Tag: 4@4

Four at Four

  1. The NY Times reports U.S. lead as the world’s top arms supplier grows. “The United States expanded its role as the world’s leading weapons supplier, increasing its share to more than two-thirds of all foreign armaments deals, according to a new” study from the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service.

    The United States signed weapons agreements valued at $37.8 billion in 2008, or 68.4 percent of all business in the global arms bazaar, up significantly from American sales of $25.4 billion the year before…

    The growth in weapons sales by the United States last year was particularly noticeable against worldwide trends. The value of global arms sales in 2008 was $55.2 billion, a drop of 7.6 percent from 2007 and the lowest total for international weapons agreements since 2005.

    The increase in American weapons sales around the world “was attributable not only to major new orders from clients in the Near East and in Asia, but also to the continuation of significant equipment and support services contracts with a broad-based number of U.S. clients globally,” according to the study, titled “Conventional Arms Transfers to Developing Nations.”

Four at Four continues with American homelessness and unemployment, an update from Afghanistan, and useless in Iraq.

Four at Four

  1. The NY Times reports Signs of a jobless recovery in unemployment report. “The American economy lost another 216,000 jobs in August and the unemployment rate jumped to 9.7 percent”.

    “Many experts now see a high probability of another so-called jobless recovery, in which the economy expands but jobs continue to disappear – a replay of what happened after the last recession in 2001.”

    The broader U-6 measure marks the seasonally-unadjusted unemployment rate for August 2009 at 16.8 percent.

    McClathcy adds the rate of Job losses have slowed down. “Taken along with a key manufacturing index showing growth for the first time in 18 months, Friday’s job numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics are one more indication that the U.S. economy appears to have hit bottom and is on a slow upward climb.”

    Bloomberg reports Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz says even this jobless U.S. economic recovery may not be ‘sustainable’. “It’s not clear that the U.S. is recovering in a sustainable way,” Stiglitz said.

    Stiglitz said he sees two scenarios for the world’s largest economy in coming months. One is a period of “malaise,” in which consumption lags and private investment is slow to accelerate. The other is a rebound fueled by government stimulus that’s followed by an abrupt downturn — an occurrence that economists call a “W-shaped’ recovery.

    “There’s a significant chance of a W, but I don’t think it’s inevitable,” he said. The economy “could just bounce along the bottom.”

    The U.S. economy is increasingly more vulnerable because some firms are now too big for the financial system to handle any one of them failing.

    “These institutions are not only too big to fail, they are too big to be managed,” he said.

    Stiglitz believes the U.S. “economy faces a short-term threat of disinflation and possibly deflation” with the possibility of declining wages and prolonged high unemployment. Longer-term, massive inflation is the threat.

Four at Four continues with the Afghanistan update, firefighters on the frontline of health care, urban density can fight climate change, and a library goes bookless.

Four at Four

  1. The Guardian reports Global warming has made Arctic summers hottest for 2,000 years. “Warming as a result of increased levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere has overwhelmed a millennia-long cycle of natural cooling in the Arctic, raising temperatures in the region to their highest for at least 2,000 years, according” to a study in the journal Science.

    “The accumulation of greenhouse gases is interrupting the natural cycle towards overall cooling,” said Professor Darrell Kaufman, a climate scientist at Northern Arizona University and lead author of the study.

    “There’s no doubt it will lead to melting glacier ice, which will impact on coastal regions around the world. Warming in the region will also cause more permafrost thawing, which will release methane gas into the atmosphere,” he added.

    Scientists fear that warming could release billions of tonnes of methane from frozen soils in the Arctic, driving global temperatures even higher.

    The AP adds the Arctic reverses trend, is warmest in two millennia. “If it hadn’t been for the increase in human-produced greenhouse gases, summer temperatures in the Arctic should have cooled gradually over the last century,” said Bette Otto-Bliesner, a National Center for Atmospheric Research scientist and co-author of the study.

  2. Elsewhere in the arctic, the CS Monitor reports Research finds higher acidity in Alaska waters. “The same things that make Alaska’s marine waters among the most productive in the world – cold, shallow depths and abundant marine life – make them the most vulnerable to acidification, says Jeremy Mathis, a chemical oceanographer at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.”

    “Ocean acidification, the lowering of basicity and the increase in acidity of marine waters, is tied to increased carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere.” The cool Alaskan waters are absorbing CO2 faster than tropical waters.

