Thursday, August 20, 2009

Government Jobs Have Grown Since Recession

While the private sector has shed 6.9 million jobs since the beginning of the recession, state and local governments have expanded their payrolls and added 110,000 jobs, according to a report to be issued Thursday by the Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government.

The report, based on an analysis of federal jobs data, found that state and local governments steadily added jobs for eight months after the recession began in December 2007, with their employment peaking last August. State and local governments have since lost 55,000 jobs, but from the beginning of the recession through last month they gained a net of 110,000 jobs, the report found, in part because of the federal stimulus program.

Government jobs are always more stable than private sector jobs during downturns, but their ability to weather the current deep recession startled Donald J. Boyd, the senior fellow at the institute who wrote the report.

“I am a little surprised at the fact that state and local government has remained as stable as it has in the nation as a whole, given the depth of the current recession,” Mr. Boyd said in an interview.

The report offered several possible explanations for the disparity between the private and public sectors. It noted that there can be a short lag between an economic downturn and the time it hits states in the form of lower tax collections, and an even longer delay before the problems hit local governments in the form of reduced state aid and lower property tax collections.

It pointed to the slow pace of decision-making in many states, and the power yielded by politically influential unions. But it also noted that the demand for many government services rises in a recession, and said that billions of dollars of federal stimulus money sent to states helped them avert layoffs.

The expansion, coming as many states and localities are raising taxes, troubled Tad DeHaven, a budget analyst for the Cato Institute, a libertarian research group in Washington. “That is disturbing,” Mr. DeHaven said. “Basically what you have is your producers in society losing their jobs and looking for work, and their tax burden isn’t necessarily going down — and as a matter of fact they are likely to face tax increases going forward — and government growing.”

States are likely to cut more jobs this year. Many have already imposed furloughs on their workers, reducing their pay, and with states facing record declines in tax collections, several are planning to cut their work forces. The report noted that some hard-hit states had already made deep cuts, led by Arizona, which cut its state government employment by 8.6 percent from the spring of 2008 to this spring.

The disparity between the public and private sector job market is striking in places like Boise, Idaho. Since the recession began, the area’s unemployment rate has more than doubled, to over 10.1 percent in June, as big employers, especially in the technology sector, shed workers. The Boise area lost 20,000 jobs in the year ending in June, the Idaho Labor Department said, and saw real gains only in government, which had an increase of 1,400 jobs, mostly in the public schools.

Jon Hanian, a spokesman for Gov. C. L. Otter, a Republican in his first term, said jobs in state government outside of education were declining. The new state budget, which took effect last month, cuts agencies across the board by 5 percent, Mr. Hanian said, but lets agencies decide whether to impose furloughs, cut wages or eliminate positions.

Kerry Korpi, the director of the research and collective bargaining department at the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, a union representing government employees, said the public sector often lagged behind the economy in both downturns and recoveries. Ms. Korpi said that a growing number of government jobs were being eliminated now, and that many government workers had been forced to take pay cuts and pay more for benefits. And she noted that government workers were providing services that are needed in a downturn.

“At a time like this,” she said, “it’s really hard to lay people off at your unemployment office or your food stamp office, where they’re having trouble keeping up with what they’ve got.”

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a liberal research group in Washington, recently reported that 30 states had raised taxes since January, and that at least 40 states were furloughing workers or eliminating jobs through attrition or layoffs. Many are cutting vital services, the center said.

“Crunch time is still to come for the states,” said Jon Shure, the deputy director of the center’s state fiscal project.

C.I.A. Sought Blackwater’s Help in Plan to Kill Jihadists

Khalid Mohammed/Associated Press
Blackwater security contractors flew over Baghdad in 2007. For years, Blackwater played a significant role in the Iraq operation.

WASHINGTON — The Central Intelligence Agency in 2004 hired outside contractors from the private security contractor Blackwater USA as part of a secret program to locate and assassinate top operatives of Al Qaeda, according to current and former government official

Executives from Blackwater, which has generated controversy because of its aggressive tactics in Iraq, helped the spy agency with planning, training and surveillance. The C.I.A. spent several million dollars on the program, which did not successfully capture or kill any terrorist suspects.

