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Gender: Male
Hometown: Detroit, MI
Member since: Fri Oct 29, 2004, 12:18 AM
Number of posts: 74,622

Journal Archives

Unhappy Birthday!: On this date in 1993, the House voted for NAFTA......


Manufacturing is clearly in recession

(CNBC) Manufacturing and corporate profits are both in recession mode, even though the rest of the U.S. economy continues to limp along.

The latest confirmation of troubles came Monday with the Empire State manufacturing index, a gauge of New York activity that clearly shows contraction in the sector.

The November reading of -10.74 was actually a modest improvement improvement over October's -11.36, but reflects a decline that began in September 2014, when the measure peaked at a 27.54, at that point the highest since October 2009. The numbers represent the percentage change in conditions from the previous month.

Collectively, the readings over the past month indicate the worst manufacturing climate since March 2009, just as the economy was escaping the throes of the Great Recession and the same month in which the stock market hit a bottom that paved the way for a more than 200 percent recovery in the S&P 500. .................(more)


Carrying Student Debt? You May Be In for a Lot of Robo-Calls

(Bloomberg) The calls to Michelle Vasquez's cell phone from student-debt collectors seemed ceaseless: She said she was getting four per day from a computerized dialer. Odette Verrier was on the end of four calls per day from an automatic dialer in January. Ashlee Rogers she said she got three or four calls a day from the same collector as the other two women, Navient Solutions, on her work cell phone, even though she told them someone stole her identity to take out the student loans they referred to.

The three women all sued Navient, which collects student loans on behalf of the government, accusing it of violating federal law by haranguing them with incessant calls.

Now Congress is threatening to take away one of the only legal avenues student borrowers like them have to protect themselves from harassment. Buried in Congress's 56-page budget bill is a new rule allowing debt collectors to “robo-call” people on their cell phones if they owe student debt to the government. The provision may make federal debt collectors exempt from a federal law that protects consumers from robo-calls if they haven’t consented to them.

“This is the worst of Congress, and it’s the worst type of abuse of people who owe debt,” said Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller, who is urging lawmakers to oppose the exemption. “Singling out primarily young people who have graduated with college loans for this type of collection action really seems like salt in the wound of people who are struggling at the start of their careers.” ..........................(more)


Wall Street Is Again Running the World's Central Banks

(Bloomberg) Wall Street is again leading to the corridors of central banks.

From Philadelphia to Paris, investors and financiers are increasingly being hired to help set monetary policy less than a decade since the banking crisis roiled the world economy and chilled their public-sector employment prospects.

Academic studies of historical voting records at central banks suggest the new trend may mean an increased bias towards tighter monetary policy.

Last week’s appointment of Neel Kashkari to run the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis as of January means a third of the Fed’s 12 district banks will soon be run by officials with past ties to Goldman Sachs Group Inc.

Kashkari also worked for Pacific Investment Management Co. and managed the U.S. Treasury’s $700 billion rescue of banks during the financial crisis. .................(more)


Contractors That Defraud the Government the Most Also Spend the Most on Lobbying

(The Intercept) A relatively small handful of federal contractors are responsible for the lion’s share of the $92 billion in fines, settlements, and court judgements assessed for defrauding taxpayers and other forms of contractor misconduct since 1995, according to a newly updated database published by the Project on Government Oversight (POGO).

An analysis by The Intercept finds that the companies responsible for the most instances of misconduct are also at the top of another list: They are among the biggest spenders on money in politics.

Boeing, an aircraft manufacturing firm that supplies the government with military equipment, has paid over $1.4 billion in penalties since 1995, according to POGO. Boeing’s misdeeds include overbilling the government on the KC-10 aerial refueling tanker, falsifying invoices, and an assortment of environmental crimes such as contaminating local waterways and spilling jet fuel. POGO has identified over 60 resolved instances of Boeing committing fraud or violating the law, topped only by Exxon Mobil, Lockheed Martin and BP.

