Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Putin Left Out of Global Rally as $28 Billion Erased From Moscow Stock Exchange

Mayor Giuliani thinks Putin is a "real leader." His disdain for President Obama is obvious but his admiration for Putin's "leadership" is also obvious. The following article by Bloomberg Press clearly shows the results of Mr. Putin's leadership. We are very lucky Mr. Giuiani never made it to the White house becuase he seems not to have a clue about what real leadership is supposed to accomplish.

Tuesday, 22 Jul 2014 06:04 AM

President Vladimir Putin’s meddling in Ukraine cost Russia dearly in financial markets. With the downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17, the toll is only getting worse.
    The price to protect Russian bonds against default, already the highest among the world’s four largest emerging markets, has surged since the July 17 tragedy in eastern Ukraine. The Micex Index resumed its decline, putting the losses since Putin began his push into Crimea in late February at 4.2 percent through yesterday and wiping out about $28 billion in market value, even as stock gauges from the U.S. to India jumped to all-time highs.
    Russia’s market slump is exacerbating an economic slowdown, the opposite effect of the wealth generation from stock rallies that are helping underpin growth across the globe. Russian Deputy Economy Minister Andrey Klepach said this month the $2 trillion economy posted zero growth in the second quarter when compared with the first. That follows a 0.5 percent contraction in the January-to-March period.
    The market is sending a signal that Russia should avoid becoming an outcast and avoid shutting itself out of global markets,” Aleksei Belkin, who helps manage about $4 billion as chief investment officer at Kapital Asset Management LLC in Moscow, said by e-mail yesterday. Putin “believes that what he is doing is justified and he is very much aware that he is not facing a united opposition in Ukraine. But it’s getting costlier with every month.”

    More Sanctions
    The Micex sank 6.1 percent in the three days through July 21, the biggest retreat since March, following a third round of U.S. sanctions against Putin’s government and the downing of MH17, which the U.S. and European Union say may have been carried out by pro-Russian rebels. All 298 passengers and crew aboard the plane were killed. The Micex rose 1.8 percent today by 1:30 p.m. in Moscow.
    Less than a week after approving the new measures designed to punish Putin for failing to end support for the Ukrainian separatists, the U.S. is pushing European governments for further penalties against Russia. Secretary of State John Kerry said July 20 circumstantial evidence suggests Russia provided the missile that rebels used to shoot down the passenger plane.
    U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron yesterday raised the prospect of a EU-wide block on defense exports to Russia, as well as targeted sanctions against the “cronies and oligarchs” around Putin unless the country drops its support of the separatists.

    Negotiate Solution
    Putin has defied international leaders, saying that nobody should “use this tragedy to achieve selfish political aims.” He blamed the crash of the plane on the Ukraine conflict and said Russia will “do everything it can” to seek a negotiated settlement of the crisis.
    The big difference between the recent deterioration in sentiment towards Russia and the pressure on other EM assets is that in the case of Russia it is almost entirely driven by the actions of one man,” Nicholas Spiro, managing director of London-based Spiro Sovereign Strategy, said by e-mail. “While there’s no question that Russia’s economy is in a dire state right now, sentiment towards Russian assets is still strongly influenced by perceptions of what Mr. Putin will do.”
    The cost of protecting Russian bonds against default for five years rose about 23 basis points to 207 basis points this month, the highest among the world’s largest emerging markets including Brazil, India and China, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Russia had its credit rating cut to BBB-, the lowest investment grade ranking, in April by Standard & Poor’s.

    Bearish Traders
    Russian corporate debt sales overseas are down 67 percent this year just as cheap global borrowing costs spur record issuance worldwide, the data show.
    In currency options, traders are the most bearish on Russia’s ruble among 23 developing-country currencies after Argentina’s peso. Investors are paying 2.9 percentage points more for the rights to sell the ruble over those to buy. That’s about twice the premium for the Polish zloty and Colombian peso, according to so-called three-month risk reversal data compiled by Bloomberg.
    The 2.5 percent decline for Russia’s Micex equity gauge since the end of February compares with an 11 percent gain for emerging-market stocks globally and a 6.1 percent rally in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index in the U.S.

