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Member since: Fri Oct 29, 2004, 12:18 AM
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Grand Wizard Peter King adds his opinion on the Garner decision

Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) said on Wednesday that if Eric Garner had been healthier, he would not have died after a police officer placed him in a chokehold.

"If he had not had asthma, and a heart condition and was so obese, almost definitely he would not have died from this," King told CNN's Wolf Blitzer during an interview.

Even though video captured Garner saying that he couldn't breathe as officer Daniel Pantaleo placed him in a chokehold and wrestled him to the ground, King said that "police had no reason to know that he was in serious condition." .................(more)


A Grand Jury Did Indict One Person Involved In Eric Garner's Killing -- The Man Who Filmed It

On Wednesday, a Staten Island grand jury decided not to return an indictment for the police officer who put Eric Garner, an unarmed black man, in a chokehold shortly before his death. A different Staten Island grand jury was less sympathetic to Ramsey Orta, however, the man who filmed the entire incident.

In August, less than a month after filming the fatal July 17 encounter in which Daniel Pantaleo and other police officers confronted Garner for allegedly selling untaxed cigarettes, a grand jury indicted Orta on weapons charges stemming from an arrest by undercover officers earlier that month.

Police alleged that Orta had slipped a .25 caliber handgun into a teenage accomplice's waistband outside a New York hotel. Orta testified that the charges were falsely mounted by police in retaliation for his role in documenting Garner's death, but the grand jury rejected his contention, charging him with single felony counts of third-degree criminal weapon possession and criminal firearm possession.

In Garner's case, on the other hand, jurors determined there was not probable cause that Pantaleo had committed any crime. A medical examiner ruled Garner's death homicide in part resulting from the chokehold, a restraining move banned by the NYPD in 1993. ..................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/12/03/ramsey-orta-indictment-eric-garner_n_6264746.html

Revelations of "Postracial" Ferguson

Revelations of "Postracial" Ferguson

Wednesday, 03 December 2014 10:24
By David Theo Goldberg, Truthout | News Analysis

Much blood and ink have been spilled around Ferguson. Together they have revealed deep cleavages across the United States around race as well as novel modes of racist repression and resistance. And the differences in conception and rationalization, attitude and response, and media coverage and public comment regarding race are deeply racially etched. Here then is a list of driving if not completely comprehensive Ferguson revelations regarding race and racism in the United States today. Together, they constitute something of a current temperature-taking on racial matters and the public "debate" on racism across the country.

First, it is now undeniable that far more black than white people in the United States, especially young black men, are likely to be accosted, violently treated and ultimately killed by the police. Over the past 30 years, blacks have been shot by police 21 times more readily than whites. And while the numbers differ some from region to region, city to city, black and brown residents are far more likely to be stopped by police than are whites, both relative to their demographic representation and, more tellingly, in absolute numbers. The more people are stopped, the higher the likelihood some wrongdoing will be established, and the higher the probability of disproportionate arrest and criminal records that follow. Black citizens as a consequence are far more likely to be stopped by police, arrested, indicted and ultimately imprisoned than any other racially defined group.

If one didn't know before, there is now no excuse for not knowing that black and brown men make up 77 percent of the all-too-large prison population nationally while constituting something like 26 percent of the population. It is telling that young black folks can be imprisoned for a number of years for marijuana possession while privileged young white men of the same age hardly get expelled from elite colleges for serious rapes, including gang rape, and most avoid any criminal charges.

Police, and perhaps most white people more generally, seem readily disposed to regard black men as suspect, as weaponized, as violent for little or no reason other than they are black. What else convincingly explains the account Darren Wilson has given publicly about his sense of Michael Brown as a large, violent, probably armed young black man? Or the shooting with absolutely no warning of 12-year-old Tamir Rice for carrying a pellet gun in an otherwise empty snow-filled park, mistaking him, as the policeman put it, for a 20-year-old? Or the luckily unsuccessful shooting at a black father by mistaking for a weapon the 6-year-old daughter he was rushing to save from a severe asthma attack? And on, and on. .....................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://truth-out.org/news/item/27773-revelations-of-postracial-ferguson

Elizabeth Warren Blasts FHFA's Mel Watt: "You Haven't Helped a Single Family"

Elizabeth Warren tore into FHFA director Mel Watt over his failure to develop a program for Fannie and Freddie to provide principal modifications to underwater borrowers at risk of foreclosure. She also got in a dig for his failure to stop the agencies from pursuing deficiency judgments. That means going after former homeowners when the sale of the house they lost didn’t recoup enough to cover the mortgage balance. In the stone ages, when banks kept the mortgage loans they made, they never pursued deficiency judgements. They knew there was no point in trying to get blood from a turnip. Not surprisingly, the sadistic Fannie/Freddie policy has also proven to be spectacularly unproductive in financial terms. An FHFA inspector general study found that recoveries were less than 1/4 of 1% of the amount sought. Moreover, since those mortgage balances were often inflated by junk fees and other dubious costs, and mortgage servicers have done a poor job of maintain properties (they are too often stripped of copper and appliances, or get mold), any deficiency might be significantly or entirely the servicer’s fault. ....................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://truth-out.org/news/item/27771-elizabeth-warren-blasts-fhfa-s-mel-watt-you-haven-t-helped-a-single-family

