Friday, July 10, 2009
"We welcome the commitments made by countries represented at L'Aquila towards a goal of mobilizing 20 billion dollars over three years through this coordinated, comprehensive strategy focused on sustainable agriculture development, while keeping a strong commitment to ensure adequate emergency food aid assistance," the leaders said in a statement issued after the summit in the central Italian town of L'Aquila.
"We have initiated a L'Aquila Food Security Initiative to increase from 15 billion dollars to 20 billion dollars in three years" to help fight world hunger, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi told a press conference at the end of the summit.
The three-day summit gathered leaders from G8 countries, five major developing countries and some African nations, as well as from international organizations such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, among others.
Participants discussed a wide range of topics including food security, the impact of the global financial and economic crisis, and last year's spike of food prices in countries that were least able to respond to increasing hunger and poverty.
Did you miss the show? The YouTubes have been posted in record time!
Freedom Watch with Judge Andrew Napolitano welcomes the following guests to the show today... and you KNOW they'll be talking about yesterday's Senate blockage of S. 604 to Audit the Federal Reserve:
Rep Ron Paul
Senator Jim DeMint
David Ritgers – CATO
Dr Rand Paul
Tune in at 2pm for another power hour of liberty!
California promissary note recipients could be left scrambling for cash after FridayNEW YORK (AP) -- After taking multibillion-dollar bailouts from the federal government, some of America's biggest banks are declining to lend a hand with a different financial mess: the California budget stalemate.
The banks, including JPMorgan Chase & Co., Bank of America Corp., Wells Fargo & Co. and Citigroup Inc. and some regional banks, are trying to pressure lawmakers to end the impasse by warning that, after Friday, they won't accept promissory notes -- called colloquially "IOUs" for "I owe you" -- issued by the state.
The move would leave many businesses and families with pieces of paper and fewer options for getting their money immediately.
Government officials and consumer advocates say the banks should be more sympathetic, especially since they've been the direct beneficiaries of taxpayer dollars.
"If they hold to that stance, then there's potential for hardship being suffered by the recipients of IOUs," said Tom Dresslar, spokesman in the California Treasurer's office.
Unless recipients are able to hold promissary notes until Oct. 2, the official redemption date, "they'll have to scramble" to feed their families and meet obligations, Dresslar said.
As California legislators haggle over how to close a $26.3 billion budget deficit, the state is expected to send out $3.3 billion in promissary notes this month to private contractors, state vendors, people getting tax refunds and local governments for social services.
It is the first time since 1992, and just the second time since the Great Depression, the state has sent out notes promising repayment at a later date instead of paying its bills on time. The promissary notes carry an annual interest rate of 3.75 percent.
Some banks are already placing limits on the promissary notes, accepting them from existing customers only.
"We would like for the state to resolve its budget issues as soon as possible," said Tom Kelly, a spokesman for JPMorgan Chase. The bank said it was in contact with California state officials for several weeks leading up to the decision to start printing the promissary notes.
At Bank of America, which counts the state of California as a commercial client, existing customers can only deposit IOUs -- and only until Friday.
"We don't want acceptance (of IOUs) to deter the state from a budget agreement," bank spokeswoman Julie Westermann said.
But that strategy could backfire for banks that already have an image problem after taking tens of billions of dollars from the government to make up for the losses they suffered on risky mortgage investments.
The banks "can come up with any justification they want, but there will be extreme anger," said Stan Collender, managing director at Qorvis Communications, a business consulting and public relations firm in Washington. If businesses and families suffer because they couldn't cash IOUs, the banks will be viewed as "another bad guy," Collender said.
JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo each received a $25 billion federal bailout in October. JPMorgan repaid the U.S. Treasury last month. Bank of America and Citigroup each received $45 billion in multiple installments between October and January. Each also benefits from guarantees against losses -- $7.5 billion for Bank of America and $5 billion for Citi.
The banks could also find themselves losing customers to institutions willing to keep accepting promissary notes. Some credit unions have been more flexible by not setting a deadline, according to the California Credit Union League. Nearly 60 have already said they would accept the promissary notes and only two might stop accepting them on Friday, league spokesman Henry Kertman said.
The federal government has not so far intervened, but it could pressure the banks to continue accepting the promissary notes.
"Clearly, the federal government has leverage over these institutions," said Matthew Lee, executive director of Inner City Press-Fair Finance Watch, a Bronx, New York-based consumer advocacy group. Hundreds of banks have received aid from the government as part of its $700 billion rescue plan last fall.
In 1992, IOUs were sent out during a stalemate between then-Gov. Pete Wilson and the Legislature. Some banks initially accepted the IOUs, but began declining them as the impasse continued.
If that happens this time, some alternatives could be set up to help customers awaiting payment from the government.
"They're certainly not just abandoning their customers as of July 10," Beth Mills, a spokeswoman for the California Bankers Association said. Mills said that while banks might stop accepting the IOUs, many might issue loans or establish lines of credit with customers instead. Bank customers could then repay the short-term loans in October after the state makes good on paying the IOUs.
Another possibility is that a secondary market could be established to buy up IOUs. SecondMarket, which creates marketplaces for the trading of illiquid assets, has received "decent interest" from potential buyers of the IOUs, said Jeremy Smith, the New York-based company's chief strategy office. SecondMarket will likely create a process for trading the IOUs if banks stop accepting them.
Hedge funds and municipal bond and distressed asset investors have already expressed interest in finding a place to purchase the IOUs, Smith said.
But pricing in a secondary market is still murky and customers could end up getting less than face value.
Vendors and contractors holding IOUs could potentially use them to pay state taxes, fees and liens under a bill passed by a state Assembly committee Tuesday. The bill would require the state to accept its own IOUs in lieu of money owed the government.
