Archive for the ‘American’ Category

Fed reports record fall in household net worth

March 12, 2009

The net worth of American households fell by the largest amount in more than a half-century of record keeping during the fourth quarter of last year.

The Federal Reserve said Thursday that household net worth dropped by a record 9 percent from the level in the third quarter.

By MARTIN CRUTSINGER, AP Economics Writer

The decline was the sixth straight quarterly drop in net worth and underscored the battering that U.S. families are undergoing in the midst of a steep recession with unemployment surging and the value of their homes and investments plunging.

Net worth represents total assets such as homes and checking accounts minus liabilities like mortgages and credit card debt.

Family net worth had hit an all-time high of $64.36 trillion in the April-June quarter of 2007 but has fallen in every quarter since that time.

The record 9 percent drop in the fourth quarter pushed total net worth down to $51.48 trillion, a level that is 20 percent below the third quarter 2007 peak.

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/200903
12/ap_on_bi_go_ec_fi/consumer_finances

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Terrorist Released from Gitmo is Killing British, American Troops

March 11, 2009

The Taleban commander responsible for increasingly sophisticated explosives attacks on British soldiers in Afghanistan is a former detainee from Guantanamo Bay, British officials and Taleban sources have told The Times.

Abdul Ghulam Rasoul was held in Guantanamo for six years before his release, in December 2007, by the unanimous decision of a review board that determined he was no longer a threat.

British officials told The Times that Rasoul is the man that has since resurfaced as Mullah Abdullah Zakir, the Taleban’s new operations chief in southern Afghanistan and the architect of a new offensive against British and American troops.

The revelation of Rasoul’s return to the battlefield underscores the challenges faced by the Obama administration in carrying out its vow to close Guantanamo, and raises fresh questions about the quality of American intelligence used there.Pentagon records of Rasoul’s time in Guantanamo show he told investigators he had never been a commander in the Taleban, one of the factors that recommended him for release.

Read the rest:
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/ne
ws/world/us_and_americas/article5
888427.ece

Related:

 Obama Policy On Gitmo, Taliban, Afghanistan, Intel: As Stupid as It Gets

http://libertyjustincase.com/
2009/03/11/prisoner-8/

Era of Obama, American Weakness Emboldens Russia, China, Iran, North Korea, Terrorists

March 9, 2009

Like it or not, the era of President Barack Obama and American weakness, real or perceived, has already emboldened many nations with long-term anti-American strategic goals: namely, Russia, China, Iran and North Korea.

Many in the world have already concluded that Brack Obama is soft, for his overtures so far toward the Taliban, Russia, Iran and others.

Related:
Various Views On Obama Foreign Policy: “Just Like Bush” Or Radical Change?

President Obama’s move to close the terrorist prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba (Gitmo) was cause for applause in human rights circles and also with terrorists.

On Afghanistan, Peter Begen of the New America Foundation said “It is a longstanding cliché that there is no military solution in Afghanistan, only a political one.”  On President Obama’s idea to hold talks with the Taliban he said, “Doing deals with the Taliban today could further destabilize Afghanistan. ”

And economically, there is no dobt that the U.S. is weakened.

Just today, North Korea threatened war with the United States — a war that would certainly involve Japan and South Korea.  North Korea could not be making such threats and could not even think about testing a long range strategic missile just now unless China consented to this brazen move or at least looked the other way.  China supplies North Korea with almost all of its food, oil, luxury goods and currency.  Without China, North Korea would be impotent and meaningless.

Yet China is acceding to North Korea’s bluster and browbeating of the United States just as China itself is harassing a U.S. Naval vessel in international waters — a violation of international law.

This US Navy file photo shows the military Sealift Command ocean ... 
This US Navy file photo shows the military Sealift Command ocean surveillance ship USNS Impeccable (T-AGOS-23). Five Chinese vessels maneuvered dangerously close to a US Navy ship in the South China Sea on Sunday, March 8, 2009, approaching within 25 feet of the unarmed surveillance ship, the Pentagon said.(AFP/NVNS)

China doesn’t care much for international law and international waters: just ask Japan and Vietnam.  Both those nations have long struggles with China encroaching upon the coasts of Japan and Vietnam as the Chinese super power searches for more oil beneath the sea floor.

China has become the most voracious user of oil and other mineral resources on the planet as it strives to keep its factories busy producing goods for sale overseas.  China is in Afghanistan, protected from the Taliban by U.S. troops, while Chinese companies exploit Afghan copper.  And China just signed a $50 billion (U.S. dollars, cast) agreement to get oil from Russia for ten years.