    Billionaire Losses
    Russia’s foreign reserves have slid $15 billion since the end of February to $478 billion in June as the central bank sold dollars to stem the losses in the ruble. Reserves have declined $67 billion, or 12 percent, since their peak in August 2011, according to central bank data.
    Amid the market turmoil, the 19 richest Russians lost $17.4 billion since the start of the year. By comparison, the richest 64 Americans have seen their wealth go up $55 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.
    Global investors withdrew $348 million from Russian bond and stock funds since the end of February, according to data compiled by EPFR Global.
    Russian stocks have whipsawed asset managers this year. They plunged about 18 percent in the month through mid-March as Putin responded to the ouster of his ally, President Viktor Yanukovych, by sending troops into Crimea. He ultimately annexed the region after citizens voted in a disputed referendum to secede from Ukraine. Russian troops have begun massing anew on Ukraine’s border recently.

    No Concern
    The tumble was followed by a 23 percent surge over a four- month period as tensions between Moscow and the U.S. and EU showed signs of easing.
    Russia will weather these periods of short-term market volatility because of the country’s strong foreign-reserve and fiscal accounts, according to Jan Dehn, the head of research at Ashmore Group Plc, which manages about $70 billion in emerging- market assets.
    I don’t see any material reason to be overly concerned about the value of Russian assets for long-term investors,” Dehn said in a telephone interview yesterday. “Ultimately investors tend to focus quite closely on the underlying resilience that’s embedded in the Russian economy by virtue of its very high foreign-exchange reserves and very low levels of debt.”
    Russia’s debt equaled just 13 percent of gross domestic product last year, compared with the global average of 79 percent, while the country’s foreign reserves were the fifth largest in the world, according to the International Monetary Fund.

    Power Balance
    The ruble has strengthened 2.5 percent since February as the central bank lifted its benchmark interest rate a total of 2 percentage points in March and April and intervened in the foreign-exchange market to meet demand for dollars.
    The shooting down of the Malaysian jet has made additional sanctions against Russia more likely, according to Hayes Miller of Baring Asset Management.
    It’s going to be much easier for European countries to participate in sanctions,” Miller, who helps oversee $57 billion at Baring Asset Management, said by phone from Boston yesterday. “The power balance has shifted more against Russia at this point and I think it’s clear that there is the potential for Putin to isolate himself and to not consider the cost to some of the large companies.”

    © Copyright 2014 Bloomberg News. All rights reserved.

Friday, July 18, 2014

A Real Conspiracy

While the extreme right-wing in America is busy concocting fake conspiracies like the President is a secret Muslim hell-bent on destroying America, there are real conspirators at work. This article by Bruce Wilson is but a small sample.


As I introduce my new Center Against Religious Extremism report Hobby Lobby Case Linked To Secretive National Prayer Breakfast Group, "The Family"),
"In 2010 on MSNBC's Rachel Maddow Show, author Jeff Sharlet publicly accused "The Family", which hosts the National Prayer Breakfast, of being directly responsible for the notorious Uganda Anti Homosexuality Bill, signed into law in early 2014. As this Center Against Religious Extremism (CARE) special report demonstrates, The Family is also tightly linked, through its affiliate The Gathering, to the controversial Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Supreme Court case which gave broad new religious freedom rights to private corporations."  
Last September, three generations of the Green family - owners of the Hobby Lobby craft store chain and central plaintiffs in the Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Supreme Court Case - attended The Gathering 2013 along with a Christian nonprofit that played a supporting "air traffic control" role in the Hobby Lobby case and also litigated Conestoga Woods v. Sebelius. Also present at The Gathering 2013 was the National Christian Foundation, which has funded the law nonprofits that litigated both the Conestoga and Hobby Lobby cases.
Because gay rights was the initial analytic vantage point from which I began studying "The Gathering", this new CARE report of mine is packed with with material on The Gathering as a central hub of evangelical anti-LGBTQ activism. But this concerns far more than gay rights. As I describe in my  report,  
"[The Gathering is] a community of quietly but deeply radical billionaire Christian patrons helping bankroll a mounting global onslaught against LGBT rights, who have led attacks on public schools and unions and heavily fund creationism and global warming denialism".