Four at Four continues with an update on Afghanistan and some steam locomotive news.

Four at Four

  1. ProPublica’s Paul Kiel writes Your August bailout update: $393 billion outstanding.

    Recent reports have drawn attention to the billions in revenue that the Treasury Department has collected from companies early in returning their TARP investments. While those returns have been encouraging, there’s no question that the taxpayer remains deep in the red.

    In total, $392.6 billion remains outstanding to 641 recipients ($297 billion under the TARP and $95.6 billion that’s gone to Fannie and Freddie). That total excludes the 35 companies that have returned a total of $71.6 billion

    That said, money is flowing in as it’s flowing out. The TARP has two main sources of revenue: quarterly dividend or interest payments and warrant redemptions. Unlike returned money, which can be used again, the Treasury is obligated to use that revenue to pay down the national debt…

    Put all that together, and you get a total of $12.4 billion in revenue. Compared to the $392.6 billion in bailout funds still outstanding, it’s reason for cooling any thoughts, at least for now, of the taxpayer pulling a profit.

  2. The LA Times reports the U.S. to boost combat force in Afghanistan. “U.S. officials are planning to add as many as 14,000 combat troops to the American force in Afghanistan by sending home support units… The move would beef up the combat force in the country without increasing the overall number of U.S. troops, a contentious issue as public support for the war slips. But many of the noncombat jobs are likely be filled by private contractors”.

    Already Civilian contractors outnumber U.S. troops in Afghanistan, reports the NY Times.

    Civilian contractors working for the Pentagon in Afghanistan not only outnumber the uniformed troops, according to a report by a Congressional research group, but also form the highest ratio of contractors to military personnel recorded in any war in the history of the United States…

    As of March this year, contractors made up 57 percent of the Pentagon’s force in Afghanistan, and if the figure is averaged over the past two years, it is 65 percent, according to the report by the Congressional Research Service…

    The 68,197 contractors – many of them Afghans – handle a variety of jobs, including cooking for the troops, serving as interpreters and even providing security, the report says.

    The CS Monitor reports it is Bad timing for Obama on any troop buildup in Afghanistan. “The higher-profile casualties and a worry that US troops in Afghanistan are being asked to undertake an unclear or impossible task are feeding the nascent opposition to the war, some war analysts say.”

    According to a new McClatchy/Ipsos poll Most Americans oppose more troops for Afghanistan. “54 percent of Americans think the U.S. isn’t winning the war… At the same time, 56 percent oppose sending any more combat troops to Afghanistan, while 35 percent support sending more troops.”

    Meanwhile, the LA Times reports a Suicide bomber kills Afghan intelligence deputy at mosque. A suicide bomb attack in Mehtarlam “outside a mosque in Laghman province about 60 miles east of the capital, Kabul.” The attack killed Abdullah Laghmani, Afghanistan’s deputy intelligence chief and 22 other people.

    The NY Times adds the Taliban claims responsibility for the attack. “We were looking for him for a long time, but today we succeeded,” said Zabihullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Four at Four continues with unlawful human experimentation, A.Q. Khan, and Justice Stevens retirement rumors.

Four at Four

  1. The NY Times reports the Groundwork is laid for new troops in Afghanistan. A classified report by Gen. Stanley McChrystal examining the “deteriorating situation” in Afghanistan has been submitted to the Pentagon, the U.S. Central Command, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and NATO.

    While the assessment did not ask for more troops, the Pentagon said such a request could come within weeks. In public remarks, McChrystal indicated he “would invest the United States more extensively in Afghanistan” and “he has emphasized protecting civilians over just engaging insurgents.”

    Obama has already ordered a 21,000 more troops deployed to Afghanistan, and “the prospect of a still larger deployment would test his commitment” to endless war. The White House is open to sending more troops to Afghanistan.

    But Obama “faces growing discontent among his liberal base, not only over the war but also over national security policy, health care, gay rights and other issues.”

    McClatchy reports the Pentagon is worried about Obama’s commitment to Afghanistan. McChrystal may request as many as 45,000 additional U.S. troops be deployed to Afghanistan.

    “Vice President Joe Biden and other officials are increasingly anxious about how the American public would respond to sending additional troops… Biden has argued that without sustained support from the American people, the U.S. can’t make the long-term commitment that would be needed to stabilize Afghanistan and dismantle al Qaida.”

    We are not getting a Bush-like commitment to this war,” said a senior Pentagon official.

