Friday, June 25, 2010

Obama's Broken (not kept?) Campaign Promises

(lots of Youtube videos. If you are reading this on Buzz, click the link to the blog to see the videos, please--jef)

Campaigned Against the Patriot Act and the suspension of habeas corpus...The best known and most controversial provision is the executive order that grants wide latitude loosely defining what and who is a "terrorist combatant," where and how long that individual can be held (indefinitely) and how they should be legally disposed of (none of the standard constitutional protections).

Signed an extension to the Patriot Act. Obama justifies keeping nearly all of Bush's terror war provisions in place with the standard rationale that the government must have all the weapons needed to deal with the threat of terrorism, even legally and constitutionally dubious weapons. That, of course, was the Bush and Cheney stock line.

It's still housing prisoners, it's still open. It's been a year and a half.

See, leaving an occupying force that will continue to come under fire is NOT ending the war. So, like we've done to every other conquered foe, we'll set up a base in Iraq and occupy it forever.

How about some double-talk?

His AG is still busting dispensaries in California, still punishing doctors.



House, Senate lawmakers finalize deal on bank bill

By The Associated Press | Friday, June 25th, 2010

One year in the making, a slight change of Wall Street rules forged in the aftermath of a financial crisis cleared congressional negotiations early Friday and headed to the House and Senate for final votes.

Lawmakers hope to have a bill on President Barack Obama's desk by July 4.

Success came at 5:39 a.m., hours after Obama administration officials helped broker a deal that cracked the last impediment to the bill — a proposal to force banks to spin off their lucrative derivatives trading business.

The legislation, the most ambitious rewrite of financial regulations since the Great Depression, touches on an exhaustive range of financial transactions, from a debit card swipe at a supermarket to the most complex securities deals cut in downtown Manhattan.

Eager to avoid a recurrence of the 2008 financial meltdown, lawmakers set up a warning system for financial risks, created a powerful consumer financial protection bureau to police lending, forced large failing firms to liquidate and set new rules for financial instruments that have been largely unregulated.

"It took a crisis to bring us to the point where we could actually get this job done," Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd said.

In its breadth, the legislation would affect working class homebuyers negotiating their first mortgage as well as international finance ministers negotiating international regulatory regimes.

The bill came together in during a time of high unemployment for American workers, huge bonuses for bankers and rising antipathy toward bank bailouts.

"It is reassuring to know that when public opinion gets engaged it will win," said Rep. Barney Frank, the chairman of the House-Senate panel that merged House and Senate bills into one piece of legislation.

House negotiators voted a party line 20-11 in favor of the final agreement; senators voted 7-5, also along party lines.

Republicans complained the bill overreached and tackled financial issues that were not responsible for the financial crisis.

Frank and Dodd set a furious pace for lawmakers in their last day of talks, pushing them into the late hours to resolve the most nettlesome differences between the House and Senate.

Their goal, in part, was to equip Obama with a legislative agreement as he meets with leaders of the Group of 20 nations this weekend in Toronto.

"Congress has shown that America is ready to lead by example," Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said.

Shortly after 5 a.m., Rep. Paul Kanjorsky, D-Pa., moved to officially name the legislation the Dodd-Frank bill. Dodd, who will retire at the end of this term, jokingly objected before lawmakers voted unanimously in favor. Aides and administration officials broke into applause.

While the legislation addressed the causes of the last meltdown — and more — it left for later any restructuring of the government-related mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Time and again, Republicans tried to shift the debate to the mortgage purchasing firms, to no avail.

The government took over Fannie and Freddie in 2008 after they suffered heavy loan losses in the housing crash. Their collapse has cost $145 billion and the Obama administration has pledged to cover unlimited Fannie and Freddie losses through 2012, lifting an earlier cap of $400 billion.

While many tough provisions in the bill survived, securing the votes of moderate Democrats in the House and a handful of Republicans in the Senate meant softening some provisions in the bill.

Under the bill, banks could lose billions in lucrative trading business, though negotiators blunted some of the harsher measures under consideration.

In a blow to Obama, the consumer protection agency would not regulate auto dealers, even though they assemble loans for millions of car buyers. Payday lenders and check cashers would be regulated, but enforcement would be left to states or the Federal Trade Commission.

To pay for the costs of the bill, negotiators agreed to assess a fee on banks with assets of more than $50 billion and hedge funds of more than $10 billion in assets to raise $19 billion over 10 years.

The House-Senate panel numbered 43 total negotiators, though not all attended at all times.

The final agreement capped an all-night marathon session of public and private deal making. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi stepped in to press agreement on one of the final obstacles.

As they worked toward the home stretch early Friday, negotiators softened a contentious Wall Street restriction that would force large bank holding companies to spin off their lucrative derivatives business.

The deal, negotiated between the White House and Sen. Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark., eliminated one of the last major sticking points. Congressional leaders were eager to wrap the bill up, with hopes of getting final House and Senate passage next week.

Derivatives are complex securities often used by corporations to hedge against market fluctuations. But they also have become speculative instruments for financial institutions, the most notorious of which were credit default swaps that hedged against loan failures.

In the House, moderate Democrats and members of the New York congressional delegation fought to remove Lincoln's language.

Under the agreement banks would only spin off their riskiest derivatives trades. Banks get to keep some of their lucrative business based on trades in derivatives related to interest rates, foreign changes, gold and silver. They could even arrange credit default swaps, the notorious instruments blamed for the meltdown, as long as they were traded through clearing houses. Banks also would be allowed to trade in derivatives with their own money to hedge against market fluctuations.

Negotiators also limited the ability of banks to carry out their own high-risk trades or invest in hedge funds and private equity funds.

Bank holding companies that have commercial banking operations would not be permitted to trade in speculative investments. But negotiators agreed to let bank holding companies invest in hedge funds and private equity funds, setting an investment limit of no more than 3 percent of their capital. There are no such conditions on banks now.