That could help a company like Noah Homes, which operates eight homes for 70 developmentally disabled adults in San Diego County. CEO Molly Nocon said that if Noah Homes could use IOUs to pay state licensing fees, payroll taxes and other state costs, it could save about $150,000 a year.
"If we could avoid that, it would keep us in business another couple of months."
If using the IOUs to pay government fees and taxes is not possible, the situation becomes more difficult. Nocon said the company might have to tap a $500,000 line of credit, which could help the company stay in business for about four months, she said. But that would mean Noah Homes would also be running up interest charges.
AP Writer Don Thompson in Sacramento, California, and AP Business Writers Marcy Gordon in Washington and Ieva M. Augstums in Charlotte, North Carolina, contributed to this report.
WASHINGTON – The face of homelessness in the United States is changing to include more families and more people who live in the suburbs and rural communities.
The number of homeless has remained steady since 2007, but within the overall count are trends that can tell officials where federal resources would do the most good, the Housing and Urban Development Department says in its annual report to Congress being released Thursday.
About 1.6 million people used aor lived in between Oct. 1, 2007, and Sept. 30, 2008 — about the same as the year before. But within that group, the number of families grew 9 percent, from about 473,000 to 517,000.
Officials said they also saw more demand for transitional housing in the suburbs and in rural areas of the country. Residents of suburban and rural communities made up about a third of those in need of housing, up from about 24 percent the year before.
HUD also attempts to count the number of homeless at a single point in time. In January 2008, about 664,000 people were in homeless shelters or in the streets on a single night. That's a drop of about 7,500 from the year before, but officials point out that the count occurred just as the nation's economic woes were beginning and did not account for soaring unemployment and other economic problems that have kicked in during the subsequent months.
The time lag associated with the national survey has led HUD to try a scaled-down, regional approach in hopes of obtaining more timely information each quarter. The first installment of that effort will also be released Thursday as part of the congressional report. The report showed that the number of people entering homeless shelters in nine regions of the country grew from 60,371 in January to 61,280 in March. Four regions experienced an increase in shelter counts. Five saw a decrease.
Participants in the quarterly reporting include New York City and Washington, D.C., as well as smaller cities like Richmond, Va., and Shreveport, La., and more rural regions, such as 118 of Kentucky's 120 counties, excluding the state's two largest cities of Lexington and Louisville.
HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan said the annual report to Congress sheds light on how today's and job losses are playing out in shelters and the streets. With the quarterly reporting, "we will be able to better understand the impact of the current economic crisis on homelessness across the country," Donovan said.
The quarterly report includes anecdotal summaries. For example, the case manager at a Richmond shelter reported seeing a greater number of "individuals who have held professional, skilled-craft positions."
An official in Kentucky said, "One day last month, we had to turn away three families due to full capacity." Officials in Shreveport reported a decrease in demand that they attributed to hurricane victims gradually moving back to New Orleans.
Now, I know that it's nothing new to blast a bank on a blog, or trash it on Twitter or spread your fury about their practices on Facebook, but with bank fees climbing and climbing (overdraft fees are estimated to cost Americans $38.5 billion this year), I went on my own little Internet tour today, looking around for reactions to banking fees, just to see what I could find and get a sense of how people are feeling toward banks these days. Not too surprisingly, I found a lot of ugly out there.
People are mad. As Hell.
First up, a blog posting at BigRobby.com. Seems this blogger and father from Maine rented five movies from a place called Redbox, and the folks at Redbox didn't put the charges through once, but as five individual charges through Big Robby's credit or debit card. He had a lower balance than he thought, and wound up getting five $35 overdraft fees from Bank of America. Big Robby is not pleased. Robby wrote a post about his feelings about Bank of America. He also expressed his feelings in a lovely photo of a finger (I'll let you guess which finger) next to the words, Bank of America.
Going over to Twitter, I typed in the words "bank fee" in the search engine, I pulled up a number of colorful expressions, mostly associated with (again) Bank of America. One young woman with the handle @Lessafish complains of an extended overdraft fee (the daily fee a bank lodges on you when your account has been in the negative for more than a few days). She uses a colorful two-word expression that suggests the bank digest some fecal matter.
Another Twitter user, @s7p, says she has closed her Bank of America account, ending her 140 character tweet with: "Take that, fee-mongerers!"
Not that all the current anger is aimed at Bank of America. One guy on Twitter has an account called I Hate chase. As in, he hates Chase Bank. If you hate Chase Bank, too, you can follow him at @IHateChase. (I'm following him, too, but only to see what he is up to. Just be warned that the type of language used here shouldn't be seen by young children, or those easily offended by strong language.
Now, to be fair, there are a number of people on Twitter who point out when banks do them a solid and refund a fee, so there is that.
But mostly, I'm finding anger. Even Scott Adams of Dilbert fame rallied against bank fees on his blog just several days ago. Adams titled his post, "Your Bank Hates You," and fumed for some time about banks in general, saying: "They have a naked interest in keeping their service as inconvenient as possible. My bank doesn't even offer a check box option for paying the entire balance on my credit card. Instead I need to write down the balance from one screen, or try to memorize it, until the screen appears where I can enter that figure. In other words, they even make money from my typos. It's totally intentional. Bastards. That trap has worked on me several times."
I can only hope this means Dilbert will be lampooning bank fees in some upcoming cartoons soon, which may provide some solace for angry bank customers.
This ends our brief tour, mostly because it's exhausting taking in all that vitriol in one sitting. But if you want to continue out on your own, simply Google "I hate banks" and be on your merry way. Remember to breathe!
