treatments? "In the U.S., drugs to treat rare diseases have become lucrative, thanks to tax incentives, special regulatory protection and a willingness by insurers and governments to pay for life-saving treatments. But Ebola, like many other diseases that are mainly a threat in less-developed countries, have been largely neglected by drugmakers....Most Ebola drug research has been financed by the U.S. government, she said, with Canada also pitching in. For Ebola, there may need to be more financial help to get research started and a reward for success." Scott Hensley in NPR.
Other health care reads:
Malpractice reform: One of the nation's most expensive ballot campaigns is heating up. Niraj Chokshi in The Washington Post.
Long read: As more hospices enroll patients who aren't dying, questions about lethal doses arise. Peter Whoriskey in The Washington Post.
American employers are rethinking their role in workers' health care. The Economist.
Most Obamacare exchanges got bigger. California's is getting smaller. Dan Diamond in Kaiser Health News and California Healthline.
Animals interlude: Cats with watermelon.
4. Positive labor-market signs before Yellen's speechA rare sign of real economic confidence? "According to a new Gallup poll, 58 percent of Americans say they are 'completely satisfied' with their job security. That's not only higher than it has been since the recession; it's also higher than it has been for two full decades....It's easy to over-state the significance of these numbers; after all, a recent poll showed about half of Americans think we're still in a recession. Clearly, Americans aren't all that confident about the overall job market. But at least in their personal lives, it appears they feel some certainty has been restored." Aaron Blake in The Washington Post.
Housing, jobs data bolster economic outlook. "U.S. home resales rose to a 10-month high in July and the number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits fell last week, signaling strength in the economy early in the third quarter. The growth outlook was further buoyed by other reports on Thursday showing factory activity in the mid-Atlantic region hit its highest level since March 2011 in August while a gauge of future economic activity increased solidly last month....Home resales have now increased for four straight months after the housing market recovery stalled in the second half of 2013 following a run-up in mortgage rates." Lucia Mutikani in Reuters.
Despite rise in economic indicators, some areas of weakness remain. "The Conference Board's index of U.S. leading indicators...climbed 0.9 percent after a 0.6 percent gain in June....The median forecast of 49 economists surveyed by Bloomberg called for a 0.6 percent advance. Other elements of the economy remain challenged. Gains in wages since 2009 have barely kept up with a similarly tepid pace of inflation....Growth in the U.S. is projected to reach 2 percent this year, according to a Bloomberg survey of economists, supporting the Fed's outlook that the economy will continue to require accommodative monetary policy even after the central bank winds down its unprecedented bond-buying program." Victoria Stilwell in Bloomberg.
Why are jobless claims falling so fast? "The improvement seems out of step with other labor-market indicators....Economists believe that one reason for a lower rate of layoffs is a labor market that has become generally less dynamic over the last few decades. Employers have become less likely to lay off workers over time, though they have also grown more cautious about hiring. Similarly, workers have grown more reluctant to change jobs, possibly stunting career development and earnings growth as a result. But more recently, most of the fall in jobless claims has been driven by a decline in the number of the newly laid off who don't bother to apply for government benefits in a generally improving economy." Jonathan House in The Wall Street Journal.
Private bankers left out of Jackson Hole meeting. "Economists and advisers from firms such as Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Morgan Stanley, Bank of America Corp. and other banks and hedge funds were long a staple at the Fed's annual meeting in the Wyoming mountains. But top Fed officials have grown uncomfortable in recent years with the advantages conferred on private-sector economists from attending the high-profile event, where the world's leading central bankers rub elbows with academics, journalists and others. As a result, the Kansas City Fed, which organizes the symposium, has been paring the list of private-banker attendees." Jon Hilsenrath in The Wall Street Journal.
Central bankers wrestle with easy money amid uneven global recovery. "Federal Reserve officials...are waiting for more evidence that strong job gains can continue before they start raising short-term interest rates. Elsewhere, officials are debating whether to do more, not less....This leaves central bankers in an awkward position. Many worry the low interest rates they're employing to encourage borrowing and spur growth could spark a new financial bubble....For now, they are depending on unproven regulatory policies to prevent another crisis and leaving low interest-rate policies in place." Jon Hilsenrath in The Wall Street Journal.
Foreign banks the beneficiary of Fed's exit strategy. "Unlike domestic banks, foreign banks don't have domestic depositors to tap for funds, so they turn elsewhere for dollars. Money market funds make the funds available for a few hundredths of a percentage point. The foreign banks in turn park those loans at the Fed for 0.25% interest. They earn profits on the spread between the cheap cost of funds available from money market funds and the higher rate they get at the Fed. It's a trade that domestic U.S. banks have been unwilling to make because they have to pay additional fees to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp....By keeping a quarter-percentage-point spread in place between money market funds and commercial banks with its new system, the Fed is effectively keeping in place a structure that allows foreign banks to profit where domestic U.S. banks can't." Jon Hilsenrath in The Wall Street Journal.
