Dec 30 2009
Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D OH-10), Chairman of the Domestic Policy Subcommittee of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, is calling for an investigation of lifting of the $400 billion cap by the Treasury Department and possible corruption.
This is Rep. Kucinich’s statement:
As Chairman of the Domestic Policy Subcommittee of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, I’m announcing that the Subcommittee will launch an investigation into the Treasury Department’s recent decision to lift the current $400-billion cap on combined federal assistance to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, opening the way for additional, unlimited funds through the end of 2012. This investigation will include the role played by Fannie Mae chief executive Michael J. Williams and Freddie Mac chief executive Charles E. Haldeman in the decision, if any, and will seek to ensure that the additional assistance is used for homeowners and not Wall Street.
Many questions remain unanswered regarding this move by the Treasury. Why suddenly remove the cap? Indications are that Freddie and Fannie, even as millions of Americans lose their homes, have used just $111 billion of the $400 billion previously available to them. Is lifting the cap on assistance a back-door TARP?
Additionally, I want to determine whether Fannie and Freddie have a cohesive plan to buy up the under-performing mortgages that remain on the books of the big banks, at appropriate prices, and undertake a massive reworking of the terms of the mortgages so as to stem the foreclosure crisis that continues to plague our country.This new authority must be used responsibly and for the benefit of American families. This cannot be used simply to purchase toxic assets at inflated prices, thus transferring the losses to the U. S. taxpayers and acting as a back-door TARP.
As a result of a curiously-timed Christmas Eve announcement by the Treasury Department, the mortgage giants will have access to unlimited funds without having to come back to Congress. Since the federal government is the majority owner of both companies, their operations will remain under Administration control.
This relationship between Treasury and Fannie and Freddie bears inspection, particularly in the wake of reports that the mortgage giants’ chief executives will now receive $900,000 each in annual compensation, bonuses of up to $6 million each, and an additional $42 million in special compensation will be spread among a dozen other executives.
Dec 27 2009
Weekend News Digest is an Open Thread
This Sunday’s Edition is being brought to you, one more time, by TMC. Hopefully ek hornbeck has survived the Holiday in Stars Hollow and will return to the news to its regular format. It was fun. 😉
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – There is no initial evidence that the Nigerian man charged with trying to blow up a U.S. passenger jet was involved in a larger plot, a senior U.S. official said on Sunday.
But al Qaeda involvement is a “subject of investigation” in Friday’s incident, U.S. homeland security chief Janet Napolitano said after U.S. authorities on Saturday charged Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, 23, with attempting to blow up the plane by setting alight an explosive device attached to his body.
The suspect, who was being treated for burns at a Michigan hospital, was overpowered by passengers and crew on the Northwest Airlines plane from Amsterdam on Christmas Day with almost 300 people on board.
“Well, right now we have no indication that it is part of anything larger. But obviously the investigation continues. And we have instituted more screening and what we call mitigation measures at airports,” U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano told CNN’s “State of the Union” program.
Asked whether al Qaeda was involved in the incident, Napolitano told ABC’s “This Week” program, “That is now the subject of investigation, and it would be inappropriate for me to say and inappropriate to speculate. So we will let the FBI and the criminal justice system now do their work.”
Dec 27 2009
Wed Dec 23, 1:22 pm ET
STOCKHOLM (Reuters) – Arsonists set fire early on Wednesday to a giant straw statue of the Swedish Yule goat, a forerunner to Santa Claus in Sweden, defying security measures for a third year in a row.
Police in Gavle, north of Stockholm, said an unknown number of attackers had torched the goat in the early morning hours, leaving a blackened skeleton standing in the town square.
“It’s a tradition to burn it down,” Lofberg said. “It’s happened an untold number of times since the 1960s … it’s been burned down more years than it’s survived.”
Burning the goat has been a popular, and illegal, tradition in Gavle since the 1960s when an advertising executive first came up with the idea to endow the city with a giant replica of the goat, a Christmas decoration common in many Swedish homes.
There were no witnesses, but a bottle of lighter fluid was found near the goat’s frame, which stood about 12 meters tall at the apex of its horns, police told Reuters.
OK, Dear Hearts, take it away. Feel free to add anything wierd, odd or just plain too stupid to be believed. This is a Weird Open Thread
Dec 26 2009
Weekend News Digest is an Open Thread
This Saturday’s Edition is being brought to you by TMC, so ek hornbeck can sleep late on his GrandDad’s red leather couch at his family’s Lake House for the Holiday. Buhdy, E.K., NPK, Mishima, OTB & All you DharmaDarlings, Happy Holiday to you and your families.
PATONG, Thailand (Reuters) – Thousands of candles lit up Thailand’s Patong beach, thousands of saffron-robed Buddhist monks marched and people held vigils as Asia marked the fifth anniversary of the Indian Ocean tsunami on Saturday.
