“This site is dedicated to preying on peoples vanity, ignorance, or loneliness, gaining their trust and betraying them without remorse.”

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Don't even think of messin' with the check

rufus said...

I'm the front end of the "baby boom" generation. No one is going to make any money building me a new house. No one is going to create economic activity building me any new furniture.

When I shuffle off this mortal coil the same flexfuel Chevy will probably be parked in the garage.

My laptop is five, or six years old, and it suits me just fine; ditto the TV. I haven't bought a new suit in a lotta years. Hell, my "dress shoes" are 15 years, or older. I buy milk, and bread, and a steak every now and then.

I am Wrecking the Economy!!

I used to spend more in a year, than I spend, in "real" terms, in two or three, now.

Did I mention Social Security? They forced me to put a few hundred thousand in that, credited me with some 2% interest in my "fund," and then pissed that money away on whatever it was the government at the time wanted to piss it away on.

Now, buckaroos, it's time to "pay the piper." Starting next year, you got yourself a "creditor" with a palm, outstretched.

So, you folks got a "problem." His name is Rufus. Your worst nightmare just showed up on your doorstep, and he's not "buyin any alibis." He wants "paid back," and, you know the worst thing? He's going to put the money in "bonds."

You're going to really hate ol Rufi in a couple a years.
And, for you whining, sniveling little Gen X'ers out there, or Gen Y'ers, or metro-queers, or whatever you're calling yourselves, today, Fuck Off!

It was "My" Soc. Sec. money that the government gave you in your unpaid student loans, and your mortgage tax credit on the houses you flipped, and, ultimately defaulted on.

It was My soc sec money that financed the Wars for Oil that gave you cheap gasoline, and allowed you to cruise around in your gas-guzzling Mercedes, and 4x4's.

So, have a nice day, nitwits; and, oh yeah, don't be late with the check. I wasn't allowed to be late with mine.


Flying high in April, shotdown in May


Dubai World opens talks with small creditors

DUBAI (Reuters) – Troubled conglomerate Dubai World (DBWLD.UL) has begun talks with small creditors, not included in the coordination committee of banks on its restructuring plan, to avoid any lawsuits, a UAE newspaper said on Sunday.

The company, which has $14.4 billion in outstanding bank debt that it said it will be able to repay, has started negotiations with the smaller group after lending banks approved its restructuring plan, Arabic daily Al Ittihad said, citing banking sources familiar with the matter.

Dubai World is prepared to sell prized assets, including ports firm DP World (DPW.DI), in a bid to raise as much as $19.4 billion to repay creditors, a document obtained by Reuters showed on Wednesday.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Who Was William Walker?

I have a Costa Rican friend, an architect, an amateur botanist with over three thousand orchids, stamp collector and all around renaissance man.

He is married to a stunningly beautiful raven haired woman and they have three very attractive children. They live in the mountains overlooking the Central Valley in Costa Rica, where the weather is suspended in a perpetual spring. I was invited to Sunday dinner and afterwards, my friend showed me some of his latest stamp acquisitions.

He specializes in early Costa Rican issues, printed by the now defunct American Bank Note Co. His research, attention to detail and analysis of his collection is fascinating. We talked for an hour about two old stamps, one of Juan Santamaria.

"Who was Juan Santamaria?" I asked.

He told me the story of how Santamaria defeated the US invasion of Costa Rica. US invasion of Costa Rica? When, why and how? It seems that Walker, prior to the Civil War, wanted to annex several Central American countries into the union, in order to balance the influence of the northern states. It seemed like a good idea at the time and had some support.

How did he do it?

_______________________________





William Walker
"Grey-eyed Man of Destiny"



Born May 8, 1824, Walker , in early life was a doctor, lawyer, and journalist. He invaded Mexico in 1853 with 46 men and proclaimed himself Pres., Republic of Lower California. He led a force of 58 men into Nicaragua in 1855; was elected its Pres. in 1856. In his attempt to wage war on Honduras, Walker was captured and executed Sept. 13, 1860, all before his 37th birthday.





The Saga of William Walker

By Don Fuchik
California Native

President of Lower California, Emperor of Nicaragua, doctor, lawyer, writer—these were some of the titles claimed by William Walker, the greatest American filibuster.

In the mid-nineteenth century, adventurers known as filibusters participated in military actions aimed at obtaining control of Latin American nations with the intent of annexing them to the United States—an expression of Manifest Destiny, the idea that the United States was destined to control the continent. Only 5'2" and weighing 120 pounds, Walker was a forceful and convincing speaker and a fearless fighter who commanded the respect of his men in battle.

Born in 1824 in Tennessee, Walker graduated from the University of Nashville at the age of 14 and by 19 had earned a medical degree. He practiced medicine in Philadelphia, studied law in New Orleans, and then became co-owner of a newspaper, the Crescent, where the young poet Walt Whitman worked. When the paper was sold, Walker moved on to California, where he worked as a reporter in San Francisco before setting up a law office in Marysville.

When he was 29, his freebooting nature led him to become the leader of a group plotting to detach parts of northern Mexico. Recruiting a small army, he sailed to Baja California and conquered La Paz, declaring himself president of Lower California. He then decided to extend his little empire to include Sonora, and renamed it “The Republic of Sonora.”

Marching on to the Colorado River, Walker found himself faced with harsh conditions and a high desertion rate, forcing him to retreat to California, where he surrendered to U.S. authorities on charges of violating U.S. neutrality laws.

One result of this incursion was that Mexico sold a part of Sonora to the United States—the transaction we call the Gadsden Purchase. Acquitted of criminal charges, Walker next turned his attention to Central America. Throughout this region, chaos reigned, as forces known as Democrats and Legitimists fought each other. The leader of the Democratic faction in Nicaragua invited Walker to bring an army and join the struggle against the Legitimists. In 1855, with his army of 58 Americans, later called by stateside romantics,

“The Immortals,” he landed in Nicaragua. Within a year, leading “The Immortals” and a native rebel force, he routed the Legitimists and captured Granada, their capital. His success roused concern in the other Central American countries, especially Costa Rica, which sent in a well-armed force to invade Nicaragua. Walker's army repelled the invasion, but a poorly executed counter attack into Costa Rica failed, and a war of attrition continued, in which disease killed more soldiers on both sides than enemy bullets.

Other enemies plagued Walker. Cornelius Vanderbilt, the shipping magnate, seeking control of the San Juan River-Lake Nicaragua route from the Caribbean to the Pacific, armed Walker's enemies, while the British navy, attempting to thwart American influences in the region, regularly harassed efforts to supply him. In spite of these factors, Walker had himself elected president of Nicaragua. The United States briefly recognized his government but never sent him aid. Soon the other countries of Central America formed an alliance against him, and in mid 1857 he surrendered once again to a U.S. naval officer and returned to the U.S.

