Monday, November 10, 2008






Washington Post The financial world was fixated on Capitol Hill as Congress battled over the Bush administration's request for a $700 billion bailout of the banking industry. In the midst of this late-September drama, the Treasury Department issued a five-sentence notice that attracted almost no public attention. But corporate tax lawyers quickly realized the enormous implications of the document: Administration officials had just given American banks a windfall of as much as $140 billion. The sweeping change to two decades of tax policy escaped the notice of lawmakers for several days, as they remained consumed with the controversial bailout bill. When they found out, some legislators were furious. Some congressional staff members have privately concluded that the notice was illegal. But they have worried that saying so publicly could unravel several recent bank mergers made possible by the change and send the economy into an even deeper tailspin

Bloomberg - The Federal Reserve is refusing to identify the recipients of almost $2 trillion of emergency loans from American taxpayers or the troubled assets the central bank is accepting as collateral. Fed Chairman Ben S. Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson said in September they would comply with congressional demands for transparency in a $700 billion bailout of the banking system. Two months later, as the Fed lends far more than that in separate rescue programs that didn't require approval by Congress, Americans have no idea where their money is going or what securities the banks are pledging in return.

Dean Baker, Prospect - The [Washington] Post told readers today that Federal Reserve Board chairman Ben Bernanke "response to the financial crisis has won him plaudits from congressional Democrats who view him as pragmatic and non-ideological." That may be true, but it might also be worth mentioning that Bernanke completely missed the housing bubble. Furthermore, even after it began to burst he repeatedly downplayed its consequences. In March of 2007, after the first shock waves from the subprime market were being felt, Bernanke assured Congress that the fallout was likely to be restricted to the subprime market. The following year, after Bear Stearns failed, he told Congress that he didn't see another Bear Stearns out there. Six months later, Lehman Brothers and AIG failed. If Bernanke had been quicker to recognize the severity of the problems created by the collapse of the housing bubble, he may have been able to prevent much of the current financial chaos.

Bloomberg - American International Group Inc. got a $150 billion government rescue package, almost doubling the initial bailout of less than two months ago as the insurer burns through cash at a record rate. AIG will get lower interest rates and $40 billion of new capital from the government to help ease the impact of four straight quarterly deficits, including a $24.5 billion third- quarter loss posted today by the New York-based company. Taxpayers will take on the extra risk to give Chief Executive Officer Edward Liddy more time to salvage AIG. The insurer, which needed U.S. help to escape bankruptcy in September, has posted about $43 billion in quarterly losses tied to home mortgages. Liddy's plan to repay the original $85 billion loan by selling units stalled as plunging financial markets cut into their value and hobbled potential buyers.

Washington Post - A plan is in the works at the Treasury to use bailout money to take ownership stakes in a wide array of companies beyond the banking sector. But Treasury officials have indicated that participants in its recapitalization program must be financial firms subject to federal regulation. That means GMAC, GM's auto financing arm, may be eligible for quick help, but GM itself may not. The rescue legislation gives Paulson authority to consider the automakers for future programs, such as auctions to purchase troubled assets. But the Treasury has yet to establish rules for those programs, which means such help could be months away. . . Obama and other key Democrats vowed during the campaign to support as much as $50 billion in low-interest loans for the car companies. On Friday, during his first news conference since his election as president, Obama spoke at length about the "hardship" the industry faces and referred to the auto industry as "the backbone of American manufacturing."

BBC - US mortgage finance firm Fannie Mae has reported a significant increase in third-quarter losses in the wake of the slowing housing sector. Losses hit $28.99bn in the three months to 30 September from a loss of $1.4bn a year earlier, largely due to a tax-related charge of $21.4bn. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were bailed out by the US government in a record US corporate rescue deal in September. . . The Washington-based firm said it expected house prices to continue falling in 2008 in its upper range of estimates between 7% and 9%. Together Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac own or guarantee almost half of all US home loans.


Deborah Howell, Washington Post - The Post provided a lot of good campaign coverage, but readers have been consistently critical of the lack of probing issues coverage and what they saw as a tilt toward Democrat Barack Obama. My surveys, which ended on Election Day, show that they are right on both counts. My assistant, Jean Hwang, and I have been examining Post coverage since Nov. 11 last year on issues, voters, fundraising, the candidates' backgrounds and horse-race stories on tactics, strategy and consultants. We also have looked at photos and Page 1 stories since Obama captured the nomination June 4. Numbers don't tell you everything, but they give you a sense of The Post's priorities.