Geoff Williams is a freelance journalist who often writes about money and banking issues for WalletPop and other publications. He is also the author of C.C. Pyle's Amazing Foot Race: The True Story of the 1928 Coast-to-Coast Run Across America (Rodale).
Instead, he has returned to doing what he was really doing before being picked up by US forces and shuttled off to Gitmo for six years: Working as a politician, a tribal elder representing Afghanistan's Kunar province.
So says a new report from McClatchy Newspapers, which profiles Haji Sahib Rohullah Wakil, a tribal elder who regularly meets with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and other government officials on behalf of the people of Kunar province.
In May, an unreleased Pentagon document was leaked to the press, alleging that one in seven released Gitmo detainees -- fully 74 individuals -- had returned to terrorism once freed.
And while the veracity of that claim was questioned, the leaked Pentagon document was still considered important in changing the Washington establishment's mind about President Obama's plan to shut down the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Shortly after the report made it to the press, Congressional Democrats voted to oppose funding, requested by President Obama, to shut down Guantanamo Bay.
Now, with the apparent confirmation that at least one of the people accused of terrorist recidivism is actually a respected Afghan government official, questions will likely arise about the accuracy of that Pentagon report, as well as the motivations behind its being released to the press.
GITMO CAPTIVE WANTS TO STAY
Sometimes being trapped in a stateless prison with no hope for a fair trial is, well, better than the alternative.
Or at least so says Umar Abdulayev, a Tajik national who was brought to Guantanamo Bay in the earliest days of the camp's existence.
According to the Miami Herald, Abdulayev fears what the government of Tajikistan would do to him so much that he is fighting the US government's plan to release him and send him home.
Abdulayev's lawyer says the Gitmo detainee once refused a demand from Tajikistan's security services to spy on Muslim radicals in the country. As a result, he believes he is persona non grata in his homeland, and that, coupled with the stigma of having been a Gitmo prisoner, means he is at risk of torture, or worse.
Abdulayev's lawyer says he is open to the possibility of taking asylum in a third country.
Update: Be sure to check out Jesse's follow up post where he clarifies his credit history, and these stories from other short-lived Bank of America customers who had accounts closed for no clear reason, or worse.
I recently moved from Massachusetts to Connecticut. Upon my arrival I made the choice to leave my local bank account behind. I signed up for a Bank of America account through their website, thinking it would be simple to have ATMs that were available in both states.
After a month or two of frustratingly waiting, I received not one, but TWO debit cards in the mail. I looked through the paper work and found that they had in fact signed me up for two separate checking accounts.
I figured a quick call to customer service would clear the issue up, but the story only gets worse. The customer service rep I talked to told me that my account had a "flag" on it. I proceeded to ask if this was because THEY gave me two accounts and was told that the issue was not that. They said it "may have something to do with an unpaid account." The only problem is that I am young, have good credit, and had never had any account with Bank Of America. Their claim was impossible.
Finally I asked if I could just close the accounts and open a new one. They told me that I could no longer open an account with Bank Of America. I asked if I could open an account in the future and they told me that I could NEVER open an account with them again. As in NEVER.
Basically, Bank Of America banned me for signing up for an account after they made the mistake of sending me two accounts.
I called them a second time to see if I could get another answer and the customer service rep said "We suggest you find another bank."
I switched to TD BankNorth and currently have no major problems, besides any bank is better than one that gives you two accounts and bans you for life before you can use either.
In a way, BoA may have done you a favor, Jesse! Now if only Chase would start banning its customers for life, we'd be getting somewhere.
Update: Matthew says the same thing happened to him, and the only explanation BoA offered was that the fine print gives them the right to close an account at any time for any reason:
I too was banned from BoA. I recently got a new job and was looking to switch banks. I loved BoA's program in which they round up purchases, and send the difference to a savings account. I signed up online and was approved and received everything I needed in the mail; Cards, Pin Numbers, etc... I sat on the cards for about a week, waiting for all my purchases to clear from my former bank account to transfer everything over. I called to activate my card, and my account had been closed. "What the heck?" I thought. I'll call tomorrow and get this straightened out. I received a letter in the mail that day stating again, that my account had been closed. An account I never used.
I searched on your website and found the numbers for the higher ups and decided to give them a call. They did confirm that my account had been closed, but could not notify me why because they had some fine print (which was there) that stated either party can close the account at any given moment. The rep then stressed to me that I would NEVER be allowed to open another BoA account again.
I wasn't mad or anything, I'm was just more worried about WHY they closed it, more-so than the fact that they did.
July 9, 2009
The omissions, which date back at least six months, include thousands of crimes known to LAPD officials and are included in their official crime statistics.
In one of those rapes, a man hid in the back of a woman's car, forced her to drive to an abandoned North Hollywood apartment and assaulted her. It was the kind of incident that residents of the neighborhood around Sherman Way and Kester Avenue would have wanted to know about.
The March 26 attack was reported on the LAPD's blog but has yet to show up on the public map.
The lapses mean that the map, touted by city leaders as an important and innovative resource for city residents to determine whether their neighborhoods are safe, presents a drastically incomplete image of city crime.
Some residents have tried to bring the problem to the department's attention, to no avail. Jason Insalaco, a former resident of Atwater Village who uses the pen name GlendaleBlvd, posted a message about unmapped crimes in that area on a neighborhood message board earlier this year, but his concerns were dismissed by the department. He said he was outraged by the site's inaccuracies.
"The community is not being accurately informed," Insalaco said. "They are being misled and lulled into a false sense of security."
