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Gender: Male
Hometown: Detroit, Michigan
Home country: Citizen of the world whose address is in the U.S.
Current location: Detroit, Michigan
Member since: Fri Oct 29, 2004, 12:18 AM
Number of posts: 64,911

Journal Archives

6 Ways Wall Street Is Hosing Chicago Teachers

(In These Times) During Andrew Cuomo’s tenure as attorney general of New York, he noted, “In New York, the biggest pool of money is the state pension fund.” This is true with public pension funds across the nation—and Wall Street firms have leaped to take advantage of the bounty, often in unsavory ways. Over the last five years, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has routinely unearthed “pay-to-play” scandals, in which overseers of pension funds make investment choices based on personal gain.

In most cases, politicians control the investment-making decisions at pension funds. A select few, however, are controlled by their members—meaning they could invest in projects for the public good on Main Street rather than private investment funds on Wall Street. One such fund is the Chicago Teachers’ Pension Fund (CTPF), a nearly $10 billion pool charged with assuring the retirement security of tens of thousands of education professionals. Despite a Board composed of 12 member-elected trustees, however, Wall Street still has its hands in the kitty. Here are six ways America’s biggest investment firms have the potential to sink Chicago teachers—and just how the CTPF board can stop that from happening.

1. Underperformance

Historically, pension funds have been extremely conservative investors out of caution for their members’ finances. Only in the past 20 years have they amped up their allocations to higher-risk endeavors. And as Wall Street has quaked, so too have member livelihoods.

Over the past five years, the CTPF’s assets in traditional investments—domestic equities (stock in large, financially sound companies) and fixed income (stable bonds)—have been far more profitable than the portfolio as a whole. In that time period, the former returned 7 percent annually; in other words, if the fund had invested $100 in 2008, it would have made roughly $140 by 2014. Fixed income bonds, meanwhile, returned 6 percent. A traditional 60 percent stock, 40 percent bond portfolio, then, would have returned 6.6 percent. In order to be considered fully funded, the CTPF’s investments must return 8 percent; though neither stocks nor bonds fulfilled this completely, they were still far closer than the CTPF’s total investment return, which was a paltry 4.6 percent—a loss of around $200 million per year. ................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://inthesetimes.com/working/entry/17020/six_ways_wall_street_is_hosing_chicago_teachers

Eugene Robinson: Time to Tame the Monster (CIA)

from truthdig:

Time to Tame the Monster

Posted on Aug 6, 2014
By Eugene Robinson

The CIA now admits that it spied on a Senate investigation into the agency’s shameful program of secret detention and torture. Do we need any more proof that the spooks are out of control?

An internal “accountability board” will look into the incident, an agency statement said, and might recommend “potential disciplinary measures” or even “steps to address systemic issues.”

Somehow, I don’t feel reassured.

You will recall that when Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., alleged in March that the CIA was rummaging through her panel’s computer files without permission, CIA Director John Brennan scoffed at the complaint with high-handed derision. “I think a lot of people who are claiming that there has been this tremendous sort of spying and monitoring and hacking will be proved wrong,” he said.

Oops. An internal CIA probe discovered that, well, a good deal of spying and monitoring and hacking did take place. Brennan has reportedly apologized to Feinstein and Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., the ranking Republican on the committee—both of whom have been among the CIA’s staunchest supporters on Capitol Hill. ..................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/time_to_tame_the_monster_20140806

Noam Chomsky: Why National Security Has Nothing to Do With Security

from TomDispatch:

How Many Minutes to Midnight?
Hiroshima Day 2014

By Noam Chomsky

If some extraterrestrial species were compiling a history of Homo sapiens, they might well break their calendar into two eras: BNW (before nuclear weapons) and NWE (the nuclear weapons era). The latter era, of course, opened on August 6, 1945, the first day of the countdown to what may be the inglorious end of this strange species, which attained the intelligence to discover the effective means to destroy itself, but -- so the evidence suggests -- not the moral and intellectual capacity to control its worst instincts.