Landing first in New Orleans, he was greeted as a hero. He visited President Buchanan, then went on to New York, all the time seeking support for a return to Nicaragua. But support waned as returning soldiers reported military blunders and poor management.

Nevertheless he succeeded in raising another army, and returned to Nicaragua in late 1857. Again thwarted by the British navy, he abandoned his third Latin American invasion.

Still undaunted and seeking support for yet another venture, Walker wrote a book, The War in Nicaragua. Knowing that his best prospects lay in the South, he assumed a strong pro-slavery stance. This strategy proved successful, and in 1860 he once again sailed south. Unable to land in Nicaragua due to the ever-present British, he landed in Honduras, planning to march overland, but the British soon captured him and turned him over to the Hondurans. Six days later, at the age of 36, he was executed by a firing squad. The Walker saga had ended. This enigmatic man had come close to altering the history of the continent. Had he been successful, he might have brought several Central American countries into the United States as pro-southern states, altering the balance in Congress and postponing The Civil War.

Today Walker is far better known in Central America than in the United States. Costa Ricans honor Juan Santamaria, a young drummer boy who became a national hero by torching a fort in which Walker's army was encamped, and a national park, Santa Rosa, commemorates the battle where Walker's soldiers were expelled from Costa Rica.






Sunday, August 29, 2010

Barack Hussein Obama and Eric Holder Halt Prosecution of USS Cole Bomber and Murderer of 17 Real American Sailors


Preshilla Caprice Kumar, 18 months-old, is presented with the flag that covered her mother's coffin October 20, 2000 as she sits in the lap of her father, Avinesh Kumar, during burial services for USS Cole sailor Lakiba Nicole Palmer in San Diego, CA. Palmer was one of two women to become the first ever killed in an attack on a U.S. warship since women began serving aboard combat vessels in 1995. She and Lakeina Monique Francis were among 17 sailors killed by an explosion aboard a small boat that tore a 20-by-40 foot hole in the hull of the USS Cole in Aden, Yemen.


No Justice for Injured US Sailor serving his country on USS Cole


Hat Tip: Teresita



Administration halts prosecution of alleged USS Cole bomber
By Peter Finn
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, August 26, 2010; 8:47 PM

The Obama administration has shelved the planned prosecution of Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, the alleged coordinator of the Oct. 2000 suicide attack on the USS Cole in Yemen, according to a court filing.

The decision at least temporarily scuttles what was supposed to be the signature trial of a major al-Qaeda figure under a reformed system of military commissions. And it comes practically on the eve of the 10th anniversary of the attack, which killed 17 sailors and wounded dozens when a boat packed with explosives ripped a hole in the side of the warship in the port of Aden.

In a filing this week in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, the Justice Department said that "no charges are either pending or contemplated with respect to al-Nashiri in the near future."

The statement, tucked into a motion to dismiss a petition by Nashiri's attorneys, suggests that the prospect of further military trials for detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, has all but ground to a halt, much as the administration's plan to try the accused plotters of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in federal court has stalled.

Only two cases are moving forward at Guantanamo Bay, and both were sworn and referred for trial by the time Obama took office. In January 2009, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates directed the Convening Authority for Military Commissions to stop referring cases for trial, an order that 20 months later has not been rescinded.

Military officials said a team of prosecutors in the Nashiri case has been ready go to trial for some time. And several months ago, military officials seemed confident that Nashiri would be arraigned this summer.

"It's politics at this point," said one military official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss policy. He said he thinks the administration does not want to proceed against a high-value detainee without some prospect of civilian trials for other major figures at Guantanamo Bay.

A White House official disputed that.

"We are confident that the reformed military commissions are a lawful, fair and effective prosecutorial forum and that the Department of Defense will handle the referrals in an appropriate manner consistent with the interests of justice," said the official, who also spoke on the condition of anonymity.


The Defense Department issued a statement Thursday saying the case is not stalled. "Prosecutors in the Office of Military Commissions are actively investigating the case against Mr. al-Nashiri and are developing charges against him," the statement said.

With the 10th anniversary of the Cole bombing approaching on Oct. 12, relatives of those killed in the attack expressed deep frustration with the delay.

"After 10 years, it seems like nobody really cares," said Gloria Clodfelter, whose 21-year-old son, Kenneth, was killed on the Cole.

Military prosecutors allege that Nashiri, a Saudi national, was a senior al-Qaeda operative and close associate of Osama bin Laden, who orchestrated the suicide attack on the Cole. Nashiri was scheduled to be arraigned in February 2009 but the new administration instructed military prosecutors to suspend legal proceedings at Guantanamo Bay. The charges against Nashiri were withdrawn.

In November 2009, however, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. appeared to revive the case when he announced that the military would prosecute Nashiri, one of at least 36 detainees who could be tired in federal court or a military commission.

"With regard to the Cole bombing, that was an attack on a United States warship, and that, I think, is appropriately placed into the military commission setting," Holder said.

But critics of military commissions say the Nashiri case exemplifies the system's flaws, particularly the ability to introduce certain evidence such as hearsay statements that probably would not be admitted in federal court. The prosecution is expected to rely heavily on statements made to the FBI by two Yemenis who allegedly implicated Nashiri. Neither witness is expected at trial, but the FBI agents who interviewed them will testify, said Nashiri's military attorney, Navy Lt. Cmdr. Stephen C. Reyes. "Unlike in federal court, you don't have the right to confront the witnesses against you," he said.

Such indirect testimony could be critical to a conviction because any incriminating statements Nashiri might have made are probably inadmissible under the 2009 Military Commissions Act, which bars the use of evidence obtained through torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.

Nashiri, 45, was captured in the United Arab Emirates in November 2002, and immediately placed in CIA custody. He was among three detainees held by the agency who was water-boarded, and a report by the CIA's inspector general found that Nashiri was threatened with a gun and a power drill.

"I am very confident, based upon what I have heard, that there is more than sufficient evidence linking him to the attack on Cole directly, and that they do not need any of the information that may have come from black site interviews and interrogations," said Kirk S. Lippold, who was commander of the Cole when it was attacked.

Reyes said Nashiri's treatment at the hands of the CIA will be part of any proceeding and will be relevant to any sentence he receives if he is found guilty. The government is expected to seek the death penalty.

"I'm not admitting to guilty, but his treatment is absolutely relevant in a death case and can be used in mitigation to lessen the sentence," Reyes said.

Nashiri, who has been held at Camp 7 at Guantanamo Bay since September 2006, has never appeared in court. But according to the transcript of a 2007 Combatant Status Review Tribunal, he said that he had nothing to do with the Cole bombing and that his connections to those involved in the explosion, including the purchase of the suicide boat, were unwitting. "We were planning to be involved in a fishing project," he said.




Eric Holder, Obama's man, reminding us we are a nation of cowards.


Saturday, August 28, 2010

US Media Portrays America as Racist?



