Thursday, December 23, 2010

Blockbuster will close 180 stores

Movie rental giant Blockbuster will close 180 stores by the end of the first quarter, the company said. The retailer did not disclose specific stores to be closed.

Since filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in September, the Dallas-based company has shuttered 58 stores.

Before its filing, Blockbuster operated 3,425 stores nationwide, of which 402 were franchise locations. Worldwide, the chain had more than 6,500 stores as of Jan. 20.

Several Kansas City-area Blockbuster stores have closed; the company’s website lists about 30 area locations.

“As we’ve said all along, one of Blockbuster’s key objectives during the recapitalization process is to maximize the profitability of our store portfolio by carefully analyzing each store location and, in many instances, negotiating appropriate rent concessions with our landlords,” the company said in a statement. “This will lead to store closings in cases where we are unable to achieve necessary rent concessions from our landlords or we determine that a store or group of stores will not be able to meet our expectations for future performance.”

A spokesperson for Blockbuster said managers, employees and customers will be notified in a timely manner if their stores are affected.

However, the retailer also reiterated its commitment to physical stores.

“We continue to believe strongly that our ‘bricks-and-mortar’ retail stores help to distinguish Blockbuster from our competitors and enhance the overall convenience and value proposition we offer our customers,” the statement said. “At the same time, as we all know, many consumers are increasingly turning to digital channels to access content. Accordingly, as we continue the transformation of Blockbuster’s business model, it is critical for us to make smart decisions about each store location.”

The Dallas Business Journal is an affiliated publication.

Read more: Blockbuster will close 180 stores | Kansas City Business Journal

« Check Out The Little House In Maine That Started The Nationwide Foreclosure Freeze (PHOTO, NYT Story) »

This is the house where it all started. It was in a deposition for the foreclosure case that news of GMAC using a robo-signer was first revealed almost 3 months ago. Very interesting story from the NYT.


DENMARK, Me. — The house that set off the national furor over faulty foreclosures is blue-gray and weathered. The porch is piled with furniture and knickknacks awaiting the next yard sale. In the driveway is a busted pickup truck. No one who lives there is going anywhere anytime soon.

Nicolle Bradbury bought this house seven years ago for $75,000, a major step up from the trailer she had been living in with her family. But she lost her job and the $474 monthly mortgage payment became difficult, then impossible.

It should have been a routine foreclosure, with Mrs. Bradbury joining the anonymous millions quietly dispossessed since the recession began. But she was savvy enough to contact a nonprofit group, Pine Tree Legal Assistance, where for once in her 38 years, she caught a break.

Her file was pulled, more or less at random, by Thomas A. Cox, a retired lawyer who volunteers at Pine Tree. He happened to know something about foreclosures because when he worked for a bank he did them all the time. Twenty years later, he had switched sides and, he says, was trying to make amends.

Suddenly, there is a frenzy over foreclosures. Every attorney general in the country is participating in an investigation into the flawed paperwork and questionable methods behind many of them. A Senate hearing is scheduled, and federal inquiries have begun. The housing market, which runs on foreclosure sales, is in turmoil. Bank stocks fell on Thursday as analysts tried to gauge the impact on lenders’ bottom lines.

All of this is largely because Mr. Cox realized almost immediately that Mrs. Bradbury’s foreclosure file did not look right. The documents from the lender, GMAC Mortgage, were approved by an employee whose title was “limited signing officer,” an indication to the lawyer that his knowledge of the case was effectively nonexistent.

Mr. Cox eventually won the right to depose the employee, who casually acknowledged that he had prepared 400 foreclosures a day for GMAC and that contrary to his sworn statements, they had not been reviewed by him or anyone else.

GMAC, the country’s fourth-largest mortgage lender, called this omission a technicality but was forced last month to halt foreclosures in the 23 states, including Maine, where they must be approved by a court. Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase and other lenders that used robo-signers — the term caught on instantly — have enacted their own freezes.

The tragedy of foreclosure is that some homeowners may be able to stay where they are if their lenders are more interested in modification than eviction. Without a job, Mrs. Bradbury is not one of them. Her family, including her 14-year-old daughter and 16-year-old son, lives on welfare and food stamps.

“A lot of people say we just want a free ride,” Mrs. Bradbury said. “That’s not it. I’ve worked since I was 14. I’m not lazy. I’m just trying to keep us together. If we lost the house, my family would have to break up.”

It has been two years since she last paid the mortgage, which surprises even her lawyers.

“Had GMAC followed the legal requirements, she would have lost her home a long time ago,” acknowledged Geoffrey S. Lewis, another lawyer handling her case.


« EXPOSED - The Guys From Government Sachs »

Slightly older article but informative and fitting of today's theme of Goldman Sachs pillaging taxpayers at every turn.


Originally published at The NY Times

By Julie Cresswell and Ben White

Reprinted with permission.

In September, after the government bailed out the American International Group, the faltering insurance giant, for $85 billion, Mr. Paulson helped select a director from Goldman’s own board to lead A.I.G.

And earlier this month, when Mr. Paulson needed someone to oversee the government’s proposed $700 billion bailout fund, he again recruited someone with a Goldman pedigree, giving the post to a 35-year-old former investment banker who, before coming to the Treasury Department, had little background in housing finance.

Indeed, Goldman’s presence in the department and around the federal response to the financial crisis is so ubiquitous that other bankers and competitors have given the star-studded firm a new nickname: Government Sachs.

The power and influence that Goldman wields at the nexus of politics and finance is no accident. Long regarded as the savviest and most admired firm among the ranks — now decimated — of Wall Street investment banks, it has a history and culture of encouraging its partners to take leadership roles in public service.

It is a widely held view within the bank that no matter how much money you pile up, you are not a true Goldman star until you make your mark in the political sphere. While Goldman sees this as little more than giving back to the financial world, outside executives and analysts wonder about potential conflicts of interest presented by the firm’s unique perch.

They note that decisions that Mr. Paulson and other Goldman alumni make at Treasury directly affect the firm’s own fortunes. They also question why Goldman, which with other firms may have helped fuel the financial crisis through the use of exotic securities, has such a strong hand in trying to resolve the problem.

The very scale of the financial calamity and the historic government response to it have spawned a host of other questions about Goldman’s role.

Analysts wonder why Mr. Paulson hasn’t hired more individuals from other banks to limit the appearance that the Treasury Department has become a de facto Goldman division. Others ask whose interests Mr. Paulson and his coterie of former Goldman executives have in mind: those overseeing tottering financial services firms, or average homeowners squeezed by the crisis?

Still others question whether Goldman alumni leading the federal bailout have the breadth and depth of experience needed to tackle financial problems of such complexity — and whether Mr. Paulson has cast his net widely enough to ensure that innovative responses are pursued.

“He’s brought on people who have the same life experiences and ideologies as he does,” said William K. Black, an associate professor of law and economics at the University of Missouri and counsel to the Federal Home Loan Bank Board during the savings and loan crisis of the 1980s. “These people were trained by Paulson, evaluated by Paulson so their mind-set is not just shaped in generalized group think — it’s specific Paulson group think.”

Not so fast, say Goldman’s supporters. They vehemently dismiss suggestions that Mr. Paulson’s team would elevate Goldman’s interests above those of other banks, homeowners and taxpayers. Such chatter, they say, is a paranoid theory peddled, almost always anonymously, by less successful rivals. Just add black helicopters, they joke.