Related: Developing nations anxiously watching Fed at Jackson Hole. Jamila Trindle in Foreign Policy.
Explainer: Five questions for participants at the Fed's Jackson Hole conference. Pedro Nicolaci da Costa in The Wall Street Journal.
Other economic reads:
Why hotel, restaurant workers may soon get a raise. Quoctrung Bui in NPR.
Kayaking interlude: Giant humpback whale almost tail-slaps kayakers.
5. The politics and policy of the ALS Ice Bucket ChallengeIt's going to take a lot more ice buckets to fill the NIH funding gap. "The ALS Association's donation surge...won't be enough on its own to fund the research and development that's needed to eliminate this disease....The decline in NIH funding isn't unique to ALS research. The agency budget, after reaching a peak of $31.2 billion in 2010, fell to $30.2 billion in 2014. And the NIH says its budget has effectively been cut by 22 percent in the past decade when accounting for medical inflation. Further, the sequester's automatic 5 percent cut to the NIH resulted in 8 percent fewer research grants in the 2013 fiscal year compared to the previous year....Research is just one part of the equation. Then there's actually the cost of developing drugs." Jason Millman in The Washington Post.
Don't expect U.S. diplomats, service members or House members to take the challenge. "Lawyers at the State Department have banned American ambassadors and other high-profile foreign service officers from participating in the ice-bucket challenge...In a cable...to all U.S. diplomatic missions, the lawyers say it runs afoul of federal ethics rules barring officials from using public office for private gain 'no matter how worthy the cause.'...A House oversight committee and the Department of Defense have also banned members from participating in the challenge, echoing the State Department's concerns over ethical violations." Associated Press and The Huffington Post.
Related: U.S. officials destroying evidence they took the challenge. Annalisa Merelli in Quartz.
Videos: ALS Ice Bucket Challenge leads to creative political trolling. Asawin Suebsaeng in The Daily Beast.
Oops: Lawmakers who took challenge voted (even if reluctantly) to cut funding. "These contradictory decisions don't necessarily make the lawmakers hypocrites. Many of them reluctantly cast that vote, and others are fine with funding ALS research so long as the funding comes from private sources and not federal taxes. But the contradiction does expose the curious ways in which government officials often end up dealing with problems they created." Sam Stein in The Huffington Post.
Background reading: The cold, hard truth about the Ice Bucket Challenge: funding cannibalism. William MacAskill in Quartz.
Unique Ice Bucket Challenge interlude:Featuring a drone.
Wonkblog roundupA drug naming dispute, with billions on the line. Jason Millman.
How much $100 is really worth in New York, Washington and Chicago. Niraj Chokshi.
Some homeowners could get hit with a whopping tax bill if they accept help through Bank of America's settlement. Dina ElBoghdady.
12 years of data from New York City suggest stop-and-frisk wasn't that effective. Emily Badger.
It's going to take a lot more ice buckets to fill the NIH funding gap. Jason Millman.
Et CeteraProfile: Prosecutor in Rick Perry case called ethical, fair. Andrea Ball in the Austin American-Statesman.
Net worth falls for majority as wealth grows. Carol Morello in The Washington Post.
Inversions push falls to Treasury's tax man, Mark Mazur. Damian Paletta in The Wall Street Journal.
Florida same-sex marriage ban ruled unconstitutional, but decision stayed. Michael Winter in USA Today.
Long read: Paying NCAA college athletes '-- inside the legal battle. Paul M. Barrett in Bloomberg Businessweek.
Coal terminal decision highlights exports' greenhouse-gas emissions. Bobby Magill in Climate Central.
Got tips, additions, or comments? E-mail us.
Wonkbook is produced with help from Michelle Williams and Ryan McCarthy.
NeighborWorks America: Working Together for Strong Communities
Sat, 23 Aug 2014 20:55
NeighborWorks America urges homeowners to avoid paying for loan modifications
Scam artists often ask homeowners for a payment or administrative ''fees,'' usually upfront. The Federal Trade Commission issued the Mortgage Assistance Relief Services (MARS) rule which made it illegal for companies to request money upfront. But when mortgage problems arise, many homeowners are lured by the promise of help.
Read the press release >>
USDOJ: Bank of America to Pay $16.65 Billion in Historic Justice Department Settlement for Financial Fraud Leading up to and During the Financial Crisis
Sat, 23 Aug 2014 20:54
Attorney General Eric Holder and Associate Attorney General Tony West announced today that the Department of Justice has reached a $16.65 billion settlement with Bank of America Corporation'' the largest civil settlement with a single entity in American history ­'-- toresolve federal and state claims against Bank of America and its former and current subsidiaries, including Countrywide Financial Corporation and Merrill Lynch. As part of this global resolution, the bank has agreed to pay a $5 billion penalty under the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery and Enforcement Act (FIRREA) '' the largest FIRREA penalty ever '' and provide billions of dollars of relief to struggling homeowners, including funds that will help defray tax liability as a result of mortgage modification, forbearance or forgiveness. The settlement does not release individuals from civil charges, nor does it absolve Bank of America, its current or former subsidiaries and affiliates or any individuals from potential criminal prosecution.
