Thursday, March 19, 2009

Tariq Ramadan investigated for anti-gay and anti women remarks

Politics: Well this will put a crimp in the whole get Ramadan an American visa campaign.

Rotterdam city council is launching an investigation of alleged anti-gay and anti-woman statements by Tariq Ramadan. This Islamic scientist advises the city on integration policy.

Gay magazine Gay Krant yesterday published a translation of sound recordings of statements Ramadan is said to have made in a speech. He called homosexuality "a disturbance, a faulty functioning and an imbalance" and said on women that they must attract no attention by their appearance. "On the street, thus says the law, women must keep their eyes fixed on the pavement," the magazine quotes him as saying.

Rotterdam says it wants access to the recordings as quickly as possible. This will allow the municipality itself to assess the statements of Ramadan, according to a spokeswoman of Participation Alderman Rik Grashoff.

"These statements raise questions about statements Ramadan has made as advisor to Rotterdam municipality and as guest professor at the Erasmus University Rotterdam," according to the Gay Krant. Ramadan, "who charges an hourly fee of 290 euros," was recently re-appointed for two years as advisor to Grashof, according to the magazine.

Europenews points out.

"....The core of Tariq Ramadan's argument is that there's just one Islam whose principles apply without change for all societies and in all times. This radical statement is at odds with the way in which he presents himself openly in the West - recently in the TV program Wintergasten of van Joris Luyendijk.

Ramadan called then for respect for people who think or act differently. He refused to admit that he also has another point of view. Gay Krant shows on the basis of verbal statements by Ramadan that that his messages to Western admirers is completely different than to Muslims.

In cassettes taped for Muslim Tariq Ramadan frankly says that 'homosexual behavior is a sign of a disease, a disorder and imbalance'. Many of his statements are noted down in the book 'Frère Tariq' by Caroline Fourest. Ramadan puts down Fourest as a feminist lesbian who shouldn't be taken seriously. All his statements are however found on tapes meant for the professor's Islamic supporters.

Janet Napolitano prefers 'Man-Caused Disaster'

Terrorism: I feel safer already.

SPIEGEL: Madame Secretary, in your first testimony to the US Congress as Homeland Security Secretary you never mentioned the word "terrorism." Does Islamist terrorism suddenly no longer pose a threat to your country?

NAPOLITANO: Of course it does. I presume there is always a threat from terrorism. In my speech, although I did not use the word "terrorism," I referred to "man-caused" disasters. That is perhaps only a nuance, but it demonstrates that we want to move away from the politics of fear toward a policy of being prepared for all risks that can occur.

Obama did give PM Brown wrong region DVDs.

Politics: The embarrassment continues.

Alas, when the PM settled down to begin watching them the other night, he found there was a problem.

The films only worked in DVD players made in North America and the words "wrong region" came up on his screen. Although he mournfully had to put the popcorn away, he is unlikely to jeopardise the special relationship – or "special partnership", as we are now supposed to call it – by registering a complaint.

A Downing Street spokesman said he was "confident" that any gift Obama gave Brown would have been "well thought through," but referred me to the White House for assistance on the "technical aspects".

A White House spokesman sniggered when I put the story to him and he was still looking into the matter when my deadline came last night.

By the way, when Obama's unlikely gift was disclosed, a reader emailed me to ask if Clueless was among the films. Funnily enough, it was not.

Brown, on the other hand, presented a rather more thoughtful gift to the American President in the form of a penholder carved from the timbers of an anti-slavery ship. The sister ship, in fact, of the one that was broken up and turned into the desk in the Oval Office.

Fed making it rain in the nation with $1 trillion.

Nation: What harm could just printing money to artificially pump up the economy and leave future gens with a massive debt do?

The Federal Reserve sharply stepped up its efforts to bolster the economy on Wednesday, announcing that it would pump an extra $1 trillion into the financial system by purchasing Treasury bonds and mortgage securities.

Having already reduced the key interest rate it controls nearly to zero, the central bank has increasingly turned to alternatives like buying securities as a way of getting more dollars into the economy, a tactic that amounts to creating vast new sums of money out of thin air. But the moves on Wednesday were its biggest yet, almost doubling all of the Fed’s measures in the last year.

The action makes the Fed a buyer of long-term government bonds rather than the short-term debt that it typically buys and sells to help control the money supply.

The idea was to encourage more economic activity by lowering interest rates, including those on home loans, and to help the financial system as it struggles under the crushing weight of bad loans and poor investments.