“There is no conspiracy,” said Donald C. Langevoort, a law professor at Georgetown University. “Clearly if time were not a problem, you would have a committee of independent people vetting all of the potential conflicts, responding to questions whether someone ought to be involved with a particular aspect or project or not because of relationships with a former firm — but those things do take time and can’t be imposed in an emergency situation.”

In fact, Goldman’s admirers say, the firm’s ranks should be praised, not criticized, for taking a leadership role in the crisis.

“There are people at Goldman Sachs making no money, living at hotels, trying to save the financial world,” said Jes Staley, the head of JPMorgan Chase’s asset management division. “To indict Goldman Sachs for the people helping out Washington is wrong.”

Goldman concurs. “We’re proud of our alumni, but frankly, when they work in the public sector, their presence is more of a negative than a positive for us in terms of winning business,” said Lucas Van Praag, a spokesman for Goldman. “There is no mileage for them in giving Goldman Sachs the corporate equivalent of most-favored-nation status.”

MR. PAULSON himself landed atop Treasury because of a Goldman tie. Joshua B. Bolten, a former Goldman executive and President Bush’s chief of staff, helped recruit him to the post in 2006.

Some analysts say that given the pressures Mr. Paulson faced creating a SWAT team to address the financial crisis, it was only natural for him to turn to his former firm for a capable battery.

And if there is one thing Goldman has, it is an imposing army of top-of-their-class, up-before-dawn über-achievers. The most prominent former Goldman banker now working for Mr. Paulson at Treasury is also perhaps the most unlikely.

Neel T. Kashkari arrived in Washington in 2006 after spending two years as a low-level technology investment banker for Goldman in San Francisco, where he advised start-up computer security companies. Before joining Goldman, Mr. Kashkari, who has two engineering degrees in addition to an M.B.A. from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, worked on satellite projects for TRW, the space company that now belongs to Northrop Grumman.

He was originally appointed to oversee a $700 billion fund that Mr. Paulson orchestrated to buy toxic and complex bank assets, but the role evolved as his boss decided to invest taxpayer money directly in troubled financial institutions.

Mr. Kashkari, who met Mr. Paulson only briefly before going to the Treasury Department, is also in charge of selecting the staff to run the bailout program. One of his early picks was Reuben Jeffrey, a former Goldman executive, to serve as interim chief investment officer.

Mr. Kashkari is considered highly intelligent and talented. He has also been Mr. Paulson’s right-hand man — and constant public shadow — during the financial crisis.

He played a main role in the emergency sale of Bear Stearns to JPMorgan Chase in March, sitting in a Park Avenue conference room as details of the acquisition were hammered out. He often exited the room to funnel information to Mr. Paulson about the progress.

Despite Mr. Kashkari’s talents in deal-making, there are widespread questions about whether he has the experience or expertise to manage such a project.

“Mr. Kashkari may be the most brilliant, talented person in the United States, but the optics of putting a 35-year-old Paulson protégé in charge of what, at least at one point, was supposed to be the most important part of the recovery effort are just very damaging,” said Michael Greenberger, a University of Maryland law professor and a former senior official with the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.

“The American people are fed up with Wall Street, and there are plenty of people around who could have been brought in here to offer broader judgment on these problems,” Mr. Greenberger added. “All wisdom about financial matters does not reside on Wall Street.”

Mr. Kashkari won’t directly manage the bailout fund. More than 200 firms submitted bids to oversee pieces of the program, and Treasury has winnowed the list to fewer than 10 and could announce the results as early as this week. Goldman submitted a bid but offered to provide its services gratis.

While Mr. Kashkari is playing a prominent public role, other Goldman alumni dominate Mr. Paulson’s inner sanctum.

The A-team includes Dan Jester, a former strategic officer for Goldman who has been involved in most of Treasury’s recent initiatives, especially the government takeover of the mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Mr. Jester has also been central to the effort to inject capital into banks, a list that includes Goldman.

Another central player is Steve Shafran, who grew close to Mr. Paulson in the 1990s while working in Goldman’s private equity business in Asia. Initially focused on student loan problems, Mr. Shafran quickly became involved in Treasury’s initiative to guarantee money market funds, among other things.

Mr. Shafran, who retired from Goldman in 2000, had settled with his family in Ketchum, Idaho, where he joined the city council. Baird Gourlay, the council president, said he had spoken a couple of times with Mr. Shafran since he returned to Washington last year.

“He was initially working on the student loan part of the problem,” Mr. Gourlay said. “But as things started falling apart, he said Paulson was relying on him more and more.”

The Treasury Department said Mr. Shafran and the other former Goldman executives were unavailable for comment.

Other prominent former Goldman executives now at Treasury include Kendrick R. Wilson III, a seasoned adviser to chief executives of the nation’s biggest banks. Mr. Wilson, an unpaid adviser, mainly spends his time working his ample contact list of bank chiefs to apprise them of possible Treasury plans and gauge reaction.

Another Goldman veteran, Edward C. Forst, served briefly as an adviser to Mr. Paulson on setting up the bailout fund but has since left to return to his post as executive vice president of Harvard. Robert K. Steel, a former vice chairman at Goldman, was tapped to look at ways to shore up Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Mr. Steel left Treasury to become chief executive of Wachovia this summer before the government took over the entities.

Treasury officials acknowledge that former Goldman executives have played an enormous role in responding to the current crisis. But they also note that many other top Treasury Department officials with no ties to Goldman are doing significant work, often without notice. This group includes David G. Nason, a senior adviser to Mr. Paulson and a former Securities and Exchange Commission official.

Robert F. Hoyt, general counsel at Treasury, has also worked around the clock in recent weeks to make sure the department’s unprecedented moves pass legal muster. Michele Davis is a Capitol Hill veteran and Treasury policy director. None of them are Goldmanites.

“Secretary Paulson has a deep bench of seasoned financial policy experts with varied experience,” said Jennifer Zuccarelli, a spokeswoman for the Treasury. “Bringing additional expertise to bear at times like these is clearly in the taxpayers’ and the U.S. economy’s best interests.”

While many Wall Streeters have made the trek to Washington, there is no question that the axis of power at the Treasury Department tilts toward Goldman. That has led some to assume that the interests of the bank, and Wall Street more broadly, are the first priority. There is also the question of whether the department’s actions benefit the personal finances of the former Goldman executives and their friends.

“To the extent that they have a portfolio or blind trust that holds Goldman Sachs stock, they have conflicts,” said James K. Galbraith, a professor of government and business relations at the University of Texas. “To the extent that they have ties and alumni loyalty or friendships with people that are still there, they have potential conflicts.”

Mr. Paulson, Mr. Kashkari and Mr. Shafran no longer own any Goldman shares. It is unclear whether Mr. Jester or Mr. Wilson does because, according to the Treasury Department, they were hired as contractors and are not required to disclose their financial holdings.

For every naysayer, meanwhile, there is also a Goldman defender who says the bank’s alumni are doing what they have done since the days when Sidney Weinberg ran the bank in the 1930s and urged his bankers to give generously to charities and volunteer for public service.