HAT TIP: Desert Rat


Why can't Barack Obama tell the world about American tolerance?

The controversy over the 'Ground Zero mosque' has portrayed the United States as a land of bigots. Toby Harnden wonders why the US President has helped fuel this myth.

Toby Harnden's American Way Telegraph
Published: 2:00PM BST 28 Aug 2010

It took a Manhattan taxi driver called Ahmed Sharif to speak out for America, which is being vilified as bigoted and Islamophobic because of the controversy generated by opposition to the so-called "Ground Zero mosque".
The United States was his dream country, he enthused, and he loved New York City. "I feel like I belong here. This is the city actually [for] all colours, races, religion, everyone. We live here side by side peacefully."

Which was a pretty noble sentiment coming from a man whose throat had been slashed by a drunken, deranged passenger who had inquired whether he was a Muslim before pulling out a knife and shouting "Peace be upon you" in Arabic.

As the whole world knows, there is a furore raging over the proposed building of a 15-storey Islamic community centre, containing a mosque, two blocks from Ground Zero, site of the 9/11 terrorist attacks by al-Qaeda.
America's liberal elites have been falling over themselves to denounce their country and fellow citizens as anti-Muslim xenophobes who don't understand that it was not all followers of Islam who were responsible for the atrocities of 2001.

Certainly, some Americans opposed to what is now known as the Park51centre (its previous name of Cordoba centre, a reference to a mosque built in Spain on the site of a Christian church to symbolise a Muslim victory, did not quite strike the right public relations note) are motivated by bigotry.

But it was the centre's Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf himself who linked its purpose to its proximity to the Ground Zero site. It is entirely valid to question whether this is the right approach to building interfaith bridges.

Rauf, who once described the US policies as "an accessory to the crime" of 9/11, stated in Bahrain last week that all the "attention is a sign of the success of our efforts" – an utterance that shows he is stupid, mischievous or worse.
Even if the aim of building the centre there was to encourage religious understanding, that is clearly no longer a possible outcome. So what kind of success was Rauf referring to?

To want to debate such matters, however, is judged as beyond the pale. Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York tried to shut down discussion by saying that opponents of Rauf's initiative "ought to be ashamed of themselves". Presumably, that includes Bangladeshi-born Sharif, who doesn't support the Park51 centre.

President Barack Obama said that the US constitution guarantees religious freedom (which no one disputes). The American mainstream media and commentariat has stridently and almost uniformly championed Rauf's cause. In doing so, they've happily trashed their fellow Americans, stating they're motivated only by intolerance.

In fact, most evidence points to the US being one of the most tolerant countries in the world. A poll from you won't see cited much because it doesn't fit the prevailing narrative was recently conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute.

It found that 76 per cent of Americans would support Muslims in their community building an Islamic centre or mosque provided they followed the same rules and regulations required of other religious groups. But the 9/11 site is seen as different. After the 9/11 attacks there was no anti-Muslim backlash in the US.

Obama's ill-judged intervention, and the shrill outrage of his allies in the intelligentsia, has damaged America's standing in the world by fuelling anti-American stereotypes.

Aides to General David Petraeus, commanding troops in Afghanistan, say he is livid about the portrayal of the US as a hotbed of anti-Muslim bigotry and fears it may undermine the war effort, which is based on partnership with an Islamic regime.

Many Americans are incensed by the way that legitimate protest and questioning of Obama's policies is routinely branded as racist or ignorant. They are tired of being told what to think and when to think it.

During the 2008 campaign, for instance, you were a bigot if you mentioned Obama's middle name or his Muslim background. Yet once he was elected, he went to Ankara and Cairo to proclaim that his full name was "Barack Hussein Obama".

Ahmed Sharif, a victim of real anti-Muslim bigotry, stated that the attack on him was an aberration and that America is a land of tolerance and opportunity. What a shame that Obama, despite his much-vaunted gift with words, appears unable to speak about such things with similar eloquence.


Friday, August 27, 2010

Insanity is rampant but everything is going to be allright.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the Captain has turned off the no smoking sign. We may encounter some turbulence, so please remain seated with your seatbelts on.



The rampant insanity makes for compelling drama. Everyday brings another installment of  "As the Whirled Turns."  How almost two thirds of the Hindenburg's passengers and crew survived the fiery crash is a miracle. 

Another down day on Wall Street Thursday sent the Dow below 10,000 for the first time since early July. Fear in the market is being expressed by the continued rally in Treasuries and widespread chatter about an ominous sounding technical indicator: The Hindenburg Omen.

The Hindenburg Omen has a roughly 25% accuracy rate in predicting big market upheaval since 1987, meaning it's far from infallible but isn't inconsequential either. The indicator's creator, mathematician Jim Miekka, compares the Hindenburg Omen to a funnel cloud that precedes a tornado in a recent interview with The WSJ. "It doesn't mean [the market's] going to crash, but it's a high probability," he said.
Take heart, most of us will survive this crash. In the meantime, think of life as a series of ongoing adventures.

Just sit back, relax, enjoy the ride.




Thursday, August 26, 2010

Mexican Security Risk to The United States


Very Graphic


Mexico: bleeding to death in the war on drugs
Another 72 corpses found in a new mass grave. Feuding cartels blamed for displays of mutilated bodies. Death toll in four-year crackdown passes 28,000

By Guy Adams in Los Angeles
Thursday, 26 August 2010 Independent

The shootout left four people dead, but that was just the beginning. As dust began to settle on a ranch in north-eastern Mexico, thought to have been owned by one of the world's most powerful drug cartels, the battle-hardened Marines stumbled upon their first decomposing corpse.

Minutes later, they found a second, then a third. By the time troops had finished searching the remote property, roughly 90 miles from the US border, a total of 72 contorted bodies had been laid out in rows beneath the summer sunshine. The 54 men and 18 women had all been recently murdered.

A lone wounded survivor, who was left for dead but later stumbled upon a military checkpoint, told local newspapers yesterday that he and the victims were illegal migrants from Central America trying to make their way to the US. They had been taken hostage by the Zetas, a gang of drug-runners who have recently taken to kidnapping and human trafficking. The Ecuadorian man said his group was taken to a ranch by gunmen and shot after they refused to pay ransoms.

Troops originally raided the ranch near San Fernando, in the Gulf coast state of Tamaulipas, after a man with gunshot wounds approached a military checkpoint and said he had been attacked by a narcotics gang. Naval helicopters were dispatched to the ranch but, as they approached, several gunmen opened fire with automatic weapons and tried to flee in a convoy of vehicles. In the ensuing shootout, a Marine and three suspected cartel members were killed.

At the ranch, the Marines seized 21 assault rifles, shotguns and rifles, with 6,000 ammunition rounds. Then they discovered what a spokesman called "the lifeless bodies of 72 people". It was not clear whether the victims were separately, or in a single massacre.

