Friday, November 6, 2009

Americans on food stamps tops 36 million, new record

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The number of Americans receiving food stamp assistance soared above 36 million for the first time in August, the eighth month in a row that enrollment set a record, the U.S. Agriculture Department said on Wednesday.

USDA said 36.492 million people were receiving food stamps, also known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. In July, enrollment stood at 35.851 million. At the current rate, an estimated one in eight Americans receive benefits.

The program, which helps poor people buy food, has seen enrollment jump by 4.707 million during 2009 amid a lingering economic downturn in the United States. Participation grew by 2 million people from May to August.

In the latest data, the average person received $132.99 in August, compared with $101.31 in August 2008.

(Reporting by Christopher Doering; Editing by Walter Bagley)

The billionaire bailout society

The new financial instruments invented about 30 years ago helped the America’s wealthiest to suck up the extra wealth created by deregulated finance system, explains Les Leopold, author of “The Looting of America”.

“From WWII to the mid-1970s, virtually every year productivity went up in America and the average wage of the average worker went up. The two lines [on a graph] went together, then they split apart. The average American production workers – about a 100 million people – their average wage now has gone down 18% since the mid-1970s, but the people at the top do fantastically well,” revealed Leopold.

He continued: “In 1970 the ratio of the top 100 CEO versus the average worker was 45 to 1… By 2006 it was 1,723 to 1.

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“What is really missing is that steady average rise of the real wage, where the fruits of productivity are shared broadly – that has stopped. We have entered that brave new world, a sort of Milton Friedman capitalism – the great experiment of deregulation – killed that natural progression that we had done since WWII.

“The president runs the US, but the President is unwilling to toss overboard the fundamental philosophy that the bankers live under.

“Billionaires will get richer and we will have more of them – and we will have a hollowed-out middle class. And when the system gets in trouble, we’ll take money from the population and give it to the finance community to help them out.”

Pay raises used to tally number of jobs saved by stimulus

WASHINGTON - The government’s latest tally of stimulus jobs counted pay increases for existing workers as jobs saved in a popular federal preschool program, raising fresh questions about the process the Obama administration is using to tout the success of its $787 billion economic recovery plan.

A review of the latest stimulus reports - which the White House promised would undergo extensive reviews to ensure accuracy - found that more than two-thirds of 14,506 jobs credited to the recovery act by Head Start programs involved pay increases.

Health and Human Services spokesman Luis Rosero defended the practice. “If I give you a raise, it is going to save a portion of your job,’’ he said.

But Antonia Ferrier, a spokeswoman for Republican House minority leader John Boehner, retorted, “That’s more than ridiculous.’’

Elizabeth Oxhorn, a spokeswoman for the White House recovery office, said the Obama administration was reviewing the Head Start data “to determine how and if it will be counted.’’

Most of the inflated figures were like those cited in the 935 saved jobs reported by the Southwest Georgia Community Action in Moultrie, Ga.

Director Myrtis Mulkey-Ndawula said she followed the guidelines the Obama administration provided and multiplied her 508 employees by 1.84 - the percentage pay raise they received - and came up with 935 jobs saved.

“I would say it’s confusing at best,’’ she said. “But we followed the instructions we were given.’’

The raises were appropriate because the stimulus law set aside money for Head Start salary increases, but converting that number into jobs saved proved difficult. The Obama administration told Head Start officials to consider a fraction of each employee as a job saved. Many Head Start programs around the country went further, counting everyone who received a raise as a saved job.

More than 250 other community agencies receiving stimulus cash from the HHS Administration for Children and Families similarly reported saving jobs when using the money to give pay raises, pay for training and continuing education, extend employee work hours, or buy equipment, according to their spending reports.

