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marmar

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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: 65,060

Journal Archives

The Detroit Bail-In Template: Fleecing Pensioners to Save the Banks


The Detroit Bail-In Template: Fleecing Pensioners to Save the Banks

Posted on Aug 5, 2013
By Ellen Brown, Web of Debt


This piece first appeared at Web of Debt.


The Detroit bankruptcy is looking suspiciously like the bail-in template originated by the G20’s Financial Stability Board in 2011, which exploded on the scene in Cyprus in 2013 and is now becoming the model globally. In Cyprus, the depositors were “bailed in” (stripped of a major portion of their deposits) to re-capitalize the banks. In Detroit, it is the municipal workers who are being bailed in, stripped of a major portion of their pensions to save the banks.

Bank of America Corp. and UBS AG have been given priority over other bankruptcy claimants, meaning chiefly the pensioners, for payments due on interest rate swaps they entered into with the city. Interest rate swaps – the exchange of interest rate payments between counterparties – are sold by Wall Street banks as a form of insurance, something municipal governments “should” do to protect their loans from an unanticipated increase in rates. Unlike ordinary insurance, however, swaps are actually just bets; and if the municipality loses the bet, it can owe the house, and owe big. The swap casino is almost entirely unregulated, and it is a rigged game that the house virtually always wins. Interest rate swaps are based on the LIBOR rate, which has now been proven to be manipulated by the rate-setting banks; and they were a major contributor to Detroit’s bankruptcy.

Derivative claims are considered “secured” because the players must post collateral to play. They get not just priority but “super-priority” in bankruptcy, meaning they go first before all others, a deal pushed through by Wall Street in the Bankruptcy Reform Act of 2005. Meanwhile, the municipal workers, whose pensions are theoretically protected under the Michigan Constitution, are classified as “unsecured” claimants who will get the scraps after the secured creditors put in their claims. The banking casino, it seems, trumps even the state constitution. The banks win and the workers lose once again.

Systemically Dangerous Institutions Are Moved to the Head of the Line

The argument for the super-priority of derivative claims is that nonpayment on these bets represents a “systemic risk” to the financial scheme. Derivative bets are cross-collateralized and are so inextricably entwined in a $600-plus trillion house of cards that the whole financial scheme could go down if the betting scheme were to collapse. Instead of banning or regulating this very risky casino, Congress has been persuaded by the masterminds of Wall Street that it needs to be preserved at all costs. .....................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/the_detroit_bail-in_template_fleecing_pensioners_to_save_the_banks_20130805/?ln



London Strolling


from The Economist:




Urban pedestrians buck a national trend
Aug 3rd 2013


LONDON is a city made for walking. Unlike, for instance, Los Angeles its centre is easily accessible on foot. Outer boroughs are no more than an hour or two away. Its curved streets, in contrast to the rigid grid of New York, welcome idle wanderers and busy commuters alike. But despite traffic queues and teeming underground carriages most prefer to drive or to squeeze on to the Tube to get around the city. This is starting to change.

Between 2001 and 2011 the number of trips made daily on foot in London increased by 12%. Nearly a third of the Londoners sampled made a continuous walk of 30 minutes once a week between 2010 and 2011 to get from place to place, rather than for exercise. Each day 6.2m walks are made across the city.

And both rich and poor walk a similar amount. In areas such as Kensington and Chelsea 11% walk for at least 30 minutes five times a week or more. In Tower Hamlets 12% of residents do. One of the largest changes in the city over the past decade is the number of pedestrians, says Michèle Dix of Transport for London (TfL), which runs the city’s transport networks. On July 10th TfL launched the Roads Task Force, with plans to spruce up pavements.

Several reasons account for the walking boom. The number of Londoners increased by 12% from 7.3m in 2001 to 8.2m in 2011, and Tube trains are broiling and overcrowded. But other factors also encourage pedestrians. In 2004 Ken Livingstone, then mayor of London, vowed to make London a “walkable city”. Some of his plans were carried on by Boris Johnson, the current mayor. These include a scheme to create clearly-marked maps for use across the city. Of 33 boroughs in London 22 now have the distinctive yellow-branded signs on their streets. All TfL-owned property (such as Tube stations and bicycle-hire points) is covered by the scheme. This deters tourists from popping on the Tube to travel one stop from Covent Garden to Leicester Square, a distance of 0.3m (0.5km) says Tony Armstrong of Living Streets, a charity for pedestrians. ........................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.economist.com/news/britain/21582576-urban-pedestrians-buck-national-trend-footfalls?fsrc=scn/tw_ec/footfalls



The Nation: Do American Anti-Choicers Really Want to Live With Europe's Abortion Laws?