“I give Hank credit for attracting so many talented people. None of these guys need to do this,” said Barry Volpert, a managing director at Crestview Partners and a former co-chief operating officer of Goldman’s private equity business. “They’re not getting paid. They’re killing themselves. They haven’t seen their families for months. The idea that there’s some sort of cabal or conflict here is nonsense.”

In fact, say some Goldman executives, the perception of a conflict of interest has actually cost them opportunities in the crisis. For instance, Goldman wasn’t allowed to examine the books of Bear Stearns when regulators were orchestrating an emergency sale of the faltering investment bank.

THIS summer, as he fought for the survival of Lehman Brothers, Richard S. Fuld Jr., its chief executive, made a final plea to regulators to turn his investment bank into a bank holding company, which would allow it to receive constant access to federal funding.

Timothy F. Geithner, the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, told him no, according to a former Lehman executive who requested anonymity because of continuing investigations of the firm’s demise. Its options exhausted, Lehman filed for bankruptcy in mid-September.

One week later, Goldman and Morgan Stanley were designated bank holding companies.

“That was our idea three months ago, and they wouldn’t let us do it,” said a former senior Lehman executive who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to comment publicly. “But when Goldman got in trouble, they did it right away. No one could believe it.”

The New York Fed, which declined to comment, has become, after Treasury, the favorite target for Goldman conspiracy theorists. As the most powerful regional member of the Federal Reserve system, and based in the nation’s financial capital, it has been a driving force in efforts to shore up the flailing financial system.

Mr. Geithner, 47, played a pivotal role in the decision to let Lehman die and to bail out A.I.G. A 20-year public servant, he has never worked in the financial sector. Some analysts say that has left him reliant on Wall Street chiefs to guide his thinking and that Goldman alumni have figured prominently in his ascent.

After working at the New York consulting firm Kissinger Associates, Mr. Geithner landed at the Treasury Department in 1988, eventually catching the eye of Robert E. Rubin, Goldman’s former co-chairman. Mr. Rubin, who became Treasury secretary in 1995, kept Mr. Geithner at his side through several international meltdowns, including the Russian credit crisis in the late 1990s.

Mr. Rubin, now senior counselor at Citigroup, declined to comment.

A few years later, in 2003, Mr. Geithner was named president of the New York Fed. Leading the search committee was Pete G. Peterson, the former head of Lehman Brothers and the senior chairman of the private equity firm Blackstone. Among those on an outside advisory committee were the former Fed chairman Paul A. Volcker; the former A.I.G. chief executive Maurice R. Greenberg; and John C. Whitehead, a former co-chairman of Goldman.

The board of the New York Fed is led by Stephen Friedman, a former chairman of Goldman. He is a “Class C” director, meaning that he was appointed by the board to represent the public.

Mr. Friedman, who wears many hats, including that of chairman of the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, did not return calls for comment.

During his tenure, Mr. Geithner has turned to Goldman in filling important positions or to handle special projects. He hired a former Goldman economist, William C. Dudley, to oversee the New York Fed unit that buys and sells government securities. He also tapped E. Gerald Corrigan, a well-regarded Goldman managing director and former New York Fed president, to reconvene a group to analyze risk on Wall Street.

Some people say that all of these Goldman ties to the New York Fed are simply too close for comfort. “It’s grotesque,” said Christopher Whalen, a managing partner at Institutional Risk Analytics and a critic of the Fed. “And it’s done without apology.”

A person familiar with Mr. Geithner’s thinking who was not authorized to speak publicly said that there was “no secret handshake” between the New York Fed and Goldman, describing such speculation as a conspiracy theory.

Furthermore, others say, it makes sense that Goldman would have a presence in organizations like the New York Fed.

“This is a very small, close-knit world. The fact that all of the major financial services firms, investment banking firms are in New York City means that when work is to be done, you’re going to be dealing with one of these guys,” said Mr. Langevoort at Georgetown. “The work of selecting the head of the New York Fed or a blue-ribbon commission — any of that sort of work — is going to involve a standard cast of characters.”

Being inside may not curry special favor anyway, some people note. Even though Mr. Fuld served on the board of the New York Fed, his proximity to federal power didn’t spare Lehman from bankruptcy.

But when bankruptcy loomed for A.I.G. — a collapse regulators feared would take down the entire financial system — federal officials found themselves once again turning to someone who had a Goldman connection. Once the government decided to grant A.I.G., the largest insurance company, an $85 billion lifeline (which has since grown to about $122 billion) to prevent a collapse, regulators, including Mr. Paulson and Mr. Geithner, wanted new executive blood at the top.

They picked Edward M. Liddy, the former C.E.O. of the insurer Allstate. Mr. Liddy had been a Goldman director since 2003 — he resigned after taking the A.I.G. job — and was chairman of the audit committee. (Another former Goldman executive, Suzanne Nora Johnson, was named to the A.I.G. board this summer.)

Like many Wall Street firms, Goldman also had financial ties to A.I.G. It was the insurer’s largest trading partner, with exposure to $20 billion in credit derivatives, and could have faced losses had A.I.G. collapsed. Goldman has said repeatedly that its exposure to A.I.G. was “immaterial” and that the $20 billion was hedged so completely that it would have insulated the firm from significant losses.

As the financial crisis has taken on a more global cast in recent weeks, Mr. Paulson has sat across the table from former Goldman colleagues, including Robert B. Zoellick, now president of the World Bank; Mario Draghi, president of the international group of regulators called the Financial Stability Forum; and Mark J. Carney, the governor of the Bank of Canada.

BUT Mr. Paulson’s home team is still what draws the most scrutiny.

“Paulson put Goldman people into these positions at Treasury because these are the people he knows and there are no constraints on him not to do so,” Mr. Whalen says. “The appearance of conflict of interest is everywhere, and that used to be enough. However, we’ve decided to dispense with the basic principles of checks and balances and our ethical standards in times of crisis.”

Ultimately, analysts say, the actions of Mr. Paulson and his alumni club may come under more study.

“I suspect the conduct of Goldman Sachs and other bankers in the rescue will be a background theme, if not a highlighted theme, as Congress decides how much regulation, how much control and frankly, how punitive to be with respect to the financial services industry,” said Mr. Langevoort at Georgetown. “The settling up is going to come in Congress next spring.”


Related reading...


You Are Being Warned! Freezing Temps Worldwide May Lead To Food Shortages


Dr. Mark Sircus

This strange weather phenomenon, which you will see in the video below, happened in Newfoundland where the waves were actually frozen as they crashed on the beach. This is exactly what one would expect at the end of the warmest year on record, right? Are we freezing because of global warming? The media is still ranting that one of the effects of global warming is colder, wetter winters. Yes and building seven at the world trade center collapsed on its footprint from a burning ember? Or was it from a burning Rolls Royce engine that was catapulted from one of the planes. Was there ever a reasonable explanation for what was obviously a controlled demolition?

EMBED-Newfoundland Frozen Waves – Watch more free videos

Global warming is why a low temperature record of 42 degrees that had been in place for 169 years in Fort Lauderdale was broken on December 7. Global warming is why people are freezing to death in the northern hemisphere and why they are increasingly finding themselves buried in deeper and deeper snow. Global warming is now an insanity that has been implanted deep into the consciousness of the masses, meaning no matter how cold it gets, it’s getting warmer in the minds of the press and those who control it.