The count was lopsided, with 1,295 horse-race stories and 594 issues stories. The Post was deficient in stories that reported more than the two candidates trading jabs; readers needed articles, going back to the primaries, comparing their positions with outside experts' views. There were no broad stories on energy or science policy, and there were few on religion issues. . . The op-ed page ran far more laudatory opinion pieces on Obama, 32, than on Sen. John McCain, 13. There were far more negative pieces (58) about McCain than there were about Obama (32), and Obama got the editorial board's endorsement. The Post has several conservative columnists, but not all were gung-ho about McCain.


Womens E News - Voters in Milwaukee overwhelmingly approved a ballot referendum Tuesday that requires paid sick leave for workers. . . Sixty-nine percent of voters said yes to the measure, which was spearheaded by 9to5, the National Association of Working Women. Milwaukee is the third city in the nation--after San Francisco and Washington, D.C.--to approve a paid leave measure even though it was strongly opposed by the mayor and business leaders, who said it would stifle job creation. The new law requires employers to provide nine paid sick days, but permits businesses with less than 10 employees provide only five. Sick leave can also be used to handle medical or legal issues stemming from domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking.


Denver Post The American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado is questioning whether [a]staged confrontation by police [at the Democratic national convention] pretending to be violent inflamed other protesters or officers during the most intense night of the four-day event. . . According to a use-of-force police report obtained by the ACLU, undercover Denver detectives staged a struggle with a police commander to get pulled out of the crowd without blowing their cover. The commander knew they were working undercover, and the plan was to pull them out of the crowd and pretend they were under arrest so protesters would be none the wiser. A Jefferson County deputy, unaware of the presence of undercover police, thought that the commander was being attacked and used pepper spray on the undercover officers. The report says that the commander and an undercover detective were sprayed, but it does not indicate how many others were affected. The report also doesn't say whether the pepper spray used on the undercover police was the first deployment of chemicals that night or whether the riot was already underway.

Newly released documents reveals the FBI tracked journalist and author David Halberstem for over two decades.


Tree Hugger - This is why Shawn-Yu Lin of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute thinks he can change the solar power game: "To get maximum efficiency when converting solar power into electricity, you want a solar panel that can absorb nearly every single photon of light, regardless of the sun's position in the sky. Our new antireflective coating makes this possible." Lin says that he's gotten around the problem of solar panels absorbing only part of the light which hits them by develop a seven-layer coating which allows the panel to absorb 96.21% of the sunlight that falls on it. This compares to untreated panels which may only be able to use about two-thirds of the light hitting them. What's more, because this coating allows the panel to do this with all angles of light hitting it, it could eliminate the practice used by some solar arrays of using mechanical trackers to follow the sun throughout the day.

Guardian, UK - Nuclear power plants smaller than a garden shed and able to power 20,000 homes will be on sale within five years, say scientists at Los Alamos, the US government laboratory which developed the first atomic bomb. The miniature reactors will be factory-sealed, contain no weapons-grade material, have no moving parts and will be nearly impossible to steal because they will be encased in concrete and buried underground. The US government has licensed the technology to Hyperion, a New Mexico-based company which said last week that it has taken its first firm orders and plans to start mass production within five years. 'Our goal is to generate electricity for 10 cents a watt anywhere in the world,' said John Deal, chief executive of Hyperion. 'They will cost approximately $25m each. For a community with 10,000 households, that is a very affordable $250 per home.'. . . 'You could never have a Chernobyl-type event - there are no moving parts,' said Deal. 'You would need nation-state resources in order to enrich our uranium. Temperature-wise it's too hot to handle. It would be like stealing a barbecue with your bare hands.'

Tree Hugger - Late last month, the Australian Solar Sailor company announced they'd signed a deal with China's biggest shipping line, COSCO, to fit some of their jumbo jet sized solar-powered sails to a tanker and bulk carrier. The 30 meter long sails, festooned in photovoltaic panels are expected to catch enough wind to reduce fuel costs by between 20% and 40%, whilst those PV cells will provide the ships with 5% of their electricity. A computer automatically angles the sails for maximum wind and solar efficiency, and if all goes to plan the sails will have recovered their initial cost within four years.