''This historic resolution - the largest such settlement on record - goes far beyond 'the cost of doing business,''' said Attorney General Holder. "Under the terms of this settlement, the bank has agreed to pay $7 billion in relief to struggling homeowners, borrowers and communities affected by the bank's conduct. This is appropriate given the size and scope of the wrongdoing at issue.''
This settlement is part of the ongoing efforts of President Obama's Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force and its Residential Mortgage-Backed Securities (RMBS) Working Group, which has recovered $36.65 billion to date for American consumers and investors.
''At nearly $17 billion, today's resolution with Bank of America is the largest the department has ever reached with a single entity in American history,'' said Associate Attorney General West. ''But the significance of this settlement lies not just in its size; this agreement is notable because it achieves real accountability for the American people and helps to rectify the harm caused by Bank of America's conduct through a $7 billion consumer relief package that could benefit hundreds of thousands of Americans still struggling to pull themselves out from under the weight of the financial crisis.''
The Justice Department and the bank settled several of the department's ongoing civil investigations related to the packaging, marketing, sale, arrangement, structuring and issuance of RMBS, collateralized debt obligations (CDOs), and the bank's practices concerning the underwriting and origination of mortgage loans. The settlement includes a statement of facts, in which the bank has acknowledged that it sold billions of dollars of RMBS without disclosing to investors key facts about the quality of the securitized loans. When the RMBS collapsed, investors, including federally insured financial institutions, suffered billions of dollars in losses. The bank has also conceded that it originated risky mortgage loans and made misrepresentations about the quality of those loans to Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the Federal Housing Administration (FHA).
Of the record-breaking $16.65 billion resolution, almost $10 billion will be paid to settle federal and state civil claims by various entities related to RMBS, CDOs and other types of fraud. Bank of America will pay a $5 billion civil penalty to settle the Justice Department claims under FIRREA. Approximately $1.8 billion will be paid to settle federal fraud claims related to the bank's origination and sale of mortgages, $1.03 billion will be paid to settle federal and state securities claims by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), $135.84 million will be paid to settle claims by the Securities and Exchange Commission. In addition, $300 million will be paid to settle claims by the state of California, $45 million to settle claims by the state of Delaware, $200 million to settle claims by the state of Illinois, $23 million to settle claims by the Commonwealth of Kentucky, $75 million to settle claims by the state of Maryland, and $300 million to settle claims by the state of New York.
Bank of America will provide the remaining $7 billion in the form of relief to aid hundreds of thousands of consumers harmed by the financial crisis precipitated by the unlawful conduct of Bank of America, Merrill Lynch and Countrywide. That relief will take various forms, including principal reduction loan modifications that result in numerous homeowners no longer being underwater on their mortgages and finally having substantial equity in their homes. It will also include new loans to credit worthy borrowers struggling to get a loan, donations to assist communities in recovering from the financial crisis, and financing for affordable rental housing. Finally, Bank of America has agreed to place over $490 million in a tax relief fund to be used to help defray some of the tax liability that will be incurred by consumers receiving certain types of relief if Congress fails to extend the tax relief coverage of the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act of 2007.
An independent monitor will be appointed to determine whether Bank of America is satisfying its obligations. If Bank of America fails to live up to its agreement by Aug. 31, 2018, it must pay liquidated damages in the amount of the shortfall to organizations that will use the funds for state-based Interest on Lawyers' Trust Account (IOLTA) organizations and NeighborWorks America, a non-profit organization and leader in providing affordable housing and facilitating community development. The organizations will use the funds for foreclosure prevention and community redevelopment, legal assistance, housing counselling and neighborhood stabilization.
As part of the RMBS Working Group, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of New Jersey conducted a FIRREA investigation into misrepresentations made by Merrill Lynch to investors in 72 RMBS throughout 2006 and 2007. As the statement of facts describes, Merrill Lynch regularly told investors the loans it was securitizing were made to borrowers who were likely and able to repay their debts. Merrill Lynch made these representations even though it knew, based on the due diligence it had performed on samples of the loans, that a significant number of those loans had material underwriting and compliance defects - including as many as 55 percent in a single pool. In addition, Merrill Lynch rarely reviewed the unsampled loans to ensure that the defects observed in the samples were not present throughout the remainder of the pools. Merrill Lynch also disregarded its own due diligence and securitized loans that the due diligence vendors had identified as defective. This practice led one Merrill Lynch consultant to ''wonder why we have due diligence performed'' if Merrill Lynch was going to securitize the loans ''regardless of issues.''