But that doesn’t mean Boeing has fallen out of favor with lawmakers. Boeing spends a lot of money to make sure that doesn’t happen. .................(more)


Michigan Prosecutors Pressured Lab on Medical Marijuana Results

(The Intercept) THE MICHIGAN STATE POLICE Forensic Science Division finds itself embroiled in scandal as newly released emails paint a picture of a crime lab in turmoil over how to classify marijuana. Attorneys and medical marijuana advocates accuse Michigan prosecutors of pressuring the state’s crime lab to falsely classify the origins of THC found in hash oils and marijuana edibles as “origin unknown.”

Prosecutors exploited the ambiguity to charge medical marijuana users for possession of synthetic THC, despite the fact that the personal use of medical marijuana has been legal in Michigan since it was approved by voters in 2008. Under Michigan law, possession of synthetic THC constitutes a felony, whereas possession of marijuana and its derivatives by someone who is not a licensed medical marijuana user is a misdemeanor.

The emails were obtained by Michael Komorn, lead lawyer for Max Lorincz, a medical marijuana patient who lost custody of his child and now faces felony charges after the lab’s misleading classification of hash oil found in his home.

“I’d never seen a lab report reporting origin unknown,” Komorn told The Intercept. “What was produced for us was the most unbelievable set of documents I’ve ever seen.” ..................(more)


The Impossible Dream for Most First-Generation College Students

The Impossible Dream for Most First-Generation College Students

Sunday, 15 November 2015 00:00
By Joseph Sanacore and Anthony Palumbo, Truthout | Op-Ed

During the past 60 years, college attendance in the United States has more than tripled. This increase has been driven by society's need for technically trained students, by the need for credentialing to establish competencies, and by government action providing easier school financing. Assuming the parameters of a normal distribution curve, this attendance increase necessitates the acceptance of "marginal students," many of whom are the first in their families to attempt a college education. To succeed, these students require a closer bond with their school, in the form of specialized instruction and intensive guidance.

Unfortunately, many nonprofit schools do not provide this bond. Instead, they accept students' tuition and pay scant attention to graduation rates. As student advocates for more than three decades, we object when colleges try to balance their budgets by engaging in practices we regard as unethical. Many schools bottom lines prosper by accepting "marginal" students who qualify for loans and government-backed financial aid, but their curriculum does not provide these students with the services and programs they need to achieve success. Too many low-income students who are often first-generation students find themselves gamed when they meet with admissions counselors who help them to complete loan applications but neglect to explain the difference between being accepted to college and graduating from college - and the subsequent need for students to repay college loans even if they never earn a diploma.

We believe these schools are more concerned with tuition payments than students' welfare and learning. Many first-generation students who need academic support cannot handle college requirements and drop out, saddled with debt. This situation is reprehensible. Admissions counselors are well aware of the 4-and 6-year graduation rates of their schools, and we believe they have a professional and moral obligation to reveal this information to potential students. They should also indicate evidenced-based programs and services, if any, that are available for students and that have resulted in higher graduation rates of students at risk of dropping out. Regrettably, this type of transparency does not exist on many campuses.

Let's look at some statistics. According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, some colleges have graduation rates below 30 percent, and some are even below 10 percent. New York's Long Island University, for example, has a 4-year graduation rate of 21.7 percent at its Post Campus, and an 8 percent graduation rate at its Brooklyn Campus. Similarly, New York's Mercy College has a low graduation rate of 22.9 percent. The New York State average, however, is 55.1 percent for 4-year private, not-for-profit colleges. These statistics can be catastrophic for first-generation students because whether they graduate or not, they still have loans that must be paid. We advocate that students avoid schools with graduation rates that are significantly below their state's average. These low rates suggest that college administrators take students' money with the unashamed awareness that most of these students will not graduate, and many of them will not complete their first two years successfully. ..............(more)


Joseph Stiglitz slams the TPP, praises Bernie Sanders

Published on Nov 12, 2015

As Congress debates the Trans-Pacific Partnership, we speak to Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz about the trade deal. "The irony is that the president came out and said, 'This is about who makes the trade rules—China or the United States?'" Stiglitz said. "But I think the big issue is, this is about who makes the rules of trade—the American people, our democratic process, or the corporations? And who they’re made for, which is, for the corporations or for all of us?"