    Meanwhile, the NY Times reports Brazen ballot stuffing casts new doubt on Hamid Karzai. Election fraud reports are growing against Afghan President Karzai. When the souther Afghan tribe called Bariz decided to back Karzai’s main challenger, Abdullah Abdullah, they were not allowed to vote.

    Karzai’s brother, Ahmed Wali – the head of the Kandahar provincial council and the most powerful man in southern Afghanistan – detained the governor of Shorbak, Delaga Bariz, and shut down all of the district’s 45 polling sites on election day. The ballot boxes were taken to Shorbak’s district headquarters, where, Mr. Bariz and other tribal leaders said, local police stuffed them with thousands of ballots.

    At the end of the day, 23,900 ballots were shipped to Kabul, Mr. Bariz said, with every one marked for President Karzai.

Four at Four continues with legislation to allow the president to shut down the Internet, NCLB as a military recruiting tool, and Iran wants to talk nukes.

Four at Four

  1. Bloomberg News reports the Wall Street stealth lobby defends the $35 billion haul in derivatives. Five U.S. commercial banks (JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, Morgan Stanley, and Citigroup) “are on track to earn more than $35 billion this year trading unregulated derivatives contracts.”

    The $592 trillion over-the-counter derivative market is one of Wall Street’s “richest fiefdoms”.

    The Washington fight, conducted mostly behind closed doors, has been overshadowed by the noisy debate over health care. That’s fine with investment bankers, who for years quietly wielded their financial and lobbying clout on Capitol Hill to kill efforts to regulate derivatives…

    In recent months, Wall Street firms have embarked on a lobbying campaign to influence the media and legislators.

    Goldman Sachs held an off-the-record seminar for reporters in April to explain how credit-default swaps work…

    JPMorgan has mobilized some corporate clients, advising them that the proposed changes could hurt their ability to hedge against losses, according to a person familiar with the matter…

    Health-care reform may make it unlikely any derivatives legislation will be enacted in the near future… For Wall Street, the longer it takes to get legislation passed the better. As stock market values and the economy improve, anger at banks is likely to subside.

    Outside of Wall Street, The Hill reports the AFL-CIO and some Democrats push for new tax on Wall Street transactions. They propose assessing “a small tax – about a tenth of a percent – on every stock transaction. Small and medium-sized investors would hardly notice such a tax, but major trading firms, such as Goldman, which reported $3.44 billion in profits during the second quarter of 2009, may see this as a significant threat to their profits.”

    “It would have two benefits, raise a lot of revenue and discourage speculative financial activity,” said Thea Lee, policy director at the AFL-CIO.

    A tenth of a percent transaction tax “could raise between $50 billion and $100 billion per year”.

Four at Four continues with an update from Afghanistan, Blackwater hired foreigners for CIA death squad contract, and India says ignore population during climate talks.

Four at Four

  1. The NY Times reports America’s message to the Muslim world gets a searing critique. Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joints Chiefs of Staff lambasted U.S. efforts of “strategic communication” with the Muslim World, “saying that no amount of public relations will establish credibility if American behavior overseas is perceived as arrogant, uncaring or insulting.”

    “To put it simply, we need to worry a lot less about how to communicate our actions and much more about what our actions communicate,” Admiral Mullen wrote in the critique, an essay to be published Friday by Joint Force Quarterly, an official military journal.

    “I would argue that most strategic communication problems are not communication problems at all,” he wrote. “They are policy and execution problems. Each time we fail to live up to our values or don’t follow up on a promise, we look more and more like the arrogant Americans the enemy claims we are.”

    Despite President Obama’s desire to “differentiate himself” from George W. Bush to the world’s Muslims, “the perception of America as an arrogant oppressor has not changed noticeably, particularly in Iraq and Afghanistan, where United States forces remain engaged in war, and in Pakistan, where American-launched missiles aimed at militants from the Taliban and Al Qaeda have killed civilians.”

Four at Four continues with an update from Afghanistan and Pakistan, the FDIC going broke, judge orders security clearance, and big business’ plans to thwart climate change legislation.

Four at Four

  1. Reuters reports Treasury Secretary Geithner says a Fed audit ‘would be problematic for the country’. When asked “Why has the Federal Reserve bank never been audited?” U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner answered:

    “You want to keep politics out of monetary policy,” Geithner said, adding the Fed already has strong congressional oversight.