The Times discovered the magnitude of the problem while developing its own online map to display LAPD data. Comparing the LAPD map with the department's official totals revealed that thousands of crimes through mid-June were missing. The department’s official crime tally recorded more than 52,000 serious crimes this year. But the database on the public mapping site contained fewer than 33,000 for the same period.
Among the omissions, caused by a programming error, were more than a thousand violent robberies, including two out of seven street robberies committed in April and May by men posing as police officers.
The Times informed the LAPD last week of the discrepancy and specific examples of missing crimes.
This week, the LAPD added about 20,000 crimes from 2009 to data it provides The Times. But as of late Wednesday, those additions had yet to appear on the LAPD map.
"The department is looking into the issue that you brought to our attention," said Lt. Rick Banks, the officer in charge of the online unit. "When we come up with our findings, we will respond to you."
Banks declined to say whether the crimes were lost before the information was sent to the private contractors who produce the maps or whether the problems took place when the contractor processed the data. It was also unclear whether the problem dated to the origin of the project or was more recent.
The missing crimes mark the second major problem with the LAPD's public maps. In April, The Times found that programming errors by the LAPD's contractor had caused thousands of crimes to be mapped in the wrong place, mistakenly portraying the Los Angeles Civic Center as the most crime-ridden location in the city. To resolve the problem, the contractor has dropped those crimes from the map, but has not yet placed them in their correct locations.
When the LAPD launched the mapping site in March 2006, it was promoted as a publicly accessible version of Chief William J. Bratton's vaunted CompStat system. CompStat is a computer-powered tracking process first developed under Bratton at the New York Police Department that uses maps to track crime trends and guide deployment.
The internal CompStat system is managed by LAPD staff, and CompStat's top official emphasized that the problems with the public system had not affected the department's internal statistics.
日 前，美國斯坦佛大學國際安全和合作中心的學者薛立泰博士認為，中國海軍是中國軍隊三個技術兵種當中近年來發展最快的，所以中國海軍實力發展倍受外界關注。 薛立泰認為中國海軍發展主要是為了應對台灣問題，遏制台灣獨立勢力。但美國則認為中國海軍發展有更深遠的目的，即從近海防禦職能向遠洋海軍發展。
此前，眾議院議長佩洛西也曾指責中情局在審訊方式問題上誤導過她。對此中情局發言人表示，誤導 國會不符合當局既定方針，此次中情局主動認錯，並且將確保此類情況今後不再發生。美國民主黨自2006年取得國會控制權後，一直在追究中情局在伊拉克戰爭 戰前情報和虐囚事件中，有無誤導國會的行為。
事故發生後，比賽照樣進行，不過Singapore Taekwondo Gymnasium規定所有參賽者不准攻擊對手的頭部。
The U.S. military's global presence is vast and costly. More than one-third of U.S. troops are currently based abroad or afloat in international waters, and hundreds of bases and access agreements exist throughout the world. At the beginning of the 21st century, the government pushed to expand this presence through a variety of mechanisms. Yet the Department of Defense's budget presentations lack enough detail to make it possible to know the precise cost. The budgets don't break down the numbers, for example, on maintaining bases at home and overseas.
Nevertheless, from data on personnel, bases, and the Pentagon's budgets, it's possible to make an estimate. This number comes from the proportion of each branch's budget devoted to military personnel stationed overseas, excluding troops based in and around Iraq and Afghanistan. Since one-fourth of these military personnel are stationed overseas, the overall figure includes one-fourth of the defense-wide budget. Finally, it includes the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the amount of military assistance to other countries. The report does not include subsidies from governments that host bases, three-quarters of which come from Japan alone.
The final bill: The United States spends approximately $250 billion annually to maintain troops, equipment, fleets, and bases overseas.
For the full report, please click here.
Anita Dancs is an assistant professor of economics at Western New England College and a Foreign Policy In Focus analyst.Editor: Miriam Pemberton
The quake was followed by several aftershocks. China National Seismological Network reported at least 8 aftershocks.
According to state officials,they have allocated 2,500 tents, 3,000 quilts and other relief materials to the affected region and two rescue teams, one headed by the Yunnan governor Qin Guangrong, and another from the Ministry of Civil Affairs and the National Commission for Disaster Reduction, were en route to the epicentre.
Last year, an earthquake of magnitude 8.0 shook Sichuan province in Southern China killing more than 87,000 people.
Women will spend almost one year of their lives deciding what to wear, a study found.
Choosing outfits for work, nights out, dinner parties, holidays, gym and other activities means the average female will spend 287 days rifling through their wardrobe.
The biggest chunk of that time is used up picking a killer ensemble for Friday or Saturday nights out or selecting the right clothes for a holiday.
Experts found on average women spend 16 minutes every weekday morning deciding what to wear and around 14 minutes on a Saturday or Sunday morning.
A spokesman for clothes giant Matalan, which compiled the results after polling 2,491 women, said: "What you wear has a direct impact on how you feel about yourself and it is important a woman feels exceptional in her outfit.
"Whatever the occasion your clothes portray an image and we understand this is fundamentally important to women."
The study - which was based on an adult lifetime from the age of 16 to 60 - found most women will spend around 20 minutes deciding what to wear before hitting the town on a weekend night.
Week nights out can take up to 20 minutes a time too.
Deciding on what clothes to take on holiday uses up to 52 minutes each time.
While on holiday, ten minutes a morning will be taken up trying to find an acceptable outfit with another ten minutes spent picking evening clothes.
On top of that dinner parties, Christmas parties and black tie events - at around 36 minutes a time six times a year - adds up to three and a half days.
The study also found on average women will try on two outfits each morning before coming to a final decision. And one in two women spend 15 minutes the night before work working out what to wear.