Chicago Public Schools’ $100 Million Swaps Debacle Demonstrates High Cost of High Finance

from Naked Capitalism:

Chicago Public Schools’ $100 Million Swaps Debacle Demonstrates High Cost of High Finance
Posted on November 28, 2014 by Yves Smith

I’ve been late to write up an important series published by the Chicago Tribune earlier this month on a costly swaps misadventure by the Chicago Public Schools. Like all too many state and local government entities, the Chicago Public Schools were persuaded to obtain $1 billion of needed ten-year financing not through the time-and-tested route of a simple ten year bond sale but the supposedly cost-saving mechanism of issuing a floating-rate bond and swapping it into a fixed rate. An impressive, expert-vetted analysis of the deal by the Chicago Tribune estimated that the school authority has in fact incurred $100 million in present-value losses on that $1 billion bond issue.

What is important about this story is that the CPS’ sorry experience has been replicated at state and local entities all over the US and abroad, yet remarkably few have been willing to sue. In some cases, it’s likely that rank corruption was involved, that the consultants hired to vet the deal were cronies and not up to the task, or worse, that key people at the issuer were overly close to the banks involved. In other cases, officials are afraid of banks, that if they sue them, they’ll be put on a financing black list and will have trouble fundraising. That’s nonsense by virtue of how competitive and fee-hungry bank are. And the more government authorities that got the nerve to sue, the less noteworthy any particular case would be.

As the series explains, entities like the Chicago Public Schools has previously been protected from their naivete by not having the authority to engage in fancy finance. But the state of Illinois passed legislation in 2003, written by a lawyer at an in-state bond firm, even though no local entity had asked for these new powers. Here is how local governments were set up to be shorn:

The bill specified that any government able to issue at least $10 million in bonds could enter an interest-rate swap, making the deals accessible to towns with populations as small as 12,000. Lawmakers did not put even that restriction on auction-rate bonds.

The law also gave municipal officials explicit permission to raise taxes in order to pay interest on swaps.

Yet despite the potential risks to taxpayers, the bill included few oversight measures or checks on towns and school districts. For example, the bill did not cap the percentage of debt that could be issued at floating rates. In CPS’ case, that amount at one point rose above 40 percent. The state of Illinois, by comparison, is restricted to 20 percent.

Few Illinois government entities took advantage of the new, um, flexibility, but the Chicago Public Schools did in a big way, issuing $1 billion of auction rate securities by 2007 and swapping them into fixed rates. That amount of auction-rate securities issuance was not only more than any other school district in Illinois issued, it was more than was sold by the state of California. Crisis followers no doubt recall that the auction-rate securities market promised investors that the instruments were almost as liquid as money-market funds, and they could get cash back in weekly auction. The reality was that there was not enough investor buying at auctions. Dealers were supporting the auctions and carrying more and more inventory. When the monoline insurers were facing downgrades, which would have left the investment banks with losses (most issues were guaranteed by monolines), dealers dumped their inventories and quit supporting the market. The deals had clauses so that if the investor was unable to get his money back at a weekly auction, the issuer, here meaning Chicago Public Schools, would have to pay a much higher interest rate.

And that’s before you get to the swap losses. .................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2014/11/chicago-public-schools-100-million-swaps-debacle-demonstrates-high-cost-high-finance.html

Bill Black: Mortgage Appraisal Fraud is Baaack…Because Bank Execs Profit From It

By Bill Black, the author of The Best Way to Rob a Bank is to Own One and an associate professor of economics and law at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Originally published at New Economic Perspectives

The Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission (FCIC) report described one of three epidemics of accounting control fraud that drove the financial crisis in these terms.

“Some real estate appraisers had also been expressing concerns for years. From 2000 to 2007, a coalition of appraisal organizations circulated and ultimately delivered to Washington officials a public petition; signed by 11,000 appraisers and including the name and address of each, it charged that lenders were pressuring appraisers to place artificially high prices on properties. According to the petition, lenders were ‘blacklisting honest appraisers’ and instead assigning business only to appraisers who would hit the desired price targets” (FCIC 2011: 18).

The FCIC Report then documents scale of this epidemic of loan origination fraud.

One 2003 survey found that 55% of the appraisers had felt pressed to inflate the value of homes; by 2006, this had climbed to 90%. The pressure came most frequently from the mortgage brokers, but appraisers reported it from real estate agents, lenders, and in many cases borrowers themselves. Most often, refusal to raise the appraisal meant losing the client. (FCIC 2011: 91).

