Monthly Archive: September 2012

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Cartnoon

Clara BowLove Among The Millionaires (1930) (1:16)

“I’m a big freak, because I’m myself!”

Clara Bow had ‘It’, it being sex of course.  The same year she made It (the movie), she also made Wings, the first Best Picture winner.  A non-conformist, she was dogged by a savage press which accused her (among other things) of exhibitionism, incest, lesbianism, bestiality, drug addiction, alcoholism, and laying the entire 1927 USC Football Team no doubt accounting for their one tie (to Stanford) and subsequent loss of the 1928 Rose Bowl spot to those very same Cardinals (where was BCS when you needed it?).

Love Among The Millionaires is a talkie (she hated them) but otherwise quite typical of the roles she was offered.  Sixteen years after retiring from films she was institutionalized for chronic insomnia, diagnosed schizophrenic “despite experiencing neither sound nor vision hallucinations”, and subjected to electro-shock treatment.  She spent the rest of her life a recluse.

On This Day In History September 30

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

September 30 is the 273rd day of the year (274th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 92 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1791, The Magic Flute, Die Zauberflote, an opera in two acts composed by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart to a German libretto by Emanuel Schikaneder, premiered in Vienna at the Freihaus-Theater auf der Wieden. Mozart conducted and Schikaneder played Papageno, while the role of the Queen of the Night was sung by Mozart’s sister-in-law Josepha Hofer. This was Mozart’s last opera.

Six In The Morning

On Sunday

US military death toll in Afghanistan reaches 2,000

The US military has suffered its 2,000th death in the Afghan war – with a suspected “insider” attack at a checkpoint.

 30 September 2012 Last updated at 07:33 GMT

A US soldier and a foreign contractor were killed in the east of the country, apparently by a rogue member of the Afghan security forces.

“Insider” attacks sharply increased this year, prompting the coalition to suspend joint operations this month.

However, such operations resumed in recent days, the Pentagon said.

The nationality of the contractor was not given immediately.

The American death toll goes back to the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.

‘Checkpoint row’

The two new deaths occurred on Saturday in Wardak province, a spokesman for the Nato-led International Security Assistance Force said.

Afghan officials say the incident took place at a checkpoint near an Afghan National Army base in the district of Sayedabad.




Sunday’s Headlines:

Bo Guagua speaks up for disgraced father Bo Xilai

Berlin’s gas lamps to be snuffed out

The two faces of Hezbollah

Favourites crash out of Mozambique succession race

Brazil: As prison populations grow is it time to rethink policy on drugs?

What’s Cooking: Apple Tart

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Galette de Pommes au CalvadosAlthough this year’s fruit crops were effected by the weather, some apple varieties are in abundance. Gala, one of my favorites for making tarts and apple sauce, is one of them.

I use it to make an easy fall tart I found at Epicurious. Gala apples are firm, crisp and naturally sweet so there is less sugar used in this recipe than would be used if an tarter apple was used. It also uses Calvados, an apple brandy, for a delicious apple sauce base. Regular brandy can be substituted if Calvados isn’t available. It can also be left out but the apple sauce and accompanying whipped cream will be missing that special flavor.

I always double or triple the applesauce recipe since it goes well with roast pork or as an accompaniment for pancakes or waffles.

Galette de Pommes au Calvados

Ingredients:

   All-butter pastry dough

   1 3/4 pound Gala apples

   2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

   1/3 cup plus 1/2 tablespoon granulated sugar

   Calvados applesauce

   3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

   1 1/2 tablespoons apple jelly

   1 cup chilled heavy cream

   1 tablespoon confectioners sugar

   1 1/2 tablespoons Calvados

   Special equipment: parchment paper; a large baking sheet (at least 14 inches wide)

Preparation:

Roll out pastry on a lightly floured surface with a floured rolling pin into a rough 16-inch round (1/8 inch thick), then transfer carefully to parchment-lined large baking sheet. Loosely fold in edge of pastry where necessary to fit on baking sheet, then chill, covered loosely with plastic wrap, 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 425°F.

While pastry is chilling, peel and core apples, then cut into 1/8-inch-thick slices. Toss slices with lemon juice and 1/3 cup granulated sugar.

Put baking sheet with pastry on a work surface and unfold any edges so pastry is flat. Spread applesauce over pastry, leaving a 2-inch border, and top sauce with sliced apples, mounding slightly. Fold edges of dough over filling, partially covering apples (center will not be covered) and pleating dough as necessary. Dot apples with butter, then brush pastry edge lightly with water and sprinkle with remaining 1/2 tablespoon granulated sugar. Bake galette in middle of oven until pastry is golden and apples are tender, 40 to 45 minutes.

While galette is baking, melt apple jelly in a very small saucepan over moderately low heat, stirring.

Slide baked galette on parchment onto a rack, then brush with melted jelly and cool galette until warm or room temperature.

Beat together cream and confectioners sugar in a bowl with an electric mixer until cream just holds soft peaks, then beat in Calvados. Serve galette topped with dollops of Calvados cream.

yield: Makes 8 servings

active time: 45 min

total time: 3 3/4 hr

Cooks’ note: • Galette can be made 8 hours ahead and kept at room temperature.

