* IS SCHNEIDERMAN SELLING OUT? JOINS FEDERAL COMMITTEE THAT LOOKS DESIGNED TO UNDERMINE AGs AGAINST MORTGAGE SETTLEMENT DEAL
By Yves Smith, NakedCapitalism
[…] A lot of soi-disant liberal groups have fallen in line with Obama messaging, which was the plan (I already have the predictable congratulatory Move On e-mail in my inbox). Let’s get real. The wee problem is that this committee looks like yet another bit of theater for the Administration to pretend, yet again, that it is Doing Something, while scoring a twofer by getting Schneiderman, who has been a pretty effective opponent, hobbled.
If you wanted a real investigation, you get a real independent investigator, with a real budget and staffing, and turn him loose. We had the FCIC which had a lot of hearings and produced a readable book that said everyone was responsible for the mortgage crisis, which was tantamount to saying no one was responsible. We even had an eleven-regulator Foreclosure Task Force that looked at 2800 loan files (and a mere 100 foreclosures) and found nothing very much wrong.
Now we have a committee full of people who have made numerous statements in the media and to Congressional committee minimizing the severity of the mortgage mess. Are were to believe they all had a conversion experience on the eve of the State of the Union address? But apparently the members of what passes for the left are prepared to take “investigation” at face value since it would be unpleasant to consider the possibility that they are being snookered again.
And it seems awfully plausible that the aim of getting Schneiderman on board with an Administration “investigation” is to undermine the effort by 15 Democrat attorneys general to devise their own strategy for dealing with mortgage abuses. We’ve heard reports privately that some of the defecting AGs are in a panic. […]
• The Schneiderman Gambit: Financial Fraud Unit Appears Designed to Fail, and Grease Skids for Foreclosure Fraud Settlement (Firedoglake)
• Obama To Announce Mortgage Crisis Unit Chaired By New York Attorney General Schneiderman (HuffPo)
• California calls $25-billion mortgage settlement ‘inadequate’ (L.A. Times)
* MORE CAUTION AND SKEPTICISM ABOUT FEDERAL MORTGAGE “INVESTIGATION”
By Yves Smith, NakedCapitalism
While a large number of “liberal” groups, ranging from the official Democratic party outlets (the Center for American Progress) to ones that sometimes cross swords with the Administration (MoveOn, the Working Families Party) praised the Tuesday evening announcement of mortgage “investigations” with Schneiderman co-chairing the effort, others who have been watching the mortgage legal fight closely were far more ambivalent about the creation of a new unit in an initiative …which has done pretty much nothing since its creation in 2009 (boldface mine):
Attorney General Eric Holder, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Shaun Donovan, and Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Chairwoman Mary Schapiro today announced that President Barack Obama has established by Executive Order an interagency Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force to strengthen efforts to combat financial crime. The Department of Justice will lead the task force and the Department of Treasury, HUD and the SEC will serve on the steering committee. The task force’s leadership, along with representatives from a broad range of federal agencies, regulatory authorities and inspectors general, will work with state and local partners to investigate and prosecute significant financial crimes, ensure just and effective punishment for those who perpetrate financial crimes, address discrimination in the lending and financial markets and recover proceeds for victims.
The task force, which replaces the Corporate Fraud Task Force established in 2002, will build upon efforts already underway to combat mortgage, securities and corporate fraud by increasing coordination and fully utilizing the resources and expertise of the government’s law enforcement and regulatory apparatus. The attorney general will convene the first meeting of the Task Force in the next 30 days. […]
* CONGRESS DOESN’T WANT TO GIVE UP ITS INSIDER TRADING PRIVILEGES
By John Hudson, The Atlantic Wire
President Obama’s plea to ban Congressional insider trading may poll well and have bipartisan support, but it’s already facing stiff resistance from lawmakers the morning after his State of the Union address.
On Tuesday night, the president spoke in no uncertain terms: “Send me a bill that bans insider trading by Members of Congress, and I will sign it tomorrow,” he said. “Let’s limit any elected official from owning stock in industries they impact.” The remarks were cause for celebration for Breitbart editor Peter Schweizer, who authored a 2011 book exposing Congressional insider trading, and 60 Minutes, which ran a widely-viewed segment based on his book (CBS quickly uploaded the portion of the speech last night). But early reactions from Congress (Republicans and Democrats) shouldn’t encourage much optimism.