Investors responded with surprise and enthusiasm. The Dow Jones industrial average, which had been down about 50 points just before the announcement, jumped immediately and ended the day up almost 91 points at 7,486.58. Yields on long-term Treasury bonds dropped markedly, and analysts predicted that interest rates on fixed-rate mortgages would soon drop below 5 percent.

But there were also clear indications that the Fed was taking risks that could dilute the value of the dollar and set the stage for future inflation. Gold prices rose $26.60 an ounce, hitting $942, a sign of declining confidence in the dollar. The dollar, which had been losing value in recent weeks to the euro and the yen, dropped sharply again on Wednesday.

'Defenders' help homeowners fight eviction

Nation: Another homeowner where personal responsibility is a strange concept.

"...Like millions of Americans, Thompson got caught up in the subprime fiasco, taking a loan that started in 2003 with a low interest rate before adjusting two years later to a rate far above what she could afford. Now, the bank owns the home, and eviction papers are on their way.

Yet rather than move, Thompson is gearing up for battle. She has enlisted the help of a team of people calling themselves "home defenders." More than 1,000 defenders have signed up online.

They are fellow homeowners, concerned citizens and activists who are trained in civil disobedience. They are ready to confront anyone who shows up to evict Thompson, even if it means being arrested.

"Go to jail? Hell, yes," said Thompson, a nurse's aide who works two jobs. "I put my whole life in this house, and I don't think I should walk away from it. It's not my fault."

She says the terms of her subprime loan were not fully explained. She did not realize, she says, that her interest rate would go up. "

Don't sign a damn contract if you don't understand what you are signing. But she feels she has some moral right to her home. Yoiu screwed up, not the lender.

Obama Drops Plan to Bill Veterans' Private Insurers

Politics: Yeah, that was stupid from the getgo.

President Obama yesterday abandoned a proposal to bill veterans' private insurance companies for the treatment at VA hospitals of combat-related injuries amid an outcry over the measure from veterans' service organizations and members of Congress.

The proposal would have authorized the Department of Veterans Affairs to charge private companies for treating injuries and other medical conditions, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, that are related to military service. The measure was intended to save VA about $530 million a year, but the administration's pursuit of third-party billing sparked resistance from leaders of veterans groups, who met this week with Obama.

Pelosi tries to spin for Obama but if he had respect for the military, this would have never come up

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Wash Post runs defense of Obama against AIG bonuses.

Politics: Washington Post really throws itself in front of Obama and friends to shield them from being responsible in anyway about AIG's bonuses.

As pressure mounted on AIG employees to return the bonuses, new details emerged yesterday about what the Fed, the Treasury Department and the White House knew regarding the payments and when. AIG executives said the Fed was informed by the company at least three months ago that by March 15 it would pay $165 million to employees working at its most troubled division. The Treasury and White House said they learned of the payments from Fed officials only days before they were due.

Close coordination between the Fed and the administration is now more important than ever as they near the launch of two signature programs to rescue the financial system, which together could reach $2 trillion, aimed at reviving consumer lending and purchasing soured assets and loans from ailing banks.

Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner, a central figure in the decision to bail out AIG last fall as President of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, said in an interview yesterday that he had not been aware of the size of the bonuses and the timing of the payments.

"I was stunned when I learned how bad this was on Tuesday [March 10]," Geithner said in an interview. "I shouldn't have been in that position, but it's my responsibility and I accept that."

Two days later, Geithner told the White House. The last-minute disclosure irked some of the president's senior advisers, but they refuse to point fingers now, saying the timing had little impact on the outcome or the president's public statements this week.

"Would I have liked an earlier warning system on this? Yeah," said David Axelrod, a senior White House adviser. "Would it have markedly changed things? Probably not. The legal constraints are the legal constraints."

One source familiar with the discussions said the company had provided details about the bonuses to senior Treasury officials at least a month ago. A Treasury spokesman said last night that was not true.

Democrats and Republicans in Congress are increasingly questioning how Geithner could not have known about the bonuses, given his past role in AIG's bailout, which has totaled more than $170 billion so far.

"I'm sick and tired of hearing the administration and the Secretary of the Treasury say, 'I just found out about it,' " Rep. Paul E. Kanjorski (D-Pa.) said yesterday.

Time is standing by its story that Tim Geithner knew at an earlier date and lets be honest how do you not know about the bonus culture and catch it in time? Geither comes from Wall Street, he understands it. None of this should have been a surprise.

The Obama/Geithner AIG mess.