Day one of the NWE was marked by the “success” of Little Boy, a simple atomic bomb. On day four, Nagasaki experienced the technological triumph of Fat Man, a more sophisticated design. Five days later came what the official Air Force history calls the “grand finale,” a 1,000-plane raid -- no mean logistical achievement -- attacking Japan’s cities and killing many thousands of people, with leaflets falling among the bombs reading “Japan has surrendered.” Truman announced that surrender before the last B-29 returned to its base.

Those were the auspicious opening days of the NWE. As we now enter its 70th year, we should be contemplating with wonder that we have survived. We can only guess how many years remain.

Some reflections on these grim prospects were offered by General Lee Butler, former head of the U.S. Strategic Command (STRATCOM), which controls nuclear weapons and strategy. Twenty years ago, he wrote that we had so far survived the NWE “by some combination of skill, luck, and divine intervention, and I suspect the latter in greatest proportion.” ...............(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/175877/tomgram%3A_noam_chomsky%2C_why_national_security_has_nothing_to_do_with_security/

Oil Companies Are Funding Mysterious Angolan Research Center That May Not Exist

WASHINGTON –- Oil companies BP and Cobalt International Energy agreed in December 2011 to provide $350 million to construct a research institute in Angola, as a condition of gaining drilling rights for an offshore block of the African country's coast. So far, the companies have paid half that amount -- but there's no evidence the project actually exists.

The United Kingdom-based nonprofit Global Witness flagged the project in a report released Tuesday, as leaders of African nations are in Washington for a summit with U.S. officials. The payments, the group says, show the need for greater transparency in oil and gas industry transactions abroad, particularly in regions with a history of corruption.

Houston-based Cobalt, BP Exploration Angola and state-owned Sonangol announced the contract signing for the offshore area in December 2011, noting that it was "the most sought after block" in the round of bidding for offshore contracts. Cobalt listed the funding for the Sonangol Research and Technology Center, or SRTC, and other "social projects" in a December 2011 production-sharing contract filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. ...............(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/08/05/oil-transparency-africa-bp_n_5649291.html?ncid=fcbklnkushpmg00000013

Another Descent Into Hell

Another Descent Into Hell

Tuesday, 05 August 2014 09:47
By Richard Lichtman, Truthout | Op-Ed

I sometimes think I can remember exactly how I came to my present estimate of Israel, but of course it was prepared very slowly, laboriously and largely unformulated over time. The fact that my current understanding has very deep roots does not mean that its growth was simply an extension of earliest held beliefs, nor rather a reversal, instead. It was neither of these. Not all developments proceed by enlargement of a previous moment, or a strict negation of what has gone before.

My current recollection begins with my sense of my mother, father and the extended family made up of many uncles, aunts and grandparents. I was born in 1931, and so I reached what I can regard as my developing political sensibility at roughly the time Israel created itself as an independent state. But long before that historically articulated event of such enormous importance in my nuclear family, I had the growing sense of what is was to be Jewish, achieved not through intellectual accomplishment, but through the sense of family relations in which the fact of Judaism was of paramount importance.

Of course, being Jewish meant not being gentile, so my identity, as perhaps all identities, was formed by negation, by coming to understand what I was not, and this sense is most acute when one cannot help but realize that one is weaker, subordinate and dependent upon another segment of the population. Those who are dominant in any society rarely reflect on their own identity unless it is challenged by a group that expresses dissatisfaction with their hierarchical arrangement. And this experience was paramount to me as a child and even long into by developing adulthood.

Now, in the midst of the chaos and terror that Israel is unleashing upon Palestine, I tend to think of myself neither as Jewish nor gentile, but as one horrified by what is occurring there as viewed not through the lens of any particular religion, but rather through an identity composed of a commitment to justice and mercy that continues to be eviscerated. This may seem pompous and grandiose, but it is my sense, and I bear it with very great sorrow. ..................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/25313-another-descent-into-hell

Construction underway on Detroit's light rail line

DETROIT (CBS Detroit) – The sounds of jack hammers pulverizing concrete replaced the roar of engines Monday on Woodward in downtown Detroit as construction began on the M-1 Rail project.

Crews closed Woodward between Grand Circus Park and Campus Martius to start construction on the 3.3-mile project – which runs from Jefferson to Grand Blvd. – to bring light rail to Detroit.