Recipes for the All-Butter Pastry Dough and the Calvados Applesauce are below the fold.

Bon appétit

What We Now Know

Up with Chris Hayes: What We Now Know

Up host Chris Hayes (@chrishayes) discuses what we have learned since last week with panel guests Jamilah King (@jamilahking), news editor for colorlines.com; Mike Pesca (@pescami), sports correspondent for National Public Radio; Joe Weisenthal (@thestalwart), deputy business editor at BusinessInsider.com; and Bill Fletcher, Jr., co-founder of the Center for Labor Renewal and author of “They’re Bankrupting Us! And 20 Other Myths about Unions.”

School reform’s propaganda flick

by Alexander Zaitchik

The guys behind “Won’t Back Down” stand to profit from education privatization. No wonder the movie hates on teachers unions

The first thing to know about Friday’s opening of the school-choice drama “Won’t Back Down” is that the film’s production company specializes in children’s fantasy fare such as the “Tooth Fairy” and “Chronicles of Narnia” series. The second thing is that this company, Walden Media, is linked at the highest levels to the real-world adult alliance of corporate and far-right ideological interest groups that constitutes the so-called education reform movement, more accurately described as the education privatization movement. The third thing, and the one most likely to be passed over in the debate surrounding “Won’t Back Down” (reviewed here, and not kindly, by Salon’s own Andrew O’Hehir), is that Walden Media is itself an educational content company with a commercial interest in expanding private-sector access to American K-12 education, or what Rupert Murdoch, Walden’s distribution partner on “Won’t Back Down,” lip-lickingly calls “a $50 billion sector in the U.S. alone that is waiting desperately to be transformed.”

‘Won’t Back Down’ Film Pushes ALEC Parent Trigger Proposal

by May Bottari and Sara Jerving

Well-funded advocates of privatizing the nation’s education system are employing a new strategy this fall to enlist support for the cause. The emotionally engaging Hollywood film Won’t Back Down — set for release September 28 — portrays so-called “parent trigger” laws as an effective mechanism for transforming underperforming public schools. But the film’s distortion of the facts prompts a closer examination of its funders and backers and a closer look at those promoting parent trigger as a cure for what ails the American education system.

While parent trigger was first promoted by a small charter school operator in California, it was taken up and launched into hyperdrive by two controversial right-wing organizations: the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the Heartland Institute.

Romney ‘I Dig It’ Trust Gives Heirs Triple Benefit

by Jesse Drucker

In January 1999, a trust set up by Mitt Romney for his children and grandchildren reaped a 1,000 percent return on the sale of shares in Internet advertising firm DoubleClick Inc.

   If Romney had given the cash directly, he could have owed a gift tax at a rate as high as 55 percent. He avoided gift and estate taxes by using a type of generation-skipping trust known to tax planners by the nickname: “I Dig It.” […]

   While Romney’s tax avoidance is both legal and common among high-net-worth individuals, it has become increasingly awkward for his candidacy since the disclosure of his remarks at a May fundraiser. He said that the nearly one-half of Americans who pay no income taxes are “dependent upon government” and “believe that they are victims.” […]

   The Obama administration estimates that closing the loophole Romney used would bring the federal government almost $1 billion in the coming decade. [..]

That’s a “laughable” under-estimate, said Stephen Breitstone, co-head of the taxation and wealth preservation group at law firm Meltzer, Lippe, Goldstein & Breitstone LLP. A single billionaire could pay $500 million more in estate taxes if these trusts are shut down by the Obama administration, Breitstone said. [..]

Military’s Own Report Card Gives Afghan Surge an F

by Spencer Ackerman

The U.S. troop surge in Afghanistan ended last week. Conditions in Afghanistan are mostly worse than before it began.

That conclusion doesn’t come from anti-war advocates. It relies on data recently released by the NATO command in Afghanistan, known as ISAF, and acquired by Danger Room (pdf). According to most of the yardsticks chosen by the military – but not all – the surge in Afghanistan fell short of its stated goal: stopping the Taliban’s momentum.

What have you learned this week?

The Harvest Moon Meets Uranus

Watch Live: Harvest Moon Meets Up With Uranus in Opposition

An odd pair of solar system objects will be meeting up in the night sky tonight: the full moon and distant Uranus. You’ve got two opportunities to watch this sweet celestial action go down during two live Slooh Space Camera shows, the first at 4 p.m. Pacific/7 p.m. Eastern and the second at 7 p.m. Pacific/10 p.m. Eastern on Sept. 29. [..]

This weekend’s full moon will be known as the Harvest Moon, since it occurs nearest to the autumn equinox. Uranus will be in opposition to Earth, meaning it will be as close and bright as it can be in the night sky, and will be nearly perfectly lined up with the moon. Amateur astronomers can get a good glimpse at Uranus by aiming just below the moon and searching for the only green star in their field of view.

