Sunday, May 18, 2014

World Economy : Fastfood Chains shift from Low Wage Workers to Robot Workers (May 16, 2014)

News Articles:Panera Bread Will Replace Cashiers With Robots By 2016… 
Fight for $15 an hour is winning in Seattle… 
Coming To A Fast Food Restaurant Near You: Machines That Won’t Be Paying SEIU Dues… 
Meet “Smart Restaurant”: The Minimum-Wage-Crushing, Burger-Flipping Robot… 
The Shift From Low-Wage Worker to Robot Worker…

Study Confirms US Is Ruled by Rich, Corporate News Ignores It

Steve Rendall  
American democracy is no longer very democratic, according to a new university study (4/9/14; Perspectives on Politics, Fall/14). Instead, it’s dominated by moneyed elites in a process where public opinion has little to no impact on policy. Released a month ago by Princeton’s Martin Gilens and Northwestern’s Benjamin I. Page, the study concludes:
Economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on US government policy, while average citizens and mass-based interest groups have little or no independent influence.
The political scientists looked at more than 1,700 policies over 20 years to find out how public opinion translates into policy, and concluded that where economic elite views diverged from those of the public, the public had “zero estimated impact upon policy change, while economic elites are still estimated to have a very large, positive, independent impact.”
Bracing news? The study went viral in social media, but has hardly shown up in the US corporate press. A month after its release there have been no network news mentions, nor has it appeared in the most influential newspapers–the New York TimesWashington Post and Los Angeles Times. (The New York Times4/21/14 and the Washington Post, 4/8/14 published blog posts on the study.)
The Baltimore Sun (5/12/14) was a rare exception with an op-ed calling for public financing of campaigns to counter the influence of wealth. “Rather than curl up in a fetal position and cede the fate of our democracy to those with the fattest bank accounts,” Kate Planco Waybright and Jennifer Bevan-Dangel wrote in a response to the study, “our organizations are taking action. We believe public financing of elections has enormous potential to transform our democracy and to help ordinary Americans regain our voices in the political sphere.”
There are likely several reasons why corporate media have ignored the study, chief among them that its findings hit too close to home: The same well-heeled elites and their representatives who dominate US politics and policy are also the owners of US corporate media.
In one study after another, FAIR has shown how corporate media discount popular views and the opinions of the less powerful in favor of elite viewpoints. Pro-business think tanks are favored over those viewed as less than business friendly; and corporate sources in news stories are far more numerous than those who might be seen as their counterweights– representatives of labor unions, consumer and environmental groups. FAIR studies have repeatedly shown how the subject of poverty is slighted in news coverage, including a study to be published next month (Extra!, 6/14) that finds coverage of the poor nearly nonexistent, and news sources who are affected by poverty even scarcer. Indeed, according to the study, America‘s 482 billionaires received many times as much coverage as America‘s 50 million poor.
Not that you need a study to demonstrate the media’s corporate deference–not when major media figures will come right out and tell you. As when NBC’s Meet the Press anchor David Gregory (11/11/12) faulted Barack Obama for not cozying up more to CEOs, telling an approving Jim Cramer of CNBC:
Jim, I always thought that one of the big mistakes of the first Obama term is that he never had a moment in the Rose Garden where he was flanked by the biggest business leaders in America and said, “Look, we’re going to work together in common cause to deal with this economy, to deal with our fiscal position, and ultimately affect America‘s influence in the rest of the world.” Can he have that moment now?
In fact, Obama did have a moment precisely like that, appearing with several CEOs at a press conference on January 28, 2009, shortly after his inauguration. It’s hard to imagine a Democratic president who has tried harder to make corporate interests his own.
Similarly, when former CNBC host Maria Bartiromo was launching her new Fox News show, she told the media industry website MediaBistro (3/18/14) how her new business would be different–corporations would finally get a chance to tell their side of the story:
Maria BartiromoThere’s a void in the market. We never hear business people as part of the conversation on a Sunday. I only hear politicos doing their talking points. I want to get the guy on the front line, the gal on the front line, telling us why they’re not taking money from overseas and putting it here, what should tax reform look like, what should immigration reform look like. So I’m going to bring business people into the conversation on a Sunday morning.
The only mention of the study on cable news channels came on MSNBC’s All In With Chris Hayes (4/16/14), where the host cited gun legislation requiring a background check before one could purchase a firearm, that had as high as 90 percent public backing, but was voted down in a congress swimming in gun lobby money. Hayes concluded, “In fact, it sounds like the textbook definition of oligarchy, of government by the few.” The wealthy few.
Steve Rendall writes for FAIR.