Judge in oil spill case sells energy stocks

Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Louisiana federal judge who struck down a six-month ban on deepwater oil drilling has sold many of his energy investments, a financial disclosure report released Friday reveals.

The report shows that U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman still owns eight energy-related investments including stock in Exxon Mobil Corp.

In last year's disclosure report, Feldman owned up to 16 energy-related investments.

Among the assets sold was stock in Transocean, the Switzerland-based company that owned the drilling rig operated by BP that is now spewing oil into the Gulf .

Feldman, a 1983 nominee of President Ronald Reagan, struck down the Obama administration's six-month moratorium on deepwater oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, disputing what he said was the government assumption that because one rig exploded, others posed an imminent danger.

On Thursday, Feldman refused to place his ruling on hold while the government appeals.

Feldman's Exxon Mobil stock was valued at $15,000 or less and produced an income of less than $1,000.

The judge has an investment in Ocean Energy valued between $15,001 and $50,000, which produces interest valued between $1,001 and $2,500.

Other holdings include investments in Provident Energy Trust, El Paso Corp., Energy Transfer Equity, Basic Energy Services, Valero Energy Corp. and Crosstex Energy LP.

Values of investments and income are expressed in ranges rather than precise amounts.

An Associated Press analysis has found that more than half of the federal judges in districts where the bulk of Gulf oil spill-related lawsuits are pending have financial connections to the oil and gas industry. This could complicate the task of finding judges without conflicts to hear the cases.

Federal judicial rules require judges to disqualify themselves from hearing cases involving a company in which they have a direct financial interest.

However, financial conflict rules have some leeway. For example, a judge does not have to step aside if investments are part of a mutual fund over which they have no management control.

Further, mere ties to companies or entities in the same industry, no matter how extensive, do not require disqualification.

Kellogg Recalls 28 Million Boxes of Cereal


Kellogg Co. recalled about 28 million boxes of cereal largely marketed to children on Friday out of concern that unpleasant smells and flavors emanating from the boxes' plastic packaging could be causing nausea and diarrhea.

The Battle Creek, Mich., company said the voluntary recall covers some of its Kellogg's Apple Jacks, Kellogg's Corn Pops, Kellogg's Froot Loops and Kellogg's Honey Smacks cereals distributed nationwide with better-if-used-before dates ranging from March 26, 2011, to June 22, 2011.

In a release, Kellogg said the potential for serious health problems is low but some consumers are sensitive to the "uncharacteristic off-flavor and smell" coming from plastic bags containing the cereal.

Adaire Putnam, a spokeswoman for Kellogg, said complaints were received from about 20 people, including five who reported nausea and vomiting.

Ms. Putnam said the bags producing the unpleasant smells and flavors in the cereals were first used in cereal boxes in late March. In the next several months, consumers reported stale, metallic and soap-like tastes and scents, she said.

The company saw a pattern emerge on Wednesday and began working to notify customers and consumers. A spokesman for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said the company initiated the recall and notified the agency.

Ms. Putnam said the company's chemists are studying whether a wax-like compound in the packaging may be the cause.

A Kellogg representative declined to comment on the financial impact of the recall.

Recalls related to products with peanuts hurt the company's 2008 earnings. Around that time Kellogg and several food companies issued recalls of products made with peanut butter or peanut paste supplied by Peanut Corp. of America amid an investigation by U.S. officials into a salmonella outbreak.

Gulf Coast Faces First Tropical Weather Test

Forecasters Eye Tropical Depression in the Atlantic,
Officials Worry about Impact on the Oil Spill
June 25, 2010

(CBS/ AP) - The first tropical depression of the Atlantic 2010 hurricane season has formed in the Western Caribbean, but it is unclear if it will pass over the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Forecasters at the National Hurricane Center in Miami said Friday that the depression has winds of about 35 mph.

A tropical storm warning is in effect for the east coast of the Yucatan Peninsula. The peninsula separates the Caribbean Sea from the Gulf of Mexico. The warning is in effect in Mexico from Chetumal north to Cancun.

The depression is on track to reach the peninsula by late Saturday. It is about 345 miles east-southeast of Chemtumal.

BP would need about five days to move all of its equipment out of harm's way if a storm threatens, BP spokesman Bill Salvin said. So far, the company hasn't started that process.

The problem, explains CBS "Early Show" weather anchor Dave Price is that projecting five days out is incredibly difficult.

"Forecasters are very good at predicting weather in 24-hour increments. The farther out you go, the more challenging it becomes to pinpoint and this is the perfect storm. It pits forecast accuracy versus the need to make go and no-go decisions," Price said. "The error rate five days out is 600 miles wide, and that's the difference between New Orleans and Miami."

In addition to forcing cleanup crews off and delay drilling of the relief wells, there are fears that hurricane-driven rains could be black with oil, reports CBS News correspondent Kelly Cobiella

"If a hurricane comes screaming through here, this is going to make a disaster movie look like a rehearsal," said Robert Bea, an engineering professor at UC Berkeley.

The equipment to be secured would include ships working to process oil being sucked to the surface from a containment device and the rigs drilling the two relief wells.

Tests show BP is on target for mid-August completion of a relief well in the Gulf of Mexico, the best hope of stopping the oil that's been gushing since April, the company said Friday.

The first well, started May 2, reached a depth of 16,275 feet on Wednesday before workers paused for the first test known as a ranging run. Although the first relief well is only 200 feet laterally from the original well, the crew still has to drill around 3,000 feet deeper before it can intercept the original well, according to Salvin.

"We have to hit a target essentially nine inches in diameter," he said.

The second relief well, started on May 16, has reached a depth of 10,500 feet.

Worst-case government estimates say about 2.5 million gallons are leaking from the well, though no one really knows for sure.