Dr. Willie Soon, astrophysicist and geoscientist at the Solar and Stellar Physics Division of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics said, “It’s close to being insane to try to keep insisting these changes in carbon dioxide are going to create all of the disasters that the politicians and doomsayers are trying to tell us. Saying the climate system is completely dominated by how much carbon dioxide we have in the system is crazy—completely wrong. Carbon dioxide is not the major driver for the earth/climate system.” Obviously the sun is the major driver, but then we have other factors like air pollution from human and volcanic sources blocking out more light and thus heat, and now we are also having a breakdown in the Gulf loop current as well as a diminishing of the Gulf Stream. What we have, ladies and gentlemen, is heart-thumping climate change that is going to take a frightening toll on humanity.

Britain for is experiencing some of the

most severe winter weather in a century.

And look at Monday’s report from the Christian Science Monitor. “An early winter snow and ice season just got a little more peculiar over the weekend as a weakening regional high-pressure system over the Pacific allowed huge pockets of warm moisture onshore as part of a weather effect seen only every 10 to 15 years, meteorologists say.” That’s a meteorological expression that means totally freak storms are massing against the west coast with one after another coming ashore with a flurry of precipitation that is both frightening and dangerous.

There are spot reports of power outages, trees falling on

cars and houses, cars stalling in water, and families

trapped temporarily in their homes because of rushing water.


The white marks snow coverage.

“The storm dropped 2.3 inches of rain in Los Angeles—an amount not seen in the dry valleys since 1921. By the time it reached California’s higher altitudes, the rain had turned to snow, dropping 9 feet (now two days later it’s 13 feet) of the white stuff on Mammoth Mountain. In the east, a high-pressure oscillation situated over Greenland has forced more Arctic air than usual down from Canada, creating unusual early winter conditions throughout the East—the same system that has brought blizzards to Britain and Scandinavia. A diminished regional high-pressure system over the central Pacific, which usually helps divert storms away from California and up into Washington and Oregon, means the West, too, is beginning to see some unusual weather, reports the Los Angeles Times.”

And now, after days of relentless rain, Southern California is awaiting the most intense storm system yet, where a monster storm was expected to bring torrential rain, thunderstorms, flooding, hail and possible tornadoes and water spouts. Forecasters warned of possible rainfall rates of .75 inch to 1 inch an hour and thunderstorm rates of 2 inches an hour in the region and predict this storm will march right across the entire continental United States.

Germany is brought to near standstill

by 12 hours of solid snowfall.


Climate change is obviously quickly taking on a new dimension in the northern hemisphere this autumn. After the record heat wave this summer, Russia’s weather seems to have acquired a taste for the extreme. Forecasters say this winter could be the coldest Europe has seen in the last 1,000 years. The change is reportedly connected to the speed of the Gulf Stream, which has shrunk in half in just the last couple of years. Polish scientists say that it means the stream will not be able to compensate for the cold from the Arctic winds. According to them, when the stream is completely stopped, a new Ice Age will begin in Europe. Some are saying that day has come and gone already, meaning Europe, at least, is in for some very big trouble. I reported a few weeks ago that indications are the stream has completely stopped in terms of completing its journey to Europe.


Americans Will Eat Fewer Tomatoes

Florida tomato growers are assessing the damage caused by this week’s below-freezing temperatures. Consecutive nights of unusually cold weather threatened produce growers across the state. In Hillsborough and Manatee counties, the results are severe. At Frank Diehl Farms in Wimauma, not a single tomato plant survived the bitter air. “They start breaking down and deteriorating like this,” Diehl explained to FOX 13, showing one of the countless destroyed tomatoes. “Then they won’t ripen, so you end up throwing them away.” The cold snap wiped out the entire tomato crop at Diehl’s farm. All 600 acres are destroyed; Diehl says nothing can be saved. “Our own operation, we’ve probably have lost 400,000 boxes,” he said.

Five nights of below freezing temperatures have severely damaged Florida’s 2010 sugarcane crop. Actually many crops have been hurt, damaged, or utterly destroyed and this is all food taken right out of the population’s collective stomach. Row crops across the state of Florida have been virtually wiped out. Not much about this though in the mainstream news.

So what’s going on with our world today? Bloomberg News says, “Earthquakes, heat waves, floods, volcanoes, super typhoons, blizzards, landslides, and droughts killed at least a quarter million people in 2010—the deadliest year in more than a generation. More people were killed worldwide by natural disasters this year than have been killed in terrorism attacks in the past 40 years combined.”

Prices are expected to increase due to inclement weather patterns influencing international commodity production and demand. Extreme cold snaps and heavy snowfall in Europe and the United States are increasing demand for oil and destroying or hurting crops; droughts and deluges in Australia are wreaking havoc on sugar and wheat production; Argentinean corn production is being threatened by weather patterns; and parts of China are expected to run short of oil and even coal in the coming winter months.

“Things” are getting more expensive. That is a fact.

Energy, metals, and the ‘softs’ (grains and cotton) are all

headed higher both in the US and elsewhere across the world.

In India food inflation is taking off like a plane off a runway, and China is not far behind. India’s annual food inflation went up again for another week on the back of rising prices of fruits, vegetables, and milk and stood at 9.46 percent for the week ending 4 December. Food inflation was 8.60 percent in the previous week. This is the second consecutive week of rise in food inflation. While prices of rice rose by 1.47 percent, vegetables went up by one percent, milk by 17.76 percent, and fruits by 19.75 percent on an annual basis. Pulses and wheat prices declined by 4.24 percent and 11.46 percent, respectively. Onions became costlier by 29.93 percent on an annual basis.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has alerted developing countries about possible steep rises in food prices during 2011 but they have not warned citizens of the first world that even their access to food will be curtailed by a quick run-up in prices. According to FAO, “with the pressure on world prices of most commodities not abating, the international community must remain vigilant against further supply shocks in 2011.” World cereal production is likely to contract by two percent during 2010 and global cereal stocks may decline sharply. The price of sugar has reached a 30-year high while international prices of wheat increased by 12 percent in the first week of December 2010 as compared to their November average.

Collapse of cities and even societies is possible in the near future though almost no one anywhere is entertaining the idea that where they live today might not be livable in the near future. Ecosystems can and will fail. Predictably we will see failing infrastructure; food, water and fuel shortages, infectious disease, war, civil disobedience and conflict, and outright collapse of livable climate conditions. Extreme climatic events (including extreme rain events, floods) can do more to level humanity than nuclear attacks.

I received a call from a friend in Germany. She told me that it is a

complete disaster over there. They had just gotten buried yet again but

this time by one of the worst storms she can remember. This one dumped

50-60cm of snow. They are approaching five feet of snow for the month.


If December is repeated in January and then

February, March, and April you will not be

able to find these houses on this German street.

“Is it possible that everything we do is dwarfed by the moods of the star that gives life to the world? The Sun is incomparably vaster and more powerful than any work of man. We are forged from a few clods of solar dust. The Sun powers every plant and form of life, and one day the Sun will turn into a red giant and engulf us all. Then it will burn out. Then it will get very nippy indeed,” writes The Daily Telegraph.

The Thermohaline Circulation (THC)

This “thermohaline (from the Greek words for heat and salt) circulation” is an important part of the Earth’s climate that includes not only currents at the tops of the oceans, such as the Gulf Stream, but also currents deep under the water. The system is global and includes water that sinks around Antarctica.