''In the run-up to the financial crisis, Merrill Lynch bought more and more mortgage loans, packaged them together, and sold them off in securities '' even when the bank knew a substantial number of those loans were defective,'' said U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman for the District of New Jersey. ''The failure to disclose known risks undermines investor confidence in our financial institutions. Today's record-breaking settlement, which includes the resolution of our office's imminent multibillion-dollar suit for FIRREA penalties, reflects the seriousness of the lapses that caused staggering losses and wider economic damage.''
This settlement also resolves the complaint filed against Bank of America in August 2013 by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of North Carolina concerning an $850 million securitization. Bank of America acknowledges that it marketed this securitization as being backed by bank-originated ''prime'' mortgages that were underwritten in accordance with its underwriting guidelines. Yet, Bank of America knew that a significant number of loans in the security were ''wholesale'' mortgages originated through mortgage brokers and that based on its internal reporting, such loans were experiencing a marked increase in underwriting defects and a noticeable decrease in performance. Notwithstanding these red flags, the bank sold these RMBS to federally backed financial institutions without conducting any third party due diligence on the securitized loans and without disclosing key facts to investors in the offering documents filed with the SEC. A related case concerning the same securitization was filed by the SEC against Bank of America and is also being resolved as part of this settlement.
''Today's settlement attests to the fact that fraud pervaded every level of the RMBS industry, including purportedly prime securities, which formed the basis of our filed complaint,'' said U.S. Attorney Anne M. Tompkins for the Western District of North Carolina. ''Even reputable institutions like Bank of America caved to the pernicious forces of greed and cut corners, putting profits ahead of their customers. As we deal with the aftermath of the financial meltdown and rebuild our economy, we will hold accountable firms that contributed to the economic crisis. Today's settlement makes clear that my office will not sit idly while fraud occurs in our backyard.''
The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Central District of California has been investigating the origination and securitization practices of Countrywide as part of the RMBS Working Group effort. The statement of facts describes how Countrywide typically represented to investors that it originated loans based on underwriting standards that were designed to ensure that borrowers could repay their loans, although Countrywide had information that certain borrowers had a high probability of defaulting on their loans. Countrywide also concealed from RMBS investors its use of ''shadow guidelines'' that permitted loans to riskier borrowers than Countrywide's underwriting guidelines would otherwise permit. Countrywide's origination arm was motivated by the ''saleability'' of loans and Countrywide was willing to originate ''exception loans'' (i.e., loans that fell outside of its underwriting guidelines) so long as the loans, and the attendant risk, could be sold. This led Countrywide to expand its loan offerings to include, for example, ''Extreme Alt-A'' loans, which one Countrywide executive described as a ''hazardous product,'' although Countrywide failed to tell RMBS investors that these loans were being originated outside of Countrywide's underwriting guidelines. Countrywide knew that these exception loans were performing far worse than loans originated without exceptions, although it never disclosed this fact to investors.
''The Central District of California has taken the lead in the department's investigation of Countrywide Financial Corporation,'' said Acting U.S. Attorney Stephanie Yonekura for the Central District of California. ''Countrywide's improper securitization practices resulted in billions of dollars of losses to federally-insured financial institutions. We are pleased that this investigation has resulted in a multibillion-dollar recovery to compensate the United States for the losses caused by Countrywide's misconduct.''
In addition to the matters relating to the securitization of toxic mortgages, today's settlement also resolves claims arising out of misrepresentations made to government entities concerning the origination of residential mortgages.
The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York, along with the Federal Housing Finance Agency's Office of Inspector General and the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program, conducted investigations into the origination of defective residential mortgage loans by Countrywide's Consumer Markets Division and Bank of America's Retail Lending Division as well as the fraudulent sale of such loans to the government sponsored enterprises Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (the ''GSEs''). The investigation into these practices, as well as three private whistleblower lawsuits filed under seal pursuant to the False Claims Act, are resolved in connection with this settlement. As part of the settlement, Countrywide and Bank of America have agreed to pay $1 billion to resolve their liability under the False Claims Act. The FIRREA penalty to be paid by Bank of America as part of the settlement also resolves the government's claims against Bank of America and Countrywide under FIRREA for loans fraudulently sold to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. In addition, Countrywide and Bank of America made admissions concerning their conduct, including that they were aware that many of the residential mortgage loans they had made to borrowers were defective, that many of the representations and warranties they made to the GSEs about the quality of the loans were inaccurate, and that they did not self-report to the GSEs mortgage loans they had internally identified as defective.