Politics: Flipping stupidity mixed in with hubris. I find it hard to believe that they did not know till a couple of weeks ago because the outrage of bonuses being paid was going on in November/December of last year. Senator Dodd has to answer for the provision that dated when bonuses should be considered and the only one here that is in the clear legally is AIG themselves. They are only following contracts.

Sources in the Obama administration Tuesday said that despite previous media reports administration officials did not know until a couple weeks ago that the officials of the controversial AIG Financial Product Division were set to receive $165 million in bonuses on March 13.

It wasn't until Thursday, March 5, 2009, administration sources told ABC News, that officials of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York informed officials of the Treasury Department of the full extent of the $165 million in bonuses pending for the controversial Financial Products Subsidiary.

This was three days after the Obama administration had already announced a new commitment of an additional $30 billion for AIG.

As Greg Pollowitz pointed out.

Add up all the hours staffers spent discussing Rush Limbaugh in the last two weeks and compare that to the number of hours spent discussing AIG's bonuses and tell me what the answer is.

Update# Someone is lying.

Treasury and Fed officials said they knew that A.I.G. paid $55 million in bonuses in December.

But administration officials said that the Treasury secretary, Timothy F. Geithner, did not personally become aware until last week that an even bigger round of payments was due on March 15. Administration officials said Mr. Geithner learned of the deadline early last week, when the Federal Reserve Bank of New York alerted him that the bonus payments were coming due.

Mr. Geithner, according to Treasury officials, insisted that the bonus plan was “unacceptable” and called Mr. Liddy on Wednesday to demand changes.

A.I.G. executives said they would never have proceeded with the bonus payments before getting approval from the Treasury and the Federal Reserve.

“We would never make any important business decisions without discussing them with our government managers and owners,” said one executive, who did not want to be identified because of the sensitivity of the matter.

UN racism drafts drops Israel and defamation of religion references.

UN: Still a lot of garbage but at least they realized it had gotten so bad they had to officially drop the hate speech.

Muslim-backed references to Israel and the "defamation of religion" have been dropped from a draft declaration being prepared for next month's world racism meeting, United Nations officials said Tuesday.

The United States and the 27-nation European Union have threatened to boycott the April 20-25 meeting in Geneva unless Muslim countries back down from demands to limit free speech that criticizes Islam or other faiths. They also objected to passages that singled out Israel for its treatment of Palestinians.

The draft declaration now speaks only of concern about the "negative stereotyping of religions" while omitting direct references to Israel.

"We believe this shortened text represents a solid and meaningful basis for negotiations by member states toward a positive outcome for the conference," said Doune Porter, a spokeswoman for the U.N. human rights office in Geneva.

Western diplomats declined to comment immediately on the new draft, except to indicate that it appeared to go in the right direction.

Australia will fine you for linking to sites on its blacklist.

Australia: Chairman Rudd's love for all things Chinese takes another big leap.

The Australian communications regulator says it will fine people who hyperlink to sites on its blacklist, which has been further expanded to include several pages on the anonymous whistleblower site Wikileaks.

Wikileaks was added to the blacklist for publishing a leaked document containing Denmark's list of banned websites.

The move by the Australian Communications and Media Authority comes after it threatened the host of online broadband discussion forum Whirlpool last week with a $11,000-a-day fine over a link published in its forum to another page blacklisted by ACMA - an anti-abortion website.

ACMA's blacklist does not have a significant impact on web browsing by Australians today but sites contained on it will be blocked for everyone if the Federal Government implements its mandatory internet filtering censorship scheme.

But even without the mandatory censorship scheme, as is evident in the Whirlpool case, ACMA can force sites hosted in Australia to remove "prohibited" pages and even links to prohibited pages.

Online civil liberties campaigners have seized on the move by ACMA as evidence of how casually the regulator adds to its list of blacklisted sites. It also confirmed fears that the scope of the Government's censorship plan could easily be expanded to encompass sites that are not illegal.

"The first rule of censorship is that you cannot talk about censorship," Wikileaks said on its website in response to the ACMA ban.

JournoList nothing big unless...

Media: You ponder MSM journalists who are supposed to be reporting the news are working with others to figure out how to present the news. I seriously doubt anyone in the groups will go after Obama. That would be a permaban.

Teens capture images of space with £56 camera and balloon

Science: I don't think the baking soda Volcano will top this project this year.

Proving that you don't need Google's billions or the BBC weather centre's resources, the four Spanish students managed to send a camera-operated weather balloon into the stratosphere.

Taking atmospheric readings and photographs 20 miles above the ground, the Meteotek team of IES La Bisbal school in Catalonia completed their incredible experiment at the end of February this year.