Du Pont heir convicted of raping daughter spared prison

(CNN) -- Though Robert H. Richards IV was convicted of rape, the wealthy heir to the du Pont family fortune was spared prison by a Delaware court in 2009 because he would "not fare well" behind bars, according to court documents CNN obtained Tuesday.
Richards is a great-grandson of the chemical magnate Irenee du Pont.
He received an eight-year prison sentence in 2009 for raping his toddler daughter, but the sentencing order signed by a Delaware judge said "defendant will not fare well" in prison and the eight years were suspended.
Richards was placed on eight years' probation and ordered to get treatment and register as a sex offender, the documents show. He was also prohibited from having contact with children under 16, including his own children.
The documents were never sealed, yet the ruling managed to go unnoticed until March, when Richards' former wife, Tracy Richards, filed a lawsuit in Delaware Superior Court on behalf of their children alleging "personal injuries arising from the childhood sexual abuse." The 11-page suit alleges that not only was their daughter abused, but Richards abused their son, too. The suit seeks unspecified monetary damages.
While he was convicted of raping his daughter, Richards has never been charged with sexually molesting his son, according to Jason Miller, a spokesman for the Delaware attorney general's office.
CNN tried repeatedly to reach Richards and Eugene Maurer, the attorney who represented him in 2009. Maurer is no longer representing Richards, his assistant told CNN on Wednesday. CNN asked if he had a comment; he has not offered one.
Attorney John C. Balaguer is representing Richards in the civil case, his assistant told CNN. Balaguer has not returned e-mails or voice mail messages CNN has left for him.
This week, after news of Richards' 2009 case came to light, many took to Twitter to criticize the judge in the case, saying that it echoed a recent Texas case in which a wealthy teenager driving drunk killed four people but received no jail time. Ethan Couch was sentenced last year to 10 years' probation.
A witness in Couch's case claimed the teenager was a victim of "affluenza" -- the product of wealthy, privileged parents who never set limits for the boy.
Delaware's Judicial Code of Conduct prohibits Judge Jan R. Jurden from discussing the 2009 ruling with reporters, court spokeswoman Amy Quinlan told CNN.
But at least one member of the Delaware legal community came to Jurden's defense Tuesday.
"It's wrong to attribute (the 'defendant would not fare well' comment) to Judge Jurden," said Richard Kirk, a lawyer who is chairman of a Delaware State Bar Association committee that he says steps up to respond "when judges are criticized and unable to speak for themselves."
Kirk says the argument that Richards would not do well in prison could have been the recommendation of probation or parole officers. However, he said, "common sense suggests that it came from defense counsel."
As for the prosecutor's side, the attorney general's spokesman gave CNN a written statement.
"Cases of child sexual abuse are extremely complicated and difficult," it read. The objective is to "secure justice in every case to the best of its ability given the unique facts and circumstances presented in each case -- sometimes that results in a resolution that is less than what prosecutors would want," the statement read.
"In this particular case, the facts and circumstances made it unlikely that a conviction could be secured at trial. ...This resolution protected the victim and imposed conditions that would make it less likely the defendant could harm others."

Bilderberg's silent takeover of Britain’s $60bn defense budget

A British Lynx 2 helicopter.(AFP Photo)
A British Lynx 2 helicopter.(AFP Photo)

Democracy had another near-fatal stroke, and the military industrial complex further tightened UK defense spending with the appointment of ex-army officer and Tory hothead Rory Stewart MP as the new chairman of Westminster’s Defence Select Committee.
Last week the Home Affairs Select Committee delivered a damning verdict on Britain's defense and secret service oversight, on taxpayer accountability. It said the refusal of the director general of MI5, Andrew Parker, to appear before them and lack of any effective supervision was "undermining the credibility of the intelligence agencies and parliament itself."
Surely nothing could surpass the ‘Dodgy Dossier', the criminal conspiracy that led to the US and Britain, as the Arab League put it in 2003, to 'Opening the Gates of Hell in Iraq'? But with Stuart's appointment to oversee public scrutiny of UK military spending just two weeks before NATO's political cabal of which he's a member, the Bilderberg conference, meets in Copenhagen later this month, it is clear to those who still have eyes to see that those bloody lessons have not been learned and the worse could be yet to come.