''For years, Countrywide and Bank of America unloaded toxic mortgage loans on the government sponsored enterprises Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac with false representations that the loans were quality investments,'' said U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara for the Southern District of New York. ''This office has already obtained a jury verdict of fraud and a judgment for over a billion dollars against Countrywide and Bank of America for engaging in similar conduct. Now, this settlement, which requires the bank to pay another billion dollars for false statements to the GSEs, continues to send a clear message to Wall Street that mortgage fraud cannot be a cost of doing business.''
The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of New York, together with its partners from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), conducted a two-year investigation into whether Bank of America knowingly made loans insured by the FHA in violation of applicable underwriting guidelines. The investigation established that the bank caused the FHA to insure loans that were not eligible for FHA mortgage insurance. As a result, HUD incurred hundreds of millions of dollars of losses. Moreover, many of Bank of America's borrowers have defaulted on their FHA mortgage loans and have either lost or are in the process of losing their homes to foreclosure.
''As a Direct Endorser of FHA insured loans, Bank of America performs a critical role in home lending,'' said U.S. Attorney Loretta E. Lynch for the Eastern District of New York. ''It is a gatekeeper entrusted with the authority to commit government funds earmarked for facilitating mortgage lending to first-time and low-income homebuyers, senior citizen homeowners and others seeking or owning homes throughout the nation, including many who live in the Eastern District of New York. In obtaining a payment of $800 million and sweeping relief for troubled homeowners, we have not just secured a meaningful remedy for the bank's conduct, but have sent a powerful message of deterrence.''
''Bank of America failed to make accurate and complete disclosure to investors and its illegal conduct kept investors in the dark,'' said Rhea Kemble Dignam, Regional Director of the SEC's Atlanta Office. ''Requiring an admission of wrongdoing as part of Bank of America's agreement to resolve the SEC charges filed today provides an additional level of accountability for its violation of the federal securities laws.''
''Today's settlement with Bank of America is another important step in the Obama Administration's efforts to provide relief to American homeowners who were hurt during the housing crisis,'' said U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Julin Castro. ''This global settlement will strengthen the FHA fund and Ginnie Mae, and it will provide $7 billion in consumer relief with a focus on helping borrowers in areas that were the hardest hit during the crisis. HUD will continue working with the Department of Justice, state attorneys general, and other partners to take appropriate action to hold financial institutions accountable and provide consumers with the relief they need to stay in their homes. HUD remains committed to solidifying the housing recovery and creating more opportunities for Americans to succeed.''
''Bank of America and the banks it bought securitized billions of dollars of defective mortgages,'' said Acting Inspector General Michael P. Stephens of the FHFA-OIG. ''Investors, including Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, suffered enormous losses by purchasing RMBS from Bank of America, Countrywide and Merrill Lynch not knowing about those defects. Today's settlement is a significant, but by no means final step by FHFA-OIG and its law enforcement partners to hold accountable those who committed acts of fraud and deceit.''
The attorneys general of California, Delaware, Illinois, Kentucky, Maryland and New York also conducted related investigations that were critical to bringing about this settlement. In addition, the settlement resolves investigations conducted by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and litigation filed by the Federal Deposit Insurance Company (FDIC).
The RMBS Working Group is a federal and state law enforcement effort focused on investigating fraud and abuse in the RMBS market that helped lead to the 2008 financial crisis. The RMBS Working Group brings together more than 200 attorneys, investigators, analysts and staff from dozens of state and federal agencies including the Department of Justice, 10 U.S. Attorneys' Offices, the FBI, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), HUD's Office of Inspector General, the FHFA-OIG, the Office of the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program, the Federal Reserve Board's Office of Inspector General, the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, and more than 10 state attorneys general offices around the country.
The RMBS Working Group is led by Director Geoffrey Graber and five co-chairs: Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division Stuart Delery, Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division Leslie Caldwell, Director of the SEC's Division of Enforcement Andrew Ceresney, U.S. Attorney for the District of Colorado John Walsh and New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.
Investigations were led by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Leticia Vandehaar of the District of New Jersey; Dan Ryan and Mark Odulio of the Western District of North Carolina; George Cardona and Lee Weidman of the Central District of Carolina; Richard Hayes and Kenneth Abell of the Eastern District of New York; and Pierre Armand and Jaimie Nawaday of the Southern District of New York.
Learn more about the RMBS Working Group and the Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force at:www.stopfraud.gov.
2nd Half
QEG OPEN SOURCED | HOPEGIRL BLOG
Sun, 24 Aug 2014 13:35
As Promised, here are the open sourced documents for a quantum energy generator. This has been made possible by the people and for the people. It is freely given to the world.
CLICK HERE FOR QEG OPEN SOURCE DOCUMENTS
An average modern household requires 5-10KW of power to operate.
A conventional generator needs 15KW to produce 10KW of power.
To produce these 15KW of power we rely on gas, diesel, propane, coal or other products that can be metered creating profits for the oil industry.
