Tuesday, January 19, 2010

New Republican governor takes office in NJ

Governor-elect Chris Christie officially assumes office on Tuesday, inheriting the worst fiscal crisis in the history of New Jersey.

The 47-year-old Republican will take the oath as the 55th governor of the state during a noon ceremony at the Trenton War Memorial. An inaugural mass at Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart precedes the event, and a reception will be held in the evening at Prudential Center. Both morning and evening celebrations are in Newark, Christie's birthplace.

Christie's running mate, former Monmouth County Sheriff Kim Guadagno, will also become the first lieutenant governor of the Garden State following the constitutional change last year.

Christie narrowly won a highly contested race against incumbent Gov. Jon Corzine, pulling through despite a number of controversies tarnishing his seven-year record as a prosecutor, including a $46,000 mortgage loan to a former aide he had not disclosed.

He had led in polls but suffered declining support in the final weeks of the campaign. The unpopularity of Corzine, however, proved decisive in a race that had voters jittery over paying the highest property taxes in the country.

Corzine had sought a second term amid a recession, backlash from a July corruption scandal that netted 44 political and religious leaders, and an independent candidate, Chris Dagget, who attracted twice as many Democrats as Republicans.

A former U.S. senator who served as chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, Corzine spent his last days in office making final appointments and creating a Commission on New Americans to "oversee inter-departmental collaboration regarding immigrant integration policies."

He invited criticism until the end, with New Jersey GOP Chairman Jay Webber issuing a statement last week, "It is appalling that Governor Corzine believes he can expand the size of government yet again, just seven days before he leaves office. The Governor's lame duck efforts to make policy into the Christie Administration - including appointments and now the creation of a new state commission - are an insult to New Jerseyans already suffering from the failures of the Corzine Administration."

The Mysterious Ways Of Fannie And Freddie

Forbes reports:
The Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission has started its work with a highly publicized two-day hearing in Washington, D.C. The Commission is supposed to find out what caused the financial crisis, but it seems like they are trying to enact Hamlet without the Prince of Denmark. Among all the bankers and regulators on stage during the hearings, there was not a single representative of the government-sponsored mortgage giants, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which were major causes of the housing bubble.
The reason for the omission is disturbingly obvious. When Congress created the Commission they wanted a crisis narrative of greedy bankers and passive regulators. In other words, they wanted to put the blame somewhere else.There's more on America's powerful fascist movement:

Investment bankers have been publicly scolded by the Commission for taking on so much risk, with leverage ratios around 30 to 1. Shouldn't they ask how Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac ended up with a leverage ratio closer to 60 to 1?Here's a video on the more youthful Obama joining the Fannie Mae team of plunder.

Paulson Asked to Testify on AIG Bailout Before House Oversight Committee

Former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson has been asked to join his successor Timothy Geithner in testifying before a House panel investigating bailout payments to American International Group Inc.’s trading partners.

Paulson was invited to a Jan. 27 hearing set by Edolphus Towns, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, about the decision to fully reimburse AIG’s bank counterparties for $62.1 billion in derivatives. Stephen Friedman, the former Federal Reserve Bank of New York chairman who serves on the board of Goldman Sachs Group Inc., has also been asked to appear, Towns said in a statement today.

“Chairman Towns is well aware of the fact that President Bush’s Treasury secretary orchestrated this bailout,” Jenny Rosenberg, a spokeswoman for the New York Democrat, said in an e-mail explaining why Paulson was invited.

The request widens the probe into what lawmakers have called a “backdoor bailout” of banks that benefited from the $182.3 billion U.S. rescue of AIG. Geithner, who ran the New York Fed when AIG was saved in 2008, agreed to testify before the committee after Darrell Issa, a California Republican, released e-mails last week showing that the New York Fed asked AIG to withhold data about bank payments from filings.

The Federal Reserve and Treasury should be subpoenaed for documents tied to the rescue and attempts at limiting disclosure, Issa said today in a letter to Towns. Towns subpoenaed the New York Fed this week for Geithner’s AIG-related e-mails and phone logs after Issa, the ranking Republican on the oversight committee, called for the documents.