Do American Anti-Choicers Really Want to Live With Europe's Abortion Laws?
Smacking down the the latest anti-abortion fallacy.

Katha Pollitt
July 31, 2013


When it comes to abortion, is Europe like Texas with fresher fruit and topless beaches? As pro-choicers battled the Lone Star State’s proposed ban on abortion after twenty weeks, conservative pundits shrugged: So what? Texas women will still have more abortion rights than women in many Western European nations. What are you complaining about, liberal feminists who wish you lived in France?

........(snip)........

Wouldn’t it be great if these mansplainers with their world-class bully pulpits knew what they were talking about? For example, given that even in the United States, where later abortions are legal (if expensive and tricky to find), 88 percent take place during the first trimester, how could Germany’s time limit be the reason its abortion rate is one-third that of ours? Could it be that the reason German women are less likely to have abortions is that they are less likely to have unwanted pregnancies? Germany has one of the world’s lowest fertility rates, after all, despite a generous basket of benefits for families. Thirty percent of women have no children. That suggests some serious contracepting is going on.

Here’s what’s really different about Western Europe: in France, you can get an abortion at any public hospital and it’s paid for by the government. In Germany, you can get one at a hospital or a doctor’s office, and health plans will pay for it for low-income women. In Sweden, abortion is free through eighteen weeks. Moreover, unlike the time limits passed in Texas and some other states, or floating around in Congress, the European limits have exceptions, variously for physical or mental health, fetal anomaly or rape. Contrast that with what anti-choicers want for the United States, where Paul Ryan memorably described a health exception to a proposed late-term abortion ban as “a loophole wide enough to drive a Mack truck through it.” If a French or German or Swedish 12-year-old, or a traumatized rape victim, or a woman carrying a fetus with Tay-Sachs disease shows up after the deadline, I bet a way can often be found to quietly take care of them. If not, Britain or the Netherlands, where second trimester abortion is legal, are possibilities. (In 2011, more than 4,000 Irish women traveled to Britain for abortions.)

Here are some other differences: in Western Europe, teens get realistic sex education, not abstinence-only propaganda. Girls and women have much better access to birth control and emergency contraception, which are usually paid for by the government. In countries that require mandatory counseling, it is empathetic and nondirective: nothing like our burgeoning network of Christian “crisis pregnancy centers” and state laws requiring women to endure transvaginal ultrasounds, hear fetal heartbeats and look at sonograms. European doctors are not forced to read scripts that falsely warn women that abortion will give them breast cancer and drive them to suicide, and tell them that an embryo the size of a pea is “a unique living human being.” In countries that have waiting periods, distances are smaller, and just to repeat, abortion is widely available and integrated with the normal health system, not shunted off to clinics in a few
cities and college towns. You do not have to travel eight hours four times to get the counseling and fulfill the waiting period—or sleep in your car or the bus station till the time is up. ..........................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.thenation.com/article/175527/when-it-comes-womans-right-choose-texas-really-better-europe#axzz2bBwTZMvX



Hours to Go, Just to Get to Work: Indonesians Cope With Infuriating Traffic and Inefficient Transit



(NYT) JAKARTA, Indonesia — For someone with dropping blood-sugar levels and in the early stages of dehydration, Eva Roma was rather stoic as she began her one-and-a-half-hour commute home from her office in central Jakarta.

Her journey started with an hourlong ride on a standing-room-only public bus, followed by 25 minutes in a minivan, and finally a five-minute walk to her house in the far southern confines of this Indonesian capital.

Once there, Ms. Roma, 33, a Muslim who works as a secretary at a financial services company, planned to buka puasa — break her fast in observance of the holy month of Ramadan. Getting to work the next morning would be even worse, since that trip usually takes two hours.

The daily commute, especially while refraining from eating or drinking all day, takes a toll, Ms. Roma said. But she has long since become inured to the physical realities of commuting in Jakarta, where horrific traffic and an inefficient public transportation system condemn many people to sitting in cars, buses and minivans or on motorcycles for four hours a day or longer, year-round. ....................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/05/world/asia/hours-to-go-just-to-get-to-work.html?_r=0



London Strolling

from The Economist:




Urban pedestrians buck a national trend
Aug 3rd 2013


LONDON is a city made for walking. Unlike, for instance, Los Angeles its centre is easily accessible on foot. Outer boroughs are no more than an hour or two away. Its curved streets, in contrast to the rigid grid of New York, welcome idle wanderers and busy commuters alike. But despite traffic queues and teeming underground carriages most prefer to drive or to squeeze on to the Tube to get around the city. This is starting to change.