The fact that the C.I.A. used an outside company for the program was a major reason that Leon E. Panetta, the C.I.A.’s director, became alarmed and called an emergency meeting in June to tell Congress that the agency had withheld details of the program for seven years, the officials said.

It is unclear whether the C.I.A. had planned to use the contractors to actually capture or kill Qaeda operatives, or just to help with training and surveillance in the program. American spy agencies have in recent years outsourced some highly controversial work, including the interrogation of prisoners. But government officials said that bringing outsiders into a program with lethal authority raised deep concerns about accountability in covert operations.

Officials said the C.I.A. did not have a formal contract with Blackwater for this program but instead had individual agreements with top company officials, including the founder, Erik D. Prince, a politically connected former member of the Navy Seals and the heir to a family fortune. Blackwater’s work on the program actually ended years before Mr. Panetta took over the agency, after senior C.I.A. officials themselves questioned the wisdom of using outsiders in a targeted killing program.

Blackwater, which has changed its name, most recently to Xe Services, and is based in North Carolina, in recent years has received millions of dollars in government contracts, growing so large that the Bush administration said it was a necessary part of its war operation in Iraq.

It has also drawn controversy. Blackwater employees hired to guard American diplomats in Iraq were accused of using excessive force on several occasions, including shootings in Baghdad in 2007 in which 17 civilians were killed. Iraqi officials have since refused to give the company an operating license.

Several current and former government officials interviewed for this article spoke only on the condition of anonymity because they were discussing details of a still classified program.

Paul Gimigliano, a C.I.A. spokesman, declined to provide details about the canceled program, but he said that Mr. Panetta’s decision on the assassination program was “clear and straightforward.”

“Director Panetta thought this effort should be briefed to Congress, and he did so,” Mr. Gimigliano said. “He also knew it hadn’t been successful, so he ended it.”

A Xe spokeswoman did not return calls seeking comment.

Senator Dianne Feinstein, the California Democrat who leads the Senate Intelligence Committee, also declined to give details of the program. But she praised Mr. Panetta for notifying Congress. “It is too easy to contract out work that you don’t want to accept responsibility for,” she said.

The C.I.A. this summer conducted an internal review of the assassination program that recently was presented to the White House and the Congressional intelligence committees. The officials said that the review stated that Mr. Panetta’s predecessors did not believe that they needed to tell Congress because the program was not far enough developed.

The House Intelligence Committee is investigating why lawmakers were never told about the program. According to current and former government officials, former Vice President Dick Cheney told C.I.A. officers in 2002 that the spy agency did not need to inform Congress because the agency already had legal authority to kill Qaeda leaders.

One official familiar with the matter said that Mr. Panetta did not tell lawmakers that he believed that the C.I.A. had broken the law by withholding details about the program from Congress. Rather, the official said, Mr. Panetta said he believed that the program had moved beyond a planning stage and deserved Congressional scrutiny.

“It’s wrong to think this counterterrorism program was confined to briefing slides or doodles on a cafeteria napkin,” the official said. “It went well beyond that.”

Current and former government officials said that the C.I.A.’s efforts to use paramilitary hit teams to kill Qaeda operatives ran into logistical, legal and diplomatic hurdles almost from the outset. These efforts had been run by the C.I.A.’s counterterrorism center, which runs operations against Al Qaeda and other terrorist networks.

In 2002, Blackwater won a classified contract to provide security for the C.I.A. station in Kabul, Afghanistan, and the company maintains other classified contracts with the C.I.A., current and former officials said.

Over the years, Blackwater has hired several former top C.I.A. officials, including Cofer Black, who ran the C.I.A. counterterrorism center immediately after the Sept. 11 attacks.

C.I.A. operatives also regularly use the company’s training complex in North Carolina. The complex includes a shooting range used for sniper training.

An executive order signed by President Gerald R. Ford in 1976 barred the C.I.A. from carrying out assassinations, a direct response to revelations that the C.I.A. had initiated assassination plots against Fidel Castro of Cuba and other foreign politicians.

The Bush administration took the position that killing members of Al Qaeda, a terrorist group that attacked the United States and has pledged to attack it again, was no different from killing enemy soldiers in battle, and that therefore the agency was not constrained by the assassination ban.