Building the electronic sensor components from scratch, Gerard Marull Paretas, Sergi Saballs Vila, Marta­ Gasull Morcillo and Jaume Puigmiquel Casamort managed to send their heavy duty £43 latex balloon to the edge of space and take readings of its ascent.

Created by the four students under the guidance of teacher Jordi Fanals Oriol, the budding scientists, all aged 18-19, followed the progress of their balloon using high tech sensors communicating with Google Earth.

Team leader Gerard Marull, 18, said: "We were overwhelmed at our results, especially the photographs, to send our handmade craft to the edge of space is incredible."

FDIC slams bank for being too responsible.

Nation: Confirmed! It doesn't pay to be responsible.

The FDIC’s negative review of East Bridgewater Savings Bank’s loan volume is an anomaly in today’s current banking scene as lenders reel from their role in offering too many cruddy mortgage products to borrowers with weak credit.

Still, the FDIC slapped East Bridgewater Savings with a rare “needs to improve” rating after evaluating the bank under the Community Reinvestment Act.

From late 2003 through mid-2008, East Bridgewater Savings averaged 28 cents in loans for every dollar in deposit. The average loan-to-deposit ratio among similar size savings banks is more than 90 percent, FDIC data show.

“There are no apparent financial or legal impediments that would limit the bank’s ability to help meet the credit needs of its assessment area,” the FDIC said in its CRA evaluation.

FDIC examiners also faulted East Bridgewater for not advertising and marketing its loan products enough. The bank, which does not have a Web site, offers fixed-rate mortgages.

But Petrucelli and his bank occupy the other end of the spectrum in an industry that lost $26.2 billion in the fourth quarter. Even the FDIC’s own deposit insurance fund is in bad need of a boost after paying for an upswing in bank failures.

And then there’s East Bridgewater Savings.

Bad or delinquent loans?




Money set aside in 2008 for anticipated loan losses?


“We’re paranoid about credit quality,” Petrucelli said. The 62-year-old chief executive has run the bank since 1992.

The negative CRA rating, he said, caught him by surprise. The bank received “satisfactory” CRA ratings from the FDIC in 2003 and from the Massachusetts Division of Banks in early 2006.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Obama meeting with Hispanic caucus over amnesty.

Immigration: Its on. Obama is gearing up to see how he can push thru an amnesty for illegal immigrants.

"....Hispanic Democrats will have their first West Wing meeting with President Obama on Wednesday morning to discuss immigration reform, according to Democratic sources.

The meeting is the first face-to-face sit-down between Obama and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) since the president was sworn-in. Some in the CHC have recently expressed frustration that Obama has not talked more about immigration in his first two months in office.

Immigration reform is front-and-center on the group’s agenda.

CHC is eager to hear the president’s ideas and proposals for tackling immigration reform, not only as it relates to a comprehensive reform bill that could provide a pathway to citizenship for millions of undocumented workers but also as it relates to rolling back Bush administration policies of raiding workplaces and detaining and deporting thousands of illegal workers.

CHC members came away from a recent meeting in the Capitol with Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano — a day after her Senate confirmation hearing — very encouraged that the workplace raids policy would be fully reviewed, and possibly altered.

Family gets welfare for being too fat to work.

UK: I love the UK welfare system, so many people gaming it in such amusing ways.

They have a combined weight of 83 stone and claim £22,000 in taxpayer-funded benefits on the basis they are ‘too fat to work’.

Yet, incredibly, X Factor failure Emma Chawner's family from Blackburn are demanding more money - because they still can’t afford their calorie-laden lifestyle.

Asked why they don’t simply go on a diet, the jobless Chawner family who are so obese their neighbours call them ‘the telly tubbies’ insist: ‘We don’t have the time.’

Both Philip Chawner, 53, and his 57-year-old wife Audrey weigh 24st. Their youngest daughter, Emma, is 5ft 3in and weighs 17st, while her older sister Samantha, 21, is 5ft 9in and weighs 18st.

They haven’t worked in 11 years, claiming their weight is due to a hereditary condition.
Instead, the family spend their days in front of a television borrowed from a friend.

....Yet of their £22,508 a year in tax-free benefits - equivalent to a £30,000 salary - Mr Chawner said: ‘What we get barely covers the bills and puts food on the table. It’s not our fault we can’t work. We deserve more.’

The family claim to spend £50 a week on food, including chocolate, chips and pies, and consume 3,000 calories each a day. The recommended maximum intake is 2,000 for women and 2,500 for men.