Last year China was no help when the U.S. wanted access to Myanmar to deliver humanitarian relief supplies to those stricken by the cyclone.  After the crisis passed, China signed a big oil deal with Myanmar.

China wants the U.S. out of its sphere of influence from North Asia to Somalia, and is planning an ocean-going navy to eventualy make that goal a military reality.

China recently opened the largest sea port in the world, in Gwadar, Pakistan — directly astride the sea lanes used to bring out out of the Persian Gulf to Japan, the U.S. and others.

Meanwhile, the U.S. continues to go into debt — to China.

China allows North Korea to antagonize the United States because that is in China’s long term strategic interest — and a weakening U.S. plays into China’s strategy perfectly.

Russia also wants the U.S. out of its area of influencce.  Russia recently paid off Kyrgyzstan, which was helping the American effort in Afghanistan with an air base. Just after Russia gave  Kyrgyzstan its big aid deal, that nation announced the closure of the Manas air base supporting the U.S.

File:ManasAirbase KC135.jpg
A KC-135 Stratotanker sits on the flightline at Manas Air Base, Kyrgyzstan, Thursday, Feb. 23, 2006. Ground crews will have to de-ice the tanker before it can take off on a refueling mission. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Paul Clifford)

Generous Russian loans to Kyrgyzstan totaling US$2 billion and a non-repayable US$150 million grant, were announced the day before Kyrgyzstan said Manas would be closed and the U.S. Air Force evicted.

The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation had been insisting on the closure of Manas to the U.S. Air Force since 2005.

What the heck is the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation?

The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) is an intergovernmental mutual-security organisation which was founded in 2001 by the leaders of China , Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.

But the key players of the SCO are Russia and China who don’t want the U.S. or anyone else in the West anywhere near that region of the world, rich in oil and other minerals, that includes Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.

China and Russia conducted their largest joint military exercise ever last year.

And finally Iran wants the U.S. out of the Persian Gulf, away from Arab oil, and at arms length from Isreal.

Joshua Gross wrote for the Christian Sciences Monitor today,  “Iran recently launched its first satellite into orbit in what The New York Times called, ‘a shot across the bow of American diplomacy,’ and US President Barack Obama passed along a secret letter to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in an attempt to enlist the Russians in an international effort to contain Iran’s nuclear program.”

The global economic crisis, which has eliminated something like $50 trillion in world wealth, has hit the United States and NATO very hard, which fuels the beliefe that Mr. Obama and the U.S. are weaker than ever just now.

That’s why Iran and North Korea are talking missiles and nukes, China has chosen just now to harass a U.S. ship, and Russia is gloating like a cat bird that Obama is already pleading for help with Iran from Putin and Medvedev….

John E. Carey
Wakefield Chapel, Virginia
March 9, 2009

Iranian clerics watch the launch of a Shahab-3 ballistic missile ... 
Iranian clerics watch the launch of a Shahab-3 ballistic missile outside Qom in 2006. A top Iranian military commander said that the country has missiles that can reach the nuclear sites of its arch-foe Israel.(AFP/File/null)

Related:
Stimulus: China Will Fund U.S. Debt But “We Hate You Guys”

Russia, “Desperate For Cash,” Sells Oil to China In “Very Bad Deal”

India, China jostle for influence in Indian Ocean

 China Extends Navy’s Anti-Piracy Mission Near Somalia

 China Says Its Navy Expansion “No threat to others”

 Pentagon: Chinese Ships Harassed Unarmed U.S. Navy Craft in International Waters

 North Korea Warns: Shoot Down Our Satellite Will “Prompt Counterstrikes by the Most Powerful Military Means”

Obama’s First Major Foreign Crisis Brewing?

China’s thirst for copper could hold key to Afghanistan’s future

Obama says US is losing war in Afghanistan and hints at Taleban talks

Despite Global Economy Downturn, China Still Lending

Russia Sees Obama, U.S., Others As “Weak,” “Naive”

http://michellemalkin.com/2009/03/09/analys
ts-to-obama-there-are-no-taliban-moderates-yo
u-nitwit/

What’s China’s Long Term Global Strategy?

http://jonathanturley.org/2009/03/09/ira
nian-justice-eight-women-face-stoning-dea
ths-for-adultery/

http://spectator.org/archives/2009/03
/09/slickness-with-a-straight-face

CNN on Peter Bergen and Afghanistan:
http://edition.cnn.com/2009/PO
LITICS/03/09/bergen.taliban/index.html

Joshua Gross on Iran:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/csm/20
090309/cm_csm/ygross

American U.N. Official Abducted in Pakistan

February 2, 2009

Gunmen kidnapped a top American UN official and killed his driver in Pakistan Monday, in the most high-profile recent Western abduction in a country struggling to contain extremist violence.