Between 2001 and 2011 the number of trips made daily on foot in London increased by 12%. Nearly a third of the Londoners sampled made a continuous walk of 30 minutes once a week between 2010 and 2011 to get from place to place, rather than for exercise. Each day 6.2m walks are made across the city.

And both rich and poor walk a similar amount. In areas such as Kensington and Chelsea 11% walk for at least 30 minutes five times a week or more. In Tower Hamlets 12% of residents do. One of the largest changes in the city over the past decade is the number of pedestrians, says Michèle Dix of Transport for London (TfL), which runs the city’s transport networks. On July 10th TfL launched the Roads Task Force, with plans to spruce up pavements.

Several reasons account for the walking boom. The number of Londoners increased by 12% from 7.3m in 2001 to 8.2m in 2011, and Tube trains are broiling and overcrowded. But other factors also encourage pedestrians. In 2004 Ken Livingstone, then mayor of London, vowed to make London a “walkable city”. Some of his plans were carried on by Boris Johnson, the current mayor. These include a scheme to create clearly-marked maps for use across the city. Of 33 boroughs in London 22 now have the distinctive yellow-branded signs on their streets. All TfL-owned property (such as Tube stations and bicycle-hire points) is covered by the scheme. This deters tourists from popping on the Tube to travel one stop from Covent Garden to Leicester Square, a distance of 0.3m (0.5km) says Tony Armstrong of Living Streets, a charity for pedestrians. ........................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.economist.com/news/britain/21582576-urban-pedestrians-buck-national-trend-footfalls?fsrc=scn/tw_ec/footfalls



Health Care Amnesia


from the Working Life blog:



Health Care Amnesia
Posted on 05 August 2013.


Here is a good example of making sure the frame of a discussion is pretty narrow. And, in this case, it’s an omission that is worth hundreds of billions of dollars.

The ostensible reason for this story is to talk about how union members are going to suffer most from the arrival of Obamacare:

NYT:
Cities and towns across the country are pushing municipal unions to accept cheaper health benefits in anticipation of a component of the Affordable Care Act that will tax expensive plans starting in 2018.


Putting aside for a moment the disgrace of repeating the idea that union members get a “Cadillac plan” (meaning, in the U.S., they get, thanks to collective bargaining, a humane plan that doesn’t bankrupt them and actually offers real coverage), there is a grand omission. The phrase “single payer” is never uttered. ....................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.workinglife.org/2013/08/05/health-care-amnesia/#sthash.gvUiCYjF.dpuf



Winning Our Hearts and Minds? Monsanto and Big Food Pull Out the Big Guns


Winning Our Hearts and Minds? Monsanto and Big Food Pull Out the Big Guns

Monday, 05 August 2013 09:34
By Katherine Paul and Zack Kaldveer, Organic Consumer's Association | Report


Monsanto and Big Food are taking the battle for consumers' hearts and minds to the next level. And it's no coincidence that they're pulling out the big guns just as the Washington State I-522 campaign to label genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in food products is gaining steam.

Can industry front groups and slick public relations firms convince us that the products they're peddling are not only safe, but good for us? Will the millions they spend on websites and advertorials pay off?

We're guessing not, given the latest New York Times poll stating that 93 percent of Americans want labels on foods containing GMOs.

Still, it can't hurt to know who's behind the latest salvo of lies and misinformation. ..................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://truth-out.org/news/item/17976-winning-our-hearts-and-minds-monsanto-and-big-food-pull-out-the-big-guns



Why ALEC Fabricated Public School Failures (and Why We're Not Surprised)

Why ALEC Fabricated Public School Failures (and Why We're Not Surprised)

Monday, 05 August 2013 09:28
By Judy Molland, Care2 | Report


"ALEC vs. Kids: ALEC’s Assault on Public Education". That’s the alarmingly accurate title of a new report that focuses on how the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) education task force has used a state-by-state report card to fabricate failure in state public education systems in order to create sales opportunities for their corporate membership.

ALEC – All About Favoring Corporations

ALEC was formed in 1973 by a group of conservative activists who came together to advance a national right wing agenda in state legislatures across the country. They do this by coordinating and connecting corporate special interests, insurance companies, lobbyists, right wing think tanks, the super rich and conservative state legislators.

They then produce model policies on issues affecting many facets of American life, with the goal of making conditions as favorable to corporations as possible. The group is behind just about every bad Republican initiative, including union-busting, Voter ID and Stand Your Ground gun laws that helped George Zimmerman go free after murdering an unarmed Trayvon Martin.