Another View At Goldman's Trading Perfection And Statistical Improbabilities

When a firm's trading performance challenges not only all preconceptions of realistic trading, but also of statistical distributions, one can merely stand back and watch in awe. Attached is a graphic of what a rigged, backstopped and manipulated market is all about. The chart demonstrates Goldman's YTD trading track record: out of 194 trading days in 2009, the firm has made over $100 million on 116 occasions! This alone accounts for $11.6 billion in revenue (and is likely much more as Goldman could have easily had a $1 billion trading day in the rightmost bracket as it is open ended). Assuming midline averages for any given bucket and multiplying by the amount of days that the firm traded within these, Goldman Sachs has made $15 billion courtesy of the skewed and very highly improbable (but not impossible, thank you taxpayers and Ben Bernanke) chart.

And a more granular read, demonstrates that as the year has progressed, Goldman has become much better at extracting larger wins and minimizing losses. The firm lost money on just 3 days in the last two quarters. Is this a ponzi scheme? We surely don't know absent additional information (which will never be forthcoming, despite that GS is a public company). Is this comparable to the returns generated by a ponzi scheme? Absofuckinlutely.

Can the SEC please dissolve itself already and save taxpayers at least a little money?

Max Keiser on GM : U.S Predator Sacrifice Workers as Lambs!

Click this link ......

Noam Chomsky: Manufacturing Dissent 1/2

Click this link ......


Ian Henshall has said I can post his email with regards to the meeting in the House of Commons. I am creating a new entry so nobody misses this.

The message is as follows:

Reinvestigate 911 has gained more momentum following Monday's meeting in the House of Commons. The meeting was attended by one Peer, one senior MP and several aides to various MPs, some senior. About eight more MPs from all parties had asked to attend but due to last minute events and diary clashes were not present. (This is normal, the system keeps MPs overburdened with meetings and short of help.)

MPs and aides contacted after the meeting have said they found the presentation impressive. Several one-on-one follow-up meetings are being arranged.

There were presentations from UK 9/11 victim Scott Forbes, nanotechnology expert Niels Harrit and 911 The New Evidence author Ian Henshall.

We now have a small base of solid support within the Palace of Westminster. Plans for a further meeting in the next few months are being developed. Other action points under discussion include asking the Iraq Inquiry to scrutinise the official 9/11 story, pressing publicly and through informal contacts for fair treatment in the media, and setting up a Parliamentary Group which could eventually hold hearings.

Since the Parliamentary campaign launched in July, Reinvestigate 911 has been contacted for information or requests to come to meetings by people who have in the past held posts of Foreign Secretary, Defence Minister, and select committee chair. Several more have been members of cabinets and shadow cabinets. Clearly these people are unimpressed by the assumption of the US/UK corporate media that the official 9/11 story is the whole truth.

A business sponsor, Coffee Plant, paid for the ad in the hope of triggering a response that will fund the next wave of activity. This seems to be working. So far about a third of the costs of the ad have come back in donations and book sales.

Goldman Sachs Received H1N1 Vaccine Before Several Hospitals (GS)

We've been trying to figure out what, if any, preparations Wall Street has been taking to guard against H1N1.

For the most part, the banks have been coy about their activities.

But as noted on The Today Show this morning, several banks have been among the early recipients of H1N1 vaccine, allowing them to get ahead of hospitals in some instances.

The story was originally broken by BusinessWeek this week.

Goldman Sachs (GS) has received 200 doses in total -- the exact same as Lennox Hill hospital.

Health officials say corporate partners are always part of the distribution of any vaccine.

There's no allegation that they broke any rules, and we're still not quite sure what the whole story is -- mainly it looks like another PR snafu for Wall Street. Some are suggesting that, perhaps, the banks should have donated their allocated vaccines.

In defense of the banks, we all benefit when others are vaccinated. It's a positive, not zero-sum game.

Update: To be clear, Goldman confirms that all these decisions are made by the CDC, and that the vaccine only goes to specified high-risk individuals. In addition, as noted by the above BusinessWeek report, 29 companies including Time Warner and others have also been slected as vaccine distribution.

Surviving Fort Hood shooting suspect arrested at golf course, officer says

(CNN) -- A senior officer who was playing golf Thursday near Fort Hood, Texas, told CNN he witnessed the arrest of one of the two surviving suspects of the shooting at the Army installation.