The most powerful private club in the world

In their Christmas 1987 edition, The Economist described Bilderberg as ‘Ne Plus Ultra’ the most powerful private club in the world. Its power has certainly not diminished as the decades have rolled by and neither has its secrecy. Although it began with trades unionists and powerful people it wanted to persuade, in its final days Bilderberg has boiled down to a rotten core of bankers, royalty, arms industry, oil and media barons and Rory Stuart MP, in the tradition of Kissinger, Blair, Cameron, Osborne and Balls, has thrown his lot in with them.
In 1943, half way through the war, the US power elite saw that, barring any big surprises, Hitler was going to lose World War Two, so their ‘War And Peace Studies Group’ of the Council On Foreign Relations (CFR) quietly began to prepare the Marshall Plan for the post-war world. Alongside the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), a sizable budget was set aside to fund a range of activities which would ensure Europeans didn't vote communist and were welded economically, culturally and politically to the US for the foreseeable future.

British soldier Lieutenant-Colonel Nick Lock (C) checks his equipment before conducting a patrol with soldiers of the 1st Batallion of the Royal Welsh in streets of Showal in Nad-e-Ali district, Southern Afghanistan, in Helmand Province.(AFP Photo / Thomas Coex )
British soldier Lieutenant-Colonel Nick Lock (C) checks his equipment before conducting a patrol with soldiers of the 1st Batallion of the Royal Welsh in streets of Showal in Nad-e-Ali district, Southern Afghanistan, in Helmand Province.(AFP Photo / Thomas Coex )

Born in a Nazi ‘witches cauldron’ of British blood

Bilderberg's first chairman, Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands, was born into the German aristocracy. He joined the Nazi party at university, then the SS but he married into the Dutch royal family, dropping the silver deaths-head and black SS uniform before the war. His newly adopted Holland was invaded by his old Nazi friends in 1941, so he fled to Britain with Dutch Queen Wilhelmina and his wife, Princess Juliana.
As a former SS officer he was scrutinized by the Admiralty's wartime spymaster, Ian Fleming who, after a year of watching Bernhard, signed him to the British army as a trusted Dutch liaison officer.
With 1944 came one of Bernhard’s most important jobs: to supervise the Dutch underground in the run-up to September's liberation of large parts of Holland. Field Marshall Montgomery’s audacious airborne operation, the biggest in history, depicted in Cornelius Ryan’s 1977 film A Bridge Too Far, was codenamed 'Market Garden' and intended to end the war by Christmas.
As liaison officer for the coming Arnhem deliverance, Bernhard sent in Dutch spy, Christiaan Lindemans, codename 'King Kong', ten days beforehand to prepare resistance fighters for the allies lunge through Eindhoven, Nijmegen and over the Rhein into Arnhem.
But instead of making contact with the Dutch underground, Bernhard’s 'King Kong' found some German soldiers and demanded to be taken straight to the Abwehr, German military intelligence. The allies’ plans for the airborne assault were in enemy hands because Bernhard’s precious Lindemans was a double agent. He had wrecked the allies’ all-important element of surprise.
‘King Kong’ was arrested and quizzed after the war by the British but never got a chance to tell his story because, under Dutch orders, he was whisked off to Germany and died in suspicious circumstances.
Operation Market Garden went ahead on Sunday September 17, 1944, but the British paratroopers at Arnhem were quickly split and surrounded by forces containing self-propelled guns, tanks and crack SS troops, who happened to be resting nearby. Frost's 2nd battalion held on to the bridge leaving the rest of the 1st Airborne Division surrounded in what the Nazis called the Hexenkessel or 'witches cauldron', pinned down in the suburb of Oosterbeek.
On Wednesday 20 September, 1944, as British airborne Colonel John Frost’s remaining paratroopers were being mauled by SS Panzers at Arnhem Bridge, the tanks of the Grenadier Guards, along with US paratroopers, were tantalizingly close, destroying the last German defenses down the road in Nijmegen. Ironically, it was a young captain, who was also to chair the Bilderberg meetings in later life, Lord Peter Carrington, who was leading the Grenadier battle group of Sherman tanks as they took the penultimate bridge. At 8 o'clock that evening, he was just a 20-minute drive from reinforcing Frost at the Arnhem Bridge, and victory.
But although they still had eight hours or so before Arnhem Bridge would finally fall into German hands, Carrington’s force, along with the Irish guards, of a hundred or so tanks inexplicably stopped, just over the Nijmegen Bridge in the village of Lent, for an eighteen hour rest. After the war, 10 SS Panzer Division General Heinz Harmel mocked Carrington saying, “The British tanks made a mistake when they stayed in Lent. If they had carried on it would have been all over for us.”
'Colonel Frost later put the blame,' as Stuart Hills reports in 'By Tank To Normandy', 'firmly on the lack of drive by Guards Armoured,' of which Carrington's Grenadiers were the spearhead. 'Comparing their relatively light casualties with those suffered by the British 1st Airborne and US 82nd. Forty years later,' in 1984, 'he stood on the bridge at a reunion, shook his fist and roared a question into the air for the guards. 'Do you call that fighting!'
So Bilderberg’s first 1954 venue in Oosterbeek, Holland, was highly significant, being the same spot where a decade before the British army had suffered nearly 10,000 casualties in of one of the last Nazi bloodbaths of World War II. Bernhard had given the game away and when it looked like, despite his treachery, the brave allied soldiers might pull it off, Carrington and his corps of tanks ground to a halt for an eighteen hour tea break.