Democracynow.org - Democracy Now!, is an independent global news hour that airs weekdays on 1,300+ TV and radio stations Monday through Friday. Watch our livestream 8-9am ET: http://democracynow.org

Chris Hedges: Pray With Your Feet

from truthdig:

Pray With Your Feet

Posted on Nov 15, 2015
By Chris Hedges

[font size="1"]Bishop George Packard, right, holds a banner with fellow protesters as they block an entrance to a gas pipeline construction operation in Montrose, N.Y. The banner reads, “We Say No to Spectra’s Algonquin Pipeline Expansion.” The bishop and eight others were later arrested. (Erik McGregor)[/font]

MONTROSE, N.Y.—It was 6:30 in the morning and George Packard, dressed in a dark suit, a purple clerical bib and a clerical collar, was at church. Or, rather, at what has become church for the retired Episcopal bishop, activist and highly decorated Vietnam War veteran.

Packard stood with 20 other protesters on a chilly morning Nov. 9 to block two roads leading to the staging area for Texas-based Spectra Energy’s Algonquin Incremental Market (AIM) pipeline project. After an hour, he and eight other protesters were arrested by New York state police.

Carrying out sustained acts of civil disobedience is the only option left to defy the corporate state, says Packard, who over the years has been arrested at an Occupy Wall Street protest and other demonstrations. It will be a long, difficult and costly struggle. But there are moral and religious laws—laws that call on us to protect our neighbor, fight for justice and maintain systems of life—that must supersede the laws of the state. Fealty to these higher laws means we will make powerful enemies. It means we will endure discomfort, character assassination, state surveillance and repression. It means we will go to jail. But it is in the midst of this defiance that we will find purpose and, Packard argues, faith.

“This is the renewed presence of the church, people of spirit wandering around in the darkness trying to find each other,” Packard said to me before he was taken into custody by police during the Montrose protest. He stood holding one corner of a large banner reading, “We Say No to Spectra’s Algonquin Pipeline Expansion.” “When you find a cause that has spine, importance and potency you find the truth of the Scripture. You find it inside your gut. There is an ache in the culture.” Gesturing toward his fellow demonstrators, he added: “These are a few of the people who are speaking to it. This is what the church used to be. It used to be standing in conscience.”

The high-pressure, 42-inch-diameter pipeline, slated to run within 100 feet of critical structures of the Indian Point nuclear power plant and 400 feet of an elementary school, under major power lines, across a fault line, and below the Hudson River, would expose residents along the route to toxic emissions from compressor stations, along with the threat of ruptures, leakages and explosions. If an explosion caused a meltdown at Indian Point it would jeopardize the more than 21 million people living in and around New York City and the Hudson Valley. Pipelines are prone to leaks, breaks and explosions and are poorly monitored. On average in 2014, there was an accident involving a gas transmission pipeline every three days.


The refusal by the political, legislative and judicial system, along with regulatory agencies such as FERC, to respond to the concerns of those who live along pipeline routes leaves us with no other option than sustained civil disobedience. This sustained civil disobedience cannot be designed merely to send a statement. Statements are symbolic gestures in our corporate state. Day after day, acts of civil disobedience have to physically shut down the pipelines, rail lines and industries that are carrying out the assault on our communities and the planet. These actions must involve hundreds, even thousands, of people willing to be carted off to jail in rotation. They must successfully cripple the fossil fuel industry by making its work impossible. There is no other mechanism left.


How to Retire on $277,686 per month (chart)


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