The Gathering is now trying to re-brand itself - with two NYT op-ed writers scheduled to speak at The Gathering 2014. But funding of the culture wars by The Gathering foundations has, over the last decade, actually increased quite dramatically (see: http://www.twocare.org/...), and the Alliance Defending Freedom - which has participated in the World Congress of Families and worked with Russian legislators pushing anti-gay legislation - gave a presentation at The Gathering 2013.
On other politics of The Gathering - one interesting fact which says a lot is that the Winter 2005 issue of The Gathering's quarterly newsletter featured an op-ed from a Christian Reconstructionist pastor who argued that disobedient and morally incorrigible children should be executed, per Leviticus 20:9. The pastor argued that Jesus held that position. The Gathering has extensive ideological and organizational links to the Christian Reconstructionism movement.
The largest foundation which attends The Gathering - the National Christian Foundation - gave out roughly $670 million in grants in 2013 and is now ranked the 12th biggest nonprofit foundation in America that raises money from private sources, according to the Chronicle of Philanthropy. NCF funding of anti-gay organizations and ministries, active from Uganda to Russia, is so extensive that I've taken to describing the NCF as the most prolific funder of anti-gay activism in the United States. One of my ongoing CARE projects has been the creation of a growing mini-encyclopedia just to catalog and describe all the anti-gay causes that the the National Christian Foundation bankrolls. ( see: The National Christian Foundation Anti-LGBT Funding Encyclopedia.)
I'd post the whole report here, but it's a bit too long. Some other useful bits:
"The community represented at this annual event - whose membership and foundations give upwards of one billion dollars a year in grants - serves as the financial wing of The Family and represents the main private funding stream bankrolling the ongoing culture wars (see Twocare.org special report, The Gathering: The Religious Right's Cash Cow), including the mounting international onslaught on LGBT rights and the legal campaign against Obamacare."
Last year, from September 12-15, 2013 at the plush Phoenician Hotel in Scottsdale - a Versailles of the desert which bills itself as "Arizona's premier luxury resort destination", leading American evangelicals on the hard religious and political right, members of multimillionaire and billionaire clans - including owners of the Hobby Lobby chain - who represent some of the world's biggest fortunes gathered, socialized, dined and, as they do every year at The Gathering, laid plans for the slow motion religious, cultural, legal, and governmental re-engineering of, and Christian supremacist hegemony over, America and the world.
The Gathering community includes many of the richest family dynasties on the Christian right. In any given year at the Gathering one might find members and representatives of the billionaire Green, Coors, DeVos, Prince, Friess, Maclellan, DeMoss, and Ahmanson families, as well as heads of the Templeton foundation and the gargantuan National Christian Foundation, now the 12th biggest charitable foundation in America that raises money from private sources according to the Chronicle of Philanthropy.
The NCF is one of the biggest single funders of The Fellowship Foundation and the Wilberforce Foundation, The Family's two key nonprofits (see footnote.) NCF funding of these two nonprofits, from 2001-2012, topped $5.4 million dollars.
Giving their testimony of faith at the inaugural speech of The Gathering 2013 -  inside the lavish air-conditioned hotel ensconced by The Phoenician's water park and 27-hole golf course sustained by extravagant irrigation amidst the red crumbling hills of drought-plagued Arizona - were Mart and Tyler Green of the Green Family, whose patriarch Hobby Lobby founder David Green has been identified by Forbes magazine as the "Biblical Billionaire Backing The Evangelical Movement", the biggest funder of evangelical causes in America.