Libor’s scale Shows Credit Markets at Risk of Seizure

Business: Uh oh.

March 11 (Bloomberg) -- The cost of borrowing in dollars is rising as the global recession deepens and central bank efforts to prop up the financial system fail to prevent a growing number of banks from requiring government bailouts.

The London interbank offered rate, or Libor, that banks say they charge each other for three-month loans stayed at 1.33 percent today, near the highest level since Jan. 8 and up from this year’s low of 1.08 percent on Jan. 14, the British Bankers’ Association said. The Libor-OIS spread, a gauge of bank reluctance to lend, widened to the most since Jan. 9.

Short-term borrowing costs are increasing as banks hoard cash and governments struggle to thaw credit markets after finance companies reported almost $1.2 trillion of writedowns and losses since the start of 2007. Banco Popolare SC yesterday became Italy’s first lender to seek state aid. Lloyds Banking Group Plc, the U.K.’s largest mortgage provider, ceded control to the government March 7. U.S. regulators seized 17 failing banks so far this year.

“The market is beginning to think that the solution is either not politically possible, or we can’t afford it, or maybe there isn’t a solution,” said Bob Baur, chief global economist at Des Moines, Iowa-based Principal Global Investors, which manages $198 billion of assets. Libor’s rise “is just another indication of that concern,” he said.

Panic! Wash Post says AIG Depletes Obama's Political Capital

Nation: So far I doubt it except to keep those doubts growing about Obama's competence. The problem is Obama big bad bluster from Monday about getting back those bonuses. Considering he has very little legal recourse people are going to believe he is just full of crap. Then watch his political capital dry up.

President Obama's apparent inability to block executive bonuses at insurance giant AIG has dealt a sharp blow to his young administration and is threatening to derail both public and congressional support for his ambitious political agenda.

Politicians in both parties flocked to express outrage over $165 million in bonuses paid out to executives at the company, demanding answers from the president and swamping yesterday's rollout of his efforts to spark lending to small businesses.

The populist anger at the executives who ran their firms into the ground is increasingly blowing back on Obama, whom aides yesterday described as having little recourse in the face of legal contracts that guaranteed those bonuses.

Sharpe tells Jay Cutler get over yourself crybaby.

Sports: Any sort of sympathy I had for the guy has long gone since he has hit hissy fit mode. No player is untouchable and Sharpe is right, get over yourself and prove the decision to try and trade you was wrong.

The Broncos began offseason workouts Monday under new coach Josh McDaniels, the former offensive coordinator of the New England Patriots. Cutler was a no-show for the voluntary program.

Cutler has been upset since learning Denver had discussions about a potential three-team trade that could have sent him to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and brought quarterback Matt Cassel from New England to Denver. Instead, New England traded Cassel to the Kansas City Chiefs.

The Broncos confirmed Cutler has asked to be traded.

"Time can eventually heal this," Sharpe says.

"Jay's going to have to get over it. … If Jay thought he was the savior in Denver, that he was beyond getting traded, it was a harsh reality check for him. The thing that makes great players great is they can get over disappointment faster than a normal guy."

Trial lawyers plan health care fight

Politics: If you do want Universal Health Care, then enough with the lawsuits which just add cost. Lawyers are not going for it.
Doctors and trial lawyers, who’ve sparred for years over medical malpractice suits, have been notably silent as President Barack Obama goes ahead with his plan to overhaul health care.

Now it looks like the politically volatile issue won’t remain quiet for long.

Trial lawyers are preparing for a fight, and plan to paper Capitol Hill in the coming weeks with a 29-page research document, saying the lawsuits aren’t to blame for rising health care costs. The American Medical Association says curbing the lawsuits is an absolute must for them in any health bill.

And if the two groups decide to fight it out, it could complicate Obama's plan to pass a bill this year. Medical malpractice reform is a wedge issue in politics, and the emergence of it in an already-delicate debate over health care could touch a nerve that’s been raw for years.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Forget the AIG bonuses, get the money back from the Europeans.

Politics: It was amusing to see Obama channel his inner Comic Book Guy over the bonuses given out by AIG. Too bad I don't think he has the balls to get back the $93 billion given out to Euro Banks.

Goldman Sachs Group Inc and a parade of European banks were the major beneficiaries of $93 billion in payments from AIG -- more than half of the U.S. taxpayer money spent to rescue the massive insurer.

The revelation on Sunday by American International Group Inc was another potential public relations nightmare, coming on the same weekend that the Obama administration expressed outrage over AIG's plan to pay massive bonuses to the people in the very division that destroyed the company by issuing billions of dollars in derivatives insuring risky assets.