Shortly after the shooting, the officer said, military police told him to clear the course and he saw other MPs surround the building that held the golf carts, he said.

The senior officer said he ducked into a nearby house for cover as 30 to 40 cars carrying MPs approached.

He said he saw a soldier in battle-dress uniform, his hands in the air. The MPs ordered him to lie on the ground and open his uniform, presumably to ensure he was not carrying explosives, the senior officer said.

He said an MP told him that authorities considered the man to be a suspect in the shootings after having overheard the man say he was with the shooter.

The man was surrounded for 25 to 30 minutes, until a convoy of vehicles arrived, led by a Ford Crown Victoria and carrying men in suits, and he was taken away, the senior officer said.

The golf course is about 2.5 miles from Fort Hood, the officer told CNN.

CIT Bankruptcy: Taxpayers Stiffed on Company's Bailout Billions While Execs Reap Bonuses

If people were pissed off about AIG's temporary decline and permanent bonuses, CIT's bankruptcy ought to enrage them.

The giant lender to businesses is heading for a quick in-and-out in bankruptcy court, and when it emerges, taxpayers will be the ones who have gotten the ol' in-out: CIT won't have to repay its $2.33 billion TARP bailout.

CIT's been in deep trouble for way more than a year. Meanwhile, some of its execs have reaped special bonuses. Its H.R. director, Jim Duffy, has received a $450,000 cash bonus for what the company called his "exceptional performance." What did he do? "Mr. Duffy's achievements in 2008 include the design and implementation of a process to reduce our total headcount by 22% ... along with the successful deployment of talent and development programs targeted at retaining CIT's key talent," according to CIT's proxy filing last April. That message to taxpayers was approved by CEO Jeff Peek.

That was the same month that Peek's wife, Liz Peek (a former journalist), wrote an anonymous, weepy tell-all for Portfolio about the sad plight of TARP wives. And that was the same month that Portfolio itself went out of business.

Liz Peek acknowledged in her sob story that even her husband had to take some of the blame for last year's Wall Street tsunami, though she continued the canard that the Street's execs didn't see the tusanimi coming — as if it were a natural disaster instead of a manmade one.

After naming only a few humans who might have had something to do with it, she added:

And yes, I blame those who were in charge of the big banks--including my husband--for not seeing the default tsunami coming. But almost no one did. Everyone knows this, yet financial CEOs have replaced the Mob as the most despised group in the country.

The good news is that Americans have short attention spans. Before long, some other group will come along to absorb all the frustration and anger.

Ward Harkavy is currently Senior Editor at the Village Voice, for which he writes The Smart Asset.

Fort Hood: Another victim of shooting rampage dies

(AP) FORT HOOD, Texas - A military official says one more person has died after being injured during a shooting rampage at Fort Hood in Texas.

Post spokesman Tyler Broadway said early Friday that the toll now stands at 13 dead and 30 wounded. Late Thursday, officials said 12 people had been killed and 31 wounded in the afternoon attack.

The victims’ identities haven’t been released.

The suspected shooter, Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, was on a ventilator and unconscious in a hospital late Thursday. The Army psychiatrist was shot four times after the rampage began around 1:30 p.m.

The motive for the shootings isn’t clear, but Hasan was apparently set to deploy soon. He also had expressed some anger about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.

FORT HOOD, Texas (AP) _ Military officials were starting Friday to piece together what may have pushed an Army psychiatrist trained to help soldiers in distress to turn on his comrades in a shooting rampage that killed 12 people and wounded 31 in Texas.

The suspected shooter, Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, was on a ventilator and unconscious in a hospital after being shot four times during the shootings at the Army’s sprawling Fort Hood, post officials said. In the early chaos after the shootings, authorities believed they had killed him, only to discover later that he had survived.

In Washington, a senior U.S. official said authorities at Fort Hood initially thought one of the victims who had been shot and killed was the shooter. The mistake resulted in a delay of several hours in identifying Hasan as the alleged assailant.

