Monthly Archives: October 2008

Obama Threatens Dire Consequences If Iran Doesn’t Change Its Ways

Haaretz Service and News Agencies
October 9, 2008

U.S. Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama told an audience at the second U.S. presidential debate on Tuesday that he would deliver a tough and direct message to Iran that if they did not change their behavior there would be dire consequences.

Obama’s opponent, Republican John McCain, reiterated that he would never allow a second Holocaust to take place, referring to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s threats to “wipe Israel off the map.” The Republican candidate also repeated his criticism of Obama’s willingness to hold direct negotiations with the Islamic republic, without preconditions.

The debate, which was town-hall style, included questions from an audience of 80 selected voters, identified as undecided. The candidates were also asked questions sent via the Internet, and selected by moderator Tom Brokaw, during the 90 minute debate held at Belmont University in Nashville Tennessee.

Retired U.S. Navy officer and audience member, Terry Shirey, addressed both candidates saying, “I know both of you have expressed support for Israel. If despite your best diplomatic efforts, Iran attacks Israel, would you be willing to commit U.S. troops to support Israel or wait for approval from the United Nations Security Council?”

Both McCain and Obama said they would come to Israel’s aid against an attack from Iran during the debate, with McCain saying he would not wait for UN approval to intervene militarily, and Obama saying that the U.S. cannot take the military option off the table or allow the Islamic Republic to acquire a nuclear weapon.

After repeatedly thanking Shirey for his service, McCain was first to respond saying “we obviously would not wait for the United Nations Security Council. I think the realities are that both Russia and China would probably pose significant obstacles.”

McCain also said he believed the U.S. needed to join with their allies in a “league of democracies” to stop Iranian behavior, hopefully causing them to abandon their quest for nuclear weapons.

“At the end of the day, my friend,” McCain told the Shirey, “I have to tell you again, and you know what it’s like to serve, and you know what it’s like to sacrifice, but we can never allow a second Holocaust to take place.”

Obama thanked Shirey for his service, too and said that the U.S. could not allow Iran to get a nuclear weapon for it would be a “game-changer” in the Middle East.

Calling Israel the U.S.’s strongest ally in the region and one of their strongest allies in the world, Obama said nuclear weapons in the hand of the Iranians would create the possibility of nuclear weapons falling into the hands of terrorists.

McCain and Obama also clashed on the Iraq war, but shied away from the rancor and character attacks of the days leading up to the face-off.

Neither candidate offered new proposals on the war, which McCain supports and Obama has opposed from its inception. Likewise they did not put forward new proposals to shore up America’s crumbling financial system, a significant drag on the four-term Arizona senator’s candidacy given his membership in the incumbent party of deeply unpopular President George W. Bush.

McCain said Obama would bring U.S. troops home from Iraq in defeat. Obama said the war was draining the U.S. Treasure of $10 billion a month, money that was needed to put a floor under the country’s failing financial system.

McCain said America’s troubled economy would require the government to scale back benefits now enjoyed by older Americans, and both men agreed that U.S. government entitlement programs – social security retirement payments and medical insurance for the elderly – had to be reformed.

McCain did, however, quip at one point that trying to pin down Obama’s tax plan was like trying to nail Jell-O (gelatin) to the wall.

Obama shot back, “Sen. McCain, I think the Straight-talk Express lost a wheel on that one,” referring the name McCain has applied to his campaign bus and jet.

Ohio Homeless “Driven” To Vote Obama

JEANE MacINTOSH
New York Post
October 7, 2008

CLEVELAND – Volunteers supporting Barack Obama picked up hundreds of people at homeless shelters, soup kitchens and drug-rehab centers and drove them to a polling place yesterday on the last day that Ohioans could register and vote on the same day, almost no questions asked.

The huge effort by a pro-Obama group, Vote Today Ohio, takes advantage of a quirk in the state’s elections laws that allows people to register and cast ballots at the same time without having to prove residency.

Republicans have argued that the window could lead to widespread voter fraud because officials wouldn’t have an opportunity to verify registration information before ballots were cast.

Among the volunteers were Yori Stadlin and Vivian Lehrer of the Upper West Side, who got married last week and decided to spend their honeymoon shepherding voters to the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections.