The Times to Erect a Pay Wall

In 2007, The New York Times dropped a pay wall after failing to realize expected revenues. Many online readers breathed a sigh of relief, and continued to enjoy the free online content. Now, however, The Times is planning to "announce the introduction of a so-called 'pay wall' before the much-rumoured launch of Apple's new tablet computer, which is thought to be specially designed for easy newspaper reading, on January 27." This report comes from an article in the Telegraph, a British newspaper. The Telegraph reports that Arthur Sulzberger, Jr., the Times Company chairman, favors "a metered use policy similar to The Financial Times, which allows readers to access some articles for free before they are forced to subscribe." The Financial Times is owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation, as is The Wall Street Journal, which also charges for content. In fact, News Corporation is planning to "introduce charging for all the company's newspaper websites, including The Times, The Sunday Times, The Sun and News of the World. My colleague Vicky Gannon, who sent me the link to the Telegraph article, says it's one thing to charge for The Times, but quite another to charge for The Sun and News of the World, which do not exactly qualify as high-quality content. It looks as if paid access to online newspapers is the wave of the future, and in fact newspapers have to make money from their content if they are survive. Advertising revenues are not enough to sustain a major news-gathering operation. "More than 1,200 news organisations worldwide have signed up with Journalism Online, a new media payment firm whose clients are expected to start rolling out fees soon." It's hard to imagine that most people are going to pay for subscriptions to more than one or two newspapers, making it inevitable that some newspapers will simply not be competitive in the online environment.

Former NBA All-Star Marbury to play with professional team in China

BEIJING — Stephon Marbury reached an agreement to play for a professional team in China.

Shanxi announced it was bringing in the former NBA All-Star guard on Monday. In a release, the team said it expected Marbury to play his first game on Jan. 27 against Qingdao.

Wang Xingjiang, head of the Shanxi team, called the signing of Marbury "a reward to our fans" to help a struggling team.

"Marbury's salary is not an astronomical figure because by coming here he also hopes to open up the Chinese market and sell his shoes," Xingjiang said.

The team is 3-10 and in 12th place in a 17-team league.

Marbury has his own line of Starbury basketball shoes and apparel.

The 32-year-old Marbury played 13 seasons in the NBA with Minnesota, New Jersey, Phoenix, New York and Boston. He averaged 19.3 points in his career.

He played 23 games with the Celtics last season after a messy split from the Knicks.

US military starts food drops in Haiti

The US military has started airdrops of food and water to quake-ravaged Haiti, delivering some 14,500 meals and 15,000 liters of water to a site just outside Port-au-Prince, the Pentagon said in a statement.

A US Air Force C-17 plane on Monday flew from Pope Air Force Base in North Carolina to a drop zone some five miles (eight kilometers) northeast of Port-au-Prince airport to deliver the aid.

The US military had been reticent to undertake aid airdrops out of concern of starting troubles on the ground, but said they were able to make the airdrop to "controlled drop zone" of where no people on the ground were endangered.

Haitian and US aid officials distributed the aid to quake survivors, the Defense Department statement said.

The international aid community is looking to make greater use of airdrops in Haiti "to create alternate distribution points that will enable aid to reach the people more quickly," the statement said.

Tuesday Open Thread

Wyclef had a news conference defending his humanitarian efforts in his home country. I’m clear about why I believe he has been attacked: he raised one million dollars in a DAY, through $5 texts. …doesn’t that explain it to you?

Asia shares mixed on Japan Airlines bankruptcy news

Japan Airlines filed for bankruptcy protection on Tuesday as it battles to overcome crippling debts, while uncertainty over US bank earnings led to a mixed day for Asian markets.

Asia's biggest carrier will receive billions of dollars in public aid to keep it flying as it undergoes a painful revamp that will see it cut about 15,600 jobs, about a third of its staff.

Management at Japan Airlines (JAL) formally began proceedings Tuesday afternoon, making it one of the highest profile victims yet of Japan's economic woes.

Soon after its filing, the Tokyo Stock Exchange said the company would be delisted from the bourse on February 20.

The firm has estimated debts of about 2.32 trillion yen (25.7 billion dollars) and, as well as cutting jobs, will also look to slash routes and sell assets.

Dealers expected the decision, which came after the stock market closed, and JAL shares hit an all-time low of three yen (three US cents) -- cutting its market value to about 90 million dollars, far less than the cost of a new jumbo jet. It finished flat at five yen.

The Nikkei ended down 0.83 percent, or 90.18 points, at 10,764.90.

Investors are expected to be left out of pocket if JAL goes bust, although Tokyo says it will stay in the skies during the restructuring, which is expected to be similar to the process used for US auto giant General Motors.

"The government has prepared various support measures," transport minister Seiji Maehara told reporters. "We want to help (JAL) to recover while operating safely," he added.

With Wall Street closed for a public holiday on Monday, markets elsewhere in the region were given little direction and dealers were looking ahead to US banks' fourth-quarter reports.