Mass graves are becoming an increasingly common by-product of the wave of drug-related violence sweeping the country. In May, 55 bodies were pulled from abandoned mine near Taxco, just south of Mexico City. Last month, 51 more were unearthed from a field next to a rubbish tip near the northern city of Monterrey.

They provide stark reminders of the growing cheapness of life in a conflict that is constantly plumbing new depths of barbarity. Over the weekend, four decapitated bodies, their genitals and index fingers cut off, were hung upside down from a bridge just outside the nation's capital. Two more were dumped nearby on Tuesday.

"The federal government categorically condemns the barbarous acts committed by criminal organisations," the Navy said of the latest atrocity. "Society should condemn these acts, which illustrate the absolute necessity to continue fighting crime with all rigour."

Tamaulipas, on the north-eastern tip of Mexico bordering Texas, provides a stark illustration of the problems facing the forces of law and order across the country, as they attempt to crack down on gangs smuggling cocaine from South and Central America, where it is produced, to the US, where most of it is consumed.

For years, local supply routes were controlled by the Gulf Cartel, a long-established criminal organisation which kept its activities largely beneath the public radar. But in 2007, shortly after the newly-elected President Calderon announced a crackdown on the drugs trade, several of the group's leaders were arrested. Instead of finishing off the cartel, though, that led to the rise of a rival group, the Zetas. The subsequent turf war has claimed hundreds of victims.

It is also thought to have led to widespread corruption at the highest levels of the police and civil service, together with the murder of Rodolfo Torre Cantu, a popular candidate for state governorship, who was shot dead in his car in June in Mexico's worst political killing in 16 years. Mr Calderon told Mexicans this week to brace themselves for further killings. But he argued that the spate of deaths showed that his crackdown, which has involved replacing often-corrupt police forces with government soldiers in many regions, is slowly working.

"I do not rule out that there might be more bouts of the violence we are witnessing, and what is more, the victory we are seeking and will gain is unthinkable without more violence," he said. "But this is a process of self-destruction for the criminals."

Although most Mexicans support Mr Calderon for now, a growing minority believe that the drugs war will be impossible to win. Earlier this month, former president Vicente Fox, a staunch supporter of the US crackdown on drugs, said recent events had won him over to the cause of legalisation. "It does not mean drugs are good," he said. "But we have to see it as a strategy to weaken and break the economic system that allows cartels to earn huge profits."

To legalise or not to legalise: the drugs war in words

Mexican President Felipe Calderón, June 2010

"It is as though we have a neighbour next door who is the biggest addict in the world, with the added fact that everyone wants to sell drugs through our house... If we remain with our arms crossed, we will remain in the hands of organised crime, we will always live in fear, our children will not have a future, violence will increase and we'll lose our freedom."

Former Mexican President Vicente Fox August 2010

"We should consider legalising the production, sale and distribution of drugs... Radical prohibition strategies have never worked."

US President Barack Obama April 2009

"At a time when the Mexican government has so courageously taken on the drug cartels that have plagued both sides of the border, it is absolutely critical that the United States joins as a full partner in dealing with this issue... also on our side of the border, in dealing with the flow of guns and cash south."

Samuel Gonzalez, former anti-drugs prosecutor, August 2010

"In almost four years the government cannot claim any kind of victory and the debate is the result of the crisis of legitimacy in the strategy. But at least it is now being discussed and that has to be a good thing."



Tuesday, August 24, 2010

HOROSCOPE – VIRGO (August 23 – September 22)





Said:


HOROSCOPE – VIRGO (August 23 – September 22)

[Lawyer’s Exception Statement: If you are a Virgo please remember that the following paper titled HOROSCOPE – VIRGO reflects an amalgam of general tendencies and characteristics of a large sample of Virgos. It does not reflect the tendencies and characteristics of any particular Virgo attending the EB. We, the lawyers and management, firmly believe that any Virgos at the EB likely have all the positive characteristics of the Virgo while demonstrating few if any of the negative traits. We would change the names to protect the innocent but we are unaware of any innocents at the EB. However, if you would like to sign an affidavit stating that you are in fact an innocent, we will be glad to change your name.

All that being said, talk-show host Nancy Grace, a lawyer and author, states that if you are a Virgo and born between the offending dates of August 23 and September 22 then you are as guilty as sin and should be locked away like the rancid cur you are. (Note: Nancy Grace’s opinions are hers alone and do not reflect the opinions of the management of Souls-R-Us, L.L.P.C. nor its affiliates.)]


Origin – Virgo is the sixth sign of the zodiac. The sign has always been represented by a young woman, a maiden, imbued with purity.

Controlling Body – Mercury

Lucky Day – Wednesday

Color – Blue

Element – Earth

Symbol – Maiden

Lucky Number - Five

Compatible Signs – Capricorn, Pisces, Taurus

Incompatible Signs – Aquarius, Libra, Aries

Famous Virgos – Margaret Trudeau, Sean Connery, Buddy Holly, Gag Reflex, Leo Tolstoy, Goethe, Oliver Stone, Lyndon Johnson, Trish, Greta Garbo, Agatha Cristie, John McCain, Yassar Arafat, Michael Jackson, D. H. Lawrence, William Howard Taft, Walt Whitman, Samuel Johnson

Virgo Quote (Male) – Craig Kilborn: “A telephone survey says that 51 percent of college students drink until they pass out at least once a month. The other 49 percent didn't answer the phone.

Virgo Quote (Male) – Johann von Goethe: "The intelligent man finds almost everything ridiculous, the sensible man hardly anything."

Virgo Quote (Male) – Charlie Sheen: “I fell for you like a blind roofer.”

Virgo Quote (Male) – Damon Hill: “Winning is everything. The only ones who remember you when you come second are your wife and your dog.”

Virgo Quote (Female) – Trish: “I didn’t say it was going to be easy.” (Commenting on Whit’s observation that given current demographics it would be difficult to achieve her aim of reclaiming the world beer drinking title from the Chinese.)

Virgo Quote (Female) – Liz Carpenter: “I am 56 and still a Virgo.”

Virgo Quote (Female) – Barbara Ehrenreich: “Natural selection, as it has operated in human history, favours not only the clever but the murderous.”


Virgo Attributes – Methodical, intelligent, meticulous, dependable, industrious, practical, efficient, thorough, observant, analytical, satirical, studious, reliable, down-to-earth, skeptical, over-critical, picky, petty, worry wart, shy, reserved, self-centered, and melancholy


The typical Virgo is not easy to get to know. Intelligent and observant, they value their personal space and are jealous with their time. To some, the Virgo appears aloof and mysterious. The Virgo is kind in a cool and calculating way. However, they are willing to invest a lot of time taking care of those they love. They are sensitive to the emotional needs of others and are willing to listen and offer advice. They usually have good taste, subtlety, and wit. They value knowledge and are proud of their accomplishments.