“Easier said than done is my reaction,” Democratic Rep. Jim Moran tells Politico‘s Manu Raju on the subject of restricting officials from owning stock they could impact. “Unless you are fairly precise about it, you can conceivably influence almost any corporation.” […]
* OBAMA’S FAILED STATE OF THE UNION
Obama and those around him should be in prison, not the White House
By Stephen Lendman, SteveLendmanBlog
It was typical Obama, taking credit for what should be condemned. He’s a fraud, a crime boss, a war criminal multiple times over, a moral coward, and serial liar.
His State of the Union address was beginning-to-end doublespeak, duplicity, coverup, and denial of failed policies complicit with Wall Street crooks, war profiteers, and other corporate favorites while popular needs go begging.
Not according to fawning New York Times writers, however. Suppressing truth and full disclosure, Helene Cooper headlined, Obama Speech Makes Pitch for Economic Fairness,” saying:
Obama “pledged on Tuesday night to use government power to balance the scale between America’s rich and the rest of the public….toward an economy ‘built to last’ and what he called irresponsible policies of the past that caused economic collapse.”
Throughout his tenure, Obama transferred trillions of dollars to Wall Street, other corporate favorites, and America’s rich already with too much. In the process, he deepened a Main Street Depression. As a result, half of US households are impoverished or bordering on it. Hunger and homelessness grow. Nothing’s done to help. Unaddressed human need is incalculable.
Over 25 million remain unemployed. Job creation is nil except for low wage/no benefit temp or part-time ones. Inequality in America is unprecedented. Obama supports austerity when massive stimulus is needed. Rich elites never had it so good at the expense of ordinary people left out.
Obama’s Failed State isn’t fit to live in for growing millions. […]
* SENATOR SANDERS REACTS TO PRES. OBAMA’S STATE OF THE UNION ADDRESS
* WHITE HOUSE PRESSURED SCIENTISTS TO UNDERESTIMATE BP SPILL SIZE
By Kate Sheppard, MotherJones
Back at the height of the massive Gulf oil spill in 2010, there was quite a bit of controversy about just how much crude was blasting out of the well. According to new documents that a watchdog group released on Monday, there was heated debate among the scientists who evaluated the flow rate as well.
For the first few weeks after the spill began in April 2010, BP misled the public about how big it was, and the government repeated BP’s estimate without question. And when the government released its own estimate in late May of up to 25,000 barrels per day, that too was controversial—and proved to be far lower than the actual size, which was more like 53,000 barrels of oil per day.
Now, an email released by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) traces efforts to downplay the spill size in the initial weeks back to the White House. The group released a May 29, 2010 email from Dr. Marcia McNutt, the director of the US Geologic Survey and head of the government’s Flow Rate Technical Group (FRTG), that was released in response to a Freedom of Information Act request. The email came after scientists on the flow-rate team complained to McNutt about how the spill figures were conveyed to the press, and in response she cited pressure from the White House as the reason the numbers were low-balled. […]
* APPLE DRIVING WORKERS TO THREATEN MASS SUICIDE? THE PATHOLOGIES OF THE MODERN CORPORATION
By Robert Cruickshank, AlterNet
[…] In the last year or two, it’s become increasingly clear that the way Apple makes its products is deeply flawed. Working conditions at the factory which makes most of their products – Foxconn in Shenzhen, China – are so appalling that workers engaged in a rash of suicides in 2010 to ameliorate their own suffering. Earlier this year workers threatened mass suicide over pay and working conditions. And of course, there’s the fact that Apple makes these products overseas rather than in the United States, where unemployment remains at some of the highest levels we’ve seen since the Great Depression.
|Here in the 21st century, it should be clear to us that better technology is not sufficient to build the kind of better lives and society that we want. If it were, we wouldn’t be in a position of mass unemployment, widespread suffering, and a democracy in decay. Social institutions, including workplaces and corporations, have to be full partners in building a democratic, empowered, and equal society.