Early today, Stadlin’s van picked up William Woods, 59, at the soup kitchen of the Bishop Cosgrove Center.

“I never voted before,” Woods said, because of a felony conviction that previously barred him from the polls. “Without this service, I would have had no way to get here.”

Joe Biden Routes Campaign Cash To Family, Their Firms

Jim McElhatton
Washington Times
October 15, 2008

Democratic vice-presidential candidate Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. has paid more than $2 million in campaign cash to his family members, their businesses and employers over the years, a practice that watchdogs criticize as rife with potential conflicts of interest.

Getty Images FAMILY: Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s son, Hunter Biden, was at a campaign stop with his father in December. The candidate’s sister, Valerie Biden Owens, is his longtime campaign manager.

The money largely flowed from the coffers of Mr. Biden’s failed presidential campaign during the past two years to a company that employs his sister and longtime campaign manager, Valerie Biden Owens, according to campaign disclosure filings.

The senator from Delaware also directed campaign legal work to a Washington lobbying and law firm founded by his son R. Hunter Biden, the disclosures show.

Putting family members and their companies on the political payroll is legal if the work is legitimate and charged at market rates, according to the Federal Election Commission. Still, public watchdog groups have long criticized such arrangements.

Iraq Says Pact To Allow U.S. Troops Until 2011

Reuters
October 15, 2008

BAGHDAD (Reuters) – A draft agreement with the United States requires U.S. troops to leave Iraq by the end of 2011 unless asked to stay, and gives Iraq the right to try them for felonies committed while off duty, Iraq said on Wednesday.

The long-awaited security deal between Washington and Baghdad is needed to provide a legal basis for U.S. troops to remain in Iraq after a U.N. Security Council resolution expires at the end of this year.

A final draft of the pact, hammered out over months of negotiations between Washington and Baghdad, has been submitted to Iraqi politicians for approval.

It had been held up for months by disagreement over the circumstances under which Iraqi courts could try U.S. soldiers and how long they could stay in the country.

“The withdrawal is to be achieved in three years. In 2011, the government at that time will determine whether it needs a new pact or not, and what type of pact will depend on the challenges it faces,” government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh told Reuters.

On the issue of immunity for U.S. troops, he said: “Inside their bases, they will be under American law. Iraqi judicial law will be implemented in case these forces commit a serious and deliberate felony outside their military bases and when off duty.”

The pact still must be approved by Iraqi political leaders, the Iraqi cabinet and parliament. Dabbagh said Baghdad will seek an extension of a U.N. mandate for the U.S. troops if the pact is not in place by the end of this year.

Mass Fraud Fears In US Election

James Cheyne
Sky News Online
October 8, 2008

Eleven separate investigations have now been launched into a voter registration group called the Association of Community Organisations for Reform – or Acorn.

The authorities believe they may have duplicated voter forms, employed convicts to register people and even stolen the names of the American football team the Dallas Cowboys in order to create fake voters.

The suspicions started when authorities in Las Vegas raided the organisation’s offices, removing eight computer hard drives and several boxes of documents.

Acorn called the raid “a stunt that serves no useful purpose other than discredit our work”.

They suggested the investigations into them were politically motivated.

But the concerns about dodgy election papers started to spread to other states.

Authorities in Indiana said they had concerns about roughly a thousand voters registered by the group there.

And Fox News reporters in the state of Missouri found 10 registration documents with the same name and signature.

Acorn has registered up to 1.3 million voters across the US so far.

Read article

FDIC Deposit Insurance Not A Sure Thing

Radhika Miller
IntelDaily
October 9, 2008

(PSL) — We hear the parting words from television commercials and radio advertisements: “Member FDIC Insured.” The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation has been insuring our money, our livelihood, up to $100,000. This was supposed to make working-class people feel safe and comfortable. But when a series of huge banks collapsed, falling like dominos one after the other, individual financial safety was put in serious jeopardy.

With the passage of the Wall Street bailout legislation, the rules for the FDIC have changed. The sum per bank deposit guaranteed by the FDIC has been temporarily raised to $250,000. The FDIC is also allowed to borrow from the Treasury to cover losses that might occur as a result of the new, higher insurance limit.

