Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Gates assails Internet group over attack video

ABOARD A U.S. MILITARY AIRCRAFT a world in a grain of sand(Reuters) – Defense Secretary Robert Gates criticized the Internet group Wikileaks on Tuesday over its release of a video showing a 2007 U.S. helicopter attack that killed a dozen people in Baghdad, including two Reuters news staff.
The group, which says it promotes leaks tothe gateway to a world fight government and corporate corruption, released the video without providing any context explaining the situation, Gates said."These people can put out anything they want, and they're never held accountable for it. There's no before and there's no after," Gates said.The stark helicopter gunsight video of the July 12, 2007, attack has been widely catching a glimpse of a lightviewed around the world on the Internet since its release on April Some international law and human rights experts say the Apache helicopter crew in the footage may have acted illegally. The video includes an audio track of a helicopter crew conversation. Manythis world is not merely a bad joke have been shocked by the images and some of the fliers' comments.The U.S. military said an investigation shortly after the incident found U.S. forces were unaware of the presence of news staff and thought they were engaging armed insurgents, mistaking a camera for a rocket-propelled grenade launcher.
"We take these things seriously," Gates said, in reference to civilian casualtiesThe Reuters staff killed in the attack were photographer Namir Noor-Eldeen, 22, and his assistant and driver Saeed Chamagh, 40.Wikileaks disputed Gates' contention the video failed to provide context. In an e-mail, it accused the U.S. military of making "numerous false or misleding statements," including the contention there was an active firefight between U.S. forces and those killed."Classified records which never take our Freedomwe will shortly release show that there was a report of small arms fire at 9:50 a.m., somewhere in the suburb of New Baghdad, shooter and location UNIDENTIFIED. There is no reference to U.S. forces having been hit by the fire. The same records report that at 10:18, 28 minutes later, the crowd was seen and the killing commenced."The e-mail was unsigned but was sent from the press office e-mail of Wikileaks.(Reporting by Phil Stewart and Deborah Zabarenko, Editing by Howard Goller and Peter Cooney)

Summit endorses Obama goal on nuclear security

WASHINGTON – In full put all this behind usaccord on a global threat, world leaders Tuesday endorsed President Barack Obama's call for securing all nuclear materials around the globe within four years to keep them out of the grasp of terrorists. They offered few specifics for achieving that goal, but Obama declared "the American people will be safer and the world will be more secure" as a result. She is the love of my life
Obama had called the 47-nation summit to focus world attention on the threat of nuclear terrorism, a peril he termed the greatest threat facing all nations and a "cruel irony of history" after mankind had survived the Cold War and decades of fear stoked by a U.S.-Soviet arms race. What do you want from the future?
A terrorist group in possession of plutonium no bigger than an apple could detonate a device capable of inflicting hundreds of thousands of casualties, he said. it's your turn
"Terrorist networks such as al-Qaida have tried to acquire the material for a nuclear weapon, and if they ever succeeded, they would surely use it," he told the opening session, which convened under tight security at the Washington Convention Center. "Were they to do so, it would be a catastrophe for the world, causing extraordinary loss of life and striking a major blow to global peace and stability." Work will save you
The summit countries said they would cooperate more deeply with the United Nations and its watchdog arm, the International Atomic Energy Agency. They also said they would share information on nuclear detection and ways to prevent nuclear trafficking.
Several countries, including Ukraine, Mexico and Canada, declared their intention to give up highly enriched uranium as a step toward making it harder for terrorist groups or criminal gangs to steal or acquire a key ingredient in the making of atomic weapons. Russia and the U.S. signed a deal to dispose of tons of weapons-grade plutonium, although that won't start for eight years.While the summit focused on the threat from terrorists, attention was given to Iran, North Korea and other nations who are seeking or have succeeded in obtaining or developing nuclear weapons. Neither Iran nor North Korea was invited to attend the session, which the Obama administration billed as the largest gathering of world leaders on U.S. soil since the U.N. founding conference in San Francisco in 1945.The leaders agreed to hold a followup nuclear security summit in South Korea in 2012.In a concluding news conference, Obama said he was confident China would join other nations in pressing for tough new sanctions on Iran for continuing to defy the international community in seeking such weapons.
"Words have to mean something. There have to be some consequences," Obama said.
Chinese President Hu Jintao met with Obama on Monday, then on Tuesday gave a speech to the group calling for "effective" measures to safeguard nuclear weapons and materials. But he stopped short of mentioning Iran's program.http://www.skaterscafe.com