The North Atlantic is dominated by the Gulf Stream—currents that bring warm water north from the tropics. At around 40° north—the latitude of Portugal and New York—the current divides. Some water heads southwards in a surface current known as the subtropical gyre, while the rest continues north, leading to warming winds that raise European temperatures by 5°C to 10°C making Europe warmer than it would otherwise be.

The slowing down or stopping of these currents could result in catastrophic changes in the world’s climate. Seems like this is already happening as the Gulf loop, and now Gulf currents weaken, and miles above, even the Jet Stream seems to be affected, which perhaps is causing the strange phenomena in this next weather video.

It is not normal for storms to travel from the east coast back to the west. The Gulf Stream is part of a global system of ocean currents, which, the generally accepted theory says, is driven at least in part by salty, cold water sinking in the northern Atlantic. As the water sinks, more water flows north to replace it, which means if anything slows down the sinking, the Gulf Stream would slow down and maybe other currents would slow down.

Way back in 2005 scientists (Nature (vol 438, p 655)) were already finding problems with the Gulf Stream. A study of the ocean circulation in the North Atlantic found a 30% reduction in the warm currents that carry water north from the Gulf Stream. Harry Bryden at the National Oceanography Centre in Southampton, UK, whose group carried out the analysis five years ago, was not sure if the change is temporary or signals a long-term trend. Whatever was going on seems to have been exacerbated by the huge Gulf Oil spill and the unprecedented usage of dispersants that has had the effect of sinking the oil and affecting of destroying the gulf loop.

At this site there are several of these animations sourced from satellite data. One has to watch repeatedly to get a feel for the weakening current. This one above demonstrates real data from the last seven years.

What’s the bottom line? For the first time there are seven billion people on the planet and we have just reached, these past few years, what could be called peak agriculture. We are growing and consuming more food than ever. We were already heading downward in output, though, and world food stocks are shrinking dramatically. Even during these years of peak production the United Nations says a billion souls are going to go to bed hungry most nights. Now we are facing dramatic decreases of food production from climate change as well as rapid increases in prices.

The cold is coming on quicker than a rabbit can eat a row of carrots and even the big boys at the top of the human heap probably were taken by surprise. The movie is being made in the real world today and we all have to watch it until it catches up with us no matter where or who we are. Life is about to get a whole lot more difficult.

Special Note: Again my voice issues a strong warning and again I urge all who can to stock up on superfoods for survival do so. Rejuvenate, which I use in my concentrated nutritional medicine protocols, makes the best survival food one can imagine. It has a shelf life of approximately two to three years and can provide nourishment to the whole family in the best and worst of times. Green gold is actually better then the yellow stuff so please think seriously and plan for worst case scenarios. I have always called Spirulina green gold and most of the Rejuvenate products have spirulina and chlorella as well as a host of other organically sourced super food items.

« Bank Of America Accused Of Breaking Into Woman's Home, Taking Husband's Ashes »

Arriving at her home in Truckee, Calif., Mimi Ash found it had been emptied.

Recent stories on this subject...

Foreclosing on People Who Never Missed a Payment

Caught By Mistake In Web Of Foreclosure

Lenders Selling Foreclosed Homes Without Obtaining Title

Archive of Foreclosure stories - Just scan the headlines


Bank of America (nyse:BAC) has seen easier days. The bank been reportedly identified as a target by WikiLeaks, it reportedly maintains a war room to defend against the leak, it's the subject of a federal racketeering lawsuit, one of many high profile lawsuits involving its foreclosure practices. Now, the bank has been accused of breaking into a woman's home and taking her possessions, including her late husband's ashes.

More at Huff Po...


In a Sign of Foreclosure Flaws, Suits Claim Break-Ins by Banks

Source - New York Times

TRUCKEE, Calif. — When Mimi Ash arrived at her mountain chalet here for a weekend ski trip, she discovered that someone had broken into the home and changed the locks.

When she finally got into the house, it was empty. All of her possessions were gone: furniture, her son’s ski medals, winter clothes and family photos. Also missing was a wooden box, its top inscribed with the words “Together Forever,” that contained the ashes of her late husband, Robert.

The culprit, Ms. Ash soon learned, was not a burglar but her bank. According to a federal lawsuit filed in October by Ms. Ash, Bank of America had wrongfully foreclosed on her house and thrown out her belongings, without alerting Ms. Ash beforehand.

In an era when millions of homes have received foreclosure notices nationwide, lawsuits detailing bank break-ins like the one at Ms. Ash’s house keep surfacing. And in the wake of the scandal involving shoddy, sometimes illegal paperwork that has buffeted the nation’s biggest banks in recent months, critics say these situations reinforce their claims that the foreclosure process is fundamentally flawed.

“Every day, smaller wrongs happen to people trying to save their homes: being charged the wrong amount of money, being wrongly denied a loan modification, being asked to hand over documents four or five times,” said Ira Rheingold, executive director of the National Association of Consumer Advocates.

Identifying the number of homeowners who were locked out illegally is difficult. But banks and their representatives insist that situations like Ms. Ash’s represent just a tiny percentage of foreclosures.

Many of the incidents that have become public appear to have been caused by confusion over whether a house is abandoned, in which case a bank may have the right to break in and make sure the property is secure.

Some of the cases appear to be mistakes involving homeowners who were up to date on their mortgage — or had paid off their home — but who still became targets of a bank.

In Texas, for example, Bank of America had the locks changed and the electricity shut off last year at Alan Schroit’s second home in Galveston, according to court papers. Mr. Schroit, who had paid off the house, had stored 75 pounds of salmon and halibut in his refrigerator and freezer, caught during a recent Alaskan fishing vacation.

“There is a stigma that we go in, kick the door in and throw grandma out head first and board up the windows,” Mr. Jaffa said. “We are doing a lot of good out there.”

But Alan M. White, a consumer law expert at Valparaiso University in Indiana, says: “Volume is not an excuse for violating someone’s rights.”

Continue reading at the New York Times...


Video - ABC News

The reports of banks improperly entering homes have been gathering in recent months. In October, ABC News reported that banks had been using repo men to break into Florida homes. In some cases, firms hired by banks had entered homes that were not in foreclosure.

Recent stories on this subject...

Foreclosing on People Who Never Missed a Payment

Caught By Mistake In Web Of Foreclosure

Lenders Selling Foreclosed Homes Without Obtaining Title

Archive of Foreclosure stories - Just scan the headlines

« Goldman Earned $55.7 Million From Build America Fees »

Lloyd helps himself to the Fed vault.

As CEO of Government Sachs, he knows the combination.


Goldman Earned $55.7 Million From Build America Fees

(Bloomberg) -- Goldman Sachs Group Inc., the most profitable securities firm in Wall Street history, has made $55.7 million from the sale of $36.4 billion of Build America Bonds, about a third of the fees it earned from its municipal business, it said in response to queries from Iowa Senator Charles Grassley.

The effort to underwrite the federally subsidized municipal bonds is “highly competitive” with “over 10 major firms” vying for the business, Goldman Chairman Lloyd Blankfein wrote in a letter dated March 1 to the top Republican on the U.S. Senate Finance Committee. Grassley said in a letter to Blankfein last month that he is “concerned that American taxpayers are subsidizing larger underwriting fees for Wall Street investment banks.”