National Level Exercise 2009 (NLE 09) is scheduled for July 27 through July 31, 2009. NLE 09 will be the first major exercise conducted by the United States government that will focus exclusively on terrorism prevention and protection, as opposed to incident response and recovery.
NLE 09 is designated as a Tier I National Level Exercise. Tier I exercises (formerly known as the Top Officials exercise series or TOPOFF) are conducted annually in accordance with the National Exercise Program (NEP), which serves as the nation's overarching exercise program for planning, organizing, conducting and evaluating national level exercises. The NEP was established to provide the U.S. government, at all levels, exercise opportunities to prepare for catastrophic crises ranging from terrorism to natural disasters.
NLE 09 is a White House directed, Congressionally- mandated exercise that includes the participation of all appropriate federal department and agency senior officials, their deputies, staff and key operational elements. In addition, broad regional participation of state, tribal, local, and private sector is anticipated. This year the United States welcomes the participation of Australia, Canada, Mexico and the United Kingdom in NLE 09.
NLE 09 will focus on intelligence and information sharing among intelligence and law enforcement communities, and between international, federal, regional, state, tribal, local and private sector participants.
The NLE 09 scenario will begin in the aftermath of a notional terrorist event outside of the United States, and exercise play will center on preventing subsequent efforts by the terrorists to enter the United States and carry out additional attacks. This scenario enables participating senior officials to focus on issues related to preventing terrorist events domestically and protecting U.S. critical infrastructure.
NLE 09 will allow terrorism prevention efforts to proceed to a logical end (successful or not), with no requirement for response or recovery activities.
NLE 09 will be an operations-based exercise to include: activities taking place at command posts, emergency operation centers, intelligence centers and potential field locations to include federal headquarters facilities in the Washington D.C. area, and in federal, regional, state, tribal, local and private sector facilities in FEMA Region VI, which includes the states of Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas.
Through a comprehensive evaluation process, the exercise will assess prevention and protection capabilities both nationally and regionally. Although NLE 09 is still in the planning stages, the exercise is currently designed to validate the following capabilities:
- Intelligence/Information Sharing and Dissemination
- Counter-Terrorism Investigation and Law Enforcement
- Air, Border and Maritime Security
- Critical Infrastructure Protection
- Public and Private Sector Alert/Notification and Security Advisories
- International Coordination
VALIDATING THE HOMELAND SECURITY SYSTEM
Exercises such as NLE 09 are an important component of national preparedness, helping to build an integrated federal, state, tribal, local and private sector capability to prevent terrorist attacks, and rapidly and effectively respond to, and recover from, any terrorist attack or major disaster that occurs.
The full-scale exercise offers agencies and jurisdictions a way to test their plans and skills in a real-time, realistic environment and to gain the in-depth knowledge that only experience can provide. Participants will exercise prevention and information sharing functions that are critical to preventing terrorist attacks. Lessons learned from the exercise will provide valuable insights to guide future planning for securing the nation against terrorist attacks, disasters, and other emergencies.
For more information about NLE 09, contact the FEMA News Desk: 202-646-4600.
FEMA leads and supports the nation in a risk-based, comprehensive emergency management system of preparedness, protection, response, recovery, and mitigation, to reduce the loss of life and property and protect the nation from all hazards including natural disasters, acts of terrorism and other man-made disasters.
Now another woman, Judge Sonia Sotomayor, is about to begin the confirmation hearings that stand between her and a seat near Ginsburg on the high bench. After 16 years on the court — the last three, since the retirement of Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, as the only woman working alongside eight men — Ginsburg has a unique perspective on what’s at stake in Sotomayor’s nomination. I sat down with the 76-year-old justice last week to talk about women on the bench and their effect on the dynamics and decisions of the court.
I first met Justice Ginsburg a year ago, when she invited me to her chambers and to a tea for international fellows from Georgetown law school, at which she was speaking. It struck me then, as we walked through the courthouse, that each marker she pointed out involved women’s history — from a photograph and a political cartoon in the hallway outside her chambers of Belva Lockwood, the first woman admitted to the Supreme Court bar, to the renaming of a dining room at the court in honor of Natalie Cornell Rehnquist, wife of the late chief justice. (The tribute was O’Connor’s idea. “My former chief was a traditionalist, but he could hardly object,” Ginsburg said with a bit of glee.)
This time, we talked for 90 minutes in the personal office of Ginsburg’s temporary chambers (she is soon moving to the chambers that Justice David Souter is vacating). Ginsburg, who was wearing an elegant cream-colored suit, matching pumps and turquoise earrings, spoke softly, and at times her manner was mild, but she was forceful about why she thinks Sotomayor should be confirmed and about a few of the court’s recent cases. What follows is a condensed and edited version of our interview.
At the end of our time together, Ginsburg rose and said energetically that she would soon be off to her twice-weekly 7 p.m. personal-training session. She works out at the court on an elliptical machine, and she lifts weights. “To keep me in shape,” she said.
Q: At your confirmation hearings in 1993, you talked about how you hoped to see three or four women on the court. How do you feel about how long it has taken to see simply one more woman nominated?
JUSTICE GINSBURG: My prediction was right for the Supreme Court of Canada. They have Beverley McLachlin as the chief justice, and they have at least three other women. The attrition rate is slow on this court.
Q: Now that Judge Sotomayor has been nominated, how do you feel about that?
JUSTICE GINSBURG: I feel great that I don’t have to be the lone woman around this place.
Q: What has that been like?
JUSTICE GINSBURG: It’s almost like being back in law school in 1956, when there were 9 of us in a class of over 500, so that meant most sections had just 2 women, and you felt that every eye was on you. Every time you went to answer a question, you were answering for your entire sex. It may not have been true, but certainly you felt that way. You were different and the object of curiosity.