    “The Fed is dramatically more transparent than it was, is subject to very comprehensive oversight and audits, but there are certain things about what the Fed does that again you need to make sure you preserve as independent of political influence, that is free of political influence, and that is a line that we don’t want to cross,” Geithner said.

    Geithner does not believe the Federal Reserve should undergo a comprehensive audit. “I’m sure that many people concerned about the Fed’s role in the system will understand it would be problematic for the country if you let politicians come in and shape the conduct of monetary policy in the country,” he said. (Video available at the Wall Street Journal.)

    How can information about your nation’s financial health be “problematic”… unless, of course, there really are problems that Geithner doesn’t believe Americans should know about. The government doesn’t want to the public to know how broke the nation truly is. Last Friday, by the way, Reuters reported that President Obama was to raise 10-year deficit projection to $9.1 trillion.

    Bloomberg reports the Federal Reserve says disclosing emergency loans will hurt banks. “The Federal Reserve argued yesterday that identifying the financial institutions that benefited from its emergency loans would harm the companies and render the central bank’s planned appeal of a court ruling moot.”

    “The Fed has refused to name the financial firms it lent to or disclose the amounts or the assets put up as collateral under the emergency programs, saying disclosure might set off a run by depositors and unsettle shareholders.”

    That’s right, the banks are more important than the public’s right to know where our borrowed money went.

Four at Four continues with the CIA torture probe, vetting war reporters, and an update from Afghanistan.

Four at Four

  1. The NY Times reports Widespread fraud is charged as Afghans tally votes. “Accumulating charges of widespread fraud cast new doubts on the credibility of the election” in Afghanistan. “Even as election officials announced the first glimpse of returns, presidential candidates presented a growing bank of evidence of vote rigging. Most of it appeared to favor President Karzai, and in some cases, to have taken place with the complicity of election or security officials.”

    The CS Monitor adds Afghan election fraud allegations mount as Karzai lead widens. “Afghan investigators say they’re scrutinizing all complaints, but since electoral observers weren’t present at many polling places, much fraud could have taken place out of view. Aside from a negligible contingent of international monitors, independent Afghan monitors only covered 60 percent of the polling centers.”

    “Even with partial coverage of the election by observers, at least 1,461 complaints have already been filed with the Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC). More than 150 of these, if found true, could change the final election tallies. The ECC includes international experts, but its mandate is merely to investigate specific irregularities – not analyze patterns to judge the entirety of the election.”

    BBC News reports Karzai widens lead in Afghan poll. “Karzai has 45% to his nearest rival Abdullah Abdullah’s 35%, with 17% of ballots counted, vote officials say… Widespread accusations of fraud and vote rigging and concerns about low voter turnout have cast doubt on the legitimacy of the election.”

    The AP reports Afghan elections seen as a setback for women. “Early reports strongly suggest that voter turnout fell more sharply for women than for men in Thursday’s polls. Election observers blame Taliban attacks, a dearth of female election workers and hundreds of closed women’s voting sites.”

    “At least 650 polling stations for women did not open, according to the Free and Fair Elections Foundation of Afghanistan, the country’s top independent vote monitoring group. In the southern province of Uruzgan, only 6 of 36 women’s polling stations opened, the group said.”

    Meanwhile, McClatchy reports U.S. deaths in Afghanistan are headed for another record. More American soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan this year “than in all of 2008, and August is on track to be the deadliest month for American troops there since U.S. operations began nearly eight years ago.”

    “In July, 45 U.S. troops died in Afghanistan, the highest monthly toll this year. So far in August, 40 Americans have died, many in the south, and Pentagon officials say privately that with nearly a week left in the month, they expect August to exceed July’s number. Americans make up the majority of the 63 coalition troops killed so far this month; 75 coalition soldiers died in July. In 2008, total coalition deaths were 294, 155 of whom were Americans; the 2009 total through Tuesday was 295, of whom 172 were Americans.”

    Underscoring the mess we’re in, the NY Times reports on deadly Afghan bombing strikes at foreign agencies. “A huge bomb detonated on Tuesday night in a part of Kandahar where international aid agencies and United Nations offices are clustered, in an attack assumed to be by the Taliban on foreigners in the country.”

    “At least 31 people were killed and 56 wounded in the blast” which came from a single truck bomb and “most of the dead and wounded were civilians. The explosion flattened the headquarters of Saita, a Japanese company engaged in reconstruction efforts, destroyed at least 20 homes and set off raging fires.”