On the other hand, while capable and efficient, their discrimination can manifest itself on the negative side. They are the critics of the Zodiac. They can be harsh and cynical, their rebukes sarcastic, cutting, and vicious. This shrewishness can turn off some of the other Zodiacal signs. While opinionated, Virgos typically reserve their harshest criticism for themselves.

Virgos are usually very organized. They like to categorize, chart, classify, organize, label. They are also the obsessive-compulsives of the Zodiac. Don’t go changing things around in their neat little color-coordinated closets or in their ordered and articulated minds or they could just freak out taking collateral victims with them.

Virgo women like to chat and gossip; some can talk endlessly. They can also be deeply emotional and sensitive, and upon hearing something that upsets them, sometimes will slip away unseen to have a quick cry before returning to the battle with a scathing rebuke. To the Virgo, to err is human to forgive unusual. They love you for your faults and failings primarily because these can someday be used against you. Love for the Virgo consists in telling you why you are sorry.

The Virgo is not a gambler. They like security. Usually in choosing a career they will choose a job with a steady paycheck as opposed to one that carries risk. They prefer to be the second-fiddle, the power behind the throne. Cardinal Richelieu was a Virgo. Because of this risk aversion, they sometimes end up in jobs where they feel stifled and bored. Virgo’s quiet demeanor, specialized knowledge, and inclination to serve people suggest appropriate jobs are in medicine, writing, the military, and teaching. They also do well as geishas, masseuses, and greeters at Walmart.


Relationships are usually difficult for Virgos. They tend to be shy, reserved, and self-contained. It is true that they are kind and sensitive and willing to attend to the wants and need of others: however, their cool analytical veneers and self-control can be infuriating to passionate types. The male is usually no Don Juan. When presented with a romantic situation, he is likely to start by carefully removing and hanging up his coat and then carefully folding his tie before getting down to business. He eschews public displays of affection. He is likely to have a sex manual with diagrams and instructions regarding the erogenous zones. The female also tends to thinks too much. Though sentimentally romantic deep down, she is too self-conscious. The Virgo would likely be better off skipping the analysis and instead concentrating on the sensual and emotional. They usually wait for someone to say “let’s get down” before actually getting down.


Appropriate Virgo Pets – Virgo pets should reflect the personality of their owner. They should be somewhat edgy, perhaps a little irritable at times, neat and clean. Not particularly affectionate, they dislike sharing toys or food with anyone. Generally they ignore other animals in the household. Typically appropriate pets for the Virgo could be sea urchins, certain types of jellyfish, and clams. Non-aquatic pets might include the porcupine.

[Caution: When purchasing your next pet, make sure it is one your friends like as it will likely outlive you by some nine years. This caution applies only to Virgos living in Marist County, Wisconsin.]


-Your 2010 Horoscope (Virgo)–

This year is expected to offer a mixed bag for the typical Virgo.

• Within a few months your whole world will change. Your days will grow darker. Things will take on a distinct chill. It will be more difficult getting around. This darker period should only last three or four months.

• A homeless person will approach you and ask for any change you can spare. You will immediately start to quiz him on how he will spend the money. You will then begin to share your views on self-reliance and the need to show initiative. After 15 minutes, the homeless person will sigh weekly, turn, and leave. You will continue to follow him for a short distance explaining that he needs to dress better.

• On September 3, there will be a rare conjunction of heavenly bodies in the constellation of Virgo as Mars, Venus, and Jupiter all approach each other in a dazzling celestial display. Only one person will recognize the significance of this event and the fact that this is a sign and a remembrance of an extraordinary birth that took place approximately forty odd years ago. Unfortunately, that one person will be a dyslexic AP reporter traumatized by the recent elections in Colombia whose story explaining the celestial conjunction will be so marred by typos, and spelling and grammatical errors as to render the significance of the event meaningless to all who read the story. Some people will call this poetic justice others will call it Karma.

• On September 13, you will return home after a romantic dinner featuring wine and dancing. Your significant other will then turn down the lights, turn up the fire, and put on some Barry White music. She will sit down beside you, offer you a drink, lean close letting her perfume waft over you, and seductively whisper in your ear, “Let’s go to bed.” You will reply, “Why?”

• In February, you will be reported missing in Afghanistan which will show just how far you are willing to go to avoid Doug.


Next Month: Libra (monthly personalized horoscopes available by request)


OTHER SERVICES



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Hitler's Jewish Roots



Auto-phobia is a psychological term used to define the process of self-loathing or hatred of one's self or kin. It is thought to be a motivator but not a particularly strong one. Well, maybe not but it can certainly be a motivator with profound consequences to your kin and others.

One need not look very far in history to find other examples of self-loathers that had wide consequential affects on humanity; St Paul and Muhammed come to mind.

_____________________________________

Hitler 'had Jewish and African roots', DNA tests show
Adolf Hitler is likely to have had Jewish and African roots, DNA tests have shown.

By Heidi Blake Telegraph
Published: 6:25AM BST 24 Aug 2010


Saliva samples taken from 39 relatives of the Nazi leader show he may have had biological links to the “subhuman” races that he tried to exterminate during the Holocaust.

Jean-Paul Mulders, a Belgian journalist, and Marc Vermeeren, a historian, tracked down the Fuhrer’s relatives, including an Austrian farmer who was his cousin, earlier this year.

A chromosome called Haplogroup E1b1b1 which showed up in their samples is rare in Western Europe and is most commonly found in the Berbers of Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia, as well as among Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews.
"One can from this postulate that Hitler was related to people whom he despised," Mr Mulders wrote in the Belgian magazine, Knack.

Haplogroup E1b1b1, which accounts for approximately 18 to 20 per cent of Ashkenazi and 8.6 per cent to 30 per cent of Sephardic Y-chromosomes, appears to be one of the major founding lineages of the Jewish population.
Knack, which published the findings, says the DNA was tested under stringent laboratory conditions.

"This is a surprising result," said Ronny Decorte, a genetic specialist at the Catholic University of Leuven.
"The affair is fascinating if one compares it with the conception of the world of the Nazis, in which race and blood was central.

“Hitler's concern over his descent was not unjustified. He was apparently not "pure" or ‘Ayran’.”

It is not the first time that historians have suggested Hitler had Jewish ancestry.
His father, Alois, is thought to have been the illegitimate offspring of a maid called Maria Schickelgruber and a 19-year-old Jewish man called Frankenberger.



Monday, August 23, 2010

"They must feel so frustrated, so defeated, so lost...:

"There's another reason for working inside the system. Dostoevski said that taking a new step is what people fear most. Any revolutionary change must be preceded by a passive, affirmative, non-challenging attitude toward change among the mass of our people. They must feel so frustrated, so defeated, so lost, so futureless in the prevailing system that they are willing to let go of the past and change the future. This acceptance is the reformation essential to any revolution. To bring on this reformation requires that the organizer work inside the system, among not only the middle class but the 40 per cent of American families – more than seventy million people – whose income range from $5,000 to $10,000 a year [in 1971]. They cannot be dismissed by labeling them blue collar or hard hat. They will not continue to be relatively passive and slightly challenging. If we fail to communicate with them, if we don't encourage them to form alliances with us, they will move to the right. Maybe they will anyway, but let's not let it happen by default." ~  Sal Alinsky Rules for Radicals.