The FDIC, however, currently has enough in its reserve fund to cover only 1 percent of insured deposits. As of September 2008, the Deposit Insurance Fund had a balance of $45 billion, which is about $10 billion less than the amount projected in March 2008 for the end of the year. If there is an all-out run on the banks and everyone decides to try to collect their money, millions of workers might not be able to recover any of their money, let alone the up to $250,000 now guaranteed by the FDIC.

A federal corporation

The FDIC is a federal corporation that provides deposit insurance for member banks. It emerged as an institution with passage of the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933. The concept was motivated by the bank panics of 1930-1933, during which thousands of banks failed. The newly established FDIC paid a bank’s depositors roughly 85 percent of their deposits in the event of failure, up to a maximum of $2,500 per depositor.

The FDIC’s mandate covers both insolvent and illiquid banks. Insolvent banks are those whose liabilities (including deposits) exceed their assets (such as holdings of government securities and home and commercial mortgages); illiquid banks are those whose assets cannot be readily converted into cash. Illiquid banks may often be insolvent if no market exists for some of their assets.

When banks become troubled, the FDIC usually intervenes through one of two methods: The purchase and assumption method, or P&A, in which an open bank assumes all the liabilities (deposits) of the failed bank and purchases some or all of the failed bank’s assets (loans); or the payoff method, in which the FDIC pays the insured depositors and liquidates the bank’s assets to recoup at least part of its outlays. The payoff method, which requires the FDIC to provide large sums of money to cover deposit losses, is only used when no bank is willing to participate in a P&A rescue.

The ultimate promise of the FDIC is that depositors will not lose—if a bank fails, the FDIC, sponsored by the government but funded by premiums paid in by its member banks, will guarantee that a solvent bank will assume their deposits or the FDIC itself will compensate them for any deposit losses, now capped at $250,000.

The truth is that the FDIC does not have the reserves to finance this promise.

Too big to let fail

The FDIC has been able to operate with reserves amounting to only 1 percent of the insured deposits because it has never had to compensate for deposit losses exceeding that amount at one time. Essentially, the FDIC works within the same concept of “risk management” and speculation that plagues the financial markets, betting that large numbers of people will not attempt to withdraw their money from the banks all at once.

As long as it has to cover only occasional, individual bank failures, the FDIC is capable of fulfilling its mission statement. However, if a large number of banks fail over a relatively short period of time, the FDIC, too, will likely fail. Stanford Financial analyst Jaret Seiberg predicts more than 100 banks nationwide will fail next year.

The FDIC has predicted that at the end of 2008, insured deposits will total $4.4 trillion. The FDIC has only $45 billion in its Deposit Insurance Fund. Workers could face a gargantuan loss if large number of additional banks was to go under and the Treasury did not come to the rescue.

But the FDIC knows that the government cannot allow the FDIC-insured banking system to fail. If the large banks failed, without other banks willing to assume insured liabilities, the FDIC would have to pay all depositors the insured amount, which it is incapable of doing. Trillions of dollars could disappear into thin air.

The effects would ripple through the money and credit markets throughout the world. Deposits carefully recorded in computers and balance sheets would vanish. Workers’ life savings would evaporate, corporations depending on cash flow would fold, and the capitalist economy, beholden to the ability and motive of turning a profit, would collapse.

Just like the government has bailed out a number of major financial players, the FDIC, too, would likely be rescued. From the perspective of the capitalist class, this would be a simple matter of necessity to avoid even more instability in an already stormy economy. Following the multi-billion-dollar Wall Street bailout, financing such a rescue would likely require intervention by the Federal Reserve, which would essentially print more money so that the FDIC’s financial obligations could be covered.

The result would be a depreciation of the dollar and an inflationary pressure on prices. Essentially, workers might recover every single one of their insured deposit dollars, yet each dollar would purchase less than it did before as a direct consequence of the inflationary effects of the Fed intervention. The Fed can print money, but it cannot create value.

This Catch-22 reveals the limitations of the FDIC system in the face of a major crisis of the capitalist system. There is no mechanism that can be put in place to eliminate the devastating consequences of the bust phase of the capitalist cycle of production. Even a government-backed FDIC bailout will not preserve the value of workers’ deposits. Under the profit system, nothing can provide workers the necessary guarantees against the devastating effects of a capitalist crisis.