Renee Schoof, McClatchy Newspapers - In the next few weeks, the Bush administration is expected to relax environmental-protection rules on power plants near national parks, uranium mining near the Grand Canyon and more mountaintop-removal coal mining in Appalachia. The administration is widely expected to try to get some of the rules into final form by the week before Thanksgiving because, in some cases, there's a 60-day delay before new regulations take effect. And once the rules are in place, undoing them generally would be a more time-consuming job for the next Congress and administration. The regulations already have had periods of public comment, and no further comments are being taken. The administration has proposed the rules and final approval is considered likely.


Spiegel, Germany - A court in Poland ruled that it was not slanderous to refer to President Lech Kaczynski as a duck.


Telegraph, UK - Brighton & Hove City Council has apologized after a worker accidentally said "Oh s---" during the recording. Callers first hear a man asking them to "hold the line" before a woman interrupts him and says the computer system is down, before uttering the swear word.. . . Resident Gary Morrill, 48, said he hoped no old age pensioners had heard the offensive remark. He said: "It's a typical council mess up. It would be very offensive if an old lady had called the number and heard that when all she wanted was some council tax advice."


Channel 4, DC - Jersey City councilman Steven Lipski has reportedly been arrested for urinating on a crowd of concertgoers from the balcony of a Washington D.C. nightclub. Jersey City councilman Steven Lipski said he "resolved not to touch alcohol again." The New Jersey councilman who allegedly urinated on a crowd of concertgoers from the balcony of a Washington, D.C. nightclub swore off booze on Sunday -- two days after he was busted for the embarrassing stunt. Lipski was in D.C. to see a Grateful Dead tribute band and was spotted relieving himself by one of the club's staffers around 9:50 p.m.

In order to save money, rest rooms at 19 New Jersey state parks will be closed through March 31, but only on weekends when the most people will there.


BBC - The owner of an Indian food store in Bristol has received a apology letter and L100 from a former drug addict who stole cigarettes from the shop in 2001. Imran Ahmed, 27, who runs Raja Foods in St Marks Road, Easton, said he was stunned to open the remorseful letter. It begins: "Dear Sirs, I am writing this letter to make amends to you for something I have done in the past.". . . The thief's letter continues: "About seven years ago I was walking past your shop late one night when I noticed that someone had broken into it.I used this opportunity to enter your shop where I stole 400 cigarettes. The money enclosed (L100) is to pay for those cigarettes which I stole from you. At that time I was heavily using drugs and my life was in a mess, now I no longer use drugs and I strive to lead a decent and honest life. "As part of my ongoing recovery I try to put right all of the wrongs I have done in the past, at least where I can, and this is why I am giving you back the money which I stole from you."

Telegraph UK - A Daily Telegraph/YouGov poll commissioned to mark the 60th birthday of the Prince this Friday showed that only 17 per cent wanted the Duchess to become Queen. When the same question was asked on her 60th birthday in July 2007, the number in favor was 28 per cent. The drop in popular support will be a blow to the Prince, who wants his wife to also become his Queen on his accession.

MTV Switch - Gum can be re-chewed by simply adding sugar. Once you've extracted all the flavor, simply coating your chewed gum in sugar (or Splenda, if that's what you prefer) can make it taste as good as new. There are additional ways to alter this formula, such as adding hot sauce and cinnamon to imitate Big Red, or mint leaves for cleaning up your stinky breath.


At November 10, 2008 6:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pleas don't use Splenda to revive old gum. Splenda is a health hazard and the FDA should be in hot water for approving it. Splenda was discovered during research for pesticide development.

At November 10, 2008 6:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oops the link didn't work, I'll try again.

At November 11, 2008 12:01 AM, Blogger adolfo said...

I've witnessed assorted campaign efforts, from local to Presidential, in action across the Evergreen State in the last decade. Rossi's is the first regarding which I have been consistently impressed by the organized effort of the campaign itself, including their presence at the recent Snohomish County GOP convention.
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