Sunday, August 22, 2010

Give More to Pakistan, Maybe Then They Will Hate Us Less.




Last year, 73% of Pakistanis saw the Taliban as a serious threat, compared with 54% today. 61% considered al Qaeda a serious threat last year; now, just 38%.

From Pew Research:

America's overall image remains negative in Pakistan. Along with Turks and Egyptians, Pakistanis give the U.S. its lowest ratings among the 22 nations included in the spring 2010 Pew Global Attitudes survey -- in all three countries, only 17% have a favorable view of the U.S. Roughly six-in-ten (59%) Pakistanis describe the U.S. as an enemy, while just 11% say it is a partner. And President Barack Obama is unpopular -- only 8% of Pakistanis express confidence that he will do the right thing in world affairs, his lowest rating among the 22 nations...

...Attitudes toward China remain positive -- 84% consider China a partner to Pakistan.


So, what do we do? Do we borrow more money from China to help the Pakis hate us less?

_______________________________________

21 August 2010 Last updated at 23:20 GMT
Pakistani flood victims' anger at US
By Jill McGivering
BBC News, near Nowshera


Displaced people are camping everywhere. Shelters of canvas and plastic sheeting line the edges of the highways linking Islamabad to Peshawar in the north-west of the country.

The roads are raised, a precious strip of dry land in a sea of stagnant floodwater and thick mud.

I stopped at one makeshift camp and a group of men rushed forward as soon as I got out of the car, crowding round.

One was a thin-faced man in his 40s called Iftikhar.

He pointed to the swamped ground beyond the railway tracks and the remains of his village. His house had been badly damaged, he said.

Even though the waters were starting to recede, it was too unstable for him to move back there with his six daughters.

We desperately need help from the government, so we can rebuild," he told me.

The US is spending $5bn a month on the war in Afghanistan - that puts into context what they're giving us”

He rolled back a sleeve and showed me the skin rash on his arm. "Everyone is in a bad state," he said. "If we don't get money, I don't know what will happen to us."

Others chimed in around him. Many sounded miserable and frustrated.

They were getting some food, they said, but their community had been knocked back about 25 years.

Sugar and flour was not enough - they needed new houses, new possessions, new books and supplies in the local school to replace everything they had lost.

Some criticised the government, saying the aid was not fairly distributed.

Others blamed the West, including the US, for failing to give enough help.

One man turned his anger on me: "What about your country?" he said, heatedly. "Why aren't you giving more?"

Elsewhere in the small camp, businessmen were handing out donations from the local community.

If there was not more support, they said, the security situation might worsen.

There has been fighting already in the camps, said one.

"We're doing so much to help the United States in the war on terrorism. Now we're in crisis and we expect help," said one of the businessman donors.

His colleague agreed: "Now's the time for them to prove their commitment to us."

In fact, the US is already the biggest single donor to the UN's emergency fund.

On Thursday, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced more aid. But in Pakistan, critics of the US still sound scathing.

Ayaz Amir, an MP in Nawaz Sharif's opposition party, said: "The United States is spending $5bn every month on the war in Afghanistan. That puts into context what they're giving us."

The implication is that if the US does not do much more, Pakistan's ability - and willingness - to support the US-led battle against Islamist insurgents will suffer.

Mr Amir added: "If Pakistan can't recover, then one thing which will be washed away is the so-called war on terror. This front will not be functioning."

Bombing

On the ground, the floods are also compounding the misery caused to millions of ordinary Pakistanis by the militant violence and government offensives against it.

Many people in the camps have been helped by local communities and businesses during Ramadan
I met one young girl, still a teenager, now living in a roadside tent. The floods destroyed her family home. But the insurgency also destroyed her family, she told me.

"My Dad was killed in a bomb attack," she told me. "My mother had already died - and then a bomb killed my father.

"Now, in Pakistan, we have this new crisis caused by the flooding. But even now, with people in this state, bombs are still going off and people are still being shot."

Pakistan was already riven by problems before the floods hit.

It was struggling with a weak, unpopular government, and an insurgency and the country was engulfed by strong anti-American feeling.

The question now is whether these extraordinary floods could make all those problems even worse.




Saturday, August 21, 2010

Colombian Prison Beauty Contest



Now we move on from the girls in the hood to the chicas from the neighborhood.




Corcovado National Park, Osa, Costa Rica

The solitude of the middle of the night, when you decide what you want to do, a time of privacy and reflection, just you and the cock's crow.

I miss the solitude of a winter night in Labrador, not a light, not a sound, except for the moaning of moving sea ice, a place so far away, you were untouched by radio or telephone, a place where communications was an occasional handwritten letter, flown in by helicopter.

And then there is the not Labrador. There is the Osa in the Pacific tropics.

Rainy season used to keep the tourists at half throttle, not as much now, but it is still a charm. There is a place where the sounds are of the surf, of popping rain drops on broad green leafs, of Howler Monkeys replying to distant thunder.

Rainy season in the Osa Penninsula is grand. Please do not tell too many people. Peace.

___________




Tumble in the jungle

Stanley Stewart From: The Australian July 31, 2010 12:00am
.

... I am in a small boat, coasting along the Osa Peninsula in Costa Rica. The shore is a litany of empty beaches. Above the sands rise the billowing green arms of Corcovado National Park, the largest rainforest on the Pacific coast of the Americas.

Corcovado is something of a legend. National Geographic has called it the most biologically intense place on earth. It is a tough tag to live up to and tends to create unreasonable expectations. Anyone looking for the Central American equivalent of the African plains - stampeding wildebeest, mating elephants, lions on the razzle - will be disappointed.



Corcovado is an altogether more subtle experience. This is rainforest and in its dense cover many animals take the Greta Garbo approach. They are illusive, secretive and dead glamorous.

Sadly the first animal I see is just plain dead. The dismembered body lies across the forest trail. Until very recently, it has been the size of a small dog.

The guide bends to examine the crime scene. Clumps of reddish fur adhere to the skeleton. The face, still largely intact, is frozen in a ghastly grimace. I seem to have dropped into an episode of CSI: Corcovado.



"Three-toed sloth," the guide says, at last. "Killed a couple of days ago." He walks back and forth over the scene. "The kill was here, then it was dragged this way along the track." He examines the animal's anus (as you do), then turns his gaze to the undergrowth beside the track.

He pokes at some droppings. "Puma. They wait for the sloth to come down out of his tree to defecate. We all have our weaknesses. For the sloth it is taking a shit."