August seems a long way off to many dealing with the fallout that includes oil washing up on beaches and creeping into delicate wetlands.

Along Pensacola Beach in Florida, part of which was closed Thursday, lifeguard Collin Cobia wore a red handkerchief over his nose and mouth to block the oil smell. "It's enough to knock you down," he said.

Others weren't happy about the situation but declined to second-guess the BP engineers.

"I have no clue at all about the correct way to stop it," said Rocky Ditcharo, a seafood dock owner in Louisiana's Plaquemines Parish. "'Powerless' - that's a good word for it."

WHO wants to add calcium and magnesium to municipal water supplies

Another Plan To Make Us Healthier Through Forced Medicating
Published on 06-25-2010

Whenever a governmental or international agency recommends mandating something that is purportedly in the interest of our health, we have learned to duck for cover.  Even in the best and most innocent cases, they have a tendency of ignoring the true causes of problems, and of treating the symptoms in a manner which creates more harm. The fellowship with the chemical industry is unmistakable, and apparently force medicating us with bleach and fluoride is not enough anymore.

The latest recommendation from the World Health Organization is to add calcium and magnesium to municipal water supplies.  You know how we are all calcium deficient, right?  This new treatment is supposed to help us to resist osteoporosis and brittle bone disease.  Of course, these conditions are caused by the fluoride that they have recommended in our drinking water for the last 60 years.  Prior to that, these conditions were so rare that they were considered oddities.  Best yet, is the fact that fluoride has been repeatedly shown by statistics to cause more dental problems than it eliminates. 

Those statistics have been made intentionally difficult to find, by the way.  We can only conclude that the whole science thing just gets in the way of their agenda.  As of yet, they have still never recommended removing fluoride, despite it being an industrial toxic waste product.  What fluoride accomplishes is keeping the populations passive, reducing IQ levels, along with causing cancers, thyroid diseases, metabolic diseases, suppressing the immune system, and causing reproductive defects.  Fluoride was a favorite chemical weapon of the NAZIs.  It is also hidden in a large portion of the pharmaceuticals too, without any apparent reason or explanation.

We all know that calcium is vital for good health, but the vast majority of people are already getting too much calcium in their current diets, and not enough of the nutrients that actually prevent harm.  Diseases which are superficially believed to be from calcium deficiencies are more often caused by malnutrition of nutrients that work with calcium, such as vitamin D3 (sunlight) and magnesium.  Take for instance, you could eat a bowl of chalk every day, but if lacking enough magnesium and vitamin D3, you would still find yourself with the same diseases that are attributed to calcium deficiencies, and additionally heart disease, kidney stones, and arthritis: just to name a few.  Now combine this dilemma with fluoride and pharmaceuticals, of which both suppress nutrient absorption, in order to get a clear picture of the situation.  Perhaps we really do not need this kind of "help".

In fairness, the W.H.O. did recommend the simultaneous addition of magnesium to drinking water, but subsequent health problems will still abound.  The public does not get adequate amounts of omega fatty acids and vitamin D, and so additional calcium is going to generate a tremendous rise in incidences of heart disease, which is already the number one killer of Americans.  This is not from new or groundbreaking research.  The link between excess calcium and heart disease has been known for decades, but the W.H.O. ignores this.  It is prudent to examine their history whenever considering what their true agenda might be.  We should remember that the World Health Organization is behind HONCodeCodex Alimentarius, and forced sterilizations with secret vaccine ingredients as a method of global population reduction.  The sterilized women were never warned.  In other words, these people are evil, and this is the type of "help" that they are infamous for.

We must note that even if the W.H.O. was planning on adding truly healthy vitamins into the water supplies, we would still be against it.  Pure water is a basic human right, and forcibly medicating people against their will is inherently wrong regardless of the justifications.  Tap water is currently full of pesticides, birth control medications, anticonvulsants, S.S.R.I. medications, benzene-derivatives, and let's not forget that bleach and fluoride are intentionally added.  If the quality of our tap water continues to degrade, then perhaps people will eventually be able to use 'Tap Water Intoxication' as a criminal defense.  Allowing these elitists to apply a one-size-fits-all solution to our water supplies is wrong both medically and morally.  We need to encourage people to drink pure, clean water, eat a good diet, exercise more, and then make their own decisions regarding additional vitamins and nutrients.  While we do actually feel that nutritional supplementation is necessary, due to our soils having been depleted by chemical fertilizers; we nevertheless feel that forcibly medicating populations is a blatant violation of peoples' rights.

Related Articles

Scotus ruling makes ‘it a crime to work for peace and human rights’

Published on 06-24-2010

Group: Former President Carter could be prosecuted for monitoring fair elections in Lebanon

The US Supreme Court endorsed Monday a broad reading of the law criminalizing "material support" to terrorism, a statute that critics argue targets legitimate free speech.

In a six to three vote, the highest US court sided with the government and found that an NGO could face prosecution for providing non-terror-related support, including rights training, to US-designated terror groups.

The case involved the Humanitarian Law Project, a human rights group, which the court ruled could face prosecution under the material support statute for providing human rights or conflict resolution training to groups including the Kurdish PKK or the Tamil Tigers.

"The material-support statute is constitutional as applied to the particular activities plaintiffs have told us they wish to pursue," the court ruling said.

In a press release sent to RAW STORY, the Center for Constitutional Rights argues that the ruling "criminalizes" free speech, and that even former President Jimmy Carter could face potential prosecution.
Today, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 6-3 to criminalize speech in Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project, the first case to challenge the Patriot Act before the highest court in the land, and the first post-9/11 case to pit free speech guarantees against national security claims. Attorneys say that under the Court’s ruling, many groups and individuals providing peaceful advocacy could be prosecuted, including President Carter for training all parties in fair election practices in Lebanon. President Carter submitted an amicus brief in the case.