Recently the conservative lobbying group has found its way into the previously untapped market of public education by producing an education “report card.” And the 2013 result is not a pretty sight. ........................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://truth-out.org/news/item/17975-why-alec-fabricated-public-school-failures-and-why-were-not-surprised



The Detroit Bail-In Template: Fleecing Pensioners to Save the Banks


The Detroit Bail-In Template: Fleecing Pensioners to Save the Banks

Posted on Aug 5, 2013
By Ellen Brown, Web of Debt


This piece first appeared at Web of Debt.


The Detroit bankruptcy is looking suspiciously like the bail-in template originated by the G20’s Financial Stability Board in 2011, which exploded on the scene in Cyprus in 2013 and is now becoming the model globally. In Cyprus, the depositors were “bailed in” (stripped of a major portion of their deposits) to re-capitalize the banks. In Detroit, it is the municipal workers who are being bailed in, stripped of a major portion of their pensions to save the banks.

Bank of America Corp. and UBS AG have been given priority over other bankruptcy claimants, meaning chiefly the pensioners, for payments due on interest rate swaps they entered into with the city. Interest rate swaps – the exchange of interest rate payments between counterparties – are sold by Wall Street banks as a form of insurance, something municipal governments “should” do to protect their loans from an unanticipated increase in rates. Unlike ordinary insurance, however, swaps are actually just bets; and if the municipality loses the bet, it can owe the house, and owe big. The swap casino is almost entirely unregulated, and it is a rigged game that the house virtually always wins. Interest rate swaps are based on the LIBOR rate, which has now been proven to be manipulated by the rate-setting banks; and they were a major contributor to Detroit’s bankruptcy.

Derivative claims are considered “secured” because the players must post collateral to play. They get not just priority but “super-priority” in bankruptcy, meaning they go first before all others, a deal pushed through by Wall Street in the Bankruptcy Reform Act of 2005. Meanwhile, the municipal workers, whose pensions are theoretically protected under the Michigan Constitution, are classified as “unsecured” claimants who will get the scraps after the secured creditors put in their claims. The banking casino, it seems, trumps even the state constitution. The banks win and the workers lose once again.

Systemically Dangerous Institutions Are Moved to the Head of the Line

The argument for the super-priority of derivative claims is that nonpayment on these bets represents a “systemic risk” to the financial scheme. Derivative bets are cross-collateralized and are so inextricably entwined in a $600-plus trillion house of cards that the whole financial scheme could go down if the betting scheme were to collapse. Instead of banning or regulating this very risky casino, Congress has been persuaded by the masterminds of Wall Street that it needs to be preserved at all costs. .....................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/the_detroit_bail-in_template_fleecing_pensioners_to_save_the_banks_20130805/?ln



Robert Scheer: A Statement of Peace, or an Epitaph


from truthdig:



A Statement of Peace, or an Epitaph

Posted on Aug 6, 2013
By Robert Scheer


August 6 marks 68 years since the United States committed what is arguably the single gravest act of terrorism that the world has ever known. Terrorism means the deliberate targeting of innocent civilians, and targeted they were, with the cutely named “Little Boy” atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima at a location and time of day when, as the Strategic Bombing Survey commissioned by President Harry Truman conceded, “nearly all the school children ... were at work in the open,” a perfect opportunity for mass incineration.

“That fateful summer, 8:15,” the mayor of Hiroshima recalled at a memorial service in 2007, “the roar of a B-29 breaks the morning calm. A parachute opens in the blue sky. Then suddenly, a flash, an enormous blast—silence—hell on earth. The eyes of young girls watching the parachute were melted. Their faces became giant charred blisters. The skin of people seeking help dangled from their fingernails. ... Others died when their eyeballs and internal organs burst from their bodies. Hiroshima was a hell where those who somehow survived envied the dead. Within the year, 140,000 had died.”

It was followed three days later by the “Fat Man” bomb leveling Nagasaki, with a comparable disastrous impact on a largely civilian population that had no effective control over the decisions of the emperor who initiated the war. Nagasaki was a last- minute substitute for Kyoto, which Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson ordered spared because he had fond memories of his honeymoon in that city a couple of decades earlier. The devastation of those two cities was so gruesome that our government banned the showing of film footage depicting the carnage we had caused.

We have never been very good at challenging our nation’s own reprehensible behavior, but if we don’t take proper measure of the immense extermination wrought by two small and primitive nuclear weapons as compared with today’s arsenals, we lose the point as to why they must be banned. We are the country that designed and exploded these weapons that are inherently implements of terrorism in that, as the nuking of Japan amply demonstrated, they cannot distinguish between civilian and combatant. .....................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/a_statement_of_peace_or_an_epitaph_20130806/



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