Hundreds of lanterns floated into the sky at Patong in one of many events across the region in memory of one of history’s worst natural disasters when towering waves crashed ashore with little warning, killing 226,000 people in 13 countries.
“We came here to remember those who died,” said Sainamphueng Kachan, 32, who lost 20 friends in the tsunami and was among the tourists, mourners and tsunami survivors gathered in bustling Patong to light candles dug into holes in the beach.
In Indonesia’s Banda Aceh, about 100 people took part in a prayer ceremony close to a fishing boat that landed on the rooftop of a two-storey house after being swept miles inland.
Indonesia was the worst hit with more than 166,000 dead and missing. Massive reconstruction aid in Banda Aceh has rebuilt a new city on top of the ruins but survivors are only now putting memories of the disaster behind them.
I have a personal interest is the anniversary of this disaster since I spent 5 months there.
Dec 26 2009
Welcome to this week’s Health and Fitness.
This following article is because I love you guys and because I know you have loved ones.
Bystanders who witness the sudden collapse of an adult should call 911 and then provide high-quality chest compressions by pushing hard and fast in the middle of the victim’s chest, with minimal interruptions. Studies of real emergencies that have occurred in homes, at work or in public locations, show that these two steps, called Hands-Only™ CPR, can be equally or even more effective than conventional CPR.
As is now custom, I’ll try to include the more interesting and pertinent articles that will help the community awareness of their health and bodies. This essay will not be posted anywhere else due to constraints on my time. Please feel free to make suggestions for improvement and ask questions, I’ll answer as best I can.
Dec 22 2009
This is not the Top Ten you might think. These are the Top Ten Humanitarian Crises from around the world that are selected by Doctors Without Borders at the end of each year.
New York, December 21, 2009 – Civilians attacked, bombed, and cut off from aid in Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), along with stagnant funding for treating HIV/AIDS and ongoing neglect of other diseases, were among the worst emergencies in 2009, the international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) reported today in its annual list of the “Top Ten” humanitarian crises.
Continuing crises in north and south Sudan, along with the failure of the international community to finally combat childhood malnutrition were also included on this year’s list. The list is drawn from MSF’s operational activities in close to 70 countries, where the organization’s medical teams witnessed some of the worst humanitarian conditions.
Dec 20 2009
Weekend News Digest is an Open Thread
This Sunday’s Edition is being brought to you by TMC, so ek hornbeck can bake cookies.
The Top News Story
East Coast hammered by severe winter storm
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A weekend nor’easter buried much of the U.S. East Coast on Saturday and Sunday, disrupting public transport and air travel and hampering holiday shoppers on the last weekend before Christmas.
Up to 22 inches of snow was expected by Saturday night in the Baltimore-Washington area, more than any snowstorm to hit the region since February 2003, as the storm system moved north into New York and New England.
With snow falling at a rate of two inches an hour, most flights were canceled at the three major Washington-area airports before two of them, Reagan and BWI, were closed until Sunday morning. Delays and cancellations also hit Philadelphia’s international airport.
The driving snowstorm did not stop U.S. senators from convening and Democrats secured the pivotal 60th vote of holdout Senator Ben Nelson needed to ensure passage of the healthcare overhaul bill by Christmas.
But the storm could take a big bite out of retail sales on one of the busiest shopping weekend of the year.
Washington Mayor Adrian Fenty declared a snow emergency and asked District of Columbia residents to keep off the streets as the U.S. capital faced what one TV station dubbed “The Shopper Stopper Storm.”
Dec 19 2009
Is there such a thing as a ‘just war’? The problem with that question is that when we answer ‘yes’, we end up in a world where there is ‘just war’–just war as an ultimate solution to every problem, whether it be terrorists, international diplomacy, drugs in our streets or bugs in our gardens. War becomes the default setting for all of our responses. War becomes the measure of manhood and the definer of strength. War constrains our imaginations and limits our intelligence.
A chemical farmer sees a bug in his field, and declares war. Out come the poisons and the sprays, the herbicides and the neurotoxins, dangerous and costly.. Kill the enemy! The result–poison on the vegetables, beneficial insects die, some pests always survive, making the problem worse.
An organic farmer sees a pest, and says, “Hmmn, here’s an interesting piece of information. Something in the system is out of balance. Perhaps some mineral is lacking in the soil, that’s weakening the plants. What can I do to shift the balance, to create conditions that will favor the beneficial bugs that will keep the pests in check?” Result–increased fertility, clean and nutritious vegetables, bright flowers growing among the fields, reduced damage to crops and increased health for farmworkers and consumers.
Our policy in the Middle East and Afghanistan, for decades, has been that of the chemical farmer–kill the enemy, and anything else that might happen to be in the vicinity, including civilians and potential allies, and when resistance develops, apply more of the same, regardless of cost. Then call it a ‘just war’.