Chief Justice Roberts wrote for the majority, affirming in part, reversing in part, and remanding the case back to the lower court for review; Justice Breyer dissented, joined by Justices Ginsburg and Sotomayor. The Court held that the statute's prohibitions on "expert advice," "training," "service," and "personnel" were not vague, and did not violate speech or associational rights as applied to plaintiffs' intended activities. Plaintiffs sought to provide assistance and education on human rights advocacy and peacemaking to the Kurdistan Workers' Party in Turkey, a designated terrorist organization. Multiple lower court rulings had found the statute unconstitutionally vague.
Created in 1996, the "material support" language was strengthened under the Patriot Act, which Congress passed in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks and reauthorized with some changes in 2004.

It has usually been used to prosecute individuals who have helped organize or finance terrorist attacks.

The law has become a popular tool for prosecutors, who have prosecuted some 150 people under the statute in the United States, obtaining convictions in around 60 cases, and sentences ranging up to life in prison.

The Associated Press adds,
In his dissent, Breyer recognized the importance of denying money and other resources to terror groups. "I do not dispute the importance of this interest," he said. "But I do dispute whether the interest can justify the statute's criminal prohibition."

Breyer said the aid groups' mission is entirely peaceful and consists only of political speech, including how to petition the U.N.

"Not even the 'serious and deadly problem' of international terrorism can require automatic forfeiture of First Amendment rights," he said.
The CCR statement adds:
Said CCR Cooperating Attorney David Cole, “We are deeply disappointed. The Supreme Court has ruled that human rights advocates, providing training and assistance in the nonviolent resolution of disputes, can be prosecuted as terrorists. In the name of fighting terrorism, the Court has said that the First Amendment permits Congress to make human rights advocacy and peacemaking a crime. That is wrong.”

Originally brought in 1998, the case challenges the constitutionality of laws that make it a crime to provide “material support” to groups the administration has designated as “terrorist.” CCR’s clients sought to engage in speech advocating only nonviolent, lawful ends, but the government took the position that any such speech, including even filing an amicus brief in the U.S. Supreme Court, would be a crime if done in support of a designated “terrorist group.”

Said CCR Senior Attorney Shayana Kadidal, “The Court’s decision confirms the extraordinary scope of the material support statute’s criminalization of speech. But it also notes that the scope of the prohibitions may not be clear in every application, and that remains the case for the many difficult questions raised at argument but dodged by today’s opinion, including whether publishing an op-ed or submitting an amicus brief in court arguing that a group does not belong on the list is a criminal act. The onus is now on Congress and the Obama administration to ensure that humanitarian groups may engage in human rights advocacy, training in non-violent conflict resolution, and humanitarian assistance in crisis zones without fearing criminal prosecution.”

The Court rejected the government’s argument that the statute, when applied to plaintiffs’ proposed speech, regulated not speech but conduct, and therefore needed to meet only a low standard – “intermediate scrutiny” – to survive. Instead, the Court found that the statute did criminalize speech on the basis of its content, but then found that the government’s interest in delegitimizing groups on the designated "terrorist organization" list was sufficiently great to overcome the heightened level of scrutiny. This is one of a very few times that the Supreme Court has upheld a criminal prohibition of speech under strict scrutiny, and the first time it has permitted the government to make it a crime to advocate lawful, nonviolent activity.
The Constitution Project also blasted the court's decision in a press release sent to RAW STORY:
Today, the Supreme Court, in Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project, upheld the extremely broad application of federal laws that prohibit material support for designated terrorist groups. The lawsuit challenged the application of the "material support" laws to organizations and individuals who seek to provide peacebuilding and human rights training to groups designated as terrorist organizations. Writing for a total of six justices, Chief Justice Roberts today rejected this challenge, finding that the application of the material support statutes to punish these groups' pure speech that seeks to further lawful, non-violent ends does not run afoul of the Constitution. Although the Court agreed that the statute's regulation of speech must be subject to a demanding level of scrutiny, the Court found that these sweeping restrictions were justified by the Government's interests in combating terrorism.

"The Constitution Project is thoroughly dismayed by today's Supreme Court's decision, which will allow for the prosecution of individuals for constitutionally protected, peaceful, speech and association activities," said Sharon Bradford Franklin, Constitution Project Senior Counsel. "As much as our government must have the tools needed to punish those who work to enable acts of terrorism, it is essential that these laws respect constitutional freedoms. We regret that the Court refused to rein in the overbroad sweep of the material support statutes to ensure that terrorist activities are prohibited but that free speech and association are still safeguarded by the First Amendment. Training groups to pursue peaceful resolution of their disputes should be encouraged, not made criminal."

Last November, the Constitution Project, together with The Rutherford Institute, filed an amicus brief in the case, urging the Supreme Court to strike down the provisions of the material support laws that conflict with First Amendment protections for free speech and freedom of association. Also in November, the Constitution Project's Liberty and Security Committee released Reforming the Material Support Laws: Constitutional Concerns Presented by Prohibitions on Material Support to "Terrorist Organizations," which proposed eight reforms to remedy serious First, Fourth and Fifth Amendment concerns created by existing material support laws.

To view the Constitution Project's amicus brief in Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project, go to:
A statement sent to RAW STORY by the ACLU adds,
The following can be attributed to former President Jimmy Carter, founder of the Carter Center:

"We are disappointed that the Supreme Court has upheld a law that inhibits the work of human rights and conflict resolution groups. The 'material support law' – which is aimed at putting an end to terrorism – actually threatens our work and the work of many other peacemaking organizations that must interact directly with groups that have engaged in violence. The vague language of the law leaves us wondering if we will be prosecuted for our work to promote peace and freedom."

The following can be attributed to Melissa Goodman, staff attorney with the ACLU National Security Project:

"Today's decision is disappointing and inconsistent with our First Amendment position. The government should not be in the business of criminalizing speech meant to promote peace and human rights."