A clarification is in order. The “client” was rarely the buyer because, for obvious reasons, we do not allow the borrower to select the appraiser. Even moderately-sized lenders have vastly greater power to successfully extort appraisers than does any residential borrower. It may be true that “many” borrowers tried to “pressure” appraisers to increase the appraisal, but the overwhelming source of such pressure was from lenders and their agents and virtually all of the successful pressure came from lenders and their agents. .................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2014/12/bill-black-mortgage-appraisal-fraud-baack-bank-execs-profit.html

Boston: MBTA Ridership Surpasses 37M For 1st Time

BOSTON — The number of passenger trips on the MBTA topped the 37 million mark last month for the first time in the transit agency’s history.

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority said Friday that the 37.28 million passenger trips in October were 1.5 percent more than the year-ago month.

The commuter rail had a 1.6 percent increase year-over-year, heavy rail had a 5.6 percent increase, while boat ridership jumped nearly 8 percent. Bus trips were down almost 9 percent.

The numbers came three months after the MBTA raised fares by 5 percent. ..............(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.wbur.org/2014/11/28/mbta-ridership-37-million

Black Friday Revealed How Poor Americans Really Are

(Business Insider) Black Friday sales plummeted this year, leaving retailers completely stumped.

After weeks of declining gas prices, many analysts predicted the biggest holiday season ever. Industry groups like the National Retail Federation reasoned that Americans would use their fuel savings on gifts.

Despite encouraging forecasts, Black Friday weekend sales were down 11%. Cyber Monday sales rose 8%, falling short of many predictions.

So where are the customers?

They're probably broke, according to some analysts and executives. ..............(more)

Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/black-friday-revealed-how-poor-americans-really-are-2014-12#ixzz3KqD2cFZ7

New G20 Rules: Cyprus-Style Bail-Ins to Hit Depositors and Pensioners

New G20 Rules: Cyprus-Style Bail-Ins to Hit Depositors and Pensioners

Tuesday, 02 December 2014 10:17
By Ellen Brown, The Web of Debt Blog | News Analysis

On the weekend of November 16, the G20 leaders whisked into Brisbane, posed for their photo ops, approved some proposals, made a show of roundly disapproving of Russian President Vladimir Putin, and whisked out again. It was all so fast, they may not have known what they were endorsing when they rubber-stamped the Financial Stability Board’s “Adequacy of Loss-Absorbing Capacity of Global Systemically Important Banks in Resolution,” which completely changes the rules of banking.

Russell Napier, writing in ZeroHedge, called it “the day money died.” In any case, it may have been the day deposits died as money. Unlike coins and paper bills, which cannot be written down or given a “haircut,” says Napier, deposits are now “just part of commercial banks’ capital structure.” That means they can be “bailed in” or confiscated to save the megabanks from derivative bets gone wrong.

Rather than reining in the massive and risky derivatives casino, the new rules prioritize the payment of banks’ derivatives obligations to each other, ahead of everyone else. That includes not only depositors, public and private, but the pension funds that are the target market for the latest bail-in play, called “bail-inable” bonds.

“Bail in” has been sold as avoiding future government bailouts and eliminating too big to fail (TBTF). But it actually institutionalizes TBTF, since the big banks are kept in business by expropriating the funds of their creditors.

It is a neat solution for bankers and politicians, who don’t want to have to deal with another messy banking crisis and are happy to see it disposed of by statute. But a bail-in could have worse consequences than a bailout for the public. If your taxes go up, you will probably still be able to pay the bills. If your bank account or pension gets wiped out, you could wind up in the street or sharing food with your pets. ...............(more)

The complete piece is at: http://truth-out.org/news/item/27754-new-g20-rules-cyprus-style-bail-ins-to-hit-depositors-and-pensioners

Guardian UK: Sane enough for Texas: the Lone Star State's history of executing mentally ill inmates

Sane enough for Texas: the Lone Star State's history of executing mentally ill inmates
On Wednesday, Scott Panetti will become the latest American prisoner to be put to death in apparent disregard of the constitutional ban on executing the insane

Nearly two decades after the US supreme court outlawed the execution of severely mentally ill people, Andre Thomas was placed on Texas death row for killing his estranged wife, his four-year-old son and his one-year-old stepdaughter while carrying out what he believed was an order from God to exorcise their demons.

He cut out his children’s hearts and part of his wife’s lung then tried to stab himself to death. When that failed he put the organs in his pocket and walked home. Reading the Bible in prison a few days later, he came across a passage from Matthew: “If thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out.” He gouged out his right eye.

Diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, he was subsequently treated and deemed fit to stand trial two months later. In court, prosecutors argued that his violent behaviour was explained by drink and drugs while clawing out his eye was simply a moment of madness. In 2005, a jury gave him the death penalty.

In 2008, he pulled out his left eye and ate it. The following year, in rejecting an appeal, a judge with the Texas court of criminal appeals wrote: “This is a sad case. (Thomas) is clearly ‘crazy’ but he is also ‘sane’ under Texas law.” ................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2014/dec/02/texas-execution-mentally-ill-history-scott-panetti

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