Q: Did you feel that this time around from your male colleagues?
JUSTICE GINSBURG: My basic concern about being all alone was the public got the wrong perception of the court. It just doesn’t look right in the year 2009.
Q: Why on a deeper level does it matter? It’s not just the symbolism, right?
JUSTICE GINSBURG: It matters for women to be there at the conference table to be doing everything that the court does. I hope that these hearings for Sonia will be as civil as mine were and Steve Breyer’s were. Ours were unusual in that respect.
Q: Did you think that all the attention to the criticism of Sotomayor as being “bullying” or not as smart is sex-inflected? Does that have to do with the rarity of a woman in her position, and the particular challenges?
JUSTICE GINSBURG: I can’t say that it was just that she was a woman. There are some people in Congress who would criticize severely anyone President Obama nominated. They’ll seize on any handle. One is that she’s a woman, another is that she made the remark about Latina women. [In 2001 Sotomayor said: “I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.”] And I thought it was ridiculous for them to make a big deal out of that. Think of how many times you’ve said something that you didn’t get out quite right, and you would edit your statement if you could. I’m sure she meant no more than what I mean when I say: Yes, women bring a different life experience to the table. All of our differences make the conference better. That I’m a woman, that’s part of it, that I’m Jewish, that’s part of it, that I grew up in Brooklyn, N.Y., and I went to summer camp in the Adirondacks, all these things are part of me.
Once Justice O’Connor was questioning counsel at oral argument. I thought she was done, so I asked a question, and Sandra said: Just a minute, I’m not finished. So I apologized to her and she said, It’s O.K., Ruth. The guys do it to each other all the time, they step on each other’s questions. And then there appeared an item in USA Today, and the headline was something like“Rude Ruth Interrupts Sandra.”
Q: It seemed to me that male judges do much more abrasive things all the time, and it goes unremarked.
JUSTICE GINSBURG: Yes, the notion that Sonia is an aggressive questioner — what else is new? Has anybody watched Scalia or Breyer up on the bench?
Q: She’ll fit right in?
JUSTICE GINSBURG: She’ll hold her own.Q: From your point of view, does having another woman on the court matter primarily in terms of the public’s perception, or also for what it feels like to be in conference and on the bench?
JUSTICE GINSBURG: All of those things. What was particularly good was that Sandra and I were different — not cast in the same mold. Sandra gets out two words to my every one. I think that Sonia and I will also be quite different in our style. I think she may be the first justice who didn’t have English as her native language. And she has done just about everything that you can do in law as a prosecutor, in a private firm and on the District Court and the Court of Appeals.
Q: Do you know her well or a little bit?
JUSTICE GINSBURG: I know her because I’m the Second Circuit Justice. So I go once a year to the Judicial Conference.
Q: What do you think about Judge Sotomayor’s frank remarks that she is a product of affirmative action?
JUSTICE GINSBURG: So am I. I was the first tenured woman at Columbia. That was 1972, every law school was looking for its woman. Why? Because Stan Pottinger, who was then head of the office for civil rights of the Department of Health, Education and Welfare, was enforcing the Nixon government contract program. Every university had a contract, and Stan Pottinger would go around and ask, How are you doing on your affirmative-action plan? William McGill, who was then the president of Columbia, was asked by a reporter: How is Columbia doing with its affirmative action? He said, It’s no mistake that the two most recent appointments to the law school are a woman and an African-American man.
Q: And was that you?
JUSTICE GINSBURG: I was the woman. I never would have gotten that invitation from Columbia without the push from the Nixon administration. I understand that there is a thought that people will point to the affirmative-action baby and say she couldn’t have made it if she were judged solely on the merits. But when I got to Columbia I was well regarded by my colleagues even though they certainly disagreed with many of the positions that I was taking. They backed me up: If that’s what I thought, I should be able to speak my mind.
Q: Is that another example of how you’ve worked with men over the years?
JUSTICE GINSBURG: I always thought that there was nothing an antifeminist would want more than to have women only in women’s organizations, in their own little corner empathizing with each other and not touching a man’s world. If you’re going to change things, you have to be with the people who hold the levers.
Q: You sent me an article by Michael Klarman, a Harvard law professor, that was about ways in which you and Thurgood Marshall were effective as litigators. Klarman pointed out that you were very good at influencing a male lawyer’s brief without making him feel that you had taken over the case. Is that something you learned to do? Was it a conscious approach?
JUSTICE GINSBURG: I think it was a conscious approach. If you want to influence people, you want them to accept your suggestions, you don’t say, You don’t know how to use the English language, or how could you make that argument? It will be welcomed much more if you have a gentle touch than if you are aggressive.
Q: Do you think women have to learn how to do that in a different way from men sometimes in the workplace?
JUSTICE GINSBURG: I haven’t noticed it. There are some very sympathetic men.
Q: Is it an approach that you still use with your colleagues to try and have a gentle touch?
JUSTICE GINSBURG: Yes, or to have a sense of humor.
Q: Do you think if there were more women on the court with you that other dynamics would change?
JUSTICE GINSBURG: I think back to the days when — I don’t know who it was — when I think Truman suggested the possibility of a woman as a justice. Someone said we have these conferences and men are talking to men and sometimes we loosen our ties, sometimes even take off our shoes. The notion was that they would be inhibited from doing that if women were around. I don’t know how many times I’ve kicked off my shoes. Including the time some reporter said something like, it took me a long time to get up from the bench. They worried, was I frail? To be truthful I had kicked off my shoes, and I couldn’t find my right shoe; it traveled way underneath.