The Coming U.S. Real Estate Crash

This week headlines across the United States screamed that new home sales in the U.S. had declined to the lowest level since the U.S. government began keeping track in 1963.  But in the news stories covering this data in the mainstream media, they were always very careful to give their readers lots of reasons why things are going to "get back to normal" very soon.  But the truth is that is simply not going to happen.  Right now the United States is heading for another real estate crash.  The only thing that has been holding it back was the huge bribe (called a tax credit) that the U.S. government was giving people to buy houses.  Now that the tax credit has expired, there is no artificial incentive to buy homes and the real estate market has fallen through the floor.  Unfortunately, there is every indication that things are going to get even worse.  Read on to find out why.... 

The following are 7 reasons why the U.S. real estate market is already a total nightmare....
#1) In May, sales of new homes in the United States dropped to the lowest level ever recorded.  To be more precise, new home sales dropped 32.7 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 300,000.  A "normal" level is about 800,000 a month.  New homes have never sold this slowly ever since the U.S. Commerce Department began tracking this data back in 1963.
#2) The median price of all new U.S. homes sold in May was $200,900, which represented a 9.6% drop from May 2009.  If prices are still falling on new homes that means that the real estate nightmare is not over.
#3) New home sale figures for the previous two months were also revised down sharply by the government.  Apparently their previous estimates were far too optimistic.  But those were supposed to be really good months for home sales with so many Americans taking advantage of the tax credit right before the deadline.  So the fact that the data for the previous two months had to be revised downward so severely is a very bad sign.
#4) Newly signed home sale contracts in the U.S. dropped more than 10% in May.
#5) According to the U.S. Commerce Department, housing starts in the U.S. fell approximately 10 percent in May, which represented the biggest decline since March 2009.
#6) Internet searches on real estate websites are down about 20 percent compared to this same time period in 2009.
#7) The "twin pillars" of the mortgage industry are a complete and total financial mess.  The Congressional Budget Office is projecting that the final bill for the bailouts of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac could be as high as $389 billion.  Both Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac continue to hemorrhage cash at an alarming rate, but the truth is that without them there wouldn't be much of a mortgage industry left in the United States.
The following are 7 reasons why things are going to get even worse....

#1) The massive tax credit that the U.S. government was offering to home buyers has expired.  This tax credit helped stabilize the U.S. real estate market for many months, but now that it is gone there is no more safety net for the housing industry.
#2) Foreclosures continue to set all-time records.  In fact, the number of home foreclosures set a record for the second consecutive month in May.  Not only that, but the number of newly initiated foreclosures rose 18.6 percent to 370,856 in the first quarter of 2010.  A rising tide of foreclosures means that there is going to be a growing inventory of foreclosed homes on the market.  As of March, U.S. banks had an inventory of approximately 1.1 million foreclosed homes, which was up 20 percent from a year ago.  There is no indication that the number of foreclosed homes that need to be sold is going to decrease any time soon.  This is going to have a depressing effect on U.S. home prices.
#3) Another giant wave of adjustable rate mortgages is scheduled to reset in 2011 and 2012.  This "second wave" threatens to be as dramatic as the first wave that almost sunk the U.S. mortgage industry in 2007 and 2008.  Unfortunately, what this is going to cause is even more foreclosures and even lower home prices.
#4) Banks and lending institutions have been significantly tightening their lending standards over the past several years.  It is now much harder to get a home loan.  That means that there are less potential buyers for each house that is on the market.  Less competition for homes means that prices will continue to decline.
#5) Home prices are still way too high for most Americans in the current economic environment.  Based on current wage levels, house prices should actually be much lower.  So the market is going to continue to try to push home prices down to a point where people can actually afford to buy them.  Right now Americans can't even afford the houses that they already have.  The Mortgage Bankers Association recently announced that more than 10% of all U.S. homeowners with a mortgage had missed at least one mortgage payment during the January to March time period.  That was a new all-time record and represented an increase from 9.1 percent a year ago.
#6) The overall U.S. economy is caught in a death spiral.  Unemployment remains at frightening levels, a large percentage of Americans are up to their eyeballs in debt andmore than 40 million Americans are now on food stamps.  If people don't have jobs and if people don't have money then they can't buy houses. 
#7) The Gulf of Mexico oil spill is the greatest environmental disaster in U.S. history, and it is threatening to become one of the greatest economic disasters in U.S. history.  Already, real estate agents along the Gulf coast are reporting that the oil spill has completely killed the real estate industry in the region.  As this disaster continues to grow worse by the day, homes in the southeast United States will continue to look less and less appealing.  In fact, many are now projecting that the crisis in the Gulf will actually crush the housing industry from coast to coast.
So honestly there is not a lot of reason to think that the housing industry in the U.S. is going to rebound any time soon.  In fact, for those waiting for a "rebound" the truth is that we have already seen it.  Where we are headed next is the second dip of the "double dip" that so many of the talking heads on CNBC have been talking about.  For those seeking to sell their homes this is really bad news, but for those looking to buy a home this is actually good news. 

Who knows?  Home prices may actually come down to a point where many of us can actually afford to purchase a home.

Some Twenty Countries on the Verge of Insolvency

Central Banking in Crisis
By Bob Chapman

Cycles were created for the accumulation of wealth. A boom occurs and you get wealthy from investments on the way up and even wealthier on the way down, because the elitists are controlling the supply of money and credit and interest rates. That is the real underlying mission of the Fed, which is owned by banking and Wall Street. All the power to control markets and create inflation and deflation lies with the Federal Reserve. Politicians do not create monetary policy, the Fed does. The politicians do as they are told. They know from time to time there will be economic pain, but the payoffs are so good they learn to live with it.