JP Morgan Chase last week announced fourth quarter net earnings quadrupled and profits doubled for the full year. But the news came in below many analysts' expectations, weighing on the stock on Friday.

"While investor sentiment started 2010 with a flourish, a mixed dose of US corporate earnings has seen risk appetite fade a little," Danica Hampton, a forex strategist at Bank of New Zealand, told Dow Jones Newswires.

Citigroup is set to announce its results later Tuesday, with Bank of America, Morgan Stanley and Wells Fargo to follow later in the week.

Sydney fell 1.02 percent, or 39.9 points, to 4,861.2.

Financials ended 1.1 percent lower, while the materials sector, including miners Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton, dropped 0.5 percent.

"The market opened the session slightly higher but by mid-morning, the financials had begun to lead the sell-off," said IG Markets analyst Ben Potter.

Seoul closed flat, with the index edging down 1.56 points to 1,710.22.

But Shanghai and Hong Kong rose, helped by banks and property developers due to easing concerns over monetary tightening in China, dealers said.

Hong Kong rose 1.02 percent, or 217.97 points, to 21,677.98.

And the Shanghai Composite Index, which covers both A and B shares, was up 0.30 percent, or 9.77 points, to 3,246.87.

Oil majors were also helped by a slight upturn in crude prices.

China's banking regulator said overnight it had always required banks to base lending on real economic demand and properly manage the pace and quality of lending, signalling an attempt to defuse concerns over new loan guidelines.

Oil was mixed Tuesday after suffering big losses at the end of last week and on Monday.

New York's main contract, light sweet crude for February delivery was 22 cents higher at 78.22 dollars a barrel while Brent North Sea crude for February delivery eased 10 cents to 77.00 dollars.

The dollar slipped to 90.37 yen in Tokyo afternoon trade from 90.75 late Monday in Europe, while the euro edged up to 1.4389 dollars from 1.4382 but declined to 130.03 yen from 130.52.

In Hong Kong, gold closed higher at 1,139.00-1,140.00 US dollars an ounce, from Monday's close of 1,135.00-1,136.00 dollars.

What Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Means For The Climate Movement

Today in the United States, we celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. King was a clergyman, a civil rights activist, and a public servant in the 1950s and 60s. He rose to prominence after the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955 and is perhaps most famous for his “I Have a Dream” speech, made during the 1963 March on Washington. A recipient of the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize, King dedicated his entire life to the fight to end racial discrimination in the United States through non-violent civil disobedience.

King believed that discrimination exists out of peoples’ lack of understanding of others. Out of this lack of understanding comes a resolute fear in the “other,” and results in prejudice and injustice. King became the face of a movement he helped to build, representing a vast constituency of average Americas fighting for their right to equality. The idea that citizens rallied around Dr. King’s message is what makes the Civil Rights Movement one that will be forever recognized in United States history.

I could never hope to fully capture the energy of MLK Day in the United States in a blogpost, there’s simply too much to say. In short, MLK Day has two primary purposes. It is this day that we sit back and reflect on the state of our world and the oppression that still exists despites Kings’ best efforts. And it is also a day of service, where citizens are encouraged to go out and honor King’s life by giving back to their community.

But what does Martin Luther King, Jr. Day mean for the climate change movement? As such an incredible force in the broader context of advocacy, King’s teachings have significant meaning in the fight for climate justice.


“Our loyalties must transcend our race, our tribe, our class, and our nation; and this means we must develop a world perspective.”

In order to solve the climate crisis, we must put aside our petty differences and come together to support our common cause. While I was in Copenhagen this past December, the most comforting thing I observed was all youth standing in solidarity together regardless of country of origin, skin color, or religious affiliation. We were from extremely diverse backgrounds, yet, in our orange t-shirts, we were armed with a common cause.

In this fight, much like the one that King fought, it is crucial to remain in solidarity. We cannot afford to allow our basic differences to set us apart. Right now we are a minority voice, but as we continue to rally support and spread our message, our numbers will continue to grow.

Speak Up

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

Regardless of the hurdles we encounter, whether domestically or internationally, we must never stop fighting. This is a struggle for survival, and if we stop just because the future looks bleak, then what are we fighting for in the first place. Silence will be the end of our movement. We must use all of our resources to raise our voices louder than we ever have in the past. Our future depends on it.

Stay Positive

“Let no man pull you low enough to hate him.”

It is not worth our time to hate or express outright disdain for the Jim Inhofe’s out there, even if he wants to be the Earth’s number one enemy. The fight ahead is long, but if we become too focused on hating our enemies, we will never succeed.

Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop

“Keep climbing. If you can’t fly, run. If you can’t run, walk. If you can’t walk, crawl. But by all means, keep moving!”

No matter what happens, we can never stop fighting for climate justice. It’s far too easy to focus on the failure of the Copenhagen conference or climate deniers bashing climate science, but I implore you not to listen to the naysayers. Let’s take all of their negative energy and flip it around. Let’s use it to really catalyze grassroots action and drive this movement forward. We can’t stop, and we won’t stop, till we get the job done.

Much like the Civil Rights Movement, the climate movement is fighting for rights, but perhaps in an unconventional manner. We’re fighting for our right to grow up in a world that is more just and more stable, free from environmental degradation and climate change, and we have much to learn from Dr. King. MLK Day is a day for our movement to reflect on King’s legacy as well as what we have accomplished thus far and how we want to move forward in achieving our goals. Have a contemplative and service-filled MLK Day, and remember to “keep moving!”

George Bush Shows Class in Haitian Earthquake Efforts, Despite the Associated Press Politicizing the Earthquake for Obama Gains

The Democrats are soon coming to the day they will regret politicizing Katrina in hopes of destroying President George W. Bush. It's already apparent in the Associated Press, Obama looks to the Haiti earthquake as a resume builder, as the AP writes, this won't be Obama's Katrina. Judging by the news stories coming from Haiti, Obama might want to hold that thought.

As President Bush 43 comes out of retirement to become a temporary diplomat for Haitian relief, we quickly see the class he brings to the role. No politics--just a guy ready to help. It would be easy to get political based on the power plays towards the Bush administration from GITMO, to prosecuting key Bush administration officials, to Obama's relaxed appearance on terrorism, to the worsening mess in Haiti, which the AP used to invoke memories of Haiti.

"I'd say now is not the time to focus on politics," Bush told CBS's "Face the Nation. "You've got people who are ... children who've lost parents. People wondering where they're going to be able to drink water. There's a great sense of desperation. And so my attention is on trying to help people deal with the desperation."

Of course that was never the case with Katrina. It became hateful against Bush, and critics even accused Bush of racism and using the hurricane for genocide of black people.

There is a good nature to Bush having been down this road. He does need to realize who is in the White House and who has the media salivating for his success. If the AP put out the Katrina comparison, then he should call them on it other than commenting on Rush Limbaugh's comments about the efforts, which were once again taken out of context by CBS.

When the AP published their story, it was a game changer. At that point, we had the right to look at Obama's efforts compared to Katrina in my opinion. Here's the January 15, 2010 Associated Press article:

WASHINGTON (AP) - This is what President Barack Obama wants people to think about the U.S. reaction to the catastrophe in Haiti: "swift, coordinated and aggressive." He promised that stellar response in his first comments about the earthquake on Wednesday, then repeated it twice on Thursday.

In other words, this will not be Hurricane Katrina.

Obama is determined to show that the United States, even consumed with its own troubles, can get this right. And that he can, too.

The world is watching because of the expectations that come with being a rich, powerful democracy that is supposed to look out for its neighbors.

And because the stain of Katrina is not gone.

"This is one of those moments that calls out for American leadership," said Obama, who can add a humanitarian crisis to his first-year tests in office.

U.S. Military Weapons Inscribed With Secret 'Jesus' Bible Codes

Evil Christians!

The sights are used by U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan and in the training of Iraqi and Afghan soldiers. The maker of the sights, Trijicon, has a $660 million multi-year contract to provide up to 800,000 sights to the Marine Corps, and additional contracts to provide sights to the U.S. Army.

U.S. military rules specifically prohibit the proselytizing of any religion in Iraq or Afghanistan and were drawn up in order to prevent criticism that the U.S. was embarked on a religious "Crusade" in its war against al Qaeda and Iraqi insurgents[...]

Spokespeople for the U.S. Army and the Marine Corps both said their services were unaware of the biblical markings. They said officials were discussing what steps, if any, to take in the wake of the ABCNews.com report. It is not known how many Trijicon sights are currently in use by the U.S. military.

The biblical references appear in the same type font and size as the model numbers on the company's Advanced Combat Optical Guides, called the ACOG.

A photo on a Department of Defense Web site shows Iraqi soldiers being trained by U.S. troops with a rifle equipped with the bible-coded sights.

Do the evil Juice use quotes from Tanakh on their sites?

N.J. medical pot bill signed into law

Gov. Jon Corzine has signed one bill legalizing medical use of marijuana and another requiring restaurant chains to provide consumers with nutritional data.