Authorities have not ruled out that Hasan was acting on behalf of some unidentified radical group, the official said. He would not say whether any evidence had come to light to support that theory.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss matters that were under investigation.

Officials are not ruling out the possibility that some of the casualties may have been victims of "friendly fire," that in the mayhem and confusion at the shooting scene some of the responding military officials may have shot some of the victims.

The gunfire broke out around 1:30 p.m. at the Soldier Readiness Center, where soldiers who are about to be deployed or who are returning undergo medical screening. Nearby, some soldiers were readying to head into a graduation ceremony for troops and families who had recently earned degrees.

Pastor Greg Schannep had just parked his car along the side of the theater and was about to head into the ceremony when a man in uniform approached him.

"Sir, they are opening fire over there!" the man told him. At first, he thought it was a training exercise _ then heard three volleys and saw people running. As the man who warned him about the shots ran away, he could see the man’s back was bloodied from a wound.

Schannep said police and medical and other emergency personnel were on the scene in an instant, telling people to get inside the theater. The post went into lockdown while a search began for a suspect and emergency workers began trying to treat the wounded. Some soldiers rushed to treat their injured colleagues by ripping their uniforms into makeshift bandages to treat their wounds.

Fort Hood Lt. Gen. Bob Cone praised the soldiers for their quick reaction.

"God bless these soldiers," Cone said. "As horrible as this was it could have been worse."

Video from the scene showed police patrolling the area with handguns and rifles, ducking behind buildings for cover. Sirens could be heard wailing while a woman’s voice on a public-address system urged people to take cover. Schools on the base went into lockdown, and family members trying to find out what was happening inside found cell phone lines jammed or busy.

"I was confused and just shocked," said Spc. Jerry Richard, 27, who works at the center but was not on duty during the shooting. "Overseas you are ready for it. But here you can’t even defend yourself."

The wounded were dispersed among hospitals in central Texas, Cone said. Their identities and the identities of the dead were not immediately released.

Jamie and Scotty Casteel stood outside the emergency room at the hospital in Temple waiting for news of their son-in-law Matthew Cooke, who was among the injured.

"He’s been shot in the abdomen and that’s all we know," Jamie Casteel told The Associated Press. She said Cook, from New York state, had been home from Iraq for about a year.

Amber Bahr, 19, was shot in the stomach but was in stable condition, said her mother, Lisa Pfund of Random Lake, Wis.

"We know nothing, just that she was shot in the belly," Pfund said. She couldn’t provide more details and only spoke with emergency personnel.

Ashley Saucedo told WOOD-TV in Michigan that her husband was shot in the arm, but she couldn’t discuss specifics. Saucedo said she and the couple’s two children weren’t permitted to leave their home at Fort Hood during the shootings.

The motive for the shooting wasn’t clear, but Hasan was apparently set to deploy soon, and had expressed some anger about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, said generals at Fort Hood told her that Hasan was about to deploy overseas. Retired Col. Terry Lee, who said he had worked with Hasan, told Fox News he was being sent to Afghanistan.

Lee said Hasan had hoped Obama would pull troops out of Afghanistan and Iraq and got into frequent arguments with others in the military who supported the wars.

For six years before reporting for duty at Fort Hood, in July, the 39-year-old Army major worked at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center pursuing a career in psychiatry, as an intern, a resident and, last year, a fellow in disaster and preventive psychiatry. He received his medical degree from the military’s Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Md., in 2001.

But his record wasn’t sterling. At Walter Reed, he received a poor performance evaluation, according to an official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the case publicly. And while he was an intern, Hasan had some "difficulties" that required counseling and extra supervision, said Dr. Thomas Grieger, who was the training director at the time.

At least six months ago, Hasan came to the attention of law enforcement officials because of Internet postings about suicide bombings and other threats, including posts that equated suicide bombers to soldiers who throw themselves on a grenade to save the lives of their comrades.

Investigators had not determined for certain whether Hasan was the author of the posting, and a formal investigation had not been opened before the shooting, said law enforcement officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to discuss the case.



Associated Press Writer Lara Jakes contributed to this report from Washington.

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)