Congress created the Build America Bond program last year as part of the $862 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in an effort to revive the $2.8 trillion municipal bond market. The U.S. Treasury pays 35 percent of the interest cost if states and local governments sell the taxable securities for their capital projects instead of tax-exempt debt.

Goldman, which got $10 billion in taxpayer bailout money amid the credit crisis in 2008, was paid $54 million to lead underwrite or help sell $34 billion of the bonds and $1.7 million to serve as an adviser on a separate $2.4 billion of Build America Bond sales, the bank told Grassley’s office in a second communication dated March 9. Jill Gerber, a Grassley spokeswoman, confirmed the content of the letters.

Blankfein replied to Grassley that the bank is paid to “educate the market about the issuer and the securities they are offering,” as well as “assume the risk of underwriting.” He said that as Build America Bonds “have become better known to investors, underwriting fees have come down.”

Goldman charges a fee of between 0.6 percent and 0.875 percent of the borrowed amount of money to underwrite Build America Bonds, compared with 0.875 percent for investment-grade corporate bonds and 0.5 percent to 0.625 percent for tax-exempt municipal securities, Blankfein said. Michael DuVally, a spokesman for New York-based Goldman Sachs, declined to comment further.

Continue reading at Bloomberg...


Lloyd Blankfein wins Douchebag of the year...


Municipal Bond Market Crash 2011: Are Dozens Of State And Local Governments About To Default On Their Debts?

In the United States, it is not just the federal government that has a horrific debt problem. Today, state and local governments across America are collectively deeper in debt than they ever have been before. In fact, state and local government debt is now sitting at an all-time high of 22 percent of U.S. GDP. Once upon a time, municipal bonds (used to fund such things as roads, sewer systems and government buildings) were viewed as incredibly safe investments. They were considered to have virtually no risk. But now all of that has changed. Many analysts are now openly speaking of the possibility of a municipal bond market crash in 2011. The truth is that dozens upon dozens of city and county governments are teetering on the brink of bankruptcy. Even the debt of some of our biggest state governments, such as Illinois and California, is essentially considered to be "junk" at this point. There are literally hundreds of governmental financial implosions happening in slow motion from coast to coast, and up to this point not a lot of people in the mainstream media have been talking about it.

Fortunately, a recent report on 60 Minutes has brought these issues to light. If you have not seen it yet, do yourself a favor and click on the video below and spend a few minutes watching it. It is absolutely stunning.

In the piece, one of the people that 60 Minutes interviewed was Meredith Whitney - one of the most respected financial analysts in the United States. According to Whitney, the municipal bond crisis that we are facing is a massive threat to our financial system....

"It has tentacles as wide as anything I’ve seen. I think next to housing this is the single most important issue in the United States and certainly the largest threat to the U.S. economy."

State and local governments across the United States are facing a complete and total financial nightmare. The 60 Minutes report posted below does a pretty good job of describing the problem but it doesn't even pretend to come up with any solutions....

Unlike the federal government, state and local governments cannot just ask the Federal Reserve to print up endless amounts of cash. If state and local governments want to spend more than they bring in, they must borrow it from investors.

If the municipal bond market crashes, and investors around the world are no longer willing to hand over gigantic sacks of cash to state and local governments in the United States, then the game is over. Either state and local governments will have to raise taxes or they will have to start spending within their means.

Most Americans have no idea what this would mean. For decade after decade, state and local governments throughout the nation have been living way, way, way above their means. If the debt cycle gets cut off, it is going to mean that many local communities around the nation will start degenerating into rotting hellholes nearly overnight.

We are already seeing this happen in places such as Detroit, Michigan and Camden, New Jersey but if the municipal bond market totally collapses we are quickly going to have dozens of Detroits and Camdens from coast to coast.

Let's take a closer look at some of the state and local governments that are in some of the biggest trouble....


California is facing a 19 billion dollar budget deficit next year, and incoming governor Jerry Brown is scrambling to find billions more to cut from the California state budget. At this point, investors are becoming increasingly wary about loaning any more money to the state. The following quote from Brown about the desperate condition of California state finances is not going to do much to inspire confidence in California's financial situation around the globe....

"We've been living in fantasy land. It is much worse than I thought. I'm shocked."

Unfortunately, the economic situation in California continues to degenerate. For example, 24.3 percent of the residents of El Centro, California are now unemployed. In fact, the number of people unemployed in the state of California is approximately equivalent to the populations of Nevada, New Hampshire and Vermont combined.

The housing market in the state is also a major drag on the economy there. For instance, the average home in Merced, California has declined in value by 63 percent over the past four years.

The state of California is swamped with so much debt that there literally appears to be no way out.


The state government of Arizona is so incredibly starved for cash that it actually sold off the state capitol building, the state supreme court building and the legislative chambers. Now they are leasing those buildings back from the investors that they sold them to.

Arizona also recently announced that it has decided to stop paying for many types of organ transplants for people enrolled in its Medicaid program.


Illinois is widely regarded to be in the worst financial condition of all the U.S. states. At this point, Illinois has approximately $5 billion in outstanding bills that have not been paid.

According to 60 Minutes, the state of Illinois is six months behind on bill payments. 60 Minutes correspondent Steve Croft asked Illinois state Comptroller Dan Hynes how many people and organizations are waiting to be paid by the state, and this is how Hynes responded....

"It's fair to say that there are tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of people waiting to be paid by the state."

The University of Illinois alone is owed 400 million dollars. There are approximately two thousand not-for-profit organizations that are collectively owed a billion dollars by the Illinois state government.

New Jersey

The New Jersey state budget has been slashed by 26 percent, a billion dollars have been cut from education and thousands of teachers have been laid off.

But even with all of those cuts, New Jersey is still facing a $10 billion budget deficit next year, and the state has $46 billion in unfunded pension liabilities and $65 billion in unfunded health care liabilities that it is somehow going to have to address in the future.


Detroit Mayor Dave Bing has come up with a new way to save money. He wants to cut 20 percent of Detroit off from essential social services such as road repairs, police patrols, functioning street lights and garbage collection.


One Miami commissioner declared earlier this year that bankruptcy may be the city's only financial hope.

Philadelphia, Baltimore and Sacramento

Major cities such as Philadelphia, Baltimore and Sacramento have instituted "rolling brownouts" in which various city fire stations are shut down on a rotating basis.


The second most dangerous city in the United States - Camden, New Jersey - is about to lay off about half its police in a desperate attempt to save money.


Oakland, California Police Chief Anthony Batts has announced that due to severe budget cuts there are a number of crimes that his department will simply not be able to respond to any longer. The crimes that the Oakland police will no longer be responding to include grand theft, burglary, car wrecks, identity theft and vandalism.

Nassau County, New York

In New York, the country of Nassau (one of the wealthiest counties in the state) has a budget deficit that is approaching 350 million dollars.

America used to be viewed as the land of great economic progress, but that is no longer the case. Sadly, all over the United States there are signs that we are actually going backwards as a country.

All over the nation, asphalt roads are actually being ground up and are being replaced with gravel because it is cheaper to maintain. The state of South Dakota has transformed over 100 miles of asphalt road into gravel over the past year, and 38 out of the 83 counties in the state of Michigan have transformed at least some of their asphalt roads into gravel roads.

Just think about that - we are actually going back to gravel roads.

What's next?