Mart Green
Enthused Mart Green, "We enjoy having three generations here at The Gathering." His family's credo, he explained, was: "Love God intimately, live extravagant generosity." Green spoke about his ongoing project to facilitate the translation of the Bible into developing world languages; his son Tyler talked of the burden of wealth - the need to give wisely.
It was not the first time Greens had addressed The Gathering - in 2008, Mart Green briefed The Gathering community on his family's $70 million-plus bailout of financially troubled Oral Roberts University. But there was nothing in Mart and Tyler Green's brief, almost perfunctory 20-minute testimony to explain what pressing reason might have led three generations of Greens to make the nearly 1,000 mile multi-generational pilgrimage from their Oklahoma City area homes to Scottsdale, near Phoenix, Arizona, to attend The Gathering 2013.
But suspiciously close at hand were the Hobby Lobby v. Sebelius and Conestoga Woods v. Sebelius cases destined to soon be merged into the Burwell v. Hobby Lobby case in which, in a momentous and highly controversial June 30, 2014 ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the contraceptive mandate that had been added to the Affordable Care Act by the Department of Health and Human Services and held that private corporations such as Hobby Lobby can have religious freedom rights.
Alan Sears
Joining the Greens at The Gathering 2013 was Alan Sears, president of the biggest Christian law nonprofit in America, the Alliance Defending Freedom, which was then litigating a whopping 19 out of the 40-odd lawsuits - including the Conestoga Woods v. Sebelius case - filed in Federal district courts across the country that sought to exempt private for-profit corporations from reproductive health care mandates in the Affordable Care Act.
The choice to hold The Gathering 2013 in Scottsdale is quite suggestive of the major role the ADF played in the event - Scottsdale, Arizona happens to be the headquarters of the massive Alliance Defending Freedom. And it was not the first time The Gathering has been held in the Arizona location. In 2006, as legal battles over same-sex marriage were breaking out across the nation, The Gathering was also held in Scottsdale.
Then in 2009 - as the pivotal Hollingsworth v. Perry case challenging the constitutionality of California's anti-same sex marriage ballet amendment Proposition 8 was underway, with Alliance Defense Fund lawyers litigating in favor of Prop 8 - The Gathering was again held in Scottsdale, though the official program of the conference made no mention of an ADF briefing. Hollingsworth v. Perry was one of the ADf's rare defeats; the law nonprofit boasts that it has won 80% of its cases. 
John Templeton
[Note: The Gathering members, and Gathering-funded nonprofits and their board members represented an astonishing 7 out of the top 12 contributors who funded the 2008 pro-Proposition 8 campaign. Howard Ahmanson, Jr.'s Fieldstead & Co. gave $1,395,000; John ("Jack") Templeton, head of the John Templeton Foundation, gave $1,100,000; the National Organization for Marriage gave $1,041,134.80; Focus On the Family chipped in $539,643.66; the American Family Association contributed $500,000; Elsa Prince-Broekhuizen, mother of Erik Prince and Betsy DeVos, and who has served on the boards of several NCF and The Gathering-funded nonprofits including Focus On The Family, Focus On The Family Action, and the Council For National Policy, gave $450,000; Concerned Women for America kicked in $409,000.]
During a special ADF briefing at The Gathering 2006, ADF President Sears - who is co-author of the 2003 anti-gay book "The Homosexual Agenda: Exposing The Principle Threat To Religious Freedom Today", which accuses the LGBT rights movement of having "followed a strategy akin to what Hitler used in the 1920s and 1930s to take over Germany" (page 27) - painted for his Gathering audience a bleak portrait of the dark days prior to the launch of the ADF in 1994: "Hillary Health Care was on its way... Much of country's religious heritage had been decimated..."