Brown Lawn Means Jail Tme

BAYONET POINT — On Friday morning, Joseph Prudente put on a pair of shorts and his “Grandpa Gone Wild” T-shirt. He took off his wedding band and put his heart medication in a plastic Wal-Mart bag.

Then his daughter drove him to jail. Grandpa had time to do.

His crime? He had disobeyed a court order that he sod the lawn at his Beacon Woods home.

His bail? Zero.

Prudente, 66, must stay in the Pasco County jail in Land O’Lakes until the required sod work is completed, under a September court order signed by Circuit Judge W. Lowell Bray.

“He’s in prison for God knows how long because we can’t afford to sod the lawn,” said his sobbing daughter, Jennifer Lehr.

Prudente has owned a home in the deed restricted community since 1998. The covenants require homeowners to keep their lawns covered with grass.

Earlier this year, the Beacon Woods Civic Association took Prudente to court after he failed to install new sod on his browning lawn, which had withered after his sprinklers broke. The association had already sent letters telling him to resod his front and back yards by certain dates.

In an interview at the jail Friday evening, Prudente said he thought he had made a good financial hardship case to the association: His adjustable rate mortgage went up an extra $600 a month. Wachovia repossessed his Toyota Scion. His daughter and her two young children, who had fallen on hard times, moved in with him and his wife, Pat.

“To me, keeping the house is more important than the grass,” said Prudente, a retired registered nurse from New York. “I just ignored them.”

He ignored them, too, after the association filed a complaint in court. He ignored a court order in May, signed by Bray, giving Prudente 30 days to sod the yard.

In June, the court also awarded the association $795 in fees, which included a $645 attorney’s fees and a $150 fee for “an expert witness.”

By September, there was still no sod. Bray found Prudente in contempt of court, but said in his order that Prudente could “purge himself of this contempt” by doing the required work within the next 30 days. That time expired Friday.

“It is clear to the Court that the ability to avoid incarceration is well within the Defendant’s grasp,” Bray wrote.

Representatives of the Beacon Woods association expressed regret Prudente had landed in jail. But they said it was his own fault.

“It’s a sad situation,” said board president Bob Ryan, who added that the association had followed all the correct procedures. “But in the end, I have to say he brought it upon himself.”

Lawyer Thomas Gurran, who represents the association, said in a statement that the association had “just wanted Mr. Prudente to comply with the lawn restriction.” He added that the contempt power of judges is essential to the system.

“Many orders and judgements … would be absolutely meaningless if they could not be enforced by a judge’s contempt power,” he said. “This case is an example of what happens when someone defies an order entered by a judge in our country.”

Prudente’s family said the case had gone too far. Pat Prudente said she and her husband knew they had chosen to live in a community with restrictions. “But they shouldn’t have this much power,” she said.

Back at the jail — where the population is 1,132, well above the 782 capacity — Parente said he was being treated well. He has no criminal record in Florida and said his stay in Land O’Lakes was his first time ever in a slammer.

What comes next? He doesn’t know. “Should I go out and rob a bank? Then I’d be back here,” he said. “But then I’d get out on bail.”

Jodie Tillman can be reached at jtillman@sptimes.com or (727) 869-6247.

Atlanta Cops Roll Out SWAT APC

Infowars
October 12, 2008

stock market
Atlanta’s cops need this bad boy for SWAT raids on Bubba for selling weed.

It’s no big deal, insists the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. It’s just the local cops with a $500,000 APC. For you civilians, that’s Armored Personnel Carrier.

“Don’t be surprised to see an Army tank rolling down a street near you,” chides the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “The Cobb County police department has refurbished a donated Armored Personnel Carrier for officers to use in SWAT situations.”

Apparently, the cops think those on the receiving end of any SWAT operation using this military vehicle are armed to the teeth like the resistance in Iraq or maybe the Taliban in Afghanistan. It certainly is not needed for busting the average dope dealer, even one hopped up on PCP.

Equipped with thermal sensors, computerized tracking devices, night vision, tear gas launchers and other gadgets, the all-black six-wheel unit can hold up to nine SWAT officers.

It has a new engine and transmission, which will allow it to reach a speed of 60 miles per hour.