But this is what is going to happen all over America if dozens of state and local governments start defaulting and the municipal bond market crashes.

In fact, don't look now, but there are signs that a "bloodbath" in the municipal bond market has already begun. The months of November and December have been incredibly rocky for municipal bonds.

The days when U.S. states and cities could borrow seemingly endless amounts of incredibly cheap money are officially over.

So where are state and local governments going to get the money that they need?

Well, they are going to come and try to get it from you of course. Over the past two years, 36 of the 50 U.S. states have jacked up taxes or fees.

Many local governments are trying to raise funds any way that they can. For example, from now on if you are caught jaywalking in Los Angeles you will be slapped with a $191 fine.

This kind of thing is happening all over America. Police departments are being turned into revenue raising operations. Police are so busy writing tickets that they barely have any time to investigate actual crimes anymore.

But it simply is not going to be enough. State and local governments across the U.S. are facing financial holes of legendary proportions.

The 60 Minutes report above stated that the combined unfunded pension and health care liabilities of the 50 states is $1 trillion. Unfortunately, that is an estimate that is probably way too conservative. In fact, two prominent university professors have calculated that the combined unfunded pension liability for all 50 U.S. states is approximately 3.2 trillion dollars.

So if the municipal bond market does crash will the federal government step in and bail everyone out?

Well, this upcoming spring the $160 billion in federal "stimulus money" runs out. At that point there will likely be a huge cry for even more "stimulus money" for state and local governments.

Unfortunately, as I wrote about yesterday, the federal government is also flat broke and swimming in an ocean of endless red ink. Congress could potentially step in and try to bail all the state and local governments out, but in the end it is the American people who are going to have to pay the bill.

We are on the verge of a horrific economic collapse which is going to change life in this country as we know it forever. All of this debt is absolutely going to swamp us. Our politicians can keep trying to kick the can down the road for as long as they can, but eventually the financial nightmare that so many of us have been dreading is going to overtake us.

Holiday Terror Scare Tactics Shift Into High Gear

IHNN News Alert Mailing List

This is an exert from our IHNN News Alert. You can sign up for the news alert on the right side of our website or by clicking the link and selecting the subscribe button. The News Alert includes links to important articles and exclusive commentary. Join Today!

Exclusive IHNN News Alert Commentary:

As we inch towards Christmas most of us are busy shopping and looking forward to spending the holidays with our friends and family.

While Americans flock to retail stores throughout the nation, the Department of Homeland Security is busy implementing a completely different agenda. This Stazi type agency recently launched their Orwellian “see something, say something” campaign which is aimed at getting everyday American citizens to spy on their neighbors.

As outrage against these ridiculous measures has continued to grow, the threat of terror has once again become an everyday mainstream media talking point. From attacking the food supply to suicide bombers, we are being lead to believe that Al Qaeda will carry out an attack in the very near future.

As noted by Activist Post writer Michael Edwards, we need not be afraid of the actual attack but the establishments response to that attack.

Stay Vigilant and Enjoy The Holidays!

-Alex Thomas- Co-founder of The Intel Hub

View the Whole IHNN News Alert And Subscribe Today!

« Winner: Lloyd Blankfein Douchebag Of The Year »

Video - Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein wins Douchebag of the Year

Completely mindless 25 seconds. This is for my sanity.


Here's 2 minutes of Lord Blankfein with Charlie Rose...


Goldman Sachs continues the pillaging of taxpayers...

Goldman Earned $55.7 Million From Build America Fees

Banks accused of illegally looting homes

'When a burglar goes in, they don't take your photos and your husband's ashes,' says alleged victim of wrongful foreclosure

Andrew Martin

When Mimi Ash arrived at her mountain chalet here for a weekend ski trip, she discovered that someone had broken into the home and changed the locks.

When she finally got into the house, it was empty. All of her possessions were gone: furniture, her son’s ski medals, winter clothes and family photos.

Also missing was a wooden box, its top inscribed with the words “Together Forever,” that contained the ashes of her late husband, Robert.

The culprit, Ms. Ash soon learned, was not a burglar but her bank. According to a federal lawsuit filed in October by Ms. Ash, Bank of America had wrongfully foreclosed on her house and thrown out her belongings, without alerting Ms. Ash beforehand.

In an era when millions of homes have received foreclosure notices nationwide, lawsuits detailing bank break-ins like the one at Ms. Ash’s house keep surfacing.

And in the wake of the scandal involving shoddy, sometimes illegal paperwork that has buffeted the nation’s biggest banks in recent months, critics say these situations reinforce their claims that the foreclosure process is fundamentally flawed.

“Every day, smaller wrongs happen to people trying to save their homes: being charged the wrong amount of money, being wrongly denied a loan modification, being asked to hand over documents four or five times,” said Ira Rheingold, executive director of the National Association of Consumer Advocates.

Identifying the number of homeowners who were locked out illegally is difficult. But banks and their representatives insist that situations like Ms. Ash’s represent just a tiny percentage of foreclosures.

Read Full Article

« Foreclosing on People Who Never Missed a Payment »

Video - Yves Smith on The Real News - Recorded yesterday

  • "Mortgage service industry makes more money from foreclosures than from restructuring debt."

« The 10 Greediest People of 2010 - Blankfein Makes The List »

They came, they saw, they took it all. Welcome to the world where thieves have no honor, and those who hone their talents hammering the rest of us are lavishly rewarded. Hard times can be good times -- for the aggressively avaricious. Where others see pain, they see opportunity. In desperation, they delight. The grimmer the economic outlook, the more ghastly their grabbing.

And who grabbed the most outrageously in 2010? We offer below our annual take on America's ten greediest of the year.

Below are numbers 4-7.


7 - Don Blankenship: Dirty business as usual

Outside the nation’s coal fields, few Americans knew Don Blankenship, the CEO at Massey Energy, before last April. But that all changed after an explosion that month left 29 Massey miners dead. Reporters would soon grill Blankenship about the mine’s long history of safety violations, over 500 in 2009 alone.

“Violations,” the Massey chief coldheartedly retorted, “are unfortunately a normal part of the mining process.”

Almost as normal as windfall paychecks for Don Blankenship. The Massey CEOtook home nearly $34 million in 2005, about quadruple the industry standard. Over the last three years, he has waltzed away from his office with another $38.2 million. But the real waltzing is only now beginning.

The 60-year-old Blankenship is retiring at the end of this year with a pension valued at $5.7 million, another $12 million in severance, still another $27.2 million in deferred pay, title to a company-owned house, and a two-year consulting agreement that pays $5,000 a month for no more than 32 hours work.

Blankenship may even exit, once all this year's stats have come in, with a 2010 “performance” bonus that factors in safety.

How can a coal company CEO with 29 dead miners get a safety bonus? Massey’s flagship safety standard, “Non-Fatal Days Lost,” merely multiplies “the number of employee work-related accidents times 200,000 hours, divided by the total employee hours worked.” Death doesn’t factor in.

6 - David Cote: King of America's corporate political cash

Coal can kill. Uranium, too. Workers who handle uranium, notes labor journalist Mike Elk, “suffer rates of cancer 10 times higher than the general public.”

That’s one big reason why the union local that represents workers at a Honeywell uranium facility in Illinois this past June rejected a management proposal to eliminate retiree medical care and boost -- to $8,500 a year -- the out-of-pocket health care costs active workers have to pay.

