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RICHISTAN: The Rich Are Saving Cash At A Record Pace

It seems so long ago. But in 2009, many of the wealthy were stunned to find themselves in a cash crunch. Despite all the talk of cash cushions and risk management, many of the wealthy suddenly realized that they had overborrowed, overspent and overconcentrated on a single asset or industry.

We had suddenly entered the new age of the High-Beta Rich, where the wealth was volatile and far more cash was needed to absorb the shocks of financial markets.

Four years later, the lesson still holds.

A study from Spectrem Group asked wealthy and affluent investors "what do you wish you had done differently in the crisis."

(Read more: Retirement, the rich and the superrich)

For the top earners—those making $750,000 or more—the No. 1 answer was "saved more." Ranked second was "done more research about finances on my own" and then "not taken on as much debt."



Election Officials Catch Dead Man Donating $100,000 To Sen. Mitch McConnell

Officials with a Kentucky super PAC supporting Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) blame a computer error for a $100,000 contribution that appeared more than a month after the donor died. Meanwhile, the Libertarian Party filed a federal lawsuit to lift limits on posthumous donations.

“This is pure free speech,” an attorney for the Libertarian party, Alan Gura told USA Today. “A dead person can’t corrupt someone.”

The lawsuit, currently pending before a federal appellate court, seeks to count a $217,000 donation by a deceased Tennessee man, Raymond Groves Burrington, as a lump sum donation for the party’s national committee instead of dispersing it in annual installments. Records show a trust in Burrington’s name has already given the party $153,200.

Federal regulations currently limit posthumous political donations to no more than $5,200 a year for a federal candidate during an election cycle and $32,400 for parties.

USA Today reported that 32 people listed as dead on federal campaign records are credited with more than $586,000 in contributions since Jan. 1, 2009, with just under 20 percent of that coming from the donation to McConnell’s group, Kentuckians for Strong Leadership, from Texas home developer Bob Perry, a longtime Republican supporter.



1984 Day Sees 'Restore the Fourth' Protests Across the Country

Sunday was "1984 Day" across the United States, a day of protest against the recently disclosed NSA snooping programs. The name is a play on the date 8/4 and a nod to George Orwell's famous book on a surveillance state.

Restore the Fourth, an activism organization born on Reddit, chose the day to call for protests against the NSA in 20 cities across the country. The goal of the organization is to end what its members see as the NSA's unconstitutional surveillance regime and to ensure the enforcement of the Fourth Amendment and its protection against unreasonable searches and seizures.

The organization had its first rally on July 4. That event included rallies across the country, but Sunday's 1984 day included a smattering of activities. In Austin, protesters had a film screening, while in Boston the rally was a march.

San Francisco had a very vocal group of supporters. Their rally included Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg and specifically targeted Nancy Pelosi. The House minority leader is under fire for her opposition to the Amash amendment that would have ended the NSA's collection of phone records through the Patriot Act. The measure lost by only 12 votes. The group is working on getting face time with legislators across the country to tip the balance during the congressional recess, which begins Monday.

In New York City, protesters also raised their voices against the controversial criminal prevention program "stop and frisk," and the alleged discriminatory surveillance of Muslim-Americans. The rally began in Bryant Park with a theatrical performance. Protesters wore masks of President Obama, George W. Bush and NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly. Protesters then had a minute to speak about anything they wanted. Speakers ranged from a teacher, to a self-professed geek, to a girl who said, "I am 10. And I don't believe I should worry about every word that I write in my emails to my friends."



Oakland’s Creepy New Surveillance Program

Earlier this week, the Oakland City Council voted to approve the second phase of a $10.9 million surveillance center that would enable the City to engage in widespread warrantless surveillance of Oakland residents who have engaged in no wrongdoing whatsoever. This is a terrible blow to privacy.

The so-called Domain Awareness Center (DAC) would consolidate a vast network of surveillance data. The project was initially supposed to be about port security.

But in a classic illustration of mission creep, the project as proposed would have pulled in over 1,000 cameras and sensors pointed at Oakland residents, including 700 cameras in Oakland schools.

While surveilling schoolchildren is not going to secure the Port of Oakland, it would allow for the comprehensive tracking of innocent Oakland residents.

The DAC would enable the city to track individuals when they visit the abortion clinic, the Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, or the union hall, or engage in other private activities.



Services in U.S. Expand at Fastest Pace in Five Months

Source: Bloomberg

By Victoria Stilwell - Aug 5, 2013

Service industries in the U.S. expanded in July at the fastest pace in five months, a sign the world’s biggest economy will improve after slowing the last three quarters.

The Institute for Supply Management’s non-manufacturing index increased to 56, exceeding all forecasts in a Bloomberg survey, from a more than three-year low of 52.2 in June, a report from the Tempe, Arizona-based group showed today. The median estimate called for a gain to 53.1. Readings higher than 50 indicate growth in the industries that make up almost 90 percent of the economy.

The figures follow the group’s report last week that showed manufacturing advanced at the fastest rate in more than two years, indicating the expansion is broadening. The recovery in the housing market and record equity values are bolstering household finances, laying the ground for a pickup in consumer spending on goods and services that account for about 70 percent of the economy.

“The pickup in July wasn’t limited to the manufacturing sector,” said Brian Jones, senior U.S. economist at Societe Generale in New York, whose forecast of 55 was the highest forecast in the Bloomberg. “Things are picking up going into the third quarter of the year.”

Read more: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-08-05/ism-non-manufacturing-index-increased-to-56-in-july-from-52-2.html

Retiring the American Empire

As people near retirement age, they enter the twilight years. Sometimes, they rebel against retirement. They want to keep working. They're not interested in shuffling out of their office never to return. And if they're in fact the owner of the workplace, conflicts often ensue. Those who have power rarely want to give up that power.