But former intelligence officials said that employing private contractors to help hunt Qaeda operatives would pose significant legal and diplomatic risks, and they might not be protected in the same way government employees are.

Some Congressional Democrats have hinted that the program was just one of many that the Bush administration hid from Congressional scrutiny and have used the episode as a justification to delve deeper into other Bush-era counterterrorism programs.

But Republicans have criticized Mr. Panetta’s decision to cancel the program, saying he created a tempest in a teapot.

“I think there was a little more drama and intrigue than was warranted,” said Representative Peter Hoekstra of Michigan, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee.

Officials said that the C.I.A. program was devised partly as an alternative to missile strikes using drone aircraft, which have accidentally killed civilians and cannot be used in urban areas where some terrorists hide.

Yet with most top Qaeda operatives believed to be hiding in the remote mountains of Pakistan, the drones have remained the C.I.A.’s weapon of choice. Like the Bush administration, the Obama administration has embraced the drone campaign because it presents a less risky option than sending paramilitary teams into Pakistan.











周三下午, 中國國家主席胡錦濤在北京人民大會堂會見高金素梅( 中) 率領的台灣少數民族代表團。(圖:中新社)
周三下午, 中國國家主席胡錦濤在北京人民大會堂會見高金素梅( 中) 率領的台灣少數民族代表團。(圖:中新社)









































國際黃金需求增加 中國是大買主



世界黃金協會週3表示,第2季全球黃金可確認投資需求從上年同期的151.9噸上升到222.4噸,佔黃金消費的近50%。包括金條及金幣等小型投資商品在內的零售投資凈值則較上年同期攀升12%,達165.7 噸。

尤其值得關注的是,世界黃金協會指出,第 2季,各國央行轉而變成黃金的淨買家,當季官方淨買入14噸黃金,上年同期為淨售出69噸。


報導指出,黃金首飾消費疲軟,但全球第 2大黃金消費國中國第2季的珠寶需求卻較上年同期上升6%。與之形成鮮明對比的是,最大黃金消費國的印度第2季珠寶需求較上年同期驟降31%。


世界黃金協會還指出,中國第2季黃金投資需求與去年同期相比也大漲47%。第2季中國黃金投資需求從第1 季的16.1噸增加至17.1噸,珠寶需求從今年前3 個月的89.1噸降至72.5噸。







南韓首枚運載火箭 倒數前中止發射




The Korea Space Launch Vehicle-1, South Korea's first space rocket, sits on its launch pad at the Naro Space Center in Goheung, south of Seoul, South Korea on Tuesday.

南韓停射運載火箭 原因以後說明



The Korea Space Launch Vehicle-1, South Korea's first space rocket, sits on its launch pad at the Naro Space Center in Goheung, South Korea, Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2009. Space officials aborted South Korea's first rocket launch just minutes before liftoff Wednesday. (AP Photo/Yonhap. Lim Hun-jung)


My Bad! Woman's House Mistakenly Auctioned by Bank

A Homestead woman's home was auctioned to the highest bidder


Getty Images

You know times are tough when people are getting kicked out of their house when it’s not even for sale.

That’s what happened to Anna Ramirez after she found all of her stuff out on the front lawn of her Homestead home last week and a strange man demanding she get out of his newly purchased house.

The eviction came after Ramirez’s home was mistakenly auctioned off to the highest bidder by her bank, Washington Mutual (yes, we know WaMu is now Chase, but we're in denial). Usually, you get a warning before you get the boot. A foreclosure letter. Maybe a sign saying your house is up for sale. Not Ramirez, who found her belongings bashed and battered in the street.

"This came out of nowhere," Ramirez said. "The bank took the house from right under my feet."

The man who bought the house told Ramirez he paid $87,000 for it, which shocked Ramirez, who bought the house for $260,000.

What's worse is her husband, daughter and grand children were also kicked out by Homestead and Miami-Dade police officers, said Martha Taylor, who witnessed the unexpected eviction.

"I have never seen anything like it," Taylor said. "They literally threw all her stuff on the front lawn. I didn't sleep that night and it wasn't even my house."

Ramirez and her family had three hours to get out of the house, police ordered. They had to stash their belongings at multiple locations and shacked up with a friend for the night as cops chained the doors of their home. With Taylor's help, Ramirez appeared before a judge two days later to explain what happened.