We press on into the jungle. On all sides trunks soar upward towards a distant canopy of spreading foliage, splintered here and there by sunlight. Vines dangle like Tarzan props.



Down in the under-storey, where we mortals tread, great buttress roots push outward into the green shadows where a host of specialist plants thrive, many of which have another life as house plants in our world: palms and ferns, orchids and bromeliads.

We lift our binoculars to scan the canopy for birds. I follow a toucan clattering out of a tree like a refugee from a 50s Guinness ad. A couple of scarlet macaws pace up and down on opposing branches, quarrelling like the old married couple they are. When I lower the binoculars I find a tiny hummingbird, the size of a moth, poking its long beak into an orchid.



The guide is suddenly alert. "Step back," he says. He has spotted a column of army ants not far from my foot. "They swarm their victims. The columns can be 30 feet (9m) wide with up to a quarter of a million ants. They say they can take down livestock. Here, look." He picks up one of the ants and pinches its head between his thumb and forefingers. "Look at these fish hook mandibles. The native people use them as stitches to close human wounds."

If army ants are troubling, bullet ants are downright terrifying. They get their name because their bite is said to be as painful as being shot by a bullet. At the other end of the spectrum are the leaf-cutter ants, the benign farmers of the termite world. Apparently they sing while they work, and bury their dead in underground chambers.

Ahead of us now is a strange grunting chorus, like a cross between a lion's growl and a pig on heat. "Howlers," the guide whispers. We set off downhill into a grove of cecropias trees.



A troop of howler monkeys is lounging in the canopy among the big wide leaves and the ready fruit. They peer down at us with simian disdain, as if they consider us the inferior species, unable to swing through branches and mate recklessly with 20 females in an afternoon. I feel something dribbling on my neck. I look up to see a burly male waving his willy at me. He is peeing on my head.


We walk all morning through these ancient forests. We spot a boa constrictor sloping away in the undergrowth, presumably off to lunch on a deer. An iguana appears like a miniature dinosaur, lumbering through the leaf litter. Slow, deliberate fellows, they are something of a contrast to the promiscuous howler monkeys.


Apparently their courtship takes three months; the howlers get through the sweetheart stuff in three minutes.

An anteater materialises out of the shadows with its long lugubrious face. When he spots us, he climbs a tree. Half an hour later it is our turn to climb trees.



Peccaries are bush pigs that patrol the forest in large packs. You have not really lived until you have about 30 of these snarling creatures glaring up at you from the foot of a tree you have just scaled, clacking their teeth and frothing at the mouth.



As I wait in the tree, a giant blue butterfly flutters down on my arm, its touch like a whisper.

Late in the afternoon we strike up the valley of the San Pedrillo River, an enclosed separate world. Birds shriek on the opposite bank. Below on the clay-coloured mudflats bask crocodiles of the same colour. As if the crocs are not enough of a threat, bull sharks swim up this river. They are the sharks responsible for the Jersey Shore attacks that inspired Peter Benchley's novel Jaws.

Far upstream, too far for the crocodiles and sharks, we reach a pool fed by a low waterfall beneath the green vaults of the forest. It is a pristine, innocent place, decorated with orchids and lulled by birdsong. I shrug off my clothes and lower myself into the water.

When I surface, I notice a tiny female white-necked jacobin sitting on a miniature nest on a palm frond on the bank. It is as still as a statue; I study it for a moment. You could almost slip it into a matchbox and yet the tiny frame contains all the impulses of life: survival, mating and, now on a tiny nest, the instinct of motherhood. In that moment it seems the most beautiful thing in the world.



But beauty takes many forms and comes in many sizes. The next day I go diving off Cano Island. In the straits between the island and the peninsula, dolphins follow the boat, play back and forth across our bow while blue-footed boobies plummet into the waves like missiles in search of fish.

Mid-channel, a humpback whale suddenly appears, surfacing in front of us. It is a female and twice the size of our boat. Its thick primeval hide bears the barnacles and scars of a lifetime. The great curve of the body and enormous splayed tail slide back beneath the waves with a kind of lingering slow motion. The whale is accompanied by a calf, probably a month old, and already the size of a small truck. Mummy whale is leading the giant baby to the rich krill fields of Antarctica, more than 10,000km away, where the calf will prosper and grow.

Meanwhile, in the forests on the shores behind us, the tiny jacobin would be busy ferrying food to its newly hatched young, probably no larger than a bee.

The two species are spectacularly different, but the matchbox-sized bird and the 36-tonne whale share the same instincts, instincts that are also visible just outside your kitchen window.


Stanley Stewart was a guest of the Ultimate Travel Company.


Friday, August 20, 2010

Obama's Take their Final Vacation for the Month of August

Unemployment insurance filings rose to 500,000 last week, reflecting continuing layoffs in the private sector and state governments. Economists say a healthy economy averages fewer than 400,000 claims per week.

Obama begins Massachusetts vacation after bumpy week

The president goes to Martha's Vineyard for a 10-day break after a multistate fundraising blitz and an uproar over the New York mosque plan.


Democrats are poised to pass a bill today that will provide $26 billion in additional funding to help states cover Medicaid expenses and teacher salaries. To pay for the bill, however, they are accelerating the scale-back of food stamp payments — at a time when a record number of Americans are relying on food stamps


According to the Department of Agriculture, a record 40.8 million Americans were receiving food stamps in May.That's 13% of the population.



Professional investors move into flipping foreclosed homes

Squeezing out amateurs, private equity funds and wealthy individuals are buying distressed properties at public auctions, refurbishing them and selling them for quick profits.


...But there is always September. How is your summer going?




Thursday, August 19, 2010

Damned if you do and damned if you don't

This is the post which should have lead off the day. It is inexcusable that this was not the post of the day. It's over, over there. Our boys and girls are coming home. We should plan a huge victory celebration.

I'm voting for Obama. Not really.


Last US combat brigade leaves Iraq
by Prashant Rao Prashant Rao Thu Aug 19, 4:14 pm ET

BAGHDAD (AFP) – The last US combat brigade pulled out of Iraq at dawn on Thursday, a key milestone in the withdrawal of American forces more than seven years after the US-led invasion that ousted dictator Saddam Hussein.

Under cover of darkness, the 4th Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, crossed into neighbouring Kuwait ahead of the planned declaration of an end to US combat operations in Iraq by an August 31 deadline.

The pullout came two days after a suicide bomber killed 59 people at a Baghdad army recruiting centre in Iraq's deadliest attack this year, sparking concern the country's forces are incapable of handling security on their own.

Lieutenant Colonel Eric Bloom told AFP the last members of the brigade had entered Kuwait "at about 6:00 am this morning."

"They have a few more days to clean the equipment, prepare the equipment, get it ready for shipment and then they'll fly out (to the United States)."