AFP Photo / Dan Chung
AFP Photo / Dan Chung

Psychos always return to the scene of the crime

Like the psychopath, who feels compelled to return to the scene of the crime, Prince Bernhard returned to Oosterbeek to chair the inaugural Bilderberg meeting in 1954. The conferences led to the signing of the Treaty of Rome, which started the European Economic Community (EEC) three years later.
Surrounded by the great and good of the post war world, the prince hoped nobody would examine his reasons for choosing Oosterbeek. At the best it was an in-joke – at the worst the battle was thrown. Whatever way you look at it sixty years on, the coded message from that first Bilderberg meeting should be clear to us now. Ten years after the war, the Nazis were back.

The seventy year Bilderberg project is almost complete

So seventy years since the Arnhem slaughter and sixty years since the first Bilderberg conference, the EEC has become the EU. NATO's new feudal oligarchy of Western banksters and multinationals own and control all the big political parties as well as almost everything that moves both sides of the Atlantic.
Some saw it coming: former SS general Paul Hausser, who became chief of HIAG, the German SS veterans group after the war, claimed that "the foreign units of the SS were really the precursors of the NATO army." Others detailed the Nazis' transformation from military to financial empire including former CBS News correspondent Paul Manning in his 1981 book 'Martin Bormann Nazi in Exile'.
Bilderberg’s latest wheeze is the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). This treaty makes voting pointless by letting multinationals sue governments and will leave only the thinnest veneer of democracy for the mainstream media to chew on both in Europe and America. The ‘nation states’ will become mere prefectures and the European Commission will be the unelected government of the United States of Europe.
As ordinary people across Europe and America cry out for decent basic standards such as fresh water, food, shelter, healthcare, heating and full employment, the mainstream media barely hear them because this is not the Bilderberg way. Instead, these pinstriped fascists bury us in debt, steal our leisure time, erode quality time with children, friends and family, and then blame us for demanding a fair share of the rewards of human progress.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

Deutsche Bank leaves Vegas & Yves Smith on PE Real Estate Tricks

Our lead story: Deutsche Bank is finally able to leave Las Vegas! That’s because before their fear became loathing, and they found a buyer for their always-in-the-red Cosmopolitan Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada. Erin takes a look.Then, Erin sits down with financial blogger powerhouse Yves Smith of Naked Capitalism to talk about private equity and their rental shenanigans. They talk about why PE firms have gotten into the real estate market and the problems created by their actions. What are these PE firms trying to do and do they create jobs? Smith breaks it down.Then to round out the week Edward Harrison and Erin check in on their Accrued Interest. Keep the comments coming!

'Never Trust the Govt!' - Vivienne Westwood on Fracking, Banks, Austerity

Afshin Rattansi talks fracking, debt-based money and austerity with punk pioneer and activist Vivienne Westwood.

Corporate lawyer jumps to his death from 22nd-floor Central Park West apartment: cops

tephen Hertz, 55, jumped the apartment Friday around 9:20 p.m. and landed in a nearby tree.


Stephen Hertz jumped to his death from his Central Park West apartment, cops said Saturday.
Stephen Hertz jumped to his death from his Central Park West apartment, cops said Saturday.