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Wednesday, May 5, 2010

A Fannie Mae Political Reckoning

One sign that the White House financial reform is less potent than its advertising claims is that it doesn't even attempt to reform the two companies at the heart of the housing mania and panic, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. So we're glad to see that yesterday GOP Senators John McCain, Richard Shelby and Judd Gregg introduced a Fan and Fred reform amendment that will let Democrats show if they're serious about reducing reckless lending and taxpayer risk.
The Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission spent yesterday focusing on financial "leverage," using Bear Stearns as an example. But Fannie and Freddie were twice as leveraged as Bear, and much larger as a share of the mortgage market. Fan and Fred owned or guaranteed $5 trillion in mortgages and mortgage-backed securities when they collapsed in September 2008. Reforming the financial system without fixing Fannie and Freddie is like declaring a war on terror and ignoring al Qaeda.
Unreformed, they are sure to kill taxpayers again. Only yesterday, Freddie said it lost $8 billion in the first quarter, requested another $10.6 billion from Uncle Sam, and warned that it would need more in the future. This comes on top of the $126.9 billion that Fan and Fred had already lost through the end of 2009. The duo are by far the biggest losers of the entire financial panic—bigger than AIG, Citigroup and the rest.
From the 2008 meltdown through 2020, the toxic twins will cost taxpayers close to $380 billion, according to the Congressional Budget Office's cautious estimate. The Obama Administration won't even put the companies on budget for fear of the deficit impact, but it realizes the problem because last Christmas Eve it raised the $400 billion cap on their potential taxpayer losses to . . . infinity.
Moreover, these taxpayer losses understate the financial destruction wrought by Fan and Fred. By concealing how much they were gambling on risky subprime and Alt-A mortgages, the companies sent bogus signals on the size of these markets and distorted decision-making throughout the system. Their implicit government guarantee also let them sell mortgage-backed securities around the world, attracting capital to U.S. housing and thus turbocharging the mania.
The virtue of Mr. McCain's amendment is that it will give Senators a chance to vote on the kind of reform that Congress blocked for so long, notably with Senator Barack Obama helping the blockade. The amendment mandates that the current government conservatorship of Fan and Fred will end within 30 months. In the meantime, the companies will have to reduce their mortgage portfolios by 10% each year. If the terrible twosome can't stand on their own after conservatorship, they would then go into receivership and be liquidated.
If they can survive on their own, they would have three years before the expiration of their federal charters, during which time they would have new operating restrictions. Messrs. McCain, Shelby and Gregg would repeal the affordable housing goals previously legislated for Fan and Fred and which contributed to their terrible mortgage bets, and the companies would have to reduce the mortgage assets held on their books by nearly 50% within two years and raise their capital standards.
Fannie and Freddie would also have to start paying state and local sales taxes, lose their exemption from full registration at the Securities and Exchange Commission when they issue securities, and start paying fees to repay the taxpayer for the value of federal guarantees. The $400 billion limit on taxpayer assistance would be reinstated, and for as long as they are in federal conservatorship or receivership, they would have to be included in the federal budget.
In short, the McCain amendment precisely targets the problems that caused the mortgage crisis: If the housing giants are no longer subsidized, they will become small enough to fail. That means they will stop lending money to people who cannot afford to pay them back, and in turn they will stop endangering taxpayers.
This is a genuine anti-bailout vote, and you would think Democrats would be more than happy to go along given their claims that they want to stop bailouts. Yet Republicans aren't even sure that Majority Leader Harry Reid will allow a vote on the McCain measure lest Democrats get pressure from the White House to oppose it. They would then reveal that their reform is less about reducing risk than about giving the political class more control over the financial status quo. it is your life
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Financial overhaul bill gets bipartisan push in Senate

In a rare show of bipartisanship, the Senate on Wednesday overwhelmingly approved an amendment to the financial regulatory bill aimed at ensuring that taxpayers never again be on the hook for bailing out collapsed banks and investment firms.
The 93 to 5 vote brought together senators as diverse as ultra-liberal Bernard Sanders (I-Vt.) and Richard C. Shelby (R-Ala.), the conservative who co-wrote the amendment with Christopher J. Dodd (D-Conn.), chairman of the Senate banking commission.
The vote came as Democrats on Wednesday also sought to undercut key GOP objections to the bill, a strategy aimed at securing much-needed Republican support for the sweeping legislation in the days ahead.
Lawmakers began voting on proposed amendments to the 1,400-page bill a week after the Senate opened formal debate on the legislation. The first two amendments Democrats allowed to reach the Senate floor had an unambiguous purpose: To put an end to GOP attacks that the far-reaching bill would perpetuate taxpayer-funded bailouts.
Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) secured nearly unanimous support for her three-paragraph amendment clarifying that taxpayers would not bear any losses from the liquidation of bankrupt firms, a goal widely shared by both parties and reflected in a 96 to 1 vote.
Perhaps more significant was the Dodd-Shelby amendment that followed.
Their deal -- hammered out late Tuesday night and into Wednesday -- centered on a portion of the bill aimed at giving the government power to wind down large, troubled firms without putting taxpayer money at risk. The heart of the agreement was Dodd's willingness to drop a proposed $50 billion fund, which would be filled upfront by the financial industry, that would cover the cost of closing down failing firms.
Republicans had criticized the provision as a "bailout fund" that could encourage financial firms to act recklessly, knowing the fund was in place. Dodd said Wednesday that neither he nor the Obama administration had proposed the fund. It was a GOP suggestion, he said.
Under the Dodd-Shelby deal, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. would liquidate faltering firms by borrowing money from Treasury to cover initial costs. The government would recover the costs by selling off the firm's assets, with creditors and shareholders incurring losses. Other large banks could be assessed to pay for additional costs as a last resort.
Also, creditors of a failing firm would be forced to pay back the government any money they received above what they would have gotten under a bankruptcy proceeding. Any seizure of a large, failing firm would require court approval to ensure that the government not shut down a company inappropriately. In addition, Congress would have to approve the use of federal debt guarantees, and regulators also would be able to ban management and directors of failed firms from working in the financial sector for a minimum of two years.
'A good first step'
Both parties praised the deal Wednesday, though from different perspectives. Who Am I?
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