Imagine what our policy might be if, instead, we were guided by the maxim of the clever politician Harry Seldon from Isaac Asimov’s classic science fiction novel, Foundation. “Violence is the last resort of the incompetent.”
We might develop a policy more like that of the organic farmer–looking for the underlying forces that create the imbalance, that favor the development of terrorism and anti-U.S. sentiments. We might look for ways to support and favor the elements within Afghani or Iraqi or Iranian society that make for health, resilience, and liberty instead of employing the force that creates a perfect habitat for resentment, hatred, repression and terror. We might have supported and protected our Kurdish and Shiite allies after the first Gulf War instead of abandoning and betraying them. We might support the women’s organizations in Afghanistan who, even under the Taliban, struggled heroically for women’s rights. We might look at the model of Otpor, a student group who successfully overthrew the dictator Miloscevic using nonviolent resistance–with some strategic help and funding from outside. We might support the nonviolent resistance among the Palestinians, pressure the Israelis to lift the stranglehold siege on Gaza, to restrain their use of disproportionate force and to recognize that their true security can only be gained when Palestinians also have peace, security, and a just recognition of their human rights.
I’m deeply disappointed in Obama, because he is intelligent enough to forge such a policy. However, he operates in a country still controlled by a deep assumption–that strength equals force and violence, that a man who is reluctant to use force is less than a man, that a nation who refrains from wholesale slaughter is ‘weak’. I can’t help but think that his decision to send more troops to Afghanistan has less to do with the ‘justness’ of the conflict and more to do with the politics back home–an attempt to placate his right wing detractors and to look strong in their eyes.
In my futuristic novel, “The Fifth Sacred Thing,” my character Maya says, “For five thousand years, men have been goading each other into acts of brutality and stupidity by calling each other cowards.”
Until we confront that assumption, until we challenge our ‘real men’ and real women to embody a different sort of strength–the strength that nurtures, that heals, that uses intelligence and thoughtfulness and diplomacy to solve problems instead of brute force, until the thought of violence becomes abhorrent to us all, we will have no clear yardstick by which to measure any sort of justice.
Something to ponder on a snowy day.
cross posted at The Wild Wild Left
Dec 19 2009
Welcome to this weeks Health and Fitness.
The pattern of mutations in cancer could eventually be used to tailor treatments to particular patients
Scientists have reconstructed the biological history of two types of cancer in a genetic tour de force that promises to transform medical treatment of the disease.
The feat, a world first, lays bare every genetic mutation the patients have acquired over their lifetimes that eventually caused healthy cells in their bodies to turn into tumours.
The procedure gives doctors a profound insight into the biological causes of a patient’s cancer and marks a major milestone in progress towards personalised anticancer therapies and strategies to prevent the disease.
“This is a really fundamental moment in the history of cancer research. We have never seen cancer revealed in this way before,” said Mike Stratton, a co-leader of the Cancer Genome Project at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute near Cambridge.
This is a stunning breakthrough in understanding how cancer mutates, treating it and, perhaps one day, cure it.
Turkana, in his essay at the Left Coaster, provides more information and further discussion in understanding the importance of this monumental break through.
As is now custom, I’ll try to include the more interesting and pertinent articles that will help the community awareness of their health and bodies. This essay will not be posted anywhere else due to constraints on my time and in January it will be coming to you from Paris, Fr. for awhile. Please feel free to make suggestions for improvement and ask questions, I’ll answer as best I can.
Dec 18 2009
This bill just gets worse. Sen. Ben Nelson turned down a compromise to his draconian proposal on abortion and now says he has “other” concerns about the bill.
WASHINGTON – A moderate Democrat whose vote could be crucial said Thursday an attempted Senate compromise on abortion is unsatisfactory, raising doubts about whether the chamber can pass President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul by Christmas.
“As it is, without modifications, the language concerning abortion is not sufficient,” Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson, a key holdout on the health care bill, said in a statement after first making his concerns known to Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.
Nelson said there were positive improvements dealing with teen pregnancy and adoption, and that he was open to further negotiations. But in a radio interview earlier in the day with KLIN in Lincoln, Nebraska, Nelson also said that abortion wasn’t his only concern and he didn’t see how the Christmas deadline was achievable.
Dec 16 2009
I am beginning to see the inevitable healthcare “compromise” as the product of a political song and dance conducted by Democrats and Republicans solely to appease various constituencies within their parties — and nothing else. Remarkably, The Onion accurately assessed the situation several months ago with the satirical essay “Congress Deadlocked Over How To Not Provide Health Care.” The Onion “quotes” Nancy Pelosi in a very smart passage:
Both parties understand that the current system is broken,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters Monday. “But what we can’t seem to agree upon is how to best keep it broken, while still ensuring that no elected official takes any political risk whatsoever. It’s a very complicated issue