This time the damage is so bad that the Fed has been forced to monetize trillions of dollars of debt. The disease this time has spread to Europe with the ECB, using, quantitative easing by simply creating money out of thin air. That is something they said they would never do. The only real liquidity in Europe is emanating from the ECB and the Fed. We believe that eventually countries will fail, as has. You know all the possible victims. There are presently 20 of them including the and . Three-card Monte games do not last forever. If liquidity is that scarce then where is the money coming from? The only place it could be coming from is the Fed. Not only is a $2 trillion bailout in process, but also as banks and thrift institutions fail stress tests some will be bailed out by being absorbed by other supposedly solvent institutions. When that option is gone then governments must bail them out. When the monetization hits the entire system collapses. After 50 or more years in this business we believe the system is definitely going to fold.

All the central banks involved are broke or virtually broke. If they are not broke why is their condition a big secret? The Bundesbank told last week that we do not want stress test results made public. The reason obviously was because of the sad condition German banks are in and their penchant again to keep everything secret. These are the same people who want a one-world currency in the form of an SDR, which is worthless, because it has no backing. It is just another fiat currency. They all are in such bad shape they cannot even sterilize their interventions. The new trillions we see in the system in Europe and the cannot be sterilized.

In we see the Bank of England financing and monetizing the budget deficit. The alternative is financial collapse. The is in such terrible shape that they refused to partake in the almost $1 trillion bailout of the euro zone PIIGS. Recently the Fed bought $1.25 trillion in toxic waste and $800 billion in Treasury paper for over $2 trillion dollars. Adding to the incompetence and desperation, the ECB is buying the toxic debt of euro zone that are on the verge of bankruptcy. All entities are extending their debt buying programs with money they do not have and for people that can never pay the debt back. The central banks do not care as they save the financial institutions. The citizens are an afterthought. Not one of them wants to give up their power base. They don’t want to declare insolvency – they want the public to pay their debts. Weimar wasn’t much different, except it wasn’t caused by German greed, but by the vengeance of its enemies to bring about a war worse than the war to end all wars. This time it is propelled by greed and a quest for world government.
The result of all this is that some 20 major countries are on the edge of insolvency, not to mention scores of other countries. We see one funding crisis after another. Even major countries can’t sell their bonds even with higher than normal yields. Interest rates are close to zero. We suppose they could go into minus territory, where they would pay you to borrow money. Don’t laugh, it has happened more than once. It was also not uncommon to see negative lease rates, as countries engaged in the suppression of gold prices. Governments do anything they want. This same state of mind exists in increases in money and credit. Presently almost all governments are in trouble. If they haven’t made a dog’s breakfast out of their own economies they have bought bonds from those who have and stand to take stiff losses. Look at the euro zone’s almost $1 trillion bailout of the PIIGS. Do you really think those bonds will ever be paid off – we don’t. It is this concept of interconnectivity that as the players are finding out it is a disaster. How can solvent European countries even contemplate a $2 trillion bailout for nations that really do not care if the debt is ever paid off? That is how today’s world turns.

We fall back on a very important underlying concept and that is if you do not understand what is really going on behind the scenes you can never get the right answers and conclusions. People talk about cycles and super cycles as if they occurred out of nowhere. They all happen by design. As an example, the economy has improved, but that is because of $800 billion in stimulus and Fed spending. The growth that evolved was tepid at best. Now that the economy is trailing off, the stimulus having expended itself, and the question is what comes next? The only way to stave off recession/depression is to have another stimulus plan. That, of course, doesn’t affect the root causes - it just gains time.

In this debt parade we find it interesting that but for one source, we see no mention in the media of ’s contribution, via the IMF, of some $60 billion. The frauds and criminality continue unabated. Nowhere do they tell you that among the biggest speculators were the banks that you are being forced to bailout.

Over this past year we have seen a stampede into corporate and Treasury bonds, at miniscule yields, due to the perception that bonds are safer. These investors are in for a big surprise as banks and other professionals start to factor in the risks involved, which throw off such poor returns. As the world economy runs out of stimulus and liquidity that has been chocked off by central banks, the realization will be that the prospects of countries and corporations have been severely diminished. GDP is falling and could in many countries, led by the , should be negative for the last two quarters of the year and beyond. There is no safety in bonds, particularly municipals. Bonds are in a bubble, as many will soon discover. If income falls the ability to service bonds gets more difficult, both by government and corporations. While these myriad problems exist our Congress grovels before the political masters of Wall Street, banking, insurance, big Parma and transnational conglomerates. Pricing of risk is now impossible, which means risk rises exponentially. Eventually this reality will make credit harder to access as we move into the future.

What is important more than anything else are jobs and those who create them cannot easily borrow money. At the same time free trade, globalization, offshoring and outsourcing kill our jobs and fill the coffers of transnational conglomerates that keep their profits tax-free offshore. You cannot do that. While this transpires yourCongress stuffs their pockets with cash from elitists who own them.

The troubles we see in Europe are but a reflection of what is going on worldwide. This leads us to the conclusion that Americans and others are being systematically betrayed by their legislators. – A problem that can be remedied in November by removing almost all of them.

The European rescue attempt will not work nor will phony, temporary stimulus, or increased issuance of money and credit. Do not forget as well that a great deal of that European debt is being held by US institutions. Expending volatility is on the way, as the debt implosion continues. Is it any wonder, as we predicted, gold and the shares are hitting new highs.