130 years ago Nikola Tesla invented and patented an energy generator. This is a resonance machine that only needs 1KW of input power to produce 10KW of output power. His patents are now in the public domain.
The Fix the World Organization has reproduced Teslas design with a few modern twists to generate the same results. Our Quantum Energy Generator (QEG) provides 10KW of power output for less than 1KW input, which it supplies to itself.
We have freely given this technology to the people of the world. We've open sourced a full set of instructions, user manual, schematics and parts list for any engineer to follow and reproduce the same results.
How the QEG works:First we use a starting power source, such as an outlet or a crank to power the 1 horsepower motor. This motor spins the rotor in the generator core. The unique oscillator circuitry configuration in the generator core causes resonance to occur. Once the core achieves this resonance it can produce up to 10KW of power, which can then be run through an inverter to power the motor that spins the rotor. You can then unplug the motor from the original power source and the generator will power itself.
Cottage Industry Community Units specifically for the production of QEG's are NOW developing in communities in 30+ countries. The People are making their own free energy devices.
The QEG belongs to humanity now. Many will make further improvements and we will all co-develop this practical bridge technology together.
The QEG: For the People and By the People
Fix the World is currently traveling to Taiwan, London and Morocco for the month of April to help communities build QEG's. Everything we have accomplished has been made possible by the donations of people like you. If you would like to help keep us going, every little bit helps! Please consider giving back and making a donation of any amount to the Fix the World Organization. By Clicking here:
http://hopegirl2012.wordpress.com/donate-to-hopegirl-ftw/
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Vaccine$
AIDS Healthcare Foundation Launches Ad Campaign Against PrEP
Sun, 24 Aug 2014 04:44
AIDS Healthcare Foundation, one of the world's largest HIV/AIDS healthcare organizations, announced Friday it is rolling out a campaign to highlight concerns it has over the use of a daily pill for pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) to prevent HIV infection as a public health strategy against the spread of the virus.
The organization will run advertisements with information from studies about adherence to the pill's daily regimen in several publications within the next week.
The pill, marketed as Truvada by Gilead Sciences, has been shown to reduce HIV infection when taken daily as directed along with using condoms and was recently recommended for populations at high risk of HIV infection by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization.
But AHF cautions individuals who may be interested in taking PrEP, community organizations, and public health officials in government against the widespread use of the PrEP pill for HIV prevention efforts, saying people will fail to take the pill every day as directed for the drugs to work.
''The bottom line is that people won't adhere and take the pill,'' Michael Weinstein, president of AHF, told BuzzFeed. ''That's what studies have shown. If this catches on as a public health strategy, that means there are going to be people who will take Truvada irregularly and some will be infected, and some develop drug resistance.''
AHF cites studies showing that due to issues with adherence among people taking the drug in clinical trials, PrEP efficacy is about 50%, Weinstein said. Because of this, he said ''a government-sanctioned widespread scale up of PrEP appears to be a public health disaster in the making.'' Additionally, there is no research showing PrEP's effectiveness as a public health strategy, he told BuzzFeed.
The AHF campaign comes just months after New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the state's new strategy in its fight against HIV/AIDS, which includes increasing access to Truvada through the state's Medicaid program and its own public information campaign to raise awareness about PrEP '-- in addition to identifying people who may not not know they're HIV positive so that they are linked to treatment, and working to ensure that people who are HIV-positive are getting the care and treatment they need. AHF condemned Cuomo's inclusion of PrEP in the plan.
But New York public health officials are not alone in considering PrEP as part of HIV prevention strategy.
In May, the CDC issued clinical guidelines on PrEP to prevent HIV transmission, saying that if taken daily as directed along with using condoms, it is over 90% effective in preventing HIV infection. The government health agency recommended that doctors with patients at high risk of infection should consider PrEP as part of their HIV prevention strategy, including regular HIV and STD testing and condom use. In July, the WHO announced a similar recommendation, saying men who have sex with men should consider PrEP as an additional method of preventing HIV infection. These recommendations, according to AHF, were ''misguided.''
Advocates at GMHC, an HIV/AIDS healthcare and advocacy group in New York City, agreed with AHF's point that adherence to the drug is crucial to it being effective in protecting people from HIV, but said that discouraging people to consider PrEP is problematic.
''The only disaster would be to stop encouraging people to explore taking PrEP if they are at high-risk for contracting HIV,'' said Anthony Hayes, GMHC's managing director of public affairs and policy, in a statement to BuzzFeed. ''The fact is adherence is key to any drug regiment, including [antiretroviral drugs], and we are not going to tell people who are HIV-positive to stop taking ARVs because some do not practice strict adherence.''
Hayes said GMHC disagrees with the position that PrEP should not be included in public health strategies. ''We believe more people should explore being on PrEP to reduce the risk of contracting HIV and it should absolutely be included in the strategy along with comprehensive education that includes emphasizing that adherence is key to effectiveness.''