Q: You are said to have very warm relationships with your colleagues. And so I was surprised to read a comment you made in an interview in May with Joan Biskupic of USA Today. You said that when you were a young lawyer, your voice was often ignored, and then a male colleague would repeat a point you’d made, and other people would be alert to it. And then you said this still happens now at conference.
JUSTICE GINSBURG: Not often. It was a routine thing [in the past] that I would say something and it would just pass, and then somebody else would say almost the same thing and people noticed. I think the idea in the 1950s and ’60s was that if it was a woman’s voice, you could tune out, because she wasn’t going to say anything significant. There’s much less of that.But it still exists, and it’s not a special experience that I’ve had. I’ve talked to other women in high places, and they've had the same experience.
Q: I wonder if that would change if there were more women who were part of the mix on the court?
JUSTICE GINSBURG: I think it undoubtedly would. You can imagine in Canada, where McLachlin is the chief, I think they must have a different way of hearing a woman’s voice if she is the leader.
Q: I wanted to ask you about the academic research on the effect of sex on judging. Studies have found a difference in the way male and female judges of similar ideologies vote in some cases. And that the presence of a woman on a panel can influence the way her male colleagues vote. How do these findings match your experience?
JUSTICE GINSBURG: I’m very doubtful about those kinds of [results]. I certainly know that there are women in federal courts with whom I disagree just as strongly as I disagree with any man. I guess I have some resistance to that kind of survey because it’s what I was arguing against in the ’70s. Like in Mozart’s opera “Così Fan Tutte”: that’s the way women are.
Q: We started by talking about the idea of three or four women on the Supreme Court. Could you imagine a Supreme Court that had five or six or seven women on it?
JUSTICE GINSBURG: Yes, we’ve had some state Supreme Courts that have had a majority of women.
Q: Do you have a sense of what that would be like to actually work on and how it would be different?
JUSTICE GINSBURG: The work would not be any easier. Some of the amenities might improve.
Q: Do you think that some of the discrimination cases might turn out differently?
JUSTICE GINSBURG: I think for the most part, yes. I would suspect that, because the women will relate to their own experiences.Q: That’s one area in which outcomes might actually differ?
JUSTICE GINSBURG: Yes. I think the presence of women on the bench made it possible for the courts to appreciate earlier than they might otherwise that sexual harassment belongs under Title VII [as a violation of civil rights law].
Q: Can I bring up the Ricci case, brought by the New Haven firefighters?
JUSTICE GINSBURG: This case had some very hard elements. It was a bit like the Heller case, which involved the Second Amendment. [Last year, the Supreme Court found that Washington gun-control laws that barred handguns in private homes were unconstitutional.] For that, the plaintiff was a nice guy who was a security guard at the Federal Judicial Center, and he had to carry a gun on his job, but he couldn’t carry it home. And in Ricci, you have a dyslexic firefighter. Which is just exactly what you should do as a lawyer. I mean, that’s what I did.
Q: It’s true, it’s a very good strategy. He was a very sympathetic plaintiff. And it was important that the city had already given the test that the white firefighters scored high on and the black firefighters did not.
JUSTICE GINSBURG: Yes. And the city weights the written and oral parts of the test 60-40, and says: That’s what the union wanted, it’s been in the bargaining contracts for 20 years.
I don’t know how many cases there were, Title VII civil rights cases, where unions were responsible. The very first week that I was at Columbia, Jan Goodman, a lawyer in New York, called me and said, Do you know that Columbia has given layoff notices to 25 maids and not a single janitor? Columbia’s defense was the union contract, which was set up so that every maid would have to go before the newly hired janitor would get a layoff notice.
Q: What about the case this term involving the strip search, in school, of 13-year-old Savana Redding? Justice Souter’s majority opinion, finding that the strip search was unconstitutional, is very different from what I expected after oral argument, when some of the men on the court didn’t seem to see the seriousness here. Is that an example of a case when having a woman as part of the conversation was important?
JUSTICE GINSBURG: I think it makes people stop and think, Maybe a 13-year-old girl is different from a 13-year-old boy in terms of how humiliating it is to be seen undressed. I think many of [the male justices] first thought of their own reaction. It came out in various questions. You change your clothes in the gym, what’s the big deal?
Q: Seeing that Souter wrote the opinion in Savana Redding’s case reminded me of Justice Rehnquist writing the majority opinion in Nevada v. Hibbs, the 2003 case in which the court ruled 6-3 that the Family Medical Leave Act applies to state employers, for both female and male workers. Chief Justice Rehnquist wrote in his opinion about an idea you have been talking about for a long time, about stereotypes. He discussed how when women are stereotyped as responsible for the domestic sphere, and men are not, that makes women seem less valuable as employees. I wonder if one of the measures of your success on the court is that a male justice would write an opinion like this?
JUSTICE GINSBURG: That opinion was such a delightful surprise. When my husband read it, he asked, did I write that opinion? I was very fond of my old chief. I have a sense that it was in part his life experience. When his daughter Janet was divorced, I think the chief felt some kind of responsibility to be kind of a father figure to those girls. So he became more sensitive to things that he might not have noticed.
Q: Right. Chief Justice Rehnquist once said that sex-discrimination claims carry little weight. And he quipped at the end of a case you argued, when you were a lawyer, “You won’t settle for putting Susan B. Anthony on the new dollar, then?” Do you think he was affected by working with you and Justice O’Connor?
JUSTICE GINSBURG: I wouldn’t attribute it to one thing. I think I would attribute it to his court experience and his life experience. One of the most moving statements at a memorial service I ever heard was when Janet Rehnquist’s daughter read a letter that she had written to her grandfather. The closeness of their relationship and the caring was just beautiful. Most people had no idea that there was that side to Rehnquist.