Monday, July 14, 2014

These Undocumented Teens Outsmarted MIT—and Still Cant Get Real Jobs in America

This article was written by my friend Jonathan Alter and perfectly illustrates the absurdity of our immigration laws.

The subtext of the tough talk about the tens of thousands of child refugees flowing up from Central America is that like Mexicans they will be a drag on the American economy—wards of the state who suck taxpayers dry.
Governments at all levels will face short-term costs, of course, but the economic fear of immigrants has never been warranted. Beyond the humanitarian imperative lies a stark historical truth: From Alexander Hamilton to Andy Grove to Elon Musk, new arrivals and their children—toughened by circumstance and self-selected for pluck—have given the United States the energy and drive that has made us great. 
Most reasonable people get this. Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, and Sheldon Adelson (!) wrote an op-ed in The New York Times last Friday bemoaning the insanity of training immigrants at our best universities, then forcing them to go home. But in pushing for comprehensive immigration reform, the billionaires seemed most concerned about wealthier émigrés, whom they argued should be allowed to stay if they come with money.
Valid point, but it ignores the fact that poor, undocumented Hispanics—the ones most denigrated by Tea Party know-nothings—have much to offer, too, just as penniless immigrants (i.e. your ancestors) always have.
Those scraggly Latino kids on the corner you might think are thugs could be the next Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg if given half a chance. 
To understand why that's more than a platitude, check out Underwater Dreams, a seemingly modest human interest film that may be the most politically significant documentary since Waiting for Superman.  (It opened in Los Angeles and New York on July 11 and can be seen on cable later this month).
The film tells the story of four undocumented Mexican teenagers who are members of a robotics club at Carl Hayden High School in the barrio of Phoenix; their parents speak no English, and their own horizons are limited. 
With the help of dedicated teachers, they build an underwater robot and enter a grueling collegiate competition held at the University of California, Santa Barbara in 2004. The boys figure they might learn something from the older college-age engineers showing off their robots.
The Carl Hayden team— Christian Arcega, Lorenzo Santillan, Luis Aranda, and Oscar Vasquez—get off to a bad start when their robot, nicknamed “Stinky,” takes on water during a practice round on the first day. In one of the film’s many humorous moments, they buy a box of tampons that turn out to have the perfect absorbency for plugging Stinky’s leaks.

After Carl Hayden does the impossible and beats MIT for first place, the film takes a disturbing turn that left me and the rest of the preview audience in tears. 
A decade after the competition, MIT professors invited the winners to Cambridge, Massachusetts for a reunion with the MIT team they beat. Not surprisingly, the losers were now winning engineers; one of the MIT graduates had gone on to invent ear buds for Apple. 
The undocumented winners haven’t done so well. Christian, who had finished second in his high school class, was forced to drop out of community college in 2006 under the harsh terms of Arizona’s Proposition 300, which denies state aid to undocumented students. Lorenzo went to culinary school and started a small catering company, where Luis, a janitorial supervisor, helps out. Oscar, hoping to join the Army and become legal, turned himself in to the authorities, who deported him to Mexico. When their story reached Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL), Oscar was allowed to come back to the United States and join the Army, where he served with distinction in Afghanistan. At present, he’s the only one working in a STEM-related business.
When the filmmaker, Mary Mazzio, showed the film to college students, a few wanted her to cut the MIT reunion scene because it made them uncomfortable. “Good,” she told them. “That was my intention. Now go do something about it.”
Anjelica Hernandez, a female member of the 2004 robotics team who is featured in the film but didn’t travel with the boys to Santa Barbara, is taking up the challenge. When I met her, she had just received a master’s in science from Stanford but devotes much of her time to highlighting the injustices committed against tens of thousands of young “Dreamers” who came as children and-- even with President Obama’s 2012 directive--are still having trouble getting legal. It was only last week that a federal court invalidated Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer’s mean-spirited executive order preventing Dreamers from obtaining driver’s licenses.
Imagine Christian, Lorenzo, Luis, Oscar and Anjelica trying to drive to a robotics competition, knowing that if they’re caught without a license, which they can’t legally get, they could be deported.
Now comes a new wave of young immigrants sent north to escape rampant gang violence in Central America.
Before agreeing to give the president the $3.7 billion he requested to hire more judges and otherwise handle the refugee crisis, Republicans in Congress want to toughen the bill and make it easier to deport children. To get the money, Obama will likely yield on the point.
With dreams of immigration reform in 2014 slipping away, attention has turned to next year. Grover Norquist, who is pro-reform, told me recently that Republicans think that if they win control of the Senate they can pass a “legalization” bill that gives immigrants documents but, by denying any path to citizenship, essentially relegates them to being second-class citizens, exploited like those in the guest worker program.
Is that what we want for the students at Carl Hayden High, where the robotics club is still going strong?
Underwater Dreams will be screened soon in the White House. It should also be seen in every high school in the country, where it will inspire thousands of kids, and in Congress, where it might just jolt a few politicians out of their stupor and help them see young people for who they are, and who they can be.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

President Obama found Guilty

October 12, 2014

WASHINGTON DC - In a surprise turn of events, the Second Circuit Court in Washington DC found, based on the allegations in the suit filed by Speaker John Boehner, that President Obama was guilty, in the court's words, of “goofing off on the job.”