One day before leaving office, Corzine also signed legislation to change New Jersey's higher education system, The (Newark, N.J.) Star-Ledger reported.

The medical pot bill makes New Jersey the 14th state to permit the use of marijuana in medical treatment.

Corzine, a Democrat, leaves office as Gov.-elect Chris Christie, a Republican takes office Tuesday.

"I have enormous gratitude to the people of New Jersey for this decade of opportunity to serve," Corzine said in a statement Monday.

Before being elected governor, Corzine served as U.S. senator from New Jersey.

The "Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana" bill is scheduled to take effect in six months. Its backers said during the legislative debate it would be the toughest medical marijuana law in the United States.

New Jersey residents would not be permitted to cultivate their own marijuana and criminal background checks would be required for designated care givers to acquire pot on behalf of severely ill patients.

Report: FBI used ruse to get phone records

The FBI cited non-existent terror emergencies to gather telephone records between 2002 and 2006, The Washington Post reported Tuesday.

Citing internal FBI memos and interviews, the newspaper said the bureau also acquired phone records -- about 2,000 in all -- by persuading telecom companies to turn them over in some cases. The Post said FBI officials authorized some operations after they'd already been carried out.

Citing e-mails it had acquired, the newspaper said counterterrorism specialists within the bureau failed to follow procedures that had been implemented to guard civil liberties -- and the number of urgent phone record requests swamped communications analysts with work that turned out to be irrelevant.

FBI officials told the newspaper a Justice Department inspector general's report this month is likely to find the emergency requests violated U.S. law.

FBI General Counsel Valerie Caproni told the Post the FBI violated the Electronic Communications Privacy Act by citing fabricating emergencies in records collection requests.

"We should have stopped those requests from being made that way," Caproni said.

Looting Continues in Haiti as Residents Leave Capital in Search of Food

U.S. troops patrolled the streets of Port-au-Prince on Monday in an attempt to drive away looters who were breaking into shops and buildings to grab whatever they could find. Some people have begun fleeing the capital for the countryside in search of food and better shelter.

At times on Monday, Haitian police fired shots into the air to disperse large roving bands of scavenging looters as they swarmed across the capital.

Nearly a week has passed since Haiti was rocked by last Tuesday's massive 7.0-magnitude earthquake, in which 200,000 people are believed to have been killed. Delays in the delivery of supplies to hundreds of thousands desperate for aid is stoking unrest.

Transportation bottlenecks, bureaucratic confusion, fear of attacks on aid convoys and the collapse of local authority is also making it difficult for help to reach quake victims.

On Monday, hundreds of people lined up outside the American and Canadian embassies in hopes of getting a visa to leave the country.

Others struggled to board buses and leave the capital.

Livena Livel, a 22-year-old mother was heading out of town to her father's home - a four-hour drive from Port-au-Prince.

Livel says that she and her one-year-old daughter, along with six other relatives, have scraped together their last money to pay for the trip.

The $8 one-way ticket, amounts to about three days income for most Haitians.

The U.S. military sent more troops to Haiti on Monday to help with security and the distribution of food and water.

General Ken Keen, who is commanding U.S. military relief operations in Haiti, says logistical obstacles to aid delivery are being overcome.

"Every day, we increase our capabilities to reach out [to Haitians in need]," he said.

U.S. helicopters are at work in Haiti, ferrying food and water to distribution points in and around the devastated capital, where three-million people struggle to survive.

General Keen says U.S. troops are working to assume more responsibility for aid distribution, which will allow U.N. peacekeepers in Haiti to focus on security concerns.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has asked the Security Council to boost the U.N. stabilization mission in Haiti by 3,500 troops and police officers, who would join 9,000 security personnel already there.

Alain Le Roy, the U.N.'s peacekeeping chief - Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations - says that it is important that aid convoys reach those in need quickly.

"Of course there are incidents here and there, sporadic incidents here and there, mostly due to frustration for not getting food and water quickly enough," he said. "And, it's very important that the humanitarian convoys can reach very rapidly the people otherwise we will have security problems."

World leaders have promised massive amounts of assistance to rebuild the capital and international aid pledges for Haiti continue to grow.

The European Union offered more than $500 million in assistance and hundreds of millions more have been pledged by the United States and other nations.

Last week's earthquake damaged Port-au-Prince's airport and seaport. U.S. military officials say a rescue and salvage vessel arrived Monday that will be used to send down divers to assess what may be blocking channels in the port as well as possible places to unload cargo.