A high-powered corporate lawyer jumped to his death from his luxury Manhattan apartment overlooking Central Park, police said Saturday.
Stephen Hertz jumped from his home on the 22nd floor of the highrise on Central Park West near 105th St. about 9:20 p.m. Friday, cops said, landing in a tree.
Emergency responders had to cut down branches to get to his mangled body, a police source said.
Hertz, 55, was a partner in Midtown lawfirm Debevoise & Plimpton, where he specialized in venture capitalism and mergers and acquisitions.

Climate Change Research Axed in Australia

Going backwards: Critics say the Abbott government's new budget cuts to climate change research and renewable energy has set policy back to the 1990s. Going backwards: Critics say the Abbott government's new budget cuts to climate change research and renewable energy has set policy back to the 1990s. Photo: Andrew Meares
Australia's climate change action has effectively ground to a halt with the budget revealing big cuts to research and renewable energy, moves that critics say sets policy back to the 1990s.
Budget papers show funds for climate change-related programs will shrink from $5.75 billion in the current fiscal year to $1.25 billion by 2014-15 and to $500 million by 2017-18. The government will spend more on its national blood program than climate change on all but the first of those four years.

Tony Abbott's 'extreme' climate stance sets back policy decades ...

Sydney Morning Herald-by Peter Hannam-May 14, 2014
Australia's climate change action has effectively ground to a halt with ... and the merger of the Australian Climate Change Science Program with ...
Critics slam climate change cuts
The Land Newspaper-May 14, 2014
Green policies casualties of Abbott's vengeance

Convicted of Felonies, Banks Are Allowed to Stay in Business

Two large international banks — Credit Suisse and BNP Paribas — are expected to plead guilty to criminal charges within the next few weeks. If that happens, they will pay large fines and officially be felons.
Should anyone care?
Is there really a difference between criminal convictions of banks and civil settlements that yield equally large fines?
Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. certainly thinks so. He proudly proclaimed a couple of weeks ago that there was no bank “too big to jail.”
The obvious problem with that statement is that it is a non sequitur. Big or small, banks and other corporations are too inanimate to jail. Executives conceivably could be sent to prison, but that is not what we are talking about here.
But if companies cannot be sent to Leavenworth, they can face the death penalty

The Brutal, Beneath-the-Surface, Slo-Mo Crash of Stocks

Leon Black, epitome of the smart money and CEO of private equity giant Apollo Global Management, explained the phenomenon this way during Thursday’s earnings call:
At a conference in the spring of last year, I was somewhat infamously quoted as saying that we were selling everything that was not nailed down. Here, at Apollo, since then, it’s no secret we’ve been very active in monetizing the existing investments of the funds we manage, but even I didn’t foresee the remarkable pace of the activity to come.... For now, in terms of harvesting, we intend to remain active in capitalizing on market conditions as appropriate.
This “harvesting” takes place when the smart money sells its investments at peak valuations and at the peak of the market to the dumb money, often mutual funds that get stuffed into the retirement nest eggs of the unwitting.
So this had to happen. With stock markets soaring for five years straight, with home prices jumping in the double digits two years in a row, and with other assets defying gravity each in its own manner, regular folks started doing the math and extending straight lines from these data points decades into the future, and they discovered that they’ll be able to retire once again comfortably. Or more precisely, 50% of them made that discovery, according to Gallup. The highest percentage since 2007, just before all heck broke lose.
This optimism of regular folks is required for the smart money to be able to “harvest” its gains. The mainstream media has been playing along by breathlessly covering the Dow, which set another all-time high on Friday, and the S&P 500 which is just a smidgen off its all-time high. But beneath the surface, stock after stock has been getting slaughtered. It just doesn’t show up in these two indices.
The stocks of the largest corporations have been doing pretty well. Due to their enormous market capitalization, they dominate mathematically the capitalization-weighted indices. And in that capacity, they paper over the systematic, wholesale destruction of smaller stocks, and particularly of the darlings of the last few years.
Some of this destruction has gnawed through the layers of large-cap stocks in other indices: the NASDAQ is down 6.9% from its 52-week high in March; the small-cap Russell 2000 is down 8.8%; the IBB Biotech Index 17.8%; the FDN Internet Index 18.9%; the SOCL social media index 27.0%.... It’s brutal out there.
And extensive. FBN Securities looked at individual stocks to determine how far the average stock in each of the major indices had plunged off their 52-week highs – and “plunge” is beginning to be the right word:

Note that the average stock in the Russell 2000 and in the NASDAQ has dropped into bear-market purgatory. There are about 5,000 stocks in the NASDAQ composite, and the average stock is down 24.3% from its 52-week high. This isn’t a handful of stocks, but thousands that are down in a big way. Only the index’s mastodons with megaton capitalizations cover up the bloodletting beneath them.
Drilling down a little, we get to the fabled momentum stocks, the darlings of the last few years, stocks that were driven to insane heights by Wall-Street hype, industrial-strength smoke and mirrors, blindly adoring buyers, momentum players, and finally retirees in search of the illusory wealth effect (after their life savings had been decimated by the Fed’s ZIRP). And among those stocks, there has been an extraordinary bloodbath.
Twitter’s plight – it’s down 57% from its 52-week high – has been ascribed in the media to its unique circumstances, the expiration of the lockup period, lack of profits, and whatnot. It certainly wouldn’t be indicative of anything else. Alas, these kinds of landmines have been blowing up all over the stock market.
One place to find some of them grouped together is the Cloud Index maintained by VC firm Bessemer Venture Partners. There are 37 publicly traded “cloud” companies in the index. The list below shows the top 23 by market cap, ranging from Salesforce with $31 billion in market cap to LogMeIn with just under $1 billion.

The average decline from their individual 52-week highs is 41.1%. A serious crash.
“After 30+ years in this biz, I’ve never watched an equity market rollover in slow mo,” a deeply worried portfolio manager with one of the world’s major banks told me. “That is, I’ve always been caught up in the excitement, as in 2000 and 2007. But today, there’s little excitement. Just calm confidence, as reflected in the VIX.”
That panic indicator, which measures volatility among S&P 500 stocks, sits tranquilly near its 52-week low, in a state of complete serenity. According to the VIX, stock market investors still think that nothing untoward is going to happen to stocks any time soon.
Only, it is already happening to thousands of stocks! The process is expanding and deepening, drawing evermore stocks into its vortex. But even while the googly-eyed mainstream media celebrate the Dow’s record high and speculate when the S&P 500 might itself set another record, stocks are being gutted one by one beneath these illustrious indices. The carnage is spreading. And nothing in history indicates that this might be a temporary blip, or that these stocks – after a dizzying, rationality-defying five-year bull market – will somehow not drag behind them those stocks that are still managing, by hook or crook, to keep their nose above water.
It fits the pattern of gratuitous bank enrichment perfectly. But this time, the big beneficiaries of the Fed are foreign banks. Read.... When $1.2 Trillion In Foreign Bank Funds In The US Dissipate
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What Are They Thinking?