Most corporations, however, don’t see themselves that way – including Apple. Today’s New York Times took a look at Apple, America And A Squeezed Middle Class, curious to see why Apple no longer manufactures its products in the US and what the impact is on our prosperity. They found that Apple builds in China in large part because they have a narrow focus on their products and their profits, and disdain wider concerns for the good of society. When an unnamed Apple executive was asked about their role in addressing America’s economic problems, their response was revealing:
They say Apple’s success has benefited the economy by empowering entrepreneurs and creating jobs at companies like cellular providers and businesses shipping Apple products. And, ultimately, they say curing unemployment is not their job.
“We sell iPhones in over a hundred countries,” a current Apple executive said. “We don’t have an obligation to solve America’s problems. Our only obligation is making the best product possible.”
That quote is perhaps the best encapsulation of the pathologies of the modern American corporation. In fact, Apple does have an obligation to solve America’s problems. Everyone who lives in this country has that obligation. And corporations have that obligation too. If they don’t want to help make things better, then they shouldn’t exist. […]
* MONSANTO HIRED MERCENARY BLACKWATER TO INFILTRATE ANTI-GMO GROUPS
By Stephanie Dearing, Digital Journal
Documents reveal that Blackwater has been busy expanding its corporate reach by providing intelligence services for agencies such as the Canadian Military, Netherlands Police and corporations like Monsanto.
Blackwater is a private, mercenary army. They’ve been called the ‘shadow army,’ and most notoriously worked for the United States in Iraq, where the company courted controversy. Journalist Jeremy Scahill, who wrote a book about Blackwater, wrote an exclusive for The Nation, revealing general details of the extent of the Blackwater business operations. Scahill managed to obtain documents that, according to Scahill, show:
“… entities closely linked to the private security firm Blackwater have provided intelligence, training and security services to US and foreign governments as well as several multinational corporations, including Monsanto, Chevron, the Walt Disney Company, Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines and banking giants Deutsche Bank and Barclays, according to documents obtained by The Nation. Blackwater’s work for corporations and government agencies was contracted using two companies owned by Blackwater’s owner and founder, Erik Prince: Total Intelligence Solutions and the Terrorism Research Center (TRC). Prince is listed as the chairman of both companies in internal company documents, which show how the web of companies functions as a highly coordinated operation.”
The news that Monsanto hired a Blackwater company for intelligence reports is rocketing around the world via anti-GMO activists. Blogger Rady Ananda summed up the relationship between Monsanto and Blackwater as:
“… A death-tech firm weds a hit squad.”
* HUMAN CARCINOGEN FOUND IN DRINKING WATER NEAR GAS DRILLING OPS
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) detection of arsenic, a known human carcinogen, barium and other contaminants in the well water of homes near natural gas drilling operations in Dimock Township, Pa., should prompt a nationwide investigation of drilling-linked water pollution.
“EPA and other officials must move quickly to ensure these families have an adequate source of clean water,” said Dusty Horwitt, senior counsel with Environmental Working Group (EWG). “This finding confirms what Dimock residents have said for months—that the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection should have never allowed Cabot to end deliveries of clean water.”
Last month, EWG published a report called Gas Drilling Doublespeak that found that Dimock residents, among other people in gas-rich areas, were not warned of risks to their water supplies when they were approached to lease their land for drilling. […]
* INDEPENDENT FACT-FINDING LIBYAN MISSION
By Stephen Lendman, OpEdNews
Joint report exposed NATO crimes but still fell far short.
A joint report was released by the Arab Organization for Human Rights (AOHR), Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR), and International Legal Assistance Consortium (ILAC).
Their mission investigated alleged widespread international law violations since mid-February 2011. Its mandate included investigating those committed by:
- the former government;
- NATO; and
It also sought to identify human rights issues, requiring Lybian and international attention.
Investigators included “leading international jurists and lawyers with expertise in international human rights law, international humanitarian law, international criminal law, transitional justice, and the development of legal systems in post-conflict environments.”
Information obtained from witnesses, victims, and other parties were kept confidential unless already revealed and available.
Investigations weren’t meant to be comprehensive. Rather, the mission tried “to convey the considered observations of its members, in order to facilitate, and prompt, the work of other bodies and authorities.”