“In these times, you don’t know what you are facing,” Cobb police chief George Hatfield said. “We want the maximum safety for our officers and the public. We want to be prepared for whatever comes up. This is another tool that will allow us to be quicker and faster in our response.”

The L.A.V. 300 will also send a message to the civilians — increasingly, there is little difference between the cops and the military. In order to get the message out, the APC will be on display at Marietta’s town square, reports the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Step-On Scanner Lets Air Passengers Keep Shoes On

Reuters
October 12, 2008

Israel has introduced a step-on scanner that spares airline travelers the nuisance of having to remove their shoes so they can be X-rayed for hidden weapons, though the new device cannot yet sniff out explosives.

Only the shoes of passengers deemed suspicious by Ben-Gurion Airport staff are removed, X-rayed and swabbed for bomb residues. Most people can now keep their shoes on.

Installed next to the walk-through scanners at Ben-Gurion, “MagShoe” announces within two seconds whether the footwear of the passenger standing on it contains unusual metal that might be a knife for a hijacking or a bomb detonator part.

“This innovation brings enormous logistical value as it significantly cuts down the discomfort and delays associated with standard shoe searches,” said Nissim Ben-Ezra, security technologies manager for Israel’s Airports Authority.

But he said MagShoe must be used in conjunction with other precautions, especially as it would not spot hidden explosives — a major concern after the botched 2001 “shoe bombing” by al Qaeda sympathizer Richard Reid aboard a Paris-Miami flight.

A bomb-sniffing version of the suitcase-sized MagShoe is in the works, an Israeli security source said. The current version, produced by Israeli firm Ido Security Ltd., costs about $5,000.

The U.S. Transportation Security Administration is assessing MagShoe’s feasibility for American airports and several other countries have expressed an interest, the Israeli source said.

Former Author Talks About Dangers Of Modified Foods

Emily Banks
Leader-Telegram
October 15, 2008

Genetic pollution could last longer than nuclear waste and global warming, said Jeffrey Smith, author of “Seeds of Deception,” Monday night at The Forum at UW-Eau Claire’s Zorn Arena.

It would be impossible to recall genetically modified mosquitoes or salmon once they’re released into nature.

Much of the foods we eat – such as soy, corn and canola oil – have been genetically modified to withstand herbicides and pesticides, creating new organisms that never existed before. And they might be causing major health risks, Smith said.

“They put genes from bacteria and viruses into crops,” Smith said.

Scientists have warned of allergens, toxins, new diseases and nutritional problems caused by genetically modified organisms (GMOs), but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration overruled the scientists’ findings and deemed the foods safe, said Smith. In working with scientists, he said he’s identified 65 different health risks related to GMOs.

Lab rats refused to eat genetically modified tomatoes, and squirrels in the wild will choose organic corn over genetically modified crops. Smith calls that phenomenon the “wisdom of animals.” The process of genetically engineering potatoes made lab rats sick in one UK study, causing excessive cell growth, and animals have become sterile or even died after eating genetically modified crops, said Smith.

GMOs might be harmful to humans for many reasons. What scientists intended to change in an organism may not turn out how they expected, Smith said. The protein might be different than they intended, or it might rearrange once it’s in the crop and generations later might mutate into something else.

Early science suggested soil-dwelling toxic bacteria would be destroyed during digestion, but Smith says that’s not true. Tests have shown the bacteria survive digestion, and genes from GMOs might transfer to humans’ gut bacteria and own DNA.

“Long after we stop eating GM foods, we may have visitors that have moved in,” he said.

The effects on humans who consume these kinds of foods is not known. No human clinical trials have ever taken place, but Smith suggested that the increase in genetically modified foods might be connected to a decrease in general health among Americans.

Perhaps autism, diabetes, obesity and cancer have some links to GMOs, Smith said.

But it’s not too late to change habits and eventually the market, Smith told the crowd at Zorn Arena. Europe has taken steps to limit GMOs, and Americans made conscious decisions not to purchase milk with bovine growth hormones, turning around the milk market.

People can use non-GMO shopping guides, buy foods that are organic or carry a non-GMO label, and avoid at-risk ingredients such as packaged meals that include soy, corn and canola products, which also include ingredients such as high fructose corn syrup, salad dressings and cooking oils.

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