Health Insurance is Not Healthcare

By JP Sottile | January 18, 2013
Insurance companies make a simple wager with you each time you sign a policy. They are betting that, over the life of the policy, they will pay out less to you and your beneficiaries than you will pay them.
Insurance companies of all kinds make tidy profits on this simple wager. If they don’t, sometimes the government will bail them out.
Either way, insurance is still just a bet. And in America, we do not have a healthcare system. We have a health insurance industry.
That industry has been one of the most profitable sectors of the economy for well over a decade. But costs skyrocketed and care suffered. We heard horror stories about rationed care, denied procedures and corporate bureaucracies run amok. Ironically, these were the horror stories we were supposed to hear if the government took the reigns of the “best healthcare system in the world.”
So, instead of a single-payer healthcare system, we got The Affordable Care Act—aka Obamacare. Instead of retiring the health insurance industry and its actuarial tables and profit margins and wagers, Obama “saved” the health insurance industry and enshrined it in perpetuity as the “Health Insurance-Industrial Complex.”
As the Affordable Care Act’s provisions begin to take effect, the folks in the Complex are wasting no time doing what they can to keep their profits tidy. Leading insurers in California are seeking increases in premiums ranging from 20% to 26%. Regulators in Florida and Ohio have already approved increasing premiums as much as 20%, and, since the ACA doesn’t set federal standards, insurance companies are moving in a number of states to force these spikes in premiums.
Remember, if you can “afford” health insurance, you have to buy it. If you refuse, you’ll pay a penalty to the government at tax time. Some are exempt from this mandate. But, in effect, the ACA has guaranteed the health insurance industry a captive market.
Meanwhile, they continue to change the terms of all those bets they’ve placed against millions of Americans and the cost of the “best healthcare in the world” continues to rise. When compared to other nations with some form of single-payer system, the difference is so stark that it’s almost obscene. It’s not just the $800 difference between an MRI in France versus the U.S., it’s almost every part of a system that has at its heart the relentless desire to turn a profit.
Even worse, a much-ballyhooed part of the promised “21st Century transformation” into greater “affordability” has turned out be little more than a profiteering scheme.
Remember the “streamlining” and “cost savings” guaranteed from the conversion to electronic medical records? Well, it hasn’t quite panned out. In fact, the only real beneficiaries of the conversion are companies like General Electric that sell electronic medical records systems. Not coincidentally, GE and other interested parties funded the key RAND study in 2005 that both predicted $81 billion in savings for America’s health care system and also became the driving rationale for the profitable conversion.
This type of closed system is par for the course in Washington, D.C.
Every door revolves in the nation’s only recession-proof city. Is it any surprise that the woman who wrote the Affordable Care Act is now leaving the White House for a job with health care giant Johnson & Johnson? Liz Fowler worked for Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) during the drafting of the ACA and had the primary responsibility for authoring the legislation. After its passage, she migrated to the White House to help with implementation. Seems reasonable enough. However, it is important to note where she was before joining the staff of Senator Baucus. Yup, you guessed it…she was a bigwig at WellPoint, the nation’s second leading health insurance company with nearly 54 million policyholders.
All of this makes you wonder who knew whom in the breast milk-pump industry, which is seeing a huge spike in its profits thanks to a new coverage requirement written into the ACA.
It may be too early to render judgment on a law that hasn’t yet been fully implemented, but it is not too early to determine that the profit motive might simply be incompatible with the equitable delivery of healthcare. As matter of course, businesses try to lower costs and increase revenue. That may be okay when they sell scissors or candlesticks, but it seems ill-suited to deliver labor-intensive care for those who are most vulnerable.
And as far as the health of the insurance industry, it’s a safe bet that they’ll keep coming out on top as the Affordable Care Act is fully implemented.
JP Sottile is a freelance journalist, published historian, radio co-host and documentary filmmaker (The Warning, 2008). His credits include a stint on the Newshour news desk, C-SPAN, and as newsmagazine producer for ABC affiliate WJLA in Washington. His weekly show, Inside the Headlines w/ The Newsvandal, co-hosted by James Moore, airs every Friday on KRUU-FM in Fairfield, Iowa. He blogs under the pseudonym “the Newsvandal.”

Economic Policies Have Led Us To The Great Divide And Will Lead Us To The Great Collapse

Economic Policies Have Led Us To The Great Divide And Will Lead Us To The Great Collapse

When slow and steady change happens in your life, slowly but surely, you don’t really notice the aggregate of the change so much while you adapt to it over the span of time.

This is why when we reflect back on how it used to be (“back in the day”), it often seems so radically different than it is today. When we look back, we see some of the huge changes that have taken place – and we wonder how and why it has changed so much. The thing is, much of the change is disguised in increments, be it good or bad.

One such change has been taking place right under our noses, and I call it,

“The Great Divide”

There is a great divide that has been developing in this country, and although it has always existed to an extent throughout time – it has magnified dramatically since the FED bailouts and new economic policies since 2008.

That is, the divide between the very rich, and the rest of us.

No, not the divide between the rich and the poor, but the divide between the very upper middle class (on up to the very wealthy) – and the rest – including the rapidly disappearing middle class.

No, this has nothing to do with fanning the flames of “class warfare” between the have’s and the have-not’s. There will always be a gap – it’s just the way the spread works… and is logical when you really think about it – along with the typical reasons for it.


The reason for this EXAGGERATION of disparity are the present economic policies of the central bankers who have been (and still are) printing (digitally) an unbelievable amount of money every day, every month…

You all know this – it has been well known for years – the expanding money supply, the ballooning debt of our nation and the world’s nations.

When this amount of money is printed, it has to go somewhere.
It doesn’t just sit there! – with no effects.
A-lot of it goes into the financial markets – stocks, bonds, commodities, etc.

It also goes to extravagant luxuries of the rich – multimillion dollar estates, yachts, and any and all other opulence of the wealthy, etc.

The result of all this (money printing) is the ‘price’ of the things where the money flows — (e.g. the stock market) goes up (despite the underlying realities of the ‘real’ economy), and asset classes go up, all while our food, energy, and retail prices creep higher and higher as our government tells us inflation is tame and prices really aren’t getting any higher (due to their cloaking and manipulation of the numbers and how they are reported)…

A steady creep. Do you notice it?

The results of higher prices do not affect the wealthy who spend a very small percentage of their income on living expenses.