From November 15 – 22, investigations and interviews were conducted in Western Libya alone, in and around Tripoli, Zawiya, Sibrata, Khoms, Zliten, Misrata, Tawergha, and Sirte. Significantly, Benghazi was omitted, an area plagued by insurgent crimes.
Findings revealed “significant” international law violations. However, imposed constraints prevented investigators from reaching “definitive legal conclusions regarding individual incidents.” Nonetheless, they believe crimes of war and against humanity were committed.
Evidence suggests NATO classified civilian sites as military ones for attacks, including homes, schools, colleges, food distribution centers, hospitals, mosques, and others. In addition, civilians were targeted, notably in Sirte.
In fact, one incident there killed 47 or more non-combatants. This and other incidents raise “significant questions,” requiring further inquiry and disclosure.
Insurgents also violated international law, including civilian killings; torture and other abuses; wrongful detentions; mistreatment of foreign workers, and forced “displacement of suspected enemies of the Revolution.” […]
* THE HUMAN RIGHTS “SUCCESS” IN LIBYA
By Glenn Greenwald, Salon
It quickly became ossified conventional wisdom that NATO’s war in Libya to aid rebel factions in overthrowing Moammar Gaddafi was a clear human rights victory. But the reality in post-Gaddafi Libya has long been in tension with that claim, and that’s true today more so than ever:
Doctors Without Borders is halting work in detention centers in the Libyan city of Misrata because detainees are “tortured and denied urgent medical care,” the international aid agency said Thursday.
The agency known by its French acronym MSF said it has treated 115 people with torture-related wounds from interrogation sessions.
Some of the patients treated were tortured again after they were returned to detention centers, according to the agency.
“Some officials have sought to exploit and obstruct MSF’s medical work,” said Christopher Stokes, the agency general director.
“Patients were brought to us for medical care between interrogation sessions, so that they would be fit for further interrogation. This is unacceptable. Our role is to provide medical care to war casualties and sick detainees, not to repeatedly treat the same patients between torture sessions”. . . .
Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, voiced similar concerns about torture in Libya. […]
* PUPS ON PARADE: EU OBEDIENTLY PUSHES TOWARD WAR WITH IRAN
By Chris Floyd, Information Clearing House
This week, the warlords of the West took yet another step toward their long-desired war against Iran. (Open war, that is; their covert war has been going on for decades — via subversion, terrorism, and proxies like Saddam Hussein.) On Monday, the European Union obediently followed the dictates of its Washington masters by agreeing to impose an embargo on Iranian oil.
The embargo bans all new oil contracts with Iran, and cuts off all existing deals after July. The embargo is accompanied by a freeze on all European assets of the Iranian central bank. In imposing these draconian measures on a country which is not at war with any nation, which has not invaded or attacked another nation in centuries, and which is developing a nuclear energy program that is not only entirely legal under international law but is also subject to the most stringent international inspection regime ever seen, the EU is “targeting the economic lifeline of the regime,” as one of its diplomats put it, with admirable candor.
The embargo will have serious, perhaps disastrous effects on many of Europe’s sinking economies, which are heavy users of Iranian oil. This is particularly true in Greece, the poster boy for our modern “Shock Doctrine über alles” global economic system. For even as Greece writhes beneath the blows of European bankers determined to bleed the country dry to avoid the consequences of their own knowingly corrupt loan policies, the Iranians have been giving the Greeks substantial discounts on oil, which has helped ease — at least in some measure — the economic ruin being imposed on the “birthplace of democracy.” […]
* FALSE FLAG USS ENTERPRISE – VIDEO
* DEADLY BLASTS HIT SHIITE NEIGHBORHOODS IN BAGHDAD
By Yasir Ghazi and Duraid Adnan, NYTimes
BAGHDAD — A series of explosions in Shiite neighborhoods here killed nine people and wounded dozens more on Tuesday, the latest in a wave of sectarian attacks.
No group claimed responsibility, but the bombings bore the hallmarks of others by the insurgent group Al Qaeda in Iraq, which says it has shifted its attention to Shiites and sources of Iranian influence since the withdrawal of the American military.
The group says Iran has destroyed Iraq over the past several years by “killing the best families, the elite, the educated.” […]