The United States is relatively young as a country. It is even younger as the "leader of the free world." But for at least three decades, reports have circulated that the American empire has entered its twilight years, perhaps even its dotage.

The U.S. government itself cautioned us to scale back our expectations in the late 1970s when President Jimmy Carter called on Americans to cut back on consumerism and adjust to an age of diminishing expectations. Then, after the Reagan rebound, we were warned by Yale professor Paul Kennedy of imperial overstretch in the late 1980s. The Clinton years saved us from bankruptcy and the George W. Bush administration again reasserted American power in the world.

But now, the United States has again sunk into economic malaise and the wars of the last decade have left the country badly bruised. Historian Alfred McCoy believes the U.S. empire won't make it until 2025. Norwegian sociologist Johan Galtung pulls the horizon a little closer to 2020. It's also possible that the empire already ended and somebody forgot to make the announcement. In 2011, Standard and Poor's removed the United States from its list of risk-free borrowers, putting us below Canada and Australia. That could very well have been the death knell.

Predicting the end of American empire is complicated by the fact that the United States is not a traditional empire. It does not try to maintain territorial control over distant lands (though many residents of Hawai'i and Guam might disagree). It doesn't practice a straightforward policy of pillaging overseas possessions for their material wealth. It practices a form of consensual give-and-take with its allies in Europe and Asia.



Gen. Dempsey: It ‘Wouldn’t Surprise Me’ If Russians, Chinese Have Obtained Snowden’s NSA Secrets

Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that he wouldn’t be surprised if the Russian and Chinese governments had already acquired classified American information allegedly taken by Edward Snowden while he was working as a government contractor for the National Security Agency.

“No, it wouldn’t surprise me, ” Dempsey told ABC’s Martha Raddatz during an interview for “This Week,” saying earlier that that amount of information in Snowden’s possession was “obviously significant.”

Snowden is reported to be carrying 4 laptops with NSA secrets. He was granted one-year asylum this week in Russia after being holed up in a Moscow airport since late June, where he had arrived from Hong Kong. While he was in Hong Kong he revealed himself as the person who had leaked information about NSA surveillance programs to The Guardian and The Washington Post.

Asked by Raddatz if it would be feasible for either the Russians or Chinese to obtain the information on one of Snowden’s computers without physically possessing it, Dempsey said he was unsure.



Only thing that would 'surprise me' is if they didn't...

Rep. Steny Hoyer Again to Lead House Democrats to Israel

Rep. Steny Hoyer, the second-ranked Democrat in the U.S. House of Representatives, again will lead fellow Democrats on a tour of Israel funded by AIPAC’s educational affiliate.

Two freshmen, Reps. Lois Frankel (D-Fla.) and Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), said they would be joining this week’s visit, which will include meetings with Israeli and Palestinian leaders as well as tours of U.S.-funded defense systems, including the short-range Iron Dome anti-missile program.

Such tours, funded by the educational affiliate of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), routinely take place during the August recess of off-election years. Hoyer, the minority whip from Maryland, has led a number of the tours.

A spokeswoman for Hoyer said that 31 of them are freshmen, out of 38 in this class of Democrats. The Democrats’ tour, which lasts about a week, usually is followed by a similar tour for Republican freshmen. In past years the GOP visit has been led by Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.), the House majority leader and the highest-ranking Jewish member of Congress.

Read more at: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/hoyer-again-to-lead-house-democrats-to-israel/2013/08/04/ | The Jewish Press

West Acts Like ‘Bull in China Shop’ in Middle East – Russian PM Medvedev

MOSCOW, August 4 (RIA Novosti) – Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev criticized on Sunday the West’s interference in the Middle East, describing it as a “bull in a china shop.”
In an interview with Russia Today international news TV channel, Medvedev said he agreed with the interviewer that the West often purposefully pushed whole nations to the point of no return, beyond which it was very difficult to convince the warring sides to attempt negotiations.

“Our Western partners sometimes behave like a bull in a china shop – they squeeze in, crush everything and then don’t know what to do next. I often find myself astonished at their analysts and how inconsistent their projects are that they push through by their superiors and at the outcomes they get,” Medvedev told Russia Today.

“If we’re being completely honest, what good did the Arab Spring bring to the Arab world? Did it bring freedom? A little, at best. In most countries it led to endless bloodshed, regime change, and continuous unrest. I have no illusions about that either. As for the pushing you mentioned, yes, unfortunately, that’s true,” Medvedev said.

What happened in Libya and Iraq and what is happening in Syria show that there is a forceful dismantling of a country’s political system under the guise of the fight for national interests, an intrusion into its internal affairs and the installation a loyal political regime, Medvedev said.


Russia Expects Continuity In Iran Cooperation After Rouhani’s Election

4/08/2013 RIA Novosti

Moscow hopes for continuity in Russia-Iran cooperation after the election of Hassan Rouhani as the Islamic Republic’s new president, Russian parliament speaker Sergei Naryshkin said Sunday.

Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khameini, formally endorsed Rouhani as the Islamic Republic’s new president on Saturday in a ceremony attended by senior Iranian officials, including outgoing President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Rouhani, a moderate cleric who won the presidential election in June, is to take the oath of office in Iran's parliament Sunday.

“We expect continuity in relations, continuity in developing cooperation . We noted Rouhani’s statement about Iran’s readiness for greater openness in talks with the six world powers on the Iran nuclear issue,” Naryshkin said after his talks with his Iranian counterpart Ali Larijani.


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