John Solecki, head of the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) in the southwestern city of Quetta, was snatched at gunpoint while travelling to work in the capital of Baluchistan province, which borders Afghanistan and Iran.

AFP

Quetta, which has an estimated population of just under one million, is considered a possible refuge for Taliban leaders who fled Afghanistan after the US-led invasion in late 2001 that toppled the hardline regime.

Gunmen ambushed Solecki’s vehicle, which was marked with United Nations insignia, and opened fire, wounding the driver who later died of his injuries, UN officials and police said.

Local police official Khalid Masood told AFP that Solecki was an American national and “head of the sub-office of UNHCR-Quetta.”

John Solecki, head of the United Nations High Commissioner for ... 
John Solecki, head of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR),seen here on March 15, 2008, in the southwestern city of Quetta carries kites during a kite show for Afghan refugees arrange by UNHCR in Quetta. Gunmen kidnapped Solecki and killed his driver in Pakistan Monday, in the most high-profile recent Western abduction in a country struggling to contain extremist violence.(AFP/File/Banaras Khan)

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20090202/wl_s
thasia_afp/pakistanunrestsouthwestunkidnap_
20090202182646

CNN:
http://www.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/asiapcf/0
2/02/pakistan.kidnap/index.html?iref=newssearch

Here’s What $800 Billion Stimulus Means to America as We Knew It

February 1, 2009
The $800-billion bill that cleared the House last week brings back big government: to school buildings, worker paychecks, electric lines and more. Here’s a look at where the money would go.
By Janet Hook
Los Angeles Times
February 1, 2009
Reporting from Washington — With Congress moving toward passage of an $800-billion-plus economic stimulus plan, big government is back. Unabashed. With a vengeance.

The stimulus is bigger than the Pentagon’s entire budget. It’s more than the United States has spent on the war in Iraq. And its hundreds of provisions reach into almost every aspect of American life — including workers’ paychecks, local schools, digital television and modernizing medical records.

A bank employee counts US dollar bank notes. The euro fell sharply ...
.

Perhaps not since the Great Depression has Congress set out to expand and redefine so dramatically the government’s role in the economy, all in one bewilderingly complex blueprint.

“The three-decade-long period where the default assumption was that government is the problem, not the solution, has clearly ended,” said Bill Galston, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and a former aide to President Clinton.

If the enormous stimulus plan succeeds, it’s likely to mean a larger, more activist government for years to come. If the plan is judged a failure — whether because the economic crisis persists or the public becomes disenchanted — the idea of government as an active player in national life could be discredited anew.

Even as Senate Democrats and Republicans begin sparring over the bill, it remains a challenge just to understand what’s in the plan. The version passed by the House last week ran 647 pages; the Senate version, which may come to a vote this week, will probably be longer.

Read the rest:
http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/was
hingtondc/la-na-stimulus1-2009feb01,0,3984
149.story

Related:
Economic Stimulus About “Soul of America”

Chinese Premier Blames Recession on U.S. Actions; Beijing Rethinks Some of Its American Investments

January 29, 2009

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao squarely blamed the U.S.-led financial system for the world’s deepening economic slump, in the most public indication yet of discord between the U.S. government and its largest creditor.

By JASON DEAN in Beijing, JAMES T. AREDDY in Shanghai and SERENA NG in New York
The Wall Street Journal

[chinese premier wen jiabao] 

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, Photo: Associated Press

Leaders in China, the world’s third-largest economy, have been surprised and upset over how much the problems of the U.S. financial sector have hurt China’s holdings. In response, Beijing is re-examining its U.S. investments, say people familiar with the government’s thinking.
Mr. Wen, the first Chinese premier to visit the annual global gathering of economic and political leaders in Davos, Switzerland, delivered a strongly worded indictment of the causes of the crisis, clearly aimed largely at the United States though he didn’t name it. Mr. Wen blamed an “excessive expansion of financial institutions in blind pursuit of profit,” a failure of government supervision of the financial sector, and an “unsustainable model of development, characterized by prolonged low savings and high consumption.”