But for the rest (and the majority of people) who spend a very high percentage of their income on living expenses (rent-mortgage-food-energy-autos-health-insurance-bills-loans-taxes-etc.,) a creeping increase of those costs are consuming the remaining few percent of surplus income (if any) just to stay afloat.

Look at it this way — how much disposable income is left for you at the end of each week or month? 10%? Less?

If you earn, say, $50K a year and your weekly take-home pay is say, $800/wk. ($3500/mo.), how much do you have left over after your rent (mortgage), groceries, utilities, insurances, property taxes, fuel, loans, etc.? Do you have more than $300 or $400 left in your pocket? For most of the middle class, probably not so much…

For most, if their margin is say, 10%, (it’s costing 90% of their income to ‘live’), then ANY increases in these living expenses will have a very big impact on their lives!

On the other hand, for those who are spending a small percentage of their income on living expenses, they hardly are impacted at all by increases in their cost of living.

The thing is, the economic policies of the FED, the federal government, and the central bankers have been steadily widening the gap between the wealthy and the rest (the middle class).

And the disparity has become so great, that it is going to lead to social upheaval.

The reality is that proportionally there are very few of ‘them’ and there are LOTS of the rest. When ‘the rest’ reach their limit, there will be ‘unrest’. Count on it.

The great divide.

The current policies have so twisted economic reality, that it seems absurd that it continues. But it does. Debts at all-time (staggering) highs. Price-to-Earnings ratios (PE) and stock markets at all-time highs. The exuberance of blind faith in a never ending stream of dollars and profits flowing from the spigots. The uber-rich are the recipients of the stream of funny-money while the middle class are the recipients of a steady tightening of their budgets – unable to print their own funny money…

One day historians may look back on the years of ‘today’ and wonder why the vast majority of the people did not see it coming (the collapse). The signs were everywhere. How could they not have seen it or changed their ways? [SOURCE]

America’s homeless: The rise of Tent City, USA

Homeless encampments known as “tent cities” are popping up across the country.

Formed as an alternative to shelters and street-living, these makeshift communities are often set up off of highways, under bridges and in the woods. Some have “mayors” who determine the rules of the camp and who can and can’t join, others are a free-for-all. Someare overflowing with trash, old food, human waste and drug paraphernalia, others are relatively clean and drug-free.

The National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty documented media accounts of tent cities between 2008 and 2013, and estimated that there are more than 100 tent communities in the United States — and it says the encampments are on the rise.

“[T]here have been increasing reports of homeless encampments emerging in communities across the country, primarily in urban and suburban areas and spanning states as diverse as Hawaii, Alaska, California, and Connecticut,” the organization’s study states.

Tent cities are most common in areas where shelter space is scarce or housing unaffordable. Yet, many people say they choose to live in a tent even when shelter is an option. And they do so for one big reason: freedom.

Shelters typically have strict rules: many require guests to check in and out at certain times that can conflict with work schedules and they often don’t allow couples to stay together. Drug and alcohol use is also prohibited,and some people don’t qualify for the subsidies they need to stay in a shelter because of a prior jail time (for certain crimes), or other reasons.

“Shelter is one step away from jail,” said Dave, who lived in a tent city in Camden, N.J.

Another resident of the same camp, Mike, said the only work he has been able to find is part-time road maintenance, which takes place at night. Because the shelters in the area would have required him to be inside by a certain time, like 10 p.m., staying there wasn’t an option. Setting up his own tent in the woods gave him the freedom to come and go as he pleased.   Some residents also view tent cities as safer than shelters because they say there’s more of a sense of community.

As these encampments continue to spread, public officials are responding in different ways.

The NLCHP found that of the more than 100 camps, only eight were actually considered legal. Ten tent cities weren’t officially recognized, but the city or county wasn’t doing anything to get rid of them. The vast majority of encampments, however, have been shut down and occupants have been evicted.

One of the most recent evictions took place in Camden, N.J., this week, when the state, county and city joined forces to shut down multiple tent cities and kick out the residents. While the county worked with the occupants to find them somewhere to go, Camden’s shelters were already full and many people ended up on the streets.

Instead of evicting people from tent cities, the NLCHP says the root of the issue — unaffordable housing — needs to be addressed.

“Encampments and tent cities have emerged as a means of self-help for homeless individuals to survive and find shelter, safety and a sense of community,” the report states. “Ultimately, the solution to the proliferation of encampments across the United States is the provision of affordable housing.”

Plane Crash in Laos Kills Top Government Officials: Vietnam

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