The Slooh show will be hosted by Patrick Paolucci, who will be joined by Bob Berman, columnist for Astronomy magazine.

Harvest Moon and Uranus Show #1

h/t Adam Mann at Wired Science

“My Vote Doesn’t Matter”: Helping Students Surmount Political Cynicism

Co-authored with Alexander Astin and Parker J, Palmer


You’ve heard it again and again. “My vote doesn’t matter,” students too often say. Others complain that politicians are “all the same and all corrupt.” How do we overcome this cynical resignation and encourage students to register and vote despite their conviction that the game is fundamentally rigged?

Today on The Stars Hollow Gazette

Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos

Our regular featured content-

These weekly features-

And this featured article-

This special feature-

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Write more and often.  This is an Open Thread.

The Stars Hollow Gazette

“The smartest bankers we got”

Bank of America Settles Suit Over Merrill for $2.43 Billion

By JESSICA SILVER-GREENBERG and SUSANNE CRAIG, The New York Times

September 28, 2012, 8:49 am

The settlement, however, may undermine a battle between the New York attorney general and the bank. In 2010, Andrew M. Cuomo, New York’s attorney general at the time, sued Kenneth D. Lewis, the bank’s former chief executive, and Bank of America, contending that the bank and its executives hid from shareholders billions of dollars in losses at Merrill, later causing Bank of America to need a bailout from Washington.

The case, which now falls to Eric T. Schneiderman, could lose much of its steam. Under a decision by New York’s highest court, the attorney general can recover losses on behalf of shareholders. Once the shareholders settle, though, Mr. Schneiderman’s office can expect to obtain little more than a penalty, according to people briefed on the matter. The attorney general’s office declined to comment.



It is unclear how much relief the shareholders – those who owned Bank of America shares or call options from September 2008 to January 2009 – will receive. A chunk of the settlement amount will go to the plaintiffs’ lawyers, who are expected to ask the court for $150 million in fees. Bank of America will use its litigation reserves and litigation expenses to cover the settlement, saying that it and other legal expenses cost it $1.6 billion.

The bank also said on Friday that it had agreed to adopt a “say on pay” shareholder vote, an independent compensation committee of the board and policies for committees focused on acquisitions, among other corporate governance changes.

Despite the legal woes, the Merrill Lynch business has helped bolster Bank of America, contributing roughly half the bank’s revenue since 2009, according to bank analysts.

The Countrywide acquisition has proved to be a bigger albatross for Bank of America. The purchase effectively saddled Bank of America with hundreds of thousands of homeowners struggling to keep up with their mortgage payments.

The bank has spent billions of dollars to defend lawsuits related to Countrywide’s mortgage business. In the second quarter of 2011, for example, the bank reported an $8.8 billion loss, mainly related to a settlement with mortgage investors.

Earlier this year, Bank of America and four other banks agreed to a $26 billion settlement related to their foreclosure practices. That deal evolved from an investigation of the mortgage servicing practices by state attorneys general that was begun in 2010 amid mounting fury over revelations that banks evicted homeowners from their residences with false or incomplete documentation.

Bank of America’s Cascade of Settlement Payoffs Continue

By: David Dayen, Firedog Lake

Saturday September 29, 2012 11:30 am

This was outright securities fraud, and I’m more than surprised that the investors plaintiffs, led by public pension funds in Ohio and Texas, accepted this. BofA clearly withheld information from their shareholders that caused a material loss; the stock is down 2/3 since the Merrill deal, even while the bank returned to profitability (though not this quarter, as we’ll see). But the investors had little leverage. The SEC should have been all over this, but they settled over the acquisition in 2009, in a settlement so bad that the judge made them rework it. In the end, the SEC got just $150 million for their settlement, and the fact that the investors got 16 times as much should truly embarrass them.

Incidentally, Ken Lewis was specifically sued in this case and would have been personally liable for withholding information, but BofA will cover his costs in the settlement, so he won’t have to pay a dime.

This is just the latest in a long line of settlements BofA has managed to negotiate over a string of fraudulent and abusive activity since 2009. In all, BofA has paid out over $29 billion, including the $11.8 billion in cash penalties and “credits” from the foreclosure fraud settlement. The other big number included in that, the $8.5 billion settlement with mortgage backed securities holders for repurchases, hasn’t been finalized yet. But it’s clear that Bank of America has become a waystation for abused parties to take out settlement money, rather than a lender allocating capital efficiently. And of course, given the inadequacy of these settlements, the real cost of Bank of America’s practices in the economy are much, much higher.

In fact, between this settlement, some tax charges and litigation expenses (none of that $29 billion includes legal fees), BofA expects to book a loss for the third quarter, years after the end of the financial crisis. While Merrill Lynch at least provided investment banking revenue, that acquisition and the Countrywide acquisition have been extremely problematic for the bank. Countrywide in particular has been the main cause for a loss in BofA’s mortgage business of $35 billion.

If it weren’t for a massive sell-off of assets and a government lifeline, there would not be a Bank of America today. And policymakers should ask themselves why they propped up a zombie bank so it could pay off its legal exposure and not much else.

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