Chinese leaders have felt burned by a series of bad experiences with U.S. investments they had believed were safe, say people familiar with their thinking, including holdings in Morgan Stanley, the collapsed Reserve Primary Fund and mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. As a result, the people say, government leaders decided not to make new investments in a number of U.S. companies that sought China’s capital. China’s pullback from Fannie and Freddie debt helped push up rates on U.S. mortgages last year just as Washington was seeking to revive the U.S. housing market.

To be sure, China’s economy now is so closely intertwined with the U.S.’s that major, abrupt changes are unlikely. The U.S.-China economic relationship has become arguably the world’s most important. China has been recycling its vast export earnings by financing the U.S. deficit through buying Treasurys, helping to keep U.S. interest rates low and give American consumers more spending power to buy Chinese exports.

Read the rest:
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB1
23318934318826787.html

“One Man Abu Ghraib” CIA Station Chief in Algeria Accused of Rapes, Making Videos

January 28, 2009

“This will greatly embarrass America.  A one man Abu Ghraib.” That’s what a former CIA officer told us…

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The CIA’s station chief at its sensitive post in Algeria is under investigation by the U.S. Justice Department for allegedly raping at least two Muslim women who claim he laced their drinks with a knock-out drug, U.S. law enforcement sources tell ABC News.

By BRIAN ROSS, KATE McCARTHY, and ANGELA M. HILL
ABC News

Read it all:
http://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/St
ory?id=6750266&page=1

American Power Is on the Wane

January 14, 2009

As the world stumbles from the truly horrible year of 2008 into the very scary year of 2009, there seems, on the face of it, many reasons for the foes of America to think that the world’s number one power will take heavier hits than most other big nations. Those reasons will be outlined below. But let’s start by noting that curious trait of human beings who, in pain themselves, seem to enjoy the fact that others are hurting even more badly. (One can almost hear some mournful Chekhovian aristocrat declare: “My estates may be damaged, Vasily, but yours are close to ruin!”)

By Paul Kennedy
The Wall Street Journal

So while today’s Russia, China, Latin America, Japan and the Middle East may be suffering setbacks, the biggest loser is understood to be Uncle Sam. For the rest of the world, that is the grand consolation! By what logic, though, should America lose more ground in the years to come than other nations, except on the vague proposition that the taller you stand, the further you fall?

The first reason, surely, is the U.S.’s truly exceptional budgetary and trade deficits. There is nothing else in the world like them in absolute measures and, even when calculated in proportion to national income, the percentages look closer to those you might expect from Iceland or some poorly run Third World economy. To my mind, the projected U.S. fiscal deficits for 2009 and beyond are scary, and I am amazed that so few congressmen recognize the fact as they collectively stampede towards the door entitled “fiscal stimulus.”

A South Korean bank clerk works next to bundles of U.S. dollar ...

Read the rest:
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123189
377673479433.html

India, Pakistan Share Mumbai Intelligence; Biden Visits

January 9, 2009

Pakistan said Friday that it has sent “feedback” and information to India about the Mumbai attacks, and Joe Biden came here to underscore how seriously the incoming U.S. administration takes the terror threat from South Asia.

New Delhi recently said it gave Islamabad a dossier of evidence linking the Mumbai attacks to Pakistan, but it was unclear if Pakistan’s feedback related directly to that dossier.

By NAHAL TOOSI, Associated Press Writer

Gilani told reporters that the CIA had played an intermediary role and that Pakistan’s premier spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence, had reviewed the information from India. He gave few other details.

“They have given some 52 pages of information to the CIA and in return our ISI has given feedback and information, that has been passed on to India,” Gilani said. “The American CIA and Pakistani ISI have an old working relationship in the past. If any information is required we are ready to cooperate.”

India says Pakistani militants were behind the November attacks that killed 164 people in its financial hub. It specifically blames the banned group Lashkar-e-Taiba, which is believed to have links to the Pakistani intelligence agency. Pakistan acknowledged this week that of the 10 gunmen involved in the Mumbai attacks, the one survivor is a Pakistani citizen. It denies any of its state agencies were involved.

President-elect Barack Obama‘s incoming administration plans to increase the focus on the battle against al-Qaida and Taliban militants operating along the Pakistan-Afghan border. American officials worry that a conflict with India could distract Pakistan from eliminating militant sanctuaries along the Afghan frontier, and have urged India and Pakistan to cooperate.

Vice President-elect Biden was the latest in a string of envoys to visit Pakistan….