As for the bonuses as far as the law is concerned its all legal. Most went overseas and they probably don't give a damn what the taxpayer feels at this point.

With few legal options available, the White House may be forced to add millions of dollars in bonus payments to the outstanding debt owed by American International Group.

However, sources tell CNBC, that there are few legal options available to the White House.

A U.S. Treasury official said that the Treasury will modify a planned $30 billion capital infusion for AIG to try to recoup hundreds of millions of dollars in controversial bonuses paid by the insurer.

The official, who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity, said the Treasury was considering several repayment arrangements aimed at giving the money back to taxpayers.

Many AIG Bonus Recipients Are Overseas

AIG's bonus payments ranged from $1,000 to $6.5 million, CNBC has learned. Only seven employees will receive a bonus of more than $3 million.

Although some suspect pressure may be growing for those employees who received bonuses to return them on their own free will, many of the employees who received bonuses are not American and may not care that American taxpayers are outraged over the incident.

Honestly $165 million added back on to the tens of billions already given out is a drop in the bucket. That is not punishment this is Obama trying to save face. There should have been restrictions in place long before the aid was given out and it didn't happen.

Obama plans offloading veterans to private insurance.

Politics: This plan was floated last week and got up the ire of almost everyone but the head of the American Legion seems to believe that Obama still is going ahead with this godawful plan.

The leader of the nation's largest veterans organization says he is "deeply disappointed and concerned" after a meeting with President Obama today to discuss a proposal to force private insurance companies to pay for the treatment of military veterans who have suffered service-connected disabilities and injuries. The Obama administration recently revealed a plan to require private insurance carriers to reimburse the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) in such cases.

"It became apparent during our discussion today that the President intends to move forward with this unreasonable plan," said Commander David K. Rehbein of The American Legion. "He says he is looking to generate $540-million by this method, but refused to hear arguments about the moral and government-avowed obligations that would be compromised by it."

The Commander, clearly angered as he emerged from the session said, "This reimbursement plan would be inconsistent with the mandate ' to care for him who shall have borne the battle' given that the United States government sent members of the armed forces into harm's way, and not private insurance companies. I say again that The American Legion does not and will not support any plan that seeks to bill a veteran for treatment of a service connected disability at the very agency that was created to treat the unique need of America's veterans!"

Captain Ed points out the obvious on how much of a slap in the face this is to veterans.

The Obama administration explains that it wants private insurers who sell coverage to vets to pay their fair share, but there are two things wrong with that argument. First, the United States has a moral obligation to provide treatment for those wounded in the service of their country. That’s a commitment we make to the people who enlist in military, and should not get outsourced.

Second, vets with service-related injuries and illnesses can only get third-party insurance because insurers know the US will cover all service-related medical treatment through the VA. If the government reneges on that commitment, it will put insurers on the hook for veterans already enrolled — but it will make it a lot harder for the next set of veterans to get insured. It will also raise costs to the rest of the insured by those companies, when the burden should fall on all Americans equally.

If the country needs more revenue streams, it should find some other way to find them than the backs of our wounded veterans. They’ve sacrificed enough. Shame on the Obama administration for attempting to weasel out of our commitment.

I always felt Obama has little respect for the military and the fact this plan is still in play makes that feeling stronger. This is the one group that all Americans should pay to be taken care of because of their sacrifices they have given to this country. Only someone who doesn't understand the military and what is means to this country would be stupid enough to think something like this would be acceptable on any level.

MacGyver to be be made into movie.

Entertainment: As movie studios continue to just destroy fine childhood/young adult memories.

It will take more than twine, bubble gum and a pencil to do it, but the science-oriented adventure series "MacGyver" is being developed as a feature film for New Line.

"MacGyver" ran from 1985 to 1992 on ABC. Richard Dean Anderson, later of "Stargate: Atlantis" and "SG-1" fame, starred as an incredibly resourceful secret agent for the Phoenix Foundation who frequently would escape from dangerous situations with ingenious and lightning-quick engineering trickery.

Two telefilms starring Anderson aired in the years after the show's cancellation. The character eventually achieved enough cultural recognition to become a reference for anyone attempting to jury-rig a solution out of household items. "Saturday Night Live" took the concept to the next level with its "MacGruber" spoofs starring Will Forte.

Raffaella De Laurentiis, daughter of veteran producer Dino De Laurentiis, is producing the movie through her Raffaella Prods. along with Martha De Laurentiis and series creator Lee Zlotoff. Dino De Laurentiis is executive producing.