Stock and bond markets have no way to go but down. If you are not out of both, with the exception of gold and silver shares, you had better be. The big money, the professionals, are in a state of panic and that money has to go somewhere. Yes, you guessed it, and that is very bullish for gold and silver related assets. As an added incentive the dollar is in the process of completing a head and shoulders, which means the rally is over and the dollar is headed down. Even though the dollar decoupled from gold over a year ago, as we predicted, and probably only affects gold by some 20%, it is still gold bullish and not neutral or negative. Adding further fuel to the fire we predicted four years ago not only real estate would collapse and that foreclosures would wipe out trillions in real estate values, but that millions would walk away from their underwater homes. Homes where mortgages were greater than the home value. The first wave began two years ago, but we now see affected those with good to excellent credit who are defaulting because one or even two breadwinners have lost their jobs. Now we have those underwater that won’t sit with a wasting asset. Besides they realize this could now go on for years, perhaps two more years to the bottom of the market and many more before any semblance of normality is seen. They have now become about 13% of all defaults, up from 4% three years ago. Mortgage holders also see this as payback for the banks that caused the debacle and screwed the homeowner in the first place. Banks aided and abetted all kinds of fraud and no one has ever been charged, never mind sent to jail. The Fed and government also bailed out the banks and not the public and that has further incensed homeowners and others. It pays to be a crook. The banks are losing about $100 billion a year and that is funneled into the economy via other channels – another stimulus plan, that is because many no longer pay a mortgage or rent. In the next two years homes in negative equinity will rise from 25% to 50% to 60%. Lots of lenders are going under and that is the way it should be. It, of course, will be devastating for the economy.

U.S. Financial Conditions Just Collapsed Back To Crisis Levels

Deutsche Bank: U.S. Financial Conditions Just Collapsed Back To Crisis Levels 
Vincent Fernando, CFA | Jun. 24, 2010, 5:36 AM 

Deutsche Bank has a new and improved index of U.S. financial conditions, and this index just slumped back towards the lows of our recent crisis.

Deutsche Bank's Peter Hooper:

Financial conditions appear to have worsened substantially in recent quarters based on our update of the broad index of US financial variables presented earlier this year at the US Monetary Policy Forum. In the wake of recent developments in Europe, increased stress in financial markets has pushed that index halfway back to its immediate post- Lehman crisis lows.

The index is built from an array of financial indicators such as U.S. treasury yields, the volatility index (VIX), the stock market, Broker-Dealer leverage, among others. It's a bit of a black box, but it's calculation is giving a similar reading to what we saw during the worst of the financial crisis.

The broad index shows a significantly larger net drop than other financial conditions indexes from most recent peaks partly because it gives greater weight to financial stock and flow variables and partly because it factors in the extent to which conditions have failed to respond positively to the recovery of GDP. The continued absence of private securitization of mortgages and subdued activity in ABS markets persists in weighing on broad conditions. Factors that have tended to give an offsetting lift to financial conditions have included a slowdown in the tightening of lending standards and more recently a drop in Treasury yields and associated easing of mortgage rates.

Deutsche believes this is a red flag for the economy, and explains why we should expect ultra-low interest rates from the Federal Reserve to continue for quite some time.
The worsening of financial conditions increases negative risks for economic prospects going forward and tends to delay the expected timing of Fed rate hikes. We will consider in more detail next week the implications for economic activity of the recent tightening of financial conditions.

Still, DB has a pretty benign U.S. GDP outlook going forward, so it seems they only believe the risk mentioned above is a low-probability event, or perhaps they haven't downgraded their official expectations yet.

Health Risks from Oil Spill: TILT (2 articles)

"Some of the Most Toxic Chemicals that We Know"
"Every Place Can be Ground Zero"
CDC Advises "Everyone" to Avoid Oil

An "epidemiologist" is a scientist who studies diseases among groups of people.
So the following quote from Bloomberg caught my eye:
Shira Kramer, an epidemiologist who has conducted research for the petroleum industry on the health consequences of exposure to petroleum, said she is concerned that the risks are being downplayed.

“It’s completely scientifically dishonest to pooh-pooh the potential here when you are talking about some of the most toxic chemicals that we know,” said Kramer....

“When you talk about community exposure, you are talking about exposures in unpredictable ways and to subpopulations that may be more highly susceptible than others, such as those of reproductive age, people who are immuno-compromised, children or fetuses.

‘With the World Trade Center, there have been unpredictable adverse health effects to the populations that were exposed and not just the workers,” she said. “In this case, we have a soup of chemicals from the crude, chemicals from the dispersants and pollutants that were already in the water. Who can say how they will interact?”
Crude oil contains such powerful cancer-causing chemicals benzene, toluene, heavy metals and arsenic.

In addition, BP has poured millions of gallons of the highly-toxic dispersant Corexit into the Gulf. And see this.

Bloomberg also notes that the Centers for Disease Control has issued health warnings about the oil:
“Although the oil may contain some chemicals that could cause harm to an unborn baby under some conditions, the CDC has reviewed sampling data from the EPA and feels that the levels of these chemicals are well below the level that could generally cause harm to pregnant women or their unborn babies,” the CDC said on its website.

While they suggest there is no threat, the CDC simultaneously advised “everyone, including pregnant women” to avoid spill-affected areas.
While we must keep the risk in perspective - and while this does not mean that Gulf coast residents will suffer mass illness due to the oil spill - we should not underestimate the risks either. As Bloomberg notes:
“Oil is a complex mixture containing substances like benzene, heavy metals, arsenic, and polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons -- all known to cause human health problems such as cancer, birth defects or miscarriages,” said Kenneth Olden, founding dean of New York’s CUNY School of Public Health at Hunter College, who is monitoring a panel on possible delayed effects. “The potential here is huge and we have to be diligent about protecting the public health and these workers.”

For the public at large, the threat is less clear because of the uncertainty about the degree of exposure, Lioy said in a telephone interview.

“I don’t think the levels are high enough for concern,” he said. “But this is an ongoing event. Every day is Day One. Every place can be Ground Zero.”
Because hurricanes could spread the oil inland, it may indeed be true that almost every place on the Gulf Coast can be Ground Zero.