Weinstein said that AHF is not alone in its reservations about PrEP, as many doctors and people in general question using it. With that, he emphasized that the conversation around PrEP has shifted from suggested it be used along with condoms to using it instead of condoms, which he said will expose people to other STDs such as syphilis, among others. People have become ''cavalier'' when it comes to STDs, he said.
Fewer than 10,000 prescriptions have been written for Truvada to be used as PrEP, the CDC said when it announced its recommendations. It's price tag, at about $1,300 per month, is also a factor in access, although insurance plans cover it and there are assistance programs, such as one through Gilead.
Despite the campaign, Weinstein said AHF is not opposed to individuals and doctors considering and ultimately moving forward with using PrEP. ''We don't tell our doctors not to prescribe it or doctors in general not to prescribe it,'' he said. ''But as for a public health measure, you have to look at the data from the studies. This is not a question of my opinion.''
The cure for cancer that parents won't use - The Washington Post
Fri, 22 Aug 2014 17:57
By Meredith WadmanAugust 21 at 7:05 PM
Meredith Wadman is an Eric and Wendy Schmidt Fellow at the New America Foundation. She is writing a book on vaccine history.
Not so long ago, when my sons still had smooth cheeks and children's voices, I had them vaccinated against human papillomavirus, the most common sexually transmitted disease. It was late 2011, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had just recommended that boys join girls in being vaccinated at age 11 or 12. I was certainly receptive: HPV, as it's commonly called, causes cervical cancer, cancer of the tonsils, cancer of the back of the tongue and, less often, cancers of the vulva, vagina, anus and penis. It seemed important to ensure that my kids were protected.
Yet numbers released last month by the CDC show that my sons, now 14 and 15, are among a small minority of adolescent males who have been vaccinated. In 2013, just 14 percent of American boys ages 13 to 17 had received all three recommended doses of the HPV vaccine. (The CDC also recommends ''catch-up'' vaccination for males up to age 21.)
Not that parents are rushing to have their girls vaccinated either, even though the CDC first recommended the vaccine for prepubescent girls in 2007 and virtually all insurers pay for it. In 2013, fewer than 38 percent of American girls between 13 and 17 had received the full three-dose course.
It is heartbreaking to watch a safe, effective vaccine go unused. Consider this: The CDC estimates that increasing the vaccination rate of American girls to 80 percent would prevent 53,000 cervical cancers during the lifetimes of girls who are now 12 and younger.
When I had my sons vaccinated, it was partly with girls in mind. After all, if fewer young men are infected, fewer young women will be exposed to the virus that causes cervical cancer '-- currently the most common cancer prevented by the vaccine. But now I am realizing that HPV poses a growing risk to boys.
A new breed of cancer of the back of the tongue and tonsils, caused by HPV, is rising in incidence '-- likely caused, researchers suspect, by increases in premarital sex and oral sex over the past several decades. These cancers afflict men far more often than women, and at relatively younger ages than do other head and neck cancers, which typically appear in men older than 60. Middle-aged men who don't die from their HPV-linked cancer often must live for years with the side effects of intensive chemotherapy and radiation delivered to the back of the throat. These can include the permanent inability to swallow and the appearance later of new, aggressive, radiation-induced cancers.
If this trend continues, we are going to see more cancer of the back of the tongue and the tonsils caused by HPV. One recent analysis of 30 studies, conducted by University of Wisconsin researchers, found that the proportion of such cancers caused by HPV rose from 21 percent before 1990 to 65 percent after 2000. Anil Chaturvedi of the National Cancer Institute and his colleagues have estimated, based on recent trends, that by 2020 there will be more new cases of these HPV-induced throat cancers in the United States each year than new cervical cancer cases.
So the actor Michael Douglas did us all a service when he was so frank with Britain's Guardian newspaper last year. When asked if his throat cancer had been caused by heavy drinking and smoking, which are also risk factors for the disease, the actor replied: ''No. I mean, without getting too specific, this particular cancer in tests is caused by something called HPV, which actually comes about from cunnilingus.''
Many parents don't like to think of their 11- and 12-year-olds as sexual creatures. Ironically, the CDC recommendation assumes not that kids are sexually active at this tender age but rather that they are not:'‰The point of vaccination is to close the door before the horse is out of the barn.
It's no use telling yourself that your child isn't ''that kind'' of kid. The fact is, HPV is so common that almost all sexually active adults are infected at some point. Last year, the CDC estimated that about 79 million Americans were infected, most of them in their late teens and early 20s.
Most people who get HPV have a transient infection that their immune system clears with no lasting damage. But in some people, the virus takes up residence and goes on to cause cancer. I am grateful that, thanks to the HPV vaccine, I will never have to find out if my sons fell into that second, unlucky group.