A disappointed Honeywell, one of the nation’s top defense contractors, promptly locked the Illinois uranium workers out. Those workers, ever since then, have been trying to meet face to face with Honeywell CEO David Cote.

The week after Thanksgiving, the locked-out workers even traveled to Washington, D.C., where Cote, a member of President Obama’s National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility, was discussing with his fellow commissioners a variety of proposals to slash federal spending.

Cote, who took home $13.2 million last year and $28.7 million the year before, has been spending big himself -- on political contributions. Under his direction, Honeywell has emerged as the nation’s top corporate political giver.

Cote’s agenda? Making sure the budget-cutters in Washington keep hands off defense contracts. As one alternative, press reports indicate, he’s pushing a freeze on the pay that goes to America’s servicemen and women.

5 - David Tepper: This hedge needs clipping

Nobody made more money last year than America’s top hedge fund managers, and no hedge fund manager made more than David Tepper. This 53-year-old former junk bond trader at Goldman Sachs hit a $4 billion jackpot essentially betting, in the middle of the global financial meltdown, that Uncle Sam wouldn't let Wall Street's biggest banks go under.

Tepper is currently doing his best to single-handedly reboot America’s still depressed residential real estate market. In June, he spent $43.5 million to pick up a summer home in the Hamptons that used to belong to former New Jersey governor and Goldman Sachs CEO Jon Corzine. The 6.5-acre beachfront spread sports six bedrooms, a tennis court, and a heated pool -- and rented last summer for $900,000.

The $43.5 million Tepper shelled out ended up the highest price paid this year for a Hamptons home. The total also amounted to about half the record $88 million the hedge fund industry raised for the homeless this past May at the 2010 Robin Hood Foundation dinner, Wall Street's single biggest annual charity gala.

One official at the foundation dubbed that $88 million an act of “extraordinary generosity.” Others might define “extraordinary” a bit differently. David Tepper and the rest of the hedge fund industry’s top 25 last year together pocketed $25.3 billion. They averaged, each and every business day, over $100 million.

4 - Lloyd Blankfein: Getting the most from our tax dollars

Lloyd Blankfein, the chief exec at Wall Street’s biggest bank, has had a stunning century. Since 2000, Bloomberg News calculates, Blankfein has earned a whopping $125 million in cash bonuses and enough additional stock awards to leave him with a personal stash of Goldman shares worth over $300 million.

And the goodies keep coming. This January, Blankfein will pick up another $24.3 million in stock, as a delayed payout from previous years. He’ll also pick up millions more in soon-to-be-announced bonuses for 2010.

News of these bonuses, Wall Street analyst Jeanne Branthover predicts, will leave the public “outraged” and Wall Streeters “excited” -- that “there’s still a reason to be working so hard.”

How hard is Lloyd Blankfein working? He simply never misses an opportunity, however small, to make a buck off taxpayers. This year’s prime example: the fees that Goldman Sachs has fixed on Build America Bonds, the federal program that's helping states and localities raise money for construction job projects.

Local governments, in tough times, often have to cut back on such projects because they can't afford to pay the interest on new bond offerings. With Build America Bonds, the federal government is paying 35 percent of this interest.

Investment banks charge municipalities fees to bring their bonds to investors. Goldman’s fees typically range up to 0.625 percent of each bond issue. But Goldman has been charging, on Build America Bonds, up to 0.875 percent. Why so much? Goldman, Blankfein told Congress, had to “educate the market.”


But Lloyd Blankfein does God's work...

More detail on this clip is here...


(Reuters) - The U.S. government fell deeper into the red in fiscal 2010 with net liabilities swelling more than $2 trillion as commitments on governme

The Financial Report of the United States, which applies corporate-style accrual accounting methods to Washington, showed the government's liabilities exceeded assets by $13.473 trillion. That compared with a $11.456 trillion gap a year earlier.

Unlike the normal measurement of government intake of receipts against cash outlays, accrual accounting measures costs such as interest on the debt and federal benefits payable when they are incurred, not when funds are actually disbursed.

The report was instituted under former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill, the first Treasury secretary in the George W. Bush administration, to illustrate the mounting liabilities of government entitlement programs like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

The government's net operating cost, or deficit, in the report grew to $2.080 trillion for the year ended September 30 from $1.253 trillion the prior year as spending and liabilities increased for social programs. Actual and anticipated revenues were roughly unchanged.

The cash budget deficit narrowed in fiscal 2010 to $1.294 trillion from $1.417 trillion in 2009. But the $858 billion tax cut extension package enacted last week is expected to keep the deficit well above the $1 trillion mark for another year.


The latest Treasury report should fuel debate in Congress over spending cuts next year as a new Republican majority in the House of Representatives takes office.

The U.S. Senate on Tuesday approved a compromise bill to fund the government until March 4, 2011. After that, Republicans will have the chance to push through dramatic budget cuts.

"Today, we must balance our efforts to accelerate economic recovery and job growth in the near term with continued efforts to address the challenges posed by the long-term deficit outlook," Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said in a letter accompanying the report. "The administration's top priority remains restoring good jobs to American workers and accelerating the pace of economic recovery."

Among key differences between the operating deficit and the cash deficit were sharp increases in costs accrued for veterans' compensation, government and military employee benefits and anticipated losses at mortgage finance giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

The biggest increase in net liabilities in fiscal 2010 stemmed from a $1.477 trillion increase in federal debt repayment and interest obligations, largely to finance programs to stabilize the economy and pull it out of recession.

The federal balance sheet liabilities do not include long-term projections for social programs such as Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, but these showed a positive improvement.

The report said the present value of future net expenditures for those now eligible to participate in these programs over the next 75 years declined to $43.058 trillion from $52.145 trillion a year ago -- a change attributed to the enactment of health-care reform legislation aimed at boosting coverage and limiting long-term cost growth.

The overall projection, including for those under 15 years of age and not yet born, is much rosier, with the 75-year projected cost falling to $30.857 trillion from last year's projection of $43.878 trillion.

The report noted, however, that there was "uncertainty about whether the projected reductions in health care cost growth will be fully achieved."

CBS 60 Minutes Finally Gets One Right

Greg Hunter
USA Watchdog

I have been pretty hard on “CBS Minutes” for doing fluff interviews with Fed Chief Ben Bernanke and not asking the hard questions that would be obvious to a freshman journalism student. In all fairness, I have to admit last Sunday’s story called “The Day of Reckoning” was an eye opening, hard hitting piece. It was about the dire financial troubles that are overwhelming many state budgets. My only criticism–“60 Minutes” is a little late coming to the party. But as that old cliche goes, “better late than never.”

Since this website was launched nearly a year and a half ago, has mentioned many times the dire financial situation many states face. California alone is $19 billion in the hole, and Illinois is basically a deadbeat when it comes to paying its bills. CBS broke some new ground with this story.

Banking analyst Meredith Whitney predicted as many as 100 “sizeable” municipal bond defaults in 2011! It is one thing to read a great quote, it is quite another to see some one’s face when they say it.

Facial expressions say much more than words can ever capture. Take, for example, Ben Bernanke’s quivering lips when he said that it was a “myth” the Fed was “printing money”–priceless! Please enjoy the 60 Minutes story below that went out of its way to NOT sugar-coat the truth.