    A witness, Muhammad Anwer, said the devastation was immense. “I thought it was doomsday,” he said. “I saw dead men and children lying on the road.”

    Elsewhere, BBC News reports Four US soldiers were killed in Afghanistan. According to Brig. General Eric Tremblay, the four soldiers were killed by a bomb “”while patrolling in one of the most violent areas of Afghanistan”.

Four at Four continues the CIA report, news from Iraq, Australia sending $41 billion in gas to China, and Ted Kennedy remembered.

Four at Four

  1. The NY Times reports President Obama nominates Ben Bernanke to a second term as chairman of the Federal Reserve. “The announcement is a major victory for Mr. Bernanke, a Republican who was appointed by President George W. Bush almost four years ago and who had briefly served as chairman of Mr. Bush’s Council of Economic Advisers.”

    A “senior official said Mr. Obama did not offer the job to anyone else, even though a number of high-powered Democratic economists were considered potentially strong candidates to replace him.”

    Reuters reports Obama credits Bernanke as having saved the U.S. economy. Which overlooks it collapsed in the first place. Also, this leaves Republicans in charge of the nation’s defense and, at least in part, the economy. How is this different from Republican rule?

  2. The Los Angeles Times reports Supreme Court considers major shift in election law to allow corporate spending in campaigns. In 1904, “Congress passed a law to keep corporate money out of political races. Now, that century-old ban stands in danger of being overturned by the Supreme Court’s conservative majority, on the basis of… free speech in politics.”

    Striking down corporate spending limits would be “a radical step” that would change the character of elections, said Fred Wertheimer, president of the nonprofit Democracy 21…

    “This could take us back to the era when people referred to the senator from Standard Oil,” said Washington lawyer Trevor Potter… “If you have hundreds of millions of corporate dollars flowing into these races, it could drown out the speech of ordinary voters.”

    A return to the bad, old days.

Four at Four continues with a look at Holder’s narrow CIA probe, swine flu, and coral reefs.

Four at Four

No Cheney accountability, Holder doesn’t “go there”
Holder limits CIA probe to narrowest of scope

  1. The Washington Post reports Holder is set to appoint prosecutor for narrow investigation of CIA terror interrogations.

    Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. has decided to appoint a prosecutor to examine nearly a dozen cases in which CIA interrogators and contractors may have violated anti-torture laws and other statutes when they allegedly threatened terrorism suspects, according to two sources familiar with the move.

    Holder is poised to name John Durham, a career Justice Department prosecutor from Connecticut, to lead the inquiry, according to the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the process is not complete.

    Durham’s mandate, the sources added, will be relatively narrow to look at whether there is enough evidence to launch a full-scale criminal investigation of current and former CIA personnel who may have broken the law in their dealings with detainees. Many of the harshest CIA interrogation techniques have not been employed against terrorism suspects for four years or more.

    The NY Times reports President Obama did not interfere with Holder’s decision on the CIA torture investigation. However, Obama continued to say he prefered to be forward looking.

    The Washington Independent reports Civil liberties groups prepare a delicate message on the CIA probe. The limited scope is a severe setback.

    Worse than doing nothing at all” was how Tom Malinowski, the Washington advocacy director of Human Rights Watch, described Holder’s possible decision to stop an inquiry at low-level interrogators…

Four at Four continues with Obama makes subtle and minimal changes to Bush detainee and rendition policies, and updates from Afghanistan and Iraq.

Four at Four

  1. The NY Times reports the Ben Bernanke says the American economy is poised to grow. The chairman of the Federal Reserve claimed today that “the prospects for a return to growth in the near term appear good.”

    Not only does Bernanke believe the recession may be ending, but there is a “good” possibility of economic growth. But, he also warned any recovery “is likely to be relatively slow at first, with unemployment declining only gradually from high levels.”

    Meanwhile, McClatchy reports What rebound? Foreclosures rise as jobs and income drop. “Delinquency and foreclosure rates for U.S. mortgages continued to rise in the second quarter, with loans to the most qualified borrowers going bust at an unnerving clip”. Numbers “show clearly that rising job losses are worsening the nation’s housing troubles… More worrisome is a trend emerging deeper in the numbers: Subprime loans given to the weakest borrowers are now a declining portion of delinquency and foreclosure rates, while prime loans, given to the most highly qualified borrowers, are a rising share.”

Four at Four continues with the CIA, Obama defying federal courts, an update from Afghanistan, and the Death of the Nile.

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