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Cultural Marxism
Photographer Accused of Posting 'Pornographic' Photos of His 2-Year-Old, Here's How He Responded
Sun, 24 Aug 2014 03:23
Wyatt Neumann is a photographer and father who last year took his two-year-old daughter Stella on a road trip across the country, documenting their travels as they went. Along the way he captured beautiful landscapes, pictures of the open road, as well as a handful of adorable images of Stella wearing what two-year-olds very often wear: a fairy dress or nothing at all.
Normally, when put in a family photo album or a personal collection to show off to friends, this sort of subject matter isn't an issue. But, as Neumann found out the hard way, these nude but non-explicit images engendered an entirely different reaction when he posted them online.
As the trip progressed, Neumann shared the images from his travels with his daughter through Facebook and Instagram. Until, that is, about halfway through the road trip when the images began drawing criticism from people the world over.
The public backlash of the images brought a hailstorm of critics who called them ''perverse,'' ''sick'' and ''pornographic.'' Specifically, a group from the website Get Off My Internets began verbally attacking Neumann for publishing these images after a forum thread drew more attention to the photos than he had ever anticipated.
Before long, members of the site sent out a plethora of complaints to both Facebook and Instagram and managed to get Neumann's profiles suspended. Eventually reinstated, it was the broad criticism of both him and his daughter and the suspension of his accounts that lead Neumann to realize this was a matter of freedom of expression and the freedom of speech.
It was then that he came up with the idea to turn these images into a gallery and accompanying book. Aptly titled I FEEL SORRY FOR YOUR CHILDREN: The Sexualization of Innocence in America, The Safari Gallery exhibition and book take what Neumann hopes is an honest look at what childhood is and what it's been turned into. As he explains in his artist statement:
What's troubling is the abject reviling of the human body, the intense and overt sexualization of the natural form, especially the naked bodies of carefree young children, who have yet to feel the burden of institutionalized body image awareness and the embarrassment that comes with adolescence. My children are free, they live without shame.
As part of the series, the gallery and book featured images from their entire road trip, not just of Stella. And along with each image comes a comment, one of the comments left on the nude or semi-nude photos of Stella by the people who were so offended by those images.
Neumann says he is committed to ''showcas[ing] the lives [his children] get to live, express myself, and catalog the reality of my children's experience.'' As for the online critics who had more than a handful of words to share with Neumann in regards to the images of his naked child, his closing statement seems to sum it up fairly well:
So the choice seems clear: do we live in fear and condemnation? Or do we celebrate one another, and ourselves, in this life? I choose to believe in our ability to fight fear with love, ignorance with understanding, and to unite rather than divide. But you be the judge'... is this pornography, art, expression, or exploitation. It's up to us to either cower in fear, or liberate ourselves and live.
Below are a number of images Neumann was kind enough to share with us, presented as they were in the exhibition: alongside the critical, hateful and often vulgar words of anonymous strangers who commented on the images of Stella:
''This man is a sick f**k. Why in the world would you do this to your child? Great job, Wyatt Neumann. That poor little girl'...'' -Ships Go Overboard aka It Burns, April 26, 2014 6:23pm
''He's an attention seeking f**k. Wake up, Wyatt, you f**king piece of s**t.'' -SelenaKyle, April 26, 2014 8:59am
''He seems like a d**k. I want to puke. The nude photos are gross and disturbing.'' -tunawhiskers, April 25, 2014 4:09pm
''Every good thing you are and every good thing you do is cancelled out by the fact that you exploit your children. You truly have no right to do this to them.'' -skeptical girl is skeptical, April 26, 2014 1:55pm
''Way to serve your daughter up on a plate, sicko. I will be sure to email you directly when I find this image being traded on the deep web, Wyatt, you sick f**k.'' -your mirror lied to you, April 26, 2014 10:27am
''I doubt she'll ever be in a real school, have any real friends, or develop any real attachments to anything because that would be counterproductive to the isolation her parents probably want to keep her and her brother in. I'll bet the only people they're around are their parents 'like-minded' adult friends, a healthy portion of which are probably pedophiles that they're too blind to see are right there waiting to get their children alone for 5 minutes.'' -NamelyThis, April 26, 2014 12:47pm
''I am a licensed clinical social worker and I work with abused children and adults every day. I have listened to children tell me about their parents selling them for sex to buy drugs, about parents who locked them away in closets for hours at a time without food or water because they wouldn't stop crying, about parents who beat their children to within an inch of their life, just for being a child. Wyatt, you clearly hold yourself to a higher esteem than those people, but I don't. You are no better than they are.''
Here's a feature of Neumann by Vocativ (warning: contains strong language):
To learn more about this project or see any of Neumann's other work, be sure to visit his website by clicking here.
(via Huffington Post)
Image credits: Photographs by Wyatt Neumann and used with permission

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