In a terse remark by Mr. Boehner's principal attorney, Kenneth Starr, he said, “We were going for a guilty verdict based on the misuse of the Presidential powers of executive orders, but through the discovery process we were chagrined to learn that the President, vexed by the impossibility of working with the US Congress had delegated most of his duties to Vice-President Joe Biden.” He went on to say, “We were amazed to find the extent of this cover-up as the President apparently spent much of his day reading and playing video games, while the Vice-President assumed all the major duties of running the country.”

The President's top legal representative, Attorney Alan Dershowitz was equally dumbfounded, adding simply this: “This was the most bizarre case I ever litigated since OJ. We were going for a not guilty verdict and now find ourselves in a legal quagmire without precedence in American jurisprudence.”

Speaker Boehner reacts to the verdict
The political repercussions came fast and furious. Senate Republican Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell, in a hastily improvised press conference, stated, “We knew the President was up to no good. We had no idea it was this bad.” House Democratic Minority Leader, Nancy Pelosi, in her own press conference, simply said, “We all knew Joe had it in him to run the government. He has unduly suffered from an unfair image. We are proud of Joe.”

However the thorny legal issues remain. Speaker Boehner's clear objective was not only to embarrass the President, which he successfully did, but most importantly, to pave the way for possible impeachment. On the subject of impeachment, Constitutional scholar Jonathan Turley, a frequent critic of the President said, “This so-called goofing off conviction, while politically damaging, is clearly not an impeachable offense. In all of Presidential history, many Presidents have been charged with goofing off, although not quite in those colorful words, and no legal consequences ever ensued.”
Vice-President Biden comes clean

Supreme Court Justice, Antonin Scalia, never at a loss for words, had a different opinion. “The charge of Segnitia Magnus, was punishable by public ostracism in the days of the Roman Empire, the source of most of our modern laws. And in my considerable view, the only possible implementation of public ostracism for a sitting President is immediate removal from office. And again, based on Roman law, no trial or impeachment proceedings are necessary. A simple majority vote in the Supreme Court is all that is required in my most humble opinion.”

The news media also weighed in on this most prickly of issues. The first to comment was the irascible Rush Limbaugh who was unusually brief. “The man is a bum and needs to go!” he bellowed from his golden microphone. Rachel Maddow, from her perch at MSNBC was a bit more analytic and philosophical. “I am somewhat disappointed in the President,” she said, “But looking at all the factors, I fail to see what real harm has been done to the county. Joe Biden is obviously a very competent leader, and could have been elected to the office himself, so while we are chagrined to see our President this despondent, it is hard for me to blame him for the antics of a Republican Party that is out of control and clearly not interested in the well-being of the American public. The fact that President Obama had the foresight to make Mr. Biden his Vice-President speaks volumes for his leadership. The country has been well served under this President.” she said in a brief editorial piece on her TV show.

The decision, however, did not sit well with ex-Vice Presidential candidate, Sarah Palin, the darling of the Tea Party set. “I coulda had that job!” she exclaimed. “I know we was robbed. I woulda done a much better job than O'Biden,” she continued. “I beat him in that there dabate. The whole world saw who the better candidate was. I think we should have a recount 'cause I believe we won that election. If it wasn't for Acorn and the Black Panthers we would have won clean. Maybe we can't impeach the man but maybe we can throw his butt in jail like in the good 'ole days.”

In spite of all the controversy generated by this verdict it seems that the President will stay in office after all. Maybe he will find the strength to get back on that horse, and give the Vice-President a deserved vacation. 

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

American Taliban

The pastor and two members of a Corona church pleaded guilty Monday to torturing a young boy, including driving the boy into the desert where he was forced to dig his own grave.

Lonny Lee Remmers, 56, Nicholas James Craig, 24, and Darryll Duane Jeter Jr., 30, abused the boy at the church-run group home where he lived, prosecutors say.

According to court documents, the boy was beaten and then had salt rubbed into his wounds; he was later tied to a chair and Maced; then at Bible study, the boy was forced to sit in the middle of a group while Remmers squeezed his nipples with pliers.   (story by KTLA 5 news)