"I had all my stuff scattered everywhere," she said. "They did this in front all my neighbors. It was so embarassing."

A mistake in the Miami-Dade Clerk's Office appears to be behind the mishap, which landed Ramirez homeless for more than 24 hours.

The sale was eventually reversed by a Miami-Dade judge, allowing Ramirez to return to her old digs. Ramirez said she wants to sue for the damage to her furniture.

Ramirez has lived in the house for three years and recently refinanced the home with the bank.

"This shouldn't be happening, you know, because we did the right thing," she said. "We went step by step."


Judge Napolitano on Glenn Beck: Everything the Government Runs is Bankrupt!

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Cannabis treats prostate cancer, study finds

Following the growing interest in medical benefits of cannabis, a new study finds that the compound can help fight prostate cancer.

According to the study published in the British Journal of Cancer, chemicals found in cannabis can stop prostate cancer cells from growing in the laboratory.

Its active chemicals known as cannabinoids -- methanandamide and JWH-015 -- are also reported to be effective in reducing the size of the tumor in mice.

The compound is believed to block CB2 receptors on the surface of the cancerous tissue, preventing the division and growth of the tumor cells. It is reported to be more effective in treating aggressive prostate cancer cell types, which do not respond to existing hormone treatments.

Scientists hope that cannabis-based medicines could help fight prostate cancer in the near future.

They, however, stressed that an individual should not start smoking cannabis with the aim of fighting the disease as its use is associated with psychotropic effects.

FBI Says Boston Cops Need M-16s to Prevent City from Becoming Next Mumbai

I kid you not. This is the reasoning used by the FBI. The cops need automatic weapons to respond if the city falls victim to a Mumbai-like terror attack. It’s more likely Boston will get hit by a hurricane, but you don’t see the government building levees and boarding up windows. A terror attack launched against Boston figures pretty low on the probability chart.

Kurt Nimmo
August 19, 2009

“Warren Bamford, the special agent in charge of the FBI in Boston, said Tuesday that he is baffled by opposition to a proposal to give some neighborhood police officers the semiautomatic weapons,” reports the Associated Press. “In May, Boston Mayor Tom Menino criticized a proposal to arm up to 200 officers with M-16s that the police department had ordered from the U.S. military. Menino said only specially trained units should have the guns.”

Menino, after all, has to face the wrath of citizens who will naturally resent the cops walking around as if Boston is Baghdad.

The FBI is merely playing its assigned role. From the Pentagon to the Department of Homeland Security to the FBI, the government is on the fast track to turn the country into a police state from sea to shining sea. A major part of that effort is the militarization of the police, a process already well along.

Let’s hand it to Boston Mayor Tom Menino — he didn’t buy into the FBI’s malarkey about a terrorist event that will probably never happen.

Source: Infowars

34 Million Americans Receiving Food Assistance - 6 Million Increase in One Year: Five Charts Showing the Status of U.S. Employment: Manufacturing Poun

There is something troubling when the theme of recovery is never tied to U.S employment. The American worker is suffering. This has not changed. The solace being offered is that less people are being fired. I suppose the 26 million American workers who are unemployed or underemployed might find some comfort in the jobless recovery talk. Yet this recession is making it particularly hard for people to find work. That is why we are seeing a spike in bankruptcy rates that rival those of 2005 when people rushed to file before more stringent guidelines were imposed. Even with the banking friendly rules, you can only squeeze so much out of someone who has nothing left.

If you want to see the actual pain for those at the lowest rung of the economic ladder, all you need to do is look at the massive spike in people receiving food stamps:

food stamp participation

This is off the charts here. We can look at two previous peaks to see how bad this in proportion to the population:

1981: Food stamp participation at 21 million

Population (229 million)

9 percent of total population on food stamps

1994: Food stamp participation at 27 million

Population (263 million)

10 percent of total population on food stamps

2009: Food stamp participation 34 million

Population (307 million)

11 percent of total population on food stamps

I adjusted the figures to account for population and by far, this is the highest rate of people on food stamps in the last 30 years. And the spike is amazing if you look at the above chart. We went from 28.4 million in May of 2008 to 34.4 million in May of 2009. 6 million people have been added to the food stamp program in the matter of one year. And if you think people receiving this assistance are making big bucks, the average monthly benefit comes in at $101 per person. And if you think these are average Americans (i.e., those making $50,000 a year who are struggling as well) think again:

snap income levels

The program itself is no longer called food stamps but is now labeled as SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program). Bottom line however is that many people are struggling in this economy and those with lower incomes and the middle class are being squeezed the hardest.