Q: You have written, “To turn in a new direction, the court first had to gain an understanding that legislation apparently designed to benefit or protect women could have the opposite effect.” The pedestal versus the cage. Has the court made that turn completely, or is there still more work to be done?
JUSTICE GINSBURG: Not completely, as you can see in the case involving whether a child acquires citizenship from an unwed father. [Nguyen v. INS, in which the court in 2001 upheld, by 5 to 4, a law that set different requirements for a child to become a citizen, depending on whether his citizenship rights came from his unmarried mother or his unmarried father.] The majority thought there was something about the link between a mother and a child that doesn’t exist between the father and a child. But in fact the child in the case had been brought up by his father.
They were held back by a way of looking at the world in which a man who wasn’t married simply was not responsible. There must have been so many repetitions of Madame Butterfly in World War II. And for Justice Stevens [who voted with the majority], that was part of his experience. I think that’s going to be over in the next generation, these kinds of rulings.
Q: Let me ask you about the fight you waged for the courts to understand that pregnancy discrimination is a form of sex discrimination.
JUSTICE GINSBURG: I wrote about it a number of times. I litigated Captain Struck’s case about reproductive choice. [In 1972, Ginsburg represented Capt. Susan Struck, who became pregnant during her service in the Air Force. At the time, the Air Force automatically discharged any woman who became pregnant and told Captain Struck that she should have an abortion if she wanted to keep her job. The government changed the regulation before the Supreme Court could decide the case.] If the court could have seen Susan Struck’s case — this was the U.S. government, a U.S. Air Force post, offering abortions, in 1971, two years before Roe.
Q: And suggesting an abortion as the solution to Struck’s problem.
JUSTICE GINSBURG: Yes. Not only that, but it was available to her on the base.
Q: The case ties together themes of women’s equality and reproductive freedom. The court split those themes apart in Roe v. Wade. Do you see, as part of a future feminist legal wish list, repositioning Roe so that the right to abortion is rooted in the constitutional promise of sex equality?
JUSTICE GINSBURG: Oh, yes. I think it will be.
Q: If you were a lawyer again, what would you want to accomplish as a future feminist legal agenda?
JUSTICE GINSBURG: Reproductive choice has to be straightened out. There will never be a woman of means without choice anymore. That just seems to me so obvious. The states that had changed their abortion laws before Roe [to make abortion legal] are not going to change back. So we have a policy that affects only poor women, and it can never be otherwise, and I don’t know why this hasn’t been said more often.Q: Are you talking about the distances women have to travel because in parts of the country, abortion is essentially unavailable, because there are so few doctors and clinics that do the procedure? And also, the lack of Medicaid for abortions for poor women?
JUSTICE GINSBURG: Yes, the ruling about that surprised me. [Harris v. McRae — in 1980 the court upheld the Hyde Amendment, which forbids the use of Medicaid for abortions.] Frankly I had thought that at the time Roe was decided, there was concern about population growth and particularly growth in populations that we don’t want to have too many of. So that Roe was going to be then set up for Medicaid funding for abortion. Which some people felt would risk coercing women into having abortions when they didn’t really want them. But when the court decided McRae, the case came out the other way. And then I realized that my perception of it had been altogether wrong.
Q: When you say that reproductive rights need to be straightened out, what do you mean?
JUSTICE GINSBURG: The basic thing is that the government has no business making that choice for a woman.
Q: Does that mean getting rid of the test the court imposed, in which it allows states to impose restrictions on abortion — like a waiting period — that are not deemed an “undue burden” to a woman’s reproductive freedom?
JUSTICE GINSBURG: I’m not a big fan of these tests. I think the court uses them as a label that accommodates the result it wants to reach. It will be, it should be, that this is a woman’s decision. It’s entirely appropriate to say it has to be an informed decision, but that doesn’t mean you can keep a woman overnight who has traveled a great distance to get to the clinic, so that she has to go to some motel and think it over for 24 hours or 48 hours.
I still think, although I was much too optimistic in the early days, that the possibility of stopping a pregnancy very early is significant. The morning-after pill will become more accessible and easier to take. So I think the side that wants to take the choice away from women and give it to the state, they’re fighting a losing battle. Time is on the side of change.
Q: Since we are talking about abortion, I want to ask you about Gonzales v. Carhart, the case in which the court upheld a law banning so-called partial-birth abortion. Justice Kennedy in his opinion for the majority characterized women as regretting the choice to have an abortion, and then talked about how they need to be shielded from knowing the specifics of what they’d done. You wrote, “This way of thinking reflects ancient notions about women’s place in the family and under the Constitution.” I wondered if this was an example of the court not quite making the turn to seeing women as fully autonomous.
JUSTICE GINSBURG: The poor little woman, to regret the choice that she made. Unfortunately there is something of that in Roe. It’s not about the women alone. It’s the women in consultation with her doctor. So the view you get is the tall doctor and the little woman who needs him.
Q: In the 1980s, you wrote about how while the sphere for women has widened to include more work, men haven’t taken on as much domestic responsibility. Do you think that things are beginning to change?
JUSTICE GINSBURG: That’s going to take time, changing that kind of culture. But looking at my own family, my daughter Jane teaches at Columbia, she travels all over the world, and she has the most outstanding supportive husband who certainly carries his fair share of the load. Although their division of labor is different than mine and my husband’s, because my daughter is a super cook.
Q: Can courts play a role in changing that culture?JUSTICE GINSBURG: The Legislature can make the change, can facilitate the change, as laws like the Family Medical Leave Act do. But it’s not something a court can decree. A court can’t tell the man, You’ve got to do more than carry out the garbage.