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090109
/ap_on_re_as/as_pakistan_india_6

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CNN

U.S. Vice President-elect Joe Biden assured Pakistani president Zardari Friday that the incoming Obama administration will continue to support Pakistan’s efforts to strengthen democracy and combat terrorism, according to Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Biden told Zardari the new U.S. administration would also help Pakistan “meet its socio-economic requirements and capacity building,” the ministry said in a written statement.

The vice president-elect “assured the Pakistani leadership” of the United States’ “continued assistance to Pakistan,” the statement said.

Read the rest:
http://www.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/asiapcf/01/09/paki
stan.biden.talks/index.html?section=cnn_latest

“America becoming the nation of the unemployed” — Schools to Blame?

January 8, 2009

Without a long-term plan for investment in science and technology that stresses innovation and jobs, America will be the nation of the unemployed,  Norman Augustine, retired Chairman of Lockheed Martin told Congressional leaders Wednesday, January 7, 2009.

He said that government spending often only yields short-term jobs and when the global economy is jump started “those new long-term jobs won’t be here.”

“We need a companion effort to these [short-term job] proposals that addresses long-term job creation,” said Augustine. “What replaces them when the jobs run out? Investments in science and technology are likely to underpin any advancement in our country, helping to solve the energy problem, and creating new jobs.”

Augustine said the needed structural reforms could come from a complete overhaul of our schools and a renewal of science and technology in the classroom.

“This is not a short term economic ill we are facing.”

He said that almost 90% of American science teachers lack a degree in a science study area….

Mr. Augutine appeared before the  House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee, Chaired by Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Augustine often tells Congress what members don’t care to hear.  We recall him saying once, “By the time of the United States tricentennial, there will be more government workers than workers.”

We used the word Cappuccino in the headline just to get your attention and to make the point that often American schools spend their resources on all the wrong things.  Schools need to be geared toward excellence without further catering to the slowest students.  This is a national and not a local issue anywhere in our opinion: and Mr. Augustine told Congress that yesterday…

Anter yesterday’s hearing, House Republican leader John Boehner of Ohio said, “We cannot borrow and spend our way back to prosperity when we’re already running an annual deficit of more than one trillion dollars.  I was pleased to hear the president-elect say yesterday that we need to stop just talking about our national debt and actively confront it.”

John E. Carey
Wakefield Chapel, Virginia

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Related:
http://money.cnn.com/2009/01/07/news/economy/steerin
g_committee_forum/index.htm?postversion=2009010712

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Related:
 America’s Future? Grim Reality Unless Major Changes Are Adopted
.
U.S. Students Failing International Science Measures

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School Lacks Toilet Paper, Light Bulbs

A Detroit elementary school is asking for donations of toilet paper and light bulbs to keep their school functioning.

The principal of the Academy of Americas sent a letter to staff, parents and partners asking for donations of items “that are of the utmost importance for proper school functioning and most importantly for student health and safety.”

In the letter, Principal Naomi Khalil cited budget constraints within the district as the reason why the school could no longer stock the items.

The district is grappling with a more than $400 million budget deficit and is on the verge of being assigned an emergency financial manager by the state.

Read the rest:
http://www.clickondetroit.com/new
s/18430596/detail.html

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School System Spent $67,000 On Cappuccino Machines

Chicago Sun-Times

Chicago public school bureaucrats skirted competitive bidding rules to buy 30 cappuccino/espresso machines for $67,000, with most of the machines going unused because the schools they were ordered for had not asked for them, according to a report by the CPS Office of Inspector General.

That was just one example of questionable CPS actions detailed in the inspector general’s 2008 annual report. Others included high school staffers changing grades to pump up transcripts of student athletes and workers at a restricted-enrollment grade school falsifying addresses to get relatives admitted.

In the case of the cappuccino machines, central office administrators split the order among 21 vocational schools to avoid competitive bidding required for purchases over $10,000. As a result CPS paid about $12,000 too much, according to Inspector General James Sullivan. “We were able to find the same machines cheaper online,” he said.

“We also look at it as a waste of money because the schools didn’t even know they were getting the equipment, schools didn’t know how to use the machines and weren’t prepared to implement them into the curriculum,” Sullivan said.

CPS spokesman Michael Vaughn said CPS plans to change its purchasing policy so that competitive bidding kicks in when a vendor accumulates $10,000 worth of orders, no matter how many schools are involved. One person was fired and disciplinary action is pending against three others, he said.

Read the rest:
http://www.suntimes.com/news/education/
1365268,CST-NWS-inspect07.article