With that as the economic back drop, let us now look at the overall employment situation:

Chart 1 - Sectors of Employment


These are illuminating charts from the Atlanta Federal Reserve. We already know that since December of 2007, the economy has shed nearly 7 million jobs by official standards. But if you look at which sectors have been hit the hardest, you can see why the middle class is being hurt. The biggest hit sectors are manufacturing, construction, and services. Now we need to remember that the manufacturing sector has been decimated over the last 40 years so these jobs being lost are in light of the already deep cuts. Construction employment has fallen with the housing bubble imploding. In the past, we would usually have construction and housing lead us out of recession but this recession was caused by housing and massive amounts of debt. Plus, we have $3 trillion in commercial real estate debt and plenty of empty vacant space for years to come.

These jobs were better paying positions. If you look on the chart above, the only 2 sectors that had any hiring in 2009 on an overall basis to show up on the chart are the government and services. This is not where you want to see job growth.

Chart 2 - Manufacturing


At a certain point we are going to need to realize that having some semblance of a manufacturing base is going to be important for the vitality of our country. People may not even realize that we have the same number of people employed in manufacturing as we did back in the 1940s not adjusting for population growth!


These are typically better paying jobs and the pattern is abundantly clear. The employment picture looks grim if we don’t stabilize some of these markets.

Chart 3 - Unemployment and Participation Rate


We are starring at unemployment rates and labor force participation rates that have not been seen in 30 years. What is troubling regarding this recession is how deep and how quick it is moving. What is even more disturbing is the new structural changes that are occurring. For example, we may not see the fabled 4 to 5 percent ideal unemployment rate for another decade. What industry is going to pick up this massive slack? This is one thing that escapes many. We went from a technology bubble to a housing bubble. This has preoccupied our nation for 20 years. Is there any other bubble to create massive amounts of employment? I just don’t see it occurring in the short-run. I’m looking at indicators like the food stamp participation rate, U-6 employment measures, and following the $3 trillion in commercial real estate debt outstanding. This will give us a better sense of when true recovery occurs and not just a bailout for Wall Street rallying on the subsidies of the American taxpayer.

Chart 4 - Part-time for Economic Reasons


Never have we seen this many Americans working part-time for economic reasons. In this way, we are becoming like Japan since they have a high part-time employment base. No security, no benefits, and no stability. Some 8.8 million fall in this category. This pattern is troubling because Japan saw similar impacts once their Heisei bubble burst and caused two (going on three) lost decades. They kept zombie banks alive while bleeding the real employment sector dry. They report low overall unemployment rates but those working part-time make up nearly a third of their entire workforce. We are seeing similar patterns with commercial real estate debt just sitting hidden and the U.S. Treasury and Federal Reserve buying up questionable assets in exchange for U.S. Treasuries.

Now this issue is going to carry a lot of weight especially with the current healthcare debate. Part-time employment growth is not exactly something you want to see.

Chart 5 - Less Layoffs but Few Hiring


Chart 5 probably summarizes our current position best. As you can see, the layoff trend is heading lower but the hiring trend is also at a low level. In fact, according to the Atlanta Federal Reserve Board for June of 2009 the hiring rate came in at a record low of 2.9%! This is the lowest on record since data started being measured back in December of 2000.

Now just think about what the above chart signifies. If people aren’t hiring and people are still letting people go, is this actually a good sign? That is why it is premature to say things are getting better. The jobs that were lost were good paying jobs. Many will never return. So what industry is going to make up that gap? If there is no industry, then our economy is going to have to adjust. Sure the S&P 500 is up by 50 percent but this isn’t based on solid earnings. If we look at more realistic indicators of our economy, the recession is still deep and painful and shows no signs of improving, just getting worse at a slower pace.

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