It took two days for 360 vehicles and 1,200 soldiers to travel from Camp Liberty on Baghdad's outskirts and Camp Taji north of the capital, through the Shiite south and into the Gulf emirate, Bloom said.

The rest of the 4,000-strong brigade left by air.

Kuwait, which hosts several American military camps in its northern desert close to the border, as well as a naval base, was used as the springboard for the 2003 invasion.

About 52,000 US soldiers remain in Iraq, with that figure set to drop to 50,000 by September 1, less than a third of the peak level during the 2007 "surge."

From next month the US mission in Iraq will be called "Operation New Dawn" instead of "Operation Iraqi Freedom" -- the name given to American operations since the invasion.

To fill the gap left by departing troops, the US State Department will more than double the number of security contractors it employs in Iraq to around 7,000, the New York Times reported.

Citing unnamed administration officials, it said private contractors would operate radar to warn of enemy fire, hunt for roadside bombs and fly surveillance drones.

The pullout coincided with Wednesday's arrival of new US ambassador James Jeffrey, who takes up his post amid political deadlock, with no new government yet formed since elections in March.

It also came during the holy Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, when insurgent attacks typically peak.

A spike in violence in July, Iraq's deadliest month since 2008, and Tuesday's suicide attack blamed on Al-Qaeda have sparked disquiet over the readiness of Iraq's own forces.

"This is an irresponsible withdrawal," said Hamid Fadhel, political science professor at Baghdad University.

"There are dangers to do with security of the country, concerns and fears for Iraq's external security, because of the lack of a military that is able to protect the country."

Many Iraqis agreed, voicing doubts about their own security forces.

"It would have been better for the Americans to wait until the Iraqi army and police complete their training and become a truly loyal force," engineer Ali Khalaf, 30, told AFP.

While US officers insist their Iraqi counterparts are up to the task, the country's top military officer told AFP last week that American forces may be needed in the conflict-wracked nation for another decade.

That seems unlikely, however. The White House has repeatedly insisted that the withdrawal schedule, which will see the last US soldier depart at the end of next year, remains on track.

"The readiness of the Iraqi security troops is quite enough to combat the threat," Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said. "The plan is going on, irrespective of the political situation."

State Department spokesman Philip Crowley described the end of combat operations a "historic moment," but stressed America's long-term commitment to Iraq.

"This is not the end of something," he told MSNBC. It's a transition to something different."

In a letter dated August 18 posted on the White House website, President Barack Obama hailed the end of US combat operations but made no mention of the final combat troops leaving.

Saddam Hussein's former deputy Tareq Aziz, however, said in an interview with Britain's Guardian newspaper earlier this month that Obama was "leaving Iraq to the wolves."



Rain



Renting is Good

August, 18, 2010—(MCT)—With sweeping financial reform legislation enacted, the White House and Congress now must focus on fixing the mess created by the failed housing finance giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. It’s a complex challenge with high stakes for taxpayers and the struggling real estate market.

On Tuesday, key administration officials conferred with about 200 industry executives, affordable housing advocates and other experts about the role the government should play in the nation’s housing finance system. Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner asserted that federal involvement still was needed, but he promised “fundamental change.”

“It is not tenable to leave in place the system we have today,” he said, adding that Fannie and Freddie will change dramatically when they emerge from government control.

Pressure is growing to remake or replace the mortgage leviathans, which were seized by the government in September 2008 after huge losses from subprime mortgages put them on the brink of bankruptcy. The bailout has cost U.S taxpayers nearly $150 billion. But lawmakers must tread carefully to keep from further damaging a housing market that Fannie and Freddie almost solely are supporting. The two companies, along with the Federal Housing Administration, collectively guarantee more than 90 percent of all new U.S. home loans.

“Nobody wants to mess up the mortgage market,” said Douglas Elliott, an economics fellow at the Brookings Institution think tank. “And any transition with Fannie and Freddie is going to be fraught with some risk.”

Tuesday’s event came as the second anniversary of the government seizure of the firms approached, a bailout that left taxpayers as 80 percent owners. The administration faces a January deadline, added by lawmakers to the financial reform legislation, to make recommendations to end the expensive federal conservatorship of the firms.

Congress plans to ratchet up its involvement as well, with House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank, D-Mass., saying his committee will begin hearings when members return next month.

That’s not fast enough for many Republicans, signaling another bitter partisan reform fight. They have been pushing the administration for more than a year to address the mounting losses at Fannie and Freddie by getting the government out of the housing finance business.

“It is past time to rid the American taxpayer of the liabilities of these financial institutions once and for all,” Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., said Tuesday as he blasted the Obama administration for continuing the bailouts of Fannie and Freddie begun under President George W. Bush.

But the Obama administration has been moving slowly for fear of further harming the housing market. There was fresh evidence of problems Tuesday as Southern California home sales plunged 21.4 percent in July compared with a year earlier, according to research firm MDA DataQuick of San Diego.

“It’s much more important to get this issue right than to do it fast,” said Michael Berman, chairman-elect of the Mortgage Bankers Association.

Shaun Donovan, the secretary of Housing and Urban Development, said the stakes were high not just for the financial system but also for average Americans because of the major investment in their homes.

Donovan said the federal government’s involvement in the housing market needed to be reduced. And Geithner said there was a strong case for a “carefully designed” government mortgage guarantee in the future, a point echoed by panelists at the conference.

There also appeared to be consensus among the participants that any government guarantee needed to be explicit, not murky and implicit like the guarantee that stood behind Fannie and Freddie as private, government-sponsored enterprises before they were seized.

William Gross, managing director of bond fund giant Pimco, said government guarantees were crucial to the housing market, helping keep mortgage rates low.

But there still is major debate about how to structure such a guarantee and what size mortgages it should cover.

“The challenge is to make sure that any government guarantee is priced to cover the risk of losses, and structured to minimize taxpayer exposure,” Geithner said.

Fannie and Freddie were created by Congress and later turned into private, government-sponsored enterprises mandated to expand homeownership with requirements to purchase a set amount of loans made to low- and moderate-income borrowers.

Fannie and Freddie combined hold the credit risk on about $5 trillion in mortgages, and losses from loans made during the housing boom have continued to mount. The Treasury Department has pledged it will cover an unlimited amount of losses through 2012. As of June 30, the department had pumped $144.9 billion into the two companies.

Federal officials have stressed that the losses came from loans purchased before the government seizure and said standards at Fannie and Freddie have tightened significantly since then. And as the housing market has stabilized, the losses at Fannie and Freddie have lessened. Fannie lost $1.2 billion in the second quarter, down from $11.5 billion in the first quarter. Freddie lost $4.7 billion in the second quarter, down from $6.7 billion in the first quarter.

Still, the losses meant the two firms would need an additional $3.3 billion from the Treasury Department, bringing their bailout cost to $148.2 billion.

(c) 2010, Los Angeles Times.