Workers cleaning up the BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico have reported suffering from flu-like symptoms that may be the consequence of exposure to chemicals in the oil as well as the petroleum-derived solvent being used to disperse the spill.

The illness -- marked by headaches, fatigue, upset stomach, and problems with memory and concentration -- has been dubbed toxicant-induced loss of tolerance, or TILT. People suffering from TILT lose the ability to tolerate exposures to household chemical products, medication or even food, Dr. Claudia Miller of the University of Texas Health Science Center told WOAI TV:
"Things like diesel fuel, exposure to fragrances, cleaning agents that never bothered them before suddenly bother them," adds Dr. Miller.
Miller first described TILT in 1996, but it remains a controversial diagnosis among the medical community. The syndrome is also known as multiple chemical sensitivity and idiopathic environmental intolerance. The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, a division of the National Institutes of Health, has defined the illness as a "chronic, recurring disease caused by a person's inability to tolerate an environmental chemical or class of foreign chemicals."

Regardless of whether the illness being reported in Gulf cleanup workers and residents ends up being confirmed as TILT, the fact remains that the chemicals people are being exposed to in the 
oil and dispersants are known to have health impacts including eye, skin and respiratory irritation, as well as headaches, dizziness, weakness, nausea and confusion. An analysis of EPA air testing data has found levels of these chemicals in coastal communities exceeding safety standards.

As of this week, the Louisiana Department of Health has documented 109 reports of illnesses among residents exposed to the spill, with 74 of those complaints coming from cleanup workers, 
according to ProPublica. In Alabama, another 19 cases of illness have been reported among people exposed to chemicals in the spill.

Facing South reported, the Louisiana Environmental Action Network has been distributing safety equipment including respirators to cleanup workers -- but some workers have been threatened with firing if they wear them, apparently because of BP's liability worries.

In the U.S. Coast Guard photos accompanying this story, oil spill cleanup workers along Louisiana's coast can be seen performing their duties without respiratory protection. Concerns have also been raised about inadequate safety training being provided to workers.

Monique Harden, co-director of 
Advocates for Environmental Human Rights in New Orleans, blasted the lack of worker protections during an interview yesterday with MSNBC's Keith Olbermann.

"What's happened in this situation is BP with the approval of our government has placed expediency over health protection," she said.





The International Space Station Tour

Concept Cars

Raw Data

Outlook Grim For Jobs Bill Ahead Of Vote

June 24, 2010 by Huffington Post
by Arthur Delaney

Democratic leaders in the Senate have apparently failed to win enough support to overcome a Republican filibuster of a bill to help the poor, the old and the jobless, despite making a series of cuts to the measure over the past several weeks to appease deficit hawks.

"It looks like we're going to come up short," said a senior Democratic aide on Wednesday evening. "It looks like Republicans are prepared to kill aid to states, an extension of unemployment benefits, and ironically, the Republicans are prepared to kill efforts to close loopholes that allow companies to export jobs overseas."

The legislation, known as the "tax extenders" bill, would reauthorize extended unemployment benefits for people out of work for six months or longer, would protect doctors from a 21 percent pay cut for seeing Medicare patients, and would provide billions in aid to state Medicaid programs.

Come Friday, 1.2 million people will lose access to the extended unemployment benefits, a number that will grow by several hundred thousand every week after that. Fifty million Medicare claims from June are currently in process at the reduced rate, which the AARP says has already caused some of its members to have trouble finding a doctor. And the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates that dropping the $24 billion in aid to states will cause 900,000 public- and private-sector layoffs in 2011.

Both chambers of Congress had already passed the measure, deficit spending and all, but when it came time to combine the bills in May, conservative Democrats and moderate Republicans lost their previous will to help the economy and forced party leaders to begin the nickel-and-dime process of trimming the bill.

"I've never been involved in anything that's been revised so often and in so many different ways," said Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), who worked with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to try to win support for the bill.

The House shortened the Medicare physicians' fix, dropped the Medicaid money, and also $7 billion in subsidies for laid off workers to buy health insurance. The Senate cut $25 per week from every unemployment check and shortened the so-called "Doc Fix" even further, to six months, and on Wednesday Dem leaders trimmed another $8 billion by reducing the Medicaid assistance. The bill has shrunk over the past few weeks from $190 billion, to $80 billion, to $55 billion, to just over $30 billion in the current Senate version.

"Sen. Baucus and Sen. Reid did everything they can to try to pick up the handful of votes needed to overcome the Republican filibuster" said the Dem aide. Nebraska Democrat Ben Nelson has said repeatedly he would not vote for the measure unless its cost was completely offset, so Reid and Baucus focused on moderate Maine Republicans Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, who demanded more cuts to the bill, apparently, than the Dem leaders were willing to make.

"Remember, Republicans voted for legislation that both extended unemployment insurance and reduced the deficit," said Don Stewart, a spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). "Democrats, on the other hand, introduced and voted for legislation that increased the deficit. There was bipartisan support for ours, bipartisan opposition for theirs."

The Republican alternative to the tax extenders bill, which Ben Nelson supported, would have extended unemployment benefits and offset the cost with budget cuts so steep it "would essentially shut down much of the federal government for the last two and a half months of this fiscal year," according to the CBPP.

Democrats also softened a provision that would raise taxes on investment fund managers by closing a loophole that allows some of the richest people in the world to pay a lower tax rate than their secretaries. The debate has largely focused on the deficit, however.

The process has been infuriating to employment and labor activists.

"Let Senator McConnell, let Senator Senator Collins, let Senator Brown and every other Republican explain why one of their own constituents doesn't deserve to keep their job, shouldn't be able to send their kid to college, can't put food on their table without maxing out their credit cards," said Lori Lodes of the SEIU. "Rooting against America, Republicans are taking pride in keeping families out of work as their only strategy for winning elections."

The Senate will vote on Thursday or Friday.