The start of the project marked the start of an effort to bring a railway system back to Detroit after nearly 50 years.

“This is history,” said Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, who sees the project as the start of something larger. “We ultimately need to build this rail not just to Grand Blvd., but out to 8 Mile and out to Pontiac.” ...................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://m-1rail.com/history-made-construction-starts-m-1-rail-project/

D.C. streetcar operator training begins this week

WASHINGTON (WJLA/AP) –The D.C. Department of Transportation began training streetcar operators in traffic for the first time Monday, along H Street and Benning Road in Northeast Washington.

Transportation officials say each operator will train with supervisors under various traffic scenarios—part of the process in order to be certified to carry passengers.

“It allows the operators to become very familiar with the alignment, understanding where the stops are, where the calls are,” said DDOT Deputy Associate Director Ralph Burns. “It also gives them a sense of understanding of how to be more safe.”

Passenger service is expected to start later this year, something many locals are looking forward to. The project is already running a year behind schedule. .......................(more)

Read more: http://www.wjla.com/articles/2014/08/d-c-streetcar-operator-training-begins-this-week-105726.html#.U994CNyMOBs.twitter#ixzz39Waz9pIk

The United States' Farm-Grown Terrorism

The United States' Farm-Grown Terrorism

Monday, 04 August 2014 15:15
By The Daily Take Team, The Thom Hartmann Program | Op-Ed

Let's talk about America's farm-grown terrorism epidemic.

Back on September 11th, nearly 3,000 people lost their lives in the attacks on the World Trade Center, Pentagon, and in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

Since 9/11, our government has spent over $7.6 trillion on military and homeland security operations in response to the deaths of those roughly 3,000 souls.

Now, compare that to the fact that each year, 23,000 Americans die from antibiotic-resistant infections, and another 2 million get sick.

That's the equivalent of nearly eight 9/11's per year. But our government isn't doing a thing about it. ..................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/25373-the-united-states-farm-grown-terrorism

Shock Doctrine, Ukraine edition

JESSICA DESVARIEUX, TRNN PRODUCER: Welcome to The Real News Network. I'm Jessica Desvarieux in Baltimore. And welcome to this edition of The Hudson Report.
Now joining us is Michael Hudson. Michael is a distinguished research professor of economics at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.
Thanks for joining us, Michael.

MICHAEL HUDSON, PROF. ECONOMICS, UMKC: Good to be here, Jessica.

DESVARIEUX: So, Michael, we've been covering Ukraine quite extensively. And I know you've been keeping track of things on the economic front. What's the latest?

HUDSON: Well, one of the things that has not been in the news is that a recent Senate bill, 2277, directed the U.S. Agency for International Development to begin guaranteeing loans for the tracking of oil and gas in the Ukraine. And Vice President Biden's son has become the head of the biggest fracking company in the Ukraine. And what's not usually known is that the armies from Kiev that are marching into the Eastern of Ukraine have been basically protecting the fracking equipment.

Now, for the last nine months, local cities in the east in Ukraine have said, wait a minute, we want local control over the fracking. The people in the city of Sloviansk wanted to oppose the shale gas field from being developed, 'cause they said, look, this is going to destroy our water supply and our land. And essentially what Kiev is doing is saying, well, you're terrorists if you're opposing the oil drilling.

Now, just imagine in this country if President Obama and Vice President Biden were to send troops into upstate New York, which has opposed oil/gas drilling, and bombed Rochester, bombed Buffalo, and began just bombing the cities and shooting the opponents of the fracking. That's exactly what's happening in the Ukraine. And they're doing this supported by the World Bank. The whole attempt is to make Ukraine independent from having to get the gas imports from Russia. And yet already the neighboring Czech Republic, the Netherlands, France, Germany, they've all--Germany's halted the shale gas drilling for seven years because they worry it's going to destroy the groundwater. ...............(more)

The complete piece is at: http://truth-out.org/news/item/25365-how-world-bank-and-imf-plan-to-dismantle-ukrainian-economy

Classic Bill Maher New Rules: Ammosexuals

Just click the Watch This Video on You Tube link if it won't work on DU.

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