No writer has been hired. The studio hopes to find a script that acknowledges the concept's pop-culture profile yet still makes for a serious and fun adventure movie.

Sci fi rebranding as SyFy....the hell?

Entertainment: Fine, this change seems to have been done for purely business reasons considering the channel is making money. But the way the name is spelled SyFy is ridiculously cheesy.
Plans call for Sci Fi and its companion Web site ( to morph into the oddly spelled Syfy — pronounced the same as “Sci Fi” — on July 7. The new name will be accompanied by the slogan “Imagine Greater,” which replaces a logo featuring a stylized version of Saturn.

A channel called Syfy will, presumably, not be confused with SyFi Global, an information technology company; S.Y.F.I., the Summer Youth Forestry Institute; or Syfo seltzer, sold by Universal Beverages.

The tweaking of the Sci Fi name, introduced in 1992, is part of a rebranding campaign that seeks to distinguish the channel and its programming from cable competitors — 75 of which are also measured by the Nielsen ratings service.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Bus Shelters in Amsterdam Point Out Fat People

EU: Now that is just rude. In America the stops would be vandalized within hours from embarrassed people.

One of the latest and probably oddest devices of this type can be seen in the capital of Netherlands, Amsterdam. This is just as innovative as weird. To be more precise, some bus shelters in Amsterdam have been fitted with weight meters that show people waiting for the public transportation what their weight is and whether they should start losing some extra flab.

The program took off at the initiative of the Netherlands-based health club operator Fitness First. How does it work? Well, the principle is very simple. While the person sits on the near bench, the machine tells the person's actual weight. On the back of the bench, there is a chart that shows if the person weighs more than they should. It's as simple as that.

So, if you’re planning on taking a trip to Amsterdam, be careful on what bench you sit when waiting for the bus. That is if you have any weight-related issues.

Outrage over bonuses and Euro banks payments.

Politics: People warned about giving out money willy nilly and see what happens? Now if they are legal contracts that people get bonuses there is not a lot anyone can do unless AIG executives knew the company was going under and made these contracts at the time.

As for taking billions and paying it out to Euro banks, that was part of the story that saving AIG saved Europe's financial system which once again Euros America comes to the rescue.

A large portion of the taxpayer money spent to rescue insurer AIG was passed on to Goldman Sachs and several European banks, who were among the major beneficiaries of more than $90 billion in payments in the first three-and-a-half months of the government bailout, AIG disclosed on Sunday.

The revelation was another public relations nightmare, coming on the same weekend that the Obama administration expressed outrage over American International Group Inc's plan to pay massive bonuses to the people in the very division that destroyed the company by issuing billions of dollars in derivatives insuring risky assets.

AIG, an embattled insurance giant that has received federal bailouts totaling $173 billion and is now paying $165 million in employee bonuses, is at the heart of a global financial crisis that President Barack Obama is trying to address with plans for trillions of dollars in spending.

As part of those efforts, Obama will announce steps on Monday to make it easier for small business owners to borrow money, officials said.

But the revelations that billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars were funneled through AIG to Goldman Sachs -- one of Wall Street's most politically connected firms -- and to European banks including Deutsche Bank, France's Societe Generale and the UK's Barclays was likely to stoke further outrage at the entire U.S. bank bailout.


AIG's Liddy said in a letter to Geithner the giant insurer was legally obligated to make 2008 employee retention payments but had agreed to revamp its system for future bonuses after the Obama administration objected.

"There are a lot of terrible things that have happened in the last 18 months, but what's happened at AIG is the most outrageous," Summers said.

Representative Barney Frank, the Democratic chairman of the powerful House of Representatives Financial Services Committee, said the government must see if the bonuses can be recovered, adding that the timing of AIG's commitment was important.

"We can't just violate law, legal obligations," Frank told Fox. "I understand that. But I do want to find out at what point these illegal obligations were incurred."

Mitch McConnell, the Republican minority leader in the Senate, called the AIG situation an "outrage" and said the nature of the contracts needed to be checked.

"Did they enter into these contracts knowing full well that, as a practical matter, the taxpayers of the United States were going to be reimbursing their employees? Particularly employees who got them into this mess in the first place?" McConnell said on ABC's "This Week."

More from CNN.

Obama finally gets around to Small businesses.

Politics: If there is one group I could support giving a bailout too in terms of low interest loans, grants and tax breaks are small business owners. They should have been first on the list not loser homeowners.

Amid misgivings over his spending blueprint, President Barack Obama has decided to provide billions of dollars in federal lending aid aimed at struggling small business owners.

The broad package of measures to be announced Monday includes portions of the $730 million from the stimulus plan that will be used to immediately reduce small-business lending fees and increase the government guarantee on some Small Business Administration loans to 90 percent. The government also will take aggressive steps to boost bank liquidity with more than $10 billion aimed at unfreezing the secondary credit market, according to officials briefed on the plan who demanded anonymity to avoid pre-empting the president’s announcement.

In the coming weeks, the SBA will unveil additional initiatives as part of the stimulus plan to help a small-business community that is seen as critical to staving off job losses and promoting economic growth, officials said.

Too bad Obama is going to tax the hell out of them to fund his universal health care and welfare programs.

Germans looking for an American bailout for Opel.

Business: Hell No.

Germany's economy minister is on his way to the United States for talks aimed at securing the future of General Motors Corp.'s German-based Opel unit.

Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg left Sunday for New York, where he will meet with banking leaders.

He then heads to Washington for talks with Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and GM Chief Executive Rick Wagoner on Opel.

German leaders are worried that the crisis for American carmakers could bring down Adam Opel GmbH, GM's beleaguered subsidiary.

Opel says it needs euro3.3 billion (US$4.2 billion) to get through the economic crisis. It has sought help from the German government, but officials in Berlin insist that U.S. parent GM first come forth with a proposal for the future.

South Florida high schools grad rates really suck.

Edumacation: We are no Washington DC or Detroit, but if you are moving to South Florida, we have really really nice weather.

Some of you believe that until a teen-ager is 18, the parent is in charge. Well you're wrong. Florida schools allow kids to make one of the most important decisions in life -- the decision to be a high school dropout -- at age 16.

And apparently Broward's dropout rate is not necessarily something to brag about when you're trying to sell your house to someone from outside the area. The rate of graduations is 69.7 percent, compared to the state's 75.4 percent.

Here's the latest dropout data, including school by school dropout rates. Download file

The school board did what school boards do when faced with something this terrible: They convened a task force. Someone from that task force spoke at last month's Broward County's High School Council. According to the draft minutes:

The risk factors or predictors of dropping out are well known and include being over-age, behavior problems, poor attendance, low performance on standardized tests and grade retention. Minority groups are overrepresented in the dropout statistics.

The Council is talking about dropouts again this month. Their meeting topic is "Entering High School & Exiting With a Diploma.'' That's depressing. I have much higher hopes for my own son, who enters high school this fall. Exiting with a diploma I assumed was a no-brainer. Guess I was wrong.

Bad news for Broward is we have a lot of brain dead mouth breather teens who don't have an education roaming around and if you move down here a good chance your kid will end up like them.

Good news is we ain't worse than Miami-Dade county. Now that would have been a pride taker.

MCB's Inayat Bunglawala arrested for stabbing a man.

UK: If this happened in December why are we only finding about it now and why would the Guardian allow him to keep writing pieces for them with this sort of cloud over his head?

A Muslim who advised the Government following the July 7 London bombings has been arrested after an alleged stabbing.

Inayat Bunglawala, 39, was held on suspicion of attacking another man at his £300,000 home.

Mr Bunglawala, who also briefed former Security Minister Tony McNulty on the threat posed by Islamic radicals in the UK, was arrested two weeks before Christmas last year.

The identity of the alleged victim is unknown and it is not clear what circumstances led to the alleged attack in the early hours of December 13 last year.

Mr Bunglawala has been released on bail while the Crown Prosecution Service considers bringing charges.

Mr Bunglawala is one of the most prominent members of the Muslim Council of Britain, an organisation which advises the Government on extremism and counter-terrorism.

After the July 7 London bombings in 2005, he was one of seven Muslims appointed to a Home Office taskforce tackling radicalisation in the UK.
Last week, Mr Bunglawala was featured on the BBC and in many newspapers as the moderate ‘voice’ of British Islam after the Luton anti-war demonstrations.

Critics claim his arrest will once again focus attention on the MCB.

In his final years as Prime Minister, Tony Blair came to distrust the organisation amid claims it was linked to Islamic extremism.

But the MCB has enjoyed a renaissance under Gordon Brown and briefed Counter-Terrorism Minister Bill Rammell on community tensions last week. MCB representatives also advised Foreign Secretary David Miliband during last year’s Israel-Gaza War.

Conservative MP Patrick Mercer, who worked as a security adviser to Mr Brown, said of the alleged incident: ‘This calls into question the Government’s vetting of its Islamic advisers.’